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Sunday, August 1, 2010

EDITORIAL 01.08.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month august 01, edition 000586, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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










































Casting an evil eye on the Commonwealth Games is unpatriotic, but the critique of shoddy city infrastructure is not unjustified

As a people, Indians are generally bereft of a sense of humour and tend to take themselves rather too seriously. Understatement not being part of our linguistic and cultural idiom, Indians' concept of comedy is essentially of the slapstick variety. Popular Hindi cinema of yesteryear relied on bizarre facial expressions, obesity, striped underpants and similar props for comic interludes. Although of late a degree of sophistication has come into Hindi films, beginning with the riotous Jaane bhi do Yaaron (one of whose protagonists, Ravi Vaswani, met an untimely death last week), humour in cinema still relies on comedy of the absurd and double entendre. The problem, however, arises when people who do have a sense of humour, wit and repartee start insisting they be taken seriously.

Erstwhile Congress heavyweight (he is still in the party although his political weight is vastly reduced) Mani Shankar Aiyar is a classic example of this dichotomy. There are few public figures who can match his command over the English vocabulary or his quick wit. Had he made a career of this enviable skill, hosting a comic TV chat show for instance, I am sure it would have appealed to the section of society's upper strata that connects with the classic TV serial Yes Minister and its sequel Yes Prime Minister. Mr Aiyar's humour though is a cross between the perfect understatement and the perfectly acerbic. He swings between sophistication and verbal savagery sometimes in the same sentence. All the more reason why he should not take himself seriously and nor should the country. He also has a knack of drawing the limelight onto himself whenever he feels ignored. Humility not being his crowning glory, he evokes amusement by describing himself as the most qualified person for various public positions — a claim sniggered at even by his own partymen.

Back in Parliament as a nominee of the President in the Rajya Sabha (he has since formally joined the Congress Parliament- ary Party), Mr Aiyar recently went on the rampage airing his pet peeve over sports events in India, directly targeting his old bete noire, Mr Suresh Kalmadi. Much of Mr Aiyar's ire, though, should have been directed at Ms Sheila Dikshit rather than the harassed Maharashtra politician. Wishing that a modern day pralaya should deluge the forthcoming Comm- onwealth Games, Mr Aiyar even described its organisers as "evil" by invoking a Biblical reference. Predictably, this set the cat among the pigeons, which was precisely what Mr Aiyar had hoped for. Denunciations flew in faster than javelin throws. They ranged from anti-national, demeaning, demoralising to unsporting and worse. The acerbic politician seems hugely tickled by the brouhaha. Asked on a TV show if he still thought that CWG would be an outstanding disaster, Mr Aiyar said to believe the contrary would be akin to believing pigs could grow wings!

The former Minister who appears to think that the best thing god did was to create Mani Shankar Aiyar, and the worst to create the rest of humanity, has often bellowed against mega-events like CWG. He railed against India's bid for the Asian Games and explained that he wished the CWG would fail so that New Delhi wouldn't ever dream of bidding for the Olympics. As Sports Minister in UPA1, he drafted a Rs 6,000-crore plan to hold national panchayat games to develop skills in kho-kho, kabaddi and assorted indigenous sports, insisting that fund infusion at that level would help grow talent. Since his unorthodox views had no takers, he was divested of the Sports Ministry. Similarly, his attempts to by-pass the foreign policy establishment by cosying up to Iran met with stern disapproval from his erstwhile employer, the Ministry of External Affairs, and he had to be removed from charge of the Petroleum Ministry as well.

Given the maverick track record of the bureaucrat-turned-politician, (who, to his credit won three Lok Sabha elections) why should his views be taken seriously at all? Well, I think there are two facets to Mr Aiyar's ill-timed diatribe. Casting an evil eye on one of the most prestigious sporting events India will host is, unequivocally unpatriotic. Whatever one's views on India's ability to organise such events, and there are serious questions relating to that, this is no time to publicly berate the event. If the CWG turns out to be a disaster, India's national honour and prestige would be seriously compromised. The gains notched up in India's global image, riding the crest of a booming economy and IT prowess, would be severely dented. Odious comparisons would be made with China, which held a spectacularly successful Olympic Games three years back. Mr Aiyar, despite his abiding love for China (and, incidentally, Pakistan too) should have known better considering the important responsibilities he has discharged both in the Foreign Office and as Minister in several Governments.

Further, the argument that the Rs 35,000 crore would have been more productively used to promote sports facilities in backward or Maoist-infested areas like Dantewada is patently absurd. Since roads, schools, hospitals and other such basic facilities don't exist in these underdeveloped regions, the idea of stadiums and sports complexes mushrooming in the deep interiors is quite laughable. Besides, Indian sports do not languish for want of funds, although sportspersons are poorly paid and shabbily treated. Sports authorities have enough money, but lack vision, dynamism and commitment apart from being plagued by politics and petty intrigue.

But where Mr Aiyar does make a point is with regard to infrastructure. The manner in which the Delhi Government and the city's civic authorities have gone about uglifying the city resembles the work of an amateur biology student dissecting a lizard. Delhi has been ripped apart by unthinking politicians and babus whose main aim appears to be pilferage. Already incredible tales of official greed are tumbling out of babudom's cupboards. Meanwhile, citizens of this hapless city have been made to suffer an ordeal which they can't wish even upon the Capital's worst critics. Apart from the poor quality of roads, collapsing drains, traffic mess, the Government's obsession with sandstone and granite pavements has driven everybody up the wall. For my life I can't understand whose daft idea it was to place expensive but slippery granites on pavements. Millions have been spent carting sandstone to Delhi and I am sure Ms Sheila Dikshit will eventually overtake Ms Mayawati in the quantum purchased. 

As soon as civil work is completed by one department, the next one swoops down and commences breaking it up. There have been huge cost and time over-runs in all the CWG projects, except for the Metro. I used to confidently assert that doomsayers (like Mr Aiyar) would be given a fitting reply when the CWG is held with flying colours. But the snail's pace of progress and the way Delhi's residents are being hauled over mud and gravel for the last two years is beginning to raise doubts even about the efficacy of India's patented 'jugaad' technology







Among the parlour games intellectuals and amateur know-alls tend to play during moments of intense boredom is something called counter-factual history or, better still, Virtual History — the title of historian Niall Ferguson's delightful forays into the unknown. In plain language, this involves asking the question 'What if?' and then proceeding to let the imagination run riot imagining what god's alternative plan could have been. Bengalis, for example, are prone to endlessly speculating the future of India had their Netaji emerged unscathed from the burning aircraft in Taipei. As a cricket fan, my counter-factual favourite is wondering what could have been Sir Don Bradman's career record had six years of World War II not interrupted his poetic flow.

On a more serious note, there are economic historians who have used counter-factual history to drive home some features of actual history. It has, for example, been suggested that British national income would have been 10 per cent lower in 1865 had there been no railways. Likewise, in his seminal work published in 1966, Robert Fogel (who subsequently won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1993) asked what would have been the state of the US economy had the railways not been there in the mid-19th century. He concluded that the GDP would have been adversely affected by no more than three per cent. 

India is not short of competent economists, some of whom even have an acute sense of history. I would request some of them to engage in a counter-factual exercise, asking a question that has been agitating all public-spirited Indians for many decades: What would be the state of the Indian economy (judged by the necessary statistical parameters) if all the capital expenditure of the Government since independence been optimally utilised, or at least touched a 85 per cent rate of effective utilisation? 

It is difficult to anticipate the answers but my casual guess is that India would probably have been in the G-8 club, instead of being a late entry into the G-20 and that too mainly on account of sheer size. 

This counter-factual poser comes readily to mind in the context of emerging details of the colossal pilferage and misutilisation of funds set aside for the Commonwealth Games. The skeletal details that have emerged so far, courtesy both the media and the vigilance authorities, suggest two things. First, massive ineptitude in the preparations for the CWG — failure to meet deadlines, inappropriate construction and a complete insensitivity to the actual requirements of residents of post-CWG Delhi. Second, scandalous mismanagement of anything between Rs 30,000 crore and Rs 50,000 crore of money poured into the vanity show. 

According to the Central Vigilance Commission report which has been imperiously pooh-poohed by the Delhi Chief Minister, "Almost all the organisations executing works for Commonwealth Games have considered inadmissible factors to jack-up the reasonable price to justify award of work at quoted rates citing urgent or emergent circumstances. Despite higher rates, poor site management and delays and quality compromises have been observed." According to NDTV, some of the CWG medical equipment has been invoiced at seven times their market value, a small indication of the bandit capitalism that has become the norm in Government expenditure. 

An interesting feature of the huge CWG 'transmission losses' is that the bungling is occurring in full public view. When the roof of a stadium starts leaking at the first hint of rain or, worse, simply collapses, it doesn't require a CVC to tell people that something is horribly wrong. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit may have successfully co-opted local Opposition leaders, who are uncharacteristically muted in their criticisms, and IOC boss Suresh Kalmadi may have invoked patriotism to prevent the Games from being overshadowed by popular disgust, but their damage limitation skills will be only partially successful. The CWG will forever remain a shining example of the political class' complete inability to comprehend the obligations that come with handling public money. 

In an ideal world, the impending CWG fiasco should have nurtured widespread scepticism of the efficiency and effectiveness of public expenditure. If Government work costs seven times more than what it does in a competitive environment, without even ensuring a semblance of quality, there are good reasons to question the high tax and spend approach that has been the hallmark of Government policy since independence. 

It has continuously been demonstrated that profligate Government expenditure and the exercise of discretionary powers by the executive are the two principal sources of corruption and wastage of taxpayers' money. Yet, just as it has become a Pavlovian response for politicians to demand a CBI inquiry at the faintest whiff of wrongdoing, despite the awareness that the agency is as flexible about its conclusions as plasticine, the view that the quantum of Government expenditure decides the commitment to development, persists. Worse, this self-serving assumption runs through the entire political spectrum for the simple reason that Government money isn't regulated by normal rules of capitalist accountability. The UPA wants a country governed by rights and entitlements. The political class regards the state exchequer as an entitlement. 

This is why it's important that some economist, incensed by the goings-on at the CWG, undertakes to tell India where it would have been if Government expenditure had been wise, efficient and honest. The actual cost of six decades of uninterrupted folly may prompt a rethink. It may even prompt the conclusion that those screaming 'anti-national' at the sceptics should take a closer look at the mirror. 








There have been more than 5,000 'encounter deaths' in this country. Over 1,700 'encounter death'-related complaints are pending in various courts and before the Human Rights Commission. More than 800 'encounter deaths' took place in the last few decades in Uttar Pradesh alone. More than 400 police 'encounters' took place in Maharashtra. None of these (incidents) has come to trial as has the Sohrabuddin case. We have never heard that anyone has been convicted for these thousands of 'encounter deaths'. No policemen have been found guilty or even arrested as it has happened in Gujarat," says Mr Devang Nanavati, an Ahmedabad-based lawyer who is associated with the BJP, while highlighting the strange obsession with which the death of a notorious criminal who had a mile-long record of serious crimes and whose links with Dawood Ibrahim qualified him as a terror accomplice, is being pursued by the Congress, the Central Bureau of Investigation, congenital liars who pose as human rights activists and a corrosive media which has lost all sense of balance and fair play.

The Supreme Court, which asked the CBI to inquire into the 'larger conspiracy' behind the killing of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and his wife, Kauser Bi, nearly five years after the incident had occurred, was no doubt motivated by the noble intention of getting to the truth. However, such lofty intentions need not necessarily be attributed to the sustained pressure from the slain criminal's apparently inconsolable brother andjholawallahs who would be rendered jobless (and thus find themselves starved of generous funding by a variety of sources and agencies) if society were to be cleansed of malcontent, to punish those responsible for what they allege to be extrajudicial killings carried out by the police on the instructions of BJP leaders. Their pre-determination of guilt, both by implication and association, which finds more than an echo in what the CBI now alleges through stories which are touted as 'investigative journalism' by newspapers and news channels whose bias renders them incapable of distinguishing between fact and fiction, cannot be allowed to supplant the judicial process. 

Events over the past fortnight have removed all doubts, if there were any, about the CBI's motives that are anything but lofty. The agency has been most brazen while pursuing a political agenda set by the Congress to defame Chief Minister Narendra Modi through slander and worse with the sole purpose of tarring his reputation and hobbling his Government to a point where it begins to lose credibility among Gujarat's voters. For, the real target of the Goebbelsian propaganda orchestrated by the Congress with the help of the CBI and a craven media is not Mr Amit Shah, who has resigned as Minister of State for Home after being charged with murder, extortion and obstruction of justice in the Sohrabuddin 'false' encounter case and is currently in jail. It is Mr Modi — his invincibility is being sought to be weakened. At the national level, the purpose is to force the BJP on the back foot and tie it down to answering allegations instead of leading a robust campaign to oust the Congress from power.

The use of manufactured taint to stun and paralyse political foes is nothing new for the Congress; it's a past master at the game of misusing agencies of the state, most notably the Intelligence Bureau and the CBI, to further its political interests. When the Congress needed to put down the Raja of Amethi Sanjay Singh after he fell out with Rajiv Gandhi, it used the CBI, which was inquiring into the murder of badminton champion Syed Modi in 1988, to plant salacious stories in newspapers — there were no 24x7 news channels those days — eager to oblige the party. 'Excerpts' from what was alleged to be the personal diary of Syed Modi's widow, Amita, found their way into the front page of these newspapers day after day, suitably embellished with insinuations and slanderous concoctions attributed to 'sources' in the CBI. Public memory being proverbially short, few people would remember today that the charges against Mr Sanjay Singh and Ms Amita Modi did not stick — the courts contemptuously threw them out. Twenty-one years later, the CBI quietly closed the case, having failed to establish the 'larger conspiracy' behind Syed Modi's murder which, not surprisingly, it had claimed to have established in 1988-89.

Nor would too many people remember the so-called 'St Kitts scandal' that was manufactured by the Congress with the help of an obliging CBI to embarrass VP Singh and divert attention from the Bofors bribery scandal in 1989. An elaborate exercise was undertaken to forge documents to allege that VP Singh was a beneficiary of his son Ajeya's 'offshore account' in First Trust Corp, a little-known bank in St Kitts of which nobody had heard till then. The forged documents showed that the account contained $ 21 million. Once again, eager-to-oblige newspapers published the bogus story and the Congress's dirty tricks department had a field day painting VP Singh in the most lurid of colours, pronouncing him as a villain who was not quite the knight in shining armour that people thought he was. In the end, of course, the forgery was exposed, the conspiracy to defame VP Singh unravelled and the Congress lost the general election. Similarly, the Congress had tried to frame Mr LK Advani in the so-called 'hawala case' on the eve of the general election in 1996. Not only did the Congress lose that election but Mr Advani — and the BJP — emerged stronger from that attempt to sully his and the party's image.

Examples of the Congress misusing the CBI abound. It is no secret that after the UPA came to power in the summer of 2004, the agency not only ensured Ottavio Quattrocchi remained at a safe distance from India where he was wanted to stand trial in the Bofors bribery case in which he was the prime accused, but also facilitated the emptying of the London bank accounts where the bribe money had been parked by the Italian middleman. Subsequently, the case was 'closed', much to the relief of a Prime Minister who actually believed prosecuting those behind the Bofors scandal was "a shame". We also know how the CBI's investigations into the disproportionate assets cases against Ms Mayawati and Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav are used to secure their support for the Government at moments of crisis. 

In the Sohrabuddin 'false' encounter case, the CBI is back to using its old trick of planting stories about 'evidence' that has been clearly concocted to suit the Congress's insidious gameplan. The fact is, it has filed a chargesheet but has no evidence to substantiate its allegations. And so the CBI has sought more time from the Supreme Court for 'investigation'. Doesn't prosecution follow investigation? Or is it the other way round for the Congress Bureau of Intimidation? And is that why it wants the case transferred out of Gujarat?

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Soon after petrol prices rose, Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, 66, started to walk to the office. He says this is meant to save public money as the state is in the red. Just last week, he asked the Centre to give HP special financial assistance because the budget was badly miscalculated by the 13th Finance Commission, which failed to add up salary, interest and pension liabilities in the way it should have. He spoke to Sanjay Sharma about political vendetta, George Fernandes and apples. Excerpts: 

It is alleged that you have vitiated the political atmosphere in the state by slapping corruption cases on Union steel minister Virbhadra Singh. Is this true? 

• The former CM is reaping what he sowed. Singh did not spare his colleagues, whom he framed. He did not leave me either. Singh has criticized my government even though the UPA government has judged it as the number one in implementing the 20-point programme. Other agencies have praised Himachal Pradesh's progress on the human development index and said it is the top state in north India. On the other hand, a magazine has given Virbhadra just 37 marks for his performance. 

Now that climate change has become a major concern, how do you justify your great enthusiasm for hydro electric power projects and cement plants? 

• My government has not sanctioned any cement plant but now that they have come up, we are forcing them to upgrade their technology. Yes, I did push for hydel power projects and even faced protests during the last election. But half the state's financial resources come from this sector alone. Now, we have made policy changes to allow only 

run-of-the-river projects and ensure release of 15% water even during the lean period to protect flora and fauna. Interestingly, awareness about climate change is trickling down even to the villages. The other day a woman sarpanch demanded that roads be built near her village because the apple crop is now growing at higher altitudes. 


 A recent presentation by a professor on the impact of climate change has also left me disturbed. It made me realize how real and close the climate change threat is. The professor highlighted that Himachal Pradesh would be the worst affected state because it has 7% of the country's biodiversity. We have chalked out a nine-point programme in this direction and five Himalayan state chief ministers are in constant touch on these issues. 
Despite Himachal Pradesh ranking high on the human development index, its per capita income continues to be very low. Why? 


• Obviously because there is a lack of money for development. The problem is that people here prefer taking up jobs; they don't realize that they need to turn entrepreneurs. 


You shared a very close relationship with Atal Behari Vajpayee. In fact, it once prompted the then Haryana chief minister Bansi Lal and Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to ask how you managed to get money for your state from the PM? 

• My codename in the PM's house was 'Anytime Appointee'. In 1999, I had asked for an economic package of Rs 400 crore from Vajpayeeji. I did not want to ask publicly as Vajpayeeji did not like it. But one of my colleagues raised the demand. So, Vajpayeeji gave Himachal Pradesh Rs 200 crore. I was unhappy with that. Later, he asked me to call the press and in front of them announced a package of Rs 400 crore for the state. 
You used to sit next to George Fernandes in Parliament. What was your impression of him? 

• George is one of the finest, most knowledgeable parliamentarians. His pocket would have holes and usually coins would fall out of it. But he always had little money in his pocket. I often saw Advaniji and George helping each other in their speeches. George would call Advaniji 'Lalji' and Advani would call him George. Whenever the two got stuck in their speeches, they would ask me to convey to the other person to pitch in. 
Punjab and Haryana have been opposing a special industrial package to Himachal Pradesh, saying industry is leaving their states. How do you react to that? 

• I am not opposed to a special package for these states as long as the ones meant for Himachal Pradesh are not discontinued. Even otherwise, Baddi in Himachal Pradesh has attracted pharma companies from Maharashtra and Gujarat. 

How do you react to Punjab's demand for royalty for water supply to Rajasthan? 

• I support it as it's our old demand. All states including Punjab should give royalty to Himachal Pradesh as rivers are flowing from the hill state. 


The apple crop is increasingly disappointing. What are you doing about this? 

• We are now distributing new roots to change the 100-year-old roots. There are some encouraging signs though. We now see apples from warmer places like Una and Bilaspur in May and June. Interestingly, the state is now growing mangoes. 

More than one crore tourists flock to the state every year but there is hardly any improvement in the i n f r a s t r u c t u r e . Could you comment. 

• We have been d i s c r i m i n at e d against in terms of air and rail connectivity. In a month or so, we will be starting a heli-taxi service.








Four years ago, Surekha Bhotmange, a dalit woman farmer living in the village of Khairlanji in Maharashtra was brutally killed along with her two sons, Roshan, the visually handicapped Sudhir and her 18-year-old daughter Priyanka. Her husband Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange escaped. The method of killing was brutal. Each was hunted down and beaten to death by a mob of men belonging to the dominant caste in the village. 

Recently, the Nagpur bench of the Mumbai High Court gave its judgment in the case. It held that caste had nothing to do with the killings. It agreed with the judgment of the sessions court on the non-applicability of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act) (POA). As a consequence, it reduced the sentence from death to 25 years imprisonment. If there were ever a case where the POA was applicable, it is Khairlanji. But the caste hatred angle was played down from the initial, flawed investigations, to the arguments of the prosecution, including those of state prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam (now made famous by the Ajmal Kasab case) and finally the interpretations in the present judgment. 


The evidence, however, is unambiguous. The Bhotmange family, one of only three dalit families in the village, was forcibly prevented from building a pucca house. They were told that dalits could not do so. Even though the family owned five acres of land, the village authorities refused to levy tax as they wanted to take over the land and deny proof of occupation. The family was constantly harassed but refused to accept the supremacy of the dominant castes. 


 Surekha used to go for help to a fellow dalit, Siddharth Ghajbiye, a police patil in a neighbouring village. On September 3, 2006, angered by his help to Surekha, a group in Khairlanji beat up Ghajbiye. He was rescued by Surekha and Priyanka, who were witnesses in the case against the attackers. On September 29, 2006, the men involved were arrested but immediately released on bail. Acting in concert, they returned to the village and, in broad daylight, brutally killed Surekha and her three children. Their mutilated bodies were found later. 

The judgment took a very narrow view of the motive of revenge, failing to appreciate that the dimensions of revenge against dalits are quite different from other cases, given the caste-ridden nature of our society. The judgment states: "In the present case, the whole object of the accused was to take revenge against Surekha and Priyanka because the accused believed they were falsely implicated in the assault of Siddharth Gajbhiye by them and, in the process, committed not only the murders of Surekha and Priyanka but of Sudhir and Roshan. Therefore, it is difficult to hold that the accused intended to insult Surekha (on basis of caste) or the other deceased admittedly belonging to the scheduled caste." 


 By separating the motive of revenge from the caste angle, the women by their actions, so to say, become responsible for their own killing. What prevented the judges from holding that the motive of revenge was precisely because two dalit women refused to be bullied and gave witness truthfully? The judges did not take into account that among the convicted are those who had nothing to do with the case of assault on Ghajbiye. What would their motive be, except that of caste? 


Common sense tells us that it is most unlikely that murder can be committed only because two women stood witness in a bailable offence in a minor case of beating. But the judges found that myth easier to believe than the caste motive. If the Bhotmanges had belonged to another caste, it is probable that others of the same community would have intervened and found a solution. It is precisely because the Bhotmanges were dalits and in a minority in the village, refusing to be subordinate to others, that such brutal reprisals were carried out. 

The most unfortunate aspect is that on the basis of this erroneous interpretation, the judgment absolves the accused of any crime of a sexual nature against the dalit women. In dealing with a case of police manhandling of women demonstrators, the Supreme Court issued guidelines that only policewomen should be deployed. It was felt by the apex court that if male police handle women demonstrators, there is likely to be sexual misconduct. For similar reasons, in cases of arrest, a male policeman is prohibited from touching a woman. If an enraged mob of men is manhandling a woman, holding her, dragging her, beating her, stripping off her sari, as was done with Surekha, can there be any doubt that she would be sexually abused? 


