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Monday, July 19, 2010

EDITORIAL 19.07.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month july 19, edition 000573 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. NO PURPOSE SERVED
  2. TOWARDS RESOLUTION
  3. THE ILL WINDS FROM ARABIA - BALBIR K PUNJ
  4. TOUCHING FAITH IN ISLAMISM - PRIYADARSI DUTTA
  5. NEEDED, CHANGE IN TACTICS - B RAMAN
  6. FARCE ON HIGH SEA - BARRY RUBIN
  7. PAST CONTINUES TO HAUNT THE PRESENT - GWYNNE DYER

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. FALSE START
  2. MULAYAM'S MEA CULPA
  3. PLAYING FOR THE FUTURE - BORIA MAJUMDAR
  4. 'BRANCHES OF INDOLOGY LIKE RELIGION FLOURISHING IN RUSSIA'
  5. LUGGAGE CHECK - DEVIKA MITTAL

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. A BREACH OF FAITH IN DAMS
  2. AN EGGSACT SCIENCE
  3. ALL SOUND, NO FURY - ASHOK MALIK
  4. BETWEEN STONES AND A HARD PLACE - PANKAJ VOHRA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. LANGUAGE ABUSE
  2. CORE TRUTHS
  3. THE UNDERMINER
  4. WE, OF THE PREAMBLE - BIBEK DEBROY 
  5. WHERE PREJUDICE TAKES WING - IRENA AKBAR 
  6. A CASE APART - BRINDA KARAT 
  7. ROOF REPAIR
  8. OF COURSE THIS RISE IS PEACEFUL - JOHN LEE 
  9. CITY OF COFFEE - SARITHA RAI 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. FOOD SECURITY QUEST
  2. LET DORMANT SAVINGS BE CHANNELIZED - MK VENU
  3. POPULATION, ANGELS AND DEMONS - RENUKA BISHT
  4. NO FRILLS PLEASE - SAIKAT NEOGI

THE HINDU

  1. WINNING CREDIBILITY IN KASHMIR
  2. HOOLIGANISM PURE AND SIMPLE
  3. EQUAL RIGHTS: A MATTER OF PRIDE - BRYAN DALTON
  4. HOW NOT TO HAVE A ROUND OF TALKS - IMTIAZ ALAM
  5. RANCHERS AND DRUG BARONS THREATEN RAIN FOREST - BLAKE SCHMIDT
  6. AIDS DRUGS 'CAN REDUCE SPREAD OF DISEASE' - SARAH BOSELEY
  7. CALL FOR LEVY ON FOREIGN EXCHANGE - PHILLIP INMAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. SPARE THE RATES ON SMALL SAVINGS
  2. OPPOSITION: FOUL PLAY - JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

DNA

  1. MEDICLAIM CRISIS
  2. SECOND GREEN COURT
  3. MAHARASHTRA SHOULD HELP BELGAUM PROSPER - ABHAY VAIDYA 
  4. CITIES OF HOPE & FEAR - SUDHIR KAKAR

THE TRIBUNE

  1. THE HEADLEY FACTOR
  2. ASSAULT ON FREEDOM
  3. THE POLITICS OVER BELGAUM
  4. THE FIASCO IN ISLAMABAD - BY K. SUBRAHMANYAM
  5. "AS PER THE RULES" - BY RAJ KADYAN
  6. KILL 'HONOUR-KILLING' THE GANDHIAN WAY - K.C.YADAV
  7. IT'S THE LAST HURRAH FOR KHAPS - GEETANJALI GAYATRI

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. A GROWING POLITICS OF INTOLERANCE

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. LIMITED PARTNERSHIP
  2. WORSE, BUT ALSO BETTER
  3. RUPEE REBORN - SANJAYA BARU
  4. THE GREAT HIGHWAY ROBBERY - SUNIL JAIN
  5. THE NETA-BABU RAJ - A V RAJWADE
  6. NOT QUITE A PRIVATE MATTER - VINAYAK CHATTERJEE

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. FALSE START
  2. MULAYAM'S MEA CULPA
  3. LUGGAGE CHECK
  4. PLAYING FOR THE FUTURE - BORIA MAJUMDAR 
  5. 'BRANCHES OF INDOLOGY LIKE RELIGION FLOURISHING IN RUSSIA'

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. SPARE THE RATES ON SMALL SAVINGS
  2. OPPOSITION: FOUL PLAY - BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN
  3. A MISPLACED VERB CAN COST YOU YOUR JOB - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. OF DISCREET AMAR AND OPEN SECRETS
  5. TARGETING THE POOR CM
  6. ENVIRONMENT & HINDUISM - BY SADHGURU
  7. PRINCE OF DIMNESS - BY PETER JONES

 THE STATESMAN

  1. BREATHLESS BILL 
  2. THE LOST TURF 
  3. 'CLASS' DISCARDED 
  4. WORLD'S A STAGE~I - DN BOSE 

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. NEXT HICCUP
  2. SPLITTING HAIRS
  3. UNEXPECTED OUTCOME - ASHOK MITRA
  4. THE PAST IS NEVER PAST - GWYNNE DYER

DECCAN HERALD

  1. ISLAMABAD'S DECEIT
  2. RESERVATION SCRUM
  3. ONLY 960 YEARS LEFT - M J AKBAR
  4. AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT AND SUDAN'S FUTURE - BY WANGARI MAATHAI
  5. MAGICAL ENCOUNTERS - BY KAVITHA K

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. PEOPLE POWER ON PALMAHIM BEACH
  2. REALITY CHECK: DEMOCRACY LESSONS FROM THE LAPIDS - BY JEFF BARAK  
  3. THE DANGEROUS JEREMIAH SYNDROME - BY GERALD M. STEINBERG  
  4. J STREET'S OUTRAGEOUS NEW INITIATIVE - BY ISI LEIBLER  
  5. THE REGION: THE ABANDONMENT OF LOGIC - BY BARRY RUBIN  
  6. WHY I LIKE TISHA BE'AV - BY EMANUEL FELDMAN  
  7. ABOUT THAT JORDANIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR... - BY EPHRAIM ASCULAI  
  8. SHEIKH JARRAH, THE OPENING HEART OF JERUSALEM - BY AVNER INBAR  

HAARETZ

  1. OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE
  2. JEREMIAH, HERE AND NOW - BY YAIR SHELEG
  3. DISENGAGE FROM GAZA ONCE AND FOR ALL - BY SHLOMO AVINERI
  4. I AM NOT DECLARING LOYALTY - BY AKIVA ELDAR

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. REFORM MOVES AHEAD
  2. THAT NOISY COAL MINE ALARM
  3. ALBANY'S LATEST EXCUSE TO SHIRK ITS DUTY
  4. THE NEXT FINANCIAL CRISIS (THE STAMP BUBBLE?) - BY EDUARDO PORTER
  5. THE ROOTS OF WHITE ANXIETY - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  6. THE PUNDIT DELUSION - BY PAUL KRUGMAN

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON DEATH AND TAXES: LOOPY ESTATE TAX POLICY HIGHLIGHTS D.C. DYSFUNCTION
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON DEATH AND TAXES: END THE 'DEATH TAX' - BY LOUIE GOHMERT
  3. MYTHS WIDEN THE SCIENCE-RELIGION DIVIDE - BY ELAINE HOWARD ECKLUND
  4. BURNOUT HURTS DOCTORS AS WELL AS THEIR PATIENTS - BY KEVIN PHO

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. GOLDMAN SACHS' 'MISTAKES'
  2. KEEP MAYOR CLAUDE RAMSEY
  3. RE-ELECT SHERIFF HAMMOND
  4. HULLANDER FOR COUNTY TRUSTEE
  5. FOR COUNTY COMMISSION

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - CHANGE OUR AKBIL, BUT WHY?
  2. APOYEVMATINI - 85 AND STILL GOING STRONG - ARIANA FERENTINOU
  3. WHERE ISLAMISTS AND ANTI-ISLAMISTS COME TOGETHER - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  4. CARICATURCA 2010 - JOOST LAGENDIJK
  5. AZERI-US RELATIONS: 'PROMISES NOT ENOUGH'
  6. A FISCAL OF LIRAS
  7. POST-ERDOĞAN SCENARIO - YUSUF KANLI

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. RWANDA: KAGAME'S DILEMMA - BY GWYNNE DYER

I.THE NEWS

  1. SHORT OF SUGAR
  2. RAIL WOES
  3. EXPLOSIVE CONDUCT
  4. THE GHOSTS OF KASHMIR - AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  5. CULTURE CHANGE - CHRIS CORK
  6. ADVICE, HELP AND HYPOCRISY - DR A Q KHAN
  7. KRISHNA'S CALLS - AHMED QURAISHI
  8. KASHMIR: DEFUSING THE CRISIS - PRAFUL BIDWAI
  9. THE COLONIST WITHIN - MUSTAFA FAROOQ

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. OUR FRIENDS, FODP SHOULD PLEASE DO MORE
  2. PEPCO FACES THE CHALLENGE
  3. SUSPENSION OF SIX MORE TRAINS
  4. PAK-US STRATEGIC DIALOGUE - RIZWAN GHANI
  5. THE LOST DECADE!
  6. WHO HOLDS AUTHORITY IN INDIA? - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  7. INDIA AND PAKISTAN: FRIENDS OR ENEMIES? - YASMEEN ALI
  8. THE CURSE OF KANDAHAR - JENNIE GREEN

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. AFTER THE LOST YEARS, WE CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE HOLLOW WOMAN BEATS A HOLLOW DRUM
  2. MOVE ON FROM CANT CATCHPHRASES
  3. ENERGY EFFICIENCY IS A WIN-WIN CLIMATE POLICY

THE GUARDIAN

  1. LIBERTY: COALITION MOVES TENTATIVELY TOWARDS A HUMANE REGIME
  2. IN PRAISE OF ... | THE LONDON LIBRARY
  3. COMBATTING STEM RUST: UGANDA PEST SHOULD GIVE US FOOD FOR THOUGHT

THE GAZETTE

  1. WE MUST TAKE STEPS TO PROTECT OUR PASSPORTS

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. THE END OF THE RAKHIMOV ERA - BY NIKOLAI PETROV
  2. EU FLAGS AND FIREWORKS SHOW GEORGIA'S DREAMS - BY MATTHEW COLLIN
  3. A RUSSIAN EXTRA IN THE U.S. COURT - BY MAXIM SHEVCHENKO
  4. U.S. SPENDS UNINTELLIGENTLY - BY BERND DEBUSMANN

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. BANK WANDERS OFF THE PATH
  2. MORE ORGAN TRANSPLANTS?
  3. GETTING ON THE SAME PAGE FOR 'THIRD WAY' TO RECOVERY - BY TAKAMITSU SAWA

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE UPROAR OVER ELECTRICITY
  2. IN SEARCH OF A VOICE AND CHIVALRY IN FIGHTING CORRUPTION - JENNIE S. BEV
  3. REDISCOVERING THE PROMINENCE OF COOPERATIVES - ROBBY TULUS, OTTAWA
  4. WHY THE INTEREST RATES ON BANK LENDING REMAIN HIGH - WINARNO ZAIN

CHINA DAILY

  1. JUST COMPENSATION
  2. CORPORATE NEGLIGENCE
  3. BRAVE MOVE
  4. TOWARD A FAIR RATINGS SYSTEM - BY DENG YUWEN (CHINA DAILY)
  5. DOUBLE STANDARDS IN NUKE COOPERATION - BY FU XIAOQIANG (CHINA DAILY)
  6. DEBATE: INCOME DISPARITY

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. IN THE RACE
  2. MISUSE OF RESOURCES: A DEVELOPMENT DILEMMA - DR. KAMAL RAJ DHUNGEL
  3. TOPICS: FASTING AND TRAVAILS - NEELU SUBEDI

DAILY MIRROR

  1. MURALI THE BOWLER WHO UNIFIED THE NATION
  2. THE RULING PARTY'S SOMERSAULT TO THE EXECUTIVE PREMIERSHIP 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

NO PURPOSE SERVED

TALKING TO PAKISTAN IS A FUTILE EXERCISE


After ensuring the failure of last week's talks between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan, Islamabad now says that it looks forward to continuing the dialogue process with New Delhi. Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, obviously trying to cover-up for the crude cussedness of his Foreign Minister, Mr SM Qureshi, who made a spectacle of his boorish behaviour and went to the extent of comparing India's Home Secretary GK Pillai with Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's chief terrorist Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, has said that his Government is "very serious about normalising relations with India". That statement would not have been devoid of credibility had he made the smallest effort to contradict Mr Qureshi's outrageous utterances while Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna was still in Pakistan. Instead, he chose to wait till Mr Krishna was back in New Delhi, which clearly suggests his statement is no more than a ploy to fool the world into believing that Islamabad remains committed to resolving differences with New Delhi through 'peaceful means'; if there's no movement on that front, India, and not Pakistan, should be blamed. Mr Gilani, of course, is being too clever by half: He has been as recalcitrant and belligerent as Mr Qureshi in both word and deed. 


It would be foolish to believe that but for Mr Pillai briefing the media about how the ISI had planned and executed the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai with the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's assistance — the revelations were based on what LeT operative David Coleman Headley had told NIA investigators when they interrogated him in the US in the presence of FBI agents — on the eve of Mr Krishna's visit to Islamabad, last week's talks would have made some headway. That's wishful thinking. For even if Mr Pillai had not disclosed the stunning details implicating the ISI in the 26/11 carnage, Mr Qureshi would have seized upon something else to scuttle the talks. Successive regimes in Pakistan have been disingenuous while pretending to participate in the dialogue process and have come up with some reason or the other to prevent it from moving forward. If it's not alleged violation of human rights in the Kashmir Valley, it is the claimed denial of river waters to Pakistan's farmers; if it's not the demand to 'demilitarise' Jammu & Kashmir, it is the deployment of troops along the Line of Control and the international border. In brief, Pakistan is never short of reasons to make a mockery of the dialogue process which Mr Gilani pretends to be serious about. 


The fact of the matter is that the Pakistani Army, of which the ISI is an integral part, is not remotely interested in talking peace with India, leave alone arriving at a mutually acceptable agreement. The reason for that does not merit elaboration. Yet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh persists with trying to engage Pakistan in talks, knowing full well that his efforts — or those of self-appointed peace-makers, many of them doubling up as mediapersons — will result in nothing more than the Islamabad-Rawalpindi establishment heaping abuse and worse on India. It's a strange obsession that afflicts Mr Singh. We need not have worried about it had India been spared repeated humiliation by a terror-sponsoring state, ironically funded by the US, simply because he can see nothing wrong with Pakistan. 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITS

TOWARDS RESOLUTION

NEPALI CONGRESS DESERVES A CHANCE


As Nepal's Constituent Assembly prepares to elect a new Prime Minister this week, the Nepali Congress has stepped up its campaign to lead the next coalition Government. With the two other major players in Nepal's politics — the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), both with sizeable presence in the Constituent Assembly — having led previous coalitions which failed to deliver, it's only natural that the Nepali Congress, which is the second largest party in the Constituent Assembly, should get a chance at Government formation. By proposing Mr Ramchandra Poudyal for the Prime Minister's job, the Nepali Congress has acted wisely: He is widely respected and is seen as an able leader. It is now for the CPN(UML) and the Maoists to agree to his nomination and subsequent election by the Constituent Assembly; the former can be expected to go along with the Nepali Congress but nothing can be predicted about the latter. Despite the best efforts of the Nepali Congress, the Maoists may insist on staying out of the Government and using the most insignificant of reasons to hold up the primary task of the Constituent Assembly, which is to draft and adopt a Constitution for the Republic of Nepal. If past experience is any indication, the Maoists are unlikely to facilitate either governance of the troubled country or the drafting of the Constitution without which the next election cannot be held. Already the Constituent Assembly's term has been extended by a year and it is nowhere near completing its task. The Nepali Congress has proposed a time-bound rehabilitation of Maoist fighters although the exact details of how it plans to do so without turning Nepal's Army into a de facto military wing of the CPN (Maoist) are yet to be made public.


It would be instructive to remember that the Nepal Army is loath to fill its ranks with cadre of the People's Liberation Army and thugs of the Young Communist League. Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as 'Prachanda', having failed to have his way on this issue, resigned as Prime Minister in a huff. Since then the Maoists have raised obstacle after obstacle to prevent the functioning of the Constituent Assembly. Mr Poudyal, if he does become Prime Minister, will have a daunting task on his hands and it is anybody's guess as to whether he will succeed where his predecessors have failed. Having said that, Nepal desperately needs some sort of a reconciliation among the warring political parties in the absence of which that country's people continue to suffer enormously. Mr Dahal should rise above partisan politics and extend full cooperation to the new Government. On his part, Mr Poudyal must try to carry all disparate factions and groups with him. 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

THE ILL WINDS FROM ARABIA

BALBIR K PUNJ


While a section of the secularist brigade in the media and the establishment have been busy constructing the myth of 'Hindu terror', the real terrorists have made deep inroads into the 'secular' bastion of Kerala — a State that has incidentally never elected a BJP legislator. The recent dismembering of the right hand of a Christian college teacher, Mr TJ Joseph, in Muvattupuzha by jihadi extremists was closely followed by the attempt to derail a train in the State. 


Only five days after the attack on the college teacher, some 20 hosepipes connecting the different coaches of a passenger train were found cut systematically in Nilambur. Both incidents are believed to be the handiwork of Islamist extremists. Add to these the discovery of large quantities of detonators, explosives and other materials used for making bombs in various godowns and offices of Islamic organisations all within the past few weeks.


Those friends of mine who are regular readers of Malayalam newspapers say that ever since these happenings, the raids that Kerala Police has carried out in different places in the north of the State have exposed a well-planned conspiracy that involves the storage of enormous quantities of all types of weapons, bombs — both improvised and imported — chemicals, swords, knives, axes and what not, mostly hidden away in abandoned godowns and other remote locations. 


The so-called Popular Front of India and Socialist Democratic Party of India, two among several front organisations launched by Islamists to overthrow the state and capture power, are believed to have accumulated the deadly arsenal. The purpose of storing these arms and ammunition is self-evident. The police have also recovered CDs, laptops and printed material from the many offices of these organisations, the premises of which were subjected to a thorough search following the barbaric punishment inflicted on the college teacher. 


The unearthing of ammunition factories in so many different spots along the Malabar coastline has exposed the State Government to public ridicule. The State Home Minister, Mr Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, has said that he would not allow the Taliban to strike roots in Kerala's soil. But he has to answer to the people how so many organisations were able to function so long in the State that it became possible to store large quantities of weapons at so many different places without the police coming to know of it. 


Was this the result of political ties that the 'secular' establishment had forged with Muslim extremist organisations for years? Did not the Congress and Marxists join hands prior to the last Assembly election seeking release of jihadi leader Abdul Nasser Madani who was being tried for masterminding the Coimbatore blasts which claimed at least 70 innocent lives? 


There is widespread suspicion in Kerala that jihadi extremism has received protection and encouragement from the political class cutting across party lines. Reacting to the attack on Mr Joseph, Kerala Congress chairman KM Mani said that there had been an intelligence report about the threat to the lecturer's life and not giving him police protection despite possessing this information was a failure on the part of the State Home Minister, who is an acolyte of the CPI(M) State secretary, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan. 


Political leaders usually accuse each other on such occasions but Mr Mani's accusation has much truth in it. The Marxists had openly joined hands with the PDP in the last election and Central security agencies have revealed how Kerala Police turned a blind eye to jihadi activities, including conducting of training camps in the State. Thadiyantavide Nassir, the main accused in the Bangalore serial blasts case, had earlier 'escaped' from the custody of Kerala Police and was finally traced in Bangladesh by security agencies belonging to other States. 

The State BJP's demand that Nassir's escape should be investigated by the National Investigation Agency has gained wide support in Kerala following the attempt to derail the passenger train at Nilambur. Recently, a top IG-level police officer from the State even visited the Gulf where he met absconding jihadi leaders. 


A report about the secret visit by the police officer, stated to be close to Mr Vijayan, was sent by Indian diplomats stationed there to the Union Government, following which the State Government had to act against him much against the wishes of Mr Balakrishnan and only at the insistence of Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who is fighting his own private war with Mr Vijayan.


The sprouting of jihadi organisations and spread of the mindset that justifies horrific violence in Kerala are the result of increasing links of the State with the Gulf countries following the job rush, the majority of beneficiaries of which are Muslims. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs M Ramachandran has admitted that the security agencies are worried over the flow of funds for extremist activities and the inventive ways in which these funds are being transferred. 


Apart from money, the jihadi mindset is fired by indoctrination that links the prosperity in the Gulf states to religion and the imposition of sharia'h on all, irrespective of their religion. The gruesome punishment meted out to the college lecturer for his alleged blasphemy is evidence of the creeping Islamisation of Kerala. To ignore the State's links with the Gulf countries and the impact of Islam as practised by Arabs there would be self-defeating. It's a reality we must accept. 


Whether or not those fabricating fantasies of saffron terror are doing so to divert the nation's attention from real terrorism is an issue that should concern security agencies. We all know how red herrings are frequently used by vested interests to shield the guilty from justice.

 

 punjbalbir@gmail.com 


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

TOUCHING FAITH IN ISLAMISM

PRIYADARSI DUTTA


Islam was brought to Kerala — the story is repeated ad nauseam — not by fearsome Turkish cavaliers but by amicable Arab sea-merchants. Thus God's Own Country escaped the ravages of jihad that slashed the social fabric of north India. Incidentally, the Marxian creed also triumphed in Kerala in the 1950s by avoiding strife similar to the Bolshevik revolution and Mao's Long March. Communists captured power via the ballot box in 1957. But this never appeased their violent atavism as can be vouched for by RSS functionaries, hundreds of whom have been victims of targeted killings. So it is with Arabic Islam, the friendly entry of which did not prevent the horrific Mopla massacre of Hindus in 1921.


The Marad carnage of May, 2003 when a group of 65 zealots massacred eight Hindu fishermen proved that Islamic radicalism was alive and kicking. The long shadow of Arabia falls on Kerala, where there are an estimated 6,000 Arabic teachers and 5,00,000 students of Arabic. The fashion of the Arab veil is on the rise among Malayali Muslim women.


Violent Islamism was witnessed in Kerala recently when Mr TJ Joseph, a lecturer at Newman College in Thodupuzha, 62 km off Ernakulum, was attacked by fanatics. His right hand was partially chopped off. What provoked the outrage was an alleged disparaging reference to Prophet Mohammed in a question paper set by him. He was suspended from the college and is evading an arrest warrant. Mr Joseph may seek comfort in the fact that his life has been spared. Others have been less fortunate.

 

It is the majority (which implies Hindus, although the Constitution keeps it undefined) which is painted as the villain of the piece in secular discourse on atrocities against minorities. When the reverse happens, misinterpreters of the malady are silent. The secularists are strangely silent when one minority is attacked by another. This happened in 2001 when it was discovered that it was Deendar-e-Anjuman and not the RSS that had bombed churches in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. All this and more will never be part of secular discourse.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NEEDED, CHANGE IN TACTICS

B RAMAN


New Delhi would do well not to give in to Islamabad's arm-twisting tactics and foreclose its options. While talks with Pakistan should not be suspended, it would be in India's interest to withdraw the invitation to Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Instead, it would be wise to let P Chidambaram steer the dialogue process with his Pakistani counterpart, Rehman Malik


Remember the late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's tenure as Foreign Minister of Pakistan under Yahya Khan? Remember his crude exhibitionism and unparliamentary remarks about Mrs Indira Gandhi in the months before the Indo-Pakistan war of December 1971? How outrageously he would conduct himself in the UN Security Council when it debated the growing tension between the two countries! Others may remember Benazir Bhutto, his daughter who was the Pakistani Prime Minister in 1989, standing before a crowd near the Line of Control in Pakistan occupied Kashmir facing Indian territory and shouting hysterically: "Azadi, azadi". She, too, had some uncalled-for remarks to make about PV Narasimha Rao, former Indian Prime Minister.


Mrs Gandhi and Rao both ignored the behaviour of their Pakistani counterparts and continued doing what, according to them, had been in the national interest. India should similarly ignore contemptuously the behaviour of Mr Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, and his unnecessary remarks about Mr SM Krishna, Union Minister for External Affairs, made while briefing Pakistani media on Friday on the Ministerial-level dialogue that took place on the previous day.


Mr Krishna and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao must be complimented for conducting themselves with great personal dignity as befitting representatives of a responsible nation with a mature political leadership at its helm and for refusing to let themselves be provoked into paying Mr Qureshi back in kind. One of the objectives of Mr Qureshi had been to create doubts in the minds of the Indian public about Mr Krishna's credibility and professional competence. Another was to fabricate the illusion of a crisis in the hope of making the West and the Islamic world exercise pressure on India. The Bharatiya Janata Party and some of its leaders and spokesmen are unwittingly walking into the Pakistani trap by their campaign against Mr Krishna at a time when the political class should stand by him unitedly.


When the Bhuttos indulged in their anti-India antics, there was no global television. Interested observers had to read the news in print the following day and wait for the visuals which arrived days later. There were no live transmissions or debates. Most of the world did not follow what went on and the international community did not have any idea how the Pakistani Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers comported themselves. But thanks to the global TV networks today, the whole world had an opportunity of watching live the belligerent doublespeak of Mr Qureshi and the Indians' measured response which will stand the nation in good stead. 


India's negotiating stance of "action against anti-India terrorism first, rest later" and the growing international understanding of India's approach to dialogue between the two countries post-26/11 have unsettled Pakistan. Expectedly, Mr Qureshi's behaviour did not betray any nervousness or remorse over the reported admissions of David Coleman Headley, head of the sleeper cell of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri in Chicago, to Indian interrogators about the role of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in the Mumbai attacks. It reflected petulance and anger over his failure to bully Mr Krishna and the Government of India into changing their negotiating stance and accepting the Pakistani position of "talk on all or talk on nothing" just as the Bhuttos' failure to bully their Indian counterparts into accepting the Pakistani viewpoint found expression in their thinly veiled misconduct. One should ignore Mr Qureshi's barbs and look ahead.

What now are the options before India? The BJP has demanded that talks be called off with Pakistan. This will be an unintelligent choice. There may be a time in future when India has to act of its own accord against the anti-Indian terrorist infrastructure in Pakistani territory which may either take the form of military action or covert action. India has to convince the international community that it tried all other options to make Pakistan see reason and that only when those options failed, it was forced to resort to military or covert action. There are any number of Governmental statements and doctrines in various countries regarding the circumstances under which covert action would be justified. The most important of these are a speech given by Mr George Shultz, the US Secretary of State in President Ronald Reagan's tenure, and an introduction to a report on terrorism written by Mr George HW Bush, Reagan's Vice-President and chairman of the presidential task force against terrorism. These state that covert action against a state sponsor of terrorism would be justified when all other options fail.


Negotiation is one of the options that must be tried. It could have one of two outcomes: The Pakistani establishment sees reason and acts against anti-India terrorism, thereby obviating the need for covert action, or it continues to avoid action, thereby justifying our resorting to covert action. It is, therefore, important that we continue with our negotiations with Pakistan in the hope of establishing normal relations while at the same time reviving and strengthening our covert action capability for possible use.


Should India continue dialogue with Mr Qureshi? Would it not be a poor reflection on India as a nation and further encourage such behaviour by Pakistan? The Indian Government cannot refuse to negotiate so long as Mr Qureshi is Pakistani Foreign Minister as Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has every right to appoint him.

So the only option available to us is to keep the negotiations going while at the same time protecting our national dignity by confining our future talks to interactions between the Indian Home Ministry and the Pakistani Interior Ministry. India should withdraw the invitation to Mr Qureshi to visit New Delhi issued earlier and instead invite Mr Rehman Malik, Pakistan's Interior Minister, for continuing the dialogue with Mr P Chidambaram, Union Minister for Home Affairs. 


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


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THE PIONEER

OPED

FARCE ON HIGH SEA

BARRY RUBIN


With curbs on imports relaxed, what is the rationale of sending 'aid' to Gaza?


AUPI despatch reports: "A former Arab leader, in close touch with current leaders, speaking privately not for attribution, told this reporter on July 6, "All the West Asian and Gulf leaders now want Iran taken out of the nuclear arms business and they all know sanctions won't work."


Now there are few former Arab leaders — they usually stay leader until health or a bullet makes them no longer available for interviews — but this sounds precisely like Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, former Saudi Ambassador to the United States. 


This is an accurate reading of what's going on in most Arabic-speaking states (obviously not Syria and another de facto country called the Gaza Strip). It runs quite contrary to the dominant Western view that the Arabs will love us if we bash Israel and show we think Muslims invented mathematics and don't want to be aggressive or use force against anyone school.


Well, the Prince who used to be known as Ambassador was basically expressing this sentiment: "If there is something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?" 


The "Zionist entity"?


One can almost imagine the Saudi king's memo book:


Monday: Bash Israel 


Tuesday: Israel destroys Iran nuclear facilities. Whew!


Wednesday: Bash Israel


US Government cannot find evidence that flotilla organiser is terrorist, Germany can


Not only are the Saudis ahead of the US Government, so is Germany. In an earlier article I provided proof — including US court records — that the Turkish IHH, organiser of the flotilla and a Hamas ally — was linked to terrorism. Now Germany has banned the group from raising money for that very reason. So might one expect that observers reevaluate the flotilla? And I'm not talking about the good intentions of the European participants but the fact that they were being used for a pro-terrorist public relations' operation.


The German statement says: 


"The IHH (is) supporting organisations specifically under the control of Hamas or support Hamas. Hamas is, as noted also by the Federal Administrative Court in its Al-Aqsa 2004 decision, a unified structure in which social activities cannot be separated from the terrorist and political action organisation. Organisations that operate directly or indirectly, from German soil against the existence of the state of Israel, have forfeited their right to exist as a recognited organisation."

While the Government statement said that the IHH in Germany is not part of the IHH in Turkey, sources tell me that despite the formal independence of the group in Germany it is for all practical purposes a branch of the IHH-Turkey. This point was also made on the German television one programme whose transcript I published last month.


Here's another tip: Israel has now dropped all limits on imports except the restrictions on weapons and dual-use military items. Nevertheless, more ships are being organised and sent off. So again this is not a humanitarian operation but one to support a revolutionary Islamist, client of Iran, genocide-intended, terrorist state on the Mediterranean that oppresses women, seeks to subvert moderate Arab Governments, and expels Christians. There is also a deliberate design to persuade the world that there is some terrible suffering in Gaza and a humanitarian crisis which is belied by photos from there on a regular basis. It is part of the war to destroy Israel and bring revolutionary Islamists to power. And the goodwill or naiveté of many participants in this effort has nothing to do with that reality and no effect on it.


What really happened on Mavi Marmara? 

 

A new Israeli Army report is fascinating in its details on the flotilla operation, including the fact that three soldiers were taken hostage and taken to a lower deck, two escaped by jumping into the sea, and the third was too injured to do so. Thus, the need for a rescue raid using force. Lots of other new material.


There was also a real mistake. The Navy disregarded Intelligence and reports from others that the militants would use violence if the soldiers went on board. Mr Giora Eiland, former National Security Advisor, summarised his report as follows:


"We found some professional mistakes that were made, however there were also positive aspects. Specifically, the manner in which the Israeli commandos behaved, the decisions that they made and the way in which they took control of the ship. There were at least four incidents where Mavi Marmara passengers shot at IDF soldiers. There is good reason to believe that the first incident of live fire shooting on the ship was by passengers of the Mavi Marmara. The classified suggestions that I made were accepted in an open and willing manner by the officers who received them." 


Preparing to attack the soldiers, the terrorists took over the ship and ignored the orders of the captain to stop what they were doing. The first three Israeli soldiers to arrive on deck were taken hostage forced to the lowest deck at the ship's bow. During the rescue attempt, two jumped into the water and were picked up by Israeli navy boats. The third was too badly hurt to escape but was saved by the rescue forces.


The kidnapping of the soldiers led to the fighting in which nine militants were killed. People killed after attacking and kidnapping soldiers aren't innocent bystanders. On at least four occasions and perhaps six, passengers shot at Israeli soldiers. Shell casings were found and one soldier was wounded in the knee by weapons that the soldiers did not possess. The only mistake made was not to use different boarding tactics based on the assumption that the militants would attack. There was no guarantee that this would have resulted in fewer casualties. Mr Eiland concluded that without boarding the ship there was no alterntive way of stopping it.


Incidentally, Mr Eiland specifically said that while he found mistakes he did not conclude that the operation had failed.So what are the headlines? Israel says at least four flottila members fired at soldiers? Of course not!:

The writer is director of the GLORIA Center, Tel Aviv, and editor of the MERIA Journal. 


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THE PIONEER

OPED

PAST CONTINUES TO HAUNT THE PRESENT

GWYNNE DYER


Africa's tragedy retold in Rwanda

 

Did Paul Kagame really stop the genocide in Rwanda 16 years ago, or did he just interrupt it for a while? That question frightens him so much that he will not risk everything on the outcome of a democratic election.


Mr Kagame is running for re-election to the presidency of the traumatised Central African country next month. If economic success automatically brought political success he would be a shoo-in: Rwanda's economy grew by 11 per cent last year. But in fact, his resounding election victory in 2003 was the result of ruthless manipulation, and this one will be the same.


In recent months, Opposition party leaders in Rwanda have been arrested and charged with denying the genocide. An opposition newspaper was banned and its co-editors attacked (one died, one survived). Leading Generals in the Rwandan Army have been arrested or have fled into exile. (One was wounded last month in an attempted hit in South Africa.) So is Mr Kagame over-reacting? May be.


If you cut Mr Kagame open, you would find engraved on his heart William Faulkner's terrible truth: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." One-tenth of Rwanda's population — at least 8,00,000 people, Tutsis and those who tried to protect them — were murdered by their neighbours, mostly with machetes, only 16 years ago.

Not nearly enough time has passed yet for generational turnover to take the edge off the grief and the hate. Everybody pretends it's over, but of course it isn't. How could it be?


Mr Kagame's whole life has been shaped by genocide. He grew up in Uganda, where his parents fled when an earlier wave of violence killed about 1,00,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in the early 1960s. He became the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a mainly Tutsi exile organisation dedicated to overthrowing the Hutu extremists who ruled the country, and he led the RPF Army that marched in to stop the great genocide of 1994. 


He knows, of course, that Tutsis and Hutus are not really separate ethnic groups. All of Rwanda's 19 major clans includes both Tutsis and Hutus. They speak the same language and they live in the same villages. The term once distinguished cattle-herders from farmers, and later the wealthy from the poor. Rich Hutus could become Tutsis — but the Tutsis naturally always remained a minority of the population.


He also knows, however, that the colonial authorities exploited those class differences and gave the Tutsis political authority over the Hutus in return for their loyalty. By the late 20th century the Tutsis and Hutus had become ethnic groups for all practical purposes, with a constant undercurrent of resentment by the Hutus against the Tutsis. After independence in 1960, the killing got underway very quickly. It peaked in 1994.


This past will not leave Rwanda alone. The very words "Tutsi" and "Hutu" have now been banned in Rwanda, but a ministerial investigation in 2008 found anti-Tutsi graffiti and harassment of Tutsi students in most of the schools that were visited. The Army is exclusively Tutsi and the Government almost entirely so, because Mr Kagame does not really believe that this generation of Hutus can be trusted.


To make his position even more precarious, Tutsi solidarity is breaking down. The arrests, exile and attempted assassination of various Generals may be in response to real plots. Most Tutsi Generals belong to the Nyiginya clan, which traditionally provided the country's king. Mr Kagame is from the Umwega clan, and some of the Nyiginya think that power has remained in the wrong hands for too long. It is an awful situation, and Mr Kagame has only one strategy for avoiding a return to genocide: Hang on to power, and hope that rapid economic growth and the passage of time will eventually blur the identities and blunt the reflexes that have made this generation of Rwandans so dangerous to one another. 


His model is Singapore, an ethnically complex state that avoided too much democracy during the early decades of its dash for growth. If Rwanda could become the Singapore of Central Africa, then may be its citizens would eventually come to believe that their stake in the country's new stability and prosperity was more important than the history. But Singapore did not have so far to travel, and its history was not drowned in blood.


The logic of Mr Kagame's strategy obliges him to stay in power: His first duty is to Rwanda's Tutsis, at least half of whom have already been murdered. But he must provide prosperity to the Hutu majority too, in order to reconcile them to Tutsi survival, and his relatively corruption-free Government has made impressive progress towards that goal.


Nevertheless, in a free election today most Rwandans would vote along ethnic lines. His Rwandan Patriotic Front would instantly be replaced by a Hutu-led regime of unknowable character and purpose. He dares not risk it, so real democracy is not an option.


If Mr Kagame is now killing opposition journalists and dissident Generals, then he is making a dreadful and probably fatal mistake, but it may not be him. In the ruthlessly Machiavellian world of Rwandan politics, other possibilities also exist. Either way, he has the loneliest, scariest job in the world, and he must know that the odds are long against him. 


Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDIT PAGE

FALSE START

 

Even by the standards of the on-again, off-again India-Pakistan dynamic, the rapidity with which the sheen of dialogue resumption has worn off is surprising. Not only was the free-for-all at the joint press conference addressed by foreign minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi quite unexpected, even more startling was Qureshi's personal diatribe against his guest at another press conference a day later - when Krishna was accused of being a marionette without a mandate to negotiate. It certainly wasn't in the best traditions of Pakistani hospitality, to which many visiting Indians have paid glowing tribute - not to mention some basic canons of diplomacy. 


The stakes, however, are so high that New Delhi cannot afford to be deflected by atmospherics. To break off dialogue, as the BJP urges, is a cop-out. India cannot choose its neighbours, it has no alternative but to continue to press its concerns with Pakistan. Islamabad, on its part, underestimates the extent of the consensus against terror in India. Given the impact of the worst ever terrorist attack on Indian soil - in terms of scale and perception if not casualties - no administration in New Delhi can win a mandate for engaging Islamabad across the entire spectrum of outstanding issues with a fixed time frame for resolution, until it is able to show that the latter is acting in good faith. Some action on the wealth of evidence that New Delhi has advanced, on the perpetrators of 26/11 currently on Pakistani soil, is essential for that. 


In any case the idea of a fixed timeframe is fatuous, as it doesn't address what would happen if no resolution of outstanding issues can be arrived at within the time frame. A make-or-break attitude is bad for the peace process, and in retrospect it's evident that a fixation on press conferences and joint statements, when the gap between the two sides has yet to be narrowed, can be deeply counterproductive. Quiet diplomacy is more the need of the hour as both sides explore deliverables. 


And it may be necessary on New Delhi's part to extend its diplomacy by engaging the Pakistani army directly. That's an entity that continues to be deeply hostile to India, and given its power within the Pakistani establishment little can be done unless this hostility changes. In any case both sides appear to be cooling off after the heat of the Krishna-Qureshi exchanges, a good opportunity to introspect and bring in the changes necessary to restart the peace process.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

MULAYAM'S MEA CULPA

 

Political compulsions have forced Mulayam Singh Yadav to apologise for his brief tango with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh ahead of the 2009 general elections. The Samajwadi Party chief needs to regain the support of Muslims in UP to face up to the challenge posed by a resurgent Congress, as well as the might of the BSP, in the 2012 assembly polls. The SP had expanded its political base in UP in the 1990s by taking on the sangh parivar. It helped the party position itself as the guardian of secularism in UP and win office in Lucknow. With the emergence of the BSP as the main force in the state, Mulayam felt he needed to build a broad coalition of other backward castes. The alignment with Kalyan was a part of this strategy. The move failed and, in the process, the SP lost the trust of its Muslim supporters. 


However, it remains to be seen if the apology will help the SP shore up its political base. Caste and communal equations continue to influence elections in UP, no doubt. But the ground has shifted considerably since the heady days of identity politics in the past two decades. Issues related to economic development have now come to the foreground. A new generation of voters has emerged and their concerns go beyond mere matters of identity. In any case, the SP's decline can't be explained solely in terms of getting the caste and communal equation wrong. The party lost support also because of its failure to govern well while in office and present a progressive development agenda after losing the 2007 assembly elections. Mulayam needs to look beyond identity politics to remain relevant in UP. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

PLAYING FOR THE FUTURE

BORIA MAJUMDAR

 

"It's time for Africa" - Shakira's words captivated millions of television watchers and mobile users from across the world as the World Cup was unleashed on Africa on June 11, 2010. Was it truly Africa's Cup? Did it finally place Africa on the world sporting map? Was a quarter-final appearance by Ghana enough to stir a continent that has never received its due in global sporting discourse? 


The consensus in the World Cup's immediate aftermath is that the Africans have made themselves proud by staging an event of near unrivalled proportions watched by 3.18 million ticket-holding fans for well over a month. Not a single hitch, no major security lapse, no organisational goof-up that could lead to media hysteria. It was indeed Africa's moment. But while Africa 2010's short-term legacy is positive, there are no definite answers yet as to whether the World Cup will have a positive effect on the continent's sporting landscape in the coming decades. 


Legacy cannot be definitively documented within days of the tournament getting over. However, certain pointers have emerged suggesting that the Cup has indeed played a part in uniting an otherwise fractured continent. Reports from Africa have documented that an overwhelming number of tourists who made South Africa their home was from the continent. 


When Asamoah Gyan ran in to take the penalty against Uruguay in the quarter-final with history waiting to happen, he wasn't a Ghanian anymore. Rather, he was an African carrying with him the hopes of an entire continent. This continent was in mourning for days after, imagining what could have happened had Gyan converted that penalty with just seconds to go for the final whistle. Luis Suarez, a national hero in Uruguay, was a pan-African 'villain' and got booed every time he touched the ball during Uruguay's third place play-off against Germany. And, generally, African fans from across the continent were proud to be a part of their 'moment' in world football. 

 

Stories of hospitality, coming to light, have also helped demonstrate that community integration was successfully achieved in parts of South Africa. When asked what the Cup and the newly constructed sports venues meant for him, a black taxi driver in Cape Town summed it up beautifully: "My parents did not have the facilities. I did not have them either. But my children and grandchildren will surely have them now." The real challenge for the organisers in the event's aftermath will be to ensure that these words ring true, that the infrastructure created are within the means and reach of ordinary South Africans and harnessed in a systematic manner. 

One of the singular challenges that confront organisers of mega sports events is how to use stadiums built for them. The Bird's Nest in Beijing, an architectural marvel that stunned the world just a year and a half ago, has not been used since the Olympic Games. A recent news report has this to say about the Bird's Nest: "Paint is already peeling off in certain areas, and the only visitors these days are tourists who pay about $7 to walk on the stadium floor and browse a pricey souvenir shop." 


Growing criticism that the $450-million stadium was fast turning into a white elephant forced the authorities to convert it into a mall full of shops and entertainment outlets. The only event organised at the 91,000-capacity stadium in 2009 was a staging of Puccini's opera, Turandot, on August 8 to mark the first anniversary of the Olympics opening ceremony. To add to the stadium's woes, it has no permanent tenant after Beijing's top soccer club, Guo'an, backed out of a deal to play in the arena. 

Olympic venues in Sydney too lie derelict, raising questions about the prudence in staging sports events of gargantuan scale. The Sydney Olympic Park, once a symbol of Australian pride that housed Olympic athletes in 2000, now stands derelict. Getting to the park, some 25 km from the city's business district, is an ordeal, involving driving down Paramatta Road for almost an hour. The link between Darwin Harbour, the Sydney CBD and Paramatta was not accomplished and ordinary taxpayers continue to bear the brunt of this investment while real estate prices in Sydney continue to be high despite the meltdown. Even as a tourist attraction, Sydney Olympic Park has little currency. With no proper transportation to channel tourists to the site, it remains an example of how things can go wrong while trying to use sport as a module for urban regeneration. 


From the experiences of multiple host cities, it is evident that the relationship between the host country/city development and mega sporting events will continue to depend on a nation's ability to market itself as a key tourist destination post-event and also on its ability to harness the facilities constructed for the games for citizens' benefit. This requires South Africa to open up new tourist markets and sustain them over time. Whether or not the South Africans have embarked on projects of community integration and urban regeneration will determine if Africa 2010 leaves a positive legacy for the continent in the decades to come. 


The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

INTERVIEW

'BRANCHES OF INDOLOGY LIKE RELIGION FLOURISHING IN RUSSIA'

INDOLOGIST VIKTORIA LYSSENKO OF THE RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES INSTITUTE OF PHILOSOPHY RECENTLY LECTURED AT KASHMIR UNIVERSITY. SHE SPOKE TOADITI BHADURI ON INDOLOGY IN RUSSIA CURRENTLY: 


What is the state of Indic studies in Russia today? 

Currently certain branches of Indology, which were earlier under strict ideological control - like religion and philosophy - are flourishing. Thanks to the initiatives of Prof Marietta Stepanyants, the author of the first textbook on Eastern philosophies, and the Indian embassy in Moscow, a unique chair of Indian Philosophy named after Mahatma Gandhi has been established at the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences. Sanskrit and courses on various branches of Indian philosophical traditions are taught. Last year, the first specialised encyclopedia of Indian philosophy, prepared by Russian Indologists, was published and the State Commission declared it the best book of the year 2009. We actively cooperate with colleagues from the Indian Council for Philosophical Research. 


What made you study Indian philosophy? 

As a girl i read an extract from the Upanishads. It left a deep impression on me that when i, as a student of philosophy in Moscow State University, had to choose a language from among Spanish, Arabic and Sanskrit, i chose Sanskrit. For years i engaged in the study of the Vaisheshika school of thought. Buddhism came later when i was asked to write an article on the study of Buddhism in Russia, and i gradually immersed myself in Buddhism. 

Your most recent lecture was in Kashmir University. 

The lecture was organised by the Centre for Central Asian Studies. I was moved by the interest my lecture generated. I talked about faith and knowledge in early Buddhism, which generated fierce discussion, especially the premise that in Buddhism, as presented in the first two parts of the Tipitika, faith was not considered necessary for religious fulfilment. The Buddha said not to accept anything on simply faith, but on personal experience, of which he considered meditative experience the best. The audience said that without faith in God there can be no religion, hence Buddhism is not a religion at all. For a long time belief in god/gods was an essential feature of religion. But now many scholars are talking about the possibility of salvation as an essential feature, or as in Buddhism - liberation from sansar. 


What are the current trends you see in Indian philosophical studies? 

I have always found the enquiry into the nature of consciousness the strongest element of Indian philosophical thought. This can enrich modern research in the cognitive sciences. However, what concerns me is the estrangement between the study of traditional Indian philosophical schools and the study of Buddhism. True, Buddhism for long disappeared from the Indian scene, but the fundamentals of its philosophy were formulated as part of Indian philosophical thought with its traditional polemics and constant exchange of ideas between different schools. This deep familial link of Buddhism with the Indian philosophical soil that engendered it is being missed by both Buddhist and Hindu philosophy studies. Buddhists study six Hindu darshans, but in a rather formal way as if these were dogmatic systems. Specialists on darshanas also formally study Buddhism. In my opinion, the important aspect missing is the mutual enrichment of both traditions, their constructive impact on each other.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

EDIT PAGE

LUGGAGE CHECK

DEVIKA MITTAL

 

When a private plane greets you at the airport, you know your trip is going to be one you'll never forget. As my family (all 20 of us) boarded a plane for the African subcontinent, i was excited. It was South Africa. I had seen the pictures, heard the stories and almost watched the FIFA World Cup live (for some reason, we decided to go before the World Cup started). Images of Scarlett Johansson and Salman Khan dancing in front of the Palace Hotel darted through my mind, and i envisioned a world where the food was sumptuous, the scenery was beautiful and the animals very, very exotic. 


The trip would be fantastic, giving me the opportunity to meet a head of state's second eldest son (or was it his sixth?). I was steeped in excess to the point where i felt like the reincarnation of some Arab princess who could not live in anything less than mansions and cliff-top lodges or travel in anything but a bulletproof car, accompanied by a bodyguard! 


But fancy isn't always happy, as we soon realised upon venturing into the countries on our itinerary. Sun City, Las Vegas's little cousin stuck in a 1960s time warp, wasn't all that bad. That is, on condition i forget about the starving, since dinner wasn't served at the "posh" hotel after 10 ("these are the healthy times, you see"). Or about my mother keeping almost a whole suitcase, a big one, of her precious possessions with her at most times - the hotel had warned us even the safes weren't safe: how ironic - and making me carry them around. 


Even the safari in Namibia's response to Masai Mara showed us only a glimpse of an elephant. To imagine that i had travelled all that way to see an animal i can see in Delhi zoo. And we got robbed. While we flew around in a helicopter, all our luggage (packed in 30 bulging bags for a week-long trip) was stolen from our cars at gunpoint by a gang. Rather kindly, they left behind my toothpaste and hairbrush. I think my mother would have been happier if the robbers had taken my brother and me instead. Oh, to lose it all. And to have to deal with aunts who enjoyed telling their sob story one too many times for my liking. 


I think it's safe to say that now we like to travel light (as light as an Indian family can travel, anyway). My parents still like to keep a few paranchas, achars and khakras, just in case we find ourselves miles from civilisation in the heart of New York City. I even fancy myself as a monk who lost her Ferrari, for the value of simplicity dawned on me only when i had no other option but to try and appreciate everything that i had not lost (which wasn't much). I've learned that i don't need a tag, a brand or even a job title to feel accomplished, successful and happy. And it really would be a shame if it weren't the same for you. 


So although my brother is an ardent football fan (a rather foolish one at that, for he still supports England), you wouldn't have seen me there during the Cup. Or maybe you could have, provided i was just in loose pyjamas and sporting dreadlocks, living in a shady hotel and enjoying myself more than i could with three bags. And all the while i would have happily steered clear of the 100-plus courts set up to focus on World Cup-related crimes across the continent, just for us not-so-smart football tourists. 


Writer Regina Nadelson said, "Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage." Regina is really a wise woman.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

A BREACH OF FAITH IN DAMS

ONGOING VIOLATIONS IN PROJECTS COULD RUIN OUR ENVIRONMENT. DOES THE GOVERNMENT CARE?

 

Fr the Uttarakhand government, the hydropower story is ecoming a case of `so near and et so far'. Its dream of building a network of projcts on the Ganga has run into yet another roadbock. Last week, the Environment and Forests Ministry's Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) decided not to give clearance to any of the proposed projects until the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) conducts a cumulative impact assessment study of all the proposed dams.


The decision came after an FAC team, under instructions from the Uttarakhand High Court, found that serious violations had occurred in some existing dams and that the government had inexplicably decided not to do any cumulative study on the effects of building so many dams on the Ganga.


Only couple of months ago, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India warned that there would be no water in large stretches of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi riverbeds if the state builds the 53 power projects on these two rivers.

 

Unfortunately, whenever violations are exposed, we are so often presented with a fait accompli. Take, for example, the Lohari Nagpala Hydel Power Project. Even though the Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh accepts that there have been large-scale violations of green laws, he now says that it'll be difficult to abandon it because Rs 600 core has already been spent on it. So what happens to the project developer and the officials who were in cahoots with the company? And, what about the threat of an environmental disaster in the future? Witness the kind of violations that are taking place in the projects underway. The Srinagar project, according to Bharat Jhunjhunwala, an economist, in his petition to the HC, was cleared as a 200 MW project in 1985. Then in 1987, it was raised to 330 MW and it was necessary for the project developers to obtain a fresh environment clearance. But no one bothered to apply for a fresh one.

 

Such total lack of regard for the law by the state as well as the central ministry can have far-reaching effects. For example, a $600 million loan for a 444 MW hydropower project in the state may be in jeopardy following allegations about the manner in which it received environmental clearance. In the hills, the protests are increasing and this should be a cause for worry for the state and the Union governments.


How the Ministry of Environment and Forests in particular -and the Government of India in general -handles corporate violations of this magnitude will demonstrate how serious they are about saving our fragile environment -and how seriously they take their own laws.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

AN EGGSACT SCIENCE

 

The issue of whether the chicken came before the egg or the egg came before the chicken has finally been resolved. As usual, it's not the scraggly beards from philosophy departments who answered that tough question but scientists who prefer to rely on facts rather than theories. In a recent study in Britain, a team of labcoat-wallas pointed to the origin of the species Gallus gallus domesticus: a protein called ovocleidin-17 whose function is to help in the formation of the chicken egg's hard shell. This essential ingredient, it turns out, can be formed only inside a chicken.

 

So to make ovocleidin-17 that makes a chicken egg, you'll first need a chicken.

 

So is this an open and shut case now? Or is it a shut and open case? Some other eggheads insist that for the first chicken to have come about in this world, there must have been pre-existing ovocleidin-17, the stuff that eggs are made of and thereby the Adam among chicken eggs. So even if it was there in gloop form, before the chicken there was the chicken egg and the latest report confirms that even while coming to the wrong conclusion.

 

But the chicken'n'egg question itself didn't really ask the question 'correctly', which should be: did the chicken come first or the chicken egg come first? The descriptor for the egg is crucial because different birds use different kinds of proteins to produce eggs. And the chicken egg-forming ovocleidin's evolutionary pattern wasn't timed with the evolution of eggs in general, but it actually developed from existing proteins to form eggs before birds evolved from reptiles. So the real answer to, 'Did the chicken come first or the egg come first?' is actually, neither. The dinos came first.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

ALL SOUND, NO FURY

ASHOK MALIK

 

As the countdown begins for Parliament's monsoon session, the Opposition can be granted its enthusiasm. After two successive parliamentary sessions in which deft floor coordination and penetrative interventions by Opposition leaders managed to paint the government into a corner, the political challenge to the UPA has finally moved from the legislature to the rough and tumble of 'real' politics. The Bharat bandh of July 5 may have been state-sponsored in parts of the country, it may have had an element of coercion and may ultimately be self-defeating in its appeal to 1970s-style populism. Even so, it got certain traction. In the end, the Congress had a bigger frown on its face after the bandh than before.

