Google Analytics

Friday, July 23, 2010


Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: 


media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month,  july 23, edition 000577 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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















  3. TAX, FAIR























































































The manner in which members of the All-Assam Minority Students' Union went on the rampage at Barpeta town, in lower Assam, and caused the death of four individuals, is downright ominous and suggestive of another round of violence and tumult in India's largest north-eastern State. The AAMSU has been demanding rectification in the process of updating the National Register of Citizens. The Centre has begun a pilot project of registering those who can certify residence — or descent from those who can certify residence — as of 1951. The AAMSU, however, is insisting on the date of March 25, 1971, as per the Assam Accord of 1985, and says this is the cut-off date for claiming citizenship. The AAMSU, widely seen as a collective of Bangladeshi infiltrators, some of whom are also suspected Islamists and pose a threat to the security and integrity of Assam and the rest of India, has been protesting against the methodology of the NRC and thereby resisting an attempt to quantify the level of illegal immigration into India and put a number to the non-Indian population in Assam. It is now feared that the Congress Government, heavily dependent on legislative and electoral support from Muslim fringe groups and religio-political organisations that have made an industry of promoting Bangladeshi immigration and the demographic transformation of Assam, will surrender to this demand as well. Once more a well-meaning initiative from federal institutional authorities will be scuttled by craven politicians in Dispur. This, unfortunately, has been the tragedy of Assam. It is all very well to suggest that a degree of the migration from Bangladesh is determined by economic motivations and not jihadi tendencies. This may be true for a few people, and perhaps a system of work permits for those who 'come out' and seek to convert their unlawful stay in India into a legally-valid guest worker status may be incentivised. Yet, that does not preclude making an assessment of foreigners who are in India. What the AAMSU is demanding is that Bangladeshis in India must not be thrown out and, as if that were not preposterous enough, they should be recognised as Indian citizens and, indeed, must not even be counted.

Unfortunately, the Tarun Gogoi Government has proved unwilling to address this challenge. It sees the Bangladeshis as a vote-bank, a secure electoral college that will keep the Congress and its allies in power forever, or so it hopes. In the process it is corroding the sociology of Assam and making that State the port of entry for millions upon millions of foreign nationals who have no faith in the Indian political system, no commitment to India, whose families walked out on India in 1947, and who probably constitute sleeper cells for Al Qaeda affiliates on the eastern frontier of India. The AAMSU represents the political arm of this threat. For all one knows, Mr Gogoi may placate the AAMSU and invite it to join the Congress's ever-growing electoral alliance. It is time for the Centre to take a tough stand. The NRC is, in the end, a federal initiative and not one that can be left to a State to mutilate or decide upon on its own. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also an MP from Assam, having been sent to the Rajya Sabha from that State. Surely he owes something to his adopted State? At the minimum, he can stand up to the aliens within.








Nothing, not even the fact that road accidents claim an average of more than 250 lives every day in the country, seems to nudge the Union Government into evolving a comprehensive road safety mechanism. The one tentative step it took — finalising a National Road Safety and Traffic Management Bill — has been rubbished by a parliamentary committee which has demanded the proposed law be scrapped because of its "piecemeal approach" and also because it seeks to create an institution that will be more a parking lot for useless babus than a vehicle to promote road safety. There is some merit in the committee's criticism. After all, the Government has been dithering over a series of measures that, had they be taken, would have considerably contributed to safety on roads. It is nine years since the process of amending the Motor Vehicles Act began, and it is no nearer to completion. Laws on drunken driving are still lax. Safety rules such the compulsory wearing of helmets are followed more in the breach. Penalties are reluctantly imposed.

Merely creating new structures such as a National Traffic Board will not address the problem. The issue is not the lack of institutions, for they are already one too many, but the absence of bold initiatives directed at a plethora of road issues such as traffic policing and management, road accident-related legislations and suitable punishment for violators. There is something seriously wrong with our policing system for the Delhi Police to announce, for instance, that its traffic personnel will be rewarded if they have blood-stains on their uniform — a sign that they carried injured citizens to the hospital. Incentives are all very well but they must be given for extraordinary work, not for routine performance of duty. Moreover, it is not monetary incentive that will propel the traffic police to be more sensitised but a dose of disincentives in the form of harsh retribution if they are found wanting in such basic humane acts. Since road accidents happen across the country and not just on national highways — the committee has pointed out that 70 per cent of them take place on State roads — the Centre will have to take the State Governments on board to formulate a credible plan of action. The creation of a National Board, which the Bill proposes, will therefore be useless for the most part because it will have no say in State-level management.

We do not have the luxury of trying out piecemeal measures, as the situation is already alarming. A recent World Health Organisation's first-ever Global Status Report on Road Safety has revealed that more people die in road accidents in India than anywhere else in the world. It is not something to be proud of.








If Pakistan, bless its murderous soul, were to assume human form, it would have long been consigned to Broadmoor, Her Majesty's special prison for the criminally insane, whose inmates usually remain incarcerated behind its forbidding walls until death do them part.

Irfan Hussain, doughty Dawn columnist, Pakistan's principal English-language newspaper, relates a poignant tale of a Christian mother and her four children murdered in their home in Jhelum by an inflamed Muslim mob led by a fanatical mullah, while the husband and father, policeman Jamshed Masih, was away on duty. The family had apparently been told to move from the Muslim neighbourhood. When the youngest of the Masih boys, an 11-year old, went to a shop to make a purchase, he was refused service on the ground that he was an infidel. Thereafter, a mob led by one Maulana Mahfooz Khan entered the house and accused the youth of committing blasphemy and wanted him punished. His frantic mother pleaded with the intruders to await her husband's return, but someone threw a stone at her head and all hell broke loose. The daughter managed to call her father, but the poor man arrived to the gory scene of a slain wife and four slain children. The local police chief would not register a case because of the Maulana's connections in Islamabad.

Set against this was US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bearing an aid package to Pakistan worth $ 500 million, accompanied by honeyed words on a new beginning for US-Pakistan ties after years of mutual misperceptions. She hoped this would be a bridge to better mutual understanding between the nations. Jonathan Swift once observed: "When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are in confederacy against him." Truth is that US President Barack Obama and Ms Clinton and their colleagues in Government fall well short of the most perverse and eccentric definition of genius, nor are we, the hoi polloi, a confederacy of dunces. The Pakistan they court, the Land of the Pure, where blasphemy is punishable by death, it would appear, is an amphitheatre of pornography. According to Internet provider Google, Pakistan is top dog in searches for pornography, whether this involved men, women, children or a variety of animals from camel to donkey to horse. A Congressional hearing in Washington on the subject would surely be the most riveting show in town.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan-born, London-based revolutionary, Tariq Ali, has taken up another of his lost causes, namely the one pertaining to the 'liberation' struggle for a 'Muslim Kashmir free of Indian rule'. His peroration in the lazy left-liberal London Review of Books was a desperate rant, a farrago of fact, fiction and poisonous half-truth leavened by craftily camouflaged silences in a bid to confuse readers uninitiated in sub-continental history and politics. It was a clever ploy to refer ritually to India as America's regional ally, when it is Pakistan that is Washington's and Beijing's true surrogate. Mr Ali's reference to 9/11 and its impact on India is well taken, but his cunning silence on Mumbai's searing 26/11 experience with the Pakistan-incubated terror attack and the national trauma, coupled with similar lack of reference to the bombing of the city's suburban trains in July 2006, and to the commando-style assault on India's financial centre in March 1993, was clearly part of special pleading. Hundreds of innocent Indian lives were lost, but India is expected to accept such karmic loses without demur. This also appears to be the case with the ethnic cleansing of the Hindu Pandit community from their ancestral homeland in the Kashmir Valley. There was no mention either of Hindu Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh, both integral parts of the disputed territory. Indian opinion has visibly hardened against Pakistan and Islamism, but Tariq Ali refuses coyly to reason why. Most absurd of all, he claims that Pakistan's rulers had offered India a swap: "Give us Afghanistan and you can have Kashmir." This is post-modernist vaudeville, with Tariq Ali as impressario.

Mr Ali's reach into the upper ends of an establishment he routinely censures is something of a mystery. The historian and novelist David Caute wondered how a play as trite as Iranian Nights, satirising the Ayatollahs, which Mr Ali co-authored, could have been staged at the West End's Royal Court Theatre when serious playwrights had to struggle through the proverbial eye of a needle to get there. One of his fictions was memorably reviewed by the critic Maureen Freely as a "talking and ejaculating novel" with cardboard cutouts as characters. Nevertheless, Mr Ali has an enviable knack of finding willing publishers.

Not very long ago, an agent, tried circulating a chapter from a VS Naipaul work through a circle of publishers, without giving away the author's name, and asked if they would consider publication. They turned him down, one and all. So is this damning evidence of a collapse of literary taste or is Mr Ali Houdini reborn? Truth is that Mr Ali has long been a creation of the British entertainment industry; as an avowed Marxist, he is a rude take on the Marx brothers, Groucho, Harpo and Chico.

The silly season almost being upon us, British media pundits, currently lodged in India, have been indulging in subtle and crude India-baiting. As usual Kashmir tops their agenda. There are pious lamentations on the decline of democracy in the valley under Indian pressure; how odd that when the place was being ethnically cleansed of its Hindu Pandits, the event passed them by, unworthy, no doubt, of their exalted attention.

The broadside came from Jeremy Page of The Times. Everything in the kitchen sink was thrown at the country, which he clearly loathes. He blasts Delhi's lack of infrastructure, and the seeming lack of preparation fot the Commonwealth Games. Mr Page must be unaware of the travails of the London Underground. Habitual signal failures and a roster of suspensions of selected lines at weekends refract the network's 19th century origins. Delhi's Metro, on which I have travelled, is a 21st century marvel by contrast.

Meanwhile, oceans away, US Senators are aggrieved by the release of al Magrahi, the alleged Libyan Lockerbie bomber, on compassionate grounds (he is down with terminal cancer and is not expected to live) by the devolved Scottish Government in Edinburgh. They make no murmur about the 528 dead of the Air India plane, Kanishka, that exploded mid-air and came down over the Irish Republic in June 1985, the bomb planted by North America-based Khalistani terrorists. No arrests have as yet been made. What is sauce for the Herrenvolk goose is not sauce for Untermenschen gander.







This refers to the report "Krishna takes Pak line, berates Pillai" and the editorial "Shameful sophistry" (July 22). At a time when most Indians are seething over Pakistani Foreign Minister SM Qureshi's outrageous remarks during the recently held Foreign Minister-level talks in Islamabad, his Indian counterpart, Mr SM Krishna, has chosen to add another, self-inflicted, wound on the public consciousness by reprimanding Home Secretary GK Pillai for his comments regarding David Coleman Headley's revelations about the ISI's role in the 26/11 terrorist attack on Mumbai which, in his view, affected the dialogue's outcome.

Mr Krishna is thus trying to justify his timid behaviour during the Press conference in Islamabad. In a false show of civility, he remained silent when Mr Qureshi attacked Mr Pillai during the conference, comparing him to Jamaat-ud-Dawa'h chief Hafiz Saeed. Mr Krishna's behaviour is reminiscent of that of former Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who had to quit in the wake of the Mumbai carnage.

However, the Krishna episode only highlights a familiar pattern. Since UPA1 came to power in May 2004, the Government has made a habit of blowing hot and cold on its foreign policy. It first diluted the commitment made by former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in January 2004 that Islamabad would not allow territory under Pakistan's control to be used for terrorist activity against India. At the 2006 Havana NAM summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made some ill-advised statements on delinking Indo-Pakistan dialogue and terrorism as an aftermath of which India witnessed a series of Pakistan-sponsored attacks, causing immense loss of lives and property. Yet the UPA2 Government made another flip-flop at Sharm el-Sheikh only seven months after the Mumbai attacks, though it subsequently revised its stand.

In pursuit of the Prime Minister's clear obsession with dialogue with an insincere and duplicitous neighbour as well as owing to pressure to serve American interests, a fresh round of talks were recently held in Islamabad. As feared, they ended in humiliation for India. Yet, the Government has failed to learn its lesson.







Major insurance firms have said they will no longer provide cashless services. This has come as a blow to those who have paid premium on the understanding that hospital bills will be settled directly. If only Government hospitals had been good, we would have been spared this trouble

Insurance companies proffering health insurance (18 major ones, including four public sector entities) have announced their decision to discontinue the cashless treatment facility. Their argument: The bills from the bigger hospitals are inflated, which in turn is hitting their bottom lines. Reports indicate that the annual premium collected by the health insurers is around Rs 8,000 cr whereas the outflow in terms of settlements is around Rs 12,000 cr.

The biggest contention of the insurance companies is that certain hospitals do not subscribe to the package rates provided by the insuring companies. And so, as a result, insurance companies have de-listed almost 150 hospitals in Delhi and NCR alone from their list and have also stopped giving cashless facilities to the insured, as of now.

In fact, there are four key stakeholders to this current imbroglio. The first is the group of insurance companies; the second are the large hospitals; the third are the State Governments (as health is a State subject); and the last — and the most significant — are the insured individuals, that is, the common man. Let's analyse each of these stakeholders and evaluate them in the context of the current crisis.

Let us first start with the insurance companies. Considering that filing of inflated medical bills — by increasing the stay of patients, requesting unnecessary medical tests, multiple visits by consultants, differential pricing, expensive disposable items, etc — has been an issue with the large and renowned hospitals since a long time, why wasn't the same addressed by the insuring companies much before and that too within the actuarial, while drafting the health-based premiums? Today, when bottom lines are put to test on account of the faulty modelling of premiums by insurance firms themselves, why should one be allowed to rock the boat of the common man — especially when the common man initially signed up for health insurance on being promised advantages like cashless facilities?

Coming to the second stakeholder — that's the group of hospitals accused of errant and inflated pricing. Now, if hospitals were/are charging that kind of price, it is just because of the existing asymmetries in the health market. Looking at the health sector completely dispassionately, these hospitals would not even have existed had the State Governments (the third stakeholder) been responsible enough to create adequate healthcare infrastructure. In the absence of the same — and in the absence of quality healthcare facilities — all leading hospitals enjoy the position of being able to charge premium pricing. As far as quota for treating the poor free of cost is concerned, we all know how unsuccessful both the Government and these hospitals are in their own respective ways.

Finally, coming to the fourth and the most significant stakeholder — the common man. Like always, in this moment of crisis, he is the biggest loser. Healthcare expenses are the single biggest reason to drive the maximum people to poverty in this country. The out-of-pocket expenditure on healthcare accounts for a staggering 90 per cent. All this because the Government has miserably failed to create adequate healthcare infrastructure; and thus, most of the health market is catered to by private players.

In the given scenario, health insurance — aka cashless healthcare facility — is the only recourse for the common man. And to take that away is the most illogical thing to do. One doesn't need to be a nuclear scientist to understand the kind of problems faced by an average Indian family during hospitalisation. Don't insurance companies realise these issues? Don't they know that the problem here is of a lack of liquid disposable cash with families? Don't they know that in the absence of the same, there is no other alternative that is left with such families? And if the insurance firms know all this, then they should also know that reimbursement is not a solution.

Cashless treatment facility allows a family to proceed with hospitalisation without any hassle. If the patient or his family had enough cash to be paid at time of hospitalisation, they would not have had to run behind companies for insurance. A scenario of reimbursement would only come into the scene if the family is able to pay the bills in the first place. Second, when a family member is critical, no one feels like running through the list of hospitals and getting the patient admitted in a listed one; in general, one would rush to the nearest hospital.

At the same time, it is also true that the insurance business cannot run on losses forever. But then for that, two things need to be done. A necessary re-analysis of premium calculations has to be undertaken. And then, a dialogue between the State Governments, Centre, and the hospitals to adhere to the same. The common man cannot be made the scapegoat every time.

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






Uttarakhand is facing a unique dilemma

People in Uttarakhand are coming together to thwart the proposed submergence of the famed Dhari Devi shrine by the 330-MW Srinagar hydropower project. The mounting campaign threatens to explode into uncontrollable anger in the event that the State Government allows the temple to be drowned. The assurance of relocating the pilgrimage, which is located a few kilometres from Srinagar, overlooking the Alakananda, elicits disbelief. A party that made restoration of temples and cultural nationalism its raison d'etre is not expected by voters to submerge a popular pilgrimage. The very thought is sacrilegious. The original plan of the construction company was to build a 200 MW project. According to a petition in Uttarakhand High Court, no fresh environmental clearance was obtained for enhancing it and raising the height. At present, the river bed in the area is dry. Water that flows down is released from a diversion tunnel.

When Uttarakhand came into being on November 9, 2000, there was immense hope that the State would preserve its unique cultural heritage and revivify its environment that had gradually been eroded by loggers and developers. But successive State Governments launched renewed assaults on the State's mountains, rivers and forests. At least 220 hydropower projects — big, medium and small — were planned till recently. Some had already been launched. But news reports indicate that the Forest Advisory Committee of the Union Environment and Forests Ministry has decided not to clear about half of them until the National Ganga River Basin Authority does a cumulative impact assessment.

Not that the Centre's view is infallible, given that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee just signaled that work should resume on the 600-MW Loharinag Pala project on the Bhagirathi, close to its source. Prof. GD Aggarwal's hunger strike early last year had forced the Centre to suspend the project. Opponents pointed out that its location above the Tehri dam in a seismically active zone was not only extremely hazardous but was certain to cause severe depletion of the river. Mr Mukherjee justified the clearance on the grounds that Rs 600 crore had already been spent, and that the project would not be commissioned throughout the year. Opponents, on their part, have been offering to compensate the Government for scrapping the dam. Betraying duplicity, the Centre shelved the 381-MW Bharonghati and 480-MW Pala Maneri projects, both undertaken by the State Government.

Another report states that the State Government has spiked 56 hydropower projects, initiated in 2008 by the then Chief Minister, Mr BC Khanduri. The decision was taken just before the Uttarakhand High Court was to hear a PIL, alleging irregularities in the allotment of projects. So grave is the situation that a Comptroller and Auditor General inspection report castigates the plan to build 53 hydropower projects on the Alakananda and Bhagirathi which unite at Devprayag to form the Ganga. The hair-brained proposal would entail a dam coming up every 5-7 km. The waters of the two rivers would need to be diverted through tunnels, impounded, hemmed in and channelised. This gross interference in their natural course would serve to kill their flow over long expanses. The CAG inspection report, though still to be discussed in Parliament and the State Assembly, also raises serious doubts about the private companies, given contracts for executing these projects. Most reportedly had no experience in building and running power plants, or even the requisite financial capacity. The report apparently states that if all projects are allowed, the rivers' basins and aquatic life will be destroyed. This will trigger a mass exodus of inhabitants. Deals are made directly between policy-makers and companies, excluding the people, whose land is acquired, and livelihood affected. Rehabilitation packages never manage to satisfy the dispossessed.

The precedent for these hare-brained exercises was undoubtedly set by the Centre when it built the 261-metre high Tehri dam on the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Bhilangana in an earthquake-prone zone, in the face of severe resistance by local people, seismologists and environmentalists. Inundating a 43 sq km area, it submerged Old Tehri town, 37 villages fully and 88 villages partially. Conservationist Sureshwar Sinha has been trying since years to awaken policy-makers to the fact of the disappearance of the Bhagirathi and Bhilangana, upstream of the dam owing to complete percolation losses. He cites the disappearance of the Bhagirathi at Chham village, about 15 km below the Dharasu dam. The Bhilangana is dry upstream of Tehri. Such losses mean that there is no water for irrigation and no release of 300 cusecs from Tehri to meet Delhi's drinking water requirement. He advises replacing wasteful big dams with small run of the river schemes that do not destroy the fragile ecology of the mountains.







Jaganmohan and the Reddy brothers of Bellary have more in common than their surname: They are a headache for their respective Government

The Congress and the BJP appear to be sailing in the same boat in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The three Reddys — Mr YS Jaganmohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh and Mr Janardhana Reddy and Mr Karunakara Reddy in Karnataka — hold the key to the survival of the two State Governments.

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa is unable to drop the powerful Bellary brothers from his Cabinet while the Congress high command is hesitant in taking action against the defiant Mr Jaganmohan Reddy, son of the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.

Interestingly, Mr Jaganmohan Reddy is believed to be the business partner of the Reddy brothers whom his father had allegedly promoted earlier. Both have enormous clout in terms of money and muscle power and enjoy the support of a section of MLAs whom they had financed during the previous election. The Reddy brothers also have powerful backers in New Delhi.

The Congress is facing problems from Andhra Pradesh after the untimely death of YS Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter accident last September. Since then, the Andhra Pradesh Government has had to contend with law and

Expectations are that Mr Jaganmohan Reddy may not be touched for some time. For one thing, the Congress high command does not want a sympathy surge for him even before the first death anniversary of YS Rajasekhara Reddy in September. Second, by-elections are scheduled in a dozen constituencies. The Congress does not want to create any confusion just ahead of the polls. Third, saving the Government is more important than anything else. If Mr Jaganmohan Reddy revolts, the 30-odd MLAs with him may also resign. Fourth, the party does not want to trigger any revolt during the ongoing Assembly session.

Is there any connection in the political developments in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka? BJP insiders claim that the drama, which unfolded in Karnataka last week is an extension of politics in Andhra Pradesh. According to them, the Congress is targeting the Reddy brothers because it wants to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, the Reddy brothers would face the music for their friendship with Mr Jaganmohan Reddy and on the other they could react and destabilise the Yeddyurappa Government.

The Reddy brothers have been in the centre of controversy for a while. First, the Chief Minister, himself, wanted to clip their wings last October but they won the first round. Now, the Congress is alleging illegal mining of iron ore by the brothers.

The Congress feels that by cutting off the Reddy brothers, Mr Jaganmohan Reddy could be weakened. The crisis reached a crescendo when the Governor, Mr HR Bhardwaj, took the battle to New Delhi by complaining about the alleged irregularities to the President as well as the Home Minister.








EXTERNAL Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna's unhappiness with Union Home Secretary G. K. Pillai's comment— on the eve of the former's visit to Islamabad— that the ISI was involved in the Mumbai attack, has not been a secret.


The first to tell us this was Mr Krishna's counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi who noted at the joint press conference after the failed talks in Islamabad last Thursday: " We are both of the opinion that it was uncalled for." Mr Krishna did not contest this observation.


Indeed on his return to New Delhi he defended Mr Pillai saying there was no comparison, as had been sought to

be made by Mr Qureshi, between Mr Pillai and Hafiz Saeed.


So why after a week, on Wednesday, has Mr Krishna sought to declare that the timing of Mr Pillai's remarks was " very unfortunate" and that it would have been " wiser if the that statement had not been made on the eve of my visit?" If he believes that they torpedoed the Indo- Pak talks, Mr Krishna is well within his rights to take umbrage at Mr Pillai's comments. But the Pakistanis could not have been taken unawares as two weeks earlier, Home Minister P. Chidambaram had given them a folder listing those charges.


Since Mr Krishna had met his American counterpart Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, it would not be far- fetched to infer that the new expression of his unhappiness had something to do with the US. The Headley revelations are stunning, and they have everything to do with the security of this nation. Keeping them within wraps under US instructions suggests that an effort is being made to somehow mitigate the Pakistani official role in Mumbai. Surely, Mr Krishna, the substance of Mr Pillai's charge deserves a response as well, not only the question of their timing.


Acquire brawn with care

IT IS not a coincidence that just when the Federal Drug Administration warned India about the sale of dietary supplements containing steroids in its markets M AIL T ODAY has reported a case where a young man had to undergo hip replacement surgery after being on an unsupervised protein diet.


These dietary supplements are freely available in the market, with no law governing their sale or consumption since they are not sold as drugs. While many of them contain steroids which can be outright dangerous, others need to be consumed under medical supervision which is not happening at present.


The issue needs to be seen in conjunction with the mushrooming of gymnasiums and the craze for body- building all over the country.


While there is nothing wrong with young people wanting to have toned and even muscular bodies, most of these gymnasiums do not have certified trainers.


The authorities have been lax on the score of regulation and so they must urgently bring such food supplements under the regime that supervises drugs and medicines.

Also, somebody needs to tell our movie stars and models who flaunt beefy bodies and six- pack abdomens — often acquired through all kinds of means— to be cautious about the example they set for our young.



THIS will be the only time in his career that Pragyan Ojha wouldn't mind being dismissed, for the young spinner became the 800th victim of the master of the trade— Muttiah Muralitharan. Taking eight wickets in the match to seal a huge win for his team, Murali couldn't have reached the milestone in better style. In his 18 year career, he has been instrumental in shaping Sri Lanka's phenomenal rise in International cricket.


Murali has had more than his share of controversies.


Recall the infamous Boxing Day test against Australia in Melbourne in 1995 after which the then Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, called him a " chucker". Murali will be remembered for maintaining a dignified attitude towards this calumny, answering his critics only through his bowling.


At 38, Murali is as fit and as lethal as ever and could have gone on for some more years if he wanted. Though he has retired from tests, we will surely see some more Murali magic in next year's World Cup, which Sri Lanka is co- hosting.








DESPITE a fortune, an estimated Rs 15,000 crore, already having been pumped in to give Delhi a bridal make- up for the Commonwealth Games, there are genuine fears that this big fat Indian wedding may not turn out to be as grand as anticipated.


Just 71 days remain for the biggest sporting event in the country after the 1982 Asian Games, but the promised state- of- the- art infrastructure is not in place. Not only are the venues incomplete, some sports arenas are coming apart already and the civic infrastructure, reeling under the monsoon, seems hardpressed to meet targets.


There is an air of quiet desperation in government circles. The netas and babus have already begun looking for excuses.


Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has been heard blaming the " lack of coordination among the multiple agencies" for the mess. Her cabinet ministers have cited the monsoon and shortage of labour as reasons for the delay in completion of Games projects. The labour crunch is real as contractors are being forced to make do with just about 20 per cent of the actual labour required. Faced with pressure to complete the projects, Delhi is forced to get labourers from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan at higher than the usual wages.


But why are we hearing of these things at the eleventh hour?



Were these issues anticipated at the different stages of planning for the Commonwealth Games or not ? Is Delhi experiencing the monsoon for the first time? Haven't labourers gone back home for sowing and harvesting in the past as well? Is this the first time that lack of coordination has hampered projects? Why weren't all these things taken into account before planning this development binge? I recall an interview with Sheila Dikshit on her return from Melbourne in September 2006. She sounded enthusiastic in her plans and approach, a far cry from her exhausted look today.


All the excuses being cited are actually just a cover for the real problem of petty politics hurting the preparations for the Games, putting at stake national pride.


Had that not been the case, it would have been clear from the outset as to who was to be in command. This battle has pitted four agencies — Delhi government, urban development ministry, sports ministry and Games Organising Committee ( OC) — against each other and the result has been the creation of a vacuum where no decisions get taken. The organisers failed to draw any lesson from the Asian Games of 1982 which saw all infrastructure being put in place within 18 months.


Perhaps that had to do with the command lying with the then heir apparent: Rajiv Gandhi.


In the case of the Commonwealth Games, all the agencies involved have tried to pursue their own vested interests.


From intra- party leadership feuds within the Congress at the central and state levels and political fist- fighting

between the Congress- led Delhi Government and the BJP- led Municipal Corporation of Delhi ( MCD) to inter- ministerial bickering, a host of factors have conspired to send plans awry.

Sample this: MCD commissioner K S Mehra says that he was waiting for MTNL to finish the cabling work so that the Corporation could finish its part of the job.


But why didn't he raise this point earlier? Also, didn't his engineers brief him that with the time left, the MCD would not be able to complete the projects even if MTNL finished its share of the work? Actually, had he really wanted to take stock of the preparations, he would have taken a walk down the bylanes of Chandni Chowk and talked with local traders and residents long before he eventually did on July 3. Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit the area to enjoy the cuisine, culture and the traditional charm of the Walled City. But it continues to bear the same ugly and disorganised look despite all the tall promises and the proposed plans worth hundreds of crores.



Faced with the double- edged sword of the deadline and the urgency to spend allocated funds, roads are being plastered with extra loads of bitumen, with the result that some such stretches caved in after the first showers of the season.


Even without any footfalls, the pedestrian pathways are cracking up. Such is the hurry that saplings are being planted without even removing their plastic covers.


If what was brought before the public eye about the state on Bhishma Pitamah Marg was not enough, the blunder was repeated again at Lodhi Road recently. Also, take a close look at how blocks for the central verge on the main roads are being placed and you would get a feel of how your money is being used.


They have been placed without even digging the road surface to fix the blocks to the ground — on a stretch like Jangpura on Mathura Road they are already coming off. Is anyone monitoring all this? It doesn't look like it.


Connaught Place, the city's jewel, reveals how badly we have messed up.


The civil engineers of the NDMC area failed to assess their capacity to undertake projects. With projects worth over Rs 700 crores in the pipeline, there is little chance of their being completed before the Games begin on October 3.


There are not many places visitors in Delhi during the Games can see if the present is any indicator. Except for Lodhi Gardens, a part of Rajpath and the Metro, they cannot be taken anywhere to get a glimpse of the Delhi they will have put their money on this October. The international visitors, who would be looking forward to explore the Capital of one of Asia's powers, are perhaps not aware of what lies in store for them here: dug- up roads, broken footpaths, unfinished flyways and elevated roads, potholes and traffic that is messy, to say the least.

What happened to the plans for food streets in Chandni Chowk and promises to set up night bazaars in Hauz Khas Village? No one has an answer.



Inter- departmental wrangling ceases to end, with every Group of Ministers ( GoM) meeting on Commonwealth Games raising concern on the " lack of coordination'' among the 17- odd agencies involved with the projects. But instead of cracking the whip at even this hour, the top bureaucrats are happy constituting committees and accommodating babus wishing to hang on in the Capital beyond their stipulated tenure. Perhaps the GoM should be enquiring about the number of foreign trips made to collect information on the Beijing Olympics and the next Olmypics in London, or to Melbourne itself to learn about hosting the Games to perfection. Umpteen such trips may have been made, but briefs were not passed on to the engineers and workers on sites. The work was taken by them as any other civil project. No wonder the labourers left during the harvest season.


All this can only dent Dikshit's report card as for a Delhiite, she, being the chief minister, is the captain of the CWG ship.


Little do people know that Delhi is only handling two stadiums and a few infrastructure projects. The urban development ministry- controlled DDA is accountable for the Games Village, the Sports Authority of India is handling the five major stadiums and the Suresh Kalmadi- led OC is responsible for the grand- finale look — by the way somebody needs to ask Mr Kalmadi if the technical support infrastructure, supposedly his domain, is ready for the event.


But these worthies would all be spared public ire in case of an embarrassment during the Games in October, with the people training their guns on Dikshit, with all the potential for a political backlash that this entails. The taxpayers also seem to be paying for their own embarrassment in full public view.








THE bad news is that the " core" issue versus " composite dialogue" debate continues to haunt Pakistan and India, the latest manifestation being in the failed round of talks between the foreign ministers of both countries in Islamabad last week. The good news is that Pakistan's foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, whose outburst soured the press conference after the breakdown in dialogue, has been embarrassed by his own aggression, and India's home secretary, GK Pillai, who embarrassed his own foreign minister by his precipitous anti- ISI statement on the morning of the talks, has been silenced by his prime minister.


From 1947 to 1997, Pakistan routinely parroted " Kashmir is the core issue" line and insisted that " without first resolving it, no dialogue can take place on the other outstanding issues". Under the circumstances, three wars took place, Pakistan was dismembered by Indian intervention and new disputes were added to the roster ( like Siachen in 1984) even as Kashmir remained on the boiler.


The deadlock was finally broken at the NAM Summit in Male in 1997 when India's Prime Minister, Inder Kumar Gujral, persuaded Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to accept the notion of a " composite dialogue" between them simultaneously on " all outstanding issues, including Kashmir". Unfortunately, however, this significant step didn't translate into progress because the general elections in India in 1998 brought the BJP to power and the nuclear testing and rattling derailed everything.


But Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee jointly made a historic breakthrough in Lahore in 1999. The framework of the " composite dialogue" was restored, the notion of any " core" Kashmir dispute- resolution based on UN resolutions disappeared from the texts of the agreements/ joint statements and back channel diplomacy was undertaken to tackle the thorny issue.


Unfortunately, however, this significant step was derailed by General Pervez Musharraf's Kargil misadventure, followed by a military coup.


In 2001, General Musharraf went to Agra with a view to locating the lost track of the dialogue. This time Pakistan raised the prospect of discussing Kashmir in an " outof- the- box- context" ( making UN resolutions irrelevant) that gladdened the hearts of the Indian media. Unfortunately, however, hawkish home ministry elements in the BJP led by Mr LK Advani pulled a new " core" issue of " terrorist infiltration across the LoC" out of the hat at the nth minute and scuttled an agreement on the revamped composite dialogue.


The composite dialogue ( with a proposed " out- of- the- box Kashmir solution" via a dynamic back channel) was courageously restored with true vitality in 2004 by General Musharraf and Mr Vajpayee. Unfortunately, it was blocked by political instability in Pakistan in 2007 and by the Indian elections and Mumbai in 2008. It hasn't moved forward since then simply because of India's insistence on the all or nothing " core" issue approach that has failed to secure results for any side. In that sense, the boot is on the other foot now, with Pakistan seeking a composite dialogue and India refusing it stubbornly. Worse, this has pushed Pakistan to officially backtrack on the progress made during General Musharraf's time and start repeating the mantra of the earlier decades.


TWO great opportunities have since been lost. The first one was at Sharmel Sheikh in Egypt earlier this year when the Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the Pakistan Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, agreed to start secretary level talks and discuss Kashmir, Terrorism, Water and all other outstanding issues. But Dr Singh got cold feet and retracted his commitment to Pakistan when Indian hawks chastised him for " conceding" to Pakistan. This put Pakistan's back up and provoked it to disown Musharraf's formulation on Kashmir and stake it at the heart of their demands again. In the latest round between Mr Krishna and Mr Qureshi, the hawks in India have again put paid to Dr Singh's efforts to bridge the gap.


History proves that the " core" issue approach, notwithstanding the centrality and urgency of the issue, will not work because it is a sum- zero game of exclusivity rather than inclusivity. It didn't work for Pakistan for five decades and it isn't going to work for India now. The only way forward is to borrow a leaf from the Musharraf- Vajpayee approach and add the core issue of " terrorism" to the back channel along with the core issue of " Kashmir". So, in a critical sense, the two core issues, one for each side, should be taken out of the public domain where they incense the hawks on both sides respectively and derail the talks while the composite dialogue is taken forward in all the other pressing areas where confidence can be built with faster solutions.


This approach may yield results for two main reasons: Kashmir is, in reality, no more a core issue for Pakistan simply because 98 per cent of the Kashmiris in the Valley have opted against joining Pakistan at any stage in the future, with or without any plebiscite. Indeed, if anything, Kashmir is rapidly becoming a " internal core issue" for India, given the anti- India sentiment in the Valley without any significant Pakistani provocation. This means that Pakistan can be expected to show greater flexibility in the back channel on this issue if India makes headway internally in Srinagar.


IN THE same way, terrorism is much more an " internal core issue" for Pakistan, in reality, than it is for India

because it springs from Pakistani soil and is hurting Pakistan the most, overtly and covertly. But, just as India

gets prickly when Pakistan publicly accuses it of violating the rights of the Kashmir, any Indian public accusation against Pakistan of fomenting terrorism in India will always lead to a backlash in Islamabad.


President Asif Zardari constantly reminds us that he feels " let down" by India because it didn't reciprocate his early peace and confidence building overtures and thereby enabled the Pakistani military establishment to say " see, we told you so" and seize the initiative again. Therefore Dr Manmohan Singh could do worse by falling prey to the " core- condition" hawks in India, thereby strengthening the " core- condition" hawks in Pakistan and leading India and Pakistan on the path to mutual sum- zero destabilisation. The tables have been turned. India's core issue of terrorism is actually Pakistan's core issue and Pakistan's core issue of Kashmir is now India's core issue. So it is time to open the back channel and make haste on both fronts away from the glare of preconceived notions and the weight of history.


The writer is Editor, The Friday Times




When in doubt, put on a blue suit. Ann Patterson, the American ambassador, arranged an in- camera session between Hillary, me and other politicians. While Hillary was brilliant and in complete command of the debate, I presented a welcome change. Everyone present showed their appreciation of me and my utterings by avoiding embarrassing and unnecessary scenes of wild applause and enthusiasm.


I also told Hillary that in case she didn't know India is now part of the G20. She raised her eyes heavenwards ( I think she was examining the ceiling) and sighed and said she knew, and what was my point? First I thought I'd let her know that I don't expose my point to women I don't know well, especially elderly women I don't know well, but I gave it a miss and told her that G20 sounds suspiciously like MI6, if not MI5.


Hillary said let's change the subject. She asked me what had inspired me to work in the social sector. I told her how my interest in social causes was first sparked by regular visits to clubs in Mayfair. It was there that I met the best of the British flitterati who were busy saving the rain forests of Macaroon, once part of British Macaroniland.


Hillary, Ann Patterson and everyone present laughed their heads off. I wonder why. This was during lunch. In fact, Hillary laughed so much that she split some of her soup on me because I was sitting by her right. " Don't worry, Secretary of State" Ann Patterson said, " it's not the first time Imran's been in the soup". Then they all laughed some more. I can't see why.


After that, I made a beautiful speech, written for me by Dar, my hairdresser. But that wasn't enough for Hillary who insisted on asking me questions.


And instead of enquiring politely about what kind of breakfast I'd had, she asked me about foreign policy.


I said, " don't worry about it. We've got the best brains in America making our foreign policy". She didn't like my answer. Then she asked me about Pakistan's minorities. I said, " you mean, people who don't agree with me?" She didn't like that either. So she asked me about women. Well, I wasn't about to tell HER! To cheer her up, I told Hillary how much I liked President Obama's public musing about issues. " It's very refreshing" I told her, " it reminds me of that sweet film, The Sound of Musing." Im the Dim








With external affairs minister S M Krishna publicly criticising the timing of home secretary G K Pillai's remarks linking the ISI to the perpetrators of the 26/11 attack, it is fast becoming clear that the government needs to do something about its members shooting their mouths off indiscriminately. It's bad enough that the home secretary went public with details of how David Coleman Headley had confessed to the ISI's involvement in 26/11 on the eve of the external affairs minister's trip to Pakistan, if that wasn't part of a coordinated and well thought out policy with home and external affairs ministries on the same page. But what's worse is Krishna openly rebuking Pillai and bringing ministerial turf wars out in public. To make matters murkier, Krishna was preceded by national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon pretty much endorsing what Pillai said.

This not only creates the impression that the government doesn't have a coherent policy for dealing with Pakistan, it also strengthens general perceptions about disarray within the ruling dispensation. The behaviour of Krishna or Pillai is comparable to that of certain Congress leaders such as Digvijay Singh, going against the principles of collective responsibility and accountability. Internal democracy is a commendable ideal. Leaders should be free to voice their opinions irrespective of the party or government line. However, this should be done at appropriate internal fora, where policies are thrashed out before being made official.

Once the government arrives at a decision, the spirit of accountability demands that its members stick to the decision and attempt sincerely to implement it. Otherwise, any decision it makes is meaningless. For instance, if senior leaders like Digvijay Singh continue to contradict the government line on its approach to the Maoist insurgency, it will not only jeopardise the anti-Naxal operations but also force measures that stymie internal democracy. The Congress gag order against its party office-bearers, asking them to address the media only on issues concerning their area of responsibility, is a case in point.

Those who are part of the ruling dispensation must realise that speaking in multiple voices or making the distinction between party and government to publicly disagree with colleagues has little benefit. Such perceived lack of coordination is enough to create a trust deficit between the government and its own people, not to mention with Pakistan. Our leaders and civil servants need to carefully measure their public statements, especially on matters related to national security and foreign policy. The distinction between democracy and anarchy has to be preserved.







A remarkable Test career ended at the picturesque stadium in Galle on Thursday. Mutthiah Muralitharan, arguably the greatest spinner in the history of cricket, spun yet another win for Sri Lanka. When he got Pragyan Ojha caught in the slips, he set a new high for bowlers. It'll take a while before any bowler gets even close to 800 Test wickets. If Don Bradman set the benchmark to assess a batsman, the bar for a spinner hereafter will be Murali. Those who wish to complain about his action must remember that Murali had passed the most stringent test the ICC could devise to judge the legality of a bowler's action. When Murali called it a day after 18 years and 133 matches as a Test cricketer, it also marked the end of an era that saw three great bowlers revive the fine art of spin bowling. The trio Murali, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble bamboozled batsmen all over the world. Together they managed over 2,000 Test wickets and reinvented spin bowling as an attacking option and an attractive career choice for would-be cricketers.

Cricket apart, Murali symbolises the possibilities that its multi-ethnic society holds for Sri Lanka. That a Tamil emerged as Sri Lanka's greatest sporting icon when that nation was fighting a bitter ethnic war, offers the hope that there is life beyond narrowly defined ethnic identities. When officials in Australia questioned Murali's bowling action, the Sri Lankan team and administration under Arjuna Ranatunga fiercely defended his honour. For a nation that needs to put aside the ravages of war and ethnic mistrust, there's perhaps no better example than Murali to inspire a process of mutual respect and reconciliation.








The UPA government's imaginative new keyboard-compatible symbol for the staid 'Rs', reducing four keystrokes to two, will distinguish India's rupee from the clutter of other countries that also use the word or some variation of it like Indonesia's rupiah. This ubiquity dates to a forgotten era long predating Pax Britannica and is a legacy of times when Indians ventured east not to conquer but to trade and left behind, as historians like A L Basham and George Coedes note, their culture throughout South East Asia.

If similar aspirations inspired the new symbol, the Congress must do more than merely make the rupee artistically exceptional and keyboard-efficient. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee must also safeguard what the currency represents by expanding the economy to include vast numbers of Indians subsisting on a handful of rupees.

In circulation since at least the 1540s when Sher Shah Suri established himself in the subcontinent by conquering Bengal, the rupee derives its name from the local word for silver. At that time a rupee coin was worth 13 ounces of silver but has dwindled today to a mere 0.0001! Devaluation is as much a product of global pressures as local choices. The European powers switched to the gold standard in the 19th century after seizing gold mines across the world. Meanwhile, Indians were progressively forced to trade exclusively with Britain at exchange rates fixed in faraway Europe to benefit Europeans. The result of European progress was India's currency going out of fashion while currency markets were manipulated against Indian traders.

Active colonial discouragement of industrialisation further devalued the rupee. In the British scheme, India produced cheap raw materials to be processed in England and sold back to us. Long before becoming viceroy, Lord Mountbatten noted Britain's "desire to keep India as a market for British manufactured goods after the war". In consequence, trade deficits continued after independence with matters coming to a head in 1966 when the rupee was devalued to finance imports. But the old problem reappeared in 1991 when Narasimha Rao as prime minister permitted the then finance minister, Manmohan Singh, to devalue the rupee again. This time however, the discipline of 40 years of industrialisation encouraged India to believe it could compete internationally, at least in some areas.

It was brave to take on western companies with all their advantages accrued over centuries of colonialism. By opening India to global competition, Rao invented a route out of the enforced poverty that is a legacy of colonial exploitation. It was an astute move to supplement industry with the service sector to provide the technical help that consumers demand, whether to set up laptop computers or book flights on widebody jets.

Yet, if the rupee is to compete with established world currencies on keyboards manufactured in China (where else?), it will require more than a new symbol. The only way to ensure our currency becomes internationally attractive is to ensure that India's economy is insulated from a clear and present threat.

A new UN report states that half a billion Indians live in abysmal poverty with no chance of improving their condition in the foreseeable future. Comparison highlights their humiliating plight. For instance, many of us are worse off than people in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Going beyond sophistry, there is no denying that it is these people who, ignored by the state and exploited by private entrepreneurs, are turning to the gun, justifying Manmohan Singh's oft-quoted comment that the greatest threat India faces is internal, not external.

A host of social, economic and political measures may be suggested to address the rebellion but they are known well enough to our rulers (or ought to be) and need no reiteration. The aim should be to make all Indians stakeholders in India not the cultural unit but the political entity by checking rising income inequality, creating opportunities to learn, work and earn and nationalising the freedoms taken for granted by the elite. Making stakeholders out of those who have lost faith in democratic politics is especially important for, as Rao famously said, "the answer to the problems of democracy, is more democracy".

Such challenges are not unique to India. Dwight Eisenhower warned that Americans "must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex". We, too, must guard against a similar phenomenon which began, ironically, when big business became deeply involved in political funding with Mahatma Gandhi's blessings. That compact is responsible for the cross-party consensus that still cloaks the nexus. We would be even prouder of India's 9 per cent growth if the growth were more evenly spread and if the politician-businessman relationship were less opaque.

India has forged ahead under Singh but needs more than keyboard nationalism to progress. Symbols demand substance: the rupee now reflects the economic activities of less than 7 per cent of the population ensconced in cities amidst a sea of rural deprivation, hopelessness and unrest. The time has come to rethink the role of economics in our democracy so that resources are not reserved by the elite, for the elite. Only then can the Indian rupee, however it is depicted, hold its head high among pounds, dollars and yens.

The writer is an historian.








Wasifuddin Dagar , president of the Dhrupad Society, represents the 20th generation of a family that has nurtured the dhrupad tradition in music. His forefathers were court musicians, dating back to the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar. Dagar, 42, spoke to Humra Quraishi :

Your father Faiyazuddin Dagar and his brother Zahiruddin Dagar always performed together. But you seem to prefer singing solo. Why?

After my father's death at the age of 57, i began performing with my uncle Zahiruddin sahib, who was also my guru and mentor. After his sudden death, i found that void too painful. So i decided to go solo. In fact, there is this deep bonding between any jugalbandi artists that is hard to describe. When i took my father's place as his jugalbandi partner, Zahiruddin sahib would often think that Faiyazuddin was still around. Though i would be sitting next to him, he would call out Faiyaz. Such is the connectivity between jugalbandi artists. But the jugalbandi tradition is still on. My two younger, Pune-based cousins, Nafeesuddin and Aneesuddin Dagar, perform as a jugalbandi pair.

It is said dhrupad is one of those art forms that impacts your very lifestyle. What's your view?

Yes, it's one of those classical art forms which has a spiritual and meditative base. So it's not enough to spend a minimum of 10 to15 years in trying to master it. Your lifestyle has to match that commitment. My father and uncle did not touch alcohol and kept themselves more or less away from worldly ways. For them it was total commitment and passion for dhrupad. It's the same for me.

We believe that it's Allah who is the Provider, who bestows on you your daily bread. In our rendering there's pulse for rhythm, pitch for 'swar' and pause for silence. Like mere words do not and cannot make a speech so just about any sort of music cannot reach or touch us. Our rendering starts with the tanpura in the background and then the alaap.

In the green room, the sound of the tanpura sets the raga and we can delve into that pure sound of the alaap for hours at a stretch, but sometimes even wrap it up in a few minutes depending on that particular moment. We can lose sense of time and space while singing and so do some listeners. It cannot be done at will, it happens only through His Grace and that is why we pray to Him to give us a good mood.

Has the economic recession affected the concert circuit?

Yes. As of now dhrupad concerts are only 2 per cent of the total number of concerts in the country, though abroad, particularly in France and in the US, we give more shows. And what surprises me is that strangely here in our country there is far more space given to foreign pop stars than classical artists. And again, what's dismaying is that even in our music shops there's only a small corner for classical music. The ministry of culture should take the classical and traditional forms further, not to the same set audience but to newer audiences.







I was driving from Washington to New York one afternoon when a car came zooming up behind me, really flying. I could see in the rearview mirror that the driver was talking on her cellphone.


I was about to move to the centre lane to get out of her way when she suddenly swerved into that lane herself to pass me on the right still chatting away. She continued moving dangerously from one lane to another as she sped up the highway.

A few days later, i was talking to a guy who commutes every day between New York and New Jersey. He props up his laptop on the front seat so he can watch DVDs while he's driving.

"I only do it in traffic," he said. "It's no big deal."

Beyond the obvious safety issues, why does anyone want, or need, to be talking constantly on the phone or watching movies (or texting) while driving? I hate to sound so 20th century, but what's wrong with just listening to the radio? The blessed wonders of technology are overwhelming us. We don't control them; they control us.

We've got cellphones and BlackBerrys and Kindles and iPads, and we're e-mailing and text-messaging and chatting and tweeting i used to call it Twittering until i was corrected by high school kids who patiently explained to me, as if i were the village idiot, that the correct term is tweeting. Twittering, tweeting - whatever it is, it sounds like a nervous disorder.

This is all part of what i think is one of the weirder aspects of our culture: a heightened freneticism that seems to demand that we be doing, at a minimum, two or three things every single moment of every hour that we're awake. Why is multitasking considered an admirable talent? We could just as easily think of it as a neurotic inability to concentrate for more than three seconds.

Why do we have to check our e-mail so many times a day, or keep our ears constantly attached to our cellphones? When you watch the news on cable television, there are often additional stories being scrolled across the bottom of the screen, stock market results blinking on the right of the screen, and promos for upcoming features on the left. These extras often block significant parts of the main item we're supposed to be watching.