Priyanka's body was found stripped of all her clothes. The dreadful photographs show that there was not an inch of this young woman's body that was not marked by bruises. The judgment mentions that six of the accused "removed clothes of Priyanka before disposing of her severely injured dead body and thereby wanted to get satisfaction to their sexual eyes at such extreme circumstances." Yet, the judgment in an outrageous conclusion holds that since revenge is the motive, there was no intention on the part of the accused to insult the deceased or to "dishonour or outrage (their) modesty." 


If the court was against capital punishment in principle, it could have said so, in so many words. But to advance the kind of arguments that it has is to obliterate the reality of caste violence and to reduce the sentence is to insult the memory of the victims and set a precedent which has grave implications for others seeking justice under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. 

 If Khairlanji was a shame and disgrace to our nation and our Constitution, the judgment adds another chapter to it.     The writer is a CPM leader








We might all have missed the point about the C o m m o n - we a l t h Games: the problem is not in the games but in the Commonwealth. Britain took the event seriously when it began life as the Empire Games, for it was a good opportunity to find out how the natives were getting along in approved pursuits. Even the Queen is no longer interested in a collection of countries that don't take orders from her, have little in common and less by way of wealth. 


 Why then should Usain Bolt be interested? There is neither the financial reward of professional engagement, nor the prestige of an Olympics medal. The CWG is the ultimate competition of also-rans. The most versatile athlete at the Games is probably going to be the acrobatic Katrina Kaif, who may not be much good at the 100-metre dash, but is the undoubted star of the 100-metre-wide wriggle and writhe which will surely be the most interesting event of the twoweek tamasha. 


 The Games were never about sports. They were a fortuitous opportunity for Delhi's ruling class to divert a vast fortune from the national exchequer, in the name of national prestige, and spend it on just those few parts of India's capital where the elite lives. As patriotism, despite its many virtues, is also the last refuge of the scoundrel, a healthy part of the money was siphoned off, evidence of which has begun to move towards the front page. 


 Trenchant critics like Mani Shankar Aiyar could be falling into a trap when they pray for calamity. (By the way, which would you prefer: a good monsoon or a good CWG?) The oldest PR ploy is to deliberately lower expectations so much that even if the event is halfway average it can be billed as a triumph and all memory of corruption can be washed away in the ensuing gloating and self-congratulation. You have to be seriously stupid if you cannot get a few stadiums in shape after spending Rs 35,000 crore, and we should never underestimate the intelligence of the corrupt. So expect Delhi to have the Games without a hitch: the weather will have improved; the streets will be light on traffic because locals will be on holiday and tourists absent; athletes will get their feed thanks to lastminute contracts at inflated rates; and a Rs 40-crore balloon, bloated with controversy, will provide adequate laser lighting to Katrina's sultry gyrations. Sports will merely be a boring hyphen between excellent opening and closing ceremonies. 


 Would David Cameron, prime minister of the premier Commonwealth nation, be caught, dead or alive, at the opening ceremony in Delhi? As his extremely successful visit to India last week proved, he is, sensibly, far more interested in a bilateral relationship with India than a disjointed, multilateral extravaganza, even though Britain is the mother of the Commonwealth. The only flaw was our disconcerting tendency to call Cameron "Cameroon", but this was the hangover from a far more successful sporting event, the football World Cup. We will have mended our ways by the time he drops by again. 


The relationship between India and Britain must be one of the more astonishing success stories of history. There is a moving anecdote about an argument between Kasturba and Mahatma Gandhi during their last detention, in Pune, after Gandhi launched the "Quit India" movement in 1942. Age, and life with a difficult, indomitable husband, had begun to wear "Ba" down. Once, seriously ill, she chided her husband for pitting impoverished Indians against the might of the British Raj. Why, she asked, did Gandhi want the British to quit? India was a vast country, and they should stay, but as brothers, not as rulers. This, replied the Mahatma, was precisely what he had been telling the British. 

 Kasturba, who did not live to see freedom, would have been pleased this week: Indians and the British have become, almost imperceptibly, brothers. Britain and America are mere partners. Cameron admitted, during his Washington visit, that Britain was the junior partner. There is no seniority in the equal British-India relationship. Scottish jute mills were once the largest employers in India; Tata is now the largest employer in Britain. There is far more genuine, if latent, sentiment than both countries are loath to admit. While political bonds might be stronger across the Atlantic, India and Britain are united by unnoticed details of cultural contiguity. Cameron would scoff down a curry without a thought, for curry is as British now as Indian. But look carefully at the photograph of Cameron eating a hot dog, in Mayor Bloomberg's company, in New York: his lower fingers twirl away in implicit disdain of the unfamiliar. Hot dog on main street is not Cameron's favourite fast food. 

 And now that the ranking dove in the Indian Cabinet has decided to purchase 57 British Hawks, things can only get better.








The Reserve Bank of India is preparing a discussion paper on new banks. Meanwhile, SKS Microfinance, India's largest microfinance institution (MFI), has just raised a whopping Rs 1,600 crore through a public offering. SKS and other MFIs could evolve into banks. Bangladesh's microfinance pioneer, Grameen Bank, is a regular bank. 


The RBI severely restricts bank licensing. It prohibits industrial houses from opening banks because of a potential conflict of interest: such banks could give unwarranted but preferential credit and write off loans to related companies and other favoured borrowers. This is a valid concern, given India's weak corporate governance. 


The RBI wants the next generation of banks to focus on rural lending, to promote financial inclusion. However, rural operations are perilous. All government regional rural banks have suffered heavy losses. 


Rural operating costs are high because of poor logistics and scale diseconomies (rural deposit accounts and loans are very small by urban standards). Agricultural defaults in many states are high since political loan waivers have encouraged wilful default. Banks find it politically impossible to seize the land defaulters have pledged. So, despite RBI guidelines and directives to state-owned banks on financial inclusion, they have not penetrated the countryside. By contrast, MFIs have. 


 Historically, MFIs started as non-profit NGOs. They depended on donations for expansion, and so could not grow fast. To expand their reach, many NGOs converted into for-profit Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs). These NBFCs raised equity from various sources. For every rupee of their own funds, they could borrow six rupees from banks. This enabled them to expand fast. 


 They raised ever-larger sums for every expansion. Today, major MFIs raise hundreds of crores at a time. Till now, private equity players have been willing to provide the money. But SKS has grown too big for this and needs the stock market for future subscriptions. SKS is now bigger than some banks, with almost seven million borrowers, Rs 5,000 crore of loans and 21,000 employees.


 RBI guidelines say new banks must have equity capital of at least Rs 300 crore, and no promoter group should have a stake of over 10%. The SKS issue of Rs 1,600 crore shows major MFIs can raise more than enough equity, with a wide shareholder base. 


 Other MFIs (Spandana, SHARE) may launch public issues within a year. This causes much heartburn among NGOs, who fear the social ethos of MFIs is losing out to commercial orientation. Maybe, but the traditional NGO approach created only small boutiques of rural credit, whereas rural India needs giant networks. Giant networks require massive capital, which can be attracted only by for-profit corporations. Besides, scale economies will permit giant MFIs to lower their interest rates to poor clients. 


The RBI has said that NBFCs — like Religare and Bajaj Finserv — can apply for bank licences. But these urban giants lack the rural skills and reach of MFIs. 


However, MFIs may not want to become banks. MFIs are free of RBI regulation, and have flourished in the consequent freedom to innovate and expand. The RBI takes ages to approve bank branches, while MFIs open several every month. MFIs have cheap, flexible staff, but as banks they will face high, unionized wages and inflexibilities. As banks, they will have to put 25% of their money into government securities and 6% with the RBI, suffering losses on this count. Political loan waivers could devastate the loan discipline that keeps their repayments today at 98-99%. Some MFIs want to do nonfinancial things like selling consumer goods cheaply to borrowers, which will be difficult for a regular bank. 


 However, a bank status will let MFIs accept deposits, hugely reducing their cost of funds. Instead of borrowing from banks at 12-14%, they can gather deposits at 3-6%. This will also help their clients, who want savings avenues. 


A half-way solution — and an excellent first step — will be to allow major MFIs to accept deposits. This will help lower their lending rates while providing savings outlets to poor villagers. 


In the 1990s, several NBFCs went bust and could not repay depositors, so the RBI now bans all NBFCs from accepting deposits. Nonprofit MFIs can accept deposits, but not forprofit MFIs, which are formally NBFCs. 

This rule must be changed. Major MFIs have an excellent track record in both social and financial terms, and should not be treated like run-of-the mill NBFCs. Rather, major MFIs with equity capital of over Rs 300 crore (the benchmark for new banks) should be allowed to accept deposits. This will immediately improve financial inclusion. And some deposit-taking MFIs may evolve into full banks. That's the way to go








Among the many disastrous decisions Jawaharlal Nehru took in his 16-year stint as Prime Minister was the appointment of V K Krishna Menon as India's first high commissioner in London. The wiry and irascible Menon had many things going for him. Sadly, these didn't include tact and diplomacy. A familiar figure in the radical circles of Britain, he was on first-name terms with most members of the post-War Labour government. But Menon could never make the transition from being the indefatigable campaigner for Indian independence to becoming a grand representative of the newly-born Indian state. 


There were many tales of Menon's caustic tongue and they used to do the rounds in his heyday. One we particularly relished centred on an unnamed Englishman who was very impressed by Menon's eloquence. "You speak such good English," the man complimented the high commissioner with, perhaps, a touch of condescension. Menon's retort was characteristically acerbic: "You, Sir, picked up the language. I, Sir, learnt it." 


In the first flush of Independence, when it was natural to demonstrate that civilized self-government was preferable to imperial paternalism, Indians were prone to exaggerated self-righteousness. They took offence when none was intended, and sneering, preachy West-baiting became the signature tune of foreign policy. Yet, far from building India's reputation as a selfconfident nation, it painted an image of boorishness. Indian officials were perceived in Western capitals as having a monumental chip on their shoulders. 


 It's not that the West didn't have its own attitude problems. The baggage of old imperial stereotypes was carried over till the 1970s and reinforced by images of material deprivation. Mother Teresa became an iconic figure in the Christian world, not merely because of her good work among the destitute and dying of Calcutta, but she unwittingly bolstered the continuing relevance of a 'civilizing mission'. 


The anglicized Indian elites were a special target of derision: everything from their carefully preserved 'received pronunciation' (something the BBC now seems to have consciously eschewed), their partiality to Marks & Spencer underwear and fine china from the Harrods sale, and their bewildering attachment to cricket and P G Wodehouse were seen as evidence of uncaring venality by a new Britain that feigned classlessness. Last week's Guardian had an agonized article by Pankaj Mishra, a doughty class warrior, charging British Prime Minister David Cameron of tickling "the vanity of the Indian elite" and "severing of Britain's old links with India's great mass of ordinary people." 


 The provocation was a proposal to slash the needless £250 million overseas aid to India on the ground that India is in a position to pay for its own development. Putting overpaid 'development consultants' out of work may be cruel but hardheadedness demands that Britain shifts tack from playing Good Samaritan to once again developing an appetite for business. 


The extent to which self-purification gestures such as playing Avatar and creating a kerfuffle at the shareholders' meeting of Vedanta can be self-defeating was relayed to me at a convivial High Table dinner at an Oxford college last month. An Indian corporate had proposed to an Oxford college its interest in funding a professorial chair (an expensive proposition). In return, it requested that the college organize a series of extramural lectures and workshops at a new campus in India. The proposal was fair and would have been operational. However, an Oxford don protested that the sponsor was being accused by jholawalas of unfair land acquisition in India which, naturally, made the deal non-kosher for an Oxford that has prospered on the bequest of Cecil Rhodes. 


 It is reassuring that when told of the state of play, the Indian corporate is believed to have told the college to take a flying leap. 


 Today, India is in a position to explore many alternatives. However, there aren't too many Indians who have the social confidence to put self-interest above false prestige. In trying to refashion an old relationship in a new idiom, David Cameron tried to do just that last week. But a special relationship based on equality can't happen if one side idolizes Menon and the other side sees in Mishra the authentic India.









There is an increasing disconnect between the government of India's attitude to Pakistan and the view of most educated Indians. The disconnect has been most apparent in the recriminations that have followed the failure of the Indo-Pak foreign minister's summit. And each day brings new evidence — such as the Wikileaks documents — that seems to undermine the government's approach.


To be fair, the official Indian approach sounds reasonable. The government says that India cannot hope to be one of the great powers of the 21st century if it continues to engage in pointless hostility with a small neighbour. It is, therefore, important to improve relations with Pakistan. Obviously, this will not happen overnight. But it is vital to continue with a process of engagement that results in confidence-building measures, in such symbolic gestures as the release of fishermen and in tiny incremental steps that improve the overall atmosphere. When both sides narrow what Manmohan Singh calls the 'trust deficit', then perhaps some real progress will be possible.


Educated Indians take a different view. They argue that there is only one compelling reason to talk to Pakistan: to put an end to cross-border terrorism. If Pakistan is serious about improving relations with India, then there is only one confidence-building measure that matters: a crackdown on those who murder and maim innocent Indian civilians. What's worse, say many Indians, is that the Pakistan government is not only unwilling to stop terrorists from coming across the border but that elements within the regime are actually master-minding the terrorist operations. It makes no sense to talk of people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges when Pakistani interests are already waging a proxy war against India. Any talks that do not result in an end to terror are worthless.


This position is the exact opposite of the government's. For instance, the foreign ministry now suggests that the collapse of the last round of talks had something to do with the home secretary's statement that the 26/11 Bombay attacks were — at least, according to David Headley — an Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) operation. The foreign ministry says that the home secretary's assertion was 'hundred per cent correct' but that he should not have said anything about Pakistani-inspired terrorism on the eve of the talks.


That view demonstrates the distance between the two positions. The Indian public will only support the talks if we tackle the issue of terrorism head-on. The government of India, on the other hand, believes that we should not even mention terrorism for fear of upsetting the Pakistanis and damaging the dialogue process.


The government's position would have more credibility if the foreign ministry could offer us any assurances that an incremental approach to improving relations will lead to a reduction in terror. In fact, the government is in no position to offer any such assurances. There have been so many confidence-building measures over the last two decades that by now both sides should be brimming with confidence. But the terrorism continues to get worse.


The response of the Pakistanis to India's overtures this time around also suggests that Islamabad has no real interest in tackling the terror problem. The Pakistan foreign minister spoke insultingly about his Indian counterpart and — most revealingly — compared the Indian home secretary to Hafiz Sayeed. When a politician can no longer tell the difference between a bureaucrat and a terrorist, you know that his country is in serious trouble. 

But even if we were to accept that the Pakistanis are serious about improving relations, there are practical problems.

First of all, the official position of the government of Pakistan is that it is also a victim of terror and is, therefore, unable to stamp out the terrorist threat to India, largely because it lacks the ability to do so. Secondly, it is not clear that the civilian government — the people we speak to — counts for very much. Real power appears to reside with the army whose chief was given an extension shortly after the summit collapsed. Thirdly, there is evidence to suggest that many of the terror groups are led and financed by retired generals who pursue their own private foreign policies. They do not consider themselves bound by their foreign minister's commitments. And fourthly, there is the most obvious problem: the Pakistanis have a history of lying about their support to terrorist groups within the region. 

Last week, a huge cache of 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports from the Afghan conflict was leaked to the internet site, Wikileaks. While this is raw intelligence that has not been fully processed, some revelations are worrying. The documents suggest that Pakistan has been secretly supporting the Taliban and sheltering such leaders as Osama bin Laden while simultaneously lying to the Americans about its activities. These intelligence reports also indicate that the ISI has been using the Haqqani network to launch terror attacks on Indians in Afghanistan. One such attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul resulted in the death of 54 people, including our defence attaché. Moreover, the documents record the movements of such figures as General Hamid Gul, an India-hating former head of ISI, who appears to be pursuing his own agenda while liaising with terrorist groups.


The consensus in the US is that while every bit of intelligence in the raw files cannot be treated as gospel truth, the sheer mass of evidence that Pakistan is financing and arming terrorists to attack Indians (and Americans, for that matter) is too strong to be dismissed.


These revelations will confirm the worst fears of most Indians. Every doubt we had is justified: the military does call the shots; retired Generals pursue their own agendas with private armies and Pakistan has been lying to both India and America about the role of the ISI in fomenting terror in the region.


In the light of all this, the government's approach makes less and less sense. Why bother with a polite step-by-step engagement with Pakistan when the situation is so grave? Pakistan is busy sending terrorists to kill Indians while cheerfully lying to the world about the activities of the ISI and its army.


It is not necessary to be a Hindu communalist or a Pakistan-hater to recognise that India is wasting its time. The government needs to listen to the views of its own people. We do not want war. We do not believe in needless hostility.


But equally, we simply do not see the point of this pointless charade. Peace with Pakistan is a laudable aim. But one country cannot make peace by itself. And as long as the other continues to kill our people, all attempts at a high-level dialogue come across less as peaceful initiatives and more as signs of weakness.

If not outright stupidity.

(The views expressed by the author are personal)








The breakdown of Indo-Pak talks between foreign ministers of the two countries has caused deep disappointment to those who had hoped that long lost, we would reduce the trust deficit by persuading Pakistan to own up responsibility for the mayhem in Mumbai two years ago.


We tendered what any fair-minded person would believe as a foolproof case. We gave them Kasab's voluntary confession that was never retracted during trial. We gave evidence of eyewitnesses including of those who captured him and had been shot at by him. If anything more was needed to nail Pakistan's involvement, we tendered Headley's voluntary confession in court in Chicago naming Pakistani officials who trained the gang in minute details how to carry out the exercise.


The honest thing for the Pakistan government to do was to arrest the men named by Headley and put them on trial. It chose not to be honest with us. As it often happens, when a lawyer has to defend a weak case he takes the offensive. There is not an iota of truth that we are fomenting trouble in Baluchistan or Waziristan, yet Pakistan spokesmen keep harping on them. I hope the awaam (common people) of Pakistan do not believe them.


Pakistan's foreign minister pleads that the government cannot silence Mullah Hafiz Saeed as in a democracy there has to be freedom of speech. Saeed is a confused man. On one hand he tells people that Islam means peace, on the other hand he wants Pakistan to declare jehad against India. The fellow does not understand what war between the two nuclear powers can do.


It will leave millions dead and no winner. Unfortunately there is so much distrust between us that we are willing to believe the worst of each other. We like to hear that Pakistan is a failed state kept going by the Americans and is controlled by the Taliban who spare no one they disapprove of as they did with the worshippers at the Sufi Shrine of Data Ganj Baksh in Lahore.


We cannot afford to be sanctimonious as a huge chunk of our territory is under the control of Naxalites who kill our soldiers, policemen and their adversaries. So who are we to adopt a superior attitude? This is no way for two brothers who parted company to behave.

Not less than a fest

We are at the end of the most memorable mango season.

It began in May with the arrival of crates of alphonsos from Mumbai sent by Tavleen Singh and Sarayu Doshi. They seem to have placed orders that I continue to receive them as long as I live.


Then comes a basketful of dussehris from the orchard of Parveen Talha. Her dussehris were the tastiest ever. Then came a dozen langras from my neighbour Bhai Chand Patel, a part of a gift he received from the Pakistan High Commissioner. I can vouch Pakistani langras are as good as the Indian.


And finally I got many crates of dussehris, chausas, langras and ratauls, the four varieties I rate the highest, from my friend Abid Saeed Khan. I shared them with my neighbours. Since I eat only half-a-mango a day, they lasted the entire season.


The best part of the story is that I eat the best without spending a paise!

Karnataka Saga

Well known for grace and impartiality

The governor of Karnataka is a legal luminary

So he is the best person to uphold gubernatorial dignity

Which he is doing openly

By attacking the government like an Opposition Party.

The government is, of course, snow-white clean

And the Bellary Brothers have only lent it their sheen

By mining away its mineral wealth

And thus looking after their party's health

So, it is mean for anybody to question its integrity

And deny the BJP is a chaste maiden's party

In fact, that the Lokayukta should have kept in mind

And shouldn't have felt helpless and resigned. 

In fact, both the governor and the government are truly great

When the nation needs to congratulate.

(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)

Pushing a drunk


A couple is awakened by a pounding on the front door. The man opens the door and finds a drunken stranger standing in the rain.


He snarls at the drunk, "What do you want?"


"Can you give me a push?" the drunk slurs.


"Not a chance," the husband says.


"It's three o'clock in the morning!"


He slams the door and returns to bed.


"Who was it?" asks the wife.


"Some drunk asking for a push," he answers.


"Did you help him?"


"No, it's 3 am and raining like hell!"


"You have a short memory," says the wife.


"Remember when our car broke down and two strangers helped us? You should help this poor man."


The husband goes out in the pounding rain, and calls out in the dark, "Hey, are you there?"


"Yes," comes the reply.


"Do you still want a push?"


"Yes, please!" Unable to see anything in the dark, the husband asks, "Where are you?"


"Over here, on the swing," the drunk replies.


(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, Delhi)


The views expressed by the author are personal








Enid Blyton's publishers are "sensitively and carefully" revising the texts of 10 books of her Famous Five series, ridding them of expressions that might seem outdated now and replacing them with what they think are contemporary and immediately comprehensible phrases.


"Mercy me" will be changed to "oh, no"; "it's all very peculiar" to "it's all very strange"; "school tunic" to "uniform"; "she must be jolly lonely all by herself" to "she must get lonely all by herself"; and "mother and father" to "mum and dad"; and so on.


Next month, Hodder Children's Books will publish these 10 revised Famous Five books (if you don't know who the Famous Five are, and haven't read their adventures, you should skip this column), starting with Five on a Treasure Island, which first appeared in 1942.


The others in the series will follow over the next seven months. If the demand for the redone books is huge, the publishers will look at reissuing so-called contemporary versions of much of Blyton's enormous – and still enormously popular – backlist.


Children, at least in the UK (where the research based on which this decision was taken was conducted), seemed to have had trouble with the outdated phrases. This bringing up to date will apparently engender ease of reading and understanding, thereby inculcating in children the habit and love of the written word.


But this exercise runs counter to the whole philosophy of reading; it is at odds with how and why a child learns to be passionate about books. We tend to never acknowledge this, but close reading is a skill. More importantly, it is an acquired skill. A child needs to teach herself (and we her) to acquire the knack for close reading.


Writing is an act of imagination. But reading is also an act of imagination. Many of us grew up on Enid Blyton. The experiences of the Famous Five (or Adventurous Four or Five Find Outers) were remote from our own, but that was the charm of it. It was one of the first lessons in reading: the imaginative leap we make when we immerse ourselves in a text, the manner in which — to borrow from the critic Louis Bayard — we "grasp the mystery by which words make worlds".


Shakespeare's language may not be our own, but it makes a travesty of the experience of reading as much as of writing to suggest that we make it "accessible". Language cannot be divorced from its historical and cultural context.


"There is no nation but the imagination," the Scottish writer, Andrew O'Hagan, is fond of saying. "How do we keep company with our imaginations, what do we do to be so alive? It's easy — we read books."


To rewrite children's books and divorce a particular kind of language from its milieu is to traduce the place imagination has in our – and our children's lives.








D K Singh: Is it true that Somnath Chatterjee told you that Jyoti Basu was not in favour of his expulsion from the party?


It is very unfortunate that Jyoti Basu's name is being invoked in this controversy when he is not alive. Somnath Chatterjee conveyed to me that he should remain Speaker till the first Hiren Mukherjee memorial parliamentary lecture that he organised. That is what he conveyed to me and I conveyed it to the politburo.


D K Singh: So Jyoti Basu's disapproval of his expulsion wasn't conveyed to you?


No, that was not conveyed to me.


