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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

EDITORIAL 20.07.10


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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

month july 20, edition 000574 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


EDITORIALcation of all daily- published newspaper  EDITORIAL  at one place.





















































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An accident, as Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee says, is after all an accident and we shouldn't get too obsessed with what may have caused it. His comments were in response to Monday morning's ghastly disaster in which the New Coochbehar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express rammed into the Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express as it was pulling out of Sainthia station in West Bengal's Birbhum district. At least 62 passengers have died in the tragedy; another 100 have suffered grievous injuries. What Mr Mukherjee has said could be seen as symptomatic of the UPA Government's callous disregard towards the aam admi, the common man — most of the dead were travelling in unreserved compartments. In a sense, it also reflects a harsh reality: No value is attached to human lives in our wondrous land where few are agitated by tragedies that could have been averted had relevant authorities been more diligent about fulfilling their responsibilities. While it is too early to suggest what may have caused the early morning disaster, some facts, highlighted by the chairman of the Railway Board, merit reiteration. For instance, the driver of the New Coochbehar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express did not bother to slow down the train's speed as it approached the station although that is normal practice. Worse, neither he nor his colleague applied the emergency brakes as they should have done on seeing that the Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express was on the same track. Both were found dead in their seats, which indicates they were taken by surprise. Did they try to reduce the train's speed? Did they apply the brakes? If they did, was there a mechanical failure? Or, as is being said in some quarters, had they fallen asleep? These and other related questions will be hopefully answered during the statutory inquiry into the disaster. 

Meanwhile, it would be in order to highlight certain issues that remain unaddressed despite repeated train accidents and a mounting death toll: At least 250 passengers have died in the past year in numerous mishaps, including the Maoist sabotage which led to the Gyaneswari Express disaster on May 28, leaving 141 men, women and children dead. It is nobody's case that train accidents are a recent phenomenon. On the contrary, they have been occurring over the past many years. What has changed is the frequency: There are far more mishaps now than before. This is primarily on account of two factors. First, there are more trains than the existing network of tracks can sustain, often leading to inordinate delays — the Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express was running nearly five hours behind schedule; had it not been so, the collision would not have occurred — and derailment, not to mention accidents. Second, there is far too little emphasis on installing foolproof safety systems, both on tracks and trains. An early-warning device was supposed to have been installed to alert drivers about trains ahead of them on the same track. That project remains un-implemented. The signalling system in most stretches of the network is outdated or malfunctioning. The quality of manpower is uneven. These are only some examples. Yet, all this is not on account of lack of funds. The special non-lapsable fund that was created for railway safety remains virtually untouched. Perhaps it's oversight, or it could just be lethargy. Either way, it's a pity. 







When Mr YS Jaganmohan Reddy launched his 'Odarpu Yatra' despite the Congress high command making its displeasure known, few thought he would succeed. And when he brazenly defied the party directive to call off the campaign, it appeared his fate was sealed. At the very least, minus the participation of party MPs and MLAs who were asked by the party leaders to stay away, political pundits were sceptical about the young parliamentarian and son of the late Chief Minister YS Rajasekahara Reddy making political capital out of the roadshow. But from all accounts it has been a success; Mr Jaganmohan Reddy has been drawing impressive — and responsive — crowds, riding on his late father's popularity among the masses. It is quite possible that the obstacles placed by the party's central leadership have actually helped him project himself as someone being persecuted and denied his due. It is too early to assess whether all this will stand him in good stead at a later date, but for the moment he has reason to feel emboldened: Not only has he cocked a snook at the Congress high command, but appears to have got away with his indiscretion, at least for the moment. 

Will the high command bide its time and hit back to show the dissenter his place? After all, Congress president Sonia Gandhi was not impressed by the show of strength mounted by Mr Jaganmohan Reddy after his father's death in a helicopter crash last September; the party had refused to accept his claim that he should succeed his father as the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. The dynasty, it was made abundantly clear, was not to be confused with State-level families. In a pointed rebuff to Mr Jaganmohan Reddy's claim, Mr K Rosaiah was appointed Chief Minister. Those who thought it was a temporary arrangement have been proved wrong; legislators who had initially backed Mr Jaganmohan Reddy soon fell in line; and, the claimant found himself being increasingly isolated. The revived show of strength is essentially to demonstrate that he is not without popular support and that if push were to come to shove, he could lead a revolt. The history of the mansabdari system is not without such examples.

Mr Jaganmohan Reddy has timed his yatra well. By-elections are due in the Telangana region where legislators have resigned from their membership of the Assembly to press their demand for a separate State. And it is in these parts that Mr Jaganmohan Reddy has been mobilising support. He is no doubt sending out a message to the Congress's central leaders. More important, he is testing the waters before taking any precipitate action. Will he take the final leap? Perhaps yes if the party refuses to acknowledge his apparent popularity. It is equally possible that the 'revolt' will fizzle out. The history of the mansabdari system is replete with such instances, too. 








If there is a reason behind the madness with which Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi blew the dialogue with his Indian counterpart SM Krishna, we should look for it on the frontiers of that imploding nation. Not along Jammu & Kashmir, but the western sector —Afghanistan, Iran, even Central Asia, where growing American interventionism can only exacerbate tensions and faultlines.

Pakistan is now coming face-to-face with the fatal flaw in its birth chart. Conceived and created as a Western colonial outpost in a supposedly post-colonial world, its primary purpose was to help the West contain the rising power and ambitions of India and China. Its second purpose was to serve as a watch tower to oversee Russian moves in Central Asia, and the Muslim states of Iran, Iraq and on to the Gulf. 

It was thus a strategic land bank of the colonial West. As Islam failed to give Pakistan's constituent provinces the civilisational unity once bestowed by Hindu Sanskritic tradition (which flourished up to the borders of eastern Persia), it failed to evolve into a coherent nation-state. Army rule or power alone could hold it together. 

Nowhere did the original blueprint envisage using Pakistan for action on its western frontier, a situation first created by Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, and now the current American-Nato war. Pressure to help America in the un-winnable Afghan war, and perhaps support a strike on Teheran, has placed Pakistan in a bind. 

Far from being able to make territorial or other gains in the region via its American ally (Jammu & Kashmir in India, strategic depth in Afghanistan), the regional instability may cause it to collapse. Mr Qureshi's intemperate outburst against Mr Krishna may have been a political ruse to maintain status quo on the eastern front; Pakistan knows it faces no threat from quietist India, but wants to stir the Kashmir pot as a pretext to evade deeper involvement on its western front.

America-watchers argue that the internal rift between Islamabad and Washington, DC is wider than acknowledged, and poses a threat to US troops in Afghanistan. America needs a graceful retreat from the 'graveyard of empires' to boost President Barack Obama's re-election bid; it is desperate to exploit the huge strategic metals reservoir uncovered there, for which it hopes to rope in Russia, China, India, Iran and even Pakistan. Besides, it needs a foothold in this strategic region between Russia, China and Iran.

But the US's key ally, Pakistan, is the world epicentre of Islamist terror. The US-Pakistan strategic dialogue in Islamabad, the second high-level meet in four months, will reveal how America plans to deal with Pakistan's sponsorship of terrorism, and the Taliban in Afghanistan. This will also decide the fate of Mr Obama's proposed visit to New Delhi in November. 

For those of us who view India-Pakistan dialogue as an exercise in futility, the failure of the July 16 talks was welcome. But we should not believe that Home Secretary GK Pillai's reference to David Coleman Headley's revelation about the direct involvement of Pakistani Army officers and the Inter-Services Intelligence in the Mumbai attacks provoked the collapse. The ISI has been the principal suspect from Day One, even before the Americans decided to out Headley.

Islamabad may have felt pressured by insistent reports from Washington that the Obama Administration is seriously contemplating a strike against Teheran, an action bound to trigger turmoil in the region. On July 15, Time magazine carried a story by Joe Klein, 'An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table', which claimed that the Pentagon for the first time regarded military action against Iran's nuclear programme as feasible and possibly necessary. 

Klein quoted an Israeli military source saying Tel Aviv has been consulted on the war-planning as the White House does not want Israel to attack Teheran by itself. It is said Iran's Sunni neighbours (read Saudi Arabia) want this. This is consistent with reports that the Anglo-American axis no longer views the Israeli-Arab conflict as the key to controlling the Muslim world, and is banking on promotion of Shia-Sunni and Arab versus non-Arab divides.

Also on July 15, Spiegel Online carried a similar story titled, 'A Quiet Axis Forms Against Iran in the Middle East', by Alexander Smoltczyk and Bernhard Zand, who claimed that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were urging the US to attack Iran, regardless of the consequences. Critics believe the temptation for Mr Obama to attack Iran will increase as the war in Afghanistan falters. Iraq is already brimming with sectarian violence. A new front in Iran offers the promise (or mirage) of a victorious war against a defiant Muslim country and gives Mr Obama a chance to retain both Houses of Congress (or so it is hoped).

Pakistan would also have felt alarmed at Mr Robert Blackwill's suggestion of a 'low cost solution' to the Afghan imbroglio by de facto partitioning the country between Pashtun and non-Pashtun areas. The former US envoy to India, now senior fellow, RAND Corporation, has said the US should concentrate forces in non-Pashtun areas and use heavy air power, including drones, and special forces to strike at the Taliban in Pashtun areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The US, according to this thesis, should target Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan, Afghan Taliban leaders aiding them, Afghan Taliban encroachments across the proposed de facto partition lines, and terrorist sanctuaries along the Pakistan border. US should keep a long-term residual military force of 40,000 to 50,000 troops in Afghanistan for this purpose. Mr Blackwill fondly hopes that Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and anti-Taliban Pashtuns will join this plan, along with Nato allies, Russia, India, Iran, perhaps China, and Central Asian countries. 

Islamabad rightly fears this mad adventure, even without a new misadventure in Iran. A Taliban-dominated Pashtun Afghanistan and Pakistani Pashtun areas under Pakistani Taliban influence will inevitably push towards unity in an independent Pashtunistan, triggering Baloch, Sindhi and Balti aspirations. Far from gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan, Pakistan could be virtually dismembered. This could exacerbate Islamist radicalisation of the country, and raises legitimate fears about the security of its nuclear arsenal. 

The US may earn the dubious distinction of attacking Iran to abort its nuclear ambitions, and thereby triggering an adventure by a heavily nuclear-armed Pakistan.







Treason can also be lucrative business. That is what we are witnessing in the Kashmir Valley for the last several months. Paid stone-pelting has become a new form of agitation for the unemployed and misguided youth of the State who could otherwise have contributed to nation-building in so many constructive ways.

Nearly 70 per cent of the population of the Kashmir Valley is below 35 years of age. They have grown up with their elders drilling into their minds the existence of a mirage called azadi, that will rid them of all the troubles that they are facing. They never received the benefit of any guidance with regard to education and jobs. Tourism — which had been the mainstay of thousands in the State — has also suffered a setback when this mindset gave way to militancy in the early 1990s. 

But after fighting a guerrilla war for almost two decades with the Establishment of their own country, many young militants have realised that they are no match to the state apparatus and that forces in the neighbouring country that covertly financed the militancy are motivated by their own vested interests. So they began to give up violence and life in the Valley inched back to normal. When Dr Shah Faisal from Kupwara topped the prestigious civil services examination, it was hoped that the youth of Kashmir would be inspired by the example set by him to enter the national mainstream. But what has since happened is extremely unfortunate. 

Extremists are back at work and are creating a no-escape situation for their young targets who are being drawn into a vortex of violence. The energy of these youth is being harnessed by anti-nationals, some from across the LoC, for their own dangerous interests. Hefty sums of money — to the tune of Rs 5 lakh — sourced from Pakistan is being paid to every group of boys in order to pelt stones at security forces. Certain local political parties are also involved in this heinous business which has claimed at least a dozen lives till date. Those sponsoring the stone-pelting are affiliated to terrorist organisations like Hizb-ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. The whole exercise is harming the livelihood of ordinary Kashmiris who have by now understood that there is no substitute to peace in the State. 






The goal is to transform Afghanistan into a modern nation, fuelled by a US-led effort pouring $60 billion into bringing electricity, clean water, jobs, roads and education to this crippled country. But the results so far — or lack of them — threaten to do more harm than good.

The reconstruction efforts have stalled and stumbled at many turns since the US military arrived in 2001, undermining President Barack Obama's vow to deliver a safer, stable Afghanistan capable of stamping out the insurgency and keeping Al Qaeda from re-establishing its bases here.

Poppy fields thrive, with each harvest of illegal opium fattening the bankrolls of terrorists and drug barons. Passable roads remain scarce and unprotected, isolating millions of Afghans who remain cut off from jobs and education. Electricity flows to only a fraction of the country's 29 million people.

Case in point: A $100 million diesel-fuelled power plant that was supposed to be built swiftly to deliver electricity to more than 5,00,000 residents of Kabul, the country's largest city. The plant's costs tripled to $305 million as construction lagged a year behind schedule, and now it often sits idle because the Afghans were able to import cheaper power from a neighbouring country before the plant came online.

What went wrong?

The failures of the power plant project are, in many ways, the failures of often ill-conceived efforts to modernise Afghanistan:

The Afghans fell back into bad habits that favoured short-term, political decisions over wiser, long-term solutions. The US wasted money and might by deferring to the looming deadline and seeming desirability of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's 2009 re-election efforts. And a US contractor benefited from a development programme that essentially gives vendors a blank cheque, allowing them to reap millions of dollars in additional profits with no consequences for mistakes.

Rebuilding Afghanistan is an international effort, but the US alone has committed $51 billion to the project since 2001, and plans to raise the stakes to $71 billion over the next year — more than it has spent on reconstruction in Iraq since 2003.

Roughly half the money is going to bolster the Afghan Army and police, with the rest earmarked for shoring up the country's crumbling infrastructure and inadequate social services.

There have been reconstruction successes, such as rebuilding a national highway loop left crumbling after decades of war, constructing or improving thousands of schools, and creating a network of health clinics.

But the number of Afghans with access to electricity has only inched up from six per cent in 2001 to an estimated 10 per cent now, well short of the development goal to provide power to 65 per cent of urban and 25 per cent of rural households by the end of this year.

Too many major projects are not delivering what was promised to the people, and rapidly dumping billions of reconstruction dollars into such an impoverished country is in some ways making matters worse, not better, Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal says. The US and its partners have wasted billions of dollars and spent billions more without consulting Afghan officials, Mr Zakhilwal says.

All of that has ramped up corruption, undermined efforts to build a viable Afghan Government, stripped communities of self-reliance by handing out cash instead of real jobs, and delivered projects like the diesel plant that the country can't afford, he says. "The indicator of success in Afghanistan has been the wrong indicator... it

as been spending," Mr Zakhilwal says. "It has not been output. It has not been the impact."

That's certainly true when it comes to electricity. Afghanistan consumes less energy per person than any other country in the world, even after years of reconstruction efforts, according to data compiled by the US Government.

Satellite pictures taken at night are startling: The country is a sea of darkness, dotted with only flyspecks of light.

The $305 million diesel power plant represents the biggest single investment the US has made thus far to light up the country. It has been dubbed the most expensive plant of its type in the world, sitting in one of the world's poorest countries.

In 2007, the US had rushed to build the plant in time to help Mr Karzai win a re-election, a hectic and unrealistic timetable embraced by the Afghan President that led to the jarring cost increases.

Complaints had piled up about Mr Karzai's inability to deliver reliable power to Kabul, let alone the rest of the country. Afghan voters became increasingly frustrated as they watched billions of dollars flowing into the country for reconstruction, but still couldn't power their homes, hospitals, schools and businesses.

"That question became very loud in many people's mind, and the media and the Press, 'They haven't been able to bring power to Kabul," says Mr Ahmad Wali Shairzay, Afghanistan's former Deputy Minister of Water and Energy.

The US and other international donors had spent years helping Afghanistan develop an energy strategy, one focussed on reducing the country's reliance on diesel as a primary power source, since it was too costly and too hard to acquire.

The goal was to buy cheaper electricity from neighbouring countries and develop Afghanistan's own natural resources, such as water, natural gas and coal. All of that was abandoned by the decision by US and Afghan officials to build the diesel plant on the outskirts of Kabul.

Never mind that the plant would make the country more, not less, reliant on its fickle neighbours for power. Never mind that Mr Karzai's former Finance Minister pleaded with US officials to drop the idea.

The US plowed ahead, turning the project over to a pair of American contractors, including one already scolded for wasting millions in taxpayer dollars on shoddy reconstruction projects. The US team paid $109 million for 18 new diesel engines to be built — more than the original cost of the plant — only to discover rust and corrosion in several of them.

"The Kabul diesel project was sinful," says Ms Mary Louise Vitelli, a US energy consultant who focussed on power development in Afghanistan for six years, working with the US, the World Bank and as a special adviser to Mr Karzai's Government.

Mr James Bever, the US Agency for International Development's director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan task force, says it's unfair to label the project a failure. Even with the problems, he notes, the plant provides Afghanistan with an additional power source.

"You know, there's a formula in this business. You can have it fast, you can have it high quality, and you can have it low cost. But you cannot have all three at the same time," Mr Bever says.

For Afghans, each nightfall is a reminder of promises not kept.

When darkness comes, there is not much Abdul Rahim and others living in south-west Kabul can do. Without lights, they cannot work, and their children cannot play. Rahim's children sometimes sit around a kerosene lamp to do their homework, their books laid flat in a circle around the flame's flickering light.

"The people who are living in this area, they don't have electricity and it is dark everywhere," Rahim says. "Day and night, we are counting the minutes to when we will finally get electricity."

The setbacks stretch far beyond Kabul.

Despite spending millions of dollars over more than six years studying the nation's natural gas fields in the north, no plan is in place to tap that substantial resource for power. And a huge project to expand hydropower in the south that already has cost about $90 million is delayed by continued fighting in the region, which has long been a Taliban stronghold. 






There is a perception that perhaps it is the PDP which has been encouraging young Kashmiris to take to the streets to embarrass the National Conference and portray Omar Abdullah as an ineffective Chief Minister

Conflict is never unilinear. It transforms — for the better or worse, depending on the major actors, their current strategies and the Government's counter-strategies, besides the ability of the security forces to bring the situation under control. 

The recent violence in the Kashmir Valley should be seen from the above perspective in terms of conflict transformation from militancy to civilian unrest. At the outset, it is essential to understand, that 'violence and unrest in Kashmir' may not actually reflect the actual ground situation. The violence is primarily centered on Srinagar and Sopore. However, the chances of it spreading towards other towns in the valley, and then to rural areas cannot be overruled. 

In terms of cross-LoC infiltration and terrorism, there is a marked decline in the activities, despite the recent efforts to increase infiltration and a few militant attacks and encounters. In terms of numbers, there is an increase in militant-related violence, but compared to 2008 and 2009, this number is insignificant. 

With the India-Pakistan dialogue all set to resume, one is not sure, whether there will be a revival in militancy. With the Hizbul Mujahideen in tatters and Jaish-e-Islami fighting along with the TTP in FATA and southern Punjab, it is unlikely that there will be a major initiative from these two groups. The Lashkar-e-Tayyeba needs to be watched; can Islamabad afford to let LeT carry out large-scale terrorist attacks now, given the fact there is international pressure, including from India? 


The question — will militancy revive in the Kashmir Valley needs to be answered separately; the focus of this analysis is to study the changing nature of violence — from militancy to civilian unrest. Two issues are clear in the ongoing violence. First, it is led primarily by the youth, expressed in the form of stone-pelting against the security forces, primarily the CRPF. 

Why are the youth pelting stones, for what reasons, and who is behind them? The answers are not difficult to find. Many close to the Hurriyat suspect that the PDP is playing a dirty game and is willing to sacrifice a few youth to create instability, so as to make Mr Omar Abdullah's Government look ineffective. This is to show the Union Government what the PDP can do if it is kept outside the Government.

While a section of the Hurriyat is happy with the ongoing unrest, it is also equally apprehensive. It is happy, because the 'Kashmir issue' is back in the limelight at national and international levels, pooh-poohing New Delhi's claim that everything is under control. At the same time, the Hurriyat is also apprehensive, for it fears it may not be able to engineer or alter the course of events. 

What goes on in the minds of the youth who are pelting the stones? Do they not understand the designs of the PDP and the Hurriyat? Or do they believe that this will lead to a movement resulting in 'azadi'? Informal interactions with the youth suggest that anti-Indian feelings have not subsided. It is unfortunate that New Delhi believes by pumping more funds it can address this problem. It is also unfortunate that New Delhi believes after the successful elections in 2008 the situation in Jammu & Kashmir is normal. Last, it also believes that militancy has declined, so the situation has improved. 

This is where the second issue also becomes important — the failure of the Government and the security forces to impose their writ. How can the people be made to respect curfew? What can the security forces do if youth come out in hundreds to disrupt the curfew and attack the security forces? While it would be easy for researchers and human rights activists to advice the CRPF to exercise restraint, what can they do if they are being physically targeted and beaten up? 

The unfortunate truth is that the breaching of curfew is purposefully orchestrated by some leaders to invite injury (even fatal); invariably few youth get shot. Those puppeteers then devise a larger strategy to use the 'murder of innocent youths' to provoke others. The funeral processions of these youth is larger than the initial group that pelted the stones. The funeral processions have become even more violent and political, creating a vicious cycle. 

Whatever may be the nature of the current unrest and the failure of the Government to deal with it, what is indisputable is that it is certainly not totally spontaneous. There is a clear orchestration and those who are behind the unrest want this to spread to other towns and rural areas as well. This will be another sad leaf in the history of violence in Jammu & Kashmir. 

-- The writer is Deputy Director, IPCS, New Delhi. 







While Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee continues to believe that Socialism and market economy are not incompatible, Prakash Karat and other influential Marxists blame his 'wrong policies' for the CPM's declining electoral fortune

Cricket teams that struggle to scrub out the taint of match fixing know that poor performances trigger nasty suspicions about match fixing. The unconfirmed but real slur on the game of cricket is because of a mentality — to sell out is better because the effort to fight is considered a waste. By that reckoning embracing martyrdom has its attractions, for some. Engaging in a difficult and challenging fight to survive has its attractions for some others. 

The headlong rush within the Communist Party of India (Marxist) as well as the united Left Front to embrace defeat as inevitable in West Bengal, led by the big man Mr Prakash Karat, backed by various influential leaders at the national and state level, is much like the idea of match fixing. By deciding the outcome before the event, the CPI(M)'s leadership is not only being pragmatic but is selling Mr Bhattacharjee, other optimists and the party itself down the drain. 

The conflict between Mr Karat's magisterial summarisation of what is wrong with West Bengal and the rest of India — namely "wrong policies" — and the agenda pursued by the Government headed by Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has a longish history. During Mr Bhattacharjee's first full term as Chief Minister the first chapter in the conflict was written. It provoked Mr Bhattacharjee to tell off Mr Karat, quoting Deng Xiaoping: Seek truth from facts. The context of this was Mr Karat questioning on what authority had Mr Bhattacharjee gone ahead with a policy of industrialisation that not only embraced liberalisation, but proactively pursued international investors offering them projects as diverse as infrastructure to manufacturing.

The bone of contention then as it is now was Mr Bhattacharjee's industrialisation policy. The issue of land acquisition has become a proxy for that fight and it now seems that Mr Bhattacharjee must lose in order for Mr Karat and his cohorts to emerge as politically correct. Therefore it is not surprising that there is a fresh outbreak of fighting between Mr Karat and Mr Bhattacharjee even though yet another substitute has been found for the long-standing differences over economic policies

The abrupt early exit of Mr Bhattacharjee from the recent Polit Bureau meeting was only yet one more instance of the distance that separates the orthodox from the pragmatists within the CPI(M). Somewhere between 2004 and 2006, Mr Bhattacharjee and Mr Karat had a fight; the Chief Minister told Mr Karat that the choice facing West Bengal was stark; it could model itself on either North Korea and isolate itself from the global transformation or it could pursue the model adopted by China — "poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious" and so create "one country, two systems". 

Since, to many within the CPI(M) and the Left Front, the policies of economic liberalisation and globalisation are wrong policies, it is axiomatic that Mr Karat, many influential leaders of the CPI(M) and of course the marvellously negative Bengali cadres of the party also believe that the vision ought to be opposed and defeated at whatever cost. If the cost be the loss of CPI(M)'s presence in West Bengal, then so be it, because in fixing matches nobody is finicky about losing. 

Mr Bhattacharjee's 'vision' has been a subject of agonising within the CPI(M) for most the first decade of the new millennium. The vision is really an economic model that is in no way a significantly different "alternative" to the liberalisation-globalisation policies of the rest of India, where unemployed Bengalis and those who want a better opportunity flock, contributing through their labour to the prosperity of regions other than West Bengal. For Mr Bhattacharjee ignoring the expectations of a burgeoning middle class and a working class desperate for employment opportunities made little sense. He certainly managed to win a decisive mandate for change in 2006 State Assembly elections. What was missing after that was the political will within the CPI(M) for taking this mandate and the model of reviving West Bengal's economic fortunes to its natural conclusion.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that Polit Bureau members from West Bengal other than Mr Bhattacharjee have all energetically embraced the inevitability of defeat. West Bengal Industries Minister Nirupam Sen, State party boss Mr Biman Bose, Land Reforms Minister Abdur Razzak Mollah, State-level leaders from the trade unions, the kisan front, State Government employees organisations have all more or less endorsed the Karat thesis — wrong policies. In order to substantiate how wrong the policies are, the leadership has added poor governance and abuse of power by party members who were tempted into transgressions and corruption because of the "wrong policies". The argument is that because of liberalisation, the "market" created the conditions for party members to use their clout to help investors. In the beginning were the small time local promoters who brokered small land deals; post-Mr Bhattacharjee's vision, the size of the deals changed, the pace changed and the party sold itself to the market. 

Whereas Mr Bhattacharjee continues to believe like Deng Xiaoping that "Socialism and market economy are not incompatible" and is clearly harassed by what the Chinese leader had warned against: "We should be concerned about Right-wing deviations" his greatest challenge comes from the difference in understanding within the CPI(M) on what constitutes "Left-wing deviations". 








MONDAY'S train collision involving the Uttarbanga Express and the Vananchal Express— which killed 60 people— is yet another proof of Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee's dismal performance as the Railway Minister. Nearly 270 people have lost their lives in rail accidents since she took charge of the ministry last year.


Ms Banerjee ' suspicions' about possible foul play in the accident is a cynical ploy to divert attention from her mismanagement of the railways.


It is clear that the Ministry is only a means in her larger endeavour of dislodging the Left Front government in West Bengal.


This makes it a sad irony that the two most serious mishaps in her tenure have taken place in that very state.


Ms Banerjee's handling of her important portfolio has been shoddy, to say the least.


Nearly one lakh posts— such as of gangmen, pointsmen and signalmen— related to railway security have been lying vacant. To make up for the deficit that the railways have incurred in the last one year, the budget presented by Ms Banerjee starved the Railway Safety Fund and the Capital Fund and substantially reduced the Depreciation Reserve Fund.


An example of the criminal inefficiency of the Railway Ministry is the delay in procuring the Anti Collision Device, which could have prevented this accident. This delay is in spite of the fact that the use of this device was supported by Ms Banerjee herself.


The Gyaneshwari Express tragedy which killed nearly 170 people doesn't seem to have served as a wake- up

call for the Railway Ministry.


As a result, common people continue to pay with their lives.


Reports suggest that Monday's rescue efforts by the Railways were pathetic. The gascutters did not work and the cranes reached the spot late. In fact, the toll would have been much higher had it not been for the local people of Sainthia who rushed to help the victims.


Given the mismatch between her political priorities and ministerial responsibilities, Ms Banerjee should be asked to quit the ministry forthwith. The Indian Railways are far too important to be left in the hands of such a minister. Not only are lives at stake, but also the economic health of the country.


For too long have populist ministers used the railways for promoting their political careers; the time has come

for some serious introspection into the manner in which the Indian Railways are being run, or to be precise, run down, in the country.




UNION Sports Minister M S Gill should be seen as having spoken for the common Indian when he said on Sunday that there was little point in India spending a humongous sum — estimated at more than Rs 10,000 crore — on the Commonwealth Games if top international athletes were going to give the event a miss. The list of big names that will not be coming to New Delhi this October — headed by the world's fastest ever man, Jamaican Usain Bolt — keeps getting longer.


As it is, the British monarch— the head of the Commonwealth— will be skipping the Games, making it the first time this has happened in the last four decades.


Mr Gill is right in asking the Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennel to ensure that athletes accompany him for the Games rather than a battery of officials.


The CGF has been making a lot of noise about standards being met for the Delhi edition of the Games. So it is only fair for India to expect the CGF to fulfill its part of the bargain by getting the names whose presence is necessary for the Games to be deemed a success.


But let us not forget that India too may have played a role in top athletes missing the event.


It is possible that the Organising Committee which has been found wanting on several fronts did not do a good

job of negotiating with the participating countries with regard to their top athletes. Also, the fact that we are a third world country with a reputation for poor security, mismanagement, disease, and lack of hygiene could be a factor. That the problem could be with the ambience rather than the Games is suggested by the fact that its previous edition in Melbourne was quite a hit.








THE DEBATE about ' Hindu terror' requires, firstly, a serious rectification and amendment.


Just as there is nothing called ' Muslim terror' or ' Islamic terror', there is also nothing that corresponds to ' Hindu terror'. The individuals — with affiliations to what we know as the sangh parivar — who have been linked to events of Ajmer, Malegaon and Hyderabad are sangh parivar terrorists or Hindutva terrorists. Therefore, the phenomenon that we associate with individuals, who happen to be Hindus, indulging in acts of terror is Hindutva terror or sangh parivar terror. Having stated this, Hindutva terror is a greater threat than any form of terror facing the country.


The threat from the al- Qaida or the Lashkar is easily identifiable, it is external and these organisations fashion themselves as jihadi outfits. There is no camouflage or pretence about their goals, aims and methods. In sharp contrast, the legitimacy for Hindutva terror comes not merely from members that are formally part of the sangh parivar, but from a cross- section of Hindus in Indian society, but primarily Hindus from the ever expanding middle class.




From the 19th century onwards, Hindu nationalists have argued that retaliatory violence is a legitimate form of

dealing with the ' enemy'. In doing so, they argued that in order to protect dharma , which was conveniently translated as religion, Hindus needed to resort to violence when required.


The question of the legitimacy of resorting to violence was always arbitrary.



Reverting to models in the mythological past, where the antagonism between devas and asuras inevitably led to the violent vanquishing of the asuras , Hindu nationalists ' democratised' the right to label their adversaries as asuras and arrogated the right to vanquish these foes to themselves.


Retaliatory violence was seen as the true embodiment of manhood or manliness and the ideal of the kshatriya was celebrated as exemplifying this principle. The writings of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, V. D. Savarkar and the ideologues of the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS are replete with arguments about the inevitability and the sanctity of violence in the overall project of Hindu nationalism.


From the 19th century onwards, revolutionary terrorism had a sanction under the guise of fighting the colonial rule and secret societies were organised to impart training in use of arms and in guerrilla warfare to its members.


In turn, justification for violence was always pegged on an equally arbitrary notion of what constituted Hinduism, on who was a Hindu and on the mostly imagined threat to this arbitrarily defined idea of religion and of faith. None of the Hindu nationalists were able to give a single sense of what they believed was Hinduism, but all of them, without exception, were engaged in the task of confining and restricting the definition of Hinduism.


They assumed that plurality and diversity were enemies of Hindu unity and consolidation and attempted to compartmentalise it into a set of well- defined features. It did not matter to them that some of these features were archaic, obsolete and anachronistic. The attempt was to impose a straight- jacketed idea of Hinduism in order to fulfil the Hindu nationalist utopia.


Despite exhortation to violence in order to achieve the Hindu nationalist goals, the self- image of the Hindu that was sought to be created was in direct contrast to the rhetoric and practice of violence.


They assumed that there was such an entity called Hindu society, and that the members that constituted Hindu society were mild, tolerant and peace- loving.


Hindus were seen as non- materialistic, other- worldly people, who were heirs to an unbroken tradition of civilisation, and retaliated only when forced to do so.


Hindutva terror builds on these two foundations. It derives legitimacy from the argument that Hindus attack only when threatened. The threat is constructed artificially, the enemy is identified equally arbitrarily and resorting to acts of terror justified in the name of liquidating these enemies. For them, like their ideological mentors, the enemy is always a group or an entire people, never specific individuals.




Like all acts of terror born out of an inflamed sense of nationalism, the enemy is always a vague abstraction. Hindu nationalists also share, openly or otherwise, their disdain for liberal democratic norms and constitutional democracy. For them, these are ineffective ways of dealing with the ' enemy'. Added to this is their disdain for politics and their ideal of transforming society into a Hindu society based on their understanding of what constitutes Hinduism. At the same time it hides behind the myth of Hindu society being essentially democratic and tolerant.


While a large section of the Indian middle class might not vote for the BJP and have little sympathy with the cultural policing of the sangh parivar, they share equally and vigorously in the myth of the self- image of Hindu nationalism. No amount of evidence of acts of Hindutva terror is likely to convince a large section of the Indian elite and middle class that these acts could be planned and executed by Hindus.


The stereotype of the mild and tolerant Hindu is a myth shared across political affiliations, castes and class. One only needs to remember the case of Justice Liberhan. While he indicted significant individuals of the sangh parivar for having felled the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, he came to the conclusion that India was a democracy only because Hindu society was tolerant and plural. This is not an isolated view and it helps conceal Hindutva terror and its agents from the public gaze effectively.




It is likely that investigations into Hindutva terror will go the way of most other such investigations. In the end, the criminal justice system might fail to deliver as it does so often with impunity. In the meantime, Hindutva terror will only grow and get emboldened.


They will hide behind the myth of the mild Hindu and plan and execute more of such acts, while the unquestioning middle class will continue to look for the enemy elsewhere, little realising that the enemy has always been within for nearly two centuries. Amidst all this, the entity we know as Hinduism will continue to be gnawed from within by these contradictions till such time that it loses a sense of itself.


Of course, we will continue to mouth easy and corny platitudes like ' Hinduism is a way of life', without asking the logical question as to whose way of life it is. Is it Pragna Bharati's way of life or Narendra Modi's way of life? Is it Mohan Bhagwat's way of life or is it Advani's way of life? In either case, there is not much to choose from. Each time Lashkar terrorists attack a spot in India, there would be a retaliatory strike in a mosque or a dargah, while we shall continue to look the other way and perfect our two- century long act of self- deception.


The writer is the author of Hindutva: Exploring the Idea of Hindu Nationalism ( 2003) and Terrifying Vision: M. S. Golwalkar, the RSS and India ( 2007) within







THAT Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray is a great photographer is a fact well known.


His aerial photographs of the forts of Maharashtra, which he published in the form of a photobook, were well received and the party also organised a mobile photo exhibition, showcasing their leader's skill.


Ever since, Uddhav took to the art of aerial photography, he clicks photos everytime he travels on helicopters.

Given the costs involved in aerial phtography, there are very few competitors in this field ( ex- Navy photographer Gopal Bodhe is one of them).


But being a Thackeray, there is no dearth of resources for Uddhav and it shows in his work. But as they say, it's the hand behind the gun that counts.


And Uddhav's skills as photographer are beyond doubt.


Photographers who have worked with the Shiv Sena's mouthpiece Saamana will vouch for that. Uddhav is quite keen to ensure they get the best equipment and often sends compliments when he likes their work. Saamana always has the best pictures of eclipses and almost all of them have come from Uddhav's camera.


It is said that his recent photobook, that has aerial photos of Maharashtra, has sold over two lakh copies. This, in itself, is a record worth boasting about. Costing just Rs 100, the production values are extremely good and the photobook is indeed a feast for the eyes. Uddhav sent a copy of the book to his estranged cousin Raj and even he heaped praise on Uddhav.


But Raj being Raj— and also being the true inheritor of Bal Thackeray's sarcastic sense of humour — gave a left- handed compliment. " Uddhav's photography skills are very good," he said, tongue firmly in cheek, concealing a mischievous smile before the cameras. What he implied ( it's your interpretation, not mine, he will tell you) was that he is not as good a leader as a photographer.


He was also critical of Uddhav's aerial survey of Mumbai before the monsoon to see if the ever- clogged drains in city were cleaned well by the city administration. ( It's not clear if Uddhav took photos in this tour as well, but the chances that they will ever be published are very low since the sight isn't pretty). But we are not talking about that here.


Now don't ask us how the book is priced so low. Sena has its resources even though the 44- year party ruled the state only for four- and- half years, that too, over a decade ago.


His opponents insist that while a builder funded the earlier photo campaign, a co- operative bank that is reared by a former minister has financed this book.


Whatever the case may be, the book is a well- finished product.


The photograph you see here is taken by Uddhav as he showered flowers on the devotees of Lord Vitthala who go to Pandharpur on foot in month- long processions from across the state. Featured in the picture, is ringan ( circle), where the devotees dance around a prize horse chanting Vitthal's name.




THE Vaarkaris are becoming a strong political force in the state. Around 10 to15 lakh people gather twice every year in Pandharpur to seek blessings of Lord Vitthal. Interestingly, the tradition has come from Karnataka with whom Maharashtra is engaged in a pitched battle.


The Shiv Sena has been leveraging the Vaarkaris well and has thwarted several projects using their might. The Sena woos the devout vaarkaris by projecting the Congress- NCP as anti- Hindutva. Uddhav also helped them to build a shelter in Mumbai.


The tension between the vaarkaris and the government reached its peak in 2008 when the former refused to allow the state pooja by the Chief Minister and the deputy Chief Minister.


The then deputy CM RR Patil took them on saying that God will accept his prayers from wherever he was and he didn't need to visit Pandharpur.


An incensed Sharad Pawar once reminded the vaarkari leaders that they should stick to religion and not dabble in politics.


The NCP isn't entirely averse to the vaarkaris.


Senior NCP leader Babanrao Pachpute is a devout vaarkari and often delivers religious discourses during the vaari . The vaarkaris travel in groups, on foot chanting the name of Lord Vitthal. They cook their own food and sleep in the open. Pachpute has traveled in a dindi , as it is called, for years, taking a break only this year.


The Pandharpur Ghat




CHHATRAPATI Shivaji, Maharashtra's iconic king in the 17th century, used the art of guerilla warfare quite effectively to fight his enemies of the day and to date people swear by his name. But the present rulers of Maharashtra, it seems, haven't learnt much from him. How else would they explain fighting two battles at a time — one with Karnataka over Belgaum, Gulbarga and other 800 villages and another with Andhra Pradesh over Godavari water.


Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and his supporters may argue that he started none of them, but he certainly had the opportunity to diffuse at least one conflict. Maharashtra's dispute with Karnataka over Belgaum, Nipani, Karvar and Gulbarga is at least 50 years old and it was renewed after the centre filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court that said that language was not the only parameter to decide the state each region is to be a part of.


There was an outburst in the state over the snub as it was projected as Delhi's bias towards Maharashtra. The root of the dispute, though, is the Mahajan Commission report of the 60s' that gave away Belgaum to Karnataka even though majority of the people there spoke Marathi.


The Maharashtra- Karnataka enmity is even older and dates back to the Tipu Sultan era. Tipu Sultan is a revered king in Karnataka, just as Shivaji is in Maharashtra. The British who eventually defeated him were helped by the Maratha armies. The people of Karnataka still hold this against the Marathas and the hatred is ingrained in both sides.


A bigger and bitter battle is guaranteed after Karnataka government files its affidavit on the issue later in the course of hearing. It is said that Karnataka may dispute the inclusion of four districts in Maharashtra on the basis of lingusitic majority and Mumbai being one of them. It is no secret that Marathi- speaking people are in a minority in the state capital and Karnataka is most likely to poke fun at Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the Shiv Sena, the self- styled guardians of the Marathis' cause in the state, will be back in business then.


Maharashtra's war with Andhra Pradesh over Godavari water was restarted after Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu tried to enter Babhli dam site in Maharashtra, accusing Maharashtra of stealing water that was meant for Andhra.


It would have been wiser for the state to allow Naidu enter and leave quietly, but for inexplicable reasons, Naidu was arrested. Naidu, who is confident of a revival of his party's fortunes in AP following YSR's death, refused to seek bail and politicised his arrest which in reality is no worse than a detention in an airconditioned guest- house. The worse part is that two Congress chief ministers are now squabbling over the leader who is looking to thwart the UPA equations.








Good intentions alone are never a sound basis for public policy and legislation. The proposed Prevention of Offences Against The Child Bill, 2009 has fallen into this trap. From a broad perspective, there is a lot it does right as an umbrella legislation that is expected to cover issues pertaining to social, physical, economic and sexual exploitation of children. It also makes corporal punishment meted out by educational as well as corrective institutions, friends and neighbours punishable by fines and prison sentences. So far, so good; corporal punishment by teachers and ragging by peers are both serious problems. But where the Bill goes too far is in including parents within its ambit. 

There are both practical and ethical problems with criminalising corporal punishment defined as physical penalty on a child for disciplinary purposes in a parent-child context. From a practical point of view, it is simply not enforceable. Passing a law is pointless when the support systems needed to implement it from child protection services to courts equipped for dealing with parent-child litigation are entirely absent. And from the ethical point of view, such legislation is dangerously intrusive. Child abuse is another matter entirely, but by defining corporal punishment in a parent-child context as broadly as it does, the Bill criminalises a broad spectrum of parent-child interaction that is not intended to, and does not cause any harm to the latter. And it also sets up the state as a primary caregiver able to overrule the parent in even the most unwarranted situations. When the Bill is tabled before the cabinet, those debating it would do well to temper good intentions with common sense.







The decision of the BJP government in Karnataka to stand by the Reddy brothers is most likely driven by political compulsion. The Reddy brothers reportedly have the support of more than 30 legislators who are needed to make up the numbers for the Yeddyurappa government. However, the party may have lost precious public support by refusing to take note of the allegations of corruption levelled against the brothers, who run a mining empire in the state. 

Given the serious charges of illegal mining against the brothers, they should have been asked to step down from their ministerial posts till they were cleared. The chief minister asserts that the Reddy brothers are not responsible for illegal mining. But he has promised a probe by the lokayukta into illegal mining since 2003. His assurance is hardly convincing. One of the reasons cited by N Santosh Hegde, the lokayukta of Karnataka, for his resignation from the post was non-cooperation from the state government in his efforts to stem corruption. He has since withdrawn his resignation but the charges he made against the government stay. Equally strong have been the remarks made by governor H R Bhardwaj, who overreached his constitutional role when he went public with his criticism. The Yeddyurappa government owes the people an explanation. Such a short-sighted approach to corruption could impact the party's image and long-term prospects in the state. 

What comes out of the present episode is the extraordinary influence the mining lobby seems to have over the political system in Karnataka. The Reddy brothers are not merely BJP leaders but state ministers with the means to control the government. Time and again they have shown that they hold the key to survival of the only BJP government in south India. They've been in electoral politics for just a decade but in this short period they have made the BJP a force to reckon with in their stronghold and consolidated their own political clout. 

Political instability in Jharkhand has been attributed to the peddling of influence and mixing of private mining interests with state politics. To ensure that Karnataka is not headed the same way the onus is on the BJP, which must take most of the blame for allowing the Reddy brothers a free run. But the Congress and the JD(S), which at this point of time are trying to highlight corruption in the state, are not free of blame either. It is time the political class recognises the need to regulate businesses so that doing business legally becomes easier in the state.








There is nothing esoteric or mysterious about the formulation of foreign policy. It requires knowing the relevant facts and applying reason and commonsense to them in accordance with desired outcomes. Policy outcomes are related to policy inputs of the relevant parties. So if there is a history of poor relations between India and Pakistan, it is the outcome of the inputs of decision-makers in one or both countries. The blame game has also been an expression of the poor state of relations. As such, whatever the facts, it is likely to be problematic for the task of improving relations. 

The focus, instead, should be on the losses suffered by vast numbers of people in both countries as a result of sub-normal relations. When we factor in opportunity costs, i believe we can safely say that the majority of Indians and Pakistanis have significantly suffered as a result of unsatisfactory relations. While they may subscribe to the dominant narrative in their respective countries, they clearly do not desire a relationship that entails personal costs and lost opportunities. 

India-Pakistan relations are what they are today largely because decision-makers and influence-wielders in both countries have, for a variety of reasons and perceptions, chosen if not intended them to be what they are. Because of interests and mindsets they have been unable to positively respond to the perceptions, concerns and priorities of each other as a necessary condition for productive discussions, principled compromise and improving the relationship. Instead, each side has been skilled in making a plausible case especially to its own people that the other side shoulders the blame for disappointing outcomes. 

This reflects the unfortunate fact that, for many, improving relations is not high priority and is seen to involve more effort, pain and risk than it is worth. But for those who believe that a poor India-Pakistan relationship is incompatible with serving the interests of their people, it is incumbent upon them to organise and mobilise public support for more constructive policy approaches. They must demonstrate leadership. 

My country is besieged by a plethora of challenges, internal and external. It needs to do a whole lot of things across several policy fronts for its future to be assured. It needs to maximise transformative growth to alter the domestic context in which challenges are tackled. It needs a "conducive" neighbourhood to avail of the essential inputs for transformative growth. For this, it needs a modus vivendi including a range of cooperation with all its neighbours, especially with its larger neighbours, and more especially with those with whom it has significant differences. Without casting principle to the wind, it needs to address differences in a manner consistent with the logic of the larger imperative. We cannot achieve our transformation goals our primary obligation to our people in a state of confrontation with India. Accordingly, specific policies need to be pursued and specific policies need to be eschewed. I intend to elaborate on these sets of policies for both countries at a later opportunity. 

But generally, we need to satisfy India that we are seriously addressing its core issues of concern (dismantling structures of terrorism including the more vigorous prosecution of those implicated in the Mumbai atrocities, removing impediments to trade, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, abjuring hostile disinformation, etc). But what if we suspect India is using these concerns to avoid addressing our concerns (a structured and substantive dialogue process, progress towards a Kashmir settlement, improvements in the human rights situation in Kashmir, non-interference in Balochistan, refraining from using America and Afghanistan as pressure points on Pakistan, improved cooperation on water management issues within the context of the Indus Water Treaty, etc)? Should we then insist on reciprocity as a condition for addressing India's concerns many of which should be of greater concern to us when doing so is mandated by our own overriding priority of transformative growth and development? 

Logically, we should not. We need to unflinchingly pursue the interests of our people in all circumstances irrespective of India's response. But in reality India will need to see benefit in finding a way to address our concerns for our policy to be sustainable. The reduction of the trust deficit on both sides can only be a resultant of reciprocal policies. This will not be easy. There are major attitudinal barriers and averse stake-holders in both countries who eagerly play the zero sum game. Overcoming this impediment will require a heroic joint endeavour. 

But the effort must commence now and clear public messages articulating the imperative of improved relations should be made by the political leadership of both sides as early as possible, backed by the announcement of significant measures to be immediately implemented with regard to all issues on the bilateral agenda. We need to move beyond symbolic gestures to game changers. 

The process of resolving major issues of concern to each side may take time but it must soon generate momentum and transform the context of our relationship so that solutions hitherto considered out of the question begin to beckon. I see no other way forward and forward we must move. Our leaders have no option but to jointly collect the Nobel peace award! 

The writer is former Pakistan high commissioner to India. 







Montek Singh Ahluwalia is right. Let's junk the acronym BIMARU, short for Bihar, MP, Rajasthan and UP. The term was coined in the 1980s to denote four states' backwardness. Much has changed since. In post-reforms India, many poor states markedly improved their showing. In fact, better-off states like Punjab have seen decelerated growth in recent times. But five of India's eight laggard states, including Bihar and Orissa, have grown faster than the global 7 per cent benchmark for 'miracle' growth. Once the worst-performing, Bihar expanded at an annual average of 11 per cent between 2004-05 and 2008-09. UP too didn't do too badly at 6.29 per cent. 

Further proof of Bihar's inspiring turnaround is that, in 2008-09, it grew at a high 16.59 per cent at constant prices. Rajasthan's performance has been impressive over the years as well. A study reveals per capita income in the so-called BIMARU states has begun to grow at a healthy 13 per cent. Unsurprisingly, the fast moving consumer goods sector is eyeing them as markets providing avenues for expansion. Even more remarkably, all four have climbed the ranks as investors' 'preferable destinations'. And the chasm between rich and poor states has narrowed on many socio-economic markers like education. 

True, poverty and underdevelopment haven't vanished. But the problem is that BIMARU is no longer used as just a handy term to reflect that. Suggesting irredeemable hopelessness, it's come to mean chronic backwardness and sickness. Such derogatory connotations can only demoralise people in the places it refers to. States desperately trying to better their socio-economic report cards don't need that kind of psychological dampener. Besides, even in real terms, BIMARU is increasingly being challenged. Why not give the nametag a timely burial? 








When demographer Ashish Bose coined the BIMARU acronym, his purpose was clearly to categorise and segregate the states retarding India's overall development process. Rather than trying to be politically correct, Bose's objective was to identify 'grey' states in India's map and spur action on the part of the government. There has to be an honest yardstick to distinguish between high-performing and poorly-performing states. 

These states may have registered higher growth rates than before, but their performance remains dismal in terms of human development indicators (HDI). Factor in per capita incomes, literacy rates, poverty, health and nutrition levels, and these states still have a lot of catching up to do. High growth rates in some states don't necessarily mean inclusive growth for all regions and segments of population. Bihar's impressive 11.03 per cent annual growth, on par with Gujarat's 11.05 per cent, is presented as a massive turnaround. However, Bihar still ranks lowest among Indian states in HDI, according to the Handbook on Social Welfare Statistics-2007. 

Further, literacy in India's two most populous states, Bihar and UP, amounts to just 47.53 per cent and 57.36 per cent respectively. UP has also registered the highest maternal mortality rates per 1,00,000 births at 539, followed by Rajasthan at 501, Orissa at 424, Madhya Pradesh at 407 and Bihar at 400. These states lag behind in infrastructure development, access to public amenities and corruption-free governance. To top it all, they are among the worst Naxal-affected states. The arc of deprivation described by the BIMARU acronym still remains relevant. 







Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar returned the handsome amount of Rs 5 crore to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi about a month ago. Whatever be the disagreements which triggered this gesture, it has established a dramatically new paradigm of behaviour that people who are given money will actually return the cash at some future point in time. 

Banks and other assorted lenders including myself have cause to celebrate, though people who have borrowed from me appear to be made of sterner stuff. Notwithstanding agreement or disagreement with my political, social or moral principles, they have never once returned the money i have lent them. 

Sometimes, i have come pretty close to getting my money back. Take, for instance, the Rs 10,000 i lent to a school friend in Kerala for his wedding. For a few months, i did not remind him, because i know what marriage can do to a man. When i eventually telephoned him, he was most positive and reassuring. "Of course, i will return your money immediately. I am sure you won't mind if i paid you in coconuts from my farm, rather than cash." The next day, a large lorry-load of coconuts was unloaded outside my house. This was immediately noticed by local tax officials who claimed that i was illegally trading in coconuts without a licence. The goods were confiscated and i was also compelled to pay a fine of Rs 5,000. I have not spoken to my friend since then. A prudent decision, given that he also owns cardamom and rubber plantations. 

Yet another repayment due to me is currently in the hands of our postal service. It has been in their hands for nearly six months now. Each time i call the friend who has borrowed this amount, his answer is always the same: "I have mailed you the cheque through post, it should be reaching you any day now." The other day, he told me that a letter addressed to him by his professor had reached after a full five years, and that too in partially torn condition. "I hope something like that does not happen to my letter with the cheque," he said in a deadpan voice. 

Even small borrowers find ingenious methods to avoid returning my cash. My ex-driver, who had borrowed Rs 1,000 for an obscure reason, says he will pay me back the money in 100 equal instalments. "Sir, EMIs are the modern trend across the world today", he educated me, "and i assure you that i will be prompt in my repayment each month." My desire to recover my funds had to be carefully weighed against the singularly uninviting prospect of meeting this man 100 times, so i chose to write off the amount. 