 

In the monsoon session, once more the issue of rising prices will provide a weapon to the Opposition. This will add to perceptions of corruption in certain ministries such as telecom, drift and underperformance in agriculture and, overall, the impression of a government that has not quite lived up to its strong mandate of a year ago. All this will no doubt satisfy the BJP, the Left and the other Opposition parties. Is it adding up to something bigger?

 

It is here that the story gets sobering. Consider the precedents. Contrary to claims, the July 5 bandh was not the "first time in the history of India's politics that almost all political parties came together" against a Congress government. The previous occasion this happened was on August 30, 1989, at the height of the Bofors drama. A call for a general strike was supported by the BJP, the CPI(M) and the gaggle of Janata parivar parties.

 

It met with a popular response. In the heart of Lutyens' Delhi, the Union government felt compelled to ask civil servants to stay back in office overnight to ensure their presence on bandh day and to defeat the strike.

 

Nevertheless, July 5, 2010, was not August 30, 1989. In 1989, the Rajiv Gandhi government was in its fifth year and had run out of steam. Thanks to economic and broader social challenges, there was a mood of widespread pessimism in the country. More important, there was a face to the anti-Rajiv campaign in the form of V.P. Singh. All of those factors are absent in 2010. The disquiet over inflation marks the first signs of discontent against the UPA government. There is a long way to go before this matures into full-fledged mass anger, if it does at all.

 

For these reasons, it is difficult to immediately envision that the grand constellation that delivered the Bharat bandh — from the right to the left, from the Janata Dal (United) to the Telugu Desam — will convert itself into an electoral alliance. At the bare minimum, the BJP and the CPI(M) have to find a candidate they both agree to work with. Unfortunately — perhaps fortunately, given the man's subsequent history — there is no V.P. Singh character around. Nitish Kumar may fancy his chances but first he has to win this winter's election in Bihar and then spend two years selling himself nationally. It is all very hypothetical.

 

Other than personalities and party hang-ups, there is also the matter of positioning. The Bharat bandh of this month's opening Monday may have shut down more shops and offices than it hoped for, but it also swung the entire Opposition rhetoric towards a type of leftist populism that is obsolete and, other than in West Bengal, a voter repellent. It is all very well to say that a party in Opposition can't preach deregulation and liberalisation — the Congress didn't between 1999 and 2004, and the BJP hasn't since — but the quest for the poverty vote has to be balanced with an appeal to the growing aspirations of middle India.

 

The Congress has been defeated in four general elections in the past 21 years. In three of them — 1989, 1998, 1999 — the middle classes, those segments frustrated by economic bottlenecks, rallied around the Congress's principal challenger. This is not a sufficient vote, but it is a necessary vote. After close to a decade of robust economic growth, with the constituency for the market-facilitated creation of economic opportunities having expanded, this section has acquired more numbers and its vote greater criticality.

 

Consider the timetable for the 2014 general election. The Indian economy is just about beginning to recover from the slowdown. Companies are getting rid of inventories rather than augmenting capacities, squeezing margins in the process and not quite creating jobs. It is broadly expected that in about two years, demand will rise sufficiently for Indian business to set up new production lines, and a new phase of a genuine boom to begin. If this prognosis is correct, then the next Lok Sabha election could happen bang in the middle of an economic surge. No mainstream Opposition party or alliance will be able to completely ignore the urges and sentiments that this phenomenon will throw up.

 

That is the reality the BJP must be mindful of. True, in Opposition it cannot speak the language of Milton Friedman. Yet, it cannot surrender the entirety of the sensible economic space to the Congress either.

 

Ashok Malik is a political commenator. The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BETWEEN STONES AND A HARD PLACE

PANKAJ VOHRA

 

The new round of trouble in Kashmir has raised questions about the state's Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's ability to deal with the volatile situation created partly by elements from across the border and partly by his own partymen and allies who seem unhappy with his style of functioning.

 

For young Omar, this is a crucial test in his political career as he, on one hand, is perceived to be the torchbearer of generation next and, on the other, is finding it hard to convince his fellow Kashmiris that he is one of them. Unlike his grandfather Sheikh Abdullah who was described as Sher-e-Kashmir and father Farooq Abdullah who inherited Sheikh Abdullah's legacy, Omar is finding it difficult to gain acceptance with the common Kashmiri. The very traits — a westernised liberal Muslim face in a strife-ridden border state — that propelled him to the chair once occupied by earlier generations of his family are now being used by his detractors to pull him down.

 

Omar is being accused of neglecting his work and being in New Delhi instead of the state capital for days at a time. His grasp over the administration is being described as worrying by his opponents. To make matters worse for him, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) led by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter Mehbooba seems to be gaining ground.

 

Simultaneously, factionalism within the ranks of an ally like the Congress is also weakening the state government. The common belief is that no government in Kashmir can be strong unless it receives adequate support from the Central government. In this case, a faction of the Congress, which controls the government in New Delhi, is targeting its own state president Saifuddin Soz. For the sake of the state, the Congress president should take strict action against erring legislators like Abdul Gani Vakil whose agenda is more to push the case of their own factions than helping to find a solution to the crisis. She has to ensure that there is enough backing for the person she appointed as the state party chief, Soz, regardless of the views of others in her party.

 

The all-party meet which was not attended by some factions of the Hurriyat and a major political party like the PDP has not helped matters and the sporadic curfew in parts of the Valley indicates that the solution may not be easy to find. For the Centre there are not too many political options. But these can only be exercised once the Amarnath yatra, which is underway, is over. The country cannot afford to have communal strife in a sensitive state in its quest to find a solution. There are many people who want Omar and his party to be replaced by the PDP with the active support of the Congress.

 

A major dilemma for the Congress, a key player in the state's politics, is that replacing Omar could be interpreted as a rejection of generation next. There is no dearth of people who have the mindset of the older generation and who want only a very experienced leadership at the helm of affairs both in the states and at the Centre. Therefore, rejecting Omar at this stage could have wide-ranging ramifications for many younger leaders like Sukhbir Singh Badal in Punjab, M.K. Stalin in Tamil Nadu, Ashok Chavan in Maharashtra, Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra, Raj and Uddhav Thackeray also in Maharashtra, Nitin Gadkari in the BJP and Rahul Gandhi in the Congress.

 

However, Jammu and Kashmir cannot be left to its own devices without proper administration. Omar in one way represents the future of the state and the hopes and aspirations of the younger generation. But, at the same time, the country cannot afford a lax administration.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LANGUAGE ABUSE

 

Language is the first marker of identity. The two salient factors determining the choice and use of language are birth — the linguistic culture one's born into — and location — the linguistic culture(s) one inhabits at the moment or in the course of a lifetime. Understandably, language yields itself to extreme politics. One doesn't have to look at the crimes against humanity by thugs claiming their rights over all German-speaking lands in the last century; closer home, our fantastically polyglot subcontinent will suffice. And as recently as 1971, a country carved itself into being by fighting to salvage its language and culture.

 

Given the sacrosanct nature of each Indian language, it was perhaps inevitable that the 1956 states reorganisation would be along linguistic lines. Perhaps it avoided, rather deferred, politico-cultural ruptures that could have torn the nascent republic apart. However, as the Telangana issue keeps reminding us, language is not all, and it may not harm to question the continuing sanctity and efficacy of the linguistic logic. Belgaum, and the politics of competitive chauvinism that it's engendered and encouraged for decades — that has just been reignited with a vengeance with the Centre's affidavit in the Supreme Court — shows what the linguistic allocation of districts, villages and towns had kept simmering. But the readiness to jump on the jingoistic wagon and interfere in the matters of a neighbouring state that the government and politicians of Maharashtra have demonstrated is not only unwarranted but also dangerous as it seeks to provoke hostilities among a populace long divided and mutually suspicious.

 

Against this regressive trend, there is certainly the discourse of development and prosperity as advocated by some of the younger locals, both Marathi- and Kannada-speaking. It helps neither group in the disputed border areas to fight over the decision made in 1956. Unfortunately, the out-of-line politics of Maharashtra, where neither the government nor the opposition seems interested in India's new politics of aspiration, doesn't seem eager in any way to let go of ghosts.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CORE TRUTHS

 

Inflation figures for June are out, and were expected to be scrutinised carefully given that the Reserve Bank of India has a quarterly monetary policy review meeting scheduled for later this month. The RBI has already tinkered with lending rates recently; a significant jump in inflation would make further tinkering a near-certainty. The figures eventually released showed that headline inflation, the most commonly examined figure, remains in double digits for the fifth successive month, a 10.55 per cent. But they also show more nuance than that.

 

Here's the first interesting thing: food inflation remains flat, staying between 12.5 and 13 per cent (at 12.81 per cent this month). Indeed, Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu went as far as to say that it will slow further before the end of the month. There are several reasons for this: one of the more important being that any irregularities in the monsoon do not yet appear to have affected planting schedules. Interestingly, it is therefore not completely clear what effect the fuel price hike has had on food prices. Much attention has been focused on "core inflation", a fancy name for those parts of the inflation basket that aren't food or (directly) fuel-related. Core inflation, it is argued, tells us if inflation is responding to pressures from the cost side, or from the demand side. But this is not an ideal situation for an easy application of that theory: the fuel price increase is still cascading through the economy.

 

Core inflation, therefore, even if significantly higher than it was last month — at 8.6 per cent instead of 6.6 — cannot be as easily interpreted as it would have been otherwise. Basu struck a note of caution, in fact: while he accepted that some demand management was inevitable, we could neither afford "drastic" movement on the stimulus, nor should we be scared by these figures. It is likely, he correctly pointed out, that before the end of this year, prices will in fact be lower than if we had not decontrolled fuel. It seems a policy of gradual exit from stimulus will continue.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE UNDERMINER

 

I'm liberal," declares a character in one of Robert Frost's poems, and explains:

"I mean so altruistically moral/

 

I never take my own side in a quarrel." That pretty much sums up Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh, as he justifies his open criticism of Home Minister P. Chidambaram's "intellectual arrogance" and insensitivity towards the wretched context that produces Naxalism. Singh's April broadside against the home minister was widely seen as undermining his executive control at a moment when he needs all the support and political capital he can get to tackle the insurgency. But now Singh defends his stand, providing as evidence "support" from the party leadership — "You have seen the article in Congress Sandesh (Sonia Gandhi's letter to the party) and the statement by the prime minister in Parliament. That should make things clear," he said, adding that now, the "socio-economic agenda has been brought out."

 

Even as Singh expresses satisfaction at a hatchet job well done, he seems to puzzlingly think that it took his personal intervention to bring attention to the "root cause" of Maoist trouble. Or that strengthening the forest, mining and land acquisition act or panchayat extension in scheduled areas are light-bulb innovations that everyone but he is oblivious to. After he got away with his political indiscretion, Singh's blindingly obvious bromides are now laced with the sense of being (or being seen as) the party's line-setter on these matters. Lest anyone accuse him of further flame-throwing at his own colleague, Singh added that he approved of Chidambaram's decision to have a unified command for the Naxal-affected states, but "the real issue is you have to win people's hearts."

 

It has once again put the Congress's worst tendencies on display, the attempt to signal an ideological wedge between the party and the Manmohan Singh government, one that lets the party coast on empty promises while offloading resentment on one or two individuals. The UPA is now becoming an arena for individual grandstanding, which corrodes its collective credibility. Within parties and governments, criticism should display a sense of stake, certainly not the casual way Singh laughs at being an "opposition leader in the UPA."

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WE, OF THE PREAMBLE

BIBEK DEBROY 

 

There are plenty of good quotes (and jokes) about socialism. Winston Churchill offered, "The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries." Cecil Palmer's is better. "Socialism is workable only in heaven where it isn't needed, and in hell where they've got it." Socialism is a deliciously vague expression and different people mean different things when they use it. Reminiscent of Humpty Dumpty, the word means just what the user chooses it to mean, neither more nor less.

 

If socialism is about equity concerns, no one will object, though there can be debates about whether that equity should be on inputs (access to health, education, credit and so on) or outcomes (incomes). But if socialism is interpreted as public ownership of means of production, as it often is, there is every reason to object. Economists typically classify means of production as land (natural resources is a broader concept), labour, capital and entrepreneurship. While there is no reason to equate public ownership with state ownership, de facto, that equation is the norm. Both theoretically and empirically, public ownership of means of production like land, labour and capital is inefficient, especially if combined with monopoly. And no one has yet figured out how the state can be entrepreneurial.

 

Today's Constitution is not the one we inherited in 1950. The Constitution is a living document, there is no reason for it to be cast in stone. There is a process for amending the Constitution. But that doesn't necessarily mean every amendment to the Constitution has been desirable. The Ninth Schedule is a case in point. Political expediency and existence of numbers required may push an amendment through, with costs borne subsequently. For several amendments, in an era of market-driven reforms, we would have been better off with the 1950 Constitution. At the level of a sweeping generalisation, the judiciary upheld personal rights then. The executive handled the impasse by amending the Constitution and the Constitution swung to the left.

 

Since 1991, the executive has often moved to the right. But the judiciary and the left-leaning Constitution stand in the way. Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal confronted a similar problem in 1937, but one shouldn't digress. We did have a National Commission to Review the Constitution, which submitted a report in 2002. However, it ducked the problem. In many instances, it should have said, let's go back to 1950. It never said this in dramatic terms. And in instances where it made such recommendations, they weren't implemented.

 

The Preamble to the Constitution now makes India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. That wasn't the original Preamble. Socialist and secular were added through the 42nd Amendment in 1976. Let's focus on the socialist part. First, every constitutional expert says since 1973 (Kesavananda Bharati case) the basic structure can't be changed. But isn't this a change in basic structure? Second, one might argue the Preamble isn't really law, it isn't enforceable in a court. Therefore, it doesn't change the basic structure. However, that's only half true. In that same case (Kesavananda Bharati), the Supreme Court held the Preamble is important in interpreting law. Third, if the Preamble was unimportant, what was the need to amend it? There are several other provisions in the Constitution (including Directive Principles) to drive goals of equity.

 

Fourth, it is not that framers of the Constitution were unfamiliar with the concept of "socialism". It was consciously kept out, for very cogent reasons. In Constituent Assembly debates, Dr Ambedkar was prescient in opposing such an amendment (to the draft): "If you state in the Constitution that the social organisation of the state shall take a particular form, you are, in my judgment, taking away the liberty of the people to decide what should be the social organisation in which they wish to live. It is perfectly possible today, for the majority people to hold that the Socialist organisation of society is better than the Capitalist organisation of society. But it would be perfectly possible for thinking people to devise some other form of social organisation which might be better than the socialist organisation of today or of tomorrow... What I would like to ask Professor Shah is this: If these directive principles to which I have drawn attention are not socialistic in their direction and in their content, I fail to understand what more socialism can be. Therefore my submission is that these socialist principles are already embodied in our Constitution and it is unnecessary to accept this amendment." Fifth, from late-'60s to mid-'70s, several undesirable changes were introduced in economic policy and laws. The 42nd Amendment is part of that. If we are changing other elements, why not the Preamble?

 

But for the Preamble, we wouldn't have had Section 29-A of Representation of the People Act, 1951, inserted in 1989, specifically Clause (5), requiring the political party to abide by "principles of socialism". This would have been understandable in 1976. In 1989, the year in which the Berlin Wall collapsed (effectively, so did the Soviet system), this socialism bit in Clause (5) probably got inserted without a great deal of thought, because of the other elements of Section 29-A. Hence, a political party has to be "socialist" for it to be registered.

 

The NGO Good Governance Foundation rightly challenged this — that is, challenged both amended Preamble and Section 29-A(5). In 2008, the Supreme Court ducked. It allowed the challenge to Section 29-A(5), but not the Preamble. Now, on the challenge to Section 29-A(5), the Supreme Court has ducked again, calling the issue "academic and hypothetical". Why is it academic and hypothetical? Because no registered political party has refused to swear allegiance to socialism? And because the Election Commission (EC) hasn't so far refused registration to a proposed political party on grounds of non-adherence to socialism. Let that situation crop up, and then we (the Supreme Court) shall see.

 

Sharad Joshi (Shetkari Sangathana) once told me he refused to register a proper political party because of this offensive clause. Therefore, we do have a problem, except that the Supreme Court will not take cognisance until Good Governance Foundation, or something like it, proposes to float a political party. Meanwhile, we continue to avoid the issue. To quote George Orwell now, "As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents." Though Orwell didn't intend it that way, this includes political parties too.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHERE PREJUDICE TAKES WING

IRENA AKBAR 

 

 Messing up your grammar to ensure your safety, or rather the safety of your fellow air-bound passengers (or "guests", as air carriers like to call them these days) — that's a step I reflexively took on a recent Bangalore-Delhi flight. Standing in the bus that ferries passengers from the terminal to the tarmac, I called up my father to inform him that I was about to board. I wasn't loud enough to divert anyone's attention. But the moment I said, "Insha Allah, plane 11 baje udega," I startled a woman whose seat I was clutching on to. The woman, playing with her Blackberry and sporting oversized glares, suddenly looked at me, and after examining me from head to toe, got back to her phone.

 

I wondered whether it was the "Insha Allah" or the "plane udega" which made her look up at me. I would have concluded that it was just the "Insha Allah" in these Islamophobic times but thanks to a recent episode in which a bearded maulana was deplaned because he said "plane udega" on the phone, I supposed that both parts of my innocent sentence were "dangerous" enough to shock her. That she was perturbed only for a moment, unlike the paranoid NRI woman who refused to fly with the maulana on board, was maybe because of my secular attire, a salwar kameez. Had my head been covered or had I been in a burqa, or worse, if I were a man, she would have probably confirmed her suspicion. Conversely, had I been in jeans or a skirt, her comfort would have doubled.

 

My phone beeped again and this time I told my uncle, "plane 11 baje chalega". Yes, I edited out the "Insha Allah" and changed the flying machine into a road vehicle.

 

Islamophobia doesn't inflict just non-Muslims. Many "regular" Muslims (meaning that they don't sport a beard or hijab, can speak English, and wouldn't burn Danish flags) are Islamophobes too, fearing that any exhibition of their religiosity could land them in trouble. Because the root cause — 9/11 — had happened on a plane, people are most Islamophobic at airports. The maulana episode is only a recent example in a long chain of similar incidents. In 2002, three bearded youths were detained at Delhi's IGI airport, and interrogated for 12 hours before they were released because they used the Urdu word "masail" (meaning problems) at the airport. They were complaining of various "masail" people have to face at the airport but someone took "masail" as "missile". In 2006, Arab-American peace activist Raed Jarrar was forced to take off his

 

T-shirt at the JFK airport in New York because it sported Arabic script. The same year, 12 Muslim men were arrested at the Amsterdam airport for allegedly suspicious behaviour arising out of using and exchanging cellphones aboard a Northwest Airlines plane.

 

These examples and several unreported incidents (one young Muslim man told me how the security staff at the Bangalore airport kept questioning him about the "taaweez", an Islamic talisman he was carrying) have caused many Muslims to be extra-cautious about airport behaviour. I know of a Muslim who didn't carry a box of Lebanese sweets (with its label in Arabic) on her flight from Jeddah to Chicago in 2006, following the transatlantic liquid bomb scare that year. She was afraid that ingredients such as sugar and cocoa powder written in Arabic could be mistaken as terrorist literature.

 

Looking inwards, Muslims are, in part, responsible for Islamophobia. How would you expect people to react to any Islamic/ Arabic/ Urdu sign when terrorist outfits adopt Islamic titles ("Jaish-e-Mohammed") or pepper their speech with "Insha Allah" while communicating with the likes of Ajmal Kasab as they rampage Mumbai? Or when protesters shout "Allah-u-Akbar" even as their causes are only political?

 

Talking of semantics, Muslims drag Islam into every name. So now, we have a "Muslim"

 

Facebook, MillatFacebook, following Facebook's hosting of the "Draw Mohammed Day" page. Yawn. Reminds me of Makkah Cola that was sold in Saudi Arabia as "competition" to Pepsi in the '90s. Even as a schoolkid who gulped down more cola than water, I never tried a sip of Makkah Cola. Not that I had any views on America, I just liked Pepsi. Around the year 2000, a Shia cleric in Lucknow had called for the boycott of Coca Cola as he thundered on television that the mirror image of the words "Coca Cola" read "La Makkah, La Madinah" in Arabic. I sat with a bottle in front of the mirror to find any semblance of the Arabic words, Makkah and Madinah. I didn't. And I gulped down my cola.

 

But I cringed the most when the otherwise shirtless Salman Khan wore a topi when he was arrested in the hit-and-run case. He wanted to show he was being victimised because he's a Muslim. Sigh.

 

irena.akbar@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A CASE APART

BRINDA KARAT 

 

Two years ago, in a case related to a young inter-caste couple's appeal for protection against death threats, an anguished bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court had observed — "In the last five years, thousands of (such) petitions have been filed. Out of 26 matters listed today, 10 pertain to marriages of young people. In four days the cases have swelled to 27... Couples (are) hiding themselves in the corridors of the courts chased by relations accompanied by musclemen armed with weapons..(but) the state is a mute spectator. When shall the state awake from its slumber, how long will the state elude permanent solution..."

 

These remarks are even more relevant in the context of the Central government's recent decision to set up yet another GoM on the legal framework required to address honour crimes. While this delaying tactic is disturbing enough, what is worse is the flawed understanding of those charged with addressing the crime, reflected in the proposed amendments which are reportedly being sent to the states for discussion.

 

The main amendment is to Sec 300 of the IPC which defines specific causes for murder. The other amendments relate to the Special Marriage Act and the Indian Evidence Act. Such a piecemeal approach to a complex and multi-dimensional social crime will do more harm than good. To give just one example, while the main amendment defines what constitutes "perceived dishonour" in a very narrow fashion, its definition of those to be held guilty as "anyone associated with a caste panchayat" which has given the order for the crime, is too wide and may include and punish persons who were not present at the time or did not concur with the decision. Those with the slightest experience of working on such cases, as many women's organisations, know that more often than not such criminal decisions are taken by a handful of people, certainly not by the wider association. Since it is neither warranted nor wise to ban caste associations, ordinary members cannot then be punished in the way suggested.

 

The amendment concerns only the crime of murder. However "honour" crimes include many other crimes such as social and economic boycott, coercive dissolution of the marriage, levelling of fines on the family of the boy and their supporters, externment from the village, public humiliation, threats and harassment against relatives of the boy etc. The proposed amendments do not cover any of these.

 

The aspects which need to be addressed include a comprehensive definition of the 'honour" crime, the role of caste panchayats or self-declared community representatives, the role of the girl's family because of which often there is no complainant in the case of the disappearance of the girl when she has actually been murdered, which necessitates the mandatory role of suo moto state intervention, monitoring and investigation, the role of the law enforcement agencies acting in connivance with the perpetrators of the crime which requires legal accountability of the police, the glorification of the crime and so on.

 

Take for example a recent case involving two neighbouring villages on the outskirts of Delhi when a 23-year-old Scheduled Caste youth eloped with his 20-year-old upper caste colleague. They had both taught in the same junior college. An aggressive upper caste group of the girl's village went to the boy's village, called a panchayat with scheduled caste members and threatened them that unless the couple was found and brought back within four days, a scheduled caste girl from the village would be taken in exchange. To show that they meant business a young Dalit boy was abducted and confined for a day. The terrorised Dalits sent all the young women out of the village. The father of the boy, who had been taken into illegal custody by the police for four days on a complaint of the upper castes of abetment to kidnapping and abduction, had to finance search parties to look for the couple. It cost him 1.5 lakh rupees. Since he is a construction worker with a low income, he had to take loans and ultimately mortgaged 2 bighas of land owned by the family to meet the expenses. The threats remain. No one has been arrested. The sections of the IPC applied in the FIR registered by the police relate to criminal intimidation (Sec 506 of the IPC), rioting (147) and thuggery (310). While both the latter sections appear entirely irrelevant, the present definitions of criminal intimidation do not take into account the consequences of such intimidation in this case, loss of livelihood etc. But the officials say that in the absence of a law they have no alternative.

 

A preliminary consensus for a separate law emerged across political parties in Parliament, when for the first time the Rajya Sabha had a full-fledged discussion on the issue in July last year. There was strong support for the suggestion that there should be a separate law to deal with the range of so-called honour crimes.

 

Unfortunately the Union home minister seems to not have fully grasped the various aspects of the issue as made clear in his reply to the Rajya Sabha discussion. He said "I think the demand for a special law is the one that has been made most eloquently. But I am afraid that it is a very simple demand in the sense that make a law, but the answer is not to make another law. Whatever law we make honour killing is murder... I would look into this whether we can define honour killing, but prima facie I am not sure whether that will take us very far." If India's home minister continues to hold this understanding, it is of little surprise that the amendments proposed are so flawed.

 

It is strange why the top leadership of the government and the ruling party are unable to take a decision and make a firm intervention. Perhaps the procrastination of the government on the issue has also something to do with the politics of not upsetting the self-styled panchayats on the belief that they constitute powerful vote banks. Whatever the reason, it is Indian democracy that has to suffer.

 

The writer is a member of the CPM politburo and a Rajya Sabha MP

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ROOF REPAIR

 

David Breashears is one of America's legendary mountain climbers, a man who has climbed Mount Everest five times and led the Everest IMAX film team in 1996. These days, Breashears is still climbing the Himalayas, but he is lugging more than pitons and ice axes. He's also carrying special cameras to document stunning declines in glaciers on the roof of the world.

 

Breashears first reached the top of Everest in 1983, and in many subsequent trips to the region he noticed the topography changing, the glaciers shrinking. So he dug out archive photos from early Himalayan expeditions, and then journeyed across ridges and crevasses to photograph from the exact same spots. The pairs of matched photographs, old and new, are staggering. Time and again, the same glaciers have shrunk drastically in every direction, often losing hundreds of feet in height.

 

"I was just incredulous," he told me. "We took measurements with laser rangefinders to measure the loss of height of the glaciers. The drop was often the equivalent of a 35- or 40-story building." Breashears led me through a display of these paired photographs at the Asia Society in New York. One 1921 photo by George Mallory, the famous mountaineer who died near the summit of Everest three years later, shows the Main Rongbuk Glacier. Breashears located the very spot from which Mallory had snapped that photo and took another — only it is a different scene, because the glacier has lost 330 feet of vertical ice.

 

Some research in social psychology suggests that our brains are not well adapted to protect ourselves from gradually encroaching harms. We evolved to be wary of sabre-toothed tigers and blizzards, but not of climate change — and maybe that's also why we in the news media tend to cover weather but not climate. The upshot is that we're horrifyingly nonchalant at the prospect that rising carbon emissions may devastate our favourite planet.

 

NASA says that the January-through-June period this year was the hottest globally since measurements began in 1880. Likewise, the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says that the months of May and June had the lowest snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere since the lab began satellite observations in 1967. So signs of danger abound, but we seem unable to rouse ourselves.

 

We've watched with glazed eyes as glaciers have retreated worldwide. Glacier National Park now has only about 25 glaciers, compared with around 150 a century ago. In the Himalayas, the shrinkage seems to be accelerating, with Chinese scientific measurements suggesting that some glaciers are now losing up to 26 feet in height per year. Orville Schell, who runs China programmes at the Asia Society, described passing a series of pagodas as he approached the Mingyong Glacier on the Tibetan plateau. The pagodas were viewing platforms, and had to be rebuilt as the glacier retreated: this monumental, almost eternal force of nature seemed mortally wounded.

 

An Indian glaciologist, Syed Iqbal Hasnain, now at the Stimson Center in Washington, told me that most Himalayan glaciers are in retreat for three reasons. First is the overall warming tied to carbon emissions. Second, rain and snow patterns are changing, so that less new snow is added to replace what melts. Third, pollution from trucks and smoke covers glaciers with carbon soot so that their surfaces become darker and less reflective — causing them to melt more quickly.

 

The retreat of the glaciers threatens agriculture downstream. A study published last month in Science magazine indicated that glacier melt is essential for the Indus and Brahmaputra rivers, while less important a component of the Ganges, Yellow and Yangtze rivers. The potential disappearance of the glaciers, the report said, is "threatening the food security of an estimated 60 million people" in the Indus and Brahmaputra basins.

 

We Americans have been galvanised by the oil spill on our gulf coast, because we see tar balls and dead sea birds as visceral reminders of our hubris in deep sea drilling.

 

The melting glaciers should be a similar warning of our hubris — and of the consequences that the earth will face for centuries unless we address carbon emissions today

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

OF COURSE THIS RISE IS PEACEFUL

JOHN LEE 

 

In 2007, Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew angered Beijing by writing that unlike China's rise, which created widespread apprehension throughout the region, much of Asia either welcomed India's rise or else was indifferent to it. To understand one reason why the region thinks this way, look to China's disciplined preparations for its hosting of the Olympic Games in 2008 and compare it to India's less regimented and even chaotic lead-up to the Commonwealth Games in October 2010.

 

Earning the right to host these events is about more than sport. The Olympics was seen as a chance for China's leaders to showcase the country's rapid economic growth and modernisation to the rest of the world — a message supported by an estimated $45 billion budget.

 

In ensuring that all went according to plan, China demonstrated its ruthless efficiency. For example, a reported 350,000 people were "resettled" just to make way for the stadium construction alone. Thousands of houses were forcibly demolished with owners given minimal compensation. Homeless and other migrant workers that spoilt the 'beautification' facade were removed and banned for the duration of the Games. Domestic protestors needed to "register" with a specially created agency, only for many of them to be subsequently detained, sent home, and banned from reentering Beijing. The result was undoubtedly the best-organised Games in history.

 

Similarly, India is looking to enhance its reputation, albeit on a smaller stage. Although the Commonwealth Games is well past its heyday, there will still be 71 nations and territories competing. To demonstrate its progress as a great power, India is spending an estimated US$2 billion on the Games, almost double the previous highest record that was spent for Melbourne 2006. This does not include additional projects such as the US$3 billion poured into Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.

 

In contrast to Chinese efficiency, preparations for the 2010 Commonwealth Games have been bogged down by disputes between officials and residents, as well as management of construction companies and unions. One typical illustration of India's predicament are the 36 different driving lane changes needed to establish the "Games Route" from the airport to the Games Village in east Delhi. The necessary infrastructure will probably be built on time. But the Delhi Traffic Police cannot even guarantee that local citizens will actually obey the road changes when the Games begin.

 

Beijing will no doubt view these organisational road-blocks with some degree of smugness and also derision. That the Beijing Olympics will be a far superior event to the New Delhi Commonwealth Games is now beyond doubt. But while highlighting Indian flaws is a common regional pastime and an occasional source of hilarity, China faces a different problem. The Chinese Communist Party's determination and ability to ruthlessly get things done — regardless of collateral damage — can appear menacing. Businesspeople might appreciate Chinese efficiency but democratic politicians throughout the region, Asian strategic elites and liberal populations frequently do not.

 

And this is the advantage that India enjoys over China when it comes to perceptions. Singapore's Minister Mentor, himself not a noted democrat, argued that the fact India was democratic had something to do with why it was meeting little resistance. Unlike Beijing, it is believed that New Delhi's domestic habits of transparency, negotiation and compromise — even if seen as infuriating or a little comical — will influence the way a powerful India interacts with other states. Besides, New Delhi cannot easily marshal its national resources as efficiently and ruthlessly to pursue its foreign policy goals, even if they were expansionist. Besides, in addition to having no history of dominating East and Southeast Asia, democratic India is comfortably rising within an order that has been characterised by "democratic community" for decades.

 

This then is the bottom-line: although regional states respect Beijing's apparent efficiency and are perhaps even a little envious of it, they do not trust what it seemingly represents which is authoritarian ruthlessness and single-mindedness. China easily delivered on what it promised for the 2008 Olympic Games. By doing so, it fed regional unease with its rise.

 

For India, it is almost the opposite. While New Delhi does not command the same respect and praise, the relative chaos of its system does not generate the same apprehension and fear. But getting respect — which India craves — is something else. If it gets its act together in October, it will be a pleasant surprise for the region and further silence sceptics who doubt modern Indian claims to competence and can-do. If the Games are a disaster, the region will shrug its collective shoulders, give it little thought, and refocus a wary eye on Beijing.

 

The writer is the foreign policy fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

CITY OF COFFEE

SARITHA RAI 

 

In cramped, old-fashioned joints in its quainter neighborhoods such as Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram, coffee-drinking is still a hallowed tradition. In the newer, glitzy, neon-lit lounges downtown, it is an amusement and a diversion. Therein hangs the tale of a changing Bangalore.

 

In the older coffee houses such as the renowned MTR on the fringes of verdant Lalbagh, it has to be filter coffee, a sweet milky concoction made from dark-roasted coffee beans blended with chicory. The filter coffee here, a south Indian specialty honed to perfection, comes in steel tumblers. It is usually sipped noisily and savored froth, conversation and all. For old Bangaloreans, there is no greater pleasure than lining up at MTR on chilly mornings to relish their first fix of the morning.

 

On the other hand, Bangalore is the base of India's biggest coffee retail chain, Café Coffee Day. At the swank, red sofa-decked CCD Square on the ground floor of the company's bean-shaped headquarters on Vittal Mallya Road, it is an assault of blends and aromas. The coffees come in a dizzying array of choices. Less than a kilometer from there, the antiquated India Coffee House on MG Road died last year. Many a coffee pilgrim shed a tear as they dug into their last masala dosa and drained the dregs off their final cup of coffee at the revered institution.

 

In the standing room-only Darshinis, as Bangalore's fast-disappearing fast food outlets are called, coffee is deftly poured back and forth between two saucepans in generous arc-like motions of the hand. Here, it is possible to order a "by-two", local slang for a single serving shared between two drinkers yearning for a quick mid-morning or late-afternoon shot. The Darshinis may be disappearing because of the killer real estate costs and overheads, but modern coffee chains are flourishing. CCD has 1,000 company-owned outlets across the country and a further 1,000 or more franchise owned outletsincluding half-way across the globe, in Vienna.

 

Nothing can quite beat the charm of savoring a cup of the hot liquid in the Coffee Board of India's café at its Queen's Road headquarters. Here, turbaned waiters amble along with your order of sandwiches (stone cold) and coffee (piping hot). The cost of a cup of coffee? A mere fraction of that in five-star coffee shops.

 

The Coffee Board's quality specialist Dr K Basavaraj rues that traditional coffee orders such as meter coffee — so called to denote the distance covered by the arc made by the pourer's hand — and degree coffee, implying that the ingredients were of a high degree, are all but gone. "The small coffee joints in the highways that used to specialise in unusual coffees have vanished, and the smaller coffee places within the city are fading away too."

 

In all this, there is somewhat of a balance in what Kalmane Coffee does. Like Café Coffee Day's plantations, Kalmane's coffee is grown in the hills of Chikmagalur, a four-hour drive from Bangalore. Legend has it that coffee beans were first brought to India by a Muslim pilgrim called Baba Budan in the 17th century and planted in the hills of Chikmagalur named for him. Coffee plantations then spread to neighbouring Tamil Nadu and to a lesser extent to Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. Kalmane's outlets, including one in the flashy Forum Mall, serve estate branded coffees. The beans are roasted in full view. Kalmane offers filter coffee for a mere twenty rupees. Those who brew their own coffee in the pierced-bottom metal filters at home will vouch for their coffee's authenticity.

 

Not everybody thinks of coffee-drinking as a cultural ritual, of course. In Bangalore's high-tech offices and steel office towers, the modern ritual comprises getting a mug of hot water from dispenser, spooning instant coffee and adding milk and sugar to taste.

 

Still, Bangalore's coffees cater to a wide spectrum: from traditionalists who will not touch a cup of coffee that is not property aerated and topped with the appealing froth to those who will swear by their mochas, lattes and espressos. In its own gentle fashion, coffee drinking is a passion in Bangalore.

 

saritha.rai@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

FOOD SECURITY QUEST

 

The National Advisory Council's final recommendations on the proposed National Food Security Bill have sensibly abandoned the universalisation principle for now. The food security Act, when passed by Parliament, will apply in either the poorest 25% development blocks or the poorest 25% districts, whichever the government deems more feasible. The NAC's latest recommendations are an acknowledgment of the twin constraints that face any universal food security Act. For one, there is a big question mark over agricultural production and whether it is sufficient to supply grains to a universal programme without causing a supply constraint (and as a corollary sharply rising prices) for the rest of the country's consumers. Given the current levels of productivity, this is a very real constraint. Second, there is the usual question about the government's subsidy Bill, which ought not to be bloated through unnecessary populism. A universal food security programme may end up including too many people, many of whom are not in need of subsidised foodgrains. Of course, the NAC has kept the door open for a subsequent extension of the food security Act to other parts of the country, just as it did with the NREG. Whether the food security Act is eventually extended in its geographical reach will depend on how well it functions after its initial rollout in the poorest districts/blocks.

 

Unfortunately, there is a third constraint that the NAC did not acknowledge. And that relates to the vast amounts of leakages that takes place in any food distribution programme that the government runs—the inefficient FCI and the moribund PDS are constant reminders of the waste, rent seeking and corruption that plague the government's food distribution system. The food security Act as currently envisaged does little to address this problem. And this puts the efficacy of the entire exercise into serious question. This is not the same as arguing against the principle of ensuring food security for the poorest in India's population. That is an unobjectionable goal. The real debate is about how to achieve that goal with maximum efficiency and minimal waste. And it is our view, expressed on occasion in these columns, that direct cash transfers to the poorest may still be the best way to achieve this goal. They will avoid the waste and rent-seeking in food distribution through government. And they will not distort the agricultural economy in a way that more government procurement of foodgrains will. It is a pity that the NAC did not give this any serious thought.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LET DORMANT SAVINGS BE CHANNELIZED

MK VENU

 

The term financial inclusion is acquiring a new meaning in the changed circumstances of India's economy, which is seeing a consistent rise in per capita income. An instructive panel discussion at the FE Best Banks awards last week brought out the many interesting aspects of financial inclusion that the finance ministry and banks are driving together. At the heart of this ambitious exercise is an attempt to create 100 million new bank accounts with full KYC (know your customer) details in rural and semi-rural India over the next four to five years. Nandan Nilekani's UID project will help in stabilising this process through fingerprinting and biometrics.

 

By 2011-end, the finance ministry is determined to create 50 million new bank accounts with a nominal amount deposited in them. These ready made deposit accounts will then be offered to banks, which are now interested in penetrating the rural economy as a profitable venture. Post the global meltdown, the GDP growth in rural India was an eye opener for all businesses. So, financial inclusion is now seen as a viable business model.

 

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee's commitment to drive this ambitious project can be seen from the fact that his ministry has upped its target for creating banking access for the number of new villages from 60,000 to 72,000. The Union Budget had announced that financial access through the banking correspondent model will be taken to 60,000 new villages with a minimum population of 2,000. However, at the FE panel discussion, R Gopalan, secretary, department of financial services, revealed that the target had been increased to 72,000 villages. The State Bank of India is already in the process of appointing 15,000 banking correspondents—trained individuals who will go to these villages to create new deposit account holders with the help of mobile technology—within the next one year.

 

This massive exercise—of creating 100 million new bank accounts over the medium term—has very important macro implications. It has the potential to substantially increase India's savings rate. It may be recalled that when Indira Gandhi nationalised banks in the early 1970s, public sector banks began expanding rural and semi-urban branches on a war footing. This resulted in India's savings rate doubling in a decade, from about 10% of GDP to over 20%. Of course, many nationalised banks got into trouble in the 1980s due to lack of competition and excessive politicisation of bank managements.

 

Today, public sector banks have become far more efficient, largely due to competition resulting from the opening up of the financial sector to private and foreign banks. This process needs to be deepened further. In the new competitive environment, financial inclusion of the kind being attempted can raise India's savings rate by another 3-5% of GDP over the next five years. This, in my view, is the real significance of the effort to create 100 million new bank accounts in the years ahead. This could also help bring a lot of dormant savings lying in rural households into the formal banking channels. For instance, the World Gold Council estimates that up to 15,000 tonnes of gold is privately held in India. At today's gold prices, this is valued at $600 billion. A good 50% of this could be lying with rural households.

 

Once banks create access to these depositors, the value of this gold can be brought into the banking channels through specially designed gold certificates. Besides, a large number of government's direct income subsidy programmes for farmers can also get deposited in these accounts and these amounts will circulate in the formal banking system much faster than they do now.

 

Bringing an extra 5% of GDP as formal savings into the banking channel has other spinoffs. The global financial crises has taught us a few lessons. One lesson is that in the years ahead, India will have to depend relatively more on its domestic savings to drive its economy. We have been heavily dependant on foreign savings to drive our growth, especially in infrastructure. The Planning Commission estimates that $1 trillion will be required during 2012-17 to feed the needs of infrastructure alone. We are currently dependant a lot on foreign savings to meet the needs of infrastructure.

 

However, the way the world economy is shaping, with greater financial instability in the western world, we cannot be sure whether adequate foreign capital will be available all the time. Analysts have raised fears that the financial system in the US and EU will have to observe far more stringent norms in the years ahead and this may squeeze out some of the easy and leveraged financing that flows from their banking system to the emerging economies. It is in this context that we must see the effort to widen the depositors' base across rural India and bring an extra 5% of GDP into the official savings channel through innovative methods. Of course, this will require a new policy framework that encourages greater financial innovation, making it easy for new customers to come into the system at the lowest possible transaction costs.

 

In this context, the Lifetime Achievement Award winner at the FE Best Banks awards, Dr C Rangarajan said something very thoughtful. "In the wake of the global financial crises, some questions have been raised whether the unfettered development of the financial system is good for the economy…. However it would be wrong to classify all financial innovations in the recent period as useless and not beneficial to the social system. This is particularly so for the developing economies where the financial system needs to respond more robustly to the needs of a growing and diversifying economy." This message must be internalised by the policymaking community.

 

mk.venu@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

POPULATION, ANGELS AND DEMONS

RENUKA BISHT

 

After decades of slumbering on the political backburner, it looks like the population question is inching its way back to the centrestage. A radical philosophical shift has taken place in the interim. Where we used to see only Malthusian monsters, we are now sort of looking at sleeping beauties. Everyone agrees some powerful sorcery will be required to make this transition in thinking bear material fruit—without following through on its education and healthcare promises,

 

India will be left with a labour ecosystem whose wastefulness will match the worst of what's plaguing the

environment today.

 

This looks doable today. Technology will help, just as it helped turn the population debate around. When Thomas Malthus wrote in 1798 that, "the power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race", he little anticipated how the balancing power of agricultural science could enable the planet's natural capital to stretch nurture to increasing millions. For him, sicknesses, epidemics, wars and suchlike represented 'positive' checks. Yet, as the planet looks to add a couple of billion people within the next half century as compared to the billion total that gave Malthus the heebie jeebies, there is a sense that an all-fired harnessing of innovation and technology can not only sustain growing numbers but even provide them improved life quality.

 

If Malthus just couldn't conceptualise a demographic dividend, the corollary was that he couldn't imagine anything like a demographic deficit either. To be fair, neither could India when it went into population control overdrive in the 1970s—again with lots of unanticipated consequences. China is obviously a textbook case. Within a quarter century of the world's harshest population control policies, it did succeed in bringing down the number of people living in extreme poverty by more than two-thirds. But its wealth-generating factories are already reporting labour shortages. With the ratio of six adults of working age for every retiree expected to worsen to 2:1 by 2040, or the number of young people aged 20-24 entering the workforce expected to drop by half in the next decade, China is facing the spectre of both rising pension costs and a receding demographic tide. By no means is it alone is facing such peril.

 

None of the 23 European countries that had fertility rates above replacement levels 30 years ago can claim the same today. In fact, as per present trends provided by the Optimum Population Trust, Italy will lose 86% of its population by this century's end, Spain 85% and Germany 83%. By some cosmic coincidence (?), Greece's birth rate is actually the lowest in the EU. Given that this Trust represents one of the strongest Malthusian holdouts in a metamorphosing era, we need to take its projections with a pinch of salt. Its Web site has a 'population clock' ticking away ominously and it's holding on to a neocolonial desire for controlling 'developing' countries' populations. Its spokespersons include people like Sir David Attenborough, who still unabashedly proclaims that there is no problem that would not be easier to solve with fewer people. But the bottom line is sound. Europe is looking at a worsening demographic deficit and this does not portend well for its economic future. Nor has it had the good instincts to solidly tap into immigration, which is helping the US sidestep the Gordian knot snaring Europe today.

 

But none of this justifies just sitting back on our haunches. Adding an Australia a year—even as the planet adds on two more Chinas or eight more Americas by 2050—does not make for a rosy picture even after admitting that it's not quite the nightmare that modern Malthusians make it out to be. An increasing burden on natural resources not to mention a thinning of the government's ability to provide essential services remain very credible sources of concern. The point hitherto has been that draconian measures, whether in the shape advocated by Malthus or practiced by China, can be rather counterproductive. Instead, as India begins to reconsider the population question seriously, it needs to consider a more holistic address.

 

The last census not only showed that India's fertility rate had dropped considerably through the first decade of liberalisation, but also that it was 2.02 for literates as opposed to 3.09 for illiterates. While demography remains an important variable in calculating a country's growth prospects, there could be no more convincing evidence that education and healthcare merit analogous weight. This is a pattern that holds true globally and historically, that as women get education, they are more likely to go out to work and demand contraception. So, when we make a date with the future, let's not mark our calendars with the day that India's population reaches 'replacement rate'. Instead, let's look forward to the day that every Indian woman has access to reproductive healthcare and family planning services.

 

renuka.bisht@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

 NO FRILLS PLEASE

SAIKAT NEOGI

 

While the focus of the government in recent times has been to draw more retail participation and investment into the stock markets, various investor-unfriendly policies act as a dampener for the growth of the retail base. Average investors still stay away from investing in equities and their shaky confidence needs to be addressed.

 

One of the major irritants for retail investors is the the annual maintenance charge on demat accounts, which can range between Rs 400 and Rs 800. Even if an account holder does not make a transaction in a particular year, he/she has to pay the amount. Moreover, investors have to pay a transaction fee for every buy and sell. These charges deter retail investors from opening demat accounts, numbered at 1.7 crore. Many of these are not seeing much trading and some of them are dormant for years.

 

Without a demat account, an investor cannot make a transaction. This acts as an entry barrier and investors prefer to save in bank fixed deposits. Many shareholders have still not dematerialised their stock investments and are maintaining them in the physical form. Without a demat account, it is also difficult for someone who inherits shares from their family or company. To encourage more retail participation, it is pertinent that the two depositors, NSDL and CDSL, come out with no-frills demat accounts. The growing household savings rate has not translated into viable capital formation and investment. Although there are 450 million people with surplus disposable income, only 30 million enter the capital market for any kind of investment. Also, the Swarup Committee has underlined the fact that around 188 million investors hold financial assets in the country. Of these, only 8 million participate in the debt and equity markets, either directly or indirectly through products like mutual funds and Ulips.

 

A recent study from SMC Capital shows that while two crore new mobile connections are taken by Indians every month, only two lakh demat accounts are opened. This trend indicates the low level of penetration of the investing habit in India and that needs to change if the stock markets are to be broad-based with more retail participation.

 

saikat.neogi@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

WINNING CREDIBILITY IN KASHMIR

 

"I need to rebuild my credibility brick by brick," Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah admitted recently in an interview. He is right — and his opponents would be wise to draw the same lesson. The violence that bloodied Kashmir's urban streets this summer constitutes the most serious challenge the State's fragile political system has confronted since electoral democracy took the first steps towards re-institutionalisation in 1996. The ugly violence demonstrated that substantial numbers of young people in Kashmir's cities feel disenfranchised by the political system and are hostile to India. Growing numbers are turning to Islamist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani for leadership. It is clear we haven't seen the last of these troubles, which have broken out every summer since 2005. Police stood by silently on Saturday as motorcycle-borne squads linked to Geelani's Tehreek-i-Hurriyat brutally enforced a shutdown. For all practical purposes, the fragile peace in Srinagar has been purchased by ceding control of parts of the city to the Islamist Right.

 

Putting more police on the streets to shoot at unarmed protesters cannot, and must not, be the answer. The reality is that Islamists have cashed in on the failure of their adversaries to address the concerns of swathes of young people. Neither the National Conference, which holds all eight Assembly seats in Srinagar, nor its main opponent, the People's Democratic Party, has chosen to organise a single peace meeting or rally. Neither has any immediate stakes in the areas where violence is taking place: the National Conference's legislators won because few people voted, and the PDP hopes resentment against them will eventually rebound in its favour. Earlier this month, the PDP chose to stay away from an all-party meeting called to discuss the violence despite a personal appeal from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to party chief Mehbooba Mufti. Ms Mufti's action was deplorably shortsighted. The growing power of the religious Right will eventually discredit both the ruling coalition and its opponents. New Delhi must do its part. Even if a peace deal with Pakistan seems beyond grasp, it could attempt to initiate a quiet process of engagement with pro-dialogue secessionists. But the principal responsibility rests with J&K's own politicians — who have often pointed out that many of the State's problems can be traced to interference from New Delhi. Experts have made many suggestions for first steps forward: for example, the setting up of local citizens' bodies to liaise with administrators and police along with investments in education and entrepreneurship as well as non-lethal crowd control technologies. But none of these can be realised unless the State's politicians step out to bat courageously.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

HOOLIGANISM PURE AND SIMPLE

 

To say that Friday's mob attack on the offices of HeadlinesToday carries the signature of the Sangh Parivar is to state the obvious. Leave aside the openly pro-Sangh placards sported by the rampaging protesters, the vandalism follows a pattern of aggression only too familiar. From the destruction of the Feroz Shah Kotla cricket pitch in 1999 to countless attacks on film crews, art galleries, and, in particular, the works of M.F. Husain, intolerant elements in the Sangh have given vent to their anger far too often for anyone not to be able to recognise their brand of violence. (At a different level, who can forget the trauma of December 6, 1992, when trishul-waving saffron hordes set upon journalists covering the dying moments of the Babri Masjid?) In the latest instance, the news channel — which, paradoxically, has been anything but unsympathetic to the Sangh's ideology and politics — was targeted because it telecast material that allegedly linked personages belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party to acts of terror against the Muslim community. The channel also claimed to have uncovered a 2007 plot to assassinate Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

 

It can be nobody's case that the findings of investigative journalism should be treated as conclusive evidence. But equally, there is no denying that the Hindutva terror trail is inching towards the heart of the Sangh. Police investigations over the past couple of years have zeroed in on a shocking story that not too long ago was dismissed as a figment of secular fundamentalist imagination. Today that possibility has become disturbingly real with evidence in a string of terror attacks — among them the Mecca Masjid and the Malegaon blast cases — pointing to the involvement of the Hindu Right. Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare was closing in on this terror network when he was killed by the 26/11 terrorists from Pakistan. The pace has since picked up, and as much is evident from the RSS's admission that one or two of its minor functionaries could have been involved in the cases. Clearly, the high priests of the Sangh do not wish to relive the aftermath of Mahatma Gandhi's assassination when the RSS was banned and pushed to desperate straits. The BJP is in all manner of trouble, politically speaking. The Sangh has sleuths snooping around in its backyard. Hooliganism against the media — in the latest case, against a media organisation that cannot be labelled antagonistic — is the last thing the twosome needs right now.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

EQUAL RIGHTS: A MATTER OF PRIDE

THE U.S. ADMINISTRATION HAS PUT EQUAL RIGHTS FOR LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE ON A STRONGER FOOTING, INCLUDING IN ITS GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY.

BRYAN DALTON

 

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month has just been celebrated in June, in the United States and around the world. This milestone, and the principles of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that America recently celebrated on our Independence Day, July 4, bring me to reflect on how much has changed since Pride Month in June 2009.

 

I was proud and moved to watch a public White House ceremony on June 22, 2010 that included lesbian and gay White House officials, at which President Barack Obama announced that same-sex partners of U.S. Federal Government employees would receive the same benefits and protections given to opposite-sex spouses. President Obama reiterated his determination to eliminate the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, in place for nearly 20 years, which bars openly homosexual or bisexual individuals from serving in the U.S. military. He cited unprecedented support for repeal from the U.S. Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He noted that the U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee has approved repeal, with the full Congress due to vote on the issue soon.

 

In October 2009, we watched with pride as President Obama signed into law the "Matthew Shephard and James Byrd, Jr. Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act." Shephard was a 21-year old man in Colorado who was beaten, tortured, tied to a fence, and left to die, for being gay. In June 2010, we joined our transgender friends in welcoming the U.S. Department of State's announcement allowing transgender individuals to receive passports showing their new gender. (In this, we are preceded by the Government of Tamil Nadu, which already issues state ID cards recognising transgender status.)

 

But of special importance to me, as a gay American representing the U.S. abroad as a diplomat, is that the U.S. Government is integrating equal rights for LGBTs into its foreign policy — as part of its comprehensive human rights agenda. With pride, I watched online a ground-breaking Pride Month ceremony at the State Department in Washington, D.C. on June 22, the first such event attended by a U.S. Secretary of State. Secretary Hillary Clinton reminded the audience that "men and women are harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love. Some are driven from their homes or countries, and many who become refugees confront new threats in their countries of asylum. In some places, violence against the LGBT community is permitted by law and inflamed by public calls to violence; in others, it persists insidiously behind closed doors. These dangers are not 'gay' issues. This is a human rights issue. Let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights."

 

Secretary Clinton has issued instructions to all U.S. diplomatic missions making clear that rights of LGBT persons are on a par with rights of all other populations. "We are elevating our human rights dialogues with other governments and conducting public diplomacy to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons," she said. Demonstrating this policy, in the past year the U.S. Government has protested the killing, arbitrary arrest, and abuse of LGBT persons in Iraq, Malawi, and Uganda. President Obama, Secretary Clinton and U.S. diplomats have spoken out against draft legislation in countries that would penalise same-sex relationships, including with the death penalty.