Enough already with this hyperactive behaviour, this techno-tyranny and non-stop freneticism. We need to slow down and take a deep breath.

I'm not opposed to the remarkable technological advances of the past several years. I don't want to go back to typewriters and carbon paper and yellowing clips from the newspaper morgue. I just think that we should treat technology like any other tool. We should control it, bending it to our human purposes.

Let's put down at least some of these gadgets and spend a little time just being ourselves. One of the essential problems of our society is that we have a tendency, amid all the craziness that surrounds us, to lose sight of what is truly human in ourselves, and that includes our own individual needs those very special, mostly non-material things that would fulfil us, give meaning to our lives, enlarge us, and enable us to more easily embrace those around us.

We need to reduce the speed limits of our lives. We need to savour the trip. Leave the cellphone at home every once in a while. Try kissing more and tweeting less. And stop talking so much.


Other people have something to say, too. And when they don't, that glorious silence that you hear will have more to say to you than you ever imagined. That is when you will begin to hear your song. That's when your best thoughts take hold, and you become really you. NYTNS









One good turn deserves another. A truly devilish turn on the cricket pitch, however, can only come from a handful of great spin bowlers. Of this bunch, the greatest ever is Muttiah Muralitharan, who retired from Test cricket yesterday with an end that could only have been scripted by the Great Spinner In The Sky. Muralitharan's landmark 800th wicket came a few seconds after the ball flew from his whirling right palm — for the 371st time in the Galle Test match against India — and turned before seducing Pragyan Ojha's bat. The last ball of his Test career fittingly got him a wicket and stayed a quiverful of arrows that have been flying since a 20-year-old made his debut on August 28, 1992 against Australia.


The signs of genius became evident in Murali's very first Test match when one of his deliveries landed some two feet outside the off stump making batsman Tom Moody naturally 'leave' the ball. What no one reckoned for was the ball to turn sharper than a hairpin bend and knock Moody's leg stump back and get Murali's second wicket in his Test career. What followed, for 17 years and ten months, was one man making the laws of Newtonian physics play according to the rules of his wrist.


But being the highest wicket-taker in Test and One-Day cricket didn't come without obstacles. As cricket's first 'wrist'n'shoulder off-spinner', Murali was accused of 'chucking'. The infamous Test match against Australia in 1995, where umpire Darrell Hair kept 'no-balling' Murali for 'chucking', led to the International Cricket Council conducting biomechanical analyses on Murali's arm action. The conclusion: his bowling action was legit. Any other cricketer would have broken under such extraneous pressure. Murali just moved on — three years later scalping 16 wickets for 220 runs against England in England, bowling one of cricket's most incredible bowling spells: 54.2 overs in the second innings that claimed 9 wickets for 65 runs. He broke the record for highest wicket-taker twice, first crossing Courtney Walsh's 519 Test wickets in 2004 and then Shane Warne's 708.


As cricket in its various forms becomes increasingly batsmen-centric, the Test remaining the only format for an evenly balanced battle between ball and bat, it's a testament to Murali's genius that he has been not only the finest bowler the game has ever produced, but its finest player too. The records are just a confirmatory spin on the Muttiah Muralitharan story.




                                                                                                                                                          THE PUNDIT



Politics is going to pot. Or should it be flowerpots, judging by the heartwarming manner in which a Bihar woman MLC flung them about in the legislature? Madam Jyoti Debi of the Congress was incensed that the judiciary dared to ask for a probe into financial irregularities, something she and her colleagues feel should be left to them. We presume that since they have taken such an independent stand, they will also cough up for the damages in the Bihar assembly without the intervention of anyone else. Or could it be that the dear lady was offended by the aesthetics of the House and decided to do a little pruning and weeding herself?


All we can say is that these vigorous housekeeping methods have not led to the MLAs coming out of it all smelling of roses. And talking of olfactory matters, the poor toiling MLAs of Karnataka got a dose when they decided to have a little sleepover in the assembly earlier this month to protest against illegal mining allegedly masterminded by two ruling party MLAs. But given that they have the onerous duties of state on their overburdened shoulders, they did try to make things comfortable for themselves. So the menu included biryani and assorted snacks and bed linen. But to their horror, the long-suffering protestors found themselves confronted by rodents and cockroaches who did not take kindly to their nocturnal space being encroached upon. The sanitation facilities did not help either.


But here's an idea. Since our netas are always cribbing about the lack of housing, why not permanently assign them slots in the very Houses they so proudly represent?








Rachel served cappuccino in an oversize blue mug. Cafe owner Gunther told me he is searching for Phoebe to strum the guitar and sing Smelly Cat. Joey breezed past the peach couch, but it was a girl in a green T-shirt.


China's first coffee shop replica from the hit sitcom Friends — still the ultimate American lifestyle guide inside China —has not yet found a male Joey.


"I've watched Friends thrice since I was 17,'' Song Xiao Xing, now Rachel, told me breathlessly. A batch on her T-shirt declared 'I am Rachel. I hate serving people,' under the Central Perk logo copied from the fictional New York cafe where Friends Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe lounged for 10 series.


Nearly every Chinese student of English still talks about the series six years after it ended. Universities stock its pirated DVD to supplement English teaching.


And this month, Du Xin, 31, now known as China's Gunther, announced a Rachel hunt on the Chinese Internet.


In three days, 400 girls sent SMS applications.


Jennifer Aniston earned millions for her role that began as an endearingly incompetent waitress. Song, a Beijinger completing postgraduation in international relations, makes 10 yuan (Rs 70) per hour as Rachel.


"I'm crazy about Friends. Some Chinese customers watching it with us cry even,'' Du told HT. "The series taught me how to treat friends.''


Du grew up in a remote province near Russia. He returned last year after two years in the hotel industry in Amsterdam, still obsessed with Friends. His badge declares 'I am Gunther. Rachel is my girlfriend'. The cafe's glass wall has the Central Perk logo of a steaming cuppa. "It's not the cafe name, just a picture,'' Du clarified, lest we question copyright. Old Friends cafe opened recently, cramped in a sixth floor corner of a struggling Soho mall. It's cleverly drawing crowds in a city with surplus coffee shops.


The limited menu is printed only in Chinese. Two flat screen televisions screen Friends with Chinese and English subtitles.


Each Rachel contestant worked for a day. "If Rachel serves wrong coffee, no problem. The customer will understand,'' said Du.


On weekend Phoebe nights next month, Chinese girls will sing one whimsical Phoebe song and one of their own. Fans will vote online for the best Phoebe video. Something crashed. Gunther shook his head. "That's Rachel.''







When Karnataka's infamous Reddy brothers make their Diwali gift list this year, they might consider sending a large present to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Had she not chosen the traditional Congress bastion of Bellary as a safe constituency alternative to Amethi in 1999, the Reddy brothers may well have disappeared into the wilds of central Karnataka. That election changed their career graph, transforming them from small-time chit fund operators to unquestioned mining kings to de facto rulers of the state. Sonia's entry into the Bellary poll fray drew BJP's mascot Sushma Swaraj into the battle. The Reddys became Swaraj's poll managers and won her trust. The rest is now part of Karnataka political folklore, their rise exemplifying the ultimate triumph of contemporary political robber barons.


If Swaraj was their original political benefactor, then the 2008 Beijing Olympics was their passport to the big money league. As the Reddys expanded their mining business, Beijing increased its appetite for iron ore. Incredible profit margins from overloaded trucks — estimated to be around Rs 20 crore per day — began to multiply as the Reddys acquired more mining leases. Mining, in a sense, was ideally suited for the Reddys' vaulting ambitions. Poorly regulated, still run through discretionary licences and government largesse, mining leases could be obtained through a mix of local-level muscle and manipulation. The Reddys were clearly adept at both.


In the process, they have overturned the traditional rules of Indian politics. Conventional wisdom suggests that caste is the key determinant of political power. The rise of the Mandal forces has accentuated the belief that social engineering is critical to building a political base. Then, whether it be the Yadavs of the Hindi heartland or the Dravidian parties in the South, caste loyalties are seen to be the defining badge of political mobility. In Karnataka, too, the Lingayats and the Vokkaligas have emerged as the main competitors for backward class dominance in the state's caste cauldron.


The Reddys have changed the rules of the game. The Reddy brothers — Karunakara, Janardhana, and Somasekhara — are originally Andhra Reddys, with strong ties to their home state. In Karnataka, the Andhra Reddys number only a few lakh, making them a marginal votebank. But what they didn't have in votes, the Reddys have more than made up with 'notes'. By building a vast treasure chest through their extensive mining operations, they have created a situation where money power is a substitute to caste power. In a sense, they have almost rendered caste irrelevant, creating the basis for a new form of  post-Mandal politics.


Today, more than 60 MLAs in the 117-member BJP state legislature party owe allegiance to the Reddy brothers. It's believed that in the 2008 elections, the Reddys 'sponsored' at least 75 candidates. When the BJP needed independent MLAs, the Reddys 'organised' the support. Last year, when the Reddys virtually challenged Chief Minister's B.S. Yeddyurappa's authority to appoint his cabinet, they succeeded in reducing him to tears on national television. This year, they have already forced a resignation of the Lok Ayukta (since taken back) and openly confronted the governor. Whether it is the transfer and appointments of officials or granting government contracts, the Reddys run Karnataka as extra-constitutional figures heading an independent 'Reddy republic'.


In the process, they have also shown just how far the BJP has moved from its claim of being a 'party with a difference'. That the party's central leadership appears helpless to rein in the Reddys only confirms the weakness of a political order where desperation to retain power leads to compromising on basic principles. Karnataka, after all, was to have been the saffron forces' 'gateway to the South'. The party couldn't afford to let it go. If that meant winking at instances of obvious corruption and a flourishing illegal mining business, then it was seen as a small price to pay.


But why blame the BJP alone? The Reddys' business empire has been remarkably politically neutral. The Congress's regional satrap, the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, gave his Karnataka brethren mining leases in Andhra Pradesh. To stay ahead of the system, the Reddys were freely allowed to change the boundaries of their cross-border mines, even acquiring vast tracts of land well beyond the original lease. Without YSR's benevolent gaze, the Reddys couldn't have spread their businesses so widely across two states. In Andhra, YSR patronised them, in Karnataka the BJP legitimised them.


In a way, their phenomenal growth story — their father was a local head constable — is inspiring similar stories across different states. If, in Karnataka, it is mining that is seen to provide the vast riches needed to acquire political control, in neighbouring Maharashtra, real estate provides a similar opportunity. For example, in the last assembly elections in Maharashtra, more than half the candidates of the major parties in Mumbai and Pune listed construction as the main source of their income. If the mining mafia rules Karnataka, the builder lobby now runs urban Maharashtra.


The modus operandi is similar. Set up a potentially cash-rich business and get into a benami partnership with an

influential politician. Use the political patronage to acquire large projects. Once a sizeable corpus is created, distribute the wealth in a manner that you're able to subvert the legal system by bribing and manipulation. A stage is reached when the political class becomes dependent on you. At that moment, you have the choice of becoming a neta and using money power to literally 'buy' your way to the top. That's exactly what the Reddys did in Karnataka. That's what many other aspiring political entrepreneurs are attempting in other states.


Post-script: The Reddys' latest project is to set up a Kannada news channel. Like other far-sighted netas, they too have realised that the best way to control the media is to take it over.


Rajdeep Sardesai is Editor-in-Chief , IBN Network. The views expressed by the author are personal









From the moment Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi agreed to take a second round of questions from Pakistani journalists in Islamabad last week, it was clear that the much awaited — and the carefully choreographed — meeting between the two foreign ministers had exploded in their faces. The anger felt in India is, therefore, understandable. But it's obscured the question that everyone should have immediately asked: what went wrong?


With the benefit of hindsight, it's apparent that, starting from the Thimpu meeting of the two prime ministers, both sides had prepared meticulously for the talks. What seems to have been absent, however, was an understanding of the other side's needs and constraints and of the demands that would emerge from them. Neither had, therefore, fashioned constructive responses that would have taken these into account. The first exchange that revealed the gap between the two delegations was Qureshi's retort to Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna's mention of Hafiz Saeed — that the Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai's statement on Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Saeed guiding and monitoring the terrorist attack on Mumbai was 'uncalled for'. Qureshi didn't say that the statement itself was wrong, only that it shouldn't have been made in a public forum on the very eve of the Islamabad meeting. It's difficult to disagree with him.


The news itself wasn't new. But by making it public just before the talks, India brought both the Pakistani army and the large right wing of the Pakistani media into the picture. Last week both were seething with rage. Qureshi was, therefore, left with only two choices: either brazenly rebut the accusation or get something else out of the conference that allows him to claim a measure of success. He tried to do the latter.


According to media reports, Qureshi suggested to Krishna that they should make a statement that the two governments would take up the Kashmir and Siachen issues in their next meeting. Had Krishna understood the pressure Qureshi was under, he could have met him halfway with ease. But the moment he heard the 'K' word, Krishna dug his heels in. This left Qureshi with nothing to show for the conference.


Despite this, the talks didn't break down. Qureshi accepted Krishna's observation that Kashmir had an elected government and a chief minister. He also referred to Indian Kashmir as Jammu and Kashmir and not as Indian-Occupied Kashmir. Krishna, on his part, also tacitly accepted that Pillai's statement had been uncalled for. It's ironic that these remarkable acts of courage are precisely the ones for which both ministers are being pilloried in their own countries.


But if Delhi didn't understand Islamabad's constraints, Islamabad didn't understand Delhi's either. India has been under attack from Pakistan-based terrorists for over a decade. Pakistan has insisted that it is unable to control them and is itself their victim. Then came two pieces of detailed, first-hand information — from the confessions of Kasab and Headley — that confirm that the Pakistani army was behind the Mumbai attack, and that the ISI is not only sheltering Lashkar-e-Tayyeba terrorists and elements of the Taliban, but also helping them to forge links with al-Qaeda.

Delhi couldn't make any commitments, let alone time-bound ones, till Pakistan was at least prepared to admit

that its army had continued to use terrorism as an instrument of policy abroad. But that is something that no elected government in Pakistan has had the courage, or indeed the power, to do.

Prem Shankar Jha is a former media adviser to the prime minister. The views expressed by the author are personal








The cricket world will remember this day as the one on which its greatest offspinner rolled his arm over for the last time in Tests. It was a day rich in emotion and scripted perfectly, as Muttiah Muralitharan ended his career by picking up his 800th Test wicket with the last ball he bowled.


But, in rather typical fashion, the affable Sri Lankan turned it into a day in which he honoured those who taught him the game, and showed that he is not short of gratitude.


Among his special invitees were Sunil Fernando, who coached him in school, and Daryl Foster, who worked with him first at Kent and then in western Australia's biomechanics lab when accusations of chucking were being hurled at him.


Murali's family was there too: parents Sinnasamy Muttiah and Lakshmi, Chennai-born wife Madhimalar and

son Naren, along with his brothers Shashi, Prabhu and Shree. The significance of the day was lost on young Naren but the others were delirious with delight.

"It was very, very important to him that the whole family be present to watch him today," Madhimalar told the Hindustan Times as the presentation ceremony unfolded after the game. "It's his milestone and you can imagine how much we wanted to be here for him."


But Murali's loyalty goes beyond family. "He never ever forgets people who have helped in his most difficult times," explained Madhimalar. "He wanted all the people who went out of the way to help him when he was in trouble to be here and celebrate with him."









Memory may hold many things nasty and brutish. But it's invariably short. Nicolae Ceausescu, retrospectively for the free world, ran for 25 years the most oppressive of the East Bloc's totalitarian communist regimes. Retrospectively, because for long he had been the least disliked (or best liked) communist dictator in the West, earning visits by Richard Nixon and Charles de Gaulle, an invitation from Jimmy Carter, a knighthood from the Queen, not least because he had stayed off the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. He also created for himself a public persona that surprised the uninformed outsider when, in 1989, Romania became the only East Bloc dictatorship to undergo a bloody, un-Velvet Revolution, with the massacre of a 1000 and the execution of the tyrant and his wife on Christmas Day.


As Nicolae and Elena posthumously make news with the exhumation of their bodies, Romanians will not be able to avoid revisiting the years of their country's systematic destruction — industrial failure, economic collapse, famine, a Kafkaesque police state, an inexplicable ban on contraception (presided over by Elena) that created Romania's infamous orphanages. What began as the deceased couple's late daughter Zoia's legal battle to confirm her parents are indeed buried in the Ghencea military cemetery (taken up by her brother Valentin and her husband after her death in 2006) did see a handful of people turn up at the exhumation.


In December 1989, few Romanians on the right side of history regretted the Ceausescus' fate. Now, it's not just the elderly nostalgic for what they believe they remember as stabler, more secure times, but many younger revisionists who think Ceausescu's only failure was starving the country. Ceausescu's iron fist hammered Romania for 25 years. It's taken only 20 years, and ironically the freedom enjoyed since 1989, to make fact defeat imagination.






India is one of the most dangerous places to drive — 10 per cent of the world's road accidents happen right here. Our streets present a challenge all their own, where streams of speeding cars contend with bullying trucks, scooters and motorbikes list and weave dangerously, people think it's sissy not to jaywalk, and cows can serenely amble out into the roads. The pile-ups and accidents cost us and are disproportionately unfair on the poor — cyclists and pedestrians are clearly the most vulnerable.


The UN General Assembly has announced that this decade would be dedicated to action on road safety, given the frightening projection of 1.9 million fatalities by 2020. India must get its act together, urgently. And now, recommending a complete and exhaustive road safety policy, a parliamentary standing committee has suggested scrapping the bill currently under consideration that only covers national highways. The recommendation of a National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board has also been swatted down — the parliamentary panel thought it too wishy-washy, given that it will only have advisory powers and cannot coordinate among various components, which makes further legislation inevitable. Whether our roads are ready or not, India's crush of cars is only going to intensify. And while it's unfair to deny anyone the comfort and mobility of their own set of wheels, we have to counter the hazards with public safety interventions. The gains from regulation on random breath tests, mandatory seat-belt wearing, better speed-management strategies, etc have also exhausted themselves as more vehicles pile on the roads. But tiny tweaks in transport management can produce enormous drops in fatalities. For instance, clear signs and road delineations, and accessible thoroughways — overbridges and underpasses — dramatically increase safety.


A concerted road safety plan must include public awareness campaigns, to drill home the risks of bad behaviour, a strict enforcement regime and a consistent penalty system. Vehicle design and road infrastructure elements should also be a vital part of the plan. We cannot afford to be lax about our roads any longer.








Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in a meeting with West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta and other members of the empowered committee of state finance ministers on Wednesday, announced what he believed the structure of the rollout of the goods and services tax, or GST, should be. It's more complex than most would like: for a couple of years, starting from April 2011, two levels of taxes on goods are proposed; there will be no single GST before, at best, 2014. Even then, at least 100 products are exempted. The states' finance ministers now have to take a look at the structure and sign off on it. Several will be unhappy; Uttarakhand, MP and Karnataka (interestingly, all BJP-ruled states) have consistently demanded higher initial tax rates.


There will be legitimate concerns that, even so, the Central government has given away too much in its proposal. The idea behind a uniform GST — what Kelkar, in his report on the subject, called "flawless" — is to cut down on exemptions and loopholes, raise compliance, and increase efficiency. Kelkar's own estimate is that it could boost GDP by as much as a couple of percentage points. Diluting that idea is deeply problematic; even a minuscule flaw could, like a leak in a dam, impact effectiveness disproportionately. Yes, getting the GST done requires consensus from the states, which leaves the final structure hostage to irrational holdouts. But it is not as if the Centre has nothing to offer but sweet persuasion; states, till now, don't tax services, and the prospect of income from service taxes could have been used to nudge them towards more comprehensive reform. Has enough been done to push a grand bargain? This new plan does not, for example, clearly lay out a unified structure for tax administration.


On the other hand, from a political point of view, the Centre's commitment to the GST has been demonstrated. It has been spoken of often enough; but, till this week, it has been too inchoate. A schedule gives us something to argue about; and it, even if delayed and dilatory, is still reasonably ambitious. Most state finance ministers did sign on to something while they were in New Delhi for the GST meeting: an IT backbone, to be implemented in coordination with the Unique ID Authority of India. In participating states, taxpayers will face one common network for both state and Central taxes, while the auditing systems will remain separate. Work, it is claimed, will be done in six months. Some of that urgency must transfer itself to the states yet to agree to the overall proposal.










Politicians, from the ruling party and opposition alike, are grappling with the problem of how to effectively communicate with their constituencies on the issue of high food inflation. One had thought it would be easy for the opposition to mount a campaign on rising prices against the ruling coalition, but it appears that inflation and its impact on the political economy is far more complex today than it was 10 years ago. If you get an average GDP growth of 8 per cent plus, as has been the case since 2004, per capita income would double every 10 years. Rising incomes create new demand dynamics, and therefore we see higher prices of food, fuel and other commodities. Since foodgrain production has been more or less stagnant for many years, food prices tend to show greater volatility. This is plain economics.


However, the problem of inflation becomes more complex when you demographically slice the political economy and look at how incomes are rising among the various sections of the population. Since growth and productivity are happening much faster in industry and services, it is logical that incomes are rising faster among these sections. Incomes in the agriculture sector, especially in the small and medium farms, may not be rising as quickly as among those engaged in manufacturing activity or services.


Politicians are still trying to understand this new phenomenon. In the absence of reliable research — a lot of it is

ideologically coloured — politicians tend to use their gut instinct and opt for direct income support to sections of the population which are poor and where incomes are not growing fast enough. The launch of the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme and the farm loan waivers were based on similar assumptions. Subsequently, another set of researchers showed that the inflation rate had gone up more in places where NREGA was well implemented! Now we are also being told that farm labour is generally becoming more expensive in many states like Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Haryana. For instance, an association of agriculturists in Vijayawada told me some time ago the average age of farmers in coastal Andhra Pradesh is now above 50. Younger people are rapidly moving out of agriculture, into other activities. There is shortage of good farm hands.


Consequently, there is talk of rising wage inflation across many states in India. In the more industrialised states like Tamil Nadu and Haryana, industrial workers are organising protests to demand better pay scales. A new form of trade unionism appears to be taking shape in the manufacturing sector. The BPO industry in Bangalore and other cities is also complaining about rising wage pressures.


In short, the economy in urban and rural India is undergoing rapid change and the political class is still trying to understand what is going on. The higher inflation rate is but a manifestation of some of these critical shifts happening in the economy. The phenomenon gets exacerbated further when the Centre and states do not manage the existing food distribution system to insulate the very vulnerable from rising food and fuel prices. Dr Rangarajan, chairman of Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council admitted at an Indian Express Idea Exchange that the government could have acted faster to release foodgrains from its buffer stocks into the open market some time ago when food inflation was touching 20 per cent. The bureaucracy wasted a lot of time debating at what price the FCI must release food stocks in the open market. Finally, a call was taken to sell it at the cost of procurement plus freight charges.


With reasonably good rains having arrived, the UPA is projecting the food inflation rate to come down to about 7 per cent in a few months. Manufactured items, with a 64 per cent weightage in the wholesale price index, are also expected to stay in the 6-7 per cent range by the year-end. With fuel price inflation at over 12 per cent, the overall inflation rate could come down to about 8 per cent by December.


Single-digit inflation rate will certainly give the UPA some psychological relief. However, the Centre must not become complacent in regard to some of the serious structural problems that have developed in our food economy. The key structural issue is the need to drastically enhance food production through improved agriculture yields and productivity. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has admitted that India's stagnant agriculture sector needs a second technology revolution. If this does not happen, shortage of food will persist on a more regular basis and a population with rising incomes will become net importers of food permanently. Some incipient signs of this can already be seen. One fact that is often overlooked is that the government has dropped the import duty on a large number of food and agriculture items to zero with the sole aim of combating food inflation in the short to medium term. Whether it is wheat, non-basmati rice, pulses, cotton, sugar or milk powder, the import duty on all these items have been near zero for quite a while now. Until food inflation settles down on a more permanent basis, the government will be loath to raise import duty on these items.


However, if import duty on mass consumption items are kept at zero the domestic farm sector ends up suffering negative duty protection vis-a-vis the US and European Union where massive farm subsidies — over $150 billion — are given to farmers as direct income support which helps them sell at 40-50 per cent lower than the cost price internationally. Can Indian farmers compete and scale up production in such a situation? If India wants to combat recurring food inflation by keeping import duty at zero and yet meet its long-term objective of enhancing agriculture production, the government will have to start giving massive direct income/ subsidy support to our farmers in the same way the EU and US had been doing in the past. We will have to go down the same path. It is the great paradox of agriculture economics that as yields and productivity rose dramatically in the West due to better practices, so did subsidy support to farmers which ensured that higher production did not result in the collapse of prices. In the years ahead, India too will have no option but to give massive income support to farmers to enhance domestic production. It will also have to give massive subsidy to the very poor consumers at the other end. The political economy of food will mandate such a complex arrangement.


The writer is Managing Editor, 'The Financial Express'







There is much heat and little light in the media and civil society debates on "honour killings". I have previously offered two hypotheses regarding the intensification of khap activism and honour killings. Regions where both phenomena predominate are typically low sex ratio areas propelling "deadly" competition over marriageable women (considering that marriage in India remains compulsory and age at marriage remains abysmally low, the competition kicks in while girls are quite young). Equally, parents are losing hold over deciding who their children will marry — the beginning of a momentous shift in a country that is known for two sorts of seminal intergenerational contracts — one, that sons will look after old parents and two, that parents will arrange the marriages of their progeny. Both today are being challenged by self-choice marriages. An equally important third factor is the "in process" challenge to caste restrictions on marriage. In a caste-bound and hypergamous society, where the rule is that a woman must marry up and never down, inter-caste marriages in which the women are often higher caste and the men lower, often Dalit, brings on the ire of the upper castes. Intra-caste marriage reproduces caste exclusivity while inter-caste marriage strikes at its very roots.


But let us take another perspective on "honour killings" — I would prefer to include these in a category I call "family murders". Other similar murders that can be included in this category are dowry murders, involving husbands and in-laws; female foeticide and infanticide, involving "to-be-parents", parents, and grandparents; crimes of passion in which people are involved in an intimate relationship, or jilted lovers taking to murder. What shocks us about such murders is that they are perpetrated by close and trusted relatives, by those who we normally expect to love, nurture and protect us. Family murders strike at our self -image as a society of close-knit, resilient families in a world where we feel the family has largely self-destructed.


In recent times, feminist activism has been pushing the state to take steps to address honour killings. In response, khap panchayats and Haryana-western UP society are claiming legitimacy for the khap diktats on the basis of "our culture". In a world that valorises cultural diversity and should do so, individuals and communities sometimes take recourse to the strategy of what is called "cultural defence". In the US, perpetrators of family or intimate crimes have often got lighter sentences by claiming that their culture justified such killings. Into this fall such offences as abduction of women (justified by a cultural claim of "marriage by capture"(Hmong), killing an adulterous wife (justified in many South Asian and Middle Eastern societies); mother-child suicide if the husband is unfaithful (Japan and China), etc.


Can Haryanvi or western UP culture be allowed as defence for honour killings? Some have argued against sagotra marriages on grounds of genetic proximity. But it is very rare (if at all) that the couples being killed have been closely related biologically. And patterns of marriage in other parts of the country, for instance, cross-cousin (between children of opposite sex siblings) and uncle-niece marriage in the south — have not had any noticeable genetic ill-effects. Another emotional Haryanvi defender recently asked activists how they would feel if their own school-going daughters began eloping at the age of 14-15. The contention would be that they, the Haryanvis, were interested in their daughters' welfare and didn't wish them to enter early marriages. But these are the very same people asking for a lowering of the marriage age! So are they objecting to elopement, early marriage or the fact that these marriages are somehow "wrong" in their eyes?


What other "good things" are being protected by culture in these parts? The argument is that all young people

belonging to a village or a group of villages are like brothers and sisters and must behave accordingly, and that this affords protection to women. To begin with, this hides the widespread exploitation of Dalit women by upper-caste landlords — what happens to the brotherly feeling then? Secondly, the traditional rules of marriage came about in a particular historical and demographic context and have become redundant today. Instead of initiating new laws our political class should be willing to do the hard work of taking the lead in working with communities to help them understand and cope with the deep changes taking place in their lives. If they want khaps to remain important social institutions, they have to help and advise khaps to address important issues such as female foeticide, lack of inheritance among women, new gender equations and the aspirations of young people.


The writer teaches at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi








A few years ago, at a very friendly social dinner, one senior Chinese official and one senior Indian official (who are good friends and work together in a major regional organisation) were happily joking and jostling with each other about the relative merits and strengths of China and India as great powers. In so doing, the Chinese official made a profound comment. 


He said China faced many real challenges in its relationships with other great powers, like the US and Japan and even UK and France. And he gave examples. Then he noted how India was facing challenges with its neighbours like Pakistan and Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. He concluded, in a joking tone, that if India was to become a great power it should upgrade its adversaries from small neighbouring countries to other large great powers, like China had. 


This Chinese official may well have a point. One other point he could have made was how successful China had been in improving its relations with all of its smaller neighbours. And it has succeeded despite huge political obstacles. Take the long-divided Korean peninsula, which remains one of the most dangerous places in the world (as demonstrated by the recent sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan on 26 March). China is, of course, the last major supporter of the isolated and beleaguered North Korean government. Despite this, it has managed to establish diplomatic relations with South Korea. Even more importantly, trade between South Korea and China has grown in spectacular fashion, from $41 billion in 1992 when diplomatic relations were established to $156 billion in 2009. The main defender of South Korea is the US, while the main defender of North Korea is China. Yet, South Korea now trades far more with China than with the US (approximately $80 billion), while the US-South Korea FTA cannot even be ratified by the US Congress. All this reflects China's geopolitical competence. 


Similarly, when ASEAN was founded in 1967, the main opposition came from China. China declared loudly and vociferously on its founding that "ASEAN was a tool of American imperialists aiming at containing China and other communist powers." ASEAN was clearly seen as a pro-American organisation. Yet, 20 years after the Cold War ended (a Cold War that was allegedly won by America), ASEAN collectively now has far closer relations with China than with America. In a stunning geopolitical move, China proposed, negotiated and concluded an FTA with ASEAN in record time, a move that led to diplomatic jaw-dropping in Washington DC and Tokyo, two of ASEAN's traditional allies. And now China's trade with ASEAN in 2009 ($213 billion) has clearly surpassed ASEAN's trade with the US ($177 billion).  


But the most dramatic geopolitical move that China carried out was with an adversary that could have caused a serious war for China, with far-reaching negative repercussions. That "adversary" is, of course, Taiwan. Taiwan and the People's Republic of China are seemingly locked into an implacable hostility, with both claiming to be the legitimate government of China. Indeed, in the past decade or two, China and Taiwan have had close shaves, with Bill Clinton threatening to send two aircraft carriers through the Taiwan Straits in 1996. Against this backdrop of overt geopolitical hostility, it is remarkable how far China has progressed in establishing a mutually beneficial economic relationship with Taiwan. 


This is why the world should pay careful attention to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) that China and Taiwan concluded on June 29. In theory, the ECFA is not a full-scale FTA. In practice, it is probably the most generous economic agreement China has signed. China has given Taiwan more benefits than it gave to ASEAN in the China-ASEAN FTA. For example, China has agreed to make tariff cuts for 593 finished products for Taiwan as opposed to the 400 products for ASEAN. 


These generous economic concessions will, in reality, cost little for China. The polar opposite of a close

relationship with Taiwan would be total hostility, which could lead dangerously to a possible war with the US, since the US Congress has mandated that the US has an obligation to defend Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. The economic concessions by China seem trivial compared to the costs of possible hostility with Taiwan and the US. Any "rational choice" model of decision-making will confirm that China is doing the right thing in making these unilateral economic concessions. 


While relations between India and its neighbours have improved quite a bit under the current government, it could certainly be even better. The relations between India and its neighbours are, of course, more complicated than China's relations with its neighbours. Despite this, it may be useful to ask if China's methods of improving ties with its neighbours can be emulated in the South Asian subcontinent. While India has started the process of cooperation with neighbours like Sri Lanka, (with whom it has an FTA), it may even be possible to conceive a pilot project with one of India's most promising neighbours: Bangladesh.  


In theory, relations between Bangladesh and India should be close since the Indian military made a major sacrifice in liberating Bangladesh in 1971. In practice, relations have not been close. Fortunately, with a new government in Dhaka, relations between India and Bangladesh appear to be doing better. This may well provide an opportune moment for trying out something new. Even a plain vanilla FTA between India and Bangladesh would be a valuable first step. (Note that agreement on a South Asian Free Trade Area was concluded at the 12th SAARC summit on January 6, 2004. India and Pakistan have signed but not ratified the treaty. It is not clear when it will effectively come into force.) 


There is no doubt that it is much easier for a communist-party controlled government like China's to sign FTAs than it is for a democratic government like India's. The Indian government, almost by definition, has to be more sensitive to public opinion and negotiate its way carefully taking into account special domestic interests, that may be opposed to FTAs. The reason why India took a longer time to conclude its FTA with ASEAN was because of the Indian farm sector's protest over products such as fish, rubber and palm oil. India may never be able to catch up with China but it can at least start moving in the direction of significantly improving its ties with its neighbours. Modern great powers treat their neighbours magnanimously, like the USA vis-a-vis Mexico and China vis-a-vis Vietnam.  When India does the same, the day might come for the senior Indian official to tell his Chinese counterpart: "We have upgraded our adversaries to the great powers. Hence, we too are playing in the A-League of geopolitical football." 


This inaugurates a regular column from the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew school of public policy at the National University of Singapore








Before paying tributes to the great Muttiah Muralitharan, first a request to those with a geometry box in hands and wearing "I love Darrell Hair" T-shirts. If not for the man but for the sheer weight of the numbers — 800 wickets from 133 Tests in 18 years — can the javelins be put away to applaud the most successful wicket-takers' walk into the sunset at Galle.


Harping merely on the angle on his bent arm would see one miss the other dimensions of the fascinating story of a village boy's journey through the muddy and messy extreme obstacle course. Had he been a softie, he wouldn't even have reached 100 Test wickets. Critics say he bent the rules but the more broadminded view is that Murali merely pushed the envelope. The will to succeed and the constant endeavour to improve took Murali to uncharted heights. A big off-spinner and a doosra are weapons that many around the world possess but the wiliness of Murali is a rare commodity.


Broad willows and skilful batsmen with bulging muscles were pushing the finger spinners to extinction. Batsmen stepping out of the crease and lofting the ball over the fence were a common sight for most off-spinners. But as Murali constantly rediscovered himself, there was hope for the spinners around the world.


There is an old story that Murali's mate from his early days, Chandika Hathurusinghe, loves to narrate. It shows

how even when the halo of a spin legend wasn't around his head, Murali never believed in being second-best at anything he did. At the Tamil Cricket Club ground in the late '80s, Murali was seen as a yokel from Kandy by the city slickers from Colombo. After a hard net session, the boys played pool at the club house to relax and hand around.


There were smirks and snide remarks as a fumbling Murali threatened the green baize surface with his clumsy shots. But within a fortnight there was a magical transformation as Murali was beating everyone around. Hathurusinghe was later told by one of the markers at the club that Murali used to come three hours before the cricket nets commenced to master his cue skills. Murali always believed in walking the extra mile to keep a distance with failure.


His "doosra" discovery in the mid-'90s too was one such instance since his big off-spinners were getting predictable. In years to come many of his team mates took the less-travelled path. Malinga the slinger, Mendis the carom ball specialist and Dilshan of the "scoop shot" fame dared to dream differently after the success of their legendary teammate.


In the last few years of his career, Murali came up with a new variation. With the umpires consistently negating his lbw appeals off the doosra from over-the-wicket, Murali went on to the other side of the stumps to cut the angle. Like was the case during the 2008 series against India, in the final Test at Galle, Murali's changed path helped him reach the 800 mark.


The Sri Lankan superstar's constant ticking brain added intrigue to the game. Understanding the unseen mind-game that he constantly played with the batsmen made Test cricket an intellectual pursuit. One could never properly appreciate the work of the genius bowler merely by watching the "wickets package" at the end of the day's play. It needed patience to uncover Murali, to get an insight into his well-laid out plans. Sprawled on the couch, legs on the table, with the television remote control in safe custody is — was — the only way to watch a Murali spell. His overs ended like a soap opera episode that triggered a "what next?" anticipation. Missing the continuity spoiled the fun. After several innocuous-looking balls, the magic moment would come and that in an instant would explain everything. The bolt-from-the-blue big off-spinner that hits the stumps explained why he had bowled the long-hop outside the off-stump earlier in the over. And it is only after Yuvraj Singh edges a just-short-of-good-length doosra to the slips that one can explain why Murali had fed him an overpitched ball before that. And, as the batsman would be walking back to the pavilion like a man who had just been conned, it was tough to feel for him — since that was your moment of clarity, as you had just got an insight into the mind of the genius. All those geometry-obsessed people in Darrell Hair T-shirts should talk about the bent of his mind too.







Mea Culpa was the message delivered to Asia by the managing director of the International Monetary Fund,


Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Speaking here at a conference on Asian prospects, which brought together finance ministers, central bankers and others, he admitted past IMF mistakes and made it plain that after years of icy post-Asian-crisis relations it was essential for the IMF to reflect the Eastward shift in global economic gravity.


It was also clear to his mostly Asian audience — and not least the host nation — that the divisions within Asia make it essential that the IMF play a significant role in Asia as well as globally. It seemed poignant that South Korea — in 1998 the recipient of the IMF's overdoses of financial purgatives — is currently chair of the Group of 20, which has emerged from the Western financial crisis as the most important of global groupings.


Naturally, this is cause for much flag waving and satisfaction about Asian successes in overcoming the recent recession while continuing to increase Asia's share of global trade and build ever-larger foreign reserves. Yet dynamic, middle-sized nations like South Korea recognise that they have a particular interest in ensuring that global institutions such as the IMF and the World Trade Organisation do not wither, but serve as tools for the broader base of power represented by the G-20.


Asia is now a major lender to the IMF, rather than a recipient of its support. Its position should be used to increase Asia's role in the organisation, which was crucial to the open trading and financial systems from which most of Asia has benefited so much over the past 50 years.


There is recognition, too, that for the foreseeable future Asian regional organisations cannot be a substitute for global ones. There does now exist the seed of an Asian Monetary Fund in a $120 billion lending facility established by China, Japan, South Korea and the 10 members of ASEAN.


But this new fund represents a tiny fraction of the contributors' combined reserves; it has yet to be tested in

practice, and has only the beginnings of an institutional framework. Progress is always hobbled by Chinese-Japanese rivalry. It is clearly insufficient for the size, speed and contagion of modern financial crises. Nor is there any prospect that it can be expanded to include India. For these purposes Asia stops at the Bay of Bengal.


But the IMF, which once saw any potential Asian Monetary Fund as a threat and opposed a Japanese effort to create one in 1998, is now recognising that such regional organisations are complementary, not competitive, to its own role. Indeed, the recent crisis in Europe showed that even the mighty eurozone needed the IMF as a complement to its own resources, in expertise as well as cash.


South Korea, in its role as G-20 chairman, is trying to take the notion of burden-sharing to mitigate financial mishaps a step further with a proposal for cross-border safety nets that would obviate the perceived need for huge exchange reserves to guard against sudden capital flight. The post-Asian crisis search for ever bigger reserves has contributed to global trade imbalances.


South Korea is also looking at ways of reducing the political stigma attached to the sort of medicine recently imposed on Greece and still a painful memory here. East Asian nations, with their cash hoards and records of successful economic management, surely need to be playing a larger global role via the IMF. But not all the future lies with this part of Asia, where several economies are mature and all face demographic challenges in the not-too-distant future.


Trade and financial links between maturing East Asia on the one hand, and youthful South and West Asia on the other, are weak. They are improving, but the needs of the latter are far more likely to be met through global organisations than ones dominated by East Asia — even assuming that China and Japan can cooperate.


Meanwhile, medium-size, trade-oriented countries like South Korea know very well that they have a bigger stake in the success of global institutions than China or even the United States, which for so long has been their godfather.


Welcome back to East Asia, IMF!







More than most of the founders of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson has a way of returning to the news cycle. Using spectral imaging technology, the Library of Congress recently discovered a fascinating ghost inside an early draft of the Declaration of Independence. The faint trace of a rejected word — "subjects" — could be seen beneath the word that made it into the final document, "citizens."


That simple word change said it all, shifting the polarities and insisting that power flowed from the bottom up, not the other way around. Jefferson's erasure still guides U.S. foreign policy, 234 years later. God knows we are imperfect messengers, but America's founding document still converts "subjects" to "citizens" everywhere it is read.


Sometimes Jeffersonian seedlings sprout naturally; at other times a bit of cultivation is needed. The notion that the United States is in the business of spreading democracy worldwide has taken its share of abuse — it seems doubtful that it is the mission of America to fight tyranny wherever it exists, as President George W. Bush insisted in his second inaugural. But the core belief that people everywhere should elect their own governments has shaped every administration since the beginning. Just before he died, on the 50th anniversary of his great document, Jefferson wrote that he hoped self-government would come to the entire world ("to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all").


The most parched terrain for American idealism has always been the Middle East, a fact Jefferson knew well. To a surprising degree, his life intersected with the peoples and cultures there. As a young man, he bought a copy of the Koran — a curious fact noted by President Obama in his Cairo speech of June 2009. Happily, the book still exists — indeed, it was called into service in 2007, when Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, needed a book to place his hand on as he was sworn into office. (Fortunately, it was intact — one shudders to think about the firestorm if Jefferson had altered his Koran as he did his copy of the Bible, rearranging text to better suit his sense of what was credible.)


Jefferson encountered the Middle East in many other ways as well, beginning with the vicarious travels he performed as a reader. A relentless autodidact, he tried to teach himself Arabic (he acquired Arabic grammars, an Arabic Euclid, and gospels in Arabic and Latin). In the late 1770s he drafted a bill that urged his college, William and Mary, to teach oriental languages. When he authored his bill for establishing religious freedom, he wrote that it was intended to "protect the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo and infidel of every denomination."


This unusual cultural sensitivity paid dividends. While serving in Paris on the front lines of American diplomacy in the shaky first decade of the United States, Jefferson felt keenly the weakness of representing a nation with almost no influence, incapable of defending its shipping from pirate attacks (a problem we still live with). In 1786, Jefferson met with an envoy of the sultan of Tripoli, who advanced the rather un-Jeffersonian theory that his pirates were not only permitted, but required to make war on unbelievers, and to enslave all of their prisoners.


But Jefferson also discovered the virtues of patience, and one of the more impressive breakthroughs of his first turn overseas was a treaty concluded with Morocco on favorable terms, after an adviser to the Moroccan emperor argued that Americans, like Muslims, were "people of the book" — ahl al-kitab — who adhered to scripture and rejected the graven images and state religions that so many Europeans prayed to. The emperor even asked that the public documents that had brought the strange new nation into existence be translated into Arabic.


The glow of that triumph faded when Jefferson himself occupied the presidency, and spent the better part of eight years fending off more pirate attacks off other parts of North Africa. But the Moroccan treaty held, and served both parties well.


Jefferson's Koran still lives inside the building named after him at the Library of Congress, full of phrases that might well have come from his pen, including, "There shall be no compulsion in religion," and "To you your beliefs, and to me, mine."


As the United States seeks, yet again, to make inroads into a most elusive peace process in the Middle East, perhaps it is time to reflect on the fullness of Jefferson's example. The author of soaring language about the sameness of human aspirations, Jefferson never lost his fascination for the cultural differences that make life interesting. If we are ever to see a world with fewer subjects and more citizens, Jefferson's lessons — and his endless capacity to surprise us — may prove useful.







The emerging consensus on the long overdue goods and services tax (GST) regime may just end up defeating the purpose of indirect tax reform. The system, as it stands now, is imperfect because the effective tax rate (after the cascading effect of multiple levies) is too high (around 25%), which encourages evasion. It is also imperfect because it allows too many exemptions, which encourages wasteful rent-seeking behaviour. Moving to a GST regime was supposed to iron out these flaws. But the finance minister in his latest discussions with state finance ministers, while promising a rollout by April 2011, has conceded far too much. Under the latest plan, there will be three separate rates, 20% for normal goods, 12% for merit goods and 16% for services when GST is rolled out next year. At 20%, the GST will hardly offer any relief to taxpayers and is unlikely to be an incentive for improved compliance. There will also be wasteful lobbying to get goods included into the lower rate category of merit goods. In addition, nearly 100 items, including petroleum products and alcohol, will be exempt from the GST regime. This sets a bad precedent and will encourage other sectors to seek exemption periodically.


The finance minister has, however, said that the three different rates will converge to a single rate within three years. That will, of course, be welcome should it actually happen within the specified timeframe. But at 16%, the rate at which GST will converge is still much higher than the revenue-neutral 12% recommended by the 13th Finance Commission. And there is no commitment to abolish all exemptions even after three years. The states, it seems, have prevailed over the Centre in pushing for an imperfect GST regime. That may have been politically explicable if the Centre was not offering the states a grand bargain. But Pranab Mukherjee, in addition to all the compromises on rates and exemptions, has also offered a grand bargain and promised to compensate states for any revenue lost. The grand bargain should ideally have been used to push for a perfect GST with a single, low rate and no exemptions whatsoever. It seems a waste to throw in a grand bargain with parties (states) that are not simply willing to meet their side of the bargain. And so, while it is encouraging to see the finance minister serious about the implementation of the GST—Nandan Nilekani will lead a team on providing the necessary IT infrastructure—it is a pity that he hasn't insisted on a more perfect reform of the indirect tax system.





In recommending the withdrawal of The National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on May 4, the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism and culture has given well-reasoned arguments. First, the Bill targets only national highways instead of addressing safety relating to all roads. Given that the national highways constitute only 2% of India's road network and it is on the rest of the roads that nearly 70% of the accidents occur, the demand for a more holistic legislation seems justified. Second, the parliamentary committee has questioned the nature of the board itself. As proposed in the Bill, the board is supposed to facilitate better regulation of traffic and improved safety standards in highway design and construction. But as the board's role will be mainly advisory, its effectiveness has been brought into question. Without the power to ensure coordination among different agencies, it would indeed lack teeth and just contribute to the pointless reproduction of officialdom. This is at a time when exploding demand for new roads makes such coordination more critical than ever. The global toll of road traffic injuries and deaths is expected to rise by 65% between 2000 and 2020 in a business as usual scenario, and this toll has been steadily rising in India as well. Third, and most significantly, the committee has suggested that piecemeal legislation (a suitable amendment to the Motor Vehicle Act has been pending since 2001) should be superseded by a National Road Safety Policy. Atomism will not get us to our destination in time.


By now, the link between roads and development is well-established. We know without a doubt that the further we get from a road, the more likely we are to find greater incidence of poverty, illiteracy, health deficits and the like. We also know that road accidents take a heavy toll on these indicators. These accidents have a tendency to push people back into poverty and vulnerability, as coping costs are met by cutting into nutrition and schooling. For the most vulnerable population, they represent a substantive drop in household income in the present and development opportunities in the future. At a more abstract level, these costs affect the availability of government revenues for investment. So, legislation concerning road safety has to be a priority. But what about implementation? A global status report on road safety published by WHO last year gave India low scores of 3, 2 and 2 (in an ascending scale of 0-10) on the counts of enforcing laws relating to drunk-driving, motorcycle helmets and seat belts, respectively.








The Ulips ordinance has been criticised on the grounds that it infringes on the autonomy of RBI or Sebi. Economic reasoning suggests a case for autonomy for two issues: monetary policy (i.e., setting the short-term interest rate) and the treatment of individual transactions (including licensing, enforcement, etc). There is no case for autonomy of financial regulators on questions of policy. The Ulips ordinance is a mistake and should be criticised on its substantive policy errors. Infringing on the space of regulators is not one of them.


MoF can perform functions within itself, or it can place functions in external agencies. In either case, Parliament holds the MoF accountable. And MPs are held accountable in elections. Where does 'autonomy' or 'independence' of regulators come in? How do economists or bureaucrats get to wield power?


From first principles, there are exactly two areas where there is a case for independence. The first concerns monetary policy. If the MoF has a say in setting the short rate, then interest rates tend to be pushed down prior to elections, which kicks off inflation after the election. Independence for the central bank was invented in order to prevent monetary policy from inducing this 'election cycle'.


Doing this properly requires a singular bargain between legislators and the unelected economists of the central bank. On one hand, legislators give independence to the central bank. But no economist should be given power without accountability. Hence, the bargain that is struck involves two elements. First, the function of the central bank is pared down to the bare minimum: the setting of the short-term rate. Second, the central bank has to submit to accountability mechanisms. The cleanest form of accountability is inflation targeting. The central bank submits to the accountability process of achieving a quantitative inflation target in the medium run, in return for central bank independence.


Our institutional arrangements on monetary policy are rooted in legislation that dates back to 1934. None of these concepts were understood then. So, terms like 'independence', 'accountability' and 'inflation targeting' do not appear in the RBI Act. RBI today has little independence in the one place where it matters: the setting of the short rate. No RBI governor can set the short rate to a level that the PM and the FM do not accept.


