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Thursday, July 29, 2010

EDITORIAL 25.07.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

EDITORIAL

month,  july 25, edition 000579 , collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. MANMOHAN SINGH NEEDS AMIT SHAH - CHANDAN MITRA
  2. MEDIA: PLAINTIFF, PROSECUTOR, JUDGE - SWAPAN DASGUPTA
  3. BARBARIANS WHO PREACH RELIGION - KANCHAN GUPTA

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. 'WHY SHOULD SOUTHERN SUPERSTARS SEEK BOLLYWOOD SUCCESS?'
  2. THE UNDERAGE OPTIMIST - CHETAN BHAGAT
  3. CSR CAN CLOAK IRRESPONSIBILITY  - SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR
  4. IT'S TIME TO CHUCK DE KAUSHIK AND HOCKEY INDIA - SHOBHAA DE
  5. PM'S PARADOX: IN POWER BECAUSE HE'S WEAK - M J AKBAR

 HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. HUNGRY KYA?
  2. INDRAJIT HAZRA
  3. FAILURE FORETOLD - KARAN THAPAR
  4. BJP GOES FOR ITS OWN JUGULAR - VIR SANGHVI
  5. LOOSE CANON - A REAL CLASS ACT - MANAS CHAKRAVARTY

 THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. 'THERE IS NO POINT IN THE PM SAYING NAXALISM IS A GRAVE SITUATION. WHAT ARE YOU DOING AS PM?

 THE HINDU

  1. MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS OVER RENT-A-WOMB MARKET - ANIL MALHOTRA
  2. SURROGACY: LAW'S LABOUR LOST? - AASTHA SHARMA
  3. WHEN I WENT BACK TO MY MOTHER'S GRINDING STONE AND PESTLE - O.J. JOYCEE
  4. CAN'T THEY TEACH THEM HOW TO DEAL WITH LIFE'S PROBLEMS? - DR. PALLAVI PRAVEEN

 THE ASIAN AGE

  1. LAW SAME FOR ALL, EVEN MINISTERS
  2. REACTION BEGETS ACTION - ARUN NEHRU
  3. HAS ZARDARI SANCTIONED ANOTHER COUP? - INDRANIL BANERJIE
  4. SIBAL'S BABUS - DILIP CHERIAN
  5. MALAIKA AND MURALI - CYRUS BROACHA

 THE TRIBUNE

  1. KARGIL WAR: THE NEGLECTED HEROES
  2. AVOID THE POLITICS OF LANGUAGE - BY GAUTAM WAHI
  3. PUNJAB PAYS FOR GROWTH - BY JIVTESH SINGH MAINI 
  4. 'LET WOMEN COACHES TRAIN HOCKEY GIRLS' - M.S. UNNIKRISHNAN
  5. DEVOTED TO DEVELOPMENT - BY HARIHAR SWARUP

 MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. REVIEW TIME FOR SHYAMALAN

 BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. LIMITS TO MINISTERIAL DISSONANCE
  2. BURY A BAD IDEA
  3. INDIA AND UK - CHALLENGE FOR DAVID CAMERON - RAHUL ROY-CHAUDHURY
  4. TALE OF A FLOUNDERING FOREIGN POLICY - HARSH V PANT
  5. 'WE LISTEN TO ALL VOICES IN PAKISTAN' - HILLARY CLINTON
  6. AND A RIGHT TO FODDER? - SREELATHA MENON

 DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. REACTION BEGETS ACTION - BY ARUN NEHRU
  2. HAS ZARDARI SANCTIONED ANOTHER COUP? - BY INDRANIL BANERJIE
  3. 'WON'T REST UNTIL AP GETS JUSTICE'
  4. BHAJPA IN THE DOLDRUMS - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH
  5. WHEN RTI PROVED LETHAL - BY ANTARA DEV SEN

 THE STATESMAN

  1. THE PLOT THICKENS
  2. THE FINE'S FINE
  3. LOSING FACE
  4. COERCION OR DEVELOPMENT~I - BY PR DUBHASHI

 THE TELEGRAPH

  1. GIANTS IN BLOOD
  2. MONEY WITHIN THE MAZE - RUCHIR JOSHI

 I.THE NEWS

  1. PUT THE LAWS ON TRIAL - GHAZI SALAHUDDIN
  2. SEARCHING FOR STABILITY
  3. BOWLED OVER
  4. OVER THE TOP - S IFTIKHAR MURSHED
  5. TROUBLED WATERS

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. DEMILITARISATION OF SIACHIN
  2. SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS OF NEW INDIA-US PACT
  3. REHABILITATION OF BALOCH FLOOD AFFECTEES
  4. THE ACADEMIC MAN - DR ZAFAR ALTAF
  5. CANDID CONFESSION OF INDIAN ARMY CHIEF - MAJ MAHMOOD ABBASI (R)
  6. HILLARY WIDENS PAK-US "HISTORIC DISTRUST" - GEN MIRZA ASLAM BEG
  7. OSAMA: DEAD OR ALIVE? - YASMEEN ALI
  8. BRITAIN: REDEFINING ITS GLOBAL STATUS - HASAN SUROOR
  9. ENCOURAGE PEOPLE ALONG..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

 THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. COOKING THE PLANET, NOT THE BOOKS
  2. THE SAMURAI WHO WERE LET OUT OF THE BOX - BY HIROAKI SATO
  3. CLAIMS OF U.S. FINANCIAL REFORM PRESUPPOSE GREAT LEAP OF HOPE - BY KEVIN RAFFERTY

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

MANMOHAN SINGH NEEDS AMIT SHAH

CHANDAN MITRA


By taking the high moral ground on a notorious gangster's killing, Congress hopes to divert attention from its misgovernance

During a TV discussion on the case relating to the alleged murder of notorious gangster Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his associates, one of India's most respected legal luminaries, Mr Harish Salve, made two observations. While not commenting on the merits of the case against Mr Amit Shah, he said it has nevertheless to be admitted that (a) CBI's impartiality has been under a cloud for a long time especially in politically sensitive matters, and (b) the timing of the notice issued to Mr Shah is questionable. His second observation was made in agreement with my assertion that the CBI had deliberately raked up the issue just on the eve of Parliament's Monsoon Session despite having enough time over the past few months to probe Mr Shah's alleged role. The purpose, I had contended, was to put BJP on the back foot and torpedo Opposition unity in the run-up to the Session. This column is not about the much-hyped Sohrabuddin encounter although it is distressing that sections of the media seem to have fallen into the Congress's trap and are busy shedding copious tears over the death of a wanted criminal while ignoring hundreds of alleged fake encounters that routinely happen in other States — Uttar Pradesh leading the pack.


The Government's political motives are easily understood. The deployment of the CBI to encircle Mr Amit Shah, thereby targeting Mr Narendra Modi at this juncture has a lot to do with UPA2's pathetic track record on several fronts. Arguably it was the Supreme Court that directed the CBI to swing into the act after breast-beating professional Modi-baiters raved and ranted against the SIT. Incidentally, SIT's probe too was being monitored by the apex court. But given the CBI's proven ability to surrender before Congress regimes in Delhi and tailor findings in accordance with directions from the PMO or 10 Janpath, the Supreme Court may have been well-advised to keep this agency out of a politically sensitive case.


It should not be forgotten how former Law Minister HR Bhardwaj tweaked the CBI's ears not only to close the Bofors investigation but also sent an officer of the agency to London to ensure Ottavio Quattrocchi's frozen account was reopened and the dubious Italian could decamp with the money. The CBI's astounding flip-flops in the Mayawati and Mulayam Singh disproportionate assets cases hardly bear recalling. Each time the Government finds itself short of votes in the Lok Sabha, the CBI is trotted out first to accelerate the pace of investigations and then, once the affected parties are badgered into submission, permission is sought to dilute or close the matter "for want of sufficient evidence". Regardless of whether Mr Amit Shah is convicted, the country has reason to be concerned about the repeated brazen misuse of the India's top investigative agency by the Congress.


With attention diverted to the fallout of a notorious gangster's death, Mr Manmohan Singh has ensured a breather for his beleaguered Government over issues like runaway inflation, Foreign Minister SM Krishna's shameless genuflection before his Pakistani counterpart, previous Congress regimes' complicity in letting mass murderer Warren Anderson off the hook and other instances of ineptitude or even wilful misgovernance. Despite the presence of so-called economic wizards in Government, it has abysmally failed to control food prices. Worse, it does not seem too worried about it. In July 2009, Mr Manmohan Singh had assured the nation that prices would start spiraling downwards by December of that year. Without batting an eyelid he repeated that assurance one year later. A usually sober Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee uncharacteristically promised that inflation would be down to five to six per cent by the year-end. This at a time when food inflation is running at over 12 per cent despite the arrival of the bountiful rabi crop in the market. Meanwhile overall inflation figures have again touched the double-digit mark.


The hike in petrol prices at a time when inflation is completely out of the Government's control makes us wonder what kind of economic expertise and management skills UPA2 possesses. Compared to our neighbours, none of whom has significant oil reserves, retail prices of petroleum products are incredibly high in India. The Congress's much vaunted aam aadmi plank stands ruptured not only by galloping inflation but also the insensitive imposition of an additional cost of Rs 3 per litre on the aam aadmi's principal energy source — kerosene. The full impact of the decontrol of petrol prices is yet to be felt by the consumer. But it is a matter of time before monthly rate hikes become the norm. I can clearly foresee how enhanced prices will be announced for a few months and then a slight reduction will happen amid much fanfare.


The Prime Minister warned on board his aircraft while flying back from abroad last month that diesel too will not be spared the Government's decontrol zeal. This is even more ominous, for increase in the cost of diesel immediately impacts the transport of foodgrain and promptly reflects in higher retail prices. NDA too had begun the process of dismantling the Administered Price Mechanism for petroleum products, but gave up the experiment when international prices started to climb unmanageably. Incidentally, the real beneficiaries of decontrol are not Indian oil PSUs or the Government exchequer but multinational petroleum giants, mostly US-based: Yet another pointer to this Government's surrender to American lobbies?

 

That the Government has already lost its vertebrae under sustained American battering is equally evident from what happened in Islamabad when Mr SM Krishna went there earlier this month. Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stomped all over the Indian delegation, publicly mocked Mr Krishna for taking 'telephonic directions' from Delhi during their talks and compared India's Home Secretary to terrorist chieftains Hafiz Saeed and Salahuddin. Far from rebutting the rampaging Qureshi and his uncivil remarks, Mr Krishna returned home and launched a tirade against Home Secretary GK Pillai on lines similar to the Pakistan Foreign Minister! Astonishingly, neither the Prime Minister nor the Congress establishment stood up to defend national honour.

The chain of humiliation heaped upon India, first at Sharm el-Sheikh, then in New Delhi during the Foreign Secretary-level talks and now in Islamabad has left India diplomatically bruised, its prestige maimed. But Washington is insistent that India must continue the dialogue with Pakistan as that serves US interests in Afghanistan. A Prime Minister less infatuated with America would have said 'Thus far and no farther.' But that is a stance we cannot expect Mr Manmohan Singh to take. So more insults will come our way; Mr SM Krishna will be asked to grin and bear it.


Space constraints prevent me from delving into the recent exposure of the Rajiv Gandhi Government's duplicitous role in the aftermath of the Bhopal gas tragedy. But the ghosts of Bhopal have risen from their grave and the incumbent Government cannot wash its hands of the sins. Is it any wonder that the Congress would want Parliament stalled every day so that these issues cannot be discussed thoroughly? Is it any wonder that the Government has sought to divert attention to Sohrabuddin?

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

MEDIA: PLAINTIFF, PROSECUTOR, JUDGE

SWAPAN DASGUPTA


Next to playing god, contemporary journalism is built on the principles of infallibility and public gullibility. Journalists and pompous editors are disinclined to admit that, being humans, they too can make mistakes and commit errors of judgement. More crucially, a misplaced sense of self-esteem has proved inimical to a sense of contrition. Like love, journalism usually means never having to say you are sorry.


Of course, honest mistakes can and do happen. Since information is subject to human interventions and interpretation, the scope for being misled by 'sources' loath to see Yudhisthir as a role model is enormous. This may explain why old-fashioned practitioners of the trade strove to highlight the important distinction between verified reality and unsubstantiated claims or allegations. Both have a place in reportage but only when it is clear which is which.


One of the casualties of the tabloid culture and popular TV is that scepticism (I'd even say cynicism) has been replaced by certitude. Like the old Bollywood potboilers, the media seems to be driven by a macabre desire to divide humankind into the good and the bad — with the media, naturally, on the side of their chosen good. This undaunted sense of partisanship (depending on political preferences, nationality and commerce) is compounded by some robust demonology that transforms the 'bad' into both the 'ugly' and the 'evil'.


In a made-in-media society, this misplaced self-righteousness can have a hideously distorting effect on public discourse. Journalists are naturally dependant on non-attributable 'sources' for both insider information and perspectives. The problem, however, begins when the 'sources' start taking over the finished product. This seems to be happening in India with alarming frequency, especially now that the 'sources' have got it into their heads that they are not going to be held accountable for anything they dish out to news-hungry journalists in a fiercely competitive environment. The unending quest for the 'exclusive' has turned a large section of mediapersons into stenographers. They have become captives to official dictation.


In the past 48 hours, India has witnessed a fierce trial by media targeting the favourite ogre of the liberal consensus: The Government of Gujarat. The CBI has charged Amit Shah, one of Chief Minister Narendra Modi's closest political associates, with a direct hand in the 'encounter deaths' of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauserbi and his associate Tulsiram Prajapati. It has alleged that Shah, who was Minister of State for Home till his resignation on Saturday, conspired to kill Sohrabuddin, not because he was a suspected terrorist intent on killing Modi — the police in Madhya Pradesh had recovered some 300 AK47s from his home — but because he was running a protection and extortion racket with his favourite police officers. It has been suggested that Shah targeted Sohrabuddin at the behest of some harassed marble traders of Rajasthan. Prajapati and Kauserbi were on the other hand killed because they knew too much.


These are grave charges, particularly when levelled against a senior political functionary. It is almost akin to Home Minister P Chidambaram or his Andhra Pradesh counterpart being formally charged with organising an 'encounter' killing of the CPI(Maoist) Politburo member Azad and 'journalist' Pandey. If these charges are upheld by the courts they would undeniably constitute a damning indictment of the State Government.

For the moment, however, the CBI's voluminous chargesheet is at the level of accusations. Shah hasn't yet presented his defence, and nor has the investigation been endorsed by the Supreme Court which is monitoring the case. On the contrary, the BJP has charged the CBI of being a compliant arm of the Congress.

Modi's public proclamation of Shah's innocence and the BJP's decision to throw its political weight rests on the belief that Shah has been targeted on flimsy grounds, perhaps as a prelude to a full-scale legal assault on Modi.

The BJP leaders who have examined the evidence say that the case against Shah is based on three substantive points. First, it is claimed that Shah was in constant telephonic contact with DG Vanzara, the police officer charged with the 'encounter' killings. However, there is nothing in the records to indicate that on the days Sohrabuddin and Prajapati were killed, Shah spoke to either Vanzara or the other policemen charged with the killings. Second, the CBI has relied on the testimony of Raman Patel and Dasrath Patel, two 'history-sheeters' who claimed that they met Shah to get cases against them under the Gujarat Act against anti-socials removed. In that meeting, Shah is apparently said to have told these complete strangers that Sohrabuddin had to be eliminated for political reasons.


The BJP claims that there are no cases under the anti-social behaviour law against the two Patels and neither is there any record of any meeting of Shah with them. Moreover, as is well known in Gujarat, Shah is extremely taciturn and not given to boasting. Finally, the CBI has relied on the testimony of a jailed policeman who claims that a phone call Vanzara received (said to be on the day Kauserbi disappeared) was "presumably" from Shah. There are apparently no records to substantiate the claim.


The weight of the evidence against Shah will be assessed by the trial court. What is clear is that the CBI charges don't amount to an open and shut case which can be decided by a media combining the roles of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. There have been enough instances of tall claims made by authorities being effortlessly punctured in courts. However, the mismatch between reality and claim rarely get reported. Media certitude is frequently shown to be baseless.


This may be why it is rewarding to play stenographer to those who are politically on top today. Tomorrow's flip-flop is another day.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT

BARBARIANS WHO PREACH RELIGION

KANCHAN GUPTA


Hala Jaber, who reports on West Asian affairs for The Sunday Times, recently brought us the shocking story of a teenaged Iranian girl on death row. "She was only 14 years old when she was forced into a loveless marriage with an older man," writes Hala Jaber, "Yet within a year of her wedding Azar Bagheri had been charged with adultery and sentenced to be stoned to death." That's only the beginning of a tragic tale which most of us who abhor the cruel practices legitimised by sharia'h — flogging, decapitation, chopping off of limbs — would find terrifying, the stuff nightmares that make you wake up in a cold sweat are made of. Hala Jaber's bland prose captures the tragedy best: "The sentence could not be carried out until she reached 18. So for the past four years she has been languishing on death row while courts waited for her to reach maturity." So, here's this teenaged girl waiting to come of age not to live her dreams but to be stoned to death.


The plight of Azar Bagheri has been brought to light by Iranian human rights activist Mina Ahadi, who says the girl — she was by no means either an adult or a woman when forced into marriage — "was denounced by her own husband, who accused her of committing adultery with two men". Hala Jaber, quoting Ms Ahadi, says, "The teenager had been subjected to two mock stonings. On each occasion she was taken out of her cell and buried up to her shoulders in the yard of Tabriz prison, in north-west Iran, as if being prepared to be pelted to death with stones." The girl's lawyers haven't given up hope: They now plan to petition the courts to show mercy on Azar Bagheri by reducing the death sentence to 99 lashes. That, then, is the quality of mercy expected from sharia'h courts in the Islamic Republic of Iran with which, ironically, we claim civilisational and cultural affinity. Any affinity that may have existed ages ago has evaporated ever since the Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Komeini; fanatical mullahs cannot be secular India's natural allies.


Nor should we be impressed by Iran's decision to 'put off' the execution of another woman, accused and not surprisingly held guilty of 'adultery', by stoning. Following the global condemnation of Iran's sharia'h courts sentencing a 43-year-old mother of two children, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, to death by stoning, the Iranian Embassy in London announced that "according to information from the relevant judicial authorities, the stoning would not go ahead". This does not mean she will not be executed by other means: Last year, three Iranians sentenced to death by stoning were hanged instead.


Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's story needs to be retold if only to expose the mullahs who hold Iranians in thraldom. She has been held guilty of 'adultery' by a sharia'h court on the basis of a forced confession extracted under duress (which she has since retracted), punished with 90 lashes and sentenced to death by stoning. The judge has taken great care to specify that she will be buried up to her shoulders and then stones shall be hurled at her. The stones, by law, will be big enough to inflict excruciating pain but small enough not to kill her instantly. Ironically, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's son and daughter have been in the forefront of the campaign against the death sentence given to her and have issued several appeals for international intervention to save their mother.


Such practices as sanctioned by sharia'h are no doubt barbaric and deserve to be condemned unequivocally. What is heartening is that an increasing number of Muslims, no doubt still in a minority within the ummah, are beginning to lend their voice to the condemnation of barbaric punishments for 'offences' that are often no more than mere accusations or are acts committed under duress or in certain mitigating circumstances. When Somalian sharia'h courts order the arms of young boys to be chopped off because they were caught stealing, grave injustice is done because they were hungry and stole loaves of bread or money to buy food. A faith-driven regime that cannot feed the starving masses has no right to be sanctimonious and sit in judgement.

But aren't we who flaunt the secular credentials of the Republic of India headed the same way? Look at the atrocities being committed by khap panchayats in western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and even in the national capital, Delhi, in the name of caste and gotra. Young men and women are being murdered in cold blood and the crimes are being glorified by the perpetrators as 'honour killings'. What honour? Whose honour? How can bestiality have anything to do with honour?


And that's not all. With the political class and the Government loath to act against illegal sharia'h 'courts' that have sprung up like so many poison mushrooms in various parts of the country lest mullahs feel upset, punishment is being meted out to 'offenders' in gross violating of established law of the land. It was one such 'court' in Kerala that ordered that the right hand of Prof TD Joseph, a professor of Malayalam at Newman's College, Thodupuzha, be chopped off after holding him guilty of "insulting" Mohammed through "derogatory references" in a question paper he had set. The sentence was dutifully carried out by members of the Islamist organisation, Popular Front, on July 4 when Prof Joseph was waylaid while returning home from church along with his sister and mother.


Lest you think what happened in Kerala is an aberration, here's another story from another part of the country, Katihar in Bihar, that went largely unreported by our 'secular media': A 35-year-old woman was stripped and whipped after she refused to oblige a similar sharia'h 'court' that ordered her to remarry her second husband. The illegal 'court' summoned the woman on July 8 and directed her to to remarry her second husband from whom she had divorced earlier. A PTI report said the woman's first husband died four years after their marriage and later she married a man named Mohammed Islam and the couple had a son. But the marriage did not work and the couple divorced.


Recently, when her five-year-old son was down with fever, "she had to call her divorced husband as she was living in penury". After the boy recovered, Islam left. The police say Islam and his brother Shamsuddin then went to the 'court', headed by a former mukhiya, Akalu. The 'court' ordered her to either re-marry her divorced husband or "pay money equivalent to that required for construction of a house, besides wheat and rice for the former mukhiya". When she refused to follow the order, she was dragged to a mango grove on the outskirts of the village where she was stripped and whipped. Are we really living in a secular democracy where the law of the land prevails?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

 'WHY SHOULD SOUTHERN SUPERSTARS SEEK BOLLYWOOD SUCCESS?'

FOR THE RECORD CHIYAAN VIKRAM

 

His Bollywood debut film "Raavan" came up short at the box office, but Tamil superstar Chiyaan Vikram insists he personally received rave reviews about his performance. The actor admittedly took a grave risk by playing the second lead in his first Hindi movie because few southern filmstars ever manage to get a real 'break' in Bollywood. But Vikram has never been shy of taking risks, dropping out of an MBA programme and eventually quitting his copywriting in order to take a chance on acting. He is philosophical about deferred success, having managed his first big break down south after a decade of largely unsuccessful movies. He has just signed up for a bilingual UTV film. Vikram talks star rivalry, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and experimental cinema with Bharati Dubey. Excerpts:


Superstars down south have always been synonymous with mythologicals — from M G Ramachandran and N T Rama Rao, to Sivaji Ganesan and Rajinikanth, who played Karna in "Dalapathy". Now you've played Raavan. Is it all of a piece?


• Mythology works with southern audiences, even today. In places like Andhra Pradesh, a lot of Telugu heroes have used mythology to good effect in politics too. I am told that NTR campaigned as Ram and won the election. Chennai, sadly, is not so much into mythology.


Down south, temples are dedicated to regional superstars. Is this an extension of a very particular truth — that audiences there are used to treating their movie idols as gods?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

THE UNDERAGE OPTIMIST

HOW TO DEAL WITH A BRAT LIKE PAKISTAN

CHETAN BHAGAT


One more round of India-Pakistan talks have failed. Our external affairs minister went to Islamabad for discussions, sporting his best diplomatic behavior. Their foreign minister took it as a rare chance to kick up a fuss and make India look silly.

 

I am sure S M Qureshi received some high-fives from his sycophants and a pat on the back from his seniors. Never mind that important issues involving millions of people didn't get discussed. Never mind that both sides continue to burn money on defence supplies, wrecking finances. For the Pakistan army, the country's real controllers, getting along is just not as much fun as a big fight. After all, what are so many generals going to do if there is nobody to fight? Work in security guard agencies?

 

While we all know how unreasonable the regime next door is, the big question is —what is India to do? The disputes are real and have to be resolved. However, when was the last time you heard the Pakistan government say anything sensible about India? The broader question is: how do you reason with unreasonable people?

Life would be easier if we were indisputably more powerful than Pakistan. When a gorilla is talking to a mouse, the mouse normally agrees with the gorilla. We have other tiny neighbours. They listen to India much of the time. And they would never dare insult our external affairs minister. Therefore, in the long run, India has to continue to outpace Pakistan economically until we find ourselves being heard better. But such a situation of clear supremacy is several decades away. Right now, we are dealing with a weaker if unreasonable person who can cause us damage. The approach here is not to send a delegation of smooth-talking experts and have a debating contest. No, mature activities like discussion assumes you are dealing with adults. India's approach to Pakistan should be similar to the psychologist's advice on dealing with a brat. Any parent will tell you that every child throws tantrums. They sulk, display aggressive behavior (hitting others, throwing things) or whine endlessly to get attention. In the old days, a spanking would take care of that.

 

But, the modern approach to parenting does not advise this. Also, the situation is more difficult with Pakistan because it has nuclear bombs. It is like a problem child running around the house with a grenade in its hand. While the child may deserve a spanking, you have to handle him with care as he is quite capable of causing damage. But this does not mean you start treating him like an adult. Children are incapable of reason beyond a point, and firmness is the approach that works — make clear rules, administer immediate punishment for indiscipline and never ever make empty threats. In India's case, while we keep harping on the 26/11 issue, the fact is we didn't do much when the incident occurred. We made empty threats about attacks but didn't carry them through. We do have some idea of what we want from Pakistan, but we haven't made clear how we will punish it if it doesn't listen to us. Military action is only one, and frankly, the less-preferred option. There are others.

 

Pakistan is de-facto run by the Army, and the biggest punishment is if India overtly and blatantly supports democratic, anti-Army movements in Pakistan. For this, we must first distinguish between the Pakistan Army, the political parties there and the Pakistani people. It is the Pakistan Army that is anti-India. The political parties and the Pakistani people may also have some anti-India sentiments but one can work around that. India can actively provide aid to all major Pakistani political parties in exchange for the peace agenda being included on their manifesto. That will mean whoever comes to power is pro-India. We can expose Pakistanis to what India is all about — a fast-growing, democratic, free country. We have a far stronger media. Every Indian channel should be made free-to-air in Pakistan, with signals strong enough to ensure they reach everyone there. The more India they see, the less likely they are to hate us or get swayed by hate speeches. India can take affirmative initiative, such as scholarships for Pakistani students, making sure they are advertised heavily in order to create a better image of India in Pakistan.

 

We have to engage with Pakistan as if its people are suffering from an oppressive, gun-happy regime. To weaken the Pakistani Army, we can appease one general and undermine another, thus setting off the politics of horse-trading, which Indian politicians are good at. At the global level, India can expose the Pakistani Army as the biggest threat to world peace, and lobby for aid to be cut until the Army steps back from governance.
 

Peace is our preferred alternative and we want to be nice. However, nice does not mean allowing the other side to walk all over you. India can offer friendship but if its agenda is ignored, we can - and should — make life so difficult for the Pakistani Army that they fall in line. Be reasonable but tough, and pretty soon, the insecurity behind its brattishness will be exposed. Then, like a child after a tantrum, it will be reduced to tears and run into daddy's arms. That's when you tell them: Can we talk?

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

CSR CAN CLOAK IRRESPONSIBILITY

SWAMINOMICS

SWAMINATHAN S ANKLESARIA AIYAR


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has long been a hot topic globally. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has lectured companies on it. Some corporations have won acclaim and awards for CSR.

 

Two of them were BP, the oil giant, and Goldman Sachs, the big investment bank. But BP has just created the greatest environmental disaster in history at its out-of-control Macondo deep-sea well, ruining bird and marine life as well as the livelihoods of fishermen and beach hotels. Goldman Sachs has just paid a whopping fine of $550 million for wrongful investment advice that trapped its clients.

 

They are, rightly, being castigated today. But this shows how shallow the CSR concept is, and how it can cloak cynicism and irresponsibility. Thomson-Reuters columnist Chrystia Freeland has called CSR "a fetish encouraged by the philanthropies that feed off it, and funded by the corporate executives who find that it serves their bottom line." Consumers have been willing to pay more and buy more from companies with a CSR halo. Now they should know better.

 

CSR award-winners have typically engaged in green activism and philanthropy. British Petroleum changed its name to plain BP, and launched a hugely successful imagebuilding campaign, labeling itself "Beyond Petroleum." This showed BP as a green activist, with a new logo of a green and yellow sun. The company boasted it was among the biggest producers of solar panels and wind power, but these accounted for barely 3% of its total business. "Beyond Petroleum" won two "Campaign of the Year" awards from PR Week, and a gold "Effie" award from the American Marketing Association. BP funded green causes and won green plaudits, brushing aside accusations of "greenwashing" by Greenpeace.

 

Fortune magazine has an annual corporate accountability rating for CSR. BP topped the Fortune list in 2004, 2005 and 2007, and came second in 2006. In 2007, BP China won the "The Most Responsible Enterprise" award organized by China News Weekly and the Chinese Red Cross Foundation (CRCF). It also won the Corporate Citizenship Award for Chinese enterprises several times. BP won the 2007 Prime Minister's CSR award in Malaysia for aiding a turtle sanctuary.

 

All this CSR was mere image-manship by a company with a horrendous record of cutting corners and neglecting safety. In 2005, a poorly maintained BP refinery exploded in Texas, killing 15 and injuring 180. In 2007, a BP pipeline, corroded through neglect, leaked 200,000 gallons of crude into the pristine Alaskan wilderness. The company paid a fine of $303 million to settle a charge that it had conspired to manipulate the price of propane gas. According to the Center for Public Integrity, Washington, BP refineries in Ohio and Texas in the last three years ran up 760 "egregious, willful" safety violations, while rivals Sunoco and ConocoPhillips each had eight, Citgo had two and Exxon had one comparable citation. So, BP accounted for 97% of all corporate refinery violations.

 

Every year, the World Economic Forum lists the "Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations". BP has made the list many times. So has Goldman Sachs, for its work on climate change and carbon trading.

 

Goldman Sachs won a social innovation award given by The Financial Times and others for its famous "10,000 women" initiative. This provided 10,000 women entrepreneurs in 16 developing countries (including India) with management and business education, wrap-around services and access to capital. The scheme received high praise from independent observers. Seen by itself, it was a great success.

 

Yet it had nothing to do with Goldman Sachs' core business. After the financial crisis of 2007-09, many questions are being asked about financial institutions that made billions even as their investors suffered.
    Goldman Sachs was the superstar of Wall Street. Its top executives rose to powerful political positions. Examples include Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton's treasury secretary; Hank Paulson, Bush's treasury secretary; Neel Kashkari, Paulson's bailout chief; Reuben Jeffrey, interim treasury investment officer; Stephen Friedman, head of the New York Fed; and Jon Corzine, former governor of New Jersey.