 

Another milestone was the June 2009 announcement by the State Department that it would extend diplomatic privileges and immunities to the same-sex partners of foreign diplomats assigned to the U.S., and provide benefits to the maximum extent permitted by law to the same-sex partners of U.S. diplomats. Some concrete examples of these new rights and privileges include issuing partners U.S. diplomatic passports; announcement of the partners to, and requesting diplomatic visas from, host governments in countries of assignment; payment of travel to and from the U.S. to posts abroad; and access to U.S. medical facilities abroad. These are the benefits and protections given automatically to the spouses of married employees, and inclusion of same-sex partners removed significant barriers between LGBT employees and the rest of the Foreign Service. The previous discrimination has caused many LGBTs, including ambassadors, to avoid or leave diplomatic service, taking with them valuable experience, skills, and talent.

 

But real hurdles remain. As President Obama stated upon signing the Hate Crimes Act, in the U.S. alone, "over the past 10 years, there were more than 12,000 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation alone. And we will never know how many incidents were never reported at all." The U.S. has no law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for employees outside the Federal government workforce. Americans may not petition for immigration of their foreign national same-sex partners. Same-sex partners of Federal government employees still may not enrol in employer-provided health insurance or pension plans.

 

Some in the U.S. marvel at how quickly discrimination against LGBTs is being dismantled while others are impatient that not enough is happening — fast enough. In such democracies as India and the U.S., social and legal change is incremental and depends on the dedicated efforts of citizens working together. While legislatures, governments, and the courts have played a critical role, the fight for equal rights for all has been led by courageous individuals. The changes we are witnessing today are the result of decades of hard work by many thousands of people through the democratic process. This is grassroots activism, lobbying governments at the local, state, and national levels.

 

Most powerful has been the simple yet difficult act of "coming out" — LGBT persons revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity to family, friends, neighbours, classmates, employers, and colleagues — even at the risk of losing relationships, jobs, and even their own physical safety. As our President said on June 22, "change never comes — or at least never begins in Washington. It begins with acts of compassion — and sometimes defiance — across America. It begins when ordinary people ... speak out against injustices that have been accepted for too long. And it begins when these impositions of conscience start opening hearts that had been closed, and when we finally see each other's humanity, whatever our differences."

 

And as Secretary Clinton said at the State Department on the same day: "We've come such a far distance in our own country, but there are still so many who need the outreach, need the mentoring, need the support, to stand up and be who they are, and then think about people in so many countries where it just seems impossible ... So I hope that each and every one of us will recommit ourselves to building a future in which every person — every single person can live in dignity, free from violence, free to be themselves, free to live up to their God-given potential wherever they live and whoever they are."

 

When we do that, then we can truly be proud.

 

(Bryan Dalton is Acting United States Consul General in Chennai.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

HOW NOT TO HAVE A ROUND OF TALKS

INDIA AND PAKISTAN ARE NOW BACK TO THE POINT WHERE THE 2001 AGRA SUMMIT FAILED. THEY SHOULD PICK THE THREAD OF NEGOTIATIONS WHERE IT WAS LEFT IN 2007 — INSTEAD OF SEEKING TO REINVENT THE WHEEL.

IMTIAZ ALAM

 

One is stunned by the amateurish manner in which the crucial Pakistan-India Foreign Ministers' moot has been handled — starting with the unwarranted remarks that were made first by Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and ending with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's outburst against his polite interlocutor, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. What could have been a good beginning has turned into an occasion for public acrimony. The two establishments have scuttled the sensible course that was taken by their respective Foreign Ministries to break the impasse. This was an instance of how not to have a round of India-Pakistan talks. Why have such a round of talks at all?

 

The Foreign Ministers' talks did not help overcome the gap, despite a preparatory meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries, Salman Bashir and Nirupama Rao, held on June 24 in Islamabad to prepare for the Foreign Ministers' meeting. The Foreign Secretaries had agreed on an agenda and (hopefully) the contours of a possible outcome. If there were still unbridgeable gaps with respect to security concerns, the two sides should have taken more time to sort them out behind-the-doors instead of feeding into the mutually demonising circus that has been so zealously pursued in the subcontinent for so long. If, during his visit to Islamabad on June 26, Home Minister P. Chidambaram had thoroughly discussed the new dossier(s) of information that revealed the confessions by David Coleman Headley, allegedly involving the ISI, certain army officers and other perpetrators belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, then why did Mr. Pillai try to preface the Foreign Ministers' talks a day before the event? It seems that the Indian Home Ministry vetoed any movement on any count other than satisfactory action by Pakistan's Ministry of Interior against all those allegedly involved in the 26/11 Mumbai act of terror.

 

Mr. Krishna himself said at his joint press conference with Mr. Qureshi that "he was here to see what action Pakistan has taken so far" on the confessions made by Headley. If that were the case — and this is what seems to have disturbed most Mr. Krishna's quite articulate Pakistani counterpart and brought their meeting to an acrimonious end — then the security officials concerned from the two countries should have met to clear the Mumbai-related mess first instead of putting their Foreign Ministers in an unenviable position. While the Indian delegation, as expected, stuck to its Home Ministry's core concern about lack of action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage before agreeing to move on any other count, Mr. Qureshi's sweet Seraiki talk and sensible urge to push for the resumption of composite dialogue could not substitute for a lack of sufficient action by Pakistan's Ministry of Interior on Headley's revelations. The biggest confidence-building measure that Mr. Krishna was looking at was solid action against those identified by Headley before embracing Mr. Qureshi's priorities — on which both were on the same page.

 

Finding the futility of not having talks over a most troubled region, and prodded by the United States, the two Prime Ministers had agreed in their one-on-one interaction at Thimpu to give the talks yet another try to bring the peace process back on the rails after it was derailed by the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai. The earlier effort by Dr. Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at Sharm-al Shiekh had backfired on the Indian Prime Minister, who was accused of being 'soft' on Pakistan. The failure of both the attempts shows that the harder positions taken by the respective security apparatuses and their unwillingness to entertain each other's 'core concerns' are not letting diplomacy find its way out of the conflicting demands of the adversaries.

 

India and Pakistan are back to the same point where the 2001 Agra Summit had failed. Only after the assurances that the Indian leadership had sought against alleged terrorism emanating from the territories under Pakistan's control were granted by General Pervez Musharraf, had India agreed to sign the January 6, 2004 statement in Islamabad. Some measures to check cross-border infiltration, initiated subsequently, paved the way for an unprecedented degree of forward movement with regard to almost all components of the composite dialogue process. The solid basis of the success of the four-year process of dialogue was that all components of the Pakistani establishment were on board, and there was a bi-partisan consensus in India on the basis of which the initiative launched by the Bharatiya Janata Party was carried forward by the Congress. Both the factors are now missing. A bi-partisan consensus does not exist in India now; and a unity of command, that was once the hallmark of General Musharraf's regime, does not exist in Pakistan.

 

General Musharraf did push the process to the point of a major breakthrough even on Kashmir, but Indians delayed it till the time the former military dictator lost his ground. In Pakistan's case, the Zardari government did show the courage to make some fresh moves, but it was hamstrung by the Mumbai backlash. Finding no response from New Delhi, and coming under pressure from the media and the judiciary, the democratic government found it convenient to let the security establishment maintain its intransigence towards India. On the other hand, the Pakistani establishment did not give a bailout to Dr. Singh, a genuine peacemaker, as he reeled under the popular backlash of the Mumbai attack. In fact, the Pakistani establishment continues to travel on the beaten tracks of strategic depth/intrusion through unreliable proxies, most of whom have turned their guns on Rawalpindi.

 

Regardless of Mr. Qureshi's equaliser meant to cast his counterpart in a pathetic position — probably in retaliation to what Indians have been saying about whom to talk in Pakistan — both the Foreign Ministries are the least autonomous in making decisions. But by embarrassing his counterpart, Mr. Qureshi has created a bad precedent for his upcoming visit to India, if at all it takes place. His minders, one suspects, have pushed him to a point where a courteous Shah Mehmood Qureshi would never have liked to be. The Indo-Pakistan dialogue was initiated with some effort by the Americans, who do not want to see Pakistan divided on two fronts. With the fate of the American surge in southern Afghanistan at stake and given the American strategic dependence on Pakistan, Islamabad is no more in a hurry to comply with any Indian preconditions. The Pakistani security establishment may get an upper hand in Afghan affairs as the U.S. coalesces in, but not against India. Conscious of the need to ensure security during the October 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, the Manmohan Singh government tactically agreed to negotiations while exerting pressure on Pakistan on Mumbai and in seeking to restrain jehadis from crossing the Line of Control.

 

This strategic uncertain equilibrium is unlikely to stay. One more terror strike in India can lead to unseen and unaffordable consequences. There could even be a limited war that could get out of hand, and that could alter the entire strategic environment and upset the whole design of the war on terror. This is the likely scenario that must make everybody in the region and the world at large wake up.

 

Let not either side become a hostage to self-delusionary strategic devices. The war on terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan has entered a critical stage which no power in the region and the world can afford to lose. Both sides must provide a way out and offer face-saving measures to those who can deliver. Let us get over the Mumbai fallout, put the culprits on trial, go back to spirit of the January 6, 2004 statement and pick the thread of negotiations where it was left in 2007 — instead of seeking to reinvent the wheel.

 

(Imtiaz Alam is a veteran Pakistani journalist and Secretary-General of the South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA))

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THE HINDU

OPED

RANCHERS AND DRUG BARONS THREATEN RAIN FOREST

THE RAPIDLY DEFORESTING MINI-NARCO-STATE OF EL MIRADOR IS A FAR CRY FROM PRESIDENT ALVARO COLOM'S VISION OF A LUSH MAYAN-THEMED VACATIONLAND.

BLAKE SCHMIDT

 

Great sweeps of Guatemalan rain forest, once the cradle of one of the world's great civilisations, are being razed to clear land for cattle-ranching drug barons. Other parts of the Maya Biosphere Reserve, Central America's largest protected area, have been burned down by small cities of squatters.

 

Looters and poachers, kept at bay when guerrilla armies roamed the region during the country's 36-year civil war, ply their trades freely.

 

"There's traffickers, cattle ranchers, loggers, poachers and looters," said Richard D. Hansen, an American archaeologist who is leading the excavation of the earliest and largest Mayan city-state, El Mirador, in the northern tip of the reserve. "All the bad guys are lined up to destroy the reserve. You can't imagine the devastation that is happening."

 

President Alvaro Colom has grand plans to turn the region into a major eco-tourism destination, but if he hopes to bring tourists, officials say, he will have to bring the law here first.

 

The reserve, about the size of New Jersey, accounts for nearly two-thirds of the Peten region, a vast, jungly no man's land that juts north into Mexico and borders Belize to the east. Spanning a fifth of Guatemala and including four national parks, the reserve houses diverse ecosystems. Pre-Colombian inhabitants mined limestone quarries here 2,600 years ago to build the earliest Mayan temples. The temples would tower above the jungle canopy before the cities were abandoned as the Mayan civilisation mysteriously collapsed around the ninth century A.D.

 

Some sites generate robust tourism. The spectacular Maya city Tikal, which draws up to 350,000 visitors a year, is a relatively well-protected oasis. Only about 3,000 visit El Mirador, which contains what may be the world's largest ancient pyramid structure.

 

The threats to the reserve are many and interlocking, legal and illegal. Claudia Mariela Lopez, the Peten director for the national parks agency, said about 37,000 acres of the reserve were deforested annually by poachers, squatters and ranchers.

 

The squatters are mainly peasants who have come in search of farmland. But the population of Peten has grown to more than 500,000 from 25,000 in the 1970s, according to a UNESCO report. Not all of the residents are illegal, and many seek no more than subsistence.

 

Willingly or not, they often become pawns of the drug lords. The squatters are numerous, frequently armed and difficult to evict. In some cases, they function as an advance guard for the drug dealers, preventing the authorities from entering, warning of intrusions and clearing land that the drug gangs ultimately take over.

 

The State Department described the Peten in a March report as "essentially under the control" of drug trafficking organisations, mainly the Mexico-based Zetas, who enjoy a "prevailing environment of impunity." The drug organisations have bought vast cattle ranches there in order to launder drug profits, as well as to conceal a trafficking hub, including remote, jungle-shrouded landing strips. Cattle ranching in the Peten has quadrupled since 1995, with herds totalling 2.5 million cattle, according to Rudel Alvarez, the region's governor. "Organised crime and drug traffickers have usurped large swaths of protected land amid a vacuum left by the state, and are creating de facto ranching areas."

 

Deforestation has led to soil erosion at Yaxchilan, a Mayan city across the border in Mexico, which in turn has swollen rivers that erode limestone temples, said Norma Barbacci, regional director for the World Monument Fund. Ash from the squatters' burns to clear fields for planting causes acid rain that wears at temples.

 

Fires, tree poaching and ranchers are encroaching in parts of the Laguna del Tigre national park in the western part of the reserve, threatening a sanctuary for 250 endangered scarlet macaws, the country's last, said Roan McNab, country director for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Jaguars, crocodiles, river turtles and monkeys are also losing their habitat, he said.

 

The road to El Mirador, a five-day mule trek from the town of Carmelita that involves occasional bushwhacking with a machete, passes countless ditches where looters have ripped out Mayan graves. The remote dirt road that leads to the reserve is lined with newly razed cattle ranches, and the persistent buzz from a logging company drowns out the rain forest's more subtle cacophony.

 

A local trail guide, galumphing along ancient limestone freeways buried beneath the forest, chain-smokes marijuana cigarettes rolled in notebook paper.

 

This rapidly deforesting mini-narco-state is a far cry from Mr. Colom's vision of a lush Mayan-themed vacationland. His ambitious Cuatro Balam plan, named for the four main figures in the Mayan creation myth, would divide the reserve into an archaeological park in the north and an agricultural zone in the south, was ostensibly intended to stem the northward migration of farmers and ranchers. Through a combination of public and private financing, he hopes to build an $8 million electric minitrain to shuttle tourists through the reserve and a Maya studies centre for scholars.

 

The goal is to attract 1 million tourists a year to the reserve by 2023. Guatemalan authorities have made some progress. Soldiers have blasted craters in secret landing strips and kicked squatters off protected lands. The government says it has retaken 269,000 acres of protected land in the Peten.

 

But the government remains outgunned. The entire Peten, nearly 14,000 square miles, is patrolled by 600 soldiers, police officers and park guards, Mr. Alvarez said. Isolated, underpaid and ineffectual, the security officials are also susceptible to corruption.

 

The park guards at El Mirador are expected to monitor up to 12,000 acres of jungle each. "We have nothing," said one guard, who asked to remain anonymous so as not to antagonise drug lords. "How are we supposed to stop drug gangs trying to run this place?" — New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

AIDS DRUGS 'CAN REDUCE SPREAD OF DISEASE'

A REPORT PUBLISHED IN A MEDICAL JOURNAL CLAIMS INCREASED AVAILABILITY OF PHARMACEUTICALS WOULD BRING DOWN INFECTION RATE.

SARAH BOSELEY

 

Aids drugs not only keep people alive but reduce the chances of the disease spreading, according to a study published on Sunday, which makes a strong case for stepping up the rollout of treatment in affected countries.

 

Around 5 million people are now on antiretroviral drugs, but 10 million more in the developing world are in need of them. The G8 group of industrialised nations made a commitment to universal access at their Gleneagles, Scotland, summit in 2005, but the cost of achieving it is high — not just in terms of the price of drugs but also the supply and distribution systems and clinics that are needed.

 

Today's paper, though, from leading Aids researchers in Canada, suggests that there are greater benefits to medication than are generally added into the equation. Drugs are not only for treatment, but also for prevention, it says.

 

Prof. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/Aids in Vancouver, and colleagues point out that no cure or vaccine appears likely in the foreseeable future. Strategies to prevent the spread of Aids, however, have had limited effect due to various factors including poor implementation, insufficient support and logistical difficulties.

 

"As a result, the global effect of HIV/Aids continues to grow," they write in their paper, published online by the Lancet. "In 2008, an estimated 33.4 million people were living with HIV, there were 2 million Aids-related deaths and an alarming 2.7 million new HIV infections occurred." As a result, they say, the U.N. has called for an urgent redoubling of efforts against the virus.

 

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (Haart) — the triple drug combination that suppresses the viral load in the body — has saved at least 3m years of life in the United States in the decade to 2006, they write.

 

People who were HIV positive on Haart could expect to live for roughly two-thirds the lifespan of uninfected people. But because the virus can disappear to undetectable levels, although still present, experts began to wonder whether people on the drugs would also be less infectious.

 

Prof. Montaner and colleagues tested this thesis in British Columbia, but say their findings are applicable

elsewhere in the world. Between 1996 and 2009, they say, the number of people on Haart rose from 837 to 5413, but over the same period of time newly diagnosed infections fell by more than half, from 702 to 338 a year.

 

For every 100 patients put on drug treatment, new HIV diagnoses fell by 3 per cent. When the use of Haart expanded, from 1996-2000 and from 2004-09, diagnoses fell. When the numbers being put on drugs remained fairly stable between 2001-03, so did the rate of diagnoses — a small fall of 2 per cent compared with a drop of 30 per cent and 17 per cent in the earlier and later time periods.

 

The fall in HIV diagnosis was not connected with safer sexual behaviour, they say, because rates of sexually-transmitted infections went up in the last 15 years of the study.

 

"Our results support the proposed secondary benefit of Haart used within existing medical guidelines to reduce HIV transmission ... [and] provide a strong rationale for re-examination of the HIV prevention and treatment dichotomy, as has been strongly advocated by the U.N. joint programme on HIV/Aids (Unaids) as part of a comprehensive combination prevention strategy. Furthermore, our results should serve to re-energise the G8's universal access pledge as a means to curb the effect of Aids and the growth of the HIV pandemic," the authors write.

 

Unaids last week announced a strategy which it calls Treatment 2.0, that aims to get drugs to the 10 million who are still in need. The agency hopes to engage drug companies in creating simpler, cheaper pills to reduce the costs. The results announced today will strengthen the argument for improving access to drugs and may help persuade cash-strapped donors that treatment, as well as traditional prevention tools such as education, deserves extra funds.

 

In a commentary with the Lancet paper, two more HIV experts, Dr. Franco Maggiolo and Dr. Sebastiano Leone from the division of infectious diseases at Ospedali Riuniti in Bergamo, Italy, say: "While waiting for an effective vaccine, experiences such as those reported today should be strongly considered by clinicians, national and international agencies, policymakers and all parties involved in the development of treatment guidelines, because the population-based dimension of Haart might play an important part in the future control of the HIV epidemic." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

CALL FOR LEVY ON FOREIGN EXCHANGE

UNLIKE TAXES APPLIED BY NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS, THE 'GLOBAL SOLIDARITY TAX' WOULD BE PAID INTO A POOL AND SHARED AMONG DEVELOPING NATIONS.

PHILLIP INMAN

 

An international group of finance experts from Brazil, Japan, France and Britain, including the boss of the U.K.'s main chartered accountancy body, have criticised plans for bank taxes put forward by governments and the IMF in favour of reviving the idea of a "Tobin tax" on foreign exchange trades.

 

The global tax could raise $33bn to fund development projects and bring nations together in a single effort to combat poverty rather than create divisions through competing bank taxes, the report said.

 

The report by the Leading Group, put together by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and the previous British Labour administration, follows calls by the U.K.'s Lord Turner for a tax on bank transactions alongside taxes on profits and bonuses.

 

It said a tax on foreign exchange deals, which would cost an extra 0.005% on each trade, would best meet the criteria "as the most appropriate source of revenue to fund public goods and share of wealth generated by globalised companies."

 

The Leading Group of experts is hopeful their report will be given a hearing ahead of the G20 summit in the autumn which will debate various proposals for internationally agreed bank taxes.

 

But after months of debate over the most likely way to support developing countries through a tax on banking, the report is likely to be seen as supporting a radical policy with little likelihood of high level agreement. Critics of the G20 expect rich nations to reject a global tax in favour of individual nations adopting their own schemes. The U.K. government has agreed to apply a tax on bank profits and is considering a tax on bonuses if it reaches international agreement.

 

The U.S. government has also come under acute pressure from Wall Street institutions to block further tax raising measures, including a levy on foreign currency trades. Under the latest proposals, the tax would be applied to deals in the four main currencies — the dollar, yen, euro and sterling — that are traded in foreign exchange markets. If the U.S. government opted out of the scheme the majority of tax revenue would be lost.

 

Michael Izza, chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, said the group was given a remit to investigate a method of raising funds that not only generated billions of pounds, but also avoided tax arbitrage across the major economies. "A tax on currency trading was attractive because probably for the first time we had centralised currency settlement systems that allow small taxes to be collected. It is not a technical problem, only one of political will," he said.

 

Mr. Izza said there were concerns that banks would attempt to trade away from the main currency markets to avoid the tax. But the committee said in the report that avoidance could be discouraged by central banks, which controlled the currencies and monitored the trading environment. The IMF recently rejected a Tobin tax, named after the economist Peter Tobin who proposed a levy in the 1970s on foreign currency trades.

 

IMF boss Dominique Strauss Kahn, a former French Foreign Minister, argued it would be passed on to customers and investors would pay the tax and not bank shareholders. The Leading Group report said it was likely some of the tax would be passed on to customers, but only in the way all taxes are part of trading costs. It said the burden would be shared internationally under a global currency tax.

 

Unlike taxes applied by national governments, the "Global Solidarity Tax" would be paid into a central pool and shared among developing nations. The increased cost of a 0.005% levy on a $1m trade would be $50. But the billions of transactions each year would raise $33bn, it said. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

SPARE THE RATES ON SMALL SAVINGS

 

If the government is really serious about deregulating interest rates on small savings instruments and linking them to market rates, it should realise that it could prove to be a suicidal move, and, at the very least, an anti-people move. It has appointed a panel headed by RBI deputy governor Shyamala Gopinath to review the structure of the National Small Savings Fund and give recommendations on making schemes more flexible and market-linked. It would include instruments like the Public Provident Fund and the Post Office monthly income scheme administered by the Centre. In rural and semi-urban areas, the Kisan Vikas Patra, for instance, is the most popular scheme. Millions of Indians like you and me, and particularly the lower income groups, invest in these schemes as they have assured returns which currently stand at eight per cent for five to seven years maturity. The returns almost double at maturity. They are among the best savings schemes and have the trust and confidence of millions. In fact, in the last two years of the global financial crisis, when the equity markets were volatile, unreliable and a feast for speculators, the small savings instruments were an oasis of calm for millions of Indians.


These instruments, particularly the Public Provident Fund, are their only safety net for the future. It is a sad commentary on the government that after 63 years of Independence it is unable to provide a security net akin to those in the developed world and as several other countries do for their unemployed citizens as well as in the case of retirement benefits. So to say that the West has these instruments at market rates, and therefore India should have it, amounts to a travesty of justice. The government should first put a safety net in place for the millions of self-employed, unemployed and senior citizens before it rushes into such schemes.


The linking of small savings to the so-called market forces emanated from the 13th Finance Commission headed by Mr Vijay Kelkar. In addition to wanting these schemes market-linked, it also sought a review of the existing terms of loans extended by the National Small Savings Fund to the Centre and the states and to recommend changes required in the lending mechanism. The Centre and the states share the amount raised through the savings of millions of Indians. The Centre gives the states their share as a 25-year loan at 9.5 per cent interest, with a moratorium of five years on the principal amount. It is now finding this a burden it cannot bear; hence the commission's suggestions to bail out the government at the cost of millions of Indians. But that is the Centre's problem and not an excuse to take it out on the people's schemes. It amounts to cutting off your head if you have a headache.


It is clear that the government, which wants to cut its fiscal deficit, is looking at various means to do so, and is attacking the people's programmes as it is easier than cutting down on its extravagant, unproductive expenditure. It is even easier than doing what it should be doing, namely increasing direct taxes. India at the current junction, considering all the stimulus packages and deficits that the developed countries have, is one of the lowest taxed countries. The government has plenty of scope to increase direct tax revenues. Also, if it is able to curb corruption in the various tax-collecting departments, it would be able to collect much more via taxes and boost its revenue. Its borrowings would fall and this would decrease its revenue expenditure to that extent.

 

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

OPPOSITION: FOUL PLAY

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

The alarming deterioration of public discourse, reflected by the acts and behaviour of the principal Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), does not portend well for the prospect of a healthy Opposition in our democracy. We have always known that they are bad losers. After their rise to power and governance under Atal Behari Vajpayee, and after six years at the Centre, their defeat in the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 hit them like a thunderbolt. They resorted to every possible explanation in the book to explain their failure at the hustings, except the obvious truth staring them in the face, which was that they had failed in all aspects of governance and had completely lost the confidence of the people. Until today, they have not recovered from that defeat or mentally prepared themselves to serve as a responsible Opposition. The success of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), once again in 2009, led to the near-complete decimation of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and also a fratricidal war in the BJP itself, with many senior leaders leaving the party and several extreme fringe elements dominating the 2009 election campaign.


When Nitin Gadkari took over as BJP president a few months ago, political opponents of the BJP refrained from comment. After all, the assumption of office as president is an internal matter of any party and we waited to see how the new president would perform. In his initial public appearances, Mr Gadkari uttered the usual platitudes and made the routine unremarkable commitments. The only noteworthy image we saw was the TV visual of Mr Gadkari belting out a Hindi film song during the executive meeting of the BJP. Again a matter purely for the BJP to enjoy or criticise.


It was later that the true colours of Mr Gadkari began to surface. He suddenly launched a vicious attack on Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav and, wholly without provocation, quite literally called them "dogs". When there was a public outcry, he did not exactly recant, but grudgingly declared that if he had hurt anyone's feelings, he was willing to take his words back. Perhaps Mr Gadkari did not realise that far from hurting anybody's feelings, it was his own image as a politician which had suffered a body blow.
After a brief lull, during which he made no noteworthy statements, either politically or otherwise — although he did make news after having fainted during a BJP rally — Mr Gadkari surfaced with an utterly low level, unbecoming and tasteless remark about the Congress. At a public meeting, he enquired if Afzal Guru was the "son-in-law of the Congress", adding whether the Congress had given their daughters in marriage to Afzal Guru, and if that was the reason the UPA government was treating him with kid gloves. This was a statement that gratuitously insulted millions of women in the Congress and the millions of Congress' daughters. Where was the need for Mr Gadkari to refer to Congress' daughters? Was it not possible for Mr Gadkari to criticise, if he so desired, the policy of the Congress regarding Afzal Guru, in political, or at the very least, decent terms? What possible connection do daughters or sons-in-law have with Afzal Guru, and do the women in the BJP support this unwarranted attack upon their sisters in the Congress? For that matter do men, women and citizens all over the country feel that this is proper language to be used by any responsible person, leave alone the president of the principal Opposition party? Sadly, even those champions of women's rights from other parties and elsewhere, who are quick to criticise the government, chose to ignore this uncivilised language coming from the BJP president for purely political reasons and only because it was an attack upon the Congress.
Sadly, the BJP, rather than apologising for the utterly derogatory remarks made against Congress' daughters, chose to defend their president. Thus the BJP president stood exposed not only for his chauvinistic and disrespectful, anti-women attitude, but the low and unenlightened level of his political discourse.
The latest gem from the BJP president was his remark that Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh is "Aurangzeb ki aulad", or the son of Aurangzeb. Normal decent citizens find it impossible to comprehend what exactly Mr Gadkari was trying to insinuate when he made this remark, but his foul-mouthed slur forced the former BJP MP and Mr Singh's brother Laxman to resign from the party protesting against this remark. Mr Singh replied in one sentence announcing to Mr Gadkari the name of his father. Again, deafening silence from the BJP itself. Again the question arises: why would any self-respecting leader make a remark like this? What possessed Mr Gadkari to remark about Mr Singh being Aurangzeb ki aulad?


Is it impossible for Mr Gadkari to open his mouth without as king if members of the Cong r ess are married, are "sons-in-law", or "aulad" of some death row convict or some historical fi gure? Is the BJP president in c a pable of normal, decent, civ i l i s ed political discourse? What kind of mindset is the BJP pres i dent afflicted with if he cannot talk the normal political lang uage of price rise, development, national security or patriotism? What kind of principal Opposition party is this which sits paralysed and helpless while its president talks obsessively about the parentage, paternity and marital relationships of the ruling party and its members?


The answer: a party not just unworthy of being the principal Opposition party, but a party unworthy of being a part of our great and civilised democracy.


The BJP talked incessantly about being a "party with a difference". The BJP talks about the Indian way of life and Indian culture and about Hindutva being our way of life. It is in the nature of democracy that electoral defeats and political travails are an integral part of the fortunes of any party and the inner resilience of a party reflected by its core strength and values will ensure that it rises again to succeed. The Congress has proved this time again. However, if Mr Gadkari's values reflect the core strength of the BJP, the future of this country's principal Opposition party appears to be bleak.

 

Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.
The views expressed in this column are her own.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

MEDICLAIM CRISIS

 

General insurance companies and hospitals are on the warpath. Faced with what they feel are inflated medical bills, the insurance companies have whittled down the number of hospitals where patients can be provided with cashless hospitalisation — where the bills are settled directly by the insurer. In Mumbai alone, the list of hospitals has been reduced to a tenth of what it was earlier. 


Doctors and hospitals have their own grouses. They allege that the insurers are taking their time paying up, often not paying up at all. But it's clear who is paying for all this in the end: the customer.

 

When insurers reduce the ambit of cashless hospitalisation, they are not penalising recalcitrant hospitals, but patients. However, it cannot also be denied that hospitals have a vested interest in inflating bills and prescribing treatments that may have marginal benefits for the patient. These end up pushing costs for insurers, who are anyway not making much money on mediclaim policies.

 

It was to prevent this that the public sector insurers have created a preferred provider network of hospitals which follow only agreed routines for surgeries and procedures.

 

The world over, healthcare providers, insurers and third party agents (TPAs) — middlemen who interface between the two for a fee — have had a tough time reconciling the differing interests of the parties concerned. In India, the system of TPAs has not worked as well as elsewhere, and the insurance regulator has talked of doing away with them altogether so that insurers take direct responsibility for their mediclaim contracts. The problem is worsened by the fact that many hospitals are run like for-profit businesses. The temptation to overbill customers who seem to have insurance is thus huge.

 

The Confederation of Indian Industry seems to have stepped into the breach to see if the three parties can be made to find a via media. In the long-term, the mediclaim policy will work only if it serves the interests of all the parties concerned. This means, first, correct billing, reasonable profits for the healthcare providers, and quick, cashless hospitalisation for patients. In the absence of cashless hospitalisation, patients end up having to pay first without knowing how much of the bills will be reimbursed by their insurers. This adds mental trauma to physical trauma.

 

The only option is a compromise.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

SECOND GREEN COURT

 

The Supreme Court's decision to constitute a second bench to deal with environmental issues reflects the extent of litigation which these issues attract. Chief justice SH Kapadia will chair a bench which sits every Friday and deals with major issues relating to mining, forests and projects, including the statues being built by the Uttar Pradesh government, the Lafarge mining problem, Aravali mining and so on. The second bench, to be headed by justice Sudarshan Reddy, will sit every Monday and deal with issues relating to sawmills and such, as well as implementation.

 

The degradation of forests, the attempts to build factories on wetlands, and the turning over of fertile arable land to industry are creating problems for governments all over the country — not counting the cost to human livelihoods and standard of living. Mining is a very heated and troublesome issue in Orissa, in the Maoist-infested areas, in the Aravalis and in Karnataka. Added to the obvious problems with mining, there is much to be lost and gained politically here as well.

 

The bureaucracy fears that the apex court is overstepping its brief and interfering in matters outside its jurisdiction as it sets up special benches to monitor different activities. However, the unfortunate fact is that in many cases, the agencies concerned are found either to be negligent or, in worst case scenarios, manipulated and corrupt. Only the courts seem to be able to take them on.

 

It is intriguing to note that most of the cases involve some sort of collusion between arms of the government and industry. The second 'green' bench is not so much about pandering to the environmental lobby as it is about ensuring that lure of lucre is not used to short-change the country and its people. While ecology is given short-shrift, the consequences are much more tragic for the people affected by these projects. They are either used as pawns in a political game or reduced to mere ciphers and tossed around by the powerful and the eco-obsessed.

 

If some people suspect that the courts are overstepping their brief, this is only an indictment of the way the country is run. Judicial activism, since it became a catchphrase in the 1990s, is sometimes the only way governments can be forced to follow the straight and narrow and, in some cases, even the law. The second bench is thus a reminder to the government that someone is watching. And the judiciary is surely a legitimate watchdog in our form of democracy?

 

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DNA

COMMENT

MAHARASHTRA SHOULD HELP BELGAUM PROSPER

ABHAY VAIDYA 

 

When it reaches boiling point, the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute centring round the Marathi-speaking population of Belgaum looks ridiculous. Screaming headlines compete for space alongside the Kashmir dispute, which has been, coincidentally, running for as many decades.

 

A section of the leaders from both sides are at their provocative worst.  Bandhs are proclaimed, protestors lathi-charged, buses stoned, dire warnings issued and inter-state transport grinds to a halt till tempers cool down.

 

Inflaming passions becomes the call of the day. Smaller groups, pitted one against the other, such as the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) and the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV), react and counter-react, destructively.

 

Recently, when news broke out of the Central government's affidavit in the Supreme Court opposing Maharashtra's demand for the merger of 865 border villages of Karnataka, the Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut asked on television "whether the Centre now wants Maharashtrians to become terrorists and Naxalites" to pursue the cause of Belgaum.

 

The fact is that 50 years after the creation of Maharashtra, the Marathi-speaking people of Belgaum, especially the younger generation, have accepted Karnataka as their home-state. Kannadigas and Marathi-speakers live amicably in Belgaum.

 

They want focus on education and economic welfare rather than on the crusade for and against merger with Maharashtra. They feel that Belgaum's economic growth has been stunted because of the border dispute.

 

MES leaders and a section of Marathi-speakers in this city of about nine lakh acknowledge that the pro-Maharashtra cause has lost considerable support in Belgaum. The ground reality is that it has remained an agenda for the politicians and not for the Marathi masses — whether in Maharashtra or even in Belgaum — where the MES, in the 2008 assembly elections, lost all the 18 seats that it contested.

 

Common sense suggests it is prudent to wait for the Supreme Court verdict in the suit filed by Maharashtra in 2004. The strong feelings of the pro-Maharashtra crusaders in the border districts of Karnataka are understandable as the Marathi-majority villages would have liked to be part of Maharashtra which was created for the Marathi-speaking people.  Historically, however, there are strong reasons to justify the inclusion of Belgaum in Karnataka which would explain the rationale of the Boundary Commission.

 

The 1967 Mahajan Commission rejected Maharashtra's claim to Belgaum while awarding the transfer of about 260 villages from Mysore state (now Karnataka) to Maharashtra and 247 villages vice-versa. The report was rejected by Maharashtra. Since then, the MES which controlled the Belgaum City Corporation till recently, and the Karnataka government, have clashed bitterly, precipitating one crisis after the other.

 

Linguistic discrimination in schools where children do not get Marathi-speaking teachers; in public offices where documents are not available in Marathi and discrimination at the time of employment have been among the grievances of the Marathi-speaking people. Although there are many government-run Marathi schools, the bus boards are in Kannada only. It would have been wise for the government to reach out with a bi- or a tri-lingual approach. 

The entire south-western belt of the United States from California to Texas, has effectively addressed the linguistic and socio-cultural conflict between English and Spanish speaking peoples. Although English is the official language, government notices, official documents and public signages are available in Spanish and English.

 

It is time to ask who are we fighting against and what are we fighting for?

 

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DNA

CITIES OF HOPE & FEAR

HOPE OF A BETTER FUTURE IS WHAT DRAWS US TO CITIES. BUT HOPE ALSO NEEDS LIMITS

SUDHIR KAKAR

 

I am not an urban planner or architect. For me, a large city, and especially a metropolis, is primarily the site of two fundamental human emotions: hope and fear. Both these emotions are much more powerful in the formation and expression of urban identity than in the non-urban context. In the final analysis, all urban development policies in a city must be aimed at increasing hope and lessening fear. 


Here, I will not discuss in detail the elements that make urban life, where most people live in small bubbles of the known and the familiar floating on a sea of the strange (and strangers), unpredictable and less susceptible to control. The fear of the unknown, hard-wired into our brains by evolution, is liable to be more easily and frequently activated in a large city than in a small town or village. With increasing migrations into the cities, there are large groups of strangers — Biharis in Mumbai, Bangladeshis in Kolkata, Bhailos in Goa — who live in their separate diasporas that have always been dreaded sites of a fearful urban imagination. 
The reduction of fear generated by groups of strangers living together in the city must then be one of the primary goals of urban cultural policy. Here, though, I will focus on the other elemental emotion: hope
Consider this man from a village in Karnataka who is living in a Mumbai slum. He works a back-breaking 14 hours a day on a construction site, lives with six other members of his family in a single room tenement and eats, if at all, stale food in a chipped enamel plate. Yet he rejects the idea of life being better in his village with surprised astonishment. The city, with its possibilities, for example schooling for his children, has provided him with a sliver of hope. 


The cynic might see his aspirations for a better life as completely unrealistic. But what keeps this man and so many millions of others cheerful and expectant even under the most adverse economic, social and political circumstances is precisely this hope, which is a sense of possession of the future, however distant that future may be. It is this hope, the presence of opportunities, that makes the ancient Greek poet Alcaeus say: "Not houses finely roofed or the stones of walls well built, nay canals and dockyards make the city, but men able to use the opportunity." 


Hope exists at many levels: from the Karnataka labourer hoping for a better future for his children through education to many people from small towns and rural areas hoping to acquire what I can only call urbanity, a refinement of identity, which makes city life so attractive. I do not go so far as the writer Saul Bellow who observed that "A man without a city is a beast or god". But the idea that the city can fulfill the hopes of ever further refinement of sensibility, make a human more human, is shared by most civilisations. 
It is interesting to note that the Kamasutra, a book written in fourth century India, with the express purpose of refining erotic sensibility, had the city dweller as its intended audience. The Kamasutra assumes that the arts a person needs to learn to be erotically refined — music, dancing, painting (the list of 64 arts is long and some of the recommended arts such as teaching parrots to speak are not quite contemporary!) — are only available in the city. 


The presence of a wide variety of cultural offerings in a city is thus essential for many people who aspire to a refinement of their identities. Most of these people, in media, information technology and other modern service industries, form the backbone of the creative and innovative workforce of the new, so-called knowledge-based economy. To attract these people, cities that have a cultural buzz will be at an advantage as sites of the new economy. 
There is one worrying development and this is a number of people in the knowledge economy who view urban culture not only as a site for refinement of identity, but as locus of 'limit' experiences, as the French philosopher Foucault called them. Involving binge drinking, drugs, and various kinds of sexual experimentation, the city is also becoming a site for unfettered individualism, "the looking out for Number One", and the belief that the gratification of desires — most of them related to consumption — is the royal road to happiness. 
This ethos of unrestrained individualism, the exploration of endless possibilities, is still a blip on our urban screen but will increasingly create a dilemma for policy-makers as they seek to integrate urban culture and urban development. In other words, the cultural buzz that attracts middle class professionals, especially those involved in the knowledge economy, not only consists of the more traditional cultural offerings but also of opportunities for individual self-expression which, when carried to extremes, have harmful social consequences. Hope needs limits as much as fear needs palliatives.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE HEADLEY FACTOR

PAK ARMY SABOTAGED TALKS

 

THE interrogation of David Coleman Headley, a US national of Pakistani origin arrested for his role in different incidents of terrorism, including the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, has led to uncomfortable revelations about the activities of the Pakistan Army and the ISI. Officially, the ISI may not be under the control of the Army, but it has always been implementing the agenda of Pakistan's armed forces. As reports suggest, both sabotaged the India-Pakistan Islamabad talks with a view to deflecting the world's attention from Islamabad's policy of using terrorism to achieve its geopolitical objectives. The Pakistan Army did not want the dialogue to focus more on quickly and adequately punishing those suspected of their involvement in the Mumbai mayhem because that would lead to its role getting exposed in view of what Headley revealed to US and Indian interrogators. Hence the pressure on Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to indulge in posturing even at the risk of the talks ending in a fiasco, as it happened.

 

Headley's interrogation report has it that the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Toiyaba has been functioning virtually as an extension of the ISI. Under the patronage of the Pakistan Army both enacted the Mumbai massacre to add to the atmosphere of distrust between India and Pakistan. Any effort for peace between the two neighbours, the Pakistan Army feels, will ultimately erode its importance in running the affairs of that country. The unending unrest in the Kashmir valley, with the trouble-makers getting instructions from across the Line of Control, should be seen against this backdrop.

 

The truth brought out by Headley's questioning must be pursued with dogged tenacity in the interest of peace and stability in South Asia and beyond. Now is the time for the world community (read the US) to nail the Pakistan Army for its role as the saboteur of any peace move between India and Pakistan. An increase in tension between the two countries leads to an atmosphere which suits the Pakistan-based terrorist outfits and their patrons. In such a situation these destructive elements acquire the status of heroes. This dangerous game plan needs to be brought to an end before it is too late.

 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ASSAULT ON FREEDOM

MEDIA PAYS THE PRICE FOR INDEPENDENCE

 

WHILE increasing attacks on media houses in the country point towards growing intolerance in society, they also reflect the growing power and penetration of the media, specially the electronic media. Television channels have increasingly come under attack by political parties and when several thousand people 'suspected' to be supporters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS) vandalised last week parts of a building that housed the offices of the TV Today network in New Delhi, it came as no surprise. The channel had drawn the ire of the Sangh sympathisers by running tapes of a secret meeting in which RSS leaders were allegedly heard discussing plans to carry out terror attacks against meetings of Muslims. The sensational sting operation unnerved and incensed the Sangh supporters so much that they gave vent to their ire and risked getting exposed by launching a reckless attack on the media house. The police, as usual, were caught by surprise and were outnumbered but security guards were smart enough to have immobilised the lifts and downed the shutters to prevent the mob from reaching the fourth-floor office of the network.

 

Media houses and journalists are vulnerable to attacks everywhere because they deal with not just inconvenient facts but also views and opinion which cannot satisfy everyone. They derive their moral authority from being 'friends of society' and by upholding public interest. Like other institutions, the media can and do make mistakes and often err in their judgment. But that is surely no reason to subject them to violence and vandalism. There are perfectly legitimate ways of getting one's views across and refute the facts or interpretation presented in the media. It is a relatively routine and easy exercise for political parties and organisations to contradict the content. But it is only when the evidence of their culpability becomes so glaring so as to render their denials meaningless that they indulge in violence. This year alone, estimates the Committee to Protect Journalists, there have been at least 11 attacks on journalists and media houses and eight cases of bans or restrictions imposed by the government or political groups.

 

The assault on the freedom of the Press deserves to be condemned even as there is little doubt that such attacks are going to become sharper and more frequent. With the media expanding, becoming more professional and as they dare to expose people in high places, the media will have to be ready to pay the price for freedom.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE POLITICS OVER BELGAUM

CHAVAN SHOULD STOP PLAYING WITH FIRE

 

IT is truly regrettable that emotive issues that have the potential to sway gullible masses are increasingly being used by political parties to satisfy their narrow political agendas without a thought to the damage that is being done to the social fabric in the country. Caste and regional divides are being created and furthered in quest of votes. The issue of Belgaum and its neighbourhood being part of Karnataka  despite the majority of residents being Marathi-speaking was settled decades ago, or so it seemed. But it is back, with political parties in Maharashtra  vying with one another to make strong statements staking claims over those areas on linguistic grounds.

 

Ironically, the dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belgaum got revived after the Centre's affidavit in the Supreme Court that the area could not become a part of Maharashtra just because most of the people there spoke Marathi. The affidavit put the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra in a spot. With the Shiv Sena waiting to grab an opportunity to project itself all over again as a champion of Maharashtrian rights, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was quick to play the Marathi card in competitive populism. His demand that the Centre declare the 865 Marathi-majority villages of Belgaum a Union Territory will only exacerbate tensions without helping resolve the issue. Tension had already built up before Mr Chavan's statement with Maharashtra buses being targeted in Karnataka and likewise Karnataka buses facing mob attacks in Maharashtra forcing the authorities to stop inter-state services for 48 hours.

 

Maharashtra had only just recovered from the controversy over US author James Laine's controversial biography on Shivaji in the wake of the Supreme Court rejecting the Chavan government's plea to re-impose a ban on it. The lifting of the ban had provoked Raj Thackeray of the MNS to dare anyone to sell the book in the state. Such chauvinistic expressions that fuel tensions must be curbed with a heavy hand. In the case of the Belgaum controversy, the issue is before the Supreme Court. It is time the Centre reined in Ashok Chavan and told him sternly to await the verdict. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

THE FIASCO IN ISLAMABAD

FACTORS BEHIND QURESHI'S PROVOCATIVE BEHAVIOR

BY K. SUBRAHMANYAM

 

A MAJORITY of the people in India and Pakistan look at India-Pakistan relationship as a zero-sum game and, therefore, they will be looking at the just concluded Islamabad talks as a victory for one side and a setback for the other. Viewed objectively and rationally, this is a totally wrong approach. This view originates from the basically erroneous Pakistani perception that India is an existential threat to Pakistan. The reality was asserted more than once during External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna's Press conference that India considers that it is in its interest to have a stable, prosperous and peaceful Pakistan. On the other hand, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, "Pakistan has always wanted friendly, cooperative and good neighborly relations with India. We've started a process to achieve this objective."

 

Implied in Pakistani formulation is the perception that India is not a friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly country, and Islamabad is initiating steps to bring about such a development. Given these different perceptions, for Pakistan the relations with India is a zero sum game, but it is not so for India. While India considers the Pakistani strategy of using terrorism as a state policy a self-destructive one, it does not have any animosity towards that country. It is obvious from the results of the Islamabad talks that Pakistan, as of now, is not prepared to give up terrorism as a state policy. Viewed in this background, the Islamabad talks were a tactical setback for India but a disastrous image-projection for Pakistan.

 

This came out clearly in Qureshi's outburst against the Indian Home Secretary, who had referred to David Coleman Headley's disclosures about the involvement of Pakistan's ISI in the planning and execution of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai during a Press interaction. These disclosures were made during his interrogation under the supervision of the FBI and had been included in the dossier handed over to the Pakistani Minister of Interior by the Indian Home Minister weeks ago. Qureshi chose to equate this with the outbursts of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed and asserted that both he and Krishna considered such disclosure of the Indian Home Secretary was uncalled for.

 

Krishna did not choose to rebut this during his Islamabad Press conference, and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao subsequently explained that this might nave been due to the pell-mell prevailing at that time. Subsequently, Krishna made it clear that he stood by the Home Secretary.

 

More revealing of the Pakistani state of mind was the subsequent Press conference held by Qureshi on the morning of July 16 for the Pakistani media even as Krishna was yet to take off from Chaklala airport. He accused Krishna of not being fully prepared for the negotiations and making frequent telephone calls to Delhi for instructions, a charge totally denied by Krishna. This was a deliberate attempt at insulting Krishna. Some observers in India are of the view that Qureshi might have been directed by the Army and ISI leadership to hold such a Press conference and insult Krishna to provoke India to sever the present engagement with Pakistan so that it could be made a justification for future terrorist attacks. India has not walked into that trap, and the authorities in New Delhi continue to maintain that there is no alternative to engagement with the nuclear neighbour in spite of its provocative behaviour.

 

Qureshi maintains that Krishna told the Pakistanis that his negotiating mandate was limited to terrorism only and he was not prepared to discuss the Pakistani concerns. The Indian side maintains that Pakistan concerns were discussed and progress was made on many issues. Qureshi contradicted himself when he said at the joint Press conference that further negotiations on Kashmir would be on the progress achieved during the last three years, and asserting in the second Press conference that Pakistan's concerns were not addressed. Nor all the extra time taken in the conference, making the Press wait for six hours, lends credibility to Qureshi's assertion that India's negotiating mandate was restricted to terrorism only.

 

The reason for Pakistan's provocative behaviour is to be traced to their perception of the situation in the Af-Pak area and the validity of that perception. The Pakistan Army appears to have convinced itself that it has outsmarted the Americans and has succeeded in persuading Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to dismiss his anti-Taliban Interior Minister and Chief of Intelligence and enter into secret negotiations with pro-Pakistan elements in the Taliban. By allowing the use of Pakistani territory as safe haven by the Haqqani faction, they have increased US and NATO casualties in Afghanistan. They have also dodged the US pressure to take action against any of the terrorist organisations other than the Pakistani Taliban .

 

Therefore, they seem to be in a triumphant mood. It is very much like their over-confidence in June 1999 during the Kargil operation, in August-September 1971 in the aftermath of Sino-US rapprochement with China, during the 1971 East Bengal crisis and in August 1965 in the wake of Operation Gibraltar. The clever tacticians of the ISI and Pakistani Army Headquarters always have tended to ignore strategic aspects. Such an approach ended in disasters on three previous occasions. It looks as though they are likely to repeat past blunder, risking Pakistani integrity and internal security.

 

The Pakistan Army's calculations are based on a totally erroneous perception, no doubt, widely prevalent even outside Pakistan that the US will withdraw from Afghanistan, starting in the middle of 2011. President Obama has made it clear a number of times that he has no intention of abandoning Afghanistan, and there will only be a beginning of a drawdown in mid-2011. Now Ambassador Blackwill has unveiled his plan of reordering the force deployment in Afghanistan to vacate Pashtun areas and concentrate on non-Pashtun areas and use air power to decimate the terrorist elements in Pashtun Afghanistan as well as Af-Pak tribal territory.

 

When the US vacates Pashtun Afghanistan there are distinct possibilities of the Afghan Taliban uniting with the Pakistani Taliban and establishing the long-cherished Pashtunistan. Secondly, there are reports in Pakistan of different jihadi groups combining to form a common network. In that event there is a high probability of that network with hundreds of conditioned suicide bombers at their disposal turning their anger against the Pakistan Army and State for their collaboration with the US. Such collaboration is absolutely essential to save Pakistan from bankruptcy.

 

If the Pakistan Army is not blundering again they will have a lot to worry about the future moves of the US in Af-Pak area, the future behaviour of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and the threat emanating from the ego-maniacal terrorist leaders with deadly arsenals of hundreds of conditioned suicide bombers. Since India has no animosity against the people of Pakistan and considers it in its interest to have a stable and prosperous Pakistan, it has every reason to be concerned about the reckless adventurism of their Army.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

MIDDLE

"AS PER THE RULES"

BY RAJ KADYAN

 

IN the Army, rules are considered the proverbial elephant in the room. The enforcer institution, the Controller of Defence Accounts (CDA), is known for rule rigidity. There are numerous supporting anecdotes. Here is another.

 

We were raising a divisional headquarters. Funds being scarce, an effort was on to tap every source. Considering its wartime strength of officers, a divisional headquarters is authorised to run three messes, and an initial grant is meant for each. Being in a family station, with few dining-in members, it was decided to run only one mess during the raising period. However, since we could be mobilised at short notice, the mess equipment for the other two had to be purchased in advance. We accordingly sent our claim. The CDA returned the claim, contending that they could sanction the grant only for the single mess that was functional at the time.

 

Soon, I had to visit the CDA office to attend a training exercise. Our General Officer Commanding (GOC) asked me to visit the CDA and "sort the issue" out, a diktat invariably given when one wants the results with uncertain means.

 

I landed at the CDA office fully armed with uncertainty. I explained that in the few hours we may get for mobilisation, and then it would be impractical to buy the wares needed to start a mess. He acknowledged the problem but expressed his inability as the demand was not "as per the rules". I stressed that the request was in line with authorisation and that there would be no loss to the State. "What you are seeking is a grant that would be used some time in future", he explained in kindergarten language and I nodded.

 

"In that case", he added with his in-between-the-lines perspicacity, "It amounts to a loan, and 'as per the rules' a loan is not authorised". From his side, it was QED. As one who had only a peripheral knowledge of finances, I saw no harm even if it were called a loan. But his take was different.

 

"You miss the point", he said. "Your station is on the border between 'my' Command and another Command. Supposing they were to transfer the station out to the other Command tomorrow, I will lose the amount."

 

I admired his institutional loyalty, but it did not help in the context. "What would you recommend we could do?" I asked trying to make him part of the problem. It worked. "In that case…" the tussle between the rule and rationality was visibly showing on his face. He seemed wanting to help but was fettered by the rule-book. Avoiding my eye, he suggested we say that we were actually running three messes.

 

We had another "difficulty" in the person of the GOC who was a stickler for punctiliousness. I recalled his opening address to the officers where he had spelt out his philosophy, "We will not break any rule", he had said firmly, "but we can bend them". We had sat there admiringly without understanding what it meant except that some wriggle room existed.

 

"We will", I told the CDA, recalling the GOC's words.

 

The mess secretary was instructed to send three separate claims. However, this time there was a fresh observation. "How can there be one mess secretary for three messes?" the CDA enquired. Our falsehood had not been imaginatively crafted. The GOC had luckily not specified any limit to rule bending. We exploited the elasticity in his directions and got the grants.

Mission success was reported to the GOC. "Well done" was all he said and avoided any discussion on the means adopted; good leaders seldom do.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED BEHAVIOUR

KILL 'HONOUR-KILLING' THE GANDHIAN WAY

K.C.YADAV

 

THERE should be, surely, no place for a thing like 'honour-killing' or any killing for that matter in our society. The crime is against the guiding principles of life that we have been following and living since time immemorial – Ahimsa satyavachanam sarva-bhutanu kampanam I shama danam yathashakti garhasyo dharma uttamah (non-violence, truth, kindness towards all living beings, restraint of senses and donation to the needy are the best virtues of a grihastha) (Mahabharata). The so-called 'honour killings' damn our history and deface our heritage.

There is a definite law that takes care of such crimes – murder (IPC, Section 302). But the problem with laws is that 'these are made', as wiseheads say, 'to exact punishment after a crime has been committed'. The government also have the same limitation. 'They do not say: 'You must do such and such a thing', says Gandhiji, 'but they say: 'If you do not do it, we will punish you' (Hind Swaraj). Contextually speaking, a law with preventive provisions and the concerned civil society's support are, by all means, need of the hour.