My wife remarked later that the finances of our home would collapse faster than Lehman Bros and the Greek economy if i continued to generously make and write off loans in this manner. This comment did not stop her from touching me for several thousand rupees within a few days, essential to buy a piece of jewellery she had always admired. "Just a small little loan for a few months," she assured me. "Of course, i will hand the cash back to you as soon as i obtain my income tax refund." 

As i patiently wait for these sums of money to be returned to me, i fervently hope that the exemplary behaviour of the Bihar chief minister will become the norm in my circle of friends, drivers and relatives. Tempering such hope is a story narrated to me by yet another colleague, a notorious borrower in his own right. "I am responsible for making my closest friend a millionaire," he said. "Well, what was he before he met you?" i asked. "A billionaire," came the reply. Lenders of this world, you have only yourself to blame. 








The seasonal showers are upon us and our thoughts turn to all that's fried and tested. We mean pakoras, samosas, jalebis and potato chips to name a few from our tasting menu. Now, not everyone is as lucky as us faceless edit writers for we can afford to be any shape or size. Not so for the poor dears who will be on the ramp as Couture Week starts. In order to fit into the cinches and painful tucks, many are on diets that vary from chain-smoking to clear soups to sugar-free gum. Some will faint, others will see mirages of roast lamb and potatoes and still others will, like experimental rats, keep up the pace on the treadmill even in their sleep.


We admire this dedication to a derriere-less existence, this devotion to deprivation. Especially given that one's ability to rake in the shekels is in direct proportion to one's diminishing proportions. As the Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson famously said, "A woman can't be too rich or too thin." But do people have to carry things so far as to live on diets of cayenne pepper and maple syrup and different coloured juices for different days of the week?


In today's world, it has become the tyranny of the thin, the dictatorship of the deracinated. Now the words, "you're looking healthy" are enough to send you running for your weekly dose of two peas and a lettuce leaf. Whatever happened to people with a bit of meat on their bones? Will they eventually wither away, if that is possible on a diet of 5,000 calories a day, like deflated dinosaurs? Before that happens, we don't want to be left with the skeletal remains of the day. So we will just munch along, buying larger sizes of clothes as we go along. And as we gently ballon onward, aren't you glad you just have to read us and notsee us? Now where are those banana fritters?






Like Guido, the hero of Roberto Benigni's 1997 film Life Is Beautiful, those entrusted with organising the Delhi Commonwealth Games must have misread the great 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Guido and his real-life compatriots in Delhi seem to believe that what Schopenhauer stressed in his treatise, The World As Will And Idea, was that if you will something forcefully enough, it will happen. Only if... Just repeating the 'Yes, we can' mantra doesn't make us a First World country, make us a global power, or, as in the case at hand — make Delhi prepared to host 'the best Commonwealth Games ever'. First, the evidence. As this paper reported yesterday, freshly-constructed venues have been washed away, about to collapse, already come down, damaged badly or leaking badly. Concerns about the completion of projects in time had earlier brought Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit out of the wings to announce an August 30 deadline. Now that worry has been subsumed by a bigger one: will the structures hold up? Keeping a time schedule is one thing; maintaining quality and safety control, especially when constructions take place at a blistering pace, is quite another. We're keeping our fingers crossed.


It would be churlish to even suggest at this stage that the Commonwealth authorities may have bitten off more than they can chew — especially when their definition of 'chew' may not match up to international standards. But to worry about the quality of preparation isn't something we should sidestep just because it's bad form. Frankly, it's better to hyperventilate along rational lines about construction and organisational shortcomings in Delhi's Commonwealth Games preparations now and to correct them, than to leave things to only blind optimism and that unreliable fuel in brick and mortar matters as these, patriotism. Surely the authorities are already taking stock of the quality of work being done as you read this to ensure that further embarrassment at an international scale (since, as a nation, our threshold for embarrassment is rather high) does not occur.


As for the concerns of top athletes such as sprinter Usain Bolt, swimmer Cate Campbell and cyclist Chris Hoy giving the Commonwealth Games a miss because their dates clash with Olympics qualifier events, there's little the authorities can do. Except to thank their stars that the Indian public — hopefully not overwhelmingly comprising officials and policemen — wouldn't know that they are absent. Instead, let the authorities put up a show in October that doesn't cut corners or make life hell for those who are the real hosts of the Delhi Commonwealth Games: the worried people of New Delhi.







'What happened in Kampala is just the beginning!' So warned Abu Zubeyr, the leader of al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the bombings in the Ugandan capital that killed more than 70 people who had gathered to watch the World Cup soccer finals. In the bombings' wake, al-Shabab has drawn renewed attention for its murky links to al-Qaeda, and analysts once again are warning that failed States are a mortal threat to American national security. In fact, the case of Somalia and al-Shabab proves precisely the opposite.


That Somalia is a failed State is beyond dispute. Foreign Policy magazine just published its annual Failed States Index, and for the third year running Somalia ranks No. 1. Somalia has had no functioning government since 1992, longer than probably any other present-day State. This is a tragic situation, but American policymakers seem convinced it's also one that poses a grave danger to American national interests. "Dealing with such fractured or failing States is, in many ways, the main security challenge of our time," Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said. Hillary Clinton has voiced strong support for this view. When Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State, she used to call failed States the worst threat to American security, as did a host of scholars, United Nations officials and pundits.


The chief exhibit for this far-reaching claim was, of course, Afghanistan, which descended into chaos in the 1990s and became a staging ground for al-Qaeda, as it prepared to attack America. But Afghanistan's story is a bit more complicated. The Taliban came to power there with support from the Pakistani military, which had long supported radical Islamists. The group also received private and public support from Saudi Arabia, which viewed it as a convenient dumping ground, far from home, for its radicals. Today, there are very few al-Qaeda members in Afghanistan — 60 to 100, says CIA head Leon Panetta — and al-Qaeda operates out of Pakistan. As scholar Ken Menkhaus has pointed out, global terrorism seems to profit less from failed States and more from weak ones, such as Pakistan, where some element of the regime is assisting the terrorists. After all, many drastically failed States (Burma, Congo, Haiti) pose no global terrorist threat.


The trouble with trying to fix failed States is that it implicates America in a vast nation-building effort in countries where the odds of success are low and the risk of unintended consequences is very high. Consider Somalia. In 1992, after the government's collapse, American troops were sent into the country as part of a UN mission to avert famine, but they soon became entangled in local power struggles, ending in a humiliating withdrawal. About a decade later, worried by the rising strength of a radical movement called the Islamic Courts Union, Washington began funding rival Somali factions and finally gave tacit backing to an Ethiopian intervention. The Islamic Courts Union was destroyed but regrouped under its far more radical, violent arm, al-Shabab, which is on the rise.


Somalia highlights the complexity of almost every approach to failed States. If Washington goes after the militants aggressively, it polarises the political landscape and energises the radicals, who can then claim to be nationalists fighting American imperialism. If it talks to them, it's accused of empowering jihadis. The real answer, many argue, is to strengthen the State's capacity so that the government has greater legitimacy and the opposition gets discredited. But how easy is it to fast-forward political modernisation, compressing into a few years what has taken decades, if not centuries, in the West? All these dilemmas are on full display in Afghanistan.


What to do in Somalia? In a thoughtful report, Bronwyn Bruton of the Council on Foreign Relations makes the case for 'constructive disengagement'. The idea is to watch the situation carefully for signs of real global terrorism — which, so far, are limited. Al-Shabab's 'links' with al-Qaeda seem to be mostly rhetoric on both sides. But if they become real and deadly, be willing to strike. This wouldn't be so difficult. Somalia has no mountains or jungles, making it relatively hospitable for counterterrorism operations. Just be careful not to become a player in the country's internal political dynamics. "We have a limited capacity to influence events in Somalia, to influence them positively," says Bruton. "But we have an almost unlimited capacity to make a mess of things."


Fareed Zakaria is the Editor of Newsweek and the author of The Post-American World. The views expressed by the author are personal








Don't you know who I am?" That's what Congress MLA Vinayak Nimhan asked the Indian Express-Loksatta security guard who had the temerity to ask him who he wanted to meet in the Pune office. Nimhan, who came with a posse of supporters and a police constable, then beat up the guard, Manoj Prahlad Jadhav, bruising and abusing him. Later, the police constable admonished Jadhav for talking to the MLA directly, instead of asking the constable first. Nimhan appeared nonchalant about the "minor scuffle", asking how it was the newspaper's business when the guard was employed by the G4S security agency.


It should be the business of anyone who has encountered this kind of open arrogance, especially by those who claim to represent the rest of us. Don't you know who I am — are the six sordid words that go to the heart of all that's wrong with our entitled, loutish VIP culture where a simple, pro forma question that everyone else takes as a given, is construed as an impertinent challenge to the Important Person's place in the universe.


Of course, this sense of privilege and insulation from the rules that apply to earthbound members of the public can manifest itself in different ways. Some VIPs just glide through the lines where others stand in line, get frisked, or present ID, some flick away bans and laws that others have to abide by, and in some cases like Nimhan's, it is manifested as open fury at being treated like everyone else (especially by the working class).


Of course, in India, this idea of entitlement gets daily reinforcement. And individuals like Jadhav draw intimidatory behaviour for asking entirely legitimate questions.






A proposal for a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) is expected to be put before a group of ministers. As reported in this newspaper on Monday, the volume suggested is $10 billion and many options on how the fund could be structured are on the table. An Indian SWF would be a pot of money, controlled by the government, which will be used to purchase overseas assets. This idea is fraught with difficulties in the context of poor governance in India. Business houses will queue up to request politicians for this money to be placed in their ventures. It could become much like an IDBI or IFCI of yesteryear, where politicians allocate this money to their friends, or where bureaucrats incompetently try to be financiers.


In India, government suffers from acute problems of accountability. Our political process has abjectly failed at preventing fiscal indiscipline by one political party after another. Would it then be a good idea to enlarge the mandate of the government to husband a $10 billion SWF in the hope that this would cater to the interests of the people of India? Faced with our crisis of governance, our focus must be on delineating, and limiting, the mandate of the state, and layering on more and more accountability mechanisms. This proposal works in the opposite direction; it creates more discretion for the state.


An investment fund, if run well, requires the fund manager to be given a free hand; but, for a publicly-held fund, will a free hand be available? Conversely, if it is, what accountability mechanisms will the fund manager be subject to? Efficiency and accountability are both desirable, but will work in opposite directions. The idea itself, therefore, is internally contradictory.


Globally, democracies do not run SWFs, except for situations like Norway, where its entire revenues from oil have been placed into a fund which would support the budget over coming centuries. Barring such unusual situations, democracies build accountability mechanisms where citizens pay taxes which are used by governments to produce public goods. SWFs are a feature of autocracies, where powerful bureaucrats and politicians in places like China or the UAE derive political benefits from controlling vast assets. Building an SWF is as wrong as building an IDBI or IFCI. While some socialists might be comfortable with this notion, it is important to criticise it and block it, as a part of the process of making Indian democracy work.







The early morning railway disaster at Sainthia in West Bengal that has left scores dead and many more critically injured may have been just an accident. However, it's still too early to be certain, as there are some unanswered questions and the Railways will conduct an investigation. But it's unlikely this tragedy will draw parallels with intentional damage as the Jnaneswari Express was sub-ject to last May. From the face of it, it looks like a human error — the driver of the Uttarbanga Express overshooting a signal, failing to slow down and ramming into the rear of the other train. That the trains were on the same track will also come under the scanner. The issue at hand, therefore, is not one single accident but the spate of railway accidents we've witnessed for a year, the conduct of the Union railway minister and a particular kind of politics that remains her trademark.


Despite the ambitions of the railway budget, albeit much of it, as argued in these columns, misdirected, little has changed in the ground reality of railway services and passenger safety. Long-awaited technological upgrade vis-a-vis signalling and track maintenance hasn't come about, nor has a blueprint for minimising human error — something no large-scale public transportation service can altogether avoid. As India's largest single employer and a behemoth ferrying dependent passengers to and from every corner of this vast country, the Indian Railways are distinctly not a 21st century public utility. And having a railway minister at the helm least interested in her charge, engaged as she is in securing the political ground in her home state, only makes matters worse. (And you can only wonder how her constituents see her administrative skills.)


Which brings us to the inevitable — politics, Mamata Banerjee-style. Once again, the railway minister has irresponsibly hinted at conspiracy, as she had, more vehemently, after the Jnaneswari disaster. Hers is a brand of politics that confines itself to muckraking and name-calling, high-pitched rhetoric and shoddy public spectacles. Without any trace of substance, programme and delivery. She doesn't appreciate that Indian politics moved on long ago, and that she's a relic, albeit a unique relic. Her flawed response to the latest disaster is simply confirmation that the Railways cannot afford her at the helm.











Optimists might yet hope that Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will undo some of the damage he did last week by making nice to Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna on the margins of an international conference in Kabul on Tuesday. But don't bet on it.


Qureshi's behaviour might have been outrageous in terms of diplomatic protocol, but there is nothing personal to it. In any case, Qureshi is unlikely to have much time for Krishna in Kabul.


Qureshi, a feudal from southern Punjab with a penchant for the theatrical, has every reason to preen on the international stage he has this week in Kabul. Thanks to his army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani's shuttle diplomacy to Kabul in recent weeks, Pakistan has acquired a pivotal position in the political transition that is beginning to unfold in Afghanistan.


Some in Delhi interpret Qureshi's unexpected decision to walk back from the prior understandings so carefully crafted in the weeks before Krishna's visit to Islamabad as having something to do with the statement of Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai, made in an interaction at this newspaper a couple of days before the talks.


Some see Pillai's affirmation on the role of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence as a needless provocation on the eve of the talks; others read it as an opportunity that Kayani simply seized. The Pillai episode should not distract us from a larger difficulty that has enveloped Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's efforts to revive the peace process with Pakistan.


Seen from Delhi, the Mumbai trail leads relentlessly to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the ISI. As the former director general of the ISI, the current army chief, and the most consequential political figure in Pakistan, Kayani has no incentive to put his prime instruments against India in the dock just because they plotted the 26/11 attacks.


Add to this Rawalpindi's new triumphalism on Afghanistan. The Pakistan GHQ believes that the balance of power in the region is tilting towards Pakistan for the first time since the September 11, 2001 attacks. After a decade on the defensive, Kayani believes, his army has the United States and India on the ropes.


Kayani senses that the US needs the Pakistan army more than ever if it wants a dignified exit from Afghanistan. The army sees Washington with no option but to write ever bigger cheques for Islamabad. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handed over one of those for $500 million in Islamabad on Monday.


China, the rising power in the region, has signalled a deeper interest in Afghanistan and could provide the economic resources needed for a future Pakistan strategy in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Beijing has unveiled a civilian nuclear deal with Pakistan to underline the commitment to sustain Pindi's strategic parity with Delhi.


As Washington's Afghan trumpet sounds increasingly uncertain, President Hamid Karzai has decided that he needs some understanding with the "Talib-jan", his new phrase of endearment to the Taliban that has drawn some political flak from his rivals in Afghanistan.


The only one who can deliver reconciliation with the Taliban is, if we might, Kayani-jan. Meanwhile, India is tripping all over itself in Kashmir, again.


Rawalpindi would rather cash in than make concessions to India on terrorism. When its policy of holding on to the Afghan Taliban and the LeT is paying off, Rawalpindi has no reason to abandon them as Washington and Delhi want it to do.


Last week's diplomatic fiasco in Islamabad is rooted in the fact that Delhi and Rawalpindi no longer agree on the nature of the relationship between terrorism and the peace process.


The positive and productive engagement between India and Pakistan until 2007 was built on the agreement hammered out between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and General Pervez Musharraf in January 2004. Rawalpindi promised to control cross-border violence and Delhi agreed to negotiate on all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.


By all accounts much progress was made.


Since he took charge, Kayani has repeatedly signalled that he has no stake in what Musharraf might have done with India. Delhi can indeed finesse the question of terrorism originating from Pakistan, but has no leverage now to change Rawalpindi's behaviour.


If it wants to win a measure of influence on Pakistan's decision-making, Delhi must start to think about Rawalpindi and Kabul in an integrated manner, much like Pakistan which views India and Afghanistan as part of a single security complex.


For Rawalpindi, the search for influence in Kabul is not an end in itself. It is about altering the balance of power with India. To successfully transform relations with Pakistan, the prime minister needs to recast his Afghan policy.


Until now Dr Singh has held firm in his conviction that reconciling with Pakistan is more important than raising the stakes in Afghanistan. The time has come for Dr Singh to invert that mental map. Put simply, the prime minister must see that the road to Rawalpindi runs through Afghanistan.


If Dr Singh does not think boldly about a new Indian policy towards Kabul, he will find India losing ground in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The Pakistan-Afghan trade and transit agreement signed in Islamabad on Sunday underlines Rawalpindi's determination to push India out of Afghanistan. The agreement explicitly affirms that India will not be allowed to export goods to Afghanistan through the border at Wagah. The American and Afghan calls for a broader regional framework including India were vetoed by the Pakistan GHQ.


Central to any restructuring of India's policy must be a decision to intensify the engagement with the Pashtun leaders on both sides of the Durand Line that divides Pakistan and Afghanistan.


India can no longer deny itself the option of engaging the Pashtuns, including the Afghan Taliban, who hold most of the aces in the unfolding battle for the lands between the Indus and the Hindu Kush.








Political yatras in Andhra Pradesh are causing a flutter among the dovecotes. Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, is on the second leg of his Odarpu Yatra (a yatra to console the kin of those who died of shock in the wake of his father's death last September). And the former chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, is leading a Babhli Yatra — a yatra to expose and protest the arguably illegal construction of irrigation projects by Maharashtra at Babhli, on river Godavari. With barely a week to go for by-elections to 12 assembly constituencies in the Telangana region, these yatras cannot but have political implications. While Naidu's yatra is calculated to influence the electoral outcome, Jagan's yatra can unsettle the precarious perch of Chief Minister K. Rosaiah. At any rate, both yatras are a headache for the Congress in the state as well as the Centre.


Jagan's yatra is in open defiance of the Congress high command. The young MP tried to tell his party's Central leadership that it was non-political, and that he set out only to honour his personal commitment to visit every household that lost a member after hearing of his father's tragic demise. His mother also met the Congress president to seek her assent, but Sonia Gandhi remained unconvinced and herself asked him not to go ahead with the yatra, Jagan wrote in a signed article in the newspaper he owns. However, he decided to continue his yatra undeterred, he told his readers. His piece, however tactfully worded, clearly signalled that he was out to challenge the high command.


His yatra's intentions are just as unmistakable — he wants to be the successor of YSR, and he and his followers haven't accepted Rosaiah as chief minister. He used the first leg of his yatra to demonstrate his popularity and his ability as a crowd puller. His remarks against the CM and the government during the yatra are not even thinly veiled. He made no customary noises of loyalty to the ruling family in Delhi. The loyalty of Jagan's followers among legislators and even ministers to Rosaiah is suspect. The Congress high command felt that, if not reined in, Jagan posed an immediate challenge to the government. If he walked out of the party with a handful of MLAs, he could plunge the government into crisis. Many ministers and legislators have not heeded the high command's advice and are participating in the yatra. Those who did not show up sent their kin or followers to mark their presence. Crowds throng his roadshows. Between Jagan and the Congress high command, it's an eyeball to eyeball confrontation. It is difficult to guess who will blink first.


Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu's Babhli yatra has different objectives — reviving his party's flagging fortunes, and buttressing confidence in his leadership within the party. In 2009, Naidu worked hard to stitch together a political formula of alliances and electoral promises. He brought the major non-Congress outfits together, and made populist electoral promises (monthly cash transfers and colour television sets to the largest number of families). But the formula bombed, and there remain doubts about his ability to deliver a victory in 2014. If the drift continues, there is no guarantee that there won't be a clamour to replace Naidu with one of the matinee idols from the NTR clan.


Naidu faces a difficult situation. The 2009 electoral defeat left him and the party utterly disoriented. That he is in for another five long years out of power is an ineluctable political fact. His party's morale is at its lowest ebb — since its inception, it has never faced two successive electoral defeats. Now, for the first time, it is going to be out of office for 10 years straight and that too without a friendly government at the Centre.


So far, Naidu had not found an issue to rally the cadre for an offensive against the government. YSR's death, massive floods, and the Telangana stir in quick succession gave him no respite to collect his forces. Babhli, however, is not a new issue. He has chosen to take it up now to upstage the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and to hit the Congress: in AP for the government's negligence, in Maharashtra for its treachery, and at the Centre for its indifference to the plight of Telangana. The arrest of Naidu and other leaders by the Maharashtra police, the tension surrounding it, and the bandh called by the TDP in the state brought the party back into political focus. That's a good purchase. If this yatra can yield even modest gains in the Telangana by-elections, Naidu can breathe easy.


The writer is director, Centre for Public Policy Studies, Hyderabad







Shekhar Gupta:My guest this week is an unlikely whistleblower and a very good one at that, Justice Santosh Hegde. Nobody has done this as a lokayukta.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Thanks, I am just doing what I am expected to do.


Shekhar Gupta: So far, everybody thought the office of the lokayukta is a sinecure, a joke.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: It is so because most of the states have not even given (lokayuktas) the powers I have. I have substantial powers and I am still complaining. I am not being greedy but as you go on, you find you require more powers. As you go deep into the jungle, I think you want more security and more protection. And that's the reason I keep asking for more powers.


Shekhar Gupta: 'Going deeper into the jungle'. It's an interesting metaphor.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: It's very easy to find fault with an ordinary government servant. It's extremely difficult to find fault with senior officers and senior politicians—and prove it. Nobody comes forward to give complaints. Therefore, you have to go on your own. As you go in, you get into a maze-like situation when you don't know how far you can go or when you can come back. These are issues which confront you as you keep going deep into the thing.


Shekhar Gupta: Tell us a bit about your experiences. Your 'walk through the jungle' so far.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: For the last four years, I have walked through this particular jungle. When I first came here, I really did not know what is the ambit of the lokayukta's jurisdiction. As I studied the Act, I realised there is much more to the lokayukta's job than merely catching some small-time officers, bribe-takers. The Act says the object of the job it is to oversee good governance, including prevention of corruption, nepotism, arbitrariness. Therefore, it is a very wild area. But the powers that have been given are hardly anything. You can't wait for a complaint to be given by a citizen against a chief minister or powerful ministers or even higher bureaucrats. Nobody comes forward to give it. Having noticed all this, I thought I required more powers to go on my own in this jungle. So, I asked for suo motu power, a power to inquire...


Shekhar Gupta: On your own...


Justice N Santosh Hegde: On my own, against the chief minister, ministers and other senior officers. They didn't give me that power. It was there originally in the Act but within six months of the Act coming into force, they took it away from the lokayukta. That's the power I am asking for. I can give you many examples where our efforts did not go to the logical end because of want of this power.


Shekhar Gupta: Is the mining issue an example of this?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: No. mining is not an example of it because it was based on a specific complaint that I received. On mining, I have a problem because almost all departments are involved in this. Therefore to get the cooperation of these departments is next to impossible.


Shekhar Gupta: Because there are vested interests.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Vested interests are controlling the whole industry. Imagine, in one night, nearly a thousand vehicles go without proper permit to a port and export the iron ore without proper permit. All this is supervised by the forest department, by the mining department, by the police, by the road transport department... There is a checkpost everywhere, but nobody stops them. At the port, you have to show the port security valid documents, here too they don't do anything at all. Then there are forest officers inside the port, who are supposed to check whether these minerals are from the forest area, whether they have taken permission from the forest department or not. Rule 162 of the Karnataka Forest Rules says the port authority has to satisfy himself before he allows (the consignment) to go outside the port area. Then there is the customs department which has to collect the customs duty. Nobody does anything.


Shekhar Gupta: So do you think you have bitten off more than you could chew?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Sometimes yes, I do feel that way because having taken it this far, if it is to be taken from me and given to somebody else, it should not be done for collateral reasons.


Shekhar Gupta: You mean if it is taken away from the lokayukta and given to the CBI, as the Opposition is demanding, you think that could be for collateral reasons?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: It could be for collateral reasons, especially with the past experience people have about the CBI where they have closed many cases which ought to have ended in conviction. My perception of the ruling party's objection for giving the case to the CBI is that the institution may fix the state government. That's also possible.


Shekhar Gupta: So while the state government today may fear that the CBI will victimise them, the Opposition, which was in power when a lot of these permits were given, may have the apprehension that your inquiry will fix them.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Could be. Certainly, they don't want the lokayukta to proceed because many of these permits were given during the tenure of other political parties.


Shekhar Gupta: Both Congress and Deve Gowda's.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Yes, JD-S, Congress as well as the present government. There is documentary evidence to show that they have given permits to many people after taking a policy decision not give any more permits.


Shekhar Gupta: So there are no saints here?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: No. There may be few and far between in that group...


Shekhar Gupta: Were you surprised by the reaction you got?


Justice N Santosh Hegde:Honestly, I was very, very surprised with the media attention my resignation got. The reaction of the people of Karnataka and other parts also took me by surprise.


Shekhar Gupta: Was the resignation impulsive or did you think it through?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: No, it was not impulsive. As a matter of fact, I was discussing this issue with my family, saying that I think I am not really going as far as I should be. Therefore, if I can't do the job that is entrusted to me under the Act and for which I am being paid substantially, I should not continue with the work. So I was planning that maybe sometime in September, I will quietly go out. It might suit the government also to have their own new lokayukta. But on June 21, an officer (Deputy Conservator of Forests R Gokul) who detected illegal mining of nearly 5 lakh metric tonnes was sought to be kept under suspension. Why did they want to suspend him? Because they wanted to change the officer who was investigating the case and then the entire case could be hushed up. I wanted to stop it. But there was no way I could stop it by writing a letter to the chief minister or to anybody—things were moving very fast.


Shekhar Gupta: Did you try to speak with the chief minister?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: No, I didn't speak to him that day because I had to go somewhere. When I returned, I found out (Gokul) was not suspended yet but his papers were moving. At that point of time, I decided to advance my resignation, making this a flashpoint so that this officer would not be suspended.


Shekhar Gupta: And you won.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: I won and I am grateful to the Andhra Pradesh chief minister who went on the floor of the House and said he appreciated the work of this officer. He also admitted that it wasn't just five lakh metric tonnes that were illegally transported from Karwar but it was 35 lakh metric tonnes.


Shekhar Gupta: When it comes to ion ore, most of us do not understand what five lakh metric tonnes and what 35 lakh metric tonnes are. Explain to us the economics of it.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: One metric tonne in the international market today is $100-120. So, 1 metric tonne is for Rs 5,000. Now, Rs 5,000 multiplied by 5 lakh metric tonnes comes to Rs 150 crore, of which the government has not even got Re 1. Now if it is 35 lakh metric tonnes, as the documents show between October 2009 and February 2010, it would touch about Rs 1,600 crore.


Shekhar Gupta: Of this, even the royalty would have been substantial for Karnataka.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: We should realise this is the property of the state; it doesn't belong to any individual. Therefore, when you calculate the illegality, you have to take into consideration the actual value of it.


Shekhar Gupta: Because if they had taken a licence for it, they would have to pay for this.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: They would have to pay and the government might not have permitted them, depending upon the ecological requirement. These are all taken illegally from areas which may not have been suitable for mining at all. Like forest areas or certain hilly areas.


Shekhar Gupta: So did you get evidence that a lot of this environmental damage was also taking place illegally?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Yes, in my report of 2008, I had said there were certain species of animals, like the sloth bear, that were confined to the Bellary region. Now, they are there no more. There are medicinal plants which don't grow there anymore. The entire system of rain has changed in the district of Bellary. There are so many ecological changes that have taken place mainly because of illegal mining.


Shekhar Gupta: How does the mechanism work?

Justice N Santosh Hegde: Right from the time when a mining lease is applied for, there are certain guidelines under the Central and the state enactments. At that stage itself, they have to give a sketch of the area where they are going to mine. I found out that sometimes the areas have nothing to do with the sketch that are given with the applications. Nobody crosschecks these things. Therefore, this is the first stage where illegality takes place. Then they take permission, say, for 150 hectares. Those 150 hectares may be in a prohibited area, like a forest area. But they show it as a revenue area, go to the forest area and start mining there. Therefore, you degrade the forest. Then there are Indian Bureau of Mines rules and regulations which control the type of mining you can do—like, you cannot go more than six metres because it may be dangerous ecologically. But they don't care. Therefore, where they are allowed to take 100 metric tones, they will take out 1,000 metric tonnes. The entire area surrounding the mining area is totally devoid of greenery and has no agricultural activity. People there have no other vocation. God knows what will happen to them when the mining is stopped or controlled. None of them goes to school or college. All of them have been provided with a motorcycle, a cellphone and a daily allowance. Their job is to just go around and see if any stranger has come to that area and to report it.


Shekhar Gupta: And all this ore is moved by thousands of trucks on these highways.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Yes, and the highways are damaged and repaired every year. But what the government gets by way of royalty is not enough to meet what is required to repair a road in a year. It's one-tenth of what is required.


Shekhar Gupta: And what complicates it is the fact that the key players in this have become powerful in the state's politics.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Yes, that is the general perception. I will not agree or disagree with it because I don't want to talk about anything without there being documentary evidence in front of me.


Shekhar Gupta: But two of the biggest mining lease owners are in the Cabinet in the state.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: They are in Andhra Pradesh, the leases are there.


Shekhar Gupta: You agreed to stay back. What made you change your decision?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: That is something which has led to some controversy. Many people had approached me—social organisations, students, farmers, ordinary people. They all requested me to withdraw my resignation, saying that if you go at this point of time, you will be giving them a handle to do more illegal activities, you must stay. But somewhere I had taken a decision that I should not make use of this situation as an instrument to blackmail. Then one day, Mr L K Advani telephoned me and asked me if I would reconsider my decision if he gave a statement to the press, stating that the government would look into my concerns and address them directly. Well, I have said that and I am saying it again, L K Advani is like a father figure to me because of my personal relationship with him. He was very close to my father.


Shekhar Gupta: Your father was a towering figure in the BJP.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: He was the vice-president of the BJP and also speaker of the Lok Sabha. More than that, I respect him for being a Supreme Court judge.


Shekhar Gupta: You followed in those footsteps.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: Yes, it not hereditary but I followed his footsteps. So then I told him (Advani) that I will consider it and tell him the next day. In fact, I consulted Justice J S Verma who had spoken to me after I resigned and who advises me now and then. He said, 'Look Santosh, if a man of Advani's stature calls you take an extract from him stating his party agrees to give you the powers that you have asked for and also to remove other problems that you faced...if he agrees to do that, then you go ahead'. That was conveyed to Mr Advani and he agreed.


Shekhar Gupta: So, how convinced are you of the government's assurances now?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: I had an opportunity of going through the draft Bill. I was told in the beginning that they will address all my concerns. What I understood was that all what I had asked for—suo moto power to inquire not only against bureaucrats but also against politicians—would be given to me. But now they have diluted it, saying they would give me that power only to inquire against bureaucrats. One of the major problems seems to be the concern that the lokayukta might misuse that power. Now, in the next one year if I show it to them that I am not going to misuse this power, then maybe they will gain confidence in the institution of the lokayukta.


Shekhar Gupta: Are you disillusioned with the BJP?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: I am totally apolitical. I have made that clear many times. For example, I was appointed Advocate General by the Janata Party, I became the Additional Solicitor General of India under V P Singh's party. I became the Solicitor General under the NDA. I was appointed chairman of the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) by the UPA. And then I was appointed lokayukta by Mr Gowda when Yeddyurappa was deputy CM. Every educated Indian has some political affiliation which, of course, may change from issue to issue. I am in that category.


Shekhar Gupta: By Mr Gowda.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: And Yedurappa was deputy chief minister and therefore I am totally apolitical. But every Indian, every educated Indian, has some political affiliations which, of course, may change from issue to issue. I am in that category.


Shekhar Gupta: The opportunity you have is to do for 'Brand Lokayukta' what T N Sheshan did for the Election Commission and Justice Verma for the Supreme Court.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: My predecessor also did it because this institution has been in existence since 1986 but till 2001, nobody knew much about it.


Shekhar Gupta: But a moment comes when an institution can either rise to its true potential and go beyond it or get completely demolished.


Justice N Santosh Hegde: I have no intention of going beyond its legal potential but I have not yet reached that legal potential.


Shekhar Gupta: But you have no intention to allow it to diminish?


Justice N Santosh Hegde: No, under no circumstance will I do that. If I have taken it this far, I will take it further.


So wishing you luck, you will need it, thank you very much.


Transcribed by Yamini Agarwal









In the wee hours of Monday morning, the New Coochbehar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express rammed into the Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express at the Sainthia railway station in West Bengal. With at least 60 people killed on impact and many more left injured, it was only to be expected that the Opposition would pin accountability on the Union railway minister. The CPI(M) and the BJP were joined by LJP in accusing Mamata Banerjee of gross negligence, given the number of railway accidents that have taken place since she took over as minister in May last year. The usual counter-argument could have been that safety is a long-term issue, except Banerjee is peculiarly ill-suited to make it. Ever since she decided to formally take charge as the railway minister in Kolkata instead of New Delhi, Banerjee has left herself wide open to the charge that she is more interested in gaining power in West Bengal than in running the Union ministry. By responding with substance to various accidents that have taken place under her watch, she could have flayed back such criticism. Rather the reverse has been the case. In the latest instance, she flew in with the ill-considered remark that she was "suspicious about the cause of the accident". Without solid intelligence to back it up, this amounts to irresponsible speculation. Worse, it makes for a pattern of crying wolf. She is hinting at Naxal engagement where there may be none, which unfairly increases the burden of evidence in cases where such engagement is actually indisputable.


Her record as Union railways minister is not stellar otherwise either. In presenting the February budget, for example, her vision was sadly remarkable by its absence. Welfare rhetoric clouded over the more important work of running and expanding the railway network. For example, with its being widely accepted that 80,000 new wagons are needed to replace very old rolling stock, she made no provision for financing such purchases in the current fiscal. And there was widespread perception that she was using the ministry mostly to extend patronage in her constituency. While Banerjee may not be the first Union railways minister to do this, India's ability to entertain such shenanigans is surely fading. The railways' role in pushing along the country's growth is, after all, critical. And ensuring safety is the bare minimum of its mandates. And if Mamata Banerjee isn't up for the job, someone else must take her place.








Taking over companies in India hasn't been too difficult a task in the past; at around 100 takeovers a year in the last five years, the number isn't small. But now a potential acquirer will have to pick up the entire quantum of remaining shares, and not just a minimum of 20% of the equity of the company from the other shareholders, once the trigger of 25% kicks in. This will make buying out companies that much more expensive, thus only those with deep pockets will venture to do so. This could also benefit incompetent promoters whose shares may be undervalued because they need not fear a takeover threat as much as they might have earlier. Payments that are 'non-cash' in nature, like share swaps, are being talked about and some are already allowed, but it could be a while before they become popular. Obviously, acquirers would be happier if they had to buy less than 100%; in the last four years, only in less than 15% of the open offers did the acquirer offer to buy more than the mandatory 20%. Globally, the trend has been such that acquirers do agree to buy out all remaining shares.


Small shareholders will certainly benefit as they will be able to sell all their shares rather than just some. The case of Japanese drug major Daiichi Sankyo buying out Ranbaxy, when the promoters managed to cash out big time but small shareholders were able to sell about a third of their shares, is fresh in everyone's mind. Only, it shouldn't happen that there are fewer takeovers so that even the few shareholders who were able to cash out lose out. Clearly, banks should be allowed to come forth to help with M&A funding, because otherwise foreign buyers may be at an advantage vis-à-vis their Indian acquirers, given the access to leverage in their home markets. The committee that has revisited the Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers Regulations, 1997, has done a good job by making delisting seamless if an acquirer is able to access 90% of the target company's shares, provided he makes clear his intention to delist beforehand.


An increase in the acquisition trigger from the current 15% was always on the cards; before 1997 this limit was 10% but in those days promoters were able to control their companies with smaller stakes. Today, the mean and median of promoter shareholdings in listed companies are at 48.9% and 50.5% of the total equity capital and the number of companies that are controlled by promoters holding 15% or less is less than 8.4%. So the 15% limit has clearly outlived its utility and the committee has come up with a trigger level of 25%, which is in sync with other regulations governing corporates. At this level, the potential acquirer can exercise de facto 'positive control' over a company; this is in keeping with the fact that promoters who own voting rights in excess of 25% can exercise effective control, according to the Companies Act, since they can block a special resolution. The 25% threshold is not too far away from the levels in countries like the UK, for instance, where it is 30%, while for the EU, Singapore and Hong Kong, it is in the range of 30-35%. A higher limit will also give companies a little more headroom to access capital, from say a private equity fund without the latter having to make an open offer. In times when the capital market may not be supportive, promoters may well want to offload stakes to other investors. So, a higher threshold will assist capital raising. While there were expectations that this trigger limit may be higher, what the committee has done is to allow promoters who already have a stake of 25% to continue to make a creeping acquisition of up to 5% a year, without making an open offer up to the maximum permissible non-public shareholding limit or 75%. That gives the promoters the flexibility to beef up their stake in the company, over a period of time.


Ideally, the market price should not form part of the criteria to decide the open offer price since the price negotiated between the buyer and the seller is the best indicator. However, the committee has decided that although the market price may not always be relevant, it should be retained for some more time as one of the criteria used to determine the offer price. The committee has, however, tweaked the rules to try and ensure that the market price of the shares in question cannot be manipulated by suggesting the use of a volume-weighted average price for the last 60 days, instead of the average of the weekly highs and lows for 26 weeks. Clearly, it would be more expensive to tamper with prices because the volume will now be taken into consideration. All in all, any buyout will become more expensive for acquirers now because the open offer will also have to take into account any non-compete fee that they pay to the seller.









The IMF has upgraded the emerging economies' growth forecasts and downgraded the developed countries'. This is most likely to turn out right. We can expect the developed economies to be stagnant for much of the next decade. They have a huge hangover of private and public debt that needs to be sorted out. The recent change of mood in G-20 and even the IMF is to tackle this deficit urgently to allow growth to resume. Many Keynesian economists—Paul Krugman, Robert Skidelsky, Joe Stiglitz—are opposed to this deficit cutting policy. They are advocating a sustained reflation strategy. Their hope is that the output lost during the Great Recession—around 5-7% of GDP on an average in each country—should be recovered before restraint can be practised. They would steer the economy to overshoot its historic growth path and then gently converge from above to the trend growth rate.


I am sceptical of this because I think the multipliers are rather small. This has been known for a while. For example, in the first quarter figures for the UK, there was a growth of 0.3% of GDP and 1.5% growth of government spending. Even if you annualise the 0.3% growth, the multiplier is barely one. This, if true, would imply that the reflation package may need to be big and sustained for two to three years to achieve what the Keynesians want. I think it is unlikely that the developed economies can borrow to that extent without paying some hefty interest rates.


Against this, it is contended that the domestic corporate sector are in surplus and they will hold the debt. But if so, that will not lead to growth (since public spending has a low multiplier) nor is it certain that all the developed countries can manage to borrow at home. We have already seen how Greece has been struggling along with Spain, Portugal and Italy. Indeed, in both Greece and Spain, China is stepping in as a big buyer of the local assets. Sovereign wealth funds from the Gulf countries will no doubt follow.


The global economy has the developed economies as net debtors and the emerging economies as net creditors. I would aver that we ought to change the labels now. The label 'emerging economies' is too patronising for what are, after all, the fast growing economies of the last two decades. By contrast, the only way to label the Eurozone economies is as submerging. The Anglo-Saxon economies—the US, the UK, Canada and Australia—will do a bit better but not by much. This is not an accident nor a result of the Great Recession. It is indeed the other way round. What we are witnessing is the long-run consequence of adopting full employment and low inflation policies, which presumed but did not pursue growth. This has been the legacy of Keynes, and, after the 1970's, of the new classical economics.


In pursuing high employment strategies, governments did not worry about the productivity of the jobs they were creating. Keynes was writing about the short run and he was worried more about the cost of unemployed labour than the problem of low productivity when this idle labour was employed. The western world had a 25-year period of growth from 1945 to 1970, the so-called Keynesian golden age. This growth was a result of catching up with pent-up demand of the baby-boom generation and using up all the innovations of the War and pre-War years. There was still surplus labour on the farms, even in the US and Western Europe that kept wages in line with productivity. The growth was one of widening rather than deepening variety.


When this growth spurt was exhausted, Keynesian policies began to fail in the 1970's. There was no positive growth policy to correct this failure. The macroeconomic thinking turned to reducing inflation and the idea was that growth would be taken care of by the market. The Silicon Valley did for a while meet this expectation, but soon the growth spurt was exhausted as we saw in the collapse of the dot-com boom. New classical economics is as little concerned with growth as was Keynesian economics. Now with the easy pickings of high-level consumer demand having been exhausted, the wellsprings of growth seem to have dried up for the developed countries.


The long-run growth challenge, thus, requires a rebooting of economics away from Keynesian and new classical macroeconomics towards a classical and Schumpeterian economics. It should emphasise investment and innovation rather than consumption, supply rather than demand, work rather than leisure, wealth creation rather than welfare provision. It is unlikely that this sort of economics will be easy to construct. But without that the developed economies face steady decline relative to the fast-growing economies of Asia and Latin America.


The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer








The Indian equity market is a favourite among foreign institutional investors (FIIs). For the calendar year till date, Asian markets (excluding Japan, China and Malaysia) received close to $16 billion, of which 53% went into Indian equities. Last year, India received only 29%, when a record $60 billion flowed into the same markets. So in a sense, India benefited this year from higher weightages allocated to it at the expense of other Asian markets—mainly South Korea and Taiwan.


While South Korea received 31% less than last year (till date) in absolute terms, it was a whopping 89% less for Taiwan. Relatively higher dependence on cyclicals—which dances to the tune of health of world economy—has done the damage for these two countries. India, with its strong domestic story and projections of its GDP growing at 8.5% in 2010-11, stood as a safe bet for FIIs.


The big question is whether the FII inflow will continue in the second half—into the Indian markets. Historically, FIIs have always invested more in second half of the calendar year. And in six out of seven occasions, the returns have been more in the second half. So, by that logic, will the second half see net inflows of at least $7 billion into India from FIIs? The gut feeling is no, since this time around higher relative valuations for India vis-à-vis that of its Asian peers is expected to play spoilsport.


One year forward, PE for Sensex is 17.3, while it is 9.8 for South Korean Kospi and 14.3 for China Shanghai SE Composite. Some of these markets are quoting much below their long-term PE averages while India is quoting higher than its long-term average of 16. While one could justify the current high PE ratios to the argument that the future trajectory of Sensex earnings is to happen at a higher gear, the fact is also that the equity market perhaps has already priced it in current share prices. In that sense, Sensex earnings has to catch up with market expectations. Not so the case for other Asian markets.


On the basis of MSCI Asia Pacific (ex-Japan) weights, India ranks fifth, behind Australia, China, Korea and Taiwan and in that order. But the worry is whether the future flows will get diverted to other markets—especially China or South Korea, which are now looking attractive. The simple diversification rule suggests that.










Fourteen railway accidents in ten months, the second in West Bengal in two months. But this time the Railways cannot blame the Maoists, who were behind the blast in the track that resulted in a serious derailment and the death of 146 passengers on May 28. In the wee hours of Monday, about 190 km from Kolkata, a speeding Uttar Banga Express rammed into the Vananchal Express that was just leaving the Sainthia station. The fundamental safety procedure in the Railways is that when a track is occupied, the signalling system will not let in another train. There have been no reports of any sabotage. So there can be only two possible reasons for the latest tragedy on the tracks that claimed at least 60 lives: the driver of the Uttar Banga Express, who died in the collision, either disregarded the signal; or the signal failed. For all that, the Uttar Banga Express was supposed to stop at that station. So what could explain the speed at which it entered the very same platform from which the other Express train was just about to leave? The impact of the crash was such that one of the Vananchal Express coaches mounted the pedestrian overbridge ahead of it. As the tragedy occurred some time between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m., the passengers must have been fast asleep and rescue operations also took some time to get under way. Two of the Vananchal Express coaches that took the impact were unreserved compartments; so even the number of passengers in them, not to mention the identity of the dead, took some time to establish. In addition to the Railway relief teams, the Army sent a special contingent to help with the rescue effort, which involved the use of cutters to extricate bodies.


Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee is clearly not up to the job of ensuring safety on the tracks. Against the backdrop of tragedy, her modus has been to use the Maoist-caused railway accidents in West Bengal to blame the Left Front government. Her predecessors at the Rail Bhavan lost no time in accusing her of neglect and asking her to choose between Bengal politics and the Railway Ministry. The stream of accidents in recent months is a stark reminder that the Indian Railways needs to do substantially more to ensure safety and security on the tracks. Whether it was a signal failure or a human error this time, the Railway administration must urgently address the key issues — the modernisation of safety equipment, the maintenance of track and signals, the failure of top management to put in place state-of-the-art 'fail-safe mechanisms,' and the re-training and fitness of the staff, especially drivers, their assistants, guards, and those at the stations — to prevent the recurrence of such mishaps.






The International Monetary Fund's recent positive outlook on the global economy has attracted plenty of attention. The IMF was the first among the global financial institutions to spot the early signs of economic recovery from the crisis. Its periodic forecasts of economic growth, both for the global economy and individual countries, have tended to be upbeat, with every forecast reflecting greater optimism than the earlier one. The world economy is now slated to grow by a healthy 4.6 per cent in 2010. Around this time last year, its growth projection for 2010 was 2.5 per cent and this was successively raised to 3.9 per cent in January, 4.2 per cent in April, and now to 4.6 per cent. However, the growth projections have always come with caveats. Many of them remain to this day. For instance, economic growth continues to be uneven among countries. The larger emerging economies, China and India especially, are leading the recovery, and the advanced economies are trailing. The problem of correcting this looming imbalance remains. It is becoming fairly obvious that the lack of congruence in the objectives of the rich and the developing economies in this crucial area cannot be overcome without a strong political will on the part of all countries.


A major threat to global economic recovery has emerged more recently, with the severe debt crisis in a few European countries now becoming a generalised affliction. A sovereign default by a country such as Greece will have serious negative consequences for the global financial sector, since major European and U.S. banks hold a high proportion of bonds issued by its government. A few advanced economies led by the United Kingdom have felt compelled to go in for a rigorous fiscal consolidation programme. The IMF is extremely positive on India. It expects the Indian economy to grow by 9.4 per cent, up from its April forecast of 8.8 per cent. The most optimistic of official estimates do not place the growth rate above 8.5 per cent, but there are reasons to believe that the Reserve Bank of India and other forecasters will also mark up their figures. Monsoons have so far been satisfactory and the keenly anticipated turnaround in agriculture may happen. Industry, led by manufacturing, has been recording impressive gains. Tax collections have been buoyant, and surveys indicate heightened business confidence. Inflation has, however, become more intractable, while physical infrastructure continues to be totally inadequate in relation to the needs of an economy looking to grow in double digits.










Some ministers treat international travel as a "junket", others regard it an unwelcome burden. But if there is one man whose job requires the accumulation of frequent flyer miles, it is S.M. Krishna, who has emerged as India's most mobile external affairs minister in recent years.

When he touched down in Islamabad last week, Mr. Krishna notched up his 27th country in 12 months, a punishing pace of travel that marks a dramatic change from the less frenetic — and somewhat sedate — schedules of some of his predecessors.


Mr. Krishna came to South Block in June 2009, when he replaced Pranab Mukherjee at the Ministry of External Affairs. Mr. Mukherjee's willingness to fly out was greater than that of his predecessor, Natwar Singh, but he was also overburdened with domestic responsibilities. That said, the present incumbent's record both in terms of miles flown — some of them in 'cattle class' — and range of destinations is impressive by any standard. In the past year, he has been to Bhutan (twice), Italy, the Czech Republic, Japan, Egypt, Thailand, Singapore (twice), Australia, Brazil (twice), Belarus, Turkmenistan, the United States (thrice), Russia, Afghanistan, Trinidad, Myanmar, U.K., Kuwait, Nepal, China, Uzbekistan (twice), Kazakhstan, Iran, South Korea, Mauritius, Mozambique and Pakistan. This week, he visited Kabul again.


The past two months alone have seen him fly to southern Africa, East Asia, West Asia, North America and Central America. All told, Mr. Krishna has been to every permanent member of the U.N. Security Council (except France), as well as to countries and regions where EAMs seldom go calling. Some of these visits have been of the routine goodwill variety and some have been firefighting missions — a case in point being the sudden trip to Australia to register India's unhappiness at the spate of attacks on Indian students. But most visits have involved a substantial bilateral agenda.


Curiously, India's immediate region is somewhat underrepresented. Myanmar, Bhutan and Afghanistan have seen ministerial visits but not Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Maldives. Nor was Mr. Krishna's Kathmandu trip a full-fledged bilateral since he travelled to Nepal to attend the funeral of G.P. Koirala.


It may seem paradoxical that Mr. Krishna is travelling much more than his predecessors in an era when the role of the Prime Minister and his National Security Adviser as foreign policy drivers has become more pronounced. And yet, the fact is that an ever expanding calendar of multilateral events has begun to circumscribe the possibilities of bilateral diplomatic engagement at the highest level. Every year, for example, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to attend the G-20 summit twice, the East Asia Summit, the India-EU summit and the U.N. General Assembly. Every other year there are the BRIC, IBSA, NAM, and CHOGM summits, not to speak of routinised annual bilateral events with 'strategic partners' or thematic summits like those that were held recently on climate change and nuclear security. The pressure is such that the Prime Minister has stopped going to the UNGA every year and has no time for other meetings like those of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, CICA and G-15.


Under these circumstances, the task of holding the multilateral fort and crafting new bilateral agendas falls largely upon the shoulders of the EAM. And though a "rising" India has the ability to function as a magnet for inbound visitors, much also depends on the willingness of its foreign minister to spread his wings and take flight.


No need for minders


Diplomacy, of course, is not just about going the distance, it is also about the messages conveyed. And with Mr. Krishna's frequent flyers miles has come confidence, though, unfortunately, some officials still insist on prompting him, not always with the best of effects.


When he was first named to the job, some observers looked askance at the former Karnataka Chief Minister's lack of foreign policy experience. Though his early public interactions seemed overly scripted, Mr. Krishna's measured performance in Pakistan last week took his critics by surprise. If the visit did not yield a positive outcome, this was not for any failing on his part but because of factors beyond his control: Pakistan's attitude, the Manmohan Singh government's decision to limit the scope of dialogue, and the remarks on the ISI made before the delegation's arrival in Islamabad by Union Home Secretary Gopal Pillai.


Some opposition leaders have asked why Mr. Krishna did not contradict the Pakistani Foreign Minister when he made a reference to Mr. Pillai's remarks. Opinions can differ but Mr. Krishna made what he thought was a sensible judgment call under the circumstances: the press conference had already turned unpleasant and he decided not to prolong the encounter.


That the press conference took a nose dive towards the end was unfortunate. Just before that, Mr. Krishna had fielded a difficult and even provocatively phrased question on Kashmir. This is where his experience as a seasoned politician came in handy. He was mindful of his location and audience and spoke with great tact and precision, giving the official Indian position on Kashmir and human rights violations. Mr. Qureshi also gave an answer that reflected Pakistan's position but did not cross any diplomatic red lines. Unfortunately, an MEA official, who perhaps felt Mr. Krishna had not given the right answer, handed a note to him on infiltration from Pakistan which the minister then proceeded to read out as soon as Mr. Qureshi was done with his answer. This interruption in the rhythm of the press conference — comebacks in such events are rare and media handlers strongly discourage them because of the risk of an adversarial exchange — prompted the Pakistani minister to respond in a testy manner. From there on, matters rapidly went south.