 

Many observers complain that Goldman virtually captured successive governments, and thwarted prudential measures that might have prevented the financial crisis. Seen in this light, the 10,000 women campaign was PR, not CSR.

 

Clearly the whole concept of CSR needs to be recast. It must be delinked from philanthropy: after all, even the Taliban and Lashkar e-Taiba have well-functioning philanthropic activities. CSR should really mean observing high standards in the core business of corporations, in dealing with shareholders and clients and the communities they operate in. By all means let corporations also make green and philanthropic efforts. But don't confuse these with social responsibility. That will only encourage BP-style cynicism.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

IT'S TIME TO CHUCK DE KAUSHIK AND HOCKEY INDIA

POLITICALLY INCORRECT

SHOBHAA DE


"Do you have sex?" reportedly asked the veteran coach of the Indian women's hockey team. The startled and scared female player at the receiving end of this obnoxious question was allegedly stunned into silence. Poet Anasuya Dutt evocatively captured the emotional trauma of women caught in this particular player's unfortunate position when she wrote, "In too many countries, too many women speak the same language — of silence." Collective silence — that's what allegedly protected Maharaj Kumar Kaushik, the disgraced coach, for years. But last week he was forced to step down after top player Ranjita Devi broke that awful silence and accused him of sexual harassment. Her letter to Narendra Batra, the secretary of Hockey India, was signed by 31 teammates. Three key allegations have been made against this man, who must have been counting on the clout of his undeserved but exalted position to see him through the mess. More than that, he must have been counting on silence. Women in traditional societies have silence as their best friend — it is their only succour and refuge. "Hold your tongue, woman!" is a phrase that young women hear over and over again while growing up… no matter what the provocation. Incest, rape, molestation… her instructions are clear — shut up and put up with it.

 

 Ranjita would have ended up as yet another victim had an anonymous letter about his despicable language not made its way to officials — a letter that mentioned Ranjita by name. It was the only way to nail the guy. Confronted and cornered, he did what countless men in positions of power (limited or otherwise) do — he tried to turn the tables on the women he had tormented by accusing them of using this tactic to get even with him. Why? Because they were dropped from the team for not being good enough. It's a familiar trick adopted by rakes the world over — blame the woman, make her "badnaam", disgrace her in front of family and friends, shred her reputation, ruin her future. It's easy — she is a soft target. She has everything to lose. Most times, the man has nothing at stake — not even his reputation or job. After all, even his superiors would understand – he's a man. These things happen. And as Kaushik demonstrated over the years, a man can and does get away with vulgar, offensive, sexually charged statements. Kaushik allegedly declared during his team's tour to New Zealand in 2003, "Anyone interested in sex can come to me." It's an allegation he vehemently rubbishes. Instead, he whines about this being a nasty campaign to malign his 'good name', because he didn't allow players to use mobile phones! Aha — now we know the real villain of the piece — it's the banned mobile phone!

 

There are thousands of Kaushiks nonchalantly running around the world. Some time ago, we had a phony 'godman' called Swami Nithyananda whose pornographic sex tapes with a Tamil heroine cut short his meteoric rise to the top of the spiritual merchandising rankings. Today, this man has brazenly and shamelessly turned the scandal around to boast, "The internet has twice experienced major jams due to traffic. One was following the death of Michael Jackson. Second was following my sex tape." How's that for aggressive marketing in the God Bazaar? Kaushik's videographer Basavaraja is in an even murkier spot — there's video footage of him with multiple sex workers. The worst that can happen to these men is already over — Basavaraja has been suspended, and Kaushik has resigned. But what can be done to resurrect the hockey dreams of players like Helen Mary (former captain and goal keeper) whose brilliant career was cut short when she dared to complain about Kaushik (who was reportedly having an affair with the team's manager, Anurita Saini)? It was Saini who paid the price after the expose and lost her job. Kaushik's minders in high places let him hang on to his. Isn't that how it goes? The absurdity is further compounded today, when officials point out piously that Kaushik hasn't exactly forced himself on anyone so far. He has merely indulged in lewd talk. And that, dear people, is not considered offensive enough to punish him! Talk like, "It's good if you like sex… I am available 24 hours." In an angry statement, members of the hockey team are raising valid questions: "You say he hasn't got physical…we ask, do you want us to wait till he gets physical?"

 

Unfortunately, we lack the will to pursue sexual harassment cases in India. They are just not considered 'serious' enough. Authorities, even the police, point out that in a country where the aam aadmi faces far more life threatening issues on a daily basis, what's a little 'masti' between the sexes? It's all harmless fun! No sir, it isn't. For every Kaushik and Basavaraja who gets caught for propositioning and demeaning women they think are in no position to hit back, there are countless others who never pay for their crimes. Society has to wait for the rare Ranjitha Devis and Helen Marys who break that conspiracy of silence and speak up. Most times, their courage comes with a huge price tag. Men will always try to exploit this collective silence, but even they sometimes go wrong in their calculations. It only happens when almost miraculously, a few extraordinary women rediscover the power of their own larynxes. That's when their stifled-for-centuries voices do — and must — get heard.

 

What we need is greater amplification. Pump up the volume, ladies.

 

We know for sure what isn't cricket. Now we also know what isn't hockey! Chuck de Kaushik!

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

PM'S PARADOX: IN POWER BECAUSE HE'S WEAK

OUT OF TURN

M J AKBAR


Call it the Manmohan Singh paradox: the strength of his coalition depends largely upon on how weak he is as Prime Minister. The glue holds because he has no power over his partners. One minister is caught with his hands in the telecom till and shrugs off accusation with impunity; a second has no time for Cabinet meetings; a third dismisses a portfolio as people-centric as railways with the throwaway line that it does not represent her true identity. All the Prime Minister can do is smile and carry on. The smile is wearing thin.

A fundamental equation has been quietly reversed. During UPA-1, the smaller allies were in power because Congress held them up. Now, the Congress is in power because the Trinamool, DMK and NCP hold it up. Since power is central to Congress schemes for the present and future, all parties have, by mutual consent, eliminated accountability from the algebra of governance to create a semblance of stability. Temperament and tantrum can coexist with venality and incompetence.

 

The casualty is credibility: it began to creep away but the pace has gradually built up to a crawl. If Dr Singh, whose own reputation remains more positive than that of his government, does not act soon, the pace will quicken to a trot and develop into an irreversible gallop.

 

Weakness is contagious. It tends to debilitate even those limbs of the body politic that are functioning normally. Congress ministers have always known that they owe their jobs to party president Sonia Gandhi, but they showed the requisite deference to the PM during UPA-1 because they knew that Dr Singh's image would be an asset on judgment day when the voter headed for the ballot box. This enormous strength has withered because no one expects Dr Singh to lead the party in the next general elections. Dr Singh admitted as much at his only press conference held, ironically, to project an image of control. Instead, he passed the baton when he said, in his typically honest manner, that he would make way for Rahul Gandhi the moment he was asked to do so. Power is never stagnant. It either consolidates around the leader, or ebbs. Those with longer plans for the future than the Prime Minister are establishing individual markers at the cost of collective cohesion.

 

The two profound challenges before the government are a turbulent relationship with Pakistan, turned septic by terrorism; and the Naxalite insurrection, spurred by poverty and decades of neglect. There is disarray and dissension within government on both fronts. External affairs minister S M Krishna was clearly, and visibly, disoriented when his colleague Chidambaram, armed with explosive information, lit the fuse under his conciliatory mission to Islamabad. Home secretary G K Pillai had Chidambaram's permission to reveal David Headley's testimony about ISI and Pakistan navy aid to Mumbai terrorists, or he would have lost his job. The Prime Minister chose to rise above the drama.

 

This is useful if you want to buy time, but not effective if you want to run a government.


 Dr Singh is burdened by a further paradox. He is presiding over not one but two coalitions. Congress itself is the second coalition, a storehouse of multiple interests that requires dexterous management even during times of serenity. Personal feuds are only a part of the alternative story; there are genuine and strongly held differences over policy. This is healthy, up to a point; when that point comes, the leader must demand obedience to a government decision. An astute veteran like Digvijay Singh would not have berated Chidambaram as a misguided intellectual snob whose single idea was to shoot his way through the Naxalite problem, without tacit support from his party leader. The Prime Minister has imprisoned himself in the rather dubious proverb, that silence is golden. Silence is too aloof an option for democracy.

 

A helpless Prime Minister induces a hapless government. Drift, as the term indicates, is never in a hurry. A government can float a long way before someone realizes that it has lost direction. Drift does not threaten a government's survival, but it saps the people's patience.

 

The third paradox may seem puzzling but is easily comprehensible. It is always much more difficult to run a weak government than a strong one. The latter has a command structure, purpose and enough discipline to induce confidence in the ever-watchful voter. A weak government is great news for a newspaper, and even better fodder for television; but that is where its limited entertainment utility ceases. During his first five years, Dr Singh was an anchor that was powerful enough to keep the ship steady through heavy turbulence in the final 12 months of its journey. Victory in 2009 could have made him master of a cruise liner. If, however, he continues to do nothing, he could become captain of a paper boat.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

HUNGRY KYA?

INDRAJIT HAZRA

 

Earlier this week, suddenly out of the blue, a tremendous appetite came upon me like an angel bathed in gastric juices. Rather uncharacteristically, at a sit-down dinner, I had an appetiser (prawns), two main courses (a fish, rice and luchi combo followed by a 'continental' beef dish) and bottles of beer before and throughout the meal. Feeling the eyes around the table bore into me and my fellow diners seemingly making mental notes of my Bheem-like performance, I decided to skip dessert.

 

Instead, through the next five days and five nights, I mulled over my very temporary change of heart and belly.

 

Clearly, that evening, I had not only been hungry, but I had been much more hungry than usual. I also realised that because of being unnaturally ravenous, I had ended up appreciating my meal much more than I do even when presented with the same kind of menu on other occasions. So, to appreciate good food better, does one have to be a glutton? Does the capacity to eat more actually help to appreciate the quality of food on the plate?

 

Appetite, of course, is different from hunger. You can crave for a bar of chocolate even though you aren't hungry. The munchies you get in the middle of the night aren't the same kind of hardwired hunger that people denied basic nutrition live with. The malnourished feed off their own bodies, making them fundamentally unfit, in most cases on a permanent basis. The hunger that the fat lady on a diet feels is a battle between the desire to eat and the desire to be trim.

 

And talking about eating is a totally different dish from talking about the food one has eaten. The latter is the retelling of a communion that everyone from colleagues at a workplace to feted foodies love to share, turning a necessity into an activity rooted in the pleasure principle. The former remains a 'subject' that gets airplay only when one is talking about health or lifestyle or — when eating is 'in shortage' — socio-economics, the last bit driving home the difference between 'hungry' and 'hunger', between 'be hungry' and 'go hungry'.

 

But in that wide chasm that exists between what an Amartya Sen and an Anthony Bourdain talk about, there's that sturdy bridge and grand leveller: biology. Whether it's one of the many who'd love to eat more than they usually do, or many of the few who'll be tucking in something tonight that they'll savour, the act of eating boils down to two characters that reside in all our bodies: ghrelin and leptin.

 

Ghrelin is the Tweedledee-like hormone that is produced in the stomach to tell your brain that you're hungry and it's time to eat, while the Tweedledum-like leptin tells that same brain that you're filled to the rafters and it's time to stop eating. Have a low level of ghrelin and you don't feel hungry easily; have a low level of leptin and you need to eat more to stop feeling hungry.

 

Considering that despite the best efforts of our most well-fed brains, the country with the finest range of cooked and uncooked food available to mankind still hasn't been able to figure out how to make everyone eat to their belly's, if not heart's, content, I propose a change of tack. Why not try and lower everyone's appetite? In these days of escalating food prices, a nationwide drive to lower ghrelin levels and increase leptin levels in everybody's bodies could be formulated. In 1994, researchers at  Rockefeller University actually injected leptin into volunteers. The response was erratic — natural leptin levels differ from person to person — and many complained of side-effects like extreme skin irritation. So there's much work to be done.

 

But in the land of the most famous hunger artist who made fasting a political performance art, semi-fasting upto nutritional levels could just be the answer. Appreciating those killer kakodi kababs a bit less is a small price to pay if it can make India the fittest, phattest, well-toniest nation in the sub- as well as supra-Saharan world.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

FAILURE FORETOLD

KARAN THAPAR

 

I want to ask a controversial question this Sunday morning: how much of the blame for last week's Indo-Pakistan denouement lies with India? Could it be the case that there was a gap between our public pronouncements and our actual position? As a result, did we lead Pakistan up the garden path only to  disappoint when the moment of truth arrived? The answer may not be as straightforward as you think.

 

Since Thimphu it's been India's case  that we want to bridge the trust deficit and, to do so, we're ready to discuss  all issues. Foreign Minister SM Krishna made this crystal clear with his formal statement on arrival. "During my stay in Islamabad, I, along with my delegation, am looking forward to my meetings with Foreign Minister [S.M.] Qureshi and his delegation. We hope to discuss all issues of mutual interest and concern that can contribute to restoring trust and building confidence in our bilateral relationship."

 

However, the next day India seems to have taken a different line. As the foreign ministry has subsequently revealed — through an unnamed senior source speaking anonymously, a tradition it has of late developed — India was not prepared to discuss Kashmir, Siachen and peace and security. The most it would accept was an agreement to do so in the future at "an appropriate time", but refused to specify when that would be.

 

The senior source also revealed "we needed a certain catalysing process … we needed progress on terrorism". Consequently, India's position was that "the appropriate time" to discuss Kashmir, Siachen and peace and security would be determined by "progress on terrorism".

 

Now, as I read it, this is substantially different to what we've heard since Thimphu and clearly contrary to what  Krishna formally said on arrival in Pakistan. There are two possible explanations. First, the Indian side changed its mind after reaching Islamabad. But if that's the case, what provoked the change? Frankly, I cannot fathom. I would, therefore, say this is an unlikely explanation.

 

The second is that India, from the  outset, did not intend to discuss these issues but did not make that clear. In  fact, as  Krishna's statement shows, it said something else. If the second explanation is correct, it explains  Pakistan's acrimonious response. After all, just as terror is important to India, Kashmir, Siachen and peace and security are of equal significance to Pakistan. By prioritising the first over the other three India was placing issues that are of prime concern to Delhi ahead of those that are of prime concern to Islamabad.

 

The inexplicable bit is that in the past India has frequently discussed the three subjects it fought shy of. Another round would not have changed anything leave aside damage India's case. More importantly, agreeing to discuss them would have given the Pakistanis something to show to  their domestic opinion. That matters as much in Islamabad as it does in Delhi. None of this, of course, minimises, excuses or forgives Qureshi's outbursts on television. But they were a consequence of the collapse not the cause of it.

 

The question I want to raise is this: did India mishandle the approach to the talks and, consequently, mislead the Pakistanis? At the very least  Krishna's statement suggests we were not upfront and transparent. In fact, I doubt if anyone in India thought we would not set a date to discuss Kashmir or Siachen. So if the Pakistanis felt the same — and then felt let down — are you surprised?

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BJP GOES FOR ITS OWN JUGULAR

VIR SANGHVI

 

The trouble with political controversies is that we sometimes forget the ordinary people at the root of each uproar. Something like that seems to be happening in the war of words between the BJP and the Congress in the Amit Shah case.

The story begins in 2005, when a man called Sohrabuddin Sheikh -from all accounts, a small-time gangster -and his wife, Kauserbi, were picked up by the Gujarat and Rajasthan Police. A Deputy Inspector-General of the Gujarat Police, D.G. Vanzara, later announced that Sohrabuddin was a dangerous Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) terrorist intent on killing Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who had been engaged by the state police in an encounter. The brave officers of the Gujarat Police had killed Sohrabuddin in the course of this encounter.

 

Sohrabuddin's wife, Kauserbi, was never located and was regarded as `missing'. But an eye-witness to the abduction of Sohrabuddin called Tulsidas Prajapati appears to have been taken into custody. Prajapati also died at the hands of the brave officers of the Gujarat Police, who killed him in `self-defence'.

 

The matter would have rested there -like so many encounters -if it had not been for the efforts of Sohrabuddin's brother to discover the truth. After he went to the Supreme Court, an investigation revealed that Sohrabuddin had been bumped off in cold blood. Later, his wife had also been murdered and her body burnt to prevent discovery. Even Prajapati appeared to have been killed in a fake encounter because he knew too much.

 

The investigation led to the arrest of Vanzara and some of his men. But because the Supreme Court felt that the Gujarat Police were either unwilling or unable to go further, it handed the probe over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in January 2010 and asked it to submit its report by the end of July.

 

Last week, the CBI made its move.


It filed a chargesheet that confirmed what had long been rumoured: that Vanzara and his men were in constant touch with State Home Minister Amit Shah. Not only did Shah know about the fake encounter, he also instructed Vanzara to eliminate Kauserbi because she was a witness to her husband's murder. The CBI relied largely on the evidence that had been collected by the Gujarat Police before the bureau was handed the case. It produced statements from witnesses who said they had knowledge of Shah's involvement and it also produced phone records which suggested that Shah had made more calls than usual to Vanzara during the days when the killings occurred.

 

How should a political party react to these developments?

 

It is possible to claim that the CBI's case is full of holes. It is even possible to believe that because the CBI is a central agency, it may well be biased towards the ruling Congress.

 

Nevertheless, some things seem clear. As the CBI's involvement is entirely the consequence of the Supreme Court's instructions and as the court itself is monitoring the investigation, any malafide on the part of the CBI will be noticed at once by the Supreme Court. Any CBI director who is found to be functioning as an agent of the Congress risks incurring the wrath of the country's highest court.


Any miscarriage of justice will be quickly set right.

In the event, the best course for Amit Shah would have been to have declared his innocence but to have resigned his post and handed himself over to the CBI. If the case is as weak as his lawyers say it is, he will certainly be let off by the Supreme Court with a minimum of delay and the CBI director will probably have to resign.

 

Instead, the BJP and Amit Shah both decided to play it differently. For all of Friday, Shah tried to hide from the CBI. After the sessions court turned down his anticipatory bail application, he disappeared from view and refused to turn up for the CBI's interrogation.

 

His party threw a full-fledged hissy fit in New Delhi. Both Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj swallowed their differences long enough to appear at a press conference where they accused the Congress government of misusing the CBI and defended Amit Shah. The BJP even boycotted the prime minister's lunch held to prepare for the forthcoming parliamentary session as a gesture of protest.

 

Then, BJP spokesmen made the rounds of TV studios accusing the Congress of playing `vote-bank politics'. (`Vote bank' is the BJP's code phrase for Muslims.) Others suggested that Sohrabuddin was no saint and therefore not worthy of the attention being paid to him.

 

There was much abuse of the CBI, much to the consternation of TV audiences who had last seen the same spokesmen appear on TV to demand that the telecom scam be investigated by the very same CBI, which, a couple of months ago, was characterised as an independent and therefore a trustworthy investigating agency.

 

All searching questions from TV anchors were parried with references to the 1984 Sikh riots, to the role of Ottavio Quattrochhi in the Bofors scandal and various other irrelevant issues dredged up from the depths of history.

 

It is not my case that Amit Shah is guilty. Even though the BJP seems willing to hang the CBI on the spot, I still believe in the presumption of innocence. Shah is entitled to a fair trial.


And he might well be exonerated.

 

My concerns are different. When the Supreme Court orders and monitors an investigation into what appears to be a case of cold-blooded murder, I think it is incumbent on everybody -and on politicians, in particular -to respect India's premier court, its motives, and the investigation it has ordered. When a political party reacts with this kind of ill-tempered tantrum only because one of its own members has been accused by the investigators then it does no favours to the accused minister. Instead, it only serves to demonstrate how far that party has travelled from the principles of justice. Sohrabuddin was a citizen of India. If he was murdered by policemen, with the connivance of politicians, and then falsely described as a LeT terrorist, then he deserves justice. Allow the police to murder who they like and tomorrow it will be you or me at the end of a police bullet.

 

I wrote last week how the BJP was behaving like the Shiv Sena. This week, we have new evidence: a BJP minister is accused of conspiring with cops to bump off people in cold blood. The minister then scurries for cover and refuses to turn up for CBI investigations. His party closes ranks, attributes motives to the investigators and sends spokesmen to rave and rant on television.

 

There was a time when the BJP was regarded as a respectable political party. What has gone so wrong?
Why is it engineering its own degradation?

 

If this sad and tragic decline continues then the BJP can kiss its middle-class supporters goodbye. And it can prepare to be in Opposition for a very long time.

 

counterpoint@hindustantimes.com The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

LOOSE CANON - A REAL CLASS ACT

MANAS CHAKRAVARTY

 

Last week's star was undoubtedly Jyoti Devi, MLC. As she twirled and flung those heavy flower pots with practised ease in front of the Bihar Legislative Assembly, appreciative gasps went up from an awestruck nation watching the show open-mouthed on TV.


"Look at those muscles," commented a fan. Another called for Suresh Kalmadi to enrol her forthwith for the Commonwealth Games. "We're sure to win the gold medal in the hammer throw," he said. "Wah, wah, what acting," said a star-struck admirer.

 

But what struck most people was the sheer professional quality of the performance. This was no ordinary run-of-the-mill protest, no mere rushing to the well of the House. It was the best show in town. No wonder TRPs of the saas-bahu serials, the song-and -dance items and the reality shows all plummeted. The India-Sri Lanka match was forgotten. The real drama was happening in the Bihar assembly. The MLAs knew it and they staged some marvellously melodramatic heroics for the cameras.

 

"Jyoti Devi is a fantastic actor," said a Bhojpuri movie producer, adding that he hoped to sign her on for a TV serial he was planning on a superheroine called SuperMLA. "The story starts off with an alien abducting Jyoti and carting her off to his spaceship," he said. "But she soon chucks some flower pots into the spaceship's computer, blowing it up and saving the world from alien domination," he added.


"She will, of course, manage to leave the ship seconds before it explodes," smiled the producer. He said he had already thought of an appropriate costume for SuperMLA -a swimsuit worn over a salwar-kameez, with the dupatta being her flowing cape.


He agreed that Mamata Banerjee would be the ideal alien, but he was wary of casting her. "I wouldn't like my show to be derailed by her running off to West Bengal every now and then," he explained.

 

An avant-garde director said people would soon start watching assembly proceedings instead of movies. On my expressing strong doubts whether anyone would watch `NREGA: The Movie' or a film titled, `I Know What You Did Last Summer: You Passed the Amendment to the Hindu Marriage Act', he said the MLAs no longer wasted time on those things. "We need to capture the day-to-day violence and excitement in the Assembly and weave a story around it," he said. But he agreed that weaving in a love interest may be difficult.

 

The Bhojpuri producer, however, pooh-poohed these fears. "I'm thinking of a movie titled `Love in the Legislature'," he said. "It'll be a love triangle -a BJP MLA and the speaker, both vying for the love of a comely Congress MLA. It'll be Romeo and Juliet plus dances in the well of the assembly," he explained. "The speaker cuts every motion the BJP chap puts up," he continued, "till in frustration the BJP guy throws a slipper at the speaker and misses. The Congresswoman curls her lip in contempt. Dejected politico-cum-Romeo goes to Uttar Pradesh Assembly to take throwing lessons, returns and hurls microphone with deadly precision at the speaker. Speaker retires hurt and camera pans down to Congresswoman whispering `My Hero' to BJP lover boy behind the speaker's chair." "Of course, we'll need a good choreographer," he added.

 

"Now I know," said a scriptwriter, "why those things MLAs and MPs pass are called Acts -the Right to Food Act, the Right to Education Act etc. It's because they're all superb pieces of play-acting."

 

manas.c@livemint.com Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint The views expressed by the author are personal

 

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

'THERE IS NO POINT IN THE PM SAYING NAXALISM IS A GRAVE SITUATION. WHAT ARE YOU DOING AS PM?

 

Seema Chishti: What is the difference between the BJP you left and the one you have rejoined?

 

I didn't leave the party, I was required to exit—and I was invited back. I am very touched by both Advaniji and Nitin Gadkari's gesture. Advaniji was very gracious. He called me to inquire whether I would even talk to him. The new president of the party, Nitin Gadkari, came to my house. He said, we want you back. When I met Advaniji, he too said that. So here I am. I do not feel victimised. These are incidents that happen. What is the difference in the party? I think the circumstances are different, the challenges we face today are markedly different from August last year (when Singh was expelled).

 

Shishir Gupta: As External Affairs minister, you had a certain experience with terrorism, Kandahar in particular. Now, some senior members of the RSS are allegedly involved in terrorist activities. Don't you think the BJP, as a political organisation, should distance itself from the RSS?

 

I think the crime is an individual crime, it can't become institutional. Secondly, if this is about the RSS, the members of the RSS, then the RSS will respond to it. Thirdly, should the BJP disassociate itself from the RSS? A number of BJP members have their grounding in the RSS. To say that because a few RSS members are alleged to have engaged in activities which are criminal in nature, therefore the BJP must distance itself from the RSS, would be stretching the point.

 

Dhiraj Nayyar: Do you think the political right in India suffers from a lack of intellectual robustness?

 

Do we have any intellectual robustness in the country—be it Left, Right or Centre? I have often asked myself this question. This is my eighth term in Parliament. If I go back to when I started my parliamentary career, there were so many there who were authors. How many in Parliament today are published authors? It is not so much a question of Right or Left because if you don't think, then you can't write and if you can't write or think, what do you say?

 

Swaraj Thapa: After you were asked to exit the BJP, you had said there should be a rethink on Hindutva. Do you think it is time to initiate such a debate in the party?

 

I think the debate on this word 'Hindu' has got fixed with either cliches or within the confines of clichés. The word 'Hindu' doesn't define a religion, it can't define a religion because the origin, the historical, geographical, etymological origins of 'Hindu' are directly derived from the word Indus, hence India, hence Hindustan. To me, Hindu is the same as Bharatiya or the essence of India. It has become political and I think it would be wise to separate the political from the eclectics.

 

Swaraj Thapa: You also said BJP can't be a party of yesterday. Was that reference to issues like Ayodhya?

 

I won't go into specifics but which political party could possibly be relevant to the challenges of today and be a party of yesterday? It can't be, that's self evident.

 

Manoj C G: You are back in BJP after ten months but without any post. Does this worry you?

 

No, it doesn't worry me, I have a great deal to do. I have never hankered after a post. I am amongst the very few in Parliament who have survived for this long and a post is of no concern.

 

Pradeep Kaushal: You are amongst the founders of the BJP. What was it like to be without the BJP during those ten months?

 

I did not become a different person. What I felt acutely is the difficulty of obtaining parliamentary time. The allocation of parliamentary time is by the party. If you are unattached, you are last on the list. But I had the time to give lectures here and abroad. I went to Pakistan when they launched my book which I found very rewarding—not in terms of money but otherwise.

 

Swaraj Thapa: You have been defence minister as well as external affairs minister. Do you think the army should be used in places like J&K when there are public protests?

 

You forgot to mention that I have also been a soldier. I think it's wrong to use the army in such a manner. The army is not meant for policing functions. Please don't lightly or casually talk of employing the army against our own citizens, whether it is here or against the Maoists. I can't think of anything less desirable.

 

Manoj C G: Why do you think using the army against the Maoists is not desirable?

 

You have to first identify the causes of what is resulting in what we loosely call the Maoist problem. I personally believe that the factories that are producing Maoists are active on a daily basis in every police thana, every tehsil and patwari's office. Governance depends on grievance redressal system. If grievance redressal is blocked, what will the army do? The failures we are witnessing are failures of intelligence, training and leadership. If there is no training, if police reforms do not take place, if there is no coordinated leadership, there will be incidents.

 

Manoj C G: How is this to happen?

 

The Home Minister of India is not the chief of the police forces of the country; states have a responsibility. There has to be coordination. There is no point in the Prime Minister saying that this is a grave situation for the internal security of the country—what are you doing as Prime Minister? In the 1950s, we employed the army for the first time against our own citizens in Nagaland. I was already by then a commissioned officer. One aircraft was downed by the Nagas and it took months to find where that aircraft was and it took more months to recover that pilot who had been taken captive. The army is already employed along the the whole eastern border and the whole western border—it's not an unending asset.

 

COOMI Kapoor: In the last two parliamentary elections, the BJP's tally has been falling. Do you think the party has lost direction?

 

I think we suffered in 2004 because of the loss of the southern alliances—Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. That was a loss of almost 60 seats. That couldn't be made up in the north. That continued into 2009 when we lost a little. I think we had expected more in UP.

 

Coomi Kapoor: But you are losing your image as a national party and you are losing your NDA allies too.

 

I don't think we are losing our image as a national party. As of now, there are two national parties—there is either the Congress or the BJP.

 

Vandita Mishra: There was a time when the NDA had 23 or 24 parties. Now your tally would be three or four. Is it that the BJP has lost the glue of power or has it lost something else?

 

There is a very fine distinction between office and power. The parties that have gone with the ruling UPA are there because of the convenience of office, not so much out of a commitment to an ideology.

 

Shailaja Bajpai: What do you think of the government's decision to resume talks with Pakistan and is this the way forward after 26/11?

 

If you expand the question slightly, it becomes even more important. Never since Independence have we had a situation in which almost our entire neighbourhood is in turmoil and we don't have a policy. We need to reflect very deeply on developments in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan. If you look at the challenges to India's foreign policy, it starts from Africa and goes down to south-east Asia.

 

Now we have an approach to Pakistan, which is that irrespective of what happened before, we must continue to talk. That paradigm breaks down as soon as there is a challenge to law and order within India. Then we say irrespective of that, there should be a joint handling of terrorism and we must continue talking. When you talk, you must realise that in today's Pakistan, the transformed strategic situation takes into account what happens in Afghanistan, what the US is going to do or not going to do and where is India. I am disappointed by the absence of an overall geo-strategic vision that inspires our policy. I think one of the most crucial incidents that occurred in Pakistan is the bomb in Data Ganj Baksh in Lahore. The shrine is the soul of Lahore, it's also venerated throughout Pakistan. So where is Pakistan going? There has to be a very substantial inquiry into such questions by our government and policy-makers before we proceed.