Dhiraj Nayyar: On the price rise issue, it is difficult for the Left to blame liberalisation or reforms because agriculture is one sector of the economy that has not been touched by reforms. So what would you like done?


Liberalisation may not have touched agriculture in terms of the reforms you see in the manufacturing or the services sectors but it has touched agriculture in the sense of the withdrawal of state investment. Agriculture is dependent on the monsoons, to a large extent. During the years of liberalisation, not a single major irrigation project has been undertaken. All you have is from the pre-liberalisation period. There has been a gradual withdrawal of the state in this area. Once the farmer suicides began, the country woke up to the realisation that something was going wrong in agriculture. That was when the small irrigation projects began. But they are not the answer unless we plan for big irrigation projects.


Manoj C G: On Somnath Chatterjee, two days before the trust vote in Parliament, your central committee authorised the politburo to take disciplinary action against him if he continued to preside over the trust vote. Did it specify expulsion and if not who decided to expel him?


The politburo decided to expel him. The central committee authorised the politburo to take whatever steps necessary if he doesn't abide by the party's decision that he should not preside over the trust vote. Accordingly, the politburo took the decision.


D K Singh: Were there dissenting voices in the politburo?


It was a full politburo that took the decision.


Swaraj Thapa: West Bengal and Kerala, where the Left is ruling, are going to the polls next year. The general perception is that the CPM will lose in both the states.


For the last two decades or more, Kerala has had a pendulum result, once this way, once the other. That disadvantage is with us this time. In West Bengal, of all elections, this one is a little more challenging. Remember, last time after the polls and before the results, Mamata Banerjee had announced that her next press conference would be at the Writers' Building? We saw what happened. The elections are going to be tough. Remember, winning seven consequent elections is unprecedented in any parliamentary democracy and that too without being the ruling party at the Centre.


Shekhar Gupta: You may not like the expression 'decline' but where did your problems begin in West Bengal? Do you think Singur could have been handled differently?


Yes, I think so. But first, we must appreciate the general problem in West Bengal. With land reforms, you had reached a stage where nearly 90 per cent or more of agricultural land was with small or marginal farmers. The land has been completely distributed among the people. Two sets of problems emerge as a result of this: one is that the land became fragmented. In Singur's case, we discovered later, 1,000 acres was owned by 12,000 people—12 families were virtually owning 1 acre of land. In reality, that meant one or two families were surviving on the land, the rest of them were doing all sorts of odd jobs, pulling rickshaws or doing domestic jobs. How do you improve their livelihood? The only way was by speedy industrialisation and that is how Singur was conceptualised. The idea was sold to the people in the last assembly elections. When we got a three/fourths majority, it was presumed that the people had accepted the idea, which they may have. But there was one thing we did not do which we had done elsewhere. Elsewhere, the process of the acquisition of land was accompanied by very thorough homework. Committees were formed and we went from village to village explaining why this land was to be acquired, what the compensation would be, etc. Every weekend, Jyoti Basu would go to one cluster of villages, collect the pattas from them and give them compensation cheques. This was done over a period of time. In Singur, this process of carrying the people with us should have been done.


Shubhajit Roy: On the Nuclear Liability Bill, has the government reached out to you? Also, will the Left vote with the BJP against the Bill?


It is not a question of being with the BJP or not. The Left has problems with the Bill. It is now with the Standing Committee, deliberations are on. Our members are in the Committee. So, the government need not reach out to any of us. But there are serious issues involved, all the more after the Bhopal verdict. The ceiling on the quantum of compensation fixed is actually lower than what Union Carbide paid in Bhopal. It is ridiculous for a nuclear accident. The other basic issue is, how can you absolve the producer of equipment from any defects or possible defects? Thirdly, there are still three areas of civilian nuclear technology which India has not been allowed to access: reprocessing, heavy water and enrichment. In these three areas, technology transfer is prohibited to us. The civil nuclear agreement was undertaken to give us access to these levels of technology transfer in return for nuclear commerce with the US. At the moment, only one side of the bargain is happening—nuclear commerce with the US. So we are telling the government, you must get your side of the bargain; if you don't, then why are you giving them what they want?


Shekhar Gupta: Describe Mamata Banerjee to us as a political phenomenon.


I think Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress are the political manifestations of negativity that emerge in a parliamentary democracy. At least two generations were born and grew up to become voters after the Left Front government came to power in West Bengal. Eighty per cent plus are voters who have not seen any other government there. The only alternative they see is the Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee. That is the reason for her emergence as a political contender. Also, the weaknesses that have emerged in over the 30 years of our rule. When we came to power in 1978, we established the Panchayati Raj institutions. The number of elected members to the gram, zilla, district parishads were more than our party membership. Therefore, the Left had to put up people who were not party members. People, without any ideological commitment, came to us because these positions were available. It took us time to identify them. By then, the damage had been done. We are trying to clean up but that is the problem. And Mamata Banerjee got the advantage of that. So when I said the negativity of politics, I meant the negative feeling people may have towards us which benefits her.


Shekhar Gupta: What are her political skills?


Her political skill is that she has been able to marshall the discontent. She has shown skills in decapitating the Congress altogether. She has turned out to be the real political adversary.


Shekhar Gupta: Why are people in West Bengal so angry with the Left?


A certain section has not so much anger as a sense of disappointment. People in India are very discerning: the same vice in a politician of another party they are not willing to tolerate in the Left. That is why there is disappointment.


Unni Rajen Shanker: You spoke about why you had to go in for industrialisation in Bengal. Isn't there a bigger question here of the party's ideology? You have been telling your cadres capitalism is your enemy; now you are telling them you need capital for better life.


If you look at the CPI(M) party programme today, it is not at the socialist stage, it is at the democratic stage. At this stage, our main target is not capitalism per se but monopoly capitalism in India. During the Narasimha Rao government in the '90s, when reforms began, we defined our attitude to foreign capital, saying foreign capital is something that nobody can stop from coming or leaving. In that situation, the foreign capital that comes in must satisfy our interests, not only theirs. So we said that any FDI that comes into India should essentially take care of three factors: augment the country's economic production, upgrade the country's technology, generate capacity for additional employment. These are the yardsticks by which capital must be regulated. So we are not going back on our anti-capitalist position; we are saying that our economic fundamentals require the capital that comes in but it must satisfy these conditions.


C Raja Mohan: In the conflict over Vishal Andhra and the division of state, the party seems to be ambiguous on its stand.


We are the only party which has said we do not want a division of the state, we have stuck to our concept of Vishal Andhra. We maintain Vishal Andhra, Samyukta Maharashtra—all these movements that began in the 50s—contributed to the reasons of unification of India. Now, if you disturb the organisation of the states on the basis of language, I think it is going to open up a Pandora's box which will set in motion a process of disintegration of India.


M K Venu: Are political parties finding that inflation is not such a potent issue today as it was 10 years ago?


True, inflation is no longer such a passionate issue as it was when the Delhi government fell in 1999 on the price of onions. The reason is not so much that people's lives have improved or that there is greater prosperity in the country but that the vocal middle-class, which was an important element of this protest, is better off than it used to be. This is the duality in India: you have the IPL India and the BPL India. It's the IPL India who makes the sound and fury and BPL India that does not and suffers.


Ronojoy Banerjee: How do you rate Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as West Bengal Chief Minister? There are rumours he will not be the CM candidate in the next elections.


The party has not considered anyone other than Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. As chief minister of Bengal, he has done a very satisfying and good job.


Dhiraj Nayyar: How does the CPM see India-China relations over the next 20 years?


I can only see it improving over what it is today. But there are many problems. Crucially, it depends on how you resolve them. Internationally, too, there will be people who might not like an India-China axis developing because then it will be a very, very formidable power in international politics. We have cooperation in many areas already. I think in the years to come, if the two countries work to resolve their tensions, this will be a very strong pole in the multi polar international situation, maybe in the next decade itself. But there will be formidable problems. They will have their plans of hegemony in South Asia and we will have our perception. These are factors we will have to take into account and sharpen our diplomacy.


C Raja Mohan: Did your single-minded obsession with the US prevent you from actually shaping Indian foreign policy in more significant ways during the first UPA government when you had some influence?


That is not correct. On Pakistan, we are the only ones even now, when we are not supporting the UPA government, who are supporting the Prime Minister in his initiative to continue with the talks. Unfortunately, whatever we say against Israel or the US gets publicity, not on other foreign policy priorities.


M K Venu: Isn't it true that the decision to withdraw support to the UPA on the nuclear deal issue was taken at a critical meeting with only three or four members present?


No. The central committee decided that the moment they go ahead with the nuclear deal, we should withdraw support. Once they went ahead, we made our announcement. Whether there was one person there then or more didn't matter because the decision was already made.


Dhiraj Nayyar: The main criticism of the US is their imperialist outreach. Don't you have similar concerns about China aggressively expanding into Africa and other parts of the world?


The Chinese aggression in expansion is basically an economic activity; here you have the military occupation of Iraq or the war in Afghanistan. What China is doing in Africa is not of a scale and size that it starts worrying the world.


Unni Rajen Shanker: Do you think the party needs to repackage itself, like Labour became New Labour in Britain?


Of course, that is what we think we are doing all the while! Marxism, after all, is the concrete analysis of concrete conditions. As conditions change, our analysis must. It is a different matter whether people see us repackaged or not.


Rakesh Sinha: How much do you miss Harkishen Surjeet? Was the party better off under him?


We miss all of them. The party was well off under Surjeet. Under him, it came into national politics and it was a unique situation where you couldn't have any government at the Centre without the Left's support.


D K Singh: Isn't it ironic that there is talk of constructive collaboration between the BJP and Congress and here we find the Left and the BJP coming together?


Left and BJP coming together is only on price rise. When the BJP was in power, they increased the price of the petroleum products at least 11 times. Every time we protested, the Congress would synchronise its actions with us. Today, when the Congress is in power, the BJP is synchronising with us. On Hindutva terror, which will hopefully come up this week in the Parliament, you will find Congress and us on the same side.


Transcribed by Sweta Dutta









 Idea generation supported by advanced technical skill set creates differentiation excellence for a product or service. This provides tremendous returns to an industry and its future, and gets recognised, sustains, and acquires brand worth. Only when a technical skill set is highly efficient, can idea generation and breakthrough differentiation happen.


In business, a strong idea does not get monetised without a technical skill set. And devoid of differentiation, the product gets easily imitated or falls into the commodity zone. A simple example is how the UK, renowned Industrial Revolution pioneers, lost its monopoly in the generation of ideas and technical skill set when it chose to de-link from manufacturing industries and enter the financial engineering domain sometime after 1980s. The country consequently suffered tremendous economic downturn with negligible industrial manufacturing to fall back upon. In contrast, Germany retained its industrial strength and sprang back after its total destruction in the Second World War.


In ancient history, India, China and Japan had multifaceted technical skill sets in different technology aspects of those times. In subsequent political turmoil, many of these were lost. China and Japan have since developed contemporary technical skill sets, whereas India is yet to manifest how to regain our legendary technical skill sets. Let's go into the 10th century where exceptionally high technical and artistic skill set was displayed at Khajuraho. Where has that generation's incomparable technical skill set gene gone? The majority of technical skill set graduates today dream of the IT industry only, irrespective of their domain knowledge being mechanical, electronics or electrical engineering. So industries like automobiles and electronics are suffering a technical skill set shortfall.


Japan bounced back post nuclear implosion, defeat and obliteration of its economy after the Great War. Japan may not have generated exceptional fundamental new ideas in industrial products the way Western Europe or North America has done, but extreme technical skill set makes Japan among the world's most recognised in terms of quality and user-friendly miniaturisation of industrial products.


China's superb technical skill set for production has been unquestionably proven since the 6th century Tang dynasty. China is currently the world's biggest manufacturing hub. When I visited a state-of-the-art factory for productionising an industrial design, I asked why China had a reputation for bad quality. The factory manager explained that China maintains a four-pronged quality and price system for the same product to get faster return on investment. Everyone goes to China for cost reduction, so China delivers on customer demand as per customer price. He cited the example of iPods that have the 'Made in China' mark on them. If there really was quality deficiency, neither Apple nor the customers would have accepted it. Reverting to their superior technical skill set from ancient times to today's digital era, China is fast overcoming quality scarcity even for low priced products.


Technical skill set excellence is the most important value that leads an enterprise to idea generation and differentiation capability. But Indian industry does not prize the technical skill set, so in turn, society does not glorify the tech-savvy professional. I have seen when techno-skilled professional NRIs return to India they abandon their superior technical skill set area to get into management and business. Actually the system compels them to bypass their technical stream. These techno-professionals do not rise in reputation nor do they become recognised leaders in their technical skill set. Work involving technical skill set per se is not perceived to be high category jobs in India. Unless they become business managers with financial targets, techno-professionals do not get high remuneration either. And society judges career growth by the large numbers of people that a manager supervises over, so the technical professional with fewer reportees loses out here as well. As climbing the technical ladder will not bring him reverence, but only stagnation, he willy-nilly acquires managerial skill. This is the way we kill our technical skill set; subsequently idea generation and differentiation are lost.


The combined mentality of the Indian employer, employee and society is responsible for killing this technical skill set. I've heard of an IT engineer who was being paid significantly more to stay on in the technical stream but he pleaded to be shifted to a managerial role. He said his parents were about to arrange his marriage, but his marriage value was crumbling as he was not managing too many people and so he didn't appear to be occupying a top-notch position.


Most Indian IT companies neglect the technical skill set. This hampers their going up the value chain to develop products, productised services or provide high-end technology consultancy to clients. All our country's engineers are getting drained to enter the business area. Not experiencing the technology prowess of young techno-savvy Indians, the Western world thinks India is only good for very basic IT coding for routine customer requirement. Indian IT engineers may have quickly got rich, but there will always remain a gap in their technical skill set competency.


The technical skill set of an industry is exactly like that of a football player. You cannot be a famous footballer if your score in 5390 square metres within 90 minutes is not very high. This is the skill set. People can handle football clubs or football merchandise, but without the skill set of football players on the ground, football tournaments cannot exist. So, India needs to have the passion to invest in and build technical skill sets in every domain.


Every industry has its specific technical skill set that needs to be sharpened and encouraged with high rewards. It's about time Indian industries paid attention to developing their employees' technical skill set at every level so that individual 'football players' in whatever position they are playing in is able to excel at the company job. Instead of migrating people to business areas, raising technical skill set excellence will lead the enterprise to superior idea generation and differentiation to command the global market with, and be sustainable there.


Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at







 If I have stayed away from commenting in this column on the horror of a Professor's hand being chopped off in Kerala by Muslim fanatics it was not out of fear of brickbats and abuse. Those of jihadi disposition seem to spend half their time trawling the worldwide web in search of anyone they consider an enemy of Islam. I am an enemy of all religious fanaticism and make an easy target. My contempt for fanatics is of such a high order that I consider it my dharma not to be silenced by their violent tactics. Not even in those bad old Khalistani times when on account of my disdain for the cause I got death threats. I learned then that I had to look out for myself. When I sought the help of Home Minister, Buta Singh, he said I would be a more visible target with policemen hovering about.


So it has not been fear that has kept me from commenting on the awfulness of the Kerala incident but the hope that for once someone more 'secular' and 'liberal' than I would comment on this repugnant crime. Alas, the only newspaper that investigated it was this one. A few Sundays ago there was an excellent article on the Indian Popular Front. When I read it, I realised that it was as nasty a gathering of fanatics as ever. But, the most interesting detail in the article related to this jihadi organisation's links with the CPM in Kerala. As someone who watches the jihad carefully, I found this information particularly rivetting because it fits in with a worldwide trend. There is a bizarre camaraderie between Godless Marxists and violently religious Islamists. When burqas are banned in European countries or minarets prevented from being built, the first people to make a noise are usually Marxists. But, for the CPM in Kerala to have associated with an organisation that chops people's hands off is truly beyond belief.


It does not end there either. Now we have the story of the lady Professor from West Bengal who has been banned from teaching in the Aliah University because she refuses to wear a burqa. Sirin Middya was intimidated and threatened by a fanatical students union and neither the University authorities nor the Marxist government came to her aid. Is this what Bengal's Marxist government believes is 'secularism'? If it is, then the CPM is worse than the worst religious fanatics.


It is time for the rest of us to speak up. Time to say loudly: not in my country, not in my name. India is not an Islamic Republic and hopefully will never be, so anyone enforcing half-understood Shariat laws should be sent straight to jail. The Vice Chancellor of the Aliah University and the leaders of the Islamist students union should be first on that list. It might not be a bad idea to pack the Education Minister of West Bengal off as well and certainly the leaders of the Indian Popular Front. After the Professor's hand was chopped off, some of them dared to appear on television to state that they did not approve of violence of this kind. It is simply not good enough to say this.


The picture that this newspaper carried of the rally that the Front organised is evidence, if any is needed, that they are running a militant jihadi organisation. All the women in the picture were veiled and all the men in some kind of military uniform. What is going on? What has the Chief Minister of Kerala been doing?


Are our political leaders blind? Do they not see what this kind of militant Islamism has done to our next door neighbours? Have they not noticed that the jihadis are so dangerous an enemy that the United States has been forced into its longest war ever? With Afghanistan in turmoil and Pakistan and Bangladesh becoming increasingly Jihadi in their thinking is it not clear that we cannot allow even jihad-lite organisations in India?


Of all the fanatical religious movements that have come and gone in this country, there is not the faintest shadow of a doubt that the Jihad is the most dangerous. If jihadi organisations are allowed to spread their poisonous propaganda in University campuses it is only a matter of time before the situation becomes as uncontrollable as it has in Pakistan. So those who do not want India to descend into some kind of hellish religious cauldron need to speak up. We need to speak up loudly enough for the Prime Minister to hear that we will not allow him or anyone else to turn India into a breeding ground for the Taliban. We cannot allow the jihad in India because its ideology is the antithesis of the idea of India. Clear?


Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleens









 Where would the UPA be without the NDA? In serious trouble, I think. The Government could face a well ordered, ferocious critique of its policies and be brought to account for the many unresolved problems that India faces. One could start with Kashmir, the Naxal trouble, illegal mining in Karnataka, the by-now forgotten Bhopal fiasco, the double digit rate of inflation of food which has now lasted over twelve months and many other things. In any other parliamentary system, there would be decorous conduct and serious debate and the Executive would not be able get away by refusing to have a debate with a vote at the end.


Yet, the two houses of Parliament are paralysed. We see on our TV screens outrageous conduct. Even when Sushma Swaraj is speaking, her own supporters are drowning her out by constant slogan shouting, standing up or rushing around. This is not new. It happens every time the Government is in any kind of trouble—the Opposition always overplays its cards, creates a hangama and the Government gets away with murder.


Of course, the UPA has a secret weapon—secularism. This allows it to divide the Opposition. Even on perfectly straightforward issues like inflation, the Left and the Mandalite parties cannot join forces with the NDA, lest the Congress accuses them of sleeping with the enemy. Imagine a world without the ever- obliging BJP and Congress having to face a secular Opposition. India has not had such pleasure for thirty years. There was a time during the Nehru-Gandhi years that even though Congress had an absolute majority, it could be put to test as Nehru was on his China policy. There were heated but well ordered debates with serious MPs such as Acharya Kripalani, Minoo Masani, Ram Manohar Lohia and EMS Namboodiripad who had the political clout and the brainpower to perform their duty as MPs.


Armed with the bogey of secularism, Congress can tame the wild beasts of the Left and the Mandalites. It relishes the presence of the BJP without whose help it may have to take note of what the Parliament says. It would have to stop neglecting the Muslims and deliver some serious redress for the poverty and deprivation among the Muslims. The BJP, of course, plays along with this as it has still not figured out a vote- winning strategy. Even so, the Congress is always careful to put it on its defensive, as it has done once again with the Sohrabuddin issue. The BJP has only itself to blame since it has never been able to bring Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to his senses. They need him for his populist appeal.But the more BJP appeals to its core vote, the more it loses the majority of the country. I know the story. Both the Labour Party and then the Conservative Party while in opposition, made the same mistake. It is only when you reach out to the larger public which does not share your core values, that power becomes attainable.


The larger effect of this paralysis is that Indian politics is becoming quite nasty and unnecessarily violent. Thus, it is not only at the Centre that the legislatures are de facto unruly and unparliamentarian. The provincial scenario is not much better. The scenes in the Karnataka Assembly where the Congress which is in opposition, held up proceedings, were even worse.


Elsewhere the picture is not prettier. A Shiv Sena mob can spill thousands of litres of milk in the presence of starving millions on the obscure grounds of helping milk producers. The best way the Opposition parties can protest against the adverse effects of price rise on the poor is to have a bandh which costs many casual workers their livelihood. In Kashmir, the separatist parties have had a fortnight of strike and the best the PDP can do to show support is to lock up the civil servants!


The consequence of such behaviour is that, once elected in office, governments can behave as they like with impunity and immunity. No wonder it is worth a lot of money to be in the ministry, any ministry at the Centre or the States in the largest free market democracy.









 The ban on James Lane's biography of Shivaji was struck down by the Supreme Court. It rightly pointed out that in judging the nature of a book it is impermissible to ban it because of a few isolated stray sentences divorced from the context of the main theme of the book. The so-called offence of hurting religious sentiments must be judged on the touchstone of normal balanced individuals and not by the reactions and standards of hyper-sensitive persons who perceive hurt in any and every criticism and are offended by unpalatable comments. Not surprisingly, there was adverse reaction against the Supreme Court judgment in some bigoted quarters. There were intimidatory protests that the book would not be allowed to be sold or distributed in Maharashtra despite the Supreme Court judgment. Regrettably, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra impliedly endorsed this blatant intolerance in his press conference. The result was that the publisher of the book, obviously for considerations of commercial expediency, caved in and agreed to stop distribution of the book. So much for the authority of the Supreme Court judgment and so much for freedom of expression in our country which can be held to ransom by fanatics. Another shocking manifestation of intolerance was the vandalising of the office of TV channel Headlines Today. The furniture and equipment in the office premises were badly damaged and the office staff was manhandled. The excuse was that a sting operation aired by Headlines Today, insinuated that RSS leader Indresh Kumar had links with Devendra Gupta, a key accused in the Ajmer blasts case. As usual the police were mute spectators and failed to protect the news channel. In this sorry state of affairs, tough and well-armed private security guards may offer a solution. In that case we may bid adieu to the rule of law. And that is the vexed and distressing part.


Fatwas galore


Darul Uloom in Deoband has of late issued fatwas which are incomprehensible. After its fatwa asking women to avoid workplaces requiring them to freely mingle with men without the veil, two more fatwas have been issued recently. One of them ordained that women should cover themselves even in women-only settings. More bizarre are the fatwas which declare that activities, such as adolescent girls cycling or woman wearing perfumes are un-Islamic! The basis for these fatwas is attributed to the Quran or the Hadith, a collection of sayings attributed to Prophet Mohammed. Some Muslim scholars have questioned the validity of these fatwas and are of the view that neither the Quran nor the Hadith justify these fatwas. It seems that historically it was common for texts to be re-interpreted to accommodate changing realities. Assuming that Darul Uloom could do the same re-interpretation should be progressive and in keeping with present norms and not result in fatwas which on their face lack common sense. Besides, these fatwas are impractical and will be honoured more in breach than observance. This will impair the authority and credibility of the Deoband Darul Uloom. Instead of issuing negative fatwas concentrating on don'ts in matters of dress and toiletry, fatwas enjoining practice of tolerance and abjuring extremism and violence in all situations would be salutary and most welcome.