RBI cannot be given independence in the present arrangement, where it performs an improbable array of extraneous functions, none of which require independence. As every manager knows, a worker with 'multiple objectives' is someone with an ample supply of excuses for failure: he cannot be given autonomy and has to be micro-managed.


The second dimension of independence lies in specific transactions. This applies across both finance and infrastructure regulators. The argument is made that corporations are prone to bribe politicians and ask for favours on licensing or enforcement. In order to address this, the leadership of a regulator has to comprise top quality people in terms of both domain knowledge and ethics. This requires three things: an incorruptible recruitment process that brings in top quality leadership teams, a work culture at the MoF where politicians and bureaucrats just do not discuss specific transactions with regulators and a strong culture of the rule of law at regulators to ensure that the bribes don't merely shift to the level of the regulator.


We are hence able to articulate two dimensions where independence is valuable: setting the short rate and individual transactions. Policy issues are not covered under this umbrella. If there is a disagreement between, say, Sebi and the MoF on policy issues, there is no independence trump card, which asserts that Sebi must always have its way. Indeed, only the MoF can lead the resolution of differences between Sebi and Irda, either in an informal fashion or through the proposed FSDC.


The Ulips ordinance is a mistake because Irda has the wrong institutional culture. By handing over the Ulips question to Irda, we are likely to perpetuate sales practices through which insurance companies and agents exploit taxpayers (owing to tax subsidies for insurance products) and customers. This is the substantive criticism of the ordinance. That the Ulips ordinance 'infringes on the autonomy of regulators' is a non-issue.


The world over, there is great criticism of finance on the issue of the power that financial firms exert over the policy process. The Ulips scandal is India's third taste of this problem. There will be many more in the future. While we know a lot about how financial policy and regulation ought to work, policymaking in democracy is tugged by narrow corporate interests. Our challenge lies in harnessing the dynamism and genius of a private financial system, while avoiding the venality and theft that comes from regulatory capture. This will be achieved by focusing not on regulatory autonomy, but on the appointments process, in blocking meddling by government in individual transactions, and in demanding the rule of law.


The author is an economist with interests in finance, pensions and macroeconomics








Brazil didn't win the World Cup, but it has achieved something that it has found much more elusive: it has finally significantly reduced inequality. The same has been happening in many other Latin American countries. So, can Indian policymakers relax? If inequality eventually takes care of itself even in Latin America, the archetypal unequal region, surely India need not be concerned. In fact, the opposite is true. The Latin American experience is a cautionary tale for India, illustrating both the centrality and difficulty of tackling inequality.


Is this comparison relevant? Aren't Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico in a different league from India in terms of inequality? Observers often cite the relatively modest levels of inequality in India found in the National Sample Survey. India's Gini coefficient (a synthetic measure of differences) was some 0.35 in 2004-05. Brazil's Gini coefficient hovered around 0.59 until 2001, before declining to 0.55 in 2007.


But this is misleading. The NSS is for the consumption of households, Brazil's is for their income, and

consumption inequality is always lower (since the rich save more). The India Human Development Survey for 2004-05 finds a Gini similar to the NSS, but an income Gini of 0.52, well into Latin American territory. Moreover, what really matters are inequalities of opportunity, and these are profound in India, owing to large differences in educational attainment, access to assets and continuing effects of social identity.


So the Latin American experience is relevant. A recent book from the UNDP helps us see why. The inequality decline matters: it looks like a turning point, even though there is a long way to go. And it has already made a large difference to poverty reduction. The Brazil study estimates that two-thirds of a substantial poverty decline between 2001 and 2007 was due to falling inequality. Growth would have had to be four percentage points higher if inequality had not changed. That kind of contribution to reducing poverty would be of great significance in India.


What was going on? The two largest influences in Brazil, and elsewhere, were direct transfers and reductions in labour earnings differentials. Government transfers to households accounted for about half the Brazilian inequality decline, mostly due to old-age pensions and a cash transfer to the poor (Bolsa Família, which is conditional on children going to school, health check ups and an assets-based means test—like India's Below Poverty Line measure). The Bolsa Família was substantially expanded under the Left-leaning (but largely pro-market) administration of President Lula da Silva.


The other half of the decline mainly came from reduced wage differentials, especially linked to skills, and also to inter-regional and inter-industry wage differences. The fall in skill differentials represents a reversal of earlier increases. When Latin America opened up in the 1980s and 1990s, most countries experienced rises in relative wages, especially of college-educated individuals, as the economic restructuring increased the demand for skills. Only in the 2000s are the benefits of early expansions in education being reaped, a product in many countries of the return to democracy in the 1980s.


So this looks like a happy story of the efficacy of social policy: well-designed social transfers and the massification of education make a big difference. Politics laid the basis for this. Isn't this good news for India?


Unfortunately, it's not so easy. Several features of India's current condition could jeopardise or delay such a scenario. India is early in its economic transition. Despite the global profile of top companies, overall economic development is decades behind middle-income countries such as Brazil and Mexico. Yet the rising demand for skills is already well under way and could go faster than in Latin America, as global technological change has continued apace. Crucially, this collides with two other factors. The educational level and distribution is worse than even these Latin American comparators. And at this stage educational inequality generally rises before falling. Then there is a big political economy issue: India has a stack of ill-designed transfers, entrenched in the political process. Unless there is major reform of subsidy programmes, PDS, etc, it won't be able to afford well-designed pension schemes or conditional cash transfers. Also, delivery on quality education or effective transfers depends fundamentally on the institutional basis for delivery and this is weaker than most Latin American countries.


So we come back to some core themes. Inequality matters. The recent Latin American inequality decline is good news but only highlights India's challenge. Inequalities get entrenched in the system, can further corrupt state performance and will eventually undercut the growth process. Tackling India's inequalities can't be relegated to the future.


The author is at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Centre for Policy Research







Sebi has increased the threshold for triggering an open offer from 15% to 25% for M&A. This means that there will be more strategic minority investment opportunities up to 25% by Indian corporates, FII and PE without triggering the takeover code, ushering into the equity markets more FII and PE flows. In the medium term, I would expect the BSE to go beyond 20,000, attributable only to this. But, the disadvantage would be on a 100% open offer, which will involve a higher outgo for the acquirer compared to the earlier 20%. It might lead to higher M&A activity up to 25% and then the acquirer may think about giving an open offer for the rest of the stake. It also gives promoters flexibility, as instead of a 20% compulsory, it now allows open offers of up to 10%, without going beyond, thus offering softer options to acquirers.


There are some interesting angles to the recommendation as well. First, if a promoter acquires 5% in any financial year, the open offer will get triggered. This will prevent promoters from acquiring more than 5% in a given financial year—a very restrictive step. But at the same time, the recommendation states that the ceiling for a creeping acquisition will increase from 55% to 75%.


Second, if the open offer gets the full 90%, to squeeze out of the balance 10%, the acquirer will have to shed stake according to the agreement buy-out and open offer buy-out in such a way that the company can remain listed and its public holding stays at 75%. Third, for minority shareholders, the good news is that a clause for a 52-week price has been recommended. A 60-day trade-weighted average price clause is also being contemplated, which would reflect the updated market condition of the relevant scrip.


Fourth, the proposal of a share swap as one of the modes of payment for the acquisition shares is another step in the right direction. If the acquirer is strong enough then it will not have to look for 100% financing for the balance acquisition. Lastly, the code currently applies to direct acquisitions but a set of recommendations have been proposed for indirect acquisitions as well. If executed, the code will be of immense value to stakeholders for transparency and value creation.


The author is CFO, Hinduja Group










Seldom are athletes allowed to choose their moment of leaving; often the decision is thrust on them. Muttiah Muralitharan, in leaving the grand stage of his own volition, has confirmed again that he is the rarest of the rare. The bewitching off-spinner's retirement from Test cricket brings to an end a game-changing career. The numbers challenge belief — 800 wickets from 133 matches at 22.72 is a record that, like Sir Donald Bradman's average of 99.94, will probably stand forever. However, it is Murali's role in broadening perception that offers a measure of his bowling. It was fitting that he was born in Sri Lanka, where cricketers are allowed to develop organically, free from the chains of petty orthodoxies. Blessed with singular physical gifts — the combination of a hyper-mobile shoulder and an elastic wrist helped him put more work on the ball than any spinner in the history of the game — Murali set about customising his craft. But his advent didn't revolutionise off-spin, for although his methods were widely imitated, they couldn't be replicated. Another perception he helped broaden was that of the 'legal' delivery: his action forced world cricket to confront the inaccuracies of its definition and accept the limitations of the naked eye. Murali's action was as legitimate as anyone's — nearly every bowler was found to bend and straighten his arm in delivery, an inevitable consequence of the forces that govern bowling actions.


No single cricketer has meant more to the fortunes of his national side than this magician with a perennial smile to Sri Lanka. Before his debut, Sri Lanka managed two wins in 38 Tests. Muralitharan has since orchestrated 54 wins, claiming more than 40 per cent of his team's wickets in victories. In deciding that his farewell Test would be at Galle against the world's Number 1 Test side, he sportingly set himself the challenge of having to bag eight wickets to scale Mount 800. He did exactly that — and set up an emphatic win. But his influence has transcended cricket. He has borne the responsibility of representation with lightness, humour, and simplicity, remaining a conciliatory presence in an often strife-torn nation. Not content with being a symbol, Murali has embraced humanitarian work. He has driven the Foundation of Goodness's project to rebuild more than a thousand houses spread over 24 villages that were hit by the tsunami in 2004. He has also committed himself to a project in Mankulam that seeks to use sport as a medium for alleviating poverty. The cricket world will salute one of the greatest bowlers of all time. Society will cherish this Tamil of recent Indian origin as an upstanding human being whose very presence has united people.






Social media, relatively young participants in the fast growing technological boom based on the Internet, have started to make their mark on how governments and individuals interact. The announcement earlier this month by Philippines President Benigno Aquino III that his government would use Facebook and Twitter to enlist public cooperation for government campaigns, such as crackdowns on tax evaders and smugglers, is significant, especially for the developing world. Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama in a memorandum to departmental heads, listed transparency, participation, and collaboration as three priority areas for open governance and wanted government agencies to harness new technologies for realising those objectives. In India, where the digital divide is far more pronounced than in the wired west, government agencies (India Post, for example) have taken advantage of the technological advances to strike a blow for improved governance. What gives a revolutionary edge to these new and evolving media tools is their potential to replace the old mould of unilateral communication — from the state to individuals — with a vibrant two-way communication between the government and the governed.


Social media networks are starting to emerge as game-changers in the manner in which information is disseminated and administrations reach out to the people. Under this mode, networked individuals can have an impact on governance through the use of the Internet. For this global resource to be harnessed effectively, two ingredients are essential. A two-way flow of timely and credible information is one. Equally important is a response mechanism from government agencies. These media tools give governments the added advantage of continuously engaging citizens. This can help foster mutual trust and bring governance closer to the people, particularly given the personal nature of interaction in the social media environment. There are examples of heads of state taking to the social media, not just before elections but also after. In addition, the 'Fifth Estate,' as sociologist William H. Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute calls the social media, can make meaningful interventions in shaping public policy. This can be particularly important in speedily communicating disasters and epidemics, including early warning signals. India's governmental agencies, particularly those that have a direct bearing on employment, poverty reduction, and health care must wholeheartedly and intelligently adopt the new media.










Five decades ago, a French Special Forces officer, ruminating on the ruin of his nation's once-powerful empire, set out to understand just why its armed forces had lost in a battle to adversaries armed with little other than determination. Unusually for a participant-chronicler of defeat, Roger Trinquier blamed neither politicians nor the inscrutable workings of history.


The problem, Trinquier argued, was that France had persisted "in studying a type of warfare that no longer exists and that we shall never fight again, while we pay only passing attention to the war we lost in Indochina and the one we are about to lose in Algeria. The result of this shortcoming is that the army is not prepared to confront an adversary employing arms and methods the army itself ignores. It has, therefore, no chance of winning." "Our military machine," he wryly concluded, "reminds one of a pile-driver attempting to crush a fly."


Earlier this month, New Delhi laid out new proposals to address the growing Maoist insurgency that is devastating large swatches of India: a unified inter-State command, assisted by a retired Army Major-General. For all the hype, it is unclear just what the new structure is meant to achieve. No retired soldier, no matter how illustrious, has any experience of the ongoing counter-Maoist operations — or even firsthand knowledge of the forces he will be advising. More important, the immediate problem is not that of insurgents escaping pursuit across State lines: it is the growing mass of their forces, and the lethality of attacks.


Behind New Delhi's anodyne response lies a bitter truth the government will not publicly admit: the principal instrument of India's counter-Maoist campaign will not and cannot succeed.


A force in ruins


Back in 2003, a Group of Ministers assigned the Central Reserve Police Force frontline responsibility for counter-insurgency operations, in support of police across the country. Its recommendations, part of the seminal Report of the Group of Ministers on Reforming the National Security System, were widely seen as a well-intentioned effort to end the use of the Army and the Border Security Force in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism duties.


In 1999, when the expert group on whose basis the Report was issued conducted its work, the CRPF had 1,67,367 personnel. That number went up to 2,60,873 in 2007 — and is believed to have increased to over 2,80,000 now.


Key to the problem is that the CRPF has nowhere to train its recruits. The organisation has six training centres, each of which was designed to process between 150 and 200 personnel at a time through nine-month basic courses. Today those centres cannot even handle recruitment made to redress wastage — men who retire, for example, or who have to be removed for discipline. New battalions are being trained at improvised facilities lacking in basic infrastructure like classrooms, quality firing ranges and combat-simulation facilities — and by officers who will eventually lead them on the field, not professional instructors.


Worse, the CRPF has a crippling shortage of officers at the cutting-edge Assistant Commandant level — the officers responsible for handling forces the size of a company, or about 125 men. Induction has not kept pace with the expansion of the force. So, most battalions have to make do with just half of their sanctioned strength of Assistant Commandants.


Many of the best officers, moreover, are siphoned off by the Special Protection Group and the National Security Guard early in their careers. Few, thus, develop a personal rapport with the men they return to command. Satyawan Yadav, who led the ill-fated 62 Battalion patrol which was wiped out in Dantewada in April this year, had spent 10 years at the SPG. Internal investigators found that Yadav had defied orders to conduct a long-rage patrol through forests, choosing instead to lie about the whereabouts of his force to his commanders. His transition from the air-conditioned environment of the Prime Minister's home to a field camp in Bastar had evidently been difficult.


Poor leadership has meant the CRPF has little institutional ability to learn from its mistakes. Despite repeated warnings from the Intelligence Bureau, 62 Battalion failed to secure its headquarters in Rampur against an attack by the Lashkar-e-Taiba in December 2007. Earlier this year, several personnel were held on charges of selling ammunition to organised crime groups in Uttar Pradesh. Later, Battalion commander Prabhranjan Kumar was relieved of his duties and is now facing internal proceedings related to inappropriate personal behaviour.


No in-house intelligence


It doesn't end there: the CRPF does not have an in-house intelligence organisation. It recruits on a national

basis, meaning it has few personnel familiar with the language, culture and terrain of the areas in which it operates. It does not even have a higher-command school dedicated to counter-insurgency tactics. Bluntly, everything that could conceivably be wrong is wrong.


For most of its history, the CRPF served as a resource provider, sending out company-sized forces to assist the police across the country. Few commanders had frontline combat roles until the CRPF was drawn into the Punjab insurgency. Bar a brief commitment in Jammu and Kashmir, the force had no independent counter-insurgency commitments till five years ago — when it was handed a role it was neither prepared nor equipped for.


"We can't teach the CRPF how to walk," Chhattisgarh Director-General of Police Vishwa Ranjan said of the

series of errors in fieldcraft that led to the massacre of 27 personnel in a fire-engagement last month. His words may have been harsh — but their accuracy cannot be disputed.


"Policing a country of over 1.1 billion people," Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in June, "is not an easy task." He pointed out that in many of the States worst-hit by Maoist violence, "there are police stations where there are no more than eight men; and even these eight or less men do not hold any weapons for fear of the weapons being looted." He called on the States to "enhance the capacity of training institutes to at least double the present capacity, and to recruit at least double the number of policemen and women being recruited at present."


Ever since Mr. Chidambaram took office as Home Minister, India has seen a concerted effort to enhance police staffing. In December 2008, the National Crime Records Bureau reported, India had 1.13 million police personnel — about 128 for every 1,00,000 people, just over half the United Nations-recommended norm for peaceful societies facing no major challenges. The government now claims that the public-police ratio has risen to 1,00,000:161.78. The figures have aroused some scepticism, implying that 3,84,000 personnel have been hired in just 18 months — not counting the replacement of those who retired or were otherwise lost.


Leaving aside the statistical dispute, though, it is clear many Maoist-hit States are not the beneficiaries of force expansion. Bihar still has just 85,545 posts, of which 23,889 are vacant. That means there are 74.29 officers for every 1,00,000 population. Orissa still has just 135.8, and West Bengal just 100. Elsewhere, the increases are more marked, but still well short of international norms. Jharkhand, which had just 136 police personnel per 1,00,000 population five years ago, now has 206.98, according to the Union Home Ministry. Chhattisgarh's police-population ratio too has risen from 128 to 226.3: 1,00,000.


Moreover, force expansion is not solving the problem it was intended for. Nagaland, which now has a staggering 1,677.3 police personnel for every 1,00,000 population, Jammu and Kashmir 742.3, and Manipur 669.6 — some of the highest population to force ratios in India — but none has succeeded in relieving the military of counter-insurgency responsibilities. Mizoram, which has no insurgency, has 1,268.6 police personnel per 1,00,000 population, suggesting that the problem in essence is serving employment-generation imperatives.


Even if all States were to expand their forces to these levels, it is far from clear if the facilities and instructors exist to make the recruitment meaningful. The benefits of facilities like Chhattisgarh's school of jungle warfare at Kanker are evident. From January to June this year, the Chhattisgarh police claimed to have killed 37 Maoist insurgents, compared to just 10 by the CRPF, eight of those in joint operations. Notably, the police lost 29 men in combat, as against 117 fatalities suffered by the CRPF. Few governments, though, have followed its lead. In his speech, Mr. Chidambaram announced that nine counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism schools would be up and running this year, each equipped to train 1,000 personnel a year. He made clear, though, that these schools would in no way meet the needs of India's burgeoning forces.


"We hope," Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said in 2009, as the CRPF began to surge deep into Chhattisgarh, "that literally within 30 days of the security forces moving in and dominating the area, we should be able to restore civil administration there." New Delhi hoped that an ill-trained CRPF would help fix a problem ill-trained police forces weren't able to deal with. The price of that Panglossian optimism has been paid with blood. Both New Delhi and the States need to get down to the hard work needed to build credible counter-insurgency forces — and, meanwhile, consider strategies that are consistent with their capabilities.









The World Classical Tamil Conference that was held in Coimbatore last month attracted lakhs of people, according to reports. The International Association of Tamil Research (IATR), which is an older academic organisation of international scholars and of which I am President, kept its independence from this Conference. I will explain here the reasons for this and also contemplate the future of the IATR and Tamil studies in general.


Circumstances that led to the formation of the World Classical Tamil Conference


In September 2009, I was informed that the Tamil Nadu government had decided to hold the 9th session of the IATR conference in January 2010 in Coimbatore. I was greatly surprised as I had not been consulted on this matter. For accepting the government's kind offer to sponsor our 9th Conference, I put forth the following as conditions.


1) A period of at least one year to organise the conference, as I felt it was impossible to organise any big international academic conference within four months. The earliest possible date of the Conference, I said, could be December 2010 or January 2011.


2) The clear demarcation of the academic sessions of the IATR conference from the political events and programmes associated with it.


3) The release for distribution by the Government of the five-volume Proceedings of the 8th IATR Conference held in 1995 in Thanjavur sponsored by the then State Government. These had been ready for distribution in 2005, but had been kept in the Tamil University despite repeated requests for their release to the present Government.


In response, the State Government postponed the Conference from January 2010 to June 2010, and accepted my second and third points. I was strongly urged to accept this offer, as the Government could not put off the date later than June 2010 in view of the expected State Assembly election. I however held to the position that the conference should not be held earlier than December 2010. Incidentally, in the case of the 14th World Sanskrit Conference that was successfully held in Japan in September 2009, the first circular was issued two years before the conference.


Having consulted many internationally reputed scholars in various countries on this matter and having secured their support, I sent my final answer to the Government in the negative — with a statement, however, that the Government could hold any Tamil Conference of its own, if it did not involve IATR. Accordingly, the Government decided to hold its own conference, the World Classical Tamil Conference, in June 2010 in Coimbatore.


History of the IATR and past conferences


The IATR was established by some eminent scholars who were deeply concerned about the development of Tamil studies on the occasion of the 26th International Congress of Orientalists held in New Delhi in 1964. The first IATR Conference was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1966, and the second in 1968 in Madras. The 1960s witnessed the culmination and triumph of the Dravidian Movement, and the government headed by C.N. Annadurai of the DMK was voted to power in 1967 — just before the IATR conference in Madras.


It was quite natural that the Madras conference turned out to be a massive political celebration of the victory of the Dravidian Movement, though the conference showed its strength academically too. Therefore, the political statement made by this academic conference was understandable and probably permissible, although politics cast a shadow over the following conferences held in Tamil Nadu. The 5th Conference held again in Tamil Nadu in 1981 in Madurai, under the sponsorship of the AIADMK Government, became a political show again as the government made it a platform for the forthcoming elections. The 6th Conference, which was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1987, was equally affected by regional politics, as it was attended by a large group of Tamil Nadu politicians.


Although I was absent from the 7th Conference held in Moka in Mauritius in 1989, I was elected President of IATR on that occasion. I therefore organised the 8th Conference held in Thanjavur in 1995 with the sponsorship offered by the Tamil Nadu Government. Although I tried my best to separate the academic session from the political programme, two lakh persons attended the closing ceremony held in the stadium. Moreover, the conference was spoiled by the deportation of some Sri Lankan scholars. Though I sent a letter of protest to the then Chief Minister asking for an explanation, I did not receive a reply.


Historical role of IATR


The Dravidian Movement, or the Non-Brahmin movement as it was called, arose in the 1910s spearheaded by the Justice Party. Language became the focus of the movement by the late 1930s, and great emphasis was placed on the economic and political struggle by the South (Dravidian) power against the North (Aryan) power. The movement demanded the overturning of the North/Aryan 'oppression' of the South/Dravidian.


From the 1970s, however, the situation changed in accordance with the changes in caste society and the gradual economic growth of the South. The Dravidian Movement could be said to have fulfilled its historical role to a certain extent. From the 1980s, we see a shift in the aims of the movement. The political mobilisations by the DMK and AIADMK, and their appeals to the regional sentiments of the Tamil people, were primarily aimed at the expansion of their political vote base.


The Proceedings volumes of the 8th IATR Conference held in Thanjavur in 1995 still remain in Tamil University without distribution. The World Classical Tamil Conference was the best opportunity for their distribution. In the Preface (of the Proceedings), I have suggested that IATR should change its structure, free its conferences from politics, and respond to new academic trends.


It is true that IATR had not been able to conduct the 9th Conference since 1995. However, it is important to

note that IATR originally planned to hold the 8th Conference in London in 1992, but as that did not materialise, it recommended in Thanjavur in 1995 the U.K., U.S.A. or South Africa as the venue for the 9th Conference. However, none of the IATR national units of these countries came forward to invite IATR to hold the conference; they were daunted perhaps by the inevitable political overtones that enter the conferences.


As for new trends in research, the "Tamil Studies Conference" organised by the University of Toronto has held its fifth conference, although on a much smaller scale, in May 2010. Some workshops and seminars on specific areas have been held in various places in the last ten years. I do not deny the advantages of large conferences, provided they are free from politics. However, the time has come now for small-scale workshops and seminars for comparative studies with other fields, instead of big conferences covering all aspects of Tamil studies.


Renaissance for Tamil Studies?


The time has come for the IATR to assume a new avatar. It has completed its historical role by making people realise the importance of Tamil studies, just as the Dravidian Movement did in respect of its original objectives. A new IATR must now be created to function as a real academic body.


My only satisfaction as President of IATR and a lover of the Tamil people and culture who has devoted his life to Tamil studies is the conviction that IATR has defended its academic freedom by keeping its independence from the government-organised and politically oriented conference held last month in Coimbatore.


However, IATR must be resurrected in a new way. Its renaissance rests on the shoulders of young and sincere scholars of Tamil studies.


(Noboru Karashima is the President of the International Association of Tamil Research and Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo.)










There was a net outflow of 100,000 Japanese in the year that ended in September 2008 — the highest number in the last 20 years

Young Japanese workers say they are content with their jobs despite the low salaries because their lives abroad have given them a new sense of liberty


In October 2008, at the height of the financial crisis when job markets were freezing up globally, Akane Natori easily found a position she liked.


"Things went so smoothly after applying online, and before I knew it, I had the job," said Ms Natori, who was then a 26-year-old sales assistant at an import-export company in Tokyo.


There was just one catch: Ms Natori's new job — working in a call centre answering queries from customers in


Japan — was in Bangkok. The trend is one that speaks volumes about the Japanese economy and the challenges younger Japanese face in a country where college graduates used to count on lifetime employment with the company they joined.


Under fierce pressure to cut costs, large Japanese companies are increasingly outsourcing and sending white-collar operations to China and Southeast Asia, where doing business costs less than in Japan.


But while many American companies have been content to transfer work to, say, an Indian outsourcing company staffed with English-speaking Indians, Japanese companies are taking a different tack. Japanese outsourcing firms are hiring Japanese workers to do the jobs overseas — and paying them considerably less than if they were working in Japan.


Companies like Transcosmos and Masterpiece have set up call centres, data-entry offices and technical support

operations staffed by Japanese workers in cities like Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong and Taipei, Taiwan.


Transcosmos pays a call centre operator in Thailand a starting salary of about 30,000 baht a month, or $930 — less than half of the 220,000 yen, or $2,500, the same employee would get in Tokyo. That means a saving of 30 per cent to 40 per cent for customers, Transcosmos said.


Such outposts cater to Japanese employers who say they cannot do without Japanese workers for reasons of language and culture. Even foreign citizens with a good command of the Japanese language, they say, may not be equipped with a nuanced understanding of the manners and politesse that Japanese customers often demand.


Culture factor

"If you used Japanese-speaking Chinese, for example, the service quality does not match up with the expectations of the end customers," said Tatsuhito Muramatsu, managing director at Natori's employer, Transcosmos Thailand, a unit of Transcosmos, which is based in Tokyo.


Statistics on exactly how many Japanese have taken jobs outside the country at lower wages are hard to come by, but the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that there was a net outflow of 100,000 Japanese in the year that ended in September 2008, the most recent for which statistics were available. It was the highest number in the last 20 years.


The number of "independent businesspeople" and freelance contractors like Natori rose 5.69 per cent in that period, according to data from the Japanese Foreign Ministry.


Many large Asian cities — including Bangkok, Hong Kong, New Delhi, Shanghai, Singapore and Jakarta in Indonesia — have three to four Japanese job placement agencies each. Four Japanese outsourcing companies run call centres in Bangkok, which is a particularly attractive city for such operations because it has low costs but good amenities, offering a living standard that young Japanese enjoy.


Transcosmos runs the largest Japanese call centre in Bangkok, having nearly tripled its staff to 170, from 60 workers in late 2008. "We see ourselves growing to as large as 500 workers here," Mr. Muramatsu said.


Masterpiece, another Japanese outsourcer, has operations in Bangkok as well as in Beijing and Dalian in China.

Its workers handle jobs like mail-order service requests, processing of time sheets and other salary paperwork and following up on e-mail inquiries. The company has Japanese and Chinese employees, and, according to its website, is hiring people to establish another call centre in the Philippines.


Pressure to reduce costs

"Overcapacity and excessive competition haunt domestic Japanese industries that are battling for a shrinking economic pie," said Takumi Fujinami, senior economist at the Japan Research Institute, a research organisation affiliated with Sumitomo Mitsui Bank. "That exerts perennial pressures to reduce costs. Japanese companies can't cut off existing employees on the lifetime roster, so they are squeezing the younger workers ever more tightly."


Some overseas Japanese workers, like Ms Natori, are content with their jobs despite the low salaries. They say their lives abroad have given them a new sense of liberty.


Ms Natori, who was recently promoted from call operator to a supervisory position, said she saved more money in Thailand than she would in Japan.


"If you are willing to live off local Thai restaurants, you spend only 30 baht for rice with eggs, vegetables and meat," she said. "My rent currently is only 6,000 baht, and utilities are at most an additional 500."


She lives in a roomy studio in a condominium in central Bangkok with security and a swimming pool that is open 24 hours. Life is better in Thailand, she said, because she is free from some of the social and workplace pressures that ate into her private life in Japan. "The moment you step outside, you are in a foreign country here," she said. "That allows me to have separate workplace and private lives. I am actually able to concentrate on work better because of the clear separation."


Misuzu Yara (34) realised in early 2008 that job opportunities in Japan, especially in her native Okinawa, were diminishing. So when an acquaintance at Tempstaff invited her to join the new division in Jakarta as a local hire, she agreed.


"The salary as a local hire in Indonesia wasn't very different from what you'd get in Okinawa, actually," she said. "Considering how important Asia is going to be for Japan, I figured it would be a good opportunity."


Now, she helps find jobs for Japanese workers in Indonesia. Japanese companies in Indonesia generally offer Japanese local hires minimum take-home pay of $1,500 a month, plus a vehicle and sometimes housing.


"The number of inquiries grew markedly during 2008-9 from young Japanese workers who had difficulty finding jobs in Japan," she said. — New York Times News Service









The White House has been forced to make an embarrassing U-turn after it appeared to have acted rashly in approving the sacking of a senior African-American official who was being targeted by a controversial Right-wing blogger.


The Obama administration had initially supported the decision of Tom Vilsack, the Agriculture Secretary, to force the resignation of Shirley Sherrod after a misleadingly edited version of a speech she gave in March caused outrage on the internet. The edited clips, put out by Andrew Breitbart of the conservative site, who has worked with the leading Right-wing blogger Matt Drudge, gave the impression that Ms Sherrod, the department's head of rural development in the southern state of Georgia, had boasted about having discriminated against a white farmer 24 years ago.


But when the full footage of the speech was released hours later, it became clear that she was recounting the

story as a parable for why every poor person deserved to be helped equally, whatever their race.


In the wake of the full tape becoming available, the White House said the case should be looked at again. But by then the damage had been done, with the White House and a key department having apparently acted in haste to force out of office a senior African-American woman at the whim of Right-wing pundits.


To make matters more politically incendiary, it became clear that Mr. Breitbart had put together the edited clips in order to hurt the NAACP, America's largest civil rights organisation, to whom Ms Sherrod had delivered her remarks. The NAACP last week locked horns with the Tea Party movement of disaffected Right-wingers, accusing it of tolerating bigotry. Mr. Breitbart has admitted he put out the Ms Sherrod video to "show you that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones".


As the furore swirled, Eloise Spooner, the wife of the white farmer in question, came to Ms Sherrod's defence,

saying "we probably wouldn't have our farm today if it hadn't been for her." Ms Sherrod said she was ordered to resign by Mr. Vilsack's deputy, Cheryl Cook, while she was on a long drive, and was even ordered to pull over on the side of the road and send in her resignation by Blackberry. "The administration were not interested in hearing the truth. No one wanted to hear the truth," she told CNN.


This is not the first time the Obama team has become entangled in issues of race. In July last year, Mr. Obama himself waded into the controversy surrounding the arrest of the Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., initially criticising the police but later retracting the comments. The saga also embarrassed the NAACP, which was also over-hasty in judging Ms Sherrod, telling Fox News that it repudiated "racists in our ranks". After seeing the full video, it said it had been "snookered" into misinterpreting her views. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010








Late in the 19th century, while investigating chicken cholera, Louis Pasteur infected some birds with bacteria that he confidently believed would kill them. He was wrong: not only did the chickens survive; they were completely immune. Pasteur had made a mistake. But in doing so he had also found a vaccine.


Fast forward to the 21st century and France, the country that gave the world the father of modern medicine, is no longer quite so ready to see the benefits of getting things wrong, according to a growing number of intellectuals and education specialists.


They claim the French school system is leaving children bereft of creativity, flexibility of thought and — crucially — confidence in their own mental abilities.


Intellectual timorousness


In an attempt to counter this culture of "intellectual timorousness", a group of academics from the country's elite institutions is hosting a festival in Paris this week with a rather unusual mission: its participants are being encouraged to make as many mistakes as possible.


"A large part of the French school system is based on the idée reçue that errors are negative, when in fact it is

by this very process of learning ... that you make progress," said Maelle Lenoir, of the Association Paris



"The French system is founded on a strict learning of knowledge, rather than on creativity or innovation. And yet it was Einstein himself who said that 'the only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas'." Observers of the French school system, while praising certain key successes, have repeatedly highlighted the shortcomings of an educational process which is highly "top down" and results-driven, and which, they say, puts far more emphasis on having the right answer than the thought process by which a pupil might explore the question being asked.


"I'm a scientist. I had nothing to do with education. But then my six-year-old boy went to school and his teacher told me, 'He's a nice kid, but he asks too many questions,'" said Francois Taddei, the author of an education report published last year for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


"This is the problem of the French system," he added. "You are supposed to know the right answer. You are not supposed to express your own opinions or ask questions."


One teacher who has attempted to rebel against the national model is Girolamo Ramunni, a lecturer at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts in Paris, a higher education establishment specialising in science and industry. Mr. Ramunni, an Italian who left school himself at the age of 14, says he tries to encourage his students to reject the pressure to always be right by, for example, giving them problems to solve "which could not be solved".


"At the beginning they don't want to take risks," he said. "But after a while you notice that they are becoming

more creative.

"Once they've accepted that getting things wrong is not the end of the world, yes, they may come up with some crazy ideas, but they will have some good ones too." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010









Even as we can understand that actions of ordained political actors will be guided by the urge to derive the maximum perceived advantage months before a major election, it is hard to see how the shenanigans of Opposition legislators in Bihar can be justified on any count. The wholly blameworthy acts of disruption and violence


indulged in by the Opposition parties in the state Assembly on Wednesday can hardly be said to inaugurate a soiled chapter. In recent years unacceptable behaviour of the same type has been witnessed in several state legislatures. Indeed, the way MPs — who could have set an example — have conducted themselves in the Lok Sabha in recent years can hardly be deemed worthy of emulation. Even so, it is no exaggeration to suggest that Bihar's legislators have shown the way to a new low in unbecoming conduct by public servants — all in the name of safeguarding the values enshrined in the idea of representative government of course. Before long, in order to shame our legislators, a public-spirited body that cares for democracy might see it fit to invite MLAs and MPs to a tongue-lashing by those who elect them. Or are we expecting too much from those we vote in, considering that a fair proportion — across the political spectrum — have serious criminal cases instituted against them?


The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has indicted the Bihar government of malfeasance to the tune of several thousand crores of rupees in the last seven years. The matter is out in the open with the Patna high court ordering a CBI probe following a public interest litigation case. In the event, any Opposition worth its timbre would be up in arms. However, this gives the parties outside the government no licence to smash furniture and seek to hurl missiles at the Speaker. It is debatable whether the Speaker should have suspended the entire Opposition for the remainder of the Assembly's term, set to expire in four months, or if he should have asked the marshals to bundle out the MLAs forcefully. But there is no question that the Opposition parties behaved without a modicum of dignity even when they were within their rights to lodge their protest emphatically. The ruling side too has taken a needlessly confrontationist stand in relation to the judiciary. The Speaker has held that the high court was out of order in ordering a CBI probe before the Assembly had disposed of the matter. This appears an extreme view. The judiciary is an independent branch of the government and is not obliged to take its cue from the legislature. Besides, in this case the high court gave its order in the context of a PIL. The Nitish Kumar-led NDA government has appealed to the court to stay its order directing a CBI probe. It might have been a lot better if the chief minister had himself decided to ask for a CBI inquiry. The Opposition has demanded the resignations of the chief minister and his deputy so that they may not influence the proposed investigation. Since state elections are due in four months, the chief minister may consider exercising his prerogative to dissolve the House.








Internationalism has always been a vital part of our national DNA. Even at that midnight hour when, in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's memorable words, India awoke to life and freedom, our country was deeply conscious of its international obligations. In his historic speech about India's "tryst with destiny", Nehru, speaking of hiscountry's dreams, said: "Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments". It was typical of that great nationalist that a time when the fires of Partition were blazing across the land, he thought not only of India, but of the world.

In those six decades, the world has become even more closely knit together than Nehru foresaw. Indeed, today it is fair to say that even those countries that once felt insulated from external dangers — by wealth or strength or distance — now fully realise that the safety of people everywhere depends not only on local security forces, but also on guarding against terrorism; warding off the global spread of pollution, of diseases, of illegal drugs and of weapons of mass destruction; and on promoting democracy and development.
Jobs everywhere, too, depend not only on local firms and factories, but on faraway markets for products and services, on licences and access from foreign governments, on an international environment that allows the free movement of goods and persons, and on international institutions that ensure stability — in short, on the international system that sustains our globalised world.

Today, whether you are a resident of Delhi or Dili, Bengaluru or Bangor — whether you are from Chennai or China! — it is simply not realistic to think only in terms of your own country. Global forces press in from every conceivable direction. People, goods and ideas cross borders and cover vast distances with ever greater frequency, speed and ease. We are increasingly connected through travel, trade, the Internet; what we watch, what we eat and even the games we play.

These benign forces are matched by more malign ones that are equally global. In my time at the UN, I learned that the world is full of "problems without passports" — problems that cross all frontiers uninvited, problems of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, of the degradation of our common environment, of contagious disease and chronic starvation, of human rights and human wrongs, of mass illiteracy and massive displacement. Such problems also require solutions that cross all frontiers, since no one country or group of countries can solve them alone.

Let us not forget that 9/11 made clear the old cliché about our global village — for it showed that a fire that starts in a remote thatched hut or dusty tent in one corner of that village can melt the steel girders of the tallest skyscrapers at the other end of our global village.

In such a world, issues that once seemed very far away are very much in your backyard. What happens in North America or South Africa — from protectionist politics to deforestation and desertification to the fight against AIDS — can affect your lives wherever you live, in north or south India. And your choices here — what you buy, how you vote — can resound far away. As someone once said about water pollution, we all live downstream. We are all interconnected, and we can no longer afford the luxury of not thinking about the rest of the planet in anything we do.

To my younger readers, let me say that you are likely to spend a lot of your adult lives interacting with people who don't look, sound, dress or eat like you; that you might work for an internationally-oriented company with clients, colleagues or investors from around the globe; and that you are likely to take your holidays in far-flung destinations. The world into which you will grow will be full of such opportunities. But along with such opportunities, you may also find yourself vulnerable to threats from beyond our borders: terrorism, of course, but also transnational crime syndicates, counterfeiters of currency, drug smugglers, child traffickers, Internet spammers, credit-card crooks and even imported illnesses like swine flu.

Wouldn't you want your government to devise policies to deal with such challenges that would affect your, and one day your children's lives? Should such policies, in an ever more interdependent world, even be called foreign? One of the reasons that foreign policy matters today is that foreign policy is no longer foreign: it affects you right here where you live. You want your government to seize the opportunities that the 21st century world provides, while managing the risks and protecting you from the threats that this world has also opened you up to.

Indians, therefore, have a growing stake in international developments. To put it another way, the food we grow and eat, the air we breathe, and our health, security, prosperity and quality of life are increasingly affected by what happens beyond our borders. And that means we can simply no longer afford to be indifferent about our neighbours, however distant they may appear. Ignorance is not a shield; it is not even, any longer, an excuse. This is the spirit in which I hope to approach this column in the fortnights to come.


Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Kerela's Thiruvananthapuram constituency








We have a family doctor who was recommended to us by our friends when my wife and I moved back to Delhi with our young son about 20 years ago. One of the first things most people with young children do when they move to a new city is to ask friends to recommend a GP (general practitioner). Our friends told us that he has a string of degrees, years of experience, and is an excellent doctor; but they also warned us of his serious, professorial demeanour.


The first time I consulted him I walked in during his "visiting hours" and waited for my turn. I didn't need an appointment. The clinic, located in his house, had an unpretentious waiting area outside his chamber — a few cane chairs, a water cooler, a pedestal fan and a few magazines. When I met him he was quite to the point, a man of few words. I would have preferred if he was a bit more forthcoming. I don't remember the nature of my illness but his diagnosis was perfect and I was soon up and about.

I believe he did make house calls, but I doubt if, like many old-fashioned GPs, he sat down for a cup of tea and a chat with the family after checking the patient.

Over the years our doctor has treated three generations of my family — for simple illnesses like viral fever, bronchial, throat and stomach infections, to more serious ones like hypertension and diabetes that require long-term treatment. He once asked me if I was taking my medication regularly and when I told him that I often give it a miss on Sundays, he said, "Why? You think you can't get a heart attack on Sundays?" He wasn't being funny.

Before he set up his practice he used to be a big shot in a government hospital-cum-medical college. I have huge faith in doctors who work in such institutions: it says a lot for their dedication and experience. When my eye specialist wanted me to get a second opinion, he referred me to a doctor in Delhi's famous All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. I respect the doctors who have managed to resist the temptation of money and good life that the new corporate hospitals offer. My eye specialist, too, has gone up in my esteem because he had the humility to acknowledge that there was someone else who was more learned and more experienced than him. Such qualities are rare.

I am not against the swank private hospitals. In fact when I required a minor surgery I went to one of them. They are expensive, super clean and have excellent facilities. They also have a staff of experienced doctors, many of whom have spent years in government hospitals and have foreign degrees. But when a doctor uses words like "guaranteed" and "at least for five years you will have no problem", you begin to wonder whether you are having your knee fixed or shopping for a consumer product.

I have noticed that ever since these private hospitals came up, there are fewer people in the waiting area of our family doctor's clinic. Maybe people prefer the OPDs of these new super-speciality facilities even for routine ailments. Friends feel that perhaps this competition has affected his practice and therefore he has adopted a friendlier attitude: these days he smiles, makes conversation about family and work, and occasionally also attempts to crack a joke. But I suspect he has just mellowed with age, though his examination and diagnosis is as thorough and professional as it has always been.

When he writes a prescription, he tells me about the side effects and the effectiveness of the medicine. If I have a heavy work schedule, he'll prescribe a course of antibiotics that don't sap your body. When he changes my medication he explains why. And if he thinks you are interested in his explanation he will go deeper into the science.

As a patient, it's comforting to know that you are in experienced hands. And when he feels you should consult a specialist, he tells you so. What more does one need in a family doctor? For ailments that do not require hospitalisation or specialised care, I would much rather go to him. He has never, ever let us down. And on one occasion, when our maid was wrongly treated for jaundice when she had dengue, his diagnosis probably saved her life.

Now our family doctor seems to be getting on in years, and so am I. I would hate to be in a position where I need to consult him and he's decided to give up his practice. Would I look for a new GP? Wait in the marble-tiled OPDs of super-speciality facilities? I'm sure I will be in good hands but I also know it won't be the same as consulting our doctor. It takes many years for a GP to become your family doctor.


Shekhar Bhatia can be contacted at








The goodwill laboriously built up on the eve of the Indian foreign minister's visit to Pakistan has gone up in smoke. Honeyed homilies have been lost in a trail of acrimonious utterances. The losers again are the luckless people of the two countries.


Advocates of conspiracy theories have received grist for their mills in the form of reports that the interlocutors were on course towards an accord but suddenly something happened and everything changed overnight. (We have heard of draft agreements abandoned at the last moment many times before — in 1948, in 1963, in 1989, in 2003, and the undated Musharraf-Manmohan understanding.)

Curiously enough, the Indian foreign minister, S.M. Krishna, has not described the Islamabad talks as a failure, while his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, sounds not only disappointed but also angry. The interest of both countries will be served better if neither side gives vent to bitterness in words that cannot be taken back and which will only further complicate matters. Many people are satisfied that India and Pakistan are still on speaking terms with one another. This is no doubt a healthy way of damage control but people are getting weary of round after round of talks without any sign of relief from their tribulation. After all, the India-Pakistan impasse is adding to the miseries of a large segment of humankind, especially the people of Kashmir, the farming community of Pakistan, vulnerable prisoners and divided families.

One good result of last week's encounter, however, is that the issues now dividing the two countries have emerged in bold relief. It seems India went on the offensive on the basis of what it claims is fresh evidence on the Mumbai outrage and demanded immediate satisfaction, something that the Pakistani side could not do. Pakistan also apparently chose offence as the best defence and fell back on its Kashmir case.

In simpler words, India said the terrorism issue could not be ignored and Pakistan said something similar about Kashmir, the foreign ministers shook hands and agreed to put the interest of their people aside.
No great intelligence is required to appreciate the constraints under which New Delhi and Islamabad are living. Pakistan will be in the wrong if it expected India to soft-pedal the terrorism issue and it will not be realistic on India's part to believe the government of Pakistan has the means to control the militants its predecessors and the saints from across the Atlantic had foolishly sired.

Similarly no knowledgeable Pakistani can believe that it is possible for the present government of India to offer Islamabad the kind of satisfaction on Kashmir it has been asking for or even to match the rhetoric of the Vajpayee government. Both sides are prisoners of forces that are not amenable to reason. Both need to mobilise their people to fight their indigenous monsters. If the established democracy in India cannot achieve this, the task is much harder for Pakistan where the transition to democracy is still an illusion. That India and Pakistan have to help each other in getting over their problems may have become a cliché but it remains a pre-condition for the normalisation of relations.

There is no reason why Pakistan should minimise India's concerns over the proliferation of terrorist groups on its territory, nor for India to ignore the fact that these groups pose a greater threat to Pakistan than any other country or people. One of the saner counsels doing the rounds is that India and Pakistan should cooperate in fighting their common enemy. It is time such wonderful sentiments were translated into action. Anything that helps movement in this direction — from intelligence-sharing to common strategies at world forums and joint operations — should be earnestly tried.

As if Pakistan and India did not have enough causes to create tensions between them references have been made to Balochistan. Pakistan's foreign office must answer the Indian charge that it has offered no evidence of India's role in the Balochistan unrest. Regardless of the nature and scale of the allegations against India, Islamabad cannot be so naïve as to believe that the Balochistan crisis is wholly or even primarily of India's making. States that cannot retain the confidence of their citizens lose the moral right to complain of external intrigue. If we did not learn this in 1970-71 we will be condemned for never learning from history.

Likewise, India will wrong itself if it denied Pakistan its interest in having a friendly Afghanistan by its side and Pakistan has no justification for seeking a veto over New Delhi's relations with Kabul. But the fact remains that the conflict in Afghanistan has put a cross on Pakistan's future and it expects India to keep their common interest in mind.

Pakistan and India always needed each other. True there have been people in both India and Pakistan who believed that the travails of one were a boon for the other. All such people have been exposed as enemies of both countries. The fact is that the two countries need each other more than ever.

At the same time, however, the lack of pressure on the two states to normalise relations has entered the debate.


India has registered high rates of growth and has more resources to absorb the cost of military operations in Kashmir and elsewhere. So why should it bother about Pakistan's woes? Similarly, it is said that confrontation with India has not prevented Pakistani traders from buying Indian goods in Singapore or Dubai and that the elite is still making money on hate-India slogans. Therefore, Pakistan does not have to yield to the Indian diktat. One can only hope that both societies have the capacity to control their lunatic fringes.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that left to their limited devices the governments of India and Pakistan will not be able to cut through the legacy of conflict and prejudice. They need a huge movement by people on both sides, who favour friendship and rational policies of good-neighbourly ties. That is the area in which all South Asians of goodwill must exert themselves wholeheartedly and at the grassroots' level.








Embroiled in a nasty scandal, India women's hockey team coach MK Kaushik has been crying innocent, saying he is paying the price for refusing to compromise on his selection criteria of merit. He insists Ranjitha Devi has maligned his name by claiming sexual favours were solicited for granting her a place in the team.


His guilt, as yet unproven, has, however, been accentuated by similar allegations by other players — including an Arjuna awardee who was unceremoniously dropped after raising this issue a few years ago.


The probe, instituted by an already cornered Hockey India, will show its own results but it doesn't need an investigation to know this. There have been too many other such incidents in the past.


The scandals have made newspaper headlines but done little to improve the lot of young sportswomen desperately seeking only to showcase their mettle, since money, women and Indian sports don't go together.

We cannot make Kaushik the lone scapegoat. He is, after all, merely exploiting a position of power much like many other men (and some women) in his situation do. All the exploitation may not happen on the hockey field, but expecting sexual favours as the price for a professional fillip seems to have become a way of life.


Head honchos across industries have been named in this shame game, and have emerged with little more than a fig leaf as a face-saver. But, individual bashing aside, nothing has changed.

Sexual harassment laws have been modified — there is a sudden flurry to include sportswomen in the new law — but this problem isn't fixable by amending any rulebook. The way Indian sport is run has to change and the road ahead isn't rocket science. It's simple do this: hire professionals to do the job. If a man is to handle a woman's team, ensure he has a clean reputation and put in place a monitoring mechanism. Build in transparent selection and promotion processes — no one should have any reason to sell her soul (or her body) for a job.