 

Ravish Tiwari: There are two issues with regard to the Nuclear Liability Bill. One is the content of the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha and the second is whether we need a liability Bill at all. Where does the BJP stand on this?

 

I won't go into the contents because the issue is really about the fundamentals. Why does USA want a Nuclear Liability Bill when Russia and France have not sought any similar assurances? This is something the Manmohan Singh government ought to have reflected upon when this was negotiated. The rationale for the negotiation was that we will get cheaper power. Where is the cheaper power? The government should first convince Parliament that the fundamentals are right, that the United States has a right to limit the liability of the equipment that its supplies should it malfunction. And I don't want to cite the example of Union Carbide.

 

Ravish Tiwari: So, do you think we are better off without a Nuclear Liability Bill?

 

Why do you want it? The government has to explain that.

 

Ravish Tiwari: Are you saying that this is being done at the behest of the United States?

 

Of course. I want the government to explain the rationale.

 

COOMI Kapoor:What was the public reaction to your book on Jinnah, both here and in Pakistan?

I found it very good. The sales went to 25 reprints in India. For a 600-page book dealing with a subject which has no sex, that is not a detective story, is really the best comment. In Pakistan it was a three-city visit to Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore. It was overwhelming.

 

Manoj C G: What will be the topic of your next book?

 

It's a book on Rajagopalachari. I think Rajaji is a rather neglected figure of Indian politics. He is an extremely wise man, quite a remarkable figure, he had great foresight and his political life is really a commentary on those times.

 

Coomi Kapoor: Why is it that subject matters for your biographies are icons from other parties and not from your own?

 

I don't think there is anything to be read in to that. These are studies.

 

Seema Chishti: Leaders like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and you were seen as "different" in the party, people willing to push the boundaries of the BJP and enlarge its scope. As Atalji is not very active now and Bhaironji is no more, what is it that you miss the most?

 

It would be an error on my part to live reminiscently. You can't live like that, you have to live prospectively in a political organisation. I do think that the present president of the party, Nitin Gadkari, is addressing himself to the challenges energetically and with ability. He has said that we need to increase our vote base by at least another 10 per cent.

 

COOMI Kapoor: You are one of two senior leaders of the BJP who is not from a Sangh background. How did

you get into the party?

 

The first party I joined was Janata Party. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was then the leader of the Jan Sangh. He asked me to join the Jan Sangh but I had difficulties doing that. Then, Rajmata Gayatri Devi of Jaipur asked me to join the Swatantra Party. I knew Minoo Masani and Rajaji were in the party. I had to tell Rajmata Gayatri Devi that I couldn't join the Swatantra Party. She was quite irate and asked me why not. I told her there were too many princesses in it! Post 1975, I joined the Janata Party and when the Janata disintegrated, I went to the BJP. That was the long and short of it.

 

D K Singh: Could you rate Manmohan Singh as prime minister in comparison to Vajpayee?

 

I do think that we are going through difficult times. It's rather challenging internationally, internally and politically. Personally, I find it alarming how the writ of the central government has stopped running. I have known Manmohan Singh from his civil service days. We have a government with two characteristics: where there is talent, there is no authority and where there is authority, there is no talent. The other thing which troubles me is that Manmohan Singh just doesn't take a decision. I cited the example of the Maoists—it is not good enough. The tendency to transfer every problem to a group of ministers is not how we govern.

 

D K Singh: If you were defence minister, what would you do in Kashmir?

 

The defence minister has no role in this. It is for the government. There is an alliance government in J&K of the Congress and the National Conference. They are the ones who have to address this question. Why has the Prime Minister not uttered a word? Even my friend Chidambaram hasn't said anything. Why? The country has a right to know. So the question is not how or when or whether to use the army, the more substantial question is that you are in an alliance. Tell us what is happening there and what you intend to do.

 

Vandita Mishra: Isn't this a larger problem of lack of communication by the government with the people? Even when Vajpayee was PM, except for his musings, there were very rare instances of him speaking to the people.

 

I agree with that. Governments need to share what is happening in the country on a more regular basis. A lot of things went wrong with our systems post 1975. It was a fraudulent time: it destroyed the civil services, it destroyed the systems and it destroyed the electoral pattern. Until then, states and the Centre held elections simultaneously. All that went wrong and communication stopped.

 

Transcribed by Mohit Sharma

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS OVER RENT-A-WOMB MARKET

ETHICALLY, SHOULD WOMEN BE PAID FOR BEING SURROGATES? CANTHE RIGHTS OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN BE BARTERED AWAY? IF THE ARRANGEMENTS FALL FOUL, WILL IT AMOUNT TO ADULTERY? IS THE NEWLAW A COMPROMISE IN SURPASSING COMPLICATED INDIAN ADOPTION PROCEDURES?

ANIL MALHOTRA

 

The primordial urge to have a child of one's own flesh, blood and DNA — aided by technology, money and the Indian entrepreneurial spirit — has generated the "reproductive tourism industry," which in medical parlance is known as Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).

 

In the U.K., no contract or surrogacy agreement is legally binding. In most States in the U.S., compensated surrogacy arrangements are either illegal or unenforceable. In some States in Australia, arranging commercial surrogacy is a criminal offence and any surrogacy agreement giving custody to others is void. In Canada and New Zealand, commercial surrogacy has been illegal since 2004, although altruistic surrogacy is allowed. In France, Germany and Italy, surrogacy, whether commercial or not, is unlawful. In Israel, the law only accepts the surrogate as the real mother and commercial surrogacy is illegal. What then prompts India to enact a law to make surrogacy agreements legally enforceable to protect the genetic parents, the surrogate mother and the child?

 

India's surrogacy boom began in January 2004 with a grandmother delivered of her daughter's twins. The success flashed over the world literally spawned a virtual cottage industry in Gujarat. Would-be parents from the Indian diaspora in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada and foreigners from Malaysia, the UAE, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, besides Nepal, are descending on sperm banks and In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) centres in India looking for perfect sperm donors with South Asian genetic traits. Equally, renting wombs is another easy and cheap option in India. The relatively low cost of medical services, the easy availability of surrogate wombs, the abundant choices of donors with similar racial attributes and the lack of any law to regulate these practices are attracting both foreigners and non-resident Indians to sperm banks and surrogate mothers in India.

 

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

 

So much so, the Supreme Court in 2008 in the Baby Manji Yamada's case observed that "commercial surrogacy" reaching "industry proportions is sometimes referred to by the emotionally charged and potentially offensive terms wombs-for-rent, outsourced pregnancies or baby farms." It is presumably considered legitimate because no Indian law prohibits surrogacy. But then, as a retort, no law permits surrogacy either. However, the changing face of law is now going to usher in a new rent-a-womb law as India is set to be the only country to legalise commercial surrogacy.

 

In the absence of any law to govern surrogacy, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued guidelines in 2005 to check malpractices in ART. These national guidelines for Accreditation, Supervision and Regulation of the ART Clinics are, however, non-statutory, have no legal sanctity and are not binding.

 

Silent on major issues, they lack teeth and are often violated. Exploitation, extortion, and ethical abuses in surrogacy trafficking are rampant, go undeterred and surrogate mothers are misused with impunity.

 

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

 

In a phenomenal repeat exercise to legalise commercial surrogacy, The ART (Regulation) Bill & Rules 2010 — a draft Bill prepared by a 12-member committee including experts from the ICMR, medical specialists and other experts from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare — was posted online recently for feedback.

 

Originally floated in 2008, this Bill is stated to be an Act to provide for a national framework or the Regulation and Supervision of Assisted Reproductive Technology and matter connected therewith or incidental thereto as a unique law proposed to be put before Parliament.

 

Abetting in surrogacy, it legalises commercial surrogacy for single persons and married or unmarried couples, stating that the surrogate mother shall enter into a legally enforceable surrogacy agreement. She may receive monetary compensation and will relinquish all parental rights.

 

The 2010 draft Bill states that foreigners or NRIs coming to India to rent a womb will have to submit documentation confirming that their country of residence recognises surrogacy as legal and that it will give citizenship to the child born, through the surrogacy agreement, to an Indian mother. This, perhaps, is in view of the two-year legal battle over Nikolas and Leonard, surrogate sons of the German couple Jan Balaz and Susan Lohlad. Born to an Indian surrogate mother in January 2008, the children were rendered stateless with neither German nor Indian citizenship. The Supreme Court's intervention got them exit permits in May 2010. Likewise, after being stranded in Mumbai, a gay Israeli couple were granted Israeli passports only after a DNA paternity established in May 2010 that gay Dan Goldberg was the father of Itai and Liron born to a surrogate mother in Mumbai. This after the matter was debated in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, and the Jerusalem District Court ruled on appeal that it was in the children's best interest to hold the DNA test to establish their paternity.

 

Before the law is put on the anvil, it needs a serious debate. Ethically, should women be paid for being surrogates? Can the rights of women and children be bartered away? If the arrangements fall foul, will it amount to adultery? Is the new law a compromise in surpassing complicated Indian adoption procedures? Is it compromising with reality in legitimising existing surrogacy rackets? Is India promoting "reproductive tourism?" Does the law protect the surrogate mother? Should India take the lead in adopting a new law not fostered in most countries? These are only some questions which need to be answered before we drape the new law. Let us pore into our hearts and with introspection decide carefully. Are we looking at a bane or boon? We should not wait for time to test it. We should decide now.

 

The surrogacy Bill needs to be discussed threadbare. Despite the legal, moral and social complexities that shroud surrogacy, there is no stopping people from exploring the possibility of becoming a parent. Women who rent their womb for surrogate pregnancy are slowly shaking off their inhibition and fear of social ostracism to bring joy to childless couples. However, the draft Bill has legal lacunae, lacks the creation of a specialist legal authority for adjudication and determination of legal rights of parties by a judicial verdict and falls foul of the existing laws. These pitfalls may be the graveyard of this proposed new law.

 

(A practising lawyer, the writer specialises in Private International Law and has authored India, NRIs and the Law and Acting for Non-Resident Indian Clients .)

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THE HINDU

SURROGACY: LAW'S LABOUR LOST?

AASTHA SHARMA

 

Surrogacy regulation may well be one of Hilbert's unsolvable problems. Only this is not mathematics and there are already many versions of the 'solution' in existence. It has been a decade since the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have been trying to regulate the 'fertility industry' that is proliferating unchecked all over the country, and yet we do not have comprehensive legislation in our hands. So far, there have been a set of draft guidelines (2002), the finalised guidelines (2005), the draft Bill 2008, the draft Bill 2010 and a Law Commission report (2009) — all with a mix of contradicting, progressive, regressive, rights protecting and profit-protecting clauses. The draft Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill and Rules 2010, the latest version, has not been made public yet, and only glimpses of some of its clauses can be caught through recent news reports.

 

The draft Bill 2008 was widely criticised by health and rights experts and civil society organisations mainly on the ground that it promoted and facilitated profit making by private doctors and compromised on the health and rights of the surrogates and the children born. For instance, it allowed a woman to act as a surrogate for three different couples and she could undergo an embryo transfer three times for each couple. This means she could undergo nine cycles of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), which could play havoc with her health. It seemed that the Bill looked at surrogates as reproductive vehicles, turning surrogacy into a method that could be relied on for earning a livelihood. The Law Commission report, however, took a U-turn: it recommended banning commercial surrogacy, while allowing altruistic surrogacy.

 

The clause clearly demonstrating the pro-profit orientation of the 2008 Bill was the provision facilitating easy access to foreign couples to hire Indian surrogates, including appointing a local guardian for the surrogate. Had this Bill been passed, this clause would have made India the only country to legally offer commercial surrogacy. Thankfully, the new version of the Bill has made an amendment to this clause. It has recently been reported that it will be mandatory for all foreign couples coming to India for surrogacy to submit documents from their home country certifying that they permit surrogacy in their country and that the child born will be granted citizenship. This is a welcome change and will, in some way at least, ensure that children born through surrogacy are not caught in legal conflicts and declared 'stateless.'

 

Legal mechanism

However, the clause on appointing a legal guardian has unfortunately been carried forward in the 2010 Bill as well, which is of particular concern. For, there can be no rationale behind creating a legal mechanism to monitor and supervise an adult woman's life only because she is gestating someone's child. Moreover, with the prevailing ambiguity over who the local guardian will be, what his/her duties and responsibilities will be and the extent to which he/she can monitor the surrogate's life, which have not been detailed, the surrogate's personal life and privacy stand at the risk of being jeopardised.

 

Another reported change in the 2010 Bill is that unless gay and lesbian relationships are legalised in India, gay couples from other countries too would not be allowed to access these technologies. Recently, there has been a rise in the number of gay couples from various parts of the world to have a child through surrogacy in the Indian clinics. While the Delhi High Court in July 2009 did decriminalise gay sex, gay relationships are yet to be legalised. There were a host of other objectionable clauses in the 2008 Bill, like allotting the task of sourcing gametes and surrogates to semen banks, allowing women to donate eggs six times with a gap of three months each, the absence of the basic rights to the surrogate, etc. What the 2010 Bill has to say about these and the rest of the clauses is yet to be seen, and cannot be known till it is made public. Whether the 2010 Bill is trying to find a middle path between the 2008 Bill, the Law Commission report and the comments and feedback from civil society is hard to say. In any case, while the policymakers keep drafting, changing, redrafting and reversing rules on paper, the surrogacy market continues to proliferate.

 

(The writer works with Sama Resource Group for Women and Health, a Delhi-based women's organisation. email: aasthasharma14 @gmail.com)

 

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THE HINDU

WHEN I WENT BACK TO MY MOTHER'S GRINDING STONE AND PESTLE

O.J. JOYCEE


Technology has made our lives immensely comfortable and easy. The change that it has brought about in the mother of all workshops, the kitchen, is nothing short of a miracle. Gone are the days of the grinding stone, the pestle and the washing stone.

 

But wait till one of these gadgets go vroooooom! This is precisely what happened to me the other day. My washing machine rolled to a stop mid-wash. The first thing I did was quickly check if it was still within the guarantee, nay, warrantee period. As luck would have it, the period expired a day before. My neighbour, who has better experience as she has more gadgets that require repairing more often than mine, advised me to approach the company's service centre. And so after a series of another technology initiated exercise : phone calls –press 1 to blah blah … press 2 to blah blah—I finally hit the jackpot and landed a real human voice that promised to send me a real service person. He was on my doorstep the next morning, groomed an executive from tie to toe, and speaking English like the instructor in the Spoken English Course CDs. He took one professional look at the machine and proclaimed the diagnosis very clinically:

 

"The drum needs to be replaced."

 

"Price?"

"!!! It's better to go for the AMC er Annual Maintenance Contract," he suggested helpfully, as if it pains him as much as me to pay such an exorbitant amount.

 

How much would that be?

"!!!!!".

 

There was no option but take it, and I did, which of course, set my machine rolling.

 

As is wisely said, when misfortunes come they arrive in battalions. Well, the next thing to go on strike was the main door of my house, which weighed down just a wee bit causing a slight misalignment of the latch. And this time I needed a carpenter. My wise neighbour informed me that they are the rarest of rare species in Kerala. But rarer still, she sermonised, are plumbers, mechanics, technicians, and other skilled artisans. You wish to fix a broken chair, you better learn to do it yourself. You want to repair a leaking pipe, either do it yourself or place a bucket under it. The best hand to help you in such circumstances is at the end of your own arm.

 

Well, I was on the carpenter hunt before I digressed. To cut a long story short, after a complex Holmsian investigation I found one. He promised to come 'tomorrow' and as they say, tomorrow never comes. Finally I made him promise to come 'today,' and he agreed. He arrived a day later than 'today' with no tools. "Let me first examine the door, and then I shall fetch my tools." He placed a something under the door and gave a little carpentry tuck, and hey presto, the door rose and the latch fell into place. I clapped my hands in delight.

 

"How much should I pay you?" His eyes looked up and down the door. I shouldn't have clapped, I thought. "All right, because it is you ma',m, just pay me ….one …"

 

I shouldn't have displayed my relief so prominently…..

 

"hundred"…..

 

I shouldn't have pleaded and pleaded with him to come—

 

"and …..fifty rupees…"

 

I should have done it myself!

 

The entire operation took 77 seconds! If you are still reading this column, reader, kindly tell me who decides the fee for such tasks in your corner of the country?

 

The problem in Kerala is not just the whimsical amount charged as fee. There is so much talk about vanishing tigers, ants, snakes, lizards. . . has anyone wondered where the skilled artisans have gone. They have all taken the magic carpet to find the enchanted lamp in Aladdin's land of fortunes. And what of the others like the coconut pickers, paddyfield workers, labourers, housemaids and gardeners? They are all extinct!

 

There is another side to literacy. The State with the highest literacy is now reeling under the burden of 'higher' literacy. Indeed, there are people from the neighbouring States migrating to Kerala for such work.

 

I suggest that the policymakers of higher education include a compulsory course in either of these skills for all arts and science colleges so that, as Lincoln famously said, we can at least polish our own shoes! Or the concept of dignity of labour needs to be urgently pressed into service. Till then, I have to pull on: so I dived into the old store room and retrieved my mother's grinding stone and pestle with which I hope to intimidate my mixie to uninterrupted service!

 

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THE HINDU

CAN'T THEY TEACH THEM HOW TO DEAL WITH LIFE'S PROBLEMS?

DR. PALLAVI PRAVEEN

 

Last weekend, after completing household chores, I sat in front of the TV hoping to rest my aching feet when all of a sudden there was a power failure and I was engulfed in darkness. To beat the sweltering heat, I groped my way to the verandah, but found that all the neighbouring houses were brightly lit. Uncertain what to do next, I decided to have a look at the fuse-box. Armed with a torch I proceeded as planned.

 

I looked baffled at the brown fuse board almost as if it were an object from the outer space. Completely clueless, I was left with no option but to go in search of an electrician and finding one on a Sunday is a Herculean task indeed. Luckily I did find one willing to come to my rescue. Within minutes he figured out the problem and did the repair work. He explained that the fuse wire had burnt and he replaced it. After thanking him and, of course, paying him twice as much — remember it was a Sunday — I returned to my seat in front of the idiot box, but a thought kept gnawing me. I wondered why they did not teach me something as simple yet essential as repairing a fuse back in school.

 

Why was I burdened with sine theta, cosine theta, lengthy equations and multitudes of theorems? Apart from scoring the desired marks in the examinations, I have never found the information of any help in my day-to-day living. Before all the mathematics teachers start waging a war against me, let me clarify that I don't harbour a personal grudge against Mr. Pythagoras. But I do sincerely wish that learning be modified in schools with an emphasis on a more practically useful syllabus that makes one more competent to tackle day-to-day problems.

 

Teach Trigonometry if it is a must, but why not stress more banking, various saving options, and investment schemes. It would be more fruitful to teach students how tax returns are filed and EMIs are calculated. Why not teach them what to do and what not at the site of a traffic accident, how to give basic life support in a medical emergency? And I don't mean the bookish, mugged-up answer to this, I am talking about the simple practical skills and training that can be imparted and mastered in order to be actually implemented when a crisis strikes.

 

Why not teach and make kids practise healthy lifestyles, daily exercises and relaxation techniques. I think this knowledge is far more necessary than cramming botanical and zoological names of the entire plant and animal kingdom. Indeed, someone particularly interested in a certain subject could always pursue it in great detail, but why should complicated heaps of irrelevant information tax the young minds? Let them learn practical lessons which will equip them to tackle the real world efficiently.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

LAW SAME FOR ALL, EVEN MINISTERS

 

The Narendra Modi government in Gujarat is once again in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons with the Central Bureau of Investigation chargesheeting minister of state for home Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. It cannot get bigger than this. The minister in charge of law and justice is himself in the dock

 

for subverting it and ordering the killings of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi. And Mr Shah, chief minister Narendra Modi's Man Friday, has made things worse by evading the law, of which he is supposed to be a custodian. This is a mockery of the very institution he is constitutionally bound to protect. The Modi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party have made the issue murkier by rising to his defence in an aggressive manner.


As expected, the BJP alleged that the chargesheeting of Mr Shah was a classic instance of the misuse of the CBI by the ruling Congress. It also spurned a lunch invite from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in protest. But it conveniently forgot that it was the Supreme Court, dissatisfied with the Gujarat police probe, that had asked the CBI to take over the investigation into the killing of the couple on November 26, 2005. It was after a thorough and painstaking investigation that the country's premier investigation agency (which got no cooperation from the Gujarat government) prepared a 30,000-page chargesheet naming Mr Shah and 14 others, including several IPS officers, as the accused in the case. Significantly, it was the state police that arrested 13 Gujarat policemen in this case earlier; the CBI only arrested the Ahmedabad DCP, Mr Abhay Chudasama, on Friday. It was when the CBI targeted Mr Shah that all the hue and cry began. According to the CBI, the minister had felt that Sohrabuddin, a notorious gangster involved in many cases of extortion, was becoming too big for his boots and got him "bumped off" on the pretext that he was a member of the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. To call the CBI probe politically motivated at this juncture would carry no conviction. The ideal thing would be for Mr Shah to give himself up and for the BJP to face the issue legally. It is to be noted that none of the allies in the NDA have echoed the BJP's criticism of the naming of Mr Shah as an accused.


The targeting of Mr Shah is seen by analysts as a blow to Mr Modi, who had given the young minister nine portfolios and reluctantly accepted his resignation on Saturday. But given Mr Modi's penchant for changing setbacks into opportunities, it is too early to say whether this will damage him politically in the long run. In Gujarat's peculiar political matrix, it is doubtful whether the chargesheeting and possible arrest of Mr Shah will help the Congress even a wee bit though it has already begun dreaming of coming back to power in 2012. Politically, the issue has wrecked the new-found unity forged by the national Opposition after the Bharat Bandh. The Left has already demanded Mr Shah's immediate arrest. The BJP, which was set to corner the Congress-led UPA government on price rise and Maoism, has lost its focus because of a little-known regional politician. This is perhaps what the Congress-led UPA wanted. Rather than defending the indefensible, the BJP should allow the law to take its course and get back to playing its main role — that of taking the government to task on its real omissions and commissions.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

REACTION BEGETS ACTION

ARUN NEHRU

 

We have had a good monsoon till date. Based on the rainfall so far we can predict increased gross domestic product (GDP) growth. As agricultural output increases dramatically and the forces of demand and supply work to moderate food inflation, at least statistically, the reality is that farmers across the country are getting a better price for their produce. That is why I am not really sure if this will be an electoral issue in the next round of Assembly elections.

 

Whatever may be the issues, the fact is that politics is keeping pace with the velocity of the rainfall. We see increased activity in Bihar where Assembly elections are due in three months, and in Andhra Pradesh the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief has received an electoral gift from the Congress when he, along with 72 MLAs, was placed under arrest in Maharashtra when they attempted to go to the Babli barrage project to stage a protest. Fortunately, better sense prevailed and the cases were withdrawn, but the political damage is already done. The byelections in Telangana and the Assembly elections in Bihar will be keenly watched for future trends in the Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections due in 2010-2011.


India exists in many dimensions and the next few months will see hectic political activity — likely alliances for the future will start taking shape and likely winners and losers will become clear after these two crucial elections. In three months, as the monsoon retreats, leaving in its wake a record agricultural output and a GDP growth trend close to nine per cent in the short term, we will see "change" coming into our daily lives. We often talk of our demographic advantages but fail to realise that a younger generation is already moving into positions of authority, and this, more than anything else, is the biggest positive on the horizon.


Governance today is not easy as a coalition government poses several challenges — to reconcile regional aspirations and arrive at a consensus is a complex task. As we look into the future we have security issues, both external and internal, to tackle, though I think that under the prevailing circumstances we have done well on the security front. I do not see a negative in the situation with Pakistan. The statements of the Pakistan foreign minister held few surprises as we are well aware of the contradictions in Pakistan's power structure. It's no secret that US aid and arms supplied to fight terrorists have been used against India in three conflicts in the past. It is for the US to realise and acknowledge the reality of the situation, though, given the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan, they too have limited options.


We should expect few miracles from Pakistan and must be ready to deal with an emerging situation in the immediate future as the US makes a planned or unplanned exit from Afghanistan because the situation there is beyond their control.


The recent international conference in Kabul meant blanket security-cover, shutting down the city and many VVIPs, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, had to land their aircraft at the US base. We, along with the global community, need little confirmation of the fact that the 26/11 attacks were planned and executed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Home secretary G.K. Pillai made the right statement, as did national security adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon, but sadly we can no longer be dismissive of the situation in Pakistan as clearly the Army and the ISI are in total control of the situation.


The situation in Jammu and Kashmir will remain volatile for some time but chief minister Omar Abdullah has done well by calling in the Army on a "temporary" basis. In such situations assuming a firm posture is an important step towards a future solution. The National Conference and the People's Democratic Party will continue their political battles but the good thing is that the economy and tourism are booming in the Valley and, like everywhere else in the country, the reaction of the voting public is a step ahead of the politicians.

 

The Commonwealth Games approach. It is rather unfortunate that the Queen will miss this event for the first time. I sometimes wonder about the relevance of this organisation in the current global structure. Every little incident of this nature further diminishes the relevance of the Commonwealth.


The UK is going through a difficult economic situation and will have to curtail many "expenditures". This, to some extent, is understandable, but action initiated on the immigration front is not a friendly act — you cannot have free and unrestricted movement of goods and services without free movement of people in a global society. The UK's new visa regime is bound to lead to issues related to racism. The UK, however, is not alone in this and I think the ministry of external affairs has to look into these issues and at some stage consider returning the favour.


Besides the "soap opera" being played out between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and Lalit Modi, a great deal of controversy is being generated in the sports arena. First we had the spat between the sports minister and the International Olympic Committee and the sports associations, and now sexual harassment charges have been levelled against the coach of the women's hockey team. It is unfortunate that all these battles are being fought in the media. An inquiry will soon unearth the truth behind the allegations of the women's hockey team.


With regard to the Commonwealth Games, I am sure that all parties involved will argue that they are on firm ground though the overall impression is that sports bodies are run on very feudal lines with strong vested interests. In this archaic system there are many with talent and ability who seem to be quite helpless to bring about any real change. I have some experience of events of this nature but cannot understand the existence of several power centres pulling in different directions. If anything goes wrong with the Commonwealth Games, all these power centres must be jointly held responsible.

 

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

HAS ZARDARI SANCTIONED ANOTHER COUP?

INDRANIL BANERJIE

 

History hopefully will not repeat itself in Pakistan. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, an elected head of state, has just given a three-year extension to his Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. This is just the second time in the history of Pakistan when such an extension has been granted by a civilian head of state. The last time it

 

happened was in 1958 when the then President, Iskander Mirza, extended Gen. Ayub Khan's tenure for the second time. The general rewarded his mentor by deposing him in a coup a few months later and thereafter banishing him forever from Pakistan. Mirza died in relative penury and obscurity in London in 1969. His family's request that Mirza, one of the most vociferous champions of the Pakistan idea, be buried in Pakistan was turned down and he was ultimately laid to rest at a graveyard in neighbouring Iran.


Giving Pakistan's generals extensions is clearly not a very good idea. But perhaps the country's civilian leaders have little choice. It is after all the military that wags the civilian dog. It is usually the generals in Pakistan who give themselves extensions, promotions and titles. Gen. Ayub Khan, for instance, soon tired of being just a general and had himself elevated to the rank of Field Marshal. At the same time, of course, he kept extending his term as military chief. Gen. Zia-ul-Haq did the same but was modest enough to remain a mere general. Pervez Musharraf, after executing a bloodless coup in 1999, first took upon the title of Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan and thereafter dispensed with this somewhat corporate sounding position to the better regarded one of President. Mr Musharraf, of course, remained Army Chief as long as he could. Once he was forced to appoint someone else as the chief, his days were numbered. In came Gen. Kayani and now Mr Zardari's rubber stamp on his extension suggests that he too is here to stay.


The urge in many officials to cling on to their positions long after the expiry of their terms is somewhat natural. However, in the case of Pakistan's military chiefs, this desire usually exceeds all levels of normality. Being top honcho of a powerful military state that receives billions of dollars in foreign aid and commands respect, howsoever grudging, in world capitals is tremendously euphoric. Then there is the heady sensation of leading one of the world's largest military machines and an equally formidable jihadi horde. It is conceivable that the late Chenghiz Khan experienced similar elation as he occasionally sat back to survey his Mongol swarm. Not surprisingly, once a general clambers onto the top slot of the Pakistan Army, he tries his best to stay there.
Again, this in itself should not be any concern of others. Problem is that history demonstrates that Pakistan's top generals tend to develop a pathological antipathy towards their civilians predecessors and mentors. Gen. Ayub Khan was the most merciful — he merely deposed the man who made him king and exiled him. Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, on the other hand, made sure his mentor Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto swung by the neck till he was dead. Following this hoary Pakistan Army tradition, Gen. Musharraf too brought down the man who had appointed him and would have emulated Zia had it not been for the House of Saud. Nawaz Sharif survived but not the country's most charismatic politician, Benazir Bhutto, who was gunned down by assassins after a rally in December 2007.


Benazir's sin was that she had been prime minister before and would certainly have occupied the seat again. Currently, the country's military establishment is desperately trying to expunge sections of the United Nations' report on Benazir Bhutto's assassination which point fingers at the Army and its dirty tricks department. Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had written to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, protesting parts of the report and saying that it had gone beyond its brief. Ban Ki-moon responded in mid-July by dismissing Pakistan's objections and saying the report spoke for itself. The report in no uncertain terms stated that the government despite being alerted of the threat to her life had not provided adequate protection; the ISI had subsequently obstructed investigations; and that the investigations were prejudiced and involved a whitewash.


The last section of the UN report said it all: "The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Bhutto's assassination were, in most cases, deliberate. In other cases, the failures were driven by uncertainty in the minds of many officials as to the extent of the involvement of intelligence agencies. These officials, in part fearing involvement by the intelligence agencies, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions that they knew, as professionals, they should have taken".


The frightening part of the political dynamic in Pakistan is the mortality of its civilian leaders. The generals endure, often in extremely opulent style. The military machine gets stronger and eventually, as some perceptive Pakistani analysts have noted, becomes the state. Democracy and civil governance become redundant and cannot deliver. The forces that supported Gen. Kayani's extension on the ground that continuity is required at this critical juncture in history should know that the only continuity really is of the pernicious kinetics that keeps Pakistan's people in thrall. President Zardari by endorsing Gen. Kayani's extension might actually have signed off his own future.