Pillai's solo flight


The issue has acquired extreme sensitivity so no one will agree to speak about this on record but this much can be stated with absolute certainty: Home Secretary G.K. Pillai was on a solo flight when he told the Indian Express on the eve of Mr. Krishna's visit to Islamabad that the ISI was involved in the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai from "the beginning till the end."


Though people in Pakistan saw some great design at work, there can be no question of the MEA having been consulted or even informed beforehand of the bombshell Mr. Pillai was about to drop. This is because the MEA, despite repeatedly asking the Home Ministry for details, is still completely in the dark about what Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist David Coleman Headley told Indian investigators in Chicago last month! Worse, the Prime Minister's Office, which is in the Headley loop, was also caught unaware by Mr. Pillai's statement.


Since the public airing of this accusation came barely three weeks after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram met his Pakistani counterpart, it is likely Mr. Pillai's boss was also taken by surprise. Just as he was last year, when the Home Secretary declared that Hyderabad would be the capital of Telangana. Government officials have since publicly circled their wagons around Mr. Pillai but privately there is considerable criticism being voiced within. One source compared the Home Secretary's statement to the solo flight of Matthias Rust, the amateur German aviator who piloted a Cessna all the way to the Soviet Union in 1987. "Rust landed his plane in the Red Square. Mr. Pillai took his flight all the way to the Minar-e-Pakistan," the source told The Hindu.









Over 20 African First Ladies will convene in the Uganda capital Kampala on Saturday for the African Union (AU) summit to discuss strategies of combating HIV/ AIDS on the continent, an official said here on Monday. The meeting of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS will be held from July 24 to 27 on the sidelines of the AU summit, which kicked off here on Monday amidst tight security, said Patrick Guma, spokesperson of Uganda's Foreign Ministry.

"African First Ladies usually meet on the sidelines of AU summit to discuss the issues they agree on. In the last summit, they agreed on HIV/AIDS as theme of their meeting," Mr Guma told Xinhua. "They will focus on how to address women's issues as well," he said.











In a week when Delhi's new "world-class" airport opened for business and the Indian Space Research Organisation celebrated the successful launch of five new satellites, we had a stark reminder of another India that, increasingly, many Indians feel embarrassed to talk about. A United Nations-backed study by Oxford University revealed that poverty in at least eight Indian States — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand — was worse than in some of the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa.


The findings are based on a global poverty index, the Multidimensional Poverty Index or MPI, developed by Oxford University. It takes into account a range of social factors not hitherto considered while measuring poverty and will replace the Human Poverty Index (HPI) which, until now, has formed the basis for the annual U.N. Human Development Reports.


How's the new index significantly different from the traditional ways of measuring poverty and how will it make a difference on the ground? Here, Dr. Sabina Alkire , Director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), who has travelled extensively in India, speaks to Hasan Suroor :


Were you surprised by the finding that there are more poor people in eight Indian States than in the 26 poorest African states combined?


No, I wasn't really surprised, as the scale of Indian poverty is well known within the academic world —whether measured in income terms or multi-dimensionally. But the recent focus on India's phenomenal growth in the media has given the impression that the largest numbers of very poor people are in Sub-Saharan Africa rather than South Asia (where there are nearly twice as many MPI poor than in Africa). We wanted to test that impression.


To get this comparison, what we did was to set a more extreme poverty cut-off, which identified the Indian States and the African countries whose Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) was equal or greater than 0.32 (the MPIs we calculated for 104 countries range from 0 to .64). Eight Indian States and 26 African countries fall below that cutoff. That's where this figure comes from.


To give an idea of what this means, the least poor entry is West Bengal (MPI = 0.32), in which 58 per cent of people are MPI poor, and they are on average deprived in 54 per cent of the dimensions or weighted indicators; in Niger 93 per cent of people are MPI poor.


Actually, the intensity of poverty in Africa is still higher — the population-weighted MPI for the 26 African countries is 0.43, whereas for the Indian States it is 0.39.


How is the new Multidimensional Poverty Index or MPI significantly different from the Human Poverty Index (HPI) that the U.N. uses for its Human Development Report? Doesn't that also take social indicators as the basis for measuring poverty?


The indices share the same motivation, but are totally different. The MPI starts with each person, and looks at their lives and that of their household members, and identifies a person as poor only if they have multiple deprivations. The MPI reflects the intensity of deprivation each person experiences as well as the percentage of people who are poor.


The HPI aggregates percentages of people who are deprived in different things. So it cannot see if all of the HPI indicators affect the same person simultaneously, or if each person only has one deprivation.


This is understandable, because in 1997 when the HPI was developed we did not have the data that is required to construct the MPI. Only recently has it become possible to focus first on each person's life, and build a multidimensional poverty measure from that.


Critics might say that studies such as yours simply end up producing sensational headlines without anything actually changing on the ground? Is there any evidence, for instance, that the Human Poverty Index has helped fight poverty better than the previous measures of poverty?


Our aim is to strengthen the work of many others who are working passionately to stand alongside and empower those who live with suffering and poverty to shape their own destinies. We welcome specific suggestions from others about how better to do this, but it seems that sharing a measure which can show the simultaneous deprivations people face should be a useful tool to others.


Doesn't, ultimately, the good old definition of poverty based on household income and purchasing still remain valid?


Yes. Our measure complements the income and consumption data, and focuses only on very acute indications of poverty. These data come from different surveys, in most cases. It is a matter of enriching the information field. If both measures coincide perfectly, of course, there would be no need for both poverty measures. However from preliminary analysis it seems that they differ quite a bit, even at the level of individual. We need to understand how and why. If a household has a disabled person it may not be income poor but clearly experiences multiple deprivations for example. Or a family may have enough money to be nourished, but actually the children are malnourished. Also, the MPI checks access to certain services directly, whereas income data includes these in a different way. Finally, data in both cases are imperfect, so comparing two different measures can give us a clearer picture.


In the course of your study, did you come across any other surprising trends about India?


We did note that the MPI for different caste groups varies a great deal. The Scheduled Tribes have the highest MPI (0.482), almost the same as Mozambique, and a headcount (the percentage of people who are MPI poor) of 81 per cent. The Scheduled Castes have a headcount of 66 per cent (the percentage of people who are MPI poor) and their MPI is a bit better than Nigeria. Fifty-eight per cent of other Backward Castes are MPI poor. About one in three of the remaining Indian households are multi-dimensionally poor, and their MPI is just below that of Honduras. While this is not a surprise, it is yet another clear indication of the need for interventions that address these social aspects of poverty in India, alongside the direct deprivations.








The recent arrest of TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu and his party legislators by the Maharashtra police as they marched toward the controversial Babli barrage has brought to the fore the potential for conflict — and possible violence — between states. Even if Mr Naidu's exertions are traced to political exigencies ahead of byelections to 12 Assembly seats in Telangana, the region affected by the Babli barrage, the issue will not go away. It is time the Centre took a strategic view of the management of all river waters in the country, and helped resolve disputes. Efforts of contending states themselves do not appear to bring satisfaction. It is time for a national agency to redress water-related disputes, duly sanctioned by Parliament and endorsed by state legislatures, to be established.

Andhra Pradesh's objection is to the location of the Babli barrage — it falls within the "foreshore", the water storage area, of the Sriramsagar project. This makes the Babli barrage a project of one state lying within a project zone of another. Andhra Pradesh contends that the barrage will utilise water belonging to the Sriramsagar dam. The dam was designed to hold 122 tmc of water, but the volume has come down to 70 tmc due to silting. Indeed, the dam has never served the total area it was meant to irrigate. That makes every litre of water crucial for the typically dry districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Warangal and Nalgonda in the Telangana region. While water is always an emotive question, the recent agitation for statehood for the region and the July 27 byelections lend an edge to the issue. Mr Naidu was chief minister when Maharashtra conceived the Babli barrage in 2002-03. Work on it began in September 2004, months after the Congress government led by the late Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy commenced its first term. This has given Mr Naidu reason to allege that the Congress government has done little to stop Maharashtra. Nevertheless, the timing of Mr Naidu's march to Babli is curious. It came a day after the AP Assembly heard an inconclusive short duration discussion lasting six days on the barrage. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is scheduled to hear an all-party delegation from the state on July 23. The Supreme Court, which had passed an interim order preventing Maharashtra from installing gates on the barrage, is to hear the matter in August. Is Mr Naidu, then, working hard to come off as a good boy in Telangana where he is seen as someone trying to block statehood for the region?

Compared to many others, the Babli dispute can be deemed to be of recent origin. The matter reached the Supreme Court only in 2006. Nevertheless, the potential for incitement to violence should never be estimated, if we are to take a lesson from the 120-year-old Tamil Nadu-Karnataka Cauvery dispute, or the contention as among several north Indian states in the context of Sutlej and Yamuna waters, to take but two examples. It has been seen that one state or another reneges on agreements to share river waters in a year when water availability is reduced. It is this, and the need to protect the interests of lower riparian states, that lends urgency to the demand for a standing mechanism to clear water disputes. The body should concern itself with relatively large-sized dams as well as minor irrigation projects of the Babli barrage type if they feed off shared rivers. The alternative to let water-related disputes fester is to mar harmonious relations that can cast a shadow not only on Centre-state relations but also the integrity of the country. The leading natural resources of the country cannot be permitted to become a cause for intermittent unrest.








I wrote about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in these columns on May 11, 2010. As it happens, the leak has now been plugged and while there is assurance about success being achieved to clean the spill, as of now a huge volume of oil is polluting the surface of the ocean and large quantities are being washed ashore. It is sad to see pictures of birds and other creatures suffering and dying and the continued threat not only to these living beings but also to those who are either living on the beaches of the affected areas or would like to enjoy recreation in these seaside locations.

The cost of environmental degradation worldwide is hardly ever estimated in precise terms. Of course, the cost to human society and human beings cannot be measured in dollar terms, such as in the case of air pollution that leads to high morbidity and mortality. There are varying estimates of how many people actually die as a result of air pollution, and in 1997, when The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) released its "Green India 2047" report, documenting this country's record of environmental protection in the first 50 years of Independence, the figure we came up with of air pollution-induced mortality was staggering. A large part of the deaths that take place as a result of air pollution occur on account of indoor air pollution.

Sadly, even today over two billion people in the world carry out cooking indoors using poor quality biomass whose large quantities of emissions often remain trapped indoors because of poor ventilation in dwellings. TERI's estimate was that in India a total of 2.5 million lives are lost annually as a result of air pollution, including both rural as well as urban areas. The worst affected live in urban locations, particularly slum dwellers who are normally huddled in shanty towns by the roadside. They are, therefore, not only victims of indoor air pollution arising out of the burning of inferior quality cooking fuels but also outdoor air pollution which is created by dense automobile traffic and growing road congestion.

The lack of proper information and evaluation of the cost of environmental damage is one reason why the normal approach of various societies to risk management remains flawed and inadequate. The case of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a typical example of how expected benefits, say from deep sea drilling as in the case of the Deep Water Horizon well, are never measured against expected damage, which would be a function of estimated probabilities and the extent of damage associated with mishaps. In the case of low-probability but high-impact events or outcomes, the cost of timely prevention may appear high but is often fully justified because even with low probability if the impacts from a mishap turn out to be very high, the damage caused is incalculable and totally unacceptable in today's world. The need for risk management is best illustrated by the Bhopal gas tragedy: With the knowledge that the damage caused by the possible release of lethal gas would be staggering, even if the probability of such an occurrence was seen to be low, the owners and managers of that facility should rightly have invested adequately in safety prevention right at the beginning. But the world has apparently ignored the lessons it should have learnt from Bhopal.

One major problem which leads to the neglect of risks to society or negative impacts on the environment is the divergence between private costs and benefits versus social costs and benefits. In India, soon after Independence, we cut forests on a large scale because there were huge private benefits associated with exploitation of forest resources, but there was no consideration of the social costs that were incurred as a result. Much of the threat to wildlife today is a result of lack of attention and importance we attached to maximising net social benefits by conserving the forestry wealth of the country. The benefits from conserving forests and biodiversity often translate into private benefits as well, particularly for tribal societies who depend for their livelihood on ecosystem services provided by nature around them. Destruction and damage imposed on these ecosystem services has a direct adverse effect on the livelihoods of such communities which undoubtedly leads to social alienation as well. Clearly, the economic implications arising out of such alienation are seldom taken into account on an explicit basis. Each project at the micro level must necessarily look at the entire range of implications that it could have on society at large, even if its "private benefits" are attractive.

What is an area of continuing neglect at the micro level and can so easily be resolved is compounded several times over when it comes to global action. If we take the case of climate change, even though some may believe that the science of climate change does not tell us about likely negative impacts with precise, quantified probabilities, the sheer scale of the damage that could take place should compel decision-makers and society at large to adopt a sound risk-management approach. This is all the more justified because the actions required to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases and thereby help stabilise the earth's climate are really attractive for a variety of reasons, particularly in view of the co-benefits that arise as a result. Could it be that our myopia and consumerist desire to produce and consume more and more goods and services blinds us to the assessment and prevention of risks from the actions that we are taking today?

There is, of course, no need for alarm in any of these areas of human endeavours but perhaps we should at least consider Mahatma Gandhi's advice that clearly highlighted the choices before us: "A technological society has two choices. First it can wait until catastrophic failures expose systemic deficiencies, distortion and self-deceptions… Secondly, a cul t u re can provide social checks and balances to correct for systemic distortion prior to catastrophic failures". At a minimum we should move away from self-deception in these matters.


Dr R.K. Pachauri is the director-general of The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute








The Union government seems to be working at cross-purposes to tackle Left-wing extremism, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has time and again described as the country's biggest internal security threat. At one level, there is recognition that any solution to the complex problem cannot be confined to maintenance of law and order but must address socio-economic issues in some of the poorest districts spread across India that have large tribal populations.

At the same time, by merely pouring funds into these areas without ensuring that these are properly utilised, and, more importantly, without tackling the structural factors that have sharply widened inequalities of income and opportunities, our netas and babus in New Delhi or in state capitals would be fooling nobody but themselves if they think conditions prevailing in the "Maoist-infested" parts of India could change for the better.

On July 24, the National Development Council (NDC) meeting — headed by the Prime Minister and comprising all chief ministers, key Cabinet ministers and members of the Planning Commission — is meeting to discuss, among other things, the mid-term appraisal of the 11th Five Year Plan (April 2007 to March 2012). The NDC will also discuss a report on the special problems of tribal-dominated districts, including the 34 districts affected by Left-wing extremism. Yojana Bhavan is reportedly working on a Rs 13,000-crore special financial package for these districts.

Before the NDC meeting, the Planning Commission would do well to circulate a 47-page report entitled "PESA, Left-Wing Extremism and Governance: Concerns and Challenges in India's Tribal Districts", which is an independent assessment of the functioning of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (or PESA), 1996, that governs tribal-dominated areas in nine states, covered by the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The nine states are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan.

Earlier this year, this independent report was ham-handedly "censored" by the ministry of Panchayati Raj headed by Dr Chandra Prakash Joshi and deleted from the official "State of Panchayats Report 2008-09" which was released by Dr Singh on April 24. The ministry had commissioned this study to the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), with the aim to find out "the correlation between the promise and the reality of self-governance in selected states, especially those which have witnessed difficulties due to alternate mobilisations (and counter-mobilisations)".

The IRMA report — authored by Ajay Dandekar and Chitrangada Choudhury and based on extensive field surveys — categorically blames government apathy, more than anything else, for the improper administration of the provisions of PESA in many tribal districts and argues that government apathy has to a large measure provided an impetus to the activities of Naxalites. The authors write: "…this may be the last opportunity…to retrieve PESA…The alternative is too horrific even to contemplate for the tribal areas".

The report begins with a November 2009 quote from the Prime Minister: "There has been a systemic failure in giving tribals a stake in the modern economic processes that inexorably intrude into their living spaces… The systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated".
The next quote is from Fulsingh Naik, resident of Mandibisi village, Rayagada district, Orissa, who recounts a conversation he had in December 2009 inside a prison cell with a policeman who had jailed him for leading community protests against a liquor shop: "When I told a government official that PESA allows us to determine our policy on liquor trade in the village, he shot back, 'Are you trying to teach me the law? If you are so knowledgeable about the law, why are you living here in your village in the forest? Why don't you go and speak in the Orissa Assembly?'"

The third quote is rhetorical: "Is the government meant for the people or the powerful?" The man who raised this often-asked question in July 2009 is Mahangu Madiya, resident of Dhuragaon village in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, in the context of the state government's efforts to acquire his farmland for Tata Steel, by ignoring opposition to the move by local gram sabhas.

The IRMA study has highlighted several instances where state governments have diluted the powers of PESA in the wording of legislation and the rules governing the implementation of the law. Under PESA, a special provision has been made for the functioning of panchayats in order to protect and promote the interests of tribal or indigenous communities. It points out that barring Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, most states have enacted laws that provide the bulk of the powers to the gram panchayat, and not the gram sabha which is in stark violation of Section 4(n) of PESA — a gram sabha is a body of persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village or a group of villages within the area of the panchayat. In other words, whereas the gram panchayat is a small elected body, the gram sabha includes all men and women above the age of 18 and is, therefore, a larger and more representative body.

There is much more in the report that should be carefully read by our rulers. Some of them, who seem clueless about how to deal with Naxalites, would start listening to views that do not adhere to their blinkered notion that the only way to deal with Left-wing extremism is to annihilate the last Maoist standing before building schools, health centres and roads in tribal areas, besides providing clean drinking water and electricity.
Here's an unsolicited suggestion to Dr Singh (who has frequently travelled across the length and breadth of the globe) made by Bengaluru-based author and public intellectual Ram Guha: "Mr Prime Minister, why don't you pay a visit to Dantewada one of these days?"


Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator








As I write, the catfight over cashless health insurance claims continues. The spat between the insurers, hospitals and third-party administrators (TPA) increasingly looks like an ugly variant of a saas-bahu tale, with adjectives and attitude triumphing cogent, coherent arguments. "Unfair", "unjust", "retrograde" are among the milder terms that have been flying around. All this would have been entertaining had not the hapless health insurance policy holder been caught in the crossfire.

The public sector insurance companies are not willing to play ball with some of the top corporate hospitals in the country. The insurers accuse these hospitals of trying to fill their coffers through inflated bills and insurance money and have worked out a new "Preferred Provider's Network" (PPN), much like the preferred bahu. I am not Paul the Octopus and would not dare predict how this saga will end. But even to a non-oracular sensibility, one thing is obvious. While each party has been claiming to fight for the interests of the health insurance consumer, the consumer has been the least consulted entity.

Differences between insurance companies and service providers — the hospitals — is nothing new. Earlier attempts to get both onto the same page led nowhere. Last fortnight, the simmering tension burst out into the open when the four public sector general insurers (New India Assurance Co, Oriental Insurance Co, United India Insurance Co and National Insurance Co) that together command nearly 65-70 per cent of the country's health insurance market decided to flex their collective muscle. Result: a drastic pruning of the list of hospitals where cashless cover benefit on individual policies was applicable and de-listing of some of the top corporate-owned hospitals across Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru from the PPN. The state-owned insurance companies say they have been incurring heavy losses due to the bloated bills of these large hospitals and henceforth would do business only with those hospitals that agree to accept the rate packages prepared by the insurance firms for medical procedures and hospitalisation costs.

Unsurprisingly, the hospitals that have been tossed out of the PPN are hopping mad and say patients' right of choice is being restricted by such moves. Media reports over the past fortnight suggest that the fight between the insurers and hospitals has hugely inconvenienced the general public as settlement claims of many were refused at the hospitals not on the preferred list for such a facility.

More talks are on the anvil between the warring parties. But if a health insurance policy's primary aim is to provide affordable and timely healthcare to ordinary people, patients for whose benefit the cashless treatment policies are ostensibly formulated need to be on board and part of whatever solution is worked out. This means that the health insurance consumer and the Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority (IRDA) have to be brought onto the discussion's high table.

Once the crisis is sorted out, there is a list of urgent actions that need to be taken unless we want a repeat of the current imbroglio. First, we need to acknowledge that "regulation" is not necessarily a bad word and a growth-killer. Healthcare pricing in India is highly subjective and often unscientific. The vast majority of clinical establishments in the country are being run without any standards or ethics in the absence of an effective law, points out Gautam Chakraborty, adviser, healthcare financing to the National Health Systems Resource Centre, which provides technical support to the government's National Rural Health Mission. "This is a far cry from pricing models prevalent in say the United States where the primacy of the private sector is acknowledged but where scientifically designed parameters help assess the cost of a procedure and patient billing", Chakraborty adds.

The need for quality and price regulations that would create a better system for billing in private hospitals in India is acute. The government is trying to address the quality issues through a proposed law. The Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Bill 2010 has been approved by the Union Cabinet for the registration and regulation of clinical establishments in the country in order to improve the quality of health services through the National Council for Standards. But legislation alone will achieve little unless we have better-informed consumers and an effective and speedy redress mechanism. Currently, there is a tremendous information asymmetry between the patient and the doctor, a situation that can be open to misuse. If tomorrow a deal is being negotiated between the warring parties, the consumer should know exactly what its implications are for him/her, suggest changes/improvements to protect his/her interests and be part of monitoring mechanisms.

The ongoing dispute over cashless health insurance claims and the proposed solutions raises many questions. In an online post public health analyst Vijay Reddy listed a few: "Who decided the pricing of packages for the new Preferred Provider Network? Was it an independent technical team? What methodology was used in arriving at these figures? In the battle between the hospitals and insurers, is there a danger that the TPA — ostensibly a neutral party — would be rendered redundant?"

There is also the danger of viewing this as a morality tale in which big corporate-run hospitals are the villains. Many of these hospitals are indeed guilty of charging differential rates to the insured and the non-insured and such practices have thrived in the absence of an effective law and regulatory body. The lack of standard treatment protocols and price regulations also influence the actions of many smaller nursing homes.
Most of India's estimated 1.2 billion people have to pay for medical treatment out of their own pockets. Less than 15 per cent Indians have any kind of healthcare cover. But the current spat points to a larger problem — a nation-wide unregulated health delivery system which distorts prices and diminishes quality for everyone.


Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at









The news that girls have scored over boys in madrasa exams in Uttar Pradesh shows that change does not always have to be dramatic to be useful. Rather, it is more important that change is sustainable and long-lasting if it is to be effective. There are several feel-good cliches about the importance of the education of women which share the same underlying thought process — when you give the power of knowledge and free thought hitherto denied to any group of people, you empower them and that betters us all.


Uttar Pradesh is home to not only India's poorest and backward people, it also contains most of India's poorest Muslims. This madrasa news is, therefore, heartening on two counts. It shows that education is bringing light not just to Muslim homes but also to the girl child, who is traditionally neglected and denied by most communities in India. 


Girls — from a total of over 1.34 lakh students who sat for the UP


Madrasa Board's exams — have scored an overall pass percentage of 90% compared to 86% for boys. Moreover, more girls have secured first division compared to boys. The number of girls who sat for the exam has gone up from about 28,000 last year to 35,000 this year. Many of these girls are from small towns and villages and this means that they have defeated several odds to achieve so much.


Muslims in India suffer not just from social discrimination, which affects many minority groups in our society, but also from a widespread insularity and backwardness within the Muslim community itself. Girls, therefore, have to fight a double prejudice — from within and without — and have to show great courage and determination if they want to break free.


But this is how change comes. Education breaks barriers as it blows away the cobwebs of fear, false beliefs, ignorance, prejudice, misplaced conservatism, shibboleths of stifling tradition and everything else which holds us back as humans. By giving children a taste of the spirit of adventure and enquiry, it is as if new life is being breathed into them.


Muslims in India have long been pawns in a number of political games, played by both the right and the left. As a result, religious leaders have had a field day in asserting their authority over the Muslim masses. The madrasa results are a pointer that people are quietly willing to strike out on their own.







Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu has got what he wanted. He is in the news again. He seems to believe that by protesting against the construction of the Babhli barrage across the river Godavari, he is pleading the case of the poor in the adjacent Telangana districts, where the Sriramsagar irrigation project is under construction downstream. The case that Naidu and the Andhra Pradesh government are making is that Babhli reduces the amount of water that will be available on their side. The Andhra government took the issue to the central water resources ministry in 2005, and a technical committee was formed. It met in 2006. Its work remained inconclusive because officials from the two states did not submit the details.


Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh has also filed a suit in the Supreme Court against Maharashtra.


Maharashtra has been arguing that the Babhli barrage would not withhold large quantities of water and that, when required, it will release the water. It has also pointed out that the Sriramsagar dam is a much larger irrigation project and it would not be affected by the construction of the barrage upstream. Of course, the Andhra Pradesh side will dispute these assurances. It is quite likely that it will be a protracted process because politicians and bureaucrats in the two states may not accept simple, practical solutions.


This is, of course, not an isolated riparian dispute. Andhra Pradesh has a similar dispute with Karnataka over the Alamatti dam across river Krishna that the latter is building. The only way to counter political distortions is to state the facts. This means showing who gains what from any deal — and this is not always a win-win situation. If one side has to pay a price then it needs to be compensated in some other way. The reason this does not happen is because bureaucrats and technicians take up partisan positions to strengthen the cases of their respective states and their political bosses. When an impartial commission arrives at a conclusion, the losing side refuses to accept the verdict.


Projects in one state have to be conceived and designed with the impact they would have on neighbouring states. It is not such a bad political idea to take care of the concerns of neighbours. Natural resources have to be shared. The solution lies in evolving a national water grid on the lines of a national power grid with transparent rules of sharing. This is an issue that goes beyond the political fortunes of Naidu, Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan and Andhra chief minister K Rosaiah.








It is no more a question of if, but when. My assessment is that there will be a Talibanised government in Pakistan within two to three years, after a prolonged civil war. Pakistan is currently a ferocious Doberman held on a leash by the US, and fed with exotic bones. It was meant to bark at and bite the USSR (and India) when the cold war was on, but the US realised recently that the dog has developed rabies and has become ferocious enough to bite the owner and the neighbours.


The US has no clue on what to do with its rabid canine. Running away from it is one option. The other is to try its best to force India, the eastern neighbour, to distract it with more bones like joint sovereignty of Jammu & Kashmir. The hope is that the dog will be distracted enough to allow the US to make its getaway from Afghanistan. Whatever the scenario, the net result will be an increasingly Talibanised Pakistan.


The problems faced by Pakistan are of its own making. It sees itself as a leader of the Islamic world. One Egyptian professor told me after visiting Pakistan in the 1990s that they gave him the impression that Islam was invented on August 14, 1947. During the recent Facebook prophet controversy, it was Pakistan which banned all internet media — something that wasn't done by many countries even in the Middle East. Some sections of Pakistani society have embarked on a dangerous path of searching for pure Islam. First, they targeted Hindus and Christians using blasphemy laws. Then they targeted Ahmaddiyas (or Ahmadis) by declaring them to be non-Muslims.


The grave of Abdus Salam says he is the "First Nobel laureate in physics," with the word "Islamic" being deleted after the word "first".


For some radical Sunnis, Shias are less than pure Muslims. More recently, Sufis have been targeted. When Ahmaddiyas were butchered recently, the media categorised them as a religious sect and many "experts" absurdly argued that all this was done by the Ahmaddiyas themselves to abrogate the blasphemy laws which had banned them from calling themselves Muslims.


Pakistan is thus close to civil war.


Pakistan's finance ministry (May 24, 2009) says that terror costs the country more than US$ 35 billion, but it is not clear whether this figure includes the amounts spent on instigating terror in Kashmir valley and in other parts of the world. Khaled Ahmed (2007) gave an estimate that Pakistan pays into Kashmir around US$ 2.6 billion annually to keep the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) and other radical organisations alive. This also includes an "infiltration budget". Pakistan gets around 800 "incursions" annually for this money.


The economy of Pakistan, mostly owned by the army and completely dependent on US crumbs, is in a shambles. Singapore Airlines has closed shop and three foreign institutional investors (FIIs) who set up offices some years ago have closed down. The elites are trying to emigrate to the west after going through special ID checks.


India does not comprehend the impending denouement in the terrorist state of Pakistan. We absurdly mouth the belief that the rabid Doberman is also a "victim" a of terrorism and conduct talks with political leaders who do not wield any real power in Pakistan — as the shenanigans of foreign minister SM Qureshi in the recent India-Pakistan talks show. If at all, India should talk directly to Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief, and Shuja Ahmed, the ISI chief. But even they are unlikely to be able to control the army as the cadre that grew up during the Zia ul-Haq regime is now reaching the top. Their allegiance may be to Wahabi Islam, and not necessarily to the Pakistani state or army. They want to erase their Indic past and the primary purpose of existence is the destruction of India or become its equal.


The Indo-Pak hyphenation is gone in global discussions and Pakistan's problems are not discussed, but Pakistan is recognised as a global headache. Of course, they will as usual argue with the US even though a pistol is held to their own head, but declining powers like the US can only bribe and beg with these blackmailers.


India should keep quiet and our civil society should avoid links with that medieval monster, especially if a Taliban government gets formed in Pakistan. It may take few years for such a government to implement its ideology. Some Wagah candle-kissers may want India to help the liberal society of Pakistan, but liberals are trying to leave Pakistan.


There is a possibility of Pakistanis trying to migrate to India, but efforts should be made to keep them on the other side of the border. A stable Pakistan is more dangerous to India than a dynamic disequilibrium. As long as there is internal strife and civil war they will be very busy wallowing in their own mess. Any stability will make them look east.








In a normal world, Pakistan would have been rapped on the knuckles for its display of bad manners during 'peace' negotiations with India last week. Instead, its chief benefactor and guardian has come flying in with gifts.


US secretary of state Hillary Clinton brings in her basket of goodies as much aid as she can get away with without making it look like Pakistan is being rewarded for its, what, encouragement of terrorism on its land, inability to deal with said terrorists, help to the Taliban in Afghanistan… have I left anything out? Attacks on India, perhaps?


But there's no clear indication that India's problems really bother Big Daddy America — apart from some mandatory lip service. And especially not when the perpetrator is its little, favoured problem child, Pakistan.


Two of the most frightening nations today are Pakistan and Israel. Both have a lot more in common than their apparent religious indoctrination would indicate. The US and the UK attacked Iraq with much less evidence than any schoolchild with access to the internet can gather against Pakistan.


Israel's disgraceful behaviour with aid ships heading to Gaza attracted worldwide condemnation but not from the US. Other nations must respect international borders and treaties or get treated as rogue states except, of course, Pakistan and Israel.


Both are, strangely enough, almost mirror images of each other. They were born around the same time as nation states — 1947 for Pakistan and 1948 for Israel. They both use religious identity as their basis to create a nation — Islam for Pakistan and Judaism for Israel.


Ostensibly, Pakistan and Israel are on opposite sides of the fence because of the current face-off between Islam and the rest. Tied into the problem of Palestine is a general view that Islam and Judaism are somehow also at loggerheads.


Let us ignore history and fact for now. At face value, this "enmity" actually shows how close the two are. When Pakistan and Israel use religion as a form of national identity, they are actually using religion to further a cynical political end. The tenets of the religion are less important than the fact of having a religion at all.


Both claim to be democracies. Both have very strong and powerful secret service agencies which operate as laws unto themselves. Both take their armed forces very seriously. And both have learnt the fine knack of how to bleat constantly about being victimised.


There seems to be little doubt that as far as the current threat from Islamist terrorism is concerned, Pakistan is the fount. The Pakistan government claims that it also suffers, but it cannot deny that it encouraged and funded those who it now says has turned against it.


The US cannot completely take Pakistan on here because the formation of the Taliban with Pakistani help happened with US knowledge — when it was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The terrorism monster thus unleashed has threatened the whole world, included those who once nurtured it.


Israel lies at the heart of the Middle East crisis which has threatened the world since the end of WWII. No peace-making attempt has led to Israel even acknowledging that Palestinians have rights or may even be human. As the problem has escalated and Palestinians have also taken to arms, the whole conflict has got caught up in the Islam-versus-the-rest argument and somewhere at the bottom is the world's shame about the awful treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. Israel, through all this, has asked constantly for the world's sympathy but then behaved as a law unto itself.


But the biggest problem of all is that both have the seemingly endless support of the most powerful country in the world. By encouraging Pakistan and Israel in their questionable and damnable activities and refusing to make them pay the price, the US has consistently put the rest of us at risk.


The US and its terrible twins — how in the world are we to survive them?









A SECOND major train accident in two months is shocking. That both happened in West Bengal may hurt Ms Mamata Banerjee somewhat politically, but her job may still not be in danger. She gets away with almost anything. She had blamed the May mishap on the Maoists though the rebels had denied their involvement. The Monday morning crash, apparently, was due to human error as the speeding Uttar Banga Express tore into the rear of a stationary Vananchal Express at Sainthia. Why the Uttar Banga Express, which was supposed to halt at Sainthia, was moing so fast will have to be looked into.


Every major accident follows a set pattern: the Railway Minister visits the site, announces relief and orders an inquiry. All is forgotten soon. She does not own moral responsibility for any tragedy. Gone are the days when ministers would step down on such issues. It does not seem to occur to her that apart from being a leader of Trinamool Congress, she is also the Railway Minister of India and that she should spend more time in Delhi than in Kolkata. Even when in Delhi, she does not attend Cabinet meetings. The UPA leadership has obviously given Ms Mamata Banerjee a long rope.


The causes of rail mishaps range from unmanned level-crossings, poor communication and signalling networks to drivers' negligence. The Railways has enough money to upgrade technology but someone has to take decisions. The Konkan Railway has developed an anti-collision device which applies automatic braking when two trains come near each other. The device could prevent such accidents as happened at Sainthia but it has not been deployed extensively. Given the blemished track record of the Railways, Ms Mamata Banerjee should have volunteered to quit to devote herself fully to her sole goal of winning the West Bengal assembly elections. The Railways is too important a portfolio to be handled so casually by a part-time minister. 








PAKISTAN Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi seems to suffer from verbal diarrhoea. This may explain why he has been speaking too much after the failed India-Pakistan talks in Islamabad. His uncontrolled comments have damaged the cause of peace. Initially, at least the two countries were not averse to continuing their dialogue. But now it is difficult to say when the talks will be held in New Delhi, though India has invited Qureshi.


Where was the need for the Pakistan Foreign Minister to say that India's External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna had "a restricted mandate"? How could the minister have had an unrestricted mandate? As if this was not enough to spoil the atmosphere, Qureshi has gone to the extent of uttering that "I do not want to visit India for a leisure trip. I want to go for meaningful, constructive and result-oriented talks if the right atmosphere prevails and if they are fully prepared (for talks)." What exactly does he want to say? Making such provocative statements will take the two neighbours nowhere. It is obvious that there can be no talks between India and Pakistan unless an atmosphere conducive to dialogue prevails.


When he mentions "if they are fully prepared" Qureshi appears to be pointing to his earlier statement that the Indian side had been frequently consulting New Delhi during the negotiations in Islamabad. But what is the harm in holding consultations? This is a normal practice in diplomacy and Qureshi must know this. He must not forget that it is Pakistan which had been insisting on resuming the dialogue process that had got snapped after the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai. India had been saying since the very beginning that any engagement with Pakistan was possible only if Islamabad took concrete steps to get all those involved in the Mumbai mayhem, including Lashkar-e-Toiyaba chief Hafiz Saeed, punished. In the absence of this, India agreed to hold talks to first reduce the trust deficit. So, where is the question of "result-oriented talks" at this stage? It will be better if Qureshi decides to shut up, at least for now.









THE need to put the justice delivery system on "fast track" cannot be overstressed. Over three million cases are pending in the country's high courts, and more than 26.3 million cases are pending in subordinate courts across the country. The average court backlog is of 15 years. As a result, a large number of undertrials are languishing in jails across the country. At long last, Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily has unveiled a legal reforms process under which 12,000 new courts will be set up by 2012, vacancies in courts will be filled and infrastructure facilities will be augmented. These "revolutionary" steps, hopefully, would bring down the arrear of cases from 15 to three years.


The 13th Finance Commission has already allocated Rs 5,000 crore spread over five years for this very purpose. The Centre would provide an additional Rs 9,500 crore as one-time allocation. One just hopes that the scheme would be implemented on a war footing, as promised by Mr Moily. Many such well-meaning exercises in the past have lost steam midway. History must not repeat itself.


The situation is particularly bad in lower courts. Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia came across abysmal working conditions during his informal summer travels to mofussil courts of Mumbai, Greater Mumbai and small towns of Orissa and said earlier this month: "Court staff has no infrastructure; advocates sit in cycle sheds; courts are in bathrooms. Rickety furniture is seen in every mofussil court. The government spent Rs 108 crore to give laptops to the subordinate judiciary, but unless there is a generator, you cannot operate laptops, can you?" When the ground situation is so bad, it is uncalled for to blame the judiciary for the delays. The sooner it is remedied, the better.

















THE call of former President A.P.J. Kalam to the Government of India to hold public consultation on the desirability of retaining the death penalty has not received adequate media attention. This is unfortunate because we can no longer play hide and seek with the straightforward question of abolition of the death penalty.


Great leaders of the world have voiced their opposition to the death penalty. Gandhiji said, "I do regard death sentence as contrary to ahimsa. Only He takes it who gives it."


Freedom fighter and socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan said, "To my mind, it is ultimately a question of respect for life and human approach to those who commit grievous hurt to others. Death sentence is no remedy for such crimes."


Dr. Ambedkar during the Constituent Assembly debates said, "I think that having regard to this fact, the proper thing for this country to do is to abolish the death sentence altogether."


The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, called the death penalty "… a sanction that should have no place in any society that claims to value human rights and the inviolability of the person."


President Eduardo of Chile said; "I cannot believe that to defend life and punish the person that kills, the State should in its turn kill. The death penalty is as inhuman as the crime which motivates it."


Apart from human right there is pragmatic and practical wisdom which dictates against the retention of the death penalty. Our people are usually talked into silence by the pro-capital punishment lobby that it is only in the "rarest of rare cases", as decided by the Supreme Court, that the death penalty is given, suggesting as if since the law propounded this restriction, the number of executions has been considerably reduced. Unfortunately, facts belie this, ironically, after the rarest of rare doctrine was propounded in 1980. The Supreme Court confirmed the death penalty in 40 per cent of the cases in the period 1980-90 whereas it was 37.7 per cent in 1970-80. For the High Courts the figures confirming the death sentence rose from 59 per cent in 1970-80 to 65 per cent during 1980-90.


The vociferous opposition to the abolition of the death penalty springs from the myth that it can lead to an increase of murders. Facts show otherwise. Thus, in 1945-50 the State of Travancore, which had no death penalty, had 962 murders whereas during 1950-55, when the death sentence was introduced, there were 967 murders.


In Canada, after the abolition of the death penalty in 1976, the homicide rate has declined. In 2000, there were 542 homicides in Canada – 16 less than in 1998 and 159 less than in 1975 (one year prior to the abolition of capital punishment).


According to a survey conducted by the United Nations in 1988, research has failed to provide any evidence that executions have a greater deterrent effect than life imprisonment.


In 1997, the Attorney-General of Massachusetts (USA) said, "There is not a shred of credible evidence that the death penalty lowers the murder rate. In fact, without the death penalty the murder rate in Massachusetts is about half the national average."


A survey released in September 2000 by The New York Times found that during the last 20 years the homicide rate in the states with the death penalty had been 48 per cent to 101 per cent higher than in the states without the death sentence.


The death penalty was abolished in 1965 in the UK. The membership of the European Union is dependent on having no death penalty. This has been done obviously in the confidence that murders do not get automatically reduced by retaining the death penalty.


The South African Constitutional Court unanimously ruled in 1995 that the death penalty was unconstitutional, as it constitutes "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".


The grievous danger of irreversibility and the innocent being executed is no panic reaction considering that 500 people have been executed in the United States since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.


Since 1973, prisoners numbering 123 have been released in the US after evidence emerged of their innocence of the crimes for which they were sentenced to death.


The Baldus report prepared in the US found that if a homicide victim was white, his or her killer was four times more likely to get the death sentence than if the victim was a black. The same disadvantage will occur in India in the case of a Dalit and a poor person.


This very question was asked of the Home Ministry in 2005 by President Kalam — why all those on death row were the poorest of the poor remains well known but officially unacknowledged.


So far 133 countries, from all regions of the world, have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, and only 25 countries carried out executions in 2006, a record 1591 executions compared to 2105 in 2005.


The community of states has adopted four international treaties providing for the abolition of the death penalty. The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights provide for the total abolition of the death penalty but allow states wishing to do so to retain the death penalty in wartime as an exception.


"There are no exact figures of executions having taken place. However, in 1989 the Attorney-General of India informed the Supreme Court that between 1974 and 1978, 29 persons were executed. The government announced in Parliament that 35 executions had been carried out in the three years between 1982 and 1985. And in 1997 the Attorney-General of India informed the UN Human Rights Committee that between 1991 and 1995, 17 executions had been carried out.


On November 29, 2006, in a response to a question in the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Parliament), the Minister of Home Affairs reported that at present mercy petitions of 44 persons were pending before the President of India, a number of which had been pending since 1998 and 1999." (vide Lethal Lottery Publication by Amnesty International India & PUCL – Timil Nadu and Puducherry-2008).


The last execution took place in August, 2004. Even in a judgment in 2006 in Aloke Nath the Supreme Court stated, when it candidly admitted that the so-called rarest of rarest case for imposing capital punishment was too vague, "No sentencing policy in clear terms has been evolved by the Supreme Court". Is that not enough reason for abolishing the death penalty because otherwise vagaries and fancies will determine the sentencing.


World opinion is now almost wholly veering round to the abolition of the death penalty. Is it not embarrassingly shameful that the land of Lord Gautam Buddha, Lord Mahavir and Gandhi should present such a negative face against human rights which embody the right to life.


The writer is a retired Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi.








EVENTS that occur early in our life and career cast their shadow over the years of youth and later, when the reflexes turn flaccid. The life of a young civil servant on his first independent posting declares him magistrate-in-charge of a large land area. The panoply of office is intoxicating and evokes myriad sentiments of ego, compassion, humility and the desire to tread the straight and narrow and, indeed to build durable structures.


There is much fanfare when he sits in office, more so when he ascends the podium in court. Liveried peons, a red beacon atop the office car, saluting policemen and bowing revenue staff add to the effect with practised ease as indeed the public who go through these motions, in tandem, ruining the career of many a new entrant.


Lacking the right connections, my persona viewed with suspicion and having been declared an Englishman dipped in the Black Sea, I was posted to Raiganj, a large sub-division on the Bangladesh border. The best eating house was a railway canteen which people visited for a change of air as one could go no further, for the steel gauge to Rajshahi had been dismembered during the partition of India.


In 1976 a terrible flood devastated Raiganj and village after village reeled under the relentless fury of turbulent waters. This happened two days after I assumed office and the then Chief Minister's elegant wife, who was also the local Member of Parliament, brought the Irrigation Minister, a Nawab in gum boots, from neighboring Malda, on an aerial survey.


When asked to prioritise the afflicted areas, and innocent about the topography as yet, I wrote out on a slip that I had lost my voice. Thereafter I called for the relief inspector known to be extremely competent and expansive. He lived in a mansion that boasted of marble flooring.


As we motored through the countryside I was struck by the tragedy of homeless people, starvation writ large upon their countenance, sheltering on top of trees and rooftops. "What a calamity!" I exclaimed. Baishya Babu the inspector bowed to the waist: "Your Honour! Even the snakes have been rendered homeless".


I grew to like Raiganj with its tottering princely homes and vast fields of red chilli plants, and I found that the people were simple, religious and with a penchant for visiting the circus. One morning as I sat at my desk a delegation of local respectables propelled by a businessman of generous proportions sought an audience and told me that the Royal Apollo circus was shortly to be launched in Raiganj and would I consider their request to inaugurate it.


The date and time were fixed and a week later I was escorted to the circus site which curiously had located itself on a dry river bed. In my haste I had not read the invitation card and on entering the capacious tent found a large bunting that colourfully proclaimed "the honorable magistrate has kindly agreed to inaugurate and actively participate in the circus!"









THE monsoon has come and the perennial problem of flooded roads and stalled vehicles is back in full measure. The story is the same with every town and city. Life in cities like Mumbai gets totally paralysed. New promises of improvement in the drainage system made year after year are only meant to soothe the frayed nerves for the moment, only to be forgotten in September. Unfortunately, even our national highways are not immune from flooding.


A greater surprise is the flooding of roads in planned cities like Chandigarh where the difference in ground levels between the Secretariat and Tribune Chowk of 30 metres provides an excellent natural slope for drainage. The choe traversing in the middle of the city provides added relief. If such is the situation in Chandigarh, one can imagine the fate of all other towns and cities which are not so fortunate and are located on flatter terrains. Public outcry on road flooding is natural.


When one goes deeper into the problem, one finds that construction byelaws of every town stipulate that the plinth level of buildings must be higher than the level of road on which their gates open. Reasons are obvious: it prevents their flooding during the monsoon.


A road, therefore, is meant to act as a drain for all residential and commercial buildings and all rainwater overflow accumulates on the road and flows in whichever direction the road slopes. In a planned city like Chandigarh, where the grid-roads V2 and V3 are laid first, the road level at the 4 sector-connectors dictates the direction in which its inner roads slope and thus the direction of the water flow.


The area of a sector in Chandigarh is 1 square kilometre. Assuming a 60 per cent concrete/paving cover and an equal four-way split, the flow at any V2/V3 connector when precipitation touches its peak level of 50 mm/hr works out to a large volume.


Since the two-way split is more common in reality, this flow gets doubled. And this explains the severe water-logging problem we face year after year at some junctions like Sector 36-37 and Sector 34-35 and the railway underpass on the road to the railway station. The accumulated water gushes through the drainage system and leads to floods in the adjoining rivers which play havoc downstream.


While this surfeit of water plays havoc on one side, a rapid fall in the level of our underground aquifers is posing a serious threat to our municipal water supply systems and agriculture.


The answer lies in technology. The harvesting of rainwater to recharge the groundwater aquifers by larger campuses has already been made mandatory by the forward-looking towns like Chandigarh.


Can't we adopt the same rainwater harvesting techniques as a standard practice for the road system? Harvesting rainwater at half a dozen selected points in every sector; points close to the lowest levels on internal roads, will more than suffice. The entire process can begin with some well-known points of flooding. This approach will serve two objectives at the same time.


The same approach can also be adopted on the highways.

The writer is the Chairman, PEC University of Technology, Chandigarh








DELHI is perpetually in the grip of a water crisis with the shortage plummeting to 150 million litres a day. In Mumbai water scarcity is reported to be a cause of social discord and stress. A drinking water crisis is lurking in Godawari district of Karnataka as also in Bundelkhand. Media reports suggest that the daily supply of water through water trains is meeting the water requirements of Bhilwara and Pali districts. In addition water tankers are catering to the needs of towns and 15,827 villages of Rajasthan.


According to a World Bank study, of the 27 Asian cities with a population of over one million, Chennai and Delhi are ranked as the worst performing metropolitan cities in terms of water availability per day, while Mumbai is the second worst performer and Kolkata the fourth.


Though the rate of urbanisation in India is among the lowest in the world, there are 250 million city dwellers. By 2020, 50 per cent of India's population will be living in the cities, which will put further pressure on the already strained water supply systems of the urban areas.


Today water is an increasingly scarce resource. In 2025 the per capita availability of water will be reduced to 1,500 cubic metres from 5,000 cubic metres in 1950. The UN has in fact warned that the shortage of fresh water could be the most serious obstacle to producing enough food for the burgeoning world population, reducing poverty and protecting the environment.


The recent Indian Human Development Survey reveals that 74 per cent of the urban households and only 25 per cent of the rural households have access to water supply. But even this supply is highly erratic and unreliable. A typical Indian household without indoor water spends more than one hour per day collecting water.


The transmission and distribution networks are so old and poorly maintained that physical losses range from 25 to 30 per cent. The bursting of pipes and leakage causes contamination of water with flows from the sewerage, which is generally laid parallel. Nationwide, the distribution network is in such disrepair that no city can provide water from the public tap for more than a few hours a day. Unable to meet the regular supply, the Shimla Municipal Corporation has proposed water supply on alternate days instead of daily.


The health burden of poor water quality is enormous. It is estimated that around 37.7 million Indians are affected by water-borne diseases annually and 1.5 million children are estimated to die of diarrhoea alone. Water-related diseases also put an economic burden on both the household's and the nation's economy.


In most cities the centralised water supply system depends on surface water resources like rivers and lakes. Chennai, for instance, has to bring in water from a distance of 200km whereas Bangalore gets it water from the Cauvery river, which is 95 km away. Aizwal's source of water is one km down the valley, an equivalent of several hundred kilometres in the plains.


The World Bank in a report published in 2005 warned that India stood on the edge of "an era of severe water scarcity" and "unless dramatic changes are made and made soon in the way in which the government manages water," the report concluded, "India will have neither the cash to maintain and build new infrastructure nor the water required for the economy of the people."


The water crisis in India is primarily man-made. The water resources in the recent past have in fact been exploited at a much faster rate than they were being recharged, naturally or otherwise. The World Bank report shows that in 1997 the available underground water was approximately 600 cubic kilometres per annum and the demand was almost equal to the availability.


However, by 2050 the level of groundwater will be below the 100 cubic kilometres per annum mark and the demand will rise to 1,200 cubic kilometres per annum. In India more than 90 per cent of the groundwater is consumed for agriculture — a large percentage of which is used on that land which requires constant irrigation. The industrial and domestic use accounts for another 10 per cent of the total fresh water abstraction. As expected, there will be a constant competition among urban dwellers, farmers and industrialists in the near future.


The crisis is not just the disturbance in the demand and supply curve but largely due to the mismanagement of water resources. Most of the rivers have become cocktails of surface water, sewage discharge and spillage from tributaries. The Yamuna in Delhi has become clinically dead. Though the Delhi Jal Board extracts 229 million gallons every day from the Yamuna, residents in turn pour 950 million gallons of sewage in the river each day, marking it a gurgling drain. The contamination due to sewage disposal, industrial effluents and chemicals from run-offs, arsenic and fluoride has rendered the waters of most of our rivers unfit for drinking, irrigation and even industrial purposes.


As the demand for irrigation could not be met by numerous canals, tanks and lakes, farmers have started digging deep bore wells. India is now perforated with 19 million wells nationwide, depleting aquifers of groundwater faster than nature can replenish. Groundwater is a nature's reserve to account for dry and drought years. The situation, however, has become alarming as out of the 5,723 geographic blocks, 600 are considered either overexploited or critically close to it.


Twenty years ago only 250 blocks were found in this category. The situation is so bad that in Punjab 79 per cent, in Haryana 59 per cent and in Tamil Nadu 46 per cent blocks are considered overexploited or critical. Two independent studies have in fact shown that northern India is losing more groundwater than anywhere else in the world except the Arctic ice sheets. This is serious as millions of people in big cities often have to depend on aquifers for their drinking water. Virtually there are no regulations on who can pump how much and for what purpose.


The problem is further compounded by the fact most of the water is supplied almost free or at highly subsidised rates. And as these subsidies usually go to rich farmers, they are not necessarily helpful from a conservation or equity stand point. Low water rates are a major factor influencing both waste and low accruals to the exchequer.


Continued losses on this front tend to impair the ability of the states to undertake further investments for conservation and treatment of water. The present practices will indeed invite serious crises in the near future.

The writer is the Chief Conservator of Forests, Punjab. The views expressed are personal








In Europe in the middle ages, royalty was identified not by the colour of someone's blood but by their coat of arms – emblazoned on a shield or stamped as a seal on secret correspondence. While carrying such an emblem was considered a great honour, some members of each clan had to cover their coat of arms with a line, tilted from left to right like on a no-smoking sign. This 'bar sinister' was reserved for the king's illegitimate children, making the badge a double-edged sword – a symbol not only of their links with the monarchy but also of their bastardy. 