 

Our cosmopolitan elite and the media, in particular the electronic media,who should have, ordinarily, helped us in understanding both the matters, are, unfortunately, doing the opposite. Whenever I watch their 'public debates' on such issues on the electronic media the famous lines of Charles Churchill (not Wiston) invariably come to my mind : 'So loud each tongue/so empty was each head/So much they talked/so very little said'.

 

Worse, they not only go rhetoric, but also mislead. The question is 'honour killing'. They outfocus it. An egg is rotten, kill the hen – this is what they are saying. They condemn villages, their people, their institutions and culture. They hurl choicest abuses on them. For what ? The villages do not preach 'honour killings'. No dharmashastra on which their customs are based, no tradition that they respect approves of this ghastly thing. Fire sometimes burns our hands, hearths and homes, should we, and can we, vanish it from our life? It is careless handling of things that, cause accidents. 'Things' are, per se, useful.

 

But instead of advocating their proper use, the uninformed critics want every 'old' thing to go, yielding place to 'new'. It is none of their concerns that if our villages go, if our culture and civilization go, our Indianness will also go. What will remain with us ? 'A modern India' ! No, a copy of the West, which Gandhiji has asked us to dislike and detest, no matter whether it is the third rate or the first rate copy (Hind Swaraj).

 

So, shouldn't we, a question may arise, change with the times ? Gandhiji has also explained this point very aptly : 'We may utilize the new spirit (of modernism) that is born in us for purging ourselves of evils'. But we must not leave what is good and useful in our culture. In fact, 'it behoves every lover of India', he says, 'to cling to the old Indian civilization even as child clings to the mother's breast'.

 

Haryana has gone exactly the way Gandhiji has shown. It is a modern state now in every sense of the term. But, at the same time, it has not lost its soul – its customs and traditions, its history and culture. That's why the state is an eye-shore to the vested interest and its people and leadership are their favourite whipping horse. The truth, however, is that the state is not a bad but a brilliant case. It is not a disappointment but hope. It is modern, but not ready to give up its useful heritage.

 

This is exactly what the Father of the Nation would have liked our people to do. Mark his great words : 'It is a charge against India that her people are so uncivilized, ignorant and stolid, that it is not possible to induce them to adopt any changes. It is a charge really against our merit. What we have tested and found true on the anvil of experience, we dare not change. Many thrust their advice upon India, and she remains steady. This is her beauty : it is the sheet-anchor of our hope' (Hind Swaraj).

 

Why, one might ask, our cosmopolitan elite and the media still treat the villages and their culture in such a biased and contemptuous manner ? The answer is simple. This is age of Globalization. The world is heading towards becoming a 'globalized village' (rather bazaar). In the new world, the old rules like 'live and let other live' have changed or are changing fast. The new rules are : 'You are either with us or enemy. Our ancient 'little republics', the constitutionally favoured villages (Article 40 seems to do that), with their heavy baggage of customs and culture, history and heritage, seem to stand away from the bazaar. There are two options with them (read enemies) – yield or go. They buy none. Hence their criticism and scolding by the cosmopolitan elite and the media, who are a part of the bazaar in some way or other.

 

A recent edit of an English daily from the capital may be a good (?) example of how they handle problems and sensationalize and complicate them. It is on the question of 'honour killing'. But its title is : 'Dealing with Khaps: New law welcome, but not enough' (The Pioneer, June 24). There is no mention of the real subject ('honour-killing') in the headline. For a clearer picture, the edit has to be read in full. But for the sake of space, I take only its small bit, which will, I hope, be enough to bring home the truth, where an appeal is made to the Government to pass a new law right at once, without a moment's loss, otherwise the khap panchayats (of a handful of villages) will 'drag India (whole of it) back to the dark ages'. Are they really so powerful ? Is India so light ? Is dragging back the hands of time so easy ? The problem is of 'honour killing'. The edit's main concern seems to create more problems of bigger magnitude rather than to solve it.

 

The Government should see through the game or whatever it is, and, using Gandhiji's wisdom and way, understand the problem in all its dimensions and solve it with the statesman-like deftness, by bringing in an effective legislation and taking other necessary steps.

 

Himsa in any form is a sin and a crime, and when it is used against the weak, the helpless and one's own progeny and the dependent, it is worse than that. It must go.

 

The writer is a former Professor of History, Kurukshetra University, Haryana.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

IT'S THE LAST HURRAH FOR KHAPS

GEETANJALI GAYATRI

 

IT'S practically the flame's last attempt at life. Facing imminent death in the face of strong winds, it performs one last dance, flickering desperately to dodge the winds before plunging into the darkness of obscurity. The fate of the khaps, today, seems no different from that of the obstinate flame which finally has to bow out.

 

Today, the so-called guardians of tradition and culture are aghast. The winds of change are building up into a storm, entering their bastions through creeks and openings, doors and windows, promising a more liberal approach to life.

 

All this fuss about protecting khaps and their identity, unmindful of the notoriety they have earned for themselves, could virtually end up as their "last dance", an attempt at surviving the storm threatening to blow them out and blow them away.

 

For, while most of Haryana's educated youth and urban population have already disassociated themselves from the khaps and distanced themselves from their "bloody" verdicts, some even edging around the preposterous, in the villages, too, the khap base has shrunk from being a homogenous unit of communities to being the fiefdom of a handful few—-these being the economically influential or politically ambitious "wanna-bes".

 

And, there are indicators of change all around. That the khaps, today, are a divided house is no secret. The cracks have been amply and ably displayed at their meetings every now and then. Then, there are villagers, especially women folk, who are beginning to leave their homes to watch plays with "their" issues at heart. Like those staged by members of the Jann Natya Manch.

 

"The village women no longer want to be mute spectators. After our performances, the most recent being a play titled 'Yeh Duniya Karwat Badlegi', they voice their concerns on sensitive subjects like khaps verdicts and honour killings which are extensively portrayed. We have been threatened against staging our plays but we take it in our stride and go right ahead," explains Naresh Prerna of the Manch.

 

A teacher in Bawailpur (Hisar), Rohtas, explains that respect has nothing to do with the influence, whatever little is left of it, khap members wield in the villages. "People who desire a political identity but know they can't make it big are the ones who generally become the face of the villagers at such fora and rake up sensitive issues and non-issues to keep themselves alive. Of course, the fanatics are there too to guide the "mob mentality". The mob is where their power comes from and that's what the common man fears most," he holds.

 

Though, historically, the khaps came into being as protectors of their castes and tribes in the face of "foreign invasion", they, most certainly, have lost course and direction. "There's nothing wrong with the concept. The people associated with it and its working are the problem. Today, there seem more leaders than parties anywhere you go. Obviously, they draw their strength from the miscreants in the system. They, in turn, create fear to carry the public with them," Santosh, a social worker from Nakadia village in Jhajjar, says.

 

While there are the "bad elements" that have found their way into the khaps, there are some "reasonable" people too who believe that the khaps must embrace change to survive. The president of Bhiwani's Sheoran khap (8), Rattan Singh, opines, "People think highly of the khaps. However, in the recent past, the khaps have lost respect for the actions of the 'bad elements'. Though I personally stand by the demand that same-gotra marriages should be banned, I also believe that if these do happen, nobody has the right to go about snuffing out lives. Also, the Jats alone cannot head the khaps. These must be inclusive like they were in the past when all communities were part of the decision-making process. Political interference, too, is proving to be our undoing."  

 

The shrinking public support, uncompromising stand and gory verdicts are leading the khaps nowhere. The storm has arrived, the flame's flickering. It can pass over if hands unite to cup the flame. They are asking for a little more tolerance. How the khaps deal with the storm and the condition of protective hands is their decision. It's a choice between survival and oblivion.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEWS

A GROWING POLITICS OF INTOLERANCE

BEING PART OF A DEMOCRATIC NATION, OUR POLITICAL PARTIES NEED TO APPRECIATE THE VALUE OF ALTERNATIVE POINTS OF VIEW

 

It has not been a good week for liberal India. The Headlines Today office was brutally attacked by goons in Delhi; Zee 24's studio was raided in Kolhapur, pro-Kannada activists being roughed up for expressing their views on a live show; and the political melodrama over the James Laine book has now gone to absurd lengths. Cutting across the ideological divide – from the RSS to the Shiv Sena to the Congress-NCP government in Mumbai – all these have one thing in common: intolerance for alternative points of view and contempt for the liberal notion that freedom of expression is sacred. Ordinarily such incidents could be dismissed as that of a loony fringe, out of touch with the mainstream, but the pusillanimous politics we have seen from both the Congress and the BJP over the past week suggests otherwise. 


The cussedness adopted by the BJP's spokespersons in the immediate aftermath of the Headlines Today attack seems to suggest an erasure of the normal dividing line between its moderate liberal face and the extreme fringe. Judging by their public statements, there has been a virtual identification with the attack and the suggestion seems to be that the network essentially brought the violence upon itself. The mirror image of this is the response of the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra to the Supreme Court's judgment on the James Laine book. If even the cursory disclaimer about protecting the freedom of the press was missing in the BJP's initial responses to the Headlines Today attack, the Ashok Chavan government has dispensed with the usual disclaimers about respecting the judiciary in its cynical reaction to the Supreme Court's verdict. Instead, the ruling combine, fearful of the Shivaji issue being milked by the Shiv Sena and the MNS, has led the political consensus in the state to defy the Supreme Court's decision to lift the ban on Laine's book. 

 

 "My sentiments cannot be different from those of my people in Maharashtra," says Mr Chavan, as his government mulls over a new law to prevent defamation of iconic personalities. Ironically, this is exactly the language used by the then police commissioner of Ahmedabad when his city burnt in 2002. "The police are also a part society and cannot be distinct from the general sentiment," he had said helplessly on television then. It may be a stretch to even mention 2002 in the same breath as the Shivaji conundrum but the point is that it is the job of leaders to lead and shape public opinion as much as to respond to it. It won't do to be just swept along helplessly. 

 

Shivaji is an emotional icon for Maratha pride but in the political scramble around his name, it is probably an even bet that many of those decrying the Laine book may not even have read it. The key is that in any literary or scholarly work, as the Supreme Court pointed out, the state "cannot extract stray sentences" to impute meaning. It must be read as a whole and the intention of the author judged accordingly. In some ways, the Laine case is a test repeat of the Ashis Nandy case two years ago when the social scientist was prosecuted for writing an article about the Gujarati middle classes and the 2002 riots. Back then too, the Supreme Court had upheld the sanctity of ideas in the public sphere, arguing that the prosecution smacked of intolerance. 

 

We make a great deal about India being the world's largest democracy but the fact is that the moderate space for dissent may actually be shrinking in our increasingly intolerant society. Publishers normally like controversy. Remember how Jaswant Singh's book on Jinnah benefited from the controversy it created. But the reported statement by Laine's publishers that there are no plans for reprints may be a sign that though the Supreme Court has upheld the law, the intolerance brigade may already have won. 

 

After independence, Nehru went out of his way – despite a life-long history of political animosity – to back Ambedkar as the architect of the Constitution and then appointed him Law Minister. Even when Ambedkar quit the government and subsequently lost a Lok Sabh election to the Congress, historical records indicate that Nehru quietly encouraged local Congress bigwigs to help his eventual election to the Rajya Sabha election from Mumbai. Though Ambedkar's views were anathema to much of the Brahmin-dominated Congress, Nehru recognised the value of protecting alternative points of view in a liberal polity. 

 

Nehru understood the importance of ideas. Now if only his political descendants in Maharashtra could take a leaf out of the great man's book

 

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

COLUMN

LIMITED PARTNERSHIP

NEITHER POLITICIANS NOR SUGAR MILLS WANT FULL DECONTROL

 

The government has said that it is willing to relax some controls on the sugar industry, which, however, has given a guarded response, leaving the canvas obscure. What seems clear is that neither the government nor the industry is prepared for total deregulation. So, even as the Food and Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, announced that the government would consider decontrolling sugar, he made it clear that the right to fix sugarcane prices would remain with state governments. If that is so, the proposed decontrol would involve only one or two things: ending the sugar release mechanism and perhaps also scrapping or reducing the levy on sugar. In effect, the fate of both cane farmers and the sugar industry would remain in the hands of governments.

 

Ironically, this may be just what the industry wants. That, at least, is the message in the note submitted to the food ministry by the private and cooperative sector sugar mills, in response to Mr Pawar's statement on sugar decontrol. While hailing the government's intentions on this count, the industry has spelt out the areas in which it wants official protection to continue. For instance, the industry favours continuance of the existing practice of cane area reservation for each mill along with the state-determined minimum distance between two sugar mills, and also price realisation protection in the form of guaranteed minimum returns in years of low prices. Going further, the industry has sought some safeguards in case sugar imports become necessary. Such imports, it says, should be only of raw sugar and the duty structure should be favourable to domestic sugar producers. In the case of cane pricing, the formula mooted by the sugar industry broadly conforms to international conventions. That does not mean the idea will find favour with cane farmers. The mills have offered to share with cane growers 62 per cent of their total realisation from the sale of sugar and its byproducts — like molasses, bagasse and press-mud. When sugar prices are high, such a formula will benefit both the mills and the farmers, but that will not be the case when sugar prices drop in the regular and familiar cycle of surplus and scarcity. Farmers may not get remunerative returns in such a situation. Though a price crash works the same way for large sugar producers and small farmers, the small units have a lower capacity to absorb shocks. In any case, it is far from clear whether the central or any state government would accept such a formula because it would mean an end to the government-determined cane pricing regime, so far the main instrument to influence crucial cane growers as a vote bank. The bottom line, therefore, is that the industry does not wish to shed all its shackles and prefers to remain a government protectorate rather than learn to survive on its own in a free market.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

WORSE, BUT ALSO BETTER

CORRUPTION'S SCALE HAS GROWN, BUT ITS SCOPE HAS NARROWED

 

When the Reddy brothers, accused of illegal mining, demonstrate their grip over a state government, most people will rightly bemoan the role that corruption plays in public life. However, vital as it is to tackle the issue, it is also important to view it in perspective. Most people would not have realised, for instance, that India has been improving on at least one corruption score. Transparency International, the Berlin-based body, has been surveying international businessmen on their perceptions of corruption in different countries since 1995. In the latest ranking, for 2009, India occupied the 84th spot in a list of 180 countries, with an absolute index of 3.4 (any score under 5 is considered a poor show). But five years earlier, in 2004, India scored 90th in a smaller list of 146 countries, with an absolute index of 2.8. On both absolute and relative scales, perceptions about the levels of corruption in India have improved.

 

Admittedly, this reflects the perceptions of international businessmen, who can see that India has de-regulated. But even in the domestic sphere, most people will recognise some improvements. The days of black marketing of everything from steel to paper, and from tyres to cement, are gone — because price and distribution controls in these sectors have been scrapped. Similarly, the abolition of import licensing and sharp cuts in tariffs have rung the death-knell for an entire smuggling industry that used to focus on synthetic textiles, gold, watches and consumer electronics items — and fuel an illegal foreign exchange market (which too has been liberalised). More improvement will show up as governments computerise their land and other records and allow digital access to these, and once the unique identification system gets going.

 

 Still, it is also true that most people believe the bureaucracy to be far more corrupt than before, and that there has been a quantum increase in the scale of politicians' greed. But much of the corruption is focused in a few areas: defence deals and other large purchase decisions (e.g. for aircraft) where governments have a role, choosing from among bidders for large contracts (for spectrum, building power stations and highways, and mining rights), rules governing the use of land (zoning, floor space index, etc.), and leakages from government spending programmes like the rural employment guarantee scheme. Corruption also flourishes in the legal system, and where price distortions and distribution controls remain, as with sugar and diesel/kerosene. It is also true that the "inspector raj" problem has got worse, not better; that environmental clearances had become a racket; and that corruption in the tax administration is worse than before — as evidenced by the preference among many civil services candidates for the Indian Revenue Service over even the Indian Administrative Service. But to define the problem is to also outline what needs to be done. If the government sets its mind to it, the issue can be tackled in a manner that perceptions of corruption in the country improve sufficiently to quickly get its score above 5 (which would yield a rank of about 50).

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

RUPEE REBORN

AS ONE OF THE WORLD'S OLDEST CURRENCIES, THE INDIAN RUPEE'S NEW SYMBOL DESERVED A MORE DIGNIFIED DEBUT

SANJAYA BARU

 

The Indian rupee's new symbol, an elegant, simple and brilliant combination of Sanskrit Ra and the English R without the stem, deserved a more dignified debut. A minister holding up an A4-size sheet of paper for cameras sitting at her desk? No fancy unveiling, no fireworks or music, no celebrations at all? How unfortunate. How inelegant. How crass.

 

 The Indian rupee, which is the original rupee, dates back centuries. Historians believe the name derives from the Sanskrit Rupyakam and date the use of silver rupee coins to 6th century BC. The Indian rupee currency note of today carries the Sanskrit name Rupyakani. The minting of currency named "rupee", or "ruppayyah" is believed to date back to the reign of Sher Shah Suri (1486-1545). This continuity perhaps enabled Pakistan to continue to call its currency post-Partition as the Pakistani rupee.

 

Going beyond the sub-continent, the Indian rupee acquired the two most important characteristics of money — as a unit of exchange and a store of value — in a wide range of countries along the coast of East Africa, the Arab Gulf (presently the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council), the Indian Ocean island nations, the whole of the Indian sub-continent, and well into South-East Asia.

When a currency with such grand and proud history finds a renewal of life, as India becomes a trillion-dollar economy with rising shares of world trade and capital flows, the assignation of a new symbol is a momentous event that generations to come will remember. Could someone in government or the Reserve Bank of India not have thought of a better way of unveiling the new rupee sign to the world?

In a country that enjoys ceremony, pomp and circumstance, where symbols and symbolism matter, someone should have thought of a grand unveiling — perhaps near India Gate lawns — with the President of India declaring open a nicely designed large replica to television cameras.

 

Would it all have been making much of a muchness? Certainly not. Nothing is at once so personal and so public in the social life of a person than the unit of currency one deals with. Next to language, it is our most important link with the world around us.

 

Which is often why politicians confuse the value of a currency with national pride. During RBI Governor Bimal Jalan's term in office, he had sleepless nights dealing with a situation, after the Pokhran-II "Shakti" nuclear tests, when Sushma Swaraj declared that now that India was stronger, the rupee would become stronger too!

 

An appreciating rupee was not what RBI wanted at the time. China has demonstrated the uses of under-valued currency for a nation seeking power. A depreciating rupee is not necessarily a sign of a weakening economy. Rather, it could be the means of strengthening an economy's competitive position.

 

At any rate, patriotism can take a holiday if it pinches one's pocket. In 1998, Ms Swaraj had forgotten the lesson of 1991. The first to take their money out of India at the time of the 1990-91 balance of payments crisis were, in fact, non-resident Indians, or such Indians who had put their money into NRI accounts. As the rupee weakened, the flight of capital, triggered by panic among Indians, speeded up the outflow.

 

But India has come a long way from that time. While any currency, including the US dollar, can be threatened by a loss of confidence, the fact is that there is greater confidence in the Indian rupee today than at any time in recent history.

 

Time was when the only places outside India where the rupee would be accepted were Nepal, Maldives, London's Southall and Mustafa's in Singapore! From those glorious days of the "Empire" when the Indian rupee had takers all around the Indian Ocean littoral, the rupee saw its days of ignominy too. As India's economy becomes bigger and more competitive, its currency too has acquired a new spring in its feet. The new symbol for the rupee is a symbol of this new confidence.

 

And so, how appropriate that the new design, combining the ancient and the modern in contemporary India — Sanskrit and English, the curve and the slash — should come from a bright young teacher, Udaya Kumar of Tamil Nadu? I would not have celebrated the new design as much if it had come from some fancy designer in Paris, London or Rome. It is the earthiness and the Indian-ness of the designer that lend special meaning to the symbol.

 

I am not surprised that the UK Guardian quotes some fancy London designer awarding Udaya Kumar a "B or a B plus" for what he calls an "unimaginative" design. I am personally delighted RBI did not chase such fancy western designers and opted for Udaya Kumar's culturally rooted design.

 

In celebrating the rupee's new symbol, we must also celebrate Indian design. It is a pity that Indian design is not getting its due in a rapidly growing India. Consider the importance that China and Japan have long attach to design. Even a small city-state like Singapore has two world-class design institutions, while students of design in India have to compete for a few dozen seats, after reservations are accounted for, at Ahmedabad's National Institute of Design, and a couple of private institutions.

 

Indeed, given this neglect of design as a discipline, despite India's rich cultural heritage, it is truly amazing that indigenous talent like that of Mr Kumar is still able to find expression and secure reward. Mr Kumar is not a product of any fancy European design institute and yet he has come forward with an idea that will go down in history and make itself felt around the world.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE GREAT HIGHWAY ROBBERY

HALDEA'S REPORT REQUIRES SERIOUS RETHINKING OF THE NHAI MODEL, NOT AN OUTBURST BY KAMAL NATH

SUNIL JAIN

 

Over the past several years, each time anyone has questioned any infrastructure project being built (the post-Nehru temples of India!), the dominant reaction in certain circles has uniformly been the same: Is it more important to save some money or is it more important to get projects on the ground? Sure, there was a lot less scandal in the days the Airports Authority of India was in charge, the argument goes, but look at how poor the quality of airports was and how small their capacity; ditto in the case of roads in the old days since the progress of new highways was near zero; the list can be multiplied manifold to areas like ports, power, telecom, oil & gas and so on — to recall the slogan of the Enron days in the early 1990s, the most expensive power is no power! In any case, another strand of this argument is: It hardly matters if the government is getting diddled in the bargain since the money would have been wasted in its hands anyway.

 

 Put that way, the choice seems an easy one. The reality, however, is a lot more complex. In the case of Enron, for instance, at the cost it was selling the power, the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) would have got bankrupt in no time and, since the entire amount was guaranteed by the state government, so would the state. In which case, who would have bought the Enron power? And while Roads Minister Kamal Nath lost his cool with Gajendra Haldea in the Planning Commission — when he referred to the Planning Commission as being an armchair adviser, he was really referring to Haldea — the point Haldea was making was essentially the same, that the way the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was going about approving highways at costs which had increased dramatically in recent times, it would soon be bankrupt and hence lose its ability to build highways (see Mihir Mishra's piece in this newspaper http://www.business-standard.com/india/ news/nhai-may-go-bankrupt-in-three-years-plan-panel/401451/).

 

Nor is it immediately clear that high degrees of corruption in themselves will ensure things get going, even if you assume that morality is a side show in the economic development game. The BJP is risking its government in Karnataka, and its reputation at the national level, by backing the Reddy brothers despite all the evidence against them — when major political parties get destabilised trying to protect businessmen, that's bad news. Similarly, while theory tells you costs come down when private sector firms come in, what are you to make of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit actively preventing the electricity regulator from lowering tariffs in the capital; or of the Union government allowing the Delhi airport franchisee to charge a development fee when, in fact, it had already been given land worth thousands of crores to finance the airport without charging passengers such a fee? The point is simple: if private sector players can lobby politicians to prevent competition from coming in or to be allowed to levy monopoly rents, they will. And the more supernormal the profit allowed, the more the pressure to prevent new entrants into the sector — who do you think is lobbying the government to stop auctioning of mines? Those who are extracting supernormal profits using the current system, that's who. In other words, supernormal profits are unlikely to result in more players coming in and, to the extent existing players can execute only so many projects at any point in time, it restricts development.

 

The Haldea "issues paper" on "sub-prime highways" is important precisely because it deals with both these issues simultaneously. It talks of the NHAI promoting high-cost projects while, at the same time, trying to restrict competition. You don't have to agree with Haldea on everything, but the issues he flags are serious enough to warrant detailed investigation, certainly not the slanging match that Kamal Nath reduced it to:

 

  In 20 projects he lists, the NHAI had estimated the project cost to be Rs 13,700 crore while public sector banks, primarily, have lent to it on the assumption that the project cost was Rs 26,000 crore. The NHAI, several of those in the infrastructure space have told me, does not include all costs, but we're talking of a near 100 per cent difference here. 
 

  In a very large number of cases, there is just one bidder. In two cases, when rebidding was done, the costs came down substantially. 
 

  The NHAI is proposing to add some clauses to the model concession document which will prevent smaller firms from bidding for more projects. This is quite surprising since, so far, the impression given was that the Planning Commission was favouring larger firms — by the way, as Mihir Mishra and Devika Banerji have reported (http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/finmin-supports-plan-panelroad-bid-norms/401665/), the finance ministry has endorsed Haldea's views on this. 
 

  While the NHAI has promised to give annuities (literally annual payments to bridge a shortfall in revenues to those building highways) of around Rs 9,500 crore, its current cess collections are around Rs 7,800 crore — obviously the collections will rise once more roads get built but the roads ministry had fixed the annuity-to-cess ceiling at 35 per cent a year ago, after the Cabinet directed it to fix a ceiling. If this isn't bad enough, the viability gap funding (VGF) — unlike annuities which are annual payments, VGF is an upfront payment for the same purpose — is likely to be around Rs 25,000 crore by next March. Where is the NHAI going to fund this from? There's another Rs 15,000-odd crore of committed liabilities on other accounts like the ongoing rate-contracts as well.

If the NHAI is bankrupt, who is going to finance the highways? The head priests at modern India's new temples need to ponder over these issues. Blind denunciation of those attempting to put a structure to infrastructure development and a check on rampant corruption isn't going to help.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

 

THE NETA-BABU RAJ

THE LICENCE PERMIT RAJ HAS MORPHED INTO A SYSTEM WHICH IS JUST AS CRIPPLING

A V RAJWADE

 

The recent debate over the freedom of financial regulators from netas and babus needs to be looked at in the context of the remarkable immunity from accountability that the latter enjoy — even from the media. Take, for instance, accountability of the bureaucrats whose actions, or inactions, surely contributed to the Bhopal tragedy — these would include the factory inspectors; those supposed to be monitoring hazardous chemicals business and ensuring that safety regulations were rigidly followed, to prevent such terrible tragedies; those who allowed the land surrounding the factory, which was supposed to remain vacant, to be occupied illegally, etc. Were they there only to take haftas?

 

Contrast this with the sharp criticism of the politicians, the distrust of the profit motive of big business, particularly multinationals, which is so amply evident in the media commentary. It is amazing to see this distrust in a country whose majority belongs to perhaps the only major religion in the world that worships Laxmi, the wealth Goddess. The economy was liberalised in 1991; our mindsets, however, are perhaps still to liberalised! The "satisfaction" over Keshub Mahindra getting a jail sentence is in sharp contrast to the way the chairmen of the Railway Board and Air India escape any demands for punishment after the accidents, despite their being executive chairmen unlike Mahindra. Quite often, there is no accountability for the public sector, even less so for the netas and babus who control it — just look at the mess in BSNL, MTNL, Air India; much of it is directly due to the control exercised by the netas and babus.

 

 Recently, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan ascribed the failure of the Left Front in the West Bengal local elections to the "bureaucratism (that has) crept in" its functioning. If bureaucratism is bad for the functioning of the Left Front, how can bureaucratisation of the state be virtuous? And yet, for decades, we continued to place our faith in the netas and babus to manage a highly complex organism like the economy. The result was: The "Hindu" rate of growth! It is sad that even highly educated and otherwise brilliant people like Jairam Ramesh, who are from a different generation, have the same touching faith in the bureaucracy and public services. Recently, Ramesh said that helipads in Mumbai were fine if owned by the public sector but, on environmental grounds, he would not permit helipads owned by private entities — obviously, the former are somehow less polluting than the latter. This view is on a par with his statement about the Bt Brinjal controversy: He refused to allow the seed because the tests had not been done in a government-owned research centre! (What a contrast with the way US President Barack Obama publicly stated recently that it did not make sense for the government to take over the management of the oil spill in the Mexican gulf, as BP had better experts.) Clearly, Ramesh seems to have no faith in the honesty and technical knowledge of the 95 per cent or more of us outside the public sector, without guaranteed government jobs or pensions. Incidentally, with regard to the environmental impact of the new Mumbai Airport about which Ramesh is so concerned, has anybody calculated the pollution effect of, say, 50 aircraft circling over Mumbai for six-eight hours a day — obviously not the same aircraft — because they do not get landing slots for an indefinite period? But, for environmentalists, the status quo is always benign; they do not mind giving up the "better" in pursuit of the "ideal".

 

Since the economy was liberalised and "independent" regulators were appointed for different industries, the netas-and-babus octopus has not only made sure that the posts are occupied by retired bureaucrats, and the bureaucratic culture is maintained, but it has also ensured that their independence remains only on paper — recall the supposedly independent telecom and petroleum regulators, the Lokpals and many others. Also, the netas and babus combining with big business is even more dangerous. The reappearance of the old Press Note 1 on FDI is a classic example of the way the netas and babus articulate policy — this ghost has been dug up to haunt foreign investors within a couple of months of the introduction of a comprehensive policy which was supposed to remain unchanged for six months.

 

And, the complexity and delays in governance seem to be growing instead of getting streamlined, partly because of the compulsions of coalition politics which necessitates the formation of new ministries to satisfy the aspirations for ministerial posts. And the paralysis in the Cabinet system is amply manifested in the appointment of one group of ministers (GoM) after another to handle tricky issues. Good old Parkinson had so accurately diagnosed decades ago what happened when committees grew too large!

 

I propose to return to the issue of regulator autonomy for the oldest and most powerful public institution and regulator, namely the central bank, next week.

 

Tailpiece: A report in The Economic Times (July 3) says that "the department of public enterprises is considering a proposal to reduce the period of audit pendency for public sector undertakings (PSUs) to seven years". Any comment on this is superfluous.

 

avrajwade@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

NOT QUITE A PRIVATE MATTER

THE MOVE BY THE CAG TO REVIEW PPP PROJECTS IS VERY MUCH IN ORDER

VINAYAK CHATTERJEE

 

In the days of the shortage economy and the licence raj, there used to be regular references to the "unholy trinity". This term was used to refer to the corrupt businessman, the greedy politician and the pliant bureaucrat acting in concert. In the era of public private partnership (PPP), two constituents of this trinity, the politician and the bureaucrat, belong to the "public" part of the PPP environment. So, the Comptroller & Auditor General of India's (CAG's) move in this direction is as much about protecting the aam aadmi from the government as it is about checking recalcitrant businessmen. In this context, it is important to ensure that the award and administration of large PPP projects do not deprive the exchequer of large sums of money.

 

This point deserves to be highlighted. Crony capitalism today finds convenient grazing grounds in the infrastructure-PPP pasture-lands. Such grazing is carried out as much by politicians as by the much-maligned business fraternity. The telecom auctions scenario, "fixed bids" masquerading as "transparent", convenient definitions of what constitutes revenue-sharing (or more conveniently, does not !), post-award change of bid conditions et al are not necessarily the handiwork of businessmen only but these include the combination of the politicians and the bureaucrats who are hand in glove with one another. If this cancer is not nipped early in the game, India's ambitious PPP programme stands to be seriously jeopardised.

 

 It is in this context that the government is planning to introduce a new Bill in the next session of Parliament to empower the CAG to audit accounts of PPP entities. The CAG will also come under the ambit of the Right to Information Act following the new law. This new Bill seeks to replace the CAG Act, 1971, so as to enable it to handle the "new models of administration", and "new delivery channels" to bring them into its legal mandate.

 

In its foreword to the well-reasoned document on Public Auditing Guidelines for PPP Projects, the CAG has a clear perspective on the matter. It observes: "PPPs, while bringing in private capital and experience, also involve transfer of valuable public assets as well as foregoing future revenues in the form of concessions. To ensure that such arrangements always enjoy high credibility in the public eye, due diligence, transparency, objectivity and probity of the entire decision-making process are all paramount if these arrangements are to succeed and continue for future projects. The role of public auditors, therefore, becomes critical in assessing whether such arrangements are truly in public interest and are also fair and balanced in sharing of risks as well as rewards. Audit of such entities poses a huge challenge and requires a change in the audit methodology as also the approach of public auditors. The audit, while promoting accountability, should not discourage private sector involvement, investment and innovative management techniques."

 

Thus, the argument that PPP special purpose vehicles (SPVs) have statutory auditors does not cut much ice. Statutory auditors are empowered to dig into the books of accounts of the auditee company. They do not have the mandate to delve into governmental processes that ultimately award bids, or change or modify or suitably interpret concession agreements.

 

The next argument against the CAG getting involved in PPP projects is that sector regulators oversee aspects of governance, implementation and adherence to concession agreements. This expectation from sector regulators reflects a high degree of naivety. In many areas, like roads and highways, sector regulators do not exist. In others, like the Tariff Authority for Major Ports (TAMP), they have a limited mandate. Some have been recently created (airport regulator); or just proposed (coal regulator in the last Union Budget). In more mature sectors, like telecom and electricity, combinations of "ministerial capture" (as distinct from "private sector regulatory capture") or insufficient "teeth" lead to a lack of faith by the general public in these regulators. The overall feeling is that they do not currently have the independence, backbone and empowerment to strictly and unfailingly uphold the interests of the public at large. It is to address the weaknesses of the existing regulatory system that the planning commission has suggested new legislation to create truly "independent" regulatory authorities in the infrastructure space.

 

Then, there is the "efficiency versus accountability" argument advanced by those against CAG involvement in PPPs. At the extreme, this group offers the point of view that the 5 C's (read CBI, CVC, CJI, CIC, and CAG) are singly and collectively responsible for a "decision paralysis" at all levels and, therefore, by extension, are the reason for lack of India's quick move up the development ladder. If a PPP concessionaire is assumed to be just another instrumentality of the state, on a par with a PSU, then such a treatment may lead to disinterest among the private players and stall infrastructure growth in the country.

 

This point of view errs on two counts. One, it raises serious "moral hazard" issues that, left unattended, would embezzle thousands of crores of taxpayers' money under the garb of speedy development.

 

Two, it focuses on unfettered and speedy decision-making processes at the level of the operating company or the implementing SPV. The truth is that the real mischief is unlikely to be at the operating company's level (which certainly can be unearthed by reputed statutory auditors), but lurks in the processes leading up to the award of the concession and its interpretation and renegotiation over the life of the award. No statutory auditor can review that; only a body like the CAG can.

 

Critics of CAG's functioning point out that it is a 150-year-old institution with roughly 50,000 officers and a staff that carries out about 60,000 audits every year; and that it is already creaking, over-burdened and unable to make much of a difference in probity in public life. The executive and legislative arms of the government, including the Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Public Undertakings, are notorious for slothful responses and tardy action. Thus, critics would emphasise that adding PPPs to the list of tasks is quite meaningless.

 

There is no denying the fact that the output of the CAG needs to be far more visible in the public eye in terms of follow-up action. However, arguing against the CAG oversight is like asking for the winding-up of our judicial system, because justice takes so very long to get delivered.

 

The CAG, in fact, is the only credible watchdog around in a scenario where India is poised for a $1,000-billion infrastructure spend in the 12th Plan, 50 per cent of which, the prime minister hopes, will come from PPP.

 

The author is the chairman of Feedback Ventures Views expressed are personal

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FALSE START

LESS BELLIGERENCE AND MORE PRAGMATISM NEEDED FOR INDIA-PAKISTAN DIALOGUE TO MOVE FORWARD

 

Even by the standards of the on-again, off-again India-Pakistan dynamic, the rapidity with which the sheen of dialogue resumption has worn off is surprising. Not only was the free-for-all at the joint press conference addressed by foreign minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi quite unexpected, even more startling was Qureshi's personal diatribe against his guest at another press conference a day later – when Krishna was accused of being a marionette without a mandate to negotiate. It certainly wasn't in the best traditions of Pakistani hospitality, to which many visiting Indians have paid glowing tribute – not to mention some basic canons of diplomacy. 

 

The stakes, however, are so high that New Delhi cannot afford to be deflected by atmospherics. To break off dialogue, as the BJP urges, is a cop-out. India cannot choose its neighbours, it has no alternative but to continue to press its concerns with Pakistan. Islamabad, on its part, underestimates the extent of the consensus against terror in India. Given the impact of the worst ever terrorist attack on Indian soil – in terms of scale and perception if not casualties – no administration in New Delhi can win a mandate for engaging Islamabad across the entire spectrum of outstanding issues with a fixed time frame for resolution, until it is able to show that the latter is acting in good faith. Some action on the wealth of evidence that New Delhi has advanced, on the perpetrators of 26/11 currently on Pakistani soil, is essential for that. 

 

In any case the idea of a fixed time frame is fatuous, as it doesn't address what would happen if no resolution of outstanding issues can be arrived at within the time frame. A make-orbreak attitude is bad for the peace process, and in retrospect it's evident that a fixation on press conferences and joint statements, when the gap between the two sides has yet to be narrowed, can be deeply counterproductive. Quiet diplomacy is more the need of the hour as both sides explore deliverables. 

 

And it may be necessary on New Delhi's part to extend its diplomacy by engaging the Pakistani army directly. That's an entity that continues to be deeply hostile to India, and given its power within the Pakistani establishment little can be done unless this hostility changes. In any case both sides appear to be cooling off after the heat of the Krishna-Qureshi exchanges, a good opportunity to introspect and bring in the changes necessary to restart the peace process.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MULAYAM'S MEA CULPA

SP MUST LOOK BEYOND IDENTITY POLITICS


Political compulsions have forced Mulayam Singh Yadav to apologise for his brief tango with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh ahead of the 2009 general elections. The Samajwadi Party chief needs to regain the support of Muslims in UP to face up to the challenge posed by a resurgent Congress, as well as the might of the BSP, in the 2012 assembly polls. The SP had expanded its political base in UP in the 1990s by taking on the sangh parivar. It helped the party position itself as the guardian of secularism in UP and win office in Lucknow. With the emergence of the BSP as the main force in the state, Mulayam felt he needed to build a broad coalition of other backward castes. The alignment with Kalyan was a part of this strategy. The move failed and, in the process, the SP lost the trust of its Muslim supporters. 

 

However, it remains to be seen if the apology will help the SP shore up its political base. Caste and communal equations continue to influence elections in UP, no doubt. But the ground has shifted considerably since the heady days of identity politics in the past two decades. Issues related to economic development have now come to the foreground. A new generation of voters has emerged and their concerns go beyond mere matters of identity. In any case, the SP's decline can't be explained solely in terms of getting the caste and communal equation wrong. The party lost support also because of its failure to govern well while in office and present a progressive development agenda after losing the 2007 assembly elections. Mulayam needs to look beyond identity politics to remain relevant in UP.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LUGGAGE CHECK

WHY LEARN THE HARD WAY TO TRAVEL LIGHT?

DEVIKA MITTAL 


When a private plane greets you at the airport, you know your trip is going to be one you'll never forget. As my family (all 20 of us) boarded a plane for the African subcontinent, i was excited. It was South Africa. I had seen the pictures, heard the stories and almost watched the FIFA World Cup live (for some reason, we decided to go before the World Cup started). Images of Scarlett Johansson and Salman Khan dancing in front of the Palace Hotel darted through my mind, and i envisioned a world where the food was sumptuous, the scenery was beautiful and the animals very, very exotic. 

 

The trip would be fantastic, giving me the opportunity to meet a head of state's second eldest son (or was it his sixth?). I was steeped in excess to the point where i felt like the reincarnation of some Arab princess who could not live in anything less than mansions and cliff-top lodges or travel in anything but a bulletproof car, accompanied by a bodyguard! 

 

But fancy isn't always happy, as we soon realised upon venturing into the countries on our itinerary. Sun City, Las Vegas's little cousin stuck in a 1960s time warp, wasn't all that bad. That is, on condition i forget about the starving, since dinner wasn't served at the "posh" hotel after 10 ("these are the healthy times, you see"). Or about my mother keeping almost a whole suitcase, a big one, of her precious possessions with her at most times – the hotel had warned us even the safes weren't safe: how ironic – and making me carry them around. 
    Even the safari in Namibia's response to Masai Mara showed us only a glimpse of an elephant. To imagine that i had travelled all that way     to see an animal i can see in Delhi zoo. And we got robbed. 

 

While we flew around in a helicopter, all our luggage (packed in 30 bulging bags for a week-long trip) was stolen from our cars at gunpoint by a gang. Rather kindly, they left behind my toothpaste and hairbrush. I think my  mother would have been happier if the robbers had taken my  brother and me instead. Oh, to lose it all. And to have to deal with aunts who enjoyed telling their sob story one too many times for my liking. 

 

I think it's safe to say that now we like to travel light (as light as an Indian family can travel, anyway). My parents still like to keep a few paranchas, achars and khakras, just in case we find ourselves miles from civilisation in the heart of New York City. I even fancy myself as a monk who lost her Ferrari, for the value of simplicity dawned on me only when i had no other option but to try and appreciate everything that i had not lost (which wasn't much). I've learned that i don't need a tag, a brand or even a job title to feel accomplished, successful and happy. And it really would be a shame if it weren't the same for you. 

 

So although my brother is an ardent football fan (a rather foolish one at that, for he still supports England), you wouldn't have seen me there during the Cup. Or maybe you could have, provided i was just in loose pyjamas and sporting dreadlocks, living in a shady hotel and enjoying myself more than i could with three bags. And all the while i would have happily steered clear of the 100-plus courts set up to focus on World Cup-related crimes across the continent, just for us not-so-smart football tourists. 

 

Writer Regina Nadelson said, "Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage." Regina is really a wise woman.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

PLAYING FOR THE FUTURE

A MEGA SPORTS EVENT'S SUCCESS IS AS MUCH ABOUT HOSTING IT WELL AS NURTURING ITS LEGACY

BORIA MAJUMDAR 

 

 "It's time for Africa" – Shakira's words captivated millions of television watchers and mobile users from across the world as the World Cup was unleashed on Africa on June 11, 2010. Was it truly Africa's Cup? Did it finally place Africa on the world sporting map? Was a quarter-final appearance by Ghana enough to stir a continent that has never received its due in global sporting discourse? 


 The consensus in the World Cup's immediate aftermath is that the Africans have made themselves proud by staging an event of near unrivalled proportions watched by 3.18 million ticket-holding fans for well over a month. Not a single hitch, no major security lapse, no organisational goof-up that could lead to media hysteria. It was indeed Africa's moment. But while Africa 2010's shortterm legacy is positive, there are no definite answers yet as to whether the World Cup will have a positive effect on the continent's sporting landscape in the coming decades. 

 

Legacy cannot be definitively documented within days of the tournament getting over. However, certain pointers have emerged suggesting that the Cup has indeed played a part in uniting an otherwise fractured continent. Reports from Africa have documented that an overwhelming number of tourists who made South Africa their home was from the continent. 

 

When Asamoah Gyan ran in to take the penalty against Uruguay in the quarter-final with history waiting to happen, he wasn't a Ghanian anymore. Rather, he was an African carrying with him the hopes of an entire continent. This continent was in mourning for days after, imagining what could have happened had Gyan converted that penalty with just seconds to go for the final whistle. Luis Suarez, a national hero in Uruguay, was a pan-African 'villain' and got booed every time he touched the ball during Uruguay's third place play-off against Germany. And, generally, African fans from across the continent were proud to be a part of their 'moment' in world football. 

 

 Stories of hospitality, coming to light, have also helped demonstrate that community integration was successfully achieved in parts of South Africa. When asked what the Cup and the newly constructed sports venues meant for him, a black taxi driver in Cape Town summed it up beautifully: "My parents did not have the facilities. I did not have them either. But my children and grandchildren will surely have them now." The real challenge for the organisers in the event's aftermath will be to ensure that these words ring true, that the infrastructure created are within the means and reach of ordinary South Africans and harnessed in a systematic manner. 

 

One of the singular challenges that confront organisers of mega sports events is how to use stadiums built for them. The Bird's Nest in Beijing, an architectural marvel that stunned the world just a year and a half ago, has not been used since the Olympic Games. A recent news report has this to say about the Bird's Nest: "Paint is already peeling off in certain areas, and the only visitors these days are tourists who pay about $7 to walk on the stadium floor and browse a pricey souvenir shop." 

 

Growing criticism that the $450-million stadium was fast turning into a white elephant forced the authorities to convert it into a mall full of shops and entertainment outlets. The only event organised at the 91,000-capacity stadium in 2009 was a staging of Puccini's opera, Turandot, on August 8 to mark the first anniversary of the Olympics opening ceremony. To add to the stadium's woes, it has no permanent tenant after Beijing's top soccer club, Guo'an, backed out of a deal to play in the arena. 

 

Olympic venues in Sydney too lie derelict, raising questions about the prudence in staging sports events of gargantuan scale. The Sydney Olympic Park, once a symbol of Australian pride that housed Olympic athletes in 2000, now stands derelict. Getting to the park, some 25 km from the city's business district, is an ordeal, involving driving down Paramatta Road for almost an hour. The link between Darwin Harbour, the Sydney CBD and Paramatta was not accomplished and ordinary taxpayers continue to bear the brunt of this investment while real estate prices in Sydney continue to be high despite the meltdown. Even as a tourist attraction, Sydney Olympic Park has little currency. With no proper transportation to channel tourists to the site, it remains an example of how things can go wrong while trying to use sport as a module for urban regeneration. 

 

From the experiences of multiple host cities, it is evident that the relationship between the host country/city development and mega sporting events will continue to depend on a nation's ability to market itself as a key tourist destination post-event and also on its ability to harness the facilities constructed for the games for citizens' benefit. This requires South Africa to open up new tourist markets and sustain them over time. Whether or not the South Africans have embarked on projects of community integration and urban regeneration will determine if Africa 2010 leaves a positive legacy for the continent in the decades to come. 

The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

Q&A

'BRANCHES OF INDOLOGY LIKE RELIGION FLOURISHING IN RUSSIA'

INDOLOGIST VIKTORIA LYSSENKO OF THE RUSSIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES INSTITUTE OF PHILOSOPHY RECENTLY LECTURED AT KASHMIR UNIVERSITY. SHE SPOKE TO ADITI BHADURI ON INDOLOGY IN RUSSIA CURRENTLY: 

 

What is the state of Indic studies in Russia today?

 

Currently certain branches of Indology, which were earlier under strict ideological control – like religion and philosophy – are flourishing. Thanks to the initiatives of Prof Marietta Stepanyants, the author of the first textbook on Eastern philosophies, and the Indian embassy in Moscow, a unique chair of Indian Philosophy named after Mahatma Gandhi has been established at the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences. Sanskrit and courses on various branches of Indian philosophical traditions are taught. Last year, the firstspecialised encyclopedia of Indian philosophy, prepared by Russian Indologists, was published and the State Commission declared it the best book of the year 2009. We actively cooperate with colleagues from the Indian Council for Philosophical Research. 

 

 What made you study Indian philosophy? 

 

As a girl i read an extract from the Upanishads. It left a deep impression on me that when i, as a student of philosophy in Moscow State University, had to choose a language from among Spanish, Arabic and Sanskrit, i chose Sanskrit. For years i engaged in the study of the Vaisheshika school of thought. Buddhism came later when i was asked to write an article on the study of Buddhism in Russia, and i gradually immersed myself in Buddhism. 

 

Your most recent lecture was in Kashmir University. 

 

The lecture was organised by the Centre for Central Asian Studies. I was moved by the interest my lecture generated. I talked about faith and knowledge in early Buddhism, which generated fierce discussion, especially the premise that in Buddhism, as presented in the first two parts of the Tipitika, faith was not considered necessary for religious fulfilment. 

 

The Buddha said not to accept anything on simply faith, but on personal experience, of which he considered meditative experience the best. The audience said that without faith in God there can be no religion, hence Buddhism is not a religion at all. For a long time belief in god/gods was an essential feature of religion. But now many scholars are talking about the possibility of salvation as an essential feature, or as in Buddhism – liberation from sansar.

 

What are the current trends you see in Indian philosophical studies? 

I have always found the enquiry into the nature of consciousness the strongest element of Indian philosophical thought. This can enrich modern research in the cognitive sciences. However, what concerns me is the estrangement between the study of traditional Indian philosophical schools and the study of Buddhism. True, Buddhism for long disappeared from the Indian scene, but the fundamentals of its philosophy were formulated as part of Indian philosophical thought with its traditional polemics and constant exchange of ideas between different schools. 

 

This deep familial link of Buddhism with the Indian philosophical soil that engendered it is being missed by both Buddhist and Hindu philosophy studies. Buddhists study six Hindu darshans, but in a rather formal way as if these were dogmatic systems. Specialists on darshanas also formally study Buddhism. In my opinion, the important aspect missing is the mutual enrichment of both traditions, their constructive impact on each other.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SPARE THE RATES ON SMALL SAVINGS

 

If the government is really serious about deregulating interest rates on small savings instruments and linking them to market rates, it should realise that it could prove to be a suicidal move, and, at the very least, an anti-people move. It has appointed a panel headed by RBI deputy governor Shyamala Gopinath to review the structure of the National Small Savings Fund and give recommendations on making schemes more flexible and market-linked. It would include instruments like the Public Provident Fund and the Post Office monthly income scheme administered by the Centre. In rural and semi-urban areas, the Kisan Vikas Patra, for instance, is the most popular scheme. Millions of Indians, and particularly the lower income groups, invest in these schemes as they have assured returns which currently stand at eight per cent for five to seven years maturity. The returns almost double at maturity. They are among the best savings schemes and have the trust and confidence of millions. In fact, in the last two years of the global financial crisis, when the equity markets were volatile, unreliable and a feast for speculators, the small savings instruments were an oasis of calm for millions of Indians. These instruments, particularly the Public Provident Fund, are their only safety net for the future. It is a sad commentary on the government that after 63 years of Independence it is unable to provide a security net akin to those in the developed world and as several other countries do for their unemployed citizens as well as in the case of retirement benefits. So to say that the West has these instruments at market rates, and therefore India should have it, amounts to a travesty of justice. The government should first put a safety net in place for the millions of self-employed, unemployed and senior citizens before it rushes into such schemes. The linking of small savings to the so-called market forces emanated from the 13th Finance Commission headed by Mr Vijay Kelkar. In addition to wanting these schemes market-linked, it also sought a review of the existing terms of loans extended by the National Small Savings Fund to the Centre and the states and to recommend changes required in the lending mechanism. The Centre and the states share the amount raised through the savings of millions of Indians. The Centre gives the states their share as a 25-year loan at 9.5 per cent interest, with a moratorium of five years on the principal amount. It is now finding this a burden it cannot bear; hence the commission's suggestions to bail out the government at the cost of millions of Indians. But that is the Centre's problem and not an excuse to take it out on the people's schemes. It amounts to cutting off your head if you have a headache. It is clear that the government, is looking at various means to cut its fiscal deficit and is attacking the people's programmes as it is easier than cutting down on its extravagant, unproductive expenditure. It is even easier than increasing direct taxes. India at the current junction, considering all the stimulus packages and deficits that the developed countries have, is one of the lowest taxed countries. The government has plenty of scope to increase direct tax revenues.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

OPPOSITION: FOUL PLAY

BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

The alarming deterioration of public discourse, reflected by the acts and behaviour of the principal Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), does not portend well for the prospect of a healthy Opposition in our democracy. We have always known that they are bad losers. After their rise to power and governance under Atal Behari Vajpayee, and after six years at the Centre, their defeat in the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 hit them like a thunderbolt. They resorted to every possible explanation in the book to explain their failure at the hustings, except the obvious truth staring them in the face, which was that they had failed in all aspects of governance and had completely lost the confidence of the people. Until today, they have not recovered from that defeat or mentally prepared themselves to serve as a responsible Opposition. The success of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), once again in 2009, led to the near-complete decimation of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and also a fratricidal war in the BJP itself, with many senior leaders leaving the party and several extreme fringe elements dominating the 2009 election campaign.

 

When Nitin Gadkari took over as BJP president a few months ago, political opponents of the BJP refrained from comment. After all, the assumption of office as president is an internal matter of any party and we waited to see how the new president would perform. In his initial public appearances, Mr Gadkari uttered the usual platitudes and made the routine unremarkable commitments. The only noteworthy image we saw was the TV visual of Mr Gadkari belting out a Hindi film song during the executive meeting of the BJP. Again a matter purely for the BJP to enjoy or criticise.

 

It was later that the true colours of Mr Gadkari began to surface. He suddenly launched a vicious attack on Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav and, wholly without provocation, quite literally called them "dogs". When there was a public outcry, he did not exactly recant, but grudgingly declared that if he had hurt anyone's feelings, he was willing to take his words back. Perhaps Mr Gadkari did not realise that far from hurting anybody's feelings, it was his own image as a politician which had suffered a body blow.

 

After a brief lull, during which he made no noteworthy statements, either politically or otherwise — although he did make news after having fainted during a BJP rally — Mr Gadkari surfaced with an utterly low level, unbecoming and tasteless remark about the Congress. At a public meeting, he enquired if Afzal Guru was the "son-in-law of the Congress", adding whether the Congress had given their daughters in marriage to Afzal Guru, and if that was the reason the UPA government was treating him with kid gloves. This was a statement that gratuitously insulted millions of women in the Congress and the millions of Congress' daughters. Where was the need for Mr Gadkari to refer to Congress' daughters? Was it not possible for Mr Gadkari to criticise, if he so desired, the policy of the Congress regarding Afzal Guru, in political, or at the very least, decent terms? What possible connection do daughters or sons-in-law have with Afzal Guru, and do the women in the BJP support this unwarranted attack upon their sisters in the Congress? For that matter do men, women and citizens all over the country feel that this is proper language to be used by any responsible person, leave alone the president of the principal Opposition party? Sadly, even those champions of women's rights from other parties and elsewhere, who are quick to criticise the government, chose to ignore this uncivilised language coming from the BJP president for purely political reasons and only because it was an attack upon the Congress.

 

Sadly, the BJP, rather than apologising for the utterly derogatory remarks made against Congress' daughters, chose to defend their president. Thus the BJP president stood exposed not only for his chauvinistic and disrespectful, anti-women attitude, but the low and unenlightened level of his political discourse.