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

SIBAL'S BABUS

DILIP CHERIAN

 

Human Resources Development (HRD) minister Kapil Sibal's zeal for reform is not limited to changing the examination system and educational institutions, where his efforts have elicited a mixed response. He is equally keen on reforming babus in his own ministry — where his attempts have hit a wall too.

 

Mr Sibal has now got the vigilance department of the HRD ministry to write to senior officials complaining about the low priority given to investigating corruption cases. Apparently, Mr Sibal's babus have been dragging their feet on inquiries against fellow babus accused of corruption. Sources cite the instance of an inquiry against a former commissioner of Kendriya Vidyalaya, Ranglal Jamuda. Though the babu retired, there is no clarity on the outcome of the inquiry. So, even as Mr Sibal takes on the IIT czars and strives to push his reformist agenda, his babus continue to hold out.

 

Trouble at Nafed

The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) is on a collision course with the Union agriculture ministry over the recent sacking of managing director C.V. Ananda Bose by the Nafed board. Mr Bose, a 1974 batch IAS officer of the Jharkhand cadre, was fired for alleged misuse of funds and misconduct and replaced by additional director P.K. Sharma.


The board's decision has not found favour with the agriculture ministry, which has promptly directed that Mr Bose be reinstated immediately. It has also removed Mr Sharma who took over from Mr Bose as "interim MD". Sources say that though a cooperative, Nafed flouted rules by sacking Mr Bose, a government nominee, without the government's permission. This is the stick the agriculture ministry is now planning to use against Nafed — withdrawing Rs 1,200 crore in aid allocated to the cooperative, for defying the agriculture babus.

 

NHAI blues

Road Transport and highways minister Kamal Nath grabbed headlines by airing grievances against those he believes are hampering his ministry's ambitious plans. But it turns out that the minister may well have to ask his babus why they have not acted on the Central Bureau of Investigation's request for proceeding against a senior official of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI). S.I. Patel, an additional secretary ranked NHAI official, is in the dock in a case of alleged irregularities in awarding highway projects. The CBI had sought administrative approval from the Cabinet Secretariat and the road ministry before proceeding against Mr Patel and a few other NHAI babus. But the NHAI refused to comply, blaming the CBI for not following "proper procedure". Clearly, Mr Nath has some domestic issues that he may have to address sooner than later.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

MALAIKA AND MURALI

CYRUS BROACHA

 

This week for me is about two words. According to the Oxford Dictionary (highlighted version), these two words are the longest words in the English language. The words which you have obviously guessed by now are Muttiah and Muralitharan. Eight hundred Test wickets! That's the equivalent in sprinting terms of running a hundred metres race in 4.7 seconds. (This record has so far only been achieved by two Germans, both of whom were Doberman Pinchers.)

 

Eight hundred Test wickets! Bent elbow or straight, 800 is 800. Now I'll let you in on a secret and, don't worry my elbow is absolutely straight. Nine years ago I had the honour of interviewing the great man, for a music channel which incidentally doesn't play any music.


We were in Colombo — my colleague Malaika Arora and me. Malaika, remember, was made by God on one of his better days, but then again apparently the same was true of Murali. He was sitting on a deck chair in his swimming trunks at the Taj Samudra. I went up to him and the rest of the conversation has been recorded for history as well as for two of my closest friends.


Cyrus: Hi, Murali.


Murali: Yah, I'll have a Vodka with a twisted lime (this was followed by something in Singhalese).


Cyrus: No, no Murali. I'm not the waiter.


M: (Something in Tamil not necessarily complimentary.)


C: I'm sorry Murali. I don't want to disturb you, but I was wondering if I could do an interview with you. Oh, and this is my colleague Malaika.


M: (Springing up with alacrity, says something in Tamil, apparently very, very complimentary.)
C: So I take it, that's a yes.


M: Yes, yes, but she must do the interview.


Malaika: Sorry, but I don't really like cricket.


M: Then I also don't like cricket. (Something in Tamil which vaguely conveys he's ready to get married.)


C: Sir, she's actually leaving for another shoot. Say bye, Malaika.


Malaika: Bye Murali.


M: (Falls back on the chair as if he has been shot.)


C: Ok, so shall we start?


M: (Says something in Singhalese — this I'm sure is very, very uncomplimentary from the way he rolls up his eyes).


C: Please Murali, we love you in India.


M: Okay, okay. But make it quick. I'm trying to get a tan. (Big smile with a twinkle.)
C: Thanks Murali. Murali, I'll start with this, what do you think of the Indian team?


M: Overpaid.


C: And what do you think of your Sri Lankan team that seems to be getting better and better.
M: Underpaid. (Big smile, two twinkles, a chuckle and a snort, all in Tamil.)


C: Murali, I don't want to get too controversial, but your cuties like umpire Daryll Hare say you are a chucker.
M: (Murali springs to life, shouting like a deranged madman, first in Singhalese, then Tamil, then both together.)


C: I didn't want to antagonise you, but by your own admission your elbow is bent.
Murali by now is jumping about like a race horse on a pogo stick, screaming bloody murder in a language I can no longer follow.


C: (Pushing the envelope) Can you show us your bowling action in slow motion, please Murali.
(Murali picks up the cushions on the deck chair and throws them in the pool. Not satisfied with this, he throws the deck chair in the pool.)


C: (To be on the safe side I vacate my chair)… err please Murali, just a quick look at your controversial bowling action, please?


Murali flings a passing waiter into the pool, and now jumps menacingly towards me.
C: (I say my prayers). Oh! look. Malaika is back. Malaika, why don't you finish the interview with Murali.
M: (Cooling down immediately. dives into the pool, retrieves the deck chair, cushions and the waiter and returns to his original demeanour.) She can ask me anything.


And that was that. Malaika did the interview. Elbows were never mentioned. In fact, both the parties honoured their pact to keep all talk of body parts to the minimum. Malaika spoke to the world's greatest spinner and this is what she learned: Murali loves the colour white; He loves Ralph Lauren; He uses conditioner everyday; He's never had waxing; Hugo Boss is his perfume and Indian food is his favourite.


What did Murali learn? Well he learned Malaika's phone number. How do I know? Well, because she gave him my number. And every month or so I get a call from a man with a thick Tamil accent:


Caller: May I speak to Malaika?


Me: D'you have a bent elbow?


Caller: (Highly uncomplimentary observations both in Tamil and Singhalese.)


But 800 wickets is 800 wickets.

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THE TRIBUNE

KARGIL WAR: THE NEGLECTED HEROES

MANY MILITARY VETERANS HAVE RETURNED THE MEDALS AWARDED TO THEM FOR GALLANTRY AND FIGHTING WARS TO THE PRESIDENT, A SURE SIGN OF FRUSTRATION AND FEELING OF NEGLECT, POINTS OUT GEN V.P. MALIK (RETD)

 

Peter and Saily Keishing live in a small double-storey house in a narrow, steep sloping street of Shillong. When we visited their home recently, the whole family was present to give us a warm reception. Our conversation was mostly about their middle son, Nongrum, who had created history in Meghalaya by getting commission into the Army and leading his men of 12 JAK Light Infantry in the Kargil war. 

 

Captain Nongrum had demonstrated outstanding gallantry while leading his men to capture Point 4812 and was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) posthumously. His battalion also captured the first Pakistan Army prisoner of war, Naik Inayat Ali, which ended all misinformation about mujahideen being the infiltrators.

 

The Keishings maintain Nongrum's room with almost everything that he left behind. All awards, presentations, write-ups in the media are kept in this room. Keishings have lost their son. But his gallantry and sacrifice for the nation live on for the family and their friends!

 

Gopi Chand and Mohini Pandey too maintain a separate room with all the memorabilia of their son Manoj in their house in Gomti Nagar, Lucknow. "He continues to live with us", said his sister when we visited their home. Her brother Lieutenant Manoj Pandey of 1/11 Gorkha Rifles participated in a series of attacks at Khalubar. On the night of July 2–3, 1999, when Manoj's platoon approached their final objective under intense enemy fire at Khalubar, it was nominated to clear the interfering enemy bunkers.

 

While clearing the third bunker, he sustained a machine-gun burst to which he succumbed. His daredevil act, however, enabled the Gorkhas to capture Khalubar. Manoj Pandey was awarded the Param Vir Chakra for his outstanding acts of bravery.

 

In every martyr's home that I have visited after the Kargil war, there is a room or a corner full of memories, which gives pride and sustains the family.

 

Captain Vikram Batra, awarded the PVC for his actions at Point 5140 and Point 4875, reminds us of his success signal, "Yeh dil mange more". Grenadier Yogendra Yadav, also awarded the PVC, led the assault to fix a rope for his colleagues on top of Tiger Hill. Captain Vijayant Thapar, in his last letter to his parents, wrote, "By the time you get this letter, I will be enjoying the company of Apsaras in the sky." He ended up his letter with "OK then, it is time for me to join my assault party of the dirty dozen." The Vir Chakra in Vijayant's room is the pride of the family.

 

Sudhir Kumar, my ADC, volunteered to join his battalion 9 Para. Without acclimatisation, he led his troops to capture Zulu Top, almost the last battle in the Kargil war. Hanif-ud-din led his team of 11 Rajputana Rifles to capture Point 5590. He succumbed to his injuries and the body fell in a crevice. His mother had to wait for 20 days before we could recover his body and hand it over to her. Captain Kengruse scaled a sheer rock face at Three Pimples in Dras bare-footed, literally hanging on by his fingers and toes. After reaching the top, he killed two enemy soldiers with a commando knife before he was fatally wounded.

 

Thousands of Naga people along the road between Dimapur and Kohima spent long hours to salute his body on its last homeward journey. 1 Bihar lost Major Sarvanan in a failed assault on Point 4924 at the Jubar complex on May 29. Determined to recover his body, the battalion captured this feature finally on July 8. The battalion recovered his body along with a large cache of enemy arms and ammunition and dead bodies of many Pakistani soldiers. At this time, our national spirit and respect for the soldiers was so high that a Union Minister, the late Ranganathan Kumaramangalam, personally escorted Saravanan's body to his hometown in Trichnapally, where a solemn farewell was given.

 

There were countless acts of gallantry, displays of steely resilience, single-minded devotion to duty and sacrifices. The war in Kargil saw unalloyed heroism, which will remain a benchmark for valour whenever the security of our nation is threatened. All units responded with alacrity and with their characteristic steadfastness and perseverance.

 

The above-mentioned tactical battles were a follow-up of a simple war strategy. At the grand strategy level, the approach was that India was a victim of intrusion and yet was willing to exercise restraint by not crossing the LoC or the border. That notwithstanding, it would take all measures, including military, to ensure that the intruded area is vacated. The military strategy was to threaten and maintain pressure on Pakistan throughout the land, air and sea borders with a view to creating a strategic imbalance for Pakistan and to reduce enemy pressure on Kargil.

 

We were prepared to escalate the situation and launch our forces across the border or the LoC if the situation demanded. All formations tasked for the western border were deployed on the front, or located close to it. Our strike formations were ready to cross into Pakistan at short notice. These formations, their equipment and ammunition —- over 19000 tonnes —- were moved in 446 military special trains over several nights. A part of the Eastern Naval Fleet was moved to the Arabian Sea. The Indian Navy deployed war ships from the Gulf to the western Indian coastline. The Air Force, which was already supporting battles at Kargil, had prepared all its bases and aircraft for war.

 

In the Kargil war, the Pakistan Army had taken the initiative and surprised us. We were reacting to a situation, like we did in 1947-48, 1962 and 1965 when attacked by the enemy. The political objective was to "get the Kargil intrusion vacated and restore the sanctity of the LoC" with a rider not to cross the LoC or the border. We achieved that on July 26 when Pakistani troops were either thrown out physically or withdrew from some occupied positions on our terms and conditions.

 

In the current geopolitical and strategic environment, it is not possible to take the war to the conclusion of old-style politico-military victories. Wars now are conducted with the objective of achieving political success rather than military victories. That is what we achieved for our political authority in the Kargil war. Our war diplomacy could not have succeeded if we had not been able to beat the hell out of the Pakistan Army intruders in Kargil.

 

When the truth about the foolhardy Kargil venture filtered out in Pakistan, all those responsible for the catastrophe were vehemently condemned within their country.

 

Historically and culturally, despite having to go to war so often for external and internal security, we Indians never take pride in our military achievements or our military heroes. It is a strategic cultural weakness. The military is sidelined as soon as the conflict is over. Till date, there is no national war memorial. Questions are raised whenever the military wishes to celebrate an event to maintain military traditions and to inculcate regimental spirit and espirit de corps. That is also the reason why our long-term defence planning continues to suffer. Kargil heroes and martyrs like those of 1971 and other previous wars are facing the same neglect.

 

It is sad to see that the political leadership, even the media, does not realise the adverse impact of such neglect while the military continues to be engaged in a proxy war in J&K and the Northeast. The media tends to spend columns and days describing a military aberration. But there is little coverage of its heroes and sacrifices. Many of them wrote off the whole of the Kargil war over a tribunal decision on a dispute between a Brigadier and his Corps Commander. It must be remembered that such disputes over promotions, honours and awards occur after every war. And for every single brave deed noticed and recognized, there are many that go unnoticed in the fog of war.

 

Recently, I was in Srinagar when Colonel Neeraj Sood of the Rashtriya Rifles was shot dead by the militants in Kupwara. At the airport, I witnessed his devastated wife and daughter taking his body to Delhi. Neeraj's military colleagues were present to look after the family. Not a single representative from the Central or state government was present to see them off. The sense of nationalism and pride in the military generated during the Kargil war is missing today.

 

The men and women of the armed forces have been on the front lines of violence almost continuously since the early 1980s. There is not enough recognition of the stresses that they operate under and the terrible disruptions and strains that affect their families even after the Kargil war. Many veterans have returned medals awarded to them for gallantry and fighting wars to the President, a sure sign of frustration and feeling of neglect.

 

If we wish to maintain good civil-military relations to optimise national security, our people, particularly political and media leaders, must realize this important responsibility and ensure that there is no feeling of frustration or injustice in the military profession.

 

The writer was the Chief of Army Staff during the Kargil war

 

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THE TRIBUNE

AVOID THE POLITICS OF LANGUAGE

BY GAUTAM WAHI

 

Belgaum is in the news again following the Central government filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court, saying that Maharashtra couldn't claim jurisdiction over 865 villages in Belgaum, Karwar, Bidar and Gulbarga districts of Karnataka just because they had Marathi-speaking people in majority. The Centre's intention has predictably set the political pot boiling in Maharashtra. Political parties across the spectrum have jumped into the fray trying to defend the rights of the 'Marathi manoos' of Belgaum.

 

Given the volatility associated with the political class in general and the Maharashtra political scenario in particular, the matter is most likely to snowball into a major controversy that would bring into question the Centre-state and state –state relations.

 

A case is being made for amalgamating the Marathi-speaking populace of Belgaum with the state of Maharashtra. The logic being forwarded is that only by keeping the people of a linguistic group together in a geographical enclave can their rights be protected. This is a perverse logic and throws up some fundamental questions about the very nature of our nationhood and the character of our democratic institutions. The controversy at one level betrays the poverty of political ideas wherein linguistic affiliation alone is propounded as a prerequisite for seeking otherwise legitimate aspirations of development and progress for a populace. At another level it points at the 'politics of patronage' wherein the common linguistic identity is seen as a passport for currying political favours for the dominant among the linguistic group.

 

The genesis of the problem lies with the original basis of the language that was chosen for the creation of states in the country. The Independence that was attained as a result of huge sacrifices made by our great leaders embodied some of the most hallowed principles. The freedom struggle encompassed every nook and corner of the country and was not limited to merely a region, ethnicity or linguistic group. In that sense, the freedom attained was a pan-Indian achievement. However, in spite of the great principles with which the freedom struggle was fought, the nation had to pay a heavy price for the diabolical agenda of the communalists which resulted in the 'vivisection' of the country as Gandhiji called it. Not surprisingly, the framers of the Constitution ensured that secularism remained the guiding ideology of our Republic. There would be no place for religion in matters of State. To that extent, the secular Constitution was a document which seemed to be the logical framework on which the nation would evolve after Independence.

 

However, what was taken care of in the sphere of religion was not done in the case of language. Language, perhaps, is an even more emotive issue than religion and, as was proved during the early years of our Republic, became a strong divisive force.

 

Interestingly, just after Independence in December 1948 the JVP Committee was constituted to look into the question of state reorganisation on linguistic lines. It discouraged the idea of language being the basis for statehood. Inter alia, it stated that "The primary consideration (for reorganisation of states) must be the security, unity and economic prosperity of India, and every separatist and disruptive tendency should be rigorously discouraged". The experience of sectarian violence and the resulting partition of the country was fresh in the minds of Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel who were the members of the committee. The visionaries had rightly envisaged the divisive potential of linguistic associations for the creation of states.

 

Owing to immense political upheavals of the early years of the nation, however, the Centre had to give in to the parochial demands of the linguistic groups across the country. What we see today is but an outcome of the path chosen then. What is worrying is that the language remains the most contentious of all issues outside of religious affiliation that has a potential of pushing the nation to the precipice.

 

By agreeing to the idea of linguistic states there seems to be a tacit acknowledgement of a notion that only being governed by one's 'own' people can one be guaranteed of one's rights. It tacitly talks of not just the separateness of identities above the national identity but also the predominance of the former over the latter. The logic is dangerously close to the two-nation theory of the Muslim League.

 

Language is cited as a ground for the reorganisation of states on the specious argument that by doing so the political aspirations of the community would be met. The logic forwarded is flawed and puts into question the very institution of democracy as it takes shape in our country. In a working democracy, it should not matter as to what the ethnicity or linguistic background of the governed is. Progress and development as a concept should be impervious to the ascribed status of the citizenry. It should be a logical corollary to a true democracy that the fruits of development should reach all sections of society irrespective of one's caste, region, ethnic background or linguistic affiliation.

 

The impending crisis gives us an opportunity to take a fresh look at the policy to reorganise states on the basis of language. The only reason that warrants the creation of a new state or altering the borders of an existing one should be administrative ease or developmental needs. It is time to move beyond the politics of language and shift to the language of development.

 

The writer, an Indian Revenue Service officer, is an Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Mumbai

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PUNJAB PAYS FOR GROWTH

SOIL, WATER RESOURCES GETTING EXHAUSTED

BY JIVTESH SINGH MAINI 

 

Punjab faces a serious problem of soil degradation, ground water depletion and river water pollution as a consequence of unfettered and imbalanced growth. Economic compulsions of the last few decades have pushed Punjab into being a granary for the country and to shoulder the responsibility of the federal government to provide food security. This has led to rampant environmental pollution with attributed costs such as the health of the citizens of the state and corruption of the food chain and soil.

 

The pressure for agricultural growth and political compulsions of the Government of India have led to a situation where the cropping pattern of grain followed by grain has affected soil nutrition. This can be explained by the fact that at the beginning of the Green Revolution in the late 60s, one unit of fertilizer produced more than one unit of grain of wheat or rice whereas in 2010 multiple units of fertilizer are required to produce the same quantity of the grain.

 

The net effect is that the soil of Punjab is getting exhausted, and a micro nutrient agricultural imbalance has taken place and the soil structure is deteriorating. Crop intensity and the desire of the farmer to maximise his return on investment has also resulted in excessive drainage of its groundwater resources. This has now reached alarming proportions. The 10.5 million acres of cultivable land requires 5 ft plus of water for a paddy/wheat crop by the conventional flood irrigation method. Therefore, using the thumb rule the state would require in excess of 55 million acre feet (MAF) of water. At present Punjab has less than 25 MAF of water available from the rivers and canals.

 

 

This has resulted in faster extraction of groundwater than is being replenished or harvested. As a consequence, the water table is receding every year. Due to the excessive fertilizer usage the soil is becoming a sort of hazardous compound and even the ground water at some places is getting poisonous because of the permeation of chemicals into the soil. In this background, some basic solutions can be applied even at this stage to try and stop this catastrophic development before it gets even more unmanageable.

 

The first major solution is to change the cropping cycle and move more farmers from foodgrains to cash crops. Farmers need to be encouraged to use water harvesting techniques and these must be made mandatory at all levels. Ground water needs to be replenished.

 

Besides, more capital needs to be invested in intensive irrigation systems which yield better crops. Remove perverse subsidies from farming through various methods such as providing free water, free electricity and subsidies on urea and DAP.

 

The farmer needs to be encouraged to use micro nutrients which are actually required by the soil. Till 2005 the Government of India had neglected the single super phosphate industry. The single super phosphate being a low-end fertilizer in industrial terms is a great source of sulphur. It is a recognised fact that the Indian soil lacks sulphur. It is only in the last 2 years that government has woken up to this reality. Whilst DAP is a very good fertilizer in the traditional sense, its rampant usage along with urea has resulted in the soil being dependant on it and at the same time leaching the soil of other micro nutrients which have never been provided during the course of irrigation. There is an urgent need to push towards water soluble fertilisers such as NPKs and more complex fertilizers which deliver micro nutrients required on a measured basis.

 

At the policy level, the government needs to set up an environment depreciation fund to take into account all the usage of capital resources which have been depleted and this fund should be used for providing lead finance in agriculture, education of farmers and creation of value-added services which will help the farmer realize more value from moving to cash crops. A possible mechanism would be to help farmers to set up cold storage chains which would encourage or support the export of such cash crops and by reducing the wastage would actually result in better returns for the farmer. There is need to invest more in high-yielding seeds and research for better crop yields. The agricultural universities must work to develop sustainable models of cropping and agriculture.

 

In conclusion, as an officer who has served in Punjab and with roots in the state I can only hope that the governments of the day both in the state and at the Centre would take concrete steps to alleviate this major problem, which could affect us all in the years to come.

 

The writer is a retired IAS officer

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

'LET WOMEN COACHES TRAIN HOCKEY GIRLS'

ON RECORD

M.S. UNNIKRISHNAN

 

Pargat Singh has always been a rebel with a cause, who has fought for the betterment of Indian hockey and a better deal for the players, ruffling the feathers of many a big gun in the process. He was one of the best fullbacks Indian hockey has ever seen. He often overlapped and scored goals, which proved his fitness, speed and flexibility — a rare quality for a defender.

 

He had the unique distinction of leading the Indian team in two Olympics — Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996). After he hung up his hockey stick as a player, he switched over to coaching and then to the sports administration, and made a mark too. Now he has thrown his hat into the Hockey India election ring, putting himself as a candidate for the post of president against Hockey India candidate and incumbent president Vidya Stokes. He spoke to The Tribune about his chances of victory, and his plans for the revival of Indian hockey. Excerpts:

 

Q: How do you rate your chances of victory as the numbers of the electoral college are heavily tilted in favour of the official Hockey India candidate?

 

A: Most of the state associations and individuals fully back my candidature as it's a fight between a 43-year-old player and an 83-year-old lady who has no hockey background. I don't even like to make any comparison with her. The voters have to make the right choice for the good of Indian hockey.

 

Q: What are your plans for the revival of hockey?

 

A: There would be long and short-term plans. Upgrading the coaching and umpiring systems, a proper calendar for domestic and international competitions and proper marketing of the hockey team would be my immediate goals. We have to be on the practical side to promote hockey at the ground level. We should organise four-nation, six-nation tournaments. We have been allotted the 2011 Champions Trophy which we should conduct successfully to elevate the image of the country. We should bring more and more international tournaments to the country.

 

Q: How are you going to go about creating a proper environment for the growth of the game?

 

A: Focus should be on the development of hockey at the grassroots level and I want to create a conducive atmosphere for the growth of the game. I want to take everybody along for the overall development of the game. That's the need of the hour.

 

Q: What do you consider as your major achievements as the Director of Sports, Punjab?

 

A: When I took over, there were just 25 teams at the district level. Now there are over 300 teams. We conduct week-end hockey matches in every district which last nine months, and there are over 12 astro-turfs in the rich pockets of Punjab. Last year we conducted a four-nation tournament in Chandigarh in which Holland and Germany competed. Holland played in the state after 20 years and Germany after 25 years. Hockey matches should be live on television. Otherwise, how can we make stars of hockey players, assess their performance? We want to bring in sponsors so that hockey can flourish.

 

Q: What is your take on the sexual harassment allegation levelled against women's team chief coach M.K.Kaushik by a woman player?

 

A: As a person, Kaushik is a good man. I can't believe that he would do such a thing. But the incident throws up a valuable lesson: we should have female staff to manage the women's game. A woman player can interact with a woman coach much more freely than a male coach, and a woman can explain certain personal problems only to a woman coach. Kaushik may use strong language on the field, which he may have to improve. So an all-woman coaching staff would be a better option than a male coach at the helm.

 

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THE  TRIBUNE

OPED

DEVOTED TO DEVELOPMENT

BY HARIHAR SWARUP

 

Belgian-born Jean Dreze is a development economist and has been influential in Indian economic policy-making. Among others, he conceptualised and drafted the first version of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, which was watered down a bit, and enacted into a law. Dreze quit the National Advisory Council-I after Sonia Gandhi left the Council following the office-of-profit controversy. 

 

He agreed to rejoin the reconstituted NAC last month after a great deal of persuasion by Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sonia even went to the extent of insisting that the NAC-II would not be formed unless Dreze and Aruna Roy, a socialist activist, were on board.

 

Fiftyone-year-old Dreze has lived in India since 1979 and became an Indian citizen in 2002. He has worked on issues like hunger, famine, gender inequality, child health, education and NREGA. His co-authors include Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, with whom he has written on famine, and Nicholas Stern, with whom he wrote on policy reform. He is currently an honorary Professor at the Delhi School of Economics. He also taught at the London School of Economics.

 

Apart from academic work, Dreze has been actively involved in many social movements, including the peace movement, the Right to Information campaign that led to the Right to Information Act in India and the Right to Food Campaign.

 

During the 1990-91 Iraq war, he joined a peace camp stationed on the Iraq-Kuwait border. His article with Haris Gazdar, "Hunger and Poverty in Iraq 1991", was one of the first assessments of Iraq's economy after the Gulf War.

 

In nearly three decades he has been in India, Dreze's powerful intellect and deep humanism have illuminated a range of issues like hunger, child malnutrition, education, rural employment, reservations for women legislatures and freedom of information. His peers say what Dreze uniquely brings to the table is extensive fieldwork — few economists live as much in the country's villages — combined with outstanding analytical skills.

 

Dreze is an incisive spokesman for an India which has been largely invisible to the middle class. "I am not aware that India is self-confident", he reportedly said in interviews. "What does national self-confidence mean for someone who is driving a rickshaw or carrying bricks to feed the family? Only a small minority has the luxury of worrying about an international perception of India." Few Westerners choose their countries — they usually stay with what is thrust on them. That Dreze chose India is a welcome thing.

 

In his 26-year-long association with India, Dreze has studied issues minutely and has authored many books, research papers and newspaper articles on education, poverty, development, nuclear doctrine, freedom of information and the Narmada struggle. The well-known Public Report on Basic Education (PROBE), authored by Dreze and others, is a masterpiece research publication on the state of education in several northern Indian states.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

REVIEW TIME FOR SHYAMALAN

BARRING SIXTH SENSEAND FEW OTHERS, MOST OF THE MOVIES BY THE HOLLYWOOD FILM-MAKER HAVE FAILED TO MAKE THE CUT

 

Poor M Night Shyamalan is getting no love these days. Last week, a Manhattan screening of Inception was preceded by a preview of Devil – a horror film written by Shyamalan. But when the screen showed the words 'From the mind of M Night Shyamalan' people in the audience erupted in laughter.

 

Also at a press conference in Mexico City, Shyamalan was asked by a reporter what strategy he was adopting now that his fans had abandoned him. Shyamalan's reaction appeared surprising: "I think if I thought like you I'd kill myself. Everything you said is the opposite of my instinct as an artist. The way you just thought, I literally would kill myself."

 

How tragic it is to hear a man who turns 40 next month to talk about committing suicide. I interviewed Shyamalan earlier this month on the day The Last Airbender opened in theaters in the US. The reviews across the board were negative. I asked him how he had reacted to the reviews. He sounded down and depressed, and said: "You know, I don't know what the disconnect is. I just don't get." And then he added, "I feel this about my movies, the fact that my name is on them, that means they are doomed."

 

Shyamalan's success is nothing to sneeze at. His films have grossed over $900 million in the US. His third film and his biggest critical and artistic success – The Sixth Sense – earned $660 million worldwide. At 29, he was propelled to the category of an A-list Hollywood director. In a cover story, Newsweek anointed him as the next Steven Spielberg.

 

But since then all has not been well for him. The reporter in Mexico City was right. Once a darling of the critics and fans – Shyamalan's films have been on a decline. This is clearly evident from critics' reviews and the average scores his films have gained on the site Rotten Tomatoes.

 

 According to Rotten Tomatoes, The Sixth Sense, earned a respectable score of 86. But the scores for his future films headed downwards – Signs 74, Unbreakable 67, The Village 43, Lady in Water 25, The Happening 18 and Airbender hit the bottom with 8.

 

The signs were there that his films were in trouble – lost in the eternal quest of a surprise ending. There was the need to repeat the success of The Sixth Sense, but his subsequent films were marked by dull writing, clunky plots, slow pacing, bland acting, and the wrong decision to sometimes cast himself in supporting roles. As the films failed at the Box Office – only Signs was a hit – Shyamalan changed studios, from Disney to Warner Bros., Fox (with help from UTV for The Happening) and now to Paramount.

 

But he seemed to work with people who clearly kept his confidence up. In the same interview earlier this month, he told me that he took into account advice of all his peers. "We collectively come to a place where we are ecstatic about the particular stories we are telling."

 

Apparently, nobody was there to check him and in any case he was able to convince studios to back his films. Not just that, Shyamalan is perhaps the only Hollywood film-maker who places his name above the title of his films. As the IFC.com recently noted, no film-makers since Alfred Hitchcock – not even Spielberg and Martin Scorsese do that. "It takes an enormous amount of star power (if not outright hubris) to declare yourself as big and important as the title of your own film," IFC.com said.

 

 Despite the negative reviews, Airbender has already grossed over $115 million worldwide. So perhaps Shyamalan will get to direct more films. There is also talk about sequels to Airbender. He is already shopping around for a new thriller with Bruce Willis. Surely he will get over this depressed state. I hope he takes some time off and reflects on what has gone wrong with films and his career. The problem is deep and not just because his name is above that of his films.