Muttiah Muralitharan, now playing his last Test match, has been forced to don that bar sinister for his entire career. 


International sportsmen, especially those playing a team sport such as cricket, are natural targets of criticism. Their shortcomings – technical or of temperament – are magnified no matter how good the overall package. For example, Sourav Ganguly was slammed for not being able to play short-pitched bowling, Anil Kumble for not turning the ball enough, VVS Laxman for being a poor fielder, Rahul Dravid for not changing gears quickly enough, and Sachin Tendulkar for not being a matchwinner. Even Murali's great contemporary, leg-spinner Shane Warne, was criticised for never really making an impact in the Indian sub-continent, and for being driven to such a point that Tendulkar started haunting his dreams. 


Despite this criticism – some worthy, some unfair – they were all recognised as some of the finest cricketers of our times; as the fab-five of Indian cricket, and as the greatest spin bowler of all time. 


But what Murali has had to go through is far more complicated, and more brutal, than what any of his peers had to endure. In his case, cricket experts haven't contended that some aspect of his bowling is a tad inadequate. His top-spinner hasn't been singled out, nor has his doosra. They haven't said that he bends his arm too much during a certain delivery, or straightens it too much while bowling another. Instead, they've declared that his bowling in its entirety, and consequently his whole 800-wicket career, is not legitimate; that he's an inveterate chucker who should be stripped of all his records. 

To prove their point, they've put Murali through more purity tests than any other bowler in history. His arm has been scrutinised by computer programs that map each degree of deviation, his wrist has been studied for every nanometre of movement. And though he's come out clean each time, they've still damned him by adding a parenthesis to all his achievements. 


Faced with such character assassination, Murali's response right through has been one of the most famous smiles the cricket world will ever see. He's never lost his cool, never really shown his frustration. Perhaps he knew, at least at a sub-conscious level, what he was getting into when he first decided to become a cricketer. 


Imagine a young Murali, a Tamil boy growing up his strife-torn Sri Lanka, turning up to roll his arm over with his friends in the local school yard and bowling with that action for the first time. In a world where everybody tries to imitate someone else – be it a writer, an actor, a businessman, a designer, or a sportsman – Murali was someone who was going to do things differently. His bowling was not a variation from a prescribed style like Ajantha Mendis's carrom-ball. It was a completely new technique. He was a pioneer. Unaware of how much his elbow was bending, and how his wrist was more flexible than all others in the world, he was just bowling the way that came naturally to him. 


But put all that aside. The beauty of Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling is not in the numbers, or in how and when he releases the ball. His genius lies in what happens to the ball after it leaves his hand, how it drifts through the air, how it suddenly dips, how it grips the surface, and how it moves unpredictably in either direction. 


If all you have seen in Murali's bowling so far is whether or not he's straightening his elbow at the point of release, you've deprived yourself of one of cricket's greatest joys. Look again; there are only three days to go.



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





The surest sign that the global economy, particularly the developed countries, is far from getting back to normal lies in the results of India's software leaders, TCS and Infosys, for the first quarter of the current financial year. It is not as if the storm of the last year is still there and the hatches remain battened down, but it is not calm seas and sunny sailing yet. The good news is that a certain amount of discretionary spending is back, the not-so-good news is that prices are either stable or under pressure, depending on who you are, and the bad news is that the inexorable need to recruit in order to deliver growth and volumes has resulted in higher attrition even as wage bills have gone up. Strong circumstantial evidence that the world of software is not back to where it used to be lies in the depressed residential real-estate market in Bangalore where life is entirely driven by IT industry prospects, unlike those in Mumbai and the national capital region, which have both bounced back.


The consolidated figures for the two firms indicate that both are having to fight hard to remain where they were, though the year-on-year figures tend to show TCS in better light. Both have recorded a sharp fall in margins by 2.9 percentage points on a quarter-on-quarter basis. Infosys' net margin at 24 per cent is still over one percentage point ahead of TCS', but this is a far cry from the large difference of several percentage points that existed around a year ago. In terms of top line growth, TCS was clearly ahead of Infosys last year (2009-10), at 8 per cent against 4.8 per cent of Infosys, though in the first quarter both have recorded a clear acceleration at around 14 per cent year-on-year. Infosys, in fact, looks forward to a better year overall than the first quarter and has accordingly hiked its top line guidance for the year. However, the guidance for margins has been revised upwards more modestly, indicating that on this front, it will be tough going in the foreseeable future.


 The result of Infosys having virtually lost its margin leadership in the industry is reflected in the mood of utterances. Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan finds that the global environment for the software industry remains uncertain and challenging. On the other hand, TCS CEO N Chandrasekaran sees the reporting quarter as one of complete outperformance driven by strong demand across markets and industries. One reason why Infosys' numbers may have lost their earlier special zing is the conservatism in its acquisitions, despite sitting on a hoard of cash. TCS, on the other hand, has over the years been aggressively and successfully chasing large orders in Europe. Significantly, it does not seem to be buoyed down by the troubled conditions in Europe, though we may not have heard the last on Europe's unfolding saga of misery. Increasingly, revenue and margin stability in the future will be influenced by the presence of firms in the domestic market which is growing briskly. It is here again that both TCS and Wipro have an edge over Infosys.








A few weeks ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looked like it was finally emerging as a meaningful opposition party, seeking to forge an alliance with the Left on "secular" and national issues of concern to the common man like inflation and national security. Today the party is scrambling for cover on its biggest planks, corruption and terror. Just one television channel broadcasting news of the involvement of Hindu groups in terror attacks got RSS goons to vandalise the television station, making it clear that the Sangh Parivar remains as closed to any form of scrutiny on the issue of Hindu groups being involved in such terror — and the issues of encounter killings and the Best Bakery in Gujarat are waiting to erupt. As for corruption, the party had to face the ignominy of the Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, resigning due to the Karnataka government's refusal to act on his report last year on the mining scandal that continues to rock the state. While L K Advani's personal intervention ensured that Justice Hegde took back his resignation, the party is determined not to allow a CBI inquiry into the allegations of illegal mining by companies owned by two ministers in the BJP's Karnataka government. While the Congress party may rejoice that a senior BJP leader like Sushma Swaraj is likely to be embarrassed by the revelations about Karnataka's "Reddy Brothers", the latter have, in turn, named Congressmen as being involved in similar scams. When it attacks the state's governor H R Bhardwaj for bringing up the issue and says he is acting in an unconstitutional manner, the BJP doesn't really have a leg to stand on. While accusing the Congress party of similar misdemeanours does not absolve the BJP, it certainly has weakened its own case.


For one, while it has refused to allow a CBI enquiry on the grounds that the Lokayukta is already doing this, it is not even ready to release Justice Hegde's report. The Lokayukta has, in turn, said that he had not received an Action Taken Report but an Action To Be Taken Report! Second, while the government denies the Reddys are guilty, it confirms that illegal mining has reached rampant proportions. It has been reported that while the Indian Bureau of Mines had given the Reddy flaghip, the Obulapuram Mining Company, permission to extract 6.5 million tonnes of iron ore between 2004-05 and 2008-09, it had extracted 11.9 million tonnes. Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa refuses to comment on this but is on record saying around 10 million tonnes of iron ore had been exported illegally in the last two years — it is for this reason that he has asked the prime minister to ban iron ore exports. In other words, what the chief minister seems to be doing is to ask the central government to bail him out against the vested interests in his party. The Centre appears to be in no hurry to do so, preferring instead to let the BJP stew in its own juice. While political parties may hurl charges at each other, doing nothing about them only fosters public cynicism.










Europe continues to constitute the epicentre of Act II of the global financial crisis, which has now mutated into a sovereign-debt crisis within the eurozone. How could this happen when, at least on paper, all problems had seemingly been resolved during May's extraordinary EU summit meeting, which created a European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and ensured total funding of close to $1 trillion?


Those May promises have, in the meantime, been made more concrete. A "special purpose vehicle" (SPV) has been established in Luxembourg, and can already count on hundreds of billions of euros in guarantees from member states.


If all the resources promised (euro 750 billion, including financing from the International Monetary Fund) were to be used fully, the EU could fully refinance all distressed countries (Portugal, Spain and Ireland) for a couple of years. Moreover, the European Central Bank (ECB) has shown willingness to buy government (and private) bonds if it judges that the functioning of the market has been impaired.


But this official financial firepower has left markets unimpressed. Spreads on Spanish government bonds continue to creep up, and are now higher than before the announcement of the EFSF. And there are ominous signs of tension in the interbank market, as more and more banks, reflecting weak confidence that the stability of the system has been restored, would rather deposit their money at the ECB than lend to other banks.


The explanation is simple: the problems that underlie the crisis (the precarious state of Greek public finances and that of the Spanish real estate sector) have not been solved, though they should actually be easily manageable in a pan-European context. Greece represents about 2 per cent of the eurozone economy; even if it defaulted on its public debt, and the recovery value were only 50 per cent, the losses would be about euro 150 billion, or just 1.5 per cent of eurozone GDP.


The problems in Spain are likely to be somewhat larger, although official estimates of the losses in the Spanish banking system amount to only euro 100 billion. But the real problem in Spain might well lie elsewhere: the exposure of French, German and other banks to Spain's real-estate sector.


Many loans to Spanish developers will have to be written off. But, even in the worst case, the combined losses of Spanish and other banks in the Spanish real-estate sector should not exceed euro 300 billion, or about 3 per cent of EU GDP.


So, the real question is why problems of manageable proportion on Europe's periphery are paralysing the eurozone's entire banking system. After all, one would not expect the United States' banking system to collapse just because there was a housing bubble in California and the state of Michigan (similar in size to Greece) became insolvent.


A key reason why Europe's financial markets remain nervous is that, officially, there is no problem. Officially, Greece does not have a solvency problem, and restructuring of its public debt is not an option. Similarly, in Spain, the official line is that the domestic banking sector is well capitalised.


The first rule of dealing with financial-market turbulence should be to acknowledge the truth and scale of the problems at hand. Greece's experience has shown that pretending that problems do not exist can result in a self-reinforcing spiral of increasing risk premia and declining confidence.


In this respect, the publication of the results of "stress tests" conducted on the EU's 100 largest banks, promised for the end of July, is a clear step forward.


But there is a second and more disturbing reason why financial markets remain unsettled: large swathes of the European banking system remain vastly undercapitalised. According to ECB statistics, eurozone banks have about euro 20 of liabilities (including interbank debt) for every euro of capital and reserves. This implies that for every capital loss of one euro lurking in some banks, there will be about euro 20 of doubtful debt.


Even a worst-case scenario for Greece and Spain would imply losses of euro 450 billion at the most. The funds mobilised so far under the EFSF (euro 750 billion) would be amply sufficient to deal with all of this — provided that these potential losses are clearly identified and the necessary funds earmarked to deal with them. Yet this is not the approach that is being followed.


Instead, European funding will be used only to bail out governments, which, in turn, need the money to bail out their banks. But, given the 20:1 liability-capital ratio in the banking sector, this approach implies that the funding requirements will become astronomical: compared to a euro 450 billion bill if potential losses remain undisclosed and dispersed, euro 9 trillion in debt guarantees would be needed to ensure the stability of the eurozone's banking system.


In short, rigorous stress-testing of eurozone banks (followed by mandatory recapitalisation) would require much less public funding than would continuing to extend blanket guarantees to everybody.


Europe cannot escape the crisis in its financial markets until it fixes its banks. Unfortunately, Europe's policy-makers have twice let themselves been misled by politically convenient views of the crisis — first in 2007-2008, by supposing that the financial contagion came from the US, and nowadays, by blaming reckless fiscal policy in the southern eurozone.


But the real problem is that the EU's banking system is so weakly capitalised that it cannot take any losses, while also being so interconnected that problems in one country quickly put the entire system at risk. Until the banks' balance-sheet problems are dealt with decisively, financial markets will remain on edge.


The author is director of the Centre for European Policy 








The Indian media and entertainment space is booming. There are lots of growth opportunities in print, TV, films, mobile, the Net, et al. And Indian media companies are diversifying into other areas successfully.


 That is what the first few pages of most investor documents, strategy presentations or business plans in this space say.


It is not quite true.


Look at the table that goes with this column today. It lists, arguably, India's top-10 media companies by their revenues. Each of them is ostensibly diversified into various other media. (Click here for table FACT SHEET)


But a closer look reveals that most of them still get a bulk of their revenues and profits from one media — sometimes from one brand. The Times Group, for example, is still largely about print and The Times of India. It has interests in TV, the Internet and radio, but together these bring in less than one-fifth of its revenues. The Zee Group is largely about television, either the broadcast or distribution of it. HT Media is still largely about the Hindustan Times and print and so on.


There is nothing wrong about this. Globally, most large media companies find it very difficult to have a go at another media successfully. Metro (a hugely successful free newspaper), Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, all came out of the blue.


This is not about old or new media, youth or age, ability or the lack of it. It is about focus. The rule, it seems, is this — every media creates its own pioneers and leaders and more often than not they are unknowns.


In the early 90s, Subhash Chandra and Kalanithi Maran came out of nowhere to create two of the largest broadcasting companies in India — Zee and Sun — even while the opportunity was staring at every major publishing baron in the country. Rediff, Naukri and others have become the biggest companies on the Internet when big media was ignoring it.


However, it is this very success which becomes a limiting factor. Not only because it may inhibit risk-taking, but also because the heart, mind and soul of a company are coded in one media. Any senior manager at The Times Group will tell you that the heart of its owners is in the newspaper business. Zee may invest in a whole lot of things — radio, newspapers, the Internet — but its focus will be its TV business. So, the context from which many of these companies view growth is the context in which they were successful. Nothing then seems as exciting.


Imagine that you are Samir Jain, the vice chairman and chief strategist of The Times Group. When the top line from your flagship brand is more than the whole Internet advertising pie in India, why would it interest you? That makes it difficult to give money, time and resources to a business.


Eventually though, most companies do it, as international examples show. Even now, News Corporation is better known for tabloids such as the Sun and the News of the World. The fact is that its television business brings in 45 per cent of its revenues and the rest comes from films and publishing.


However, this kind of robust diversification happens when new minds come to the helm or the market conditions change dramatically — something we are seeing in the newspaper and television industries in India. In both these businesses even as the environment has changed dramatically — more competition, consumers migrating to other media, etc. — a whole new generation of owners/managers has taken over. They may well take the diversification game to the next level. 








The last fortnight has seen a new face of India's financial sector regulators. All of a sudden, all of them look like tigers. No longer do they appear subservient to all the wishes of the finance minister or the ministry mandarins. They now appear bold enough to make public their candid views and even opposition to the ordinance the finance ministry had got issued on June 18.


For those, who may not have kept track of recent developments in India's financial sector, the ordinance last month added a new regulatory structure by setting up a joint committee to resolve inter-regulatory disputes like the one that erupted over who should regulate unit-linked insurance schemes (Ulips) — the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) or the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda). The significance of the move also lay in the fact that the committee was to be headed by none else than the finance minister himself.


 So, what made the financial sector regulators bold? To get a sense of what could have brought about this change and what the various ramifications of the new attitude could be, it is important to place the developments of the last fortnight in the larger context of the equations between North Block, headquarters of the finance ministry, and the various financial sector regulators.


The reality is that in spite of the functional autonomy the financial sector regulators enjoy at least on paper, most of them are also acutely conscious of their jurisdictional and functional limitations on two counts. First, the government has the power to appoint the heads of the regulatory bodies. Indeed, this power has seen its blatant manifestation in the manner in which the government has been regularly appointing several senior and even retired officers belonging to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) to head these bodies over the last several years. It is not that IAS officers are not competent or are not suitable for the job. The preference for IAS officers is significant because it reinforces the widely held belief that the government uses its power quite well and the bureaucracy that runs the government enjoys the benefits of that power.


Secondly, all the financial sector regulators like the Reserve Bank of India, Sebi and Irda are set up under separate laws approved by Parliament. All these laws have one specific provision that empowers the government to have the final say in the affairs of these regulators in case there is any dispute. Thus, in any case, under the law, the financial sector regulators have to run to the finance ministry to get its concurrence on any disputed issue.


Given this scenario, all that the June 18 ordinance did was to compel the regulators to come to the finance ministry in case they had any dispute among them. There is no doubt that the finance ministry assumed substantial powers through that ordinance, much to the discomfort of the regulators.


But who else were equally responsible for what happened? Sebi and Irda were engaged in a public spat over Ulips, creating uncertainty for investors and the markets. If the regulators were so concerned over the finance minister's interference, why didn't they settle the dispute bilaterally? Or why didn't they refer the matter to the High-Level Coordination Committee on financial markets?


So, when the finance ministry asked them to move a court of law to find a solution, they kept quiet and decided to file a petition. But when the regulators showed their reluctance to move on with the court cases, the finance ministry got impatient and got the ordinance issued.


Remember that regulators rarely voice their discomfort over any issue when the target of attack may turn out to be the finance ministry. So, when the finance minister mooted the idea of a financial stability and development council, market experts and economists cried foul, but the Reserve Bank of India's reaction was muted. However, this time when the ordinance on the joint committee was promulgated, all the regulators began voicing their opposition.


What happened? One of the explanations doing the rounds in North Block suggests that the capital markets division in the finance ministry functioning without a regular joint secretary in charge for the last few weeks may be one of the reasons for the sudden outburst of reactions from the regulators. As long as the capital markets division had a joint secretary-level official liaising with the regulators on these issues, there was not much one heard about how uncomfortable they felt about the government moves. Now that the division is without an incharge at that level, the regulators have regained their voice.


It is difficult to believe this story, but many officials in North Block do not disagree with such an assessment. If this is indeed how it all happened, it is a sad commentary on India's regulators in the financial sector and the state of their autonomy.








The definition of South Asia is not permanently fixed," publisher and writer Urvashi Butalia observed recently. Neither, by implication, is the definition of what puts India in the term "Indian writing", and in different ways, three separate Indian/Asian prizes are looking for new ways to populate the shelf of South Asian literature.


For the Vodafone Crossword, now over a decade old, the battle over the years has been twofold. How do you identify a writer as Indian? And how do you find the right balance between encouraging new, or local, writers and not penalising those who have done well in markets outside India? These may seem like esoteric questions, but the results are reflected in the prize shortlists — and that, whether the general reader is aware of the processes involved or not, determines whether a literary prize will stand or fall in the long run.


Historically, prizes that have pushed an ideological or political agenda haven't done well. The only test of whether a literary prize is working as it should or not isn't reflected in the number of struggling writers it supports or honours; any prize, from the Pulitzer to the Crossword, will ultimately be judged by whether it consistently yields good reading lists.


The Crossword opened up the prize a few years ago to writers who could be considered Indian —William Dalrymple being the most prominent example — by dint of length of stay in the country, or some evidence of Indian origin. The problem with this sort of criteria, as the Crossword and other literary prizes have discovered, is that it turns the prize administrators into a quasi-customs office, with the job of scrutinising the passports of writers — and this doesn't work. This year, Dalrymple wasn't eligible to be considered in the non-fiction category, since he's not an Indian citizen. I understand the dilemma the Crossword faces, but the result is that their shortlists risk being slanted in one direction or the other: either too insular or too inclusive.


(A full list of shortlisted Crossword titles is available at:


The Man Asian Literary Prize is, similarly, moving past the teething troubles of the early years. One of its aims, and a noble one, was to encourage emerging, talented writers who hadn't been published yet. The outcome of accepting unpublished manuscripts for consideration, though, was that the gap between the announcement of the winners/shortlisted authors and the availability of their books became a gulf.


The memory of the general reader is short; most of us want to buy books the moment a shortlist is announced. This year, the Man Asian has moved back to accepting only books that are already published — which should give it a more reader-friendly list. The criteria for defining the Asianness of the writer remains the passport and the nationality, which, given the massive geographical spread, could lead to fascinating but very eclectic shortlists in the future.


The recently announced DSC Prize for South Asian literature has a much smaller focus — the restriction to the subcontinent rather than to the entire Asian continent makes it narrower, but also makes it more likely that the shortlists will feature books with common themes and interests. More controversial is the decision to define South Asian literature by content, rather than by nationality — if your book has a South Asian setting or South Asian characters, it qualifies. This will lead to some confusion; Asian authors who write about other times and places will be left out, and you could theoretically have a shortlist that features six Asian books, but not a single Asian writer.


Over time, though, both the DSC and the Man Asian could help us come to a better understanding of what Asian fiction is, as a category — if such a beast exists. It's as complex as trying to define what makes an Indian novel Indian, and perhaps it will be as much fun.


Sarita Mandanna's Tiger Hills illustrates a point about the dangers of getting what's informally known as the Bastard Child comparison wrong in the blurb. (This refers to an overworked blurb-writer/reviewer cliché: "X novel reads like a cross between William Faulkner and William Styron"; "If Bret Easton Ellis and Judith Krantz had offspring, this book would be their firstborn", etc.) Tiger Hills, one of the most-hyped debut novels of this season, drew pre-publication comparisons toGone With The Wind and The Thorn Birds.


I can say with some confidence that this two-generation family historical saga set in Coorg starring an impossibly beautiful, wilful heroine, an impossibly romantic tiger hunter and an impossibly annoying faithful husband with not one but two deep, dark secrets, resembles neither Margaret Mitchell's deathless bestseller nor Colleen McCollough's equally indestructible forbidden-love pulp epic. It is, however, the child of The Far Pavilions and House of Blue Mangoes, as midwifed by Jodi Picoult, and if that appeals to you, go ahead and buy a copy. Just don't expect Scarlett and Rhett in the Coorg hills.







THE new takeover regulation proposed by the C Achuthan committee is welcome. They seek to bring global benchmarks to Indian takeover regulations and will both enhance efficiency in the market for corporate control and ensure fairness between large and small stakeholders in a company being targeted for takeover. One implication of what the committee proposes is to vastly enhance the funding required to carry out a takeover, to an order of magnitude that is currently beyond the capability of India's stunted market for corporate debt. So, one fallout of the proposed takeover norms, if they are adopted, could well be to further accelerate reform of the debt market. The suggested norms, open for public comment at present, change the threshold level at which an open offer is triggered, the size and price of the open offer and, in the process, also facilitates delisting of the acquired company. The threshold level is proposed to be raised to 25% from the present 15%. Anyone who controls at least 25% of a company's shareholding wields the power to stop special resolutions, that is, acquires negative control. Raising the threshold for triggering an open offer to the level that grants negative control is likely to have major implications: a rally in the stock prices of companies where entities hold sizeable stakes close to the current trigger threshold of 15%; and rise in the quality of corporate governance. Raising the open offer volume to 100%, allowing conditional open offers and providing for delisting, if the acquirer's holding goes above the delisting norm after the public offer, are significant positive changes. The last facilitates leveraged buyouts, making the financing of takeovers easier. The pricing norm revisions would ensure that minority shareholders of the target company would not be cheated out of the price obtained by the strategic holders whose sale of shares triggers the public offer, even when they pass off part of their price as compensation for agreeing not to compete for a period. 


The proposals also bring out the haziness in extant regulation such as the gap between the minimum public holding threshold for a listed company (75%) and the delisting threshold (90%). We need speedy adoption of the suggested reform, to raise overall levels of efficiency.







THE tragic rail incident in West Bengal, the second one in two months, is an appalling reflection on the standards of safety in the Railways, and on the quality of the organisation's leadership. Human error and mechanical failure are being cited as the cause for the Uttar Banga Express to ram a stationary train. The anti-collision device (ACD), devised by Konkan Railways and already commissioned in the North-east Frontier Railways, is meant to prevent an accident like the present one, of a train ramming into another train. ACD units in locomotives and the rear guard cabin are tracked by global positioning system satellites, and they communicate with stationary ACD units installed at stations and along the track, and whenever the sensors judge that two trains are within a range of 3 km of one another, they automatically trigger the brakes. Why on earth cannot the Railways deploy ACD on all its trains and in all its divisions is a question that has no rational answer in a mental framework that sets a premium on safety. 


A callous attitude towards the loss of life of citizenry is unacceptable, given the sheer scale of Railways' operations: 9,000 passenger trains run on the network carrying over 18 million passengers every day. The Railways also need to levy realistic user charges that would sustain investments, including in safety. Around Rs 16,500 crore was spent on improving safety between 2001 and 2008. However, the goal of renewal and replacement of overaged assets and safety enhancements has not been achieved. More investments are needed to improve infrastructure and mechanise signalling and track switching systems. Safety also means ensuring driver vigilance and using alternative warning systems. Better resource allocation and efficient implementation of safety mechanisms would contribute to creating a culture of safety. The Railways is also an important organisation that cannot run on auto-pilot.







WHAT much of the litter-plagued west needs are kabadiwallahs and a few very Indian notions on recycling. This week, Britain's department for the environment, food and rural affairs (Defra) released a survey that showed a fall in the country's overall 'cleanliness', identifying graffiti, gum and pet excreta as the main culprits, followed by cigarette butts and fast-food wrappers. England's annual clean-up bill came to an £858 million, excluding road clearing costs and private sector expenditure for such measures. Not surprising, considering that clean-up activity there is guided by some very European-style nanny laws. Last month, for instance, five manned vehicles accompanied two workers tasked with picking up trash beside a highway in southern England, to conform with health and safety rules that decree that a convoy of gas-guzzling trucks must protect the garbage collectors' life and limb on highway verges. Over half-adozen receptacles to separate different types of refuse before disposal have already been foisted on the average householder, but obviously to no avail as littering continues to be on the rise everywhere. 


Would people carelessly leave cans, bottles and yesterday's newspapers and magazines in trains and buses or by the roadside if there had been kabadiwallahs who would have bought them? The same could be asked for all manner of household clutter from old vessels to appliances, furniture to furnishings that are routinely left in alleyways and garages in the west. This humble denizen of India's businesscape does more to clean and recycle than all the garbage disposal companies and 'green consultancies' of the west. Learning more about the economics of the kabadiwallah should be on the agenda for the visiting British prime minister at the end of this month. Not to mention the US and French presidents who follow thereafer.






AS JAPAN'S Nakamoto Corp celebrates the opening of its new headquarters in Los Angeles, a beautiful woman is murdered on the 46th floor of the building. This event kicked off Michael Crichton's novel Rising Sun. Though written as a thriller, the novel underlined deep differences between US and Japanese cultures. It also questioned the wisdom of allowing foreign companies to invest in hi-tech sectors in the US. 

 Crichton wrote this in 1992, at the height of America's paranoia about Japanese business, but ironically he was already behind the curve. As the book — and a movie based on it one year later — hit the markets, Japan was already sliding into its 'lost decade' of low growth and deflation. 


After the America-Asia love fest of the first decade of the 21st century, when pundits confidently declared that the coming century would belong to China, India and the US — Niall Ferguson even coined the term Chimerica to celebrate the evolving relationship — a backlash is coming. Europe is in recession and no two of its governments can agree on how to deal with the crisis. America, meanwhile, struggles to save and create jobs in a weak economy. Against that backdrop, 8%-plus growth in large nations like China and India must seem like an affront. 


To some, it can also look like a threat. Ian Bremmer, a pundit who analyses global political risks at the Eurasia Group, has recently argued that giant companies, backed by governments, are out to capture free markets. Among others, he identifies China, Russia, Brazil — and India — as candidates that practice 'state capitalism'. 


It's true that many governments are hand in glove with large state-owned or controlled companies. Russia is a classic case. In the Soviet days, government owned everything. Then, after the Soviet Union collapsed and Boris Yeltsin opened the doors to a reckless form of capitalism, gigantic enterprises were taken over by well-connected people, almost always at rock-bottom valuations.After Russia's economy emerged from chaos, these oligarchs became dollar billionaires almost overnight. 


But Vladimir Putin wasn't going to take the growing power of the oligarchs lying down. His regime made sure that the oligarchs fell in line with the Kremlin, or be forced out. Yukos, a private sector oil giant, was dismantled and its founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky jailed in 2003, where he continues to remain today. Today, Russia's government is in serious business. 


President Medvedev used to head gas giant Gazprom, prime minister Putin chairs development bank VEB, his deputies Sechin and Ivanov head oil company Rosneft and United Aircraft Co, respectively. And finance minister Kudrin chairs Alrosa, the world's second-largest diamond company. State control over energy and minerals, the two sectors that have propelled Russia's growth, is channelled into pricing decisions, to maintain political stability and, sometimes, bully other economies by cutting off crucial gas supplies during winter. 


China's government manages businesses with a lighter touch, but many of its giant companies, like the oil and telecom giants, are state-owned and controlled. It's gradually relaxing restrictions on banking and finance, but the government still controls the prices and production of many things at home. Chinese companies try to acquire assets overseas, with a mixed track record. Five years ago, it tried to take over US oil company Unocal, but was thwarted by lawmakers. But in Africa, Chinese companies have been on a shopping spree, snapping up energy and mineral resources. 


SO, IT'S true that state capitalism exists, but is it the menace that it's being made out to be? Despite their best efforts, no Russian or Chinese company has come close to acquiring big businesses in the West. India has state-owned companies, but here state ownership can be a handicap rather than an advantage. 


Everywhere in the world, oil companies make huge profits when oil prices go up. Unsurprisingly, the largest companies in the world tend to be energy giants. Not in India, where state-owned oil companies slip into the red when oil spikes. The government regulates fuel prices and it becomes a liability to sell fuel. 


Does BP, now reeling under the impact of its Gulf of Mexico oil spill, really feel threatened by the prospect of a takeover bid from IOC? The company most likely to pick up the pieces, if BP were to go into a selloff, is ExxonMobil. 


India's telecom industry has been a game-changer around the world, providing high-quality mobile services at dirt-cheap prices: in less than a decade, Delhi-based Bharti has become one of India's most valuable companies. Yet, stateowned BSNL, which operates across India with the exception of Delhi and Mumbai, is hurtling into the red. 


So, people who fret about state capitalism gobbling up businesses in the West can stop worrying. State capitalism does exist in many parts of the world, but it operates in many different ways. In places like Russia and China, governments drive businesses, in India, governments drive businesses into the ground. 
    China was blocked by lawmakers when it tried to acquire an American asset. The same year, UAE-based Dubai Ports World bid to manage six major American ports. The seller of the contract, P&O, chose DPW over a rival bid from Singapore. Then US president George W Bush backed the deal. But US lawmakers voted 62-2 against the Dubai acquisition. DPW had to sell its US assets to an entity controlled by America's AIG, then the world's largest insurer.


State-controlled companies don't seem to have an edge when it comes to taking over assets in Western countries. On the other hand, private companies from India and elsewhere seem to be doing quite well in cross-border transactions. L N Mittal managed to acquire Arcelor despite a lot of fuss in Europe. The Tatas have acquired assets across the world, from luxury hotels to Jaguar-Land Rover. The Birlas acquired aluminium player Novelis in the US. 


Western pundits are getting it wrong: state capitalism doesn't threaten markets around the world. But poor economic management, incompetent regulation and slack policies at home do.








WHAT constitutes a winning marketing strategy? Clearly, there is no one marketing road to riches. Instead of relying on one major differentiation or thrust, a company needs to weave its own unique tapestry of marketing qualities and activities. It is not enough to do most things a little better than the competitors. Professor Michael Porter of Harvard argues that a company doesn't really have a strategy if it performs the same activities as its competitors, only a little better. 


It is simply operationally more effective. Being operationally excellent is not the same as having a robust strategy. Operational excellence might help the firm win for a while, but other firms will soon catch up or pass up the firm. Porter sees a business as having a robust strategy when it has strong points of difference from competitors' strategies… 


But don't these successful new strategies get imitated very quickly, only to settle into being ordinary? 


Yes, imitators come along, as Southwest Airlines and Ikea have learned. However, it is one thing to copy some aspects of a new strategy, but quite another for an imitator to copy all aspects of the strategic architecture. The great strategies consist of a unique configuration of many reinforcing activities that defy easy imitation. The imitator not only has to incur great costs in trying to duplicate all the activities of the leader but, at best, he ends up as only a pale imitation with average returns.






WHEN a seminar at IGNOU where Prakash Karat was to deliver a lecture was cancelled at the last minute, attempts were made to give it a political twist. Despite Karat's old JNU comrade-turned-NCP leader D P Tripathi's helpful sound bytes, the conspiracy theory failed to take off as the seminar was cancelled only because its organiser failed to book the venue. Yet, the episode set tongues wagging. A Congress leader dismissed the bid to link Congress to the IGNOU fiasco as mere 'display of withdrawal syndrome' after Karat & Co got 'nuked out' of the political centrestage. But some cheeky comrades said the IGNOU episode was all too civil compared to what the West Bengal CPI-M dished out to Comrade General Secretary, choosing the very same 'deviant comrade' Somnath Chatterjee to deliver the maiden Jyoti Basu memorial lecture and then inviting Karat to listen to him! This inhouse invitation to witness 'bombarding of the headquarters' was, obviously, turned down by Karat despite organisers making foolproof arrangement at the venue. 


Beyond the mining mess 


AS THE Karnataka BJP regime is getting deeper into the mining mess, the health of Opposition Congress too has come under AICC scrutiny. When a Karnataka Congress delegation visited 10, Janpath, to raise the Bellary brothers issue, a senior AICC leader quipped that the round-the-clock dharna by the party MLAs in the state Assembly last week was the only 'action' they performed ever since Yediyurappa regime took office. With the PCC riddled with factions and senior party leaders parked either at 24, Akbar Road, or away from the grassroots in Bangalore, the Karnataka Congress is in a state of lethargy. The inhouse Congress joke is that if the BJP leadership has allowed Bellary Brothers to play super CMs, the factional state Congress leaders have conceded the Opposition space to the Ananth Kumar faction of the state BJP! 


High-flying spree 

EVER since she became the Lok Sabha Speaker, Ms Meira Kumar has been flying high, literally. Almost on a monthly basis, she has been travelling to foreign lands, on official visits, of course. She would be back in Delhi from Switzerland just days ahead of the monsoon session. Before that, Ms Kumar had been to Mongolia. During the past year, Ms Kumar paid official visits to Hungary, Luxembourg, Bhutan, Swaziland, Bangkok, Thailand, Mauritius, New York, Geneva, Tanzania, Rome and Austria. That makes Switzerland country no 13! If she maintains this record during the next four years of her term, Ms Kumar could not only beat all her predecessors on foreign trips but make even the usually globetrotting external affairs minister feel grounded. 


Tea-time ideas 

WITH Parliament convening next week, speculation is on, as to whether the tactical BJP-Left floor tango against the UPA would be on display again, after L K Advani blogged the spicy details of the secret red-saffron meeting at Sushma Swaraj's office. If Mr Advani is basking in enhanced readership, CPI-M's Basudeba Acharya has been explaining himself ever since: visiting Ms Swaraj's office was the original idea of CPI's Gurudas Dasgupta and that he only joined him. Bengal and Kerala Congress leaders too are busy copying and circulating LK's write-up as evidence of 'a Communist-BJP secret plot'. With the 'Hindu terror' and Bellary brothers issues set to be raised in the House, expect the spotlight to turn on Gurudas-Acharya duo's tea-time escapade.







AFEW weeks ago, most people would have bet on either Argentina or Brazil to make it to the semifinals in the football World Cup. A few months ago, most people would have bet that FDI in multi-brand retailing would never see the light of day. As the last few days have shown, most people would have lost money on both counts. 


Many analysts believed that the lack of political will and consensus would not permit progress on allowing FDI in multi-brand retailing. However, the recently-released discussion paper by the department of industrial policy and promotion (Dipp) builds a compelling case to allow FDI. This represents a significant change in the stated policy of the government and the big questions that need to be addressed is what has led to this shift in the government's perspective and how will this play out. 


The change in policy has resulted due to the (un)happy confluence of three factors. The first is the realisation that investments in only the backend or infrastructure is not an attractive proposition for foreign retailers, the second that not enough local funding is available for the investments required while there is surplus foreign capital, and finally (and most importantly), the rising food inflation. 


It is clear that the government's policy of trying to attract investments only in the backend has failed. None of the large global retailers has made significant investments in creating the backend infrastructure — even though some have tested waters through the cash-and-carry route. Investments only in the backend would not be financially viable till there is large scale — which a few stores are unlikely to provide. Experience in other countries also suggests that foreign retailers invest in an integrated retail value chain. 


Global experience has shown that a rapid scale-up in retail operations requires a long investment horizon. The capital is required for creating the front- and backend infrastructure and in funding the initial years' losses. Over the last few years, it has become clear that the various domestic players, for different sets of reasons, do not have the appetite or access to this type and quantum of investment. The current situation in global markets is to India's advantage. The developed markets do not offer many investment opportunities — hence, investment in Indian retail sector would appear even more attractive, given the portfolio of options. 


The most important reason for the shift in policy is something that has been the biggest challenge for the RBI governor, the finance minister and the aam aadmi: rising food inflation. The last few months have witnessed double-digit food inflation. Analysts and economists have provided various reasons to explain the shortterm volatility — but it is instructive to examine the long-term structural trend in food grain production. 


From 2000 to 2009, the Indian GDP has increased by nearly 70%, bank credit to the agricultural sector by 200% and fertiliser subsidy by nearly 300%. In the same period, production for rice, wheat and pulse has been almost flat — with the average growth less than 1% per annum — virtually no increase in productivity! 


Given the increased urbanisation, it is unlikely that the area under cultivation would increase significantly. Increase in agricultural productivity and reduction in wastage are the only two levers that the government has to address the food inflation or security issue. Studies have shown that the current inefficient farm-to-store supply chain contributes to high levels of wastage and inefficiencies: as high as 25-30% for some fruit and vegetables, and more than 10% for foodgrains. 

FDI in retail would allow for investments in the food supply chain that will reduce these losses and result in increased food supply. The next logical, and politically-sensitive, step would be to look at bold means to improve the farm productivity — but that is the subject of another article. While the initial reaction to the Dipp paper has been positive, the question on everyone's minds is whether this would translate into policy change and action, and by when. I believe that FDI in multi-branded retail does require broad political support and would congratulate the government on starting the debate on this issue of national importance. There is a need for a holistic construct to debate and deliberate on the issues by key stakeholders — but then also to translate this into action. 


The Dipp paper has brought the FDI debate into the semi-finals — but this is a step in the overall journey and not the finals. Predicting the timing of the action is like predicting the winner of the World Cup — only Paul the octopus will be right! 


(The author is partner and director at     BCG India. Views are personal.)







TELEOLOGY, which is the study of design or ultimate 'purpose' to describe the process of all phenomenon, is a word that's deeply repugnant to scientists — though not necessary to science itself. In biology, for instance, Darwin set this line of thought when he said that to explain, say, the eye, it wasn't necessary to posit some 'motive' or 'force' behind its development just because its structure seemed to be so incredibly complex. The process of natural selection can quite comfortably deal with the problem, and natural selection is, of course, blind. Evolution doesn't see what an eye does but only that it happens to be helpful to an animal that possesses one. 


At the same time, what frames the rules governing evolution? Or anything similar? Six and seven will make 13 no matter if we exist or not and some ET did the addition instead. No matter also if space, time or the universe existed or not; no matter if there is a God or there isn't. But what makes adding happen in the first place? Surely, that's at least a rule that seems to be eternal and infinitely pervasive. 


The physicist Paul Davies once elaborated his take on teleology without invoking a direction of the universe towards a final goal set by a creator. Take a 64-square black-and-white board, he said, and ask a bunch of people unfamiliar with chess or any other board play, to make up the rules of a game that could be played on it. Chances are anyone can do this — although it might not be interesting or deeply organised. One could say, well, keep eight pebbles along opposite edges and try to make it to the other end as fast as possible moving eight columns at a time. It's a game, sure, but would anyone in their right minds want to play it? 


On the other hand, the rules of chess have been very, very carefully selected in such a way as to lead to an almost endless variety of interesting play. But the point is this: having decided the rules, the details of a given chess game are not fixed in advance because that ultimately depends on the player and the game played. 

In fact, some people are good at it, some aren't and some don't even know how to make their moves. But there you have it: purpose-made for a purpose where the end isn't fixed like most religions would have us believe. (However, this doesn't mean a still better and more attractive game than chess cannot be designed by anyone.)




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The recent arrest of TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu and his party legislators by the Maharashtra police has brought to the fore the potential for conflict — and possible violence — between states. Even if Mr Naidu's exertions are traced to political exigencies ahead of byelections to 12 Assembly seats in Telangana, the issue will not go away. It is time the Centre took a strategic view of the management of all river waters in the country, and helped resolve disputes. Efforts of contending states themselves do not appear to bring satisfaction. It is time for a national agency to redress water-related disputes, duly sanctioned by Parliament and endorsed by state legislatures, to be established. Andhra Pradesh's objection is to the location of the Babli barrage — it falls within the "foreshore", of the Sriramsagar project. This makes the Babli barrage a project of one state lying within a project zone of another. AP contends that the barrage will utilise water belonging to the Sriramsagar dam. The dam was designed to hold 122 tmc of water, but the volume has come down to 70 tmc due to silting. Indeed, the dam has never served the total area it was meant to irrigate. That makes every litre of water crucial for the typically dry districts of Adilabad, Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Warangal and Nalgonda in the Telangana region. While water is always an emotive question, the recent agitation for statehood for the region and the July 27 byelections lend an edge to the issue. Mr Naidu was chief minister when Maharashtra conceived the Babli barrage in 2002-03. Work on it began in September 2004, months after the Congress government led by the late Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy commenced its first term. This has given Mr Naidu reason to allege that the Congress government has done little to stop Maharashtra. Nevertheless, Mr Naidu's march to Babli came a day after the AP Assembly heard an inconclusive short duration discussion lasting six days on the barrage. PM Manmohan Singh is scheduled to hear an all-party delegation from the state on July 23. The Supreme Court, which had passed an interim order preventing Maharashtra from installing gates on the barrage, is to hear the matter in August. Is Mr Naidu, then, working hard to come off as a good boy in Telangana where he is seen as someone trying to block statehood for the region? Compared to many others, the Babli dispute can be deemed to be of recent origin as it reached the SC only in 2006. Nevertheless, the potential for incitement to violence should never be estimated, if we are to take a lesson from the 120-year-old Tamil Nadu-Karnataka Cauvery dispute, or the contention as among several north Indian states in the context of Sutlej and Yamuna waters. It has been seen that one state or another reneges on agreements to share river waters in a year when water availability is reduced. It is this, and the need to protect the interests of lower riparian states, that lends urgency to the demand for a standing mechanism to clear water disputes. The body should concern itself with relatively large-sized dams as well as minor irrigation projects if they feed off shared rivers.








I wrote about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in these columns on May 11, 2010. As it happens, the leak has now been plugged and while there is assurance about success being achieved to clean the spill, as of now a huge volume of oil is polluting the surface of the ocean and large quantities are being washed ashore. It is sad to see pictures of birds and other creatures suffering and dying and the continued threat not only to these living beings but also to those who are either living on the beaches of the affected areas or would like to enjoy recreation in these seaside locations.


The cost of environmental degradation worldwide is hardly ever estimated in precise terms. Of course, the cost to human society and human beings cannot be measured in dollar terms, such as in the case of air pollution that leads to high morbidity and mortality. There are varying estimates of how many people actually die as a result of air pollution, and in 1997, when The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) released its "Green India 2047" report, documenting this country's record of environmental protection in the first 50 years of Independence, the figure we came up with of air pollution-induced mortality was staggering. A large part of the deaths that take place as a result of air pollution occur on account of indoor air pollution.


Sadly, even today over two billion people in the world carry out cooking indoors using poor quality biomass whose large quantities of emissions often remain trapped indoors because of poor ventilation in dwellings. TERI's estimate was that in India a total of 2.5 million lives are lost annually as a result of air pollution, including both rural as well as urban areas. The worst affected live in urban locations, particularly slum dwellers who are normally huddled in shanty towns by the roadside. They are, therefore, not only victims of indoor air pollution arising out of the burning of inferior quality cooking fuels but also outdoor air pollution which is created by dense automobile traffic and growing road congestion.


The lack of proper information and evaluation of the cost of environmental damage is one reason why the normal approach of various societies to risk management remains flawed and inadequate. The case of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is a typical example of how expected benefits, say from deep sea drilling as in the case of the Deep Water Horizon well, are never measured against expected damage, which would be a function of estimated probabilities and the extent of damage associated with mishaps. In the case of low-probability but high-impact events or outcomes, the cost of timely prevention may appear high but is often fully justified because even with low probability if the impacts from a mishap turn out to be very high, the damage caused is incalculable and totally unacceptable in today's world. The need for risk management is best illustrated by the Bhopal gas tragedy: With the knowledge that the damage caused by the possible release of lethal gas would be staggering, even if the probability of such an occurrence was seen to be low, the owners and managers of that facility should rightly have invested adequately in safety prevention right at the beginning. But the world has apparently ignored the lessons it should have learnt from Bhopal.


One major problem which leads to the neglect of risks to society or negative impacts on the environment is the divergence between private costs and benefits versus social costs and benefits. In India, soon after Independence, we cut forests on a large scale because there were huge private benefits associated with exploitation of forest resources, but there was no consideration of the social costs that were incurred as a result. Much of the threat to wildlife today is a result of lack of attention and importance we attached to maximising net social benefits by conserving the forestry wealth of the country. The benefits from conserving forests and biodiversity often translate into private benefits as well, particularly for tribal societies who depend for their livelihood on ecosystem services provided by nature around them. Destruction and damage imposed on these ecosystem services has a direct adverse effect on the livelihoods of such communities which undoubtedly leads to social alienation as well. Clearly, the economic implications arising out of such alienation are seldom taken into account on an explicit basis. Each project at the micro level must necessarily look at the entire range of implications that it could have on society at large, even if its "private benefits" are attractive.


What is an area of continuing neglect at the micro level and can so easily be resolved is compounded several times over when it comes to global action. If we take the case of climate change, even though some may believe that the science of climate change does not tell us about likely negative impacts with precise, quantified probabilities, the sheer scale of the damage that could take place should compel decision-makers and society at large to adopt a sound risk-management approach. This is all the more justified because the actions required to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases and thereby help stabilise the earth's climate are really attractive for a variety of reasons, particularly in view of the co-benefits that arise as a result. Could it be that our myopia and consumerist desire to produce and consume more and more goods and services blinds us to the assessment and prevention of risks from the actions that we are taking today?


There is, of course, no need for alarm in any of these areas of human endeavours but perhaps we should at least consider Mahatma Gandhi's advice that clearly highlighted the choices before us: "A technological society has two choices. First it can wait until catastrophic failures expose systemic deficiencies, distortion and self-deceptions… Secondly, a culture can provide social checks and balances to correct for systemic distortion prior to catastrophic failures". At a minimum we should move away from self-deception in these matters.


- Dr R.K. Pachauri is the director-general of The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI), chairman of the Intergovernmental Panelon Climate Change and director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute









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 US President Barack Obama's approval rating is weak.


What follows is speculation about what's holding his numbers down: He's too liberal for a Centre-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, former US President Ronald Reagan is often credited with godlike political skills — but in the summer of 1982, when the US economy was performing badly, his approval rating was only 42 per cent.


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 former US President 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 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 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 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 Grand Old Party is helping its chances of a big victory in November.


Can Obama do anything in the time that remains? Mid-term elections, where turnout is crucial, aren't quite like presidential elections, where the economy is all. 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 mid-terms go badly, is that the usual suspects will say that it was because Obama was too liberal — when his real mistake was doing too little to create jobs.









The Union government seems to be working at cross-purposes to tackle Left-wing extremism, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has time and again described as the country's biggest internal security threat. At one level, there is recognition that any solution to the complex problem cannot be confined to maintenance of law and order but must address socio-economic issues in some of the poorest districts spread across India that have large tribal populations.


At the same time, by merely pouring funds into these areas without ensuring that these are properly utilised, and, more importantly, without tackling the structural factors that have sharply widened inequalities of income and opportunities, our netas and babus in New Delhi or in state capitals would be fooling nobody but themselves if they think conditions prevailing in the "Maoist-infested" parts of India could change for the better.


On July 24, the National Development Council (NDC) meeting — headed by the Prime Minister and comprising all chief ministers, key Cabinet ministers and members of the Planning Commission — is meeting to discuss, among other things, the mid-term appraisal of the 11th Five Year Plan (April 2007 to March 2012). The NDC will also discuss a report on the special problems of tribal-dominated districts, including the 34 districts affected by Left-wing extremism. Yojana Bhavan is reportedly working on a Rs 13,000-crore special financial package for these districts.


Before the NDC meeting, the Planning Commission would do well to circulate a 47-page report entitled "PESA, Left-Wing Extremism and Governance: Concerns and Challenges in India's Tribal Districts", which is an independent assessment of the functioning of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (or PESA), 1996, that governs tribal-dominated areas in nine states, covered by the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. The nine states are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan.


Earlier this year, this independent report was ham-handedly "censored" by the ministry of Panchayati Raj headed by Dr Chandra Prakash Joshi and deleted from the official "State of Panchayats Report 2008-09" which was released by Dr Singh on April 24. The ministry had commissioned this study to the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), with the aim to find out "the correlation between the promise and the reality of self-governance in selected states, especially those which have witnessed difficulties due to alternate mobilisations (and counter-mobilisations)".


The IRMA report — authored by Ajay Dandekar and Chitrangada Choudhury and based on extensive field surveys — categorically blames government apathy, more than anything else, for the improper administration of the provisions of PESA in many tribal districts and argues that government apathy has to a large measure provided an impetus to the activities of Naxalites. The authors write: "…this may be the last opportunity…to retrieve PESA…The alternative is too horrific even to contemplate for the tribal areas".


The report begins with a November 2009 quote from the Prime Minister: "There has been a systemic failure in giving tribals a stake in the modern economic processes that inexorably intrude into their living spaces… The systematic exploitation and social and economic abuse of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated".


The next quote is from Fulsingh Naik, resident of Mandibisi village, Rayagada district, Orissa, who recounts a conversation he had in December 2009 inside a prison cell with a policeman who had jailed him for leading community protests against a liquor shop: "When I told a government official that PESA allows us to determine our policy on liquor trade in the village, he shot back, 'Are you trying to teach me the law? If you are so knowledgeable about the law, why are you living here in your village in the forest? Why don't you go and speak in the Orissa Assembly?'"


The third quote is rhetorical: "Is the government meant for the people or the powerful?" The man who raised this often-asked question in July 2009 is Mahangu Madiya, resident of Dhuragaon village in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, in the context of the state government's efforts to acquire his farmland for Tata Steel, by ignoring opposition to the move by local gram sabhas.


The IRMA study has highlighted several instances where state governments have diluted the powers of PESA in

the wording of legislation and the rules governing the implementation of the law. Under PESA, a special provision has been made for the functioning of panchayats in order to protect and promote the interests of tribal or indigenous communities. It points out that barring Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, most states have enacted laws that provide the bulk of the powers to the gram panchayat, and not the gram sabha which is in stark violation of Section 4(n) of PESA — a gram sabha is a body of persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village or a group of villages within the area of the panchayat. In other words, whereas the gram panchayat is a small elected body, the gram sabha includes all men and women above the age of 18 and is, therefore, a larger and more representative body.


There is much more in the report that should be carefully read by our rulers. Some of them, who seem clueless about how to deal with Naxalites, would start listening to views that do not adhere to their blinkered notion that the only way to deal with Left-wing extremism is to annihilate the last Maoist standing before building schools, health centres and roads in tribal areas, besides providing clean drinking water and electricity.


Here's an unsolicited suggestion to Dr Singh (who has frequently travelled across the length and breadth of the globe) made by Bengaluru-based author and public intellectual Ram Guha: "Mr Prime Minister, why don't you pay a visit to Dantewada one of these days?"


- Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator








As I write, the catfight over cashless health insurance claims continues. The spat between the insurers, hospitals and third-party administrators (TPA) increasingly looks like an ugly variant of a saas-bahu tale, with adjectives and attitude triumphing cogent, coherent arguments. "Unfair", "unjust", "retrograde" are among the milder terms that have been flying around. All this would have been entertaining had not the hapless health insurance policy holder been caught in the crossfire.