That is the big picture. In sight, in the present, is Kaushik. With teammates supporting, and players locking horns with him, his fate and reputation remain undecided. But, for the nth time, Indian hockey has got the excuse to clean up its act. Can it surprise us?








Richard Holbrooke, US special envoy for Af-Pak, has visited India for the first time since he took office last year. He was not welcome here earlier as India felt that his brief was confined to the two problem countries — Afghanistan and Pakistan. India did not want to be seen as part of the south Asian vortex, which is partly the creation of American policy blunders of the last quarter century and more. India did not want to give any credence to the American formulation that somehow an India-Pakistan entente is a necessary precondition for solutions in Afghanistan, an argument that has been insidiously pushed by Islamabad. And American president Barack Obama seemed to have almost swallowed the bait when he entered the White House last January. Obama's ignorance of the south Asian scenario made him think that Jammu and Kashmir is part of the Af-Pak problem.


Holbrooke seemed keen to play the troubleshooter across Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. New Delhi rejected the assumptions behind that view and that is why Holbrooke was not encouraged to come to India. He is now in Delhi to explain the American position in Afghanistan, rather than to tell India what it needs to do with Pakistan as part of easing the situation in Afghanistan. Washington seems to have realised late in the day that India has much to contribute to the stability of the Afghan polity through institution building as well as through economic aid.


Holbrooke is unlikely to press any point beyond his Af-Pak brief with his Indian interlocutors. India will have to make sure that it remains that way.


The Americans also seem to realise that India has stakes in Afghanistan which cannot be brushed aside, and that New Delhi needs to be kept in the loop. This does not, of course, mean that this development in any way diminishes or excludes Pakistani machinations in Kabul, or that the American dependence on Islamabad over the war in Afghanistan has grown less. As a matter of fact, Holbrooke has given clear indications that Pakistan remains an in important player in the war in Afghanistan.


It would be unrealistic to expect the marginalisation of Pakistan's role in Afghan affairs though Afghans would very much prefer that. All that Islamabad is expected to do is to rein in the Taliban and other Islamist groups. India must continue to contribute to the political and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan because that is a more effective way of insulating Kabul from Islamabad's stratagems.








One of the major achievements of the UPA government in the recent past has been to actually increase the prices of petroleum products. This bold move has been defended as being fiscally sound as it brings life back into the oil marketing companies, where under-recoveries have been very high. The ministry has been saying that it would make the price of both petrol and diesel fully market determined, and while the price of petrol was increased by Rs3.50 a litre, diesel was hiked by Rs2 a litre. Going forward, the government is quite enthused about aligning diesel prices completely with the market.


The situation is really quite funny because this particular move has some unintended consequences for the government. Let us look at petroleum first. Today it is estimated that there are around 12 million cars that run on petrol in the country. Out of this number, around a third are used by the government — both owned and hired. The government here stands for the larger concept of public sector, including Central and state governments, local bodies, public sector banks, and public sector enterprises at both the state and Central levels.


All expenses of these entities finally fall under the purview of the concept of government. And all users of these cars are reimbursed petrol expenses to various extents, depending on the rank and seniority of the official concerned. While these vehicles are meant for official use, there could be considerable extensions to the personal domain.


Now assuming that on an average a car uses 200 litres of petrol a month on a conservative basis, the additional amount spent on each of the 3.6 million cars used by the public sector would be Rs700 a month (at Rs3.50 a litre), or Rs8,400 a year.


Cumulatively, the annual cost works out to around Rs3,000 crore, which is just about the same amount provided as subsidy on petroleum in the Union budget for 2010-11. The amount will, of course, come in quite unobtrusively as various departments within the government sector will first fork out the money as petrol expenses. This will negatively affect the government's finances ultimately through lower profit ploughbacks. Seen separately, this number will not even be noticed by the companies or government
departments concerned.


Let us look at diesel now. Around 15% of diesel consumption is in the farm sector, which the government is trying to protect all the while.


The increase in diesel prices feeds into irrigation costs and pushes up the cost of production for all farmers. This cost will finally be covered by the government when it announces the new minimum support prices (MSPs) for crops, which actually will be paid again by the government. This is one part of the story. But the government transports the same and pays for it under the popular public distribution scheme across the country.


Now, the government procures 50 million tonnes of rice and wheat every year. On an average, the cost of procurement and distribution is between Rs400-500 a quintal, of which transport costs would be about half. Therefore, the present increase of price in diesel of around 5% (which will double once the hike is of the order of Rs4 a litre) will actually mean that the per kg cost of procurement will increase by around 10paise.


Given that the government is dealing with 50,000 million kg, the cost would increase by another Rs500 crore. Now, depending on the extent to which the government chooses to compensate the farmers for the higher cost of production on account of transport costs through the MSP, the overall cost to the government itself could be another Rs500 crore.


So now, we are talking about anything above Rs4,000 crore being the cost to the exchequer on account of this increase in prices of fuel products.


This brings to mind a famous quote of the fictional character of Sir Humphrey Appleby in the now legendary Yes, Minister TV series: Asking a town hall to slim down its staff is like asking an alcoholic to blow up a distillery.


The lesson is really that, at times, going overboard to correct one anomaly leads to another one. Drawing from

contemporary cases that have been under review, if the same yardstick of 'responsibility' in the Bhopal gas tragedy were applied to other major catastrophes in the areas of public airlines (remember Mangalore?) and railways (the series of mishaps that take place every year), then the government would once again be caught in an ocean of embarrassment in terms of compensation!

Views expressed are personal








My mo-Bile phone is an old fashioned one without 'apps' which, along with twit and blog and chat is for amateurs. Now don't say I don't know what I'm missing because I do.


I am missing out on some bore going on for hours about how his phone can train the dog, read minds and give him X-ray vision. Appsters behave like long-married couples who have nothing to discuss but dinner.

Now I am told by a gay friend that I really am missing out. There happens to be a new facility called Grindr (no misspelling), an app with photographs and details which, at the touch of an icon can tell you how close to you another gay user of Grindr is. It may be on the next cafe table or walking ten yards behind you on the street, or if you are on top of Mount Everest he may be  either two hundred miles away or he may be the Sherpa who is carrying your bags and is already tied to you by a rope. The purpose is to put the two or more of you in touch so you can, how shall I put it, interact.  


The app registers people who are up for it. My friend was quite aware that I wouldn't feel I was missing a great deal because I really have no desire to know, at any time of day or night  how close the closest willing sexual male partners are and what their exact dimensions and preferences may be. He did say that Grindr has become an instant hit and has made its inventor a millionaire.


He also said the inventors are working on a 'straight', which means a heterosexual, model of the app. I am sure the idea of this technologically facilitated promiscuity will appeal to millions of males all over the globe, but there's the rub. Will it ever appeal to any woman at all? Isn't Grindr invented on the premise that for very many gay men — perhaps a minority and perhaps not, but still millions as the subscriptions prove — promiscuity is not just desirable it is possible. Will it work for the man-woman interaction or is there more selectivity operating in that process?


Perhaps my story can be taken in evidence: I was once invited in Delhi to appear on a TV book programme on which I would converse with a young lady, a psychologist or analyst I think, who had written a book called The Kama Sutra for Women.

I accepted and consequently read the book.


It was to be recorded in the outdoor patio of a famous restaurant and the audience contained very many women of all ages.


We took our seats. The elegant and accomplished writer seemed  willing to be questioned about all aspects of the book without inhibition.


The first thing I wanted to know was why for women? Surely the activity the sutra describes involves both sexes? The author gave interesting answers but most of them were inclined towards the contemporary feminist view that the sex impulse is, for males and females, naturally the same and the rest is social conditioning and inhibition. This seemed a very popular view with the studio audience and the liberated women cheered her on.

Following instruction to converse I said "In my short and limited experience, and though it's a vast generalisation, men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love."


The reaction to my small observation was instant outrage. Women in the audience began to boo and jeer and shout their violent disagreement. I thought they'd throw benches. When it subsided I said "I am very happy to have had that reaction for my remarks. Will any women who want sex for sex's sake please leave their names and phone numbers with my friend who will be waiting at the studio door."

There were no takers.


Can hetero-Grindr work?









Political bankruptcy of the Opposition was evident in what happened in the Bihar Assembly over the past few days. Legislators sat in the well of the House for one whole night after disrupting proceedings during the day, demanding the resignation of Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister. Strangely, they would not allow any debate on the issue but instead came to blows, engaged in fisticuffs with members on the treasury benches and even attacked the presiding officer. In short, they did everything to justify their expulsion from the House and suspension for the remainder of the session. Some of them then orchestrated a furious assault on the poor flower-pots, undoubtedly for the benefit of television cameras, in protest against the decision. So serious was the Opposition that the leader of the opposition in the Assembly, Rabri Devi, remained conspicuous by her absence on all the three days of the five-day session till then. The 'drama' followed the Patna High Court's observation that an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation was called for into the 'irregularities' detected by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India.


The CAG report in question, curiously, was tabled in the Assembly last year. The opposition made no hue and cry then. The 'controversy' related to procedural violations and the failure of government departments to produce relevant vouchers and bills as proof of expenditure and purchases made. The CAG report had pointed out that over a period of six years, the departments had failed to produce bills worth over Rs 11,000 crore. It certainly indicates serious flaws in the government's accounting system and it cannot be an acceptable excuse that other state governments and even the Central government are guilty of the same omission. Neither the CAG nor the High Court, however, described it as a 'financial scam' yet because a proper inquiry is to be held and even the Public Accounts Committee's report is awaited.


The uproar, under these circumstances, could only have been aimed at making some political capital ahead of the Assembly election, which is due in a couple of months from now. The unruly MLAs could afford to risk suspension because the life of the House in any case is drawing to a close. What is required, therefore, to enforce discipline is to empower presiding officers to debar such members from contesting elections.








Instead of sharpening our strategy to deal with Pakistan, a debate is on in India over Union Home Secretary GK Pillai's remarks made during the July 15 India-Pakistan talks in Islamabad. Pillai declared that the ISI was controlling what happened on 26/11 in Mumbai from the beginning till the end. The Home Secretary's revelations, based on the disclosures made by Pakistani-origin US national David Headley, a terrorist mastermind cooling his heals in a Chicago jail, came at a crucial time — during External Affairs Minister SM Krishna's visit to Islamabad for talks with his Pakistani counterpart SM Qureshi. India had invested much in the dialogue, with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao having visited Islamabad earlier to do the necessary groundwork.


What Pillai had stated was, no doubt, the truth that came to light first after the interrogation of Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Ameer Kasab. This hard reality had been corroborated by Headley. But why did Pillai decide to do what he did? Did he act on his own? On an occasion like the India-Pakistan dialogue, any utterance indicating a lack of synergy between the Home and External Affairs ministries in New Delhi cannot be in the larger interest of the nation. That is why Krishna says that the timing of Pillai's remarks on the ISI's involvement in the Mumbai terrorist attack was "very unfortunate", though what the Home Secretary stated was "very much in order". Thus, the controversy that has arisen could have been avoided if the bureaucrat had waited for the minister's return from Islamabad to pin down Pakistan with Headley's confessions.


Two kinds of views have been expressed in the wake of the unsavoury controversy. Some people are of the opinion that every Indian, including the minister concerned, should defend Pillai so that we do not appear to be on the side of Pakistan in criticising a bright, well-meaning senior bureaucrat. Others hold the view that to push home the advantage, it is all about timing and keeping India's larger interest in mind. India's national interest can be well served only if it is in a position to look beyond Pakistan.










What a nosedive it has been for Indian hockey, both on and off the field! While the world conquerors now stand close to the bottom, seedy details about how the hockey girls were sexually harassed by the chief coach further make the country hang its head in shame. It is a disgusting picture indeed, with several former India players coming out in support of the current bunch. According to them, girls have had to face sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour at the hands of officials for long. They had to suffer the ignominy in silence, because senior administrators were protecting them and also because the girls feared that if they raised their voice, they would not be selected. That is exploitation pure and simple and the perpetrators must not escape stringent punishment.


M.K. Kaushik, the coach accused of sexually harassing national level player Th. Ranjitha, has resigned and M. Basavraja, the videographer whose photos in compromising situations with various "escorts" were circulated among officials and the media, has been sacked. But that should not be the end of the story. There is need for a thorough cleaning of the cupboard so that all skeletons come out. After all, Ranjitha's complaint has been endorsed by other team members though they did not support her specific allegation. Since such things have been going on for long, this is a failure of the top bosses and heads must roll. How can the players be expected to win medals when they have to put up with such maltreatment? Worse, similar allegations have also been made by woman boxers, archers and cricketers in the past.


However, since the accusations have come just one week before Hockey India (HI) elections, there are many who see politics in the whole episode and an attempt to settle personal scores. If indeed that is so, it just shows how deep factionalism runs in the organisation. Even if one believes, for argument's sake, that all allegations are untrue, how could Indian hockey prosper when there is so much friction and rivalry within its ranks?

















NO twist or turn in India-Pakistan negotiations can surprise anyone. But what has happened after the Foreign Ministers' talks in Islamabad is more than usually bizarre. In effect, what Pakistan's Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, has done is to excel his performance and raise the ante so much as to queer the pitch for the present at least.


At the end of the joint Press conference the only saving grace was that the talks hadn't broken down, that the two sides had agreed to remain engaged, and that Qureshi had accepted the invitation of his Indian counterpart, S. M. Krishna, to visit India in December to pick up the threads. By then India and the rest of the world would have known whether or not Pakistan was taking adequate and effective action against all the perpetrators and masterminds of the dastardly terrorist attack from Pakistani soil on Mumbai in November 2008.


Let us overlook the petty and hurtful things Qureshi said about India and Krishna at the apparently orchestrated joint Press conference or the next morning when he flip-flopped even while trying to do some damage limitation. Soon afterwards, he stunned almost everyone by magisterially laying down conditions for his visit to Delhi. He was not interested in going to Delhi for a "leisure trip", he said. He would accept the invitation to go there only if India were ready for "meaningful", "result-oriented" and "constructive" talks on all issues.


How provocative the Pakistan Foreign Minister's declaration was should be clear from the reaction of Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who had made every possible effort to avoid the impression that the parleys in Islamabad were a failure. "It is for Pakistan to decide whether a statement like this (Qureshi's) can help in building up trust. The ball is now in Pakistan's court," she said.


By the time Qureshi's pronouncement hit Delhi, the real reason why nothing could be done about even such doable ideas as separate meetings on trade, tourism, even water. In response to Pakistan's insistence that dialogue should be focused on 26/11 but should cover all major issues like Kashmir, peace and security, Siachen, etc, that amounted to a virtual return to "composite dialogue", India went the extra mile. Stretching its mandate, it offered to schedule talks at appropriate levels later. It added that progress on 26/11 would be a "catalyst" for the purpose. But Qureshi wanted nothing less than a precise timeframe. This killed any kind of deal. Moreover, Pakistan refused to include in the joint statement even a vague commitment to action against terrorism and 26/11 in particular.


However, notwithstanding Qureshi's tall claims on his behalf — implicit in his mean and false remark that Krishna was getting frequent phone messages from New Delhi even in the midst of talks while he (Qureshi) needed no such instructions — the fact is that he is not the maker of Pakistan's foreign policy. He is its mere implementer. Plenty of evidence to underscore this has trickled out. For instance, the schedule for Krishna's calls on President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was abruptly changed because the country's all-powerful Army Chief, Gen Ashfaque Kayani, wanted to see the two dignitaries first. It was only after the General's meetings with the top two leaders of the ineffectual civilian government that Qureshi's attitude at the conference table hardened conspicuously. Nor is it a mere coincidence that apparently inspired reports of a two-year extension to General Kayani, with the possibility of a third year being added to it, appeared immediately after the Foreign Ministers' meeting.


At Thimpu where, on the sidelines of the SAARC summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani opposite number met and directed their Foreign Ministers to resume the dialogue, the Indian side had gathered the impression that the Pakistan Army had "empowered" the civilian government to take the India-Pakistan peace process forward. This was clearly a misperception. For, while the Pakistan government did go through the motions of preparing the ground for the Foreign Ministers' meeting, the Pakistan Army pursued its objective of accentuating the friction with its "main enemy", India, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir, relentlessly. There has been a surge in the infiltration of Pakistani militants belonging to the Lashkar-e-Toiyaba (LeT) and other terrorist outfits into Kashmir. Moreover, on its own, the Pakistani Army has unabashedly increased its violations of the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC). A particularly vicious violation took place on the night of the Foreign Ministers' talks in the Poonch sector.


The infiltration issue is very serious and Krishna raised it during the talks. But the answer that Qureshi gave at the joint Press conference was offensive. Yet neither the Foreign Minister nor anyone in the Indian delegation challenged it. This is strange, indeed shocking. For, this country has rightly reacted strongly to Qureshi's crude attempt to equate Hafiz Sayeed's hate-India speeches with Indian Home Secretary G. K. Pillai's factual statement on David Headley's testimony. Many have, in fact, blamed Krishna for delaying his defence of Pillai until after his return home.


It is all the more surprising that no one has slapped down Qureshi's statement on increasing infiltration from Pakistan. For this is what the Pakistani Foreign Minister said rather superciliously: "Infiltration is not the policy of the Pakistan government or of any of its intelligence agencies. Period. If stray people come in, deal with them firmly." In other words, the influx of Pakistani terrorists into Kashmir is India's business, and Pakistan has nothing to do with it! The whole basis of the peace process is President Musharraf's commitment to Prime Minister Vajpaee in January 2004 not to allow Pakistan's territory to be "used against India"!


The key question is where do we go from here? The BJP's anger against Qureshi's fulminations at the end of an unsuccessful meeting might be understandable. But its strident call for an immediate "suspension", if not termination, of India-Pakistan talks is uncalled for. Nations talk to their enemies even in the midst of war. The Prime Minister's vision of a "peaceful and prosperous" South Asia is laudable. But there are two problems with it: Are there at least some in Pakistan's ruling establishment ready to reciprocate? And is anyone trying the build up public opinion in this country?








HAVE we journalists who work in a conflict zone become insensitive to the tragedy being faced by others, and the death of human beings is confined to only figures for us?


A few days ago while travelling in a bus from Jammu to Delhi I saw a red Maruti car overtaking our bus. Suddenly the car rammed into a tractor coming from the opposite direction. Following the accident the traffic on the highway was halted, we all got down from the bus to help the people trapped in the car; soon the police arrived on the spot to find that nobody travelling in the car had survived.


I had seen a small girl playing in the car when it had overtaken our bus, but now that girl was lying motionless in a pool of blood. Though for some time the tragic accident kept me mum, but then my journalistic mind started to work. I forgot that some people had lost their lives. I started enquiring about the death count and calling my journalist friends in Jammu asking them to do a story.


In Kashmir too for the past many days, a large number of people have lost their lives in the ongoing turmoil. Some have lost their sons, some lost their father, some their husband and many dreams were shattered as some lost their only breadwinner in the family.


When thousands of people run to the houses of the people who die to console their relatives, we journalists too run there, not to show our sympathy but to get a good story and a good photograph. A wailing relative, fainting children and shell-shocked mother and wife make a "good" photograph.


While the relatives make preparations for the funeral of the deceased, we try our best to get their quotes; we ask shameless questions to the father who lost his young son as to how he feels on the death.


We celebrate when our story depicting the pain of others get a front page. We never visit the house of the

deceased again to know what the family is going through. At times we go there to see what the government has done for the family, that too for a story.


We forget the agony of others. We forget that the one who died was a human being, a son, a father, a husband. For us these are only numbers and in the morning a byline showing four dead, four injured. For journalists working in the conflict zone the lives are just restricted to numbers.







India prepares to roll out the red carpet when General Than Shwe(77) comes calling next week. The ruthless military dictator from Myanmar is described by Foreign Affairs journal as the third worst dictator in the world. But driven by strategic and energy needs, India appears ready to deal with him. " If India can deal with Pakistan, why not wth the junta in Myanmar" is the rationale.


The Tatas are planning to set up a plant and GOI is planning to invest in exploring the oil and gas deposits in Myanmar.
The military there is also said to be wary of the growing Chinese influence and would like to neutralise it by giving India some space. Peter Popham provides a riveting insight into the General's Myanmar today.


In the run-up to a long promised but still unscheduled general election, the first in 20 years, Burma's military dictator, Senior-General Than has directed ministers to resign from the army. Those faceless generals who adorn the front page of the New Light of Myanmar, the regime's daily newspaper, inspecting fish-packing factories and barrages, will still be running the country, and anything resembling democratic governance will be as far away as ever.


But the look of things will have changed. The ministers will wear longyi, the traditional Burmese sarong-like garment. And crucially for them, they will no longer enjoy the status and respect which, in a country ruled with an iron fist by the military for half a century, is the army's prerogative. Irrawaddy, the expatriate Burmese news website, predicts trouble.


"Senior-General Than Shwe is facing a mutiny among his subordinates," it claimed last week. "There are growing signs of discontent among his cabinet ministers... They have been betrayed by their boss."


"Like it or not, army uniforms are a symbol of authority in Burma," it went on. "Those who wear them always get priority over those who don't. They are respected and can expect easy co-operation from others. Suddenly they will lose that privilege."


Leaving the army also means that those ministers will not be included in the 25 per cent quota that the army has reserved for itself in the planned new parliament. "Now they are on their own," Irrawaddy columnist Bamargyi pointed out. "Unless Than Shwe supports them with some dirty deals from behind the scenes, they are sure to lose. Once this happens, they are down the drain."


In trying to re-brand his military dictatorship as a civilian administration, the 77-year-old soldier who has been the boss of his nation of 50 million people for the past 18 years, and who was recently named by the journal Foreign Affairs as the world's third-worst dictator after Kim Jong Il and Robert Mugabe, thus faces a major challenge.


How, in other words, to live out the rest of his days enjoying the billions he has plundered from the state, without ending up like his late boss Ne Win, Burma's dictator from 1962 to 1988, who, on Than Shwe's orders, ended his life locked in his lakeside villa in Rangoon under house arrest while his sons languished in jail under sentence of death ?


How to avoid the fate of Khin Nyunt, the military intelligence chief and for many years Than Shwe's number two, who is also under house arrest with no prospect of release (while some of his underlings were tortured to death) after China hailed him as "Burma's Deng Xiaoping"?


According to Ben Rogers, author of the first-ever biography, Than Shwe: Unmasking Burma's Tyrant, which has just been released in London, acute anxiety about his security is behind the fact that, two years after announcing elections, the senior general has yet to say when they will be held.


A similarly secretive, paranoid approach dictated the most extraordinary decision of Than Shwe's career, and the one which, for good or ill, will assure him immortality of a sort: the removal of Burma's capital from Rangoon to a hot, malaria-infested, seismically sensitive wasteland in the centre of the country.


The idea of moving the army's HQ out of Rangoon had been in the air for a number of years, and may have been mentioned by Than Shwe to Aung San Suu Kyi in one of the fruitless meetings they held in 1994, while the opposition leader was under her first spell of house arrest. Rangoon is in the far south; for an army engaged in multiple counter-insurgency operations in the north and east, a base in the centre made strategic sense.


But unknown to the outside world, Than Shwe nursed a far more drastic plan. "At precisely 6.37 am on 6

November 2005," writes Rogers, "hundreds of government servants left Rangoon in trucks shouting, "We are leaving! We are leaving!" ... Five days later, a second convoy of 1,100 military trucks carrying 11 military battalions and 11 ministries left Rangoon.


Perhaps influenced by astrologers, Than Shwe had decided to move the country's capital. He had given government officials just two days' notice." So Naypyitaw, which translates as "Seat of Kings" and is dominated by oversize statues of Than Shwe's favourite royal forerunners, will be this man's monument.


"It's the most awful place you've ever been to," said Mark Canning, a former British ambassador to Burma. "It's a collection of buildings scattered over scrubland. But they are all just dispersed, and there are two or three kilometres between each building. One can only presume it's so they don't get bombed or something, to spread out the targets." As a resident of Naypyitaw told one foreign journalist, "Although [Than Shwe] is a king, he is afraid of many things. He thinks that here he will be safe."


The comments of those who have had dealings with him are uniformly unflattering. "Short and fat with not a strong voice," says one.


"Relatively boring," says another. "No evident personality." "Our leader is a very uneducated man." "There were many intelligent soldiers but he was not one of them...a bit of a thug." "You feel that he's got there by accident..."


The closest Than Shwe gets to being complimented is in the description of a former World Bank official: "He is such an old fox!"


Than Shwe's mediocrity may have had its effect on Western attitudes towards him: he is easily under- estimated. As Rogers points out, he "has demonstrated time and again his skill at offering just enough of a concession to hold the international community at bay whenever pressure intensifies...Each time the pressure eases, Than Shwe quietly abandons his promises."


According to Sergio Pinheiro, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma from 2000 to 2008, writing in 2009, "Over the past 15 years the Burmese Army has destroyed over 3,300 villages in a systematic and widespread campaign to subjugate ethnic groups." At the same time he has kept Burma's civilian population in poverty and hopelessness. The only "reforms" he has pushed for have had the aim of perpetuating military rule under a disguise that fools nobody.


It is safe to predict that sooner or later Than Shwe will get his come-uppance. It may come from his immediate subordinates, furious at being kicked out, and an army that has never held him in esteem. The civil servants of Naypyitaw, incandescent at being exiled from the civilised comforts of Rangoon, may play their part. The monks, whom he arrogantly and foolishly refused to appease in 2007, could have a role.


But however certain his eventual downfall, you would have to be a very brave optimist to predict that he will be replaced by someone significantly better.


By special arrangement with The Independent







Aung San Suu Kyi turned 65 in June this year. She was 45 when her party, National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in the election, polling 80 per cent of the votes. But the military junta did not allow NLD to govern and Suu Kyi herself was placed under house arrest. With Than Shwe shopping for legitimacy, she is increasingly getting isolated, perhaps even irrelevant.


Suu Kyi's brother, an engineer, lives in the United States. Her husband is in England and the Generals will be happy if she decides to give up and live in exile. But the daughter of Aung San, the man who negotiated with Britain for Burma's independence but who was assassinated soon thereafter, refuses to leave her people.


Barring two brief periods the Nobel Peace Prize recipient has been under house arrest for the last 20 years. The University Avenue in Rangoon is now barricaded and the only glimpse visitors can have of her villa is from the other side of Lake Inya.


If and when elections are held later this year, she will not be contesting. Because the Constitution foisted by the military junta debars political parties with political prisoners as members from registering. The only option before the NLD was to disown Suu Kyi and 400 other members in prison and then contest the election.


This was not acceptable to Suu Kyi and her party agreed that contesting such an election would be undignified. Not everybody agrees and some analysts feel she lost out on an opportunity to turn the table on the Generals. But her party has now failed to register for the election. So, effectively the NLD no longer exists.


The new Constitution lays down that the government must be led by a former army man. A quarter of the seats in Parliament are reserved for officers of the armed forces and there is no provision for an opposition. Speaking against the Constitution is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. Suu Kyi loyalists point out that she could not have given legitimacy to such undemocratic provisions by agreeing to the terms.


The last time she was freed and allowed to travel outside Rangoon in 2002, people walked through the night to

catch a glimpse of her. In 2003 her convoy was attacked and dozens of her supporters killed , following which she was placed in under house arrest.


Since then, for the last seven years nobody, barring a few diplomats, have met Suu Kyi. More countries, including India, now ready to sup with the General, chances of her getting her freedom to lead her people appear remote.









It is happening quietly, but certainly. Little by little at first, and recently in ways far more brazen, whole chunks of our country are being sold.


Privately owned land can always be acquired for public purposes. There are roads to be built, and dams, hospitals, bus stops, water works – everything we take for granted but which somebody has to build, maintain and run to provide the essentials of civic life. Previously, the public purpose was identifiable and while the rationale may have been questioned later, the motives were not.


Today, civic authorities throw up their hands and say the only solution is to "privatise". Privatise what? Everything: from policing, to land laws, water supply and sanitation to all forms of local governance.

As a vehicle for privatising an entire country, there has never been a statute as breathtaking in its sheer audacity as the law governing Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The lugubrious title of the zhunka-bhaakar version of the central SEZ law, "The Maharashtra Special Economic Zones and Designated Areas Act, 2010", masks its true intent: to parcel out whole swathes of the state to private corporations, and let them do what they like.

   By a clever piece of legislative legerdemain, these areas will become 'industrial townships'. This means that within these areas developer corporations will have all the powers of a municipal authority: transport, hospitals, health care, markets, schools and colleges, public monuments, parks, police and fire stations and even the registration of births, deaths and marriages.

Governments point to China and claim that, for faster growth, India too needs SEZs. Take a closer look. The first SEZ law in India was proposed in 2000 and much earlier in China. By 2006, China had only five or six SEZs. In India, by October 2006, a staggering 403 SEZs had been approved. The Chinese SEZs are all located near the coast, very close to major transport hubs and routes and within shouting distance of significant commercial centres like Taiwan or Hong Kong. The Indian SEZs are all over the place. In comparison to any single SEZ in China (Shenzhen sprawls over 493 sq kms), Mukesh Ambani's beleaguered SEZ across the harbour is tiny: a mere 14,000 hectares. But when you multiply that by a factor of 500 or upwards of 1000, you get some idea of the sheer scale of the Indian SEZ model.

SEZs are not entirely new. SEEPZ in Mumbai, Kandla, Vizag and other places were all precursors. Every special zone had two distinctive elements: reduced taxes and milder labour laws. What the SEZ law now does is to make land available at a throwaway cost.

For real estate developers, this is a bonanza: a statute that forces people to sell their land and simultaneously lifts all restrictions on what the developer can do on that land. The inevitable result will be a proliferation of enormous gated communities, each with their own constabulary, security and, in all probability, high walls to keep the undesirables (that's us) out.

Why would anyone want to live in a gated community? For one thing, it's a very nice place. Things are neat and orderly. Everybody behaves. The notso-nice people are kept out. True, you might suddenly get the feeling you're living in Peter Weir's The Truman Show, but that's a small price to pay.


Most of all, there's this: in Legoland, poverty just doesn't exist. The poor have been bought out, you see. Where have they gone? Not your problem, but in all likelihood to the city you left behind, to beg on its streets, to make a hovel or a slum somewhere.


The entire approach is just wrong. It is entirely unjust, anti-poor and is no measure of development. Progress must be measured by how we treat those who most need assistance: providing basic education, drinking water, affordable housing, reasonable job opportunities. The eradication of poverty is not achieved by the elimination of the poor. This is precisely what our SEZ laws do, for they force the poor out of their only means of sustenance, without alternative, and for a pittance.

 Increasingly, this is a trend. Everywhere essential civic and social structures are being abandoned and allowed into private hands. Municipal schools make way for malls; public parks become private playgrounds.
 It comes down to our definition of progress. Where we should be pursuing the greater common good, we are, instead, only promoting the lesser private bad.



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





Is New Delhi's North Block on an ego trip? Nothing else explains the determination with which its officials seem to be pushing a bad idea even after substantial doubts have been raised. This newspaper has already raised questions about the manner of issuance and the intent behind the ordinance issued by the President of India on June 18, 2010 on jurisdictional issues pertaining to unit-linked insurance plans (BS, 29 June 2010). In dealing with questions of regulatory overlap, the Union finance ministry has given itself new powers over financial sector regulators, including the nation's central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The wise thing to do for the government would be to listen to learned comments and the genuine doubts expressed, send the draft Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Finance and suitably address the core issue of central bank authority and autonomy. Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has given verbal assurance that nothing will be done by the government to diminish the status of the central bank. This is well taken. But this assurance would have meaning if the government offers to take a second look at the text of the ordinance.


There are two substantial issues at stake. First, the idea of the finance minister chairing a joint committee that has, as its members, secretaries from the Union finance ministry and the chairmen of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda), the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), and the Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA), along with the RBI governor, immediately alters the status of the central bank governor. This committee is to be "charged with the responsibility of sorting out all issues of jurisdiction regarding hybrid products or composite instruments having a component of money market investment or securities market instrument or a component of insurance or any other instrument" presently handled by RBI, Irda, Sebi or PFRDA". In effect, it would mean the finance ministry would be adjudicating on these issues. This is a bad idea. (More so since all the present heads of these institutions are former members of the Indian Administrative Service!) The best way out would be to make the RBI governor the chairman of this joint committee. This would restore to the governor the status of primus inter pares, while allowing the finance ministry to have two senior secretaries conveying its views which would be heard with respect by all concerned.

 Second, the idea that inter-regulatory institution coordination can be done through governmental fiat is a wrong one. Differences between regulators are bound to crop up, jurisdictional issues are bound to arise. The best way to deal with them would be to clarify jurisdictions better, as was done in the case of unit-linked insurance plans, and leave it to the wisdom and experience of regulators to iron out their differences, under the benign chairmanship of the RBI governor and the intent gaze of finance ministry representatives. Bringing the finance minister into this not only politicises the process, but will end all discussion. The finance minister has, after all, the last word on any issue. But to so openly flaunt ministerial authority over institutional autonomy is fraught with negative consequences for economic governance.








The recent incident of the removal of the managing director of the National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) by its board and the government's insistence on his reinstatement is not an isolated case of blatant official interference in the functioning of a cooperative. Such instances are countless. Regardless of the merits and demerits of this particular case, such diktats from the government need to be viewed in the broader perspective of functional freedom of cooperatives. The Centre and the state governments have been treating cooperatives as governmental appendages, which they are not; nor should they be. Marketing cooperatives are essentially organisations of borrowers, farmers, small entrepreneurs and others who come together to collectively take advantage of economies of scale in marketing their produce. To be successful, these cooperatives need to function democratically and efficiently as they are accountable to their members. Of course, they do require professional management but for that they should be allowed to hire professional managers rather than externally imposed civil servants (read IAS officials) as managers. While there are serious problems of organisational failure among cooperatives, the successful functioning of sugar, fertiliser and milk cooperatives shows the way forward to others. Most of these are headed by capable professionals and not government officials. The Indian cooperative movement, despite being over 100 years old, has failed to emerge as a viable "third sector", distinct from the private and public sectors, outside of sugar, milk and a few other commodities. Indeed, the genesis of the cooperative sector's woes can be traced to the statutory framework that governs it.


Right from the first law, the Cooperative Credit Societies Act, 1904, all laws passed by the Union and state governments for this sector bestow on the state the right to intervene in the functioning of the cooperatives as well as equity participation in them, paving the way for the induction of official representatives on their boards. The Model Cooperative Bill, which was drafted by the Centre in 1991 on the lines of the recommendations of the Choudhary Brahm Prakash Committee on cooperative sector reforms — and was circulated to the states for amending their laws accordingly — had raised some hopes for things to change. It had specifically barred equity participation by the government and appointment of its nominees on the management of the cooperatives. However, not only most states but even the Centre ignored this key provision while enacting the Multi-state Cooperative Societies Act, 2002. This law, which is still operative, allowed the cooperatives to return government equity if they so wished, but it fell short of putting an end to the practice of equity participation. Worse still, it also does not prohibit the nomination of officials on the boards of the cooperatives, though it limits their number to a maximum of three. This is a provision that needs to be abolished. Some of the bigger and well-run cooperatives have paid back government equity and liberated themselves from official control, but many others have not. The Nafed incident reminds once again that cooperatives in India have still a long way to go to become really cooperative institutions.









The simultaneous rise of China and India is phenomenal, but serious concerns also arise on the bilateral

relationship. After all, the lingering border dispute, geopolitical mismatches, inevitable conflict of interests, and a huge trust deficit between the two nations could all trigger tensions and even confrontation, bringing about disastrous consequences to both countries and the entire region.


But the problems in Indian-China relations are mostly the legacy of the Cold War, during which India and China were in different camps. Indeed, in those years, the two countries shared little common ground in their development — India and China did not really need each other in their nation-state building, nor did they have any joint security concerns. While China perceived its fundamental threat coming from the North (during the Cold War) and Pacific, India saw the de facto Sino-Pakistan coalition as a real security threat. As a result, there were little exchanges between the two neighbouring nations. Mutual suspicion and even hostility prevailed.


Fundamental changes have taken place since the 1990s, and these changes have made cooperation the only

option for China and India to sustain their ascendancy. First and foremost, unlike previous powers whose rise was preconditioned by the global reach of their military capability, China and India cannot rise through expansion backed by military might in today's world. Rather, China and India are rising through integration into the existing world system amidst globalisation; and, this world system is based on capitalism and is dominated by developed countries.


Thus, reform, not military power, has been the precondition for the rise of China and India. Only by changing themselves first, in order to join the world, can a rising China and India help change the world.


The pursuit of a similar path in their ascendancy has resulted in common interests and demands. Rising as status quo powers, India and China have a shared demand to reform the existing world system, so that it can continuously facilitate, rather than hinder, their development. This explains why on major global issues — from environmental concerns to food security and from restructuring the world financial system to trade policies — India and China are naturally on the same side.


Beneath these common interests lies the fact that India and China are facing the same fundamental challenge in their endeavours for modernisation. Yet the established model to achieve this goal — modernisation through industrialisation — is unsustainable because the experience of the developed countries shows that industrialisation means massive consumption of natural resources and rampant urbanisation. Given the combined population of 2.5 billion people, western-style industrialisation in India and China would bring doomsday.


Thus, it is a joint mission for India and China to find an alternative path and, moreover, to persuade the developed countries to support this mission and help pay up the environmental deficit that had been accumulated in their modernisation process.


Bilateral cooperation also serves the interests of India and China on other more pressing issues. "Water shortage looms for China, India" — this eye-catching Bloomberg headline on May 31, 2010 indicates a looming crisis of water in India, China and all the Asian-continental countries, where the flowing water comes from the same place. As water has become a vital economic resource and an important strategic asset, bilateral cooperation between the two big powers in Asia is the key to solve this problem. Confrontation will only make everyone the loser.


Nowadays, India and China also find convergent concern rather than divergent interest on the Pakistan issue. Lingering instability, rapid expansion of fundamentalist influences, and persistent military dominance since the start of the Afghan war have dramatically increased Pakistan's profile in China's security concerns, especially after the violent, explosive riot in Xinjiang on July 5, 2009. China and India will have to work together to promote stability and development in Pakistan, with a military under solid civilian control and an economy integrated regionally.


Even on the thorny border issue, bilateral cooperation brings more benefits. Beijing and New Delhi have keenly realised that the border dispute involves strong nationalistic resentment because it roots deep in the injustice both nations had endured during the colonial period. Any compromise on this issue — even if necessary — can provoke damaging backlashes in domestic politics. Thus, the bilateral approach towards the border dispute, as indicated by the dialogue between National Security Advisor M K Narayanan and State Councilor Dai Bingguo in August 2009, is to seek effective management, rather than a premature solution. Obviously, it takes constant consultations to manage the dispute and prevent explosive escalation.


Indeed, bilateral cooperation demands a forward-looking vision. The explosive increase in Sino-India trade — from merely $2 billion in 2000 to over $60 billion in 2009 — is but a footnote of the unfolding momentum in bilateral relations. It is true that Sino-India trade was less than 3 per cent of China's total trade volume — $2007.2 billion — in 2009. But bilateral trade — if its annual increase keeps just half of the 50 per cent annual rate in the past decade — will be over $400 billion in 2020, which is larger than the present trade between China and America.


No doubt that there are conflicts of interest between the two rising powers. But this only highlights the importance and necessity of bilateral cooperation, not just because common interests far outweigh conflictual ones, but because confrontation would surely make both losers. It is high time for China and India to make a joint effort to promote bilateral exchanges and, specifically, to institutionalise bilateral summits and high-level dialogues.


An Asian Group of Two (AG2) — the institutionalised management of bilateral cooperation — is necessary to promote and sustain a peaceful and constructive relationship between the two rising Asian powers, whose success is essential for peace and prosperity in the entire region.


The author is professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore. He has also been an interlocutor between the Dalai Lama and Chinese authorities








Despite the excellent (30 per cent) growth in exports in June, India's average monthly trade deficit over the past three months (April to June) has been more than $10 billion. The US trade deficit for May was $42 billion. This means that even though the US economy is around 12 times ours in size, its trade deficit is just 4 times ours.


 Given that global markets had been beating up on the dollar for several years because the US trade deficit (and, to be sure, its budget deficit) was much too high, it would seem likely that markets would also start beating up on the rupee at some point since India's trade deficit (as a percentage of GDP) is so much higher.


This view — that the rupee could weaken sharply and stay weak for some time — flies in the face of the default mindset of a large number of Indian businessmen, many of whom are largely unhedged on their foreign currency borrowings and import portfolios. Changing mindsets is difficult, which is why I have selected such a loudly provocative title to this piece.


It should also be of some concern to this mindset that the IT sector doesn't appear to be entirely in the "rupee will strengthen" camp — most of the large players are now hedging out to just six months, as compared to the two-to-three years they used to look at earlier (2007-08). Again, the non-deliverable forward market, which often reflects the views of global currency traders who largely punt on "fundamentals", is also looking at a much weaker rupee just one year out.


So, what's the short point? Could it happen? Could the rupee hit 50 again?


Anything is possible, of course, particularly with fundamentals — trade deficit, double-digit inflation, and

political sclerosis — stacked against the rupee. However, a lot depends on what the dollar does overseas.


As my ardent fans — one of them even compared me with Paul the Octopus — will recall, right before the start of the World Cup, I had forecast that the euro would correct sharply, which it has. The correction appears to have stalled at around 1.30. I had thought it would run a while longer — say, to 1.35, high enough to break the pervasive euro-bearish mood in the market. It may still happen, of course, perhaps driven by some more poor economic numbers out of the US. The basic point is that markets make substantive turning points only after they have done damage to a whole lot of views, and there are still too many unconverted euro bears around.


Of course, what will trigger the turnaround in the euro (and the dollar) is anybody's guess.


To try to get a better fix on things, I called on my American economy thermometer — a close friend in the US who has a small business, which designs and wholesales wonderful hand-embroidered pillows, hand-painted glasses, hand towels, etc. — "stuff" that America loves, but is hardly "must have".


I caught him while he was at The Atlanta Gift and Home Furnishings Mart (aka America's Mart). Business was

OK he said — the January show had been great, but this one was so-so. Then we did a "man on the street"

show, where he stopped several other vendors at the trade show and asked about their business. These were all

wholesalers who feed major retail stores, whose sales make up nearly two-thirds of the American economy. Their product range was diverse — high end to low end, must-haves to highly discretionary. More or less across the board, their responses were that (a) the worst of the slowdown was long over, (b) some parts of the market (particularly New York) were rocking again, and (c) on a broad basis, it looked like the economic recovery was slowly taking hold.


No champagne yet, but not just beans either, was his summary.


To my mind — particularly given the proliferation of double-dip gurus — this isn't a bad prognosis. The US economy seems to be settling down. And, since America is America, once that steady-state holds for a few months, things would automatically break out upwards. If US President Barack Obama is lucky, it could happen before the November elections. In any event, at some point, the modest optimism being seen by wholesalers will feed into a turnaround in US consumer sentiment, which may turn out to be just the trigger the dollar needs.


And, given the whole host of negatives weighing on the rupee, another round of dollar bullishness would

certainly catapult the rupee lower.


But, 50? Well, something to think about.









Mr X, a senior vice-president managing human resources of a large "Indian multinational", sensed something wrong as he walked into his rather spacious cabin. He could see people huddled together whispering something that he could only guess.


The morning's business papers had reports about his company being close to acquiring a fairly large competitor, something that was denied by the top management. Mr X had called the COO early in the morning only to be told that there was no truth in these reports.


 So, Mr X was ready with the answer when his general manager came rushing asking him about the reports. "Just tell everybody not to believe in baseless rumours," Mr X said, rubbishing the rumour-mongers.


At around 4 pm, the COO called to say that he would like to discuss something urgent. As he walked into the conference room, Mr X heard the CEO telling everybody in a hushed tone that the company had entered into an acquisition agreement with one of its closest competitors and that the announcement would be made to the stock exchanges in minutes, as soon as the trading hour was over. Then turning to Mr X, the CEO said, as the HR head, he would have to manage the people side of the merger.


The meeting was over in a few minutes and the COO said he hoped Mr X would understand why he denied the morning paper's reports since these things have to be kept secret till the last minute. Mr X went straight to the general manager's cabin to apologise for his "baseless rumour" comment and went home. Next morning, he faxed his resignation letter. "I just couldn't move around with a fake smile to show off that I knew it before all of you did, but couldn't say it because of secrecy, etc," Mr X says, adding, while no company can announce such things over a loudspeaker before everything is formalised, he just couldn't figure out why the top management couldn't trust even the HR head with such information.


The incident happened two years ago, and Mr X, now running his own HR consultancy, says he was naïve enough to believe that the company he worked for was an exception. Top managements in quite a few Indian companies still think they are god's gift to mankind and often consider communicating with employees, even senior ones, about change initiatives as their last priority. This is because most consider informing employees and dealing with their concerns as a soft and fuzzy exercise that can be tackled by HR managers who, incidentally, are always the last to know.


Many companies still believe in a top-down approach: CEOs or a few of his trusted lieutenants trying to force their version of change on a reluctant workforce. But they forget the fact that it only breeds increased resistance and cynicism in an organisation. There are far too many such examples of top managements wanting to remain on the cutting edge always, while standing still on their approach to people management. While it's a fact that change initiatives surely can't be decided by popular vote, the only solution is to effectively communicate with employees about the reasons and where each of them — at least the ones the company would like to retain — fits in the scheme of things.


If one is to avoid polarisation, with a handful of members of a change management team dictating strategy on

one side and the remainder of the company viewing each of the team's move with suspicion on the other, what is required is an "engagement approach", which helps create the critical mass required to make change efforts successful.


The obsessive secrecy often spills over to relatively simpler issues. Mr X gives another example of a senior employee asking his boss about rumours of a planned expansion of the company in another city. "I can only say it will happen sooner rather than later," the boss said. The "sooner" happened to be the next day when the company announced the expansion on its intranet.


Such things happen as some managements (usually comprising the top two or three people) assume that people

will rebound quickly, accept the change and move on. The reality is, however, completely different. Surveys

have shown barely 10 per cent of organisations have seen their change efforts succeeding. And as many as a

third of them say there were unsure whether they had really succeeded.


In case you want to check out how effective you are as a change manager, here are just five questions (excerpted from Managing Change by Harvard Business Press): Are you accepted by others as trustworthy?; do others perceive you as competent?; do you involve those who will be most affected by the change?; are you comfortable with a certain level of disruption and conflict?; are you aware of/can you describe how your own patterns of behaviour have an impact on others?


If the answers are "yes", you have it in you. But don't forget to look in the mirror while answering them.









These are uncertain times for global economic governance. For over six decades after the Second World War, the West framed the rules of engagement for the global economy. In the initial years, the United States was the pre-eminent power, which oversaw the creation of the Bretton Woods system (IMF and World Bank) and the initial Rounds of trade liberalisation under the newly born GATT (which became the WTO at the end of the Uruguay Round in 1993). As Europe recovered from the ravages of war and Japan launched on its high growth phase, these new leviathans (especially Europe) increasingly asserted themselves and won greater voice and roles in world economic governance. But it was still an essentially western enterprise, with a demilitarised Japan content to go along in return for an American nuclear umbrella. The Soviet Union and its satellites were not an integral part of this economic system and the developing countries didn't carry significant economic clout, not even the populous Asian giants of China and India.


 Despite major debates on a variety of issues between the US and European nations, the broad thrust of multilateral trade liberalisation proceeded quite successfully through multiple trade Rounds and cross-border private capital flows revived over time as industrial countries gradually relaxed their capital controls. The 1973 Opec oil price hike was a significant shock to western dominance but was overcome in time through a combination of economic adjustment to higher prices and adroit cooption of the major Opec surpluses via recycling through the western financial systems. In response to the oil shock, the West created the G7 system in 1975 as a potent instrumentality to coordinate western control over the major international economic areas of trade, exchange rate systems and capital flows. Western dominance over global economic governance increased after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the subsequent, willing cooption of the "second world" countries into the western system.


The big and sustained challenge to the West's sway over world economic governance came with the rise of China (especially) and other developing countries after 1980. As everyone knows, China's spectacular resurgence began around 1980. By the late 1990s, her economic scale was such that her continued spectacular growth of GDP, industry, trade and capital flows began to shift materially the balance of world economic activity away from the West after four centuries of hegemony. The effect was amplified by strong growth of India (about a third of China's economic size), and moderate expansion of Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey. In PPP (purchasing power parity) terms, Martin Wolf estimates (Financial Times, July 14, 2010) that the share of these countries in world GDP rose from just over 20 per cent in 2000 to nearly 30 per cent in 2010. During the same decade, the share of the G7 countries fell from almost half of global GDP to 40 per cent.

Of course, this shift in economic weight was accelerated by the North Atlantic financial crisis (2007 onwards) and the associated Great Recession of 2008-09. As major western economies foundered and flailed, Asia revived quickly, especially China and India. Virtually all future projections expect these trends in shifting global economic power to persist in the coming decades.