 

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

COLUMN

LIMITS TO MINISTERIAL DISSONANCE

THE UNION CABINET HAS SEEN INTERNAL DISCORD, BUT ENOUGH'S ENOUGH

 

The country's external affairs minister publicly disagreeing with the Union's home minister, or at least his ministry? There is nothing new about it. From the days of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru the Union cabinet has seen robust internal debate and public expression of difference of opinion by members of the Union council of ministers. The differences between Pandit Nehru and the then Union home minister, the greatest home minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, are legendary and the stuff of many books. Sardar Patel was highly skeptical of Pandit Nehru's view of China and made bold to pen down his views. The differences between today's home ministry and external affairs ministry are not as serious. Forget the clash of the titans. Even lesser mortals have had public spats on policy issues. Sharp ideological differences have of course been part of the Indian National Congress tradition. After all, the Congress Party has always been a coalition of ideas and interests and has never prevented ideological differences from being publicly articulated. Thus, even under Prime Minister Nehru's stern gaze the likes of finance minister Morarji Desai and defence minister V K Krishna Menon clashed on many an issue.

 

Consider the cabinet of the 'Empress of Modern India', the tough Mrs Indira Gandhi. Debates raged between the Left and the Right in her government, even after the more extreme elements walked out and formed a party of their own. One need not devote too much time to differences within the late Rajiv Gandhi's government. Indeed, within his own office Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi witnessed sharp Left-Right arguments between the likes of a Mani Shankar Aiyar and a Montek Singh Ahluwalia. There is, of course, no need at all to cite the example of the Deve Gowda and the I K Gujral ministries — to say they were debating societies would be to proffer a compliment. Their cabinet was a mix between a circus and a wrestling match.

 

 The virtual and real coalition ministries of Prime Ministers Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee had innumerable instances of internal differences being publicly voiced. Indeed, the present battle between North Block (home ministry) and South Block (external affairs ministry) on New Delhi's Raisina Hill mimics to an extent a similar clash of ideologies, interests and styles of the Vajpayee era, when Bharatiya Janata Party 'hardliner' of that time, Lal Krishna Advani, differed with the prime minister and his national security adviser. Mr Advani took the hard line to differentiate himself from the more liberal prime minister, while today's home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, may well be trying to be the enfant terrible of North Block to force his leaders to change his job. Mr Chidambaram has not made a secret of his desire to either return to the western section of the North Block, the Union ministry of finance, or to cross the street and move to either foreign affairs or defence. He may well be tired of his portfolio, or may wish to demit it before things go further out of his control in Jammu & Kashmir, the north-east, especially Manipur, and in the naxalite-affected areas.

 

So is the media making too much of ministerial differences and their public articulation? Partly yes, but partly no. The Manmohan Singh government has been speaking in far too many voices for some time now. Debate should not degenerate into cacophony, dissent need not turn into turf battles. Perhaps the time has come for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to once again assert his authority. He has been excessively accommodative of ministerial dissidents. May be it's time he cracked the whip

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

BURY A BAD IDEA

FINANCE MINISTRY MUST CARRY CONVICTION WITH STAKEHOLDERS

 

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..

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

INDIA AND UK - CHALLENGE FOR DAVID CAMERON

A NEW INDIA-UK RELATIONSHIP WOULD NEED TO INCLUDE AN ANNUAL STRATEGIC DIALOGUE, COOPERATION ON COUNTER TERROR AND ENLARGING THE ROLE OF THE G-20

RAHUL ROY-CHAUDHURY

 

Within three months of becoming Britain's prime minister, David Cameron will be undertaking his first official visit to India next week. To his credit, he has personally ensured that his Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government seeks a "new special relationship" with India, following the relative neglect of bilateral relations during the previous Labour government. The Queen's Speech to the new Parliament on 25 May announced an attempt to strive for "an enhanced partnership with India". But, such a relationship is unlikely to take place in the absence of a 'game-changing' development in the India-UK bilateral relationship.

 

There is a recent precedent for this in relation to the US. On 10 October 2008, India and the US signed their landmark agreement on civil nuclear cooperation, which transformed their bilateral relations. This agreement essentially re-wrote global rules on civil nuclear commerce and trade. It permits India to acquire fuel supplies and equipment for its civilian nuclear reactors in return for placing them under permanent IAEA safeguards, despite India not signing the NPT. On 11 February 2010, India and the UK also signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

 

 India today has formal strategic relations with 23 countries, ranging from all the P-5 members to those that have intrinsic and special value to India's regional and global interests, including Iran, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Mongolia! Yet, the importance of the UK to India lies in its membership of the P-5 group of countries, with a veto in the UN Security Council, and in London being a global financial centre. Most importantly, it is highly unlikely that another 'game-changing' event is likely to take place in India-US relations in the next few years, thereby providing the UK a 'window of opportunity' in this endeavour.

 

A new India-UK relationship would need to include:


(i) The establishment of an annual Prime Ministerial-led strategic dialogue: Such a dialogue would provide political visibility to the bilateral relationship and could focus on a wide range of national (education and science and technology), regional and global (counter-terrorism and extremism and climate change) issues. The most important regional issue would be a dialogue on Afghanistan, the top foreign policy priority for the UK, where Indian and UK interests appear to be diverging and India found itself marginalised in the London conference on Afghanistan last January. The two issues where this divergence is most clear is on the issue of 'reconciliation and reintegration' of the Taliban and Pakistan's growing influence in Afghanistan's political future.

 

With Cameron's government inclined to withdraw its troops from Helmand province in southern Afghanistan during this parliamentary term, the UK will continue to build on its attempts to negotiate a political settlement with the 'reconciliable' elements of the Taliban. Earlier this month, Britain's most senior military commander in Southern Afghanistan made it clear that it was in Nato's interest to talk to the Taliban in the interests of peace. In contrast, India is suspicious of such an approach which it sees as leading to the legitimisation of eventual Taliban rule in Afghanistan, even as its own policy has shifted.

 

From being a strong critic of a 'good/bad Taliban approach', it is now agreeable to a modicum of 'reintegration'. Speaking at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) on 22 February, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao made it clear that such a process should be "Afghan-led, and should include only those who abjure violence, give up armed struggle and terrorism and are willing to abide by the values of democracy, pluralism and human rights as enshrined in the Afghan Constitution".

 

In addition, India is concerned over the growing influence of Pakistan in terms of its links with the Afghan Taliban, which has continued from the time of the Mujahideen operations against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Whereas the ISI's links with elements of the Afghan Taliban are seen by the UK as a prospective leverage for negotiations, India is especially concerned over a Pakistani role in bringing the Haqqani faction, held responsible for the two attacks on the Indian embassy in Kabul, to the negotiating table, which it will strongly oppose.

 

(ii) Boosting Cooperation on Counter Terror and Intelligence Sharing: A primary security concern for India today is a spectacular terror attack in the run-up to the 3-14 October 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, which could result in some of the 70-plus countries reconsidering participation. A specific threat to the Games was made in February 2010 by Pakistani militant Ilyas Kashmiri, commander of the Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) terror group. Despite progress on this issue in the last few years, differences emerged in the investigation of one of the two June 2007 Glasgow bombers, Indian national Kafeel Ahmed. The last Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism was held in December 2008. The newly established UK National Security Council and a National Security Adviser provides a unique opportunity to build relations with their Indian counterparts, in existence for the past decade.

 

(iii) Reforming global financial institutions and providing a greater role to the G-20: India's economic growth primarily drives its emergence as a strategic power with increasing global reach and importance in international affairs. Yet, its emergence as a new economic power is not reflected in the leadership or decision-making structures of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank (where it is the seventh largest shareholder). The G-20, with India and the UK among its members, could also be further empowered. The UK is one of the few countries that publicly supports India's membership of a reformed United Nations Security Council, though there is no consensus on reform itself. At the same time, India would need to reassure the international community of its growing legitimacy in international economic affairs and 'step up' to its new role as a responsible power.

 

For the UK, the key question is whether it is willing to take a risk with India and work together on a 'game-changing' event; and also, whether the UK has the power and the influence to do such global facilitating. Meanwhile, India remains concerned over the new British coalition government's formal intention to "...stand firm on human rights in all our bilateral relationships", if this is intended in relation to the Kashmir dispute, the tribal or the Dalit community. Another problem is that India may not be able or willing to adequately reciprocate the UK's commitment to an "enhanced partnership" in view of its varied priorities, and may therefore ultimately end up rebuffing it.

 

The writer is senior fellow for South Asia, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

TALE OF A FLOUNDERING FOREIGN POLICY

INDIA'S STRATEGIC SPACE HAS SHRUNK IN ITS OWN NEIGHBOURHOOD. IT HAS FAILED TO CRAFT ITS OWN NARRATIVE ON AF-PAK SINCE US TROOPS WENT INTO AFGHANISTAN

HARSH V PANT

 

When Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna underscored the folly of making a distinction "between good Taliban and bad Taliban" at the Afghanistan Conference in London earlier this year, he was completely out of sync with the larger mood at the conference. As a result, Indian diplomacy faced a major setback when Indian concerns were summarily ignored. The West had made up its mind that it was not a question of if, but when and how to exit from Afghanistan, which was rapidly becoming a quagmire for the leaders in Washington and London.

 

The diplomatic debacle at the London conference and the continued targeting of Indian interests in Afghanistan forced a major rethink of Delhi's Af-Pak policy. No wonder Krishna was a different man at the Afghanistan conference in Kabul earlier this week. He dropped his "no differentiating between good and bad Taliban" mantra but continued to maintain that hard-line elements cannot be accepted as credible Afghan interlocutors. This change in the tone of the Indian external affairs minister reflects the bind that India finds itself in Afghanistan.

 

 There should be no doubt that this is Pakistan's moment. Pakistan has been successful in ensuring that it is at the centre of negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, so that Pakistan's core interest of containing Indian influence is not jeopardised. The Taliban remains Pakistan's greatest source of leverage in Afghanistan and they have used that leverage effectively. Pakistan's security establishment is relishing the double game it is playing in Afghanistan.

 

Pakistani support for the Taliban in Afghanistan continues to be sanctioned at the highest levels of Pakistan's government, with the ISI even represented on the Quetta Shura — the Taliban's war council — so as to retain influence over the Taliban's leadership. The ISI does not merely provide financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency. It retains strong strategic and operational control over the Taliban campaign in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military continues to look upon the Taliban as a strategic asset and is manipulating the Taliban's political hierarchy so as to have greater leverage over future peace talks.

 

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are hedging their bets against a possible US withdrawal. The July 2011 deadline for the commencement of American troop withdrawal was intended to force Karzai to address urgent problems like corruption and ineffective governance. But it may have had the opposite effect, convincing Karzai that in a year from now, he will be on his own. Though the US is at pains to underline that July 2011 "will be the beginning of a conditions-based process" and that the deadline will be debated in the military's formal review of progress later this year in December, there are few who are willing to bet at the moment that the Obama Administration has the stomach to stay for much longer in Afghanistan. Karzai in particular seems convinced that the Americans will not be able to stay the course. He has lost faith in Nato's ability to defeat the insurgency and has turned to Pakistan to help broker a deal to end the conflict.

 

Not surprisingly, Karzai is trying to craft a more autonomous foreign policy. He lost no time in dismissing two high-profile cabinet ministers — the interior minister and intelligence chief — who were most closely allied with the US. These were the men Washington had insisted Karzai include in his cabinet after his re-election last year and they were resisting Karzai's attempts to negotiate with the Taliban and closer ties with Islamabad. Karzai now views Pakistan as an important player in ending the war through negotiations with the Taliban or on the battlefield. The decision to send officers for training in Pakistan is of great symbolic value and is the result of talks between the Afghan government and Pakistan's security agencies that began in May. Pakistan has asked Karzai to develop a strategic framework that can facilitate negotiations with the Taliban.

 

India can do little but watch these developments unfold with wariness. India's 'soft power' strategy has not brought it any strategic gains. Rather, India stands side-lined by the West despite being the only country that has been relatively successful in winning the "hearts and minds" of the Afghans. From the very beginning the prime objective of India's Afghanistan policy has been to pre-empt the return of Pakistan's embedment in Afghanistan's strategic and political firmament. And ironically it is India's success in Afghanistan that drove Pakistan's security establishment into a panic mode as a perception gained ground that India was 'taking over Afghanistan.'

 

The Obama Administration's desire for a rapid withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan has given the necessary opening to Pakistan to regain its lost influence in Kabul. In order to keep Islamabad in good humuor, Washington has insisted on India limiting its role in Afghanistan. The conclusion of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA) is a major shot in the arm for Pakistan as it explicitly affirms that India will not be allowed to export goods to Afghanistan through the Wagah border.

 

Though India insists that it won't retreat from Afghanistan, there are signs that it is indeed scaling down its presence. It is not taking on new projects and various Indian schemes have been put on hold. India's strategic space in its neighbourhood seems to have shrunk over the last few years. By failing to craft its own narrative on Af-Pak ever since US troops went into Afghanistan in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, New Delhi has allowed the West, and increasingly Pakistan, to dictate the contours of Indian policy towards the region. More damagingly, by failing to assert its profile in Afghanistan, India has failed to win the confidence of those constituencies in Afghanistan who considered India a natural ally. India now needs a rapid readjustment of its Kabul policy; otherwise, great turbulence lies ahead in India's vicinity.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

'WE LISTEN TO ALL VOICES IN PAKISTAN'

HILLARY CLINTON

 

Question: Madam Secretary, a very quick question. You know you talked of supporting democracy in Pakistan, but the reality on the ground, it's an open secret that it's actually the military that led the civilian government to prepare for the Strategic Dialogue. Now, there is a fear in Pakistan that eventually the US will tilt back towards the military in order to let its policies through or see its policies through. How are you going to address that fear?

 

Secretary Clinton: Well, I can tell you very clearly that neither I nor President Obama have any intention of having that happen or winking at it or permitting it insofar as we can prevent it, because we believe in democracy. And we particularly believe that Pakistan must have a democratic government that fulfills its terms with another election and another democratic government.

 

 Now, having said that, we understand that any time there's conflict in a society, there's going to be a very heavy security emphasis, and the law enforcement and the military elements are going to have their say, and that's understood. But what we see is a partnership – when I work with Minister Qureshi and we send all of these officials that we've been sending to work on our Strategic Dialogue, the security dialogue is a part of that. And that, of course, is between defense and military officials.

 

So, we listen to all of the voices inside Pakistan, but we support the democratically elected government.

 

Q: (Inaudible) ...and I'm a journalist from Samaa TV. I want to ask a question if we are facing a same war against terror, why you people are fighting this war with a modern technology like drone and EDC, and why we are facing that war with the 20th century old weapons? We are facing a lot in Pakistan. Why America always rely on promises when it comes to military aid or a modern technology?

 

SC: Well, we have provided an enormous amount of aid to Pakistan. Just recently, America delivered some additional F-16s, which is a very modern weapon, to the Pakistani military. And we are in close consultation and cooperation with the military, literally, all the time, to assess their needs and to work with them.

 

Q: One last question, Secretary of State. Why as a person I feel that when we choose a statement condemning Iran's government policies against their political opponents, the US issues statements condemning that they crushed the protestors, but when it comes to Kashmir and atrocities by India, US always comes out with a statement that it's an internal dispute. Don't you think such kinds of – can I use the word "double-standard" – always create hatred against the US among the people that, on the one hand, you are condemning a foreign country, its internal affairs, and on the other hand you are calling a dispute, an internal dispute? Similarly in the Middle East, your policies towards Israel, your approach towards Israel, is something different from what happened in the other side of it.

 

SC: Well, first let me say that I think there's a big difference between India and Pakistan and Iran. India and Pakistan have vibrant democratic institutions, free press, independent judiciaries. We do not find any of that in Iran. So there is a recognition that although Kashmir is a very important and difficult issue, you're dealing with two countries that are not making threats against the rest of the world. You may have very difficult historical issues between the two of you which we would like to see resolved; but in contrast, Iran is threatening all of its neighbours, is threatening to wipe countries off the map, is funding terrorism all over the world.

 

So, I think the fact that the people of Iran, in our assessment, tried to change their leadership and were so brutally oppressed is a very significant fact, and therefore we will condemn it because we think it runs counter to the rights of the Iranian people as they attempt to express them.

 

Mr Pirzada: Unfortunately, we are running short of the time and we have no more time. We're glad you could join us for more than an hour.

 

(Excerpts from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Television Roundtable with Pakistani journalists in Islamabad on July 19. Questions have not been edited)

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

AND A RIGHT TO FODDER?

WHILE THE GOVT WORKS ON FOOD SECURITY, HIGH FODDER RATES THREATEN SURVIVAL OF BOTH CATTLE AND OWNERS

SREELATHA MENON

 

The Right to Food Act, when it is implemented, may not ensure that people get a proper meal every day. For even if it manages to provide subsidised grain, dairy farmers would still find it hard to keep themselves and their cattle alive. A milch animal is often the only source of income in a family, sustaining five to six people. Also, cattle is often the only possession of millions of landless labourers.

 

 Hence, fodder translates into food for the farmer too.

 

If rice under the Right to Food Act is available for Rs 3 a kg, a family would still have to pay about Rs 10 for one kg fodder, as prices have been rising rapidly. If the price was Rs 7,500 per metric tonne a year ago, it was Rs 9,500 per metric tonne early this year.

 

A buffalo eats five-six kg fodder every day, roughly half its daily yield. In Rajasthan, drought and scarcity of fodder and water have led to many families letting their cattle die. This was last year, at the peak of the drought. It is another matter that no one counts cattle starvation deaths.

 

In Andhra Pradesh, a recent report says livestock owners now buy pregnant Murra buffaloes from Haryana, known for their high yield, and sell in Kerala after they have milked it. This is because they cannot feed them for another six months before they can be inseminated.

 

Activist K S Gopal, a member of the Central Employment Council, says farmers should be taught to make brickets out of fodder to store and transport it to places where there are shortages.

 

Gopal, who experimented with grain banks, which let members borrow and return in kind, says fodder banks and sale through the public distribution system (PDS) are worth looking at in states where scarcity is chronic.

 

M S Swaminathan, a member of the National Advisory Council, has in the past asked for the setting up of a Fodder Commission. Maybe he may now go a step forward and ask for inclusion of fodder in the Public Distribution System.

 

Farmer activists like Vijay Jaywantia believe subsidising fodder cultivation can draw more people to grow fodder crops like sorghum, maize and bajra.

 

Without easily-available fodder and without incentives to grow fodder, milk will get as scarce as the livestock farmer, not to speak of the cattle.

 

This will be an adverse development for a country where one-third of self-help group-based entrepreneurship programmes has to do with dairy farming and which has the largest livestock population of 200 million.

 

According to agricultural economist Bhaskar Goswami, indigenous varieties of cattle, which eat less and are more dependent on grazing, ought to be revived. The Tharparkar, an indigenous breed from Rajasthan, known for the sweetness of its milk, has vanished, replaced by cross-bred varieties which give higher yield but also eat more fodder, says Goswami.

 

The survival of the dairy farmer is today linked with the survival of the cattle and availability of fodder. The sooner the link between man and animal is recognised, the better it will be for the dairy farmer and milk production in the country.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

REACTION BEGETS ACTION

BY ARUN NEHRU

 

We have had a good monsoon till date. Based on the rainfall so far we can predict increased gross domestic product (GDP) growth. As agricultural output increases dramatically and the forces of demand and supply work to moderate food inflation, at least statistically, the reality is that farmers across the country are getting a better price for their produce. That is why I am not really sure if this will be an electoral issue in the next round of Assembly elections.

 

Whatever may be the issues, the fact is that politics is keeping pace with the velocity of the rainfall. We see increased activity in Bihar where Assembly elections are due in three months, and in Andhra Pradesh the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief has received an electoral gift from the Congress when he, along with 72 MLAs, was placed under arrest in Maharashtra when they attempted to go to the Babli barrage project to stage a protest. Fortunately, better sense prevailed and the cases were withdrawn, but the political damage is already done. The byelections in Telangana and the Assembly elections in Bihar will be keenly watched for future trends in the Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections due in 2010-2011.

 

India exists in many dimensions and the next few months will see hectic political activity — likely alliances for the future will start taking shape and likely winners and losers will become clear after these two crucial elections. In three months, as the monsoon retreats, leaving in its wake a record agricultural output and a GDP growth trend close to nine per cent in the short term, we will see "change" coming into our daily lives. We often talk of our demographic advantages but fail to realise that a younger generation is already moving into positions of authority, and this, more than anything else, is the biggest positive on the horizon.

 

Governance today is not easy as a coalition government poses several challenges — to reconcile regional aspirations and arrive at a consensus is a complex task. As we look into the future we have security issues, both external and internal, to tackle, though I think that under the prevailing circumstances we have done well on the security front. I do not see a negative in the situation with Pakistan. The statements of the Pakistan foreign minister held few surprises as we are well aware of the contradictions in Pakistan's power structure. It's no secret that US aid and arms supplied to fight terrorists have been used against India in three conflicts in the past. It is for the US to realise and acknowledge the reality of the situation, though, given the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan, they too have limited options.

 

We should expect few miracles from Pakistan and must be ready to deal with an emerging situation in the immediate future as the US makes a planned or unplanned exit from Afghanistan because the situation there is beyond their control.

 

The recent international conference in Kabul meant blanket security-cover, shutting down the city and many VVIPs, including the Secretary-General of the United Nations, had to land their aircraft at the US base. We, along with the global community, need little confirmation of the fact that the 26/11 attacks were planned and executed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Home secretary G.K. Pillai made the right statement, as did national security adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon, but sadly we can no longer be dismissive of the situation in Pakistan as clearly the Army and the ISI are in total control of the situation.

 

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir will remain volatile for some time but chief minister Omar Abdullah has done well by calling in the Army on a "temporary" basis. In such situations assuming a firm posture is an important step towards a future solution. The National Conference and the People's Democratic Party will continue their political battles but the good thing is that the economy and tourism are booming in the Valley and, like everywhere else in the country, the reaction of the voting public is a step ahead of the politicians.

 

The Commonwealth Games approach. It is rather unfortunate that the Queen will miss this event for the first time. I sometimes wonder about the relevance of this organisation in the current global structure. Every little incident of this nature further diminishes the relevance of the Commonwealth.

 

The UK is going through a difficult economic situation and will have to curtail many "expenditures". This, to some extent, is understandable, but action initiated on the immigration front is not a friendly act — you cannot have free and unrestricted movement of goods and services without free movement of people in a global society. The UK's new visa regime is bound to lead to issues related to racism. The UK, however, is not alone in this and I think the ministry of external affairs has to look into these issues and at some stage consider returning the favour.

 

Besides the "soap opera" being played out between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and Lalit Modi, a great deal of controversy is being generated in the sports arena. First we had the spat between the sports minister and the International Olympic Committee and the sports associations, and now sexual harassment charges have been levelled against the coach of the women's hockey team. It is unfortunate that all these battles are being fought in the media. An inquiry will soon unearth the truth behind the allegations of the women's hockey team.

 

With regard to the Commonwealth Games, I am sure that all parties involved will argue that they are on firm ground though the overall impression is that sports bodies are run on very feudal lines with strong vested interests. In this archaic system there are many with talent and ability who seem to be quite helpless to bring about any real change. I have some experience of events of this nature but cannot understand the existence of several power centres pulling in different directions. If anything goes wrong with the Commonwealth Games, all these power centres must be jointly held responsible.

 

- Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

HAS ZARDARI SANCTIONED ANOTHER COUP?

BY INDRANIL BANERJIE

 

History hopefully will not repeat itself in Pakistan. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, an elected head of state, has just given a three-year extension to his Army Chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. This is just the second time in the history of Pakistan when such an extension has been granted by a civilian head of state. The last time it happened was in 1958 when the then President, Iskander Mirza, extended Gen. Ayub Khan's tenure for the second time. The general rewarded his mentor by deposing him in a coup a few months later and thereafter banishing him forever from Pakistan. Mirza died in relative penury and obscurity in London in 1969. His family's request that Mirza, one of the most vociferous champions of the Pakistan idea, be buried in Pakistan was turned down and he was ultimately laid to rest at a graveyard in neighbouring Iran.

 

Giving Pakistan's generals extensions is clearly not a very good idea. But perhaps the country's civilian leaders have little choice. It is after all the military that wags the civilian dog. It is usually the generals in Pakistan who give themselves extensions, promotions and titles. Gen. Ayub Khan, for instance, soon tired of being just a general and had himself elevated to the rank of Field Marshal. At the same time, of course, he kept extending his term as military chief. Gen. Zia-ul-Haq did the same but was modest enough to remain a mere general. Pervez Musharraf, after executing a bloodless coup in 1999, first took upon the title of Chief Executive Officer of Pakistan and thereafter dispensed with this somewhat corporate sounding position to the better regarded one of President. Mr Musharraf, of course, remained Army Chief as long as he could. Once he was forced to appoint someone else as the chief, his days were numbered. In came Gen. Kayani and now Mr Zardari's rubber stamp on his extension suggests that he too is here to stay.

 

The urge in many officials to cling on to their positions long after the expiry of their terms is somewhat natural. However, in the case of Pakistan's military chiefs, this desire usually exceeds all levels of normality. Being top honcho of a powerful military state that receives billions of dollars in foreign aid and commands respect, howsoever grudging, in world capitals is tremendously euphoric. Then there is the heady sensation of leading one of the world's largest military machines and an equally formidable jihadi horde. It is conceivable that the late Chenghiz Khan experienced similar elation as he occasionally sat back to survey his Mongol swarm. Not surprisingly, once a general clambers onto the top slot of the Pakistan Army, he tries his best to stay there.

 

Again, this in itself should not be any concern of others. Problem is that history demonstrates that Pakistan's top generals tend to develop a pathological antipathy towards their civilians predecessors and mentors. Gen. Ayub Khan was the most merciful — he merely deposed the man who made him king and exiled him. Gen. Zia-ul-Haq, on the other hand, made sure his mentor Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto swung by the neck till he was dead. Following this hoary Pakistan Army tradition, Gen. Musharraf too brought down the man who had appointed him and would have emulated Zia had it not been for the House of Saud. Nawaz Sharif survived but not the country's most charismatic politician, Benazir Bhutto, who was gunned down by assassins after a rally in December 2007.

 

Benazir's sin was that she had been prime minister before and would certainly have occupied the seat again. Currently, the country's military establishment is desperately trying to expunge sections of the United Nations' report on Benazir Bhutto's assassination which point fingers at the Army and its dirty tricks department. Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had written to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, protesting parts of the report and saying that it had gone beyond its brief. Ban Ki-moon responded in mid-July by dismissing Pakistan's objections and saying the report spoke for itself. The report in no uncertain terms stated that the government despite being alerted of the threat to her life had not provided adequate protection; the ISI had subsequently obstructed investigations; and that the investigations were prejudiced and involved a whitewash.

 

The last section of the UN report said it all: "The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Bhutto's assassination were, in most cases, deliberate. In other cases, the failures were driven by uncertainty in the minds of many officials as to the extent of the involvement of intelligence agencies. These officials, in part fearing involvement by the intelligence agencies, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions that they knew, as professionals, they should have taken".

 

The frightening part of the political dynamic in Pakistan is the mortality of its civilian leaders. The generals endure, often in extremely opulent style. The military machine gets stronger and eventually, as some perceptive Pakistani analysts have noted, becomes the state. Democracy and civil governance become redundant and cannot deliver. The forces that supported Gen. Kayani's extension on the ground that continuity is required at this critical juncture in history should know that the only continuity really is of the pernicious kinetics that keeps Pakistan's people in thrall. President Zardari by endorsing Gen. Kayani's extension might actually have signed off his own future.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

'WON'T REST UNTIL AP GETS JUSTICE'

 

Telugu Desam (TD) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu asserts his status as the most senior leader in India and repeatedly invokes NTR while promising to work for Telugu pride. In this interview with Ch. V.M. Krishna Rao, the TD chief speaks of his agitation plan that will include lower riparian states in the country.

 

Q. If you were Prime Minister, and if an issue like the Babli dam came to you, what solution would you offer?
A. Definitely I would have gone for appointing a technical committee with experts not belonging to either Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh, and implement whatever they said, irrespective of political considerations.

 

Q. In the Babli case, Union minister for water resources P.K. Bansal says the Centre can't do anything. Then how can you expect the Union government to resolve the dispute when Maharashtra has not implemented the orders of the Prime Minister, or even the Supreme Court, in the Babli case?
A. It is better for those who are saying they are helpless to study the Constitutional provisions. Let them read Article 355, I repeat 355 not 356 (imposition of President's Rule). If a state government wilfully disobeys the orders of the Union government and that of the Supreme Court, it is for the Union government to pull up the concerned state.
If they want to, the Centre can do the job easily instead of pleading helplessness.

 

Q. Your party is not a strong supporter of invoking such provisions by the Centre. Yet you now say it should act in that (coercive) way?
A. Union of India means the union of states. If a particular state is deprived of justice on account of another, which is deliberately abusing its power, unmindful of judicial orders, then why do we have the Constitution? Article 355 should be used as a deterrent to rein in governments that wilfully disobey the orders of Union government and the judiciary. I am against misuse of any power or authority, but not against using the constitutional provisions for a justified cause.

 

Q. Chief Minister K. Rosaiah is suggesting that the Union government should constitute a monitoring authority with full powers to check violations by state governments in respect of sharing of river waters.
A. This is a completely escapist suggestion. Why behave as though the Union government has no authority or power vested in it? I have clearly explained the constitutional provision. In case the Centre exhausts all its powers, a national debate may be initiated to provide the needed authority. The government should not try to run away from its responsibility.
My question is: Why have the Central Water Commission (CWC), or the Union water resources ministry, if they are not there to do justice to states? In a matter of minutes CWC officials can confirm which state is using waters more than its allocation, where is the violation coming from.

 

Q. How long do you propose to pursue the Babli project issue?

 

A. I will not rest until my state gets justice. My visit to Maharashtra gave the issue national significance. If I keep quiet on such a burning issue, people won't spare me. I will make the problems faced by lower riparian states with regard to illegal constructions by upper riparian states, a national issue.
I will seek support and involve all lower riparian states like Tamil Nadu in this agitation.