The public sector insurance companies are not willing to play ball with some of the top corporate hospitals in the country. The insurers accuse these hospitals of trying to fill their coffers through inflated bills and insurance money and have worked out a new "Preferred Provider's Network" (PPN), much like the preferred bahu. I am not Paul the Octopus and would not dare predict how this saga will end. But even to a non-oracular sensibility, one thing is obvious. While each party has been claiming to fight for the interests of the health insurance consumer, the consumer has been the least consulted entity.


Differences between insurance companies and service providers — the hospitals — is nothing new. Earlier attempts to get both onto the same page led nowhere. Last fortnight, the simmering tension burst out into the open when the four public sector general insurers (New India Assurance Co, Oriental Insurance Co, United India Insurance Co and National Insurance Co) that together command nearly 65-70 per cent of the country's health insurance market decided to flex their collective muscle. Result: a drastic pruning of the list of hospitals where cashless cover benefit on individual policies was applicable and de-listing of some of the top corporate-owned hospitals across Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru from the PPN. The state-owned insurance companies say they have been incurring heavy losses due to the bloated bills of these large hospitals and henceforth would do business only with those hospitals that agree to accept the rate packages prepared by the insurance firms for medical procedures and hospitalisation costs.


Unsurprisingly, the hospitals that have been tossed out of the PPN are hopping mad and say patients' right of choice is being restricted by such moves. Media reports over the past fortnight suggest that the fight between the insurers and hospitals has hugely inconvenienced the general public as settlement claims of many were refused at the hospitals not on the preferred list for such a facility.


More talks are on the anvil between the warring parties. But if a health insurance policy's primary aim is to provide affordable and timely healthcare to ordinary people, patients for whose benefit the cashless treatment policies are ostensibly formulated need to be on board and part of whatever solution is worked out. This means that the health insurance consumer and the Insurance Development and Regulatory Authority (IRDA) have to be brought onto the discussion's high table.


Once the crisis is sorted out, there is a list of urgent actions that need to be taken unless we want a repeat of the current imbroglio. First, we need to acknowledge that "regulation" is not necessarily a bad word and a growth-killer. Healthcare pricing in India is highly subjective and often unscientific. The vast majority of clinical establishments in the country are being run without any standards or ethics in the absence of an effective law, points out Gautam Chakraborty, adviser, healthcare financing to the National Health Systems Resource Centre, which provides technical support to the government's National Rural Health Mission. "This is a far cry from pricing models prevalent in say the United States where the primacy of the private sector is acknowledged but where scientifically designed parameters help assess the cost of a procedure and patient billing", Chakraborty adds.


The need for quality and price regulations that would create a better system for billing in private hospitals in India is acute. The government is trying to address the quality issues through a proposed law. The Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Bill 2010 has been approved by the Union Cabinet for the registration and regulation of clinical establishments in the country in order to improve the quality of health services through the National Council for Standards. But legislation alone will achieve little unless we have better-informed consumers and an effective and speedy redress mechanism. Currently, there is a tremendous information asymmetry between the patient and the doctor, a situation that can be open to misuse. If tomorrow a deal is being negotiated between the warring parties, the consumer should know exactly what its implications are for him/her, suggest changes/improvements to protect his/her interests and be part of monitoring mechanisms.


The ongoing dispute over cashless health insurance claims and the proposed solutions raises many questions. In an online post public health analyst Vijay Reddy listed a few: "Who decided the pricing of packages for the new Preferred Provider Network? Was it an independent technical team? What methodology was used in arriving at these figures? In the battle between the hospitals and insurers, is there a danger that the TPA — ostensibly a neutral party — would be rendered redundant?"


There is also the danger of viewing this as a morality tale in which big corporate-run hospitals are the villains. Many of these hospitals are indeed guilty of charging differential rates to the insured and the non-insured and such practices have thrived in the absence of an effective law and regulatory body. The lack of standard treatment protocols and price regulations also influence the actions of many smaller nursing homes.


Most of India's estimated 1.2 billion people have to pay for medical treatment out of their own pockets. Less than 15 per cent Indians have any kind of healthcare cover. But the current spat points to a larger problem — a nation-wide unregulated health delivery system which distorts prices and diminishes quality for everyone.


- Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at [1]







If you greet someone, "Good morning!", you will probably hear back, "Very good morning to you as well!" The time indicator in the salutation and so too in the response can vary. But this is a common secular salutation. If a Muslim greets another Muslim, he will invariably say, "Asalam Alekum" and would hear back, "Wa Alekum Asalam" — exchange of pious wishes for peace. However, when a Muslim meets a non-Muslim, this is not the salutation. He would rather say, "Aadab arz hai", meaning, "I offer you my regards" and expects reciprocation in the same terms. When a Hindu meets a Hindu, his salutation would depend upon the deity whom he worships. Accordingly, he would say, "Jai Ramji ki", or "Radhe Sham", or "Shiv Shambhu", or "Jai Jagadambe" or whatever else.


How does a Sikh greet a Sikh? Ordinarily with folded hands they would meet and exclaim to each other, "Sat Sri Akal" (True is the Eternal Lord) or, "Waheguru ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh" (The Khalsa belongs to God, and to Him also belongs victory). If he is asked, "How are you?" his response would be, "I am in Charhdi kala". Charhdi kala is a subtly composite concept and requires consideration in some detail. Charhdi means ascendant and Kala signifies energy; but the real connotation of the term enormously spills out of its literal meaning.


In Charhdi kala there is also confidence in the victory of good over evil. Abiding cheerfulness (sada vigas) is its hallmark. The congregational prayer of the Sikhs, Ardas, concludes with the following couplet:


Nanak nam Charhdi kala, Tere bhane sarbat ka bhala.


It means, Nanak says, may thy name provide us Charhdi kala, and may one and all prosper by the grace of thy will.


All this is what Charhdi kala signifies. And the people who have made it their salutation must always strive to achieve the noble ideals that it encompasses.


— J.S. Neki, a psychiatrist of international repute, was director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. He also received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Punjabi verse. Currently he is Professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala.








INDIGNATION, however valid, and wars of words lead nowhere. So when passions over the acrimony at Islamabad abate the government will be required to comprehensively review the on-off policy on dialogue with Pakistan. Inevitable are hard decisions, factoring in both internal political compulsions and international pressures. Most recent serious interaction ~ that celebrated stroll in the park in Thimpu hardly counts ~ has degenerated into diatribe, photo-ops giving way to slanging matches. That Pakistan has consistently and calculatedly, pushed the concept of diplomatic conduct to the extreme is nothing new, India should be prepared for that. Not necessarily to sink to the same level, but to make it clear that there can be no "business as usual" with uncouth people bent upon butchering the slim prospects there are of progress. India has no right to decide who should head the foreign ministry in Islamabad; it has every right to decline to engage with people lacking basic decency. That is the least of the messages that must go out from Raisina Hill. It may not be possible to re-configure geography, there is no alternative to negotiating with a difficult neighbour, yet there is a limit to turning the Biblical "other cheek". So what if no talks materialise towards the end of the year? The next round must be contemplated only when Pakistan seeks them, and on the basis of specific proposals examined by middle-level officials. Shah Mahmood Qureshi creates the impression he is thrilled by his belligerence (it appeals to a domestic constituency and GHQ Rawalpindi), India must "educate" him on how close he is to acquiring pariah-status. Bilaterals on the sidelines of multinational parleys must be avoided, or limited to exchanging pleasantries. There is too much at stake to hope that stray shots will register. Talking of "shots", India must be clear who calls them in Pakistan.  

Having said that, it is equally necessary for New Delhi to accept that negotiated settlements involve some compromises, it cannot be one-way traffic. That will actually require accepting that Pakistan has some cause for complaint. And is entitled to make its case forcefully ~ though never as crudely as Qureshi: even the maverick commando, Musharraf, exuded more grace. It is not easy to discern positives emerging from Islamabad. Sorry, perhaps there is something for which SM Krishna might feel a trifle grateful ~ weeks ago the buzz was that he could be replaced, doing that now would involve loss of "national face". 



IT might be presumptuous just yet to jump to the conclusion that Friday night's in-house mayhem at the CRPF's camp at Kuchai in Jharkhand was the first sign of restiveness on the part of a beleaguered force. One doesn't expect that to be accorded even a footnote treatment in the inquiry report that has been commissioned. Suffice it to register that when jawan Harpinder Singh went on a shooting spree, gunning down the Assistant Commandant and six fellow jawans he was merely giving vent to a deep-seated sense of frustration. That frustration met with a bloody end when he turned the gun on himself, but the brass must admit that the reality of service conditions remains ever so awesome. So mortal a baring of the angst may not be particularly personal, after all. Yes, Harpinder may have downed a peg too many. Equally, would it be an obfuscation of fundamental issues if violation of the camp prohibition order is magnified as the prime reason why he went berserk and embarked on a massacre. Most importantly, he personified a force that for the past few months has been at the receiving end... from stone-throwing in Kashmir to the periodic killings in the malaria-infested North-east via the serial massacres in the Maoist heartland.   

It mirrors on the responsibility of the central government that a paramilitary force under its command has been detailed for the most arduous of duties with neither the training nor the wherewithal to confront the adversary. It hasn't even been guided on the route to take by its vehicles in a volatile region. To that is added the 24 X 7 stress, the denial of a family life and the standard complaint of leave applications being turned down. It will be an understatement to reckon that the infrastructure at Kuchai is sub-human ~ amidst the searing summer, 900 jawans have to make do with only one hand pump and an apology for sanitation. Fragging does have a foundation, after all. And on that foundation was embedded Harpinder's temporary insanity. He has advanced a message from the hotbed of Maoist activity. He isn't the first jawan to have made a bonfire of sanity. This is the moral of the tragedy that the union home ministry must derive.




THE secrecy of Iran's nuclear programme and no less crucially the CIA's involvement are now murkier still. The journey of the Iranian scientist, Shahram Amiri, from Medina to the USA and his return to Teheran last Thursday adds another intriguing chapter to Washington's dealings with a nuclear power on the make. It is a chapter that is riddled with gaps, and the USA as much as Iran will have to clear the air. Amiri may have spilled the beans with the revelation that he was abducted while on a Haj pilgrimage, drugged and flown to the USA, there to be paid $5 million by the CIA and "pressured to lie" about his country's nuclear ambitions. Clearly, it was an elaborately crafted operation by the US Intelligence. His claim that Israel was also involved in the interrogation makes the episode still more intriguing. His statement seems fairly accurate not least because of the USA's claim that it has gathered "useful information from him in return for the money". If the fourth round of sanctions was endorsed by the UN, the CIA's overt operation, that Amiri has now disclosed to the world, has quite plainly come as an embarrassment to America. Suspicions are bound to deepen with reports that bribes are now part of a special US programme to get Iranian nuclear scientists to defect. Amiri's return to Teheran, if still controversial, has served to expose that undercover programme. 

The Western powers, let alone the comity of nations, are unlikely to be convinced by the laboured claim that Amiri had gone to America on his own. Indeed, Washington's immediate response to his return and the statement on arrival in Teheran has been diplomatically dodgy. Promptly enough, Iran has sought information about his exit from Saudi Arabia 14 months ago. The scientist, who had worked with Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, has denied the US claim that he had "re-defected" as his family was under pressure back home. "I was under intensive psychological pressure by the CIA. The main aim of this abduction was to stage a new political and psychological game against Iran." Both America and Amiri may have left certain loose ends to the story; the exact details may never be known.  Indubitable, however, is the fact that the scientist's experience is the latest case-study of what has been called a "semi-covert war" between the USA and Iran ~ marked by payoffs, abductions and defections.








A major topic of discussion is the need to start new courses in the wake of the latest developments in science and technology. Should there be a course on Nano-technology, the present craze, at the B Tech/BE level? The feedback indicates that those students who opt for such courses have little knowledge of conventional engineering.  Many scientists are given funds to work on high temperature super-conductivity; yet they are ignorant of the principles and properties of ordinary super-conductors. 

This is not to say that all is perfect with the IITs. While a substantial percentage of the high flyers either go abroad, join an IIM or choose the IT industry, the general run is rather fickle in their choices. They move from one job to another, attracted only by the pay packet. Many manufacturing industries prefer students from the Regional Engineering Colleges and universities. As they say, you will rarely find an IIT mining engineer inside a mine. 


To supplement the slow growth of government-sponsored institutions and satisfy the growing demand, private engineering colleges have mushroomed all over the country. Only some of them impart instruction of a reasonably high standard. The AICTE obliged the government by granting recognition to institutions with very few permanent teachers, no laboratories to speak of, barring the computer room stacked with PCs and a library that offered examination-oriented texts. The AICTE is currently under investigation for its methods of granting recognition, so the less said about its modus operandi the better.

Competent faculty


Another major constraint is the availability of competent, if not distinguished, faculty. With the boom in software, even IITs are finding it difficult to recruit talented teachers in the departments of Computer Science and Engineering. Private colleges recruit fresh graduates, and as often as not their own products. With the economic downturn in the US and Europe, quite a few engineers are trying to get back to assured jobs in India, one incentive being more academic freedom. However, there is a sharp division between the industry and the academic circuit. IITs are loath to recruit faculty directly from industry. Their selection criteria consists of the number of PhDs the applicant has guided, the number of papers he has published. The valuable experience in the real world of engineering is discounted. The USA encourages such career changes, while in Britain till recently this was an exception. 

Britain witnessed the first Industrial Revolution, but fell behind when it came to semi-conductor technology and the Information Revolution. A primary reason was the disconnect between university and industry, which unfortunately also exists in India.

In Oxford and Cambridge, engineering has never been the best option. In the USA an exceptional student after a doctorate from a well-known university prefers to join a research lab such as IBM or Intel which is at the cutting edge of technology. 

After a successful career he often returns to the campus with all his contacts and experience.. An excellent example is Dr Narayanmurthy who after a PhD from Cornell, has been working for two decades at the Bell Telephone Laboratories. Subsequently he moved to the University of Santa Barbara to become Dean of Engineering before being grabbed by Harvard. It had a department of Applied Science and introduced a Department of Engineering only recently, thanks to his enterprise. This is a major avenue to enhance industry-academic interaction. In India even IITs shun such people, except of course if they come from abroad. 
In the seventies a high-powered expert committee was set up to examine the condition of IC technology in India. This was after the microprocessor had been invented and semiconductor technology was at its most dynamic phase. At that point of time, there was only one IIT in Kanpur which had an IC laboratory. Not even the famed Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore had a semblance of such a facility for making IC chips. Yet the expert committee concluded that one such laboratory was sufficient for the whole of India. In keeping with this trend, bureaucrats in Delhi suggested that Bharat Electronics should start the manufacture of germanium-based discrete devices when it was already clear to anyone with a  modicum of knowledge of semiconductor technology that the future lay with silicon.


Unemployable engineers

IF foreign universities, with an indifferent record at home are allowed to set up campus here, the whole exercise can be counter-productive. Permitting second grade overseas universities to set up shop is a recipe for academic adulteration. The recruitment agencies of industries often remark that only 20 per cent of the products of our engineering colleges are employable. An excess of poorly-trained engineering degree holders will only add to the number of unemployed engineers. 

It is time for the country to take stock and not build up an inverted pyramid of graduates, post-graduates, engineers and doctors who add to the quota of educated unemployed. We require well-trained technicians and personnel to man factories, mills and workshops. Eminent scientists now decry the flight of students from the pure sciences to career-oriented disciplines such as engineering and medicine. 

Let us face the fact that most of our BSc and MSc products, barring a few, are sub-standard. Do we want to mindlessly increase the number of PhDs who are needed to better the career graph of their guides? With the increase in the salaries of academics, many unsuitable persons, with little or no dedication to the profession, find it a good career option. This creates a vicious circle. Our first priority should be to broaden the base of primary education instead of pouring in money to further strengthen the top. Money is hardly synonymous with quality. 








Two stories dominated global headlines on 8 July. An experimental, single-seat plane, fired only by solar energy, touched down after completing its first 24-hour test flight in Switzerland ~ a remarkable feat, achieved after seven years of planning, demonstrating the vast potential of renewable energies and clean technologies. 
Second, in Washington, the International Monetary Fund released its updated World Economic Outlook, raising India and China's growth forecast for 2010 to 9.5 per cent and 10.5 per cent, respectively, indicating a recovery of the global economy powered mainly by Asia's robust growth, thanks especially to the sustained rise of the two Asian giants. 

On the other side of the world, on the same day, a large group of policy experts, thinkers, corporate chiefs, government officials and professionals assembled on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur to debate the subject, Sustaining Asia's Rise : Energy and the Environment, where the implications of issues underlining the stories ~ sustainable energy and Asia's explosive growth trajectory ~ found resonance. 

At the heart of the conclave was the fundamental question: how to grapple with the challenges of an ever energy-hungry world whose transition to a sustainable future would be determined largely by the fast-growing countries of Asia. 

Notwithstanding the urgent global need to curb the emission of greenhouse gas like carbon dioxide,which has a bearing on global warming and climate change, countries like India, China, Indonesia and Malaysia are striving to ensure their development and energy security. Supplies of conventional energy resources might be drying up, but Asia is heading for rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, requiring massive carbon-intensive energy to support economic growth for the sake of its burgeoning population and their living standards. 

Consider some of the figures. In the rapidly urbanising Asia, 44 million people are joining the urban population every year, which will trigger the demands for new settlements, roads, increased mobility, jobs, higher consumption, and more water and electricity that will, in turn, pile more pressure on resources, energy and environment. Energy consumption rose by 70 per cent during 1998-2008 alone in Asia, with estimates that by 2050 over 70 per cent of the world's population will live in cities. 

The global thirst for energy is expected to double by 2050, when the world's population is projected to rise to over nine billion people. And, clearly, China and India will account for much of this surging population growth as well as their soaring energy needs. The transport sector, in particular, has emerged as one of the largest energy consumer and the biggest carbon emitting source. The number of motor vehicles in the world, especially on Asian streets, continue to rocket, with India alone now accounting for over 90 million vehicles. 
The Asia Energy conclave explored these issues with a consensus emerging that there is not any single "silver bullet" solution to the global need for sustainable clean energy and that the crucial question will have to be addressed by a mix of imaginative policy interventions, sound regulatory frameworks, proper pricing, the involvement of both the private sector and the governments, massive consumer awareness, technological breakthroughs and "game-changing" innovations, and the widespread, cost-effective use of renewable energies such as wind and solar. 

The conference was organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) in collaboration with the Shell group. Setting the ball rolling, SIIA chairman Simon Tay highlighted Asia's unrelenting growth and urbanisation and the consequent spike in its energy demand as against the global recession. His fellow moderator, Tom Stewart, questioned how the governments, market and policy regulations could be synthesised in the right balance to ensure an effective solution to the bleak global problem of emission-ridden energy demand. 

The Shell executive vice-president Mr Tan Chong Meng,while projecting the "irreversible and unacceptable" consequences of carbon emissions, stressed "smarter mobility, products and infrastructure" to save fuel and curb emission. With carbon-intensive fossil fuels expected to remain the main source for the world's transportation for several decades, he conceded that the use of low-carbon biofuel today barely crossed one per cent even as he called for a right mix of energy, including biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen fuel and electric vehicles to combat emission. He hoped that in the coming 30 years the world could be powered by sustainable energy. 
At the roundtable venue, a Formula One race track, the first Shell Eco-marathon Asia was also simultaneously held for students, to "challenge" them "about distance and not speed". Eighty-one teams of students from 11 Asian countries participated in the competition with energy-efficient vehicles they designed and built in a bid to travel the farthest distance using only one litre of conventional or alternative fuels. 

The writer is Chief of Bureau, The Statesman, New Delhi







Who are you? If someone asks you that, what will you say? And, more importantly, what will you say first? Most people would pick gender and relationship first ("I am a man" or "I am a father"). However, the very next thing would probably be national or ethnic identity. Identity is very important to all of us as it sets us apart from everybody else and gives meaning to our existence. In a world that is becoming more and more globalized, when it comes to nationality, or ethnic origin, it is no longer as easy to decide who you are. Take the case of the millions of Indian migrants (around 24 million to be more precise). Are they clear about who they are? Africa has three million people of Indian origin. Are they Indian? Or African? Or unsure? Indian immigrants like to call second generation Indian Americans ABCD – American-born confused desi. But are they themselves clear about who they are? I don't think so. Is that a good thing? Probably.

Take me for example; I am of Indian origin, and an immigrant to the US. I am born of Bengali parents, but raised in Allahabad, Lucknow and Delhi. My father likes to speak to me in Hindi, and my mother in English. I learned to speak Bengali but cannot read or write Bengali as I went to school in northern India, where your second language has to be Hindi (and Sanskrit until the 5th grade). I went to the US when I was only 18, and lived in Mobile (Alabama), Boston (Massachusetts) and went to a Jesuit college where I learned about world religions and the importance of questioning everything. I learned Spanish at that time, and grew intrigued with the Latin American culture. Then I moved to Bangladesh to work and live with my husband and his family for three years. I found Bangladesh to be warm and hospitable and started to consider it my second home. Finally, I moved back to Washington DC, my home now. 

Do I know who I am? Not by a long shot. Take music – the universal language. When I listen to a song by famed Bengali singer, Anjan Dutt, I am Bengali through and through. When he describes heartbreak as simply "sindoor" being washed away by the rain, I understand. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the ultimate Sufi, sings of love, women, and God and I lose myself in his rich, deep voice – what a loss it was when he died. Bruce 'the Boss' is all I want to listen to when I am on the road. When I listen to him, I am a red-blooded American, rooting for the underdog, the factory worker who lost his job but still has his girl. Dancing to reggae, I can believe I am a Latina and admire how most Latina women, and men, can do incredible things with their bodies. The poetry of Nazrul takes me to a different age and time, and then I am completely Bengali. 

My love for Mustangs, wide highways, and rock-and-roll is about as American as you can get. I love the American spirit of sportsmanship and their pride in working with their hands. I like the fact that while the plumber or the cook works for you, there is never any doubt that he deserves as much respect as you. 

When I was in Bangladesh, during the hot summer nights, when the electricity was cut off and it was much too hot to sleep, my husband would read to me the stories of Humayun Ahmad by candlelight – a brilliant storyteller, not widely known outside Bangladesh. I still remember the beautiful, nearly untranslatable lines of Nazrul's "tonni nayan e banni" describing the spark in a young girl's eyes. At the same time, every time I go to India I load up on Hindi movies – l love Shah Rukh Khan, the bright colours of Bollywood movies, and the fact that if you put 10 Indians in a room, over 50 per cent will know how to sing and dance. There's nothing better than my Mom's "khichuri" (Bengali khichri) especially with my mother-in-law's "morich er bhorta" (red chilli paste), or "iftaar" after a day of fasting, or southern red beans and rice, biscuits and chilled iced tea. My best memories are of my grandmother's orchard and trees laden with coconuts, huge limes, pineapples, jackfruit, and other goodies. I love the fact that Indians respect their elderly and for them, family is forever. When I worked in Latin America, I was struck by the warm hospitality of my hosts and the people I met every day, the music and the cocktails – but most of all the music. I was also surprised at how much Indians and Latinos have in common. Monsoons make me homesick for Bengal, and I mourned the US team's loss in the World Cup. I am born a Hindu but deeply appreciate Buddhism, Islam and the Jesuit brand of Christianity.
So who am I? My answer is that I don't know and that is a good thing. 







Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, addressing an open debate of the Security Council on civilians and armed conflict, has said that the wilful targeting of civilians, disproportionate attacks, sexual violence, forced displacement and the denial of humanitarian access remain widespread in armed conflict. He said that ongoing or recent events in Kyrgyzstan, Gaza, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, the DRC and elsewhere remind us that the protection of civilians remains a huge common challenge.

Mr Ban identified key challenges as designing peace-keeping mandates to increase the emphasis on the protection of civilians; increased compliance by non-state armed groups with international law; and accountability.

He said the Council has adopted important measures designed to put civilians first, but there is more that it can and must do, including maximizing the impact of peacekeeping missions in protecting civilians. He welcomed the Council's efforts to increase emphasis on the protection of civilians in designing peacekeeping mandates. 
He added that, for peace-keeping operations to successfully implement these mandates, the Council must provide them with the sustained political support they require. "The Council's engagement is vital to make certain that peace-keeping operations are adequately resourced, and to ensure that mission leadership is fully empowered to take forward this complex mandated task on the international community's behalf," he said.
He said the other key challenges the Council must address are increased compliance by non-State armed groups with international law, and ensuring accountability. "More must be done to increase the expectation that violators will have to face the consequences of their actions", he said.

UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes pointed to problems regarding constraints on humanitarian access in parts of Somalia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan and Pakistan. "The conduct of parties to conflict is inevitably affected by their sense of susceptibility to punishment and accountability to their victims, and clear signals that impunity will not be tolerated," said Mr Holmes. 

He told the council that the danger is that the normative framework has outpaced the will and capacity of the international community. "So I urge the Council to take a robust approach to accountability," said Mr Holmes. 
Iraqi pilgrims: A top official in Iraq, Ad Melkert, has strongly condemned the series of bombings targeting pilgrims during a religious commemoration which have killed dozens of worshippers and wounded many more. The UN mission in Iraq said in a press release that at least 45 people have reportedly died in the attacks, which occurred in Baghdad and other areas of the country as Shi'a pilgrims marked an important religious festival. 
Ad Melkert, Special Representative for Iraq, described the attacks as "horrific crimes committed against defence less civilians who were practicing their faith." Head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, he added that the formation of a broad-based government will be the most effective response in the face of insurgents who are trying to destabilize the country.

In February, over 40 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a suicide bombing that targeted Shi'a pilgrims travelling from Baghdad to Karbala. 

Kabul summit: Special Representative for Afghanistan Staffan de Mistura co-chaired the Afghanistan Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board and met to prepare the ground for the 20 July Kabul Conference, the first major international conference inside Afghanistan, said UN associate spokesman Farhan Haq in New York.
He noted that the purpose of the Kabul Conference is for Afghan authorities to set out priorities and for donor countries to realign their assistance around these programmes to achieve meaningful improvements in the lives of Afghan citizens. He welcomed the government's initiative to develop 23 national priority programmes in the areas of governance, social and economic development, and peace and security. 

Mr Mistura said, "These programmes are evidence of the transition to Afghan responsibility and leadership." 
Lebanon: UN special coordinator to Lebanon Michael Williams has met Lebanese Foreign Minister Ali Shami and discussed the recent incidents in south Lebanon involving the UN Interim Force. He has expressed the hope that the situation has now calmed down and that there will be no recurrence of such incidents. He has also welcomed the announcement made by the Council of Ministers that it is reinforcing the presence of the Lebanese Armed Forces in  the south. 

Mr Williams asserted that UNIFIL's freedom of movement is a critical element for it to discharge its mandate and it must be fully respected. This means coordination and information sharing, he clarified, though not necessarily that activities can only be carried out jointly.

Political detainees: UN human rights chief Navi Pillay has welcomed the announcement by the Cuban Government of plans to release 52 political detainees. She hopes that this will be "the start of a series of significant steps to advance the protection of human rights in Cuba," Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters. 

Mr Colville added that it will be good news when the phased release of the 52 detainees has actually been completed. Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and the Roman Catholic Church reportedly helped arrange the deal under which the detainees will be released and head to Spain, according to a press release. 

Ms Pillay welcomed the news that Cuban human rights defender Guillermo Farinas has called off his hunger strike in response to the latest development, Mr Colville stated. 

 British photojournalist: The world refugee agency has announced the most prestigious award of 2010 to British photojournalist Alixandra Fazzina for her dedication to highlight the human consequences of war,  according to a press release issued in New York. 

The agency said that Ms Fazzina has worked in Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia and tirelessly documented the plight of refugees, often neglected by mainstream media, through her distinctive and moving reporting. 

"Alixandra Fazzina stands out as a fearless humanitarian who achieves something remarkable by unearthing and so vividly portraying individual stories of uprooted people," said High Commissioner António Guterres. 
"Her particular talent, her commitment and empathy and her incredible devotion to getting to the bottom of every story makes her an exemplary chronicler of the world's most vulnerable people." 
Ms Fazzina began her career as a photojournalist with the British army in Bosnia. She has focused on telling the stories of people living in refugee camps and documented, the human suffering caused by war. 








Just as there are horses for courses, there are special words for special audiences. The occasion and location of a statement are often the best clues to comprehend the contents of a statement. It was hardly to be expected that the foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, would praise India when he spoke to Pakistani reporters at the Foreign Service Academy in Islamabad. In that gathering, Mr Qureshi was speaking to his home constituency and trying to gain a few brownie points by criticizing India for "narrowing down the talks". In the convoluted and deceptive world of diplomacy, especially Indo-Pak diplomacy, such a statement by a foreign minister of Pakistan speaking to a Pakistani audience in the nursery for Pakistani diplomats should actually be taken as par for the course. The Indian foreign policy establishment seems to have taken the statement in its stride instead of reading in it a grand plot to subvert the talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries. It should also be noted that, on the Indian side, there was the utterly ill-timed announcement by the home secretary blaming the Inter-Services Intelligence for the attack on Mumbai in November 2008. Even assuming what the home secretary said is correct, he could have surely said it at a more opportune moment.


It has been quite clear from the statement in Sharm-el-Sheikh that the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, is very eager to normalize relations between India and Pakistan. To achieve this aim, he has put forward his best foot and has persuaded the ministry of external affairs to follow him. No one, not even the prime minister, believes that this is going to be an easy task. On both sides there is far too much baggage and the relationship between the two countries has been scarred, maybe permanently, by too much violence and suspicion. There is, as Mr Singh memorably remarked, a deficit of trust on both sides. Notwithstanding this, forging a new relationship is an imperative for both countries if both want to grow and if the region is to have any kind of future. India is concerned about terrorism that originates in Pakistan. But this is not the only item that India brings to the negotiating table. India's approach is more broad-based and, in fact, the opposite of what Mr Qureshi alleged when he was speaking to a domestic audience. The gains of the talks might well lie in what transpired away from the public gaze.







To err is human. And yet, human error often leads to inhuman tragedies. In the aftermath of the shocking accident at Sainthia station, officials have, as usual, invoked "human error" as one of the possible causes behind the tragedy. In India, this well-worn phrase — one is indeed tempted to call it a cliché — serves a viciously dual purpose. Delivered in a solemn tone, this official euphemism attempts to rationalize entirely avoidable mishaps. At the same time, it also acts as a screen between the very important persons responsible for running the Indian Railways and those lesser mortals who must ensure that trains run safely and on time. "Human error" instantly pits the former against the latter. And it is usually the errant driver or the incompetent pointsman or some other person belonging to the lower rungs of the pecking order who is made a scapegoat. After making sorry noises and tall promises, the ministers conveniently slip away. How else does one explain six major accidents in the course of one year?


Ever since she presented her railway budget last year, Mamata Banerjee has allowed her ministry to go down the drain. Even the prime minister felt the need to forward her a note, based on the findings of the Planning Commission, suggesting possible ways of improving the Indian Railways. But Ms Banerjee has spent increasingly less time on the job entrusted to her. Other than presenting a people-friendly budget that did not bring in revenue and made the Indian Railways look like a charitable organization, Ms Banerjee has expended most of her energies getting embroiled in the political upheavals of her home state. Driven solely by populist concerns, her priorities have been totally self-serving. So much so, she did not spend a thought on issues of safety and maintenance in her budget speech. As a result, the Indian Railways remain trapped in a curious time warp — while acknowledging the urgent need for an advanced signalling system, regular surveillance of tracks and automated safety controls, successive ministers do precious little to achieve any of these aims. Seasoned politicians like Ms Banerjee are destined never to become efficient administrators. On the disaster in Sainthia, the great crusader for "Ma, mati, manush" has only this to say, "Human life is very important." That's quite right. But then, where does she go from here?









China's decision to sell two additional nuclear power reactors to Pakistan has dimensions that need to be better understood. China is persisting with its internationally destabilizing proliferation activity. It transferred nuclear materials and nuclear weapon technology to Pakistan in the 1980s. When it joined the non-proliferation treaty in 1992, it subjected itself to the treaty's discipline of abjuring any nuclear cooperation with a non-NPT State like Pakistan. It took care, however, to protect its ongoing civilian nuclear cooperation with Pakistan by "grandfathering" — that is, treating it as a prior commitment it would adhere to — the Chashma-1 nuclear power plant. When it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, the non-proliferation discipline became even stricter as the NSG's guidelines prohibit nuclear cooperation with any country that has not accepted full-scope safeguards, that is, placed its entire nuclear programme under the control of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which implies, in effect, the elimination of any weapons programme. However, not willing to end all its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, and widely suspected of providing a convenient cover to assist Pakistan in its weapons-related programme, China "grandfathered" the Chashma-2 reactor. It did not at that time claim any prior commitment to build Chashma-3 and Chashma-4 reactors. Any plea now that these two power plants have also been "grandfathered" would be unsustainable. Further cooperation by China with Pakistan would be in violation of the non-proliferation obligations that China has voluntarily accepted.


China's transfer of nuclear weapon technology and materials to Pakistan was a deeply hostile act towards India. China's political objective was to strategically neutralize India in its own region by propping up Pakistan with nuclear capacity so that the latter could pursue its confrontationist policies without fear of military reprisals by a conventionally superior India. The extent of China's involvement in Pakistan's clandestine nuclear programme and its extended consequences were brought out dramatically by the A.Q. Khan affair. Khan himself has revealed the intimacy of the nuclear links between the two countries in making available to Pakistan fissile material and weapons designs and so on. It is widely believed that Pakistan's nuclear programme is being sustained with Chinese technological and material help. Pakistan needs natural uranium, replacement of spare parts for its nuclear reactors, technological back-up for its plutonium reprocessing plant and so on, which China, as Pakistan's all-weather friend, supplies.


China's opposition to the India-United States of America nuclear deal on the ground that it violated the NPT and created a bad precedent was an exercise in unmitigated hypocrisy. China was putting on the mantle of an NPT loyalist and objecting to an openly debated process at the national and international levels that involved enactment of an elaborate US legislation incorporating all material non-proliferation concerns and establishing tight international parameters of the nuclear arrangement with India, even as China itself shields North Korea from the full consequences of its nuclear defiance and refuses to be answerable for the subterranean elements of its nuclear cooperation with Pakistan.


China's attempt to place India and Pakistan in the same eligibility category for international civilian nuclear cooperation shows the degree of its political and strategic commitment to Pakistan, and its underlying anti-India animus. Does China think that Pakistan's internal situation, with rampaging religious extremism and terrorism, justifies the decision to expand nuclear cooperation with it? If there is international concern that with rising Islamist affiliations within the Pakistani armed forces, Pakistan's nuclear materials and assets could become potentially vulnerable; does China think such concern is misplaced? Does it make sense to China to expand the nuclear base of Pakistan when the situation in the Af-Pak region remains highly unstable and uncertain, with widespread military action being conducted on the ground by foreign and local armed forces?


China's anti-Indian rationale for advocating a nuclear deal with Pakistan has surfaced in several of its public statements. It has accused the US of playing favourites with India and of discrimination in South Asia. More important, it has criticized the US for creating a nuclear imbalance in South Asia by the Indo-US nuclear deal, and advocates a similar deal with Pakistan to rectify it. Through such distorted projections, China and Pakistan are giving currency to the canard that the Indo-US deal will enable India to increase its weapons production rate, promote an arms race in the subcontinent, and increase the chances of a nuclear conflict between two long-term adversaries. It is instructive that China should use the security argument to justify the deal with Pakistan, for it implies that China sees it not as a 'civilian' initiative but as a military one. China wants to build up its protégé Pakistan against any strengthening of India perceived as US's new protégé.


The US reaction to China's new nuclear plans for Pakistan is most disturbing. For weeks, US reports prepared international opinion for a tepid American response to this frontal Chinese challenge to the non-proliferation regime and the NSG. It was speculated that the US and China had struck a deal under which China would support US-led sanctions against Iran in the security council against the US's condoning of the Sino-Pakistan nuclear deal. It was also conveniently argued that the NSG guidelines were not legally binding, and that if China was bent on going ahead the US could do precious little, especially at this juncture of financial dependence on China. Not surprisingly, in a travesty of facts, the blame for creating such a situation was placed on the failure of the Bush administration to secure any non-proliferation concessions from India. The anti-India US non-proliferationists found a way to blame India for the Sino-Pakistan deal.


From India's point of view, the US has to be most answerable if China and Pakistan get away with their deal without a condign response from the international community. The Indo-US nuclear deal was accompanied by stringent non-proliferation conditions, some at the cost of our sovereignty and dignity. India had to subject itself to a prolonged US legislative process with all the political sensitivities of having to fend off the extra-territorial application of US laws, besides having to undergo a supplicatory diplomatic exercise with NSG members to obtain their consent. If, as the Chinese argue, they and Pakistan are respecting their international obligations and the new power plants will be under IAEA safeguards, where was the need for India to be put in the wringer of a tortuous, conditions-laden process by the US? Why did the US pressure others not to cooperate with India until the US cleared the way? We too could have obtained nuclear cooperation by simply agreeing to put internationally assisted reactors under IAEA safeguards. The US cannot have different standards for China/Pakistan and for us. Like China, the US, too, has supported over the years 'strategic stability' in South Asia. It has overlooked in the past Sino-Pakistan nuclear transfers as it needed Pakistan's support for the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and was reluctant to impose sanctions on China. History is in danger of repeating itself at India's expense again. India must convey suitably to the US that the newly established strategic relationship with it will develop a huge fissure if it sacrifices India's interests to protect its Sino-Pakistan relationship.


The author is former foreign secretary of India








If one were to list the horrors that confront us at this moment, the list would make the blood curdle and the mind cringe in disbelief that we have reduced ourselves to this brutalized state. A greedy assault by big business on the land and its wealth, without adherence to any environmental rules, is aided by state governments and the Centre. The people who have our mandate to protect us and enforce the law, as enshrined in the Constitution, are actively condoning deviations from the law.


When such a thing happens, society enters the dangerous phase of pure anarchy. Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are the obvious, profoundly troubled areas. But Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are simmering too, and could erupt any moment. The issues that have compelled discord and militancy stem from a source of supreme failure: the careless and arrogant administration that ran amok through the many decades post Independence. The same exploitation continues in a different garb.


In crossing the line of incompetence of scores of years, the government of India and those of the states are confronted with the truth of their actions and inactions. Nothing in the mindset and attitude of the administrators has changed since Independence. They operate much like petty potentates, all knowing and unable to deliver. They epitomize all that needs to be discarded if clean governance is to replace this overwhelmingly corroded administration that has choked India and virtually destroyed its body and soul. They have merged with the political class, defeating the latter's purpose and mandate. The single priority today is to radically reduce and restructure this entity called the Indian Administrative Service. If India is to emerge as a real regional power centre, we need to devise our own model of growth, and not clone the West. We do not need to become a nation of unthinking robots.


New model


This desperation for a 9 to 10 per cent growth rate, where the means are not important, is a disruptive trajectory to embark upon. Why cannot a serious and definitive plan be constructed where the means are clear, clean and above board, and also lead India to a substantive rate of growth? Why are kickbacks and corruption so apparent in this scheme of 'growth'? Why does the government not change the laws if it is willing to look the other way when the law is broken? Will that demand 'real and hard' work? Why has this government not been able to handle the ridiculous rise in prices of essential commodities, why has the leadership not addressed the nation through the Doordarshan with explanations? In this superficial race to maintain the growth rate, we are, once again, headed towards laying the foundations for another version of the Maoist upheaval and social unrest.


Without the basic infrastructure in place or taking root simultaneously with this 'growth', the government is setting the stage for anarchy and revolt. As a taxi driver said to me the other day, "Corruption is not the problem at all since that has become the norm within which people have to live and work. The unsurmountable problem is the 'loot' that is happening openly and by all those who are already privileged… behad loot mach raha hai."

Our rulers find the words 'environmental protection and conservation' irritating because they stall the march towards a growth rate unencumbered by norms that will protect our future. Surely, the smart economists in our various commissions and advisories should be able to crack a new model for growth that will achieve the same results by being inclusive and not self-serving? Democracy is for all, not for them few.







The reports about the destruction of records pertaining to the 1971 war have failed to elicit any response from the Indian army or ministry of defence. These records were apparently shredded months after the war by the eastern army command. The army's stance on this question underscores its indifference to, not to say disdain for, its own past. History has evidently ceased to matter to the Indian military. The war, however, remains an issue of tremendous contemporary importance in Bangladesh. The history and memory of that conflict continue to shape the structure and texture of Bangladesh's politics and society. The link between the past and the present can be seen most clearly in the ongoing trial of those implicated in acts during the 1971 conflict that amount to crimes against humanity.


The trial is aimed at individuals who actively collaborated with the Pakistan army in its brutal efforts to snuff out the movement for an independent Bangladesh. These measures had exacted a colossal humanitarian toll, resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians, the rape of thousands of women and the displacement of millions. A list of alleged war criminals compiled by the War Crimes Fact Finding Committee — a private research organization that has been working on this issue for nearly two decades — identifies 1,150 individuals. Back in 1971, many of them had been associated with the Jamaat-e-Islami (which opposed independence) and its affiliates, the student body called the Islami Chhatra Sangh and the paramilitary outfits, Al-Badr, Al-Shams, and the Razakar.


The Jamaat-e-Islami's political standing has since been resurrected. In 2001, it was invited to join a coalition government led by Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Unsurprisingly, supporters of the BNP and the Jamaat have challenged the necessity and validity of the trial. The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, is, by all accounts, determined to move ahead. Her party, the Awami League, not only promised a trial in its election manifesto but also considers the exercise as part of the unfinished agenda of the liberation struggle. The Jamaat, on its part, asserts that the trial is nothing but political vendetta. Its approach is best understood as one of establishing innocence by dissociation. Had there been specific allegations, it argues, there would have been trials in the past 38 years. The mere fact that these did not occur attests the innocence of Jamaat cadre who are being maliciously tarred with the brush of war crimes.


To cut through the smoke-screen of evasion and propaganda put about by the Jamaat, it is essential to revisit the historical reasons for the delay in holding these trials. The issue of war crimes initially encompassed Pakistani soldiers (in the joint custody of Bangladesh and India) as well as their collaborators. As early as January 1, 1972, the interim government of Bangladesh decided to create a genocide investigation commission. The Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman repeatedly affirmed its intention to bring to justice all individuals culpable of these grisly crimes. As a first step, the Collaborators (Special Tribunal) Order of 1972 was promulgated. Under this order, over 37,000 individuals were arrested and the trials of 2,842 were completed. Subsequently, as a measure to effect national reconciliation, Mujib proclaimed a general amnesty in November, 1973. This acquitted those accused of petty crimes, but specifically excluded collaborators who were charged with serious offences such as rape, murder and arson.


During this period, the Bangladesh government was also considering war-crime trials of Pakistani army officers. The initial list comprised 400 officers; it was subsequently brought down to 195 against whom the government had collected irrefutable evidence. The possibility of these trials was naturally a major source of friction between Dhaka and Islamabad. But the issue was enmeshed with other outstanding disputes between the two countries. The tackling of these proved particularly difficult because Pakistan refused to recognize Bangladesh, and hence the negotiations had to be routed through India. Apart from war-crime trials and the issue of recognition, the thicket of disputes included the repatriation of 93,000 prisoners of war in Indian custody but held jointly by India and Bangladesh, the repatriation of Bangladeshi civilians stranded in Pakistan, and vice versa.


Following the Simla Agreement of July 1972, India was, in principle, open to repatriating the PoW to Pakistan, but insisted that it could not be done without the concurrence of Bangladesh. Mujib and his government were clear that this could happen only if Pakistan recognized the state of Bangladesh. Then, too, those charged with war crimes would not be sent back. The Pakistani president, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, played his cards carefully. From his standpoint, the delay in repatriation of PoW was not entirely problematic. It kept down the morale of the Pakistan army, and so enabled him to strengthen his grip over the polity. But acquiescing in the trial of senior officials in Bangladesh would be tantamount to signing a political suicide note. Bhutto responded by erecting obstacles in Bangladesh's road to seeking international recognition. He prevailed upon the Chinese to veto Bangladesh's entry to the United Nations, and upon important Muslim countries like Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to withhold their recognition.


Faced with Pakistani intransigence on the issues of recognition and civilian repatriation, Mujib decided to announce the trial of the 195 Pakistani army personnel. New Delhi took a pragmatic stance. It reminded Dhaka that the trials could further complicate relations with Pakistan and generate concern in the international community. To allay these, it was important that the Bangladesh government also announce the legal framework of the trial. On civilian repatriation, India was of the view that Dhaka should set aside its precondition of recognition and treat it as a humanitarian issue. The upshot of these consultations was two-fold. Bangladesh brought into force the International War Crimes (Tribunals) Act in July, 1973. It also reached an agreement with India, allowing the latter to negotiate on its behalf the exchange of civilians with Pakistan.


In the ensuing negotiations, Bhutto came out firmly against war- crime trials. According to the official record he told the Indian delegation, "So far as prisoners of war are concerned you can throw the whole lot in the Ganges, but I cannot agree to the trials." If Bangladesh did proceed with the trials, he would be forced to charge 203 Bengali civilian officials in Pakistan with espionage and high treason. If Mujib was reasonable, he could not only recognize Pakistan, but could "ask China to drop the veto".


The Indians suggested to their counterparts in Bangladesh that the trials be postponed to facilitate the resolution of the other issues. By this time, the issue of international recognition, especially entry to the UN, was playing heavily on Mujib's mind. Equally troubling was the possibility of reprisal trials by Pakistan. In August, 1973, he assented to an agreement between India and Pakistan for the repatriation of PoW and civilian internees, suspending the issue of trials. Eventually a tripartite agreement was concluded whereby those accused of war crimes were sent back to Pakistan.Mujib received an undertaking from Bhutto that these individuals would be tried in Pakistan. These, of course, never took place. By the time the Bangladesh government reverted its focus to trials of its own nationals, Mujib and his senior associates had been assassinated. The new regime at once revoked the collaborators order and suspended any movement on the trials. It also initiated an insidious rehabilitation of those who had opposed the liberation struggle. This process culminated in the BNP- Jamaat coalition government 25 years later.

The ongoing trials, then, can be described as the resumption of a quest for justice that was short-circuited. Supporters of the trials rightly feel that only by confronting the harrowing past can the country's democratic present and future be secured. Now, more than ever, the history of the 1971 conflict does matter.








The recent G20 meet spread alarm among leaders of sovereign nations, and with good reason as well


The recent G20 meet was a historic one. The leaders of the sovereign nations displayed one emotion — fear. They were terrified that if they fail to reduce the budget deficits noticeably, the financial markets would demand a higher price for buying the bonds that have to be sold to pay for the deficit — which, in turn, would drive up long-term interest rates. So they agreed to halve the budget deficits by 2013 — a high target indeed, considering the level of unemployment.


They also agreed to reduce or stabilize the public debt to gross domestic product ratio by 2016. A critical issue was left out — guidelines on reforms of global financial institutions. Both facts confirm the fear of the financial markets. And like most fears, this one, too, is irrational. For instance, Greece agreed to harsh austerity in lieu of the European Union-International Monetary Fund loan only to find that its risk spreads grew ever wider. But the leaders took the opposite lesson. Austerity measures now would hasten deflationary spirals in both the continents, where unemployment is raging, in a mutually reinforcing way. And it will spread across the world through a fall in global trade since the United States of America and the EU together account for roughly half the global output. Just see how it would happen.


The US has revised down its growth for the first quarter and its unemployment is feared to reach 9.8 per cent while 8 million have lost their jobs in the recession. This is its worst employment scenario since the 1930s. Investment on plants and equipment is at its lowest level, as a share of GDP, in 40 years. Europe's expansion during the last winter was negligible and the average unemployment is above 10 per cent. The core inflation in US and the euro-area is less than 1 per cent while both are saddled with huge spare capacity. A marked cut in public spending, and therefore in demand, would make industry reduce production and offer discounts to offload the inventory. Business and people will delay purchases and save more, anticipating a drop in prices and joblessness, reducing demand further and setting off a deflationary spiral. Import demand will fall, dragging down exports in the US, Europe and all over the world. National income and tax revenue will fall causing debt servicing and balancing the budget even harder. Central banks can't lower the rate of interest further which is just above zero. They can only generate electronic money through the banking system, risking hyperinflation thereby.


At a deeper level, the meet has exposed the basic flaws of the economic model that the West has imposed on the world, namely, globalization and its emphasis on low tariff rates. Consequently, China with its undervalued currency and a vast, skilled and cheap workforce has gone on accumulating trade surplus while the US has accumulated trade deficit. So a chronic imbalance has developed in the world economy giving rise to concentration of wealth in a few financial institutions. Thus China is saddled with a $2.4 trillion reserve, most of which it keeps with the US banks and treasury, which, in turn, are flooded with cash. Deployment of these funds has caused serious problems. In fact, it was one of the major factors responsible for the US housing bubble that had burst in 2007, precipitating the September 2008 crisis.


Financial liberalization, a concomitant of globalization and a condition for IMF loans, has enabled capital to move freely at home and abroad in varying degrees, thanks to deregulation and capital account opening. In reality, private capital, mostly invested in the FIs, has moved to various markets: namely, currency, stocks, real estate and commodities in different countries, primarily for speculative gains. In the process, they have ruined economies and have amassed enormous wealth. So much so, that way back in early 1999, the daily transaction in the currency market alone was estimated at $1.5 trillion. Recent estimates are not available. But one can well imagine the astronomical scale of speculative finance. This gigantic power of the FIs unnerved the G20 nations and they acted out of fear. Where is the sovereignty of the nations?




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





Less than two months after a suspected sabotage by Maoists led to a derailed train being hit by another in West Bengal, another horrific collision of trains has taken place in the state. Sixty-three people have been killed and over 90 injured when the Sealdah-bound Uttarbanga Express collided with the Ranchi-bound Vananchal Express at Sainthia in Bhirbhum in the early hours of Monday. It is said that the driver of the Vananchal Express overshot the signal and rammed into the other train which was just leaving Sainthia station. Why he did so is unclear. There is speculation that faulty signalling may have caused the train collision. Railway officials have not ruled out sabotage. Even as rescue workers are cutting through the mangled steel to pull out bodies of survivors and the dead, politicians are engaging in an unseemly blame game.

While railway minister Mamata Banerjee is looking for ways to embarrass the West Bengal government for the state being the site of two major train disasters in as many months, her predecessors in the ministry are busy trying to settle scores with her. 

Instead, the railway minister and her predecessors would do well to make public exactly what they did to make rail travel safe for passengers. Blaming train collisions on conspiracies and sabotage does not get them off the hook. Many of these disasters could be avoided by installing anti-collision devices. According to experts, such devices detect the presence of two trains approaching each other or when a speeding train moves towards a stationary one on the same track. It halts the trains preventing a collision. Apparently anti-collision devices have a 99.9 per cent success rate in preventing collisions. What then is standing in the way of the ministry taking steps to install these devices?

While some might argue that the number of train crashes has declined over the years from 320 in 2003-04 to 177 in 2008-09, even one crash is unacceptable, especially when these — thanks to technology — are avertable. Over 200 people have died in two train collisions this year. Every one of these lives could have been saved had Indian Railways given more thought to rail safety. Crores of rupees are being spent on rail safety. Is this amount being spent wisely? Officials blame shortage of funds. But funds remain unutilised. The railways are India's lifeline. They cannot be allowed to devour so many lives.








The violent and intolerant faces of two Hindutva organisations were on view last week when two media houses were attacked in Delhi and Kolhapur. The attack in Delhi was on the offices of a TV channel which had aired a programme showing the involvement of at least one senior RSS leader in a conspiracy to attack Muslim places of worship. The vandalism was openly resorted to by RSS supporters. In Kolhapur a Kannada activist was targeted by Shiv Sena hoodlums when he was taking part in a discussion on the Belgaum issue in a Marathi channel. The offices of the channel were also vandalised. Attacks on the media have become more frequent and Hindutva bodies of different hues have had a major role in them.