Perhaps predictably, the gradual decline of western economic hegemony has complicated the governance of global economic issues. Rising nations like China, India and Brazil are increasingly assertive of their economic rights and perspectives. Correspondingly, the waning (in relative terms) hegemons of the past are loathe to cede voice and control. Nowhere are the anomalies more obvious than in the voting shares of the IMF (especially) and World Bank, where small European nations still command disproportionate vote shares. Three big and current global economic issues illustrate the growing complexity of economic governance in our increasingly multi-polar world. They are: multilateral trade liberalisation, macroeconomic policy coordination and the response to global climate change.


Unlike its predecessor GATT/WTO Rounds of multilateral trade liberalisation, the Doha Round, launched nearly 10 years ago as the "Development Round", has got bogged down and shows little prospect of an early and successful conclusion. Of course, there are many factors at work, including the reluctance of a recession-hit West to undertake further liberalisation and the intra-West, US-European dispute over agricultural subsidies. However, the loss of western hegemony (compared to earlier Rounds) is surely a significant complicating factor in hammering out an agreement. Some argue that with global trade (outside agriculture) quite free, there is no great urgency to concluding the Doha Round. But this may underestimate the potency of the "bicycle factor": if one doesn't keep moving forward, then trade liberalisation can fall into regressive protection. The danger is particularly acute when unemployment rates are ruling high.


A year ago, macroeconomic policy coordination seemed to have achieved new heights in response to the Great Recession and partly mediated through the freshly mandated G20 Summits. Governments of all major economies found it in their interest to ramp up expansionary fiscal and monetary policies. Since the early months of 2010, that consensus has frayed, especially after the sovereign debt pressures after the Greek fiscal crisis. Most governments are seeking early exits from large-scale fiscal and monetary stimuli, but at different times and with different phasing. As the recent G20 Summit in Canada showed, there is little effective policy coordination, both across western and non-western economies and between western ones. Equally worrying is the absence of effective coordination between the US and China on the key medium-term macro issues of exchange rate realignment and rebalancing of aggregate demand. Without these, there is significant risk of rising protectionism and re-emergence of global imbalances.


Finally, the absence of really meaningful progress at Copenhagen last December showed the clash of interests and expectations between the West and the major developing countries in coping with the clear and present dangers of ruinous climate change. A bare modicum of agreement was achieved between the "coalition of the unwilling", notably the US, China, India and Brazil. The more progressive (on climate change mitigation) European nations were largely excluded form the final "deal".


So, the decline of western economic hegemony appears to have seriously complicated forward movement on key, current issues of global economic governance. It seems a reasonable bet that as multi-polarity increases over time, effective convergence and agreement on major issues of world economic governance will become more difficult. No panacea seems to be in sight.


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









THE Centre's decision to begin the roll out of the goods and services tax (GST) from April next year is welcome, even if it means granting concessions to bring all states on board. A three-year plan for moving to a single GST rate of 16% for the Centre and states is a pragmatic way to create a seamless common market. Improvements can always be made later, but it is important to get the rollout process off the ground. The consensus is to have a dual GST: central GST and state GST. States have, however, raised concerns over losing autonomy in their taxation powers. This has been partially addressed by keeping petroproducts and electricity duty, that account for over a third of the revenues, out of GST. The decision to compensate states that suffer revenue losses during the transition will encourage them to switch to the new regime. A uniform threshold exemption for goods and services is also logical. It will ensure that tax credits are available across the value chain and on inter-state transactions. Fewer taxes and uniform rates will lower the tax burden and improve efficiency of manufacturers.

 However, the implementation of GST should be preceded by adequate preparatory work both at the central and state levels. This includes constitutional amendments, agreements between the Centre and states on the rates of levy, the exemption list, law and administration, and a mechanism to track inter-state transactions. A robust IT system is a pre-requisite. Recall the compliance problems encountered after the introduction of the value-added tax at the manufacturing level (Modvat) in 1986. Systems were not in place to track transactions, leading to fictitious claims by manufacturers. Many of them claimed credit on input taxes that they never paid. The Centre has rightly entrusted the task of creating the technology backbone for GST to a panel led by Nandan Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, to ensure that mistakes such as these are not repeated. A simple destination-based tax system may be a long haul — given that the EU took years to adopt GST — but the Centre should get going with the country's biggest indirect tax reform.








IT IS unfortunate that there is no road map for diesel price decontrol. The Centre must not develop cold feet and dillydally now, after last month's welcome move to deregulate retail prices of petrol and having announced its intention to do likewise for diesel so as to rationalise runaway fuel subsidies. In any case, diesel is the most used petroleum product, by far. And dithering over prices and subventions would be fiscally retrograde, shore up consumption subsidies recklessly and thoroughly misallocate scarce budgetary resources. The government revised retail prices of the main petroproducts in June, given rising costs of imported crude oil. But despite the price revision, the under-recoveries — the difference between cost price and realised price of public sector oil marketing companies — are likely to add up to more than Rs 50,000 crore this fiscal year. Hence, the urgent need for decontrol and allow market-determined prices for diesel. Otherwise, the under-recoveries will devolve on the Union Budget, rev up unscheduled borrowings of oilcos and have a panoply of untoward consequences. Populist fuel subsidies delivered via public sector retailers simply drive away private players from the market at a huge national cost.


The point is that instead of monopoly prices and perverse controls, we need a thriving market for petroproducts to boost efficiency and reduce costs. As the recent Kirit Parikh committee report reiterated, a market-determined pricing system for petrol and diesel needs to be sustained by providing a level playing field and promoting competition among all players, both public and private. In mature markets, independent retailers are known to account for over half the oil offtake. Petroleum already accounts for over a tenth of economic output here, which underlines the need for routine efficiency improvement and productivity gains across the board in the oil economy. Yet, policymakers have preferred to muddle along with monopoly prices in oil that have builtin cost-plus components — for example, of logistics — and there's ring-fencing of retail oil sales as well, thanks to umpteen conditionalities and high effective tariff barriers. We can surely do better.








NEW York mayor Michael Bloomberg giving the visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron an authentic taste of his city via the ubiquitous hotdog from a streetside vendor this week should give Indians some food for thought. Of course it helped that the thrifty Mr Cameron alighted from a train from Washington DC and hence could walk it to a kiosk — it would not have been possible had he landed in an official jet for he would surely have been whisked away from the tarmac. That the hotdog meal cost the billionaire mayor a mere $2 plus a tip, should also go down well with those concerned with runaway government spending. And it should be a clarion call for the organisers of Delhi's Commonwealth Games that has not only reportedly cost India's capital city a hefty Rs 30,000 crore but also included extravagances like a Rs 40-crore floating blimp even as the catering arrangements are yet to be finalised. Mr Cameron arrives in India soon, to be followed by US President Barack Obama and French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Since they all strive to be 'different', they should be given a taste of 'real' India. Even if they eschew rides on India's increasingly-mishapprone trains, they could still look beyond boring Rashtrapati Bhavan banquets and glitzy five-star hotel fare.








WITH logistics and transport emerging as integral parts of business worldwide, there is a lot to do for a vibrant competition regime and regulatory mechanism for the sector in India. An overwhelming need today is for transport to be conducive to economical, speedy, safe and seamless flow of goods and people across the country. An approach paper recently released by the Planning Commission envisages "an overarching framework in order to eliminate divergent mandates currently prescribed for various sectoral regulators" for infrastructure sector.

Although what looks to be a seeminglyelusive target of 30% of private capital in the projected investment of over Rs 20,56,000 crore for infrastructure in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12), private participation in it is critical. And a meaningful mobilisation of private capital is dependent on 'a supportive investor-friendly environment'. This will entail a regulatory system, a level playing field for competing suppliers, and credibility of the system to safeguard the interest of consumers for quality of service and its cost. To instil confidence among private investors, government's sovereign functions of regulation need to be separated from the management and operation of transport services. The legal and jurisdictional contours envisioned in the document should be specifically delineated.
   The Plan panel document traces in some ways a similarity between the legal framework for regulation of the utilities sector in the UK at the turn of the century and the existing regulators in India being governed by sector-specific statutes with different regulatory structures and processes. Much like in the UK, it proposes, India too should standardise regulation across utility sectors through a consolidating legislation applying to all existing regulators. It advocates that the country should opt for multi-sectoral regulators such as for (i) communication, (ii) energy, and (iii) transport. For these three major sectors, separate appellate tribunals have been proposed. The regulators will function in a quasi-judicial manner in conformity with the principles of administrative law.
   The regulators are proposed to continue functioning under sector-specific statutes administered by the respective ministries. It argues the option will eliminate proliferation of regulatory commissions, help build capacity and expertise, promote consistency of approach and save on costs. The aims, though eminently laudable, are not easy to achieve. As the different ministries and departments let little of investments and business plans to coalesce and converge for an optimal economic strategy and solution, the specific sectoral regulators in their respective domains will operate in no dissimilar environment.
   The country's transport sector is characterised by conflicting and overlapping jurisdictions: while road transport is a state subject, there is country's overarching Motor VehiclesActthathasapan-Indiasweep.Other forms of transport — shipping, railways, aviation and 'major' ports — are central subjects, yet more than 180 'non-major' ports in the country are in the state jurisdiction.
   In shipping and aviation, the industry is regulated internationally as well, which limits the role of the domestic regulator. One glaring anomaly in the country's transport sector has been a scarce intra-sector coordination. Separate sectoral ministries for different modes do not evidently admit of wellcoordinated and harmonious framework for policy development.
   Today, investors in the road projects have no recourse to an independent regulator on account of which, it is felt, even the concession agreements are not standardised. The current statutes, the National Highways Authority of India Act, 1998, Central Road Fund Act, 2000, and the Control of National Highways (Land and Traffic) Act, 2002, serve little regulatory purpose. Dominated by freight forwarders, trucking in India is a veritable cottage industry, and has some highlynegative consequences, for example, of overloading. Several laws relating to the trucking industry are outmoded. The Multimodal Transport of Goods Act, although amended extensively, remains still not in sync with the modern-day requirements.
   OF LATE, the need for a regulatory mechanism for the government-owned and operated Indian Railways has been intensified in the context of avowed acceleration in private sector investment aimed by Indian Railways, specially after it licensed 16 container train operators (CTOs). Mostly guided by the Indian Railways Act, 1989, Indian Railways administers the concession agreement with CTOs is the exclusive service provider and operator, sets tariffs and lays down terms for the maintenance of wagons procured by the licencees.
   India has been liberalising its air transport policies in a way that entry and exit are really free. The process commenced in 1986 when air-taxi operators were allowed to operate domestic services. The Air Corporation Act, 1953, which permitted monopoly status for thepublicsectorIndianAirlinesandAirIndia was abolished in 1994. The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority is in a formative stage and will hopefully devise efficient processes to regulate tariff for the aeronautical services, development fees in respect of major airports and passengers service fee, besides to monitor performance standards relating to quality and reliability of service.
   Currently, the Indian Ports Act, 1908, and the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963, govern the ports. It's high time that the antediluvian distinction between the 13 major ports in the centralsectorandsome185non-majorports in the state sector is rationalised. The Major Ports Regulatory Authority (MPRA) envisaged to replace the current Tariff Authority for Major Ports (Tamp) is proposed to be given the powers of an ordinary civil court, its decisions subject to an appeal in a high court. Disputes within the purview of the Competition Act, 2002, or those maintainable under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, will be beyond its jurisdiction. Tamp has no jurisdiction over the non-major ports. There is no regulatory recourse for investors or users for matters such as dispute resolution, performance standards and consumer protection.

Traditionally, the markets for transport services have been a subject of public control: rate regulation in railways, entry restrictions in trucking business, minimum levels of service for city transport or cargo reservation in shipping exemplify myriad regulatory controls promoted in the name of public interest. At the embryonic stage that our competition and regulatory reform is, there will be a need for constant review and course correction.


Aclear role for the statutory regulators visà-vis the Competition Commission needs to be defined, so also accountability of the regulators besides their logistics-related requirements. While regulators may well be assisted by a robust consumer forum, their accountability be ensured, say, through a parliamentary committee. Again, the selection body for regulators as well as the incumbents themselves must not to be restricted to babus, serving or superannuated. All relevant laws and procedures need to be kept simple and practicable without a tangled skein of avoidable technicalities and litigation around them. The over-riding aim would be to identify and minimise the problems not just of market failure but also of regulatory failure.








THAT this is one of the book's longest chapters is unsurprising: it takes up the ethics of commercial transactions, our culture's most common sort of human interaction. One way or another, these questions involve money. In particular, they deal with shopping and with the essential conflict between buyer and seller. The former wants to pay the lowest price, the latter wants to receive the highest; the temptations of deceit are powerful. That is why the used-car dealer has long been depicted as a reviled and tormented soul. If the car had been invented one hundred years earlier, Verdi would no doubt have written an opera about a used-car dealer.

There is an entire body of ethics and a great deal of law designed to ensure the wheels of commerce keep turning smoothly, and that's not entirely a bad thing. It's nice to be able to buy groceries knowing that your pound of coffee is an actual pound. And actual coffee. And it makes the shopkeeper's job more relaxing if he can be confident that you'll pay for it, rather than slip it down your trousers. (And it makes your guests happier, knowing they won't be drinking trouser coffee.)


Commercial codes are ancient and nearly universal; laws touching on business practices can be found among Roman law, and farther back among the Egyptians and Babylonians. The earliest such provisions were little more than caveat emptor, but we have made a kind of moral progress… But an uneasy tension persists between consumerism and commerce








Professor JNU

No, they don't represent real India


THE news that the government is considering voting rights for NRIs has once again brought this controversial issue into focus. Both the Congress and the BJP keenly support the measure arguing that it is in keeping with globalisation and high growth rates that have attracted NRI investment. However, the idea is driven as much to obtain support for the kind of politics that both parties are espousing.


The BJP hopes that it will help preserve Indian sanskritiparticularly among younger-generation NRIs and garner support for its Hindutva ideology through overseas associations such as the Friends Of BJP. In Narendra Modi-governed Gujarat, prosperous NRIs were invited to fight elections on the party's symbol, even as the India Shining campaign attempted to showcase the country as a rising superpower. The Congress party, including the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has invited NRIs to invest here and actively participate in the India growth story.

However, the reality is starkly different. Most of our remittances come from humble workers in West Asia who cannot settle there; not from highly-educated, prosperous NRIs in the West who leave to seek a better life. The latter constitute gated Indian communities far removed from the real poverty-ridden India. Giving them voting rights would make politics even more driven by money power and democracy more elitist. It is questionable whether NRIs understand the nitty gritty of day-to-day politics or voting rights will really involve them in development in India. \


The First Gulf War exposed them as fair-weather friends who invest in India when the economy is prospering, but disappear during a downturn: NRIs withdrew $2 billion in 1991-92 when India desperately needed foreign exchange. Many ethnic Indians rejected PIO status when they discovered that Britain does not extend consular protection to PIO cardholders in India. The move to involve NRIs will not help either party in the long run.


T S Krishna Murthy

Former Chief Election Commissioner

Time to make universal franchise real


 THE right to vote is universally recognised as an important ingredient of a vibrant democracy. Our Constitution incorporated universal adult franchise as its cardinal principle. And the right to vote is based on the residence principle under the Representation of People Act. So, only voters ordinarily residing in the geographical constituency can vote in that constituency.


 NRIs living abroad do not have the right to vote now as they do not comply with the residency rule, although few of them surreptitiously have their names registered in voting register and exercise their voting right by visiting the country during the elections. The only exception to this are Indian diplomats serving abroad and the armed forces personnel for whom special arrangements exist to exercise their voting right. In countries like the US, the voting right is based on citizenship principle, implying that they are entitled to vote wherever they are.

Should Indians living abroad, but having Indian passport, be given the right to vote? This issue acquires special significance in the context of a large number of our citizens increasingly migrating to other countries for employment, education, research and investment. The proposal to grant dual citizenship to those Indians who had acquired foreign citizenship can also raise issues regarding voting rights to them.


All Indians holding Indian passports should be given the voting right to make our universal franchise real. Moreover, the contribution of such eminent citizens emigrating for limited tenure to India's development cannot be ignored. Many of them pay taxes in respect of their properties and income in India. Giving them voting right will be a logical consequence of the universal franchise principle. The NRIs can be given the voting right in the constituency where the voter has properties or where taxes are paid ordinarily. Alternately, NRIs can be carved as a separate constituency and be allowed to nominate two or three representatives to the upper House.










MEETINGS of G-20 leaders regularly affirm the importance of maintaining and strengthening openness in trade. June's G-20 summit in Toronto, although not very effusive on trade, did not back away from it. Yet, talk is cheap, and the openmouth policy of (generally pro-trade) pronouncements has not been matched by action.

 The paradox is that this has been good for holding the line on protectionism — actions are also necessary to 'roll back' open trade. So we have largely stood still, in trade jargon.


But lack of trade activism has also meant that we are not moving forward with trade liberalisation. The long-standing Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations seems to have been put on indefinite hold. That governments did not break out into protectionism after the global financial crisis hit surprised many. In retrospect, it is easy to see why. Policy is driven by three 'I's: ideas, institutions and interests (i.e., lobbies). On all three dimensions, protectionist policy was hemmed in.


 Progress in economic thought after 1929 initially led to the argument that, in a depression, tariffs are justified because they would divert insufficient aggregate world demand to one's goods at the expense of others. But all could play this game, saddling the world economy with tariffs that would likely hurt all while failing to revive growth. The solution was obviously to forego protectionism and increase aggregate demand instead. This lesson has been well learned.


Institutions have also helped. Following the passage of America's Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930, countries raised trade barriers in a tit-fortat frenzy, with no rules to constrain their behaviour. The architects of the post-war global order, therefore, established the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) in 1947, which embodied such rules — as does the World Trade Organization (WTO), which absorbed and expanded the Gatt in 1995. Indeed, no country has defied WTO rules in the current crisis.


Of course, we might still have yielded to pressure for protectionist measures, especially as WTO rules leave open the possibility of such aresponse. Thus, for instance, bound tariffs (i.e., agreed ceilings) allow countries to raise actual tariffs, which are often lower, without restraint. What has prevented the eruption of WTOcompliant trade wars has been the changed structure of the world economy, which has created strong anti-protectionist interests.

Thus, when the US Congress enacted Buy America provisions for public procurement, many US firms, such as Boeing, Caterpillar and General Electric — all fearing retaliation in their foreign markets — lobbied successfully to moderate the legislation.

The Doha Round ought to profit from some of these fundamental forces that favour open trade and impede protectionism. Indeed, conventional wisdom holds that, during a depression, citizens become risk-averse and will not support liberalisation. But, with many people now aware that their jobs depend on trade in a closely-integrated world economy, polls in the US and elsewhere show continued majority support for free trade.

While the Doha negotiators have settled many important issues, the final negotiations first stalled last year, owing to US' refusal to cut its agricultural subsidies further and India's insistence on special safeguards to prevent exposing its millions of subsistence farmers to unfairly-subsidised US competition.
   Today, domestic politics in the US and India has left the US as the only stumbling block to progress. The last election freed India's Congress Party of its coalition with the Communists, who opposed trade, and thus increased the flexibility of pro-trade Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But the last election in the US ushered in aDemocratic congressional majority that is indebted to trade-fearing unions, thus constraining the pro-trade President Barack Obama.


Obama also faces falling support from business lobbies in manufacturing and services — sectors that are demanding more concessions from other nations. Were he to opt to close the Doha Round as it has been negotiated to date, he could become a general without any troops. His silence on Doha at the recent G-20 summit was deafening.


 So, how do we move forward on trade? One solution, favoured by some Washington thinktanks, is to go along and ask for more. But that would mean several years of renegotiation. The Doha Round would then be de facto dead.

The other option is to close the Round by resolving the US-India discord on agriculture. Mutual concessions can be crafted that ensure negligible political fallout for both leaders. This would also require marginal improvements in concessions by the major developing countries, and by the US and the European Union on services. The problem is that lobbyists in Washington would reject this modest solution if the Doha Round were the end-game. So, part of the solution would have to be declaration of another Round to negotiate new aspirations and demands. We could even call this the Obama Round. After all, Obama should have to live up to his Nobel Prize as a multilateralist!

(The author is University Professor at    Columbia University)








WHAT'S so great about living for the day? Or for that matter, its various high-speed variants that urge us to exist in the here and now, the passing present, that urgent, ephemeral and apparently most-important 'moment'? Stuff like "For the past is but a shadow and the future an unknown; therefore, voyager revel in the instant you transit through for 'tis the only thing you know". (Yes, it's made up, but you get the drift.) The Bible says give us this day our daily bread — and not, for instance, our week's supply. Buddhists tell us to take one breath at a time. The Gita's advice is to concentrate on present action.


Alcoholics Anonymous, whose rules are similar — namely, to lay off the liquor only on a day-to-day basis — is at least understandable. Psychologists know there's a neat therapeutic trick of reinforcement involved by means of which a person can reward himself with one brownie point on completion of each 24-hour period that passes without downing a drink.


Yet, when that same rule gets applied to everyone across all levels of living, it hardly makes sense. If all of us did that — which naturally would be the goal of such an exhortation — and took it literally, then we'd end up in monasteries, mountain-tops or in our own reclusive and absolute worlds.


There's nothing intrinsically wrong in that, but if taken to its logical extreme, it would be like how most animals live: not for the day, not for the minute, not even for the moment because their lives are a mindless and biotic persistence that keeps traversing through infinitely thin slices of time till that fleeting instant also passes through them and they die.


 So, if living one day at a time means don't think about tomorrow or the next day and just live the now, it's a no-brainer. Because unlike animals, we have an awareness that allows us to learn from past mistakes and anticipate possible futures and, therefore, why should we unnecessarily and suddenly renounce this added feature of our brains?


Also, what if all the enlightened people in our history had thought they should be living in the moment and not tomorrow, not next year; that they should be enjoying life today? If they had simply allowed their wisdom to lie fallow while wallowing in its bliss by themselves, would we have had some of our greatest religions today? No. It goes without saying they definitely lived for another day.





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Even as we can understand that actions of ordained political actors will be guided by the urge to derive the maximum perceived advantage months before a major election, it is hard to see how the shenanigans of Opposition legislators in Bihar can be justified on any count. The wholly blameworthy acts of disruption and violence indulged in by the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly on Wednesday can hardly be said to inaugurate a soiled chapter. In recent years unacceptable behaviour of the same type has been witnessed in several state legislatures. Indeed, the way MPs — who could have set an example — have conducted themselves in the Lok Sabha in recent years can hardly be deemed worthy of emulation. Even so, it is no exaggeration to suggest that Bihar's legislators have shown the way to a new low in unbecoming conduct by public servants — all in the name of safeguarding the values enshrined in the idea of representative government of course. Before long, in order to shame our legislators, a public-spirited body that cares for democracy might see it fit to invite MLAs and MPs to a tongue-lashing by those who elect them. Or are we expecting too much from those we vote in, considering that a fair proportion have serious criminal cases instituted against them? The Comptroller and Auditor-General of India has indicted the Bihar government of malfeasance to the tune of several thousand crores of rupees in the last seven years. The matter is out in the open with the Patna HC ordering a CBI probe following a public interest litigation case. In the event, any Opposition worth its timbre would be up in arms. However, this gives the parties outside the government no licence to smash furniture and seek to hurl missiles at the Speaker. It is debatable whether the Speaker should have suspended the entire Opposition for the remainder of the Assembly's term, set to expire in four months, or if he should have asked the marshals to bundle out the MLAs forcefully. But there is no question that the Opposition parties behaved without a modicum of dignity even when they were within their rights to lodge their protest emphatically. The ruling side too has taken a needlessly confrontationist stand in relation to the judiciary. The Speaker has held that the HC was out of order in ordering a CBI probe before the Assembly had disposed of the matter. This appears an extreme view. In this case the high court gave its order in the context of a PIL. The Nitish Kumar-led NDA government has appealed to the court to stay its order directing a CBI probe. It might have been a lot better if the CM had himself decided to ask for a CBI inquiry. Since state elections are due, the CM may consider exercising his prerogative to dissolve the House.









Internationalism has always been a vital part of our national DNA. Even at that midnight hour when, in Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's memorable words, India awoke to life and freedom, our country was deeply conscious of its international obligations.

In his historic speech about India's "tryst with destiny", Nehru, speaking of his country's dreams, said: "Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible; so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this one world that can no longer be split into isolated fragments".


It was typical of that great nationalist that a time when the fires of Partition were blazing across the land, he thought not only of India, but of the world. In those six decades, the world has become even more closely knit together than Nehru foresaw.


Indeed, today it is fair to say that even those countries that once felt insulated from external dangers — by wealth or strength or distance — now fully realise that the safety of people everywhere depends not only on local security forces, but also on guarding against terrorism; warding off the global spread of pollution, of diseases, of illegal drugs and of weapons of mass destruction; and on promoting democracy and development.


Jobs everywhere, too, depend not only on local firms and factories, but on faraway markets for products and services, on licences and access from foreign governments, on an international environment that allows the free movement of goods and persons, and on international institutions that ensure stability — in short, on the international system that sustains our globalised world.


Today, whether you are a resident of Delhi or Dili, Bengaluru or Bangor — whether you are from Chennai or China! — it is simply not realistic to think only in terms of your own country. Global forces press in from every conceivable direction. People, goods and ideas cross borders and cover vast distances with ever greater frequency, speed and ease. We are increasingly connected through travel, trade, the Internet; what we watch, what we eat and even the games we play.


These benign forces are matched by more malign ones that are equally global. In my time at the UN, I learned that the world is full of "problems without passports" — problems that cross all frontiers uninvited, problems of terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, of the degradation of our common environment, of contagious disease and chronic starvation, of human rights and human wrongs, of mass illiteracy and massive displacement. Such problems also require solutions that cross all frontiers, since no one country or group of countries can solve them alone.


Let us not forget that 9/11 made clear the old cliché about our global village — for it showed that a fire that starts in a remote thatched hut or dusty tent in one corner of that village can melt the steel girders of the tallest skyscrapers at the other end of our global village.


In such a world, issues that once seemed very far away are very much in your backyard. What happens in North America or South Africa — from protectionist politics to deforestation and desertification to the fight against AIDS — can affect your lives wherever you live, in north or south India.

And your choices here — what you buy, how you vote — can resound far away. As someone once said about water pollution, we all live downstream. We are all interconnected, and we can no longer afford the luxury of not thinking about the rest of the planet in anything we do.


To my younger readers, let me say that you are likely to spend a lot of your adult lives interacting with people who don't look, sound, dress or eat like you; that you might work for an internationally-oriented company with clients, colleagues or investors from around the globe; and that you are likely to take your holidays in far-flung destinations.


The world into which you will grow will be full of such opportunities. But along with such opportunities, you

may also find yourself vulnerable to threats from beyond our borders: terrorism, of course, but also transnational crime syndicates, counterfeiters of currency, drug smugglers, child traffickers, Internet spammers, credit-card crooks and even imported illnesses like swine flu.


Wouldn't you want your government to devise policies to deal with such challenges that would affect your, and one day your children's lives? Should such policies, in an ever more interdependent world, even be called foreign? One of the reasons that foreign policy matters today is that foreign policy is no longer foreign: it affects you right here where you live. You want your government to seize the opportunities that the 21st century world provides, while managing the risks and protecting you from the threats that this world has also opened you up to.


Indians, therefore, have a growing stake in international developments. To put it another way, the food we grow and eat, the air we breathe, and our health, security, prosperity and quality of life are increasingly affected by what happens beyond our borders. And that means we can simply no longer afford to be indifferent about our neighbours, however distant they may appear. Ignorance is not a shield; it is not even, any longer, an excuse. This is the spirit in which I hope to approach this column in the fortnights to come.


* Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Kerela's Thiruvananthapuram constituency









The goodwill laboriously built up on the eve of the Indian foreign minister's visit to Pakistan has gone up in smoke. Honeyed homilies have been lost in a trail of acrimonious utterances. The losers again are the luckless people of the two countries.


Advocates of conspiracy theories have received grist for their mills in the form of reports that the interlocutors were on course towards an accord but suddenly something happened and everything changed overnight. (We have heard of draft agreements abandoned at the last moment many times before — in 1948, in 1963, in 1989, in 2003, and the undated Musharraf-Manmohan understanding.)


Curiously enough, the Indian foreign minister, S.M. Krishna, has not described the Islamabad talks as a failure, while his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, sounds not only disappointed but also angry. The interest of both countries will be served better if neither side gives vent to bitterness in words that cannot be taken back and which will only further complicate matters. Many people are satisfied that India and Pakistan are still on speaking terms with one another. This is no doubt a healthy way of damage control but people are getting weary of round after round of talks without any sign of relief from their tribulation. After all, the India-Pakistan impasse is adding to the miseries of a large segment of humankind, especially the people of Kashmir, the farming community of Pakistan, vulnerable prisoners and divided families.


One good result of last week's encounter, however, is that the issues now dividing the two countries have emerged in bold relief. It seems India went on the offensive on the basis of what it claims is fresh evidence on the Mumbai outrage and demanded immediate satisfaction, something that the Pakistani side could not do. Pakistan also apparently chose offence as the best defence and fell back on its Kashmir case.


In simpler words, India said the terrorism issue could not be ignored and Pakistan said something similar about

Kashmir, the foreign ministers shook hands and agreed to put the interest of their people aside.


No great intelligence is required to appreciate the constraints under which New Delhi and Islamabad are living. Pakistan will be in the wrong if it expected India to soft-pedal the terrorism issue and it will not be realistic on India's part to believe the government of Pakistan has the means to control the militants its predecessors and the saints from across the Atlantic had foolishly sired.


Similarly no knowledgeable Pakistani can believe that it is possible for the present government of India to offer Islamabad the kind of satisfaction on Kashmir it has been asking for or even to match the rhetoric of the Vajpayee government. Both sides are prisoners of forces that are not amenable to reason. Both need to mobilise their people to fight their indigenous monsters. If the established democracy in India cannot achieve this, the task is much harder for Pakistan where the transition to democracy is still an illusion. That India and Pakistan have to help each other in getting over their problems may have become a cliché but it remains a pre-condition for the normalisation of relations.


There is no reason why Pakistan should minimise India's concerns over the proliferation of terrorist groups on its territory, nor for India to ignore the fact that these groups pose a greater threat to Pakistan than any other country or people. One of the saner counsels doing the rounds is that India and Pakistan should cooperate in fighting their common enemy. It is time such wonderful sentiments were translated into action. Anything that helps movement in this direction — from intelligence-sharing to common strategies at world forums and joint operations — should be earnestly tried.


As if Pakistan and India did not have enough causes to create tensions between them references have been made

to Balochistan. Pakistan's foreign office must answer the Indian charge that it has offered no evidence of India's role in the Balochistan unrest. Regardless of the nature and scale of the allegations against India, Islamabad cannot be so naïve as to believe that the Balochistan crisis is wholly or even primarily of India's making. States that cannot retain the confidence of their citizens lose the moral right to complain of external intrigue. If we did not learn this in 1970-71 we will be condemned for never learning from history.


Likewise, India will wrong itself if it denied Pakistan its interest in having a friendly Afghanistan by its side and

Pakistan has no justification for seeking a veto over New Delhi's relations with Kabul. But the fact remains that the conflict in Afghanistan has put a cross on Pakistan's future and it expects India to keep their common interest in mind.


Pakistan and India always needed each other. True there have been people in both India and Pakistan who believed that the travails of one were a boon for the other. All such people have been exposed as enemies of both countries. The fact is that the two countries need each other more than ever.


At the same time, however, the lack of pressure on the two states to normalise relations has entered the debate. India has registered high rates of growth and has more resources to absorb the cost of military operations in Kashmir and elsewhere. So why should it bother about Pakistan's woes? Similarly, it is said that confrontation with India has not prevented Pakistani traders from buying Indian goods in Singapore or Dubai and that the elite is still making money on hate-India slogans. Therefore, Pakistan does not have to yield to the Indian diktat. One can only hope that both societies have the capacity to control their lunatic fringes.


Nevertheless, it is obvious that left to their limited devices the governments of India and Pakistan will not be able to cut through the legacy of conflict and prejudice. They need a huge movement by people on both sides, who favour friendship and rational policies of good-neighbourly ties. That is the area in which all South Asians of goodwill must exert themselves wholeheartedly and at the grassroots' level.










The Greek poet Archilochus noted that thinkers were of not one but two varieties. There were the hedgehogs that had one single large idea, and the foxes who, in contrast, had not one but many little obsessions. The former had a set of foundational principles by which they saw, measured and asserted the coherence of their world. The foxes were each a bundle of many parts, of conflicting ideas of what the great Isaiah Berlin would call the "many little things". The contrast could not be greater or the difference more stark.


The hedgehogs are all about a vision, a core set of beliefs. The parts all add up to one single whole. The fox is all about parts and cannot be boxed into one hole. The hedgehog sets about to achieve what is crying to be done. The fox is all about being many things at once.


For one there is the single shaft of sunlight and for the other many colours as the light exits a prism. One hue or many? One road or many paths? Is there one great seminal issue at a time that the world has to confront or be done in? Or are there many? Over the last century, and more so since the turn of the Sixties, those concerned about the earth's ecological web, the structures and functions of nature, have locked horns on such lines. The divisions are not so simple as between the hedgehogs and the foxes.


Hedgehogs often differ on whence the threat is most acute. Overpopulation or the energy crisis; global climate change or the wipeout of species. Each issue has found a hedgehog to sound the trumpet, to rouse all to action. Each issue has been focus of concern and thought, action and reaction. It is the hedgehogs who sound alarm bells, rally the silent, and give voice to new concerns of an age.


But hedgehogs of whatever colour or, should we say, spines are clear on which drumbeat they march to. If they give up their one cause then not just one issue but all is lost. They must march on lest others lose focus.
The foxes are a different story. Here, one issue merges with another. Where hedgehogs stay with one link, they want to tackle the entire chain. Not all at once, but something amounting to that.


The drive to stop a large dam leads on to the question of displacement and to the larger developmental model itself. Pollution from an oil spill must be plugged but is of little use unless the energy regime itself is not under the scanner. Saving species is vital but not at the cost of the dispossessed of the earth.


"We are not of the Left or the Right", the German Red turned Green Rudolf Bahro famously said in the 1980s. "We", he said confidently, "are out in front". It was industrial society per se that was at fault in exploiting humans and destroying the fabric of nature. There was need to rethink the model of industry as progress itself. Nothing less would suffice.


The German Greens, as they grew in numbers, were not so far in front. They may have begun as foxes but they matured into hedgehogs. For all the changes they brought about to moderate public policy, they were hedgehogs of a party political variety that made the deals essential to be in office.


So, the species do metamorphose after all. Time tide and age do matter. Some rare men or women are given to be both. Wangari Matthai of Kenya started out as leader of a green movement, endowing women with dignity even as they reforested the land. She ended up a minister with a wider agenda. As she says in her inspirational book, Unbowed, the journey continues, only the sign posts change.

Anil Agarwal, the late environmentalist of the poor of India, was another such figure. It is difficult to box him for he had both a central idea and several facets to his life, ideas and work. With his colleagues he put water harvesting on the public agenda a decade ago.


Twenty years ago he helped pull together many strands to give a citizens' view of a "Green India" that ought to be. In our parlance, he gave the spoke to the wheel that made many foxes into a force led by a hedgehog.


Which one is better? Foxes find the linkages between society and nature, the doings of men and women and the ways the land and waterscape is remade and torn asunder. By following the many hues they represent the connections of the parts.


Hedgehogs can be obsessively single minded. Writing of the struggle of the socialists in the Thirties, the English poet W.H. Auden lauded them for believing in "today the struggle". Such single-mindedness can have its advantages.
At a time when the relations of technology, society and nature are going through seismic shifts, there is some merit in seeing both the single-minded and the multi-hued as equally vital. Like the yin and yang in Chinese philosophy, they can check and balance each other. After all, the earth and all of us would be worse off without both in harness.


* Mahesh Rangarajan is an environmental historian. He recently co-edited the book Environmental History: As If Nature Existed








Guru a word, a four-lettered word, has the phenomenal potential of taking you beyond, beyond not the pains and miseries of life but beyond yourself. In other words, beyond what you know yourself as, opening the doors to the higher worlds and taking you through experiences which turn you from a normal being to a super being. So let us go beyond these four letters, into the energy of these four letters, to fathom this phenomenal force.


A guru-shishya relationship is beyond the ambit of maya or a commercial transaction. Guru does not charge a material fee for what he gives you, for it is said that material is maya and it binds you to the physical and someone who himself is bound with the physical cannot take you beyond. Guru has to take you beyond the clutches of maya to give you the real experience.


In vedic philosophy the highest place and regard is given to the energy called Guru. Guru is not a physical being; Guru is the energy considered even higher than Para Brahma, the divine consciousness. The first Guru, or Adi Guru, is Lord Ardhanarishwar, Lord Shiva Himself. He is the energy responsible for dissolution and transformation of all forms of existence. Souls who have completed their experiences of the physical world and want to go back to the source adopt the path of evolution and go back to where they came from. This is the journey of the spirit that cannot be completed without a Guru.


Guru is not our guide or teacher. His every word, every indication is divine word, divine indication. For a

sadhak (practitioner) Guru is the Divine incarnate.


We all are bound by our limited senses and cannot think beyond what the individual mind perceives. To go beyond the limitations of the body and the senses, one has to gradually evolve or transform — one cannot learn, just have the knowledge and go beyond. It's the Guru who gradually gives you the experience so that you gently transform and are finally liberated.


Guru's shakti (force) is not limited, as the energy is anant (endless), akhand (expansive). A shishya should always consider the word spoken by his Guru as a mantra. Ancient rishis have emphasised the mahima of Guru in a shloka: "Dyhana moolam Guru moorti, puja moolam Guru padam, mantra moolam Guru vakyam, moksha moolam Guru kripa" (the root where dhyana comes from is Guru's form, puja or any form of austerities a disciple practices comes from the lotus feet of the Guru, root of mantra is Guru's word and root of liberation, moksha, only lies in Guru's blessings).


Only those who are blessed can see beyond the egoistic perception of the limited senses and do not use the mind to make the mistake of assessing this energy for what is unlimited cannot be assessed by a limited mind.


Guru-shishya parampara is the world's oldest system of evolution and learning and its power and ability can be judged from the fact that it is still being practiced today. Most successful people in various fields would always have a Guru. Guru can be a physical being or a material object; it is not the shape and form which is important but the energy which a Guru holds and the ability to channelise it into the shishya.


Guru Purnima holds the highest place in yogic philosophy for it is the day when the Guru's force is in full bloom and is very easily accessible. Just like on a full moon night the moon's magnetism is at its height, similarly on Guru Purnima a Guru's glow is at its height and merely being in your Guru's presence can have amazing effects on your evolution and give phenomenal experiences to the inner world.


* Guru Purnima is on July 25


— Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan
Foundation. He has recently written a book,
Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting.
Contact him at [1]








ENTRENCHED so deeply are the stated positions on vexatious Indo-Pak relations that the external affairs minister is likely to be pilloried rather than praised for a rare display of honest looking-within ~ unthinkable in that specific context. Those inflated with false prestige will accuse him of playing into Pakistan's hands; after all the traditional mindset prescribes that New Delhi can do no wrong and Islamabad can never be right. Others will salivate over a palpable inter-ministry disconnect. And the Opposition could seize the opportunity to further slam the government.

  It is difficult to accept that SM Krishna was unaware of the potential for that kind of negative reaction, hence there is all the more reason to appreciate his moral and political courage when declaring that most "untimely" was the home secretary's going public on what the interrogation of David Coleman Headley revealed. For GK Pillai's inability (indeed almost all of North Block is similarly blinkered) to put the bilateral relations in a perspective that extends beyond cross-border terrorism did prevent the foreign-ministerial interaction from taking off. The reaction from Pakistan to Krishna's comment could be definitive. Gloating would cement the stand-off, on the contrary treating it as India's internal controversy would suggest some commitment (under US pressure?) to defuse tensions. In that eventuality Krishna may have actually put a new confidence building measure on the table ~ a signal that he was prepared to proceed beyond meaningless jaw-jaw that so easily backfires.

Krishna may have spoken openly, a similar unstated signal had been sent out earlier by the home ministry designating a less senior officer to regularly interact with the media, calling upon the home secretary only on special occasions. Regardless of how Pillai responds to Krishna's rap, the designated spokesman move is positive ~ provided he is kept fully in the loop ~ but not good enough. Still eluding Raisina Hill is the concept of "strategic communication" which ensures that spokespersons of all key ministries (it would be wonderful, but difficult, to extend that to ministers too) are on "the same net". Particularly on issues with international ramifications. Also causing ripples at this point in time are the home secretary and national security adviser blowing their trumpets over Headley's disclosures. The US had granted access to him to facilitate a criminal investigation ~ not to furnish ammunition for more anti-Pak salvos. Now most nations will be wary of sharing information with an establishment riddled with loudmouths.  





After being in the political wilderness for about four and a half years during which an impression gained ground that Bihar had turned over a new leaf, it would have been uncharacteristic of Lalu Prasad not to grab the opportunity  to emphasise that Nitish Kumar also belongs to Bihar's tainted political class. In fact, if figures mattered, the case of misuse of funds meant for welfare schemes referred to the CBI is worth more than ten times the fodder scam still hanging around Lalu's neck. What no one may have anticipated was the extent of lawlessness perpetrated by members of Lalu's party in the Assembly ~ a reminder of the worst days of his regime.

  Unmasking the Bihar chief minister may be his priority before the Assembly election. Lalu's flair for theatre is well known, if not his powers of reasoning. That explains his defence of the shameless acts of violence on the ground that Nitish Kumar has no business to remain in the chief minister's chair after the High Court order. The suspension of 67 of his party's MLAs who disgraced themselves before television cameras and had to be carried out by marshals will definitely not worry a leader with a shocking record in public life.
The chief minister has a lot to answer for and the next few months will obviously find him concentrating vigorously on damage control. Whether or not he succeeds, what Lalu will find hard to justify is the hooliganism that he had adopted as an acceptable device to reaffirm his popular credentials. In a similar situation, he had waited till he was actually driven to jail ~ after installing his wife in the chair. The law has begun to take its course in the case of Nitish Kumar and Sushil Modi who are in the delicate position of having to undo the impression that they were pretending to be warring partners while actually conniving for personal gains. But for Lalu to talk of moral responsibility is like the devil quoting the scriptures. If Bihar needs to be cleansed of evils, that task must also cover Lalu's hooligans.



EFFORTS by the Sanmalita Jatiya Abhibartan, a forum of Assamese intellectuals and personalities, to initiate the peace process are yet to take off, but its chief convenor, Hiren Gohain, a Sahitya Academy awardee, seems disinclined to give up easily. After all, he was not the only one to shoulder the responsibility given his contention that the forum took shape after the Ulfa vice-president Pradip Gogoi and publicity secretary Mithinga Daimary, both out on bail, sought his assistance. Now with the Centre and jailed top Ulfa leaders insisting on a written formal commitment for talks, the question centres around who will bell the cat. In this context, the forum's persistence deserves encouragement. More so because not only does it have the unqualified support of Ulfa sympathisers, it is also representative of as many as 100 socio-political and ethnic organisations all yearning for the return of peace.

In calling Gohain a Delhi stooge, Ulfa's elusive self-styled commander-in-chief Paresh Burua has only marred his own image by claiming he heads a "one-man" outfit. He should at least realise that his intent to achieve an "undying" ambition of a "swadhin Asom" without popular support is wishful thinking. Gohain is right in suggesting that top Ulfa leaders be freed to facilitate talks. If Pradip Gogoi and Daimary could be released, why not the others? Ulfa's second string hierarchy are said to be not too insistent on the sovereignty issue but they have seldom been specific about it, which raises doubts about their intention. However frustrating their prolonged detention without trial may prove, the least they can now do is set a time-frame for Barua to put his cards on the table and decide a future course of action.







THE decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security not to use the Army in a combat role against the Maoists is welcome. The earlier proposal to deploy the Rashtriya Rifles in some of the affected areas was not accepted by the army because of inadequate troops. It was also feared that this would expand the areas of conflict, cause avoidable collateral damage and create other problems. When the proposal was initially mooted by the Home ministry, Air Chief Marshal Nayak had pointed out that the Army, Navy and Air Force are not trained for "limited lethality".  The Army is already overstretched and its reluctance to be dragged into another internal security duty ~ J&K and the North-east ~ is justified. The secondary role of internal security duty does hamper the Army's primary function of defending the country against external aggression.
The anti-Maoists operations are likely to be a prolonged exercise. The military will have to be deployed for a considerable period of time, and over vast forest areas. There are also other complexities. The Army has pointed out that troops cannot be deployed for active operations without adequate legal protection through the implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSP).  Should the Army be deployed, it will be an acknowledgement of the Maoist strength.  They may even fabricate stories, alleging atrocities by the Army as the insurgents have done elsewhere to further demoralize the troops.
De-mining operations
THE Home ministry has also suggested de-mining operations as one of the major tasks to be assigned to the Army. But the military perception is that de-mining cannot be segregated as an operational task since no area is permanently mined.
So far, the Centre's operational strategy is to concentrate its forces in the areas of Maoist domination and attempt to reclaim the areas from them. But the Maoists are essentially a faceless enemy who will never confront the State in its areas of strength.  They usually target the areas where the force is dispersed or reduced in strength.
A revised strategy is now being worked out by the government to confront the Maoists. The involvement of the Army will by and large be limited to training the police and para-military forces, particularly in jungle warfare.
The Maoist threat has become more serious and sinister. The current attrition rate in the counter-insurgency operations favours the Maoists. It is estimated that 170 securitymen were killed, against 108 Maoists during the first five months of 2010. In 2009, 312 securitymen were killed, against 204 Maoists. Earlier, the Maoists seldom targeted innocent civilians. However, they are now indulging in rampant violence with callous disregard for civilian lives. The objective is to discredit the governments, and convince the people that the State authorities are not in a position to protect them.
The police has to play a pivotal role in any counter-insurgency operation against the Maoists. In such states as Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura, where anti-Maoist operations have been fairly successful, the police have been in the vanguard of the operations. The final responsibility of countering the Maoist was vested in the district's Superintendent of Police. The army and the para-military forces coordinated the strategies evolved under the command of the police. Of course, there was a substantial increase in the strength of the police, complete with training and equipment. The Greyhound in Andhra is an example of a trained, well-drilled and well-equipped unit that was able to confront the Maoists effectively. Small mobile units were able to patrol the jungles and launch surprise attacks. The police were able to gather better and more reliable intelligence from the local people than the personnel of the army and para-military forces who do not belong to the area. Operations against terrorists and insurgents can be described as a limited commanders' war, and they will have to be empowered. The capabilities of the force will have to be strengthened if they have to respond promptly and adequately.
Unfortunately, the performance of the police is below par in many states affected by Maoist violence. There are a large number of vacancies at the police station and supervisory levels. The police will have to be urgently revamped, retrained and de-politicized ~ no easy task. Governments in the states are unwilling to carry out police reforms and implement the directives of the Supreme Court in the case of Prakash Singh vs Union of India. Most of the states have not segregated law and order and investigative functions of the police.
To tackle the Maoists, the government could either follow what they call the "drying up the swamp" approach by gaining control of such areas as Bastar, Malkangiri etc. Alternatively, the administration can adopt the "outsider-in" approach by stabilizing the moderately-affected areas and then trying to converge on the most troubled regions. Perhaps the second approach will yield greater dividend because it would be possible to deploy government resources judiciously, and thereby improve the lot of the disaffected and win them over. In Andhra, roads, police stations, schools and government offices were created in the northern forest belt adjoining Chhattisgarh. The state had reclaimed these areas that were under Maoist occupation.

Intelligence network

THE police force will have to be modernised and the Intelligence network revamped in the affected states.  Roads will have to be constructed and the range and quality of public service improved. This will require substantial Central funding. It also presupposes close coordination between the Centre and the states.


Unfortunately, there is little or no coordination, let alone a well-defined approach.

In Tripura, the police and the security forces have been able to contain insurgency that had plagued the state for three decades. The Chief Minister, Mr Manik Sarkar, has provided excellent political leadership. Armed action was followed by appropriate socio-economic measures to alleviate the distress of the  people.  Safeguards were adopted against human rights violations by the security forces.

Operations against the Maoists is a matter of concern even outside the country. At the Asian security conference in Singapore, misgivings were expressed over India's nuclear arsenal if  Maoist activity continued to escalate. It was pointed out by the National Security Adviser, Mr Shiv Shankar Menon, that the Maoist threat, though serious, should not be exaggerated.

It is a rural-based insurgency with little support in the urban areas and it is a movement with an Indian agenda and not a global movement with a global agenda. It is yet to graduate to the level of a mass uprising. It is possible to overcome the threat and break the back of the movement, but a series of well-calculated and determined steps  are imperative. There are no quick-fixes. It is going to be a prolonged exercise.
The writer, Senior Fellow of the Institute of Social Sciences, had served as Director, National Human Rights Commission, and of the National Police Academy.