 

Q. So, you don't think Maharashtra is right in taking up the construction of 14 barrages across the Godavari, including Babli?
A. They have already utilised what is their due. Not only Babli but all 14 projects are illegal constructions. The Central government should decide who is wrong and who is right. Otherwise, its existence will be in jeopardy. I remember the late N.T. Rama Rao said this.

 

Q. You have been convenor of the United Front in the past, and assumed you were a national leader. Then, isn't it unwise or incongruous to speak of Telugu pride, i.e., the self-respect of a single state?
A. If my state's interests are not taken care of, is it not my duty to fight? If I don't do that, how can I protect the interests of the nation and how can I be called a national leader? For me, all state problems are national problems. You name a single national leader who is not taking care of his state interests. Is it a sin to fight for the cause of a state?

 

Q. I mean why should the TD talk of Telugu pride over a petty project like Babli?
A. After Independence, except at the time of the brief Janata Party rule, the TD played a major role when non-Congress governments held power at the Centre, like the National Front, United Front and the National Democratic Alliance.
I have been in active politics for the last 32 years. At the national level today, no leader has my seniority. I was Chief Minister for nine long years, I am the champion of the Telugus today after NTR. I say that India should be No. 1 in the world, and AP should be number one in the country. That is my vision and mission. Babli might look like a petty project, but its impact on the Sriramsagar project, the life-line of Telangana, is heavy.

 

Q. The Babli issue is not new. It is felt you hyped it before Telangana byelections to revive your image and your party's dwindling fortunes.
A. What is wrong in playing politics? Political parties are there to do politics. Am I not heading a political party? What is politics other than doing good for the people? Let Mr Rosaiah solve the Babli issue. I will be happy. I will stop the agitation. But he is not doing anything.

 

Q. When you were the chief minister and UF convenor during 1995-99, you were accused of compromising Andhra Pradesh's interests by allowing Karnataka to raise the height of the Almatti dam from 512 metres to 519.6 metres. You went to the Supreme Court but Karnataka got favourable orders.
A. In the Almatti issue facts are being unnecessarily distorted. Karnataka wants to increase the height from 512 metres in the first phase to 524 metres in the second. This we objected to. But Karnataka is entitled to 519.6 metres as per the Bachawat Award to store the waters they get as their share. But when they wanted to further raise the height, we went to the Supreme Court.

 

Q. How do you see the future of the TD in the post-YSR period?
A. Even Congress men are openly saying the political situation is favourable for TD's return to power. I thought due to his age and experience Mr Rosaiah will do some good for the state. But he has become a stooge in the hands of the Congress high command. If elections are held today the TD will win 100 per cent.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

BHAJPA IN THE DOLDRUMS

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

 

Some weeks ago I wrote in this very column a piece entitled 'Bhajpa's Swabhiman' saying that when Mohan Bhagwat, head of the RSS, asked Nitin Gadkari who had proved his worth as a minister in the Government of Maharashtra to take over as President of the BJP, he specifically directed him to replace old leaders like L.K. Advani and the caucus based in Delhi by younger blood and infuse new life in the party. Gadkari has failed to do so. Advani still holds the central stage. The so-called Delhi caucus remains intact. There are no signs of infusion of fresh blood. His latest gaffe calling Afzal Guru the son-in-law of the Congress because of its delaying his execution after his conviction for his role in the attack on the Parliament in which many lives were lost was in bad taste and earned rebuke.

 

After all the hopes he roused of reviving the BJP he turned out to be an inflated gas bag.

 

Though no admirer of community-based parties like the BJP, Muslim League and the Akalis, I believe a healthy democracy needs both right-of-the-Centre as well as socialists for proper functioning. Since the BJP is the largest single party in the Opposition, it should have formed a Shadow Cabinet whose personnel should be known to the people. In the last election, L.K.Advani announced himself as the Prime-Minister-in-waiting. The BJP has many experienced men and women like Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Jaitley, Arun Shourie, Vijay Raje Scindia, Maneka Gandhi, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Dhumal and maybe some others. It will have problem to find Muslims who command respect in their community. They have a Sikh Navjot Singh Sidhu, if he manages to win the next election. They must not include anyone tainted with unpardonable crime of demolishing Babri Masjid.

 

One thing uppermost in my mind to which the present government has paid little attention is its failure to curb the exploding growth of population.

 

We simply cannot produce enough to feed rapidly increasing mouths and are heading towards disaster. Coercive methods have to be introduced: Disenfranchise all couples who have more than two children, disqualify them from voting in panchayats, state and parliamentary elections; bar them in governmental jobs up to holding gubernatorial posts. I would be glad to act as a consultant whenever they decide I am worth consulting.

 

Adversary and an all-rounder
My six years as Rajya Sabha member were coincided with the darkest period of Sikh history: Bhindranwale, Operation Blue Star, assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi and massacre of innocent Sikhs. Akali leaders were in jails. Though Congress nominee, I took upon myself to air the feelings of the common masses of Sikhs. I was sharply critical of Bhindranwale and had no sympathy with the Akali politics. I spoke my mind and became the target of verbal attacks in the Rajya Sabha.

 

My main adversaries were Vishvjit Singh, a descendant of Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, founder of Kapurthala state, and Prithvijit Singh.

 

We kept going for each other in the House but outside were on cordial terms and visited each other for gossip sessions. Vishvjit Singh was given a second term as MP.

 

I failed to find any buyers. Our meetings became rare. I did not see him for many years.

 

Suddenly one evening he dropped in at my drink time. He brought a book entitled Kuch Shabd Kuch Lakeerein (Yatra Books).

 

I didn't know he knew Hindi. He explained, "I was born in Jalandhar but brought up in Sitapur by my Naani (maternal grandmother)."

 

I protested: "I can't read Hindi." He handed me a disc. I protested again: "I don't have the gadget to play it."

 

"Never mind, I'll read out a couplet of poems to you." He read: Naani. It reminded me of my most widely published short story of my grandmother (Daadi) called Portrait of a lady. I was charmed by his poems.

 

"When was the collection launched?" I asked.

 

"Last April by the headmaster of my alma mater Doon school. It sold out and a second edition is in the Press."

 

I understood how he came to speak like a pukka Brown Sahib. "And what about?" I asked. I am translating verses of the legendary historian of the Punjab Shah Mohammed into Hindi and English. I reproduce both:

 

Verses Shah Muhammed:

Mera pahla salam usko

Jo kudrat kaa khel banate hai

Har lok kaa naksh nigaar karkey

Rung rung ke baagh lagvata hai

Voh pichhley safey mitaa deyta hai

Aagey aur pay aur bichaata hai

Shah Mohammed uss say sadaa dara karo

Badshah se bheek mangvata hai.

My first obeisance to Allah

The progenitor of all nature

He surveys all the different world and then

Creates a garden of a thousand colours

He wipes off the pages of the past

While laying out the future.

Shah Muhammed be ever vigilant

He changes a Badshah into a beggar!

True and assured diagnosis

 

Patient: "Doctor, are you sure that I am suffering from malaria? One of my labourers was getting a treatment of malaria from his doctor, but he died of typhoid."


Doctor: "His doctor was not qualified and experienced as I am. I assure you that if I treat you for malaria, you will die of malaria and not from any other disease."


(Contributed by M.G. Kapahi, Delhi)

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WHEN RTI PROVED LETHAL

BY ANTARA DEV SEN

 

Earlier this week, Amit Jethwa was shot dead in front of the Gujarat high court. He was in his thirties, a caring, law-abiding citizen, committed to the environment, humanity and animal life. And like most dedicated souls, he believed that he could stem the rot in the system and make a difference by diligently using democratic tools of empowerment. He relied heavily on the Right to Information (RTI) Act to plug the holes in the system. Till the holes got him.

 

Amit Jethwa was fighting against illegal mining in the Gir forests, which hosts the world's last Asiatic lions.

But he was up against the mining mafia, the forest department and politicians involved in the racket. Not an easy fight for a lone ranger. Besides, he had made enemies by campaigning against corruption. He had even got a Lokayukta placed in Gujarat.

 

But he was losing faith in civil society. Barely a week before he was gunned down he had told a reporter about his disenchantment. "I know how risky it is for me and my family to wage a war against the mining mafia", he lamented. "Without the support of people nothing is possible."

 

Which is precisely where the power of the RTI lies. In the hands of the masses, it is a potent tool to chisel democracy with. But in the hands of a lone passionate soul, it may be a dangerous weapon ready to explode in your face.

 

Information is power only when you are allowed to use it. It works wonders in a free society, where people have justiciable democratic rights, where governance has not failed as miserably as in our country.

 

The right to information can be a human right only where there has been a certain level of development, where certain democratic freedoms are protected. If the state cannot protect your right to life, it's best not to exercise your right to information too much.

 

Are we shocked that Amit Jethwa was killed in public, in broad daylight, in front of the highest seat of justice in the state? Yes. But should we be? The state is Gujarat, where human rights are routinely violated, where you could be killed for convenience. Even as this activist was being gunned down, the Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi's close aide, Mr Amit Shah, the junior home minister accused in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, was audaciously dodging the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation). This is also the state where thousands were killed in the name of religion, and investigations into the murders so mired in corruption that the Supreme Court had to shift some cases out to other states for a fair trial.

 

So maybe we should not be shocked that Amit Jethwa, an activist who fought powerful people for the right and

the good, was killed so brazenly in front of the Gujarat High Court. We should be shocked at our own impotence. At the way certain states can function as barely veiled banana republics, denying democratic rights and freedoms to Indian citizens.

 

But Gujarat, drowning as it is in the depths of deprivation, is not the only state to deny democratic rights and freedoms to citizens. Killers with political clout routinely go free everywhere in India. And RTI activists have been killed, attacked, and hounded around the country ever since the national RTI Act was passed in 2005.

 

Let's look at some of the cases this year. In January 2010, Satish Shetty, 39, was hacked to death in Maharashtra. The activist had been battling land scams and government corruption, had received death threats and asked for police protection — which he didn't get — and was killed while taking his morning walk.

 

In February, also in Maharashtra, RTI activist Arun Sawant was shot dead near the Badlapur Municipal Office in Thane for fighting administrative corruption. Meanwhile in Bihar, RTI activist Shashidhar Mishra was gunned down in front of his home in Begusarai. A tireless crusader against corruption in welfare schemes and the local government, he was called "Khabri Lal" for his dedication to information. Meanwhile in Gujarat, Vishram Laxman Dodiya, who had filed an RTI petition regarding illegal electricity connections by Torrent Power, was murdered.

 

In April, RTI activist Vitthal Gite, 39, was killed in Maharashtra for exposing village education scams. And in Andhra Pradesh, Sola Ranga Rao, 30, was murdered in front of his home for exposing corruption in the funding of the village drainage system.

 

In May, Dattatray Patil, 47, was murdered in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. A close associate of activist and RTI guru Anna Hazare, his fight against corruption had got some of the area's top policemen removed and action initiated against local municipal corporators.

 

Besides murder, there are failed murder attempts, violent threats and fake police cases. Take Maharashtra.

 

In March, environmentalists Sumaira Abdulali and Naseer Jalal were ruthlessly attacked by a politically backed sand mafia in Raigad, and survived only because journalists accompanying them used their influence and mobile phones. None of the accused were arrested. In April, Abhay Patil, advocate and RTI activist, had a mob clamouring for blood at his door.

 

Apparently, they wanted him to withdraw all complaints of corruption against MLA Dilip Wagh. When his wife, a police constable, called the cops for help, they asked her to come to the police station and lodge a complaint. Later, she faced fake charges and was suspended, allegedly at the behest of home minister R.R. Patil.

 

Then in July, Ashok Kumar Shinde was attacked for his RTI and Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against a corruption racket in the Public Works Department linked to the Bombay high court.

 

Worse than physical assault is abusing the law to attack activists. Take the case of E. Rati Rao, senior scientist, activist and journalist, in Karnataka. In March she was charged with sedition and attempting to cause mutiny or communal discord for protesting against "encounters" and atrocities on dalits, tribals, Muslims and other minorities.

 

Meanwhile, in distant Orissa, another activist-journalist, Dandapani Mohapatra, was targeted by the police, his home raided and his books and magazines confiscated without a warrant. He was labelled as a suspected Maoist.

 

Activists fighting for our rights cannot win without our muscle. Once an RTI activist is killed, civil society must force the police to investigate not just the murder but all that he was unearthing. Only then will we be able to stop this murderous silencing of activists.

 

By not protecting RTI activists, by allowing cases of harassment they file to be closed without punishing the perpetrators, the state is failing to uphold the spirit of the RTI Act. And weakening the spirit of democracy.

 

- Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine.
She can be contacted
at sen@littlemag.com [1]

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE PLOT THICKENS

OVERWHELMING CONFUSION OVER SAINTHIA

 

THE next of kin of those who perished in the freak train accident near Sainthia in West Bengal deserve better than what has been in evidence since last Monday. The response of the Railway ministry and the political class generally has been marked by conjecture, a policy decision to keep the inquiry proceedings under the hat, a puerile political spat, and inter-ministerial distrust. In the span of nearly a week, the mystery has deepened. The attempted diagnosis has been bewildering and without a semblance of  convincing evidence. In the Railway Board chairman's initial reckoning, it was a "suicide pact" by the driver and his assistant.  Which begs the question ~ to kill another 60 people? This was toned down the next day to a hint of family discord. Another speculative reason was that the two drivers were served tea laced with drugs at the previous station. Yet another was the unscheduled halt of the preceding train to help vendors download vegetables close to the Bengal-Bihar border. The Railway brass has managed to make confusion worse confounded. The authorities must have been acutely aware that none of these  factors sound convincing. Which explains the gag order on the guard, now virtually in Railway custody. After dishing out a theory too many, the authorities have swung to the other extreme ~ taken up an opaque inquiry. Whose report, in the manner of most inquiry findings, might be duly docketed. Hopefully, the Information Commission will not have to be petitioned to get to the bottom of what may have happened at Sainthia. The accident is a matter of public relevance; the speculative cant can only deflect the focus. The incident involves people, and they have the right to know.


 The reactions of Mamata Banerjee herself, the Left and the BJP have been intensely political. The accident has even provoked the Railway minister to use a so-called martyrs' day rally to come up with a breathless allegation ~ that the CPI-M is letting in cockroaches into the food that is served on trains. The charge strains credulity not least because roaches and railway food have a relationship that transcends politics. What was the provocation for Thursday's decision to strip the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation of its catering responsibilities on the Rajdhani, Duronto, Shatabdi and all other mail and express trains? Into this overwhelming chaos steps in Mr P Chidambaram with the charge that the rescue teams took inordinately long to reach the disaster site, a statement that has not been contested. The damage-control by the Home ministry that the remarks are not a criticism of the Railways is neither here nor there. While wounds fester, the plot only thickens.

 

THE FINE'S FINE

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE SYMPTOMS OF DECAY? 

 

IT might be possible to argue that the fine of Rs 1000 imposed on West Bengal's Director-General of Police, and the reprimand administered to him are sufficient punishment for the twin offences of using a mobile phone and taking a photograph inside the State Assembly. After all, the officer did regret his action, and did apologise unconditionally to the Speaker and the House. He, of course, claimed the flash on his phone camera had gone off accidentally and that he had no intention of taking a photograph of Opposition MLAs confronting the Chief Minister. That is Mr Bhupinder Singh's story, he stuck to it when questioned and we will have to accept it at face value. 


But there is a larger issue involved, and the Director-General's action ~ that of using his mobile phone, which to our knowledge is not claimed to be accidental ~ is symptomatic of the Bengal civil servant's casual approach to rules, and the general decay of the bureaucracy. Every police and Government vehicle is in a hurry, every police driver seems to favour the wrong carriageway on a road and every bureaucrat believes parking rules exist for others. If a mobile phone rings inside a cinema, or during a play, the odds are its owner will be someone with a misplaced sense of his or her authority, a la Mr Singh. In the case of policemen, the minister in charge, who happens to be the Chief Minister, is unwilling or unable to enforce any discipline and unlike in the Assembly, there isn't anyone out on the streets or in cinemas to check abuses and excesses, even blatant ones. In the absence of a political will to enforce discipline, it becomes the responsibility of senior officers to crack the whip. But in light of their own transgressions, how will the likes of Mr Singh ever find it possible to tick off subordinates? No wonder Bengal's policemen are a law unto themselves. No wonder the administration is in such a state. 

 

LOSING FACE

BURQA AND BLUSTERING NATIONS

 

France doesn't want it. Belgium doesn't need it. But Britain does. The USA, of course, is not very clear about what it really wants but has no doubts about what others shouldn't. The Islamic shroud has certainly taken the veil off very passionate national debates about what's acceptable ~ to each other and to the world. A British Member of Parliament refused to interact with his burqa-clad electorate last week. "God gave us faces to be expressive," Conservative MP Mr Philip Hollobone said in defence of his insistence for a view unobstructed by veil. And, while he took it upon himself to try and change what some of God's children had already decided needed no changing, a ministerial colleague said the full-body covering was important for women's rights. Environment secretary Ms Caroline Spelman held that to be able to choose unbidden what to wear on waking up each morning, was immensely empowering.

 

Mr Hollobone and Ms Spelman can both be accused of oversimplifying the case, but their statements seem to, inadvertently, capture the crux of the conflict successfully ~ it's visibility vs losing face. After relative obscurity spanning centuries, the burqa is disturbing governments now because it's suddenly visible. The veil owes its visibility to an increasing awareness of a way of life that, in no way, can be attributed to interests purely anthropological. This sartorial shield is evocative of two touchstones of modern-day discourse ~ religious distinctiveness and repression of women. The tragedy of our times is that militant Islam is perceived to embody the two. So, just as they did for international terror, governments in the West must take a stand on the burqa too. And the USA must tell them how to do or not do so. Because, otherwise, all of them will lose face.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

COERCION OR DEVELOPMENT~I

GROPING IN THE FACE OF THE MAOIST

BY PR DUBHASHI

 

THE repeated massacres of CRPF personnel in Dantewada have led to a reappraisal of the Union home ministry's strategy vis-a-vis the Maoists. A Congress leader and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijay Singh, has criticised the home minister for what he calls a wrong approach ~ an armed offensive against the Maoists rather than development.


Home minister, Mr P Chidambaram, has admitted that a major blunder was committed by senior CRPF officers while conducting the operation. The standard precautions were ignored. This exposed the jawans to the Maoist ambush. Obviously, the authorities had under-estimated the Maoist strategy, their guerrilla tactics and their ability to hit back with accuracy. 


A retired head of  the CRPF, Mr Rammohan, was appointed to investigate what happened and submit a quick report, which he did. The notable feature of the report is that apart from pointing out the mistakes made in carrying out the operations, he emphasised the importance of development and good governance. Both are lacking in the tribal areas.


Mr Chidambaram, who was attacked by his own party leaders, was put on the defensive. Apart from tendering an apology to the nation, he submitted his resignation to the Prime Minister which Dr Manmohan Singh declined to accept. In a TV interview, the home minister spoke of his "limited mandate" to effectively deal with the Maoists who had extended their sway to some 250 districts in the forest areas, covering West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. For the BJP, this was ammunition to attack the UPA government for tying his hands in dealing with the Maoists. Chidambaram tried to wriggle out of the controversy. He clarified  that by "limited mandate" he meant the inevitable limitations of the Central government since law and order is a state subject. In a sense, Chidambaram was using the arguments of his predecessor, Shivraj Patil. 


As recently pointed out by the security analyst,  K Subrahmanyam, the Union cannot abdicate its responsibility and seek refuge behind the plea that law and order is the responsibility of the states. "Ultimately all people of India" would look to the Indian Republic/ Union for exercising the fundamental right to peace. The objective of the Maoists is not merely to subvert law and order in the tribal areas, but wage war against the Indian Republic and the Indian Constitution. Under these circumstances, the Union government will have to consider invoking Article 355 of the Constitution which states, "It shall be the duty of the Union government to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the governance of every state is carried out in accordance with provisions of the Constitution. The Union government will have to work out a coordinated plan of operations by all the states carried out in an integrated manner."


Apart from the Centre-state issue, another important aspect is the relative roles of the state police, the central paramilitary forces, the army and the air force. The official position is that it is basically the responsibility of the state police. The Centre can supplement the effort by providing troops.


In the aftermath of the Dantewada massacre, the home minister felt that this approach may not be adequate. Also, the help of the army and air force would have to be invoked. This perception is a sharp departure from the conventional stand that the army exists to deal with external aggression. This principle has already been sacrificed while dealing with disturbances in the North-east and Jammu and Kashmir. The Disturbed Area Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act have been designed to facilitate the active role of the army in these border states. Now the same approach, it was suggested, had to be extended to the tribal areas, specifically to deploy the army to deal with the Maoist challenge.


The army and the air force were reluctant to get involved. The Chiefs openly expressed their views and had to be cautioned by the Prime Minister not to go public on such matters. The home ministry has been trying to work out a compromise. The army is prepared to send its officers on deputation to the states to provide guidance on effective operations. They may even provide training to the state police. The army has been openly critical of the standard of work and training of the CRPF. As regards the air force, it is prepared to provide helicopters for surveillance and transport.  These and other matters formed part of the proposals in the paper submitted by the home ministry to the Cabinet Committee on Security, presided over by the Prime Minister himself.


As the defence ministry is opposed to the involvement of the armed forces, the committee advised the home ministry to recruit ex-servicemen on contract to help in the operations against the Maoists.
The basic approach is more important than the roles of the Centre and the states and that of the state police, the CRPF and the armed forces.  This approach should be three-pronged. First, the use of coercive powers of the State to combat and defeat the guerrilla war of the Maoists, a war that challenges the authority of the Republic and the political system of parliamentary democracy. The second facet is to promote development and improve the living conditions of the tribals. The third factor is "good governance" to win the confidence of the tribals. But the problem of this approach is like "what comes first ~ chicken or the egg?" There cannot be development and good governance without law and order and there cannot be law and order without development and good governance. How can the administration function and development schemes be executed successfully if the "Maoist Army" attacks the police, snatches weapons from the armoury and abducts officers as "prisoners of war"?
Just as the administration cannot function in an atmosphere of fear, the Maoists cannot be defeated without gaining the confidence of the ordinary tribals and obtaining Intelligence from them about the movements and strategies of  other Maoists leaders. Such is the terror unleashed by the Maoists, that either out of fear or out of loyalty, they support their leaders rather than the functionaries of the state. 
It is not easy to resolve these contradictions. It is all very well for people like Digvijay Singh to advise Chidambaram that development should come first and the use of coercive power later. But how can development take place at all in the face of the Maoist onslaught? Chidambaram suggests that "let us first end the Maoist challenge by the use of force and create a conducive atmosphere for development".
The human rights activists have trashed this approach. They view the issue as one between Maoist terror and "state terror" through the use of coercive power. They equate Maoist violence and state violence and adopt a neutral approach, condemning both as being responsible for the present crisis. They even extend moral justification to the Maoists and regard as legitimate their terror tactics as an answer to the brutal use of state power. The likes of Mahasweta Devi, Arundhati Roy and Promila Thapar have not condemned the Maoist violence. They tend to use their moral authority in favour of Maoists rather than the State. Thus far, the State has not take any action against them. 


(To be concluded)


The writer is former Secretary to the Government of India and Vice-Chancellor, Goa University. He is currently chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Pune Kendraubhashi

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

GIANTS IN BLOOD

 

Not all books are made to be read, or to be books at all. It is bizarre, to say the least, that the most talked-about biography of the most celebrated contemporary cricketer might turn out to be one of those impossible-to-read objects. Not only impossible to read, but also impossible to buy (unless one is Arab royalty) and hold in one's hands without feeling squeamish or faint. Sachin Tendulkar's forthcoming biography will cost $75,000, weigh 37 kilograms and its signature page will be made of paper pulped with Mr Tendulkar's blood. The publishers are said to have taken a sample of his saliva to create a DNA profile, which will be printed as a two-metre-long pull-out in the book; its 852 pages are going to be edged in gold leaf. There will be 10 such copies, and other limited editions priced between $3,000 and a throwaway $300. Naturally, Mr Tendulkar finds all this mind-blowing.

 

The Opus List, as the publishers call this series, includes a book on Diego Maradona that uses his blood, saliva and hair. Some other Opusites are Michael Jackson, Vivienne Westwood and the Rolling Stones. The book on Manchester United was auctioned for $1.5 million, making it the most expensive sports book ever sold. And the Prince volume, co-produced with Asprey, had the singer's logo etched in platinum and inlaid with diamonds. They cost millions, of course, and buyers got a private performance in Prince's Los Angeles home. No wonder that the publishers, Kraken Opus — initially operating from the Channel Islands and founded by an eager young British investment banker who wanted to be an ad man — recently announced a management buy-out by a new Arab funder; their headquarters shifted to the United Arab Emirates. There, they made a 15-foot book about the Burj Dubai hotel that remains installed, and gloriously unread, in the lobby of the hotel.

 

Blood, together with the other body fluids, is incorporated sometimes into sensational forms of art and performance, shocking the hygienic, apart from being an essential part of initiation rituals in savage as well as civilized societies. Poetry, love-letters and suicide notes are outpourings that also occasionally use blood. They come together, figuratively, when Sylvia Plath writes, in a poem called "Kindness", "The blood jet is poetry,/ There is no stopping it." But the Opus books' logic behind using the body fluids of Messrs Maradona and Tendulkar is positively eucharistic: they are "religious icons", so the selling-point is to take consumers as close to the gods as possible, almost "inside" them.

 

Aptly, the publishers of the Opus List are named after the Kraken monster, a mythical sea-creature of gigantic proportions, possibly modelled on the giant squid. The Scandinavian word also means something horribly twisted — and mercifully far removed from the world of ordinary people reading real books.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

MONEY WITHIN THE MAZE

NOT ALL THAT IS NEW IS FINE

THE THIN EDGE: RUCHIR JOSHI

 

I hate my bank. It's an institution, but I hate it with a passion that is usually reserved for the lowest of low humans. My bank screws me up, turns me into a scrunched up paper ball of anger and makes me throw myself into the dustbin and, as I land on the heap of rubbish, I hate my bank all the more. "I hate you, bank!" I shout. I would add, "Go to hell! The deepest, darkest, most untraceable corner of hell!" — except my bank has my money and I don't want what little money I have to go to hell.

 

Used to be, people hated banks even when I was a kid, but that was for different reasons and in a different way. "That cashier is always delaying!" One aunty would complain, "Just my cheques he is always delaying, for no reason!" No one would dare explain to the aunty that this might be because she was in the habit of talking to the bank staff as if they were her servants. But the crucial words here are "talking to". Whether you were rude or very polite to the point of being obsequious, the point is you had a human, personal relationship with the cashiers and officers. Yes, they drove you crazy by making you wait for the simplest of transactions, yes, sometimes the paan-chewing, chai-slurping, transistor-at-ear-cricket-commentary-listening, ajkey-go-slow-korchhi-bujhlen-to, dhoti-clad cashier or officer would take on a personal vendetta against your accounts or your safe deposit box.

Nevertheless, everything involved face-to-face interaction, or paper on which stuff was written or typed or printed: cheque, pass-book, deposit slip, letter of complaint to the manager, everything. And, if you were a halfway decent person and not too proud of how much money you had (in comparison to the poorly paid banker-pawn who served you), you would find you had a similar relationship with the bank people as you had with your local modi ki dukan. You went to the market, you went to the doctor, you went to the bank, there was nothing mystical or mysterious about it.

 

Being a victim of Western literature, one knew that banks were bad, or could be bad, especially when they did something nasty called 'foreclose' on a ranch or a farm or some other rural property in Tennessee or Nebraska. You also knew from Victorian literature that bankers could be cruel and nasty creatures, the most heartless after lawyers. But, this being India and banks being nationalized, the worst thing your own bank could do was go on strike and the worst thing your 'banker', that is the babu who sat on Elgin Road leching at all the college girls who had accounts, could do was to ask your parents if they could get his daughter admitted into a local college. Sure, even Indian banks shafted big businessmen and businesses in big and arcane ways, but as part of a shikkhito middle-class family you were a civilian and these things were no more than rumours.

 

Then came the 1980s and the slow opening up of banking operations to the private sector. Suddenly, all those banks with the boring names became even more colourless, and you had less and less lena and dena with them. Across my twenties, those forren banks with the fancy names, which till then had single main offices only on Chowringhee and Dalhousie, suddenly began to sprout branches and you could actually deposit your money in them. The branches were all air-conditioned, the cheque-books actually had your name printed on them, and the young men and women managers who swished through the doors all looked like they were as freshly minted at XLRI as crisp notes that had been recently baked at the mint. The dhoti-clad babus were still around, like torn, old five-rupee notes, but they were dwindling as a species. For a brief while, monetary innocents like myself imagined that everything would now go smoothly, efficiently and — this was the silliest assumption of all — honestly.

 

Around the late 1980s, me and a few others like me began to receive minor amounts of what in Bankali are called 'foreign inward remittances' or FIRs, that is dollars, pounds, francs and marks for making documentaries for TV channels abroad. One day, a precious consignment of pounds disappeared and stayed invisible for a period of a month before appearing in my account. I noticed the rate of exchange between the moment of disappearance (when the money was supposed to have come in) and appearance (when the money was actually credited to me) was hugely advantageous to the bank. There was no one to whom I could make an FIR about this errant FIR but nevertheless I made a noise and, since I'd had face-to-face dealings with the bank manager, a compensatory sum of Rs 16,000 was added to my account — a rare and amazing event which I did not then fully appreciate.

 

This small gesture kept me loyal to this brand across three cities and for nearly 20 years, even as the bank trampled across my finances like an elephant trampling through drought-affected sugar-cane fields. It was only later I realized the cunning sleight of hand with which they overcharged me for credit card payments, it was only when someone pointed out to me the lucrative nature of 'standard delays' on other FIRs that I charted what they had skimmed from me over the years. But the main thing that kept me with this bank was a version of that old, modi ki dukan, feeling: I knew the junior-managers who I dealt with in Calcutta and Delhi on a first- name basis and they were good people. In a crisis, I could call them up and Sushanta and Konica would do their best to help me.