 

The latest gem from the BJP president was his remark that Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh is "Aurangzeb ki aulad", or the son of Aurangzeb. Normal decent citizens find it impossible to comprehend what exactly Mr Gadkari was trying to insinuate when he made this remark, but his foul-mouthed slur forced the former BJP MP and Mr Singh's brother Laxman to resign from the party protesting against this remark. Mr Singh replied in one sentence announcing to Mr Gadkari the name of his father. Again, deafening silence from the BJP itself. Again the question arises: why would any self-respecting leader make a remark like this? What possessed Mr Gadkari to remark about Mr Singh being Aurangzeb ki aulad?

 

Is it impossible for Mr Gadkari to open his mouth without asking if members of the Congress are married, are "sons-in-law", or "aulad" of some death row convict or some historical figure? Is the BJP president incapable of normal, decent, civilised political discourse? What kind of mindset is the BJP president afflicted with if he cannot talk the normal political language of price rise, development, national security or patriotism? What kind of principal Opposition party is this which sits paralysed and helpless while its president talks obsessively about the parentage, paternity and marital relationships of the ruling party and its members?

 

The answer: a party not just unworthy of being the principal Opposition party, but a party unworthy of being a part of our great and civilised democracy.

 

The BJP talked incessantly about being a "party with a difference". The BJP talks about the Indian way of life and Indian culture and about Hindutva being our way of life. It is in the nature of democracy that electoral defeats and political travails are an integral part of the fortunes of any party and the inner resilience of a party reflected by its core strength and values will ensure that it rises again to succeed. The Congress has proved this time again. However, if Mr Gadkari's values reflect the core strength of the BJP, the future of this country's principal Opposition party appears to be bleak.

 

* Jayanthi Natarajan is a Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and AICC spokesperson.The views expressed in this
column are her own.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A MISPLACED VERB CAN COST YOU YOUR JOB

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

On July 7, CNN fired its senior editor of West Asian affairs, Octavia Nasr, after she published a Twitter message saying, "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah", one of the most prominent Lebanese Shia spiritual leaders who was involved in the founding of the Hezbollah militia. Nasr described him as "one of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot".

 

I find Nasr's firing troubling. Yes, she made a mistake. Reporters covering a beat should not be issuing condolences for any of the actors they cover. It undermines their credibility. But we also gain a great deal by having an Arabic-speaking, Lebanese-Christian female journalist covering West Asia for CNN, and if her only sin in 20 years is a 140-character message about a complex figure like Fadlallah, she deserved some slack. She should have been suspended for a month, but not fired. It's wrong on several counts.

 

To begin with, what has gotten into us? One misplaced verb now and within hours you can have a digital lynch mob chasing after you — and your bosses scrambling for cover. A journalist should lose his or her job for misreporting, for misquoting, for fabricating, for plagiarising, for systemic bias — but not for a message like this one.

 

What signal are we sending young people? Trim your sails, be politically correct, don't say anything that will get you flamed by one constituency or another. And if you ever want a job in government, national journalism or as president of Harvard, play it safe and don't take any intellectual chances that might offend someone. In the age of Google, when everything you say is forever searchable, the future belongs to those who leave no footprints.

 

Then there is the West Asia angle. If there is one thing that we should have learned from our interventions in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq, it is how few Americans understand these places. We need interpreters alive to their nuances.

 

I was in Baghdad after the US invasion and met these young Bush appointees who, as Rajiv Chandrasekaran notes in his book Imperial Life in the Emerald City, were often chosen because they were 100 per cent loyal to Bush, even if they were 100 per cent ignorant of Iraq. Their ignorance helped fuel our failure there. "Two people who sought jobs with the US occupation authority (in Iraq) said they were even asked their views on Roe vs Wade", Chandrasekaran wrote.

 

I've never met Octavia Nasr or Fadlallah. Fadlallah clearly hated Israel, supported attacks on Israelis and opposed the US troops in Lebanon and Iraq. But he also opposed Hezbollah's choking dogmatism and obedience to Iran; he wanted Lebanon's Shias to be independent and modern, and he built a regional following through his social commentaries.

 

Augustus Richard Norton, of Boston University, a Shia expert, said this about Fadlallah, whom he knew: "He argued that women should have equal opportunities to men and be well educated. He even argued that women have a right to hit their husband back because it was not appropriate for a spouse to be beaten by their husbands. He was not afraid to speak about sexuality, and he even once gave (a mosque sermon) about sexual urges and female masturbation. It was common to find young people who followed his writings all over the region". Indeed, Nasr later explained that her tweet about Fadlallah was because he took a "contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on women's rights".

Michael Tomasky, the editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, pointed out an essay by the liberal secular Shia Lebanese journalist Hanin Ghaddar — on the website Now Lebanon — recalling how Fadlallah intervened with her conservative father to allow her to live alone in Beirut, telling her father in a letter that he "had no right to tell me what to do, as I was an independent and sane and adult woman".

 

Ghaddar said she came to understand that "only figures like Fadlallah could change the status quo. People who position themselves as anti-Hezbollah, critics of resistance, or atheists, will rarely be heard within the Shia community, because people will not listen to them... Fadlallah on the other hand could reach out to the people because he was one of them... People like him, if strengthened, can bring about real change. He is one of those rare people whom Hezbollah and the Iranian leadership feared... because people liked him and respected him".

Of course, Fadlallah was not just a social worker. He had some dark side. People at CNN tell me Nasr knew both. But here's what I know: West Asia has to change in order to thrive, and that change has to come from within, from change agents who are seen as legitimate and rooted in their own cultures. They may not be America's cup of tea. But we need to know about them, and understand where our interests converge — not just demonise them all.

 

That's why I prefer to get my news from a CNN reporter who can actually explain why thousands of men and women are mourning an aged Shia cleric — whom we consider nothing more than a terrorist — than a reporter who doesn't know at all, or worse, doesn't dare to say.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

OF DISCREET AMAR AND OPEN SECRETS

TARGETING THE POOR CM

 

Kerala is witnessing a queer trend wherein people who have grouses against their family members are venting their ire at chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan. First it was an NRI, who lost all his money in Dubai to his cleverer brother and had to cool his heels for a while in a prison there.


Soon after flying back to Kerala last month, he went to the venue of a meeting addressed by the chief minister, broke through the security ring and even climbed the podium, shouting slogans and airing loud complaints. He was immediately arrested but two senior cops were suspended over the incident.

 

And the other day, a person called the police headquarters and threatened to kill the chief minister before 11 am the following day. The cops went into a tizzy, traced the number and arrested the man who had made the call, Chacko of Perinthalmanna, while he was getting out of a train a few hours later. Interrogated, he revealed that his wife had quarrelled with him and disappeared and he was just expressing his rage at the inability of the police to trace her. The trend has cops and sociologists scratching their heads in puzzlement.

 

Amar's big heart

 

former Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh is usually known for loud statements and extra-large controversies, but recently he proved that he has a big heart too.


Arvind Singh Gope, an SP MLA and a former Amar Singh loyalist, lost his father. Mr Gope was one of the first ones to desert Mr Singh when the latter crossed swords with the SP leadership. But as soon as the news of Mr Gope's bereavement reached Mr Singh, he quietly flew down to Lucknow and drove straight to his home in Barabanki. There, Mr Singh broke the awkward silence between him and his former acolyte by making polite enquiries about the incident and assuring help if needed. He also returned as quietly.

 

And what is even more important is that Mr Singh, who is known to be fond of publicity, did not mention his visit to anyone. Any wonder then that Mr Gope has suddenly stopped criticising his former mentor?

 

A bout over Uma

 

The meeting of the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet, chaired by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, became a free-for-all last week after a senior state minister alleged that his colleagues were planting reports in the media to pave the way for the return of the firebrand sadhvi Uma Bharti to the BJP.

 

This did not go down well with former chief minister and present minister for Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Babulal Gaur. Taking exception to his ministerial colleague's intervention, Mr Gaur even threatened to resign, saying he was opposed to "pressure politics".

 

On cue, other ministers said the government was spending huge sums of money on advertising in newspapers that were working overtime to target some ministers. No wonder the Cabinet briefing was cancelled at the last moment to save the government further embarrassment. But the news was leaked as usual.

 

The politics of transparency

 

The Rajya Sabha polls in Rajasthan left a trail of controversies in its aftermath. Some Congress MLAs voted for the BJP nominee and the votes of two BJP MLAs were rejected. However, the BJP is keeping the names of the two MLAs a secret while the Congress camp made public the names of the MLAs and two ministers who cross-voted.

 

It caused huge embarrassment to the ruling Congress for a while, but party leaders soon started saying it proved how "transparent" and clean the Congress is in comparison to the BJP. "Put aside all, you should appreciate our party's performance, it is far ahead of the BJP in revealing names of MLAs and ministers who voted for the other party," said a Congress leader. "Ours is the party of the new era." However, enquiries revealed that some Congress leaders were quick to make the names public in the hope that if the two ministers lost their jobs due to cross-voting, they would instead find a place in the Cabinet. It's nothing but pure politics.

 

Crusader gives everyone a nightmare

 

RTI activist Akhil Gogoi's crusade against corruption in higher places has created a sensation not only in Assam's political circles but in the bureaucracy too.Mr Gogoi came into the limelight by exposing corruption in the PDS by producing voluminous documentary evidence loaded on a truck. He had procured all the documents through the RTI. Then he exposed scams in the NREGA. He has shocked the influential health minister of the state, Himanata Biswa Sarma, by producing documents of his purchasing two luxury cars worth Rs 40 lakhs by paying cash. The minister's wife, Riniki Bhuyan Sarma, jumped to defend her husband, claiming that she has gifted the cars to their two children with the revenue she got from her TV channel.

 

Before they could clarify the other charges, Mr Gogoi came up with a letter penned by an IAS officer to the Assam chief secretary seeking protection as there was a threat to his life from the health minister. And before anyone could bat an eyelid, the RTI activist also produced the original case diary of two Tada cases in which a minister was the accused. Now all politicians are having sleepless nights worrying about what Mr Gogoi will come up with next.

 

The Big Boss' strategy

 

The Congress is feeling buoyant again in Gujarat and is taking on the Narendra Modi government, all thanks to Ahmed Patel, the political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. For years Mr Modi had been taking credit for all the progress made in Gujarat, whether they were Centre-aided or not. Whether it is the 108 emergency services, the much acclaimed Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) project, the impressive highways and other Centre-supported infrastructure in Gujarat, the kudos go inevitably to Mr Modi. Mr Patel, who is known as Big Boss in the state, has reversed this trend by making several visits to Gujarat and holding forth on the Centre's contributions.

 

Other Central ministers and Congress leaders are also making it a point to dwell on the same theme when they come visiting. The latest example was minister of state for human resources development Daggubati Purandeswari, flying down to inaugurate a single Navodaya Vidyalaya in a Gujarat town. As an effect of all this, state Congress leaders are also now in chest-thumping mode and feel more confident.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ENVIRONMENT & HINDUISM

BY SADHGURU

 

In the Hindu way of life there is no environment; there is only divinity. We have been taught to bow down to anything that sustains and nourishes our life. If you see a water body, a river or a stream or a lake, the first thing you do is, you bow down to the water because who you are just the making of the five elements of earth, fire, water, air and space.

 

Everyday, whatever you wish to do, the first thing you do is express your reverence to all that is nourishing your life. We are bowing down to an unknown God somewhere, that which nourishes our life. Food, water, air, everything was treated with great care; it was not seen as environment, it was seen as another manifestation of the divine. People who are devout refuse to wear even footwear in India because they feel it is improper to walk upon mother earth with footwear on; that's their sense of reverence.

 

India was the largest economy just about 230 years ago. It was the richest economy in the world. That changed because of invasions. More than two-and-a-half centuries of poverty changed many things. When people are poor, they lose all their sensibilities, their values, everything; that's what has happened to the country. Taking care of and nurturing and being reverential to life around us is so much a part of our culture, but we have lost that to some extent because of extreme poverty.

 

— Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader. An author, poet, andinternationally-renowned speaker,
Sadhguru's wit and piercing logic provoke and widen our perception of life. He can be contacted at www.ishafoundation.org [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

PRINCE OF DIMNESS

BY PETER JONES

 

Cold cabbage anyway, Lord Mandelson's memoirs read like the work of a robot with a dictaphone. Contrast the letters of the Roman statesman Cicero (106-43 BC). "I talk to you", Cicero said to his chum Atticus, "as though I were talking to myself", and in doing so he reveals the man: cultured, liberal and humane, witty and stylish, nervous, vain and indiscrete, but perhaps most of all, ever dependent for peace of mind on the views of others.

 

"Think what I must be suffering", he tells Atticus, "when I am considered mad, if I say what is right about politics, servile, if I say what is expedient, defeated and helpless, if I say nothing". As a consequence, he spent most of his time vainly trying to determine the course of action by advising others — Pompey, Caesar, the young Octavian — rather than seizing the initiative himself.

 

He thought hard about principles. In a letter to Atticus at the start of the civil war between Pompey and Caesar, he says that, to prevent himself breaking down completely, he is asking himself the following questions: under a tyranny, should one — remain in one's country? Try to abolish it, even if one thereby ruined the state? Try to help with words, or war? Brave any danger for the sake of liberation? And so on.

 

And there are constant observations and dry asides. "Now that Tyrannio has arranged my books, the house has a soul"; "I see Livia has left Dolabella a ninth of her estate if he changes his name. Good question in social ethics: 'Should a young noble change his name to benefit from a will?' We shall be able to answer more scientifically when we know what a ninth amounts to". On Caesar's campaign in Britain (54 BC) and the slaves he will bring to market: "I don't imagine one can expect any of them to have had a literary or musical education".

 

Mandelson's laboured memoirs, written with all the flair of the speaking clock, betray a man without doubts or introspection, without the slightest interest in, let alone insight into, other people, inert pieces in a mechanical game of his own construction. Prince of Darkness? Prince of Dimness more like.

 

By arrangement with the Spectator

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BREATHLESS BILL 

AND THE REBUFF FROM RAJ BHAVAN  


Having reduced panchayats to quangos of corruption, the West Bengal government has consciously inflicted the unkindest cut to learning. The panchayats have been asked to set up a board to run the two critical entities of education ~ the Sishu Siksha Kendras and the Madhyamik Siksha Kendras. The Governor has dealt a resounding rebuff to the administration by posing a very simple query ~ Why should panchayats be involved in the sphere of education? The objective, that the government will be too embarrassed to admit, was decidedly political. But having lost a large proportion of the panchayats to the Opposition in 2008, what exactly was the government trying to prove? The minister, Anisur Rahman, and the government as a whole are quite totally stumped. Whether the panchayats showcase the failure of rural governance or whether they are an embodiment of probity are hardly relevant to the context. Suffice it to register that they can have nothing to do with education. And this is the subtext of Mr MK Narayanan's letter to the department of panchayats and rural development. He has had to remind the department of the Rules of Business that govern the panchayats. And the short point is that the rules cover rural governance... and not education. The administration doesn't have a reply in response to the objections raised by the Governor. The Bill, scheduled to be introduced in the current session of the Assembly, is set to flounder. This marks another setback to the government, and in a segment that for decades has been wallowing in the mire.  


So utterly absurd and thoughtless an initiative is difficult to recall in the past three decades. The administration is said to be groping for a solution since the Governor's note reached the minister's table last Wednesday. To restore a measure of  sense and sensibility, the SSKs and the MSKs ought to be handed over to the school education department. That the right department was consciously bypassed is a puzzle that the state Cabinet must work out. The return of the Bill is a setback for a government grappling with an existential crisis. 

 
THE LOST TURF 

PRESIDENCY & THE FELLOW-TRAVELLER TEACHERS

Both the apologist for and the detractor of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will agree that Presidency University ranks as a striking achievement, even a course correction in the academic sector. Indeed, this is one issue over which even his bete noire, Mamata Banerjee, has had no reservations aside from a feeble attempt to defer the Bill... arguably till such time as she hopes to be the Chief Minister. More the pity, therefore, that opposition to the idea ~ which counts for nothing after the Governor's sanction ~ should now be raised by none other than the CPI-M's front unit, the West Bengal Government College Teachers Association. The Chief Minister, for once, has had his way by scoring over the party's education cell. And central to the resentment being expressed by the fellow-travellers in the teaching fraternity is the very real prospect of being posted out once Presidency University gets its own faculty. Hence the thoroughly untenable demand that 224 teaching posts, currently in Presidency, should be created in other government colleges. The short point must be that faculties can't be created with the stroke of the ministerial pen. This is of a piece with their opposition to granting autonomy to the college, so strong indeed that it prompted the government-appointed committee to furnish a report that simply played footsie with the concept. 


There is no mistaking that the CPI-M's teachers' association is driven by self-interest. Many if not most of them had wangled a posting at Presidency in the Eighties when the government adopted the policy of mechanical transfers in state colleges. Thus was excellence sacrificed at the altar of the party loyalists, many with indifferent academic attainments. To argue that the status of a unitary university will "reduce the competitive edge and diminish accountability" is hypothetical cant. It is sweeping generalisation too to suggest that the country's experience with autonomous institutions has been "bad" (sic). The teachers are merely trying to lend an academic gloss to their vested interests over postings and transfers. By wearing black badges, some members of the West Bengal Education Service at Presidency have opted for the path of agitators. The Chief Minister must call the bluff of his party-backed teachers in simulated mourning over the lost turf. 


'CLASS' DISCARDED 

GREEN BAIZE WILL LOSE ITS AURA

ENHANCING popular appeal sport might be the objective of the Billiards & Snooker Federation of India's abandoning the customary waistcoat and bow-tie dress code in favour of something more trendy or contemporary: perhaps even more comfortable in domestic weather conditions. Yet pandering to populist taste does not always achieve desired goals, hence a risk is being run in trying to make major tournaments ~ there is no code in force around tables in clubs or saloons ~ more down-to-earth. The game could lose some of its "class", shed its unique aura. That observation might seem "politically incorrect" in the prevailing social environment which emphasises being casual, but who can deny that "exclusiveness" does have distinct appeal. Dress codes are integral to that appeal. Not for nothing has Test cricket resisted coloured clothing (who knows for how long, the IPL tamasha has turned everything sacrosanct on its head), and Wimbledon permitted only minimal coloured embellishment. The issue is not one of white or colour, it is a matter of tradition. And the upholding of tradition enhances the glory of sport. Else what justification is there for footballers turning up in suit and tie for the FA Cup Final; or the winner of the Masters at Augusta National being honoured with a green jacket? Indeed, the exotic quality of the ladies' hats on show at Royal Ascot matches the allure of the pedigreed thoroughbreds. 


Contrast a couple of "capital" examples. The dress code was suspended (the tournament was held in the underground parking lot of a luxury hotel) in 1981 when Michael Ferreira downed Norman Dagley for the world title; four years later the code was back in force (in a proper venue) when Geet Sethi prevailed over the veteran Bob Marshall. Which was the more memorable contest? The waistcoat and bow-tie appeal did kick in. And since there are no signals of the code being scrapped at the international level, our aspirants could do with some practice. There can be little argument against the track record. Traditional ~ "stuffy" some irreverent folk might like to slam it ~ dress sense did not come in the way of Wilson Jones, Michael Ferreira, Geet Sethi and Pankaj Advani (never forget Gordon Baptista, Arvind Savur, OB and Subhash Agarwal) from reaching the pinnacle of the sport. So why tinker with tradition?

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WORLD'S A STAGE~I

WHERE THE IITS SCORE OVER THE REST

DN BOSE 

 

THE term "world class" has been somewhat misused in the context of education in India, in particular science and technology. The Union HRD minister intends to set up 10 world class universities. The fact remains that more than 60 years after Independence there is not a single university that ranks in the world's top 100. As a riposte perhaps, the IIT faculties have demanded world class salaries!


It has been more than 60 years that the first five IITs were set up, starting with Kharagpur in 1950, followed by Mumbai, Chennai, Kanpur and Delhi. Over the past decade, Roorkee Engineering College was accorded the status of IIT. Another IIT has been set up in Guwahati.


There appears to be a sudden urgency to set up world class institutions ~ be they universities, IITs or IIMs, as if these can be all lumped together in one basket. Now that it is proposed to allow foreign institutions to open campuses in India, why not insist that only those actually in the world class ~ the top 100 ~ will be permitted? After all the objective is to raise standards through competition and also increase the number of seats. It would be interesting to observe how many of such universities make a beeline for these shores.


Mr Kapil Sibal adds to the confusion by saying that the members of IIT faculties should strive for the Nobel prize. He ought to realise that the IITs exist to promote the study of engineering and technology for which there are no Nobel prizes. Of course this exposes the mindset of the government which sets great store by the Nobel prize at the cost of neglecting primary education for all. Is it not an indicator of the state of research in India that both Amartya Sen and Venkata Ramakrishnan, not to mention S Chandrasekhar and HG Khurana before them, did their pathbreaking work abroad?


A thriving business
Thus the debate continues ~ elitist institutions vs education for all; science-based engineering or the inculcation of the latest technology. 


Education is today a thriving business with the setting up of numerous private engineering colleges. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu take the lead. West Bengal, which was way behind at one time with only around 2000 seats per year, now boasts of more than 12,000. Latest surveys show that up to 30 per cent of the seats in these private colleges remain unfilled. Students still prefer to go to other states. There are several reasons for the exodus, notably the dearth of talented and full-time teachers. Most of the private engineering colleges make do with part-time retired teachers. Fresh graduates are also inducted. Laboratory facilities are inadequate.


Since the fees are quite high, the students  are more interested in placements rather than learning. The mandate of one entrepreneur-turned-educationist to his first principal was that the college should in 10 years reach the standard of an IIT. When the principal pulled up the students for copying during examinations and reported the matter to the chairman, the latter backed the students. The argument was that since they had paid exorbitant fees, they did deserve a  first class. One shudders to think what the products of these colleges will do in later life. No wonder many employers and recruitment agencies find these students unemployable. There are of course exceptions; a few colleges do have dedicated teachers and adequate infrastructure.
As mentioned, recent surveys have shown that there is no university in the country that ranks in the world's top 100. These rankings, like those of cricket teams are, however, rather fickle. They include such factors as endowments, buildings, infrastructure. It is difficult for institutions in Third World countries to compete within these parameters. 


Individually the products of many Indian institutions have become acknowledged leaders in their fields. Quite a few, such as CKN Patel, Thomas Kailath, Vinod Dham have emerged from universities and engineering colleges, not from the hallowed portals of IITs. All these institutions have been nurtured by dedicated teachers.  Therefore, the exercise to achieve world class is like trying to talk about colonising the moon before we have been able to land an Indian there.


In fact, Rajiv Gandhi did a great disservice to the cause of education when he renamed the department as the ministry of Human Resource Development ~ to vie with mineral, agriculture and a multitude of other such resources. The story of his first encounter with his tutor in Cambridge, wearing his Doon School blazer, is too well-known to need recounting. 


New courses

What makes the IITs so special? The first-year courses in all IITs are devoted principally to Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics often taught by the juniormost members of the faculty. Some of these subjects are better taught in undergraduate colleges. Initially, students often wonder what is so special about an IIT. It is not till they gain entrance to their respective departments that they begin to find their feet. Unlike unwieldy universities with their bureaucracy, the syllabi are under constant revision, as they should be. New courses can be introduced through the Senate which meets as often as required. This can relate to the study of chemistry,  materials science,  engineering, computer software, knowledge of hardware and languages. The IITs are now convinced that courses in humanities, once considered optional or dispensable, are required for all-round education.


As regards methods of teaching, the ability to solve problems has been recognised as being at the core of engineering education. This is a major improvement since the days when learning by rote and long derivations were emphasised. However blind imitation of the US model of multiple choice questions and quizzes are being encouraged in some engineering colleges as quick-fix methods of assessment. This is a self-defeating process since it precludes thinking. 


A degree of memory work is necessary to establish the connection between concepts. For example, the use of gadgets such as calculators has rendered a substantial percentage of Americans incapable of doing simple arithmetic, such as calculating a 5 per cent tax on an item in a supermarket. Continuous evaluation is an integral part of IIT education in contrast to the traditional universities where final examinations are conducted at the end of each year. A project in the final year is also compulsory, but, in many engineering colleges this has been degraded to writing an essay, downloaded and stitched together from the web. We have a unique knack for retaining the name while disposing of the substance.

(To be concluded)

The writer is former Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Professor and Dean,  IIT Kharagpur 

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

NEXT HICCUP

 

The message of John Maynard Keynes, that in a downturn countries should run fiscal deficits and central banks should ensure that the deficits are financed at low interest, is received wisdom now; it has been the basis of anticyclical policies pursued by Western governments since Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008. But governments' consistent policies have not reassured the markets enough. As one crisis followed another, markets refused to believe that it was the last one. This fear has underlain the fact that, despite stimulus packages, Western economies have grown less than they are capable of, and have experienced serious and growing unemployment. With so much happening in so many countries, it is difficult to make sense of it all together; the flourishing community of economic commentators has not made it any easier. A practitioner's word is more valuable than a commentator's; amongst practitioners, there is hardly one with a reputation to match George Soros's. What he said during a recent visit to Berlin deserves a serious hearing.

 

The point he made was that when West European countries created a common currency and a central bank, they omitted to create a common treasury. They, therefore, gave an implicit guarantee to their fellow member governments that their fiscal deficits would be financed and their national debts repaid. But there was no name attached to the guarantor. That is where the trouble has arisen. After the Greek crisis, the governments created a stabilization fund of 750 billion euros — a third of it from the International Monetary Fund and the rest from members of the European Union. But that has meant that failed and vulnerable countries have guaranteed their own debt; the market does not quite trust that guarantee. It sees through the veil; behind it, there is only one country, Germany, which is large and solid enough to honour the guarantee. And the market has become nervous because the German government has created doubts about its willingness to shoulder the burden of the EU. The resulting uncertainty has forced down the euro against the dollar. That has improved the European, especially the German, balance of payments, but it has done nothing to reduce the burden of national debts.

 

Germany has made it clear to its fellow member countries that it will not go on rescuing them and that they must take steps to repay their national debts if the market considers them excessive. They are still to do so. But if they do, it will reduce aggregate demand in those countries and raise their unemployment rates even further; that is the way to a real depression. This is one more instance of the policy dilemma that countries face when they undertake Keynesian reflation: when should they withdraw the stimulus and start repaying their loans? A single government may work out some solution with difficulty; but for a community of governments, a common answer is impossible to reach.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SPLITTING HAIRS

 

A woman died in May, 1988, allegedly set on fire by her husband and in-laws after they had poured kerosene over her. Convicted by a lower court of causing a dowry death, they appealed to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which acquitted the parents-in-law but upheld the husband's conviction. The trial court had sentenced the three to 10 years in jail and a fine of Rs 1,000 each. It must be asked, though, if an agonizing dowry death is any different from a cruel murder. The victim is dependent for her welfare on the very people who kill her. It is an inhuman breach of trust that not only annihilates a personal and familial bond but also assails the roots of the social structure. Is 10 years in prison enough?

 

The husband then appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that every demand by marital relatives could not be termed a dowry demand under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961. The Supreme Court ruled that a demand for money even after marriage is dowry-related cruelty. This ruling cuts through vaguenesses that benefit bullies who hurt and kill in order to extract cash and goods from their wives. But more significant perhaps is the fact that the convicted husband not only split hairs over the law under which he was charged, but also over an earlier ruling that a demand for money to meet a domestic expense could not be a dowry demand. Although the court remained adamant, it is the audacity of a convicted wife-killer that is most notable here. It springs from a deep-rooted cultural blindness: husbands and in-laws have a right to demand money and punish women who fail to get it. Perhaps it is time to consider stricter sentences for crimes of this kind, as well as to review the definition of dowry, if only to add to its technical definition all demands for money and goods that are coercive and exploitative.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

UNEXPECTED OUTCOME

THE OLD CIVILIZATION PLAYS WITH THE WISDOM GAINED FROM HISTORY

ASHOK MITRA

 

At last it is over, the frenzy stretching over more than four weeks. The imposing stadia in South Africa are finally deserted, humanity is learning once more to breathe normally.

 

Mere cynicism will nonetheless not do. Howsoever briefly, the world had gone off its rocker for one full month. There are admittedly some weighty reasons for this temporary disequilibrium of the mind. Football has proved to be a great leveller. It has evidently drawn in its spell the rich and the poor, the stuck-up and the humblest of the humble. The aura of briskness and speed appeals to the snobs, while the grit and endeavour it calls for excites the imagination of the stragglers in society. It is, besides, one game needing little investment, apart from the outlay on the spherical ball with the inserted pneumatic device. As long as space offered by the village common is not interfered with by predators, football will continue to belong to everybody. Its drawing power also makes mincemeat of political geography. Excitement over the 2010 Fifa World Cup underlined that objective reality.

 

The mega occasion has ended, not though its — what shall one say — aftershock. The big assumption — to many, the certainty — of a Latin American nation lifting the Cup this year was belied. Neither Brazil nor Argentina could even make it to the semi-finals. Of the four teams that qualified, three — Germany, the Netherlands and Spain — were very much from Europe; the lonely presence of Uruguay in the list was a sort of consolation prize to Latin America. Some pundits may suggest a different taxonomy. The semi-finals, they could argue, distributed the honours evenly between the Teutons and the Latins: Spain, after all, is the mother-country of what is described as Latin American ethos. Such sophistry will have few takers though, the new generation over there have nothing but disdain for the legacy of the conquistadors. The report card of the 2010 semi-finals therefore will still read: Europe 3, Latin America 1.

 

The final was the clincher. The pretenders had all been eliminated, two European countries made it a demure domestic affair. At most, history buffs will possibly offer the sardonic comment: the old Spanish imperium has settled scores with its former possession which gave it the slip four centuries ago.

 

It will take a while for millions across the continents, who had taken for granted that for now football glory and Latin America are synonymous, to become reconciled to the 2010 World Cup dénouement. The Brazil and Argentina teams were star-studded. Some of their top players are each a global celebrity; they are hired by different clubs in England, France, Spain, Italy and Germany for the league tournaments regularly taking place in Europe. The skill and dexterity demonstrated by these players have made them almost living legends. The coaches of the Latin American teams have equally formidable credentials. They have the reputation of being outstanding strategists. They had, ahead of the 2010 Cup, prepared meticulous blueprints about how their respective teams would organize their defence and plan their offensive manoeuvres against each possible rival country: for each country, a separate blueprint. They went further. To thwart each individual player of the rival contesting teams, they had a distinct, different mapping of strategy. Nothing was of any avail; the Latin American countries came, in a heap, to a sticky end.

 

How could what was inconceivable still eventuate? By sheer happenstance, a stray sentence in a sad-reading Maigret story by Georges Simenon hits the eye: "Miserliness is a characteristic of a mature civilisation." To Simenon, miserliness is not just penny-pinching; it implies prudence and circumspection too. Maybe here is the clue to explain the puzzle of the 2010 World Cup outcome. If that Simenon statement is true, its reverse should equally hold good: extravagance is an outstanding trait of a new civilization. Latin America is a young civilization. Its people, irrespective of whichever particular country they belong to, are by temperament carefree, adventurous, daring to the extent of impetuousness. Life is to a great extent a grand sport to many of them, and a sport is of course just that. They are all the time ready to have a tryst with risk and uncertainty. The dividing line between valour and bravado therefore ceases to exist; it was in fact never there in their metabolism.

 

Does not this could-not-care-less approach to life and living get reflected in the way the Latin Americans play their football? They feel intensely passionate about the game. Passion has a mystique of its own; it invites total involvement. Players and watchers get symbolically related by a strange communion of emotions. Football is transmuted into frenzy; the Latins are in love with frenzy. The game is marked by speed; speed is akin to wondrous adventures. Speed at the same time suggests the expanse of space — space which needs to be conquered within fractions of seconds. As the ball is hurtled from one end to the other, speed comes into focus in its role as conqueror of space. But, then, tagged to the conquest of space is that other specificity, penetrating the citadel of the goalpost guarded by the adversaries.

 

In terms of sheer talent, players in the Brazil and Argentina teams were miles ahead of those constituting the European country teams. The former have captivated the crowd by their performance in the European leagues. Once they don national colours, exuberance spills over. They are no longer playing for a foreign club in exchange of a fee, but for the glory of their nation. An extra dose of commitment flows into their veins. But this commitment — and the frenzy that accompanies it — can also be their undoing. Passion is ruling sovereign, the players, supremely confident of their strength and capability, are determined to apply their capital stock of self-confidence to perform feats that would raise their country to the highest pedestal in the comity of nations. One thing leads to another. Self-confidence begets a feeling of invincibility, and goads the players into taking enormous risks. They are so audaciously sure of themselves that they tend to be a shade absent-minded in guarding their ramparts. On some occasions, the incorrigible instinct for risk-taking and the out-of-this-world quality of daring win out. Where these fail to click, as in this year's World Cup fixtures, countrymen and bystanders witness a great fall.

 

The new civilization has lost out to Simenon's misers. Spain and the Netherlands represent an old, weather-beaten civilization. Both have a past as great trading nations who pioneered the concept of colonialism. They have trudged through centuries of spring, summer, autumn and winter: and are loaded with experience. Experiences teach one to be careful and methodical, to conserve whatever assets one has, to watch every step one takes. Their football mirrors the wisdom of what they have learnt from history. Their players have learnt to be less than flamboyant; they have also learnt the craft of combating the flamboyance of a rival team. And as misers, the European teams are extremely reluctant to concede goals. Just compare the total number of goals country teams from the other five continents scored in the 2010 Cup against the countries of Europe with the aggregate number of goals scored by the latter against the former; it is quite a revelation.

 

The saga, of course, need not quite end here. Over time, even a relatively new civilization, chastened by the slings and arrows of fortune, matures. It is a question of time, Latin America — and the other continents — may yet arrive. History is not yet ended; 2014 beckons ye and all.

 

It would no doubt have been seemly to stop here. But a harrowing question keeps nagging the mind. What will this year's host country, South Africa, do with its gorgeous, now-empty stadia, into which such huge investments have been sunk? The stadia are no answer to the worklessness of thousands and the accumulating urban squalor it spawns. The razzle-dazzle of the World Cup notwithstanding, the frighteningly dominant reality of 'the rainbow nation' is in fact mirrored in the Gatherings Act which frowns on assembly of more than 15 persons in any urban area: crowd shouting hoarse for goals is all right; a crowd shouting for food, jobs and shelter plainly is not.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE PAST IS NEVER PAST

GWYNNE DYER

Did Paul Kagame really stop the genocide in Rwanda 16 years ago, or did he just interrupt it for a while? That question frightens him so much that he will not risk everything on the outcome of a democratic election.

Kagame is running for re-election to the presidency next month. If economic success brought political success, he would be a shoo-in: Rwanda's economy grew by 11 per cent last year. But, in fact, his resounding victory in 2003 was the result of ruthless manipulation, and this one will be the same. Recently, Opposition leaders have been charged with denying the genocide and arrested. An Opposition newspaper was banned and its co-editors attacked. Generals in the army have been arrested or have fled into exile. So is Kagame over-reacting? Maybe.

If you cut Kagame open, you would find engraved on his heart William Faulkner's terrible truth: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." One-tenth of Rwanda's population — at least 800,000 people, Tutsis and those who tried to protect them — were murdered by their neighbours only 16 years ago. Not nearly enough time has passed yet for a generational turnover to take the edge off the grief and the hate.

Kagame's life has been shaped by genocide. He grew up in Uganda, where his parents fled when a wave of violence killed about 100,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in the 1960s. He became the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a mainly Tutsi exile organization dedicated to overthrowing Hutu extremists who ruled the country. He led the RPF army that stopped the genocide of 1994.

He knows, of course, that Tutsis and Hutus are not really separate ethnic groups. All of Rwanda's 19 major clans include both Tutsis and Hutus. They speak the same language and live in the same villages. The term once distinguished cattle-herders from farmers, and later the wealthy from the poor. Rich Hutus could become Tutsis; but the Tutsis naturally always remained a minority.

Against all odds

He also knows that colonial authorities exploited those class differences and gave the Tutsis political authority over the Hutus in return for their loyalty. By the late 20th century, the Tutsis and Hutus had become ethnic groups for all practical purposes, with a constant undercurrent of resentment of the Hutus against the Tutsis. After independence in 1960, the killing got under way quickly.

This past will not leave Rwanda alone. The very words 'Tutsi' and 'Hutu' have now been banned in Rwanda, but a ministerial investigation in 2008 found anti-Tutsi graffiti and harassment of Tutsi students in most schools that were visited. The army is exclusively Tutsi and the government almost entirely so because Kagame does not believe that this generation of Hutus can be trusted. He has only one strategy to avoid a return to genocide: hang onto power and hope that economic growth and the passage of time will eventually blur the identities and blunt the reflexes that have made this generation of Rwandans so dangerous to one another.

The logic of this strategy obliges him to stay in power: his first duty is to the Tutsis. But he must provide prosperity to the Hutu majority, too, to reconcile them to Tutsi survival. His relatively corruption-free government has made impressive progress towards that goal. Nevertheless, in a free election today, most Rwandans would vote along ethnic lines. His RPF would be instantly replaced by a Hutu-led regime of unknowable character. He dare not risk it, so real democracy is not an option.

If Kagame is now killing dissidents, then he is making a dreadful mistake. But it may not be him. In the ruthlessly Machiavellian world of Rwandan politics, other possibilities also exist. Either way, he must know that the odds are long against him.

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

FIRST EDIT

ISLAMABAD'S DECEIT

"FOR PAKISTAN DIPLOMACY IS WAR BY OTHER MEANS."

 

India's Pakistan diplomacy to reduce the prevailing trust deficit and to set the right atmospherics to address contentious bilateral issues could be better served by skipping substantive dialogue for sometime. The suggestion may appear bizarre and astounding. But the time is simply not propitious — Islamabad is simply not prepared to engage New Delhi the way the latter envisages. The Indian leadership has all along believed that the only way to improve bilateral relations is to first shed that attitude of compulsive hostility, create a friendly atmosphere that helps build mutual trust to deal with issues like Kashmir where there is no meeting ground at present.

Certainly, Pakistan is not even prepared for these preliminaries in diplomacy. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has made it clear once again that for Islamabad diplomacy is war by other means as far as India is concerned. And, to win this war is very important for Pakistan's political and military leaders. Nine years ago, the then military ruler Pervez Musharraf came to India for the Agra summit, bragging that a solution to the Kashmir dispute could be found in five minutes if Indian leaders were as serious and purposive as he was. He returned home, blaming 'hardline Indian leaders' as nothing instant or concrete emerged from that summit. It was not that the Agra summit was expected to provide a breakthrough on the contentious issues that had defied solution for over five decades. Yet, it was important for Musharraf to show to his audience back home that he was a bold and confident leader who had won a round of diplomatic battle.


Qureshi's barbs at External Affairs Minister S M Krishna after their talks in Islamabad would shock any official schooled in the art of diplomacy. To suggest that his counterpart was ill-briefed by his bosses in Delhi and to say that India did not have an agenda for the foreign minister-level talks is preposterous. Certainly, this was another instance in Pakistan's history of treating its diplomatic engagement with India as war by other means. It is, therefore, not surprising that Qureshi's political bosses have said nothing about their foreign minister's conduct. Peaceniks have been advocating increased people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. Qureshi does not seem to agree. He says he will not travel to India for leisure; he would come only for serious dialogue. Delhi need not hurry to welcome him. Let Qureshi decide his timing.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

SECOND EDIT

RESERVATION SCRUM

"RELAXATION IN THE CEILING MIGHT OPEN A PANDORA'S BOX."

 

The supreme court's order on the reservation regimes in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka which provide a quota of 69 per cent and 73 per cent in employment and education dilutes its verdict in the Indra Sawhney case of 1992 that had limited reservations to 50 per cent of available seats. The court had in subsequent rulings also stuck to its 50 per cent bench mark. The latest order has not superseded the earlier stipulation and the court has even made it clear that it was not expressing any opinion on the validity of the laws of the two states when it allowed continuation of Tamil Nadu's reservation scheme for one more year and asked Karnataka to re-examine its law. But the court's stance indicates a willingness to review the 50 per cent cap in cases where the states are able to make a case for a higher reservation percentage.


This is certain to revive the controversy over the scope and limits of reservation. The court has told the state governments to place quantifiable data about their OBC populations before backward class commissions to justify their case. This implies that it might accept the states' reservation schemes and relax the 50 per cent limit, if they can back their position with figures about the size of the OBC population. It has been Tamil Nadu's contention that its 69 per cent reservation was necessary because the state had about 88 per cent SC, ST and backward class population. The state had also placed its reservation law in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution to make it immune to judicial scrutiny. This, however, seems to be irrelevant as the court was willing to consider its case on the basis of its claim of special circumstances. It has told the state backward classes commission that while reviewing the quantum of reservations it could take into consideration these circumstances based on local conditions.

 

A relaxation in the 50 per cent ceiling might open a Pandora's box, with competing demands from many states to increase the reservation percentage. If the ideas of proportional reservation and special circumstances are accepted, Tamil Nadu might even effect an increase in its reservation limit to 88 per cent. Political parties are always amenable to demands from more and more castes for inclusion in the categories eligible for reservation. This might lead to a progressive shrinking of opportunities for those from the general category.

 

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

ONLY 960 YEARS LEFT

M J AKBAR


''Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto tried to camouflage humiliation in Dhaka by promising a 1,000-year war against India.''

 

The Bhuttos, and Bhutto-led governments, seem lost in a rut that has become brittle and boring through over-use. Their only measure of Pakistani patriotism is the level of hysteria that they can simulate against India. A psychiatrist would be tempted to trace this habit to the fate of Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, prime minister of Junagadh before partition, whose plan to merge his state into Pakistan went badly awry. Bhutto went, of course, minus his state, closely followed by the Nawab of Junagadh who left his family behind but escaped with his dogs. Such speculation, however, is not quite within the realm of a newspaper column.


It is unarguable, though, that the Bhuttos, having proved pathetically impotent whenever they waged war against India, have tried to reassure themselves with the flatulent hype of a war of words. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the theorist as well as leader of the 1965 war for Kashmir, a claim that he would doubtless have stressed with far greater glee if Pakistan had succeeded. Operation Gibraltar and Operation Grand Slam failed miserably, an assertion proved by the simple fact that not an inch of territory changed hands along the Cease Fire Line in Jammu and Kashmir.


In 1971, Bhutto tried to camouflage humiliation in Dhaka by promising a thousand years of war against India. Well, we still have 960 years left. No hurry, then, for a peace treaty. Implicit in the 1000-year threat is the recognition that Pakistan cannot win on the battlefield, since if you win war ceases. Futility is, apparently, not sufficient reason for Pakistan to stop fighting.


Zulfiqar's daughter Benazir Bhutto came to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 1989, abused Narasimha Rao and promised Kashmir 'azadi', her decibel levels rising to a shriek by the time she had finished the last 'azadi' in her speech. Two decades have passed since then, Benazir has been assassinated in her own country, and not an inch of territory has changed hands in Kashmir. Her husband Asif Zardari's government will sooner or later leave office, either after a peaceful election, or a more violent ejection by the cantonment, and not an inch of territory will have changed despite his plastic smile or his Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's immature incandescence. War, formal or clandestine, will achieve nothing.


It is possible that the Bhuttos and their servitors do not mean what they say, that this is their default position in the confrontation with their permanent foes in the armed forces. It is time, however, they learnt that terrorism has made the world too dangerous for bluster. The international consensus against this plague will not tolerate the tepid 'root cause' argument, either, as justification.


The difference

Qureshi forgot that the world was listening when he said that terrorist-infiltrators in the Kashmir were India's problem. He would not last a minute in his job if he told America that al-Qaeda was Washington's problem and the Pentagon should deal with them once they had infiltrated into America. When the FBI wants a suspect, Pakistan picks up six in six hours. When India asks for Hafiz Saeed, Qureshi talks about India's Home Secretary G K Pillai — not in the quiet of a conference hall, but at a press conference.


It is no one's case that S M Krishna, a suave and seasoned politician, should stoop to Qureshi's levels of street rhetoric. Perhaps Krishna's courtesy prevented him from describing this as nonsense, but silence is not always the best answer to stupidity.

India is America's friend. Pakistan is America's ally. Islamabad has the transcript of David Headley's interrogation in which he exposed the fact that ISI gave at least Rs 25 lakh to fund the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008. Any criminal enquiry will take the trail to the most powerful force in Pakistan. Qureshi had to try and deflect the terrorist issue. He did not have the intellectual sophistication and diplomatic skills for such a responsibility.


Pakistan does not have a foreign policy. It has relationships. Three, with America, China and Saudi Arabia, are as steady as an alliance between a benefactor and client. One, with India, is inimical; which is why army controls India policy. America, Saudi Arabia and China factor in Pakistan, but do not hold India hostage to Islamabad's interests. However, Pakistan uses India as the bogey through which it can try to massage benefits from friends and sympathy from neutral countries or blocs. Confrontation suits it better than conciliation, domestically and internationally. Many Pakistanis are convinced about the wisdom of peace with India, but they are not strong enough to challenge the cantonment.


Manmohan Singh's mandate to Krishna was to reduce the 'trust deficit'. One wonders how much trust is left after Qureshi has equated Pillai with a terrorist and dismissed Krishna as unprepared and incompetent. Delhi should not respond with hostility. But a little indifference could go a long way.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN PERSPECTIVE

AFRICAN UNION SUMMIT AND SUDAN'S FUTURE

BY WANGARI MAATHAI


Achieving peace and se-curity is not possible wit-hout women's inclusion, especially within decis-ion-making processes.

 

The African Union has declared 2010 the Year of Peace and Security in Africa, and will soon launch the African Decade of Women. What better opportunity to act on these pledges than at the 15th African Union Summit, being held later this month in Kampala, Uganda? The upcoming referendum in Sudan gives African leadership an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to improving the lives of women on this continent by ensuring that they actively and freely participate in the referendum.


Southern Sudanese will go to the polls to decide whether to remain a part of a unified Sudan or secede and become Africa's newest country. Given that Sudan is Africa's largest country — bordered by nine countries, also plagued by conflict, rampant corruption and stunted development —  it behooves our leaders to prioritise Sudan.

News coming out of Sudan in the last few months paints a bleak picture: the security situation in Darfur is deteriorating, the Darfur peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar are barely limping along, and the recent national elections were well below international standard.  There are just six months remaining to the referendum that will impact the future of millions of Africans.


Referendum
Recently the Sudanese government appointed the African Union High Level Panel for Implementation in Sudan led by former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki to facilitate negotiations on Sudan's referendum. Mbeki and the panel are charged with leading negotiations between the ruling National Congress Party and the Southern Sudanese Liberation Movement in the south on all outstanding issues in the lead up to the referendum.


Mbeki and the panel have a big responsibility. They must support the Sudanese government and the Sudanese people to ensure an inclusive, transparent, and comprehensive process. The referendum will be dealing with issues that are of vital consequence to the people of Sudan, including the division of national economic resources, the redefining of citizenship, and border demarcation. The process must be, above all, inclusive.


And an integral part of the responsibility to be inclusive is ensuring that those most affected by the referendum have a voice namely, Sudanese women. Achieving lasting peace and security in Sudan is not possible without women's full inclusion and especially within decision-making processes. Yet, up to now, women are almost invisible.

Following April's elections in Sudan, only two of 35 cabinet ministers and six of 42 ministers for state are women. There are no women at the decision-making level in the Darfur negotiations at Doha a process that is plagued by problems and proving to be ineffectual. And now there is a conspicuous lack of women in formal leadership positions for the referendum.  Indeed, of the nine people appointed by the Sudanese government to the Referendum Commission, there is only one woman. This is far from the 30 per cent advocated for by Mbeki and his panel, the 25 per cent demanded by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and well below international standards.

2010 not only marks the start of the African Union Decade of Women but also the 10-year anniversary of United Nations Security Council's resolution 1325, which mandates women's full participation in peace processes. In short, there is simply no excuse for women's exclusion from current peace negotiations on Darfur —  nor from the upcoming referendum or other decision-making processes within Sudan.


Thus far, the work of Mbeki and his panel has demonstrated an understanding of why Sudanese women need to be at the forefront of all conflict-resolution processes, in Darfur and across Sudan. This commitment to women's leadership must be renewed and acted upon as the panel's work on the referendum moves forward. The panel and the African leaders supporting Mbeki and his colleagues  have a historic opportunity to demonstrate their support to Sudanese women.


In declaring 2010 the Year of Peace and Security in Africa, the African Union set the gauntlet to take extraordinary measures to engage in activities to promote and consolidate peace processes across the continent. What better time is there for the AU to demonstrate its commitment to Sudan's peace process by demanding greater space for Sudanese women to play a vital role?


(The writer is a 2004 Nobel peace laureate)


IPS

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

MAGICAL ENCOUNTERS

BY KAVITHA K


When we parted, I didn't know her name nor she mine.

 

Her slice of paradise is time in a movie theatre. With a twinkle in her eye and a conspiratorial smile, she confesses that she takes off on an enchanted expedition — alone — whenever the mood strikes her. It could be at 9 am on a Monday morning in Malleswaram or 11 pm on a cold weekend in Cincinnati, where her daughter lives. The 9 am movie mania, which gripped her as she was toasting rava for her morning upma, saw her abandon the upma and make a dash to one of Majestic's surviving movie-theatres in the hope of catching the latest Anant Nag-Suhasini film.


We meet because of the very same movie mania.

Spying me standing at the yet-to-be-opened ticket counter, she marches up to me and asks 'balcony?' I mumble a 'yes' and a smile wreaths her wrinkled face. "Buy one ticket for me too. I will sit with you," she declares, thrusting a Rs 100 note into my hands.


Her silver hair, knotted into a hasty bun, her unfussy cotton saree and her ready smile make even the dour doorman warm to her. Till a few minutes ago, he was eyeing me suspiciously, wondering why I was waiting — alone — to watch a movie in a theatre in Majestic on a weekday morning when the City was swamped with multiplexes. With 'aunty' — never mind that we were clearly two strangers — for company, I had earned respectability in his rheumy eyes.


Polite to a fault, aunty prefaced every sentence with "I hope I am not being a bore..." When reassured, she came up with priceless stories: of paying just 4 annas to watch two films back-to-back in a theatre in Shillong in the 40s ('Pay for one, watch one free!'); of playing truant from college and sobbing into her plaits when Rajesh Khanna succumbed to cancer in 'Anand'; of agreeing to marriage only after making sure that her husband-to-be shared her passion for movies; of celebrating every wedding anniversary thereafter in a movie theatre!


Black-and-white psychedelia or Eastman colour, she devoured them all — first with her siblings; then with her husband; later with her grown-up daughter and sometimes with lucky strangers like me.


When we parted two-and-a half hours later, I didn't know her name nor she mine. All I knew was that she had effortlessly recreated the magic of the movies — so what if it was in a crumbling theatre in a not-so-pretty part of town.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

PEOPLE POWER ON PALMAHIM BEACH

TEENAGERS FIGHT TO KEEP THE SHORE OPEN.

 

Few can resist the charm of Adi Lustig, an articulate, photogenic young lady with rastas, a wholesome smile and a mission. But two-and-a-half years ago, when Lustig and her teenage friends launched a campaign to save the Palmahim beach from an ambitious plan to build a 350-unit vacation village, they were fighting against the odds.

A regional building council had approved the project.

The Environment Protection Ministry had voiced no opposition, accepting the developers' argument that the village would boost tourism. The beach had already been fenced off and contractors had begun preparing the beach for construction. The project had been approved over six years ago, just before the Law on the Preservation of the Shore Environment went into effect, which meant that it could be built just 100 meters from the seashore, instead of 300 meters, as stipulated in the new law.


But Lustig and her friends were not deterred. Since an IDF base controls large swathes of beach-front in the area, Palmahim is the only shore in the vicinity open to the public. Unwilling to lose access to their beloved beach, the young activists joined forces with Green Course, a student- run environmental group, and began campaigning against the vacation village, setting up tents on the site to garner media coverage.

Activists created the Committee for the Protection of Palmahim Beach, which won the Green Globe Award for its efforts. The Israel Union of Environmental Defense (Adam Teva V'Din) and the Society for the Protection of Nature were enlisted, as was Environment Minister Gilad Erdan.


Eventually, the young demonstrators attracted the attention of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, who investigated and issued a report critical of the decision-making process that had led to the approval of the vacation village.


Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, meanwhile, ruled that it was lawful for the cabinet to ask the regional building council to reassess its original decision even if there had been no flaws in the council's performance.

Last week the battle waged by Lustig and her friends finally paid off. The cabinet voted to freeze the project and ordered the regional council to review the vacation village project in light of the shore preservation law and the public's increased sensitivity in recent years to environmental issues.


"It was a tough fight," said Lustig. "We were ridiculed and our friends laughed at us. But we discovered that our struggle is a ray of hope for many other environmental and social causes."

 

THE SUCCESSFUL campaign against the vacation village sends out a clear message against apathy and indifference and in favor of civic responsibility and the empowerment of the "little guy" that is the foundation of a healthy democracy.


Although activists have stopped large building projects in the past, such as the Safdie plan in west Jerusalem and a proposed settlement in the Gilboa area, the Palmahim victory is unique in the sense that activists managed to halt a project after it had been approved by a regional building council. Contractors can no longer be sure that their "approved" building project will not be blocked due to a successful campaign led by a charismatic activist like Lustig.


In fact, the Palmahim case raises the question of how best to balance free market forces with environmental responsibility. Maoz Daniel, the construction firm behind Palmahim, invested millions of shekels over the years with the aim of building a vacation village which, it promised, would attract tourism revenues without fully blocking public access to the beach. Maoz Daniel's management did not break any laws. All stages of development received official authorization. Indeed, the cabinet's decision to reassess the project in the wake of Lustig's grassroots activities appears to be a clear infringement of Maoz Daniel's contractual rights.