Jazz musician honoured


Legendary Canadian jazz musician Oscar Peterson died in December 2007 at the age of 82 after a 65-year

career as a piano virtuoso recording artist and composer. He is a great jazz icon in Canada. Peterson has received official recognition in his country. Streets, squares, concert halls and schools have been named after him. He was also honoured by the issue of a commemorative stamp. The pinnacle of his fame and recognition took place last month when a bronze sculpture of Peterson was unveiled in Ottawa by Queen Elizabeth of the UK. It is heartening that there is no royal prejudice against jazz. Quite a few jazz musicians have performed at the White House. If Canada, UK and US can honour jazz musicians, there is no reason why India should lag behind when we have produced excellent jazz musicians.









The Delhi Golf Club has an uneasy relationship with the Ministry of Urban Development's Land and Development Office (L&DO), from whom its land has been leased. The (L&DO) has stoutly refused permission for any additional structures on the club premises. Early next year, the DGC is to host a prestigious tournament which will be attended by leading women golfers from all over South Asia. But it still remains uncertain whether the landlord will okay an extension of the ladies' toilets and changing rooms, although some 100 contestants are expected.The Sports Ministry is not very sympathetic towards the club. A few months ago at a prize giving function, Sports Minister, M S Gill, who was chief guest and who is also a member, spoke disparagingly about the DGC's maintenance. In contrast, the next speaker, Minister for Non Conventional Energy, Farooq Abdullah, praised the club effusively, saying it was run very efficiently and that he plays here regularly whenever he is in Delhi.


Checkmating Mexico


GUJARAT Chief Minister Narendra Modi wants to get the state into the Guinness book of Records by outdoing Mexico's feat of organising the largest number of chess games to be played simultaneously at a single site. In Mexico City, 13,444 players took part in a giant chess tournament on October 21, 2006. The Gujarat government plans to make arrangements for 20,000 people to play in a chess tournament at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad on December 24. Modi admits that though he is president of the Gujarat Cricket Association, his favourite game is chess.


Kolkata cleanup


SINCE the Trinamool Congress now controls the Kolkata municipality, Mamata Banerjee has asked Sam Pitroda for advice on how to clean up the city. Dinesh Trivedi, is the link between Pitroda, who advises Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on infrastructure even though he spends most of his time in the US, and Banerjee. The Minister of State for Health and Pitroda were both together as students in the US. Both are Gujaratis and Pitroda usually stays at Trivedi's home whenever he comes to the Capital. Trivedi reserves a special room for Pitroda, with an interior similar to his bedroom in Chicago. Before the Congress's broadside against five-star hotel accommodation, Pitroda used to stay at the Maurya Sheraton.


Fear of Big Brother


REPORTS that phones of communication Minister A Raja were tapped and his private conversations leaked to the media has alarmed many central ministers. Ministers from Raja's home state of Tamil Nadu are especially concerned over phone tapping. One minister routinely borrows the mobile phones of visitors to his office to make confidential phone calls. For the same reason, several ministers meet political callers at Parliament's Central Hall, even when the House is not in session, rather than at their offices. They presume that Big Brother is not listening in the hallowed confines of Parliament.


Slightly batty problem


NO satisfactory solution has been found for the monkey menace in many parts of Lutyens' Delhi. Hiring langurs to frighten monkeys away merely acts as a temporary deterrent. For residents of Akbar Road and of neighbouring bungalows, with such high profile tenants as the Congress party, Sharad Pawar and the chiefs of the Navy and Air Force, there is an additional problem of bats. The bats hide in the trees by day but come out at night and disturb the peace. The ground is cluttered with their droppings. The authorities are flummoxed over how to get rid of the bats without cutting down the branches of the trees. The SPG is grappling with the problem of ridding 2 Motilal Nehru Marg, the office of the National Advisory Council (NAC), of bats. As chairperson of the NAC, Sonia Gandhi visits the building frequently.


Conspiracy conscious


AT a meeting of some 200 district electoral officers in Tamil Nadu, both Navin Chawla and S Y Quraishi were critical of the partisan behaviour of certain electoral officers during the parliamentary polls and assembly by-elections. An EC even remarked that Tamil Nadu is getting "notorious for its money power". The commissioners were particularly concerned about the conduct of some promotee IAS officers and warned that they could be replaced by revenue cadre officers in the 2011 assembly poll. Details of the meeting were reported to Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. A paranoid DMK senses a conspiracy involving political rival Jayalalithaa.DMK members recall that Chawla had ensured the reclusive Jayalalithaa's presence at the golden jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission and facilitated a meeting, however brief, between her and Sonia Gandhi.











In a nuclear family with two boys, life was smooth sailing until my mother's untimely demise. My father, 75- plus, could not be left alone. An accident coupled with his spouse's sudden death had left him shaken. We brought him over to live with us.


In his heyday, he was a dynamic person but as years went by, symptoms of old age crept in. It started off with slow memory loss; he found it hard to recollect names and repeated things over and over again. Friends and relatives quickly diagnosed it as Alzheimer's and gave it a certain respectability (thanks to Mohanlal in the Malayalam movie Thanmathra). To arrest its progression we would see to it that he kept to a regular routine of walks, yoga, reading the newspaper, and attending telephone calls. He loved going out so we would take him along when we went shopping or to dine out at hotels. We would make him collect the bill and check the balance amount received, so that his mental arithmetic was intact. But soon this became difficult for him. He was given petty tasks like cutting vegetables, peeling onions, locking the gate, placing vegetables into the refrigerator, ironing his clothes, all of which required some cognitive ability.


Signs of dementia


As he crossed his eighties, his behaviour showed signs of dementia. His activities became slower and slower while his obsessions grew stronger and stronger. He lost track of what he ate as sometimes he would finish off a dozen bananas in half a day. Worse still, he was obstinate in throwing the peels into the neighbour's yard. His world shrank to his almirah, his clothes and his books. He would check umpteen times if they were all intact. His clothes were sometimes quietly picked up from the clothes line even before they were dry. Pens went missing from the tabletop, important letters also disappeared from the mail box. Luckily, we would find them hidden in his cupboard and he would flatly refuse he had taken them. The 10-year-old's odd toys would also find their way into his cupboard and that would start a fight between them. It was not that stereotyped story-telling-loving grandfather that my son knew, but someone more closer to his age waiting to get even.


Interaction with outsiders was no better. His prejudices or hatred that he nurtured deep inside would surface now and then. We had to intervene to tone them down. Very few had the time and patience to listen to his harping. With his activities having shrunk and communication becoming incoherent, it was soon he to himself with dialogue being minimal. It is at these times that a support group is essential but it is lacking in our fast–paced society. Problems of the old are rarely seen from the caregiver's perspective.


With advanced medical care and improved standards of living, old people now have more years of age to cope with. The quality of living through old age depends, to a large extent, on sensible handling by the caregivers. People in their eighties are invariably suffering from physical immobility or dementia (still underrecognised).


Multiple needs


Their needs are many — first, physical needs like giving them a bath, clothing them, giving food and medicines at regular intervals, accompanying them for a walk and so on. Second, financial needs, like arranging for their monthly expenditures, managing their bank accounts and other financial transactions. Third, emotional needs, like sparing time to listen to them even if it did or did not make sense, or making them feel useful by assigning tasks which they can perform.


This is not all. They also have their social needs like attending functions, visiting temples, or travelling to new places. Physical and emotional needs are provided at the individual's own home but social needs imply social interactions outside home. For this, society should be ready to accept them into the mainstream. If the aged are suffering from dementia, they can at times be quite an embarrassment but this embarrassment is not for the caretaker alone but should be shared by society as a whole. The younger generation, in particular, should be educated to be more sensitive to this category of the 'very old', whom one would put at home rather than bring out. The care and concern that we readily show to the physically and mentally challenged should be extended to these people also.


Caregivers thus need to be given all encouragement and support by society. The Income Tax department could give an across-the-board relief to all families supporting an 80-plus senior citizen and spare them the rigours of having to prove dementia in such cases. Day care centres will soon be the need of the times and surely prove a great boon to both the old and their care givers.


(The writer's email is






Many people feel unhappy, health-wise and security-wise, after 60 years of age owing to the diminishing importance given to them and their opinion. But it need not be so, if only we understand the basic principles of life and follow them scrupulously. Here are ten mantras to age gracefully and make life after retirement pleasant.


1. Never say 'I am aged': There are three ages, chronological, biological, and psychological. The first is calculated based on our date of birth; the second is determined by the health conditions and the third is how old you feel you are. While we don't have control over the first, we can take care of our health with good diet, exercise and a cheerful attitude. A positive attitude and optimistic thinking can reverse the third age.


2. Health is wealth: If you really love your kith and kin, taking care of your health should be your priority. Thus, you will not be a burden to them. Have an annual health check-up and take the prescribed medicines regularly. Do take health insurance cover.


3. Money is important: Money is essential for meeting the basic necessities of life, keeping good health and earning family respect and security. Don't spend beyond your means even for your children. You have lived for them all through and it is time you enjoyed a harmonious life with your spouse. If your children are grateful and they take care of you, you are blessed. But never take it for granted.


4. Relaxation and recreation: The most relaxing and recreating forces are a healthy religious attitude, good sleep, music and laughter. Have faith in God, learn to sleep well, love good music and see the funny side of life.


5. Time is precious: It is almost like holding a horse's reins. When they are in your hands, you can control them. Imagine that everyday you are born again. Yesterday is a cancelled cheque. Tomorrow is a promissory note. Today is ready cash — use it profitably. Live this moment.


6. Change is the only permanent thing: We should accept change — it is inevitable. The only way to make sense out of change is to join the dance. Change has brought about many pleasant things. We should be happy that our children are blessed.


7. Enlightened selfishness: All of us are basically selfish. Whatever we do, we expect something in return. We should definitely be grateful to those who stood by us. But our focus should be on the internal satisfaction and happiness we derive by doing good to others, without expecting anything in return.


8. Forget and forgive: Don't be bothered too much about others' mistakes. We are not spiritual enough to show our other cheek when we are slapped in one. But for the sake of our own health and happiness, let us forgive and forget them. Otherwise, we will be only increasing our BP.


9. Everything has a purpose: Take life as it comes. Accept yourself as you are and also accept others for what they are. Everybody is unique and right in his own way.


10. Overcome the fear of death: We all know that one day we have to leave this world. Still we are afraid of death. We think that our spouse and children will be unable to withstand our loss. But the truth is no one is going to die for you; they may be depressed for some time. Time heals everything and they will carry on.







The proposed Foreign Educational Institutions (Regulation of Entry and Operations) Bill, 2010 seeks to permit foreign players into India's higher education system. There is no dearth of applications for opening private higher education institutions. In addition to the existing 7,000-plus engineering colleges through which 8,00,000 students graduate every year, 2009-10 saw more than 200 applications considered favourably for establishing engineering colleges.


In the U.S., particularly, the financial tsunami has forced the Department of Education to slash funds at all levels — school, community colleges and universities. Budgets are being cut from many state-supported universities as they are facing huge shortfalls. With rising tuition fees affecting local enrolments, foreign universities are forced to look at alternative geographical markets to increase enrolment.


The Ministry of Human Resource Development estimates that permitting foreign universities will reduce the foreign exchange outflow by 75 per cent. This is questionable. According to an ASSOCHAM report, the annual outflow of foreign exchange due to Indian students going abroad is $ 10 billion.


Despite the availability of quality subsidised engineering and management education in India (on average, an engineering or management student in a reputed institution pays $120 a month as fees compared to $1,500-5,000 in an equivalent institution the U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore and Britain), about five lakh students go abroad every year.


One of the main reasons is the high quality of the post-graduate and doctoral degree programmes offered in institutions abroad, delivered through innovative methodologies and abundant flexibility. In addition, the students crave for foreign exposure which can be a springboard for a global career. Even if foreign universities open up campuses in India, a vast majority of students will still prefer to leave India, and the impact of this on foreign reserves will continue to be felt.


Faculty crisis


A fallout of permitting foreign universities is the likely flight of teachers from the Indian institutions, compounding the existing shortage of qualified faculty. The Indian universities will not be able retain their teachers as with their drastically lower fee structures, they cannot match the pay packets of the foreign universities.


The persisting faculty crisis in Indian higher education presents a bleak picture. On May 5 this year, the Lok Sabha was informed that 34 per cent of the 11,085 teaching positions across 22 universities in India are lying vacant. The paucity of qualified faculty is felt even more in professional and technical institutions. With the engineering students in India increasing every day, institutions are facing a faculty shortage to the extent of 67 per cent all over the country. Even in premier institutes like the IITs, faculty shortage is an issue of serious concern. Foreign universities can only add to this.


In terms of infrastructure, many Indian universities can boast of a world class facility. But the lack of academic and administrative freedom is constraining many from meeting global standards.


Until the AICTE was conferred statutory powers in 1987, only the universities and the State Governments had powers to set up technical educational institutions. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the governments of Karnataka and Maharashtra permitted private trusts and societies to establish educational institutions. In 1984, the Tamil Nadu government followed suit and started permitting self-financing institutions. Andhra Pradesh was the next, joined by all the States and hence imparting higher education no longer became the exclusive duty of the state. The Supreme Court judgment in Unnikrishnan's case also paved the way for collection of the actual expenditure incurred per student in an unaided institution.


There are several regulatory bodies like the UGC, the AICTE and the MCI, stifling the growth of education under the guise of regulating institutions without giving them functional freedom. Freeing institutions from such regimental shackles would be a far wiser option than inviting foreign universities to our shores.


If the MHRD is dead set on permitting foreign universities, it should allow a calibrated entry. At the moment, it seems that foreign universities will target only the huge undergraduate degree market, as introducing postgraduate courses here could endanger the enrolment of Indians on U.S. campuses. The government should hence permit them on condition that they begin with postgraduate/doctoral education for the first 10 years with their own existing faculty. While this will be a litmus test of the true intentions of the foreign universities, the time period will help level the playing field for Indian institutions to take on foreign competition.


Financial control

Also, there needs to be a tightening of the Act to ensure that foreign universities plough their surplus back into educating Indians. On the surface of it, Section 5 (3) of the Act appears to do this. It states that no part of the surplus in revenue generated in India by a foreign education provider, after meeting all expenditure in regard to its operations in India, shall be invested for any purpose other than for the growth and development of the educational institutions established by it in India. Even a layman with no accounting knowledge will know that accounting firms have in stock numerous mantras to divert funds, not necessarily by way of profit. The Act must hence prevent the diversion of funds in any form and not just the diversion of surplus.


With a plethora of issues confronting Indian education at all levels, the foreign university Bill is an unprescribed pill.


(The writer is Indian Overseas Bank Chair Professor, School of Management and Dean, Planning and Development, Sastra University, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.)








The news that India Post is on twitter was a pleasant surprise. What made it more so was the fact that it was one of the first government departments to be on Twitter. It has been a long journey for India Post.

"Dakiya dak laya, Dakiya dak laya…" was how a popular song of the late seventies went. The song was true to life for millions all over India. It may seem long ago but in actual fact only about one-and-a-half decades ago, cellphones were not even on the horizon and the only mobile communication for the ordinary person was the humble postman, dressed in khaki and a bag full of letters slung over his shoulder coming on his bicycle or on foot. Those were times when the web was what a spider spun and twittering was left to the birds!


Going from house to house, it was not just letters that he brought but joy and sadness to families across the nations. Here a letter or telegram from a son gone out for work informing his family of safe arrival, there a letter of appointment to a much anticipated job, and occasionally news of demise. Today's 'smsing' and chatting generation will scarcely be able to understand the eager anticipation and value of the postman's visit, much in excess of the weight of the paper that he delivered.


Among departments of the state, the post office was one which could be found even in remote villages.


When problems began


However, over the years, the quality of service started deteriorating. A monopoly situation and the 'sarkari' attitude started ringing the death knell for India Post. With the arrival of e-mail, the old kid on the block was being derided as snail mail. And the entry of private couriers put the proverbial last nail in the coffin.


But like a slumbering giant waking up from his sleep, India Post has woken up. Like its counterparts in the

telecommunication and banking sectors which have reinvented themselves after the entry of private operators, India Post too is rising up to meet new challenges — computerisation, electronic money orders and what not. The wide network of offices and outposts is also being utilised in other ways to increase business, including the facility to pay many utility bills.


I was recently surprised when a private courier called me up to inform me to collect from his office a parcel addressed to me. When I told him that it was his duty to deliver it, he said that he did not have boys to deliver the same in my area. I complained to the head office and voila, the parcel was sent by speed post from the courier agent's office to my residence.


The bells they are a tolling, but it is no death knell they are sounding. With wings spread, they are announcing the arrival of a bright future for India Post.


(The writer's email is








The tag senior citizen is generally given to a person who is between 58 and 65 years of age and has superannuated from active service. This age band fixed for retirement was based on the old system followed decades ago when longevity was lower than 60 years. With the advance in medical sciences and health supporting systems, longevity now goes up to 75. Perhaps, the retirement age needs revision to make use of the services of experienced people for some more time in the interest of national development.


Some senior citizens have the right attitude, take things in their stride, plan well their post-retirement life and keep their body and mind in reasonable good trim. They largely have a positive approach. There are others who take a dim view of life and think of retirement as something of a punishment. While the optimists keep themselves busy with productive work, the pessimists become dejected, feel neglected and find fault with everyone.


Family situations and financial position do play a part in influencing the lives of elders. Some are fortunate to live with their children or within their reach in the same city/town. They lead a relatively satisfied life. The longer the distance, the greater their feeling of insecurity and loneliness. If the children are within the country, the parents are fairly satisfied — they can visit them or the children can come home for occasions like marriages and festivals. The pangs of separation and the fear of loneliness, on the other hand, increase if the children live abroad. Thus the elders' lives are situation-dependent.


The presence of relatives and old-age homes, however comfortable, cannot provide for emotional needs. Some people overcome the blues by taking recourse to cultural and social activities but others suffer silently. Low income and poor health aggravate the misery.


Thus arises the question whether senior citizens are an asset or liability to the families and society at large. My answer is they are undoubtedly an asset if they have the right attitude to life. The present-day elders truly represent the generation of the pre-Independence era known for a value-based life. They were accomplished, humble and honest and practised to a large extent what was taught. As most senior citizens are highly experienced, they can contribute tremendously to the welfare of society. Their service can be for free or for a nominal fee.


A strong forum of senior citizens drawn from different walks of life can undertake coaching/counselling to students, youth and women to cope with their day-to-day problems. The elders have the responsibility to guide the youth and instil the much-needed confidence in them.


Source of solace


Local administrations, educational/research institutions, the corporate and business sectors and social organisations like the Rotary and Lions clubs can avail themselves of the services of the elders as consultants and advisers. Their services can be tapped to tackle a variety of problems — poverty, hunger, health, rural/tribal backwardness. The poorest of the poor, the physically challenged and the destitutes need support. The seniors are the right source of solace to this.


At present less than five per cent of seniors are engaged as consultants and advisory committee members in various sectors, whereas the potential exists to draft the services of 35 to 40 per cent more. Therein lies a great opportunity to convert the elders into a national asset.


(The writer is retired director, CPCRI. His email is










The clean sweep of the bypolls to the 12 Assembly constituencies in Telangana by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and its ally, the BJP, has strengthened the demand for a separate state like nothing else before it. While there was a general defeatist air around the campaign of the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party, the magnitude of


their trouncing has left both searching for a cogent explanation. TDP candidates lost their deposits in all the 12 seats, the Congress in four. The biggest electoral shock to the ruling party came with the defeat of APCC president D. Srinivas. The TRS reaped the harvest of being the sole protagonist of the Telangana sentiment. The quick fixes that the Congress and the TDP attempted simply did not wash with the voters. While the Congress, Mr Srinivas especially, belatedly expressed outright support for statehood, the TDP took up the agitation against the Babli barrage in Maharashtra to project itself as the "protector of Telangana's interests".

The Congress' apparent "switch" on statehood — the December 9, 2009 statement of Union home minister P. Chidambaram that "the process for formation of a separate state of Telangana has been initiated" and the subsequent "backtracking" exemplified by the constitution of the Srikrishna Committee to study the question of statehood — did the party no good. The TRS also appears to have benefited from the traditional Congress-TDP rivalry. Voters were swayed by "sympathy" for TRS candidates, who had resigned to press the statehood demand. The TRS victory showed that the Congress and the TDP reliance on their traditional vote banks was misplaced. Voters across caste and religion lines were too overcome by the statehood slogan of the TRS to care much for their former party affiliations. TRS chief Chandrasekhar Rao's charge that the Congress and the TDP were adopting double standards on statehood stuck with voters. He was able to convince them that it was only by giving a massive victory to TRS could they send an emphatic signal to the Srikrishna Committee to take a favourable decision on the five-decade-old demand for statehood for Telangana.

The verdict will provide more vigour to the Telangana protagonists. The landslide could push into the background the findings of the Srikrishna Committee, mandated to submit its report by December 31. The Congress has been sitting on the Telangana demand for almost 50 years, even after including the issue in its election manifesto in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The party allowed its leaders from the different regions of Andhra Pradesh to express their respective views before the Srikrishna Committee, clearly telling voters that it had no single stand on the demand for Telangana statehood, leaving them deeply suspicious of the influence of the so-called Andhra lobby on decision-making. The TDP simply followed in the Congress' footsteps. Indeed, it pledged its support to the idea of statehood, and then reneged.

The Congress will also have to deal with the Jaganmohan Reddy factor. A strong votary of a united AP, the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy's ambitious son might feel emboldened to take on the party leadership. For its part, the TDP will need to make itself politically valid in the changed circumstances. Neither party can afford to brush aside the poll verdict. Elections to the all-important local bodies are round the corner, and those to municipalities and municipal corporations are due next year. The Congress and TDP currently dominate the grassroots local bodies, but that could change very quickly, as the byelection results have shown.








The political trends are disturbing as a certain amount of desperation creeps into the system. As the Opposition parties consolidate their attack on the Congress, the allies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), with an agenda of their own, are silent. Also, within the Congress personal differences have surfaced — issues are

clouded by secular and non-secular politics, minority and majority vote banks and coalition compulsions. Though the media is taking full advantage of the situation, it would be a mistake to take public opinion for granted.

Price rise is a major issue and is not restricted to the soaring prices of food articles alone. The Reserve Bank of India's decision to raise interest rates to fight inflation, which is on track to hit double digits for the sixth straight month, has set the stage for more policy tightening.

While the "real" economy is doing well, the grim reality is that the aam aadmi is under pressure and even with a good monsoon we need a fair amount of good and effective governance. Sadly, this is not visible.
The pressure in both the Houses is evident as the issue of price rise is debated and sadly for the Congress "political accidents" continue to take place. Most of these are based on personal likes and dislikes and have little to do with either national or party interests.

The Commonwealth Games are due in two months and it is disgusting to see the political system being held to ransom by internal dissidence within the Congress. The party leadership, at all levels, seems powerless to deal with the situation.

I do not understand when members of the Congress, perhaps unhappy over their current status, take positions contrary to the party stand. Can these "views" be dismissed as part of "inner-party democracy"? We have seen views expressed on the Maoist violence, our relations with Pakistan, and now on Commonwealth Games 2010. Do these wilful political accidents form a special strategy designed to benefit the party? The Congress is taking public opinion for granted and lack of action by the government or the party is showing a weakness that will be exploited by others as political pressure increases by the day. The chaos in the sports field is not restricted to the Commonwealth Games — it extends to the Board of Control for Cricket in India where the governing council is trying to silence the sacked Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi for offences jointly committed by them. In hockey, we have utter chaos. Thankfully, even if for a while, all this fades into the background as Sachin Tendulkar cracks a double century and does India proud.