 

As if in a thriller by Edgar Wallace, death, or at least the death of banking trust, came to me via the telephone. In London, sometime in the early 1990s, I tried calling the phone company for a problem a friend had with the billing. The complaints line was answered by a machined-voice giving me choices and asking me to press various buttons. I tried my best to get past the answering machine to a human because my problem was peculiar and not slottable into the choices available, but, like a fastening noose, the voice and its choices kept me in suspension for a good half an hour before I gave up. Soon, every business I dealt with had this wall of multiple choice answering-voice and you could only get to a phone-banking executive after much effort and alert ingenuity. Slowly, I became used to this trial by phone-button, both abroad and in India, and, like all adaptable creatures, began to design my life around the needs of my service providers rather than vice versa. However, at some point, having had enough, I decided to stop the bank with the constantly changing name from stamping over my money and shifted to a newish but very popular, very Indian, bank.

 

It was a bad mistake. Within a few months, I realized I had put myself into a Kafkaesque maze. If my previous bank was like a rogue animal, this bank was like a blind and hungry machine and people like me were part of its fuel. It chewed up my foreign remittances and spat them out like poshto, it bounced cheques like Michael Jordan used to bounce a basketball, professionally, but also just for fun. It took facelessness to a whole new level of anonymity. The firangs might have invented the phone-answering business-wall but it took Indian ingenuity to take it to another level. Every time I tried to do what is euphemistically called 'phone-banking', it became clear that there was deliberate programming on the phone lines to cut you off seven times out of ten, chop you off in mid-enquiry, right after you'd keyed in your twelve- digit account number and your several digits of card number and your four-digit pin and whatnot. When you finally did get through to some guy in Gurgaon, Lucknow or Bangalore and started to complain, the chief English words that would come out were also as if programmed, "I see, sir, I see, I see, I…"

 

"No," I feel like snarling, "no, actually you see, you don't see, you don't see because you're paid and programmed to be blind!" And as I slam down my phone, I see the ghost of the lechy babu in the old bank on Elgin Road grinning through paan-stained teeth as he adjusts his thick glasses, "Dekhle to? You see? Not all that is new is so fine!"

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PUT THE LAWS ON TRIAL

GHAZI SALAHUDDIN


With so many flaming headlines demanding our attention and prompting excited debates on news television, a few crucial matters quickly recede out of sight. This has been a week of some major developments. There was considerable focus on the strategic dialogue between the United States and Pakistan, marked by the stellar presence of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Islamabad. And this was done against the perspective of the somewhat frosty meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers.


By the weekend, the three-year extension given to Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani became the main topic for the media. It was absolutely not an unexpected move but Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought to lend it a touch of drama by appearing on television to make a three-minute speech. He later said that the tenure of all the top state functionaries was now secure until 2013, including that of the chief justice.

Meanwhile, the usual political serials, such as the saga of the fake degrees, have continued. Karachi, with its endemic disorder, flared up late on the night of July 24 with a new cycle of violence. So much else is there to ensure a rich harvest of topics for media discussions.


In the midst of all this action was this report. Dated Faisalabad, it told the story of the murders of two Christian brothers who were alleged blasphemers. They were in police custody when they were killed by "unidentified" persons. A police sub-inspector, who was bringing them back to Civil Lines police station after producing them before a magistrate, was injured.


So, what significance do you attach to this report? How aware are you of similar incidents related to charges of blasphemy against the members of the Christian minority? Do you find any connection between the blasphemy laws and the possible miscarriages of justice? Does the name Bishop John Joseph ring any bell? How much do you know about what happened in Gojra on August 1, 2009?


It is good that the Lahore High Court's chief justice has ordered a judicial inquiry into the murder of the two Christian brothers – Rashid Emanuel and Sajid Emanuel – on the premises of the Faisalabad district courts. The suo moto hearing was held on July 22. The brothers were accused of writing a blasphemous pamphlet. Expectedly, the federal government has asked the provincial authorities to provide extra security to those under-trials who are accused of blasphemy to protect them from extra-judicial killings – as if this threat could not be easily grasped.


When I first learnt about the murders through a ticker on television, my heart sank. The first thing I did was to make a long-distance call to tell my daughter Aliya, who was in London. I did so because Aliya had talked to me about this case and had expressed her fear that the two brothers were in danger of being killed before their trial was over. This apprehension was based on previous incidents relating to charges of blasphemy. Incidentally, Aliya had recently done some research on Pakistan's Christian community.


In any case, I believe that this incident was of great importance in the context of the devastation wrought by religious extremism and the essentially controversial blasphemy laws. I was expecting some of our news channels to deal with these admittedly sensitive issues. It was with this expectation that I surfed the prime time talk shows in that 8 to 9 slot and checked seven of them. They were all talking about fake degrees, of relations with the US or transit Afghan trade through Pakistan or water.


The point to note, here, is that with this plurality of the media, we do not have a plurality of choice. Because of their competition for ratings, they all seem to be aiming for the lowest common denominator. They also have a limited range of participants and some faces – or voices – are constantly shuffled. We generally know in advance what so and so would say on this or that subject.


Coming back to the issue of the blasphemy laws and how they are often exploited by fanatics, I am reminded of the case of Bishop John Joseph. A young Christian, Ayub Masih, was sentenced to death in Sahiwal in 1998 on a charge of blasphemy. On May 6 that year, the Christians, as a mark of protest, were fasting. Bishop John drove from Faisalabad to Sahiwal on that day, gave a homily to his fellow clergy and asked his driver to take him to the court house. There he shot himself.


So far as I remember, this suicide to protest against the sentence was divisive within the Christian community. What I find relevant is that the national memory never registered this protest. Also, it did not shake the country. As it was, India exploded its nuclear device within a week and the nation was convulsed with a new passion. Eventually, on May 28, we exploded our own atomic bomb. This year, on this date, two places of worship of the Ahmedis in Lahore were attacked by suicide bombers in one of Pakistan's most fatal acts of terrorism.

The Christian community in Gojra, in Punjab, was attacked by a frenzied mob on an allegation of blasphemy on August 1 last year. Eight lives were lost in loot and arson. Investigations revealed that the attack was pre-planned and the police had stood aside. A fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reported that announcements were made through local mosques on July 31, urging Muslims to gather and attack the Christians. A number of arrests were later made.


The murders of the two brothers have also been condemned by government officials and social activists. A joint action committee of over 25 non-governmental organisations, meeting in Karachi, has also demanded that the blasphemy laws should be repealed "immediately". Some groups are planning to launch a campaign against the laws. It is sad that successive governments, after the dark era of Ziaul Haq, have not found courage to even look at the blasphemy laws, which are some of the harshest in the world, and review their impact on our society.

August 1, the first anniversary of Gojra, will be a good date to launch this review. The present government and the present independent superior judiciary should be expected to curtail the state's partiality towards those who hold extremist views.


To conclude, let me just quote the intro of a story published on July 24: "The Lahore High Court ordered that a mentally ill woman who had been under detention without trial for 14 years be immediately released. She faced blasphemy charges but police never presented any evidence against her in the court".


The writer is a staff member. Email: ghazi_salahuddin@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SEARCHING FOR STABILITY

The remarks by the prime minister about the extension given to the Chief of Army Staff are intended to reassure. Mr Gilani has said the fact that the tenures of all top officials will now end in 2013 will facilitate all institutions in working within their constitutional ambit and lend stability to the system. This was clearly a key reason behind the decision. But the comments also raise questions about our system and the political environment that forms the backdrop to it. Are we to assume that the order of things in the state cannot function smoothly unless all officials are kept on an even plane as far as the dates set for retirement or the end of tenures is concerned? Is the matter of managing the usual comings and goings from office that mark life in any country beyond us? This is something to think about. The rules and regulations are clearly laid down. They should be followed without causing any kind of flurry or generating speculation and rumour.


As far as principle goes, General Kayani should indeed have stepped out of office on the date appointed for this at the end of November. The unusual situation in our country, where a fierce battle against extremism continues, perhaps makes it desirable that this not happen. This is a matter open to debate. The PM had originally cited national security concerns as the reason for extending General Kayani's stint in office. It is curious that he placed the emphasis in a slightly different place when asked about the decision a day later. If indeed our system as a whole is so vulnerable that constant adjustments need to be made to ensure stability, we need to consider why this is the case and what can be done to make it more sustainable. General Kayani has indeed made a contribution to stability by ensuring that the army steer clear of political matters. For this he deserves applause. It is other institutions that now need to work according to rules and for the cause of the people. The fact that this is not happening is one factor in the continued unease that hovers in many places. The escalating conflict between the government and the judiciary has played a big part in this recently. But there are also other contributory elements. Lately we have seen discord between the PM and the president on several matters. This adds its own complications to the situation. It is somewhat simplistic to assume that the system can work better only because many of those who hold key posts will now be leaving office more or less together. More than that is needed to bring in the stability we still seek and the good governance that is in many ways crucial to ending the upheavals that have for many months prevented calm in our state. Mr Gilani must devote his efforts to ensuring that this stability is found.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BOWLED OVER

 

There really were reasons to be cheerful on Saturday as we won the Test against Australia at Headingly – our first win against them in fifteen years - by three wickets. Short of an out-and-out collapse there was every indication of victory at stumps on Friday night, but true to form we gave cricketing fans a few anxious moments on the way to victory. We lost four wickets in the Saturday session, and they fell cheaply, amounting to a collapse of the middle order and we should count ourselves a little lucky. For the team captain Salman Butt, a rookie who had the job dropped on him rather than volunteering for it, it was a match of mixed fortunes – he scored a miserly 13 but the team won, and there are worse ways to begin a career as captain of the national side.

Playing the match on neutral ground -- a consequence of the attack on the Sri Lankan team last year and the general inability to secure the safety in Pakistan of visiting sportspersons -- may paradoxically work to our favour. Whilst it is no doubt more desirable to perform in front of a home crowd, our team have the support of the large Pakistani diaspora in the UK, who were obviously as delighted – and relieved – by the result as the players. The team are also secure in the knowledge that they are – secure. Whilst it is impossible to rule out the chance of a terrorist attack, they can happen any time anywhere, the chances of such an attack in the UK are probably lower than they are on home soil. A team that feels that it does not have to watch its back every time it travels from place to place is likely to be a lot more at ease with itself than a team that knows it is a target. And there is nothing that succeeds like success. We won a famous victory and can feel proud of our team. Now let us give them our wholehearted support as they turn to their next task – beating England. Now that would be one for the history books, wouldn't it?

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

OVER THE TOP

S IFTIKHAR MURSHED


"O Liberty, what crimes are committed under thy name," exclaimed Marie-Jeanne Roland as she mounted the platform to be guillotined during the Reign of Terror at the height of the French Revolution. Pakistan is under a similar reign of terror, but in the name of religion.


The country bleeds from terrorist violence brewed from a fascist religious narrative indoctrinating its citizens, and particularly the younger generation. The radicalisation of Pakistan's youth continues apace while the government remains a passive bystander.


Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani promised madressah reforms soon after he assumed office, but this pledge is yet to be redeemed. The obscurantist worldview of the madrassahs is derived from medieval literature. For eight years students are taught the Dars-e-Nizami which was evolved by Mulla Nizamuddin Sihalvi (d. 1748) at Farangi Mahal, a famous seminary in Lucknow.


Writer and analyst Khaled Ahmed says madressahs create a rejectionist mind, one which rejects modernity and discourse from outside these seminaries. Dr Tariq Rahman of the National Institute of Pakistan Studies of Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, believes the danger from the madressah lies not in its ability to train for terrorism and teach violence, but in the ability to first isolate its pupils completely from society representing existential Islam and then indoctrinate them with rejectionism.


The rejectionist mind nurtured by the seminaries is matched, in the textbooks produced by the educational boards of Pakistan, by glorification of armed conflict and hatred of other faiths. Thus, the official curriculum document for primary education, cited by Dr Farrukh Saleem in his op-ed article titled "Ghost organisations" in The News of July 11, prescribes "simple stories to urge jihad." Under activity 4, eight-year-old Pakistanis are required "to make speeches on jihad and shahadat" (martyrdom).


The mathematics problem posed to a third-grade student is: "One group of mujahideen attacks 50 Russian soldiers. In that attack 20 Russians are killed. How many Russians fled?" The imagery of violence is even more graphic in the government-approved fourth-grade textbook: "The speed of a Kalashnikov bullet is 800 meters per second. If a Russian is at a distance of 3,200 meters from a mujahid, and that mujahid aims at the Russian's head, calculate how many seconds it will take for the bullet to strike the Russian in the forehead?"


In social studies, fifth-graders are taught: "India is our traditional enemy and we should always keep ourselves ready to defend our beloved country from Indian aggression." The next year they are told: "Before the Arab conquest, the people were fed up with the teachings of Buddhists and Hindus." In the seventh grade, the lesson imparted to young impressionable minds is: "All the Christian countries united against the Muslims and sent large armies to attack the holy city of Jerusalem."


If the radicalisation of Pakistani society is to be arrested, much more is required than mere madressah reforms. The entire educational system will have to be overhauled. Themes of jihad and shahadat distinguish pre- and post-1979 educational content of the country's academic institutions. Post-1979 textbooks eulogise jihad and martyrdom and have spawned the likes of Faisal Shahzad who attempted to detonate an explosives-laden vehicle in New York's Times Square.


The difference between those attending madressahs and students of secular schools is that the former belong to impoverished families. An estimated 1.5 million students were enrolled in the seminaries of Pakistan in 2005 and the number has increased substantially since then. Though both secular schools and seminaries are responsible for the radicalisation of the country's youth, poverty impels madressah students to join extremist groups.

If militancy is to be contained, the government will have to take measures for the equitable distribution of wealth and provide justice to the poorest who are compelled to send their children to madressahs. Moralists may well preach that "man does not live by bread alone," but it is difficult to deny that, when there is no bread, man does live for bread alone.


On a parallel track, the state must stop arming and training religious cadres to promote its security objectives because the consequences of that have been disastrous, as is evident from the proliferation of violent religion-motivated outfits in the country.


The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) are no longer the exclusive breeding ground for extremist groups. Southern Punjab--the home of Sipah-e-Sahaba and its offshoot, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and other violent outfits, notably Jaish-e-Muhammad--shares that distinction with Fata.


The madressahs in southern Punjab, sponsored by these and other groups, churn out ideologically-motivated diehards who have been responsible for sectarian killings and the slaughter of minorities on concocted allegations of blasphemy, as well as many of the most dramatic terrorist attacks in recent years. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has not only earned a fearsome reputation as Al Qaeda's foot soldiers in Pakistan but is also acquiring a global jihadist agenda.


Al Qaeda, the Taliban of Fata and the extremist groups of southern Punjab are mutually supportive and collectively constitute a triangle of terror that has been responsible for more than 23,000 deaths in the last six years. Indoctrinated youths from the madressahs of Punjab are trained to become suicide bombers in the tribal belt under the tutelage of Al Qaeda.


The hackneyed refrain, something that Pakistan reiterates ad nauseam at every international forum, is that it condemns terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations." However, it has still not fully come to terms with the reality that one of the forms of terrorism that the government professes to staunchly oppose is violence against innocent civilians in the name of religion.


The 19th-century reformer Jamal ad-Din Afghani observed, "Every Muslim is sick, and the only remedy is the Quran." The first Quranic revelation allowing Muslims to fight came in 622. However, the permission, which had nothing to do with the propagation of the religion, was conditional and restricted to fighting only in self-defence. This stress against aggression is reiterated in all subsequent passages relating to warfare.

War is permitted against "those who fight against you"--i.e., only combatants are to be fought and civilians must not be subjected to any form of violence. Furthermore, the damage inflicted on the aggressors must never be excessive and be always proportional to the harm they have caused. There cannot be a stronger condemnation of terrorist violence and use of weapons of mass destruction. Until the true teachings of the Quran are clearly understood, obscurantist clerics will continue to preach hatred and violence in the name of religion. There can scarcely be greater blasphemy than this.

The writer is the publisher of Criterion Quarterly. Email iftimurshed@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TROUBLED WATERS

 

Many people have been killed and some 10,000 have been affected by flash floods triggered by monsoon rains in Balochistan. Roads and bridges are inundated and dozens of villages have been cut off from the rest of the province. There have been warnings that small dams could burst. The military and paramilitary forces have been carrying out relief work, though continued rain is hampering efforts. There is of course an urgent need to help people as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is indeed true after every natural disaster of this kind. But there are important lessons from the past to keep in mind as well while doing so. The complexities of Balochistan's political situation determine a great deal of what happens there and how perceptions about these events are shaped. Cyclone Yenyim which hit the coastal areas in July 2007 was devastating in human terms with hundreds killed and many more left homeless for a prolonged period of time. But far more devastating was the political fallout from the calamity and the feeling among the people of Balochistan that not enough had been done to assist them. This must not happen again. So far we have seen authorities move swiftly and, it would appear, do all that is possible in a difficult situation. It is also true that complaints will always come in when people are caught up in a hazardous situation.

 

The forces of nature are such that it is not always possible to address all the concerns to the degree that people seek. Nevertheless it is important to keep in sight the special situation of Balochistan. Representatives from all the affected areas should be included in committees set up to make suggestions and as much done as possible to involve people in relief work aimed at preventing further suffering and warding off the discontent that often comes with it.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DEMILITARISATION OF SIACHIN

 

PAKISTAN has once again proposed to the India demilitarisation of the world's highest altitude battlefield 'Siachin'. Speaking to newsmen in Karachi on Friday, President Asif Ali Zardari pointed out that India was spending much more than Pakistan on maintaining troops in Siachin but despite that Pakistan has suggested to India that both countries should withdraw troops from that region.


The reiteration of the proposal for demilitarisation of Siachin is reflective of the fact that Pakistan is against war and wants peace in the region. This also confirms Pakistan's sincere desire for resumption of the dialogue process, resolution of all conflicts with India and normalisation of relations between the two countries. Regrettably, the two countries are fighting a very costly and open-ended war in Siachin since April 1984 and efforts aimed at disengagement were scuttled time and again by New Delhi on different pretexts. There were times when the two sides publicly acknowledged that they were close to signing an agreement but then Indians backtracked. It is said that among the disputes that are currently confronting India and Pakistan, Siachin is perhaps the least complicated and easiest to resolve yet one finds no progress over the issue even after 26 years during which the two sides held numerous rounds of talks. This is despite the fact that no country was gaining anything from its presence in Siachin except incurring huge losses in men and material. Indians are incurring more losses as compared to Pakistan because they have deployed more troops and are occupying posts at higher altitude requiring excessive dependence on costly helicopter service for logistic arrangements. The forces of the two countries, apart from fighting each other, have to fight the harsh weather as well almost throughout the year. According to data, over 95 per cent of the casualties at the Glacier are because of extremely cold weather and forbidding terrain while only five per cent fall in combat. The Indian casualty rate is a staggering 63 per cent — of every two soldiers sent up to the Glacier, one will be a casualty. Therefore, there was clear justification for the two countries to resolve the dispute expeditiously but this, of course, requires political will and sincerity. Settlement of this dispute is important as it could also create an atmosphere conducive to resolving of bigger conflicts including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. We hope that India would reciprocate to the goodwill gesture of President of Pakistan and engage in substantial dialogue for solution of the dispute

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS OF NEW INDIA-US PACT

 

DURING the visit of top American military commander Admiral Mike Mullen to India several developments took place that should be cause of concern to Pakistan including his uncalled-for warning of another 26/11-type attack in India. But the most worrisome outcome of his parleys in New Delhi was the signing of a counter-terror initiative that provides for deeper relationship and cooperation between the commando and special forces of the two countries.


The initiative identifies specific areas to expand collaboration on counter-terrorism like transportation and maritime security which is Pakistan specific. In the words of Mullen, he wanted a flourishing relationship with India's military. In our view the terrorism phobia stirred up by Mullen in India and unabated Indian propaganda about the Mumbai attacks is part of psychological warfare against Pakistan. Admiral Mullen who particularly went to India before visit to Pakistan wanted to give a message that the US has the alternative option if Pakistan did not tow the American lines in Afghanistan. He also wanted to reassure the Indian leadership that New Delhi's interests in Afghanistan would be fully taken care of and US would not be leaving the war torn country so early. On Thursday State Department spokesman also allayed India's concerns over America's policy to start withdrawing its troops beginning July 2011 by stating that they are not leaving Afghanistan or the region at the end of next year. India is deeply concerned that it would lose its strong hold in Afghanistan once the US-led NATO forces start leaving. New Delhi would go to any extent to oblige US in return for a guarantee that it should have a role in the unfolding scenario in Afghanistan. So there would be more pressures on Pakistan as Washington is desperate to turn the tide on Taliban. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke openly said in London the other day that the US wants launching of operation in North Waziristan and against the Haqqani network. We are sure that the political and military leadership will ponder over the growing strategic and military relationship between the United States and India and devise appropriate strategy to protect Pakistan's vital interests.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

REHABILITATION OF BALOCH FLOOD AFFECTEES

 

THE recent rains caused human and material losses in different parts of the country but Balochistan suffered the most where alone fifty people lost their lives in flood and rain-related incidents in Barkhan. Thousands of people have also been rendered homeless in Barkhan, Kohlu and Sibi. There are also reports about perishing of hundreds of head of cattle, damage to rail tracks, roads, bridges, electricity system and crops spreading over thousands of acres.


The severity of the problem can be gauged by the fact that the Province has been cut from Punjab and Sindh, complicating relief efforts. Army, Frontier Corps and the provincial administration launched joint operation to evacuate people to safer places while the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has dispatched relief goods to the affected areas. However, the scale of the disaster requires special attention both by Federal and Provincial Governments to mitigate the sufferings of the people of a region that is already backward and where sense of deprivation is relatively high. Therefore, a major programme should be launched for proper and expeditious rehabilitation of the homeless people and restoration of the damaged infrastructure. Special compensation package should be announced to help the affected people rebuild their houses besides provision of food and other necessary items to them on a priority basis. Members of the civil society, philanthropists and NGOs should also come forward as was done by them in the case of IDPs of Swat and Malakand. There have always been issues of transparent distribution of relief goods and compensation amount and with this in view the authorities concerned should see to it that the aid reaches to each and every affected family. Similarly, as more rains are expected during the prevailing monsoon, steps should be taken to avert more damage to life and property.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

THE ACADEMIC MAN

DR ZAFAR ALTAF

 

There is a favorite question or two that I ask any new class that I go to teach whether it is at the Fatima Jinnah Women University or at National University of Modern languages or at the national University of Agricultural Sciences and these two questions are: 1. Give me in one instance the name of the professor or teacher that you have studied from. If the answer is delayed and is not spontaneous what else can one think but that there had been none that came to mind in a split second. 2. Tell me where in your career you are and where would you like to be. Please place yourself on a line-this line can be horizontal, diagonal or vertical. This is a difficult one and it needs a bit of self introspection-something that we have forgotten about. It was and is apparent to me that the students had not worried about his or her disposition in life and was willing to place the point of his ambition on a horizontal line; part of a modest situation or suffering from some kind of weakness of the mind? That allowed me the mental picture of the characteristic of the student and how much motivational aspect would have to go in to the working with the class in general and or the particular individual.


What of the academic men that I had studied with and learnt from. They come instantaneously to mind-the science teacher Doc Stevens, the geography teacher Ma Harris, the principled and Principal Miss Budden and the mathematics teacher Mr. Sahotra. Come to the Government College Lahore and one remembers fondly not only one's particular subject teachers but also other college teachers; the parsimonious nature of their living. We had asked Dr. Nazir Ahmed to be the Principal to be the surrogate father of one of our class mates as she was getting married and no one was there to be the father of the bride. Imagine our conceit and we pulled it off- a great humanist that he was or for that matter the great Dr. Ajmal of the Psychology department who epitomized decency and tolerance. Dr Rashid who was there with a strict demeanor but was all kindness under the skin or the four feet two inch Professor Salim who would start his lecture with his queen Victoria [his second wife and her second marriage too]. They had had a liking to each other but she was married elsewhere and he was married elsewhere but their respective partners died and they came together with the baggage of each and got married with a total number of about fourteen and the two decided that it was time to have genetics of their own as well; true love unfathomable; deep as the oceans and higher than Mt Everest? These and others were there. The same thing was repeated when I left for other shores for education. In U.K. and in USA the same kinds of players were accosted. Surprising isn't it.


The point I am making is that the teacher of old was character and his charisma came to the student. They were always available and always kind and charitable not in a charitable way but in a manner that was conducive to giving confidence and strength to one's future way of life. Every time there was a need for nourishment one could go to the Quadrangle where Dr. Ajmal was the superintendent and have as many cups of tea as we wanted and occasionally when the going was tough ask for eatables as well. Those were heady days for the college for it excelled in academics as well as sports. In fact Government College provided the best of all the worlds that could be possible at an academic institute. With sports and academics were cultural and extra literary works not to speak of debating on national issues.


The Principal was humanist in Dr. Nazir and he was asked by us to act as the surrogate father to a class fellow who was getting married and did not have a mother or a father. Dr. Nazir agreed and that was it. We could go to our professors and seek out his views on everything. Once I had joined the civil service there was a regular discussion on issues at the house and then one day I found some books that Dr. Ajmal had bought and left for me stating in the cover inside that here were some people who had a different point of view praising the point that I had made in the discussion. Such was the ambience under which we played, worked and discussed issues of Pakistan.

The academic characters had charisma and were reasoned people. There trousers either too short or there coats crumpled but it did not matter for no one noticed this as the system was cognizant of the mind and its reasoning. The two great points to be gained in intellectual culture are the discipline and furniture of the mind, expanding its power and storing it with knowledge. The business like classes was there for all to partake but the literary and social sciences were as essential as these subjects developed fervor and taste.


So what went wrong with our rich and powerful and why were they not initiated in to knowledge and all that went with it. Pakistan came under the influence of the west almost immediately after independence and the one thing that did not happen was the character of the industrial players. These players were selfish and mean and rapacious just as Adam Smith had said. Would it not have been desirable to that the opportunity that a new state provided to the entrepreneurs who then became men of wealth and influence should be men of superior education, of large and liberal views, of solid and elegant attainments. In having these the chances would be that these men could go on to ever high attainments without recourse to hoarding of property [our power block], or waste them in senseless extravagant expenditure. That was not to be for we do not have these cherished goals yet.

Our extravagant expenditure is indicative of our lack of understanding of the requirements of the masses. Pakistan in not understanding the example set by our academic men has set them selves on a course that can only have disastrous consequences. The current demise is a consequence of a dead curriculum, a curriculum that is insignificant and will and does not deliver the requirements of the current knowledge based economies. The current demands are for a more relevant and popular education. The world of the excluded seems to have been taken to a preparation for the next world rather than the one in which we exist today. That has had serious consequences. The sensitivity of the previous academic men has been overtaken by an insensitivity that can only spell disaster for the nation building activities.


The revival of the academic man is not possible given the present aspects where education has been taken to mean that it is for profit. The privatization of the schools has been a WB induced activity and it meant that the conditionality thus imposed on Pakistan was for the purpose of disturbing what might have evolved as a more relevant educational system. As it is all the tiers have been so disturbed and the education system so taken to the pits of the world where the most expensive education is also the worst. Teachers and professors were and are responsible for the education and it is almost impossible to find the kid of teachers that give off themselves for the sake of the students. It is more routine work then the beat of the policeman. It is in the ultimate analysis not a function of finance but the courage to take one's conviction to a level that it becomes a matter of the university to take the students to a level that embodies confidence, courage, tenacity and the acquisition of knowledge.

When that happens the country will once again goon course. At the moment the educational system is not delivering anything that is worthwhile and that has led to a run on the system. Why? The educational system as envisaged might neglect the critical aspects of development of a mind and of a personality that is inevitable. Money and resources are just a source of convenience not a critical requirement. The nurturing of passions for difference is to resonate with the development of a mind that takes on issues and not personality prejudices. It's a tall order but it has to be managed.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

CANDID CONFESSION OF INDIAN ARMY CHIEF

MAJ MAHMOOD ABBASI (R)

 

Indian Army Chief General VK Singh during the interview with an Indian TV Channel confessed the failures of the Indian Army in Occupied Kashmir. In the first such narration over the years, he said the 'basic reason, behind the flare up in the Kashmir Valley was the failure to build on the gains that had been made by the Indian security forces in the occupied State. Singh said that the army had brought the situation under control to a certain level from where other steps should have been taken to carry forward the process and bring peace to the valley. He has also indicated certain 'initiatives' in this regard. The lay man, like me, can presume that General VK Singh had learnt about such 'initiatives' from his Pakistani counterpart (General Kayani) who, besides using the guns against the terrorists in FATA, is also winning the 'hearts and minds' of that population by Rehabilitation of the war effected areas, meeting with the Sardars of various tribes so as to bring peace and tranquility in the area but Indian case is different.


VK Singh's confession has appeared at a very critical stage. His bold confession might have shattered the morale of his troops to a great extent but the fact is that his statement is based on ground realities. Singh's confession is also a compliment to the freedom fighters who are struggling for their freedom with out any war machinery against the army which is equipped with the modern weapons and equipment. Singh would be well knowing the route cause of the problem as it is not merely a law and order situation which can be dealt with brute force or any local political package , whereas, the Kashmiris are fighting for their right of self determination in the light of the resolutions passed by a world body - United Nations Security council (UNSC)January 5,1949 which reads: "The question of the accession of the State of Jammu &Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of free and impartial plebiscite".


General Singh would, probably, also know that his civilian government has also pledged to give the right of self determination to the Kashmiris on many occasions but they never fulfilled their commitments. May I remind him that in a broad cast from New Dehli on November 2, 1947, the Indian prime Minister said: "We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people?


That pledge we have given, and the Maharaja has supported it, not only to the people of Kashmir but also to the world. We will not and cannot go back out of it. We are prepared, when peace and law and order have been established, to have referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations…"


Pakistan and India had many parleys on Kashmir in last 62 years but India always tried to hoodwink. The same was exhibited in the recently held foreign Ministers talks which produced 'zero results' due to Indian stubborn attitude. Our foreign Minister talked about Kashmir very load and clear but he could not convince his counter part . Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Shaheed ) was considered as the champion of diplomacy. But being foreign minister of that time , even he could not make his counterpart Mr. Swaran singh utter a single word on Kashmir in his 22 days long parleys in Murree in May/ June 1965. .