However, this perspective ignores one important point.


Though capitalism advocates protecting peoples' freedom to voluntarily exchange goods and services without coercion or intervention, Palmahim beach is a priceless resource that belongs to the public and cannot be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Clearly, though, Maoz Daniel must be compensated for its losses, and, if possible, be offered an alternative building site.


Our businesses' liberties should not be be infringed – within reason. And reason requires that our natural resources should not be endangered.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

REALITY CHECK: DEMOCRACY LESSONS FROM THE LAPIDS

BY JEFF BARAK  

 

Tommy Lapid's message that democracy isn't just rule of majority, reverberates with Knesset's decision on MK Haneen Zoabi.Talkbacks (1)

 

With summer fully upon us, it's time to draw up a holiday reading list. Let me recommend Yair Lapid's Zichronot Aharei Moti (Memories After My Death), the story of Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, the leading journalist who later headed the Shinui party and became the scourge of the haredi community. In a cute literary conceit, Yair, himself a leading journalist, has written the biography of his father as if Tommy himself was writing his autobiography from the perspective of the grave.


Given that Tommy was an avowed atheist with no belief in the afterlife, there is a certain irony in Yair imagining his father narrating his story after taking leave of this life. The book's title too, taken from the Torah portion Aharei Mot – which discusses the purification rituals that followed the death of Aaron's two sons, who died when they drew too close to the presence of the Lord – also shows that no matter how secular a life one lives here, the cultural associations are biblically based.

The book, written in the easy, journalistic Hebrew which marked Tommy Lapid's own columns for Ma'ariv (which in later years were also translated and published in this paper), not only tells Lapid's own personal story, but also provides an insight into the development of the country over the past six decades.


Born in Serbia to a Jewish but culturally assimilated family, the Holocaust, which he survived along with his mother, defined Lapid as a Jew.


From then on, Lapid's world was defined between Jews and non-Jews, with the interests of the Jewish people always taking preference over anything else, despite his deep-seated European cultural liberalism.


This Jewish nationalistic view of life, alongside his aversion to socialism – intensified by his experience of living under Tito's communist regime in Yugoslavia between the end of World War II and his arrival in Israel in 1948 after the War of Independence – marked out Lapid as a natural opponent of the ruling elite in the first three decades of the country's existence.


And yet this did not stop him from progressing from being a non-Hebrew-speaking immigrant into one of the country's leading journalists and later television stars, before then starting a political career at an age most people sink into retirement and becoming a senior cabinet minister. It's an inspirational story, and Yair Lapid tells it well.


My favorite anecdote concerns Lapid's military service, which Tommy, a Holocaust survivor with no Hebrew, began immediately on arrival in the country, something hard to countenance today.


Lapid worked as a mechanic in an army garage, which for some reason was also responsible for guarding an Arab prisoner from Nazareth. The officer in charge of the garage thought it was a waste of precious resources for his mechanics to be guarding a prisoner and ordered the prisoner to guard the garage (with a rifle), so that the mechanics could work. This arrangement worked well for everybody until a high-ranking officer brought his car in for repair.


But if truth be told, Lapid could be unpleasant, always on the lookout for an argument and rarely prepared to believe that the person with whom he was arguing might have a valid point of view. The book doesn't shy away from Lapid's confrontational and fiery temperament, although it obviously seeks to put as positive gloss as possible on his character.


The certainty with which Lapid held his opinions makes his reversal of support for Jewish settlement in the territories the more surprising. In the early days of the settlement movement, Lapid was an enthusiastic supporter and was regarded by the Likud hierarchy as a safe pair hands to head the Israel Broadcasting Authority when Menachem Begin was prime minister. There was no defining moment which turned Lapid into a sudden supporter of Palestinian statehood, but like many in the country he came to a gradual realization that if Israel wanted to remain a Jewish and democratic country, it had to end its occupation of the West Bank.


Lapid also quotes, a couple of times in the book, one of his law professors (aside from working as a journalist, he also qualified as a lawyer) warning that democracy needed the checks and balances of the court system, because democracy is not just the rule of the majority, for "61 Knesset members could always decide to arrest the other 59."


This warning reverberated particularly true last week with the Knesset's shameful decision to revoke three key parliamentary privileges from Balad MK Haneen Zoabi because of her provocative support for the Turkish flotilla. The Knesset should exist to preserve the freedom of expression, not muzzle it.


If Zoabi broke the law, then the Knesset's legal adviser has the tools to take action; if not, then her parliamentary colleagues have to support her right to voice and act on her opinions.


Lapid would certainly have condemned Zoabi's actions, and in no uncertain terms. But his message from the grave that democracy is not just a matter of a majority vote is something we need to remember every day.


The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

THE DANGEROUS JEREMIAH SYNDROME

BY GERALD M. STEINBERG  

 

Long after the age of prophecy has ended, it is difficult to distinguish between those who have something serious to say and the many false prophets in our midst.In the final days of the First Temple, with the Babylonian army nearing the city walls, the prophet Jeremiah warned Jerusalemites of destruction and exile if they did not change their ways. The prophet was ridiculed and pursued, with catastrophic results.


Since then, the Jewish people have been plagued by a continuous stream of imitations – self-proclaimed Jeremiahs warning of gloom and doom, but without the prophetic insight or divine license.

 

With the creation of Israel and the challenges faced by the restored Jewish state, the number of modern day Jeremiahs has grown exponentially. Artists, professors, columnists, bloggers, NGO officials and politicians have assumed the role and adopted the rhetoric, if not the substance, of morality. Indeed, the prophecy of doom has become a major industry.


But a great deal of caution needs to be exercised in drawing analogies between our times and the events from 24 centuries ago, when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and exiled the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.


Now, long after the age of prophecy has ended, it is difficult to distinguish between those who have something serious to say and the many false prophets in our midst. Self-appointed and self-promoting messengers come from the fringes of the political, religious, and social spectrum – Left and Right, ultra-religious and fundamentalist-secular – and seek to impose their private views and psychoses. They are usually unable to gain support through the electoral system, and thus hostile to democracy, but have access to large amounts of foreign money which is used to impose their agendas.


This is far from Jeremiah's model.

A close reading of the biblical text shows that the original Jeremiah clearly did not want the job (like his professional colleague Jonah), and frequently pleaded to be released from this extremely unpleasant task. In contrast, modern self-appointed prophets have huge egos. From within the country and the from the Diaspora, they desperately seek the attention accompanying warnings of the imminent demise of Israel or the disappearance of the Jewish people. These are not people who dislike the limelight and argue with God to avert the forthcoming punishment.


In recent years, the Jeremiah industry has flourished by claiming moral infractions by the IDF in defending the country from terror attacks. Otherwise invisible individuals (including failed politicians) have gained a huge amount of attention and funding from those eager to spread allegations of Israeli abuses, regardless of whether or not they are backed by serious evidence.


Many claim, like Jeremiah, to "love Israel" and to possess "the truth."

Furthermore, Jeremiah delivered his rebukes from Jerusalem, as a Jew, facing the people whom he sought to influence, rather than from a distant and safe observation point, like Babylonia. In contrast, many of today's Jewish "prophets," such as Jeremy Ben-Ami (J Street), Daniel Sokatch (New Israel Fund) and intellectuals Tony Judt, Peter Beinart and Naomi Klein, promote simple solutions for the challenges facing Israelis, while living in New York, Washington, Toronto and London. Those self-proclaimed prophets who maintain an Israeli address focus most of their attention on, and receive the money that gives them influence from, these distant power centers.


Other Israel-focused gloom-mongers greatly exaggerate the political and military threats, warning that any sign of flexibility or closing down of outposts will bring instant destruction. For some Jeremiahs on the Right, the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, and the more recent settlement freeze designed to restart talks with the Palestinians, are portrayed as the equivalent to the destruction of the Temple and exile.


Iran is also a popular topic for the prophets of imminent disaster.


While the dangers are real, the painters of these black scenarios understate Israel's power and resilience. What is needed in response to such threats is a careful assessment of the situation and best options, and not obsessive panic pumped up by headline writers and bloggers with little understanding of the details.


Turning inward, we have the constant warnings that the Jewish people are on the verge of disappearance due to religious fanaticism, on one side of the scale, or religious pluralism and ignorance of the sources on the other. Jews have survived and evolved under adverse conditions for more than 4,000 years, and predications of the end of Jewish history are also exaggerated.


None of this should be confused with a call for complacency.


The Jewish people have suffered a number of massive tragedies after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and exile, including the expulsion from Spain and the Nazi Holocaust. Pollyanna-ish predictions of instant and painless peace agreements, or of Jewish continuity without education, are no better than nightmarish prophecy.


The writer is president of NGO Monitor and professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

J STREET'S OUTRAGEOUS NEW INITIATIVE

BY ISI LEIBLER  

 

The organization crossed the red line by calling on its supporters to bombard the US Treasury with e-mails demanding an investigation into charities that fund activities beyond the Green Line.

Talkbacks (1)

 

The time has arrived for liberal American Jews who support Israel to ask themselves whether there should be some limitations or red lines for organizations seeking to be part of what they describe as the "Jewish tent." Until now, many seem to be convinced that it is in the Jewish interest for all organizations to be brought into the Jewish fold irrespective of how much they malign the Jewish state.


The most prominent example is J Street, which is publicly committed to lobbying the US government to force Israel to take actions contrary to the will not only of the democratically elected government, but the vast majority of the people.

 

Many consider that tolerating such a group within the Jewish mainstream transforms the concept of a Jewish tent into a farce.


Emboldened by the reluctance and in some cases cowardice of establishment Jewish leaders to confront it, J Street has now advanced beyond this.


Deliberately designed to coincide with the date of President Barack Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, The New York Times published a full-page article challenging US charitable contributions which directly or indirectly assist enterprises in Jewish settlements.


The article selectively focused on fringe extremist elements and implicitly linked them with the broader settlement movement, questioning the validity of tax deductible status for donations which may benefit such areas. Not surprisingly, as Gerald Steinberg pointed out in a recent Jerusalem Post article, the Times skimmed over the many radical left organizations soliciting tax exempt funds to undermine and demonize the Israeli government.

J Street capitalized on this article and bombarded its members and supporters with an e-mail titled "Investigate the Settlement Charities: Take Action Now," which was followed by utterly misleading themes including: "Disgraced Political Fund-raiser Jack Abramoff; Settlements in the West Bank; US-designated Jewish Terrorist Groups."

J Street has thus exploited an unbalanced and biased article and further distorted it by focusing out of context on the reference by The New York Times to the extremist Kahane Hai fringe group and bracketing it with the settler movement. Although Kahane Hai does not even exist today and at its peak never comprised of more than a handful of followers, to package its message J Street emphasizes that Kahane Hai "was designated a terrorist organization by the United States in 1994," to convey the false message that charitable contributions to any activity or welfare over the Green Line is akin to supporting terrorism.


To further delegitimize the settler movement, the J Street e-mail disingenuously highlighted the fact that disgraced fund-raiser Jack Abramoff had supported a charity over the Green Line.

 

However, J STREET truly crossed the red line by calling on its supporters to launch a concerted campaign to bombard the US Treasury, which it describes as "the federal agency responsible for enforcing the law when it comes to terrorist financing and tax evasion," with e-mails demanding an investigation to determine whether charitable organizations which provided funding to activities beyond the Green Line "have broken the law."

It is outrageous for J Street to imply that donations, including those intended to assist educational institutes, kindergartens, medical facilities or welfare, represent "terrorist financing" or "tax evasion" because some of the funds raised may also benefit residents of Jewish settlements. And in today's toxic environment, it is reprehensible for a Jewish organization – claiming to be mainstream – to be effectively calling for criminal sanctions against organizations which support causes in Israel which are contrary to its political worldview.

While criminal sanctions are unlikely to result, J Street is shamelessly lobbying the government to rule that all philanthropic donations to charitable organizations funding projects beyond the Green Line not only be denied tax deductibility, but be deemed to contravene US law. In the unlikely event that such action succeeded, it would economically devastate countless vital projects and institutions beyond the 1949 armistice lines.


Surely self-respecting mainstream Jewish organizations appreciate the potentially disastrous consequences should J Street succeed in its latest campaign.


This organization is no longer limiting its activities to undermining the Israeli government. Its activities now extend to seeking to deny vital assistance to needy Israelis and legitimate apolitical social welfare projects that happen to be located over the Green Line, the bulk of which would impact on Jerusalem and the uncontested major settlement blocs.


Will American Jewish organizational leaders continue to remain silent in the face of such outrageous actions, not merely directed against the Jewish state and its citizens, but also toward USbased charitable organizations contributing to the legitimate needs of Israelis? Perhaps if Israeli government and opposition leaders, both of whom who are unquestionably opposed to such harmful activity, were to raise their voices in a bipartisan manner and condemn such actions which could inflict enormous damage to the Jewish state, it would encourage American Jewish leaders to endeavor to marginalize such groups from the Jewish mainstream.

ileibler@netvision.net.il

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THE JERUSALEM POST

THE REGION: THE ABANDONMENT OF LOGIC

BY BARRY RUBIN  

 

People who don't follow the issues, understand the debate or know the country want to play with our lives.

The arguments used by many in the West to avoid thinking and talking seriously about the Middle East generally feature a refusal to discuss the substance of issues and usually involve a barrage of insults, characterizations, and nonlogical or nonfactual claims.


1. The right-wing argument. This says: You're basically a right-wing person who opposes a two-state solution and wants to do mean things to Arabs or Muslims. Therefore, we can ignore anything you say.

I won't take the space to present my Democratic Party (US) and Labor Party (Israel) credentials. Let's just point out that there are many Democrats unhappy with Barack Obama's foreign policy (even if only in private) and that the Labor Party is part of the current Israeli government.


Calling people who aren't right-wing right-wing is merely a tactic by radicals to convince liberals to ignore critics and to mistake a relatively extremist approach as a moderate left-of-center one.


There is a parallel attempt to label anyone who favors Israel as a right-winger unfit for civilized discourse and thus an enemy of enlightened people. Yet it should be a liberal cause to support a country that is not only democratic and with an open, liberal society, but which is also a US ally, a bulwark against aggressive and repressive forces and a country which has made considerable sacrifices and taken great risks for peace.

It should be a liberal cause to oppose the establishment of radical Islamist regimes that destroy individual rights, create ruthless dictatorships and oppress women and Christians. Moreover, it is very much in the national interest of the US and of the West – including any liberal interpretation of that interest – to oppose a region dominated by Iran and its allies, the overthrow of relatively moderate Arab regimes, the destruction of Israel and a situation of increased violence and crisis that would result.


2. The "They don't love Obama" argument.


For many people Obama has become an icon above criticism. Thus, if one criticizes Obama or his administration, one is an evil person (hints of racism and xenophobia might be inserted) and should be ignored.


It is no mystery that the Obama administration is failing badly in foreign policy. This is common in private discussions among officials in many countries, and is also shown in both Middle East and American public opinion polls.


Obama must face the same criterion and analysis, and be judged by the same standards, as his predecessors.


Many lives and the freedom of whole countries depend on this.


3. The abandonment of logic: What we see lately is a much higher level of non-rational argument. Some attribute it to people being told to give feelings, rather than logic, the higher priority.


Obama said Israelis were distrustful of him because of his middle name, that is a Muslim name, but to many people there is also an implication of racism.


How to disprove this? Simple. The original Israeli reaction to Obama, as shown by polls, was very favorable.

He still had the same name back then, before his policies changed people's minds.


4. Israelis are stupid. When people say they are going to save Israel for its own good, it makes me mad. Aside from the ignorance generally displayed by those who are so arrogant, a key problem is that many in the West have forgotten the events of 1993-2000, though Israelis haven't.


We tried a process in which money was poured into the Palestinian Authority, many concessions (mostly unilateral) were made by Israel, territory was handed over and the result was massive violence by the other side and a refusal to make peace.


As a result of experience – not ideology – the debate in Israel has changed.


There is no serious discussion about annexing large amounts of territory or holding onto the West Bank forever.


Nobody is proposing taking back the Gaza Strip. Israelis overwhelmingly want a two-state solution that provides long-term peace and security.


They are right in being suspicious of steps that endanger their lives and correct in reading the Palestinian side skeptically, while accurately understanding the Islamists' intentions.


We are not in the 1990s now, much less the 1970s. Today, Israel's options are narrower: There is a partner for talks and shorter-term cooperation (the Palestinian Authority) but no partner for full peace.


Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah are not amenable to diplomacy.


Israeli leaders are very much aware that this country has parallel interests with most Arab governments and try to figure out how to make use of that fact. Yet the actual cooperation possible is limited.


Revolutionary Islamism is advancing and the US, given its current policy, isn't exactly a bulwark battling against it. People here know we are in 2010; those outside may not fully understand what this means.

So people who don't follow the issues, understand the debate or know the country want to play with our lives.


And not only our lives but the lives of many others who, even if ostensible enemies, are in the same boat.


Consider, for example, the need to get a proper system for containing Iran when (yes, I did not say if) it gets nuclear weapons. It is clear that the White House does not understand what is going to be required.


Isn't it rather important for them to rethink their strategy? The same applies to the acceptance of a repressive revolutionary Islamist dictatorship in the Gaza Strip, a client of Iran and an advocate of genocide on the Mediterranean Sea.


The lives of millions of people and the world's future hang in the balance.


That deserves a rather clearheaded discussion on the issues.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs and Turkish Studies. He blogs at www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.

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THE JERUSALEM POST

WHY I LIKE TISHA BE'AV

BY EMANUEL FELDMAN  

 

Without it, Jews could forget essential things.

 

Tisha Be'Av is no one's favorite day.


Commemorating as it does the destruction of both of our ancient Holy Temples and the ongoing exile of the Jewish people, it is a time of mourning, fasting, lamentations, stock-taking, recollections of holocausts old and new. Who likes such things? On a certain level, I must confess that I do.

 

There are several reasons.


First and foremost, without this day, we, the Jews, could easily forget some very essential things about ourselves. For one thing, it focuses our minds and hearts on the centrality of theLand of Israel in Judaism. The Kinot lamentations we recite on this day repeatedly stress the concept of Zion. This is normally translated as Jerusalem or the Land of Israel, but the word means more than that. It refers to a designated signpost. One of the reasons the Bible refers to the Land of Israel as Zion is because it is in fact a signpost on the road that leads to a closeness to God. There is a certain mystique in Eretz Yisrael that is found nowhere else in the world. It is here that the Divine spirit rests; from here our prayers ascend to the Almighty; it is from the earth of the Temple Mount that Adam was created; it was here that Isaac was brought by Abraham to be sacrificed, that Jacob dreamed of his famous ladder reaching from earth to heaven.


And it is here that God chose to have his Holy Temples built. The Land of Israel is truly a signpost pointing to heavenly things.


Since Jerusalem and Israel are the spiritual center of the universe for us, it is no wonder that the destruction of this center is the focal point of our mourning on this day. For in addition to other national calamities, Tisha Be'Av commemorates the destruction of the First Temple in approximately 586 BCE, and of the Second Temple in approximately the year 70 CE.


Zion, the signpost pointing towards spirituality and Godliness, was brutally ground under foot by Israel's enemies, Jerusalem was pillaged and burned to the ground, and its inhabitants were tormented and sent into exile. It is no wonder that on this day, all Jews feel like mourners .


Why, then, do I like this day? Because it was only the physical manifestations of Godliness that were destroyed. The essential Zion was not touched, for that is indestructible. Zion, you see, has yet another meaning: it means a huge rock. No matter how the nations hack away at that rock, no matter how many spears they throw at it, the rock remains impregnable.


And Tisha Be'Av, which commemorates so many calamities that occurred to Jews on this day, also reminds me of the fact that the historic enemies who perpetrated these calamities are gone – but we are still here. We sit on the ground and mourn for that which once existed. But as a people we still exist, while our classic enemies have disappeared.

Zion - the Land of Israel and by extension the entire Jewish people – is that eternal and impenetrable rock.

I like Tisha Be'Av also because it reminds me that the Land of Israel is God's chosen land, designed for His chosen people. Interesting, is it not, that of the many cultures and people and armies that have occupied this land in history, none has been able to make the land flourish except the Jews.


Until the Jews returned to the land, it remained unresponsive to its many pursuers.


Its numerous conquerors through history could not make the land fruitful.


Particularly in our day do I welcome Tisha Be'Av. We do not live in an easy time for the Jewish State or for the Jewish people.


Our so-called peace partners in the Arab world incite their children against us, and still dream of driving us into the sea.


Anti-Semitism is resurgent. One does not have to be paranoid to feel that some people out there do not like us.


At such a time, Tisha Be'Av reminds us not to despair. Today's enemies, despite their formidable numbers and power, will also find us indestructible, and they too will ultimately find themselves in the dustbin of history.


And this is the greatest comfort of this day – that God and His teaching preserve us and make us an eternal people. We cannot be destroyed from without. The only thing we need to fear is the tendency to destroy ourselves from within.


Tisha Be'Av is here. Together with millions of Jews around the world, I sit on the ground, read lamentations, and ponder the fate of the Jewish people and the Jewish land. But beneath the mourning and the fasting, there dwells a deep solace: I am a proud part of the indestructible signpost and rock that is called Zion.


The author, a resident of Jerusalem, served a rabbi in Atlanta for 40 years. The former editor of Tradition Magazine, he is the author of nine books, most recently, Tales Out of Jerusalem. He is on the editorial staff of the newly published Encyclopedia of Mitzvos.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

ABOUT THAT JORDANIAN NUCLEAR REACTOR...

BY EPHRAIM ASCULAI  

 

The US position is so well known, so well established, that it is rather absurd to think that Israel plays a major part in this game.

 

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan recently announced its intention to construct a nuclear reactor for the dual purpose of electricity production and the desalination of seawater. There can be no doubt that this is a worthwhile project for a country that does not have oil or coal, and is one of the most arid countries in the world. On the other hand, Jordan has recently discovered ample supplies of uranium, the raw material of fuel for reactors. It is the issues of turning this uranium into reactor fuel and dealing with the spent nuclear fuel following its irradiation in the reactor that cause much of the debate and accusations that are taking place in the media.

Evaluating the project dispassionately, it is first and foremost an economic issue. One has to weigh the investment costs, which are considerable, the fuel costs and the operating costs, including the disposal of the spent fuel, versus the costs of using other energy sources. The energy and water prices have to be compatible to justify the investment in a nuclear reactor. Another factor is the dependence of a country on a single major source of energy, in case of power outages, planned and unforeseen. Selling part of the electricity output of a nuclear station to neighboring countries is a partial solution to this problem, and not necessarily a bad thing, promoting cooperation with them. As mentioned, one of the economic considerations is the price of the nuclear fuel. This is not the only issue. The issue of proliferation is the fly in the ointment.

 

MOST POWER reactors utilize low-enriched uranium (LEU), that is, uranium enriched from 0.7 percent in its U-235 content to about 3.5%. This process is proliferation-prone, since it is quite easy to proceed from LEU to military-grade (90%) uranium. In addition, enrichment is also a very costly affair, unless carried out in large quantities and in well-established enrichment plants. To tackle this issue, and following US leadership, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) was established in 2007, before the present rush for nuclear power in the Middle East. On September 16, 2007, 16 countries officially became GNEP partners by signing the GNEP Statement of Principles.


One of the stated purposes of the partnership is to "establish international supply frameworks to enhance reliable, cost effective fuel services and supplies to the world market, providing options for generating nuclear energy and fostering development while reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation by creating a viable alternative to acquisition of sensitive fuel cycle technologies." Jordan was one of the 16 countries to sign these principles.

This would negate the apprehension that national enrichment plants would be used to produce military-grade uranium. At the moment, there are already several enrichment plants around the globe that could supply nuclear fuel to new power reactors. On the other hand, many countries (e.g. Australia) are major suppliers of natural uranium without carrying out any industrial-scale indigenous enrichment activities.


Another proliferation issue is the disposal of the spent fuel. There are two ways to deal with it: the long-term storage and the reprocessing of the fuel in which the plutonium, a product of the reactor irradiation, and of potentially military use, is extracted from it. Another one of the principles of GNEP states the ways to deal with this issue.


With Jordan things appear to be not so simple. King Abdullah II, apparently foregoing the commitment to GNEP, wants to develop the complete nuclear fuel cycle, including enrichment, in Jordan. The US, however, is strongly against this, as has been its stance, including in GNEP, for a long time. The king has apparently decided that the easy way of arguing with the US is through blaming Israel for standing in the way of the Jordanian nuclear project. Bashing Israel has become both a Middle East favorite pastime these days, and apparently a safe one at that.


It is a pity that Zvi Bar'el (Haaretz, July 7), ignoring or being unaware of the history of the matter, chose to decide that "...when [Jordan] is negotiating with the United States, it is in fact also negotiating with Israel." The US position is so well known, so well established, that it is rather absurd to think that Israel plays a major part in this game. In this case, the work is done by others.


The writer worked at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for more than 40 years, and has been a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for National Security Studies since 2002.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

 

SHEIKH JARRAH, THE OPENING HEART OF JERUSALEM

BY AVNER INBAR  

 

Many Israelis are simply not going to let this one slide. In this protest, solidarity cuts across national identities

Talkbacks (4)

 

It is becoming increasingly hard to talk about Jerusalem without clichés. Israeli politicians have been peddling sentimental platitudes for so long that even the most accurate and incisive criticisms sound hackneyed.


No, Jerusalem is not a unified city: Jewish Jerusalemites never venture into the east side and Palestinian Jerusalemites rarely set foot in the west side. The school systems are separate and far from equal; public transportation is entirely segregated; one would be hard pressed to find commercial ties or cultural exchanges across the east-west divide. Indeed, the story of Jerusalem is a tale of two cities.


But Israeli politicians have long ago found out that the truth cannot do as much for their careers as intoxicating myths. And so celestial Jerusalem, unified and eternal Jerusalem, Jerusalem of gold, superseded earthly Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. So powerful is this myth that it can justify practically anything: decades of political stagnation, systematic discrimination and above all, the creeping dispossession of Palestinians.

Underlying this tragedy is a single, tiny, word: ours. It is this possessive pronoun which animates Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's belligerent rhetoric, which guides Mayor Nir Barkat's decision to demolish 22 houses in Silwan in favor of the fictional "King's Garden," and which led the courts to authorize the eviction of four Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah.


At its core, the dispute in Sheikh Jarrah boils down to an infuriating asymmetry in the right to say "ours." At the heart of this story are 28 Palestinian families who fled their houses in what is now Israel during the 1948 war. Arriving in Jordanian east Jerusalem after the war, these families were offered an opportunity to rebuild their lives. The Jordanian government and UNRWA gave them plots of land in an empty field in Sheikh Jarrah in exchange for their refugee cards.


After Israel's occupation of east Jerusalem in 1967, these resettled refugees discovered that a Jewish organization claims ownership of their houses based on deeds dating from the 19th century. But when the Palestinian families presented the same kind of deeds to their pre-'48 properties, they found out that the right to say "ours" is ethnically biased. As a result, four of these families were thrown into the street, and 24 more await a similar fate.


BUT THE human aspect tells only half the story. For behind the human tragedy lurks a larger political program, the plan for the "Judaization" of east Jerusalem. In a remarkable cooperation between state officials and secretive settlers' organizations, Jerusalem is becoming a demographic battlefield.


Official agencies, such as the Jerusalem Municipality, weave a net of nightmarish bureaucracy around the Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem, refusing to issue building permits, demolishing illegal construction, revoking permanent residencies and eschewing responsibility for education, health and transportation. This growing obsession with changing the Jewish-Arab proportions is clearly evidenced in the proposed local outline plan (Jerusalem 2000), which actually sets demographic benchmarks for policy makers.

All the while, settlers' organizations such as Elad, Ateret Cohanim and Nahalat Shimon work unremittingly to implant small Jewish enclaves within Palestinian neighborhoods so as to undermine any possibility for a future division of sovereignty over this manifestly divided city. More than 2,000 Jewish settlers already inhabit heavily guarded residential outposts in a ring around the Old City. They are accompanied by private security guards who become the new sheriffs in town, and use constant harassment to make the daily lives of Palestinian residents unbearable. The message is clear: Jerusalem is ours; kindly pack your bags and leave.


Discrimination and dispossession systematically pervade all aspects of life in east Jerusalem. What makes Sheikh Jarrah unique is the fact that soon after the forced evictions of Palestinian families from their homes, it became clear that many Israelis are simply not going to let this one slide.


What began in small solidarity vigils in August 2009 quickly evolved into weekly demonstrations in which hundreds, sometimes thousands, of Israelis, Jews and Arabs, renounce the occupation of east Jerusalem.

 

Much about this nascent protest movement is spontaneous and disorganized, but the basic principles it lays down may become the foundations for a rejuvenation of the Israeli left. In Sheikh Jarrah, reconciliation comes before peace, solidarity cuts across national identities and loyalties are formed on the basis of shared principles and mutual interests.


A peculiar mixture of reasons, real and imagined, place Jerusalem at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For years, it has been considered an insurmountable stumbling block on the way to a solution. But this is precisely where the truly subversive aspect of the Sheikh Jarrah movement comes to light. For it is at this heart of the conflict that the daily friction with the reality of segregation, domination and discrimination unmasks the deception of political rhetoric. And this rift between what one is led to believe and what one sees with one's own eyes is a tremendous source of motivation. Jerusalem is at the heart of the conflict, and this heart is slowly opening up.


The writer is a PhD candidate in the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought. He lives in Jerusalem.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE

NETANYAHU INSISTS THAT HE, NOT LIEBERMAN, CRAFTS THE GOVERNMENT'S POLICY. HE SHOULD NOW PUT HIS MONEY WHERE HIS MOUTH IS, AND USE HIS MEETING WITH THE FOREIGN MINISTER TODAY AS A LEVER TO CHANGE THE COALITION.

 

The signs of a crisis in the relationship between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are multiplying. Tensions peaked when ministers from Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party voted against the state budget after the all-night cabinet meeting Thursday and Friday, which Lieberman did not attend. Yisrael Beiteinu claims Netanyahu has given it the short end of the stick compared to other coalition partners, Labor and Shas, which received hefty budgetary allocations in spheres particularly dear to them.

 

This cabinet meeting vote was preceded by several contrarian steps by the foreign minister, who was insulted when Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer met with Turkey's foreign minister without his knowledge. Lieberman retaliated by appointing a diplomat of middling status as Israel's acting ambassador to the United Nations, and by disclosing the "political plan for separation from the Gaza Strip" on the eve of Netanyahu's departure for Cairo, knowing that this would antagonize the Egyptians. At yesterday's cabinet meeting, Netanyahu added another pinch to the brew of Lieberman insults when he opposed Yisrael Beiteinu's conversion law.

 

Aggravating tensions between the Jewish majority and Arab minority, Lieberman and his party brought serious damage to the state by waging a racist campaign during the last national election, and by promoting "loyalty laws." As foreign minister, Lieberman has emerged as a failure, conspicuous primarily for the rebukes and censures he has been dealt by foreign states and leaders. Many statesmen boycott him or meet with him only so the encounter appears on the record. His input regarding key political and security policies and matters, such as relations with the United States, the peace process and the flotilla affair, has been either negligible or negative. His conversion law proposal threatens to undermine Israel's crucial relationship with Jewish communities in the United States.

 

The crisis between Netanyahu and Lieberman gives the prime minister an opportunity to toss Yisrael Beiteinu out of the coalition, and to replace it with Kadima. Hardly a wonder party, Kadima merits criticism for its support of anti-democratic laws, measures silently condoned by party head Tzipi Livni.

 

But Livni deserves credit for her resolute support for the two-state solution. More than any other step the prime minister might take, including her party in the government would signal to the international community that Netanyahu means business with his policy overtures.

 

Netanyahu insists that he, not Lieberman, crafts the government's policy. He should now put his money where his mouth is, and use his meeting with the foreign minister today as a lever to change the coalition.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

JEREMIAH, HERE AND NOW

ISRAEL IS FULL OF PROPHECIES OF WRATH THAT WARN US OF THE DANGERS OF GOING AGAINST THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. TODAY, TOO, WE ATTACK THE MESSENGERS INSTEAD OF HEEDING THE MESSAGE.

BY YAIR SHELEG

 

The fast of Tisha B'Av is the bastard stepchild of the Israeli calendar. By law, it must be observed through the closure of restaurants, cultural venues and other places of entertainment, but most Israelis do not feel a connection to the fast day. What does mourning the destruction of the holy temples thousands of years ago have to do with us, they want to know − not recognizing that the grief is not only over the destruction of a site of worship but also over the national and human destruction that followed in its wake. Millions of Jews became helpless victims because the Jewish people had no sovereign homeland.

As if that were not enough, it seems that Tisha B'Av has taken on a contemporary political significance as well in recent years. For at the center of the biblical narrative of the destruction of the First Temple is the figure of Jeremiah, the prophet of wrath who did not hesitate to warn his people against rebelling against Babylon, for which he was jailed, though events proved him right.

 

Today, too, Israel is full of prophecies of wrath that warn us of the dangers of going against the international community. Today, too, we attack the messengers instead of heeding the message. We have progressed over time and no longer throw them in jail, but we do mark them out as "defeatists" who are "anti-Israel." Moreover, leading the charge against the contemporary followers of Jeremiah are religious Jews, precisely the people who should be most familiar with the story of the prophet.

 

There are a number of possible reasons for this. The simplest is the fundamental human dislike of criticism and doomsayers of all stripes, a dislike that leads to the tendency to want to kill the messenger rather than heed his message. The second possibility is the feeling, which definitely has a foundation, that it is unfair to demand that we, who have been attacked repeatedly, should be the ones to make concessions in the Israeli-Arab conflict. It should be remembered, however, that the sense of justice behind this also impelled the rebels in Babylon in the days of Nebuchadnezzar and those who rebelled against Rome at the end of the Second Temple era. But it did not help them.

 

A third possible reason has to do with the message that the destruction of the ‏(Second‏) Temple was caused by sinat hinam, baseless hatred. That message played an important educational role during the exile that followed, which by its nature was meant to separate and disperse the Jewish people. But in the age of renewed sovereignty, that is actually a dangerous message, because it presumes that if we only come together then nothing could overcome us, and that any problems that do occur can be blamed on the "traitors" in our midst who undermine the unity of the people.

 

Fourth, the Jews' success in getting through 2,000 years of exile, albeit with many disasters, causes many of us to think that the laws of history ‏(and of international relations‏) do not apply to us. Whatever we do, "we have been promised" that the Third Commonwealth shall stand forever. Herein lies the paradoxical danger: Taking the wrong lesson from Judaism's achievements during the exile could cause us to lose our sovereignty again. We might be able to survive thousands of years of exile once more, but is that the "achievement" we would wish for succeeding generations?

 

One last thing. It cannot be denied that the character of today's prophets of wrath has something to do with the rejection of their prophecies. Unlike Jeremiah, too many of them do not deliver their message of rebuke as a form of tough love. For too many, their message is rooted not in a great love and concern for their people, but in a sense of disdain for and alienation from their "nationalist" brothers, and in a desire for acceptance by "the enlightened world." History teaches that even if their methods were different, their message would not necessarily be accepted. But it is clear that if their methods don't change, they will have no chance of being heard.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIA

DISENGAGE FROM GAZA ONCE AND FOR ALL

ISRAEL'S LEFT SHOULD SUPPORT THE IDEA OF THE EUROPEAN UNION'S TAKING EFFECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GAZA STRIP, EVEN IF LIEBERMAN IS THE ONE WHO PROPOSED IT. ANYONE WHO WANTS TO VIEW THIS IDEA AS EUROPEAN NEOCOLONIALISM IS FREE TO DO SO.

BY SHLOMO AVINERI

 

Even those who are not fans of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman must admit that his plan to invite European foreign ministers to visit the Gaza Strip is a creative and positive step. The initiative could also symbolize Israel's final disengagement from Gaza, the consummation of a process that was never completed, primarily due to opposition raised by a defense establishment that has tended to look at the Gaza issue solely from a narrow security perspective, while ignoring the tremendous damage that the blockade has caused to Israel.

 

If Israel claims that there is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, there is no reason to prevent visits to the area, as it has tried to do in the past. As it turns out, after dozens of years of controlling Gaza, in an occupation that failed to prevent the rise of Hamas and the stockpiling and smuggling of arms, it seems that Israel is having difficulty freeing itself from a sense of domination and authority. Though we might quibble over Lieberman's motives, it is now his turn to lead a complex series of steps that might bring to an end a policy that Ariel Sharon initiated, with wide public support: freeing Israel from control and responsibility in Gaza.

 

After evacuating Israeli settlers from Gaza, we found ourselves locked in an absurd predicament. Israel no longer occupies Gaza, but since it demanded that control over crossing points and the coast remain in its hands, it has created a situation that has no parallel in the world: Israel has no control, but is regarded as being responsible for Gaza. Similarly, the ludicrous idea of enforcing a blockade on 1.5 million people in order to "pressure" Hamas into releasing Gilad Shalit is a proven, unmitigated failure that is tainted by a fundamental moral flaw. And the notion that any sort of Israeli policy will determine who rules the Palestinians, and will weaken or strengthen Hamas or Mahmoud Abbas, is nothing more than sheer hubris.

 

Should the foreign minister's plan win the support of the prime minister and the defense establishment and be implemented, Israel would allow the European Union to take responsibility for infrastructure development in Gaza and supervision of the cargo entering the region, in coordination with Israeli security officials. The implications of such a development would be complex; even were the EU not to maintain direct contacts with Hamas, clearly these steps could not be taken without some sort of coordination with Ismail Haniyeh's government. The Palestinian Authority, and perhaps the Obama administration, would not be thrilled by such a development, but it undoubtedly would suit Israeli interests.

 

True, one of the foreign minister's motives might be to reduce the chances of an agreement being forged between Fatah and Hamas, by enhancing the Gaza Strip's status as a separate entity. But so far, even in the absence of Lieberman's initiative, all attempts to obtain such an agreement have failed. Residents of Gaza and Israel are the parties who have paid the price for these failures. The State of Israel must get used to the idea that its border with Gaza should be viewed like its border with Syria. Put simply, Gaza is a foreign country, and the fact that its government is highly unpalatable to Israel is irrelevant. After all, the government in Damascus is not exactly run by lovers of Zion.

 

Israel's left should support the idea of the European Union's taking effective responsibility for the development of the Gaza Strip, even if Lieberman is the one who proposed it. Anyone who wants to view this idea as European neocolonialism is free to do so. The important point is that after reaching a strategic decision to disengage from Gaza, and after coming to the brink of a civil revolt as a result of this decision, Israel should finish the job. And if the European Union is so concerned about humanitarian aspects of life in Gaza, it should take the reins of responsibility with its own hands.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

I AM NOT DECLARING LOYALTY

THE TIME HAS COME THAT ALL OF US, IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER WE ARE JEWS OR MUSLIMS, ULTRA-ORTHODOX OR SECULAR, DECLARE OUR LOYALTY TO THE ONLY JEWISH DEMOCRACY IN THE WORLD. ON ONE CONDITION: THE DECLARATION CEREMONY WOULD TAKE PLACE IN THE COURTYARD OF THE TOMB OF THE PATRIARCHS, FOLLOWING A TOUR OF THE CENTER OF HEBRON.

BY AKIVA ELDAR

 

HEBRON - Why is the government requiring only those seeking citizenship to have to declare their loyalty to a Jewish and democratic state? I want to do it too!

 

The time has come that all of us, irrespective of whether we are Jews or Muslims, ultra-Orthodox or secular, declare our loyalty to the only Jewish democracy in the world. On one condition: the declaration ceremony would take place in the courtyard of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, following a tour of the center of Hebron.

 

Every Israeli citizen will then know what his country is doing in his name in the city of the patriarchs. Every Hebrew mother will know "where the only democracy in the Middle East" is sending its sons. Those who like what they see will sign the declaration. Those who will not find in Hebron proof of Jewish values and principles of democracy will refuse.

 

Before embarking on an educational tour in the center of Hebron, we should take a refresher course: the Hebron Agreement, which was signed in 1997 between the Netanyahu government and the Palestinian Authority, divided Hebron into an Arab area controlled by the PA (H1 ), and a Jewish area controlled by the IDF (H2 ). In the Arab area live 120,000 Palestinians, and in the Jewish area, which includes the old city and the city's commercial center, there are 500 Jews and 30,000 Arabs. In order to prevent friction, Israel has imposed tough rules of physical separation between the two populations and harsh limits on the movement of the Palestinian population in most of H2.

 

A pack of panting dogs met us at the beginning of Shuhada Street, which cuts through the old quarter of Hebron toward the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The doors of the shops were shut and the market was empty.

 

Someone covered racist graffiti with smiling faces on a pink background.

 

A survey of the area around Jewish settlement in the city conducted by B'Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel in late 2006 found that 1,829 Palestinian businesses (more than 75 percent of all businesses in the area surveyed ) had been closed in recent years. More than 1,000 housing units (42 percent ) in the area surveyed were abandoned.

 

Yehuda Shaul, founder of Breaking the Silence, says that more than 40 percent of the Palestinian residents have left the area.

 

Bored soldiers peered at the visitors, and once they were sure that they were "ours" they moved on (perhaps for dance practice ). Even though the IDF told the High Court of Justice two years ago that the ban on Palestinians movement in the streets was lifted, they do not dare come close to this area.

 

They know that at every street corner they will be asked to show their identity cards and they will be searched. Eran Efrati, who served at the Abu Snuneh post in 2007, says that instructions in the briefing room contained an order to make the residents "feel persecuted."

 

In the Breaking the Silence database there are testimonies of soldiers who describe creative ways for creating such a feeling. For example, holding a population survey in the middle of the night (the IDF calls it "mapping" ), or banging on pots.

 

A skinny youth, fringes hanging from under his shirt, is galloping through a field on a white horse. At the bottom of Beit Hadassah, Shaul fixes his black kippa and points to the Palestinian girls' school.

 

He says that he has a video clip in his office which shows the customary way the neighboring Jewish kids kill their boredom over Shabbat, by throwing stones at the girls.

 

In an alley leading to the wholesale market, closed following the massacre at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in early 1994, a group of young Jews pushes a cart loaded with building materials. Behind the barred doors of the shops, under the noses of the soldiers, another small settlement is staring.

 

At the entrance to the Tomb of the Patriarchs our path was blocked by six Border Policemen. Their commander, who was rushed to meet us says that we had been barred from entering the site with Yehuda Shaul, because he belongs to a group with a "political character." The officer confirmed that one or two days earlier, Noam Arnon, the spokesman for the Jewish community in Hebron, accompanied a group of visitors into the Tomb of the Patriarchs on behalf of the Foreign Ministry. The settlers in Hebron, as is well known, are a group without "political character."

 

The actions of the state in the city where the Patriarchs of the nation are buried, in Sheikh Jarrah, in the Jordan Valley and in the Gaza Strip, have nothing to do with Judaism or democracy. So long as this is the face of the Jewish democratic State, I refuse to declare my loyalty to it.

 

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******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

REFORM MOVES AHEAD

 

Less than four months after Congress approved historic health care reform legislation, the Obama administration has been making good progress in bringing some early benefits to fruition and issuing rules to guide the reform process. Despite all of the critics' hype and scare tactics, some polls suggest that the public perception of reform is slowly improving.

 

That hasn't stopped the critics. More than a score of Republican attorneys general and governors have filed suit to nullify two important requirements of the new law — that everyone obtain insurance or pay a penalty, and that states expand their Medicaid programs. The White House will have to keep pressing back and keep explaining why reform is in the clear interest of the nation.

 

Most of the major elements of the reform law don't go into effect until 2014, but some important benefits start this year. Administration officials had two early successes: pressuring insurance companies to immediately end their indefensible practice of rescinding coverage after a policyholder becomes sick and to immediately start covering children with pre-existing conditions. Officials also persuaded insurers and a handful of employers to allow parents to keep their dependent children on family policies until age 26.

 

A few hundred thousand Medicare beneficiaries who have reached the "doughnut hole" in Medicare drug coverage have gotten or will soon get small, $250 checks to help pay their drug costs; millions more will get checks when they reach the gap later this year. The administration has already proposed language for contracts that will be signed with the manufacturers of brand-name drugs to provide 50 percent discounts next year to patients who hit the gap. A small blizzard of regulations, each requiring painstaking drafting, has been issued, including new rules issued Wednesday requiring insurers to eliminate cost-sharing for recommended preventive care, such as screening tests and vaccinations.

 

Not everything has moved smoothly. The new law requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care. But agreeing on a definition of care (versus administrative and other costs) has proved difficult. A plan to open temporary high-risk pools for people unable to obtain insurance because of pre-existing conditions appears to be running behind schedule.

 

On the employer front, the administration has notified nearly four million small businesses that they might be eligible for a tax credit to help defray the cost of insuring their workers. And it is accepting applications from employers for a separate program to help defray the costs of insuring early retirees.President Obama was right to bypass Senate opponents and appoint Dr. Donald Berwick, a respected expert on health care quality and costs, to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. With no chief to sign off on crucial decisions, the agency has been reluctant to create and staff a new innovation center, to provide guidance on a vast expansion of Medicaid, and to issue a slew of regulations to reshape Medicare.

State leaders also have a lot to do to get ready for reform and ensure that their citizens get the full benefits. They will need to set up new health insurance exchanges, more closely monitor and regulate insurers, and expand Medicaid. While some politicians have de"cided to keep battling reform, at least 21 states have officially designated a task force or committee to oversee implementation. That is responsible government.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THAT NOISY COAL MINE ALARM

 

If a sense of urgency is needed beyond the deaths of 29 coal miners last April in West Virginia, Congressional lawmakers better heed the latest news from the Upper Big Branch mine where the explosion occurred. A company electrician has admitted that he was ordered to bypass a methane detector alarm when it kept interrupting the flow of coal.

The highly risky silencing, first reported by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, occurred two months before the tragedy and four miles away. But a grand jury is reportedly looking into a possible pattern of detector-tampering, an outlawed practice that the company, Massey Energy, firmly denies.

 

As investigations proceed into the biggest mine disaster in 40 years, Congress is its usual study in partisan obstruction, with Republicans in no hurry to rectify lethal workplace risks laid bare by the disaster. The majority Democrats' reform measure, endorsed by the Obama administration, would crack down on reckless mining companies with stronger monitoring and criminal penalties, subpoena-empowered investigations, and protections against the dismissal of miners who dare to complain about risks to life down below.

 

Congressional Republicans, echoing the message of Big Coal, complain that there's a rush to make new law. One of their authoritative colleagues, Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, finds the need for action now obvious. The proposal he co-sponsors aims at repeat offenders of mining regulations, like Massey Energy, that game the penalty system with extended legal appeals. It also would require better tracking of methane and coal dust and crack down on the practice of advance warnings when federal investigators approach.

 

If the Big Branch disaster were a terrorist deed, Republicans would be jamming the hopper with legislative antidotes. But dead miners? No rush, although it's clear that existing regulations are porous, underenforced and in crying need of repair by a responsible Congress.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ALBANY'S LATEST EXCUSE TO SHIRK ITS DUTY

 

New York's state budget is now officially more than 15 weeks late. The main reason for the latest delay is that Gov. David Paterson and several Democratic senators whose votes are crucial want to give state universities more freedom to run their own campuses. New York's state universities badly need improvement, but the proposals on the table are not good enough and this is not the right time to do it.

 

This emotional and complex debate should not be attached to the mess of a state budget.

 

New York's state university system suffers under the control of one of the worst legislatures in the country. The lawmakers in Albany have their thumb on everything from the cost of tuition to the purchase of school pianos, and they handle the job badly.

 

Tuition can spike in bad economic times when students can least afford it. In 2008, lawmakers allowed an increase, then took 80 percent of it back for general state operating funds. Students ended up working nights to pay for Albany's pork.

 

Mr. Paterson has proposed allowing all state universities more control over their operations — an idea rejected noisily by the Assembly. Now, Democrats in the State Senate have come up with a flawed compromise. They have proposed that as many as four universities in the system be allowed to break out on their own, a kind of pilot program for campuses in Stony Brook, Buffalo, Albany and Binghamton.

 

But the plan does not offer assurances of enough scholarship money for poorer students. And there is not a firm enough promise that lawmakers will continue to support the state universities, without cutting funds whenever tuition goes up.

 

Giving New York's university system a few world-class campuses is a lofty idea. It just doesn't belong in a hastily drawn compromise as part of a very late budget. The Legislature should drop the idea and finish the budget.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE NEXT FINANCIAL CRISIS (THE STAMP BUBBLE?)

BY EDUARDO PORTER

 

In a world in which anything, it seems, can be turned into a risky investment instrument, consider the "forever" stamp. Did you think it was just a device for the post office to guarantee that a first-class stamp would always be postage enough for a first-class letter? Imagine if the stamps caught the eye of some Wall Street whiz. Like tulips and mortgages, the little sticker with the Liberty Bell has the makings of a nice financial crisis.

 

The Postal Service is just awaiting the O.K. from the Postal Regulatory Commission to increase the price of first-class postage by 2 cents, to 46 cents, next Jan. 2. But the service plans to keep selling the forever stamps at the old rate right up to the day it raises the price. That is as close as one gets to a free lunch.

 

Buying the stamps at the old price and selling at the new one would bring a 4.5 percent return at a stroke. Not bad when a one-year Treasury bill yields 0.31 percent. And if a $4,500 gain on a $100,000 investment doesn't seem life-changing, think of the rewards to a bank with a billion to invest. Many would unleash economic Armageddon for less.

 

Which brings us to the nub of the problem: Should we allow the Goldman Sachses and JPMorgans of this world, its HSBCs and UBSs, to play in this new market? Think of their temptation to lever up — to borrow a billion or two in the interbank market, at about 1.13 percent a year, and plow it into this unique philatelic opportunity.

 

Forever stamp sales, which reached about $3.5 billion last year, would mushroom. A.I.G. could offer insurance. After all, the bet would be as safe as houses.

 

Until the safe bet turned sour. Jan. 2 would come around and stamp-stuffed banks would find there weren't enough letter writers left in the country to buy their hoard. Many would try to sell them at 45 cents. Meanwhile, their loans would come due.

 

Some banks might go under. Other banks might dump their holdings of Indonesian bonds or corporate loans to get the cash to service their maturing debt. Eventually, the Postal Service would be forced to step in and repurchase those forever stamps at par, saving the world at the expense of taxpayers.

 

If this scenario sounds far-fetched, consider that the American economy contracted 2.4 percent last year and we have an unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, because a few years ago banks became convinced that the price of houses would never stop rising and homeowners would never default. Just to stay on the safe side, it might be a good idea to keep our bankers away from the post office for now.

 

EDUARDO PORTER

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE ROOTS OF WHITE ANXIETY

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

 

In March of 2000, Pat Buchanan came to speak at Harvard University's Institute of Politics. Harvard being Harvard, the audience hissed and sneered and made wisecracks. Buchanan being Buchanan, he gave as good as he got. While the assembled Ivy Leaguers accused him of homophobia and racism and anti-Semitism, he accused Harvard — and by extension, the entire American elite — of discriminating against white Christians.

 

A decade later, the note of white grievance that Buchanan struck that night is part of the conservative melody. You can hear it when Glenn Beck accuses Barack Obama of racism, or when Rush Limbaugh casts liberal policies as an exercise in "reparations." It was sounded last year during the backlash against Sonia Sotomayor's suggestion that a "wise Latina" jurist might have advantages over a white male judge, and again last week when conservatives attacked the Justice Department for supposedly going easy on members of the New Black Panther Party accused of voter intimidation.

 

To liberals, these grievances seem at once noxious and ridiculous. (Is there any group with less to complain about, they often wonder, than white Christian Americans?) But to understand the country's present polarization, it's worth recognizing what Pat Buchanan got right.

 

Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out last week on the conservative Web site Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.

 

This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family's socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications.

 

This may be a money-saving tactic. In a footnote, Espenshade and Radford suggest that these institutions, conscious of their mandate to be multiethnic, may reserve their financial aid dollars "for students who will help them look good on their numbers of minority students," leaving little room to admit financially strapped whites.

 

But cultural biases seem to be at work as well. Nieli highlights one of the study's more remarkable findings: while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances. Consciously or unconsciously, the gatekeepers of elite education seem to incline against candidates who seem too stereotypically rural or right-wing or "Red America."

 

This provides statistical confirmation for what alumni of highly selective universities already know. The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren't racial minorities; they're working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same underrepresentation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts.

 

This breeds paranoia, among elite and non-elites alike. Among the white working class, increasingly the most reliable Republican constituency, alienation from the American meritocracy fuels the kind of racially tinged conspiracy theories that Beck and others have exploited — that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Marxist hand-picked by a shadowy liberal cabal, that a Wall Street-Washington axis wants to flood the country with third world immigrants, and so forth.

 

Among the highly educated and liberal, meanwhile, the lack of contact with rural, working-class America generates all sorts of wild anxieties about what's being plotted in the heartland. In the Bush years, liberals fretted about a looming evangelical theocracy. In the age of the Tea Parties, they see crypto-Klansmen and budding Timothy McVeighs everywhere they look.

 

This cultural divide has been widening for years, and bridging it is beyond any institution's power. But it's a problem admissions officers at top-tier colleges might want to keep in mind when they're assembling their freshman classes.

 

If such universities are trying to create an elite as diverse as the nation it inhabits, they should remember that there's more to diversity than skin color — and that both their school and their country might be better off if they admitted a few more R.O.T.C. cadets, and a few more aspiring farmers.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE PUNDIT DELUSION

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

The latest hot political topic is the "Obama paradox" — the supposedly mysterious disconnect between the president's achievements and his numbers. The line goes like this: The administration has had multiple big victories in Congress, most notably on health reform, yet President Obama's approval rating is weak. What follows is speculation about what's holding his numbers down: He's too liberal for a center-right nation. No, he's too intellectual, too Mr. Spock, for voters who want more passion. And so on.