The RSS and the BJP have sought to play down the attack in Delhi and even tried to indirectly justify it, claiming that the report put out by the channel was wrong. Even when the violent scenes of vandalism were being shown on TV, one RSS leader described the damage as 'small.' When a report is wrong, the response to it should not be with muscle power, arms and intimidation. Ironically, the channel was not even unsympathetic to the Hindutva body. Therefore its expose, based on a sting operation, which clearly pointed to the role of the RSS leader in the Mecca masjid blast two years ago, carried authenticity. The RSS had recently claimed that it would not protect any of its activists found to be involved in terrorist activities. Many recent disclosures had pointed to the spread of Hindu terrorism and the association of RSS supporters with it. The Headlines Today report even claimed that there was a conspiracy two years ago to assassinate vice-president Hamid Ansari. What the attack shows is that the RSS' claims of innocence are not in good faith and that its men are ready to physically deal with any criticism or investigation of its activities.


The Committee to Protect Journalists has pointed out that there have been 11 cases of attacks on journalists and media houses in the country this year. Freedom of expression is the life breath of democracy. Hindutva bodies have shown time and again that they do not respect free speech. Unfortunately they don't realise that violent responses as reprisals are only counter-productive.







Recognising water as a human right is critical, but it is not an instant 'silver bullet' solution. It must be enshrined in national laws.


The right of every human being to safe drinking water and basic sanitation should be recognised and realised.

The United Nations estimates that nearly 900 million people live without clean water and 2.6 billion without proper sanitation. Water, the basic ingredient of life, is among the world's most prolific killers. At least 4,000 children die every day from water-related diseases. In fact, more lives have been lost after World War II due to contaminated water than from all forms of violence and war.

This humanitarian catastrophe has been allowed to fester for generations. We must stop it.

Acknowledging that access to safe water and sanitation is a human right is crucial to the ongoing struggle to save these lives; it is an idea that has come of age. It was first proposed a decade ago by civil society organisations, like Green Cross International, which I helped establish in 1992. Today, it is a mainstream demand that many governments and business leaders support. That is a great achievement.

This month, for the first time, the UN General Assembly is preparing to vote on a historic resolution declaring the human right to "safe and clean drinking water and sanitation." It is a pivotal opportunity.

So far, 190 states have acknowledged — directly or indirectly — the human right to safe water and sanitation. In 2007, leaders from the Asia-Pacific region recognised safe drinking water and basic sanitation as human rights and fundamental aspects of security. In March, the European Union affirmed that all states must adhere to their human rights commitments in regard to safe drinking water.

Not all nations are on board, however. The United States and Canada are among the very few that have not formally embraced the right to safe water. Their continued reluctance to officially recognise the right to water should be questioned, not least by their own citizens. President Barack Obama's national security strategy calls for furthering human rights and sustainable development around the world; that goal should be translated into support for access to water as a human right.

Recognising water as a human right is a critical step, but it is not an instant 'silver bullet' solution. This right must be enshrined in national laws, and upholding it must be a top priority.

Failures to provide water and sanitation are failures of governance. Recognising that water is a human right is not merely a conceptual point; it is about getting the job done and actually making clean water widely available. We must clarify the obligation of governments to finance and carry out projects that bring these services to those who need them most.

Millennium Development Goal

Recent UN statistics show that the world is on track to meet, or even exceed, the Millennium Development Goal to halve the number of people without safe drinking water by 2015. This should be applauded. But the goal for sanitation will be missed by 1 billion people. At current rates, some parts of Africa are at least a century away from providing safe water and sanitation to all. A 'water apartheid' has descended across the world — dividing rich from poor, included from excluded.

Expanding access to water and sanitation will open many other development bottlenecks. Water and sanitation are vital to everything from education to health to population control. As population growth and climate change increase the pressure for adequate water and food, water will increasingly become a security issue.

As global temperatures rise, 'water refugees' will increase. Water touches everything, and strong collaboration among all sectors of society — governments, activists, farmers and the business and science communities — is needed to increase its availability.


Making access to water and sanitation a daily reality is good business, and good for the world economy. According to the UN Environment Programme, a $20 million investment in low-cost water technologies could help 100 million farming families escape extreme poverty. Dedicating $15 billion a year to the water and sanitation millennium goals could bring $38 billion a year in global economic benefits. That's a pretty good rate of return in today's financial climate. It is within our grasp for the first time.

There is tremendous political will and popular momentum behind the movement to formally declare safe water and sanitation as human rights. We must seize this moment and translate our enthusiasm into solid, binding legislation and action at the national and international levels — starting with the expected UN vote this month.

I was pleased a few weeks ago to hear President Nicolas Sarkozy call for the 2012 World Water Forum — to be held in the French city of Marseille — to be the venue for the international recognition of the universal right to safe water and sanitation. This cause needs more 'champions' — respected public figures and opinion leaders who act as its ambassadors around the world.

The actions and voices of millions of citizens have brought the global movement for the right to water this far. I hope that more people will join us to help bring us closer to the ultimate goal — a world where everyone's right to safe water and sanitation is not just recognised but is also fulfiled.

(The writer was the leader of Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991)








Karzai appears to have lost confidence in the US commitment to comprehensively defeat the Taliban.


When the next Afghanistan Conference begins at Kabul on July 20, the United States and its NATO/ISAF allies will have little to show by way of success in counter-insurgency operations. Eight and a half years after the US and its allies effected a regime change in Afghanistan and six months after President Barack Obama decided to send more American forces to the beleaguered nation, Afghanistan remains mired in instability. 
The Lashkar-e-Toiba has joined hands with the Taliban-al-Qaeda combine to fight the allies and wanton acts of violence are a daily occurrence. With neither side making major gains, the emerging situation is best described as a strategic stalemate.

Consequent to Obama's carefully considered 'surge', there are now 93,000 US troops in Afghanistan. This figure is set to rise to 1,05,000 by the end of the summer, but even then the coalition forces will still remain thin on the ground. While it is too early to draw firm conclusions, success in recent operations has eluded the allies. Combined US and British operations in Helmand province — the nucleus of Afghanistan's narcotics-driven terrorism — succeeded in driving the Taliban out of its strongholds but only temporarily. Violence continues to persist in Marja despite large-scale Marine Corps operations. Major military operations in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar have been delayed. Inevitably, it will be a long and bloody battle.

Arduous task

The Indian experience has been that it takes a ratio of 1:30 — that is, the sustained deployment of 30 security forces personnel for every terrorist — to gain and maintain military control over an area affected by insurgency or rural terrorism. As has been witnessed in the Kashmir Valley, as soon as the troops pack their tents and go away to launch operations in another area, the terrorist groups make a triumphant comeback. 
They once again lay down the law through fatwas, collect 'taxes', extort money for unhindered trade and dispense their peculiar brand of justice. Since the Afghan state cannot effectively deliver governance and justice, the people grudgingly look to the Taliban.

Urban areas require an even more concentrated deployment and the local civilian police and para-military forces are much better equipped to handle these rather than regular armies. Despite the best efforts of the allies, the Afghan National Army (currently numbering 1,10,000; target 2,60,000) and the Afghan police have failed to acquire the professional ethos and motivation levels that are necessary to deal with jihadi extremism. Training standards in small team counter-insurgency operations are low and cutting edge junior leadership is still lacking. They are also short on numbers as recruitment rates are low and desertions are high. Meanwhile, the Taliban and al-Qaeda seem to have no difficulty in recruiting an endless stream of suicide bombers from the thousands of madrassas astride the Af-Pak border. In fact, they pay them monthly wages that are almost on par with those of the Afghan army.

Crossed wires between the Obama administration and President Hamid Karzai and tensions between Karzai and the Pakistan leadership, as well as the Pakistan army and the ISI's proclivity to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, have weakened the overall response to the terror tactics of the opposing forces, which are far more united and are sharpening their skills at coordinating their operations more effectively while carefully avoiding detection of their hideouts and communications by the sophisticated satellite, electronic, UAV- and ground-based surveillance systems available to the allies.

President Karzai appears to have lost confidence in the US commitment to comprehensively defeat the Taliban. Consequently, he has begun negotiations with the Taliban and their Pakistani handlers. Though even the Pakistanis are willing to go along with Karzai's strategy of talking to the so-called 'good' Taliban, which has been endorsed by the US, there is widespread disagreement over who the good Taliban are. For example, the Pakistanis are keen to include the Haqqani faction in the talks, but the Afghans and the US are firmly opposed to Sirajuddin Haqqani. All the international and domestic players involved in the complex web of Afghan politics want a direct part in the negotiations and are unwilling to accept a secondary role. Many are conducting their own negotiations directly or through proxies.

(The writer is director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS), New Delhi)







A housewife goes through different phases of a process called maiducation.


There's an old story, unsubstantiated though, about the Adam and Eve household post- marriage. Eve, it is believed, wasn't too thrilled with homely chores while dear Adam went out in search of two square meals (or was it two round apples!). Exasperated by Eve's whining, Adam created another adult female out of yet another rib to provide her a companion. However, Eve had other plans because she had mastered 'Management by Delegation'. She turned the companion into a housemaid ('kaamwali', 'bai' or as they say in these parts — Maid in India).

Since that day, there is a perennial tussle in every household between the housewife and the housemaid and the former has to compulsorily go through different phases of a process called maiducation. Read on:

The innocent phase: This is the phase in which our protagonist — the just married housewife — begins her maiducation by hiring the first maid in her life. Often, the maid is older and therefore the housewife is deferential towards her. The maid gives her tips on a variety of issues including how to handle husbands.

The wising-up phase: The housewife becomes a mother for the first time. She is now more confident — she has hired and fired three maids — and therefore manages to persuade current maid to wash soiled nappies. Maid yields. Housewife praises her at next kitty party. A distinct halo is now visible over maid's head. She laughs all the way to the bank with the bonus she wangles out of the housewife.

The helpless phase: Our protagonist now has grown up kids and a travelling husband. She knows the ultimate truth — that there is no life without a maid. But her maiducation is not over yet. She is desperate and susceptible to blackmail. She showers largesse on the maid — husband's Louis Philippe shirt for the maid's husband, the Oxford blue office shirt for the maid's teenaged son, the expensive salwar kameez that husband bought for the last birthday for the maid's daughter. The Sunday breakfast bill shoots up too, because, after all, the maid deserves a masala dosa on a Sunday morning!

But the demands mount by the day. The maid wants a TV in the kitchen. Other demands follow. The maid is sacked and the problem becomes the main topic at all kitty parties. Each member relates horror stories about her maid. But all the kitties are helpless.

The indifferent phase: Maids come and go. Life goes on. Neighbours' maids are always there to bail out the housewife in emergencies. Her maiducation is still on. My wife has gone through all these phases. She is now making do with a helper who she presumes, will not leave her in the lurch. That's of course, yours truly.









Palestinians who marry Arab Israelis and wish to receive Israeli citizenship will be required to take an oath of loyalty to "the Jewish and democratic state," the cabinet ruled on Sunday. The decision amends a May 2002 cabinet vote which effectively rescinded the right of Palestinians married to Israelis to "family unification." Human rights organizations sharply criticized Israel for singling out Palestinians for discrimination while other non-Israelis were entitled to gain Israeli citizenship via marriage. Sunday's vote to require a pledge of allegiance is an attempt to keep out Palestinians potentially inimical to the Jewish state while at the same time upholding the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom.

But the cabinet decision also raises a more fundamental question regarding the relevance of a "Jewish, democratic" state in the 21st century. In principle, there need be no inherent conflict between the two values. Israel's flag, anthem, national holidays, heroes and religion can reflect dominant Jewish culture without this in any way infringing on the basic human rights of Israel's non-Jewish minority. Even the Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to Jews, can be justified in light of similar "discriminatory" repatriation laws adopted by Greece, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia and Armenia.

However, this delicate balance between the state's "Jewish" and "democratic" aspects has come under attack recently from diverse political camps within the Jewish people. On the Left, post-Zionists, ignoring or rejecting as illegitimate the Jewish people's desire for self-determination in a state with a common culture and a shared heritage, criticize the Jewishness of the state as an obstacle to democracy and liberalism. Even in its mildest forms post-Zionism calls for the "normalization" of the State of Israel, which can include the changing of its very name. The Law of Return is most commonly singled out for censure as anachronistic if not racist, apparently under the assumption that Israel no longer needs to serve as a safe haven from anti-Semitism.

On the Right, meanwhile, Israel's democratic character is suspect and hard-earned liberal freedoms are not fully appreciated. The results of this undemocratic slide include the Knesset's recent decision to revoke three key parliamentary privileges from Balad MK Haneen Zuabi as punishment for her provocative support for the Turkish flotilla and Education Minister Gidon Sa'ar's declaration that he would penalize university lecturers who support a boycott against Israel.

Still another threat to the "Jewish and democratic" equation comes from the Orthodox Jewish camp, which in recent weeks, together with Israel Beiteinu, has attempted to pass conversion legislation that would redefine Israel's "Jewish" dimension in a decidedly narrow, exclusionary way. In the past, the answer to the "Who is a Jew?" question has purposely remained broad and inclusive in an attempt to embrace as many members of the Jewish people as possible. But now Israel Beiteinu's legislation proposes to give the haredi-controlled chief rabbinate "responsibility over conversions." If the bill is passed, which is looking increasing unlikely, it would alienate Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and non-affiliated Jews who would find it hard, if not impossible, to identify with a "Jewishness" defined in accordance with Orthodox criteria.


ON TISHA BE'AV, as the Jewish people remember the terrible price paid for infighting and divisiveness, Israel's leaders should be looking for ways to incorporate, not alienate, fellow Jews.

Zionism, more than any other Jewish movement in modern history, has succeeded in bringing together diverse Jewish streams and persuasions – from secular liberals to ultra-Orthodox pietists, from socialists to religious Zionist settlers. Zionism's future success is dependent upon its ability to uphold both a broad, inclusive Jewish identity as well as a healthy democracy. The vast majority of Jews must continue to feel comfortable pledging allegiance to a Jewish and democratic State of Israel.

If they do not, how can we expect non-Jews to?







Continued building is suicide for the Zionist movement.


November 6, 2012 – that's the date when Barack Obama will stand for election for a second term. By November 2011 he will already be deeply involved in campaigning and most of his attention will be focused on Middle America and not the Middle East. On November 2, midterm elections will be held in the US in which members of Congress (including all 435 in the House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 in the Senate) stand before the electorate.The US political calendar is a map of the window of opportunity which might exist for advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.

There is no chance of an agreement without direct and decisive US presidential engagement. After November 3, Obama will be able to free up time and political space on his agenda for getting directly involved in negotiating a peace agreement. He will have about one year in which he can devote his time and political collateral to that mission. After that, he will be back on the campaign trail and he will either place his Middle East success at the top of his campaign or he will have to bury his failure and explain why it is a hopeless cause, but that "I did everything humanly possible to help them to resolve their conflict."

But even before we reach November 3, one other date jumps off the calendar with flashing red lights – September 26 – the end of the 10-month moratorium on new settlement building. If the government launches a new settlement building drive, as promised by senior cabinet members, the barely living peace process will die. Obviously the efforts of US mediator George Mitchell are currently focused on providing a life-giving dose of adrenaline in the form of moving to direct negotiations.

The idea is that if direct negotiations begin, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be able to extend the building moratorium for several more months to give the talks a chance of success. Even if he buys into this formula, he will try to reach an understanding with Obama that building within the settlement blocks can resume because they will be annexed to Israel within the framework of an agreement. The Palestinians will most definitely reject any such understanding, stating that the freezing of all settlement building is a requirement for direct negotiations because without it there is no real demonstrated intention to ever withdraw from the West Bank and allow for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The time frame for negotiations is set. There is a window of about one year to reach an agreement. By the end of 2011 the Fayyad plan for creating the institutions of the Palestinian state will have reached its end. The Palestinians will be more anxious than ever to become independent and recognized by the international community as a full-fledged member of the community of nations. They will expect and work toward full membership in the UN and sanctions against Israel if, as a result of continued settlement activity, there is no real peace process in advanced stages of reaching an agreement.

AT THE same time, they will also probably turn to their own electorate. Without progress on the diplomatic front, it is unlikely that the current practical and moderate leadership will sustain itself. President Mahmoud Abbas has already stated his intention not to run for reelection. With the exception of Salam Fayyad, who has no political party or movement of significance backing him, the arena of perspective candidates is far less promising for reaching a possible agreement than the current leaders.

The time factor for reaching peace has never been clearer and more urgent. The clock is ticking and time is running out. In the 32 years I have been involved in advancing peace, I have never spoken about a deadline. But today, it is there and time is not on our side. If it makes anyone feel better, I can also say that time is not on their side either. Time is running out for us both.

There is no solution to the conflict other than "two states for two peoples." There is a great likelihood that when the window of opportunity closes at the end of 2011, there will no longer be a real possibility to reach a negotiated agreement. There may no longer be a moderate and practical Palestinian leadership with which we can negotiate and there may no longer be a majority of Palestinians who accept this solution.

Right now it is all in the hands of Netanyahu. He is the man who can make it happen. The settlement issue has become the number one factor in determining if there can even be a credible negotiation. Netanyahu is the only Israeli leader who can say that the primary goal of Zionism today is to consolidate the State of Israel within recognized and negotiated borders.


That means that the Zionist enterprise must focus its attention on strengthening what we have, and on transforming Israel into the exemplary state that Theodor Herzl dreamed about. To achieve this, it will even be necessary to say loud and clear that those who wish to continue to build settlements are anti-Zionist, working against the Zionist vision and leading the Zionist movement toward national suicide. A true Zionist today is the one who works for peace and the anti-Zionist is one who seeks to prevent peace by building more settlements. True Zionism is about the sustainability of the State of Israel, and the greatest threat to its sustainability is the continuation of the conflict with the Palestinian people.

The writer is the co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information ( and an elected member of the leadership of the Green Movement political party.










Unpleasant experiences at border controls involving harsh security checks and interrogations leave a bad impression.


When is a border not a border? When it is a security barrier. Or so, our politicians will tell us as they continue to live in a state of denial that the heavily fortified and electrified security fence/wall which has been constructed during the past six years around much of the West Bank is no more than an antiterror prevention device and that it has little, or no, significance for the eventual demarcation of borders between sovereign and independent Israeli and Palestinian states.

How many readers of this newspaper have actually seen the security barrier in operation? If you are an Israeli citizen, or identifiably Jewish, the process is simple. You drive straight through and are normally waved in automatically. But if you are a Palestinian, or perhaps even a foreign tourist, who happens to be interested in seeing up close what is happening in the West Bank, the experience is quite different. Palestinians are only allowed into Israel if they have a work permit, while they are not allowed to drive over the border – sorry, security barrier – in cars which have Palestinian license plates.

Nor is it equal among Israeli citizens. Go to any one of the crossing points and spend an hour checking which people and which cars are stopped and checked, as compared with those which are just waved through. No one wearing a kippa or speaking in Israeli Hebrew will ever be stopped, while those having ID cards which identify them as Arab citizens of the country, or speak with a clear Arab accent are invariably asked to step aside for an extra question, or for their car to be searched for smuggled goods, drugs or weapons.

IT IS a system of security profiling with which we are all too familiar when we travel abroad. While we are aware that Ben-Gurion Airport is one of the most secure in the world, many of us feel uncomfortable when we see the security process in operation and the person next to us in the queue, who speaks with a different accent or comes from an Arab village in the Galilee is treated differently than us. A Jewish resident of the Diaspora is often given preferential treatment to an Israeli citizen, whose only crime is that s/he is Arab. But we rarely protest or ask questions as we speedily move on unhindered to the restaurants and duty free shops.

And then there are the foreign visitors and tourists. Invariably, colleagues visiting for joint research projects or international conferences relate unpleasant experiences of passing through border controls and security checks, in most cases accompanied by an unnecessary harshness and interrogation which leaves all of them with a bad impression of the country – even after they have had an enjoyable stay – and a vow never to come back. If they also visited the West Bank to meet people at Palestinian universities, or simply to see what is going on, they can often be stopped for hours by the security personnel, taken to separate rooms and interrogated as though they were criminals.

IT BECAME all too macabre just a week ago when I was accompanying a group of 40 professors, who were visiting for a conference, from Beersheba to Jerusalem through the West Bank on a daylong field trip. We returned via the crossing point between Gush Etzion and Jerusalem. It is a crossing point which I pass through in my private car some two or three times a week, rarely having to slow down or to stop.

Earlier that day, the group of visiting border scholars had passed through the Meitar crossing point at the southern entry to the West Bank, where they had also had a guided tour of the border installation. Like most of the transit points from the West Bank, the Meitar crossing has been semi-privatized and is managed by a civilian defense contractor acting according to guidelines of the Defense Ministry.

But some crossing points are still managed by the army. The young soldier at the Gush Etzion-Gilo crossing point informed us that since we were a bus of foreigners who had spent the day in the West Bank, we were not allowed to enter. No amount of convincing, of showing Israeli IDs and the armed security guard with the university accreditation, the conference program or the fact that this was a group of invited scholars did the trick. The border guards were adamant that we had to return to the West Bank, and the bus was ordered to turn round.

Eventually, only through the direct intervention of the head of the Gush Etzion Local Council, with whom the group had spent the previous three hours on a briefing tour of the region, were we eventually allowed to continue unhindered. A small mistake, a misunderstanding, a sheepish smile on the part of the soldier, but too late, the damage was done.

Ironically, we had only just switched buses, from an fortified bus of the South Hebron Hills Regional Council (without which the university would not have allowed me to take our visitors into the West Bank) to a private bus. Had we remained on the original bus, no questions would have been asked – we probably wouldn't even have had to slow down at the crossing point.

My colleagues had spent an intensive week of workshops at Ben-Gurion University. Many of them had come despite the pressure from some of their colleagues to boycott the country and its academic institutions. But they had come to see for themselves, not be influenced by others. And see they did! They witnessed the stupidity of the border guards and their inability, or unwillingness, to understand the situation. They witnessed the blind acceptance of a regulation (which, as it turned out, was irrelevant in this particular case) rather than using their brains for themselves.

The incident certainly made an impression on our visitors – of the most negative kind that one can possibly imagine. A year of planning the conference, a week of workshops and meeting Israeli scholars, and all the hard efforts thrown away as yet another group of foreign visitors left with the most negative of impressions.


We don't need to be naïve. Israel has some real security problems and it has to be on guard continuously. But that does not excuse the country's security personnel, or the policy makers, for creating a situation which is so negative and damaging to our image that the long-term harm is far greater than the short-term flexing of one's security muscles.

The incident at the Gush Etzion crossing point may have been exceptional, something out of Kafka, but we hear complaints of this nature every day from the airport. It is time to put in place a much more responsible and user friendly security apparatus, without compromising in any way on security itself, so that the country can welcome its visitors and not leave them with the sentiment that they should never have come in the first place.

The writer is professor of political geography at Ben-Gurion University and editor of the International Journal of Geopolitics.







Capital city justifies Israel's existence as a nation.

Talkbacks (5)


As Jews around the world gather on Tuesday to lament the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the millennia of exile that ensued, it is important that we take a moment to contemplate why we continue to mourn even after all of these years. For the Jewish people, Jerusalem is not merely a geographic locale or even a strategically located capital city – it is the basic justification for our existence as a nation.

What drove Jews over such a long time and across the vast Diaspora to mourn for Jerusalem for two thousand years was the belief that Jerusalem eternally encompassed our collective hope and dream. It was the loss of Jerusalem we cried for, and it was Jerusalem – Zion – that drove our national rejuvenation. What differentiated the Jewish Diaspora from all others was a common goal that transcended any one segment of the population.

A national ethos greater than any one individual is a basic necessity for a nation's survival. Can we imagine the United States of America without its Constitution and its Bill of Rights? Or Britain without its monarchy? 

Of course not. That is because these are the essential elements that are at once both the emblem and the justification of these states' existence.

It is said that upon hearing that the Jews still (in 19th century France) mourn every year for the destruction of their beloved Jerusalem, Napoleon Bonaparte declared : "If the Jews are still crying after so many hundreds of years, then I am certain the Temple will one day be rebuilt!" 

AS WE move forward in our quest for peace it is imperative that a united, undivided Jerusalem remain in our hands as well as in our hearts. The miraculous return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem after 2,000 years in exile is a realization of Napoleon's Tisha Be'av prediction.

Since Tisha Be'av 1967 we returned to lament at the footsteps of the destroyed Temple. This historic seismic event was a watershed moment which jolted Jews around the world and reminded us how vital Jerusalem is to the Zionist cause. Natan Sharansky has described on numerous occasions how Israel's victory was perceived by Jews in the USSR: "The Six Day War in Israel reconnected us with our people, with our country and history, and gave us pride for being Jewish. We discovered our identity and this empowered us to fight for our freedom."

We know that in the weeks and months ahead, it is likely that Prime Minister 
Binyamin Netanyahu will be faced with critical choices that will affect all of us who live in or care deeply about Israel. We trust that he will make the right decisions that ensure our vital security interests will be protected. Most importantly, however, we hope that Netanyahu follows the lead of his predecessor Menachem Begin who found himself in a similar situation a few short decades ago.

During the historic Camp David Summit, US President Jimmy Carter informed Begin that he would like to discuss the issue of Jerusalem. Carter asked him to consider a division, or internationalization of Jerusalem. Begin flatly refused Carter's request. When he was asked by the president why he refused on the spot without taking any time to consider this option, Begin replied by telling the story of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz who was pressured incessantly by the bishop of that city to convert to Christianity. After taking three days to think about it Rabbi Amnon returned to the bishop and turned down his offer. He was so overcome with guilt for having even contemplated the offer that he asked the Bishop to remove his tongue for uttering those words of doubt. The bishop responded by telling Rabbi Amnon that he would not cut out his tongue, rather for returning one day late Rabbi Amnon was cruelly tortured, his limbs amputated one by one.


Three days later, despite his terrible pain, Rabbi Amnon asked to be brought to his synagogue for Rosh Hashana. He was placed in front of the Holy Ark and there he uttered his famous prayer that has become the centerpiece of the High Holy Day liturgy – Un'taneh Tokef, Who shall live, and who shall die – and there he passed.

When Begin finished the story, he turned to Carter: "There are some things in life, Mr. President, that a Jew cannot even think about – and relinquishing Jerusalem in any way, shape or manner is one of them."

On this Tisha Be'av day, as we approach direct talks with the Palestinian Authority, it is imperative that we state loudly and clearly that Jerusalem is our heart and soul, our national raison d'être. Guaranteeing a united Jerusalem without one iota of hesitation or equivocation is not a matter of choice, but rather a national obligation.

The writer served as the director of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's bureau and is a public affairs and international business strategic consultant.







A good year and better times on the horizon.

Talkbacks (1)

The period that follows Tisha Be'av is an active time for many. Vacations and trips temporarily delayed are now pursued vigorously. Purchases also delayed because of the three weeks, the nine days and Tisha Be'av itself are now completed and life returns to a sense of normalcy. However, there is also the beginning of an upbeat mood, because glimpsed now over our calendar's horizon is the arrival of the new year and its attendant holidays of solemnity and joy.

I have always felt that the wonder of Tisha Be'av is that the Jewish people somehow continued after its destructive occurrences. The rabbis taught the people to believe that the destruction of the Temples and even the exile was not the final chapter in the story. They created a post-Tisha Be'av world that, while still looking backward and never forgetting what had occurred, basically looked forward to create the conditions of Jewish survival, growth and dynamism.

This remarkable achievement is unique in human history and is testimony to the covenant of eternity that controls our destiny and shapes our lives. The Mishna and the Talmud, the basic books of Judaism and Jewish life, were created after the events of Tisha Be'av. The customs and folkways that have bound Jews together and to their tradition were created and strengthened after the destruction of the Temples. Resilience became the watchword of Jewish life.

In 1263, Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (Ramban) argued against the Church in front of King James of Aragon that Jewish survival over the past millennia was sufficient proof of the uniqueness of the Jewish people and of its covenant with the creator. "One sheep surrounded by 70 wolves!" he shouted to his adversaries who sought to deny the right of Jewish existence and the role of Judaism in world society. Almost 800 years later the same statement can and should be made with even greater emphasis. It is simply Jewish survival and resilience that puts the lie to the delegitimatization campaign that is currently being viciously conducted against us.

ACCORDING TO the script of natural history, we should no longer be here, there should be no great concentrations of Torah students and observant Jews present and there certainly cannot be a thriving Jewish state in its ancient homeland. I think that much of the bitterness and frustration that fuels its hatred, bias and bigotry against Jews and especially the State of Israel is that there apparently is no real "final solution" to the "Jewish problem."

Some truly believes that if there were no Israel and no strong Jewish community, universal utopia will have arrived. And they therefore are angry with us for not accommodating this wish, which they believe would be so beneficial for the general good of humankind. It is the resilience of the Jew more than anything else that so frustrates our antagonists and has done so for so many centuries.

There are elements within the Jewish people that seemingly are willing to accommodate the wishes of our enemies, all in the name of piein- the-sky humanistic, utopian ideals that never have any true relation to facts on the ground or the reality of life. Their Jewish resilience has deserted them, replaced by a vague hope for universalism and a conviction that the lamb can truly lie down with the lion and not become lamb chops. This misplaced "goodness" and peace mongering at all costs has exacted a heavy toll of lives and stress in the Jewish and general world over the past many decades.

The Jewish people, in the main, has rebuilt itself after the indescribable tragedies and disasters of World War II. A Jewish state exists, the Soviet Union disappeared and more than a million Soviet Jews have reattached themselves in one degree or another to their people and heritage. There simply has never occurred such a string of events to a people after such a tragedy as was the Holocaust.

The world knows about Tisha Be'av but is ill acquainted with after Tisha Be'av. Jews see the good new year and better times on the horizon. It is not the memorials, important as they are, that will sustain our existence. It is the continued physical and spiritual growth of our nation and its institutions of learning, government and compassion that will once again prove our resilience to still be present within us.

The writer is a rabbi, author, essayist and popular historian.









Having received cabinet approval this weekend, the state budget will now be fought over in the Knesset. The battle's opening shot was fired by Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, who left the cabinet meeting in tears in a show of opposition to the harm he believes the budget will inflict on the poor. Shas chairman Eli Yishai followed soon after. Though his party abstained from the budget vote, Yishai has already vowed to fight to raise National Insurance payments and against plans to freeze the increase in child allowances.


The battle is now largely over honor - ahead of the budget meeting, the Finance Ministry's budget department had already decided to waive the two cutbacks Yishai's party opposes. Yisrael Beiteinu chief Avigdor Lieberman has jumped in the ring himself, convening a press conference yesterday to bemoan cuts in immigrant absorption and public security funding. In the end, however, he too will receive something, lest he fail to convince his party's MKs to vote for the budget.


Despite remarks to the contrary by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, the budget channels considerable sums from social services to the military. The fact is that cuts in social services will deepen from 2 to 3 percent over the next two years, money that will go toward a defense budget set to grow by several billion shekels.


How is it possible that the Finance Ministry is announcing a cut in defense spending while the military budget grows? The truth is that the budget merely makes a small dent in the annual funding increase sought by the Defense Ministry - it is by no means a real budget reduction. Even that small cutback is dubious, as experience shows that the defense budget will ultimately expand to 10 percent beyond the sum allotted by the cabinet and Knesset.


The current budget offers no macro plan for encouraging growth, but only recipes for increasing spending and the deficit, while violating earlier promises to lower taxes. The budget includes none of the reforms needed to spur growth or tackle the bureaucracy and delays in planning and building procedures.


It includes no plan to include core courses in the ultra-Orthodox education system, or to encourage Haredim or Arabs to join the workforce, and a new Wisconsin welfare-to-work program was not inserted into the Economic Arrangements Law despite promises to that end. In short, it does virtually nothing to address the fundamental problems of Israel's economy.


The conclusion is clear. Perpetuating the status quo, lacking innovation and the means to promote growth, it is, quite simply, a poor budget.









Shortly after Benjamin Netanyahu was elected prime minister in 1996 we had a conversation in his office. Before we parted he asked, "Have you met Yvet?" He meant, of course, Avigdor Lieberman, then the director general of the Prime Minister's Office with the fearsome mien and Netanyahu's right-hand man in his ascent to power. When I replied that I had not yet had the privilege, Netanyahu made a call on the inter-office phone and in a few minutes I found myself in Lieberman's office. He rose from his seat like a gentleman and shook my hand warmly but we barely spoke except to promise to "keep in touch." In effect, we have not met to this day. Yvet neither forgot nor forgave my criticism of Bibi's lame performance.


With Bibi's fall, the director general was also gone. But Lieberman, with his trim beard and deep bass, latched onto the left-hating, extreme right-wing Russian-immigrant voters, spinning them an ideology. Ehud Barak's colossal failure as prime minister, Ariel Sharon's evacuation of Gush Katif, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni's talks with the Palestinians and the rise of radical right-wing Russian power are what enabled Bibi to regain the premiership and to leave Livni outside despite the fact that she headed the bigger party.


The appointment of an extreme rightist, a declared Arab-hater, as foreign minister in the make-believe peace government, was a high price for Bibi to pay, though it was less foolish than David Levy's term as foreign minister under Yitzhak Shamir. While Levy took himself seriously to the point of comedy, going in and out of Washington and creating embarrassing situations, as foreign minister in Bibi's government Lieberman has focused on countries in Eastern Europe and South America and other places where no Israeli foreign minister had gone before.


In the public eye, he has crafted a double image, neither Bibi's buddy Yvet nor a Rasputin who controls the prime minister. On the one hand he is a force strengthening the Likud, and on the other hand he is virtually the only statesman with a sober, long-range view. He approaches the Palestinian problem not with aspiration for a Greater Israel but with a desire to resolve the Israeli-Arab conflict in a way that leaves as few Arabs as possible under Israeli control.


In the meetings of the forum of seven senior cabinet ministers, Lieberman sounds much more realistic and forward-looking than the other members. He can be charming on the personal level, but without double-talk. If he doesn't like something, he doesn't like it. From the start of his career as foreign minister he knew he would not reach the Elysee Palace or be photographed in White House drawing rooms. But he has become one of the three most influential figures in the government, when it comes to preserving its right-wing character.


Over time, as pressure from Washington grew and the idea of bringing Kadima into the coalition was broached in the media, Yvet's relationship with Bibi cooled to the point that Lieberman was heard saying that Netanyahu is not a leader. The magic of Netanyahu's first term in office was gone for him. He was willing to take Bibi's agreements with President Barack Obama into consideration and not throw a wrench into the works, but he felt it was wrong for Bibi to make Barak a quasi-foreign minister, and for Netanyahu to not consult with Lieberman over the aid flotilla to Gaza, for example. He swallowed his share of insults even as half a foreign minister. Yvet did not know, for example, that Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had been dispatched to a secret meeting with the Turkish foreign minister. Certain figures say they heard Yvet, in a closed meeting, say: "We'll teach Bibi a lesson he'll never forget." I do not know whether Lieberman's declaration, just hours before Bibi left to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, that Israel must unilaterally disengage from Gaza, was part of this curriculum.


Lieberman is not alone in thinking that nothing will come of the negotiations with the Palestinians, even in direct talks. Both Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Prof. Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former foreign minister, said in a Channel 2 television interview that no government will be able to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. It is no coincidence that Barak chose this moment for a conversation with Livni, but it's not serious.


Netanyahu does not intend to add Kadima, with its 28 parliamentary votes, to the coalition and to lose Yisrael Beiteinu's 15 sure votes. When you're at the edge of the abyss, you don't take a step forward.









Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has yet to learn the first law of political economy: A "good" finance minister is a "bad" finance minister. That's it in a nutshell, and the rest is details.


Steinitz must understand that the finance minister has to play the role of the evil treasurer. He must say to everyone: "I don't have any." He has to grab a microphone and shout: "Get real!" And then one day everyone will understand that he is a good finance minister who saved the country.


But Steinitz is not prepared to be the bad guy. The 2010-2011 budget is a good example. The first and basic mistake is Steinitz's consent to increase the budget by 2.7 percent a year. Unfortunately, the Finance Ministry's budget director, Udi Nissan, supports this irresponsible expansion, so he also stands accused.


This basic mistake led to another macroeconomic mistake: a deficit that is too high, 3 percent of gross domestic product, which will prevent the speedy reduction of the public debt and expose the economy to shocks in the event of a security crisis. We're partying and dancing like the cricket in Krylov's fables, ridiculing the ant (Britain, Spain, Portugal ), which is laying in supplies for the winter, and believing that someone (the United States ) will save us on a rainy day.


The continuing mistake was reflected in the "battle" over the defense budget. Steinitz claims he achieved a budget cut, but the truth is there was no cut. He merely reduced slightly the huge increase in the defense budget. And even this small reduction will not be carried out.


What's more, on Friday, Steinitz gave up the only tool with which he could have monitored the reduction. The clause stipulating that the Finance Ministry's accountant general will monitor the Israel Defense Forces' salaries, pensions and tenders was erased from the Economic Arrangements Law.


The other "achievement" - raising the retirement age for career soldiers - never happened. For years the Finance Ministry has been trying to make a change in this area. In May 2009 it was agreed that Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi would submit within four months an agreed plan to raise the retirement age, but no such plan has been submitted.


At that time, the Finance Ministry demanded the bare minimum - that the minimum retirement age for those serving on the home front, some 75 percent of career soldiers, would be raised from 42 to 57, because why should an economist at army headquarters receive a pension for 40 (! ) years at the public's expense? The ministry also demanded that the minimum retirement age for those serving in combat units, who constitute 25 percent of all career soldiers, would be raised from 42 to 46.


And then on Friday, Steinitz bombastically announced: We've finally succeeded in raising the retirement age to 50. But our investigation showed that it was only the "average" retirement age of non-combat career soldiers that was raised. There was no agreement on raising the minimum retirement age, or on a timetable. Because in our world there are three kinds of lies: an ordinary lie, a white lie and statistics. That's why the talk was about an "average" that can't be enforced and can be used to juggle numbers.


Even without this absurd agreement, the average retirement age of non-combat career soldiers naturally rises every year, because life expectancy is increasing and conditions in the army are excellent. That's why the average will reach 50 even without any agreement.


It should also be noted that the IDF has defined non-combat careers soldiers as people who never served in field units or in the army's technology branches - which means that it's not 75 percent of the army as the Finance Ministry wished, but a mere 20 percent. In short, smoke and mirrors.


I asked treasury officials how it was possible that they did not set a new minimum retirement age, but only a meaningless "average." They replied with some embarrassment that they will have meetings about this with the army.


I'm reminded of the story about the man who faced a harsh verdict in court and shouted to the judge: "Just a second, I'm ready to reach a compromise with the prosecutor." But it's too late. The verdict was given on Friday, when the army once again ran circles around Steinitz and us all.









Cosi fan tutte - they all do it - refers nowadays to the presumed behavior of our politicians. Considering the disrepute to which so many of our politicians have fallen in recent years, it certainly sounds plausible that most of our politicians, when making appointments, have preferred the candidates' party affiliation to their qualifications and have used such appointments to bolster their chances of being reelected in the next internal party elections. After all, what can you expect from our politicians to whom we, nevertheless, entrust the fate of our nation?


Was it really always so, as is claimed nowadays? Who still remembers the long line of politicians who saw in their calling a mission that required total dedication to the nation's interest, rather than a job that would be a stepping-stone to enrichment in the future? That list is long - David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir. These were people who accepted the position of prime minister with great trepidation, in full realization of the great burden of responsibility they were assuming. It is unimaginable that they would make appointments without attaching primary importance to the candidate's qualifications. They were too responsible to act otherwise. Many of those who served under them were guided by a similar motivation.


It is said that making appointments on the basis of party affiliation was a tradition already well established during the years the Labor Party ruled Israel. This undoubtedly is true. During 29 years of Israel's existence, many worthy candidates did not have the opportunity to use their capabilities in the service of the country because they did not belong to the right political party or were politically unaffiliated.


But there is a big difference between those days and recent times. The appointments made by the Labor Party, no doubt reprehensible, were not motivated by the desire to bolster the political position of this or that politician making the appointment, but rather by the desire to strengthen the party's hegemony. No quid pro quo was involved. More recently we have been witness to politicians featherbedding their positions and building "camps" of supporters by granting favors to party members.


On coming to power, Begin promised a new start. Just take a look at his appointments, and those of Shamir as well. These two prime ministers were frequently accused by some of their party members of not favoring party members when making appointments. But nothing would sway them. They attached too much importance to their responsibility to the nation to act otherwise.


But there has been a change, and it originated in Likud. Having come to power, it was besieged by office seekers who joined the party in anticipation of being rewarded. And why not? Why should only members of the Labor Party have enjoyed the fruits of being in power? Now it was the turn of Likud members. The Likud Central Committee, the Mercaz, became a symbol of dirty politics, of the influence of ambitious office seekers and influence peddlers over the government.


It is ironic that Kadima, which broke away from Likud promising to bring a different politics to Israel, included some the worst offenders while they were Likud members. It is possible that some of those who decided to ride on Ariel Sharon's coattails into the new party were motivated by opportunistic considerations rather than by ideology.


Israel's economic growth, the subsequent emoluments and other benefits of Knesset members and the economic horizons that became open to politicians after leaving politics changed the atmosphere on the political scene. To many, politics became more than a mission, but a career, a job. The grandiose construction in the Knesset in recent years, a sad reflection of this atmosphere, cannot but create the feeling that we are moving in the wrong direction.


We have now had a wake-up call. We cannot afford to continue to have this kind of politics. Not only do we need the best people in politics, but politicians need to appoint the best-qualified people to positions where they serve the nation. Hopefully, politicians who disregard this call will be doing so at their peril.










Since the winter, it is not just the Augusta Victoria bell tower on Mount of Olives that looks down upon the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The Jewish residents of one of Sheikh Jarrah's houses have installed on its roof a condescending, red-painted, iron Hanukkah menorah, dominating and condescending, like their general comportment in the neighborhood, carried out under the protection of police barriers.


Last week, at the demonstration outside the disputed structures, I asked Prof. Hanoch Gottfreund why he comes there every week. "A black flag of injustice is hoisted over Sheikh Jarrah," he said. At home I opened the anthology of Natan Alterman's "Seventh Column" pieces from Davar. I looked for something and didn't find it. Meanwhile I read his poem "The Triangle Domain."


"You knew," Alterman wrote about himself after the Kafr Qasem massacre in 1956, "you could not write about anything else. Not an essay, nor story nor poem. For Hebrew refuses to skip over a villainy committed in Israel. That's the character of that language. That's its nature."


I'm talking about the villainy and recalcitrant Hebrew, rather than the distance between Kfar Qasem and Sheikh Jarrah. Because villainies remain, and Hebrew still refuses. I used to go to demonstrations. Actually, I even led some of them. It was hard. The security forces used blatant violence against the "two states for two nations" demonstrators. After all, Golda said there is no Palestinian people. I went with butterflies in my stomach and a high fever, and returned battered and bruised.


When we parked the car in Sheikh Jarrah, the butterflies returned. But the street was quiet. Above the pub and restaurant fluttered the flags of Palestine and Brazil, Germany and Spain. When we got out of the car, a boy of about 6 passed by. Shalom, he said, and continued walking. Shalom.


Researchers who follow political protest in Israel in recent years will not keel under the burden. After all, from one war and operation beginning with shortsightedness and ending with disaster to another, instead of getting stronger, political protest is weakening. From fiasco to fiasco, failure to failure, it has faded and almost died, while the diplomatic paralysis has thrived.


The explanation will probably focus on political believability's plunge below the red line. Cynicism, scorn and spin, as the well as the habit-forming mental paralysis yielded by them, have all taken the place of the courage to make bold political moves. This is how, they will probably explain, the space blurred between allowed and forbidden. Between exercising force and understanding its limitations. Between the norm and the anomaly. Between one who does an injustice and one who suffers it. Between occupier and occupied.


The Israeli public, they'll say, grew up and sobered up, became tired and disappointed and the agenda became more civic. And anyway, every keyboard is a protest movement and every blog is a civil war.


All this is almost true. But some have not vanished or grown silent. Some called for a cease-fire during the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead. A man stood in the square and spoke to tens of thousands about "a hollow leadership." One was injured when his front door was booby-trapped. And there are others whose essays evoke violent utterings of hatred in the cyber "town square." Some of them go to Sheikh Jarrah every week. Perhaps because ""Here I stand. I can do no other" (Martin Luther ). Perhaps because of the Hebrew that won't gloss over stupidity and injustice.


Back to Alterman. In "Summer Celebration," I found "The Sheep":


"He stole the poor man's sheep,/ Covered her blood with stone./ He ate her flesh, he burnt her milk,/ Left nothing but a shred of wool./ From that wool the thread was spun which caught the spark/ That burst into flame at his door/ And entered like a sheep of fire."


And Hebrew insists on refusing.





******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




Listen carefully as the votes on Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court are taken beginning this week. Most court nominations are about judicial philosophy or social issues, but Ms. Kagan's has become a flashpoint for a much larger debate about the fundamental role of American government.


Ms. Kagan has demonstrated an impressive legal mind and was both calm and firm under attack from Republicans during her hearings. Voting for her to take her place on the court should be an easy call.


Yet dozens of Senate Republicans are ready to vote against her, and many are citing her interpretation of the commerce clause of the Constitution, the one that says Congress has the power to regulate commerce among the states. At her confirmation hearings, Ms. Kagan refused to take the Republican bait and agree to suggest limits on that clause's meaning. This infuriated the conservatives on the Senate Judiciary Committee because it has been that clause, more than any other, that has been at the heart of the expansion of government power since the New Deal.


The clause was the legal basis for any number of statutes of enormous benefit to society. It is why we have the Clean Air Act. The Clean Water Act. The Endangered Species Act. The Fair Labor Standards Act, setting a minimum wage and limiting child labor. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing segregation in the workplace and in public accommodations. In cases like these, the Supreme Court has said Congress can regulate activities that have a "substantial effect" on interstate commerce, even if they are not directly business-related.


Because it can be so broadly interpreted, the clause has been a target for legal conservatives for decades, all the way up to the current Tea Party diatribes against it. Some conservatives have even proposed that the Tea Party push a constitutional amendment to limit its interpretation. The Rehnquist court made several attempts to rein it in, most notably a 1995 ruling that the clause could not be the basis for the Gun Free School Zones Act, prohibiting the carrying of firearms near schools.


But the Roberts court has been far more friendly to federal power. Just this year, it upheld Congress's ability to confine sex offenders after their prison sentences were over. Ms. Kagan, in her role as solicitor general, explicitly told the court that power could be based in part on the commerce clause.


And that is what really worries the right, because the most urgent current test of government power is now slowly making its way through the legal system to the Supreme Court. Twenty states have joined lawsuits saying the national health care law is unconstitutional, particularly the provision requiring health insurance. Lawmakers, anticipating the challenge, explicitly inserted a line in the law that the insurance mandate "substantially affects interstate commerce." They also say it is based on the government's fundamental power to tax. It is hard to see how the current court will disagree.


That is not stopping Senate Republicans from raising a huge ideological fuss, sending a message not only to Ms. Kagan but to the court as a whole. It is why Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma asked Ms. Kagan a seemingly silly hypothetical about the constitutionality of a law requiring Americans to eat three vegetables and fruits a day. Would that violate the commerce clause, he asked? (She didn't give him the answer he wanted.)

It is also why all seven Republicans on the Judiciary Committee sent Ms. Kagan a letter last week demanding to know what she knew about the construction of the health care law as solicitor general and when she knew it. They are hoping to find any excuse to get her to recuse herself from ruling on the law, possibly reducing the margin if there is a close vote on the court, but more importantly, coming up with an excuse to vote against her.


Make no mistake that such a vote is simply about her, or about President Obama. A vote against the commerce clause is a vote against some of the best things that government has done for the better part of a century, and some of the best things that lie ahead.






In 1964, Congress approved a quiet little environmental program to provide a steady revenue stream to save America's disappearing open spaces from development. Conceived under Dwight Eisenhower, proposed by John F. Kennedy and signed into law by Lyndon Johnson, the Land and Water Conservation Fund would be underwritten by royalties from offshore oil and gas leases. This gave it a fitting symmetry: dollars raised from depleting one natural resource would protect another.


The program has added millions of acres to the nation's inventory of parks, wildlife refuges, forests and state recreational areas. It also has provided timely emergency funds. In 1996, President Bill Clinton tapped the fund to buy out a Canadian company whose proposed gold mine threatened Yellowstone National Park; last month, the nonprofit Trust for Public Land tapped it to complete the deal by purchasing the remaining mining claims.


The revenue stream, however, has been anything but reliable. Though the annual authorized spending level is $900 million, Congress has usually appropriated far less (dipping below $150 million during the mid-1990s), and using the unappropriated funds for other purposes, like deficit reduction.


Representative Nick Rahall, a West Virginia Democrat, would change that. He can't reach back and retrieve the $16 billion Congress has shortchanged the program. But last week, at his urging, the House Natural Resources Committee reauthorized the customary $900 million. Most important, it set up a dedicated account to receive the money — a trust fund insulated from the appropriations process and readily available year after year. (Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Max Baucus of Montana, both Democrats, are promoting a similar idea in the Senate.)


The new dedicated account is part of a broader bill written in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and aimed at strengthening federal oversight of drilling on federal lands. Three other House committees are also considering spill-related measures. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker, will eventually try to combine them in one bill.


That could be a messy process, and Ms. Pelosi must make sure the fund survives it. A program designed to protect America's landscapes itself needs protection.








The decision by a Moscow court to fine the organizers of an art exhibition, "Forbidden Art — 2006," is a reminder about the continued limits on freedom of expression in Russia.


True, the court could have gone further and actually jailed the two defendants. And the Russian Orthodox Church and the government at least argued against prison sentences. But the fact that this trial went on for two years and the two defendants were convicted of "inciting religious hatred" and fined — about $6,500 for one and $4,800 for the other — is chilling.


The exhibition, mounted in 2007 at the Sakharov Museum, was a deliberate challenge to controls on art, as its name suggested. It consisted of works that had been barred by Russian museums for fear of just the sort of reaction they provoked. They included an image of Jesus in a McDonald's ad and a Russian general raping a soldier over the caption "Glory to Russia." The works could be seen only through a peephole in a fake wall.


The organizers had been on the barricades before. Yuri Samodurov, a former director of the Sakharov Museum, was fined for a 2003 exhibition called "Caution, Religion!" The other organizer, Andrei Yerofeyev, was fired two years ago as curator of contemporary art at the prestigious Tretyakov Gallery after he had organized a show of Soviet kitsch.


In those instances, the authorities actively joined in assailing the art, while this time the culture minister seemed to prefer a compromise. We hope that reflects a new respect for liberty and creativity by the Kremlin under President Dmitri Medvedev — who talks a better game than he delivers. We suspect it may have more to do with the Kremlin wanting to avoid international embarrassment. Either way, the conflict is not over.


The defendants are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, and Russian artists are certain to continue pushing the boundaries of the permissible. Perhaps the state will finally learn that the content of art is none of its business. It might help if the prosecutors who purported to be so scandalized by the "Forbidden Art" had looked around the Sakharov Museum. The main exhibit consists of endless mug shots of people who perished under Stalinism.







We think of ourselves as individuals — perhaps, in philosophical moments, as the merger of body and soul. Most of us are barely aware of the estimated 10 trillion individual cells that make up the human body or of the 100 trillion or more bacteria that live collaboratively and benignly within and upon us. Whatever else we are, we are also a complex ecosystem, a habitat.


Scientists now have discovered another realm within our habitat — the virome, a large community of viruses. These are not the viruses that make us sick. These are an integral part of the microbiotic universe that makes us healthy.