There is an injunction derived from the code of British public schools that says juniors should be seen and not heard. This principle applies with greater vehemence to the behaviour of senior bureaucrats. In a popular democracy, it is not the job of bureaucrats, however senior, to make public statements. In fact, at the best of times, they should not even make public appearances. Public statements should be made by the minister concerned. A bureaucrat, almost by definition, is the backroom boy that Humphrey Appleby personified in the serial, Yes Minister. The home secretary, G.K. Pillai, transgressed this simple code by making the statement regarding the involvement of the Inter-Services Intelligence in the attack on Mumbai in November 2008. It is not the veracity of what Mr Pillai said that is at issue. Or even the timing of the statement — since it was made when the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan were engaged in crucial talks. Mr Pillai should not have spoken; the matter ends there.


One wrong cannot, however, be rectified by another wrong. The foreign minister, S.M.Krishna, publicly criticized Mr Pillai for the timing of his statement. Here again, what is critical is not what Mr Krishna said but his manner of saying it. A minister should not criticize or rebuke a senior bureaucrat in public. Ideally, Mr Krishna should have spoken to the home minister and expressed his reservations to him rather than speaking in the public domain. It is unfortunate that in India both bureaucrats and ministers are so eager to speak on camera that they have forgotten the meaning and importance of the term, in camera. Mr Krishna and Mr Pillai have been in public life long enough to know the unwritten proprieties that govern the high offices they hold. It has become an unseemly practice in Indian public life of ministers tweeting or speaking out of class, or ministers and bureaucrats having public spats, or of ministers criticizing senior bureaucrats in public. All this is compounded by the spectacle of ministers brazenly staying away from their offices and duties to nurture their electoral fortunes. These only serve to erode the dignity of public office. The prime minister cannot afford to sit back and let all this happen. He is not an impartial observer. He is the leader of the government and therefore the leader of the country. Too much is at stake to take refuge in masterly inactivity.








Footwear, chairs and blows flying as thick as verbal abuse on the floor of legislatures is not exactly new to the Indian version of parliamentary democracy. But what happened in the Bihar assembly for two successive days is a record of sorts. That as many as 67 Opposition members were suspended from the House tells only half the story. It is difficult to imagine a greater abuse of an institution that is supposed to capture the essence of democratic politics. What is even worse is the fact that members of both the ruling and the Opposition benches played their parts in the ugly drama. Yet, the issue that triggered the pandemonium in the assembly is of crucial importance to governance in any state. The Patna High Court had ordered an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into alleged irregularities involving the withdrawal of over Rs 11,400 crore from the state exchequer between 2002 and 2008. The Opposition had every right — and a constitutional duty — to seek the government's answer to the charge. But the manner in which Opposition members went about it not only defeated the Opposition's cause but also exposed its inability to handle important issues of public interest.


The next assembly polls in Bihar are due in October. It is obvious that electoral interests, rather than a genuine concern for probity and transparency in governance, prompted lawmakers on both sides to indulge in such unseemly behaviour. The shameful episode casts perhaps an even darker shadow on the final days of Nitish Kumar's current spell as chief minister. He has been widely acclaimed for his attempts to lift Bihar out of its long spell of violence and despair. The state's reputation as the ultimate symbol of lawlessness seemed to be changing. Incidents of caste violence that had long crippled the rule of law in Bihar are no longer rampant. Even its economy started showing signs of a slow recovery. Mr Kumar could rightfully claim credit for ushering in many of these positive changes. He would do a lot of good to his own image, as well as to the state and its people, by clearing the air of charges of financial irregularities. His government need not try to shield itself, as the assembly Speaker has sought to do, by arguing that the court cannot interfere in the working of the House. Such arguments only confirm suspicions that the government is trying to hide uncomfortable truths.









Once upon a time, India was inclined to replicate the institutions of Westminster. Tragically, one of Albion's great parliamentary traditions that failed to be transplanted into the dust bowl of Delhi was Prime Minister's Questions, the weekly ritual that compels the head of the executive to respond to questions, both legitimate and plain insolent. Although known to occasionally degenerate into a puerile, public-school spat, the greatest virtue of PMQ is to hold the prime minister accountable for the totality of his government. The fear of being embarrassed or outsmarted on the floor of the House by either a sharp-tongued Leader of the Opposition or a persistent backbencher has forced British prime ministers to be attentive to the quality of governance and the integrity of ministers. The PMQ has made it impossible for a prime minister to duck issues: he is obliged to explain and justify.


In recent months, India is experiencing a system of governance that appears to have absolved the prime minister of any responsibility for either the actions of his cabinet colleagues or wider developments. His role is increasingly becoming ceremonial.


Take two issues that have agitated the country over the past seven days. First, there was the meeting of the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in Islamabad, a summit that concluded in bitterness and acrimony. Restoring normal relations between the two countries has been one of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's most significant initiatives, comparable to his gritty perusal of the Indo-US nuclear accord in the first term of the United Progressive Alliance government. It is well known that Singh has persevered with trying to overcome the legacy of the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, despite the known scepticism of many of his cabinet colleagues. Under the circumstances, a prime ministerial intervention pointing to a possible way out of the stalemate and near-breakdown of talks was entirely in order. Instead, what the nation got was Singh's complete silence and an ugly spat between the home and external affairs ministries.


Secondly, there was the horrific train accident involving the Uttar Banga Express in the early hours of last Monday that led to the deaths of more than 60 passengers. The collision, coming in the wake of a string of accidents that indicated dangerous levels of negligence and incompetence, has led to a clamour for the resignation of the railways minister, Mamata Banerjee. It has been claimed, and perhaps with good reason, that Banerjee is too preoccupied with preparations for next year's assembly elections in West Bengal. Her commitment to the job of looking after the ailing railway network and her competence have been called into question by both the Opposition and large sections of civil society.


These are grave charges and have a bearing on the reputation of the entire UPA, not to mention India's most important mass transport system. A word of assurance from the prime minister that widespread public concerns will be speedily addressed would have helped to lower the political temperature. Once again, there was not a whisper from Race Course Road. Indeed, Singh has made his position so aloof that the list of press releases from the website of the prime minister's office does not contain even a ritualistic message of condolence. The man who thought it important to congratulate Saina Nehwal on winning the Indonesian Open badminton championship and the Indian cricket team for its success in the Asia Cup had not a word of comfort for the relatives of the 60 or so passengers who died so cruelly.


In taking note of the prime minister's hands-off approach, the idea is not to charge him with either dereliction of duty or callousness. It can hardly be the case that Singh, who has access to the best channels of information the country can provide, doesn't have informed views on grave matters of state. His silence on most matters — barring the economy and aspects of foreign policy — isn't born of indifference or even a style of management centred on total delegation of responsibility to individual ministers. It is wilful and may well be based on the calculation that a large measure of detachment is the only realistic way to continue at the crease.


The assumption may well be correct, although it ignores the large dose of moral authority he possesses. However, in making a fetish of his relative lack of political authority in a dispensation where the final word rests with the UPA chairperson, the prime minister has encouraged confusion over policy and a state of drift that would have been politically damaging had the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party been a purposeful entity. Singh's inability to take the final call on major issues of governance is costing the country dearly and negating some of the optimism surrounding India's emergence as a global player of consequence.


The approach to the heightened Maoist insurgency is a case in point. The UPA government, it would seem, is caught between two sharply divergent approaches — one articulated by the home minister, P. Chidambaram, and the other by the Congress general secretary, Digvijay Singh, whose actions make it appear that he has the tacit support of Sonia Gandhi. The issue is not so much which approach is more desirable, a conclusion that depends on perceptions of end goals. What is alarming is that the confusion over policy has led to operational disarray and given the Maoists an invaluable window of opportunity.


The inconsistencies of counter-insurgency mirror the UPA government's inability to strike a workable balance

between conflicting economic goals. The finance minister, for example, has made reduction of the fiscal deficit one of his priorities. The removal of subsidies on petrol and their reduction from the controlled prices of diesel, kerosene and cooking-gas cylinders followed this logic. Yet, simultaneously, the Sonia-Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, comprising activists of various descriptions, has deemed that the right-to-food programme be made far more ambitious than was initially envisaged by the government. If one arm of the regime is stressing fiscal discipline, another arm has instructed the government to ease the purse strings of welfare. The prime minister's instincts are in favour of what the finance ministry advocates, but he is unable to tame the political assault of those who feel that the state must play the part of Lady Bountiful.


Managing contradictions is said to be the leitmotif of a coalition government, especially one where some of the partners have a narrow cash-and-carry priority. For six years, Singh has successfully meandered his way through uncharted territory, reaping the windfall of an entrepreneurial revolution that has somehow deftly negotiated state inefficiency. However, the system is creaking under the pulls and pressures of political expediency and could well burst at the seams. The upgradation of infrastructure has been mired in corruption and left the country underwhelmed; the Commonwealth Games, which drained the exchequer of nearly Rs 30,000 crore of much-needed resources, is caught up in scandal and mismanagement; and inflation is making the otherwise-contented middle classes restive.


There is a need for some purposeful leadership that plays more than a symbolic role. Unfortunately, Singh never assumed or was never allowed to assume that role. A cynical Congress, it would seem, is content enjoying the state of drift till a 40-something leader who has never sullied his hands in the affairs of state comes to the rescue. At this rate, however, when Rahul Gandhi steps into his ancestral shoes, as the Congress has deemed he must, he will need a crash course in disaster management.







India seems to be slipping out of the structure of a democratic nation state. The citizens, following the example of those who rule, have begun to disregard and disrespect all the norms of a civil society built on the tenets of fraternity, equality, secularism and liberty of thinking. We have descended into a dark age of our own making. The slightest murmur of protest against the corrupt around us is met with murder, death or some such horror. Dissent and debate are dying, opposition is stalled using ruthless means, and every wrong is celebrated. There is only one saving grace — the people, ordinary citizens across all strata and communities of the country.


A man protests against illegal mining and is shot dead by 'assailants on a motorcycle using country-made guns'. The public knows who the obvious culprits are but the law-enforcement agencies are either protecting the criminals and their mentors or just happen to be incompetent. At the same moment, in the exalted corridors of power and decision-making, regulations for mining contracts, making dams and the like are waived and illegalities permitted in the name of a required rate of economic growth.


Both acts have similarities that are frightening, and it is this fact that adds strength to those who use the guns and grenades to get what they want. I asked a taxi driver why he was demanding more than what the meter was recording and proceeded to give him a short lecture on 'honesty'. He stopped me with this — "Why don't you lecture our leaders first, madam? We need to survive and what I am asking for as extra is a pittance. It is not in any way comparable to the crores that are 'harap karo-ed' by those who ask for our votes once in every five years. They extract what belongs to us every day." I was silenced.


Come together

Protest, opposition, debates —for and against specific issues — are disregarded by those at the helm, aided and abetted by the administrators of their governments. We who raise the many issues on different platforms in the public domain, which is falling into various 'traps' as a result of conscious decisions that are thoughtlessly implemented for short-term gain alone, are condescendingly categorized as the 'jhola brigade', which is against 'growth'.


This is nonsense and needs to be rejected outright because the disconnected India Brigade has been far more detrimental for this country than those who understand, listen, care and are willing to dump one set of failed premises to look for inclusive alternatives within the restructuring processes of this economy.


Most of the lieutenants in our 'economist brigade', lateral entrants into the political system, have been too disconnected from the turmoil, trials and tribulations of India and Bharat to even begin to comprehend the complexities of a plural, diverse and complicated polity that is transiting into a new age of growth, development and 'globalization.


Changing aspirations, real imperatives, urgent demands, more immediate, honest attention, and a redressal system that is led by a profound commitment to deliver through mechanisms that are dependent on integrity and good sense are a few things that are urgently needed. Text book formulae that may have worked elsewhere in the world are likely to be ineffective in our layered and complicated landscape that is crying out for innovative and area-specific solutions.


Creativity seems dead in the arena of our politics and administration. The intellectual, cultural and spiritual energies of those outside the operating 'system' are ignored. Till the two 'sides' come together with no pre-conceived agendas, truthfully and with sincere commitment, India will continue to slide.




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






Politics has sunk to a new low with opposition MLAs of the Bihar Assembly overturning tables and chairs in the House, hurling footwear at the Speaker and flower pots at the Assembly's watch-and-ward staff. Apparently, the opposition wanted the government to debate a Patna high court order asking for a CBI inquiry into the alleged bungling of funds to the tune of Rs 11,000 crore by the government. The government refused to discuss the issue, which set off the MLAs' ire. Their annoyance is understandable; their rowdy behaviour to express it is not. Surely, these MLAs could have found a more civilised way of getting the government to concede their demand. Have they forgotten that the Assembly is a forum for healthy intellectual debate and not a wrestling ring to test muscle power? There was a time when state assemblies and parliament witnessed stimulating and passionate discussions on issues that affected the people. It is not just the precipitously declining quality of speeches in recent years that is worrying. Worse, as the Bihar MLAs and others before them have demonstrated, elected representatives are acting like street rowdies in the House. Only last week, opposition MLAs in the Karnataka Assembly lowered the dignity of the Legislative Assembly — even as they reduced themselves to a spectacle — when they ate, made merry and slept overnight in the well of the House, all in the name of protesting corruption in high places.

Have these 'anti-corruption crusaders' considered civil methods to fight corruption or to put the government under pressure? Or are they incapable of thinking of constructive means to tackle the serious issues that confront this country today? With Assembly elections around the corner, the Bihar MLAs were keen to get themselves on prime time television. Not having done anything to address socio-economic issues troubling their electorate, they resorted to rowdyism to capture their voters' attention.

Elected persons from across the political spectrum are engaging in unparliamentary behaviour that is undermining our democracy. Beyond suspension, little has been done so far to rein them in. The Congress, which usually likes to take the moral high ground, has been silent on the shoddy conduct of its MLAs in Karnataka and Bihar. It can redeem itself by denying tickets to contest to MLAs who misbehaved in the Bihar Assembly. That would send out a powerful message to the voters as well as its MLAs and MPs across the country.








The 30-year war on HIV/AIDS has entered a critical phase. There is relief world-wide over the availability of drugs that are able now to contain the spread of the dreaded virus. However, access to these drugs for millions suffering from the disease remains a distant dream. Unlike previous international conferences on HIV/AIDS, where the outlook was one of doom and gloom, the mood in the ongoing conference at Vienna — the 18th since the virus became known in 1981 — appears to be optimistic. Giant strides have been made in containing the virus. The world can justifiably celebrate the fact that we now have antiretroviral drugs, that can keep the HIV suppressed, preventing it from becoming full blown AIDS. If in the past, the diagnosis of HIV in a person was looked upon as a death sentence, today it can be managed with medication.

The number of people accessing treatment has witnessed a giant leap over the past decade. According to the World Health Organisation, this figure has grown 12-fold between 2003 and 2010. The number of people receiving AIDS treatment has grown from 1.2 million in 2009 to 5.2 million this year. India can take pride in having contributed to this enhanced access. Its production of low-cost generic AIDS drugs has helped fight the disease in several developing countries. However, there is reason for concern. More people may be receiving treatment than ever before but two-thirds of those suffering from the disease worldwide are still not being provided treatment. There is concern too that international funding to subsidise treatment of AIDS in developing countries will be cutback in a few years. Will the disease's spread accelerate then? Besides, the virus continues to spread at a worrying rate. There are around 2.7 million new cases each year.

Scientists are exploring vaccines and virus-thwarting gels, even circumcision as possible ways to prevent the spread of the virus. Years of frustrating research into the HIV virus could yield solutions soon. The stakeholders must bear in mind the need to keep these treatments affordable and accessible to all sections of society. A preventive vaccine or gel will be good news only when it is available to all. The world can consider itself safe from the spread of HIV only when every single individual is declared free from it.







Post-liberalisation, job creation — a major mechan-ism of inclusion of more people in economic prosperity — has been slowing down.


The theme of the Eleventh 5-year Plan (2007-12) and beyond is 'faster and more inclusive growth' meaning that the benefits of faster economic growth should reach a much higher number of poor and disadvantaged people.

But, how 'inclusive' has been the Indian growth story?

There is no single measure by which one can judge inclusiveness. However, human development indicators collectively give some broad idea about the performance on 'inclusiveness.'

For example, in terms of country ranking by Human Development Index (HDI) — a composite measure of achievement in health, education and standard of living — India stood at 128 out of 177 countries in 2005 (124 in 2000). China's position was 81 in 2005 (96 in 2000) and  Bangladesh ranked at 140 in 2005 (145 in 2000). The disturbing fact is that India's relative ranking is worsening, whereas that of China and even Bangladesh has been improving over the same period.

According to the latest available World Bank indicators, in 2007 the adult literacy rate for India is 66 per cent as against 93 per cent for China and 92 per cent for Indonesia. So, India is a lot behind China or Indonesia (two other populous countries) in terms of mass educational attainments. Moreover, by restricting the creation of industrial employment (which requires workers with basic literacy and numeracy at the minimum, though that may not be enough) this would stand in the way of a faster and more inclusive growth in future.

Life expectancy at birth for India (2007 data): 63 (male) and 66 (female). For China, the corresponding figures are 71 and 75. The infant mortality rate per 1,000 for India was 52, while it was 18 for China. Regarding births attended by skilled health staff, India's attainment is 46.6 per cent as against 98.4 per cent for China. Again, India lags way behind China in providing basic health and medical services.

In terms of malnutrition (underweight) of children under five years of age, India's figure (2006) is 43.5 per cent as against 32.8 per cent for Somalia and 31.7 per cent for Sudan. India's performance on malnutrition is worse than all countries (including sub-Saharan Africa) for which data were available for comparable periods.

On the basis of international poverty line of $1.25 a day, the poverty ratio (percentage of people below the poverty line)) was 49.4 for India in 1993-94. After a decade in 2004-05, it became 41.6 signifying a 7.8 percentage point improvement over a decade. By contrast, China's poverty ratio was 28.4 in 2002 and 15.9 in 2005. So, poverty in China went down by 12.5 percentage point in just over three years!

However, the picture on inequality is different. The Gini Index (a measure of inequality in distribution of income or consumption) was 32.5 in India in 1999-2000 while it was 44.7 in China in 2001. So, India has far lower income/consumption inequality than in China.

One area of major concern is that post-liberalisation, job creation which is a major mechanism of inclusion of more people in economic prosperity, has been slowing down. Employment growth fell sharply in the post-reform years, from 2.6 per cent per annum over 1983-1993 to 1.2 per cent over 1993-2000.

The fall in employment growth rate was specially concentrated in organised sectors (particularly in the public sector). This trend has been reversed to some extent as the latest available National Sample Survey (NSS) data show employment growth during the period 2000-05 was 2.7 per cent per annum. But, then again, the growth in jobs has been mostly concentrated (about 87 per cent) in the unorganised sector.

How about the trend of poverty reduction over time? Despite vigorous debates over the comparability of poverty ratio estimates over time, the broad consensus seems to be that the rate of decline in poverty in the post reform period (1994-2005) is not higher compared to the pre-reform period, despite a higher growth rate of GDP in the post-reform era.

Interestingly, however, a recent National Council of Applied Economic Research study using 2004-05 data for the BPL (Below Poverty Line) families find 30.3 per cent of urban 'poor' own a colour TVs, 24.9 per cent own a two-wheelers, 10.5 per cent a refrigerators and 55.6 per cent pressure cookers.  

Further, the study shows that around 60 per cent of all 400 million odd BPL population reside in a few relatively low-income states (used to be called BIMARU before some states were further subdivided into more states) like Bihar, Orissa, UP, MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

Such studies underline that poverty (and its manifestations in various forms) is much more concentrated in the rural areas of some specific states and regions within the states. At the same time, all the official 'poor' in India are not necessarily the destitutes that we usually associate with the term 'poverty.' There was no question of a

'poor' family owing a colour TV set or a refrigerator some 15 years back.

Overall, though the picture is still pretty bad (specially on malnutrition and child mortality), real poverty (in the sense of utter destitution) is now concentrated in a few pockets (like the remote tribal belts) where the benefits of growth and development have not yet percolated. Government's limited resources should best be focused on the development of infrastructure and connectivity in a time-bound manner for such areas.
(The writer is a former professor of economics at IIM, Calcutta)








Southern African countries have pledged to sign a much scaled-down EPA before the end of 2010.


Since 2002, African countries have been negotiating with the European Union (EU) a new framework of cooperation called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). These are supposed to replace the Cotonou Agreement, which is the current basis of the relationships between African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU.

However, instead of negotiating with the ACP countries as a group, the EU decided that the EPAs would be negotiated with each of the three regions of the ACP group individually.

In Africa, the EU went even further and imposed negotiations with the sub-regions of the continent. Initially, the European Commission (EC) had set December 2007 as a deadline for the signature of the EPAs with African countries, but all African heads of state rejected it.

In the different regions, some countries had signed what the EC called 'interim EPAs', mostly on trade in goods. So far, not a single African region has signed a full  partnership agreement.

However, civil society organisations (CSOs) as well as some intergovernmental organisations, such as the South Centre, are questioning the legality of these interim EPAs under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) law.

Hopes on EAC

The EC had pinned its hopes on the East African Community (EAC) — Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda — which had given indications that it might sign before the end of June 2010.

However, under pressure from CSOs and public opinion, EAC leaders backtracked at the last minute and the signing was postponed.

In Central Africa, Cameroon had initialled the interim EPA in 2007 and signed it in January 2009. However, its implementation has been postponed twice. Recently, the sub-region has expressed its willingness to continue the negotiations with the view to reaching a full EPA. But in the other sub-regions, there is still a big gap between both parties. Southern Africa initialled the interim EPA at the end of 2007.

Since then, Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland have accepted to sign interim EPAs but have not implemented them. This leaves other countries of the sub-region under pressure from the EC. This is especially the case  for Namibia, which is the most vocal opponent of signing. Recently, Southern African countries have pledged to sign a much scaled-down EPA before the end of 2010.

In West Africa, Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana initialled the interim  EPA but all other countries there, including Nigeria, refused. In November 2008, Cote d'Ivoire went a step further by signing an interim EPA. Negotiations have been going on at the sub-regional level. However, the Cote d'Ivoire interim EPA has obviously weakened the negotiating position of the sub-region.

The sub-regional roundup shows that two and half years after the December 2007 deadline, the EC has not been able to convince African countries that the EPAs are 'beneficial' to them. African countries and the EU have divergent positions on such issues as the content of the EPAs, the level of compensation for fiscal losses, the scope of trade liberalisation in goods, the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, liberalisation of the services sector, export taxation, the period of transition to full liberalisation, etc.

For African countries, the EPAs should be development-oriented whereas the EC seems to focus on trade and financial liberalisation. In the African view, a development-oriented agreement should have the following objectives:

1) develop domestic productive capacities;\

2) remove supply bottlenecks;

3) contribute to export diversification; and

4) strengthen regional

But the EC seems more interested in opening up African markets to European goods and services and securing guaranties for European investments. Moreover, the EC is insisting that African countries liberalise their services so that European multinationals  might be in a position to control a big chunk of that market.


Regarding specific issues associated with the implementation of the EPAs, African countries have raised the issue of financial compensation for fiscal losses that would result from trade liberalisation. For many developing countries, especially in Africa, import taxes constitute a big part of fiscal revenues. For instance, it is projected that by 2015 Senegal would lose more than 175 million euros. Yet, the vague promises made by the EC are not reassuring.

The EC is pressuring African countries to open up their services markets to European multinationals. However, all African sub-regions have so far rejected this demand and want the negotiations to focus only on trade in goods. In view of this fierce opposition, the EC has agreed to postpone discussions on this issue until later.







The word 'aunty!' seemed to be spreading insidiously over every pore of her being.


Bubbles of gay laughter and a ubiquitous feeling of cheer prevailed when we were returning home from the Dasara mela after having had a merry time. Then something happened that adulterated the blissful atmosphere — 'Aunty!' a youth roughly in his mid-20s, marched forward addressing my mum.

"Kindly visit my food stall, aunty," the youth invited spiritedly. I felt my mother stiffen. 'Aunty!' seemed to be spreading insidiously over every pore of her being. She looked him straight in the eye and icily remarked: "You are driving all your customers away by calling them them aunty." The youth realised his blunder promptly — "So sorry, madam. Please take a seat."

The chap after his initial faux pas became even more of the zestful host. He pointed to me and remarked: "Madam, your little girl has very intelligent eyes. I am sure she's going to be a great person one day". My mother eyed me sceptically. My 'intelligent' eyes, near slits, the benediction of puppy fat covering my cheeks were fixed on the huge masala dosa in front of me. His remark hadn't even registered in my monomaniacal food-obsessed brain. Besides, I had scored poorly in the morning's maths test.

Nevertheless, mom smiled at the young man, her indignation somewhat quelled.

Not many years later I was to be a victim of 'auntism.' One Deepavali night when I was 10, a group of adolescent boys emerged from nowhere and asked me: "Aunty, give us a few crackers too". I turned a queer pallor and kept obstinately mum. My good friend, ever loyal, heard them and said: "Drop the aunty and she'll give you". The lads promptly did. They were then given crackers and savories for this kindness.

During vacations after my first year degree exams, I was appointed 'sketching teacher' by our neighbours who had organised a summer camp. I was called 'Miss' or 'Akka' by most of the Kalarthis — students of art (a word coined by my dad). I was quite content until one tall specimen who was in the ninth grade asked: "Aunty, how do I shade this tree?" I accepted this stoically. I was no longer a neophyte to 'auntism' after having been bestowed the sobriquet at the inchoate age of 10 by kids older than I was

Most people hate bearing the insignia of 'auntism.' My mom and I are no different. I wonder who harbingered this term; it's caught on like wild fire in India. Many people use 'madam' or the good old first name, but incidents of aunty-calling are still rife. Take for instance our middle aged neighbours, tailors, shopkeepers et al who call mom 'aunty.' I grimace. Mom who has turned a little mellow over the years explains: "Aunty is just a proxy for madam. It indicates respect."

I earnestly hope other ladies who fret and fume over untimely 'auntism' learn to brush it off as coolly.







Report shows the ethical dilemmas faced by Israel.

Talkbacks (3)


A report entitled "Gaza Operations Investigation: Second Update" was presented by Israel to the UN this week. It is a response to accusations of "war crimes" raised by the Goldstone Report in the wake of the 22-day-long Operation Cast Lead, which began in December 2008.

Peruse the 40-page report. It is posted in English on the Foreign Ministry's Web site. Doing so will enhance your understanding of the ethical dilemmas faced by the State of Israel in its fight against terrorism. It will also boost your appreciation for the high moral standards of the IDF's rules of engagement.

The Al-Maqadmah mosque incident, mentioned in the report, is a case in point. On January 3, 2009, a number of Palestinian civilians were killed by an IDF missile that struck the entrance to the house of prayer in Beit Lahiya. Justice Richard Goldstone's "Report of the UN Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict" accused Israel of possible war crimes related to these deaths. After an exhaustive investigation, however, the IDF found that the missile strike had been directed at two terrorists observed firing Kassam rockets at Israeli cities in the South. The other casualties were both unintended and unforeseeable.

A number of factors combined to cause these unfortunate fatalities. There was a "ticking bomb" element.

The two Kassam operatives, who originally positioned themselves near a hospital, had to be neutralized before they could escape to launch more rockets at Israeli civilians. IDF commanders who authorized the attack did not know that the building, which had no minaret, was a mosque. An IDF captain who found out that it was, in the brief minutes, if not seconds, after the attack was authorized but before it was carried out, did not say anything and was punished for that failure – being forbidden to continue serving in IDF posts involved in life-and-death decisions. Furthermore, the Israeli command did not know that a door that led into the mosque was open. It was shrapnel from the missile that killed civilians located inside. Finally, two IDF officers selected a more powerful missile than was authorized because the missile that had been approved was not immediately available and, with time running out, no Palestinian civilians could be seen in the area. These officers were punished for that choice as well.

THE AL-MAQADMAH mosque incident, one of 47 criminal investigations conducted by Israel, highlights the thorny moral dilemmas faced by the Jewish state when waging unconventional warfare.

Hamas launches rockets from inside densely populated civilian areas, intentionally and cynically using Gaza's residents as human shields. Israel is faced with difficult, split-second choices in response.

Launching an offensive against Hamas in Gaza inevitably leads to the unintentional deaths of noncombatants, but refraining from action exposes Israelis to Hamas's Kassam and mortar fire. Firing long-range missiles at Hamas terrorists embedded in residential areas precludes the need for IDF soldiers to risk their lives entering dangerous areas to eliminate terrorists in a more "surgical" fashion, but increases the chances of unintended civilian deaths.

There are no easy answers to these ethical conundrums, though it is only natural for Israel to put the lives of both its civilians and its soldiers before the lives of non-combatants on the enemy side, especially when many of these "non-combatants" directly or indirectly support terrorism. America, Britain, Germany and other Western countries with forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan behave no differently and often with fewer moral scruples.

There is always room for improvement and Israel continues to strive for it, in the process constantly adopting new measures such as the deployment of "humanitarian affairs officers" in every unit from the battalion level up, and the restriction of the use of white phosphorous.

The quest for ethical perfection is an ephemeral goal, never to be fully realized. But in its grappling with nearly insurmountable challenges, the Jewish State is proof that it is possible for democratic states to win unconventional wars against terrorists while refusing to compromise its moral integrity. The IDF handling of the Al-Maqadmah mosque incident, from start to thoroughly investigated finish, underlines this.








Provocations, political grandstanding and Israel Beitenu's legislative impotence dominated this parliamentary summer.


At first glance, in assessing the Knesset's summer session, the center-right represented by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu won. The center-left opposition, led by Kadima, once again failed to find its niche and function effectively. At the same time, the right-wing side of the coalition, embodied by many of the Likud's crop of freshman MKs, together with Israel Beiteinu and the barely-visible Habayit Hayehudi, was in a more questionable position – recording negligible legislative success, but managing to create a right-wing tenor that dominated proceedings.

Israel Beiteinu came in to the sweltering Jerusalem summer with a full schedule of legislative action. Four major bills – all grounded in the coalition agreement or tacit understandings – were supposed to be advanced. But the so-called loyalty law, the bill to enfranchise expatriates to vote and the civil union bill were tied up in closed-door negotiations at best, or at worst fell by the wayside.

The only major Israel Beiteinu bill to reach a committee vote during the session – the conversion bill – ran aground after encountering stiff opposition from overseas Jewish communities. In the last few weeks of the session, party leader Avigdor Lieberman huffed and puffed, but remained powerless to force Netanyahu to enforce coalition discipline and pass the bill in the plenum.

Israel Beiteinu, however, was not alone. Under the shadow of their ministers' quiet acquiescence to the 10- month settlement building moratorium, Likud MKs engaged in collegial jostling to try to position themselves to the right of each other and, of course, of the freeze, without seeming too disloyal. Carmel Shama partnered up with the National Union in sponsoring a bill that would force any extension of the moratorium to obtain the near-unachievable majority approval of the Knesset, while Danny Danon also tried to push a series of bills, including one that would allow for the seizure of property owned by terrorists.

LIKE THEIR coalition partners in Israel Beiteinu, however, the Likud rank-and-file MKs found themselves hammering against a legislative wall. Netanyahu's tight hold on the coalition, and particularly his ability to maintain support within the Ministerial Committee on Legislation, ensured that the bills trying to pull the government to the right became buried in negotiations or were rejected outright for coalition support. Even the Golan Heights and national referendum bill, legislation championed by Likud in the previous Knesset, supported by members of both opposition and coalition parties and assigned to a special joint committee formed for its preparation, was stalled amid objections by the prime minister, who feared its implications for future negotiations.

In all fairness, the center-left opposition did not fare any better legislatively. For the third straight session, Kadima failed to find the secret formula to drive wedges into the coalition through social legislation. The most notable failure came only two weeks before the end of the session, when Amir Peretz (Labor) and Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) launched legislative bids to increase the minimum wage. Despite Peretz's and Sheetrit's impassioned attempts to convince Peretz's fellow Labor members that maintaining the part's ostensibly social-democratic platform was preferable to reinforcing Netanyahu's coalition, Labor ministers were not even shamed into abstaining in a roll-call vote on the plenum floor.

On the reverse end, the coalition rarely found itself on shaky ground during votes on key government-sponsored or supported bills. Even the law to enable the government to present its second two-year budget passed by a generous margin, despite fervent protest from opposition parties.

Stuck without legislative recourse, the two oppositions – the loyal opposition on the right, and the official opposition on the left, both found solace in nonlegislative parliamentary activity. Provocations and political grandstanding dominated a fair share of Knesset procedure throughout the summer session, and the session's biggest parliamentary headlines were not related to legislation, but rather to cursing, pushing, yelling-down and insulting – and of course, the presence of one Balad MK on the Mavi Marmara.

Kadima, in lieu of viable legislative challenges to the coalition's dominance, returned to its now-regular practice of parliamentary sparring through filibusters, embarrassing roll-call votes and – at near-record rates in recent years – summoning Netanyahu to respond to criticismthrough gathering the 40 signatures required to force the premier to address the Knesset.

But Kadima aside, in the field of nonlegislative parliamentary activity – a category expanded this session to encompass everything from filibusters to fisticuffs – there is no question the right-wing won the battle for the headlines. Arab MKs provided the initial fuel for the fire when, during the week before the session began, they paid a quick trip to Libya, kicking off a lengthy Knesset-Foreign Ministry-Justice Ministry debate as to whether or not the North African state constituted an enemy country [it does not]. But the vagaries of the Bishara Law – which could be interpreted as expanding the category of enemy states well beyond the commonly accepted legal definition – were quickly forgotten a month later, when Haneen Zoabi presented right-wing MKs with a far better opportunity to question the loyalty of their Arab colleagues.

Her presence aboard the only ship in the Gaza flotilla to engage in violent confrontation with an IDF boarding party sparked a series of debates that are likely to go down in the legislature's annals – but not necessarily for their rhetorical brilliance. When the freshman Balad MK took the podium to address her participation in the flotilla, Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu) stormed the podium, allegedly to wrest the microphone from Zoabi. Although the ensuing melee in front of the speaker's podium stopped short of the open brawling occasionally seen in the South Korean parliament, the images filmed that day by the Knesset Channel are unlikely to leave us any time soon.

THAT INCIDENT was closely followed by the televised House Committee hearing to revoke a series of parliamentary privileges from Zoabi – a hearing in which the controversial vote was rivaled for headline material by Yulia Shamalov- Berkovich's (Kadima) "accidental" confusion between Zoabi's last name and a slang term for a penis.

It was on the issue of Zoabi that the government may have suffered its largest – but almost silent – defeat to its own right-wing elements.

Although very senior coalition ministers and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin tried to block the procedural vote necessary to approve the House Committee's decision, the veteran Likud leadership could not hold back the young guard, spearheaded by House Committee chairman Yariv Levin, and continue to delay interminably the vote on Zoabi's privileges.

Even Kadima was pulled rightward, and ultimately split on the issue of Zoabi's privileges. Yoel Hasson and Yohanan Plesner were among Zoabi's most vocal interrupters during her first attempt to address the Knesset plenum, and Hasson and Shamalov-Berkovich were among the 34 MKs who voted in favor of suspending her privileges.
Zoabi, said Danny Danon days after the vote, did much of the right-wing's work for the Likud. He himself apologized to voters that MKs were not able to do more to her, and said that he believed that public sentiment was such that he was merely "reflecting the public, which would like to see us put her on a plane out of Israel."

But even on Zoabi, the right may have lost as much as it won. In the weeks following the final vote on her privileges, international focus turned a judgmental eye on the Knesset. Even more significantly, Zoabi's Knesset tribulations have transformed her in the course of three months from an unknown with almost no legislative record to an internationally-recognized spokeswoman for the Arab nationalist perspective embraced by her party, Balad. Photogenic, female, articulate – and yes, Christian, Zoabi's new-found notoriety has allowed her to sidestep more moderate Arab MKs and slide into the very large shoes of her mentor, former Balad chairman Azmi Bishara.

Which may, on second thought, offer a second opinion on the initial question of this session's big winner.

Netanyahu, although legislatively successful, remains under pressure from the right, which proved its ability to dominate Knesset discourse during the last weeks of the session. The right and the left both failed to generate any legislative successes to advance their positions vis a vis the government, and thus are left treading water. But MK Haneen Zoabi, without question, has undergone a marked change during this legislative session, making a name for herself through notoriety, and receiving a large leg up on the way from the very MKs who sought headlines for themselves by opposing her.








OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi's job is to maintain quiet in the West Bank.


In 2003, at the height of the IDF's war against Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank, clashes erupted between IDF and Syrian soldiers on the Golan Heights.

Two Syrian soldiers had accidentally descended from a military outpost on their side of the border and crossed into Israel, right where a force from the elite Egoz unit happened to be conducting an exercise.

The Syrians opened fire and in the ensuing battle, one of the soldiers was killed and the other was taken captive. Additional Syrian soldiers, in an elevated position, fired at the Egoz troops below. Coming under heavy fire, the soldiers asked Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi, then commander of the Golan Division, for permission to attack the Syrian military position with a nearby tank.

Realizing that the use of tank fire could escalate the situation into a larger conflict, Mizrahi refused. His instinct was right. Tank fire was not needed and the clashes quickly came to an end.

Seven years later, this 'diplomatic' sensitivity is something that continues to accompany Mizrahi, today a major-general, in his post as OC Central Command.

His job is to prevent Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank as well as inside the Green Line. But it is also his job to maintain quiet and stability, desperately needed today by the governments in Jerusalem and Ramallah as they consider launching direct peace talks.

A wrong move by the IDF could have dramatic diplomatic consequences.

In October, Mizrahi, 53, was appointed OC Central Command after having served as OC Ground Forces Command and head of the IDF's Technological and Logistics Directorate.

He has recently been listed as one of the candidates to replace Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi as the next chief of General Staff.

His appointment to Central Command was met by surprised looks within the IDF and some officers questioned Mizrahi's overall experience in overseeing daily arrest operations in Palestinian cities, the IDF's mainstay in the West Bank.

While most of his career was spent in the Armored Corps, Mizrahi actually clocked in significant time in the West Bank. During the first intifada, he was a battalion commander there. In 1993, he was a brigade commander there and in 2002 – during Operation Defensive Shield – even though he was a division commander on the Golan Heights, he spent the duration of the operation with the Golani Brigade in the West Bank.

Last week, Mizrahi toured a number of West Bank cities, including Jenin and Jericho.

It was the first such visit by a top IDF officer in years.

During his visit to Jenin, Mizrahi and Maj.- Gen. Yoav Mordechai, head of the Civil Administration, entered in a regular IDF patrol jeep and, instead of an Israeli security detail, were accompanied by armed Palestinian Authority security officers, some of whom lined the streets. Mizrahi and Mordechai visited the local mall, a soccer field, a few businesses and viewed a PA security exercise before sitting down with their hosts for lunch.

Over lunch, one of the PA officials asked why Mizrahi doesn't allow Israelis to enter West Bank cities, a move that would give a major boost to the local economy. "What are you afraid of?" the official asked. Mizrahi responded that he would take the matter under consideration, as reported last week in The Jerusalem Post.

WHILE HE HAS yet to make a final decision, he appears open to the idea of allowing Israeli Jews into Jericho, Jenin and Bethlehem, three cities known for their relative calm. Israeli Arabs are already allowed into these cities and every Friday – market day – the streets are lined with cars with yellow Israeli license plates.

"This is something to consider," a senior Central Command officer said. "Building trust is part of the process."

While the IDF cannot guarantee that nothing will happen to Israelis who visit the West Bank, there is no question that PA cities are safer today than they have been in the last 25 years, mainly because the PA has an interest in keeping things quiet.

The change in the PA leadership, the wakeup call Fatah received from Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip and the continued IDF operations in PA cities have led to anunprecedented drop in terror activity. Even when there is violence, the close coordination between the sides is evident.

On Thursday for example, hours after IDF troops shot and killed a Palestinian burglar who was trying to infiltrate the settlement of Barkan, top Israeli and PA officers inspected the scene and established a joint team to investigate the shooting.

"The Palestinians are different today," the senior officer explained.

"They are different and the PA's directives to security forces are different since violence is against their interest as well."

Building trust and fighting terror are the Central Command's main missions.

To do this, Mizrahi has instructed his officers to fight ardently against terror but at the same time to be sensitive to the new political reality.

As a result, for example, Mizrahi approved sharpened open fire regulations in the West Bank, under which soldiers cannot automatically shoot at Palestinians throwing stones or even firebombs.

He also meets with every new brigade commander to stress the need for continued coordination with the Palestinians.

With the September 26 expiration of the moratorium on settlement construction approaching, Mizrahi has also instructed his command to prepare for a possible escalation in settler violence if the government decides to extend the freeze. A Jewish attack against Palestinians, the IDF fears, could inflame the entire area and derail the peace process.

SETTLER AND PALESTINIAN violence are linked.

Several months ago, a car traveling on Route 60 near the village of Sinjil was stoned. The driver, according to testimonies of Palestinians, got out of his car, pulled out a gun and shot the stone thrower, killing him. A few hours later, shots were fired at a passing Israeli car.

Mizrahi is also not overly concerned with the Fayyad plan – named for PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad – which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state, even unilaterally, by the summer of 2011.

Some officers have warned that if the Palestinians do not achieve statehood via negotiations by then, the PA may decide to turn to violence since it will have around 20,000 armed security officers and policemen, including 10 battalions trained by the US in Jordan.

Unlike these officers, Mizrahi believes that when next summer rolls around, the PA will not return to violence but instead will turn to the international community and present its effective security forces, the new education system, the reformed economy and the newly-established judicial and prisons services.

"They will want to get recognition that they have done everything and have all of the necessary components for a state," the senior IDF officer explained. "When [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas tells businessmen to come invest in Jenin this is a sign that they do not plan on returning to the path of violence.

They have a lot to lose and they know that we will respond."








Knesset speaker has seen good and bad parliaments in his 2 decades.


Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin has seen good sessions and bad ones in his two decades in the Knesset, and so he can speak from a position of experience in characterizing the summer session, which concluded Wednesday, as a "disappointment."

"The initial constitution of this Knesset was very promising and thus, reflecting back, I can only express disappointment," Rivlin said in a conversation with The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

"Great people who came here with strong records 'learned' how to work in the Knesset and came to the conclusion that to stand out, steady legislative work over time wasn't enough and they needed to turn to gimmicks instead.

"That was even more true for MKs who before they were elected – and even afterward – nobody heard of and nobody knew were here. They too came to the conclusion that their only recourse was to initiate gimmicks and sensational headlines."

The Knesset, said Rivlin, is contending with "developing tensions that have been boiling for 50 years now," most importantly relations between Jews and Arabs and the growing gaps between rich and poor throughout the country.

"The first issue is naturally very emotional and there are outbursts in which Jewish and Arab MKs use the conflict for personal gain at the expense of the national good. MKs on either side gain political currency at their opponents' expense, and the only one that this does not serve is the country itself."

The way in which the arguments between Jews and Arabs are played out within the Knesset, said Rivlin, is crucial in determining Israel's status in the world, as well as shaping political developments throughout the Middle East. "There are things that we will never agree upon, but we must show that we can overcome the conflict while maintaining an Israel that is both a Jewish and democratic state."

Increased tensions between Jewish and Arab Israelis, said Rivlin, will only increase the international sense of legitimacy for pan-Islamic and fundamentalist movements that call for Israel's destruction.

"With all due respect, the burden of maintaining this relationship lies upon the majority and if it doesn't take the situation into its hands and understand its role, we have failed," he explained. "I am not just talking about grabbing headlines through foul language or personal hits below the belt, but also the use of exaggerated nationalism for personal gain."

Rivlin cited, in addition to the heated debates that characterized the session, a series of bills that were, in his eyes, designed to make more of a political statement and to bypass the role of the government rather than to strengthen the political system.

He spared none of his famously sharp tone in addressing the specific issue of MK Haneen Zoabi, whose participation in the May Gaza flotilla grabbed headlines for most of the legislative session.

"The Zoabi affair was an error in two senses. The first was on principle; there cannot be a situation in which MKs judge their colleagues and rule on their cases. If such a thing existed – not on an ethical level, 61 would cancel out 59 and then the 120 would become 61, and then they would continue to break and divide until the legislature consisted of two people," Rivlin complained. "On a personal level, Zoabi's behavior made my blood boil, but it is exactly in situations such as those in which the strength of our democratic values are tested."

The second error, he said, was a tactical one on the part of Zoabi's parliamentary opponents. "Before this session, nobody had a clue who she was. She was completely anonymous.

Now wherever she goes, she is now an internationally recognized figure."

Looking forward, Rivlin does not see quieter days ahead for the Knesset – or for Israel.

"Overdoing is never good, but now, if it garners support in the eyes of your voters, the impact of the matter to the country is less important," he bemoaned. "That is the dominant trend and has come to fruition fully in the current government."


The next test for the Knesset, he said, was likely to come before the end of the recess, when the partial building moratorium in West Bank settlements comes to an end on the September 26. "The day falls in the middle of Succot, a great time of celebration for the Jewish people.

On that day, the freeze order expires, and anyone who wants a new one must request it from the government and it will not be so easy to convince them this time around. Such a request will bring us to a new situation in which Likud itself will be tested and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will also be tested by factions that are to the right of the Likud."







In both words and actions the MKs are undermining democracy's fundamental values, making cynical, cheap use of parliamentary tools, dragging Israeli society to sectorial disputes and separatism, and isolating Israel from the world.


The marathon vote on 60 bills in the Knesset the very day before its summer recess reflects clearly the 18th

Knesset's character - populistic, declamatory, irresponsible and saturated with racism.


Members of this Knesset have so far submitted 2,500 bills. A small portion of them will pass in second and third readings, and they seem aimed entirely at sparking furor in the media and public controversy. Some - like banning sexual relations under the age of 16 - seem like meaningless, redundant media stunts. Others, like the bill on admission committees for small communities, which passed in its first reading on Wednesday, cast a dark shadow.


This bill is a typical example of the troubling cooperation between Kadima, National Union, Yisrael Beiteinu and Likud MKs - especially conspicuous in view of the opposition's silence. Such proposed legislation, while portrayed as so-called patriotic rallying, is in fact ethnocratic and racist. The clause in this specific bill that stipulates "the committee will not reject a candidate only on the basis of race, religion, gender, nationality or disability" purports to be in line with the High Court of Justice ruling in the Ka'adan case (more than a decade ago the High Court overruled the rejection of the Arab Ka'adan family on the part of the Katzir community's admission committee ). But another clause in the bill bypasses this ruling, offering the misleading argument that committees can reject a candidate due to "lack of suitability to the community's cultural-social fabric."


The blatant flouting of basic laws and civil rights is a common theme running through every recent bill: the loyalty bill sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu's David Rotem, intended to deny citizenship to those who are not "loyal to the state;" the bill to deny the Islamic Movement's legal status, sponsored by Likud's Ofir Akunis; legislation seeking to deny support to "unpatriotic" filmmakers, sponsored by Michael Ben Ari (National Union ) and Ronit Tirosh (Kadima ); the conversion bill, the Nakba bill and many others like them mock the principles of equality and freedom in Israel's Declaration of Independence.


No other Knesset has submitted so many bills under the guise of "preserving state security" that show open preference to Jews over Arabs in all walks of life.


The Knesset members' conduct has been improper too. Especially reprehensible are those who have assailed Arab MKs and threatened to expel them from the Knesset. No less reprehensible are those who took part in or cooperated with the racist incitement and wacky debates among various Knesset committees over singer Harel Skaat's participation in the Eurovision singing competition.


But the most disappointing and outrageous of all are the Kadima and Labor lawmakers, who spoke loftily about their values, but at the moment of truth slipped out to evade the vote - leaving the extremists to stain the law book.


Revoking the rights of Arab MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad ) was the culmination of this shameful process. In both words and actions the MKs are undermining democracy's fundamental values, making cynical, cheap use of parliamentary tools, dragging Israeli society to sectorial disputes and separatism, and isolating Israel from the world. They are harming the parliament's credibility and subverting society. This is how the 18th Knesset will be remembered: shallow, destructive and bad.









Maybe it's because of the early heat and humidity this year, or maybe because of the prime minister's trip to Washington that was opened to the cameras this time, but Benjamin Netanyahu made a mistake that an experienced politician doesn't make: He mentioned an exact date for the end of the construction freeze in the West Bank. Yitzhak Rabin made a similar mistake in his day when he promised that within nine to 10 months he would reach an agreement with the Palestinians. As the date approached, public pressure mounted: Where's the agreement?


A similar thing is happening now to Bibi. His commitment to the construction freeze is approaching D-Day: September 26. As the target date approaches, all eyes are on Bibi. His critics say he restricted his freedom of action with his own ultimatum. The Yesha Council of settlers did not make things easy for him when at the beginning of the month it published full-page ads with the headline "He gave his word." There were photos of seven ministers, each declaring in sharper language that there is no chance they won't resume construction at the end of the freeze. And in the center of the ad is a large photo of Bibi with his declaration: "I declare that this freeze is temporary and one-off. We'll start to build the way we did before."


Now everyone is waiting tensely for September 26, which happens to fall during Sukkot. If he continues the freeze he won't have a government, say commentators known for knowing everything. But if he cancels the freeze he is liable to get into trouble again with the U.S. administration. Bibi's rivals believe he is working to gain time. To gain time until what? The end of the midterm elections in the United States, or another warming of relations with the Obama administration?