THE CABINET reshuffle has been deferred as there are various issues that concern the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Trinamul Congress, both allies in the UPA. The Dravida Munettra Kazhagam (DMK) has made its objections clear on the issue of the 2-G spectrum allocation scam that involves communications minister A. Raja.

The Andhra Pradesh byelections results are out and it is no surprise that the Telangana Rashtra Samithi has swept the polls in this region. The Congress has much to do in the state and unless they have credible leadership it will be difficult for them to meet the challenge of the Telugu Desam Party and the dissident group headed by Jaganmohan Reddy and his supporters.

The Bihar elections loom on the horizon and as things stand the alliance of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under chief minister Nitish Kumar is poised to win. But the winning margin may shrink due to the anti-incumbency factor and we may well see a revival in the fortunes of the alliance of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) unless the Congress takes this advantage away from.

A swing in the minority votes away from the JD(U) is crucial both for the Congress and the RJD-LJP combine. This has to be watched very carefully as the trend in Bihar was very different from the trend in the country during the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. Vote banks are a reality for every party and it's no secret that the Congress had a surprise victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections due to the swing in the minority vote all over the country and a clear reaction to the Gujarat riots. In the 2009 general elections, the trend repeated itself and this vote will be crucial for the party in the 2014 general elections.

The Congress is not the only party playing the minority card. Several regional parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the RJD, the LJP, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the TDP, the Trinamul Congress, the DMK, and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, need the minority vote. This, more than anything else, is what has isolated the National Democratic Alliance after the 2004 elections.


WE SPEAK of the rule of law but does it exist? Thousands are maimed or killed by terrorist attacks and criminal elements who provide them sanctuary and shelter. It takes 10-20 years to complete legal proceedings and even when a decision is taken we refuse to act on considerations which make little sense. In this situation, it would be useful to take an "opinion poll" on encounters by security forces and the police. I am sure those in all three wings of governance will be surprised by the public reaction.

The protection enjoyed by those in governance is not available to the general public and you cannot conduct governance by giving "sermons" on morality and the rule of law. I remember watching a movie, A Wednesday and I was surprised and shocked to see that after the movie got over the entire audience got up and clapped in appreciation. The movie was about an aam aadmi who eliminates a gang of four terrorists while making his point against the system!

The situation in Gujarat is tense. Amit Shah is currently under arrest as the prime accused in the kidnapping and murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, who was killed by the state police in a false encounter. As the Central Bureau of Investigation conducts its investigations, the public will be sharply divided on this issue. This case alone could take a decade to determine.


Arun Nehru is a former Union Minister








Vox Populi it was, loud and clear. The recent byelections in Andhra Pradesh's 12 constituencies, all located in the Telangana region, have brought out one message clearly. The voters have expressed their thorough disapproval of the Congress and its politics of opportunism.


Andhra Pradesh has always taught lessons. The British received lessons on civil Non-cooperation Movement crippling their administration, even in places far removed, but strongly influenced by the Mahatma (Chirala-Perala); the resistance to the Nizam's oppressive police, the Razakars, was valiant and strong. It was spearheaded by the people themselves as most of their eminent leaders were imprisoned.

In free India, Andhra Pradesh continued to play this role. The blatant attack on the federal structure (1985) and the disastrous consequence therefrom during the early but strong days of N.T. Rama Rao, the anti-liquor agitation spearheaded exclusively by women, the agitations for a separate Telangana of 1969 and 2009 are a few salient examples. Similar were the agitations of 1971-72 for separate Andhra. The tragic suicides of farmers across the state and the current discontent and bitterness among weavers resulting in suicides too! Lessons being taught by the people — about our poor governance, lack of understanding of people's concerns, our arrogance, misplaced faith about people and their priorities, political opportunism, etc. But are we willing to learn? Many of us are. But no, not the Congress.

Newspapers yesterday reported Union law minister, M. Veerappa Moily, also in charge of Andhra Pradesh in the Congress hierarchy, claiming that "there was no link between the byelection results and the demand for Telangana". However, Nizamabad Congress MP Madhu Yashki felt that the results are a referendum on Telangana. In retrospect, it is no surprise that the party has not given its views to the Srikrishna Committee. Only groups of Congress leaders who held views-in-common represented themselves. As a national party, would the Congress have given one, two or three views on this one issue?

As a national party the Congress did not state its views on Telangana during the all-party meeting held by the chief minister in December 2009. Even in January 2010, when the home minister of India called for an all-party meeting in Delhi, two teams from the state Congress voiced different opinions. Even now it has not made up its mind — float with the current, be everywhere — just what defines political opportunism. And it is that which the voters disapproved of during the recently-concluded byelections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also did not give its views to the committee. It stated openly and clearly that Telangana requires a political decision and there was no place for a committee. All that was, and is, required is a bill to be tabled in Parliament. And the BJP has remained steadfast on Telangana since it passed a resolution in its Kakinada meet. During the National Democratic Alliance regime, it was unfortunate that due to the compulsions of the alliance, the BJP could not deliver Telangana along with Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.

The belated change in the stand of the Telugu Desam has earned the disapproval of the people who pushed them to a dismal third place, losing their deposit in five of the 12 constituencies. Even the last-minute Babli agitation did not fetch the desired results for the Telugu Desam. For a regional party with a presence in only one state and holding high Andhra's self-respect, it lost its connect with its own people.

The margins by which those who won in these elections is also noteworthy. In a string of constituencies the victory margins are in the range of 45,000-90,000 votes. For the Congress, which is power in the state, it is a clear rejection of its policies, its inefficient administration and its rank opportunism.

Many in the national media have missed the story. For a few, the developments in Gujarat came as a good excuse to cover up this disaster which has fallen on the Congress. I recall here how the BJP's spectacular first-time victory in the Bangalore Municipal Corporation was completely lost for many in the media. However, when in 2009, in Junagadh, again in Gujarat, the BJP lost a few municipal wards, it drew so much print and electronic media attention. A few soothsayers among journalists predicted the fall of the chief minister himself. Astonishingly, today, after the significant message delivered by the voters of Andhra Pradesh, a few in the media seem to brush it off as yesterday's story.

The fear is that, as before, yet another lesson is going to be lost. Those in power are not going to learn. However, Andhra Pradesh cannot afford instability. The sad attempt to give a "birthday gift" resulted in disaster. Short-sighted, quick-fix solutions will only result in chaos.

The political leadership in Andhra Pradesh Congress is weak and in no mood to take statesman-like initiatives. However, the top-down approach, as followed in 2009-10, also failed as there is a complete mismatch of leadership and their aspirations between the party and the government.

There is a political vacuum being created, thanks to the rejection by the people of those who failed them. The message is clear. Andhra Pradesh is at a crossroads. A state rich in resources, culturally and linguistically well-endowed, with achievements in science and technology and skilled human resource, cannot be left directionless.








The telecom tangle gets trickier by the day. Most recently, telecom babus have been dragging their feet on the suggestions made by the high-powered Sam Pitroda committee appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on reviving the ailing state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited.


The Telecom Commission headed by telecom secretary P.J. Thomas has now decided to constitute an internal committee to study the Pitroda committee's recommendations! Curiously, Mr Thomas was also a member of the Pitroda panel and is now in the unique position of sitting in judgment over his own recommendations!
Mr Pitroda has recommended recruiting top management for the two state-owned telecom companies from the private sector. But since the telecom department has already started the process to replace the current BSNL chief Kuldeep Goyal who is retiring, the babus are now suggesting that the current procedure be allowed in this instance. What will happen next? Your guess is as good as mine.



Erring babus

It could be plain buoyancy after hosting a successful global investors' meet, but the Karnataka government is clearly still on a high. State chief secretary S.V. Ranganath apparently feels that the babus need to clean up their act and has, accordingly, cracked the whip on erring babus who delay departmental inquiries.
The decision is based on the recommendations of a committee appointed by Mr Ranganath and headed by secretary, Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms, K.R. Srinivas. The panel's report highlighted the lack of skill in speedy completion of inquiry processes by mid-level babus. In the past there have been many instances of babus avoiding investigations and getting charges against them dropped by "friendly" inquiry officers. An irate Mr Ranganath has now ordered all pending inquiries to be complete within nine months of beginning the investigation. What impact this directive will have on the erring babus remains to be seen.



Righting a wrong

It has long been felt that the overwhelming presence of retired babus in information commissions is actually a hindrance rather than a help in implanting the Right to Information law. RTI activists like Krishnaraj Rao from Mumbai are quoting a study which states that in 20 state information commissions, nearly 52 per cent of the members are from administration and governance backgrounds, mostly retired Indian Administrative Service officers. Naturally, information commissions cannot enforce fairness and transparency if the selection procedure of its members itself is skewered in favour of babus, Mr Rao says.

Now, a concerted effort is underway to ensure that outgoing ex-babus in the information commissions, including the Central Information Commission, are replaced by non-bureaucrats. It remains to be seen whether the campaign is able to influence Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah's mind.









THE standard Marxist belief is that individuals are less important in determining the course of history than social and economic forces. Yet, if the Indian scene is considered, it will be obvious that it has always been charismatic personalities who have played a seminal role in the country's political life.


This phenomenon is true of both communist and non-communist outfits. In the case of the first, there is little doubt that the rise of the Left movement was associated with several stalwarts, whose presence gave the doctrine an aura of respectability which impressed even the non-believers.


It goes without saying that but for leaders like S.A. Dange, E.M.S. Namboodiripad, Jyoti Basu, Bhupesh Gupta, A.K.Gopalan and others, communism would not have been able to find its feet in an era when its opponents included towering figures like Jawaharlal Nehru. The fact that Kerala saw the first communist government in a democratic country in 1957 was a testimony to the popular expectations from leaders like Namboodiripad rather than any fascination for the dogma.


Similarly, West Bengal would not have voted out the Congress in 1967 if someone as respected as Jyoti Basu was not the political star of the United Front. The appeal of Namboodiripad and Basu was not so much because of their avowed communism as the belief that they represented a cleaner brand of politics than what was being offered by their adversaries.


It was this common perception which was responsible for the Congress' decline. In addition, the deaths over the years of its widely respected leaders, who were known for their role as freedom fighters, made the Congress lose its high status in national life. This initial decline was followed by the continuing fall in the calibre of its leaders, which made the party lose further ground. Even today, the party is nowhere near where it was in its heyday immediately after Independence although its position is gradually improving.


The point to note about these ups and downs is their link to the quality of leadership rather than to the social and economic situations. To return to the communists, it can be stated with some degree of certainty that the present downturn in their fortunes is the outcome of poor leadership, which, in turn, is related to the fall in the mettle of those at the top.


It is evident that the slippages have nothing to do with a sudden eruption of doubts about the dogma, but are apparently due to an unimaginative application of its tenets. Arguably, therefore, the communists might have fared better under a more competent leadership, which did not place excessive emphasis on ideology as a guide to political action.


As the communists tend to swing between dogma and tactics, in the Congress, the question of individuals being more important than impersonal socio-economic factors is clinched in favour of the former by the unique role which one family — the Nehru-Gandhis — plays in the party. There is little doubt that it began its ascent only when Sonia Gandhi was back at the helm after an interregnum when Narasimha Rao ruled the roost. Throughout the period when the NDA was in power, she always came second to Atal Behari Vajpayee in popularity ratings to suggest that the voters regarded her as the real leader.


Apart from her, Vajpayee also demonstrated how crucial an individual was to a party. As long as Vajpayee was the numero uno in the BJP, the party could forge ahead. Even when the socio-religious sentiments were propelling the BJP forward during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the moderate Vajpayee was indispensable for ensuring that the party entered the corridors of power. If there was anyone else at the top, it would have been impossible for the BJP to cobble together an alliance. Now, because of the gaping hole in the BJP as a result of Vajpayee's absence, the party cannot but fall behind the Congress.


What such instances show is that it is the appearance of an individual with wide popular appeal which rules a party's fate. Sometimes, of course, such a person can be the cause of both success and failure. Indira Gandhi, for instance, led the Congress to the pinnacle of glory in 1971-72 with her electoral victory and the liberation of Bangladesh. Five years later, she tasted bitter defeat. It was the same with her son. Rajiv's popularity gave the Congress a two-thirds majority in Parliament with 415 seats in 1984 only for the party to plummet to 197 seats five years later when he became embroiled in the Bofors scandal.


The link between an individual and the socio-economic-political scene assumes importance only when he reflects and articulates the mood of the times. Otherwise, no matter how turbulent the socio-economic-political forces may be, they will either peter out or pave the way for anarchic conditions.


Hence, the supposedly fateful connection between the hour and the man. But for Lenin and Trotsky in 1917, the Russian revolution would not have succeeded. But for Churchill, Britain would not have had the spine to stand up to Nazi Germany. But for Gandhi and Nehru, the road to Indian independence would have been far more rocky.


As these examples show, there are periods when larger-than-life figures dominate the scene. By the same token, there are also times when lesser people are present. India can be said to be passing through the second phase at present. As has been noted before, the BJP has not been able to find anyone who can step into Vajpayee's oversized shoes. Neither L.K.Advani nor Nitin Gadkari fits the bill. While the former's hardline image continues to pursue him, even the RSS is said to be unhappy about the performance as party president of the man from Maharashtra, who answers to the description of a "provincial", which was used by Jaswant Singh about Rajnath Singh after his expulsion from the party.


The BJP, and particularly the RSS, may have convinced themselves that the Hindu agenda made up of the temple, uniform civil code, Article 370, ban on cow slaughter et al can still boost their political fortune. But the absence of an inspirational leader is a disadvantage apart, of course, from the fact that there are differences in the saffron camp about the continuing viability of its ideas at a time when the hedonistic mall-and-multiplex culture is a feature of the urban areas.


Similarly, the Left may be sure that anti-imperialism and diatribes against the "neo-liberal" economic line are bound to attract wide support because of their ideological validity. But, even if this point is conceded, there is still the absence of charismatic leaders whose arguments will convince the masses. Jyoti Basu was the last of the stalwarts, but even he was a fading giant. After him, neither Prakash Karat at the centre, nor Buddhadev Bhattacharjee in West Bengal, is recognised as someone who can galvanise the ordinary people.


The Congress is slightly better placed because of the continuing magic of the dynasty. As reporters touring Uttar Pradesh before last year's parliamentary elections discovered, the average person still hankered for the Congress of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. The reason evidently was that, in their mind, the old Congress stood for the kind of syncretism which has been the country's defining characteristic throughout history.


The present-day Congress may not always reflect this concept of social harmony, as its occasional dalliance with the Shiv Sena and the MNS in Maharashtra and a more permanent arrangement with the DMK in Tamil Nadu, show. But, by and large, it is more accommodative of diversity than is either the BJP, with its pro-Hindu, and the Left, with its proletarian, biases.


Clearly, charisma cannot be ordered. It is an accident of history. No one can predict where and when it will manifest itself. However, since India has had more than its fair share of such personalities, the present dearth may be a temporary affair.







DEATH penalty is a must for those found guilty of the dastardly crime of murder. Noted jurist Salmond says that the ends of criminal justice are four in number. In respect of the purposes so served by it, punishment may be distinguished as deterrent, preventive, reformative and retributive.


Of these, the first is the essential and all important one, the others merely accessory, punishment is before all other things deterrent and the chief end of law of crimes is to make the evil doer an example and a warning to all like-minded persons.


Salmond goes on to say, punishment is in the second place being to deter by fear wherever possible and expedient to prevent a repetition of wrong doing by the disablement of the offender. The most effective mode of disablement of the offender is the death penalty, he opines.


The perfect system of criminal justice is based on neither the reformative nor the deterrent principles exclusively but is the result of a compromise between them.


In his treatise on the Common Law, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the late Justice of the US Supreme Court, says, "criminal law has the double object of satisfying the private party for his loss, and the king for the breach of his peace". But in almost all the modern criminal law systems, the latter is predominant over the former.


Interpreting the law on the point, the Supreme Court has held in Shiv Kumar's case thus: "It is not merely an overall supervision which the public prosecutor is expected to perform in such cases when a privately engaged counsel is permitted to act on his behalf. The role which a private counsel in such a situation can play is perhaps comparable with that of a junior advocate conducting the case of his senior in a court. The private counsel is to act on behalf of the public prosecutor albeit of the fact he is engaged in the case by a private party. If the role of the public prosecutor is allowed to shrink to a mere supervisory role, the trial would become a combat between the private party and the accused which would render the legislative mandate in Section 225 of the Code of Criminal Procedure a dead letter".


Imagine the juxtaposition in a case where Mr Ram Jethmalani is representing the aggrieved person and a freshly recruited assistant public prosecutor is conducting the case on behalf of the state. If we follow the law as it holds good today, an advocate of Mr Jethamalani's eminence has to act as a junior to the newly recruited assistant public prosecutor.


An amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure has been made, where, inter-alia, the object to be achieved is stated to be thus. The need has also been felt to include measures for preventing the growing tendency of witnesses being induced or threatened to turn hostile by the accused parties who are influential, rich and powerful. At present, the victims are the worst sufferers in a crime and they don't have much role in the court proceedings. They need to be given certain rights and compensation so that there is no distortion of the criminal justice system".


However, in the amended provision, only half-hearted right has been conceded to the victim party by inserting a proviso in Section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which says, "provided that the court may permit the victim to engage an advocate of his choice to coordinate with the prosecution in consultation with the Central Government or the State Government".


And yet, the only right conceded to aggrieved party is to engage a counsel, who will merely co-ordinate with the prosecution and that also, if the court permits and it has as well to happen so subject to consultation with the Centre or the state government.


In effect and substance, this can hardly be termed a right being given to the aggrieved party to conduct the case in the manner he likes. If a right is to be bestowed on the aggrieved party, essentially there should be no riders on the right like permission of the court or subject to consultation with the government.


The aggrieved party should be able to engage a counsel of its choice and free will, who would lead the prosecution witnesses, have a full say in the choice of these witnesses, examine them in the court, cross-examine the defence witnesses, argue the case for the prosecution and do all such acts as for concomitant to a fair trial of the case.


The matter can be looked at from another angle. If the trial of a case is not conducted with the full participation of the aggrieved party and it does not end in the desired result, the retributive instinct of the bereaved party may impel it to take law into its own hands to avenge the crime and satiate its afflicted feelings.


Some time back, a granthi returned to India from the UK after several years to settle scores with the killer of his kin. Within Jalandhar's District Courts, in another case, an aggrieved party, heavily armed with lethal weapons attacked a group of undertrials who were being taken to the court room because they apprehended that even if the accused are convicted, they may not get capital punishment.


Besides, a cardinal consideration in enacting laws and amending them from time to time is to ensure that they fall in the line with the changing social scenario. In other words, laws has to move with the march of time. Though the United States had abolished the death penalty earlier, after the rising graph of fatal crime, it was restored in 1978.


"Prospects of a guilty verdict in the trial of the only surviving hostage taker in the 2004. Beslan School siege turned the debate in Russia's ten-year-old moratorium on the death penalty. A Judge in Southern Russia has been asked by the prosecutors and relatives of victims to ignore the policy and impose death sentence in the attack, the worst case of terrorism in the nation's history", read a newspaper report in May 2009. 


The writer, a former Advocate-General of Punjab, is currently President, Senior Advocates' Association, Punjab and Haryana High Court, Chandigarh










OF late, there is a clamour for keeping the medical services out of the purview of the Consumer Protection Act. The notion of suing negligent doctors has been conceptualised in India by the passing of a monumental ruling by the Supreme Court in the Indian Medical Association vs V.P. Shantha & Others case.

Earlier, the courts refused to entertain petitions against the negligent doctors under the Consumer Protection Act on the very plea that a contract between a practitioner and patient was that of personal services and thus it did not bring the medical services within the sting and scope of Section 2 (1) (o) of the Consumer Protection Act. Nor had the lawmakers inserted a specific provision in the Act bringing medical services within its scope.


The aggrieved patients are within their right to approach the Indian Medical Association and State Medical Associations to proceed against medical practitioners prima facie guilty of misconduct. The remedy of filing a suit for damages in a civil court is also available to them.


Nonetheless, the arrangement suffers from two flaws. First, no monetary relief could be made available to a person who has undergone trauma on account of the doctors' negligent act. And secondly, members of the Indian Medical Association and State Medical Associations usually have a soft corner for doctors. Also the aggrieved parties are reluctant to move the court as they have to pay the court fee. But the remedy under the consumer law is cheaper, faster and simpler.


With increasing judicial activism, professions like engineers, architects, lawyers, etc, have virtually come under the law of torts. The basic principle underlying the brainwave is that professionals should be made to display a minimum degree of reasonable care, competence and diligence while performing their professional jobs.


There are apprehensions that doctors are restrained from putting in their best. And that doctors working in highly risky fields like neuro surgery, heart surgery or trauma surgery are feeling insecure. Also the members of District Forums/ State Commissions/ National Commission are likely to deliver erroneous judgments as they lack medical knowledge. But the boot is on the other leg. It is not that the Supreme Court has put the medicos on a hot seat and demanded hyper levels of output from them.


Though efficiency and precision are the hallmark of every profession, the Supreme Court has laid down a test of optimum level of 'reasonable care and diligence' to be necessarily followed by the medical practitioners in discharge of their professional duties. Also the consumer courts are well within their powers to seek expert opinion from celebrated medical practitioners while adjudicating cases concerning medical negligence.


The Supreme Court has traversed and travelled across all that clearing the decks for suing negligent and wayward doctors under the tort of negligence. The nursing homes and private hospitals fleecing the poor people are also now under the scanner. It has ruled that the contract between a practitioner and a patient is a 'contract for services' and medical practitioners rendering services to the patients by way of consultation, diagnosis and treatment, both medicinal and surgical, fall within the scope of term 'services' as stipulated by Section 2 (1) (o) of the Consumer Protection Act.


After public interest litigation (PIL), the inclusion of medical services within the scope of the consumer law is another path-breaking initiative of the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court has not touched government hospitals and nursing homes imparting free services — a narrow and partisan construction of law in an era where we proudly talk of accountability, transparency, work culture, e-governance and the right to information (RTI).


The court has ruled that since patients are not paying any 'consideration' in state-run hospitals and dispensaries, the medicos offering services therein could not be sued for negligence. How could it be assumed that services rendered in the state-run hospitals are being rendered free of charge when salaries of government doctors are drawn from the taxpayers' money? Isn't it that a sweeping majority of 'India Real' going to state-run hospitals, PHCs and dispensaries has been placed on a lower pedestal as compared to affluent ones going to private hospitals and nursing homes? Does not the ruling run counter to our egalitarian and socialistic ethos?


One can only hope that with the winds of change blowing steadfastly in the legal field, the hiccups would gradually go. While essential services like electricity and water supply, public distribution system and national security need to be brought within the scope of the term 'services', citizens must be empowered with the right to sue 'deficient' or 'negligent' public servants.


The writer is Advocate, Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Jammu
















ANIS Ansari is the founder Vice-Chancellor of a unique institution coming up in Lucknow. The Uttar Pradesh Urdu, Arabic-Persian University has been conceived with a distinctive vision to help nurture and provide relevance to classical and modern Indian languages in an increasingly globalised world. Spread over a 30-acre campus near IIM, Lucknow, even architecturally it attempts to blend the classical with the modern. Chief Minister Mayawati laid its foundation stone on her birthday on January 15 this year.