 

But the only real puzzle here is the persistence of the pundit delusion, the belief that the stuff of daily political reporting — who won the news cycle, who had the snappiest comeback — actually matters.

 

This delusion is, of course, most prevalent among pundits themselves, but it's also widespread among political operatives. And I'd argue that susceptibility to the pundit delusion is part of the Obama administration's problem.

 

What political scientists, as opposed to pundits, tell us is that it really is the economy, stupid. Today, Ronald Reagan is often credited with godlike political skills — but in the summer of 1982, when the U.S. economy was performing badly, his approval rating was only 42 percent.

 

My Princeton colleague Larry Bartels sums it up as follows: "Objective economic conditions — not clever television ads, debate performances, or the other ephemera of day-to-day campaigning — are the single most important influence upon an incumbent president's prospects for re-election." If the economy is improving strongly in the months before an election, incumbents do well; if it's stagnating or retrogressing, they do badly.

 

Now, the fact that "ephemera" don't matter seems reassuring, suggesting that voters aren't swayed by cheap tricks. Unfortunately, however, the evidence suggests that issues don't matter either, in part because voters are often deeply ill informed.

 

Suppose, for example, that you believed claims that voters are more concerned about the budget deficit than they are about jobs. (That's not actually true, but never mind.) Even so, how much credit would you expect Democrats to get for reducing the deficit?

 

None. In 1996 voters were asked whether the deficit had gone up or down under Bill Clinton. It had, in fact, plunged — but a plurality of voters, and a majority of Republicans, said that it had risen.

 

There's no point berating voters for their ignorance: people have bills to pay and children to raise, and most don't spend their free time studying fact sheets. Instead, they react to what they see in their own lives and the lives of people they know. Given the realities of a bleak employment picture, Americans are unhappy — and they're set to punish those in office.

 

What should Mr. Obama have done? Some political analysts, like Charlie Cook, say that he made a mistake by pursuing health reform, that he should have focused on the economy. As far as I can tell, however, these analysts aren't talking about pursuing different policies — they're saying that he should have talked more about the subject. But what matters is actual economic results.

 

The best way for Mr. Obama to have avoided an electoral setback this fall would have been enacting a stimulus that matched the scale of the economic crisis. Obviously, he didn't do that. Maybe he couldn't have passed an adequate-sized plan, but the fact is that he didn't even try. True, senior economic officials reportedly downplayed the need for a really big effort, in effect overruling their staff; but it's also clear that political advisers believed that a smaller package would get more friendly headlines, and that the administration would look better if it won its first big Congressional test.

 

In short, it looks as if the administration itself was taken in by the pundit delusion, focusing on how its policies would play in the news rather than on their actual impact on the economy.

 

Republicans, by the way, seem less susceptible to this delusion. Since Mr. Obama took office, they have engaged in relentless obstruction, obviously unworried about how their actions would look or be reported. And it's working: by blocking Democratic efforts to alleviate the economy's woes, the G.O.P. is helping its chances of a big victory in November.

 

Can Mr. Obama do anything in the time that remains? Midterm elections, where turnout is crucial, aren't quite like presidential elections, where the economy is all. Mr. Obama's best hope at this point is to close the "enthusiasm gap" by taking strong stands that motivate Democrats to come out and vote. But I don't expect to see that happen.

 

What I expect, instead, if and when the midterms go badly, is that the usual suspects will say that it was because Mr. Obama was too liberal — when his real mistake was doing too little to create jobs.

 

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

USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON DEATH AND TAXES: LOOPY ESTATE TAX POLICY HIGHLIGHTS D.C. DYSFUNCTION

 

When New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner died last week, it did not take long for the conversation to turn to the estate tax. That's because this year — and this year only — his heirs will be able to take over his estate tax-free. As Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., bluntly put it, Steinbrenner "was smart enough to die in 2010."

 

This loony state of affairs is the result of a tax law passed nearly a decade ago and the inability of today's lawmakers to reach a sensible compromise. That gridlock will cost the government about $15 billion in badly needed revenue this year — and provide a perverse incentive for billionaires to die, or for their heirs to pull the plug on them, before Dec. 31.

 

The 2001 law took the estate tax rate from 55% when it was passed to 45% last year, down to 0% this year, and then back up to 55% in 2011. If this seems absurd, it is. The reduction to 45% was more modest than opponents of the estate tax wanted. But it was all they could get. They devised the one-year rate of zero as a kind of ploy to get future lawmakers to sign off on further cuts.

 

But much has changed since 2001, in ways that might benefit the Steinbrenners but are of concern to estate tax opponents. Congress and the White House are now controlled byDemocrats, who have called the bluff and allowed the tax to expire this year.

 

Now, with the snapback to 2001 levels looming, estate tax critics are beginning to get restive. The leverage they thought they would have with no tax this year is gone. Tax supporters now have the upper hand. All they have to do is bide their time and the tax rate will be back at 55% on Jan. 1, 2011.

 

But rather than accept President Obama's sensible offer to freeze the estate tax where it was in 2009 — at 45%, after a $7 million exemption per couple —estate tax opponents are pushing for a lower rate.

 

This could be the latest example of how a minority's intransigence can be counterproductive to its cause. In the health care reform debate, for example, Republicans' refusal to play a constructive role forced the legislation to the left as Democrats had to lean heavily on their own constituencies, such as Big Labor, to get enough votes. The result was a law disappointingly weak on cost controls.

 

In this case, the refusal to compromise increases the chances of a higher tax rate. If Republicans couldn't get the rate below 45% in 2001, what makes them think they can do so now?

 

The foes' tactics also raise the question of whether they actually want the tax to go down, or whether they would rather be champions of a perpetual cause that can help them raise vast campaign contributions from wealthy donors.

 

A 45% rate with a $7 million exemption is a reasonable level that would hit only a tiny sliver of the nation's estates. While opponents rail against the "death tax," the levy is, in reality, an inheritance tax. That's because heirs are the ones still alive to feel its effects.

 

It makes sense to tax inherited wealth, derived simply by having the right parents, at a higher rate than money acquired through hard work or investment. Advocates of repeal rarely say where else they'd get the money to make up the lost revenue, because the inevitable answer is it would come from taxpayers of lesser means.

 

If Congress does not retroactively impose a tax for 2010, heirs of Steinbrenner and other ultrawealthy people who die this year will have hit the jackpot. Lucky for them. But the rich and everyone else are entitled to a rational, predictable tax system — not one that makes it smarter to die sooner rather than later.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON DEATH AND TAXES: END THE 'DEATH TAX'

BY LOUIE GOHMERT

 

Next year, the estate tax will rise from a 0% rate to 55%. This "death tax" requires grieving families to pay taxes on any inheritance over a threshold amount. It's a socialist notion that says you accumulated too much so your government will take about half at your death.

 

For anyone to reach his hand into a deceased person's pocket and steal is despicable. But, when someone dies and the government steals from the deceased, our laws legalize the theft.

 

The extremely wealthy have some flexibility to do estate planning. Not so for many small business owners or farmers. Their accumulated estate is often not in liquid assets, so there is insufficient cash to pay the death tax. Then, half the business or land must be sold or mortgaged to pay the salivating government. If a loan is taken, it adds to the cost of doing business, meaning the next generation is no longer competitive.

 

Some say the death tax has never caused the loss of a family business or farm. Hogwash. Talk to former family business or farm owners.

 

Over several generations, my great aunt's family accumulated around 2,500 acres of farmland. She died in 1986 with land worth about $2,000 per acre. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. dumped land nearby, and the land value fell below $700 per acre before the estate closed. The Internal Revenue Service ultimately required the sale of every single acre, as well as the auction of all personal items. Family members were urged to come bid to keep things in the family. It was heartbreaking.

 

Many have chided Christians in Congress, saying we should do as Jesus said and help the less fortunate. That is absolutely true for individuals. But the government has a duty to protect our property rights.

 

And note that Jesus never said, "Go ye therefore, abuse your power, and take from others to help the poor." He said you do it with your own money. Do you know what Zacchaeus did after he met Jesus? He felt so guilty he went and cut taxes.

 

Time to end the death tax permanently.

 

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, is a member of the House Small Business Committee.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

MYTHS WIDEN THE SCIENCE-RELIGION DIVIDE

BY ELAINE HOWARD ECKLUND

 

Is a dialogue between science and religion possible — or even necessary?

 

The American Association for the Advancement of Science recently welcomedNASA astrophysicist Jennifer Wiseman as the new director of its Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion. The task ahead: encourage communication between scientific and religious communities. What could be wrong with that?

 

On the face of it, such an effort seems sensible and admirable. Who doesn't want civil dialogue rather than hot-headed diatribe?

 

Yet some critics argue that these kinds of efforts run the risk of co-mingling science and religion which, in the most benign sense, are two very different ways of looking at the world. In the most dangerous sense, scientists getting involved in "dialogue" with religious people, they say, could bias and taint scientific work.

 

If you are concerned about the advancement of science, you must ask yourself whether a dialogue between science and religion is worthy of promotion and engagement or staunch opposition. Here are some things to consider in making your decision.

 

The myths

 

While conducting studies of religion in America, I spent intensive time among conservative evangelicals, liberal Protestants and moderate Muslims. Most recently, I completed a survey of nearly 1,700 natural and social scientists at the nation's top universities and spoke with 275 of them in depth in their offices and laboratories. I found that the conversation between science and religion is besieged by misunderstanding and myths on both sides.

 

Some of the assumptions of the present science-religion debates simply do not hold up under the weight of research data. Dispelling myths about religious and scientific communities could lay the groundwork for a new kind of dialogue — one based more on serious thinking and scholarship than caricature.

 

For example, many in the religious community hold scientists at arm's length, believing that they are all atheists who are interested in attacking religion and the religious community.

 

While 30% of the scientists I studied consider themselves atheists, a much larger percentage than in the general population, fewer than 6% of atheist scientists are working against religion.

 

In fact, nearly half of scientists said they consider themselves religious; one in five was involved in a house of worship. Top scientists are sitting in our country's churches, temples and mosques.

 

We also need to dispel the myths scientists hold about religious people. Indeed, there are 14 times more self-identified evangelicals in the general population than among the scientists at our nation's top universities. And it is true that some within Christian communities have posed a threat to the teaching of evolution and embryonic stem-cell research.

 

Yet scholars are also finding that evangelical Christianity is not as detrimental to acquiring scientific knowledge as they once thought.

 

In fact, evangelical Christians are quickly catching up and surpassing other religious groups in terms of education levels. And some scientists, including Francis Collins, a Christian who heads the National Institutes of Health, have engaged in massive public efforts to help Christians understand that they don't have to choose between their faith commitments and science.

 

Even so, based on international comparisons, U.S. schoolchildren receive poorer science education than do students in many other industrialized nations, and many young Americans may not be learning what they should about science because their religious upbringing poses a barrier.

 

What should be done?

 

Those in the scientific and religious communities who care about our nation's progress need to do a better job of communicating the importance of science to religious people. Studies show that what kids learn about science in elementary and secondary school, and how well their science abilities are encouraged, help predict their overall success down the road. Those who have a better understanding of science and stronger science skills also tend to have greater socioeconomic stability.

 

How can we persuade Americans to provide better long-term funding for science?

 

Start early.

 

After all, future politicians, business leaders and opinion-makers are currently sitting in the classrooms on America's top campuses. These are the people who will make decisions about future science policy.

 

Education and funding are two good reasons we should care about the conversation between scientific and religious communities if the advancement of science is an aim.

 

More and more, it seems, scientists are beginning to recognize that they need to engage with people of faith if they want to garner broad civic and financial support for their scientific endeavors.

 

It doesn't help to have science and religion as warring factions. If greater public support of scientific research is a goal, we should encourage some scientists to become "boundary pioneers" who civilly reach out to religious communities in search of common ground and potential allies.

 

Besides, this enduring battle doesn't advance the cause of science — or religion.

 

Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at Rice University and a Baker Institute Rice Scholar, focuses on the study of public science. She is the author of a new book, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

BURNOUT HURTS DOCTORS AS WELL AS THEIR PATIENTS

BY KEVIN PHO

 

A new patient recently said he was referred to me after his last doctor had left medicine. His old doctor always looked unhappy and burned out, he noted.

 

Burnout affects more than half of doctors, according to researchers at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Beyond mere job dissatisfaction, these doctors are emotionally exhausted to the point where they lose focus. They tend to be more depressed — perhaps one reason why doctors have a higher suicide rate than the general population.

 

While burnout can happen in any profession, the performance of stressed-out doctors can hurt someone else: patients.

 

Studies show these doctors exhibit less empathy, which erodes the doctor-patient relationship. More ominous is how physician burnout can lead to medical mistakes. A Mayo Clinicstudy released last month found that burnout in surgeons correlated to a higher rate of major medical errors. That corroborated last year's finding in The Journal of the American Medical Association of a similar effect among internal medicine doctors.

 

Overwhelmed

 

I see plenty of reasons why doctors are ending up this way. With the explosion of new treatment options and an expanding number of patient care guidelines, our responsibilities are increasing. It's estimated that it would take 18 hours a day to provide all the recommended preventive and chronic care services to my patients. And that's not counting the 20 telephone calls I return and 30 test results I review daily, which, as The New England Journal of Medicine reported in April, is typical of what other doctors like me face.

 

When the burden gets to be too much, doctors are simply walking away from the job. Recently, researchers from the American College of Physicians and the American Board of Internal Medicine found that one in six primary care doctors had left their field mid-career. More than 20% cited long hours and administrative hassles as reasons.

 

Finding answers

 

Physician training must begin to address burnout. Earlier this year, psychiatrists noted that 4% of entering medical residents were diagnosed with depression, a rate comparable to the public. But that percentage ballooned to 25% after a single year.

 

As Colin West, associate program director of the Mayo Clinic's internal medicine training program, told The New York Times last October, "There has been a tendency in medicine to minimize our distress because our focus is supposed to be on the patient ... but the distress in medical training right now is epidemic."

 

Organizations that regulate resident physicians have sought to limit hospital work hours to mitigate fatigue. But dealing with stress and depression is just as important. Early identification and management can prevent at-risk doctors from continuing on a path toward burnout.

 

Practicing physicians should also be given the tools to ward off burnout. A pilot study at the University of Rochester's School of Medicine last year found that teaching meditation and relaxation techniques resulted in less emotional exhaustion, and gains in patient empathy.

 

Stressed doctors who quit will be of no help to the more than 30 million newly insured patients in the coming years. Although health care reform has allocated resources to shore up primary care and train more providers to meet the new demand, little has been proposed to recognize and treat burned out physicians. These doctors, and their patients, deserve better.

 

Kevin Pho, a primary care physician in Nashua, N.H., blogs at MedPage Today's KevinMD.com and also is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

GOLDMAN SACHS' 'MISTAKES'

 

Americans will hear plenty of moaning and criticism from Republicans before November's election about the Democrats' financial reform bill, which they claim will swamp Wall Street with too many regulations and bog down the economy. When they start that act, remember the $550 million payment that Goldman Sachs — Wall Street's presumed gold standard for investments by banks, pension funds and insurance companies — agreed to pay last Thursday to settle a civil lawsuit brought by the government on charges that the company fraudulently deceived its own clients.

Though it effectively admitted only "mistakes" and wrongdoing, it denied committing outright fraud. Never mind. The activities at the heart of the Securities and Exchange Commission's lawsuit speak for themselves.

 

As the housing market was beginning to falter in early 2007, Goldman admittedly organized a custom-made package of derivatives loaded with sure-to-fail toxic mortgages at the behest of John Paulson & Co.'s hedge fund. The portfolio, called Abacus 2007-AC1, was allegedly custom designed by a Goldman vice president, Fabrice P. Tourre, in consultation with Mr. Paulson, who wanted to bet against the fund through credit default swaps after Goldman sold it to its clients.

 

Goldman then sold investments in the portfolio to a number of large clients. Their investments in Abacus 2007-AC1 — or roughly 99 percent of them — subsequently tanked in the mortgage crisis and the resulting financial implosion in 2008. Mr. Paulson's hedge fund made more bundle off his negative bets against the portfolio.

 

Goldman admitted in its settlement with the SEC that it made the "mistake" of not telling its clients, in its marketing materials or representations, of Mr. Paulson's involvement in designing the fund in order to bet against it. The company, in fact, maintained when the lawsuit was filed that it possessed the prerogative of hedging its own bets by doing such deals and quietly investing against investments that it recommended to its clients.

 

If that's the case, comprehensive financial reform — and a far higher standard of ethics — is more sorely needed than Goldman's executives, and those at other Wall Street companies, want to admit.

 

Ordinary Americans would be reasonably inclined to believe that Goldman's admission to such scandalous "mistakes" would be sufficient to prove fraud and to destroy the firm's reputation and financial stature. But that's not the way it works on Wall Street. Indeed, its shares went 5 percent higher in after-hours trading when word of the agreement got out Thursday afternoon. However humbling it might have been to make the settlement, Goldman's value quickly outgained the cost of the penalty.

 

Goldman clearly possessed the resources to contest the SEC lawsuit for years to come. After all, it made profits of $13.38 billion last year in an economic trough. The bank apparently just made the calculation that it would be more beneficial to settle, and admit wrongful mistakes, simply to eliminate the cloud that had hung over the firm since the charges were filed. And Wall Street agreed.

 

That is as revealing as Goldman's settlement conditions. Goldman had to agree to change how it reviews and approves the offering of certain mortgage instruments. It also had to state its "regrets that the marketing materials did not contain that disclosure" of Mr. Paulson's role in creating the Abacus 2007-AC1 portfolio. And it had to effectively acknowledge wrongdoing by consenting to a judicial order that barred it from committing intentional fraud under federal security regulations in the future.

 

The most disheartening part is that Goldman, and other Wall Street firms, apparently are not bothered when they are caught in such scandalous behavior. Their concern is self-enrichment. In fact, their pragmatic lobbyists accepted weeks ago that Democrats would successfully push through financial reform, and they began in June focusing on how they shape the ensuing regulations that now must be written.

 

Republicans' criticism of reform is part and parcel of that contrived dance. Americans must need wonder if any new regulation can be made tough enough to restrain Wall Street's greed and correct its behavior.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

KEEP MAYOR CLAUDE RAMSEY

 

It doesn't take many words to say that Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey is one of the best local officials of our times.

 

As county mayor, he has been a responsible financial leader, with great effectiveness in promoting economic development, new businesses and new jobs for thousands of people, boosting the economy for all of us. He has improved our community in many ways for the benefit of everyone.

 

He is a fine man of integrity and dedicated community service.

 

He has provided such superlative county leadership that he deserves overwhelming re-election to continue his outstanding service.

 

You may be sure that re-electing County Mayor Ramsey will benefit all of us more than it will benefit him.

 

He deserves a big vote of confidence and appreciation on Aug. 5.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

RE-ELECT SHERIFF HAMMOND

 

Sheriff Jim Hammond is an ideal law enforcement leader for our county. He deserves re-election and thanks in the Aug. 5 election.

 

Sheriff Hammond is a law enforcement professional with great experience. Even more important, he is a man of honor and character, who uses his energy to serve us all in the important job of promoting our safety from criminals and handling the important traffic movement in our county.

 

He is highly motivated and professional in the performance of his important duties, and he is experienced and practical.

 

We are very fortunate to have such an outstanding gentleman in this very important office.

Certainly, we want to retain him by voting for him on Aug. 5.

Subscrib

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

 HULLANDER FOR COUNTY TRUSTEE

 

Bill Hullander has proved himself as a fine local citizen, as a businessman and for many years as a member of our County Commission. He is now an unopposed candidate for the important position of Hamilton County trustee. He deserves enthusiastic election.

 

The trustee has the important responsibility of accepting the taxes that our County Commission levies. The trustee safeguards those funds and manages them to earn interest for the financial benefit of our county.

 

Mr. Hullander has served well as a county commissioner. We have every reason to expect Mr. Hullander, a man of integrity, to be an excellent county trustee. He deserves a big vote Aug. 5.

 

Academy alum raises the bar at Carson-Newman***************************************


TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

FOR COUNTY COMMISSION

 

Our County Commission handles multimillion-dollar budgets. It also works with Chattanooga officials and others to attract big, job-creating developments such as the Volkswagen plant. So it is important that voters elect commissioners of intelligence and character who will carefully steward our tax dollars.

The Free Press makes these recommendations for County Commission in the Aug. 5 general election:

 

District 1: Fred Skillern

 

In District 1, Commissioner Fred Skillern is unopposed. That is understandable, because Mr. Skillern, owner of Dixie Souvenirs, has provided exemplary service on the commission and previously on the school board. He opposes undue spending and tax increases. We are pleased that his re-election is assured.

 

District 2: Fields, Cantrell

 

In District 2, Jim Fields surprised many back in May by defeating Commissioner Richard Casavant in the GOP primary. Mr. Fields faces independent candidate David Cantrell in the general election. Mr. Fields is an attorney. Mr. Cantrell is an airline pilot. Both are Navy veterans. Both say they would insist on the careful use of tax dollars and would promote education. With each candidate clearly bright and capable, and with each offering constructive ideas, we believe voters will be well-served whichever man is elected.

 

District 3: Jim Coppinger

 

In District 3, Commissioner Jim Coppinger, a former Chattanooga fire chief, is assured re-election because he faces no general election opposition. We believe he has served effectively and will continue to do so.

 

District 4: Warren Mackey

 

In District 4, Commissioner Warren Mackey, a professor at Chattanooga State, faces no opponent in the general election. While we have not agreed with all of his views, Commissioner Mackey has served his constituents faithfully and brings a cooperative spirit to his position.

 

District 5: Greg Beck

 

In District 5, Commissioner Greg Beck will return to his commission seat because he, too, is unopposed. Mr. Beck, formerly with the Sheriff's Department, is now a City Court officer. He also has commendably worked in youth ministries in the area. He deserves strong support.

 

District 6: Joe Graham

 

In District 6, incumbent Democrat Commissioner John Allen Brooks, an attorney, faces GOP challenger Joe Graham, a business owner in Lookout Valley. Commissioner Brooks has highlighted his efforts to bring more state education funds to Hamilton County. We have differed with Mr. Brooks at times, however, such as on his belief that the city of Chattanooga should buy Tennessee-American Water Co. He represents a relatively liberal viewpoint. Mr. Graham, who owns Accent Printing, says he wants to focus on fighting crime, improving education and creating jobs. We believe Mr. Brooks has served with good intentions, but we recommend the election of Mr. Graham.

 

District 7: Larry Henry

 

In District 7, Commissioner Larry Henry is unopposed. Mr. Henry, former owner of Stacy Oil Co., holds soundly conservative positions on the issues, including his opposition to forced annexation of county land by the city of Chattanooga. We are glad to endorse him.

 

District 8: Boyd, Smith

 

In District 8, four men are vying to be commissioner after incumbent Curtis Adams left the position for a job in Crossville, Tenn. They are Republican Tim Boyd, Democrat Kenny Smith (who is leaving his school board position), and independents Terry Turner and Jim Winters. Mr. Boyd and Mr. Smith seem to have attracted the most attention. Mr. Smith has raised far and away the most money, including tens of thousands of dollars from trade unions.

 

Mr. Boyd, of East Ridge, is co-owner of Southeast Carpenters, where he is a project engineer. Mr. Smith, of Chattanooga, is training director for the Chattanooga Electrical Apprenticeship Program. Mr. Boyd said he wants to bring a careful approach to budgeting and focus on economic development and education. Mr. Smith, whose school board work gives him broad knowledge of the school system and how it is funded by the commission, also wants to work on education and economic development.

 

We believe the county will benefit no matter which man is elected.

 

District 9: Chester Bankston

 

In District 9, another school board member, Republican Chester Bankston, is seeking the commission seat being vacated by Bill Hullander, who will become county trustee. Mr. Bankston, an electrical contractor, is unopposed in the general election. He has been a conservative voice on the school board, and we are pleased to endorse his candidacy.

 

Now it's up to voters. Choose well!

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - CHANGE OUR AKBIL, BUT WHY?

 

In a city with a population of over 12 million and a not-so-adequate public transportation system, every move regarding the system should be thoroughly planned. However, the Istanbul municipality's recent decision to replace Akbils with magnetic cards does not seem to have been thought over much.

 

As we reported in our weekend edition, the key-sized electronic passes carried by Istanbul public-transit patrons are being phased out in favor of a scannable card.

 

Introduced in April 1995, Akbils are small stainless-steel "buttons" containing a computer chip and embedded in a small piece of plastic that can be attached to a key ring. Passengers can load money onto the devices for pre-paid travel. The new cards work in a similar way; riders can load them with funds that are deducted each time they pass the card in front of a machine on a bus, at a metro stop or in a ferry terminal.

 

For the last 15 years, the Akbil has been a unique feature of Istanbul. While many other cities in Turkey, such as İzmir and Bursa, have introduced magnetic card-based systems, the small button-like device carried on key chains was a sign that one lived in Istanbul.

 

As one reader nicknamed as "the old woman" commented on our website, "…an added perk is that the Akbil is distinctive. I've had people in several countries see the Akbil on my key chain and recognize it, which leads to delightful discussions about favorite places in Istanbul, etc."

 

Municipal officials argue that the new cards will have a much-wider use and "the contactless cards will be able to be used to pay parking-lot charges and to shop at some points." But as the use of contactless credit and debit cards increase by day, we cannot understand why the municipality is launching a new type of card instead of integrating bankcards into the system.

 

The reason for this might be to make some easy money. The municipality will pay back six Turkish Liras for every Akbil returned and demands 10 liras for the new cards. Some Istanbul residents believe that the money made in the process will not be invested back into the transportation system, an investment Istanbul desperately needs.

 

While many are criticizing the new system, it also carries the potential of creating a legal dispute.

 

Berhan Şimşek, the Istanbul provincial head of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, has meanwhile announced that the party will file a lawsuit against the magnetic-card system as soon as they receive the official notification of the municipality's decision to make the switch.

 

A war in court will cause nothing but further troubles for the city's public transportation system. It is obvious that the municipal officials should do a much better job of convincing the opposition politicians and Istanbul residents on the benefits of the new system.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

APOYEVMATINI - 85 AND STILL GOING STRONG

ARIANA FERENTINOU

 

"I am sending you my congratulations which are not formal but genuine. Because I am aware of the titanic struggle you are carrying out in spite of the huge difficulties and the chilly indifference of the responsible authorities … In these hard times your newspaper is going through its golden era ... This, for us who know its past, is of great importance", wrote Stelios Roidis one of the eminent intellectuals of the Rum community who now lives in Athens. His congratulations were addressed to the present publisher of the second oldest Turkish newspaper still in publication, the Greek language daily "Apoyevmatini," Mihalis Vasiliadis. On the July 12 this historic daily - the oldest Turkish daily after Cumhurriyet - celebrated its 85th anniversary.

 

"Eighty-five years for Polis (Istanbul), the Politis (Rum) and Culture (Politismos)" is the slogan of "Apoyevmatini," which has lived side by side with a dramatically shrinking Greek Orthodox community, witnessing the harsh systematic anti-minority state policies of the last half century in Turkey.

 

Today, clustered faithfully around its Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, the community retains an impressive zest to survival in their beloved city, Istanbul. "Our presence is not based on numbers," they say and they believe in the future of their community although some among them - even some "responsible authorities" from Greece - would quietly predict its biological end.

 

Apoyevmatini is such an example of proud survival as the oldest media outlet of the Rum community and remains determined to fulfill its professional duties: to keep the community of Rums informed in their own language. Today, around 600 printed copies are sold daily through a few selling points in the city where traditionally Rums reside or are delivered by hand. However, new technologies have dramatically improved the visibility of the newspaper as it is now been delivered via Internet in PDF format to thousand of readers in Greece and throughout the rest of the world. It is the latest "kiss of life" that was given to the newspaper that has managed to become a credible source of news from Turkey often quoted by Greek media.

 

It used to be a much grander occasion. Apoyevmatini has lived through glorious days of journalism and literature as its pages hosted many illustrious members of the Rum intelligentsia. Interestingly its birth came somewhat indirectly. The idea to set up a newspaper did not come from journalists but from two Rum pharmacisists - Antonis and Constantinos Vasiliadis - who after losing permission to operate their pharmacy, decided to start a newspaper. Another interesting twist to the story is that in order to get the official permission for their newspaper, the two brothers were helped by their Turkish classmates from Galatasaray. Cavallieros Markouizos, a prominent journalist and writer became the first editor of the newspaper, which managed to sell a record number of 30,000 copies in its first editions.

 

"But, in the following decades, the newspaper followed the fate of the community itself. Due to the dramatic decrease in Istanbul Rums, the number of copies went down, to the point that when I took over as editor in 2002, it was selling only 80 copies," says Mihalis Vasiliadis, a descendant of the founders who is now assisted by his son Minas.

 

Throughout its long history, the newspaper went through many ups and down, says Vasiliadis. "The editor who succeeded Markouizos, Grighoris Yaveridis, knew the art of self-censorship, well; that was how he managed to steer the ship through stormy seas and kept it floating for many decades," he said. Probably Yaveridis holds the record for the longest serving editor in the Turkish press as he took over the newspaper in 1927 and remained in charge until his death in 1972. His bed-ridden son-in-law Yorgos Adodosoglu took over the newspaper and managed to keep it going for another 10 years. The story of Apoyevmatini has been like "carrying the flag of the community," a story of determination and stubbornness against all odds.

 

Apoyevmatini has been in print continuously since 1925. In its 85 years it only closed between Sept. 6 and 21 in 1955 because of the pogroms against the Rums. Its printing press survived the attacks on Greek properties in Istanbul because "it happened to be just opposite the Consulate of the Soviet Union," said Vassiliadis, who remembers the events vividly. As a member of the small community of Rum journalists, Vasiliadis experienced professional hardships even before taking over Apoyevmatini. In 1960 as head of the weekly Greek-language publication "Free Voice" in Istanbul, he was accused of separatism and got involved in a ten-year litigation battle with the Turkish state, which ended with his acquittal only in 1974.

 

In a country of 72 million Turkish-speaking people where historic minorities make up only a very small part, Apoyevmatini prints stories that interest the microcosm of the Rums – Turkish politics, international current affairs, news about the activities of the Patriarchate, events and activities of the community.

 

But as with the rest of the media, hope for survival lies with technology: the aim is for the newspaper to go online and to acquire subscribers from abroad. "The target of 500 subscribers abroad is not unfeasible and this may secure the future of the newspaper," says Vasiliadis, who also wishes to realize his dream to fully digitize the newspaper's archive.

 

"Rums are like the mythical Antaeus, in order to eliminate them one has to uproot them," said Vassiliadis, adding that the presence of the patriarchate in Istanbul acts as a "living shield" for the community.

 

Presumably his reference to the mythical hero includes Apoyevmatini.

 

Hercules could only beat Antaeus by lifting him off the ground so that he could lose his strength. To transfer the metaphor, as long as Apoyevmatini retains its base in Istanbul and continues printing for even the smallest number of Rums, it will maintain its will to cling onto life.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

WHERE ISLAMISTS AND ANTI-ISLAMISTS COME TOGETHER

MUSTAFA AKYOL

 

I should have known better. I should have seen that criticizing the arguments of Mr. Burak Bekdil, my column neighbor, could come back to me as an ad hominem attack. It happened before, it happened again. This time, I just got more of it: My true "jihadist" face has been revealed, as my delusional belief in Jewish conspiracies. What does a man want more?

 

I am talking about the piece that Mr. Bekdil published last Wednesday. To his credit, he actually refrained from calling me a "jihadist." He rather referred to an article on the "Jihad Watch" website that does so, simply out of my condemnation of the lethal Israeli raid on the Free Gaza flotilla. (In return, I had a rejoinder titled, "I support justice, not jihad.")

 

Enter 'Jihad Watch'

 

But what is this "Jihad Watch," Mr. Bekdil's new source? He defined it as "a prominent blog that aims to bring to public attention the role of jihad theology and ideology." But Karen Armstrong, one the world's greatest writers on comparative religion, thinks that its creator "writes in hatred, deliberately manipulating evidence to support his thesis." You might also find it interesting that this "prominent blog" has just given U.S. President Barack Obama a satirical "dhimmi award," implying that he has become a submitter to Muslim supremacy. (By not bombing Iran yet, perhaps.) On the other hand, the site openly supports Geert Wilders, the unabashedly anti-Islamic politician in the Netherlands.

 

Well, with friends like these, I doubt Mr. Bekdil will get too far in getting fair sense of Islam.

 

The other issue – my supposed delusional belief in Jewish conspiracies – came from the discussion on the origin of stoning. Mr. Bekdil had written that it was commanded in the Quran. I explained that stoning was not in the Quran, but in the Torah, and came into Islam from Judaism. (Of course, Jews have not been practicing this for centuries, and I did not claim that they were.)

 

How this amounts to "blaming the Jews" is really beyond me. It is actually easy to see how the brutal practice made its way from the Torah to Islam. A hadith tells that in Medina (then a Muslim-Jewish city), Jews brought an adulterer and adulteress among them to Mohammed (then the head of state), asking for his verdict. He inquired what the Jewish scripture said about this, and when it turned that stoning was the rule, then the prophet of Islam, reportedly, ordered the execution.

 

For the classical scholars of Islam, this incident made stoning a part of the "sunna" (tradition) of the prophet. For more reformist Muslims, including me, it was just an ad hoc adoption of temporal realities. The early Muslim community indeed adopted many customs from various pre-existing cultures, including Judaism, and not always with negative results. (I am fine, for example, with my circumcision.) There is even an Islamic field of study about this matter called "Israiliyat," which can help Mr. Bekdil to get a little more nuanced than the if-you-say-stoning-came-from-Judaism-then-you-are-an-antisemite sort of logic.

 

Unfortunately for Mr. Bekdil, the same complexities are also valid for Quranic exegesis. He quoted a few negative Quranic verses about Jews and Christians and inferred from them a negative Islamic stance. A trained Islamic scholar, however, would look at the contexts of each verse, see which actions of Jews and Christians in question were referred to, and also compare them with other relevant verses of the Quran.

 

This particular verse, for example, puts the oft-quoted "do not take the Jews and Christians as your friends" commandment into perspective: "God merely forbids you from taking as friends those who have fought you in religion, and driven you from your homes and who supported your expulsion," (60:9).

 

However, the two seemingly opposite groups – the Islamists who hate non-Muslims, and the anti-Islamists who hate Islam – always cherry-pick the verses which they can use to show the Quran as a belligerent book. And when you show these people that there are better ways of interpretation, you get heat from both sides. The Islamists accuse you for "trying to soften Islam" to serve the infidels. The anti-Islamists, on the other hand, accuse you for "trying to whitewash Islam" to fool the infidels.

 

Get me the authority!

 

Although I sometimes detect the latter tendency in Mr. Bekdil's writing, I also think the problem comes from his honest desire to find quick and simple answers to his queries about Islam. That's probably why he was asking me, "Who is the ultimate authority to decide which verses can be re-interpreted and which ones cannot?"

 

Well, the answer is that there is no such ultimate authority in Islam. There has never been any. This is not Catholicism.

 

However, there has been at least a political authority since the prophet, which could have evolved in the modern times into something like what Mr. Bekdil is asking for: the Caliphate. But guess who destroyed it.

 

So, the world of Islam is really complicated, Mr. Bekdil – and even your anti-Islamist friends have a hand in that.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

CARICATURCA 2010

JOOST LAGENDIJK

 

It is a cliché but, as with other worn-out phrases, there is a lot of truth to it: one cartoon can have more impact than a thousand words. For a columnist like myself, that might be an alarming message. But one cannot escape the accuracy of this observation when one walks around Caricaturca 2010, an exhibition of Turkish, Dutch, German and Swiss cartoons, which is now on display in Tütün Deposu in Tophane, Istanbul.

 

The exposition is the follow-up to a similar showing two years ago in the Press Museum in Amsterdam, organized by Röportaj, a Dutch foundation working for freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Turkey. In the Netherlands the emphasis was on the Turkish cartoons that got some of the cartoonists into problems.

 

Remember the cartoon by Musa Kart in daily Cumhuriyet that depicted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a cat and another one in daily Evrensel by Sefer Selvi showing Erdoğan's advisor riding the prime minister piggyback. The AKP leader was not amused and took both cartoonists to court. In the end, the courts rejected both cases but these and other cases against Leman and Penguen magazines were enough to seriously worry those who are fighting against censorship in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe. The exhibition in Amsterdam was a good occasion to express those fears.

 

The present one in Tophane is bigger and has higher ambitions. It shows how in different countries cartoonists find ways to express criticism of their governments but also manage to use cartoons to focus on issues that are common to all Europeans: religion, integration, war and peace. That may all sound quite grim but be sure, when you walk around, you will be smiling most of the time, admiring the creativity and the sense of humor of the cartoonists.

 

Let me give you one example, the cartoon by Tom Janssen, one of the leading Dutch cartoonists, printed in this column. As you know, libraries have been written about the problems that Turkey is having in getting into the European Union. Academic analysis, punchy columns and hard to read official documents. In most writings, the EU is seen as an arrogant and powerful entity that does not want to share its riches with poor Turkey. The cartoon shows another side of the same story, the way many ordinary Europeans perceive the future EU membership of Turkey. They are afraid and hide when big and bulky Turkey knocks on the door to get in.

 

Don't miss your chance, go to Tophane before Aug. 8 and see for yourself how cartoons can make you laugh and force you to think.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

AZERI-US RELATIONS: 'PROMISES NOT ENOUGH'

CEM OĞUZ

BAKU

 

BAKU - "I am aware of the fact that there are serious issues in our relationship, but I am confident that we can

address them," says U.S. President Barack Obama in his letter of June 3, 2010, to President İlham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.

 

The letter was presented to Aliyev by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a visit to Baku in early June that was described by analysts as unexpected. Since the Armenian diaspora-driven Section 907 caveat to the notorious Freedom Support Act passed by Congress in 1992 that restricted all U.S. government-to-government aid to Azerbaijan, Azeri-U.S relations have always been turbulent. But they soured once more when Aliyev, despite Baku's potential role in non-proliferation efforts, was not invited to the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April, which was actually attended by all of Azerbaijan's neighbors except Iran.

 

Azerbaijan may not have acquired the attention of the U.S. it essentially deserves, but nowadays its strategic importance is undeniably on the rise. It is first and foremost Afghanistan where Baku plays a vital role. The country serves as an important transit point for all supplies going into Afghanistan. Since 2001, tens of thousands of military aircraft and trucks have crossed Azerbaijan carrying U.S. and NATO forces and equipment. Independent analysts maintain that the purpose of Gates' visit thus was part of Washington's efforts to avoid problems that could slow Obama's plans for a surge of 30,000 additional troops.

 

Gates' visit was soon followed by that of Hillary Clinton, the U.S. secretary of state. The agenda this time was stability in the South Caucasus, which is actually strictly dependent on finding a peaceful resolution to the mountainous Karabakh conflict.

 

In the letter, President Obama maintained that "support for this outcome will remain a priority for the United States." In order to gauge the local perspective, I asked every single Azeri authority I spoke with whether Clinton's visit may be interpreted as having demonstrated willingness in that regard. The answers were almost unanimously negative. "As usual," said one senior Azeri authority, "American sensitivity goes not beyond rhetoric. And we are fed up with promises that are never kept."

 

"We want to avoid steps that may divert us from our path of economic development and are ready to contribute to regional welfare," said another high-level Azeri authority. He then drew my attention to an example that well illustrates current progress: After reminding me that all tank stations in Baku in the past were decorated with the signboards of Russian oil giant Lukoil, he proudly pointed out that the number of tank stations that SOCAR, the Azeri state oil company, has even in Georgia today has reached 27 in total. However he wrapped things up by saying, "We want justice restored. We want our territories back."

 

Azerbaijan today is indeed quite a different place than it was 10 years ago. But I am afraid to say the Obama administration has obviously failed to understand this and there is a growing belief among the Azeri public regarding Washington's "neglect" toward Azerbaijan. The fact that there has not been a U.S. ambassador to Baku for more than a year actually speaks volumes. Recently, Matthew Bryza was finally nominated for the job, but he is still not confirmed.

 

The acid test for U.S.-Azeri relations in the coming days will undeniably be this issue. I really wonder whether Bryza will manage to get on the plane to Baku.

 

Otherwise, how can the serious issues that President Obama mentions actually be addressed?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

A FISCAL OF LIRAS

EMRE DELİVELİ

EMRE.DELIVELI@GMAIL.COM

 

This past week was not a good one for fiscal optimists, with the release of the June central government budget figures and the surprising piece of news that the fiscal rule had been postponed until October.

 

If you are to believe the majority of research reports, fiscal performance remains strong. It sure does, if you forget that the 23 percent yearly increase in tax revenues is mostly due to the weak base of last year. With the pace of growth slowing down and base effects dying out, tax collection is not likely to be as strong going forward.

 

On the other hand, there is some increase in non-interest expenditures on the back of transfers to social security institutions and local governments. I try not to make too much of one month of data, but it is nevertheless my civic duty to note that those two items recorded their highest levels this year.

 

It is also important to emphasize that the unassuming end-year target of 0.3 percent of GDP consolidated government sector, or CGS, primary deficit is likely to be met, although CGS is already roughly in balance, according to your friendly neighborhood economist's calculations. But it is exactly this modest goal that has been threatening the viability of the fiscal rule, which was brushed under the carpet at least until October.

 

Coincidence or design

 

Using the formula for the fiscal rule, this year's deficit goal and growth forecasts of 6 percent and 4 percent for this year and the next, it turns out that the government would have to make around 3 percent of adjustment in 2011 - an election year. Since most of the adjustment in the fiscal rule is front-loaded by design, a more aggressive adjustment for this year would have meant a realistic one for the election year. In other words, the government has shot itself in the foot with this year's fiscal goal.

 

Such a lax target does not make sense in terms of economics, either. The IMF actuallywarned implicitly and as tactfully as it could at end of May by stating that, while suitable when conceived in the midst of the crisis, the ambition of the 2010 primary balance target had been overtaken by the stronger 2009 outturn and upward revisions to 2010 growth and inflation forecasts. According to the Fund, adhering to the original target would now imply no structural improvement this year, while macroeconomic conditions and external developments argued for a structural tightening. But a word is enough to the wise, while drums and clarions would be insufficient to the unwise.

 

Anyway, it would not be too much to assume that the PM's advisers know enough Excel to have gone through these calculations and might have been tempted to advise on the enactment of the fiscal rule after the elections. I declared the fiscal rule as dead before it was born, but such a complete U-turn would surprise even a disciple of the dismal science like me and rattle markets.

 

As I argued back in September, the cost of messing up the fiscal rule would be enormous, much more than having no rule at all. In this regard, the Medium-Term Economic Program would need to be disclosed as soon as possible, with growth and deficit projections realistic as well as in line with the fiscal rule. That would soothe markets ahead of a heavy Treasury redemption schedule. Then, we'll have to wait until October to see if the fiscal rule would be enacted then and whether the 2011 budget would be in line with the fiscal rule and Program projections.

 

I really would like to stay optimistic and give the benefit of doubt to the government, but you know what they say: First time's an accident, second time's a coincidence, third time's a trend. This past week took us beyond the first two posts already.

 

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at http://emredeliveli.blogspot.com.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

POST-ERDOĞAN SCENARIO

YUSUF KANLI

 

The political corridors of Ankara are flooded once again with a speculative scenario. According to that rather "innovative" scenario some recent developments that have indeed created some tremors in Turkish politics and brought about some serious changes in the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP and landed the Felicity Party, or SP, of Numan Kurtulmuş at the verge of a split were all somehow related to that set-up.

 

The claim is that in the summer of 2012, that is almost in two years time from now, when the five-year presidential tenure of President Abdullah Gül comes to an end Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will run for the presidency in the first-ever popular election of the president. The scenario, of course, is based on the assumption that Erdoğan will be elected president. Really? Who can guarantee that in election in two years time Erdoğan will maintain his popularity, no other candidate with strong popular backing will emerge, and the prime minister will be elected the president? Anyhow, that's the assumption.

 

Before Erdoğan becomes the president and vacates the prime ministry and the chairmanship of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, that is during the next two-year period, SP chairman Numan Kurtulmuş will not only consolidate his leadership in the SP and get rid of the die-hard loyalists of Necmettin Erbakan and his National View movement but also steer the SP towards merger with the AKP.

 

While it is a fact that before Kurtulmuş accepted an invitation from Erbakan and joined the SP to become its "new young chairman" Erdoğan and his AKP had worked intensely to convince him join the AKP. That is for the AKP and its current leadership Kurtulmuş – who they considered like themselves belonged to the "reformist" flank of political Islam – was a welcome personality. Yet, at the time Kurtulmuş preferred to be the chairman of the small SP loyal to Erbakan rather than becoming a member of the Erdoğan's "dissident" clan.

 

According to the speculation, after Erdoğan's ascend to the presidency Kurtulmuş will emerge as the strongest leadership candidate in the post-Erdoğan AKP and thus would assume the prime ministry besides party chairmanship. Too many "ifs" are not there? What will happen to Gül? Will he not want to be reelected? Is not there a probability of Gül and Erdoğan clashing over presidential candidacy? Would not the third strongest man of the AKP, former Parliament Speaker Bülent Arınç try to make best use of the opportunity? Why would Gül, Arınç and other eminent figures within the AKP step aside and leave the chairmanship to a new comer Kurtulmuş – even if he comes? Besides, who guarantees that the AKP will emerge as strong as it is now in the 2011 parliamentary elections and would still be in power when the country goes to 2012 presidential elections?

 

Here comes the other leg of the speculation. It is being claimed that the sex-tape scandal that forced CHP chairman Deniz Baykal step down from the leadership of the main opposition party and emergence of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as the "new hope" to carry Turkish social democrats to governance after a very long period – since 1950 the CHP could not come to power alone – was as well part of this scenario written by some people "across the Atlantic." Accordingly, if the AKP cannot come to power alone in the next elections or somehow in between the elections and the presidential elections some deputies of the AKP defect to a new Erbakan-loyalist party or to the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and the AKP no longer had sufficient parliamentary strength to form a single party government, an AKP-CHP coalition government would be forged under the leadership of Kurtulmuş.

 

Indeed, according those who believe in the scenario, Erbakan has saw this scenario and that was why he tried to restrict the advance of Kurtulmuş within the SP in the party convention, but badly failed. Yet, Erbakan has not yet given up and would do whatever possible to carry the SP to an extraordinary convention which he hoped would install some of his die-hard supporters to key positions of the party and thus prevent Kurtulmuş consolidate his leadership. Though reasonable and indeed help translate the latest turmoil in the SP, the real problem in the SP appears to be Erbakan's refusal to concede the reality: He is too old, too ill to make a new beginning.

 

All in all, this scenario appears to be written by the MHP to avenge the 2007 scary scenario written by the AKP that if the nation did not bring it power alone the alternative would be a CHP-MHP coalition. That scary scenario worked and the AKP came back even with a higher support from the electorate scared of such a coalition government. Now, there is a marked increase in people's support for the CHP while the MHP is apparently on the decline. MHP might be just trying to tell people that if they wanted to see an end to AKP rule, they should for MHP and not to CHP as there is the probability of an AKP-CHP coalition.

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

 EDITORIAL

RWANDA: KAGAME'S DILEMMA

BY GWYNNE DYER

 

Did Paul Kagame really stop the genocide in Rwanda sixteen years ago, or did he just interrupt it for a while? That question frightens him so much that he will not risk everything on the outcome of a democratic election. 

 

Kagame is running for re-election to the presidency of the traumatized Central African country next month. If economic success automatically brought political success he would be a shoo-in: Rwanda's economy grew by 11 percent last year. But in fact, his resounding election victory in 2003 was the result of ruthless manipulation, and this one will be the same. 


In recent months, opposition party leaders in Rwanda have been arrested and charged with denying the genocide. An opposition newspaper was banned and its co-editors attacked (one died, one survived). Leading generals in the Rwandan army have been arrested or have fled into exile. (One was wounded last month in an attempted hit in South Africa.) So is Kagame over-reacting? Maybe. 


If you cut Paul Kagame open, you would find engraved on his heart William Faulkner's terrible truth: "The past is never dead. It's not even past." One-tenth of Rwanda's population -- at least 800,000 people, Tutsis and those who tried to protect them -- were murdered by their neighbors, mostly with machetes, only sixteen years ago. 


Not nearly enough time has passed yet for generational turnover to take the edge off the grief and the hate. Everybody pretends it's over, but of course it isn't. How could it be? 


Kagame's whole life has been shaped by genocide. He grew up in Uganda, where his parents fled when an earlier wave of violence killed about 100,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in the early 1960s. He became the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a mainly Tutsi exile organization dedicated to overthrowing the Hutu extremists who ruled the country, and he led the RPF army that marched in to stop the great genocide of 1994. 


He knows, of course, that Tutsis and Hutus are not really separate ethnic groups. All of Rwanda's nineteen major clans includes both Tutsis and Hutus. They speak the same language and they live in the same villages. The term once distinguished cattle-herders from farmers, and later the wealthy from the poor. Rich Hutus could become Tutsis – but the Tutsis naturally always remained a minority of the population. 


He also knows, however, that the colonial authorities exploited those class differences and gave the Tutsis political authority over the Hutus in return for their loyalty. By the later 20th century the Tutsis and Hutus had become ethnic groups for all practical purposes, with a constant undercurrent of resentment by the Hutus against the Tutsis. After independence in 1960, the killing got underway very quickly. It peaked in 1994. 


This past will not leave Rwanda alone. The very words "Tutsi" and "Hutu" have now been banned in Rwanda, but a ministerial investigation in 2008 found anti-Tutsi graffiti and harassment of Tutsi students in most of the schools that were visited. The army is exclusively Tutsi and the government almost entirely so, because Kagame does not really believe that this generation of Hutus can be trusted. 

To make his position even more precarious, Tutsi solidarity is breaking down. The arrests, exile and attempted assassination of various generals may be in response to real plots. Most Tutsi generals belong to the Nyiginya clan, which traditionally provided the country's king. Paul Kagame is from the Umwega clan, and some of the Nyiginya think that power has remained in the wrong hands for too long. 


It is an awful situation, and Kagame has only one strategy for avoiding a return to genocide: hang onto power, and hope that rapid economic growth and the passage of time will eventually blur the identities and blunt the reflexes that have made this generation of Rwandans so dangerous to one another. 


His model is Singapore, an ethnically complex state that avoided too much democracy during the early decades of its dash for growth. If Rwanda could become the Singapore of Central Africa, then maybe its citizens would eventually come to believe that their stake in the country's new stability and prosperity was more important than the history. But Singapore did not have so far to travel, and its history was not drowned in blood. 


The logic of Kagame's strategy obliges him to stay in power: his first duty is to Rwanda's Tutsis, at least half of whom have already been murdered. But he must provide prosperity to the Hutu majority too, in order to reconcile them to Tutsi survival, and his relatively corruption-free government has made impressive progress towards that goal. 


Nevertheless, in a free election today most Rwandans would vote along ethnic lines. His Rwandan Patriotic Front would instantly be replaced by a Hutu-led regime of unknowable character and purpose. He dares not risk it, so real democracy is not an option. 


If Paul Kagame is now killing opposition journalists and dissident generals, then he is making a dreadful and probably fatal mistake, but it may not be him. In the ruthlessly Machiavellian world of Rwandan politics, other possibilities also exist. Either way, he has the loneliest, scariest job in the world, and he must know that the odds are long against him 

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SHORT OF SUGAR

 

As the holy month of Ramadan approaches it would be inconsistent if somewhere somebody had not manufactured a crisis related to a vital commodity that will affect all and sundry. This year it is to be sugar that may be the crisis of choice, with the more pessimistic of pundits predicting that its price may rise to Rs100 or more per kilo. The tale is one of good intent gone bad and calls into question the competencies of those at the top of the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP). It appears that the $50 million contract that the TCP made with a Chinese import company for 100,000 metric tons of the sweet stuff may not be fulfilled despite their having been granted an extension of the deadline for the first delivery. Do not for one moment deceive yourself that the sugar is en-route from China because it is not; it is coming from South America, Brazil to be precise, and our embassy there has confirmed that the port from which the sugar is to leave is congested and delays are likely. So how has the TCP got itself – and us – into this bitter-sweet tangle?


Perhaps the first thing to understand is that there is no Plan B, and the government is in a bit of a tizzy as there is no secret stock of sugar which may be fed into the markets to prevent a shortfall. An unintended consequence is almost certain to be a ballooning of local prices and the hoarding of what stocks there are. The chairman of the TCP has called an emergency meeting for Saturday, the outcome of which we are as yet unaware, but during which he is expected to cancel the contracts awarded to Yunnan and Sadat and further seek damages from them for their failure to fulfil the order. The Chinese had won the order after putting in a tender so low that it practically gave a heart attack to our indigenous sugar importers and a $50 million credit line was opened to them through the National Bank of Pakistan. Had the deal come off we might have saved ourselves as much as $10 million on a single contract. The Chinese may lose the $1 million earnest money that they deposited but the sugar, if it ever arrives, is going to be costly; certainly more than the $488 per metric tonne that was quoted against a market rate above $700 per metric tonne. That a figure so far below the market rate was accepted as credible by the TCP and, what is more, accepted from an importer who has previously defaulted, makes one wonder if there may be a few fake economics degrees held by the directors of the TCP. We now await the reports of pre-shipment inspection companies, but the word circulating in official circles is that the TCP, via a basket of failed contracts, has incurred losses of Rs4.5 billion. And the sugar? Still in Brazil.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

RAIL WOES

 

There are 5,072 miles (8,163kms) of railways in Pakistan and they are gradually falling apart. The death of our railway system is one of the great post-colonial tragedies, and is in stark contrast to the story in India where the state rail company turns a healthy profit and the network is expanding all the time. Ours is contracting and the latest contraction involves the suspension of six more passenger services due to what are said to be financial hardships faced by the railway service. In recent years there has been a succession of inept managers at the top – remember Sheikh Rashid and his proposed bullet train? – and the current lot are no exception. The General Manager of Pakistan Rail speaking to a private TV channel on Saturday said that these six trains were incurring a loss of Rs1.5 billion annually, and that the engines used to haul them would be better employed pulling the 60 freight trains stuck at various locations for lack of motive power.