The Indian Government should take the words of her army Chief as "Good advice" and should stop massacres of Kashmiri Muslims which she has increased for the last one month. India should stop human rights violations of Kashmiris, destruction of their property and inhuman custodian killings, Which has been the routine of her security forces for the last 20 years. According to fact and figures ascertained in the year 2004, Indian security forces had martyred one hundred thousands Kashmiris, burned or destroyed 110000 houses and shops , molested 10000 women , about 22060 women became widow , about 106000 children became orphan , about 7000 Kashmiris died during custodian killings which is one of the biggest human tragedies of the world but more than seven lakh Indian troops failed to deter the spirit of Kashmiri people for freedom and this is what has been rightly realized by the VK singh.


In the light of the statement of General VK Singh, India should not spill the blood of innocent Kashmiris any more as it would not yield the desired results .As a matter of fact, both India and Pakistan should eschew the formalities of the composite dialogue and the CBMs and straight away look into heart of the Kashmir dispute in which Indian forces are martyring dozens of Kashmiris and destroying their heart and home almost every day The matter of trade, tourism and cultural exchange could be talked about but the Kashmir in which blood of human being is being spilled daily should not be put on back burner.


One thing is crystal clear that those who had sacrificed about one lakh lives at the hands of the Indian military forces will never accede to India. It is fraught with dangerous consequences if they are subjugated with brute force for ever. The will and determination of the Kashmiri people are more powerful than the two nuclear powers. United Nations Security Council, who had pledged the right of self determination to the Kashmiris, should also ponder over it.


—The writer is freelance columnist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

HILLARY WIDENS PAK-US "HISTORIC DISTRUST"

GEN MIRZA ASLAM BEG

 

Diplomats are very careful in choosing their words, when dealing with other countries. They are polite, articulate, courteous and convey even very tough messages with a touch of grace. But the Secretary of United States, Hillary Clinton, on her recent visit to Pakistan, appeared much jilted, emotionally disturbed, and displaying a strange logic, she hit-out to "decrease the Historic Distrust". She said:


One: "Should an attack on United States be traced to Pakistan, it would have a very devastating impact." This means, another demonstration of "shock and awe" over Pakistan, as on Afghanistan in 2001, but with a difference, that India would also join them, as they are also having jitters after the Mumbai attack.


Two: "I believe, Mullah Omar and Osama are here in Pakistan and you know they are here. Don't double cross. Help us to get them." For over nine years, the Americans and their allies have been trying to get them and having failed, now expect the Pakistan Army to 'produce the rabbits from the hat', failing which Pakistan has to remain prepared to face the wrath of the sole super-power of the world.


Three: "Pak-China nuclear deal is a matter of great concern. We can trace the export of nuclear information and material from Pakistan, through all kinds of channels, to many different countries. We are fulfilling our commitment, but it is not a one way street." Whereas, both China and Pakistan have explained umpteen times, that China-Pakistan nuclear deal is fully covered by the IAEA guarantees and should not be a matter of concern for any one. But this is the case of the 'lion and the lamb' where the water flows from down upwards and therefore Pakistan is to be prepared to face the onslaught of the 'global-anti-nuclear-proliferation-regime of USA, Israel and India,' ready to take out Pakistan's nuclear assets and capabilities.

Four: "Pakistan is double-crossing us in dealing with the terrorists. They are shielding the Haqqani group in particular, who are causing all the trouble for us in Afghanistan. It is time for Pakistan, now, to make sure, that we are on the same page on Afghanistan" and "There is a gulf between how the Pakistanis define the good and bad Taliban and what Washington calls reconcilable and irreconcilable Taliban."


As if, this was not enough, Pakistan and Afghanistan delegates were huddled together at Islamabad to sign the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, while Hillary stood behind like a headmistress with a rod in hand, to ensure compliance. The entire process was completed in such a hurry, that the Pakistani delegate didn't have the time to discuss the matter with the parliament, or at least with the members of the Cabinet. And our Prime Minister, who should not have been there, in any case, stood, hand folded and cheered, at the signing of the agreement, with a cynical smile on his face.


Hillary Clinton scored another point, by forcing the government of Pakistan, to restore the privilege of our Ambassador in Washington, to issue, one year, multiple visit visas to the Americans visiting Pakistan. This privilege was abused in the past by the American citizens visiting Pakistan working for Blackwater and other such shady organizations. It means that the old 'cloak and dagger' game is on, once again.


It is not only Hillary, but also, Admiral Mike Mullen, who tried to further decrease the "historic-gap", by revealing from New Delhi, that: "Mumbai carnage had demonstrated how a small group of extremists could have a 'strategic impact. I've worried a great deal about a repeat attack of something like that and am making sure this doesn't happen again. But there is an implication that there is zero-sum game here, that if we increase our interactions with Pakistan we are somehow diminishing India. I can't even imagine why any one would think that India is being diminished. Our goal is to have full transparency with India on what's going on in Afghanistan. The links between the ISI and the Taliban are a problem in this respect."


Hillary Clinton's next stop was Kabul, where she met the 'seventy countries group, trying to find the resources to rebuild Afghanistan. Strangely enough, Hillary was totally mellowed down and in a reconciliatory mood. She remarked: "The July 2011, date captures both our sense of urgency and the strength of our resolve. The transition period is too important to push off indefinitely. This date is the start of the new phase, not the end of our involvement." This statement of the American Secretary of State, read in conjunction with Karzai's proposal, is in fact a tacit acceptance of the first two demands of Mullah Omar, as the pre-conditions for talks. The demands are: One: A definite time of withdrawal from Afghanistan which has now been given as July 2011, and seventy countries attending the conference are a witness to it. Two: Release the fifty Taliban leaders in the custody of the occupation forces and the black list be removed immediately. This indicates a big shift in the American stance, to enter into dialogue with the Taliban. The melt-down has started, setting a very fast pace of development, which will overtake the 'American resolve to maintain their involvement till the year 2014." Raising an Afghan Army of 170,000 and a police force of 30,000, as a bulwark against the Taliban, is not workable. The reality has been accepted, that, without the participation of the Taliban, who have won the war and also are in majority, no stable government can be formed in Afghanistan.


What role Pakistan can play, to ease-out the exit process of the occupation forces and facilitate the establishment of a stable government, is the moot question. There is a big trust deficit between the Afghan Taliban and the government of Pakistan, Pakistan Army and the ISI. And there is no magic solution to bridge this gap and no visible effort either on part of Pakistan, to achieve this purpose. On the other hand, Karzai appears to be playing a more sensible game. He has succeeded in gaining the acceptance of the first two demands of the Taliban. And through this process he may well succeed on a cease-fire, followed by a Loe-Jirga, to decide the future of Afghanistan. As of now, he appears to be a safe bet, while Pakistan has more than enough at hand to respond to Hillary Clinton's charge-sheet.


In her attempt to decrease the "Historic Distrust", Hillary's utterances can be taken as a befitting gift to Pakistan, "the most allied ally, the strategic partner and the non-NATO ally of all times." Yet, we would say: "As far as criticism is concerned, we don't resent that, unless it is absolutely biased," (John Vorster). Hillary's criticism and allegations are outrightly biased, lacking substance and reality.


The writer is former Chief of Army Staff.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

OSAMA: DEAD OR ALIVE?

YASMEEN ALI

 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on her recent visit to Pakistan that she believed Osama bin Laden was still in Pakistan, in a television interview between high-level talks in Islamabad. "I believe (bin Laden) is here in Pakistan and it would be very helpful if we could take them (al-Qaeda leaders)," Clinton said. The US secretary of state sought tougher action from Islamabad to combat militants ahead of a key conference in Afghanistan. The information that Osama Bin Laden is dead, first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan many years ago,the fugitive died in December [2001] and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan.

With an ego the size of Mount Everest, Osama bin Laden would not have, could not have, remained silent for so long if he were still alive. He always liked to take credit even for things he had nothing to do with. Would he remain silent for nine months and not trumpet his own survival? [New York Times. July 11, 2002]. Bin Laden has often been reported to be in poor health. Some accounts claim that he is suffering from Hepatitis C, and can expect to live for only two more years. According to Le Figaro, lin [2000] he ordered a mobile dialysis machine to be delivered to his base at Kandahar in Afghanistan. [Guardian]. FBI: Bin Laden 'probably' dead; The US Federal Bureau of Investigation's counter-terrorism chief, Dale Watson, says he thinks Osama bin Laden is "probably" dead. [BBC].


The editor-in-chief of a London-based Arab news magazine said a purported will it published in the year [2001] by Osama bin Laden, and shows "he's dying or he's going to die soon." [CNN]. Usama bin Laden has died a peaceful death due to an untreated lung complication, the Pakistan Observer reported, citing a Taliban leader who allegedly attended the funeral of the Al Qaeda leader. "The Coalition troops are engaged in a mad search operation but they would never be able to fulfill their cherished goal of getting Usama alive or dead," the source said. [FOX News]. Yet, Secretary Clinton, has decided, to claim, that not only Osama Bin Laden is alive and kicking, but in Pakistan. Yet, Secretary Clinton gives no proof as to why, suddenly, she thinks he is alive. If there are clues, they must surely be shared with Pakistan for them to not only ascertain the veracity of the claim but to help them "find" Osama. Secretary Clinton is in a position where irresponsible statements can be ill afforded.

Many claim, this desire to revive Osama is to justify the continuation of the War on Terrorism. Gordon Duff, Senior Editor Veteran News, USA, in a recent article states," Has the United States established exactly what its strategic interests are in the region? Oil is flowing freely as is heroin. Money is flowing into the region by the plane load and back out, into banks in Dubai, Tel Aviv and Switzerland. Is $500 billion a year being spent to defend Israel from invasion by, well, we aren't sure? What is being spent to secure Israel, or empower Israeli recklessness, is nearly one third of America's entire budget. Wouldn't it simply be cheaper to give Israel the United States or do they own it already? " The Pakistani public is wary of these statements, as issued by Secretary Clinton, and are widely interpreted as self serving and nothing to do with ground realities. Pakistan is a country that has suffered tremendously in this War on Terror. If America has a genuine appreciation of the sacrifices made by Pakistan, she should make an effort to solve the issues being faced by Pakistan. One of the foremost is to intercede and stop India from violating the 1960 Indus Water Treaty.


To this, Secretary Clinton has given her flat denial. The West needs to review its arrogant policies followed in this part of the world. They need to answer some questions: what has been the ratio of suicide attempts since the invasion of Afghanistan? How sharply have the terrorist attacks risen since then? How many US soldiers have actually been killed on ground as compared to the soldiers, civilians: women, old people and children from other side of the fence? At the end of the day, what political and military victory has USA achieved by attacking and invading Afghanistan? USA is once again contemplating reaching an understanding with the Taliban in Afghanistan. So what were these eight years all about? Or is, Gordon Duff, right after all?



—The writer is a lawyer,and teaches in Beacon House National University


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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

BRITAIN: REDEFINING ITS GLOBAL STATUS

HASAN SUROOR

 

Britain's global status, long in decline, has plummeted to a new low, partly because of the broader shift of power from the West to the East and more specifically because London has simply run out of steam as an international power. The view that Britain has failed to find a role for itself on the global stage since the loss of the empire may have become a bit of a cliché but it is a cliché that can do with some repetition. Britain ceased to be taken seriously long ago even by its erstwhile colonial subjects (more than a decade ago, an Indian Prime Minister dismissed it as a "third-rate power") but till recently it had enough energy to punch above its weight and get away with it. Now it is too exhausted even to pretend that it is anything other than a "small island off the coast of Western Europe" as one academic put it.


It might have taken Britain a "long time to die," in the words of Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former Ambassador to the United Nations. But finally the show — as we used to know it — seems to be drawing to a close. Indeed, there is a growing view that Britain must now abandon its search for a post-Raj role and learn to live by the New World Order in which those it once governed are the new masters. But, in refusing to read the writing on the wall, old colonial powers can be like aging ballerinas who are often reluctant to acknowledge that their glory days are over and time has come for them to leave the stage before push comes to shove. Defining or redefining Britain's "vision" of its place in the world has become a default instinct of every new administration. Labour, when it came to power in 1997, declared that it wanted Britain to be a global force for good by pursuing an "ethical" foreign policy and through "liberal intervention" in resolving conflicts. Another of its big ticket policy resolves was to put Britain "in the heart of Europe" in the words of Tony Blair. And what was Labour's legacy when it left office 13 years later? A continuing civil war in Iraq and an open-ended insurgency in Afghanistan. As for Europe, far from Britain being anywhere near its "heart," their relations took some heavy blows, mostly over Iraq, and also over Britain's resistance to fuller integration with the European Union. Even the "special relationship" with America is no longer so special (that is, if it ever was except in the sense of London playing second fiddle to Washington) as the Obama administration focuses its energies on Asia and elsewhere.

So much so that it has become rather unfashionable to mention the "s" word. Mr. Cameron has, in fact, admitted that he sees Britain only as America's "junior partner." The Conservatives are trying to make a virtue out of necessity, saying they want to make foreign policy less America-centric and, instead, cultivate the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America. Foreign Secretary William Hague has been talking up his plans for a "distinctive British foreign policy" that would see it focus more on new centres of global power such as China, India, Brazil, Chile and the Gulf states.


Impressive, though, the rhetoric is, it is hard not to see that there is more froth than substance in Mr. Hague's brave assertions. In the absence of the nuts and bolts of his new policy, even a lay observer can see that the so-called "distinctive" policy is anything but "distinctive." To portray the new focus on India and China as something "distinctive" for which they should perhaps be grateful to Britain is patronising nonsense. The fact is no country with a semblance of a coherent foreign policy and which does not wish to be isolated can afford to ignore these new, emerging powers.


And, by the way, the wooing of New Delhi and Beijing started much before Mr. Hague came on the scene. It was under the previous Labour administration that Britain established a "strategic partnership" with India — followed by a procession of ministerial and high-level business delegations of the sort Mr. Hague says would be heading for New Delhi soon. The problem is not that Mr. Hague is trying to pass off old wine in a new bottle but that he (and indeed the entire British establishment) believes that Britain's foreign policy still matters to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, it doesn't. This brings us back to the point that Britain's ruling elite still suffers from a "persistent self-delusion" about the country's role beyond its shores. They are yet to "get it'' that much of the world no longer sees Britain as a great power and doesn't share its perception of itself.


This is something that is yet to sink into the British ruling psyche. Once it could buy influence abroad through generous financial handouts but the recent economic crisis has left the country so broke that it is no longer in a position even to do that. The Department for International Development is under growing pressure to review its commitments despite the government's promise to protect overseas aid from the austerity measures forced on other departments. And with the Foreign Office facing deep spending cuts, the era of Britain's high-profile diplomatic presence that reflected its status as a world power is over. Embassies and consulates in a number of countries are to be closed at a time when, more than ever before, Britain needs these symbols of power to be more visible.


So, what can Britain do? "The answer is stark: not much, given the state of our finances," wrote Michael Binyon, columnist of The Times, after attending a Chatham House conference on foreign policy. Meanwhile, as a once great imperial power slowly dies on its feet it can draw some comfort from a new study that ranks Britain as the best country for the dying with its vast network of hospices and end-of-life care homes. It has prompted some cheeky comments about the country's own health — reminiscent of the jibes it suffered in the 1960s and 1970s when it was dubbed the "sick man of Europe." —The Hindu

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ENCOURAGE PEOPLE ALONG..!

ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

Each morning I walk down, I see lots and lots of children going to school everyday, with no joy on their faces; instead looks of stress and tension cloud their otherwise smiling young visages. "Why no smile?" I ask a youngster walking along with his mother.


"He's got his exams today," says the mother. "Aha! So why not a small smile son?" I ask "No time to waste on smiles," says the mother, "He hasn't been studying at all, and now these exams are going to show what an idiot he is!"Harsh criticism what? I do agree the young mother must have spent many an hour yelling at her son to get into his books and her son must have done just the opposite, but I wonder whether she's using the right technique?

A second-grade teacher complained that her children were spending too much time standing up and roaming around the room rather than working. Two psychologists spent several days at the back of the room with stopwatches observing the behavior of the children and the teacher.


Every ten seconds they noted how many children were out of their seats. They counted 360 unseated children throughout each 20-minute period. They also noted that the teacher said "Sit down!" seven times during the same period. The psychologists tried an experiment. The asked the teacher to say "Sit down!" more often. Then they sat back to see what would happen.


Now she commanded her students to sit down 27.5 times in an average 20-minute period, and now 540 were noted to be out of their seats during the same average period! Her increased yelling actually made the problem worse. When she later backed off to her normal number of reprimands, the roaming also declined to the exact same number recorded previously in just two days. Then the experimenters tried another tack. They asked the teacher to refrain from yelling, "Sit down!" altogether, and to instead quietly compliment those children who were seated and working. The result: Children's roaming decreased by 33%! They exhibited their best behavior when they were complimented more and reprimanded less! Eleanor Porter said, "Instead of always harping on a man's faults, tell him of his virtues.


Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his real self that can dare and do and win out."If it works for children I am sure it works just the same for adults. Try it out on your husband, your wife, and in your workplace. There is immense power in encouragement — power to make a real difference. Don't criticize, instead, encourage people along..!


—Email:bobsbanter@gmail.com

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

COOKING THE PLANET, NOT THE BOOKS

 

Last year, controversy swirled around British climate researchers after leaked e-mails suggested that they had "cooked the books" on climate research by manipulating evidence, harassing opponents and suppressing dissenting opinions. The uproar triggered several investigations, all of which exonerated the scientists involved. Damage has been done, however: The furor has eroded public support for action against climate change.

 

Predictably, media outlets have not been as quick or as loud in correcting the record as they have been in trumpeting the alleged shortcomings of the research. Yet the record of global warming is unmistakable and the link to human behavior undeniable. That is the real story and one that everyone should understand.

 

Last November, someone broke into the computer system of the University of East Anglia in England and gained access to thousands of e-mails and other documents at its Climate Research Unit. The hacker then leaked the materials, triggering charges that the researchers had committed various misdeeds to make the case for global warming: Allegedly, they had obstructed attempts to share information, manipulated data and tried to silence researchers whose opinions they opposed.

 

The revelations led to the launch of five investigations, all of which have backed the climate researchers and rejected the criticisms of global-warming skeptics. The former head of the Climate Research Unit, Dr. Phil Jones, who temporarily resigned pending the results of the inquiry, was reinstated when a British panel concluded that "the rigor and honesty" of CRU scientists are not in doubt. A U.S. researcher, Dr. Michael Mann, who was also tarred, was exonerated when a separate investigation at his university found that he "did not engage or participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities."

 

The British review did acknowledge that the scientists' behavior was not above reproach; in particular, their reluctance to release data supporting their conclusions was wrong and a chart they produced was "misleading." They did not "display the proper degree of openness" required under Britain's public record laws. On one of the most damning charges — Dr. Jones' admission in an e-mail that he had used a "trick" to hide a problem with the data — the British report concluded that the procedure he used was acceptable in principle but should have been described more fully. He had argued that he was using the word in a benign sense and did not mean that he was misleading anyone.

 

Most significantly, there is no reason to believe that the scientists' actions undermined the credibility of the climate change studies to which they contributed. The House of Commons' Science and Technology Committee, which looked into the charges, found that there was nothing "that might undermine the conclusions" of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group that includes the world's leading climate scientists and won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its work to ascertain the degree and causes of global warming. That finding — that global warming was serious and was caused by human behavior — was echoed in a review issued earlier this month by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

 

Other studies agree. In May, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering released an authoritative analysis that concluded that "Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems."

 

That has not convinced the skeptics. Since one of the review panels was put together and paid for by the University of East Anglia, critics charge it was bought and biased.

 

What is especially troubling is the fact that increasingly the general public is skeptical about the reality and provenance of climate change. The e-mail controversy dovetailed with questions about the validity of the IPCC process after the organization was accused of exaggerating glacial melt in the Himalayas. While those specific criticisms were legitimate, the notion that they invalidated all the IPCC work was not. The overwhelming majority of scientists support its conclusions.

 

Plainly, climate scientists need to change the ways they do their work. They may be smug and quick to ostracize dissenters at times, but that does not make them wrong. The IPCC needs formal mechanisms to ensure that its decisions are objective and transparent. Equally important is the need to ensure that the facts are publicized. Media outlets that sensationalized this scandal eight months ago should now give equal prominence to the conclusions of the review panels.

 

Scientists may not have shown exemplary behavior, but they did not fundamentally alter the conclusions of their work: Climate change is real. Human beings are the primary cause.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

THE SAMURAI WHO WERE LET OUT OF THE BOX

BY HIROAKI SATO

 

NEW YORK — The Museum of the City of New York has an exhibition titled "Samurai in New York: The First Japanese Delegation, 1860." The "delegation" was the first embassy dispatched by Japan in more than a millennium. The previous one, in 838, went to the Tang Dynasty court to pay tribute to the Chinese emperor. The new one went to Washington to ratify a commercial treaty.

 

The City Museum has come up with the show, I gather, as much because this is the 150th anniversary of the treaty ratification as because "New-York, the Jeddo of America" — as The New York Times put it in an article on June 18, 1860 — gave the 77-man party the most extravagant welcome. ("New York" was spelled with a hyphen between the two words at the time; "Jeddo" is what is today given as "Edo," though the Times also spelled it "Yedo.")

 

Yes, extravagant the welcome was. "The procession was one of the finest displays of the kind ever witnessed in this City," the Times reported. More than 40 carriages containing city dignitaries, the visitors and others proceeded from the Battery up Broadway, and more than 7,000 troops sallied forth for one parade after another: cavalry, Hussars, artillery.

 

One result was Walt Whitman's poem, "A Broadway Pageant," which begins:

 

Over the Western sea hither from Niphon come, Courteous, the swart-cheek'd two-sworded envoys, Leaning back in their open barouches, bare-headed, impassive, Ride to-day through Manhattan.

 

But for a fuller appreciation of the New York celebration of the embassy you must turn to the New York Times. As I found because of "Samurai in New York," the paper carried a series of at times lengthy accounts — the Times hasn't changed a bit in that regard — covering the embassy from its arrival in San Francisco on March 30 to its return to Kanagawa in November. And one thing that makes the reports a pleasurable read is their freedom from preconceptions, jaundiced, stereotypical or otherwise.

 

The Times correspondent — no byline here, alas — struck the right note when the Japanese arrived at Hampton Roads. "After seeing these people, and observing them closely, I have arrived at a conclusion different from your regular Panama correspondent, and his criticisms upon them are to be regretted," he wrote. "Their appearance is pleasing, though as strange to us as ours must be to them."

 

Not that all was free of trouble. The report knew perfectly well that Japan was in a precarious state. It was riven by two factions: those who advocated repelling any foreign intrusion and restoring the emperor system, and those who felt compromise with foreign powers was a must to preserve the shogunate. The embassy itself represented the two camps.

 

Nor that the outcome of the mission was satisfactory to the Americans who provided three warships to transport the embassy — the Powhatan, the Roanoke, and the Niagara — and defrayed much of the costs, not to mention all the hoopla they made. In what appears to be one of the last dispatches on the embassy, the Times correspondent expressed disappointment.

 

"The illiberal course that has been pursued by the Japanese from the very first, in their commercial relations with foreign countries," he wrote from Kanagawa, "has undergone no change whatever since their Embassy left here [in February], with the treaty carefully boxed to carry to Washington for ratification."

 

When it comes to the political aspect of the enterprise, of course, the treaty, worked out by the first U.S. consul in Japan, Townsend Harris, in 1858, was unequal. So was the Kanagawa Treaty Commodore Matthew Perry had extracted from the Tokugawa government four years earlier. It would take four decades for Japan to rectify such unequal treaties, although by then Japan was busy imposing unequal treaties on its neighbors.

 

No, "Samurai in New York" has nothing to do with the imperial power relations of the day. It's just that I happened to be writing about the origins of the U.S.-Japanese War — the Pacific War — when the show opened, and the most arresting judgment I had come across was the one made by Lt. Gen. Kanji Ishihara, "the mastermind of the Manchurian Incident," when questioned by the victors after Japan's defeat: "The very cause of the U.S.-Japanese fracas is Commodore Perry who brought four warships to Uraga in the 4th year of Kaei [1853]."

 

Prospects for war between the two nations began to be contemplated in earnest decades earlier. In 1909, a few years after U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt arbitrated the Russo-Japanese War and made Japan the victor, two books came out predicting such a war: "Banzai!" by Parabellum and "The Valor of Ignorance" by Homer Lea.

 

Actually, "Banzai!" was a German book published the previous year, Parabellum being the pen name of Ferdinand Heinrich Grautoff. In the imagined war, Grautoff first made Japan beat the United States, before allowing the U.S. to prevail. His was a warning to "representatives of the white race against the Yellow Peril," the Times commentator noted. The name Parabellum comes from Si vis pacem, para bellum, "If you wish for Peace, prepare for War."

 

"The Valor of Ignorance" also reflected the fast spreading fear of "the Yellow Peril." Japan had not just defeated Russia; Japanese immigrants were increasing on the West Coast. The inimitable Lea, who at age 23 appointed himself a lieutenant- general under a Chinese leader, detailed these things in the appendices to his book. Unlike the German author, Lea projected Japan would trounce his country, the U.S.

 

In fact, one of the two generals who wrote two separate introductions to "The Valor of Ignorance" would have agreed with Lt. Gen. Ishihara's judgment 40 years later: It was the U.S. going to Japan "with an olive branch in one hand and in the other a naked sword," wrote U.S. Army Maj. Gen. J.P. Storey, that "removed the lid of Pandora's box with the enthusiastic approval of the American people."

 

Come to think of it, in "A Broadway Pageant," Whitman was foreseeing America as the proselytizer of democracy throughout the world, was he not, when he called his country "Libertad" and said, "I chant the new empire grander than any before" and "I chant a greater supremacy?"

 

Hiroaki Sato is a translator and essayist who lives in New York.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

CLAIMS OF U.S. FINANCIAL REFORM PRESUPPOSE GREAT LEAP OF HOPE

BY KEVIN RAFFERTY

 

Special to The Japan Times

LONDON — Champagne cork headlines were popping all over the United States the week before last when the Senate passed financial reform measures variously described as "a sweeping overhaul of the big banks" . . . "the biggest changes for generations" . . . "the greatest cleanup since the Great Depression" . . . "leaving few corners of the financial industry untouched."

 

Such headlines should make you worry about the critical faculties of the media and their gullibility to spin from Wall Street and the White House. The truth is that this piece of legislation — which President Barack Obama signed into law Wednesday — is nonvintage, with equal parts of vinegar and bubbles.

 

The legislation fails to address the key question of financial institutions that are "too big to fail." It also puts too much power into the hands of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has not kept a proper distance from Wall Street and has put too much faith in the ability of regulators to pre-empt the next crisis.

 

In addition, stricter global capital requirements for banks, which would further help to check financial gambling, have been postponed until 2013 or later because of international squabbling.

 

Obama promised that the new laws will "protect consumers and lay the foundation for a stronger and safer financial system, one that is innovative, creative, competitive, and far less prone to panic and collapse."

 

Sen. Christopher Dodd, who was responsible for getting the measures passed in the Senate, proclaimed that Americans' faith could be restored in the financial system: "More than anything else, my goal was, from the very beginning, to create a structure and an architecture reflective of the 21st century in which we live, but also one that would rebuild trust and confidence."

 

The Dodd-Frank bill, named after Dodd and Barney Frank, who was responsible for its passage in the House of Representatives, will establish an independent consumer bureau inside the U.S. Federal Reserve to protect customers from abuses in as mortgages, credit cards and other loan products, though notably car dealers will be outside its scrutiny.

 

Federal regulators will also have powers to seize or close big financial companies that are running into trouble, while a new council of regulators will be set up to try to anticipate threats to the financial system. Companies that are regarded as systemically significant will face stricter capital and liquidity requirements and must draw up a "living will" to show how they would be broken up in case of failure.

 

Derivatives, the complex multitrillion dollar market that brought many giant financial houses to their knees, will be subject to government supervision and traded in clearinghouses or on exchanges. The prices of trillions of dollars of credit default swaps will have to be disclosed rather than set in secret.

 

Under the Volcker Rule, named after former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, banks will have limits on proprietary trading and ownership of hedge funds for their own account.

 

But for all the brave words of Dodd, it is hard to see any major changes in the financial architecture. Indeed, the major familiar financial names have simply gotten bigger since the crisis, as they have swallowed failed banks whole or gobbled up their remaining profitable parts. There are now just six major financial companies in the U.S. today with tentacles reaching to all major aspects of the financial business.

 

There was no root and branch radical revision of the system, no attempt to understand why the system had gone wrong in the first place and no effort to undertake a re-design. This is one reason why the reforms do not approach the Glass-Steagall provisions of the 1930s, which set up strict barriers between commercial banking and stock market- related businesses.

 

The Glass-Steagall wall was breached in the 1980s as banks got big enough and clever enough to find ways of getting around its provisions and was dismantled in the 1990s under the aegis of President Bill Clinton and his treasury secretaries, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.

 

So, commentators who call the measures the boldest for generations are plain wrong. At best, they are an attempt to curb the excesses that the Clinton-Rubin- Summers deregulation promoted, but nothing as radical as a face-lift.

 

Supporters of the reforms may say it is a measure of their success that they have been attacked by Republicans on the right for creating expensive, onerous and unnecessary regulations and reporting requirements that will stifle growth and kill jobs, and by critics on the left who claim that the new rules do not go far enough.

 

As for derivatives reform and curbs on banks trading on their own account, there are loopholes and exceptions; for example, separate offshoots can be set up to trade in excess of the 3 percent limit for banks themselves.

 

The crucial issue is whether the regulators can show the foresight to see troubles ahead of time and will have the guts to take firm measures.

 

What should still be worrying is the close nexus between Wall Street and Washington. On the side of Wall Street — as in the City of London and other financial centers — there is no sign at all that bankers have any sense of shame that they almost caused a collapse of the global system or that they have lost their sense of entitlement to salaries astronomically larger than those of ordinary mortals.

 

In Washington, big financial institutions have stepped up their lobbying to protect their interests. Obama is earning something of a reputation for being hostile toward big business, but he seems to have an exceptionally soft spot for the financial industry. This may be because key players of the Clinton era, who dismantled the old regulations and discipline, still set Obama's economic policy.

 

Geithner has accumulated vast powers to shape the new regulations, to create the consumer protection agency and appoint its members. Yet Geithner was widely leaked to be opposed to the appointment of Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren to head the consumer protection agency. Geithner apparently wants someone more friendly to Wall Street.

 

Kevin Rafferty is editor in chief of PlainWords Media, a consortium of journalists interested in issues of economic development.

 

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