An accomplished Urdu poet and former IAS officer, Anis Ansari was till recently the second most powerful bureaucrat in Uttar Pradesh. He shares his vision for the university with The Tribune.




Q: What is the relevance of your new university today?


A: We have set upon ourselves the task of making our classical and modern Indian languages relevant so that they attract students who can be gainfully employed.


Q: How do you propose to do this?


A: We have no intention to replicate what is happening in the department of languages in the universities in the state or elsewhere, barring a few exceptions. We do want to promote the learning of Urdu, Arabic and Persian but not limit the students' chances of finding suitable job openings. That is why, the focus would be on the applied side of languages so that students can find openings as translators and interpreters. A state of the art Language Laboratory would train students on the correct pronunciation and diction. Dovetailing the courses with computer literacy can open a world of opportunities.


Q: What is your ambitious project?


A: To increase the spread of these languages and make them a mandatory subject for students who join the variety of professional courses that we propose to start at the university. To make the university more useful we propose to start courses in Law, Management, Journalism and Mass Communication, B.Ed, Bio-technology, Bio-informatics and Nano technology.


However, to find a seat in these courses the student should have either studied one of these subjects till school leaving level or would have to opt for one of them as a compulsory subject. Over a period of time we would be able to able to make a difference.


Q: How would your university be able to set standards for minority institutions across the state?


A: The university would grant affiliation and assistance to minority institutions offering similar courses across the state. They would have to follow the standards prescribed for such institutions. But in certain cases we would have to make exceptions.


For instance, there are norms set for the size of campus and classrooms etc. Many such institutions providing quality education operate out of small buildings as they are usually located in the congested areas of Muslim pockets. We would have to give such institutions a leeway.


Q: In a place like Lucknow that was once considered a seat of Urdu language, no leading school offers it as an optional language. Are you planning to address this gap?


A: At this stage we do not plan to open schools though some universities like Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia, do have their own schools. But what we do have a plan for is to start online and correspondence courses for those who are willing to learn Urdu.


Q: Any other plans?


A: The university would have a centre for comparative modern Indian languages and literature which would cover besides Hindi and Urdu other modern Indian languages like Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Bangla, Punjabi, Kashmiri and Sindhi. This would give the university a pan-India perspective.


Another major task is to digitise all Indian Islamic manuscripts presently scattered across various libraries and archives. We have rare manuscripts in the libraries of AMU, Reza library (Rampur), Khuda Baksh Khan Oriental Library in Patna and even in some private collections. This would prove to be a boon to researchers.








IF one has to ask what has been most important achievement of the new Chief Election Commissioner, the obvious answer will be "maintaining a non-controversial profile". Indeed, unlike many of his predecessors, he has remained above controversies.


Look at his immediate predecessor, Navin Chawla. Most the time, he remained embroiled in one controversy after another. So much so that his CEC N. Gopalaswami on January 31, 2009 recommended to the President that Chawla be removed as Election Commissioner. Gopalaswami's recommendation was dubbed "politically motivated" and rejected and Chawla became the Chief Election Commissioner on April 20, 2009. He successfully conducted the 2009 general elections.


A man of impeachable integrity and an astrologer, Gopalaswami could never pull on with Chawla but had most cordial relations with Quraishi, his second Election Commissioner. On his part, Quraishi had harmonious relations with Gopalaswami as well as with Chawla. Gopalaswami's predecessor, T.R. Krishsnamurthy was the first CEC who belonged to the Indian Revenue Service.


An upright officer, J.M. Lyngdoh was appointed CEC in 2001. He was nationally and internationally lauded for holding free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002 but clashed with the BJP which dissolved the Gujarat Assembly after Godhra riots and called for election amidst sectarian carnage.


Manohar Singh Gill kept a tough line of his predecessor T.N. Seshan. He was the only CEC who was elected to the Rajya Sabha after he completed his term in the Election Commission and became a Union Minister. On April 6, 2008, Gill was inducted as the Union Minister for Sport and Youth Affairs. After the Congress won the 2009 election, he was re-inducted, and given Cabinet rank .


T.N. Seshan, who remained CEC from 1990 to 1996, thrived amidst controversies and made history by introducing innovative electoral reforms and making the Election Commission a powerful body. He may be rightfully termed as the most visible public figure who redefined the status and visibility of a CEC. His name became synonymous with transparency, efficiency and forward vision. Significantly, he came up with the vision of an election-card for every rightful voter in India.


The present incumbent, Shahbuddin Yaqoob Quraishi, had diverse assignments before he landed in the Nirvachan Sadan in June 2006. From being Secretary to the Government of India, Sports and Youth Affairs, Director-General of Doordarshan, National Aids Control Bureau and Nehru Yuvak Kendra to being Principal Secretary to the then Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, he performed a variety of tasks.


Quraishi sees no reason why electronic voting machines should be scrapped. He is, however, open to evolving additional checks to reduce chances of their misuse. He is satisfied with the effectiveness of the model code of conduct and would not like it to be codified. He is happy with electoral reforms carried out by the government.


Among the list of Quraishi's priorities is voters' education with which he has been closely associated for the past two years. The health of the electoral roll shows the health of democracy, he says. He will also concentrate on expediting the work on photo identity cards. "There is no other service in the country that comes to voter's doorsteps", he says. He is determined to improve the voter turnout in urban areas.


The new CEC is concerned about "paid news", which is detrimental to democracy and appeals to media houses to desist from this practice. Expenditure by candidates during elections is another problem which he wants to solve. He is planning to constitute an expenditure monitoring division that will be manned by the Indian Revenue Service officers.


Quraishi's main challenge will be holding the Assembly elections in Bihar this year and in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry and Assam next year. In Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Manipur, Assembly elections are due in 2012 well before he demits office.








 Three weeks ago some parts of the social media sites were buzzing with the word of the imminent release of director Vikramaditya Motwane's Udaan. But there was no confirmation whether the film would open in the US. There had been no advertising, no press screenings. 


Then an American film festival programmer friend wrote to me on Facebook to say that he had heard two prints of Udaan had arrived in the US. That is when I put on my investigative journalist hat and found out that the film was going to open in New York at the BIG Cinemas' newly-renovated theater. One problem – the film would play at 4.40 pm and then later at 10.05 pm, both timings inconvenient for working people. 


 I saw Udaan on the opening night with approximately 15 people in the theater – all film buffs like me who had managed to find out that it was playing in Manhattan. I was later told that the next day - Saturday night, only four people showed up to see the film. I was so moved by Udaan – a remarkable Hindi film in a long time, that I went to see it again a few days later, with three friends. There were only seven of us in the theater. The next week Udaan was no longer playing in Manhattan. But it moved to New Jersey for a week and now I believe it has opened in Chicago. 


 Last week producer Anurag Kashyap posted a blog saying that a deal had been worked out with Time Warner Cable – one of the largest cable television provider in the US. As a result Udaan will be available through Time Warner's video-on-demand system. I wonder how people will know that they can watch Udaan on television at home? 


It is an ironic situation. Motwane made no compromises in making Udaan. The film's honesty rests on the fact that it has no stars. Even with the strong writing and finely etched roles, it is easier to believe in the film's characters and empathise with their struggles, when we are not watching Shahrukh Khan or Aamir Khan in the lead. Unfortunately, it is very hard to sell films that do not feature big name stars. Even Aamir Khan has acknowledged that as he promotes his home production – Peepli Live. It is a very strong film, but people are paying attention to its promotions because of its star producer. 


I do not make excuses for my fellow NRIs and other South Asians in the US. They do get drawn to Bollywood films primarily for the stars. But I also like to believe that given the opportunity they will come to see other good films – although maybe not in large numbers. 


 Kashyap wrote in his blog that Udaan was profitable. That is good news. But as the first Indian film in seven years to be entered in the Un Certain Regard competitive section at the Cannes Film Festival, Udaan could have played in art house theaters in New York and Los Angeles. 


The film had very little marketing budget and that is the case with so many independent films coming out of India's Hindi film industry. Love, Sex Aur Dhokha, Manorama Six Feet Under, Johnny Gaddaar, Barah Anna and Kashyap's Gulaal and Black Friday – none of them showed in a theater near me. I saw them on DVDs or at festivals, but these films should have been appreciated by a lot more people. 

 I remember the new wave film movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Not many of those films actually got regular distribution, despite national awards and other recognitions. Two decades later the situation has only partially changed with the multiplexes in the India's bigger cities. But few of the new independent films show up in theaters outside the large metro areas, especially in the Diaspora markets. Clearly new and viable forms of distribution are badly needed. I know Udaan would have appealed to a lot more people, if only they knew about it and had the chance to see it.


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The decision of the US Senate not to ratify the American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act, 2009, passed last year by the US House of Representatives in the run up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit, is a reminder of the evaporating support for tough measures to deal with climate change and carbon emissions in developed economies. For all the brouhaha and the bravado of the past decade, and the pressure on India and China to make binding commitments on emission reduction, developed economies, in particular the United States, have not yet demonstrated their commitment to emission reduction. Two factors seem to have shaped political opinion in the US between last July and now.


First, hopes of a global economic turnaround have not materialised. Persisting concern about economic slowdown and unemployment have diminished US President Barrack Obama's political support base at home. The 'climate change sceptic' Republican Party is back in business and influencing opinion on this issue. It was the refusal of Republicans to back the Democrat-sponsored bill that resulted in the devastating blow in the Senate. Indeed, even in Europe the worsened economic situation in 2010 has weakened the support base for climate change action. In both the US and Europe, the 'climategate' affair, which raised new doubts about the facts behind the opinion, has also contributed to declining public support for emission reduction commitments. Second, the geopolitical impact of the Copenhagen Summit has been to weaken the global political support base for the kind of action that was being sought prior to Copenhagen. In fact, the US Senate vote reaffirms the validity of the view that India finally came to embody at Copenhagen after all the confusion in the run up to the Summit.


 The combination of renewed concerns about growth and unemployment at home and the growing unpopularity of incumbent governments has clearly diminished the support base for action on climate change in the developed world. This is, however, unfortunate because the developed world bears the huge responsibility for undoing the damage of carbon emission over the past two centuries and reducing emission intensity at home. Interestingly, a recent study at the Australian National University shows that both India and China are better placed to meet their more realistic emission intensity reduction targets than the developed economies. The study concludes that "India could achieve its goal of a 20-25 per cent cut in emissions intensity if the recent rate of progress in energy efficiency is maintained." On the other hand, the study (How Ambitious are China and India's Emissions Intensity Targets? David I Stern and Frank Jotzo, Research Report No. 51, March 2010, Crawford School of Economics and Government, Australian National University) is concerned that the US and Europe are not doing enough. The study concludes: "The debate now is no longer over whether developed countries should do 'something' while developing countries continued to do 'nothing' for climate change mitigation. Rather, it appears that countries' targets on the table since Copenhagen, despite all the disagreements over their legal status, can be the starting point for a serious debate about who does how much, and how." The outcome of the US Senate action does not, however, inspire much confidence.


Does this mean Copenhagen is dead? To conclude that would be a pity. Rather, the time has come for a more pragmatic and development-oriented approach to the problem. The US and Europe can do more for emission reduction both by doing more at home and by helping developing countries, technologically and financially, to do more.








For a country whose prime minister was willing to routinely skip the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, till an Indian diplomat eyed the top job at its secretariat, it may have appeared odd that in 2003 India's national Capital raced against the obscure city of Hamilton, Canada, to win the bid to host the 19th Commonwealth Games. On the other hand, it could well be argued that after Malaysia became the first Asian country to host the Games, the "jewel in the crown" could not have shied away from trying seriously at least once. The decision of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government to underwrite the total cost of the Games reportedly helped India win the vote 46-22. It was estimated at the time that the Games would cost Rs 1,899 crore, with the government not required to shell out too much given optimistic projections of potential revenue from the event. The theme for India's bid at the time, the year of "India Shining", was "New Frontiers and New Friendships". So, the mood was hospitable. Seven years, and a lot of construction and criticism later, not only has the cost of "underwriting" the Games gone up, but no one is quite sure if any "new frontiers" will be crossed or "new friendships" made. There are mind-boggling estimates of cost over-runs, with the total cost estimated to be anywhere between Rs 10,000 crore and Rs 30,000 crore, depending on what elements are included as cost of the Games. This is at least one reason why the Games continue to attract hostile media attention. The Delhi government has been increasing tariffs of public utilities and raising revenues in the name of the Games without explaining why the taxpayer has to cough up so much.


Second, the combined effect of ministerial incompetence, confounded by one sports minister's active disinclination to deliver; organisational sloth and suspected corruption; and misplaced priorities of the local government in infrastructure development, has made a mockery of the Games. The event's organisers and Delhi's state government have taken the citizen for granted, not explaining why they are doing what they are doing. The lack of transparency has meant that the government is spending money doing ridiculous things like digging up and re-plastering pavements in Lutyens' Delhi, while neglecting footpaths in the rest of the city, where people actually walk.


 More than the cost and corruption, what is truly tragic about the run up to the event is the absence of any marked public enthusiasm. The government and the Games' organisers seem to have done little so far to cross "new frontiers" and make "new friendships". This explains the apparent disinterest of the corporate sector with few companies yet willing to come forward and sponsor the Games. If the organisers don't attract enough private funding, as promised, they will force public sector enterprises to step in, as so often happens. In the end, the Games may still be conducted without too much dislocation and confusion, in a typically Indian way, but the one important lesson already learnt is that India must wait for some more time before bidding for the Olympic Games.








If you thought earlier this year that a hopeful nuclear spring had arrived and our world is now closer to elimination of nuclear weapons, you would be forgiven. Last year, in Prague, the new young US President committed himself, at least rhetorically, to a vision of a world without nuclear weapons as an idea whose time had come.


Earlier this year, President Obama unveiled his Administration's review of the US nuclear posture. There are some encouraging announcements in the nuclear review, such as the no-first-use of nuclear weapons policy against nations which are members of the Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and are in compliance with its provisions. Obama has carefully omitted Iran, North Korea, India and Pakistan from this no-first-use policy. In the same week, USA and Russia signed the new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), which has been touted as a major agreement involving deep cuts in nuclear weapons by both sides, and a step towards a nuclear weapons-free world. This was closely followed by a nuclear security summit held in Washington D C, where some 40-plus heads of government were invited, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The primary purpose of the summit, held in April 2010, was to discuss and reach conclusions on nuclear terrorism and nuclear security. It was a follow-up to the announcement made by President Obama in Prague in April 2009 that nuclear terrorism is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. The summit leaders agreed to do whatever was necessary to keep nuclear weapons and material safe.


The five-yearly review of the NPT followed in New York. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had raised expectations about the NPT review conference making progress on disarmament, compliance with non-proliferation commitments and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The conference did not live up to his expectations, but was considered another positive step in the heralding of a 'nuclear spring'.


Ban actually announced further follow-up action: A UN conference to review implementation of the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism; a ministerial-level meeting to push the pace on bringing the CTBT into force; and negotiating a binding treaty on fissile material.


Developments since April 2009 on the non-proliferation front moved even the normally docile UNSG to announce, "For the first time in a generation, we can be optimistic," presumably of achieving the Obama vision.


The reality, of course, is different. President Obama's nuclear review of US policy, where he says nothing about destroying all US nuclear weapons, clearly demonstrates how rhetorical and meaningless his vision of a world without nuclear weapons is. In his defence, we have to admit that announcements of India's principled policy to work for a nuclear weapons-free world by successive Prime Ministers since Jawaharlal Nehru were no less rhetorical and meaningless. In fact, India went on to officially acquire nuclear weapons in 1998 and has neither the intention nor the desire to give them up voluntarily. Why should India?


If the US President can have a vision of a world without nuclear weapons, while continuing to sit on the world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, why should other nations not do the same? If the US Administration looks at China-Pakistan nuclear weapons cooperation with benign neglect, why should India volunteer to give up its nuclear deterrent?


The 2010 START treaty may be hailed by non-proliferation vested interests as a great step toward a world without nuclear weapons. But international nuclear experts have a different view. They estimate that USA and Russia could together deploy 1,300 warheads more than the 3,100 ceiling imposed on them by the new Treaty. Pavel Podvig, a longtime Russian arms researcher said, "They found a way of making reductions without actually making them."


The US Administration's real goal was to extend and update the verification and inspection regime from START, 1991, which expired in December 2009. The White House defended the new treaty by terming the so-called arms cuts "creative accounting". This is how Hans Kristensen, of the Federation of American Scientists, described the treaty's warhead counting mechanism: "It is totally nuts." John Bolton, the hardline nuclear negotiator of former President Bush, remarked that if USA and Russia are basically at the same levels of nuclear weapons after the New START Treaty is ratified, then what does it do to the "soaring rhetoric" of a world without nuclear weapons?


The optimism about the CTBT coming into force is equally misplaced. President Obama has not moved seriously to get the required Senate ratification, despite the US having signed it. Obama knows that the military-industrial lobby in the US is unlikely to allow the CTBT to be ratified by the Senate. India's foreign secretary made it clear that India's position on the CTBT is "well known" — India will not sign it, as it is discriminatory. Without India and USA signing and ratifying the CTBT, it cannot come into effect.


NPT review conferences are generally considered free holidays for member delegations. The NPT is an

outdated treaty that contributes nothing to the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. This year's review conference lived up to its reputation.


The Washington nuclear summit was a good gathering of respectable international leaders, but nobody believes that its joint declaration ensures nuclear security. Pakistan's non-binding commitment is not taken seriously by those who are aware of Pakistan's propensity to support terrorism in its neighbourhood, which does not exclude intentional or unintentional nuclear terrorism.


None of these international efforts is going to stop the China-Pakistan nuclear deal, despite it being in violation of NSG guidelines. China is determined to show to India who is the boss, after it was made to suffer the humiliation of approving NSG exemptions to the Indo-US nuclear Treaty. India's soft approach towards the China-Pakistan nuclear agreement for supply of two nuclear reactors, epitomised by its overzealous desire for bilateral talks, has convinced several NSG countries that India is not really serious about its objections. And despite its "strategic partnership" with India, USA is not about to annoy either Pakistan or China by putting undue pressure on the NSG or the IAEA to stop this deal.


Nor do these international moves affect Iran's nuclear ambitions, or solve the stand-off between USA and Iran on nuclear issues. The US Administration is yet to understand the link between Pakistan's acquisition of a larger nuclear arsenal with Chinese help and Iran's nuclear ambition. Iran fears that Pakistan, which now has about 100 weapons, and will get more with Chinese help, is not unlikely to provide them to Sunni countries neighbouring Iran. Iran believes that it requires a nuclear capability to meet the Sunni threat — not just the Israeli threat. Talk of a pre-emptive US-Israeli strike on Iran is not only disastrous for our region; it is not in sync with this larger reality of Iran's perceived security needs.


So, where does all this leave us on Obama's "soaring vision" of a world without nuclear weapons, a vision apparently shared by our prime minister? Rhetoric revisited!

The writer is former permanent representative of India to the UN, and UN special envoy for Iraq








Although South Africa lost early in the World Cup it ultimately emerged a winner. Successfully hosting the event has boosted its international image and its credibility in bidding for the 2020 Olympics. The country that was once infamous for its racist regime and brutality, stands out today as a model for policies in the pursuit of social harmony, inclusive economic growth and efficient democratic governance.


Barely two decades ago, few would have imagined that the ruptured social fabric of South Africa could be knit together after the violent struggle against apartheid. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) made this possible. By systematically investigating atrocities committed by all sides during the apartheid era (1960-1994) under the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act (1995), it cleared the air and hastened inter-racial reconciliation. The three committees under the TRC dealt with human rights violations, rehabilitation of victims, and the issue of granting amnesty.


 Hearings were telecast live on television. Perpetrators were granted amnesty if their crimes were politically motivated and fully disclosed before the Commission. In India, when we look at the accumulated injustices and social tensions emanating from the 1984 anti-Sikh, the post-Babri Masjid and Godhra riots, or the more recent horrors in Kashmir and Maoist-affected areas, one can't help but wonder whether India could develop innovative mechanisms on the TRC model for tackling these emotive issues. This might help remedy past failures and pre-empt future recurrences.


South Africa's democracy also holds out lessons in good governance. The National Assembly is elected by proportional representation based on choice on the ballot paper between lists of candidates in order of preference from each political party. Since seats in the Assembly are allocated on the basis of percentage of overall votes received, a party can afford to list more meritorious candidates without subjecting them to the hurly burly of constituency-specific politics. The President can then choose ministers from a larger pool of able parliamentarians. The current cabinet has as many as 45 university graduates, many of whom are recognised experts in their fields. South Africa's electoral system can therefore show the way for Indian politics to address the crying need to attract more worthy individuals.


Aspects of South Africa's economic policies can be a source of good ideas for promoting inclusive growth. India has sustained rapid economic growth over a decade and more. But the boom does not seem to have percolated enough to the poorer sections of society. In such a scenario, we should look for cues from countries like South Africa. The South African economy was also riddled with problems of widespread unemployment, poverty, isolation from the world economy, and a dualistic social structure. Measures have been taken under the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR) policy to stabilise the economy and foster inclusive growth. The government has been spending large amounts on social development.


The results are impressive despite dilution owing to the sizeable influx of populations from other African countries, particularly neighbours like Zimbabwe. Health expenditure in 2007 stood at 8.6 per cent of GDP, almost twice that of India's 4.1 per cent. Education expenditure in the same year was 5.3 per cent of GDP compared to 4 per cent in India. In terms of public expenditure (2000-2007), the share of education was 17.4 per cent, compared to a mere 10.7 per cent in India. That of health was 10.5-11 per cent, against 3.8 per cent in India. Clearly, our Central and state governments need to do a lot more.


South Africa's economy — both private and public sectors — was historically in the hand of the white minority, resulting in wide income disparities between racial groups. The Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) initiative was launched to target economic inequality, a root cause of the tensions and insecurities in the country's society. The BBBEE seeks to redistribute wealth by focusing on economic empowerment of blacks within the framework of the market economy. In the corporate sector for instance, government business is conditional on an enterprise's progress in terms of the share of blacks in its equity and employment. This initiative enables disadvantaged groups to acquire better stakes in the country's natural resources and industry.


It may be too late for India to draw lessons for organising the Commonwealth Games from South Africa's spectacular soccer show. But we can certainly learn from the host country in other areas, even if they don't pertain to football.


Santosh Kumar was formerly Indian high commissioner to South Africa and is currently senior consultant with ICRIER.Ishaan Saxena is a researcher at ICRIER and the editor-in-chief of









The delegation led by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, which held talks with Indian business leaders last week, had some green ideas. One of these was a green bank that could finance renewable energy businesses. Will such a bank help small players in the interiors of the country or will it be confined to the big industries?


 It may help entrepreneurs but not end users, who need financial instruments designed to suit individual buyers, which only a small local rural bank can do.


When a woman in a village in Karnataka bought a solar energy system from SELCO Solar Pvt Ltd, a social enterprise that provides custom-made solar energy products ranging from electric lights to sewing machines to rural consumers, she badly needed a loan.


There is no green bank in India or anywhere else. Nor are existing Indian banks green. None of their portfolios include loans for solar energy, despite India having launched a National Solar Mission with a target of 1,000 Mw by 2012 and 20,000 Mw by 2022.


So, this woman, who earned Rs 800 a month and wanted to buy a system worth Rs 4,000, was helped by SELCO in getting a loan from the regional rural bank (RRB), which helped her by accepting the payback in easy instalments. Of course, at a whopping 14 per cent interest.