Many people can't see Bibi getting up and announcing on September 27 that starting today construction is being renewed. It's hard to believe he would declare the construction freeze dead and buried after the reconciliation with U.S. President Barack Obama. Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor believes it's half tea and half coffee; in other words: We continue the freeze, but only where it is agreed those places won't be in our hands at the end of the negotiations. In theory that sounds logical, but in fact who will determine without direct negotiations what will or won't remain in our hands in the framework of two states for two peoples? And the Palestinians won't be satisfied with crumbs.


The formal excuse for the current situation is the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to enter into direct talks with Israel. They prefer proximity talks via American intermediaries, maybe because they hope that in proximity talks the U.S. administration would be freer to suggest an enforced solution. In open talks, meanwhile, with the eyes of the Arab countries on them, the Palestinian leaders would find it difficult to moderate the harsh preconditions in which they have trapped themselves.


But for now Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad can show considerable achievements in actively promoting peace. First of all they are not allowing terror to emanate from the West Bank, and they are improving their people's economic situation. We should be pleased at what is happening there. And if we agree to continue the construction freeze a little longer it will lead to de facto normalization. At the same time, we should be pleased with the overt and covert understandings with the Obama administration regarding Israel's security.


The wall of hatred between the two peoples has become shorter; today there is no reason not to sit and talk to each other. Gaza is the PA's problem; basically it's our problem too, but it's the PA that has to find the solution. It's inconceivable for us to be surrounded by two Palestinian states.


We must strengthen Fayyad and Abu Mazen, encourage direct talks in exchange for a continuation of the freeze beyond the scheduled date - perhaps not a total freeze, but a kind of consensual freeze in the territories.


Anyone who says that without bringing Kadima into the government there will be no progress is mistaken. Although Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke at length with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, he did not propose, either in his name or in Bibi's, that she join the government. A peace process instituted by a right-wing leader would be more practical than having Kadima join a right-wing government. Menachem Begin, as right-wing as they come, made history when as prime minister he reached a peace agreement with Egypt without the Labor Party in the government. Had Labor leaders Golda Meir and Israel Galili been in that government, it's not certain that a peace agreement with Egypt would have been achieved.


Now when the sun is setting on the presidential palace in Cairo, it's very important for the Netanyahu government in its present form to forge an agreement with the PA, under Egyptian sponsorship. None of that will happen until the PA restores Gaza to sanity and the Netanyahu government neutralizes the fanatic settlers who are liable to drag us into a civil war.


A midsummer night's dream? Perhaps.









The second year in office is always a year for making things clear. The government's energy has waned, its weaknesses are obvious, and anyone with a sense of smell can detect its fears. Unless an act of God intervenes such as a sudden death, an enforced peace, a dramatic indictment or a surprising acquittal, everything is out in the open and predictable. It's simple and frighteningly simplistic.


Even though the old forces are worn out and exhausted, and the new forces are full of vitality, no real change is blowing in the wind. Television personality Yair Lapid and former chief of staff Dan Halutz are plotting, justifiably and with skill, to fill Kadima's shallowness. Aryeh Deri is checking the temperature of Shas' corpse and Eli Yishai, at the behest of the Rabbi of course. The veterans of the Labor Party's young guard are still sitting, as can be expected, with former minister Uzi Baram and planning their grand attack. And even Meretz's remnants are weakly trying to revive the coals that burned out long ago.


All of them are justified because the political system in its present form deserves a thorough shake-up; its dead branches must be trimmed, its weeds and other unnecessary parts must be uprooted. These people are justified, but they are boring; they are the same types as before. Their efforts are an attempt to replace the dead fish with other fish that will also die. That is because no one is prepared to admit that the water is polluted and the sea must be changed.


In almost every area of the Israeli rift we need a new and clean political ocean: on issues of war and peace, in the realm between religion and the state, in the spaces between the insensitive Jewish majority and the oppressed minorities. There is also a gap between the rich who grow richer and the have-nots who have less and less all the time.


The current political situation is still built on the basic concepts of the first days of Zionism. The chasm between Zionism and ultra-Orthodoxy became a fixture at the beginning of the 20th century. The challenge of the Israeli Arabs has been stagnating since 1948. And very soon Israel will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the occupation and its injustices. There is an abundance of passionate history, while the offerings of the present are poor.


The greatest internal threat to Israel's existence is the erosion of Israeli democracy, which has already lost its internal substance - the values of freedom and total commitment to all its citizens.


The time has come for a new proposal, one that is exciting and challenging. The time has come for an Israeli party, a Jewish-Arab party, that will carry the banner of total commitment to equality, without a trace of discrimination and racism. It will be without Meretz's complications and Hadash's emotional baggage. A party that will sail far beyond the paradigms of classic Zionism, which to this day ignores the place of Israel's Arabs. A party that will demand full equality for all Israel's citizens, the kind of equality we demand for the Jews in the Diaspora wherever they live.


The party Israel Equality (Shivyon Yisrael ) - with the acronym Shai in Hebrew, gift - will fight for a state that will be a total democracy; everything else will be either personal or on the community level. The party will wrestle with the sanctimonious internal contradiction of "a Jewish and democratic state," which means a great deal of democracy for the Jews and too much Jewish nationalism for the Arabs. It will be the party of those who are committed to the supreme universal and Israeli cultural values of human dignity, the search for peace and a desire for freedom, justice and equality.


Those who vote for it and its candidates will accept the definition of Israel as "a state whose regime is democratic and egalitarian, and which belongs to all its citizens and communities. The state in which the Jewish people have chosen to renew their sovereignty and where they realize their right to self-determination." The practical expression of this commitment will be a supreme effort to change the social balance of power, which is unjust, to give equal opportunities to the entire population in Israel, regardless of national background, ethnic origin, race, sex or sexual preference.


The new party will cooperate with anyone willing to return to peaceful borders, to help end the occupation and all the injustices that spring from it. This party will always be at the forefront of the struggle against hatred and incitement; it will be for everyone who has given up on the current Israeli political scene. It will offer the possibility of good tidings for everyone who is fed up with everything that is impossible in the current situation.










At the peak of the hot summer months - when in other places people go fishing, go for a picnic, splash in brooks and lakes - it's customary in the Middle East to roll up your sleeves and get down to the most popular vacation activity: a war, military operation or provocative incident. And it's well known that during this season, even more than other times of the year, there's no point in trying to find proof of any exceptional brain activity in our region - particularly not anything related to political thought. And behold, this year a miracle occurred: From the very heart of the leadership wasteland, and perhaps because of it, a kind of ideological renaissance is taking place. Even - is it possible? - in the political minefield of the religious Zionist right.


Like those "seeds of summer" about which Meir Ariel sang, those that are "carried on the wind / arousing memories / awakening yearnings" - suddenly the air is filled with daring initiatives, sharp concepts, new ways of thinking filled to the brim with potential. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has proposed disengaging from Gaza once and for all; settlers and advocates of annexation are coming out of the woodwork, declaring a binational state preferable to withdrawal - in other words, they're admitting openly that they would be willing to sacrifice Israel for the Moloch of the territories.


Intellectuals from other political poles are also refusing to surrender to the wrath of Tammuz: Prof. Yehouda Shenhav suggests we forget about the Green Line, accept the right of return and oppose the evacuation of settlements.


Nor is it quiet on the Palestinian front. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas - in an outburst of creative thinking - declared (and immediately denied ) that he is willing, out of the goodness of his heart, to let us keep the Western Wall.


What could possibly lift one's spirits more than these ideological buds springing in the heart of the desert? At least some of them, however, should not be approached too closely for fear that they will turn out to be mirages of the most deceptive kind. After all, it's doubtful whether these seeds of summer will ever encounter loose earth that will actually absorb them.


Take, for example, Lieberman's idea of "disengagement from Gaza, but this time in all seriousness." Before the echo of his words had died down, his proposal was being attacked derisively from right and left to nip it in the bud, each side with its own longstanding reasons. And it's no surprise that leading the pack of those expressing shock and rejection were the Palestinians themselves, for reasons of their own; and primarily Hamas, which of course doesn't want to have anything to do with the Zionist entity, not even one that will do away with the "occupation" itself. Because without an occupation there is no "resistance" and without "resistance" there is no self determination.


The death of the proposal even before it was born did not prevent Lieberman's apprentice, Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon, from appearing on television and praising it effusively in all seriousness, as though he were some kind of urban planner describing one of those cities hidden from the eye. And the more he spoke, the stronger the impression that the summary rejection and the hopelessness of the proposal were actually what led to it being embraced by him so passionately. This is reminiscent of the members of the settler neo-renaissance, who began to utter effusive praise for the concept of a binational state precisely because they knew that nobody would spoil this vision by actually implementing it.


With the usual delay of several decades, finally they too have learned from the left and discovered the refined pleasure called "playing chess with ourselves." Its an enjoyable, pleasant game in which you move pieces around the board to your heart's content, with a raised pinky. The left played for 40 years, and now the settlers and the right are having their turn: to grant citizenship, to annex, "to guarantee human rights," to move, to close, to open, to arrange. That will happen until they also discover, as did their predecessors, that in real life the actual opponent tends occasionally to flip the board over unexpectedly, or not move from his positions even by a millimeter or to maintain his refusal in the face of any sophisticated idea.


Now, when a non-interlocutor after their own hearts has been found for the Palestinians in the guise of the Netanyahu government, the two rivals are staring at one another motionless from the two sides of the game board - both of them with a single, separate and actually common vision: mutual, almost symmetrical "resistance"; stubborn, frozen, mutually nourished. It's no wonder the only moves and awakenings are coming from the kibitzers.












Many are the surprises in a person's life, but I never dreamed of a surprise like this. The judges went a long way at my expense. We had hoped for a trial, but got instead a huge pile of dirty documents, about 900 pages in all.


I needed 10 days to recover. In order to let Tzachi Hanegbi escape conviction by the skin of his teeth, they scratched around and found two political appointments of mine - I too was involved in misdeeds. The court pounced on the finding like someone who had found a treasure, relying on the testimony of a clerk who himself had been found involved in an iniquity and wanted to save his own skin.


So happy they were there with the findings that they included them for emphasis in the summary of the ruling, and even mentioned the names of those who should have been excluded from working there so as to humiliate them. How regrettable that the honorable judge forgot to summon me so as to hear my version; perhaps he would have learned that there was no truth in the charge - that it was simply a plot about two honest and excellent appointments.


But please do not confound judges with testimonies. After all, all he wanted was to build a good legal structure in order to rubber stamp 100 appointments, and found two flimsy crutches on which to rest it.


Since there is insufficient space here to say damaging things for the honorable judge to hear - the editor refused to give me several hundred pages - I shall simply say this: Even those positions that I was entitled to make appointments to, even to those I did not appoint anyone. Even the directors general and advisers I appointed were unknown to me beforehand - only their talents and experience spoke in their favor and awarded them the jobs.


The professor of Education, Ami Wolanski, who was my adviser on Higher Education, telephoned me this week and said: "We worked together but I didn't notice your political appointments." And I thought to myself that a human being looks you in the eye with his eyes while a judge looks into your heart with the musings in his heart.


But let us assume for a moment that I did indeed make two dubious appointments during four years in office, let's just assume that. Is it decent and logical to use them to purify the vermin of dozens of "tailor-made" jobs? Would they have indicted Hanegbi from the beginning for only two appointments? The honorable judge no doubt is familiar with the Supreme Court's guiding decision, according to which a single political appointment would not meet the demand of substantive harm to the integrity of a public figure, but rather that it is the "quantity that decides the quality."


The quantity too - about one third of the employees of a small ministry - does not make an impression on the court, except for one judge. And here is the proof, so the honorable judge noted, that the accused minister did not appoint more. And how many "more," it is interesting to know, would have constituted in his eyes an entire industry of appointments?


"That's what everyone does" is neither an original nor an especially noble claim. There is no scoundrel who has not tried to use it in his own defense. Prisons are full of convicts who did what everyone else did. The claim "I didn't know it was forbidden, no one told me," is also a characteristic claim made by cheats. I am trying to remember who told me.


Since they have accused me of political appointments and used me as proof, perhaps I should be sorry about my personal failure - that I did not fill the ministry with people of my own liking. I might as well have enjoyed myself.


I only regret that there are honorable judges who saw off the legs of the chairs on which they and their colleagues sit.



******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




On Thursday, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, abandoned the fight for meaningful energy and climate


legislation. The Republicans — surprise — had been fiercely obstructionist. But the Democratic leaders let them get away with it, as did the White House. It has been weeks since President Obama spoke out about the need for a serious climate bill to address the very real danger of global warming and to lessen this country's dependence on imported oil.


Last year, the House passed a decent if imperfect bill that would have placed economywide caps on greenhouse gas emissions. John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman offered an equivalent bill in the Senate. Mr. Reid counted noses and decided his best chance was with a stripped-down version that caps only emissions from power plants. Now even that bill has fallen by the wayside.


Mr. Reid's latest version is not even a pale shadow of what is needed. It will include useful reforms related to the oil spill, and possibly some land conservation and energy efficiency provisions. But there is no cap of any sort. Without that, industry will have little incentive to reduce emissions or invest in cleaner energy sources or new technologies. The bill also fails to require utilities to derive a significant percentage of their power from renewable sources.


The Republicans obviously bear a good part of the responsibility for this failure. With a handful of exceptions, they have denied or played down the problem of global warming for years and did pretty much anything they could to protect industry from necessary regulation. There are, however, as many as a dozen Senate Democrats, mainly from the South, Appalachia and the Midwest, who share the blame.


They cowered before the shrill warnings that capping carbon emissions — and making electricity from traditional fuels like coal more expensive — would cripple the economy. Never mind the wealth of evidence that the costs will be minimal and, over time, will be richly repaid in terms of new jobs and industries.


Mr. Obama never fully committed to the fight. He raised hopes here and around the world last year when he pledged in Copenhagen to reduce United States greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent. Until a couple of months ago, he talked a good game, praising the House bill that aimed at the 17 percent target and promising to make every effort to get the Senate to follow.


Then, despite the opportunity offered by the oil spill to press for a bold energy policy, the president essentially disappeared. What has passed for advocacy by the White House in recent days has consisted largely of one op-ed article by the energy adviser, Carol Browner, and daily assurances from the press secretary, Robert Gibbs, that the White House was "working behind the scenes."


Can the country hope for better in the months ahead? It must. The danger of global warming is not going away just because Washington's politicians don't want to deal with it.


Even a scaled-down bill would be an important start. There is no secret about what it must include: a cap on power plant emissions, minimum standards for renewable energy, strong efficiency standards, new incentives for more fuel-efficient cars, investments and loan guarantees for next-generation technologies.


There is no chance unless Mr. Obama comes out fighting: calling out the Republicans, shaming and rallying Democratic laggards and explaining to the American people that global warming and oil dependency are clear and present threats to American security.






It is a rare achievement these days for the Senate to pass anything of real substance by a unanimous vote. But an important bill that protects Americans from the whims of foreign libel judgments was passed earlier this week by unanimous consent. Once it passes the House and is signed into law, it will provide a safeguard to authors and publishers threatened with ruinous foreign judgments.


In the United States, a plaintiff alleging libel must prove that a statement is false and defamatory, and public figures have to show that a writer acted with actual malice in making a false statement. But these protections, rooted in the First Amendment, do not exist in places like Britain, Australia and Singapore, where the burden is often on the author, once accused of libel, to show that a statement is true.


To sidestep American protections, subjects of books have sued publishers and authors in British courts where they have a better chance of winning. The practice, known as libel tourism, counts on a system in which American courts will enforce British fines and penalties.


The bill passed by the Senate on Monday would prohibit American courts from enforcing foreign defamation judgments if the judgments are inconsistent with First Amendment protections. In other words, if a British court finds that an American author has committed libel but has not conducted the trial with the same legal standards as an American court, the judgment against the author would be void in the United States. Americans who are found overseas to have committed libel can also sue in federal court to have that judgment found to be "repugnant to the Constitution" or American law.


These kinds of cases have come up far too often. One of the best known examples was that of Rachel Ehrenfeld, who wrote a 2003 book called "Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed — and How to Stop It," that accused a Saudi businessman, Khalid bin Mahfouz, of providing financial support to Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. After Mr. Mahfouz sued for libel in Britain — a charge that Ms. Ehrenfeld refused to defend — a British judge ordered her to pay £10,000 each to Mr. Mahfouz and his two sons, and more than £100,000 in legal costs, a total equaling about $230,000 at the time. She refused to pay, and the case led the New York State Legislature to pass a bill similar to the Speech Act in 2008.


The House has already passed a similar bill and is expected shortly to support the version approved by the Senate, giving authors in the rest of the country the same protections that exist in New York. The next step is for the new British government to take the hint and follow through on the promise it made earlier this month to review and overhaul its libel laws. No one in either country wins if writers cannot express themselves freely.








Suicide stalks the United States military as much as enemies do on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the latest grim data. Last year, 347 military personnel were killed in the two wars, while at least 381 warriors took their own lives. The double-edged tragedy was brought home in recent Congressional hearings that laid bare how much must be done to reach and comfort battle-weary soldiers near the edge of their resources.


Care and prevention programs have been upgraded as the suicide toll has risen across the two wars, with suicide attempts increasing sixfold in the Army, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. But currently tens of thousands of reservists return home from battle and fall through the cracks of programs supposedly mandating psychological and physical examinations within 90 days, concerned lawmakers are warning.


Legislation to repair this damage for members of the Army's Individual Ready Reserve — a category that does not enjoy the unit-based care of other reservists — is again on the Congressional agenda. As vital as this is, the measure was approved by both houses last year but then was struck in a final conference for supposed budgetary reasons, according to one of the sponsors, Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey. A constituent, Sgt. Coleman Bean, was a unit-free reservist who did two tours in Iraq and committed suicide while on a waiting list for post-traumatic stress disorder care.


Considering the two wars were declared and waged with scant attention to their full costs, lawmakers add insult to injury by invoking budget concerns for the traumatic needs of actual warriors. The provision, approved again by the House in the defense authorization bill, deserves final approval in the Senate. An estimated 40,000 reservists miss the mandated check-ups, according to Representative Holt, who told CQ Today the bulk of military suicides may come from these overlooked ranks.







The ethics committee gavel is finally sounding with some authority for Representative Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who has been under investigation for multiple allegations of misusing his office. After a closed investigation of nearly two years, a bipartisan subcommittee has properly concluded that there are grounds for charging the congressman with as yet unspecified violations.


The decision triggers a rarely seen process leading to an expected trial of Mr. Rangel before a special eight-member panel of House members. The precise charges are to be disclosed on Thursday, but Mr. Rangel is firmly maintaining his innocence of any ethics violations despite a string of grave missteps that cost him the gavel of the Ways and Means Committee.


It has been no cause for celebration to see Mr. Rangel in decline as allegations have surfaced on a series of serious misdeeds. Most recently, he was admonished by the ethics committee for leading fellow lawmakers on a Caribbean junket financed by private corporations in violation of the ethics rules. His constituents deserved better, but his deeds betrayed a sense of entitlement on his part that helped lead him to this dark point.


Past allegations, which may not be part of the formal charges, focused on Mr. Rangel's acceptance of four rent-subsidized apartments from a politically savvy Manhattan real estate dealer; his failure to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republic; and his abusing official letterhead to solicit donations from scores of business and foundation leaders for a City College of New York center named for him.


He denied any quid pro quo with the letterhead. One oil executive pledged $1 million to Mr. Rangel, who insists there was no misconduct in his defense of an off-shore tax loophole worth tens of millions to the donor. In the midst of these troubles, Mr. Rangel postscripted his House disclosure form with an additional $500,000 in assets previously unreported — a particularly egregious gaffe for a man who once ran the tax-writing process.


The reputation of the House will be at stake in the proceedings as much as the congressman's standing before the ethics charges.









For a couple of years, it was the love that dared not speak his name. In 2008, Republican candidates hardly ever mentioned the president still sitting in the White House. After the election, the G.O.P. did its best to shout down all talk about how we got into the mess we're in, insisting that we needed to look forward, not back. And many in the news media played along, acting as if it was somehow uncouth for Democrats even to mention the Bush era and its legacy.


The truth, however, is that the only problem Republicans ever had with George W. Bush was his low approval rating. They always loved his policies and his governing style — and they want them back. In recent weeks, G.O.P. leaders have come out for a complete return to the Bush agenda, including tax breaks for the rich and financial deregulation. They've even resurrected the plan to cut future Social Security benefits.


But they have a problem: how can they embrace President Bush's policies, given his record? After all, Mr. Bush's two signature initiatives were tax cuts and the invasion of Iraq; both, in the eyes of the public, were abject failures. Tax cuts never yielded the promised prosperity, but along with other policies — especially the unfunded war in Iraq — they converted a budget surplus into a persistent deficit. Meanwhile, the W.M.D. we invaded Iraq to eliminate turned out not to exist, and by 2008 a majority of the public believed not just that the invasion was a mistake but that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. What's a Republican to do?


You know the answer. There's now a concerted effort under way to rehabilitate Mr. Bush's image on at least

three fronts: the economy, the deficit and the war.


On the economy: Last week Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, declared that "there's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue, because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy." So now the word is that the Bush-era economy was characterized by "vibrancy."


I guess it depends on the meaning of the word "vibrant." The actual record of the Bush years was (i) two and half years of declining employment, followed by (ii) four and a half years of modest job growth, at a pace significantly below the eight-year average under Bill Clinton, followed by (iii) a year of economic catastrophe. In 2007, at the height of the "Bush boom," such as it was, median household income, adjusted for inflation, was still lower than it had been in 2000.


But the Bush apologists hope that you won't remember all that. And they also have a theory, which I've been hearing more and more — namely, that President Obama, though not yet in office or even elected, caused the 2008 slump. You see, people were worried in advance about his future policies, and that's what caused the economy to tank. Seriously.


On the deficit: Republicans are now claiming that the Bush administration was actually a paragon of fiscal responsibility, and that the deficit is Mr. Obama's fault. "The last year of the Bush administration," said Mr. McConnell recently, "the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product was 3.2 percent, well within the range of what most economists think is manageable. A year and a half later, it's almost 10 percent."


But that 3.2 percent figure, it turns out, is for fiscal 2008 — which wasn't the last year of the Bush administration, because it ended in September of 2008. In other words, it ended just as the failure of Lehman Brothers — on Mr. Bush's watch — was triggering a broad financial and economic collapse. This collapse caused the deficit to soar: By the first quarter of 2009 — with only a trickle of stimulus funds flowing — federal borrowing had already reached almost 9 percent of G.D.P. To some of us, this says that the economic crisis that began under Mr. Bush is responsible for the great bulk of our current deficit. But the Republican Party is having none of it.


Finally, on the war: For most Americans, the whole debate about the war is old if painful news — but not for those obsessed with refurbishing the Bush image. Karl Rove now claims that his biggest mistake was letting Democrats get away with the "shameful" claim that the Bush administration hyped the case for invading Iraq. Let the whitewashing begin!


Again, Republicans aren't trying to rescue George W. Bush's reputation for sentimental reasons; they're trying to clear the way for a return to Bush policies. And this carries a message for anyone hoping that the next time Republicans are in power, they'll behave differently. If you believe that they've learned something — say, about fiscal prudence or the importance of effective regulation — you're kidding yourself. You might as well face it: they're addicted to Bush.








Washington, Conn.


Where does our sense of right and wrong come from? Most people think it is a gift from God, who revealed His laws and elevates us with His love. A smaller number think that we figure the rules out for ourselves, using our capacity to reason and choosing a philosophical system to live by.


Moral naturalists, on the other hand, believe that we have moral sentiments that have emerged from a long history of relationships. To learn about morality, you don't rely upon revelation or metaphysics; you observe people as they live.


This week a group of moral naturalists gathered in Connecticut at a conference organized by the Edge Foundation. One of the participants, Marc Hauser of Harvard, began his career studying primates, and for moral naturalists the story of our morality begins back in the evolutionary past. It begins with the way insects, rats and monkeys learned to cooperate.


By the time humans came around, evolution had forged a pretty firm foundation for a moral sense. Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia argues that this moral sense is like our sense of taste. We have natural receptors that help us pick up sweetness and saltiness. In the same way, we have natural receptors that help us recognize fairness and cruelty. Just as a few universal tastes can grow into many different cuisines, a few moral senses can grow into many different moral cultures.


Paul Bloom of Yale noted that this moral sense can be observed early in life. Bloom and his colleagues conducted an experiment in which they showed babies a scene featuring one figure struggling to climb a hill, another figure trying to help it, and a third trying to hinder it.


At as early as six months, the babies showed a preference for the helper over the hinderer. In some plays, there is a second act. The hindering figure is either punished or rewarded. In this case, 8-month-olds preferred a character who was punishing the hinderer over ones being nice to it.


This illustrates, Bloom says, that people have a rudimentary sense of justice from a very early age. This doesn't make people naturally good. If you give a 3-year-old two pieces of candy and ask him if he wants to share one of them, he will almost certainly say no. It's not until age 7 or 8 that even half the children are willing to share. But it does mean that social norms fall upon prepared ground. We come equipped to learn fairness and other virtues.


These moral faculties structure the way we perceive and respond to the world. If you ask for donations with the photo and name of one sick child, you are likely to get twice as much money than if you had asked for donations with a photo and the names of eight children. Our minds respond more powerfully to the plight of an individual than the plight of a group.


These moral faculties rely upon emotional, intuitive processes, for good and ill. If you are in a bad mood you will make harsher moral judgments than if you're in a good mood or have just seen a comedy. As Elizabeth Phelps of New York University points out, feelings of disgust will evoke a desire to expel things, even those things unrelated to your original mood. General fear makes people risk-averse. Anger makes them risk-seeking.


People who behave morally don't generally do it because they have greater knowledge; they do it because they have a greater sensitivity to other people's points of view. Hauser reported on research showing that bullies are surprisingly sophisticated at reading other people's intentions, but they're not good at anticipating and feeling other people's pain.


The moral naturalists differ over what role reason plays in moral judgments. Some, like Haidt, believe that we make moral judgments intuitively and then construct justifications after the fact. Others, like Joshua Greene of Harvard, liken moral thinking to a camera. Most of the time we rely on the automatic point-and-shoot process, but occasionally we use deliberation to override the quick and easy method. We certainly tell stories and have conversations to spread and refine moral beliefs.


For people wary of abstract theorizing, it's nice to see people investigating morality in ways that are concrete and empirical. But their approach does have certain implicit tendencies.


They emphasize group cohesion over individual dissent. They emphasize the cooperative virtues, like empathy, over the competitive virtues, like the thirst for recognition and superiority. At this conference, they barely mentioned the yearning for transcendence and the sacred, which plays such a major role in every human society.


Their implied description of the moral life is gentle, fair and grounded. But it is all lower case. So far, at least, it might not satisfy those who want their morality to be awesome, formidable, transcendent or great.








Williamstown, Mass.

HERE in Massachusetts, teachers and administrators are spending their summers becoming familiar with the new state law that requires schools to institute an anti-bullying curriculum, investigate acts of bullying and report the most serious cases to law enforcement officers.


This new law was passed in April after a group of South Hadley, Mass., students were indicted in the bullying of a 15-year-old girl, Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide. To the extent that it underlines the importance of the problem and demands that schools figure out how to address it, it is a move in the right direction. But legislation alone can't create kinder communities or teach children how to get along. That will take a much deeper rethinking of what schools should do for their students.


It's important, first, to recognize that while cellphones and the Internet have made bullying more anonymous and unsupervised, there is little evidence that children are meaner than they used to be. Indeed, there is ample research — not to mention plenty of novels and memoirs — about how children have always victimized one another in large and small ways, how often they are oblivious to the rights and feelings of others and how rarely they defend a victim.


In a 1995 study in Canada, researchers placed video cameras in a school playground and discovered that overt acts of bullying occurred at an astonishing rate of 4.5 incidents per hour. Just as interesting, children typically stood idly by and watched the mistreatment of their classmates — apparently, the inclination and ability to protect one another and to enforce a culture of tolerance does not come naturally. These are values that must be taught.


Yet, in American curriculums, a growing emphasis on standardized test scores as the primary measure of "successful" schools has crowded out what should be an essential criterion for well-educated students: a sense of responsibility for the well-being of others.


What's more, the danger of anti-bullying laws, which have now been passed by all but six states, is that they may subtly encourage schools to address this complicated problem quickly and superficially. Many schools are buying expensive anti-bullying curriculum packages, big glossy binders that look reassuring on the bookshelf and technically place schools closer to compliance with the new laws.


But our research on child development makes it clear that there is only one way to truly combat bullying. As an essential part of the school curriculum, we have to teach children how to be good to one another, how to cooperate, how to defend someone who is being picked on and how to stand up for what is right.


To do this, teachers and administrators must first be trained to recognize just how complex children's social interactions really are. Yes, some conflict is a normal part of growing up, and plenty of friendly, responsible children dabble in mean behavior. For these children, a little guidance can go a long way. That is why the noted teacher and author Vivian Paley once made a rule that her students couldn't exclude anyone from their play. It took a lot of effort to make it work, but it had a powerful impact on everyone.


Other children bully because they have emotional and developmental problems, or because they come from abusive families. They require our help more than our punishment.

The kind of bullying, though, that presents the most difficulty in figuring out how and when to intervene falls between these two extremes: Sometimes children who aren't normally bullies get caught up in a larger culture of aggression — say, a clique of preadolescent girls who form a club with the specific function of being mean to other girls. Teachers must learn the difference between various sorts of aggressive behaviors, as well as the approaches that work best for each.


Most important, educators need to make a profound commitment to turn schools into genuine communities. Children need to know that adults consider kindness and collaboration to be every bit as important as algebra and reading. In groups and one-on-one sessions, students and teachers should be having conversations about relationships every day. And, as obvious as it might sound, teachers can't just preach kindness; they need to actually be nice to one another and to their students.


Teachers also need to structure learning activities in which children are interdependent and can learn to view individual differences as unique sources of strength. It's vital that every student, not just the few who sign up for special projects or afterschool activities, be involved in endeavors that draw them together.


Look at Norway, where the prevention of such incidents became a major emphasis of the school system after three teenage victims of bullying committed suicide in 1983. There, everyone gets involved — teachers, janitors and bus drivers are all trained to identify instances of bullying, and taught how to intervene. Teachers regularly talk to one another about how their students interact. Children in every grade participate in weekly classroom discussions about friendship and conflict. Parents are involved in the process from the beginning.


Norway's efforts have been tremendously effective. The incidence of bullying fell by half during the two-year period in which the programs were introduced. Stealing and cheating also declined. And the rate of bullying remains low today. Clearly, when a school and a community adopt values that are rooted in treating others with dignity and respect, children's behavior can change.


Indeed, our analysis of successful bullying-prevention programs across the United States and abroad reveals that the key common factor is their breadth: both in terms of the people who participate and of the deep connection between specific policies and the larger social ethos of the school community.


Involving the legal system makes a strong statement that a society won't tolerate bullying. But for laws like the one in Massachusetts to succeed, they have to be matched by an educational system that teaches children not only what's wrong, but how to do what's right.


Susan Engel is a senior lecturer in psychology and the director of the teaching program at Williams College, where Marlene Sandstrom is a professor of psychology.










IN the long list of problems affecting the American health care system, the shortage of general practitioners and overabundance of specialists is usually ranked near the top. There is truth to this: only 32 percent of physicians practice primary care medicine. As a result, patients have to wait longer to see their doctors and are more likely to be seen by nurse practitioners and physician assistants instead.


However, pediatrics has the opposite problem: a growing shortage of pediatric subspecialists. There are plenty of general pediatricians in the United States — about 70 per 100,000 children. But according to the American Board of Pediatrics, there are only 751 practicing pediatric pulmonologists in the country: one for every 100,000 children. In four states — Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, where more than 941,000 children live — there are none. Even in Massachusetts, the state with the highest ratio of pediatric pulmonologists to children in the country (2.6 for every 100,000 children), the wait for an appointment is often several months.


The numbers are similar for other pediatric subspecialties, leading to a shortage of doctors trained to treat problems many children face, like asthma, digestive issues and cancer. And not only are the current subspecialists aging (the average age of pediatric pulmonologists is 52.4), but few pediatric residents are choosing to undergo subspecialty training at the end of their residencies.


There are many reasons for the declining interest in pediatric subspecialties, including longer hours and the burden of medical school debt worsened by the low salaries paid during three extra years of training. These circumstances aren't likely to change, but there is something we can do to attract practitioners. The federal government could encourage more doctors to go into neglected subspecialties by forgiving some portion of their debts. Most important, it should continue to finance the training of pediatric subspecialists through the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Payment Program. Unfortunately, this program — which will spend $317.5 million on children's hospitals this year — is scheduled to expire in 2011. As Congress looks for savings, it's possible the program could be cut or its budget trimmed, leading to an even further decline in pediatric subspecialists.


Children are not "little adults," as pediatricians know well. They require treatment tailored to their needs. While there is great pressure to reduce government spending on health care, we need to invest in the training of pediatric subspecialists to make sure that our children have doctors who know best how to care for them.


Dennis Rosen is a pediatric pulmonologist at Children's Hospital Boston and an instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.









The election of America's first black president in 2008 ushered in high hopes that the country could move to a post-racial era, and in some ways, the nation has inched closer to that ideal.


White Americans crossed a once-impassable racial divide to vote for Barack Obama. African Americans saw a black man crash the ultimate glass ceiling. Just watching the First Family in the White House each day has vanquished tired, old stereotypes. A CNN poll, released Thursday, found 51% of Americans, including 74% of blacks, believe the Obama presidency has improved race relations.


But politics seems immune to such positive change. Race is still used and abused capriciously in a mean-spirited battle to score political points. This week's firestorm involving Shirley Sherrod, the formerly obscure U.S. Department of Agriculture employee from Georgia, was the latest demonstration of just how nasty and thoughtless that game of gotcha can be, particularly in today's voracious 24/7 news cycle.


The Sherrod conflagration began early Monday when an irresponsible conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, posted a snippet of a speech Sherrod gave in March at a local NAACP dinner. His purpose? To show up the NAACP — which recently called elements of the Tea Party movement "racist" — as a group that condones racism itself. In the clip, Sherrod admitted that she had failed to give a white farmer as much help as she'd have given a black farmer.


Between the time the clip hit the Internet and Fox News' commentators hit the evening airwaves, several people who should have known better "acted stupidly," as Obama put it when he waded into another racial controversy one year ago. Administration officials, on hair-trigger about being labeled reverse racists, couldn't even wait to check the facts or listen to Sherrod's side before they forced her to resign. Meanwhile, the NAACP made the same sort of mindless snap judgment and publicly branded her remarks "shameful."


There was one enormous problem. Had people bothered to listen to Sherrod's 43-minute speech and put the snippets in context, they'd have discovered that Sherrod was sharing an anecdote from 1986, long before she worked for the government. That she had gone on to help Roger Spooner, the white farmer, save his farm. And that the point of her story was race shouldn't matter when needy people are is distress.


To the extent there's an upside to this sorry story, it's that Sherrod was vindicated as quickly as she was vilified. On Tuesday, the NAACP reversed its position. On Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized profusely and offered her a new job. On Thursday, Obama phoned her, too.


If this is, as the president likes to say, another teachable moment, then there's still a lot to learn.


It would be naive to think that blatantly partisan bloggers or cable TV hosts will favor truth over distortion. Whipping up anger is their stock in trade. But one might at least hope they'd show more sense when racial issues are involved. More objective outlets, meanwhile, received another lesson in the need to check the facts before rushing to give Internet posts legitimacy. And everyone — particularly Vilsack — should have learned to think before they act.


Perhaps if the racial commentariat could step yelling, they'd be able to recognize the uplifting story at the heart of the Sherrod fracas. If a 62-year-old black woman, who says her father was killed by white men who were never charged, can achieve racial reconciliation with an 87-year-old white farmer in the Deep South, why does it seem so hard for others to do the same?







Andrew Breitbart, interview with CNN: "This was not about Shirley Sherrod. This was about the NAACP attacking the 'Tea Party' and this (video) is showing racism at an NAACP event. I did not ask for Shirley Sherrod to be fired. I did not ask for any repercussions for Shirley Sherrod. ... Racism is used by the left and the Democratic Party to shut up opposition. And (by releasing the Sherrod video) I am showing you that people who live in glass houses should not be throwing stones."


Eugene Robinson, column, The Washington Post: "With the Obama presidency has come a flurry of charges — from the likes of Breitbart but also from more substantial conservative figures — about alleged incidences of racial discrimination against whites by blacks and other minorities. ... These allegations of anti-white racism are being deliberately hyped and exaggerated because they are designed to make whites fearful. It won't work with most people, of course, but it works with some — enough, perhaps, to help erode Obama's political standing and damage his party's prospects at the polls."


Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, news conference: "This was my decision, and it was a decision that I regret having made in haste. ... I made it as a goal when I took this office that ... we would be a department that would not tolerate, in any way, shape, or form, discrimination. I still hold that belief very firmly, and I know Shirley does as well. I've learned a lot of lessons from this experience in the last couple of days, and one of the lessons I learned is that these types of decisions require time. I didn't take the time. I should have. And, as a result, a good woman has gone through a very difficult period, and I'll have to live with that for a long, long time."


National Revieweditor Rich Lowry, blog, The Corner: "Its politics aside, (Sherrod's) full speech is heartfelt and moving. It's the tale of someone overcoming hatred and rancor when she had every reason not to. Her saga over the last couple of days is a lesson in how the culture of offense often works in contemporary America — chewing people up and spitting them out before they even have a chance to defend themselves. Of course she should get her job back."








He's been known nationally for plainly speaking his mind on major matters for nearly half a century, especially since he ran as the Democrats' candidate for president against Republican Richard Nixon in 1972.


This week Monday, on his 88th birthday, George McGovern didn't mince words either when he explained why he decided to make his first parachute jump ever from an airplane over Florida near the Kennedy Space Center.


"Old guys don't want to be put on the shelf," he mused. When some criticized him for doing something that risky at his age he said: "It's no more dangerous than driving on the Interstate. You're not likely to collide with another parachute." Never mind that two 70-something parachuting buddies in Pennsylvania died over the weekend doing just that.


Actually McGovern used the occasion to get publicity for the Food for Peace program. He's been United

Nations Ambassador on World Hunger since 2001 and firmly believes that fighting hunger and poverty around the world beats fighting wars.


Although a decorated World War II Air Force combat veteran, McGovern has been most outspoken in his opposition to these wars:


•He sharply criticized President Nixon for expanding the Vietnam War when he ran against him for the Oval Office job.


•He hasn't minced words in criticizing President Obama for now more than doubling the number of troops in Afghanistan, even though he endorsed and supported Obama in the 2008 election.


If Nixon had listened to McGovern on Vietnam, he could have avoided the Watergate scandal and wouldn't have had to resign in disgrace in 1974. If Obama listened to McGovern on Afghanistan now, he probably could avoid the almost certain re-election loss that continuing that tragic misadventure will mean in 2012.


McGovern is an old country boy from South Dakota who understands the world better than do Obama's younger buddies from Chicago or Harvard.


Feedback: Other views on McGovern


"Al has made me proud. I only hope my little jump will do as well in focusing attention on the hungry children of the world."


–George McGovern


"I used to follow McGovern on legislation, but I'm not about to jump out of an airplane."


Bob Dole









Democrats at the National Governors Association meeting in Boston two weeks ago expressed their anxiety about the timing of the Justice Department's lawsuit against Arizona.


"The governors are saying we've got to talk about jobs, and all of a sudden we have immigration going on," complained Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen. "It is such a toxic subject."


But Republicans are introducing the toxicity. The misinformed rhetoric coming out of Arizona, intended to justify that state's stringent immigration law, has ensured that we cannot have an honest debate. Let me rebut a few claims.


Statement: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said, "Law enforcement agencies have found bodies in the desert either buried or just lying out there that have been beheaded" as a result of illegal immigration. Rebuttal: The Arizona Guardian was unable to find any instance of beheadings.


Brewer did not respond to requests from CBS News and The Washington Post for details about these alleged incidents.


Statement: Brewer has also said "the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules." Rebuttal: T.J. Bonner, president of the Border Patrol union, said, "The majority of people continue to come across in search of work, not to smuggle drugs." Since October, the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, which covers nearly the entire Arizona/Mexico border, has apprehended more than 170,000 illegal immigrants. Only about 1,000 were the subject of drug prosecutions.


Statement: On Meet the Press, Sen. John McCain wondered, "Why is it that Phoenix, Arizona, is the No. 2 kidnapping capital of the world?" Rebuttal: Politifact, a fact-checking site, said kidnapping rates are higher in many Asian, Latin American and African cities.


Statement: In April, McCain said the failure to secure the border "has led to violence — the worst I have ever seen." Rebuttal: In May, The Arizona Republic reported that violence is not up along the Arizona border, despite Mexico's drug war. Crime rates in border towns have remained "essentially flat" for the past decade.


I recognize the costs of illegal immigration. Even one death because of our broken borders is unacceptable. But Arizona's leaders are playing to anti-immigrant fears while making a real solution all the more elusive.


Raul Reyes is an attorney in New York and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.







The Dallas Morning News, in an editorial: "With 9.5% of U.S. workers still (unemployed) ... we understand why Senate Democrats wanted to extend unemployment benefits to more than 2.5 million Americans whose federal aid ran out in June. What we don't understand is why (they) couldn't also have found a way to finance the $34 billion emergency extension without further swelling the budget deficit. With a federal debt at about $13 trillion and the annual deficit soaring past $1 trillion, Washington must start paring back before both numbers grow so large they can't be reduced without madly printing money."


Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal, in an editorial: "No question, tens of billions of dollars amount to big money. In the context of the deficit problem? The money proposed for the jobless is a relatively small sum. More, the spending is temporary, vanishing as the economy gains momentum. ... Such steps aren't merely to help the unemployed, or keep firefighters, police officers, teachers and other public employees on the job. Economists of many stripes agree these actions are essential in bolstering a sagging economy, fueling demand with public dollars until the private sector strengthens. In other words, Congress did the right thing in extending unemployment compensation."


Mike Thompson, blogger, on Detroit Free Press: "I don't blame Senate Republicans for wanting to make a stand against deficit spending, but I do question their choice of targets. ... The government spends billions on everything from aircraft carriers to new roads, so why draw the line at a relatively small government program? Why (use) this program (as) a symbolic effort to end deficit spending? Simple. ... Polls showed that deficit reduction is a top concern among nervous voters. Rich and powerful defense contractors can run nasty ads in your Senate district if you cut defense spending. ... The unemployed ... have no power and they have no money. ... But Republicans have horribly misplayed this ball. New polls ... show that Americans actually support deficit spending if it means helping the unemployed. The end result is that Republicans now have a giant image problem and got nothing in return."


Bradley Blakeman, contributor, on Fox News: "Mr. President, the American people want jobs not handouts. They want you and ... Congress to concentrate on job creation not government dependence. ... The Republicans were right to stand on principle in opposing continued extended unemployment benefits that only results in a deeper national deficit and does not create one single job. This latest multibillion dollar unemployment giveaway, that passed in the House and Senate this week, extends benefits through November and is retroactive to the original late May cutoff. Is it coincidence that the Democrat's extension of unemployment benefits extends through Election Day of 2010? I think not."


David Brooks, on The New York Times blog Opinionator: "I'm glad the measure got passed, but the whole debate was symptomatic of how stupid our politics have become. The measure cost $30 billion. The Democrats wanted to borrow the money. The Republicans wanted to pay for it with cuts elsewhere. In a sane world, they'd just split the difference — $15 billion borrowed and $15 billion offset. We don't live in that world though. Instead economic issues are treated as religious disputes. The matrix of the culture wars is imposed onto money. No compromise is possible."








WASHINGTON — Give Robert Gibbs a break. Shirley Sherrod, too.


Gibbs, the ubiquitous White House spokesman, was at the epicenter of the year's most ridiculous political temblor, a fake story that had no consequence to anyone in America except to the paid parsers of the political class. It was the political equivalent of the mini earthquake that hit here earlier this month, a 3.6 tickler that caused no damage but had people talking as if the San Andreas Fault had been transplanted 3,000 miles east.


And Sherrod, a former Department of Agriculture official in Georgia, became ensnared in the opinion elite's

hair-trigger response to race. Sherrod was fired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack after making racially charged comments that were initially taken out of context. Vilsack apologized and asked Sherrod to return to work, but by then, Sherrod's speech at a March NAACP event in Georgia became embroiled in charges and countercharges that some in the rising "Tea Party" movement are racist, and that some in the NAACP are too quick to play the race card.


Wasn't this supposed to subside with the election of a black president? Don't we have more to worry about than whether or not the president's press secretary states the obvious?


What was Gibbs' alleged sin? That he simply stated the obvious and employed a minimal level of truth that ought to be the least we expect from a spokesman for the president of the United States.


Asked on Meet the Press whether the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives was in jeopardy in the November elections, Gibbs pointed out the undisputed fact that "there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control."


There are, and then some.


But Gibbs did not say, as some of his detractors twisted it, that Democrats were doomed. He did say that voters will have a choice in the November elections, and they most certainly will. He said what every Beltway Democrat with sense and every Beltway Republican with ambition has been saying for months.


Yet the cycle of spin and outrage was unleashed.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly dressed Gibbs down in absentia and offered the ultimate Washington insult — that she had never met him, which may or may not have been true. These are "facts" we learned from largely anonymous voices out of a closed meeting of Democrats. And if you believe the reports of Pelosi's outrage were not purposefully placed, there's still prime D.C. swampland for sale.


For a week, talking heads and Internet experts chewed on Gibbs and his words as if he had attempted to add

another commandment to the original 10 (one of which prohibits bearing false witness).


Did he "damage" fellow Democrats' chances in November by making them look like losers? Was he playing a clever expectations game so that when President Obama's Democrats narrowly hang on to their House majority, Obama will look like a hero at the gates? Or was he poking Democrat malcontents out of their funk by scaring them with visions of Republican takeover, à la 1994?


The horse race intrigue went on and on.


A week later, Vice President Biden was asked on another weekly talk show about Gibbs' "gaffe." To his credit, ABC's Jake Tapper set up the question to Biden by mentioning Michael Kinsley's clever line that a Washington gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth.


Biden, engaging his inner spin cycle, laughed and declared: "I don't think the (Democrats') losses are going to be bad at all. I think we're going to shock the heck out of everybody."


What is shocking is that this became a story at all.


But as it played out, GibbsGate became an example of all that is wrong in a city where spin and the expectations game have trumped reality. When public officials can't even agree to acknowledge the obvious truth in front of them, how will they confront the obvious challenges that divide? The truth that really hurts is that real government sins — runaway deficits, failures of regulation in finance and energy — get overwhelmed by the fake wrongs and petty disputes.


Americans deserve so much more. They have come to expect so much less.


(Chuck Raasch writes from Washington for Gannett. Contact him at, follow him at or join in the conversation at












Georgia voters will return to the polls on Aug. 10 to cast ballots in at least 20 runoff races in electoral contests where candidates failed to win more than 50 percent of the votes in Tuesday's primary. Given the number of candidates and the number of offices on ballots across the state, the fact that runoffs are necessary is hardly a surprise. What is surprising is which candidates secured spots in the gubernatorial contest and which one did not.


Karen Handel, former Georgia Secretary of State, and former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, who resigned from the

House to seek state office, face a runoff for the GOP nomination. A runoff was almost a certainty, given the number of high-profile candidates in the primary. Almost no one, however, would have predicted five months ago that John Oxendine, the state's insurance commissioner, would be locked out of the GOP runoff. He is.


Mr. Oxendine led preference polls for much of the primary season, but finished in fourth place on Tuesday. The fall of Mr. Oxendine, the fund-raising leader in the race, could be tied in part to charges that he accepted more than $120,000 in illegal contributions from insurance companies, but other factors undoubtedly are involved in his abysmal failure to connect with voters. Political scientists and others should relish analyzing his failure.


Mr. Deal, whose campaign grew strong-er as Election Day neared, faced ethical questions as well. The Office of Congressional Ethics reported that Mr. Deal improperly used his office to benefit a personal business. He resigned his seat before facing the disciplinary action the typically follows such reports, but knowledge of the charges was widespread. Still, the controversy surrounding Mr. Deal failed to generate the same antipathy in voters as the problems faced by Mr. Oxendine apparently did.


Mrs. Handel and Mr. Deal likely will continue the slugging match that marked the close of the primary. Mrs. Handel will continue to tout the endorsement of Sarah Palin, the GOP's darling of the moment, and Mr. Deal will counter with an endorsement by Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House. The pair no doubt will continue their personal sniping and their argument about who is the most conservative, but that serves little purpose.


They should explain, instead, the plans and policies they hope will restore the stability and restore the fortunes of a state currently in crisis. Voters need that information to make an informed decision.


The winner of the Handel-Deal runoff will face former Gov. Roy Barnes, who easily won the Democratic primary. Mr. Barnes is a formidable candidate, but should be considered an underdog given the GOP's increasing strength across Georgia.