In a recent paper in Nature, a team led by Jeffrey Gordon, a microbiologist at Washington University, reports that each of us has, so to speak, a viral identity — a pattern of viral DNA that is highly stable and highly distinct, even among closely related humans. This is unlike bacterial communities, which tend to evolve over time and to be similar among family members.


This discovery is part of a rapidly growing interest in the microbiome — an effort to understand the diversity and complexity of the trillions of organisms living within each of us. The basic exploratory technique is broad-scale DNA sequencing of the genetic contents of the human gut. The result is a significantly different view of who we are.


We are not just the expression of an individual human genome. We are, as Dr. Gordon writes, "a genetic landscape," a collective of genomes of hundreds of different species all working together — in ways that leave our minds mysteriously free to focus on getting our bodies to the office and wondering what's for lunch.










We were told by oil industry executives and their acolytes and enablers in government that deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico would not cause the kind of catastrophe that we've been watching with an acute and painful sense of helplessness for the past three months. Advances in technology, they said, would ward off the worst-case scenarios. Fail-safe systems like the blowout preventer a mile below the surface at the Deepwater Horizon rig site would keep wildlife and the environment safe.


Americans are not particularly good at learning even the most painful lessons. Denial is our default mode. But at the very least this tragedy in the gulf should push us to look much harder at the systems we need to prevent a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant, and for responding to such an event if it occurred.


Right now, we're not ready.


Nuclear plants are the new hot energy item. The Obama administration is offering federal loan guarantees to encourage the construction of a handful of new plants in the U.S., the first in decades. Not to be outdone, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a certifiable nuke zealot, would like to see 100 new plants built over the next 20 years.


There is no way to overstate how cautiously we need to proceed along this treacherous road. Building nuclear power plants is mind-bogglingly expensive, which is why you need taxpayer money to kick-start the process. But the overriding issues we need to be concerned about, especially in light of our horrendous experience with the oil gushing in the gulf for so long, are safety and security.


We have to be concerned about the very real possibility of a worst-case scenario erupting at one of the many aging nuclear plants already operating (in some cases with safety records that would make your hair stand on end), and at any of the new ones that so many people are calling for.


The problem is that while the most terrible accidents are blessedly rare, when they do occur the consequences are horrific, as we've seen in the gulf. With nuclear plants, the worst-case scenarios are too horrible for most people to want to imagine. Denial takes over with policy makers and the public alike. Something approaching a worst-case accident at a nuclear plant, especially one in a highly populated area, would make the Deepwater Horizon disaster look like a walk in the park.


"We are way, way behind when it comes to the hard work of preventing accidents and responding to these catastrophes when they happen," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "With the deep-water oil drilling, we allowed the technological advances to drive the process at a rate that was unsafe, and we got really badly burned. The potential of a nuclear catastrophe is a major disaster in waiting."


There are already plenty of problems on the nuclear power front, but they don't get a great deal of media attention. David Lochbaum, the director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told me last week that there have been 47 instances since 1979 in which nuclear reactors in the U.S. have had to be shut down for more than a year for safety reasons.


"We estimated, in 2005 dollars, that the average price tag for these outages was between $1.5 billion and $2 billion," said Mr. Lochbaum.


People of a certain age will remember the frightening accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania in 1979, a partial meltdown that came dangerously close to a worst-case scenario. As Mr. Lochbaum put it, "In roughly two hours, conditions at the plant rendered it from a billion-dollar asset to a multibillion-dollar liability. It cost more to clean up than it cost to build it."


Another frightening accident occurred in 2002 at the Davis-Besse plant at Oak Harbor, Ohio. A hidden leak led to corrosion that caused a near-catastrophe. By the time the problem was discovered, only a thin layer of stainless steel was left to hold back the disaster.


The potential problems with nuclear power abound. No one knows what to do with the dangerous nuclear waste that is building up at the plants. And no one wants to have an extended conversation in polite company about the threat of terrorists who could wreak all manner of mayhem with an attack on a plant.


For many very serious people, our overreliance on foreign oil and the potential dire consequences of global warming make the case for moving more toward nuclear energy a compelling one. But if this is done without a whole lot more serious thought given to matters of safety and rigorous oversight, it's a step we'll undoubtedly come to regret.









When historians look back on the period between 2001 and 2011, they will be amazed that a nation that professed to hate bureaucracy produced so much of it.


During the first part of this period, the Republicans were in control. They expanded a vast national security bureaucracy. In their series in The Washington Post, Dana Priest and William M. Arkin detail the size of this apparatus. More than 1,200 government agencies and 1,900 private companies work on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence programs at around 10,000 sites across the country. An estimated 854,000 people have top-secret security clearance. These analysts produce 50,000 reports a year — a flow of paper so great that many are completely ignored.


In the second part of the period, Democrats were in control. They augmented the national security bureaucracy but spent the bulk of their energies expanding bureaucracies in domestic spheres.


First, they passed a health care law. This law created 183 new agencies, commissions, panels and other bodies, according to an analysis by Robert E. Moffit of the Heritage Foundation. These include things like the Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement Program, an Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and a Cures Acceleration Network Review Board.


 he purpose of the new apparatus was simple: to give government experts the power to analyze and rationalize the nation's health care system. A team of experts on the newly created Independent Medicare Advisory Council was ordered to review and streamline Medicare. A team of experts within the Office of Personnel Management was directed to help set standards for insurance companies in the health care exchanges. Teams of experts serving on comparative effectiveness boards were told to survey data and determine which medical treatments work best and most efficiently.


Democrats also passed a financial reform law. The law that originally created the Federal Reserve was a mere 31 pages. The Sarbanes-Oxley banking reform act, passed in 2002, was only 66 pages. But the 2010 financial reform law was 2,319 pages, an intricately engineered technocratic apparatus. As Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute noted, the financial reform law is seven times longer than the last five pieces of banking legislation combined.


Once again, government experts were told to take a complex, decentralized system — in this case the financial markets — and impose rules, rationality and order. The law creates one über-panel, the Financial Stability Oversight Council. It directs government experts to write rules in 243 separate areas.


The law also calls upon government experts to make some heroic judgments. For example, it calls upon regulators to break up banks that might be about to pose a risk to the country's economy. That is to say, investors may believe a bank is stable. The executives of the bank may believe it is stable. But the regulators are called upon to exercise their superior vision and determine which banks are stable and which are not.


When historians look back on this period, they will see it as another progressive era. It is not a liberal era — when government intervenes to seize wealth and power and distribute it to the have-nots. It's not a conservative era, when the governing class concedes that the world is too complicated to be managed from the center. It's a progressive era, based on the faith in government experts and their ability to use social science analysis to manage complex systems.


This progressive era is being promulgated without much popular support. It's being led by a large class of educated professionals, who have been trained to do technocratic analysis, who believe that more analysis and rule-writing is the solution to social breakdowns, and who have constructed ever-expanding networks of offices, schools and contracts.


Already this effort is generating a fierce, almost culture-war-style backlash. It is generating a backlash among people who do not have faith in Washington, who do not have faith that trained experts have superior abilities to organize society, who do not believe national rules can successfully contend with the intricacies of local contexts and cultures.


This progressive era amounts to a high-stakes test. If the country remains safe and the health care and financial reforms work, then we will have witnessed a life-altering event. We'll have received powerful evidence that central regulations can successfully organize fast-moving information-age societies.


If the reforms fail — if they kick off devastating unintended consequences or saddle the country with a maze of sclerotic regulations — then the popular backlash will be ferocious. Large sectors of the population will feel as if they were subjected to a doomed experiment they did not consent to. They will feel as if their country has been hijacked by a self-serving professional class mostly interested in providing for themselves.


If that backlash gains strength, well, what's the 21st-century version of the guillotine?









A PANEL of medical experts from the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer's Association last week proposed changes in the way doctors diagnose Alzheimer's disease — including the use of so-called biomarkers, tests like PET brain scans and analyses of spinal fluids to promote early detection of the disease. Although these recommendations are well intentioned, evidence suggests that it would be a mistake to adopt them at this time. To understand why, it's important to recognize what these tests mean, in what context the information will be used and what experience has shown us.


First, about the diagnostic tests: A PET scan detects clumps of a deformed protein called amyloid beta, commonly known as plaques. The presence of these plaques has been a gold standard of Alzheimer's pathology since 1906, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer first identified them in a patient.


However, we now know that roughly one-third of all elderly adults have such plaques in their brains yet function normally. And eleven clinical trials, recently made public by a group of drug companies, that were aimed at reducing these plaques in Alzheimer's patients all failed to show cognitive improvement, even when the brains were cleared of plaques.


Thus, the presence of plaques cannot predict with any accuracy or specificity that an individual is going to acquire the disease — and researchers are increasingly looking beyond the amyloid hypothesis for an adequate explanation for Alzheimer's.


Another test being recommended by the panel is spinal fluid analysis — which measures the relative levels of two proteins, tau and amyloid beta. This method does seem quite promising, but its predictive potential remains uncertain.


There are also practical issues to be considered, not least of all the high cost of these procedures. What's more, the spinal tap procedure is not easy to perform and is painful to undergo, and it is a long way from becoming a routine diagnostic tool. Dr. Janis Petzel, a geriatric psychiatrist in Maine, has noted how unfeasible this test is in "nonacademic, rural or non-Western settings": "I pray that cerebrospinal fluid findings will never be part of diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer's disease," she wrote.


The diagnostic tests themselves can carry a risk of side effects. General imaging scans can expose patients to radiation, for instance; an invasive spinal tap could result in infection or damage to tissue. But there is also the psychological risk of false positives and misdiagnoses that greatly distress patients, at least until further tests show they do not have the disease.


This danger of overdiagnosis is very real, as the history of treatment for prostate cancer shows. A study last year about the prostate-specific antigen test found that in the two decades after the test was introduced, prostate cancer was detected in more than 1 million additional men, many of whom were likely overtreated.


Last, the most dreadful thing about Alzheimer's disease, next to the slow deterioration of cognition, is that we do not yet have a cure and none seems to be on the horizon. So, even if the new recommendations rendered the diagnosis earlier and unassailable, there is no therapeutic avenue to use this information to effectively treat the patient. Many individuals would simply prefer to be spared the emotional trauma of a diagnosis if no treatment exists.


Taken together, these reasons suggest that the panel's recommendations are likely to increase the emotional burden on individuals and the financial burden on society without providing proportional benefits. The doctor's most basic tenet is that of primum non nocere — first, do no harm. Until we have a more definite idea about what causes Alzheimer's, early-detection tests may do patients more harm than good.


Sanjay W. Pimplikar is an associate professor in the department of neurosciences at the Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute.








Oxford, England

THE news that Afghanistan has $1 trillion in unmined mineral deposits has been met with some pessimism. Now, it is said, the country will be transformed from its present condition into the next Congo, whose new wealth from gold, copper and other minerals has brought mainly corruption and violence.


Indeed, security in Afghanistan could easily deteriorate as a result of the discoveries, as it has not only in Congo but also in Nigeria (rich in oil) and Sierra Leone (diamonds). Afghanistan's huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and lithium and other metals could end up financing more tribal and ideological warfare. Greed might stoke violence among the combatants, and attract more Afghans to fight. Consider how in Sierra Leone diamonds enabled the Revolutionary United Front to evolve from a protest movement into a lethal diamonds racket.


In eastern Congo, $1 billion in gold is being extracted and exported annually, yet because the government lacks control over the territory the revenues for the national Treasury last year were a mere $37,000. If the Afghan government ends up with the same proportion, that treasure of natural resources would finance only a handful of helicopters.


How can Afghanistan ensure that its people benefit from its mineral wealth, and avoid resource-induced violence? There is a chain of decisions to get right, from managing the prospecting to investing the revenues. Many other countries have failed to make them wisely. Afghanistan can buck the trend by learning from their mistakes, and from the success of the few countries that have managed their riches well.


Most important, Afghanistan must see that its citizens who live near the mineral deposits benefit — with jobs and spending on public works. Nigeria is a prime example of what happens when the local population pays the price for extraction without reaping the rewards. Oil drilling in the Niger Delta has created few jobs for local people but caused hundreds of spills, ruining their ability to make their traditional living from fishing or agriculture. Politicians have pocketed most of the oil revenues. As the residents of the delta realized that outsiders were profiting from the destruction of their land, gangs formed to kidnap oil workers and sabotage pipelines.


To avoid such fallout, Afghanistan should follow the example of Botswana, which has used diamond revenues to build roads, power lines and schools, raising the economic standard of the country from very poor to upper-middle income. Malaysia, likewise, has used revenues from tin and oil to diversify its economy and create jobs — building, for example, a manufactured exports zone in the impoverished region of Penang.


Such government largess will be impossible, of course, if Afghanistan fails to reap its fair share of the profits from mineral extraction. Here a cautionary example is Zambia, where a copper boom has been a bonanza for Chinese companies, but copper exports of around $3 billion a year generate a mere $100 million in tax revenue for Zambians. This is largely because the Chinese work out their extraction deals directly with the Zambian president, and the public never learns the details. Even the country's Finance Ministry is kept in the dark.


To build trust, the Afghan government must be open about any deals it makes with foreign companies. It has already shown it has room for improvement in this regard: the country's first extraction deal, for copper, was won by the Chinese in murky circumstances — the minister of mines was accused of taking a $30 million bribe. But now Kabul has signed on to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a set of disclosure standards created seven years ago by an international organization of governments, civil society and business.


Afghanistan should hold monitored auctions for extraction contracts and perhaps write some of them as Iraq has written its oil contracts: the government retains ownership and pays only a service fee for extraction.


If it can manage to reap all the potential revenues from mineral extraction, Afghanistan will need to spend the money in ways that genuinely benefit ordinary Afghans. Rather than funnel it all through the ministries — which have shown themselves to be corrupt and inefficient — some of the money should be sent directly to village councils. Afghanistan has already tried this approach with the National Solidarity Program, an effort to encourage local development that started in 2003; villages have spent the money on schools, health care or whatever they have considered most needed.


Afghanistan is part of the last frontier for resource discovery — one of the 60 most impoverished countries, which account for around a quarter of the earth's land but which have barely been prospected. Over the next decade, given high world commodity prices, the last frontier will be explored, creating more opportunities like that in Afghanistan. All these countries will need to resist the kind of plunder that has characterized resource-rich countries with weak governance.


As America is learning in Afghanistan, it is difficult to effectively impose policies from outside, even if outsiders have troops on the ground. There is no substitute for local citizens who are involved in the decision-making, who can learn from other poor countries how to make the most of their own natural wealth.


Paul Collier, an economics professor at Oxford, is the author, most recently, of "The Plundered Planet: Why We Must — and How We Can — Manage Nature for Global Prosperity."








A Supreme Court nomination always touches off an intensive hunt through the nominee's past that is both entirely appropriate — the job comes with enormous power and life tenure, after all — and disappointingly trivial, because so much of the effort is a naked search for ammunition that opponents can use to torpedo the choice.


In the 10 weeks since President Obama nominated Elena Kagan, she has survived this grueling process with nothing to disqualify her and much to commend her. Kagan's key accomplishments — serving as dean of Harvard Law School and as the Obama administration's solicitor general — reflect a first-rate legal mind and the consensus-building skills that more than qualify her for the court.


Her performance during last month's confirmation hearings only deepened the conviction that she would be an effective justice. She displayed a thorough command of the Constitution and the ways it has been interpreted for the past two centuries, plus an impressive ability to hold her ground and argue her points convincingly. She generally out-dueled her adversaries, or disarmed them with her quick wit.


Because Democrats have a solid Senate majority and the court's ideological balance isn't at stake, Kagan's nomination hasn't touched off the fierce struggle some other picks have generated. She is widely expected to be approved, both today in the Senate Judiciary Committee and later in the full Senate.


The shame is that approval won't come with the samebipartisan impulse that saw the Senate confirm conservative Justice Antonin Scalia 98-0 in 1986 and liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg 96-3 seven years later. In fact, Kagan will probably be lucky to get even the nine Republican votes thatSonia Sotomayor received when she was confirmed 68-31 last year.


For one thing, the National Rifle Association claims Kagan is insufficiently respectful of gun rights and will treat a vote for her as a failing grade on its widely feared election-year report card. For another, in these bitterly partisan times it's no longer enough to pass all the traditional tests. Kagan is highly qualified, well inside the legal mainstream and professes a healthy respect for Supreme Court precedent — the same virtues that led us to endorse John Roberts as chief justice in 2005 after he was nominated by George W. Bush.


The arguments made by her detractors are unimpressive. The only reason she "has never been a judge," as Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., notes below, is that Republicans held up her nomination when Bill Clinton tried to make her one late in his second term. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., denounced Kagan for restricting military recruiters at Harvard, but the record shows she preserved some access while trying to uphold the school's non-discrimination policy. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, argued that Kagan would be a "judicial activist," offering little evidence except guilt by association — she clerked for, and admired, Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to serve on the high court.


To the extent that the Kagan nomination inspires qualms, it's over her careerism and how, at the hearings, she frequently ducked questions in ways she once criticized earlier nominees for doing. But until Congress and the nation find a way to move beyond take-no-prisoners partisanship, Supreme Court nomination hearings are bound to be unsatisfying. In the meantime, the most diligent efforts by Kagan's critics have turned up no good reason to suggest she doesn't belong on the court. She should be confirmed.








After carefully reviewing Elena Kagan's record and testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, I must oppose her nomination.


The American people want judges who impartially follow the text of the Constitution. They reject judges who use their power to impose their own political views — liberal or conservative — on the nation.


Throughout her career, Ms. Kagan has placed her politics above the law.


She has never been a judge, never tried a case before a jury and has practiced law for only three years. She is the least experienced nominee in the last half-century.


Her self-identified judicial heroes are among the most activist judges to ever serve. She even worked to confirmACLU General Counsel Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most activist judge now on the Supreme Court.


As a senior adviser to President Clinton, she was instrumental in efforts to restrict private gun rights and to stop legislation to limit "partial-birth" abortions.


As dean of Harvard Law School, Ms. Kagan kicked the military out of the campus recruitment office in violation of the federal law's equal access requirement. Because of her personal opposition to the "don't ask, don't tell" statute, she demeaned and punished the military as our troops were fighting and dying in two wars overseas.


Later, as solicitor general, Ms. Kagan gravely jeopardized the same statute when she allowed a severely flawed circuit court ruling to stand without challenge, despite her sworn duty to defend the law.


Unfortunately, her testimony at the Senate hearing failed to address these concerns, and was more like White House spin than a clear and honest response to questions.


President Obama himself has said that he looks for judges who will impose "their broader vision of what America should be." That is what he thinks he has in Ms. Kagan: someone who shares his big-government vision for the country, and who is willing to advance it from the bench.


In fact, when asked at the hearing, Ms. Kagan was unable to identify any constitutional limits on the government's power to control people's economic decisions.


Americans who are deeply troubled by Washington's growing disregard for the Constitution should also be troubled by this nomination. No senator should vote to confirm an individual to any court who lacks fidelity to the law.


Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama is the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.








GREENSBORO, N.C. — A day after theNAACP passed a resolution calling on the "Tea Party" movement to condemn unnamed racists in its ranks, I stood inside this city's old F.W. Woolworth, the scene of a truly important civil rights battle.


The lunch counter inside the old department store — now the focal point of Greensboro's International Civil Rights Center and Museum — was the scene of a sit-in demonstration 50 years ago that sparked the greatest chapter of this nation's civil rights movement. The protest led to passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The effort to end the store's refusal to serve blacks at its lunch counter was launched by four black college students.


They didn't issue a formal statement condemning the act of bigotry enraging them. They didn't try to fight their battle in the press, though their cause was certainly aided by the news coverage it got. Instead, they did something of substance: They walked up to that segregated lunch counter, sat down and requested service. Within days hundreds of people, black and white, joined their effort — a campaign that pushed Congress to outlaw discrimination in public accommodations.


Of course, if there are racists in the Tea Party movement, the NAACP should track them down and call them out by name — not inference. Ferreting out the racists among us is still important work. But the most important civil rights work the NAACP needs to do is in the economic arena.


Two years ago while campaigning for the presidency, Barack Obama told the NAACP's convention that the federal government has a responsibility to provide employment opportunities for struggling families.He reminded his audience that Martin Luther King Jr. once said the inseparable twin of racial justice is economic justice. Back then, black unemployment was 9.9%. Today it's a whopping 15.4%. Joblessness among black teenagers in July 2008 was 27%. Now, 39.9% of black youth can't find work. For most of the past decade, black unemployment has been double that of whites.


But 10 months into his presidency, Obama told USA TODAY and the Detroit Free Press he wouldn't do anything special to address the unemployment problems of blacks. "I will tell you that I think the most important thing I can do for the African-American community is the same thing I can do for the American community, period, and that is to get the economy going again and get people hiring again," Obama said.


When black unemployment rose while the Reagan administration gave federal aid to troubled American businesses, the NAACP said the Republican president's economic policies were a "virus" that would set back blacks for generations. So far, the NAACP hasn't challenged Obama's refusal to make a targeted effort to close this nation's black-white jobless gap while he has used federal funds to rescue failing corporations. Instead, the civil rights group announced that it will march on Washington in October to pressure Congress — not the president — to create jobs.


Joblessness is certainly a greater threat to blacks than the bigots who show up at Tea Party movement events. But the NAACP is apparently unwilling to push Obama, whom blacks played a big role in electing, to do what they asked of Reagan — so the organization will pressure Congress instead.


That makes no sense to me. The four students who challenged Woolworth's whites-only lunch counter focused their efforts on the root of their problem — and the NAACP should do the same.


DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.









While Mike McWherter seems to have the Democrats' gubernatorial primary virtually wrapped up, the outcome is less certain in the Republican primary. A recent independent poll showed Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam holding a significant lead, but it also found that a third of voters were undecided.


Our own assessment provides a more definitive view. Based on his experience in government, temperament and thoughtfulness, outlook on crucial issues and business expertise, Bill Haslam seems the most well-rounded and best prepared candidate for his party's gubernatorial nomination.


Mr. Haslam, to be sure, is indistinguishable from other major Republican contenders on conservatives' hot-button issues (gun rights, abortion, marriage, family values and illegal immigration) and his equally emphatic stand against new taxes, whether a state income tax or an increase in sales taxes.


He exhibits none of the harsh partisanship, inflammatory rhetoric and plastic posturing commonly displayed by his opponents in the primary, however. In that and other ways, he stands apart and above his main opponents, 3rd District congressman Zach Wamp and state senate majority leader Ron Ramsey.


Most appealing its his ability to think on his feet, his willingness to engage rationally and reasonably in meaningful debate, and his overview of the issues confronting the state and his strategies for addressing them. Given the vexing fiscal and educational issues and unexpected crises that our next governor is sure to confront, his skills, background and advance planning would empower his governance and benefit the state.


Mr. Haslam offers essential experience for the governor's office. His stint as mayor of Knoxville the past six-plus years has given him valuable on-the-job knowledge about both the operational needs of Tennessee's cities, and close insight into the intricacies of Nashville's legislative sausage-making.


As mayor of the city that hosts and co-exists with the University of Tennessee's main campus, moreover, he's become intimately familiar with needs and demands of higher education. And as a principle partner in his family's national chain of Pilot gasoline mega-stations, he is schooled in the vagaries of running a national business that dispatches an 8,000-gallon tanker every 20 seconds, oversees scores of restaurants and retail stores, and hires, trains and manages personnel, payrolls, resources and tax issues on a national scale.


Mr. Haslam correctly foresees the major gubernatorial challenges. He knows the next governor will walk into a budget dilemma that cannot be dodged. Due to the expiration of federal stimulus funds and the ongoing drop in state tax revenue, the next governor will have to cut the state budget by roughly $1 billion, on top of the deep cuts made by outgoing Gov. Phil Bredesen the past two years. He promises not to raise taxes. He promises, instead, to assemble a good team early and apply his business acumen to poring over the detailed budgets of state departments to squeeze efficiency gains.


He promises, as well, to focus on lifting Tennessee's educational standards and achievement levels from kindergarten through university ranks. A standing of 42nd in the nation for K-12 public schools, with a subpar graduation rate, can not longer be tolerated, he rightly says.


And he promises to implement a jobs and economic development plan that he has formulated over the past year through a tour of every county in the state, and a review of its needs and job base. His regionally based economic development strategy and agendas for improving quality of life and public safety may be viewed online at and


Mr. Haslam's opponents have attacked him for his family's personal wealth and criticized his refusal to fully disclose tax records that would reveal his family's personal circumstances. The flip side of his wealth, however, is that he clearly his not running for office for the money. His annual income is above $6 million, he has returned to Knoxville his salary has mayor, and he contributes generously to hundreds of charities and to his church.


His wealth should not be a disqualifying factor. His interest in providing further service to Tennessee, ability to do so, and his leadership style and views on the future of Tennessee merit strong support for his party's nomination for governor.







Georgia voters go to the polls today to cast ballots in the state's general primary election. There, they will find considerable evidence that the two-party system remains viable across the state — despite self-serving suggestions that the Peach State is so comfortably nestled in the Republican corner that Democratic and other contenders for elective office are merely dreamers with no real hope of victory in the general election in November.


To the contrary, today's election features hotly contested races in both Republican and Democratic primaries. The race to secure the nomination for governor is indicative of the vigor of both parties. That's hardly a surprise. Current Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, is term-limited and cannot seek re-election. A vacant seat always draws a crowd, and that's certainly the case this year. There are seven GOP candidates and seven Democratic contenders for the state's top post. The campaigning has been fierce — a boon for voters who deserve a full airing of issues before they vote.


The most heated race has been on the Republican side, where three candidates have emerged as favorites in a contest that seems destined for a run-off. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel, Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and former congressman Nathan Deal are the front-runners, though last- minute events could change that.


A poll taken Thursday and Friday and paid for by 13 newspapers — including the Chattanooga Times Free Press — with heavy readership in the state showed Mrs. Handel in the lead with 29 percent of the vote. She's followed by Mr. Oxendine with 22 percent and Mr. Deal with 20 percent. That's a major change from an earlier poll that indicated Mr. Oxendine leading with 31 percent of the vote followed by Mrs. Handel with 23 percent and Mr. Deal with 18 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 points.


Mrs. Handel's late surge seems tied to an endorsement last week from Sarah Palin, the former GOP vice presidential candidate and now an influential figure in the party. Even that boost, however, seems unlikely to propel Mrs. Handel to the more than 50 percent of the primary vote needed to avoid a runoff.


Polls indicate that former Gov. Roy Barnes has a substantial lead in the Democratic race for governor, which has been far quieter than the GOP primary. It appears that he could win the nomination without a runoff, but a crowded field with other high-profile candidates might make that difficult to accomplish.


The gubernatorial battles aren't the only primary flashpoints. Contests in both parties for lieutenant governor, for secretary of state, for attorney general, for state school superintendent and for commissioners of insurance, agriculture and labor are drawing statewide interest, too. Primaries for other, more localized, offices have won attention as well.


Given the plethora of candidates in both parties and the broad interest the primaries have generated, any insinuation that Georgia is a one-party state seems premature.







The liberal news media have praised each huge, costly bill passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama as a great "victory" for the president. The passage of the $862 billion "stimulus" last year, as well as this year's passage of trillion-dollar-plus ObamaCare and the financial reform bill, were all touted as big accomplishments.


So with all those "victories" under the president's belt, the media seem baffled that his poll numbers continue to drop.


Mr. Obama is having the "most productive first term" of any president in more than four decades, MSNBC reported. "Yet the president's popularity and his party's prospects have dimmed, not soared, with the legislative achievements ... ."


The three most recent major surveys show the public generally does not approve of the job President Obama is doing. Rasmussen Reports puts his job approval at 45 percent, with 54 percent disapproving. In a Gallup poll, the president has only 44 percent approval, versus 48 percent disapproval. And a Fox News poll finds 43 percent approval of the job Mr. Obama is doing, compared with 48 percent disapproval.


Meanwhile, in a majority of the five most recent surveys on voters' generic preference for one party or the other in Congress, Republicans (who have been opposing the Democrats' liberal agenda) are ahead — by as much as 8 percentage points.


Democrats often try to explain away bad poll numbers by claiming they haven't "gotten their message out," and that voters just don't understand what the new laws would do. But on issues such as ObamaCare, there has been long-standing, widespread public opposition despite Democrats getting a big "assist" from their media allies to "get their message out."


For instance, even now, months after ObamaCare became law, the four latest polls show the public is opposed to it by margins ranging from 11 to 13 percentage points. Other recent surveys show the spread against ObamaCare as high as 24 percent!


Also, Americans generally believe the stimulus money has been wasted — and it obviously has not kept unemployment below 8 percent, as the president promised.


The one possibility the Democrats do not seem to be considering is that lots of Americans just don't like the massive, expensive legislation Congress keeps passing and that the president keeps signing into law. Democrats are losing popularity not in spite of their so-called legislative "victories" but because of those "victories."


We'll learn in the November elections exactly how unpopular those "victories" are with the general public.







The American people have breathed a collective sigh of relief since BP managed to cap the gushing oil spill on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico. The spill, caused by the explosion of an oil rig on April 20, poured tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, harming wildlife and the many businesses along the Gulf Coast that rely on tourism, fishing and so forth. Most tragically of all, the explosion claimed the lives of 11 workers.


The capping of the well in the Gulf is obviously good news. But now other questions have arisen. BP wants to keep the well sealed until it can be plugged permanently. That is desirable, of course, because it would mean the spill is truly over and the focus can turn to cleaning up the mess.


But the federal government has detected an unspecified substance seeping up from the sea floor not far from the well. Nobody is sure, but that could possibly be a sign that underground pipes leading to the well head are cracked and that other harmful leaks could come up through the sea floor. If leaks should spring up elsewhere, BP would have to reopen the well quickly to relieve the pressure, although that would again allow oil to gush into the Gulf.


There are plenty of "ifs," "ands" and "buts" right now, and there is not very much certainty. We hope we have seen the last of the oil pouring into the deep waters of the Gulf, but only time will tell.







EPB, the power utility owned by the city of Chattanooga, has been signing up quite a few customers lately for bundled TV, telephone and Internet services. Some of the customers told the Times Free Press they have been pleased with the service since subscribing.


But it is reason for regret whenever government steps in to compete with free enterprise in a business that really is not government's job. Should EPB sell groceries or manufacture auto parts as well? And if EPB should not be doing those things, then why should it be in the TV, telephone and Internet service business in competition with private companies?


Back in the 1930s, in the early days of the Tennessee Valley Authority, dams were built for the purposes of river flood control and navigation. Of course, it made sense to install turbines at the dams to produce electricity by flowing water through those turbines. At that point, TVA should have sold the electricity to the highest free-enterprise bidders to distribute to customers. Instead, taxpayer-financed, government-based electric operations were formed to distribute the electricity. EPB, formerly known as the Electric Power Board, became our local power distributor. Free-enterprise Tennessee Electric Power Co. was eventually put out of business.


Now, government-backed EPB is not only in the business of distributing electricity, but it is also competing with private companies to provide TV, telephone and Internet services.


That is unfortunate. Government should not be in business against free enterprise.








The sheer brutality of multiple attacks around the world in recent days remind us tragically of "man's inhumanity to man."


In Iran, a radical Muslim group claimed responsibility for consecutive attacks at a mosque that killed more than two dozen people and injured hundreds more. A man wearing women's clothing approached the mosque during evening prayers and detonated the first bomb, killing just a few people. But then, as a crowd gathered, a second mass murderer struck, slaughtering about 20 more. It was apparently a revenge attack after the radicals' leader was executed in June. But what did an attack on praying Muslims accomplish?


In Iraq, meanwhile, nearly 50 Iraqi soldiers who have been fighting al-Qaida terrorists were killed by a suicide bomber as they waited to collect their paychecks. A few hours later, four more anti-al-Qaida fighters were killed in a separate attack in western Iraq.


And on the other side of the world, in northern Mexico, gunmen leaped from their cars, stormed a private party and gunned down 18 people. That attack may have been related to turf wars over drug-trafficking routes, news accounts said.


There is no easy way to understand what motivates a person to commit such grisly attacks, and there is no simple way to prevent them from happening.


But the United States and the rest of the nations of the world may rest assured that such violence will only increase if it is not met with fierce, overwhelming resistance.








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.







Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, is holding his first visit abroad to Turkish Cyprus. Since it has been a general tradition for Turkish Prime Ministers to hold their first visits abroad to Turkish Cyprus when they come to government, it is no surprise the new opposition leader, who aspires to become the next prime minister, goes to the island.


The Cyprus problem has been one of the areas where the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has made a radical break with the traditional state policy. The AKP reversed the policy that was perceived by the international observers as intransigent and reinforcing the well established view that the Turkish side does not genuinely want a permanent solution.


Never mind the fact that eight chapters of Turkey's EU accession negotiations have been suspended because of Greek Cypriots. The Cyprus issue has been a foreign policy area where Turkey enjoyed a moral upper hand and had the least trouble.


Yet, there is a real stalemate in Cyprus. Talks are going nowhere. We will soon reach a point that will require pragmatism, creativity, and flexibility from both sides to break the deadlock. Kılıçdaroğlu will play a significant role in reviving the process for a solution whether heading the government or the opposition. If he takes part in the future government of Turkey he will assume the difficult task of finding a way out from the deadlock in Cyprus. If he remains in opposition he will have to carefully fine tune his views on the government policies and avoid making Cyprus an inter-party polemic.


We understand that he also plans to go to Brussels and Washington. Due to his busy schedule for the referendum campaign, both visits are being planned for after the referendum.


Kılıçdaroğlu's next stop abroad should be Brussels and, needless to say, it will be much better for him to go before the referendum.


The EU has applauded the constitutional changes that are the subject of the forthcoming referendum. Statements coming from European capitals show that there is difficulty to understand the logic behind opposition to constitutional amendments. It will therefore be much more timely to explain the reasoning of the no campaign sooner rather than later. As August is a dead month for Europe, CHP authorities should work toward a visit in the first week of September.


The first visit to Brussels should definitely be followed by a general tour of Europe, whereby Kılıçdaroğlu should assume the difficult task of improving the tarnished image of the CHP among European socialists.


European opinion makers have long been complaining about being unable to have an alternative interlocutor in Turkey to the ruling AKP. While the policies of the CHP under Deniz Baykal did not appeal at all to European politicians, the CHP did not even bother to explain itself to its counterparts in other countries. Baykal's CHP was a disappointment especially to European Socialists. A new page in relations with European socialists should be a priority for Kılıçdaroğlu.








In an attempt to change 28 articles in the Constitution, a referendum will be held, however the vote will not be about whether people like or dislike the amendments.


It's almost impossible to keep all 28 articles in mind and say "Yes" or "No" to all at the same time.


Therefore, political sphere has transformed the popular vote into a "vote of confidence" environment as it has unavoidably morphed into a vote of confidence for the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP.


I do accept that the referendum will measure the confidence in the government, but I also believe that it would be a national test for the new leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.


He was even tested as a parliamentary representative. He was tested in Istanbul in the March 29 local elections. But it is the first time that Kılıçdaroğlu, as the CHP's new chairman, will be tested in front of the entire nation.


The referendum has turned into a vote of confidence for the AKP, whether they like it or not. Likewise, it will be a showcase for Kılıçdaroğlu who will appear before people of Turkey for the first time.


Since the CHP leader is aware of the fact, he has set out the road early and visits every single city in the country.


A "Yes" to referendum will not simply be the approval of the AKP, neither a "No" will signal votes of the CHP. At least the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, is trying hard for a "No", too.


But perception will be taken as a basis for the popular vote.


I am of the opinion that the latest general elections will be a criterion. If "No" votes will be lower than the 47 percent, this is how much the AKP got in the polls last time, that would create a perception against the AKP. If "Yes" votes surpass 47 percent, the AKP would be in the lead despite total "No" votes.


Naturally, if "yes" is the outcome the AKP will be deemed to be victorious.


Similarly, the very same referendum has created some certain thresholds for Kılıçdaroğlu, too. If "No" votes go beyond 53 percent, which represents total number of votes except that of the AKP in the last elections, the difference, regardless of the fact, will be named as the "Kılıçdaroğlu factor." Every point beyond the 53 percent will be a sign of success for Kılıçdaroğlu and "expectations" of him will rise more.


In this case, the CHP will push for an early election.


However, if "No" votes remain below the 53 percent, that will not make any difference for Kılıçdaroğlu's politics.


Still, "No" votes below 53 percent may have a chance to bring success to Kılıçdaroğlu. For that, number of "No" votes needs to be more than "Yes" votes. For instance, 51 percent "No" and 49 percent "Yes"! In such a narrow margin, the CHP will claim to be a winner, but as I've written above, the AKP will defend to be in lead before all others.


The pro-Kurdish BDP will try to pull attention of "nonvoters." Any percent of "Yes" votes above the 47 percent will help to the AKP. Any percent of "No" votes above 53 percent will be the victory of Kılıçdaroğlu.


I think the task of Kılıçdaroğlu is more difficult than that of Erdoğan!








Change does not come easy to Turkey. Often it is circumstantial. Turks are a conservative people after all. Yet despite this they have managed momentous changes. The transitions from empire to republic, from a semi-theocracy to a secular state provide striking examples.


The "Kemalist reforms" that transformed Turkish society at a time when Europe was getting ready to implode are not to be underestimated either. But time moves on and the shoe ends up not fitting the foot. We are at such a moment, and this is what the government's package of constitutional changes is all about.


Looked at objectively it is hard to deny that there is much that is good in this package, which comprises 26 articles. The range is broad. Closing political parties will become more difficult and no room will be left for the military to interfere in politics. Women will avail of "positive discrimination" while there will be the right for the individual to apply to the Constitutional Court.


There is some dispute over the articles that change the manner in which the Constitutional Court, and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, will be constituted. It is maintained that these will come under the influence of the government and become politicized, thus loosing their juridical impartiality.


There may be a point to this argument, but it is hard to deny that these key organs of the Republic were not ideologically politicized anyway. The judiciary has mostly been free in Turkey, but whether it has been "impartial" or not is another question all together.


At any rate it is clear that this argument will continue long after the Sept. 12 referendum on the constitutional package.


It may have been noted that we referred above to the "government's package of constitutional changes." This then is where the problem lies. Healthy constitutions come about as a result of the broadest consensus possible. Constituent assemblies are often established for this purpose.


However, the package that we will be voted on Sept.12 has been "cooked in the kitchen" of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. It is true that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went through the motions of consulting the opposition. But this was done more in the spirit of informing of what was to be, rather than being receptive to outside input.


This is the weak link here. In other words, even if the package is generally a good one, as acknowledged by the European Commission, the way it was prepared left not only much to be desired, but forced the opposition to take a categorical stand against it in the lead up to the referendum.


Thus, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, which has been reinvigorated under its new leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has said it will vote against the package, even though his social democratic party should be happy with most of the articles therein.


The same is the case for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, which has said it will boycott the referendum on Sept. 12," despite the fact that the package brings enhanced rights, all of which Kurds will also benefit from.


While the manner in which the government prepared the package of constitutional changes was wrong, we believe the same is true for the manner in which the opposition is approaching the issue. Put another way, there is a serious risk that they will "throw the baby out with the bath water."


Worse perhaps is that the CHP has left itself no other choice but to approach the Sept. 12 referendum as a vote of no confidence in the government, rather than focusing on the items of the package. Kılıçdaroğlu said over the weekend that the referendum will be "an opportunity to force the government to account for itself." He added that this will be followed by the general elections next year when the AKP will be defeated.


It remains to be seen whether it will be the AKP or the CHP to gain or lose as a result of this standoff. The fact is, however, that the country must not lose. Like I said at the start, change does not come easy to Turkey.


The gains for the country incorporated in this package may not be so easily secured if the package is rejected, given the bellicose and vitriolic political environment in this country, where party considerations are often held above the country's overall interests.


Therefore my vote on Sept. 12 will be a begrudging "Yes."








Getting together with his party's province heads last Friday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan explained why he had avoided having talks with pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, officials.


The BDP in a letter sent to the Prime Ministry complained that the body of a person killed was carried next to (!) four or five neutralized, outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, members, and was framed like a terrorist.


As the way he put it, the letter showed Erdoğan that "under these circumstances, it would be pointless to have a meeting with a political party failing to stand by democracy and law and to keep distant from the PKK." And that although he wants to meet the BDP, Erdoğan has decided to scratch the BDP off of the list.


The prime minister continued his speech by reminding everyone how the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, buildings were attacked by the PKK and officials were assaulted, adding that every political party should stand against terror and that the BDP does not represent Kurds.


Before I make an entry, I want to share my opinion that I believe is valid: Meeting or not meeting with the BDP is not an issue left to Mr. Prime Minister's disposal. If there is a decision to have talks with political parties in Parliament and if Erdoğan discriminates against one, this is called being irresponsible; this is wrong.


Whatever happened, happened. Mr. Erdoğan should immediately meet with the BDP officials. The problem is stemming from the description of the BDP. In terms of policies and priorities, there is a difference between the organization of a Kurdish political party and of a party addressing the entire country. No matter how well spread is a Kurdish political party, its heart will beat in southeast Turkey.


People living in the southeast can neither be hand in hand with the PKK, nor can turn against it completely.


Members of this party are in a difficult position today. Those who are involved in the PKK and those who stay away from it shortly will see that they are losing ground.


The BDP's challenging the PKK or defending it will not bring any good to anybody. As it was yesterday, no one today will expect the BDP to challenge the PKK, or should claim they are partners or should keep the BDP responsible for what the PKK does.


* Mr. Tarhan Erdem is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared Monday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff








The 1974 Cyprus operation was a milestone and turning point in the country's foreign relations.


The majority of you weren't even born yet at that point but let me tell you briefly about the period before 1974 and you'll easily understand how far we've come.


Turkey, especially in matters of foreign relations used to live in a dream state in the 50s and 60s.


We thought we were the world's most important country that everybody loved.


We thought that our military force was irresistible and that because of the TSK, Europe was safe in respect to a Soviet invasion. We thought that our women were so beautiful that men around the world could hardly resist.


Frankly, that's what we thought.


Stereotyped words of each foreigner coming to Istanbul would evolve around these slogans.


Then all of a sudden on July 20, 1974 the Turkish Armed Forces in two spurts took power over half of Cyprus.


Their reasoning was according to international regulations. And more importantly the conjuncture was in favor of Turkey. Nationalistic Greek Cypriots laid grounds by burning Turkish villages, and when the TSK intervened it just served Washington and Moscow's purposes well – for different reasons of course.


But you probably know that's not all.


Invasion is easy. What's really important is to make peace afterwards and obtain the desired result.


We did not manage in the right direction.


We thought we could pocket half of the island by invading it.


The Greek Cypriots in the long run thought that they could get back the whole island if they only resisted for a long time.


Both sides were wrong.


Together with the operation our eyes opened to the real world. Our biggest ally, the U.S. Congress condemned us to an embargo on weapons. We were subject to pressure by almost each and every international institution. We were dragged through the mud. We saw that former friends can easily forget about their words when conditions change.


Relations with Europe came to a deadlock.


The Armenian terror organization ASALA took this opportunity to announce genocide to the world in a bloody way by murdering our diplomats.


But the Greek Cypriots, despite many efforts, were not able to make Turkey succumb.


This is how 35 years of ups and downs have passed.


Maybe some of you are still aware of it but seats around the table have started to switch around.


Turkey realized what it lost, now it's Greek Cyprus' turn


Turkey was the first to realize the truth in this chess game in Cyprus.


It understood that within the process of the Annan Plan it could not reach anything with unsolvable politics, taboos and groundless slogans.


Erdoğan destroyed an extremely vital taboo by saying YES to the plan on the way to the European Union.


But this time it was the Greek Cypriots who made the wrong calculations.


They started to abuse their "full member status" laid upon them by Europe that later regretted doing so. According to their math, in the end Turkey would make sacrifices in Cyprus in order to become a full member of the EU. That is why they still make it difficult. But there is one thing they did not account for. Unless Ankara obtains from the EU what it desires, it won't approve of any solution in Cyprus.


If I were to summarize, I'd say that the Greek Cypriots established a link for 35 years. To be more open, this link was, "If Turkey wants to progress on its way to Europe then it needs to compromise with the Greek Cypriots." As Europe supported this attitude this is how we ended up.


Nowadays this link has reversed. Turkey replied as follows:


"… If the Greek Cypriots want a solution, then Turkey's way to Europe should be paved…"


But Europe doesn't care.


Our Greek Cypriot friends are not aware, but they are missing the opportunity.


There are three scenarios in front of us:


-  As long as Turkey remains outside the EU there won't be any solution in Cyprus. In this case Ankara will start its recognition efforts and, rest assure, that the number of those recognizing Turkish Cyprus will increase.


-  Once the way for Turkey's full membership to the EU is paved, last-minute solutions won't be good for neither the Greek Cypriots, nor the Turks.


-  It is wise to find a solution by 2013. The Annan Plan has formed the necessary grounds. Now it's good to find a compromise with sacrifices on both sides.



Greek Cypriots generally tend to take entire Cyprus under their control and as long as that doesn't happen then today's situation will persist. All surveys point in direction of this reality.


I can still hear what a Greek Cypriot told me:


"We don't want to live together and share Cyprus with Turks. During the day we want to go to the north and they can come to the south, but at night everybody should go home. The Turks can live in their own region but should not intervene in the country's administration."


This is the situation.


The Greek Cypriots, willingly or unwillingly, divide Cyprus into two and go as far as losing the north.


That is the balance sheet for the past 35 years.







Get too many traffic tickets or drunk-driving convictions and your driver's license is taken away. Break the law repeatedly, and you suffer the consequences. It's that simple.


Should the same rules apply to corporations? For example, if a company demonstrates a repeated inability to conform to a country's laws and to act in the interests of the greater good, should the government revoke a company's "license" to operate?


As BP's well in the Gulf of Mexico gushes oil, feeding the largest spill in U.S. history, this question becomes more than just hypothetical once the company's record of behavior is taken into account. It is one that the U.S. government will have to answer as it decides what to do about BP.


BP's record is a sordid one. Dating to at least 2001, BP has had safety and operational deficiencies at its Alaska, California and Texas operations. In 2006, maintenance issues with the company's Alaska pipeline resulted in a 200,000-gallon spill. In 2005, a blast at its Texas refinery caused 15 deaths.


Even though it had publicly announced it would overhaul its safety processes in the U.S., BP was fined $87 million last year by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, for violations at that same Texas plant.


Other reports show that since 2007, BP has been cited by OSHA more than 700 times for safety violations in its U.S. refineries. Those violations occurred even though BP had agreed to a five-year probationary plan following the Alaska spill so that the Environmental Protection Agency wouldn't revoke the company's contracts in Alaska.


Investigations into the Gulf spill, including a Congressional panel, have highlighted other practices by BP, including a repeated disregard of customary safety standards and common procedures for deepwater drilling. Of course, there is plenty of blame to go around. Lax enforcement of regulations has also been a contributing factor. But BP seems to have known that its well was a problem and made multiple judgments that valued cost savings over risk management and safety.


So what now? After almost a decade of bad behavior, should BP's privilege to do business in the U.S. be revoked until the company demonstrates that it can be a socially responsible business?


Corporate responsibility to society is a matter of endless debate. Some would say that businesses, while needing to conform to the letter of the law, have as their sole obligation the duty to create shareholder value.


Yet, the philosophical underpinnings of our capitalist system don't support that position. Adam Smith's theory of capitalism was based on moral principles: self-discipline, restraint, justice and fair play. Smith never espoused the belief that the sole purpose of business is to create shareholder value. Quite the contrary: Smith believed that business is an integral part of society and thus is obliged to act in accord with society's general interests. But what can nations do with companies that repeatedly behave badly?


Arthur Andersen provides an important precedent. For 80 years or more, Andersen was known for values-based client service. But in the late 1990s things began to unravel. Between 1997 and 2002, the firm was forced to settle five major audit failures to the tune of more than $500 million. In a 2001 settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission concerning its actions in the case of Waste Management Inc., Andersen agreed to a permanent SEC injunction specifying that it wouldn't violate civil anti-fraud rules. It also agreed to pay the largest fine ever levied by the SEC against a public accounting firm.


Yet, Andersen then installed one of the auditors censured in the case into a leadership position involving standards and document retention. What followed was Andersen's indictment in the Enron case for destroying records related to its audit work.


Judging by Andersen's previous responses to government sanctions and inquiries, the company wasn't just making mistakes. It seems that greed trumped values.


Although the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Andersen's criminal conviction in the Enron case, the indictment was effectively a revocation by the government of its privilege to do business. Andersen went out of business.


What kind of sanctions might encourage a company like BP to straighten up? How about a fine that would make most companies beg for forgiveness, say $1 billion? Well, BP had $239 billion in revenue in 2009 so that likely wouldn't work.


One sanction that might make a difference is to cut off its access to the largest market in the world - the U.S. After being barred from the U.S. for a few years, BP would have to agree to a probationary period where it would have to prove that it could be trusted.


Too harsh? Certainly the ramifications of such actions would be extensive to thousands of innocent people, including BP's employees and contractors. But repeated bad corporate behavior should have consequences. Business leaders must understand that good financial metrics aren't enough if those results produce negative social costs.


Governments and their citizens must require businesses to act as responsible members of society while they pursue profits. Wealth creation and virtuous, disciplined business behavior are inextricably intertwined. That isn't a liberal, socialistic, or big government idea. It is at the heart of capitalism's essence and history. Now is the time to go back to the principled basics of capitalism.


Edward D. Hess is a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. This column was originally published by Bloomberg News.









The very high GDP growth rate of the first quarter made almost everybody very happy. Although there was a base effect as a result of a record GDP decrease during the first quarter of last year and month-to-month growth was almost nil this year, that figure is still encouraging for the near future. As a matter of fact, the recently-announced industrial production figures support optimistic estimates. However, to expect record high growth rates during the coming years is not realistic. Moreover, it must be accepted that high growth rates are necessary for overall development of a country, but they are not enough.


The restoration of destroyed European economies in a rather short time after World War II created a false impression among developing countries. They believed that by the support of newly formed international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, their development process would also be smooth, easy and quick. It was interesting that some experts in those organizations had the same idea.


However, after a short time it was understood that the lack of some Western-type establishments which have strong traditions makes it almost impossible even to start an overall development depending only on high rates of economic growth. Unfortunately, even some educated people now still think that growth and development are the same thing. International jargon makes the same mistake. As a result, when some countries are considered developed, the necessary conditions for democracy and human rights are generally forgotten.


Seasoned economists generally do not sympathize with the term "development." They use to think that the development of a nation is almost a supernatural phenomenon which is created by many complex processes and relations. To try to create a similar phenomenon in another part of the world looks like the vain efforts of alchemists who tried to change ordinary materials to obtain the beautiful and precious yellow metal, gold. Is this idea correct? Maybe. But first it will be useful to find answers to some questions.


Is it possible to reach a true definition of "development" by observing the main characteristics of today's developed countries? Can this definition omit the different features of these countries which are sometimes more complex than similar characteristics? How can the degree of development differences among developed countries be explained?


For the developing countries which are facing serious economic-social-political problems, these questions may seem meaningless and abstract. However, if "development" cannot be defined properly, it also becomes an abstract concept. It is true that the main concern of emerging economies is rapid growth. Before reaching that goal it seems unwise to discuss the social and political conditions of development. However, some important country examples indicate that the lack of necessary social and political conditions of development stops the rapid economic growth also after a short time.


It is obvious that in scientific analysis every answer to any question brings another question. Looking for answers to these new questions in natural science seems to walk on an endless road but having proper side walks. Social sciences have no such privilege: looking for answers to new questions means running on a boundless terrain without knowing which way to go. If the answer to the secret of development is only rapid economic growth, at least some developing countries' hopes to reach the level of developed nations might be justified. But after years and years again, some worldwide examples indicate that rapid growth cannot alone guarantee social and political development. On the contrary, in some countries increasing material wealth deteriorates income distribution further, it creates a new and strong wave of corruption and as a result, spoils the social and political climate.