SELCO Managing Director Harish Hande says the company would not have survived without RRBs. Hande calls RRB managers power houses of knowledge, who know when a villager can afford a loan and how instalments should be timed to suit various rural occupations, weather conditions, and so on. Any green bank should have people with rural connect, he says.


SELCO has trained village-level entrepreneurs to repair solar systems supplied by the company in 18 districts of Karnataka. It is operating in Ahmedabad slums with SEVA Bank as partner. There are several enterprises like SELCO designing novel products for rural India and who have to enable the buyer with the means to buy. There is Vortex selling solar ATMs, Dlite selling lanterns, and, of course, NGOs like TERI selling lanterns. They draw from venture funds, from grants and to a very small extent from banks. But for consumers' financial needs, they are mostly helpless as interest rates are not attractive.


According to Hande, green bank would be a wonderful asset as it would fund innovation. But what would really help and what was indispensable was creation of a space for renewable energy financing, both for the entrepreneur and the end user. We need energy inclusion as much as financial inclusion, says Hande.


Less than a per cent of banks' slot of differential rate of interest for the poor is used today. If that is used to finance the renewable energy needs of the poor, that would be financial inclusion and energy inclusion in one go, says Hande.


The Ministry of Renewable Energy this month expressed concern at the lack of bank credit for solar energy and a meeting with bankers is imminent, indicating that the tunnel is lit up at the other end.







So, why is your country important for Britain's future? The most obvious reason is economic. There is still a development road to travel but, thanks to the reform process begun by Manmohan Singh in the 1990s, the Indian tiger has been uncaged and its power can be felt around the world.


You feel it in the fantastic new airports in Bangalore and Hyderabad, in Mumbai's Bandra-Worli Sea Link, in the Delhi metro and in Delhi's stunning new airport terminal. And we can feel that power back home, too.


 The Tata Group is now the largest manufacturing employer in Britain. And more than 180 Indian companies have invested in our IT sector. At the same time, India represents an enormous opportunity for British companies. Already, our trade relationship is worth £11.5 billion a year. But I want us to go further.


India plans to invest over $500 billion in infrastructure in the coming years. That is, of course, good for Indian business, but it is also a chance for British companies to generate growth. Your retail market is growing by 25 per cent annually, and there is no reason why British companies should not be a part of that, too. India is adding 15 million new mobile phone users every month. British companies can play an even greater role in that, providing services to the Indian consumer and creating jobs in India and back in the UK.


This is a trade mission, yes, but I prefer to see it as my jobs mission. Indian companies employ 90,000 people in the UK. Many more jobs in Britain exist thanks to the activities of British companies in India. Now, I want to see thousands more jobs created in Britain and, of course, in India through trade in the months and years ahead.


That is the core purpose of my visit. At the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, they said: "Go West, Young Man" to find opportunity and fortune. For today's investors and entrepreneurs, they should go east.


But this country matters to Britain for many reasons beyond your economy too. With over 700 million voters and three million elected representatives at council level, your democracy is a beacon to our world. You have a wonderful tradition of democratic secularism. Home to dozens of faiths and hundreds of languages, people are free to be Muslim, Hindu or Sikh, or speak Marathi, Punjabi or Tamil. But, at the same time, and without any contradiction, they are all Indian too.


And India matters to the world because it's not only a rising power, it's a responsible global power. You provide significant support to Afghanistan, which we welcome, and your efforts in Nepal and Bhutan are vital. You are a leading provider of peacekeeping troops to the UN. And, as I saw for myself at the G20, your Prime Minister has personally provided great intellectual leadership in economic matters.


That's why the time has come for India to take the seat it deserves in the UN Security Council.


But why should Britain matter to India? I believe our two countries are natural partners. We have deep and close connections among our people, with nearly two million people of Indian origin living in the UK. They make an enormous contribution to our country, way out of proportion to their size, in business, the arts and sport.


India and Britain also share so much culturally whether it's watching Shah Rukh Khan, eating the same food, speaking the same language and of course, watching the same sport. Many of you in this room would have grown up revering Kapil Dev. I did the same with Ian Botham. And Sachin Tendulkar, the Little Master, is so talented that wherever you're from, you can't help but admire him as he hits another century. Indeed, culture is so important to our relationship that it's going to be a significant part of what I talk to Prime Minister Singh about.


But this isn't just about Britain and India. This is a relationship that can benefit the world.


(Excerpts from British Prime Minister David Cameron's address to Infosys staff at Bangalore on July 28




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The clean sweep of the bypolls to the 12 Assembly constituencies in Telangana by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and its ally, the BJP, has strengthened the demand for a separate state like nothing else before it. While there was a general defeatist air around the campaign of the Congress and the Telugu Desam, the magnitude of their trouncing has left both searching for a cogent explanation. TD candidates lost their deposits in all the 12 seats, the Congress in four. The biggest electoral shock to the ruling party came with the defeat of the APCC president, Mr D. Srinivas. The TRS reaped the harvest of being the sole protagonist of the Telangana sentiment. The quick fixes that the Congress and the TD attempted simply did not wash with the voters. While the Congress, Mr Srinivas especially, belatedly expressed outright support for statehood, the TD took up the agitation against the Babli barrage in Maharashtra to project itself as the "protector of Telangana's interests". The TRS also appears to have benefited from the traditional Congress-TD rivalry. Voters were swayed by "sympathy" for TRS candidates, who had resigned to press the statehood demand. The TRS victory showed that the Congress and the TD reliance on their traditional vote banks was misplaced. Voters across caste and religion lines were too overcome by the statehood slogan of the TRS to care much for their former party affiliations. TRS chief Chandrasekhar Rao's charge that the Congress and the TD were adopting double standards on statehood stuck with voters. He was able to convince them that it was only by giving a massive victory to TRS could they send an emphatic signal to the Srikrishna Committee to take a favourable decision on the five-decade-old demand for statehood for Telangana. The verdict will provide more vigour to the Telangana protagonists. The Congress has been sitting on the Telangana demand for almost 50 years, even after including the issue in its election manifesto in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. The party allowed its leaders from the different regions of Andhra Pradesh to express their respective views before the Srikrishna Committee, clearly telling voters that it had no single stand on the demand for Telangana statehood, leaving them deeply suspicious of the influence of the so-called Andhra lobby on decision-making. The TD simply followed in the Congress' footsteps. The Congress will also have to deal with the Jaganmohan Reddy factor. A strong votary of a united AP, the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy's ambitious son might feel emboldened to take on the party leadership. For its part, the TD will need to make itself politically valid in the changed circumstances. Neither party can afford to brush aside the poll verdict. Elections to the local bodies are round the corner, and those to municipalities and municipal corporations are due next year. The Congress and TD currently dominate the grassroots local bodies, but that could change very quickly, as the byelection results have shown.








The political trends are disturbing as a certain amount of desperation creeps into the system. As the Opposition parties consolidate their attack on the Congress, the allies of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), with an agenda of their own, are silent. Also, within the Congress personal differences have surfaced — issues are clouded by secular and non-secular politics, minority and majority vote banks and coalition compulsions. Though the media is taking full advantage of the situation, it would be a mistake to take public opinion for granted.


Price rise is a major issue and is not restricted to the soaring prices of food articles alone. The Reserve Bank of India's decision to raise interest rates to fight inflation, which is on track to hit double digits for the sixth straight month, has set the stage for more policy tightening.


While the "real" economy is doing well, the grim reality is that the aam aadmi is under pressure and even with a good monsoon we need a fair amount of good and effective governance. Sadly, this is not visible.


The pressure in both the Houses is evident as the issue of price rise is debated and sadly for the Congress "political accidents" continue to take place. Most of these are based on personal likes and dislikes and have little to do with either national or party interests.


The Commonwealth Games are due in two months and it is disgusting to see the political system being held to ransom by internal dissidence within the Congress. The party leadership, at all levels, seems powerless to deal with the situation.


I do not understand when members of the Congress, perhaps unhappy over their current status, take positions contrary to the party stand. Can these "views" be dismissed as part of "inner-party democracy"? We have seen views expressed on the Maoist violence, our relations with Pakistan, and now on Commonwealth Games 2010. Do these wilful political accidents form a special strategy designed to benefit the party? The Congress is taking public opinion for granted and lack of action by the government or the party is showing a weakness that will be exploited by others as political pressure increases by the day. The chaos in the sports field is not restricted to the Commonwealth Games — it extends to the Board of Control for Cricket in India where the governing council is trying to silence the sacked Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi for offences jointly committed by them. In hockey, we have utter chaos. Thankfully, even if for a while, all this fades into the background as Sachin Tendulkar cracks a double century and does India proud.


THE CABINET reshuffle has been deferred as there are various issues that concern the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Trinamul Congress, both allies in the UPA. The Dravida Munettra Kazhagam (DMK) has made its objections clear on the issue of the 2-G spectrum allocation scam that involves communications minister A. Raja.


The Andhra Pradesh byelections results are out and it is no surprise that the Telangana Rashtra Samithi has swept the polls in this region. The Congress has much to do in the state and unless they have credible leadership it will be difficult for them to meet the challenge of the Telugu Desam Party and the dissident group headed by Jaganmohan Reddy and his supporters.


The Bihar elections loom on the horizon and as things stand the alliance of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under chief minister Nitish Kumar is poised to win. But the winning margin may shrink due to the anti-incumbency factor and we may well see a revival in the fortunes of the alliance of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) unless the Congress takes this advantage away from.


A swing in the minority votes away from the JD(U) is crucial both for the Congress and the RJD-LJP combine. This has to be watched very carefully as the trend in Bihar was very different from the trend in the country during the Lok Sabha elections in 2009. Vote banks are a reality for every party and it's no secret that the Congress had a surprise victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections due to the swing in the minority vote all over the country and a clear reaction to the Gujarat riots. In the 2009 general elections, the trend repeated itself and this vote will be crucial for the party in the 2014 general elections.


The Congress is not the only party playing the minority card. Several regional parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the RJD, the LJP, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the TDP, the Trinamul Congress, the DMK, and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, need the minority vote. This, more than anything else, is what has isolated the National Democratic Alliance after the 2004 elections.


WE SPEAK of the rule of law but does it exist? Thousands are maimed or killed by terrorist attacks and criminal elements who provide them sanctuary and shelter. It takes 10-20 years to complete legal proceedings and even when a decision is taken we refuse to act on considerations which make little sense. In this situation, it would be useful to take an "opinion poll" on encounters by security forces and the police. I am sure those in all three wings of governance will be surprised by the public reaction.
The protection enjoyed by those in governance is not available to the general public and you cannot conduct governance by giving "sermons" on morality and the rule of law. I remember watching a movie, A Wednesday and I was surprised and shocked to see that after the movie got over the entire audience got up and clapped in appreciation. The movie was about an aam aadmi who eliminates a gang of four terrorists while making his point against the system!
The situation in Gujarat is tense. Amit Shah is currently under arrest as the prime accused in the kidnapping and murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, who was killed by the state police in a false encounter. As the Central Bureau of Investigation conducts its investigations, the public will be sharply divided on this issue. This case alone could take a decade to determine.


* Arun Nehru is a former Union Minister









The empire has faded. In the decades since Indian independence and decolonisation, Britain has leaned across the Atlantic toward the United States in search of economic and political consolidation. In more recent times, with the emergence of the European Union, the British inclination has been to combine its American relationship with solicitousness for Europe. However, with even the powerful European economies as well as the US recording at best moderate growth rates over the years, it has been natural for London to pay more attention to India which not so long ago was viewed as "an exotic basket case". But that was then. With the recent near collapse of the international financial system, and the Indian economy still making a stab at a nine per cent rate of growth, there was little question that Prime Minister David Cameron would seek to lay the "foundations for an enhanced relationship" with this country, to use his words before he began his three-day India visit earlier this week. The British leader's visit has been a huge publicity success, with Mr Cameron making the right social and political pitch in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, not to mention his ability to be one of the boys wherever he went. He didn't lecture. He didn't go on village safaris. He just let people think he was being himself. That's a quality people like in a leader. Perhaps the Prime Minister could conduct himself in the manner he did because he was able to facilitate the £700 million agreement between BAE-Rolls Royce and Hindustan Aeronautics to purchase 57 more Hawk trainer jets. This is a big boost to British manufacturing in bad times. But the importance of Mr Cameron's visit will be judged by going beyond trade. His sharp criticism of Pakistan on the terrorism issue, and later statement that he stood by what he had said, would earn the new British leader bonus points in India. No Western leader has spoken with such frankness on the subject of Pakistan from Indian soil. What Mr Cameron had to say stung Islamabad into almost cancelling President Asif Ali Zardari's proposed visit to London in early August. It is too early to say if British policy toward Pakistan is changing in any basic way, but many will hope London looks at Islamabad on merit. On his trip, Mr Cameron led a team of as many as six Cabinet ministers, including the foreign secretary, chancellor of the exchequer and business minister, besides top corporate executives and culture and art heavyweights. It is said there hasn't been a larger British trade delegation "in living memory", or a larger top-level delegation since the end of the Raj. The focus of the visit was clearly trade "and jobs", as the British leader noted. If that's the case then Mr Cameron's trip would carry greater meaning if he is able to attend to the key question of permitting Indian entrepreneurs, professionals and students from purposeful residence in Britain. Slashing non-EU immigration from next year would probably hurt deserving Indians more than people from any other country. Britain is pitching for trade in civil nuclear energy, banking, insurance and legal services. All of these will naturally have to be negotiated. But Mr Cameron has begun on a positive note.








The approach adopted in relation to Pakistan has not yielded results, Shyam Saran, former foreign secretary and until recently a special envoy of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, tells Anand K. Sahay in an interview. He also says that India should make clear that if there is interference in Afghanistan, and there exists the threat of a fundamentalist takeover, India will take "all countervailing measures needed".


Q. The recent WikiLeaks disclosures — a cache of some 90,000 classified US military documents — indict Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for plotting with the Taliban in the Afghan battlefield, and also against Indian interests. Where do we go from here? What is likely to be the effect of this development on the US itself?


A. This could make the conduct of the US AfPak policy more complicated and difficult. Congressional support for large-scale assistance to Pakistan, and the Obama administration's schedule in terms of the military time-table in Afghanistan, can be impacted. Familiar assumptions may be in jeopardy. As you say, these developments confirm to all what we know for a long time. In the US, the real effect is likely to be felt via the opinion in Congress.
Judging by official reactions in Washington, however, it is doubtful if there will be an immediate change in policy.


Q. Where does that leave us? In the light of such extensive public disclosure through documentation, can we continue our Pakistan policy, and our AfPak policy, in the old way?


A. The challenge for us will remain. One good consequence of the disclosures is that there will be far greater questioning of Pakistan's role than has been the case so far, and much greater pressure on Pakistan to stop playing a double game.


Q. Are there pressures that we can put on the US not to indulge Pakistan politically?


A. US actions in the AfPak region have been a part of our dialogue with them. But we have to recognise that the US sees its interest in the region from a different perspective — namely, any exit strategy from Afghanistan requires the cooperation of Pakistan, and, two, that the crossing of a threshold of coercive pressure on Pakistan can lead to internal destabilisation in that country. This matters as Pakistan is a nuclear weapons state, a haven for Al Qaeda, and a convenient route for logistics and provisioning for the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) in Afghanistan.


We may disagree with the US but have to recognise its compulsions. Therefore, we need our own strategy vis-à-vis Afghanistan which is not an appendage of the US or Western strategy, and not dependent on anyone's success or presence in Afghanistan.


Q. Are there signs of such a strategy?
A. Our relationship with Afghanistan is an independent relationship. For quite some time now, it is not the US security umbrella that has safeguarded the execution of projects in Afghanistan. Our Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) commandos have a relationship with the Afghans and are present at our construction sites. Unlike the negative perception that many in Afghanistan have of the International Security Assistance Force (Nato troops), our image is positive even in the Pashtun areas (on the border with Pakistan). Therefore, we need to be clear what we need to articulate on Afghanistan. We should reject any notion that any country (Pakistan, in this context) can define its security concerns extraterritorially (control over the affairs of Afghanistan).


If there is interference in Afghanistan, and the chance of a fundamentalist regime in Kabul, we should make it clear that we will take all countervailing measures needed. In this respect, our concerns are shared by a number of neighbours of Afghanistan, such as Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Russia. When Putin was last in Delhi, this was a very important item on the agenda. There have been some initiatives by Government of India to engage Iran on shared security concerns.


We are also seeing that within Afghanistan those opposed to the Taliban have come together. Preserving the inter-ethnic alliance should continue to be our message to President Hamid Karzai. Our expectation is that, given the political realities on the ground in Afghanistan, even in the event of a significant drawing down of US troops, neither Pakistan nor Taliban will have a free run of the country.


Q. In the light of the recent disclosures, is there a need for a fresh approach to Pakistan?


A. We have to recognise that the approach adopted so far, by the present government and the Vajpayee government, has not yielded results. A pattern has come to be established. We show our willingness to engage in dialogue. This peace process can go forward in an atmosphere free from violence and cross-border terrorism. The worst attacks have been on our Parliament and on Mumbai. Our response is to interrupt the talks. Then we again justify its resumption on the basis of verbal assurances. This has been the established pattern since the time of General Zia-ul Haq. That is when the strategy of keeping India off-balance — short of going to war — crystallised. Unless you can convince Pakistan that its strategy will no longer be low-risk, low-cost, Pakistan will carry on in the old way. This is our fundamental challenge, and is not especially related to WikiLeaks. For diplomacy, I'd say you should never present your political leadership with a binary choice — either war or appeasement. Therefore, we need to develop a range of options to convince the other side that there is a cost attached.


Just as Pakistan exploits what it sees as vulnerabilities on the Indian side, what are the vulnerabilities you can take into account there? Then convince the Pakistani leadership of the downside. Disrupting dialogue is not a diplomatic tool. Talks should be held to deploy our leverage.


\Q. What do you mean by Pakistan's vulnerabilities?

A. Over time, build negative and positive leverages with Pakistan. Take Kashmir, for instance. We can take the people in PoK (Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir) and in Gilgit-Baltistan to be our citizens, as we believe that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is ours, and go in for a strong espousal of their case. Why do we not assert our claims in diplomatic terms? Do we have a strategy of engaging people in those territories?


Also, why should we be defensive about our independent Afghanistan policy? If we assert it, we will be building greater pressure on Pakistan. Our self-interest should be made explicit.


\At the same time, while dealing with Pakistan, we should seek to expand the positive constituency in that country — say trade and business. This can be an instrument of positive leverage. Islamabad and the people of Pakistan should be made to understand that improving business and economic ties with India is in their own self-interest, and this can grow only if ties with India are positive.







The breakdown of Indo-Pak talks between Foreign Ministers of the two countries has caused deep disappointment to those who had hoped that long last we would reduce the trust deficit by persuading Pakistan to own up responsibility for the mayhem in Mumbai two years ago. We tendered what every fair-minded person would believe as a foolproof case.


We gave them Kasab's voluntary confession never retracted during trial. We also gave evidence of eyewitnesses including those who captured him and had been shot by him. If anything more was needed to nail Pakistan's involvement, we tendered Headley's voluntary confession in court in Chicago naming Pakistani officials, Army and Navy personnel who trained the gang in minute detail how to carry out the exercise.


The honest thing for the Pakistan government to do was to arrest the men named by Headley and put them on trial. It chose not to be honest with us. . There is not an iota of truth that we are fomenting trouble in Baluchistan or Waziristan, yet Pakistan spokesmen keep harping on them.


I hope the awaam (common people) of Pakistan do not believe them. Pakistan's foreign minister pleads that the government cannot silence Mullah Hafiz Saeed as in a democracy there has to be freedom of speech. Saeed is a confused man. On the one hand he tells people that Islam means peace, on the other hand he wants Pakistan to declare Jehad against India.


Unfortunately, there is so much distrust between us that we are willing to believe the worst of each other. We like to hear that Pakistan is a failed state kept going by the Americans and is controlled by the Taliban who spare no one they disapprove of as they did worshippers at the Sufi Shrine of Data Ganj Baksh in Lahore.


We cannot afford to be sanctimonious as a huge chunk of our territory is under the control of Naxalites who kill our soldiers, policemen and their adversaries. So who are we to adopt a superior attitude? This is no way for two brothers who parted company to behave.


End of the mango Season


We are at the end of the most memorable mango season. It began in May with the arrival of the crates of Alphonsos from Mumbai sent by Tavleen Singh and Sarayu Doshi.They seem to have placed orders that I continue to receive them as long as I live. Then comes a basketful of Dussehris from the orchard of Parveen Talha. Her Dussehris were the tastiest ever. Then came a dozen Langras from my neighbour Bhai Chand Patel, a part of a gift he received from the Pakistan High Commissioner.


I can vouch Pakistani Langras are as good as the Indian. And finally I got many crates of Dussehris, Chausas, Langras and Ratauls, the four varieties I rate the highest, from my friend Abid Saeed Khan. I shared them with my neighbours. Since I eat only half-a-mango a day, they lasted the entire season. The best part of the story is that I eat the best without spending a paise.


Karnataka Governor's Saga

Well known for grace and impartiality

The Governor of Karnataka is a legal luminary

So he is the best person to uphold gubernatorial dignity

Which he is doing openly

By attacking the government like an Opposition party.

The Government is, of course, snow-white clean

And the Bellary Brothers have only lent it their sheen

By mining away its mineral wealth

And thus looking after their party's health

So, it is mean for anybody to question its integrity

And deny that BJP is a chaste maiden's party

A fact, that the Lok Ayukta should have kept in mind

And shouldn't have felt helpless and resigned.

In fact, both the Governor and the government are truly great

When the nation needs to congratulate.

(Courtesy: Kuldip Salil, Delhi)








Standard Things and Good Things


Norma, is a very special Brazilian, lives in Madrid. The Spanish call her "grandma rocker" as she is now over 70-years-old, working in several places at once and is always inventing promotions, parties, music concerts. Once, around four in the morning, when I was already so exhausted I asked Norma from where does she get so much energy. "I have a magic calendar. If you want I can show you", she replied.


The next afternoon, I went to her house. She took out an old little leaf, all scribbled. "Well, today is the day that the polio vaccine was discovered", she said. "Let's celebrate, because life is beautiful."


Norma had written down something good that had happened on each and every day of the year. For her, life was always a thing of joy.


The Australian and his journal


I was in Sydney Harbour, looking at the beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge that connects the two parts of the city, when an Australian approached me and asked me to read a newspaper ad.


"They are very small letters", he said, "and I cannot see them". I tried but since I didn't have my reading glasses, I could barely read it either. I apologised to the man. "Not at all important", he says. "You know what? I think God also haseyestrain. Not because He is old, but because He chose to.


Thus, when someone does something wrong, He cannot see straight and ends up forgiving the person so He doesn't commit an injustice. "What about the good things?" I asked. "Well for one , God never forgets his glasses at home."








IT is reassuring on the face of it, last Wednesday's rehabilitation package that was announced within 72 hours of the night offensive that killed no fewer than six alleged extremists in West Midnapore's Goaltore area. And even after that span of time, the administration is far from certain whether the victims were activists of the tribal outfit called the PCPA or Maoists. Save that of Sidhu Soren, the PCPA general secretary, the bodies have not been identified. Yet the government is being remarkably presumptuous, even naive, in reserving the surrender package for what it calls "hardcore and underground Maoists". A hardcore cadre is unlikely to surrender when the movement against the State machinery gathers momentum and with devastating effect. Not a single member of this "underground" segment has surrendered, let alone given up arms, in recent years; at any rate, not since 2007 when the phenomenon escalated in the poverty-stricken swathe of rural Bengal. The handful who may have given up are essentially the "floating guerrillas" who have not been indoctrinated and are inconsequential in the overall construct.