Just as the news of cutbacks was breaking so was news of new acquisitions. China is to supply 75 locomotives to Pakistan over the next 45 months and an agreement has been signed with a Chinese bank to finance the deal. This contradicts reports in some parts of the media to the effect that the agreement to purchase had been retracted – and once again confusion reigns. There is still a PC1 floating somewhere in the ether relating to the purchase of 150 locomotives from the USA in order to meet our operational requirements; and meanwhile the platforms are crowded with passengers awaiting trains that might take years, never mind hours or days, to show up. We used to be proud of our railways, as proud as we were of our national airline. Sadly, both have fallen into wrack and ruin. If we could now manage to disable the entire road network we would have completed a job of destruction that would bring joy to the hearts of our enemies.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

EXPLOSIVE CONDUCT

 

The blowing up of two men who the Taliban had accused of being spies for the US in a North Waziristan village continues the brutal summary executions that have taken place periodically across the conflict zone. A couple of months ago, two other victims had been killed in identical fashion in the same area. We have also had incidents of amputation, beheadings and other bizarre punishments. Though the authorities emphasize that much of the north has been 'cleared' of militants, there is no apparent end in sight to such acts. Sometimes one wonders if any kind of law exists at all in these parts. Certainly, past investigations have shown it is the vulnerable who are most often targeted by those who wield power.


The time has come to review the state of fighting in the north. Over a year after it got underway in earnest we should ask ourselves how much has in fact been gained. We need honest answers. There can be no shying away from these. The fact for now is that we see continued violence virtually on a day to day basis. Suicide attacks, blasts in bazaars and explosions in buses have all been reported within days. These acts set the backdrop to the series of extrajudicial killings by those who have taken the law, and the lives of people into their own hands. We need to snatch these away from the militants so they can be returned to civilians and their right to live free of fear restored.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE GHOSTS OF KASHMIR

AIJAZ ZAKA SYED


It looks like only yesterday that Omar Abdullah was elected amid much fanfare and crowned as Jammu and Kashmir chief minister. Rahul Gandhi, probably India's next prime minister, personally campaigned for Omar. When Omar and Rahul hugged each other amid much cheering and sloganeering in Srinagar, we were all euphoric.

It felt rather good to identify with the two young leaders representing a new India. No wonder every television network vied with each other to have Omar as a guest in their primetime slot. The guy has the gift of the gab, even if he isn't in the league of his legendary grandfather, or even his doctor father known for his weakness for good life.


Today, India's youngest chief minister is fighting for survival. He was struggling for words in his rather sombre interview with NDTV's Barkha Dutt this week. Omar looks like his own ghost, a paler version of his flamboyant self. Gone are the gravitas and chutzpah. I almost feel sorry for him as he assured Barkha he doesn't have "time to introspect" if he has made "any mistakes."


But introspect Omar Abdullah must: why's Kashmir burning and how he squandered the goodwill and euphoria he earned himself only two summers ago? The army is back on the streets of Srinagar after 15 years in a desperate attempt to rein in violent protests and clashes with security forces that have rocked the state for months now. 


Thanks to the endless curfew and the army's deployment, the government may have managed to enforce some semblance of order. But this uneasy quiet could be the proverbial lull before the storm.


Under the watchful gaze of the army, the unrest may appear to have settled down for now. But as Barkha says, "It's like trying to cover a boiling cauldron of water — sooner or later, it will spill over."


Kashmir increasingly looks like Gaza, even if the comparison isn't politically correct, with angry, stone-pelting kids and youth clashing with the security forces. Since January, scores of young boys have died in police firing, one after another, constantly rocking the valley and bringing thousands of people out on the streets.


In fact, the army was brought out on the streets only after Delhi realised the situation had gotten out of the hands of the hopelessly clueless chief minister. Even as the angry Kashmiris protested over dying youth and more died in the process, Omar talked about the "war of ideas" being fought on the streets of Srinagar, defending the killings by blaming the protesters. "They're provoking security forces by pelting stones," he pointed out to the BBC.


Provocative the stone-pelting protesters may be. But is this how you respond to protests in a democratic society? Violent demonstrations of this kind are hardly unusual in other parts of the world's largest democracy. Not just stone pelting but from burning buses to derailing trains to roughing up public figures, just about everything is de rigeur. No protester is shot dead though. At least, I don't recall anyone dying in police firing in recent memory. 


So why's this honour exclusive to Kashmiris? Why are we ever ready to respond to the slightest provocations with bullets? When will we realise that with every bullet fired, we are driving more and more Kashmiris away? How long will we stand and stare while the valley burns and its people punished for being born in this beautiful prison? When will our politicians and democratic institutions and civil society wake up to the tragedy of Kashmir?

The current wave of protests is even more dangerous than the mayhem of the 1990s. Because even at the height of the militancy in the 1990s, there was a government in place in Srinagar and it controlled the administration including security forces. Today, it seems, there's no government, no authority, no rule of law in the state despite the heavy presence of security forces. More important, security forces are not fighting the militants sent from across the border as they did back then.


Today, guns have given way to stones and street protests. And as history of another distant conflict would tell you, fighting guns with guns and violence with greater violence is any day easier than fighting the humble but more potent stones of the protester. 


Omar blames Hurriyat and the opposition PDP for encouraging protests. Home Minister Chidambaram and the opposition BJP agree the protests are being orchestrated by forces from across the border.


Statements like these not just insult the intelligence of Kashmiri people but also add fuel to the cauldron that is the valley. Especially when for the first time the valley protests have evoked no response from Pakistanis, who are busy fighting the fires closer to home. Most Pakistani papers haven't had a Kashmir story on their front pages for months now, a fact registered wryly by a BBC commentator. 


Kashmir is burning because of the decades of failed policies and actions of the short-sighted, self-serving politicians in Srinagar, Delhi and Islamabad. This surge of violence and protests, ostensibly in response to police firings and faked encounters, is actually a result of decades of suppression, injustice and deprivation.


The long pent-up volcano of Kashmiri anger and frustration has burst open. And it threatens to consume everyone and everything in its path.


This is a movement that is now not in anyone's control, not the dithering Hurriyat, not the PDP, not even Pakistan. This is a people's protest, a protest against their own leaders for letting them down, against Pakistan for exploiting them and a protest against Delhi for not keeping its promises all these years.


What Kashmir urgently needs is a healing touch and some dramatic, bold steps by the government in Delhi. If India is keen to win back Kashmiris, perhaps Congress President Sonia Gandhi, not Manmohan Singh, should visit the valley and talk to ordinary people, especially those who have lost their loved ones over the past few months.

As a mother and as a woman who's lost her own husband to violence, she'd bring the soft touch that the valley badly needs. She has already won a billion hearts with her act of self-denial. She could win Kashmiri hearts and minds too by reaching out to an alienated and angry people. Mere rhetoric and empty gestures won't work anymore though.


The first step to peace and normalcy in Kashmir is a normal approach to the state: that is, stop treating it like a war zone and get more than half a million troops deployed there out. Secondly, and more importantly, start talking to both Kashmiri leadership and Pakistan to sort out this mess once and for all. I mean, real and meaningful talks, not the kind of photo opportunities we have had so far. This is the only way to bring peace to this breathtakingly beautiful, but cursed land.

The K knot came closest to resolution under Vajpayee and Musharraf notwithstanding the BJP's and the general's hawkish posturing and tough rhetoric. When the Congress coalition took over, many thought it would carry forward the initiative. But it was not to be. The Congress hasn't quite mustered the courage. Under Sonia and Manmohan Singh though, the UPA government has a historic opportunity to put the ghosts of Kashmir to rest forever and gift South Asia a lasting legacy of peace. Soft borders, greater autonomy or a special status recognised by India and Pakistan… some solution ought to, and must, work for God's sake! Kashmir deserves a break now.


The writer is opinion editor of the Khaleej Times. Email: aijaz@ khaleejtimes.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CULTURE CHANGE

CHRIS CORK


There is something of a slightly sinful pleasure in seeing the holders of fake degrees exposed, with the numbers going up by the day. It is variously talked of as a 'scandal' or a 'crisis' and those of us that scribble for a living have had great sport sticking pins in the men and women whose duplicity is exposed. The usual conspiracy theories get trotted out with the current favourite being that this is all a plot to provoke a mid-term poll and bring about a change of government. Does it look like it's going to happen? No – and never did. The most likely scenario is that the current government will stagger its way to the next election and then be roundly defeated by a very disappointed electorate. They will be replaced by another group of dynasts who promise jam tomorrow but never jam today and the cycle will continue – but maybe with a difference.


In under three years time I will celebrate my twentieth year of contact with Pakistan and will have lived and worked here for much of that time. Like most long-term observers I have seen a gradual decline in the integrity of Pakistan as a state at just about every level – or at every level I have regular contact with. I have met corruption and deceit on a grand scale whilst working in the NGO sector, been aware of contracts fraudulently obtained, of backhanders being paid and of my own direct contact with the wonderful world of corruption.

I recall sitting across from a senior official in Kashmir and Northern Affairs Division who said, without batting an eyelid, that it was going to cost me Rs20,000 for him to write a 'No objection Certificate' which would enable my visa renewal. Then there was the senior officer in a well-known international NGO who had an interest in the building of a local school who wanted me to hand over a grant cheque to him and his pals in a hotel in Gilgit – rather than to a representative of the community in public view on the school playground. Yet another – a politician this time – who put a fat envelope on my desk and indicated that this was in exchange for me giving his son who I knew and had all the intellectual capacity of a goldfish – a job.


Refusal of each brought me considerable difficulty. I had to leave the country at short notice and re-apply for another visa from the UK. The man who I refused to give the cheque to retaliated by claiming at a very senior level that I was a Jewish spy (I have never made a secret of my atheism and can do nothing whatsoever about the spy thing because most people I meet – including my immediate colleagues in the office – assume I am a spy) with consequences that I still bump into today. The politician that I offended by not giving a job to his useless son did all he could to make life difficult for me and my family for years afterwards.


My experiences will not be much different to anybody else who has worked at a senior level in the aid business here or been involved in anything that had large sums of money or influence attached to it.


'This is Pakistan' they say with a shrug and a smile – and I wonder how often I have heard that over the years. 'This is Pakistan' and you just have to accept it. This is the way we do things here… pay up.


Challenging that assumption is never an option or at least only an option if you are prepared to put up with some industrial-strength harassment – or is it?


The origins of the fake-degree issue lie in the culture of dishonesty at every level of society that is decades old. Over time there has become a perversion of traditional normative values, a blurring of the distinction between 'right' and 'wrong' – and a strong tendency to lie if found out in any falsehood, thus compounding the moral value failure. I find this twisted culture everywhere I go, it is not limited to the rich and powerful though they are perhaps the most fluent of its exponents. But nothing is immutable, and as the numbers of fake-degree holders in parliament and the provincial assemblies grow there is something happening that gives me a glimmer of hope. The ripple effect.


Suddenly, universities are thinking it might be a good idea to check the authenticity of the academic credentials of their faculty members; suddenly there are lawyers some of whom have practised for decades, shown to have degrees that are not worth the paper they are printed on. It is not going to be long before there is a tightening of recruitment procedures in the civil service – and come the next election any potential candidate needs to make very sure that their 'A' level in biology is the real deal. What we may – and you will have to permit me a minor outbreak of optimism – be seeing is a growing confidence to challenge the orthodoxy of corruption.


Hitherto there has been no space in which it was safe to make that challenge, no space in which there was room for an alternative narrative that spoke to a higher set of values than the ones currently in play. If we can begin to clean up our parliament and provincial assemblies, have properly-qualified men and women teaching in our universities and civil servants who believe that 'ethics' need to be internalised rather than filed in the waste-paper basket – then we might be on to something. If we can begin to reset the checks and balances, to restore in the collective mind a clear difference between 'right' and 'wrong' and the importance of doing the former rather than the latter, then something at least can be salvaged from the wreckage.


Now where did I put that file with my academic certificates in?


The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@ gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ADVICE, HELP AND HYPOCRISY

DR A Q KHAN


In some of my previous columns I had written about Bhopal (the place of my birth), the beautiful parks, lakes and forests and the respect and affection among the people. It is now 58 years since I left Bhopal for my new homeland–Pakistan–but that state, its natural beauty, my friends, my teachers are still as fresh in my memory today as the streets, markets, parks and restaurants of Karachi and Islamabad. Bhopalis are just as fond of their city as Lahoris and Karachiites are of Lahore and Karachi.


In Bhopal we had many famous literary figures and some of the humorous writers and poets were a treat to read and listen to in recitals. One of these was a poet by the name of Abdul Ahad Khan Takhallus. He once wrote that the easiest and cheapest thing is to offer advice or suggestions, whether the other person likes it or not and whether they are asked for or not. He went on to say that sometimes a well-wisher's sweet words or advice are a welcome source of consolation.


When someone is sick, it is a tradition in our culture for visitors, friends and relatives to bombard that person with all kinds of advice on treatments and medicines. If the patient follows them, the chances are that both the ailment and the patient will leave the world simultaneously.


This reminds one of doctors and hakims, who demand payment before dispensing advice. Their fees depend on their qualifications, experience and, above all, reputation. Usually blood and urine tests and X-rays are prescribed immediately, and often unnecessarily. It is now common practice for laboratories carrying out these tests to be associated with the doctors. Very often medicines have to be purchased from specific chemists. Fees paid, tests carried out, consultancy done and medicine prescribed, all that is left is for the patient to hope that it all works. 


When we started the enrichment plant at Kahuta, one of my senior colleagues, on deputation from a defence organisation, informed me that an accountant from his organisation had set up a nursing home in Rawalpindi. It also had a testing laboratory and he had hired a few doctors and was now minting money. By coincidence, one of my staff members was admitted there and I paid a visit to him. I was horrified to see how dirty the place was, with flies swarming all over the place. The next day I instructed our medical officer, Col Shamsul Hasan, to hire two big houses in F-8, some nursing staff and a few doctors to provide medical care to our staff. That was the beginning of our medical services. We then purchased a large plot of land from the CDA in G-9 for larger facilities. The task of building the hospital was entrusted to Brig Dr Riaz Ahmed Chowhan (later lieutenant general and surgeon general of the army). 


The second groups of those who give expensive advice are lawyers, who are often accused of fleecing their clients on one pretext or another. Most people feel that they intentionally prolong cases and charge separately for each hearing in order to make more money. The fee depends on the individual lawyer's reputation about winning cases and about having the "necessary connections." Most senior lawyers hire junior lawyers or have interns to prepare the cases with all the proper references and criminal codes, while they examine the completed case and then argue it in court. If they lose the case, the client is encouraged and given hope that it will be won upon appeal. The client has no option but to go along, as by now he is in their firm grip. All that is left for him to do is put his faith in the Almighty and the judge. We all know that, as far as the fee is concerned, it is never according to the law–if there is such a thing. It usually comes in two parts–the official small amount and the larger amount under the table with no receipt. Recently, many scandals about "famous" lawyers have been reported. I personally know of a famous lawyer who asked one of my acquaintances, in my presence, to pay Rs2 million officially and Rs3 million unofficially into his London account. Fortunately for my acquaintance, an upright lawyer took his case and accepted Rs1 million only after he won the case for his client. The recent scandals concerning the Bank of Punjab and Haris Steel Mills have been an eye-opener to many.


Another category of people without scruples about lying or false promises (this time without charging fees) is that of politicians and national leaders. One is at a loss to understand how they manage to lie and cheat so blatantly and still manage to have a following. While doctors, pirs and lawyers do manage to hold out some hope for their patients and clients, political leaders have no such saving grace. Their policies often push the poor into committing suicide, as we can read in the papers every day, and all this when a democratic government is supposed to be the panacea for all evils. The decisions they take lack all consideration for the poor and give no consolation at all. 


Allah Almighty has warned: "Every nation has its term and when its term comes, they cannot put it off an hour, nor yet advance it." (7:34.) "Think not that Allah does not heed the deeds of the wrongdoers. He but gives them respite against a day when their eyes will fixedly stare in horror." (14:42.) "Do the people of the towns feel secure against the coming of Our wrath by night while they are asleep, or else do they feel secure against its coming in broad daylight while they are playing (carefree); do they feel secure against the plan (chastisement) of Allah? But no one can feel secure from the plan (wrath) of Allah, except those doomed to ruin." (7:97-99.) The worst "benefactors" are the World Bank and the IMF. Whoever accepts their advice gets choked with debts and becomes their slave forever.


I would like to stress here that I do not want to create the impression that all doctors, lawyers and politicians are cheats, deceitful, liars and blood-suckers. I personally know many fine, honest, competent and God-fearing ones who help the needy in all possible ways. Their noble deeds have gone a long way in securing the survival of the country. I am grateful to the many doctors, lawyers, hotel and restaurant owners and shopkeepers who have refused to receive any payment from me. 


There are many human beings who do noble deeds, but the actual Dispenser is the Almighty. He has explained this in the Quran in simple terms. "When trouble touches a man, he cries unto Us (in all postures)–lying down, on his side, or sitting or standing. But when We have solved his trouble, he passes on his way as if he had never cried to Us for a trouble that had touched him. Thus do the deeds of the transgressors seem fair in their eyes." (10:12.) No doubt, it is Allah Almighty who gives honour to whom He likes and ignominy to whom He wishes.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

KRISHNA'S CALLS

AHMED QURAISHI


Pakistan army chief's telephone calls from China back home were intercepted and recorded by the Indians in 1999. New Delhi went as far as releasing the intercepted calls publicly without concern that this action constituted an act of war. 


Islamabad and New Delhi were locked in a war on Kargil heights at the time. That's how the Indians justified the intercept.

 

The situation is worse now. India is evidently engaged in low-intensity warfare against Pakistan. The Indians have been found involved in terror inside Pakistan under the guise of religious extremists. 


In this situation, Pakistan should shed the weakness it has been showing for the past eight years and proactively show the world India's malicious intent in talks with Pakistan.


And the best place to start is by releasing the taped conversations that India's foreign minister and his aides had with unknown officials in New Delhi during the formal talks at the Pakistan Foreign Office on Thursday. 


If released publicy, these conversations will show how India sent its foreign minister to Pakistan without any mandate to restore the peace process. The conversations will also show that New Delhi planned on misleading the international opinion. It claimed it sent its foreign minister to Islamabad as a peace gesture when it had decided to scuttle the talks by precluding Kashmir from the agenda. 


The best evidence against the Indian government is the Indian attitude during the talks. It was almost as if the Indians came to dictate terms to a defeated party. Even our foreign minister, known to jump in excitement at the slightest contact especially with the Americans and Indians, was personally offended by Indian arrogance.


What Pakistani officials, both civil and military, need to understand is that this Indian arrogance is linked to the benefits that India continues to receive in Afghanistan from the United States and key figures in Kabul.

Pakistani officials are expected to share the findings on Mr. Krishna and his team with Mrs. Clinton today. But let's remember that despite all the charm offensive and the courting, Washington continues to remain oblivious at best to core Pakistani security interests, which were harmed in the first place by American duplicity in Afghanistan. 

Washington is only interested in a patch up between Pakistan and India so that Mr Zardari's government could sell to the Pakistanis the idea of an Indian role in Afghanistan. US officials continue to try to convince Pakistan to grant India the right to use Pakistani transportation routes to Afghanistan. All signs indicate that Mr Zardari and his team are open to the idea but are unable yet to take the Pakistani public opinion on board.


What Pakistan does not need at this stage is the kind of diplomacy that Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his government is practicing. It is preposterous that Mr Krishna got away with shameless posturing right inside the Foreign Office building — including saying Kashmir is part of India — while Mr Qureshi didn't utter a word in correction. Even the Americans, whom Mr Qureshi is supposedly trying to please, fare better. A WashPost story over the weekend made it a point to use the term 'Indian-held' territory to underscore its disputed status.

India described the visit of its foreign minister to Pakistan as a 'CBM'. It is time Pakistan politely turned down all CBMs. We have bent backwards for the Indians since the launch of Composite Dialogue in 2004. We know ordinary Pakistanis and Indians don't want war and we don't have to prove it through more CBMs. All probelms, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, are byproducts of the main conflict. Islamabad should deny India the benefit of delay tactics by indulging in CBMs.


It is time India is told to sit down and resolve the actual problems. That's the real test of sincerity and intent that India continues to fail. 


The writer works for Geo television. Email: aq@ahmedquraishi.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

KASHMIR: DEFUSING THE CRISIS

PRAFUL BIDWAI


The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights 


activist based in Delhi 


The protest wave that gripped the Kashmir Valley has abated with the calling in of the army. But public anger against the killing of 15 young Kashmiris, including a 9-year-old boy, isn't likely to vanish soon. The restoration of order has claimed a high price: the army had to be called into Kashmir for crowd control for the first time since the azaadi movement erupted in 1989. 


The Kashmir crisis has shown not just Chief Minister Omar Abdullah but the Indian state at its worst. Instead of defusing the turmoil by diplomacy and dialogue, the Home Ministry inflamed the situation with its crude militaristic approach. Absent remedial measures, popular alienation could again generate pervasive unrest and mass insurgency in Kashmir. 


The recent protests were triggered by the disclosure in May of the Machil "encounter", in which an army major had three innocent men killed. He falsely claimed they were terrorists. About the same time, the J&K government admitted, for the first time ever, that the army had forced civilians in North Kashmir into hard labour, night patrolling and other operations, without paying wages. 


According to independent MLA, Engineer Rashid, the entire male population of 24 villages was conscripted into "humiliating" forced labour for up to 13 years. The International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir recently claimed there are 2,700 unmarked graves in North Kashmir, containing 2,943 bodies.


Public anger at these disclosures erupted into an Intifadah-like movement. Youth pelted stones at police and Central Reserve Police Force troops. These retaliated by slinging stones, and worse, firing. This was impermissible: civilised police don't seek revenge against civilians.


Real trouble started on June 11, when the police fired a teargas shell at a 17-year-old student, Tufail Ahmad Mattoo, from close range, puncturing his skull and killing him. As protests snowballed, the CRPF became more brutal. On June 13, it beat up a 25 year-old man to death. It vengefully targeted teenagers in Srinagar, Sopore and Baramulla. On July 6, it hit a 17-year-old student in the head with rifle butts. It denied having arrested him. His body was found the next day. 


As mosques started belting out azaadi songs on loudspeakers, Abdullah panicked and called in the army, bowing to the home ministry's pressure. Harsh media censorship was imposed. Even Facebook messages were criminalised as "waging war" against the state. 


Yet, until July 12, nothing was done to soothe hurt sentiments or inquire into police excesses. Abdullah didn't mobilise his own MLAs or eminent citizens. He belatedly called a meeting of mainstream parties. The main opposition, the People's Democratic Party, boycotted it. Meanwhile, the home ministry accused separatists and the Lashkar-e-Taiba of orchestrating the protests. 


This was a red herring. The protests may not have all been spontaneous. But they undoubtedly reflected widespread resentment at state repression. The separatists and the PDP tried to exploit the crisis politically. But they didn't manufacture it. What triggered it was the CRPF-police brutality and the government's cynical attempt to cover up its mistakes. Abdullah was holidaying in Gulmarg as the protests gathered momentum. He only took a one-day break.


Abdullah is inexperienced in Kashmir politics and impervious to advice. He hasn't fulfilled his promise to set up elected local bodies (Kashmir has no district-level government). There's a yawning divide between the NC-Congress alliance and the people. Young protesters have filled the vacuum. The situation has presented the two factions of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, both in a shambles, an opportunity to revive themselves. 


However, India's central government is primarily responsible for the deterioration of the Kashmir situation. It's the centre which has deployed 4 million security personnel in the Valley. It defines the approach to security within which the state government operates.


The centre doesn't comprehend three fundamental realities: widespread disaffection in the Valley; the emergence of a young generation which grew up under militancy and counter-insurgency; and the futility of violent crowd-control methods.


Many in the Indian establishment interpreted the 60 per cent turnout in the 2008 J&K Assembly elections as popular approval of Kashmir's integration with India. True, the elections were largely free and fair. But the people probably voted in a more friendly local government which would buffer them from the centre. This shouldn't be confused with endorsement of the larger status quo.


Disaffection with India persists in J&K — although there is growing disenchantment with the militancy too. According to a first-of-its-kind survey of 3,700 people, conducted in September-October 2009 by the London-based Chatham House think-tank, less than 1 per cent of respondents in J&K endorse the status quo. Only 2 per cent of J&K's people want the state to accede to Pakistan. But support for integration with India is limited (28 per cent). 


As many as 43 per cent of J&K citizens prefer independence. The proportion is a high 75 to 95 per cent in the Valley. There's all-round opposition to militancy (84 to 96 per cent in the Valley) and good support for the India-Pakistan dialogue process: 55 per cent believe that dialogue improved security. The survey may not be perfect, but it's a good pointer. 


This situation offered India another opportunity to build peace in J&K and launch a dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue. Considerable progress towards resolution was made in 2008 — until the Mumbai attacks happened. 

 

t was imperative to explore a solution, even the second-best solution, acceptable to India, Pakistan, and the people of J&K and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. But New Delhi became complacent and lost the opportunity offered by the successful elections and Pakistan's recent withdrawal of large-scale support to the militancy. 

Second, recent violence, including the 2008 Amarnath yatra imbroglio, and protests against the 2009 Shopian "rape" and "murder" of two women, has followed tactical errors by the government. Mindless repression of protests, within a climate of distrust, created large-scale turmoil — even though the Shopian rape and murder didn't happen.


The new generation grew up in a climate of militancy and repression. Many have suffered deaths in the family or seen their mothers and sisters humiliated. Unemployment is rampant in the Valley and young people face a bleak prospect. The government hasn't created conditions for a better life for them. For them, pelting stones means defying the Indian state — necessary for self-esteem. 


Finally, the futility of violent crowd control. There's no excuse for firing on protesters armed with stones. The principal methods of crowd management must be non-lethal, including water-cannons, stun-guns, stink-bombs and tasers (which deliver a stunning, largely harmless, electric shock). Firing can only be the last resort, in self-defence. The targeting of individuals "to teach them a lesson" must be illegalised and exemplarily punished.


What J&K needs is healing — and restoration of long-denied citizen rights and freedoms. This can best begin with the scrapping of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and other draconian laws, releasing political prisoners, thinning out security forces, and retraining the state police. No less important is dialogue with Pakistan. 

Pakistan too faces a challenge — that of resisting the temptation to fish in Kashmir's troubled waters. It must behave like a responsible state and sincerely cooperate with India to resolve the Kashmir issue within a soft-borders formula. Such cooperative effort has become imperative.


Email: prafulbidwai1@yahoo.co.in

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE COLONIST WITHIN

MUSTAFA FAROOQ


As a Canadian Pakistani coming back to visit my family in Karachi, I was anxious to improve my Urdu skills. Hoping to volunteer in some capacity, I wanted to be able to better speak the language of the people. When learning Arabic in Egypt, I found that speaking English would earn dirty looks from some locals. The message there was clear: the British colonists had been evicted, and there was no reason to perpetuate the English language even as the prevalence of people speaking classical Arabic decreased. I found, though, that my experience in Karachi differed significantly. 


Sitting with some members of my extended family, I was trying to keep up with a conversation in Urdu about the eminent Pakistani subject of discussion: education. We were discussing what the school of choice should be for a younger member of the family. I was about to suggest that the best school would be one that helped cultivate the child into a healthy, fully flourishing individual with a passion for learning. However, I was interrupted by the child's parents, who proclaimed that they were considering one of Karachi's elite schools. Their reasoning was fascinating: they were delighted with the school because the principal "was a Canadian who couldn't speak a single word of Urdu". 


While the British may have left, the colonist within remains. As an English speaker without an accent, I automatically gain social capital, and by proxy special treatment. English, as well as whatever cultural traditions, is assumed to be "western", and reigns supreme as the ultimate end for many Pakistanis. This creates a massive divide among Pakistanis on all sides of the spectrum. On the one hand, conservative fundamentalists call for a violent move towards a narrow, warped version of Islam while on the other, an increasingly powerful, affluent, and educated sector pushes for an equally extremist move towards what is perceived to be "western", and opposes the discourse of Islam on principle. 


I say, "perceived to be western" for a reason. The irony is that many things perceived to be "western" are outdated, outmoded and thoroughly disliked in "western countries" like Canada. I had a recent discussion with a group of Karachi schoolboys who seemed to think that smoking was cool; at the same time, teens at my hometown high school thought people who smoked were losers. While Multiculturalism Canada attempts, to a certain extent, to make people more comfortable while wearing their ethnic clothes, prestigious clubs in Karachi ban shalwar-kameez on the running track. As academics, volunteers and politicians stand up for Aboriginal rights in Canada, my cousin's best-that-money-can-buy private school sends home textbooks filled with racist slurs against Native Americans. I do not intend to say that there is no smoking, no discrimination and no racism in Canada. At the same time, though, it is strange to see Karachiites vying for cultural objects that many people in the west are desperately fighting against. One day, as we drove in our air-conditioned car past burning piles of garbage in Korangi, I realised that there was a colonist within me as well. 


From an ivory tower of a classical education and a political-science background, it is easy to pass judgment. It is easy to look down and say, "hai hai", and to criticise the poverty, corruption and environmental degradation. It is quite another matter, though, to look forward with hope, without the mentality of a "white man's burden", and to fix the problem by looking at things with an open mind. To quote Iqbal, "I am a hidden meaning made to defy… As living, revolutionary clay".

 

The writer is a student at University of Alberta, Canada. Email: mfarooq1@ualberta.ca

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

OUR FRIENDS, FODP SHOULD PLEASE DO MORE

 

THE group of Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) had been meeting quite regularly and it was expected that it would extend substantial financial assistance to the country for its urgent energy, infrastructure and socio-economic development. Such an assistance could compensate for the losses the country continue to suffer due to its front line role in war on terror. Pakistan had waited for the release of assistance pledged at the Tokyo's donor conference during the last financial year but could receive only a small part of that.


At the meeting of Senior Officials in Islamabad on Saturday, the FoDP again applauded Pakistan's successes in containing and reversing militancy and terrorism and reiterated their commitments to Pakistan's socio-economic development. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who chaired the meeting emphasised for greater market access to Pakistani products in the FoDP countries and promotion of foreign investment in Pakistan that could provide a stimulus to our economy. US Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke asked the member countries to fulfill their pledges by October next before the Foreign Ministers conference in Brussels. Pakistan was to receive over $ 2 billion during 2009-10 out of the pledged over $ 5.2 billion but the actual disbursements were $ 1.7 billion. The short fall in releases put heavy burden on our budget and the development allocations had to be diverted to security operations and relief and rehabilitation of the IDPs. Because of this lackluster attitude of our friends, people of Pakistan got disappointed. At the Summit of the FoDP in New York that was jointly co-chaired by President Asif Ali Zardari, US President Barack Obama and the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Pakistani President said that there was need for stabilizing Pakistan economy through investment promotion, market access, capacity building of civilian institutions, investment in education and social sector for changing the mindset. These objectives cannot be achieved until and unless the international community come to the assistance of Pakistan which suffered losses of over $ 60 billion in the ongoing international fight against terrorism. It is encouraging that the Officials meeting in Islamabad accepted most of the proposals made by Islamabad for augmenting its energy resources. The proposals featured in a report prepared jointly by the Ministry of Water and Power and the Asian Development Bank estimated that the country would need atleast $ 22 billion for meeting its energy needs. We expect that as genuine friends of Pakistan they would do more by demonstrating the friendly gesture and honour their pledges to enable Pakistan get out of the very difficult socio-economic situation.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PEPCO FACES THE CHALLENGE

 

THE yawning gap between demand and supply of electricity and long hours of load shedding is causing a crushing blow to the economy while the common man is agitating in the streets. In this perspective certain initiatives by PEPCO are quite encouraging and new power projects initiated during the last two years have started adding electricity in the national grid. 


The PEPCO achieved another milestone when Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani inaugurated Orient Power Plant with generation capacity of 225 MW at Balloki on Saturday. On the occasion he said the present government has added 1708 MW of generation capacity through a combination of Hydel and thermal sources which includes rehabilitated capacity of the existing generation companies. As a result of this addition, load shedding for industrial sector is now almost zero while agriculture sector is getting ten hours continuous supply. This would help increase industrial and agriculture production. What is more encouraging is the statement of PEPCO Chief about the future plans to meet the growing energy needs. Another 2,795 MW of capacity additions are likely to be completed by December this year with an investment of about $ 5 billion while addition of another 20,000MW is planned for the next ten years. It is quite a big challenge yet if there is will on the part of the leadership and necessary resources are made available the targets could be accomplished. However we would stress that the government must exploit all the indigenous resources including coal, hydel, wind and solar so that industry and the people could get cheap energy. A change in energy mix with enhanced hydel and alternative energy generation share in the national grid would be necessary as thermal generation is very costly and beyond the reach of common man and make the industrial production costly in the international market. We would therefore suggest that more attention be paid to exploitation of Thar coal and start of work on the Diamer-Bhasha dam on top priority basis. These two projects have tremendous potential not only to add the required amount of electricity in the system but the electricity thus generated would also be much cheap. In our view what is needed is to expedite the ongoing and future projects on fast track basis to rid the country of the power crisis.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SUSPENSION OF SIX MORE TRAINS

 

IT was depressing to know that Pakistan Railways has decided to suspend six more inter-city passenger trains due to financial losses and non availability of engines. Three train services were discontinued on Saturday while the other three would stop operating in the next two weeks. 


Earlier the Railways suspended operation of 76 trains, eight mail, sixteen inter city and 52 passenger trains. If one goes by the thinking in the department, suspension of another 26 trains is on the card as the state owned organization is constantly running into losses, which now stand at Rs 23 billion. That shows the poor state of management of this all important mean of transportation for the people and goods. The question is why Railways has reached to such a state of affairs? While the Prime Minister has directed the Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to devise a strategy for the restructuring of the loss making state institutions including Pakistan Railways, there is dire need to address the problems of this cheapest source of transportation on top priority basis. Railways in our neighbouring country India is an earning organisation and there is no doubt, it can again become a profit making institution if run purely on professional, commercial basis. We would like to point out that the organisation is heavily overstaffed with massive recruitment by successive governments. Express trains suspended were running to full capacity and one cannot draw the conclusion that they were making losses. The need of the hour is to weed out corrupt elements from Railways to restore its financial health.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PAK-US STRATEGIC DIALOGUE

RIZWAN GHANI

 

PM Gillani has supported long-term Pak-US relationship to welcome Hillary's visit as part of Pak-US Strategic Dialogue (SD). Since PPP is continuing with failed Musharraf's pro-US policies, it is of paramount importance to remind PPP about protecting national interests vis-à-vis its support for American interests in the region and mostly likely failure on lines of Pak-India FM talks and hallow promises of Friends of Pakistan. 


In terms of economic policies, Washington model of capitalism has failed in US (The End of American Capitalism, The Washington Post, Oct. 10 2008). The independent banking system of American Capitalism has cost the American taxpayers more than $ 1.3 trillion in bank bailouts, 24 percent unemployment (although Washington maintains it is below ten percent) and predatory loaning charging interests as high as 28-33 percent. It is opined that failed model has left millions of average Americans without their 401 Ks (pension) and homeless. 

American Capitalism has also left 90 percent Pakistanis struggling under $2 a day. Independent experts have rejected Obama's much-touted Financial Reform Bill (Obama's crackdown on Wall Street, the Guardian July 15). It has failed to end Volcker Rule (allows banks to spend cash to speculate in the market), keep Credit Default Swaps (helps hide toxic debts), and replace bank tax with taxpayers fund (How Banks held the line, The New York Times July16). There is no sign that as Washington's ally PPP government is going to nationalize banks including SECP, empower State Bank, return to saving based economy to end country's reliance on foreign debt, reduce inflation, control corruption and end mafias to bring prices back under the state control. 


PM's 2020 energy vision with projections of 20 GW, and Washington's pledges to help Islamabad overcome energy crisis are nothing but eyewash. Since 1973, every American president promised America an independent Energy Policy but failed to uphold his promise due to energy sector lobbying. In stark contrast, Beijing formed its national energy policy in 2004 with alternate energy as the driving force. Reportedly on July 16, China become world leader in generating electricity from wind power after beating America that was generating 36GW (one GW = 1012 MW) from wind. China is already generating 8000 MW with solar panels. It is opined that Pakistan's energy stalemate has geo-strategic and geo-economic objectives. Zardari's failure to have an alternate energy (10GW) deal during his last Beijing visit supports assertions that PPP and Obama regime are hallowing Pakistan for vested stakes. Otherwise, there is no logic for installation of fossil fuel based electricity plants because they of high electricity cost, pollution and loss to national exchequer. 


According to its Constitution, Pakistan is a welfare State. And as per the constitution, PPP is oath bound to adopt and implement public welfare policies in all fields including right to life and own property, provide food, shelter, clothing, health amenities, free justice and education. Gillani should therefore explain how PPP government plans to protect rights of public in a welfare state while it continues to implement Musharraf era failed American capitalism model in which individual is responsible for himself or herself. Capitalism based economies are pushing up retirement age, cutting pensions, offering contract jobs instead of permanent jobs, privatizing public organizations and using public funds to save and protect private sector. Experts are of the view that in the name of globalization handful few are overtaking economies of (sovereign) states. 


Shannon Hayes, an American writer, writes in her book Radical Homemakers, "Global economic principles are privileging corporations that have no legal and moral accountability to the public. It is interesting to note that 75 percent of the world's food comes from twelve plants and six companies control 98 percent of world's seed sales. Furthermore, of the one hundred largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations and 49 are nations". A careful look at import figures in America and Europe reveals underlying causes of deepening unemployment, hallowing of economies and destruction of dependent societies. UK's Asia import bill stands at staggering £36 bn against its export figure of £6bn. In simple word, globalization is not only pushing unemployment in individual (WTO) states but is also driving prices of homegrown products up at global level. 


In foreign policy terms, according to FM Quershi America's so-called war against terrorism (SWAT) has cost Pakistan $43bn in cash and some 3000 plus lives since 2001. Delhi is using SWAT bandwagon to push Kashmir cause under the carpet. Experts of the view that Delhi would never like SWAT to end because it will leave Islamabad weak and Delhi strong in the region. Going by America's track record in Palestine, there is little hope that it could be of any help on Kashmir and resolving water dispute between Delhi and Islamabad. Keeping in view history of American wars and war crimes, Islamabad would be better off by maintaining its distance from Washington. Reportedly, the cases in point are 900 American military bases across the globe, victims of Agent Orange and mines in Vietnam and Cambodia. Invasion of Iraq on false pretext which has resulted in death and displacement of two million Muslims. 


Running of rendition flights, torture cells and indiscriminate killings by American mercenary forces paid by American government. Killing of innocent civilians by American military during Korean war and ignoring execution of 200,000 North Koreans by South Korea. Illegal US occupation of Afghanistan, killings of civilians and pushing four million Afghan to flee into other countries. In Pakistan, America's SWAT has left thousands dead, hundreds incapacitated for life and four million internally displaced. The emerging details of UK and US involvement in torture, rendition flights and other gross violations of human rights is now a legitimate source of concern for international community. UK's judges have refused to entertain London's pleas (UK Court rules torture lawsuits against Britain will continue, local press July 16). Hopefully, in coming days alleged war criminals including Musharraf, Blair, Brown, Jack Straw, Bush, Obama and their entire teams including Rice and Hillary will face the book at international and national levels. PML (N) government as PPP's ally in Punjab by demanding changes in anti-terror laws including one year detention without production in court on lines of UK, USA, access to phone records and admittance of statement of police officer in court reflects politicians disdain for fundamental rights and international rights to justice.


Washington, London, NATO and EU are drenched in innocent blood. It is time public also gets to see PPP and PML(N) demanding scuttling of fundamental rights to appease their masters. It is hoped that Pakistan's courts like the British courts will uphold country's constitution and bring to book all those leaders who are responsible for their alleged role in illegal drone attacks resulting in innocent deaths, missing persons, rendition flights, torture and failure to protect life and property in Pakistan. 


Finally, as a welfare State Pakistan has nothing to do with failed American capitalism. Instead of relying on American support in energy sector and Friends of Pakistan, public should demand for energy policy based on alternate energy because of its advantages. Similarly, Pakistan should distance itself from US, UK and NATO because of their heinous crimes against humanity and gross violation of international human right laws and conventions. Instead, Pakistan should adopt a policy to stand on its own feet, which has been recommended by Hayes: Renounce (what is wrong), reclaim (what has been lost) and rebuild (because it is never too late). America has not given rights to Native Americans (the Guardian, July 15) and visiting UK cabinet member's flat refusal to mediate on Kashmir should be an eye opener for our west-friendly leaders.

The writer is security, current affairs analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE LOST DECADE!

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

For showcasing purpose, the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India shared a common table while addressing a press conference at the end of bilateral talks. However, there was hardly any joint-ness in the contents or commonness of purpose. Body language wise, it was only a shade better than the separate press conferences held by the foreign secretaries of the two countries when they met in New Delhi earlier this year. 


On the heels of martyrs' day in Kashmir, Indian foreign minister visited Pakistan for three days, just to state the official position of India on the Kashmir issue that amounted to almost denial of existence of Kashmir issue, and associated state terrorism by India. Even the recent home grown upheaval that has brought forward the Kashmir issue as a boiling pot was vehemently attributed, by the visiting minister, to enhanced border crossings from Pakistani side. 


India did excellent maneuvering to stall the talks. Secretary level reparatory meeting could not finalize the agenda. Hours before foreign minister's arrival, Indian Home secretary GK Pillai did his bit to degenerate the environment by repeating lines from Headley's dubious confession. Well wishers of this region who expected a robust jump start to commence a speedy make up for the decade lost to Indian hubris in the wake of 9/11 were disappointed, yet once again. However, those well aware of Indian diplomatic profile did predict a collapse. Talks were a classic demonstration, by India, of how not to talk.


Indian ambitions continue to be sky high, and its strategy as always remains Chanakyan. Over the previous decade India has been investing heavily in the multifaceted activities aimed at destabilizing Pakistan. It waited impatiently to see Pakistan consumed in the quagmire of global war on terrorism. It stage managed a number of events to portray Pakistan in negative images. India co-opted and cohabited with any one and every one who had interest in Pakistan bashing. Now the chickens have come home to roost; though India is yet in a denial mode.

Americans are preparing to leave Afghanistan, and may be they quit Asia for good, leaving it under the guardianship of China. Solution to Afghan problem lies in collaborative participation by Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, China and CARs bordering Afghanistan; India is almost irrelevant. 


Indians have missed the bus of gas pipeline from Iran. In an opportunistic move to appease Israel and America, it betrayed Iran, and that betrayal has begin to cost it in Afghanistan. Afghans have deciphered Indian double game and they want Delhi to keep its hands off Afghanistan.


Had India been prudent during the preceding decade, trust building in the region could have sky rocketed. SAARC would have not been reduced to a ceremonial debating society. Today India faces a foreign policy seize. It is indeed a fall out of its own myopic regional view. It cannot tolerate Pakistan. It wants to economically over run Bangladesh, Sikkim and Bhutan. It is desirous of replacing America in Afghanistan in the military domain and pose double front plus predicament to Pakistan. India's deep involvement in destabilizing Baluchistan and covert meddling in other parts of Pakistan is all too well known to the world.


Moreover, Indian opposition to provision of two nuclear power generating facilities to Pakistan has exposed it to the world as an opportunist state in the context of its Agreement 123 with the US which is a potential instrument of nuclear weapons proliferation. Its opposition to construction of Bhasha dam is indicative of the extent to which India could stoop down to deny breathing space to Pakistan even in benign domains.

Over the last decade, India has indeed been pursuing the ends which are not compatible with the means at its disposal. Mere attaching of high sounding tags does not make a nation super power. In its eagerness to match America, it invented Indian equivalents of Al-qaida, Osama, terrorism etc. People's war for independence being waged by Kashmiris since 1930s was criminally portrayed as a saga of terrorism.


In a quest to instigate trouble in all its neighbouring states, it underestimated the implosive developments from within. Now India faces phenomenal problems within its boundaries. India carries two images, one is of self aggrandizement and the second is which others carry, that is of a problem child. Unfortunately Indian political leadership has started believing in the hyperbolic projections about India, as fed by Indian government fuctionaries to the Indian media. 


Indian think tanks are awe struck by the fact that the NSG simply ignored India, and that American have developed empathy for helping Pakistan. Indian point of view in front of the NSG was indeed humorous, that is an exception is good as long as it is for India only, and is disastrous when it benefits some one else, be it Pakistan or Iran. None of the NSG members is worried about the Pakistani-China deal. Only a non member India is doing jokers.


Many analysts hold the view that President Obama has asked China to help Pakistan in energy and other fields. Some reputed international think tanks also opine that the US and China have mutually agreed to a scheme of spheres of influence, whereby Asia and Africa fall in the Chinese domain, while Europe and the Americas fall under American realm. India is left high and dry. Even its historic mentor, Russia, has reconciled to limit itself to CARs. However, Indian politicians are busy portraying a power projection outlay which is defied by caveats in Kashmir, Assam and trans-state snowballing of Naxalite power. It is interesting to see that Indian Army and Air Chiefs have declined to employ their forces to control Naxalites. Such discrepancies make the tall tags look hollow, mere media gimmicks. 


In the meanwhile, Pakistan has made slow and steady progress towards putting its house in order. Military rule has given way to democratic dispensation. Pakistani military leadership has taken the challenge of militancy head-on. Large chunks of areas have been snatched back from the jaws of militancy, some of these have returned to normalcy. 


Eighteenth constitutional amendment, National Finance Commission Award, Rehabilitation Package for Baluchistan are some of remarkable achievements by the bipartisan political leadership. Under difficult circumstances, a growth rate of over 4% indicates that an overall economic recovery is on the cards. Despite a thorough beating spread over the previous decade, Pakistan is a shade better than India in poverty indicators and treatment of minorities. 


While militancy is on retreat in Pakistan, it is on the rise in India. Hindu fundamentalism and related incidents of terrorism alongside the ongoing class struggle have the potential of tearing apart the fabric of Indian polity. 


Yet India is busy rehearsing the role of a superpower. Indeed a comedy circus is on. 


Probably, Pakistan has to wait for meaningful dialogue until India come out of its mesmerism of super power phobia. Till then resumption of dialogue with India should become a low priority item for Pakistan's foreign office. If Indians are going by watch, Pakistan has time on its side.


—Writer is international security, current affairs analyst and former PAF assistant chief of air staff.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WHO HOLDS AUTHORITY IN INDIA?

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

 

While the Indo-Pak foreign minister level talks were underway in Islamabad on July 15, 2010, Indian Foreign Secretary Ms. Nirupama Rao, made five telephonic calls back home in order to seek clarification and new directive from the New Delhi. Because of these directives, the negotiations ended without making a positive outcome. Otherwise, the arrival of the Khrishna team was full of zest, once he made a statement on his arrival in Pakistan that we have brought a message of good will for the people of Pakistan from the Indian people. Receiving of such like directives and issuing of rabble-rousing statements by Indian team, later in the media, speaks of three things. First, the participants of the talks were not fully prepared for the dialogue, therefore, they were being spoon fed continuously. Secondly, they were not expecting the Pakistani side would be asking for the wholesome talks to include progress on all issues, yet to be resolved, thus have continuously been asking the desire of the Indian Government. Thirdly, the team headed by the Foreign Minister Krishna had little or no authority to make progress on the unresolved issues. 


In all eventualities, the talks could not make the headway because of the Indian unfounded and unyielding attitude. This is not the first time that the negotiations between India and Pakistan failed. Tracing back the Agra Summit of July 2001, once former Pakistani President visited India with a lot of hopes and flexibility vested in his hands to make progress on the out-standing issues between both countries. He went to India with lot of clarity, absolute authority, and succinctness. There have been five long and arduous rounds of the discussions, mostly one on one, between the then Indian Prime Minister Mr. AB Vajpayee and Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. 


What went wrong there, during the Agra Summit? It was indeed, a misreporting in the media by then Indian Information Minister, Ms. Shusma Suraj that the talks were focusing mainly on the two issues; the cross border terrorism and the trade and commerce. This wrong reporting in the media even was not in the knowledge of the Indian Premier, who himself got the shock on the statement of his information Minister. Owing this misreporting the Summit failed, in spite, the fact that both leaders did try to evade failure by undertaking late night 80 minutes round of the talks. Unfortunately, the process could not be resumed until the 12th SAARC Summit, held in Islamabad in January 2004. After a lot of hectic diplomacy, both countries resumed the composite dialogue process in 2004. Pakistan showed a lot of flexibility for the resolution of the core issue; the issue of Kashmir, but here prevailed again the Indian hawks, and the basic cause remained unresolved. Going back to history, there took place thirteen rounds of the talks between Bhutto and Swarn Singh in early 1960s, but due to lack of a clear roadmap and authority with the Indian Foreign Minister, no progress could be made. 

The basic aim of tracing the brief history of the Indo-Pak negotiations was to uncover the real cause of the failure of the hundreds of the rounds of the talks, ever since 1947. In a democratically ruled government, the power lies with its elected representative to decide about all issues of national interests. They should have the absolute authority vested on to them by the constitution of that country. India claims to be the world biggest democracy, but once its own prime minister or any other minister is unable to take decision, then the question arise, as where lies the real power. Who stopped Prime Minister Nehru to sidetrack his own commitments with the Kasmiris. Who were the hidden hands, which forced Prime Minister AB Vajpyee to succumb in front of his information minister, LK Advani, Jaswant Singh and Yaswant Sinha, all the hawkish minister of his cabinet? Which was the force behind them? Indeed, the same force did not let the Indian Foreign Minister Mr. Khrishna to make a progress on the real issues pending for a solution. 


Indeed, the real decision making power in the India lies with its powerful Army, supported by RAW, the Indian spying network having strong bondage with the fundamentalist Hindu mentality, which believes in the "Akhand Bharat"- Greater India concept. What to talk of Kashmir, this powerful Troika, believes in the fact that, the other regional countries of the South Asia including Pakistan should ultimately yield to Indian demands, for making Akhand Bharat; the Greater India. India Hindu strategists consider Afghanistan and Myanmar (Burma) to be its part through this concept. Indian growing influence in Afghanistan is indeed part of this strategy. Now, Indian intelligence network RAW is making a lot of inroads into Myanmar. 


This is beyond doubt that the real Indian power lies somewhere else as mentioned above. The so-called Indian democracy is to show the world. It is indeed useless to believe that Indian premiers and ministers like Krishna are going make a decision on issues like Kashmir. They just portray to the world that India is very much interested and believes in the dialogue and negotiations. They are indeed, gaining time and consolidating on to the disputed areas. But, badly failing on winning the hearts and mind of the Kashmiri masses, as evident from the recent violence there. As a piece of advice from the realist's school of thought, India must accept the reality that, Kashmir is the basic issue and without its resolution as per the wishes of its subjects, there would be no progress on other issues between India and Pakistan. It must stop human right violation in its occupied areas of the state. 


—The writer is a South Asian analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

INDIA AND PAKISTAN: FRIENDS OR ENEMIES?

YASMEEN ALI

 

Since the creation of Pakistan, in 1947, India and Pakistan have followed a rocky path so far as relationship between both countries are concerned. Whereas, there is a group that would like to see the hatchet buried and both the countries move forward towards a more friendly footing, the fact remains that the present is nothing if not a continuation of the past. The future is nothing if not a continuation of the present.


There can be no doubt that both the countries can mutually benefit from economic co operation .However, political considerations have traditionally restricted trade with India. There are many issues that have worked towards creating a trust deficit between both countries.


The core issue of course, is Kashmir. This has led to creation of other issues which have led to further relationship complications. Kashmir is the origin point for many rivers and tributaries of the Indus River basin. They include Jhelum and Chenab which primarily flow into Pakistan while other branches - the Ravi, Beas and the Sutlej irrigate northern India. Pakistan has been apprehensive that in a dire need, India (under whose portion of Kashmir lies the origins and passage of the said rivers) would use its strategic advantage and withhold the flow and thus choke the agrarian economy of Pakistan. 


The Boundary Award of 1947 meant that the headwaters of Pakistani irrigation systems were in Indian Territory. The Indus Waters Treaty signed in 1960 addressed this issue. However, recently, we saw India in violation of this treaty, with India building dams on Jhelum, Chenab and Indus. Bringing up the question in a video interview, Secretary Clinton(March 23, 2010), whether the United States would be expected to play a more active and a more robust diplomacy between India and Pakistan on the issue of water, Secretary Clinton stated that what they can do is to help Pakistan make better use of the water than before. This included capturing more rainwater, how to use less of it to produce more crops. My question is: Who will call to book India for violating the Indus Water Treaty 1960 with India building 62 water storage dams on Chenab only?

Will the Foreign Secretaries in Islamabad be discussing this? Both Rao and Bashir have been tasked by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani to find ways to bridge the trust deficit and prepare the ground for a meeting of the Foreign Ministers on July 15.Rao underlines that the core concern of terrorism was high on her list of priorities. What about Pakistan's list of priorities?


In an interview with Joe Klien of Time magazine in October 2008 Barack Obama expressed his intention to try to work with India and Pakistan to resolve this crisis in a serious way. In July 2009 US Assistant Secretary of State Robert O. Blake, Jr. stated categorically that United States had no plans of appointing any special envoy to settle the long standing dispute of Kashmir between India and Pakistan calling it an issue which needs to be sorted out bilaterally by the two neighboring states. Can this be interpreted as endorsing India's position? Dawn Newspaper, thinks it does(US to sign $20 billion Defence Accords with India: 2009-07-17). That there exists a trust deficit between the two n