To absorb this rather cruel reality (without getting angry), it might be useful to examine the history of today's developed nations, bloody wars, struggles and sufferings they faced through the centuries to win victory against poverty, injustice and totalitarianism. This does not mean all developing countries now must face the same sufferings for their economic, social and political development. But the people of those countries must comprehend that being left content by all unjust and primitive conditions imposed on them and sacrificing their human rights for a rapid economic growth is not sufficient for overall development.









The greatest difficulty facing the United States and Britain in Afghanistan is not that the Taliban is very strong, but that the Afghan government is very weak. This does not seem to be changing, and it is this that creates difficulties in making concrete plans and dates for an American and British withdrawal. 


The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, has always had a feeble grip on the country. When he was first mentioned as the future ruler of Afghanistan in 2001, I was talking to a local warlord in a village south of Kabul. He and his men hooted with merriment and kept asking me who he was. Another local leader in the same province raised the UN flag over his village and told me that he was planning to recognize the UN but not the new Afghan government. 

Afghans have been listening attentively to the uncertain trumpet call in Washington since President Obama announced last year that he would first increase the number of U.S. troops as part of an "Afghan surge", and then reduce the level of forces in 2011. His idea was to break the momentum of the Taliban's advance, inflict serious damage on them in the areas of their strongest support in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, and then negotiate. 

But Afghans are ever eager to emerge on the winning side. The message they received was that the Americans and their allies were not going to stay too long. The Pakistani military and political elite drew similar conclusions and prepared themselves for the day when the American troops depart. 

The U.S. leadership is clearly divided on the merits of staying in Afghanistan, but cannot work out how to withdraw without too great a loss of face. It reached the same conclusion over Iraq, but there the situation was easier. The anti-U.S. insurgents came from the Sunni community – which made up only 20 percent of Iraqis – who were under intense pressure from the Shia government, the armed forces, militias and death squads. The insurgency in Afghanistan is drawn from the Pashtun community, 42 percent of the population, and so far shows no sign of splitting. 

With Iraq, it was enough that U.S. voters got the impression they had won. A retreat could be conducted with no U.S. objectives achieved, but nobody could be accused of cutting and running. This was the achievement of General Petraeus, now the military commander in Afghanistan. 

But political and military conditions are wholly different there. Dressing up a withdrawal as some sort of success will be far more difficult in Afghanistan. 

(Source: The Independent) 







The Obama setup in Washington believes that it is essential that Pakistanis look at it with a friendlier eye. The aid package announced by the US Secretary of State during a passing visit to Islamabad is intended to serve this purpose. The projects include two energy dams, sanitation schemes, hospitals and other measures aimed at serving the needs of people. Through them, as Hillary Clinton stressed, the US hopes perceptions towards it within Pakistan will be changed. She, however, also made it clear that Pakistan was expected to do even more against terrorism and specific measures were suggested in this respect. Ms Clinton's discussions with the prime minister and the president are understood to have been concentrated on this. There is no doubt, as Ms Clinton said, that the economic stability of Pakistan is tied in to the defeat of militancy. Her press conference with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi emphasised too the US desire for democracy and stability in Pakistan. The hugely positive tone adopted by the Secretary of State will of course have brought smiles to the faces of Pakistani leaders. But they must recognize that the relationship between Pakistan and the US is a complex one. Many believe it is in fact the root cause behind our militant problem and that this cannot be solved until the US withdraws from the region. The continuing controversy over the drone attacks is of course one concrete example of the problems and the many complications that exist.


Given Pakistan's current plight, any assistance from the outside world has to be welcomed. The recognition by the US that policy cannot be focused only on security issues is also a step in the right direction. But to derive any real benefit from the US offer, the Pakistani leadership needs to act with wisdom. The conviction in the country that it follows orders from the US has damaged the fight against terrorism immensely. There is a very real risk that the latest aid offer will be seen as a kind of bribe intended to ensure that the fighting continues. The effort to persuade people that the war against militancy is Pakistan's has so far been a faltering one. This message needs to be conveyed to people more convincingly, and should be accompanied with an improvement in their lives. The US projects are meant to help in this. But it is the task of Pakistan to ensure that they serve this purpose, while also doing what it can to change its ties with Washington into a relationship on more equal terms which can best serve the interests of both nations. 







The agreement signed between Pakistan and Afghanistan, allowing Afghanistan to export goods to India via Pakistan and for Pakistani goods to reach Central Asia through Afghanistan is good news. Indian goods will not be permitted to make their way across the Wagah border to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The accord, signed in the presence of the US Secretary of State, highlights the advantages of good ties with neighbours. Washington's role in bringing it about should help the struggling economies of both countries. This indeed is precisely the kind of assistance Pakistan most needs. Bolstering its exports could of course play a key role in economic growth. Indeed only an economic turn-around can change the fate of the people – by providing employment and bringing badly needed resources into the country. We know too that Pakistan has considerable potential as an exporting nation. Items ranging from textiles to fruit rank among those it could send out. The new accord, opening up the potentially large markets of Central Asia, should help it do so.

The commerce managers of the country now need to ensure that the maximum possible benefit is obtained. Over the past few decades, Pakistani exports have declined – with India, and also Bangladesh, offering fierce competition. We need to regain our place in world markets. Accords such as the one reached with Afghanistan offer one step forward in this direction and could also play an important role in bolstering an economy which has been crippled by years of political instability and unrelenting militancy.













The city of Sargodha in the heart of Punjab has faced sectarian violence before. Things however have been relatively quiet for some years. The suicide bombing at an Imambargah on Sunday evening, as worshippers emerged after offering Maghrib prayers, ends this lull. Somewhere between three to five people are reported dead; over 15 have been injured. Like many others who have struck before, the bomber was stated to be young – perhaps in his teens. We seem to be facing an assault by a variety of terrorists – all pursuing marginally different agendas. Sectarian attacks have increased over the last year; random bombings continue; explosions aimed at creating fear take place in the name of enforcing morality and in the north security personnel face regular attacks. The trend shows that the dangers we face today are acute; there is no sign yet that things are set to improve.

This sectarian violence raises also the fear of counter-attacks. It is feared this may be happening in Karachi. In the 1990s they ravaged Punjab. Somehow the cycle of violence has to be stopped. It has already split society into far too many groups and factions, pitched against each other. This destructive pattern needs to be ended. Sectarian harmony is essential to our survival as a nation able to live in harmony. The fact that it continues to be marred in so many places marks a dismal failure and underscores the menace posed by outfits that, despite the bans imposed on them, were permitted to continue activities. 







Nawab Akbar Bugti was killed in military action on August 26, 2006, and Balochistan has yet to recover from the tragedy. Now Habib Jalib Baloch has been assassinated and we should all be concerned how the state of Pakistan ought to cope with tragedies that have become the fate of our badly managed federation.

One particularly worrying aspect of their deaths is that two important Baloch politicians who wanted Balochistan to remain part of the country have been eliminated. Both Bugti and Habib Jalib remained loyal to Pakistan until the end of their lives. It wasn't easy to do so in an emotional climate that has been prevailing in Balochistan for some years now in view of the growing alienation of Baloch youth from Pakistan and the vocal demands being heard for independence.

Sardar Akhtar Jan Mengal, a former chief minister of the province and head of the Balochistan National Party (BNP) to which Habib Jalib belonged, is now confronting the same situation but he must be credited for taking a stand against Baloch youngsters and organisations pushing his party to demand independence after Habib Jalib's martyrdom. Akhtar Mengal, son of veteran Baloch politician Sardar Attaullah Mengal, too no longer trusts the Pakistan government and military and his BNP has moved from demanding maximum provincial autonomy for Balochistan to the right of self-determination for the Baloch people, but he hasn't refused talks with the powers-that-be provided there are international guarantees for agreements that may be reached on the question of Baloch rights.

Bugti was 79 when he died in his cave hideout in Kohlu during a military operation. He had been a governor, chief minister and federal minister and had suffered imprisonment, changed political parties and faced accusations of stabbing his contemporary Baloch politicians Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri, Attaullah Mengal and Ghous Bakhsh Bizenjo in the back for the sake of power. But he wasn't a traitor and his major crime in the eyes of the ubiquitous Pakistani establishment was demanding Baloch rights. In one of his last interviews, he said while referring to General Pervez Musharraf that those who violated Article 6 of the Constitution by staging military coups against democratically elected governments were the real traitors.

Unlike Nawab Bugti, Habib Jalib was a commoner from the middle class. He was only 57 when he died, but the way he has been eulogised following his assassination in Quetta on July 14 showed that most Baloch people would like to place him in the same category of their heroes as Bugti. Protests, some violent but mostly peaceful, broke out in Balochistan, particularly in the Baloch-populated areas, following his assassination. The three-day protests and shutter-down, wheel-jam strike were testimony to the fact that Habib Jalib enjoyed respect among his people. The BNP declared 40-day mourning for its deceased secretary general. Being a senior lawyer, Habib Jalib's death also saddened his fellow lawyers. He had been chairman of the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) and Baloch students too were aggrieved. And so were writers, poets and members of the intelligentsia because Habib Jalib was a literary man, a highly educated author who published a book on Baloch nationalism. He was fond of poetry even as a student and it was his love of revolutionary Urdu poet Habib Jalib that he added Jalib to his name Habib Baloch. 

Habib Jalib's life is a good example of the changing dynamics of Baloch politics. Student politics shaped his views as he graduated from a fiery Baloch nationalist to a pragmatic politician. Stints in jail, studying in the communist Soviet Union and self-exile in Afghanistan were all milestones in the life of the young man with long hair in the style of Che Guevara. He may have been a revolutionary at heart, but he didn't pick up a gun or encourage others to do so while peacefully campaigning for Baloch rights. Someone wrote an obituary about him and described him as a secessionist at heart, but where is the evidence to show that Habib Jalib had given up on Pakistan? For six long years he served as a member of the Senate of Pakistan and his BNP put its faith in parliamentary democracy. 

It was only after Bugti's death that the BNP asked its lawmakers to resign from their seats because it felt there was no use and purpose to remaining part of the powerless assemblies. How else should Baloch nationalists have reacted when General Musharraf made that unpleasant statement that times had changed since the previous Baloch insurgencies and their leaders would not even know from where they had been hit? Here was a general, known for his impulsiveness, talking in terms of missiles and rockets and pushing for a military solution of an essentially political issue concerning the rights of indigenous people over the vast resources in their ancestral Baloch lands. When someone in authority speaks in such an insensitive manner and not once but five times military operations are carried out in Baloch areas in the 63 years since Pakistan's independence, it becomes well nigh impossible to trust each other and maintain normal relations. 

This is the sorrowful situation in which we find ourselves now and sadly enough neither the development and rights package under the Aghaz-i-Haqooq-i-Balochistan nor a public apology from President Asif Ali Zardari for the excesses committed against the Baloch people seems enough to break the ice and build trust in each other. The largely ceremonial meeting between Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Attaullah Mengal surely made headlines, but it didn't and cannot end the stalemate and provide the basis for a meaningful dialogue between the two sides. Though the military apparently is on board with regard to the fresh promises being made and rights and incentives offered to the estranged Baloch, the latter are still not convinced that there has been a change of heart by those controlling the security forces and the intelligence agencies. This distrust becomes even more acute when target-killings of leading advocates of Baloch rights such as Bugti, Habib Jalib and another former BSO chairman, Mir Maula Bakhsh Dashti, are assassinated. 

The reaction to Habib Jalib's assassination was familiar in the context of the allegations and counter-allegations regarding his possible killers. The Baloch nationalists blamed the secret agencies for his assassination while separatists based outside Pakistan added the name of an organisation of pro-government Baloch politicians to the list of suspects. The unwieldy and largely directionless PPP-led provincial government of Nawab Aslam Raisani as a matter of routine condemned his killing and made the hollow promise of apprehending and punishing the killers. This government has been watching helplessly as not only Baloch nationalists but also Pashtuns, Hazaras and settlers, mostly Punjabis, have been systematically target-killed. When the separatists indulge in target-killings of non-Baloch people as some of their spokesmen publicly claim after every such incident, there would be reprisals and sometimes those unconcerned would become the target. It is possible that Habib Jalib became a victim of such a reprisal or he was eliminated to trigger unrest and achieve certain nefarious objectives. The true story of his assassination may never become known, but it should spur all those who are concerned about Pakistan's future to do their bit to save the country. 

Though it would be futile to expect the provincial, or for that matter the federal government, to take effective measures to provide protection to the citizens, particularly those most vulnerable, and instil hope among the people in these times of despair, the fact remains that politicians have to take the lead to heal the wounds of the Baloch people, convince them to stop looking to outside powers for winning their rights and enable them to keep faith in Pakistan. And the military must resist the temptation to use force again to resolve the Balochistan problem and assist the politicians and everyone else to keep the Baloch wedded to the idea of Pakistan.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim









India and China had earlier come out with their Five Principles of Peace, or Panchshil, as India marketed it. Pakistan, in the twisted 'astuteness' of its politicians, to counter the Panchshil, came out with its Seven Principles of Peace. At the Bandung Conference, NAM came out with Ten Principles of Peace.

John Foster Dulles, the US secretary of state, shot all the varied principles of peace to the ground by holding the booklet of the UN Charter in hand, waving it before the UN General Assembly, and almost shouting 'for those who sincerely desire peace, five or seven or ten principles are not necessary, this one is enough'. The element of hypocrisy behind 'neutralism', or NAM, had seldom been better exposed.

The NAM began to unravel within few years after the Bandung Conference as a result of internecine conflicts within it, the most serious being between India and China over their Himalayan borders, leading to armed conflict between the two in 1962. The 1950s' chant of 'Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai' was buried in the snows of Himalayas, and China took definitive steps to move closer to Pakistan. A lot of 'credit' for the Sino-Pak relationship must go to Nehru, a lot more than the 'credits' Nehru earned from Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in his book 'India wins Freedom' and more recently, from Jaswant Singh, in his book on Jinnah, for his 'contributions' towards Partition of India. 

By 1956 Pakistan had been turned into an accomplished 'lackey' by the politicians. Prime Minister Suharwardy, on his way to London in 1956 to attend the British- and French-sponsored 'Canal Users' conference , with an anti-Egyptian agenda, soon after the 1956 British-French-Israeli attack on Egypt for nationalising the Suez Canal, stopped in Cairo to meet President Nasser, and assured him Egypt could count on Pakistan to protect its interests. However, Mr Suharwardy succumbed to western pressure at the conference, and backed the British and French proposals.

Nasser never forgave Pakistan. He would point to the chair where any subsequent Pakistani visitor would be sitting, as the same chair on which Mr Suharwardy sat while promising to 'protect' Egypt's interests. After the 1965 war, Nasser would tell visiting Indian leaders that India's failure to occupy Lahore disappointed him.

Zafrullah Khan, as foreign minister, had as his back-up Ahmed Shah Bukhari, or 'Patras' as he was known in literary circles, who was the country's permanent representative to the UN. 'Patras' brought his immaculate prose, and his priceless humour, to the UN. The visitors' galleries would invariably fill up whenever 'Patras' Bukhari was scheduled to speak. One of his biggest fans, and admirer, was Dag Hammarskjold, the UN secretary general. 'Patras' was appointed UN assistant secretary general for information in 1955, and with Zafrullah's departure a year earlier, the space filled by the two, except for the period Zarullah served as permanent representative of Pakistan in the UN, after retirement from the IHC in the early 1960s, was never again filled to this day. 

A delegate from a recently independent country always introduced himself as 'I am Mr So-and-so from the sovereign independent country of XYZ'. This delegate once approached 'Patras' Bukhari in the delegates lounge and asked, 'Mr Bukhari, can you direct me to the toilet', Bukhari looked at him and said, 'Toilet?', 'yes, yes toilet', said the delegate whose need to find one seemed to be getting somewhat critical. Bukhari responded, 'You don't need to go to a toilet, you are from a sovereign, independent country, you can sit behind any sofa'. Dag Hammarskjold, who was with the group retired immediately to his office, undoubtedly to double up in its privacy.

After Zafrullah and Bukhari's departure, Pakistan lost much of the brilliance and flair which the two brought to the country's presence in the UN. To add élan to the position, if not individual brilliance, President Iskander Mirza appointed Prince Aly Khan, son of the late Aga Khan, and father of the present Aga Khan, as the country's permanent representative to the UN.

Prince Aly Khan had strong back-up from the cadre of capable, professional Pakistan Foreign Service (PFS) officers, who in their own right were a force to contend with, until their dilution began, with Ayub Khan reportedly fixing a quota for junior army officers in the service, in a bid to get his son, Gohar Ayub, appointed in it as Third Secretary. The rot was completed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, first through his 'lateral' entry folly, and finally with his doing away with merit altogether, and filling the superior services through processes where merit came last, if at all. 

The Prince did a competent job with the backing of Foreign Service officers. What Prince Aly Khan personally brought to the Pakistan UN mission was glamour, such that no other country's UN mission could remotely match. Pakistan, in a positive way, was never out of the pages, particularly out of the social pages, of any publication in the US. The Prince proved of immense PR value, invitations cards in his name, for official receptions at the Pakistan UN Mission, were eagerly sought, and many were sold for profit by the receivers in US and European social circles.

The writer is former corporate executive. Email:








The International Financial Institutions (IFIs), including the IMF and the World Bank, and the finance team led by Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh are all worried about the financial indiscipline exhibited by the political leadership over the last two years. In particular, they are worried because the political leadership in the centre and in the provinces is totally oblivious to the developments taking place on Pakistan's financial scene. For them, it is business as usual. 

In order to give them a shock treatment, the finance team made a candid presentation to the prime minister on the state of the economy in general and finances in particular. The political leadership was told point-blank that if we did not bring our house in order, if we continued to follow the path of fiscal profligacy, and continued to play politics with tax reform agenda, Pakistan would be in dire straits by end-December 2010.

The IMF and the World Bank have also shared their concerns with the political leadership about the ongoing financial indiscipline. In particular, the political leadership was told that if Pakistan failed to implement the VAT or reformed GST by October 1, 2010, the IMF Programme would be suspended and as such the remaining tranche would not be released. If the IMF Programme is off the track, flow of funds from the World Bank and the ADB will also dry up. 

Money from the Kerry-Lugar Act may also not be available to Pakistan. In short, the political leadership was told bluntly that Pakistan must bring its house in order, maintain financial discipline at all levels of governments, bring economy at the centre stage and support the efforts of its economic team if it expects financial assistance from the IFIs and the Friends of Pakistan. 

In addition to the strong message given to the political leadership, the IMF has also raised its serious concern on the financial indiscipline of the provincial governments; budget deficit, instead of shrinking, has widened in the midst of the IMF Programme, thus becoming a source of embarrassment for them; rising circular debt owing to the mismanagement of the power sector; the perpetual bleeding of PSEs draining Pakistan's finances; and the senseless increase in support price of wheat, giving birth to yet another kind of circular debt. The last concern raised by the IMF is the subject matter of this article. 


The present government has raised the support price of wheat from Rs425 to Rs625 and then to Rs950/40 kg during the last three years. The cumulative increase is estimated at Rs525 or 123.5 per cent since 2006-07. In plain language, the government itself has increased the price of wheat from Rs10.6/kg to Rs23.8/kg in just three years. Such a senseless increase in the price of wheat was nothing but to benefit the big farmers at the cost of voiceless millions. Such a massive increase in the price of the basic diet of the people in general and poor and fixed-income groups in particular was cruel.

This act of cruelty has had multidimensional adverse impact on the economy of Pakistan. Firstly, the empirical evidence suggests that a 10 per cent increase in the support price of wheat increases overall prices (CPI-based) by three per cent. In other words, support price of wheat is highly inflationary in nature and has been one of the root causes of the persistence of double-digit inflation in Pakistan. Over the last three years, the cumulative overall inflation and food inflation have increased by 44.5 per cent and 54 per cent, respectively. The incomes of the poor have not increased proportionately and as such they have been devastated by inflationary pressures. 

Secondly, the persistence of double-digits inflation has forced the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to keep the discount rate at the elevated level, resulting in a substantial increase in cost of borrowing, discouraging investment (investment has declined from 22.5 per cent of GDP in 2006-07 to 16.6 per cent in 2009-10 – a decline of six percentage points), slowing economic growth (averaging three per cent per annum as against seven per cent in the previous five years) with attendant rise in unemployment and poverty. It has also increased the cost of financing fiscal deficit from domestic sources, thus increasing the share of interest payments in total expenditure. These have been the macroeconomic consequences of the senseless increase in the price of wheat. 

Thirdly, the massive increase in the price of wheat has given rise to yet another kind of circular debt. The government not only increased the price of wheat to Rs950/40 kg but also procured 9.2 million tons from the farmer – the highest ever purchases thus increasing the financing requirements from banks to Rs219 billion in 2008-09. In the current wheat season (started May 2010), the government has targeted to procure 7.5 million tons, thus raising the additional financing of Rs178 billion. The outstanding stock of commodity financing at end-June 2010 has been Rs413 billion, of which the wheat financing accounts for overwhelming share. How such a large amount is going to be retired to commercial banks? 

On the start of current wheat procurement season, commercial banks were reluctant to provide financing for the wheat procurement but were forced by the SBP and the Ministry of Finance to provide financing. The total stock of wheat as on June 14, 2010, has been 10.7 million tons as against 9.5 million tons on the same date last year. Even if all the 10.7 million tons of wheat are released to the flour mills at the rate of Rs1050/40 kg, the government will receive Rs280 billion – much less than the outstanding stock o Rs413 billion. Who will retire the remaining stock of commodity financing? How commercial banks will finance next year's wheat procurement? Is this a new circular debt in the offing?


The writer is director general and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email:








"Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual; the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country." Karl Kraus

It's absolutely horrifying to hear those sitting in the echelons of power fearlessly defending fake-degree holders. It seems that they are determined not only to legitimise a culture of unethical and fraudulent practices, but also to root out honesty, integrity and morality lock, stock and barrel. 

The way unlawful and unscrupulous actions are being defended in the corridors of power, one shouldn't be surprised if murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping are also justified in the near future. 

As if Prime Minister Gilani's campaign for Jamshed Dasti at taxpayers' expense and the announcement of a major Sui gas project against Election Commission rules weren't enough, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Raisani dropped a bombshell by saying, "A degree is a degree, whether fake or genuine". While most of us were shell-shocked, President Zardari decided to drag the Quaid-e-Azam into the controversy by stating that he didn't have a BA degree, mind you in British India. Only the president could have come up with this. Last but not least, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif claimed that the fake-degree issue was not bigger than the Kargil issue.

These statements make three things crystal-clear. One, these leaders seem to believe that educational standards should not be maintained in the country. Two, we have wrong people in wrong places who encourage wrongdoing. Three, "Har shakh pay ullo betha hay… anjam-e-gulistan kia ho ga?"

If the political establishment insists on behaving like "loose cannons" then why blame the media for disclosing facts, and civil society for its "bursts in indignation"? Let's not forget that the fake-degree controversy was sparked by Dasti, and his colleagues are in deep waters because of him. And because Dasti's re-election campaign was officially patronised by the high-ups, in clear negation of moral and legal standards. This is the reason it attracted unprecedented attention. What started off as government's "defiant mood" has turned out to be something of an albatross around its neck.

Concepts such as good and bad, noble and ignoble, right and wrong, justice and injustice, and vice and virtue can't be ignored in any civilised society. Second, every law of the land, so long as it exists in the statute books, has to be respected and must be followed. For sanity to prevail, it's pertinent to recognise that fake is fake and no one in their right mind endorses fakes unless they are fakes themselves.

How can anyone protect a lawmaker who presents false documents, lies on oath, breaks the law of the land, breaches the confidence of his voters, humiliates his party, brings disgrace to parliament and maligns the image of the country? How can he be considered honourable?

The question is: should such people be leaders or role models for others? Should they be allowed to formulate laws and shape social values and norms? Should they be trusted with state funds or programmes? Should they be allowed to investigate or inquire the activities or administration of the ministries through standing committees?

How can these phoney degree-holders be allowed to devise Pakistan's foreign, defence, economic or strategic policy? For lawbreakers, perceived to have soiled their hand in the alleged crime of forgery, fraud and deception, the due process must be followed. They should be punished for the offence committed. Frankly, they have no business to sit in Pakistan's parliament. 

Quite unlike the picture of worry that the ongoing fake-degree saga presents of political uncertainty or mid-term polls, any action against legislators found guilty of forging their education degrees to contest general elections should be considered a blessing in disguise for several reasons. 

Not only does it present a unique opportunity to weed out immoral and corrupt politicians but it also provides us with a chance to exorcise impurity and deceit from the body politic. Pakistan can no longer bear the burden of an immoral ruling class.

For too long many of us watched Pakistan degenerate into a basket case -- unable to properly function. The country's incompetent, power-hungry and immoral ruling class has led us to moral and intellectual degeneration and destroyed the very fabric of our society. We have sacrificed all our great ideals and cherished dreams. It seems that growth has stopped and decay has set in.

In this context, the fake-degree issue should be considered a God-sent opportunity by the Pakistani nation. It's time to put our house in order. We should encourage "operation clean-up" and say 'no' to any attempt to resolve the matter through some sort of legislation. In fact, this process of degrees' scrutiny should be extended to all government departments as well as the private sector.

The writer is a graduate of Boston University. Email:








The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.

The July 15 meeting between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India ended in a familiar stalemate. The talks were unable to reconcile differences over the modalities and agenda for future engagement.

The deal-breaker was the Indian refusal to include Kashmir, Siachen and Peace and Security in a future dialogue within an agreed timeframe. As a result the planned announcement on even a modest set of confidence-building measures fell through.

The only outcome of the Islamabad talks was the agreement to keep talking and for Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to visit New Delhi before year end. No schedule of meetings or roadmap for engagement was announced as some had anticipated. Instead the bitter exchanges between the two sides once the talks ended left the climate decidedly fraught.

The air of tension and frosty ambience at the joint press conference addressed by the foreign ministers laid bare the wide gap between the two countries. Qureshi and S M Krishna made clashing statements on just about every issue – including Kashmir, infiltration across the Line of Control and Balochistan. 

The spat that followed this press briefing further soured the atmosphere. This public row was entirely avoidable. But it was symptomatic of the gap in perceptions and substance between the two countries which the talks seemed to have reinforced rather than mitigate. In terms of both optics and substance the talks and their aftermath produced disappointment, despite how low expectations were of this diplomatic re-engagement.

What unravelled the talks was the Indian side's unwillingness to agree to a comprehensive agenda and specific timeframe for future dialogue that would include Kashmir, Peace and Security, and Siachen. These three subjects had been part of the eight-issue "composite dialogue" that took place between 2004 and 2008 when it was suspended by Delhi after the Mumbai attack. The Indian delegation agreed in the Islamabad talks to proceed with secretary-level meetings on trade, culture, Sir Creek, people-to-people contact as well as cross-LOC confidence-building measures and humanitarian matters. But it insisted that the three issues of priority for Pakistan be left out for now and be discussed later at an unspecified, "appropriate time". 

The Indian focus during the talks was almost exclusively on terrorism and on pressing Pakistan for "effective action" against those involved in the Mumbai bombings. Until "further" action was taken by Pakistan other efforts would be "futile" was the upshot of the line taken by the Indian side. Foreign Minister Krishna later told the press conference that he pressed the Pakistan side to "fulfil assurances" not to allow territory under its control to be used for terrorist attacks against India. 

New Delhi's attempt to mount pressure ahead of the talks was evidenced by the remarks of India's home secretary G K Pillai published in an Indian newspaper in which he said that the interrogation of David Headley, who is in American custody, had 'established' that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence had directed the Mumbai bombings. Not only did this vitiate the atmosphere for the Islamabad parleys but it precipitated the war of words that erupted after the talks.

But it was what Qureshi called India's "selective" approach that produced the impasse in the discussions with Pakistan unable to accept "de-linking Kashmir" from the dialogue process. This seemed to be at odds with India's declared willingness to "discuss all issues of mutual concern" conveyed in the March meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the Saarc summit at Thimpu. This was then reiterated in exchanges during the run-up to the Islamabad talks.

Pakistani officials interpreted the assurance to mean that all eight issues that were discussed in the "composite dialogue" would be part of the future dialogue process. Indeed Pakistani officials had agreed to drop the nomenclature 'composite' talks on the premise that the same agenda items would be pursued in the process albeit by another name. 

Although a framework for the dialogue had yet to be fashioned the Pakistani expectation was that the foreign ministers' meeting would enable an understanding on this to emerge, even if Indian officials insisted this should stop short of a structured process and instead reflect a "soft start" to dialogue. Pre-talks preparations also envisioned the announcement of easy-to-execute confidence-building measures. They included the release of imprisoned fishermen, exchange of prisoners, and revival of the working group on cross-LOC travel and trade. A meeting between the two countries' commerce secretaries was also to be announced. Some of this may yet happen after the present row dies down.

Whether a way can to found to reconcile contending visions of the framework and content for the dialogue is what will determine the future course of bilateral relations. Three related aspects of the Indian approach were evident in the Islamabad talks. One, that issues relating to the structure and agenda of the dialogue could be used as leverage or tools in the negotiations. Holding back on discussing Kashmir and Siachen was seen as a way of pressing Pakistan to accede to Indian demands before "conceding" to discuss what Pakistan regards as "core issues". That Islamabad is not prepared to accept this talks-as-a-concession or quid pro quo approach was made amply clear in the diplomatic encounter last week.

Two, the Indian approach in the Islamabad encounter made plain the effort to recast the dialogue around Delhi's "core" concern, terrorism and avoid, on the pretext of 'postponing' until an indeterminate time, discussions on Pakistan's priority issues. Public statements by Indian officials indicating their openness to discuss "all issues" seemed designed to signal a 'reasonable' posture. But the actual conduct in the talks exposed a narrow Indian focus and the attempt to set up a process on Delhi's terms configured around a "terrorism first" agenda. This recipe for a selected and fragmented dialogue will lead to a fitful and fruitless process and frustrate any real movement in the bilateral engagement.

Three, Delhi has set out its preference for an incremental approach which contrasts sharply with Pakistan's emphasis on a process that can transition quickly to a broader dialogue that addresses issues simultaneously, not sequentially, and aims at conflict resolution. Delhi's desire for a gradual, step-by-step process may appear logical given the deep suspicion and mistrust that characterise Pakistan-India relations. But it stems principally from Delhi's bid to determine both the pace and content of the normalisation process. Many Pakistani officials believe that unstructured talks on an open-ended and ad hoc basis will provide India with the means to use every stage of such a process as a lever to press its demands on Islamabad while avoiding accommodation of Pakistan's concerns. This would mean handing Delhi the initiative to determine the timing, modalities and agenda of the dialogue process.

These differences wrap the next steps in the diplomatic engagement in considerable uncertainty and mean that the resurrection of a full fledged peace process remains a distant possibility. The path to a broad based dialogue is strewn with many obstacles but the immediate problem is the continuing lack of common ground between the two countries about how the talks should proceed and what they should discuss.

Engaging with India has always tested Pakistan's diplomacy to its limits. Coming months promise more of the same. With divergences and clashing visions on both process and substance clouding the prospects for any meaningful improvement in ties between the two neighbours the pressing challenge is how to manage differences without relations regressing into tensions at a particularly fraught moment in the region and when there is renewed unrest in Indian-held Kashmir.

The key diplomatic challenge for Pakistan is how to engage India in purposeful talks that aim at solutions and avoid getting sucked into a process that ends up serving as an alibi for not settling outstanding disputes.







The Punjab Assembly's resolution against the media proved, once again, that a predominantly feudal and tribal society and press freedom are not compatible. Despite the democratic trappings of the political leadership, the fact remains that its members have inherited dictatorial tendencies because of their feudal upbringing.

Therefore, there have been many instances of governments run by "democratic" political parties acting like dictatorial regimes. During the first tenure of the People's Party certain members of the media were considered anti-government, and treated as such. In the PML-N's first tenure the office of a magazine was raided and damaged by the law enforcement agencies after it published stories against the home minister of Sindh at that time. During its second tenure in government, the PPP closed down six evening newspapers because they had been publishing stories about the police operation then underway in Karachi. The PML-N during its second tenure victimised, through the National Accountability Bureau, newspapers criticising Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. 

In the two years that it has been in power, the present PPP government has acted no differently.

The Punjab Assembly was quick to pass a bill when the media highlighted the fact that many parliamentarians possess fake degree. If a parliamentarian cannot be criticised for having a fake degree, how can civil society protest against, say, doctors with fake degrees? Parties with fascist tendencies having effective pressure groups use street power to silence criticism. Many journalists had to leave the country or faced torture or were put under various pressures after writing against certain political and religious groups. Therefore, journalists and writers carry out self-censorship in commenting on the actions of certain political or religious groups.

Political parties support press freedom only when their opponents are victims of criticism. In their public speeches their leaders and officials repeatedly demand press freedom, but just so long as they are out of power. Once in power, these same leaders present "democracy" and "national interest" being under threat when their own governments are under scrutiny.

It goes without saying that the news media also needs to put itself under scrutiny, especially in terms of quality. One result of its rapid growth during the past decade has been the entry of many anchors without journalistic background popping up on the television screen, and taking strong positions on political issues without regard to editorial and journalistic ethics. In many cases, the editorial staff becomes secondary in a programme as the anchor or host starts predetermining the direction of a discussion. Glamour, in some cases, takes precedence over journalistic conduct.

But people often get to have the final say in the media. In many cases people's disapproval of a programme is reflected in the decline in its ratings. Column-writers then get lesser feedback. This has had the positive effect of anchors and column writers being forced to review their work and methods.

Democracy and liberal thought are in a more pronounced clash with feudal and rightwing orthodoxy these days. Political and social activism can no longer be ignored now. Countries and political leadership cannot emerge from such phases through imposition of restrictive laws and regulations. The situation can only be resolved through a proactive attitude on the issues faced by Pakistani society. A quicker response for redress of the public's problems can only make the system run more smoothly and strengthen people's confidence in the democratic system. And in the long run change in economic dimension, like guiding the country out of the feudal and tribal system to an industrial system, will ensure a more democratic and more civilised society. This is the lesson of history and this is the law of progress.

The writer is a journalist based in Karachi. Email: farhanreza








PAKISTAN and Afghanistan have moved closer to signing of a new transit trade agreement following signing of a Memorandum of Understanding or minutes of the proposed agreement at a ceremony held in Islamabad on Sunday. An agreement would formally be signed following vetting of the draft by the Ministry of Law and its approval by the Federal Cabinet.

The existing Transit Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan, concluded in mid-1960s, was working satisfactorily and the two countries had been holding negotiations off and on to add or delete items from the tradable list in view of the ground realities. There was, therefore, no justification for a new agreement but in May last year the United States forced Pakistan to enter into negotiations with Afghanistan to sign a new deal. It was widely believed by analysts that the objective was to facilitate Indian trade with Afghanistan and during negotiations there was a lot of covert and overt pressure for the purpose. Apparently, Pakistan has, for the time being, not allowed India to have trade with Afghanistan through the land route, which could have been misused to weaken Pakistan's security interests as well. But Afghanistan has been allowed to export goods to India through Wagah border and one doesn't know whether or not this will become yet another source of widespread smuggling to the disadvantage of Pakistan. There are also suspicions that at some time in future India might also be allowed to use land route for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics. In the first place, the very fact that the new deal is being brokered by the United States raises doubts about intentions and objectives of the whole exercise. The United States not only made the two countries to initiate dialogue for the purpose during the visit of the leadership of the two countries to Washington but also monitored progress of the talks, gave deadlines and Secretary of State dashed to Islamabad to witness signing of the draft agreement. Secondly, if there was nothing to hide then why the Government of Pakistan did not make the draft public for a threadbare discussion and input from all the stakeholders. It is all the more regrettable that even Parliament has not been taken into confidence before finalisation of the deal, which would have far-reaching implications not only for economic but also security interests of the country. We would, therefore, suggest that before approval of the draft by the Federal Cabinet, it should first go to Parliament for a thorough debate and vetting. In fact, not only this but other agreements with foreign countries should also be ratified by Parliament, as is the practice in truly democratic States.






THE Council of Common Interests (CCI), at its meeting held in Islamabad on Sunday under the airmanship of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, approved, among other things the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha, Dam project and set up a commitree to review the role and functions of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA).

The clearance of the project by the CCI, whose powers and importance have been strengthened through the recently adopted 18th Constitutional Amendment, is a step forward and is indicative of the fact that all the federating units have unanimity of views on this vital Dam. This would also pave the way for its funding by the international donors and this is significant as donors normally do not provide financial assistance for controversial projects. We have been emphasizing in these columns that construction of water reservoirs should get top priority in view of the prevailing water and power shortage, which is assuming dangerous proportions with the passage of time. Diamer-Bhasha Dam would have positive impact on the overall situation as it would have a water storatge capacity of 6.4 MAF and produce 4,500 MW of electricity. It would pay back its construction cost within eight years after its completion in 2019. In view of its huge economic benefits, the Prime Minister should take personal interest in the project and see that the hurdles, if any, are removed expeditiously so that practical work could begin without further delay. We firmly believe that if the Government is able to arrange finances for the project and removes bottlenecks then it can be completed before the target date, saving a lot of money and time. It would be in the fitness of things if Chinese, who have the reputation of delivering things much before schedule, are associated with this project.







ENVIRONMENTAL degradation affects everyone on the planet, but the degree to which the inhabitants contribute to this crisis depends on the level of their economic development and their consumption patterns. A startling disclosure has been made by the Chief of Environment Section at the Planning Commission at a workshop that Pakistan is losing Rs 365 billion per year due to environmental degradation. 

With increase in population, establishment of industries and development activities in various sectors, Pakistan is under great stress to protect its natural environment. The Ministry of Environment has taken several initiatives to ensure that minimum environmental standards are maintained but it alone cannot deliver due to limited capacity and resources at its disposal. Environmental protection is only possible when greater awareness is created among the masses through a well-planned campaign by making it a national priority. We need a collective and systematic effort at the local, regional and national levels to prevent pollution and large-scale environmental degradation. Local community leaders, Imams at Mosques, media and educational institutions can be tasked through some institutional arrangement to motivate the masses to keep their, streets, roads, neighbourhoods and cities clean. Building capacity for environmental management, especially for effective Environmental Impact Assessment Systems (EIAs), air quality management and protection of water quality are also necessary. There must be strict checking of smoke emitting vehicles and those violating the laid down standards should be heavily fined. It is a common practice in Pakistan that people throw the waste papers and other articles wherever they wish while in the developed countries it is a crime and people who indulge in any violation are made to pay fine. A major contributor to environmental degradation is industrial sector because industries release their pollutants in natural water streams and rivers. Sewerage water is yet another source of environmental pollution. To reduce the costs associated with environmental and natural resource damages in Pakistan, the Strategic Country Environmental Assessment provides recommendations targeting institutions, regulations, capacity, and accountability and there is a dire need for their implementation to save the country from affects of environmental degradation.









Ever-increasing defence cooperation between India and Israel, and their efforts to destabilize Pakistan are a matter of serious concern for Pakistan. Both are using their influence in Afghanistan against Pakistan by helping anti-Pakistan elements to destabilize Pakistan with a view to projecting it as a state which cannot protect its strategic assets. Afghan defence minister had visited Tel Aviv in July 2009 in a bid to modernize Afghan army. Australia and Germany have already acquired armoured vehicles and UAVs from Israel for Afghanistan. The nexus between India and Israel is too well known, and international media controlled by Jews helps India to continue its vicious campaign against Pakistan. In his recent article carried by Opinion Maker titled 'Framing Pakistan: How the pro-Israel media enables India's surrogate warfare' Maidhc Ó Cathail writes: "The media component of India's alliance with Israel affords India a powerful weapon to wage surrogate warfare against Pakistan and enables both Tel Aviv and Delhi to pursue their common objective of destabilizing the nuclear-armed Muslim nation". 

Gordon Duff, senior editor of 'Veterans Today', revealed in a recent interview: "We have very little doubt that the Indians and the Israelis, that are all over Afghanistan with German passports pretending to be military contractors, are operating 17 camps along the Taliban regions training and arming terrorists." He knocked the bottom of Indian pretense and expose Indian-Israeli unholy alliance against Pakistan by writing: "The Pakistani Taliban is in close cooperation with India and Israel who supply, finance, arm and train them to attack Pakistan." Indian investment in Afghanistan is for long term gains to encircle Pakistan and to have sufficient clout over Afghan National Army when US/Coalition forces withdraw from Afghanistan. Indian leadership loses sight of the fact that it does not have borders with Afghanistan and all roads to Afghanistan lead through Islamabad. Anyhow, Indian, Israeli and even American interests converge on one point ie to denuclearize Pakistan. India had clandestine relations with Israel much before the former established formal diplomatic relations in 1992, which were kept under wraps till 2003 when the then Israeli premier Ariel Sharon visited India to formally declare clandestine defence cooperation. 

In March 2008, the Indian weekly Outlook's interview of Israel's ambassador to India, Mark Sofer was revealing. On a question about India's defence arrangements with Israel, Mark Sofer said "The defence relationship got a major boost during Kargil when Israel came to India's assistance. India was then in great need and we were able to bring about a turnaround in the situation on the ground." Last year, India and Israel had struck the biggest defence deal in which Israel provided India an air defence system for a staggering amount of $1.4 billion. According to Israel Aerospace Industries, the defence deal was signed under which Israel would develop and manufacture seaborne and shore-based systems against missile attack on India, which has meanwhile been received and installed.

The first Indian Air Force AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System) platform, with the see-through capability of the IAF beyond conventional visions of ground-based and tethered electromagnetic sensors, arrived in India on 25th May 2009. "On its maiden flight from Israel to India, the veritable flying-giant with an all-pervasive electromagnetic vision landed at Jamnagar, Gujarat, and arrived at the Palam airport the following day" an Indian English daily had stated. The AWACS is an airborne mission support system fitted on Il-76 aircraft with improved engines, with radar that can help detect even a cruise missile or an aircraft at ranges far more than the ranges detected through the present ground-based radars. The AWACS radar, most sophisticated to date, can collate surface information about troop movements and missile-launches even while listening to highly confidential communications between enemy frontline units. Israeli advisors have been frequently visiting and advising Indians on how to handle militancy in Kashmir.

As stated above, India and Israel had clandestine relations much before 1992, as India did not like to annoy Muslim countries especially Arab countries and Iran because it benefited immensely from bilateral trade relations with them. India and Israel have many commonalities. At the ideological level, Hindutva is very much like Zionism, as both subscribe to the importance of the Race-State and both perpetrate atrocities on Muslims. Another common objective is that India and Israel have usurped Kashmiris and Palestinians' lands respectively.

Israeli advisors are frequently visiting and advising Indians on how to handle militancy in Kashmir. In October 2008, Israeli Army Chief Avi Mizrahi visited New Delhi with a view to enhancing cooperation in training of Indian forces in anti-insurgency operations. Both sides discussed holding joint exercises and mulled measures to boost defence cooperation. Mizrahi had met Indian Naval Chief and the then Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman Admiral Suresh Mehta, and also top army officers in Indian Held Kashmir. 

India had appeased the US in December 1991 when its UN ambassador voted for Resolution 4686 (reversing Resolution 3379, identifying Zionism as a form of racism). There was a widespread perception that India also wanted of the US to help secure a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, which was hinted by US administration in 2000.But America perhaps is not in a position to make it possible because it does not enjoy sufficient clout over other countries in the world to achieve this objective. 

On 9/11, the sole super power's symbols of economic and military strength were shredded into bits. Despite bombing Iraq and Afghanistan flat, America has not been able to recoup its lost image and position. Though there is let up in violence in Iraq yet one cannot say with certainty as to what shape the events would take after American troops are withdrawn. In Afghanistan despite more than 100000 US and NATO troops and 85000 of Afghan National Army, the Taliban fighters are coming back with greater ferocity than ever before.

After General McChrystal's diatribe and as a consequence his sacking, the morale of American, NATO and Afghan troops is at the lowest ebb. And America is seriously contemplating to withdraw but looking for a face-saving. If President Karzai succeeds in getting some assurances from the Taliban for renouncing violence and a deal is struck with regard to power-sharing, India does not stand a chance of achieving its objective of encircling Pakistan. However, Pakistan's foreign office and Pakistani media should effectively counter Indo-Israel propaganda, and highlight the authors mentioned above that dare expose Indo-Israel's machinations. 

Our political leaders are also too busy in their politics of power and pelf, and do not realize that God forbid if any harm is caused to Pakistan, not only citizenry but the ruling elite also will suffer in equal measure. They should come out of stupor and take steps to unite the nation to meet the challenges and threats to the country. They should put their act together to make Pakistan self-reliant, and the first step in this direction is adopting austerity – not as a rhetoric but to practice it wholeheartedly.

—The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst based in Lahore








Obama has several times referred to extremism in Pakistan as cancer, but fails to divulge the whole truth as to who injected this fatal disease in the body of Pakistan . He again chided Pakistan of getting out of Indian obsession and to fully concentrate towards the main threat of terrorism. It is an established fact of history of South Asia that India itself suffering from cancer of terrorism has been transferring infection to all its neighbors. It had inflicted the cancer of Tamil Tiger insurgency in Sri Lanka , which remained afflicted with this disease for 25 years. It is to the credit of Sri Lanka that after suffering from this fatal disease for so long, its security forces succeeded in curing the Indian imposed cancer. India is now hell bent to inject cancer of terrorism into the body of Pakistan and has succeeded in making certain parts cancerous. Having failed in Sri Lanka it wants to succeed in Pakistan . Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) in FATA and Baloch Liberation Army in Balochistan are RAW's infectious tools which it is employing with impunity. 

Obama and the west consider terrorism as a cancer, but instead of curing it through treatment they desire its aggravation. Having made Pakistan cancerous, the US has done little to treat the fatal disease. Rather, it is aggravating it by allowing India to carry on with its subversive activities in various parts of Pakistan and pushing Pakistan to keep chasing the ghosts of terrorism. It has all along been miserly in providing much needed medicines to treat the cancer. Knowing the gravity of the disease, it has released funds and counter terrorism equipment in small bits and pieces, much lesser than the requirements. The Army and paramilitary forces woefully short of funds and equipment like combat helicopters, humvies and high tech electronic means have been bravely fighting foreign trained and equipped terrorists in FATA, Swat, Malakand Division and Balochistan and have produced pleasing results. Had the desired funds and equipment been provided, the cancer could have been cured by now. Ironically, the US has all the right medicines in abundance but has miserably failed to cure the cancer in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

It is incomprehensible as to why should the US ink Kerry Lugar aid bill (KLB), hold strategic dialogue with Pakistan, promise to meet its counter terrorism equipment needs, praise Pakistan efforts in war on terror generously and seek closer cooperation to help solve Afghan imbroglio if it is the most dangerous country in the world, breeding ground and a hub centre of terrorism where Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership resides, where extremists are in cahoots with Pakistan Army and ISI, where nukes are vulnerable, where political situation is messy and economy fragile and the country is on the verge of failing or imploding from within? If Pakistan has become cancerous, the US should stay away from it rather than making repeated overtures.

The US and western armies have been fighting cancer of terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan for the last 7 and 9 years respectively and have employed excessive force without achieving any results. The bleeding wound has become cancerous. Trigger happy gung-ho occupation forces have been firing their weapons ruthlessly mowing down both militants and civilians. Ratio of civilian deaths has been much higher. Torture dens have been in operation at Gitmo, Abu Gharib, Baghram base and other places inflicting inhuman cruelties upon prisoners most of whom were innocent. Women prisoners were abused and raped. Dr Afia Siddiqui is still languishing in American jail. Dogs were unleashed on tied and stripped prisoners and water board techniques were employed and were justified by George W. Bush. The two victim countries have been made into killing grounds where loss of human lives and miseries of the people do not bother the offenders.

Even after perpetrating so much of barbarity, the US is still bloodthirsty and wants to continue with its policy of bloodletting. Obama called for closer collaboration against al-Qaeda, Afghan Taliban, Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taeba and Pakistani Taliban. He said ambiguity in Pakistan 's relationship with any of them could no longer be ignored. James Jones warned if Pakistan cannot deliver, the US may be impelled to use any means at its disposal to rout insurgents based along Pakistan 's western and southern borders with Afghanistan . Feeling pleasure in killing Muslims in millions, the US gets very disturbed when an American gets killed. 

Pakistan , caught up in the vortex of cancer injected by foreign powers has suffered immensely. Since 9/11, Pakistan has been rocked by terrorists every tenth day. It has seen 340 terror incidents. Besides, it is suffering unabated onslaught of drones which kills 98% innocent people. Drones are contributing towards spreading cancer in the body of Pakistan . Philip Alston, a UN investigator, moved by the call of conscience, declared drones operated by intelligence agencies against other countries as illegal. He wrote in his report to Human Rights Council that drones amounts to giving a license to kill and is akin to extra judicial killing or target killing. He warned that this undesirable practice if allowed to go unchecked is likely to be copied by others and will lead to chaos. 40 other countries are in possession of drones. 

Rather than Pakistan making noise that it is the victim of terrorism and should be adequately compensated for immense sacrifices rendered, strangely it is India which is sniveling. Its sole contribution in war on terror was to fuel cancer of terrorism in the region. Having made Pakistan cancerous, the US , India and Israel seeks its death. The US has been spending $30 billion a year in Afghanistan in its bid to treat the cancer but has failed. Conversely, it has spent only $10.4 billion spread over nine years in Pakistan , which comes to $1.1 billion per year. Even this paltry amount has been released with lot of hiccups. Pak Army which faced the brunt of terrorism was accusingly asked to account for the amount released, implying that it had not been judiciously spent. The story of KLB worth $1.5 billion is well known how this apparently well meaning project was converted into a source of friction.

Instead of attending to the patient suffering from fatal disease, both the US and India are hanging swords of Damocles over the head of Pakistan . With one voice the two strategic partners warn Islamabad of dreadful consequences in case any terror attack or terror plot was traced to Pakistan . For 9/11, no such advance warning was given to Afghanistan , but now series of warnings have been hurled at regular intervals by US and Indian leaders. The botched up Times Square incident on 01 May was one example quoted by Hillary Clinton. In anticipation to the attacks, the perpetrators of perceived future attackers have also been described.

Of late TTP has also been declared as a cancer patient that may infect USA . To give strength to its concoction, a fabricated video interview of born-again Hakimullah was aired in May in which he had described USA as chief foe and threatened to burn down US cities. His spokesman had claimed TTP's linkage with Faisal Shahzad. A militant carrying a dirty bomb in suitcase and exploding it in USA is another frightful scenario being painted to scare the Americans and to justify their continued usage of force in Afghanistan and drones in Pakistan and also to keep Pakistan on tenterhooks. The brainy US leaders want to keep the disease of cancer away from USA through such harebrained threats and loony stories not realizing that USA , Israel and India are already in the advanced stage of cancer.

—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.








Ever since the Autumn of 1947, when under the pretext of a controversial letter of accession by the last Dogra ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, to the last British Governor General of India Lord Mont Batten, followed by India's invasion on the former princely state, the history has been recording frequent street skirmishes, and bloody episodes between India and the Kashmiris. Although every time India trumpeted her victory on the ''separatists'' in the name of fake and farce elections, but it could never think of pulling out her military and paramilitary forces from Jammu and Kashmir. Each post- 1947 decade, has its own history of turbulence very different from the law and order problem of a country. The failure of the Indian leadership to respect the free will of the people disturbed and complicated the whole affair and led to a repressive and bloody state policy, resulting in the current quit Kashmir agitation against the armed forces of India by unarmed youth who are the product of post 1990 Indian policies, ordinances and laws in Jammu and Kashmir.

The rage of the Kashmiris is like flying sparks and fire- balls, which can't be measured