The runoff for governor is not the only one of interest in the state. Four congressional districts, all Republican, also have runoffs. Included is District 9 in North Georgia, where newly elected Rep. Tom Graves will face Lee Hawkins for the fourth time in the lengthy battle to hold the seat vacated by Mr. Deal. The winner will earn a full term in the U.S. House. There is no Democratic opposition in November.


Other statewide runoffs include the Democratic race for secretary of state and GOP races for attorney general, insurance commissioner and the Public Service Commission. Voters should not ignore those parochial contests. They are an important prelude to the November general election and an integral part of the democratic process.







Many Americans remember the days when Fidel Castro appeared with regularity at public venues to inveigh against the United States. Those appearances occurred over a period that spanned nearly half a century, slowed and then abruptly stopped when the aging Cuban revolutionary had emergency surgery in 2006. Now, it's almost like old times. After four years of self-imposed exile, Mr. Castro is back in the limelight. What it means is difficult to ascertain

Within the last fortnight, the former Cuban president has appeared at a Foreign Ministry meeting, visited a science think tank, been interviewed on a current affairs program and attended a dolphin show at the national aquarium. The only common denominators to the public appearances are that he appeared in good health and that he's still taking potshots at the United States.


Mr. Castro's years out of the spotlight fueled speculation that he was seriously ill and unable to participate in political life. His recent activity proves that he is alert and able to converse sensibly on a variety of topics. True to form, he used the appearances to gig the United States, predicting that nuclear war between Israel and the United States and Iran or the United States and North Korea is inevitable.


Such predictions have to be taken with a grain of salt. Mr. Castro predicted earlier that a nuclear war between

Iran and the United States would erupt during the recently concluded World Cup. It didn't. Mr. Castro later said his prediction was in error, saying he got faulty information from the Foreign Ministry.


Though it is impossible to say with certainty why Fidel Castro chose to re-enter public life now, there is some

agreement that it somehow connected to shoring up the power and prestige of his brother Raul, who replaced Fidel as president. Raul, by any measure, is going through a rough patch.


Restive Cubans are increasingly worried about severe economic problems that Raul's government has been unable to address. They question, too, Raul's ability to root out almost endemic corruption in Cuba's bureaucracy and his handling of a hunger strike by jailed political dissidents. Though Fidel did not address those issues directly, he obviously hopes his public appearances will assure Cubans that he remains a behind-the-scenes power in government and that he supports his brother's policies.


That might not matter. Many Cubans seemed dismissive of the old lion, strongly suggesting that his influence is on the wane. If true, that changes the Cuba's domestic political dynamic. What might result in a world in which Fidel Castro is a bit player rather than a major player is impossible to predict. Whatever does emerge, though, likely will bring major change to hemispheric and international diplomacy.







While states along the Gulf of Mexico are fighting to control the terrible effects of the most recent big U.S. oil spill, there comes news from faraway China that it is suffering an oil spill that has spread over more than 165 square miles of the Yellow Sea.


So we are alerted that such difficulties may not be "rare."


That's why ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips and Shell wisely are pooling a billion dollars to form a new company to respond to any future undersea oil spills.


They want to get ahead of future potential problems. That obviously is sensible.


With thousands of underwater oil wells around the United States' coasts and those of many foreign nations, our problem in the Gulf of Mexico surely is not the last one we may face.


We need oil in huge quantities. So "planning ahead" to avoid problems — which surely will occur — is certainly reasonable.


Subscribe Here!

Common bad cooking habits of young, single professsionals.






It is wasteful that $15 million in federal "stimulus" money is being used for a runway improvement project at Dulles International Airport outside Washington — especially when that $15 million project has created only 17 jobs.


But the waste is not only at the airport itself. About $10,000 was deducted from the budget for the runway improvement to install a 10-by-11-foot road sign near Dulles telling motorists the project is part of "The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act" (aka, the stimulus) and that it is "Putting America Back to Work."


An isolated example? We wish.


A number of states are spending plenty of "federal money" not just on wasteful stimulus projects, but also on hundreds of road signs promoting the stimulus. ABC News found that the state of Illinois had spent $650,000 on nearly 1,000 signs, for example.


Here in Tennessee, the state Department of Transportation told ABC it had spent about $13,000 on 324 stimulus signs around the state.


And nationwide, estimates of "stimulus" funds spent not on actual construction projects but on signs promoting the stimulus range from $5 million to $20 million.


In one case, the Department of Housing and Urban Development stated in its "requirements" to a stimulus recipient that a sign should read, "Funded By: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Barack Obama, President." And the logo that the federal government recommended for another sign was very similar to Mr. Obama's 2008 campaign logo.


That's troubling. Whether or not you agree that the stimulus has created jobs as the federal government claims, tax dollars should not be used for political gain. The signs convey an obviously pro-stimulus political message.


Whether the stimulus has helped the economy is a matter of hot debate — especially as unemployment has risen to around 10 percent. Taxpayers certainly ought not to be forced to foot the bill for millions of dollars' worth of pro-stimulus signs along our nation's roads.


As U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., told ABC, it is wrong "to spend tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, borrowed money, on a bunch of signs to tell them how we are spending their taxpayer money."


We agree.






It is wise to be skeptical when somebody says there can be some great benefit at "no cost." Benefits pretty much always have costs. It is only a question of who will pay them — and when.


We saw this headline on a recent Associated Press article about health care: "Some preventive care to have no out-of-pocket cost."


The story began, "From counseling for kids who struggle with their weight, to cancer screenings for their parents, preventive health care will soon be available at no out-of-pocket cost under consumer rules the Obama administration unveiled Wednesday. That means no co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance for people whose health insurance plans are covered by the new requirements."


That sounds like a great deal, doesn't it? ObamaCare will make those out-of-pocket costs just go away.


Or will it?


Farther down in the story was this important disclaimer: "Premiums will go up by 1.5 percent on average, as spending for the (preventive) services is spread broadly across an entire pool of insured people."


Of course, that 1.5 percent increase is only an estimate. The true costs of massive federal entitlements have generally been far higher than originally estimated. There is sadly little reason to believe a 1.5 percent premium increase will pay the full tab for preventive services.


Once again, costs have not been eliminated. They have simply been shuffled from those who use socialized medical services onto those who may not use them. That is not the cost control that ObamaCare promised; it's cost shifting.







What countries throughout the world do not seek to protect their own borders, their sovereignty and their people from invaders who come in defiance of their laws?


It is strange that as the United States seeks to guard our country against literally millions of illegal invaders (obviously not very effectively), some people are criticizing our reasonable law enforcement efforts.


The United States welcomes many legal immigrants and many visitors. But we do have laws for orderly and limited entrance of people from foreign countries. We understand the eagerness of some foreigners to come here seeking better economic opportunities. We may even sympathize with their aspirations. But any country that does not control those seeking to cross its borders invites crime, and many other social and economic difficulties.


We sympathize with the people of all border states — Arizona is especially in the news these days — as they seek to avoid being inundated by massive illegal invasion. Unfortunately, some U.S. officials are not determined to uphold our laws. That just doesn't make sense.


We welcome legal immigrants, but not uncontrolled invasion.

Subscribe Here!

Common bad cooking habits of young, single professsionals.








The opposition had enough reason to criticize the government's democratic initiative. Not for the intended purpose; which was to introduce non – military measures to reconcile with the Kurds which in turn would help end the terror that ravaged the region for years.


The opposition was right to criticize the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to come up with an initiative no one was sure what it consisted of. And when there was substance to it, like steps for the return of members of the outlawed Kurdistan People's Party, or the PKK, the opposition was again right to criticize for mismanaging those concrete measures.


It is difficult to justify however the National Movement Party's, or MHP, objection to the government initiative to reduce or waive jail sentences for youths convicted of throwing stones at police during demonstrations supporting the PKK.


The MHP has already done a lot of harm to the hundreds of minors who are currently in jail, convicted of

involvement in violent protests. The AKP initially proposed the measure in late 2009 as part of its democratic initiative, but it was shelved after a fatal attack connected to the outlawed Kuridtan Workers' Party, or PKK, fearing reaction from the public which includes MHP constituencies.


The MHP tried its utmost to prevent the endorsement of the amendment to the anti-terrorism law, through which minors will no longer be charged with being members of a terrorist organization or making propaganda for terrorists. Fortunately, their tactics to delay the amendment has failed and the law was endorsed with the support of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.


One of the MHP's main justifications for its objection seems to be the timing. Such an amendment is not

appropriate at a time when terror is on the rise; the PKK is using children and the amendment is an indirect amnesty for the PKK, argue its officials.


As there is so much talk nowadays about the dark memories of the aftermath of the 12 September military coup,

MHP officials should be reminded how the Diyarbakır Prison has aggravated terrorism in the region by making its inmates to new recruits for the PKK.


Indeed, the PKK is a vicious organization that can be pathetic enough to exploit children. The way to counter their cruel tactic should not be one that is equally ferocious. Punishing children exploited by the PKK by sending them to jail will only serve the terror organization.


The children who are currently in prison have already lost invaluable school time.


But better late than never.


Daily News congratulates members of the parliament that have taken a step in the right direction albeit at the very end of the lawmaking season. At least on the issue of stone throwing children that has been a bleeding wound for the society, the majority of parliamentarians can take enjoy their holiday with a free conscience.


*The views expressed in the Straight represent the consensus opinion of the Hürriyet Daily News and its editorial board members







My family has traditionally voted for the Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP. But that changed under the previous leadership of the party. Under the leadership of Deniz Baykal, the CHP appeared to have little to do with being a progressive social democratic party and everything to do with being a reactionary right-wing party.


A ray of hope emerged under Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu that the CHP may come out of the political doldrums and provide the alternative that those disappointed with the party under Baykal have been seeking.


It is also apparent that Kılıçdaroğlu has an "open line" to the people. His popularity around the country shows this. On the other hand, his dwelling on bread and butter issues is making a mark. The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, may have kept the economy stable during the global crisis, but it did little for the working man and woman.


Put another way, the AKP is now being for what it is, a "party for the rich" and not for the laborer, the blue collar worker or the civil servant, let alone the dispossessed. It also seems Kılıçdaroğlu will play a more positive role than Baykal in terms of the search for a settlement to the Kurdish problem.


His recent meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on this topic was marked by a more cooperative spirit than the previous bellicosity that one saw under Baykal.


On the other hand, I do not agree with the party's position on the constitutional package, to be put to vote on Sept. 12, even though I agree that the changes to the Constitution should have been prepared in a broad-based manner, rather than in the kitchen of the AKP. My reasons for this are in my previous piece on the subject of this column.


Having said all this, one critical area we have not been able to get a clear picture on is Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu's stance on key foreign policy issues from Iran to Armenia, from Cyprus to the European Union.


But what little he has uttered on these topics is not hope inspiring, especially the words he said during his visit to northern Cyprus a few days ago.


According to Zeynep Gürcanlı from gthe daily Hürriyet's Internet edition, Kılıçdaroğlu has some very blunt views on the EU, which will hardly go down well in Europe where many are already questioning his party's stance on the constitutional changes.


This is what he had to say to Gürcanlı in Cyprus when asked about the link being established between the Cyprus issue and Turkey's EU membership hopes:


"They say that the EU will not admit Turkey if Cyprus is not solved. But the EU is not going to admit Turkey anyway. So why insist on these negotiations? There is no point in insisting on the negotiation process all the time simply because we want to appear good to Europe."


Wondering whether Kılıçdaroğlu was being frank, because he was talking off the record, Gürcanlı said she felt the need to ask him if she could quote him on these striking remarks.


"Of course you can," Kılıçdaroğlu said, and, referring to the Cyprus problem added, "If it were left to me, I would also open up Varosha." He was referring to the one-time holiday resort in Northern Cyprus, which was fenced off as a forbidden region in 1974 and remains so, waiting to be used as a bargaining chip by the Turkish side in any Cyprus settlement.


Kılıçdaroğlu then added the following:


"It was always the Turkish side which was asked for sacrifices in the negotiations. They said the Annan Plan, and the Turkish side accepted this, and the Greek side said no. So they should put up with the consequences of this. If they are so insistent about negotiations, let them chase after us."


There may be truth to what Kılıçdaroğlu says on Cyprus and the EU from the perspective of the man on the street. It is clear his remarks will resonate among many Turks. But this in not the way a political leader who hopes to win elections should talk, because it feeds the increasingly anti-Western sentiments prevalent in Turkey.


The CHP, which is a member of the Socialist International, should instead be reinforcing Turkey's links with the West and not weakening them further with such remarks. It is, after all, this party that should remain true to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's Western vocation more than any other.


I have personally suggested to people close to Kılıçdaroğlu that he should establish a fresh foreign policy team as soon as possible. This should be comprised of a host of retired ambassadors, who have served in key posts and positions until fairly recently and therefore have a better understanding of today's world than Mr. Baykal's foreign policy team.


This Kılıçdaroğlu has not done to date. Not only that, but he appears to be going the way of the previous leadership of the party by maintaining its hard-line nationalist position on various foreign policy issues. This does not appear to be the party leader who is going to enhance Turkish-European relations at a difficult moment for both sides.


Neither does it look as if he will be a leader who will be able to contribute much to Turkish-US ties, which have been shaken badly recently, especially if he insists on this tact. This is why I believe his remarks to Gürcanlı in Cyprus have sent the wrong message to Turkey's allies and partners in the West.


Trying to ride a populist bandwagon for the sake of political gain is one thing. But it is incumbent on political leaders who seriously entertain hopes of winning elections to be more responsible in terms of sensitive issues.


Otherwise, it will appear as if it is business as usual in the CHP, despite the recent change in leadership, and that is not the best of news for those who have invested fresh hopes in this party.








All of this is encyclopaedia knowledge:


"On July 14, 2008, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, alleged that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir bore individual criminal responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since 2003 in Darfur. The prosecutor accused al-Bashir of having 'masterminded and implemented' a plan to destroy the three main ethnic groups, the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa, with a campaign of murder, rape and deportation. An arrest warrant, supported by NATO, the Genocide Intervention Network and Amnesty International, was issued on March 4, 2009, indicting al-Bashir on five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, forcible transfer, torture and rape) and two counts of war crimes (pillaging and intentionally directing attacks against civilians). The court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him for genocide. However, one of the three judges wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that there were 'reasonable grounds to believe that al-Bashir had committed the crime of genocide.'


"Although Sudan is not a state party to the Rome Statute establishing the ICC, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1593 in 2005 required Sudan to cooperate with the ICC. Al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state ever indicted by the ICC.


"Meanwhile, the initial ICC charges against al-Bashir, which included seven counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, were issued in March 2009 but did not include genocide counts. On appeal, the lower court was found by appellate judge Erkki Kourula to have erred in law and was ordered to reexamine the evidence for genocide. On Feb. 10, 2010, the judges at the ICC held that the Pre-Trial Chamber had improperly dismissed the genocide charges against al-Bashir and ordered a 'reconsideration.' On July 12, 2010, the Pre-Trial Chamber applied the standard of evidence stated by the appellate court and held that there was sufficient evidence to issue a second arrest warrant for the crime of genocide. A second arrest warrant for President al-Bashir was later issued with three added counts of genocide. The new warrant included the court's conclusion that:


'There are reasonable grounds to believe that (Omar al-Bashir) acted with specific intent to destroy in part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in the troubled Darfur region.'


"The ICC released a further statement saying that al-Bashir's charges now include 'genocide by killing, genocide by causing serious bodily or mental harm and genocide by deliberately inflicting on each target group conditions of life calculated to bring about the group's physical destruction' in three separate counts."


(end of encyclopaedia knowledge)


But throughout that process Mr. al-Bashir must have had something to say. Let's recall what he had to say in public speeches:


"Whoever has visited Darfur, met officials and discovered their ethnicities and tribes… will know that all of these things are lies."


"It is not in the Sudanese culture or people of Darfur to rape. It doesn't exist. We don't have it."

"Everything is fabricated and made up."


"No one has more compassion for their people than we do in Sudan."


"We have a competent and qualified judicial system."


"In Darfur the real murderers are those who are aided by Europe and others."


"The ethnic conflict between Darfur's Arabs and Africans is the work of Satan!"


(end of al-Bashir quotes)


Now, let's recall what the Turkish bigwigs had to say:


"Darfur is going through its most stable period." (Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu).


"Muslims don't commit genocide… I went to Darfur myself and saw no genocide there." (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan).


(end of Turkish bigwigs' quotes)


Mr. Erdoğan's esteemed wife, Emine Hanımefendi, was correct to tell a Palestinian newspaper that:


"God, he (Israeli President Shimon Peres) is a liar, someone must stop him… How is it possible that Israelis lie like that… I was crying (at Davos)… I said it was because that man, Peres, is a liar."


(end of Mrs. Erdoğan's quote)


I am utterly delighted that Mrs. Erdoğan does not have to cry anymore. No Peres around, no liars








Journalists call it a buried lead.

It's when the real story is below the newspaper fold and drowned out by a tidbit that seems more sexy or appealing. Such is the case with the Asian Development Bank's latest outlook.


Markets moved on the headline: the ADB upgraded its 2010 forecast for 14 East Asian economies to 8.1 percent from 7.7 percent projected in April. Buried was the news that three major risks must break Asia's way to keep prosperity alive: a double- dip global recession, destabilizing capital flows and the successful unwinding of stimulus measures.


"While most emerging East Asian economies are assured of a sharp V-shaped recovery this year, it's too early to say that the V stands for 'victory,'" Srinivasa Madhur, a senior director at the Manila-based ADB, said on July 20.


Asia has had an impressive crisis, and China's rapid growth is bolstering confidence in the region. China's dynamism even prompted Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to raise its targets for a key index of Asian stocks. Yet Asia is moving into a precarious period, arguably the most challenging since the late 1990s.


Goldman's V stands for "valuations," and its bet on Asian shares makes perfect sense in the short run. In a July 14 report, analysts led by Timothy Moe raised their three-month forecast for the MSCI Asia-Pacific excluding Japan Index to 425 from 405, increased their six-month target to 440 from 430 and maintained their 12-month target of 485. The index is now 395.


V for 'Vulnerable'


The V may really stand for "vulnerable" as U.S. growth disappoints, investors poke and prod Europe to assess default risks and Japan's woes deepen. Whether healthy growth can be maintained will depend on the decisions that policy makers take today about Asia's three big challenges.


First, the global economy. The historic wave of debt issuance over the last two years stabilized growth. It didn't stimulate it as hoped, and economists are talking about a return to recession. The same goes for unprecedented interest-rate cuts. Free money helped banks get back on their feet, but did little to create new jobs or encourage increased consumption.


The trouble is, leaders are applying conventional thinking to very unconventional situations. Calls in Washington for deficit reduction ignore how comatose the biggest economy remains. Concerns in Europe that inflation is just around the corner overshadow the odds of deflation. Talk of recovery in Tokyo defies reality on the ground.


'Protracted Sluggishness'


All the stimulus Asians threw at their economies means little if Stephen Roach, Morgan Stanley's non-executive chairman for Asia, is right that the U.S. faces a period of "protracted sluggishness." Export-dependent Asia can live for a year without help from a $14 trillion economy. Three or four years would be another story. Sure, China is booming, yet a $4.3 trillion economy with an undervalued currency is no replacement for the U.S. economic-growth engine.


That gets us to challenge No. 2: hot money. Zero-interest- rate policies in Washington and Tokyo are ricocheting around Asia and increasing inflation risks. The U.S., Europe and Japan are putting off finding exit strategies from post-crisis growth stimulants. Asia doesn't have that luxury.


As inflation pressures mount, countries from South Korea to Malaysia are letting currencies strengthen. That approach is more palatable for politicians since China's move last month to scrap its peg to the dollar.


Currencies on Move


"Now that the Chinese yuan is moving again, they can afford stronger currencies and it's less damaging than interest- rate hikes," says Simon Grose-Hodge, a strategist at LGT Group in Singapore.


The dynamic may lead to additional obstacles. Overseas investors seeking profit from the trend may rush to

Asia, swamping the region anew with short-term capital. Managing the cash glut won't be easy. Handled poorly, it will add to asset- price inflation that Asia will find difficult to control.


The third risk -- unintended policy errors -- also looms. This one may say the most about whether Goldman's present optimism translates into enduring gains for Asia's economies and investors in them.


It would be challenge enough if it were just a matter of unwinding fiscal measures. Central banks also need to mop up untold amounts of liquidity -- much of it flowing their way thanks to ultralow rates in the world's biggest economies. Politicians and monetary officials need to work together to get the balance right.


On the one hand, inflation risks are heating up. On the other, the bulk of the world's poor live in Asia. Getting this mix right is much easier said than done. Asia has never faced such a delicate process of recalibrating drivers of growth. After Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed in 2008, policy makers turned on the stimulus and left things on autopilot.


That was the easy part. The hard part comes as officials work to move back to normalcy. That time is now, and getting from "vulnerable" to "victory" could be a bumpy ride for those depending on Goldman's "valuations."


* William Pesek is a Bloomberg News columnist








Papers around the world have speculated that Hosni Mubarak, the 82-year-old Egyptian president, is suffering from terminal stomach and pancreatic cancer and may not live to see the next presidential elections. This has once again raised the crucial question of political succession in Egypt, the Arab world's largest country and the most important Arab ally to the United States. Major shifts in Egyptian politics within the next year are needed to bring about change and usher in a new reformist era.


Egyptian liberals, a heterogeneous constellation of civil society actors, thinkers, bloggers and political activists, have a tough choice to make in the next national elections: either decline to collaborate with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and participate on their own with no real chances of securing strong representation in the Egyptian parliament, or join forces with the Brotherhood and compromise temporarily on a philosophical level in order to potentially field a strong candidate accepted by both the liberals and the Brotherhood.


Without the Brotherhood's numbers, street appeal and potential for mobilization, it will be difficult for Egyptian liberals to push for change. With the Brotherhood, change is possible but would most likely come at the risk of further empowering a movement whose fundamentalist, religious agenda may increasingly creep into Egyptian political life.


Facing these two choices, liberals could be tempted to collaborate with the Brotherhood, given their many weaknesses and the recent gesture by the Brotherhood to set up an online petition to back former International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, chief and current reform activist Mohamed ElBaradei in his popular campaign for change. The Brotherhood has collected several thousand signatures from other opposition factions, prompting analysts to wonder whether Egyptian society has finally begun creating a powerful and credible political opposition.


But liberals are uneasy about a potential partnership with the Brotherhood for obvious reasons. Ideologically, the Brotherhood as a whole is yet to reconcile its traditional emphasis on the implementation of Islamic law as the overall goal of the movement's aims with its democratic pretensions. In recent years, the movement has argued that its goal with respect to political reform is a civil state with an Islamic frame of reference.


That the Brotherhood does not have an internally well established commitment to a civil state was demonstrated

by the controversy over its draft program for a political party in late 2007. This draft included several

democratic principles, such as the separation of powers, free and fair elections, and political pluralism – but it remained distinctly undemocratic on the right of women and non-Muslims to hold Egypt's highest political offices.


But the uncertainty is mutual.


A decision by the Brotherhood to more forcefully support and add its weight to ElBaradei's campaign could put

the movement on a collision course with the regime. After all, the Brotherhood is still technically banned from formal politics and watched closely by the regime. Also, the petition notwithstanding, the Brotherhood is unsure about coordinating its efforts with ElBaradei's party in the next parliamentary elections or about backing ElBaradei himself should he run for the presidential elections in 2011. The Brotherhood refuses to describe its relationship with ElBaradei as an "alliance" because of unresolved ideological differences.


It will not be easy for Egyptian reformers to defeat Mubarak's regime, given its creation of a political environment that essentially forbids political competition. But there is a small chance. If the Brotherhood and the liberals come together and start a more in-depth dialogue to find common ground and resolve major differences, there might be light at the end of the tunnel. The two reformist forces may not agree on everything, but they would benefit from clarifying where they stand on critical political, economic and foreign policy issues.


If there is sufficient convergence, the Brotherhood and the liberals can move forward and implement their

supporters' demands for reform. If there isn't, Egyptian society would benefit from an early divorce between

the two.


* Bilal Y. Saab is a Ph.D. student and Teaching Assistant at the Department of Government and Politics at the

University of Maryland, College Park. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service








Those who deal with the Ergenekon case one way or another and as they state "taking our courage in both hands" while fighting this struggle are not very happy about it. They know that this case will affect their future careers to a great extent. For, they are very pessimistic about what they'll encounter at the end of the tunnel.


Especially if this case is going to continue for a long time people will lose interest and as long as there is nothing extraordinary this case is put on hold for now. This means that the period of opening a new investigation based on another, new arrests or preparation of new indictments, as used to be the case previously, has stopped. As long as there is no extraordinary development no new investigation will take place. Prosecutors will suffice with the preparation of supplemental indictments.


So when will these cases end?


According to estimates, if no new cases emerge, it is expected that cases on hand will be closed by 2012 and appellate procedures by 2013. It is said that it won't last that long but again there is no final date to be determined as of now.


I thought it would take six or seven years but people said "no way."


Many within the AKP are suspicious about the Ergenekon case


One subject I am curious about is how the AKP perceives investigations and the course of the case. We had the impression that the party supports it with all its power.


But interestingly it turned out that there are many within the AKP staff that view the Ergenekon issue with suspicion and do not support it. People involved in the investigation and case procedures say that even the Ministry for Internal Affairs does not give support as expected when viewed from the outside.


The strongest moral is provided by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.


Those managing the procedure are the ones who believe in the Ergenekon the most. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to take action but still their convinced attitude affects their job to a great extent.


To what extent is the Fethullah Gülen community involved?


One other question that comes to mind is the following: What is the role of the Fethullah Gülen community in all this? Don't you agree?


It is said that this community has to a great extent taken control of the police corps. People even believe that this community is the one leaking the majority of military-based documents.


Of course, no one has exact knowledge in this respect.


Since these people are not identified as Fethullah Gülen people, we don't know which institution is a Gülen sympathizer, especially on the military front. Even the military itself can't tell for sure. We can only take a guess.


The military does not hinder but also does not support it.


The military is extremely antipathetic in respect to the Ergenekon investigation. It finds the indictments lack a base and thinks the process is a conspiracy. It waits for the decision of the judges.


Despite all it does not hinder the investigation. Despite some personal support it does not offer any institutional

support. With respect to information and documentation flow they are hesitant. For example, the Cage Plan

Case (Kafes) file was held back for four months.


The file was originally sent to military prosecution for investigation purposes but when it did not take any action, the case started over again.


When during the War College Graduation reception in July 2009 Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ was

upset with the governor of Istanbul because he did not inform him about the "Assassination Operation of Admirals in Gölcük" and when right after the reception the governor of Istanbul and the chief of police briefed him for two and a half hours and the evidence on hand made him go "vow," people drew attention to the fact that he after all did not try and hinder investigations as much as he could have done after he found out about this operation.


This is how far we've come in the Ergenekon process









The chairman of the National Counter-terrorism Authority (NACTA) resigned on Tuesday and the reasons for his departure are gradually leaking into a wider world. It is a shabby story of political preferment trumping the national interest, of powerful ministers seeking to put their placemen inside this key agency rather than having staff appointed on merit. Most tellingly, it is a tale of how the agency tasked with the formulation and implementation of our national strategy to counter terrorism was to be hobbled from its inception. It seems there are many in positions of influence without the slightest interest in the formulation of such a policy as it would cut across their own vested interests, and they sense threat in the establishment of an agency such as NACTA. Losing Tariq Pervez, who was respected in his field and turned down the chance of a job at the UN is not going to play well with the foreign donors keen to see NACTA up and running.

It is a matter of astonishment and dismay to foreign missions in our country that they cannot link to a specific national counter-terrorism authority and that no national plan or policy to counter terrorism is yet in place. We face terrorism every day of every week of every year. Terrorists are mounting a sustained and determined assault on the very fabric of our society and yet we are unable to formulate a policy to combat them at a national level that will be led from the top and enjoy the support of every province. Thousands of our people die every year as a result of terrorist violence, and tens of thousands are wounded, often severely disabled. The outgoing chairman of NACTA had sought to have the agency under the control of the prime minister's secretariat, and its finances independent and ringfenced from the Interior Ministry. The mandarins of the Interior Ministry liked this not, nor did the interior minister himself who had a list of people he wanted to appoint contrary to the wishes of the chairman who was committed to merit appointments. In the end Tariq Pervez resigned, a disillusioned man who had put his country first only to find that his country had no use for such men. He will be hard to replace and our interior minister may now be swift to move into the vacuum left by his passing.







Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna has, in no uncertain terms, attacked the home secretary, G K Pillai, for his ill-timed comments about an alleged link between Pakistan's ISI and the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. We don't know why the home secretary chose to break the news of the allegations, contained in a confession made by the terrorist David Headley, just as Mr Krishna arrived in Pakistan for crucial talks. Certainly some element of mala fides seems to be involved. But regardless of the motives the fact is that Mr Pillai's words ensured the talks would fail. This was a certainty given that the comments were aimed at riling Islamabad and bringing to the surface the animosity that had, in the first place, led to the buildup in tensions between the two nations.

By appointing a new spokesperson for the home ministry, the Indians have taken some action. It is likely that this comes with the approval of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who Mr Krishna met before going public with his comments against the home secretary. Indeed we know that Mr Singh, like his Pakistani counterpart, is a strong advocate for peace. He has emphasized this on many different occasions. But we also know there are many in India, as in Pakistan, who do not share these views. There must now be a still more determined effort to ensure that the opponents of peace do not destroy the bid to bring the two countries closer. Indeed, Mr Krishna has gone out of his way to emphasize that, despite the negative media portrayal, gains were made in Islamabad. These must now be built on. The anger that continues to be demonstrated by Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi needs also to be tamped down. New Delhi needs to give Islamabad some explanation as to what went wrong so that things can move on and the process of negotiation resumed as quickly as possible.













The three-member Supreme Court bench which had taken suo motu notice of alleged corruption of Rs22 billion in the Pakistan Steel Mills has had its hands full. The court has heard suggestions that the DG FIA is not interested in getting to the bottom of the matter, the deputy attorney general stated their hands were tied and then backed away from the comment when questioned by Justice Ramday, refusing to say who had tied the knots and the court noted a general lack of willingness on the part of government departments to act morally. This of course is a huge handicap. While the courts continue valiant efforts to root out corruption, and the chief justice has emphasized that those who loot public money will not be spared, the fact also is that goodwill is needed on the part of the government. Without this there can only be limited success in the bid to tackle a problem that is eating away the very soul of our state and destroying public institutions within it. The Pakistan Steel Mills, a giant entity, is reported to have already been left almost hollow by a process of plunder.

All this exposes a great deal about what has gone amiss; at every level we see nepotism, flagrant violations of law, merit and ethics and a readiness to abandon even a pretence of honesty. There is another dimension to this. Unless key investigative agencies are ready and able to perform the duties entrusted to them, we cannot get very far in tackling corruption. As things stand at present, they seem keener to keep the truth hidden. This makes the task of the court a distinctly harder one, given that it can act only on the basis of the evidence laid before it. We must however be grateful that our judges have persevered and that from one institution at least we have a commitment to weed out corruption. The actions taken by courts have revealed a great deal about how corruption takes place and the bonds that link it together. The matter of meting out justice to those wronged by such acts has obviously been taken up as a priority and this is something that offers a ray of hope to lighten up an otherwise formidably dark horizon.







Brigades is just a metaphor. What we have now is a veritable army of the enraged middle classes inveighing day in and day out against the evil of the times in which they live and hoping somehow for a miracle to stop what in their minds is a rushing march to perdition.

If you tell the standard-bearers of this army, and they are to be found everywhere, that they should have patience and wait for the political process to bring about change and cleanse the Augean stables, the ready response is that if the nation waits any longer there will be nothing left to save. Ask them for alternatives and they will hedge around for answers. But in their heart of hearts what this army of the discontented yearns for is another army intervention.

In other climes people who retire after having had good careers, and who have houses and have made their pots of money, turn to gardening or golf. Or they try to make up for lost time by turning anew to books and other civilised pursuits. The more restless go into high finance. In Pakistan high-flying retirees either become born-again Muslims -- which makes them a pain in the neck -- or they become reborn patriots, forever worried about the state of the nation.

They may have contributed to the national mess when they were in a position to do something. But this scarcely deters them from perpetually reading out prescriptions for national survival. Modesty and a gift for self-introspection are not amongst their strongest qualities.

Gen Ashfaq Kayani on horseback: no image inspires the virtue-cum-patriotic brigades more than this. That Pakistan's troubles are due in large part to the heroism of previous saviours on horsebacks -- four in an erratic line of succession: Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf -- does not dent their angry belief that unless urgent steps are undertaken the Zardari brand of democracy spells ruin for the country.

Keeping the zeal of these patriots alive is the jihadi media, the bunch of media gladiators who were not only predicting but espousing political change last year. Stoking the embers of discontent: you would have to hand it to this group for being surpassingly good at this task. But their ambitious agenda not having been fulfilled they have a woebegone look about them these days. They look slightly lost and frustrated. But it would be a foolish man who would underestimate their prowess. They continue to see themselves as national reformers. This is one category of beings we are more than self-sufficient in.

But a bitter truth awaits this crowd. If Pakistan is really to turn the corner and leave the heaving instability of the past behind, change this time must come through only one source: the ballot box. Please remember that in all the 63 years of our turbulent history not once have we managed a transition from one democratic government to another. Not once has the torch of democracy passed from one pair of democratic hands to another. Every time either a military or a bureaucratic coup has intervened, pushing the country, each time, twenty years into the past. Our time machine has been tied irrevocably to the past.

Can anyone in his right mind have a kind word for the current Zardari-led dispensation? To call this the accidental presidency is to state the obvious. But if change has to occur it must occur through the workings of the democratic process or we will find ourselves in such a black hole from which there will be no easy escape. Two and a half years have already passed. Two remain before the election bugles sound. It should not be too difficult to make the best of this time and start preparing, right from now, for the contest through which alone the winner must emerge.

"Patience, stout heart," says Odysseus in a dire moment, "thou hast endured much worse than this." What have we not endured in our history? What outright rogues and charlatans, monuments to mediocrity, have we not put up with? Before we know it, this too shall pass. Unless something goes horribly wrong -- and we have to admit we have a talent for making things go wrong -- an election will arrive at our doorsteps.

That will be the time to turn angst into something constructive. If this democracy is corrupt -- and who the hardy soul who can say it is not? -- that will be the time to ensure that the next democracy is less corrupt. Perfection, alas, will still be beyond our reach. Perfection is a divine attribute, not part of the human condition. Vice and corruption can never be entirely eliminated. They can only be controlled and regulated. Injustice can never be entirely done away with. A society based upon the rule of law is meant to reduce the burden of injustice. But we will move forward only if there is continuity in our national life, if the thread of national politics is not broken. Once this snaps our time machine goes into reverse gear.

Civil society must engage politically if it is to make a difference. Politics, good or bad, is where things happen, the fire in which time is lost or an opportunity seized. If the armies of the retired who buttonhole you at wedding receptions-- ours must be the most boring wedding receptions on earth -- are really so worried about the state of nation, with their incessant talk of the nation going to the dogs, they should sign up with a political party, any party, and there try to change the dynamics of things from within. Carping from the sidelines may add to the sum of national anguish but serves little other purpose.

The army can deliver defence, as it is doing superbly in FATA. As we have learned time and again to our cost, it cannot deliver national redemption. The courts can or should deliver justice. They cannot deliver administrative competence, simply because that is not their function and lies beyond their competence.

The courts tried to fix the price of sugar. We know the consequences of that. They tried dabbling in petroleum policy, with what results we know. They have intervened in administrative matters, matters of promotion and the like, not always with happy results. Ever since the Supreme Court took up the matter of corruption in the Pakistan Steel Mills, the affairs of that white elephant have gone from bad to worse. Once upon a time it could be sold. Now it will be a brave soul who will touch it.

Arguing before the SC, senior advocate Khalid Anwar lamented the fact that the way the FIA was conducting its investigation into the affairs of Pakistan Steel it was destroying everything, sending a wave of fear through the entire steel industry. FIA is conducting its investigation as per orders of the SC. Each his own way to the devil. It were best if different institutions confined themselves to their own areas of responsibility and specialisation.

The SC has intervened in the fake degrees issue but the Election Commission, no doubt because of governmental interference, is finding it difficult to proceed. This has the makings of another stalemate, another source of annoyance and friction between the apex court and the government. We could do with a bit of stability in our affairs. What we are getting are regular doses of further uncertainty, each morning's papers a confirmation to doubters that this is a failed enterprise.

The virtue brigades find it hard to realise that reform is not a jhatka (sudden seizure) process. Strengthening the foundations of the rule of law is not an overnight proposition. British Punjab was 98 years in the making (1849-1947). But if British institutions endured -- although we have tried our best to bring them down -- that is because the British were empire-builders. They knew the art and the wherewithal of raising institutions.
Punjab is more than the dominant half of Pakistan. Demography and wealth creation condemn Punjab to bear the major responsibility of keeping the federation of Pakistan going. But the kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh apart, when, in the last 1,000 years, did Punjab ever have the experience of running a kingdom or a state? Which only means that to the tasks now confronting us we must come with a touch of humility.








I sometimes wonder if Shakespeare had Indian and Pakistani leaders in mind when he wrote those immortal lines in As You Like It: "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts."

No matter who is in power in Delhi or Islamabad, the script of the carefully choreographed diplomatic spectacle never seems to change. From their famous encounter at Tashkent to the tense handshakes at Simla and Agra, and from Vajpayee's historic bus trip to Lahore to the bitterness of Kargil, the more the narrative changes, the more it remains the same.

Still, the bitterness and open hostility that hung in the air as S M Krishna and Shah Mehmood Qureshi addressed the press conference in Islamabad took your breath away. They sat side by side, yet avoided looking at each other like estranged husband and wife. Tension in the air was so thick that you could have carved it with a knife. One almost felt sorry for the soft-spoken Krishna. Never a part of India's powerful foreign policy establishment, the former Karnataka chief minister isn't perhaps cut out for the zero-sum game that is India-Pakistan diplomacy.

I am not sure if Qureshi, who's accused Krishna of being out of his depth and forever being on the phone taking orders from Delhi, was reading from the script or speaking his own mind. But he did look and sound abrasive even to a distant observer like me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Pakistani foreign minister is younger and appears rather fascinated with his own voice. Or maybe it's just the way he speaks. In hindsight though, it appears it was Home Secretary G K Pillai's claim about the ISI connection to Mumbai attacks even as Krishna and Qureshi were heading into talks.

Whatever the explanation, the new chill and unpleasantness in an already edgy relationship are unfortunate. And, yes, we are back to square one, where we had been after the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai landmarks – or the attack on Indian parliament -- blamed on Pakistan-based groups.

As usual, the latest round of dialogue, if it can be called that, began amid great euphoria and goodwill only to end up in bitter acrimony with accusations and counteraccusations flying thick and fast.

It's not clear why and how things went so horribly wrong. But as in the past, they seemingly unravelled when the Indian side confronted Islamabad on action against militant groups like the one led by Hafiz Saeed, allegedly linked to the Mumbai attacks. And Pakistan seems to have played along pointing out it's all linked to the "core issue" of Kashmir and that the militants cannot be reined in as long as the K question remains hanging fire. An argument not easy to counter. It's a vicious cycle, indeed.

While Islamabad remains preoccupied with Kashmir and begins and ends every discussion with the K word, Delhi is prepared to discuss everything but the K conundrum. Understandably, India is concerned about the terror threat from across the border and the issue remains on top of its agenda in its engagement with the neighbour.

And the other side accuses it of not seeing the big picture and ignoring the underlying, associated causes of the problem. So it's like an endless merry-go-round. They go round and round in circles, trying to catch their own tail, fighting shadows and demons of an unforgiving history.

The most obvious victims of the India-Pakistan conflict and blow-hot-blow-cold war have been the Kashmiri people, forever stuck in a limbo or time warp created by the conspiracy of geography and history. They are paying for the sin of being born in the beautiful prison that is the post-Partition Kashmir. But it's not just the Kashmiris who're paying for a crime they didn't commit. We all are.

The people of India and Pakistan, in fact the whole of South Asia, have been paying for the myopia and moral timidity of their leaders. In his novel, Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie uses the clever and apt term "handcuffed to history" to describe the predicament of the South Asian twins. India and Pakistan are indeed prisoners of their past.

What is more, instead of trying to break free from these shackles, we're doing our best to strengthen and fortify them with our selfish, petty politics. The two countries spend trillions of precious dollars every year on arming themselves to the teeth with fancy weapons that are never going to be used – thank God for that -- while their people crave for basics such as food, water, housing, electricity, education and health care.

According to a recent survey by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, more people are mired in poverty in eight Indian states than found in the 26 poorest African countries.

While we pat ourselves on the back for multiplying the number of millionaires by 50 per cent over the past few years, a whopping 421 million of the world's poorest of the poor live in India today, more than the sub-Saharan Africa.

The picture on the other side of the border is equally depressing. While Pakistan's cities and villages get to see power only for a few blessed hours, inflation is touching sky-high levels. The humble roti becomes scarcer by the day. Education still remains a luxury and the privilege of the elite. And when it comes to other basics that are essential for life, the situation in Pakistan is little different from India. And to think the neighbours are members of the elite nuclear club!

Will things ever change for the subcontinent? They can, if our leaders change. This week, responding to my recent piece on Kashmir, a friend Sashank Sharma wrote back saying a solution would evade us as long as India and Pakistan do not stop looking at their problems from an India-Pakistan prism. And it doesn't apply just to the Kashmir knot. We see everything from behind the blinkers that we put on our eyes when we parted ways some 63 years ago.

It doesn't have to be like this. With our rich natural and human resources, we can be a great deal different – and better. Look at Europe today. It's impossible to imagine it as a continent that witnessed two of the deadliest wars in mankind's history only six decades ago.

A total of nearly hundred million people perished in the two world wars. Germany fought bitter and devastating wars with the entire Europe, including France, Britain, Poland, Russia (Soviet Union) and the US of course. And before that virtually every European nation fought each other.

Yet France and Germany are the thickest of friends today. So are Russia and Germany. They put behind their divisive shared past to build a new, brighter and better future for their people. They vowed, 'never again', and have stuck to their promise. Travelling freely across the borderless, peaceful and prosperous continent today is a sobering experience. If Europe can do it, so can we. Especially when we have so much more in common than EU nations ever did. After all, we were one country and one people not long ago. It's time to bury the past and look to the future.

The writer is opinion editor of the Khaleej Times. Email:







Indo-Pakistani water relations are bound, limited and defined by the Indus Water Treaty of 1960. The treaty divides the resources of the Indus Basin, one of the largest and oldest basins on the planet, and states that India will have control over the waters of the three eastern rivers of the basin (the Ravi, the Sutlej and the Beas) and that Pakistan will have control over the waters of the three western rivers (the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum). The treaty then goes on to set out the rights and obligations of the riparians and, importantly, allows India to avail itself of the waters of the western rivers for domestic consumption, non-consumptive functions, limited agricultural use and for hydroelectric purposes.

So far, the treaty has held strong. However, because of a variety of factors, some voices are accusing India of stealing Pakistan's water and violating the treaty. I will not dwell upon these voices in this article because they are incorrect and, as I will try to show, they can be made irrelevant. However, some factors providing these voices their motives and reasons must be acknowledged: the mistrust that characterises Indo-Pakistani relations, gross mismanagement of water resources within Pakistan, outdated irrigation practices, poorly planned agricultural zoning, a rising population and resultant water scarcity.

What these voices are doing is choosing to ignore Pakistan's most pressing political, economic, social and environmental issues, and instead are looking for solace in the age-old chestnut: India is to blame. What else explains the reason given for having more troops deployed on its eastern border than its western, when the trouble so clearly is: to ensure water security?

One of the problems in Indo-Pakistani water relations, as far as Pakistan is concerned, is that, thanks to Sir Cyril Radcliff and the outcome of English colonialism in India, Pakistan is a lower riparian. What the treaty does is set up a riparian hegemony by dividing the resources of the Indus Basin, creating an asymmetrical relationship between the two riparians and cementing India's position as the riparian hegemon. In other words, the treaty stacks the cards against Pakistan and makes it close to impossible for it to rationalise the disproportionate relative bargaining positions the treaty allocates. This is because, in practice, the more powerful riparian is loath to give up the benefits it has.

There are some who suggest that, for this very reason, the treaty should be scrapped and another negotiated. To these gifted geniuses, I ask this: Very well, then, but what brilliant strategy do you have hidden away that will outmanoeuvre the riparian hegemon and get the lower riparian more than it already has under the treaty? This question is met with silence.


How can Pakistan get itself out of this situation? The answer is simple: Don't look at the Indus Water Treaty for solutions. The treaty is based on a sort of divide-the-resource-of-the-Indus-Basin theory, which will always result in a zero-sum game for Pakistan. What we need is to look outside the "divide the resource" paradigm and look towards the opportunities afforded by the "sharing the resource" paradigm. What we need to do is see whether it is in the economic, social or political interest of both riparians to cooperate on water, rather than be antagonistic over it. What we need is a trans-boundary water opportunity analysis.

Trans-boundary analysis looks at the positive sum outcomes of sharing the resources of a water basin. The approach is unique, in that it allows the weaker riparian to offer the hegemon some additional benefit.

The idea would be to conduct a full-spectrum trans-boundary water opportunity analysis that will identify the areas where cooperation between India and Pakistan over the waters of the Indus Basin will yield in economic, social or other benefits. For example, if India is building run-of-the-river dams on the western rivers, this need not be a cause of alarm in Pakistan. After all, what keeps Pakistan from purchasing the electricity from India? We are more than willing to pay an extortionately high cost for electricity from diesel-powered rental power projects when everyone knows hydroelectric power is a fraction of the cost.

Selling electricity to Pakistan would also be in the economic interests of India because of the premiums it could charge. Similarly, there could be economic benefit to India if it allowed Pakistan to expand, say, its fisheries along the eastern rivers. The purpose of the trans-boundary water opportunity analysis would be to identify and quantify the all the possible positive sum outcomes of a "sharing the resource" strategy. The wider the scope of such an analysis, the more chances of identifying more and more areas of cooperation.

The analysis would involve other issues as well. One would be the identification of what sort of "green water" resources exist (as in water that falls from the sky, and distinct from "blue water" which is, essentially surface water) and how such resources could be harnessed for the benefit of either India or Pakistan. (The study of "green water" is rare, as most hydrologists tend to ignore something they can't pipe, and government doesn't care about stuff it can't tax.) The inclusion of such things could widen the overall opportunities, at least in Pakistan, of harnessing the water resources of the country.

The economic science of sharing resources is also cutting-edge. Elinor Ostrom was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economic Sciences this year for her study of shared resources. I had the opportunity of meeting Ms Ostrum last month and to speak to her about Indo-Pakistani water relations. She hadn't studied the Indus Basin (she has studied others), but told me that, should the two countries ever decide to go down such a path, the only problems they would encounter would be working out the right profit-sharing formulas.

And, finally, in the Pakistani context again, if Pakistan could be seen sitting down with India and doing something large-scale, without the rhetoric of Kashmir or terrorism clouding the way, it would create enormous international goodwill that, surely, Pakistan could leverage to its advantage.

On almost all counts, it is impossible to deny how attractive a proposition a trans-boundary water opportunity analysis is. It's difficult to judge how the governments of these countries would respond to the call for such an analysis. Perhaps this is not the time for such a call and perhaps it isn't for the governments of the countries to conduct such an analysis. At this stage, the opportunities of sharing the resource of the Indus Basin are the perfect place for players in Track-II diplomacy to pick up the gauntlet and show their respective governments the way forward.

The writer is an advocate of the high court and a member of the adjunct faculty at LUMS. He has an interest in urban planning. Email:







When a degree-faker passes Matric to MA in reverse order and leaves his peers way behind, it's time to announce that the art of forgery has reached its summit. People have witnessed commotion inside and outside the houses of parliament against the public reps with faked degrees. Recently, amid cacophony in the Punjab Assembly the good members in a rare gesture of solidarity passed a resolution against the media for pointing out degree-fakers. The chief minister who one thought was somewhat prudent was in his chambers at the time. By tacitly supporting the fakers, he has gone down a few notches on the public moral scale.

The Punjab chief minister didn't support the fakers in public. Did he censure them behind the scene for forging degrees? Perhaps he didn't because of political expediency and because of the crucial numbers game in the assembly that keeps him in power, which he doesn't want to lose for the sake of principles. And principles are expendable when they begin to impinge on one's self-interests.

However, regarding fake degrees, Prime Minister Gilani outdid all others. When the court deprived Jamshed Dasti of his National Assembly seat for faking his degree, Mr Gilani not only gave the party gem a fresh ticket but also brazenly led his political campaign to get him re-elected. Mr Gilani left no room for dichotomy on the reprehensible act of faking degrees. Henceforth, nobody is likely to ask him embarrassing questions. Propriety suggested that Mr Gilani had better keep a safe distance from Dasti after the court verdict. Instead, he chose the same candidate for the same seat and campaigned for him. Mr Gilani in fact denigrated the status of the honourable court that he