Misgivings that the latest package may not fructify are not wholly unfounded. The West Bengal home secretary's admission that a similar notification on 21 June "had some errors in it" only illustrates that a purportedly critical initiative has not been properly thought-through. The government must now reflect whether it has the wherewithal to finance a rehabilitation package for the Left radical. Very probably it doesn't, if the helpless response of the backward classes department to the previous package is any indication. Thus far, it has been an exercise in tinkering, in place of assertion. So unprofessional indeed that the state hasn't even factored in the cost of such post-budgetary subaltern benevolence. The government doesn't have the funds to buy kendu leaves at a higher price from the tribals. And also of course, somewhat laughably, the 12,000 bicycles that have been promised.  These were the highlights of the offer in June. The latest package is decidedly more ambitious ~ a monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 to every hardcore element who surrenders, individual fixed deposits, cash incentives of Rs 25,000 for handing over a machine-gun and Rs 10,000 for a surrendered satellite phone. But as with the previous offer, there is no indication that the state has the resources to foot the bill. The failure of development has been reinforced by the fiasco over tokenism. The counter-offensive may have been effective only in spurts; on balance, the Maoists have wrought greater damage to the state machinery, most particularly in West Bengal and Chhattisgarh. Even token rehabilitation has been a non-starter. On both sides is the coinage debased, to summon the language of the metaphor.



IT is a paradox of history that a swingback in time can often rank as a watershed development. So it is in Bangladesh whose Supreme Court has restored the word "secularism" to the Constitution, more than three decades after it was deleted in the aftermath of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's assassination (15 August 1975). In the interregnum, the country has been under military rule and pro-Islamist dispensations, in the tradition of Pakistan. The apex court has also upheld the High Court's annulment in 2005 of the hugely contentious Fifth Amendment, an embroidery that was introduced by the decidedly pro-Islamist Khaleda regime. The single word, "secularism", signals a profound change in the Bangladesh Constitution. Prime Minister Hasina has reinforced the break with the past, within a few months after the hanging of  her father's killers. And yet, having renewed the concept of secularism, it might appear to be more than a little contradictory that the country will continue to be an Islamic Republic. Theoretically, that reaffirmation of the nation's character is fairly concordant with the dominant religion ~ Muslims constitute 90 per cent of the population. Yet the element of double-think is unmistakable. While the Constitution has now barred the functioning of what it calls "religion-based parties", Sheikh Hasina has ruled out a ban on Islamist parties not least because they are still recognised by the Election Commission. The Prime Minister may have her political and religious compulsions to steer a middle path. Yet it is this disconnect within the overall construct that might yet hobble the constitutional evolution of Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina has brought the country to a halfway-house; with the Islamist parties still being allowed to function, it will almost certainly be short of an overwhelmingly secular ambience. However, it will be achievement enough if theocracy is now relegated to the footnotes. To that extent, it might be smoother for India to conduct its dealings with the eastern neighbour.




NAGALAND chief minister Neiphiu Rio qualifies as one of the state's crorepatis ~ he is reportedly worth Rs 15.13 crore ~ and, however much chagrin this may arouse in some quarters, anyone of such standing would of a necessity feel it beneath his dignity to live in a modest house. Which is why the construction of his new office-cum-bungalow cost the exchequer Rs 31.65 crore. The assembly was informed recently that of this, Rs 26.26 crore had already been released. That no legislator raised an objection is only to be expected. This brings to mind the story of how, after being given charge of housing, a former Soviet minister first concentrated on renovating prisons and refurnishing these. When a colleague asked why was he doing this, he said, "Where do you think I will go next?" No such fear haunts Nagaland ministers and doubtless every one of them has an eye on the hot seat, given that this comes with a luxurious complex complete with state-of-the-art security arrangements and five-star hotel ambience. Manipur's chief minister Ibobi Singh has a modest office-cum bunglaow (an English cottage) with sprawling lawns that once housed the deputy commissioner. Situated in the heart of the city, it often comes under bomb attacks from rebels. If  any chief minister needs a new bungalow, Ibobi does. The ideal place will be Pangei, less than 10 km from Imphal town, where there is a police training centre. Even Raj Bhavan, which occupies prime land in the heart of the town and which has also been a rebel target, should be shifted to ease congestion in the town. Then again, who cares? After all, it is the Centre's money.









"HONOUR killing" of couples who marry within the same gotra are being reported with sickening regularity from the National Capital Region and the adjoining states of Haryana, Punjab and UP. One such case has also been reported from Tamil Nadu. The National Commission of Women has correctly described them as "horror killings" as no honour is involved. The perpetrators remain unrepentant; they even justify these crimes  to defend the honour of the family.

The Supreme Court in the case of Lata Singh vs State of UP & Others (2006) had directed stern action against the "honour killers" as provided by the law. The court said, "There is nothing honourable in such killings and in fact they are nothing but shameful and barbaric acts of murder committed by brutal, feudal minded persons who deserve harsh punishments. Only in this way, we can stamp out such acts of barbarism."

Though many cases of  "honour killings" are now being reported, a large number go unreported. Further, the perpetrators are seldom punished. In Muzaffarnagar, the worst affected district of Uttar Pradesh, 13 cases of honour  killings were reported in the first nine months of 2003, against 10 in 2002. Further, 35 couples were also declared missing during this period.

"Honour killing" is not, however, a typically Indian phenomenon. The United Population Fund (UPF) estimates that the annual "honour killing" victims the world over may be as high as 5000. However, these figures may be the tip of the iceberg. They do not reveal the magnitude of the problem. In Pakistan, over the span of six years (1999-2004), 4000 women were victims of this barbaric practice. Despite widespread condemnation by human rights groups,  Pakistani society tends to support "honour killings". Hima Jilani, a well-known human rights activist, says, "The right to life of women is conditional on obeying social norms and traditions." Amnesty International has observed: "The regime of honour is unforgiving; women on whom suspicion has fallen are not given any opportunity to defend themselves and family members have no socially acceptable alternatives but to remove the stain on their honour by attacking the woman".

There are no specific laws in India to deal with honour killings. They are treated as murders.  They are socially-sanctioned by casteist panchayats and carried out by mobs in connivance with the family members. It thus becomes difficult to pinpoint the culprits and gather evidence.

Separate laws are urgently required. The Centre plans to introduce new legislation. Under the proposed law, members of the khap panchayat or the victims' families are liable to be awarded death sentence or life imprisonment. The proposed changes focus on placing the onus of proving innocence on the khap panchayat members, and this includes not only the charge of murder but also the charge of abetting the offence. The amendment, if it becomes law, will make all khap  panchayat members ~ associated with death ~ accountable. The Home ministry also intends to amend the Indian Evidence Act and Special Marriage Act and scrap the mandatory 30-day notice for a marriage. This will do away with the interim period during which the couples are harassed and victimized by their relatives.

It is learnt that some Cabinet ministers have expressed reservations with the proposed law to deal with "honour killings". They argue that it will be difficult, if not impracticable, to first level the charge and then prosecute all the khap panchayat members for an "honour killing". They claim that the existing laws are strong enough, on condition the state government has the will to enforce it. As law and order is a State subject, the Cabinet has decided to consult the states and obtain their suggestions before introducing a new law. The Prime Minister is not in favour of bulldozing a piece of legislation.

Pro-active policing is essential to deal with the menace. In many cases of elopement, the FIR on the alleged kidnapping is filed by the relatives of the bride, and the groom is promptly arrested.  Not that the police are unaware of the dangers that await the couple when they return home; yet preventive action is seldom taken. 
The fact of the matter is that the caste and class bias can on occasion influence the police just as it drives the khap panchayats to kill. This attitude of the police is inexcusable. Justice SN Dhingra of  Delhi High Court has pulled up the police for its insensitivity, even observing that elopement cases are often converted into rape cases. The groom is arrested on charges of rape and his family kills the bride.

"Honour killing" is the outcome of a clash between tradition and modernity. The traditional norms of society are being challenged by the younger generation who want to take their own decisions and not remain shackled by the values of the past. The increasing independence of women is threatening the patriarchal society which considers women as the "property" of the caste and the community. And women's chastity is viewed as an honour of the community.  This honour is directly linked to their conformity to traditional and restrictive roles.
The mere passage of stern laws will not help. Public opinion against this vicious practice has to be built up through awareness campaigns. The standard response to any serious social malaise is to pass a law and then forget about it. The legislation remains in the statute book and unimplemented. The laws will have to be enforced by the states, and unless there is a strong political will, the enforcement will be sluggish and half-hearted. In such states as Haryana, electoral considerations have impeded action against the khaps. No important leader has denounced the oppression of the khap  panchayats. At least one MP from this state has even supported this social crime. This absence of political will compound the problem further still.
The writer, Senior Fellow of the Institute of Social Sciences, had served as Director, National Human Rights Commission, and of the National Police Academy.









One of the lasting controversies generated by imperialist conquests concerns objects that were acquired by the conquerors as booty. Whose is the rightful claim to those objects? The conquerors or the former colonies from where the objects were forcibly — or even illegally — taken? The persistence of the debate is evident from the fact that the British prime minister, David Cameron, during his recent visit to India, had to say that there was no question of returning the Kohinoor diamond to India. The argument on which he based his refusal is a telling one. He said that if the Ko -hinoor was to be sent back to India, it would lead to an emptying of most of the leading British museums. What Mr Cameron said, in other words, was that most of the objects of history and antiques that are there in the British Museum do not actually belong to Britain. They were all acquired in the course of conquest.


Perhaps the most celebrated of such objects on display in Britain are the 'Elgin Marbles' in the British Museum and the Kohinoor in the Tower of London. Both were acquired by means that were not entirely honourable. In the case of the marble sculptures from the Parthenon which are mistakenly named after Lord Elgin, who had nothing to do with them except acquire them, it was clearly a show of power by an individual who claimed that he had the permission of the Ottoman emperor. This claim has never been proven and is probably dubious, despite the fact that the British parliament exonerated Lord Elgin. The transmission of the Kohinoor to the British Isles is a little more convoluted. The diamond was seen by Babur when he entered the Agra Fort after defeating Sikander Lodi in 1525. After that, it stayed with the Mughal emperors till it was taken by Nadir Shah when he sacked Delhi in 1740. From the Afghans it came to the political leader of the Sikhs, Ranjit Singh, in the 19th century. It came into British hands after they conquered Punjab. But to put an honourable gloss on what was nothing but a spoil of war, the British administrators made Duleep Singh, the successor of Ranjit Singh, offer this as a "gift" to Queen Victoria. Thus an imperial prize was made to look like a present.


There are thus justifiable grounds to demand that objects like the marbles from the Parthenon and the Kohinoor diamond be returned to their countries of origin. If this should lead to empty galleries in British museums, Britain will have to find different objects to fill those spaces. Empty galleries in museums cannot be a justification for acts of plunder in the past. India should also be prepared to hand over to China — if such a demand is made — precious objects acquired during the Boxer Rebellion that now lie in the messes of Indian regiments. India was both a victim and an agency of imperialist plunder.










In 2008, a Palestinian called Saber Kushour, who worked in East Jerusalem as a delivery man, met a Jewish woman. The chemistry between them worked and they slipped away to the rooftop of a nearby apartment building and had sex. Kushour left. Some weeks later the woman brought a charge of rape against him. Kushour had introduced himself to the woman as Dudu, a common Israeli nickname which he used despite not being Jewish. He had also claimed to be a bachelor when, in fact, he was married. The woman charged that she had been conned into sex with a married Palestinian.


Kushour was imprisoned briefly, then electronically tagged and kept under house arrest for two years till the case came to trial this month. When it did, a three-judge bench found Kushour guilty of rape by deception and sentenced him to 18 months in jail. Admitting that the case didn't fit the usual definition of rape, that is, forced sexual intercourse, the judge, Zvi Segal, ruled that if the woman "…hadn't thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have co-operated".


This judgment seems derived from two sorts of contexts. The obvious one is the racial polarization in Israel and the discrimination that Palestinian Arabs face both randomly and institutionally in a Jewish State. The other context is more unusual: Kushour's conviction was also made possible by a form of political correctness.


The three judges who sentenced Dudu weren't making up the law as they went along; Israel has a law that explicitly criminalizes deceit in sexual intercourse and classifies it as rape. A man who has sex with a woman with her consent but where the consent is elicited with deceit about the essence of the perpetrator is, according to paragraph 345(a)(2) of Israel's criminal code, a rapist.


The interesting thing about this law is that it wasn't designed to protect Jewish women from Arab "predators". Segal's "smooth-tongued criminals" who gull women to violate the "sanctity of their bodies and souls" don't have to be Arab. In 2008, the Israeli High Court of Justice convicted Zvi Sliman of rape because he had pretended to be a housing ministry official to persuade women looking for home loans to have sex with him. Sliman is a Jew and he got 10 years in jail as against Kushour's 18 months.


The spokespersons who have been arguing for the justice of the verdict haven't been the usual right-wing Likudists or rabid Meir Kahane-style demagogues; they have been articulate activist women who run organizations intended to protect women.


Merav Mor, a spokesperson for the Rape Crisis Centre which runs a string of offices in Jewish and Arab areas of Israel, said that to classify Kushour and the Jewish woman's encounter as consensual sex was wrong, because any deceit used by a man to elicit sex undermined the basis for consent, and converted sex into rape. The Rape Crisis Centres, said Merav, made no judgment about the merits of a woman's sense of injury. They believed that it was for the woman to determine the kinds of lies that they found significant and for the courts to rule on their complaints.


Dana Pugach of the Noga Centre for Victims of Crime told a newspaper that "[w]e all have different characteristics, and it is a person's right to have sexual relations with a person knowing the facts about those characteristics". And she insisted that the characteristics in question in this case weren't racial. "The court emphasized," according to her, "the fact that he claimed to be single while he was married, which would be relevant in the context of a romantic relationship."


What we have here is a radical feminist definition of consent and violation and consequently of rape that has been enshrined in law. So it is for the woman to decide which lies matter in the mating game. Dyed hair, for example, is unlikely to be criminalized, said Pugach, because women don't see it as a 'real' lie, just a cosmetic adjustment. It isn't difficult to see that the thinking behind the law is well-intentioned: women are more likely to be chatted up and abandoned, more likely to suffer the consequences of deceitful casual sex, and so their sensibilities need to be factored into a fiercely deterrent law.


But the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is a given that any law that allows subjectivity free rein will, over time, come to reflect an oppressive, majoritarian common sense because for a law to come into effect, charges have to be brought, cases registered and judges persuaded. Take Dana Pugach's insistence that Kushour's critical lie, the one that swung the jail sentence, was not that he concealed his Arabness but that he lied about being unmarried. If this were true in a general way, dozens of Jewish men would be looking at long jail sentences unless we're to believe that married Jewish men don't pass as bachelors to get sex. The reason they aren't sentenced to jail is because Jewish women are unlikely to charge them in court for lying their way into their beds.


In a social world that isn't polarized by race or religion or caste, the fact that men (and women) lie for sex by pretending to be rich, famous, well-connected and so on when they're not, is accepted as one of the hazards involved in looking for sex or love. It's when the lie is reinforced by prejudice that matters end up in court. And when public 'common sense' is made the yardstick for judging the gravity of a crime, the potential for prejudice lurks under the guise of gendered social concern.


For example, when the Jewish woman brought charges against Kushour, she declared that she had been forced into sex, assaulted. When evidence demonstrated that this was not the case, that sex had been consensual when it happened, instead of dismissing the case and penalizing the woman for lying, the court went out of its way to reframe the charge so that it became rape by deception.


While delivering his judgment in the landmark case of 2008 which sent Zvi Sliman down for 10 years, the supreme court judge, Elyakim Rubinstein, laid down the standard for judging if a sexual act was rape by deception: it would be rape, she said, "…if in the view of an ordinary person this woman would have agreed to have sexual relations with a man who did not have the identity he invented".


This is a classic case of well-meaning, socially concerned judges making awful law. Who is this "ordinary person" whose views become a kind of gold standard for determining prison sentences? Gideon Levy spells out the lopsidedness of such reasoning in Haaretz:


"Now the respected judges have to be asked: if the man was really Dudu posing as Sabbar, a Jew pretending to be an Arab so he could sleep with an Arab woman, would he then be convicted of rape? And do the eminent judges understand the social and racist meaning of their florid verdict? Don't they realize that their verdict has the uncomfortable smell of racial purity, of 'don't touch our daughters'? That it expresses the yearning of the extensive segments of society that would like to ban sexual relations between Arabs and Jews?"


If paragraph 345(a)(2) were a part of the Indian Penal Code and if India were a Hindu State in the same way as Israel is a Jewish State, it isn't hard to see a Dalit convicted of rape by deceit if his dupe was a Brahmin woman and no possibility at all of a case being brought if the roles were reversed.


If there's an Indian moral to this Israeli story, it is this: in heterogenous societies, any attempt to legislate personal relations and private belief, regardless of intention, will always end in the stigmatization of those who fall outside the ambit of a majoritarian common sense. Israel would be a better place if the judgment as to whether Kushour was a predatory, deceiving swine or the woman a slut with buyer's remorse was left to the tabloids. That Dana Pugach and Merav Mor can defend the verdict with no self-consciousness about its racial implications tells us something about the kind of country Israel has in fact become.








Every province of the country, along with Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, has been struck by the unusual severity of the July 2010 monsoon. Some have been struck harder than others with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa currently bearing the brunt of fatalities and damage; but downstream troubles await Sindh as the floodwaters surge down the Indus river system. This is no localised disaster, this is going to affect virtually everybody in the country either directly or indirectly and its impact is going to be felt for months and years to come. The scale of the problem is such that in places the rescue and disaster response machinery has been overwhelmed both literally and metaphorically. Although there will be local failures to effectively organise or coordinate efforts, overall this event has to be seen in the context of a massive disaster such as an earthquake – but affecting far more people over a much greater area.

There are calls from all sides for helicopters and relief be it food, water or medicines. The number of helicopters we have that are suitable for flood relief work is probably no more than eight, ten at most. The relief that helicopters can provide is extremely limited – they cannot mass-evacuate casualties for instance, and their load-carrying capacity is too small to make a significant difference. There may be little point in relocating the majority of victims to camps because the floods will recede almost as rapidly as they rose once the monsoon abates. Camps are complex to set up and administer and would have a very short life anyway. There is no high ground for people to evacuate to in most of Sindh and Punjab, similar in much of Balochistan where the thin population is concentrated around river banks. We need fast short term help, especially helicopters, along with large quantities of water purification kits which can be air-dropped and culturally appropriate meal packs which can also be air-delivered. Mobile health teams which can be river-capable and portable health units that are air or water transportable – all of this we need soon. The real work will be done once the waters recede and the dead are buried. Homes, crops, livelihoods, infrastructure such as roads, bridges and water management systems – all are going to need to be rebuilt in all the provinces and this out of provincial and federal budgets that are already stretched. The 2010 monsoon has brought damage and loss of life on a scale beyond living memory. We need to ensure that if it happens again – and it might – we are better prepared than we were this time around.







Much mention has been made in the last week of the Wikileaks revelations, and of specifically what they say about Pakistan and its our prime intelligence agency, the ISI. Viewed overall, the references to our contacts with the Taliban are but a tiny part of the volumes of material now in the public domain and all of it relates to the period 2004-2009. There is nothing that is current and it is thus unwise to extrapolate what was - to what is. The complexity of the dynamic that exists between ourselves, the Americans and the Afghan Taliban is ill-understood. Whilst on the one hand we need to work with the Americans, at some future date we are going to have to be working with the Afghan Taliban as, like it or not, they are going to be a part of the governance of any future Afghanistan. The Americans are not. It would be foolhardy in the extreme if we so alienated the Taliban as to lose contact with them completely. Rather than be surprised by our contacts with the Taliban we need to see this as an acknowledgement of our security services taking a long view. Difficult to swallow it may be, but geopolitical realities are rarely palatable.

This emerging reality is within the thinking of the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, who has asked the ISI to "strategically shift its focus". He refers to a past in which elements of the ISI clearly did have a relationship with extremist organisations, moreover one which was initiated and fostered by the Americans. That some of those relationships may have lingered into another time and are now seen as inconvenient may indeed indicate that a shifting of focus is in order. Mullen acknowledged that the process of shift was underway and not yet complete. What we have now is a geopolitical layer cake with the plates not all pulling in the same direction. It is not to our advantage to have a hostile government in Afghanistan and if a significant part of that future government is going to be Taliban – then keeping our options open with them makes all the more sense. Managing the dynamic tension between fighting terrorism and safeguarding our own long-term strategic interests is going to be one of the great challenges of modern diplomacy.













In what promises to be a rather bizarre ceremony, young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is to be 'launched' as PPP chairman in the UK. The event has little real meaning. The affairs of the party in real terms will continue to be controlled by his father. But the politics of dynasty continues. The message to all of us is clear. Only those with the right second name have the authority to control the fortunes of our parties and the people who form a part of them. This of course is damaging in more ways than one. We are still many miles away from the dream of democracy that so many desire as the most powerful tool available to change their destiny and the fate of the land they live in.

There is another aspect to all this. We do not know how much money is to be spent on the launch of the young chairman. But it will certainly amount to a sum that could have been far more wisely utilized. The explanation offered by a party spokesperson that the event is one involving the president of Pakistan does not justify the expenditure. For the future, the issue of quite how Bilawal Bhutto he thinks and what he believes in could determine a great deal in our country. He would do well by stepping in to cancel the ceremony and instead setting about to prove himself a worthy leader through more solid action rather than flamboyant gestures.







"Two-timing," "duplicitous," "untrustworthy" is how some Western, and especially American, columnists chose to describe the ISI for its (WikiLeaks) contacts and dealings with the Taliban. Pakistanis, however, were delighted that, notwithstanding American bullying, the ISI is maintaining these contacts. 

Judging by the pell-mell rush to engage the Taliban, generated by Washington's change of heart about negotiating with them, ISI contacts are proving perhaps the most helpful of all for an America that is expending valuable men and treasure while it waits eagerly to cobble an exit strategy with its Taliban enemy. 

For those of us who value the American alliance with Pakistan—not only for the direly needed economic assistance that America can and does provide, but also for the innumerable other diplomatic and political benefits a warm and trusting relationship with America offers—there is little satisfaction in recalling the utter idiocy of some Americans to spurn engagement with the Taliban and to insist that Pakistan's intelligence agencies also sever ties with them. Considering that, through the Saudis or directly, Karzai, the British and the Americans themselves maintain connections with the Taliban, theirs is as hypocritical a stance as the one of which they sanctimoniously accuse Pakistan. 

To believe, as many American columnists do, that allies in war must, or should, have identical interests or goals, appears to be the height of naivety. Actually, on occasions, the respective interests of allies not only differ but also conflict, as do ours with that of the Americans and Karzai in Afghanistan. Many of the incidents reported by WikiLeaks confirm this phenomenon. In fact, the ISI would do better by increasing the quality and frequency of their contacts and dealings with the Taliban because the Taliban are inevitably going to form the next government in Afghanistan. And, given our strategic interest in a friendly and benign Afghanistan, that would be the most prudent thing to do, regardless of American sensibilities. Besides, when it comes to assisting the Americans in reaching an agreement with the Taliban for a broad-based successor regime to Karzai's quisling setup, an ongoing association with the Taliban is essential. Moreover, it would also enable Pakistan to play a vital role. 

Of course, as we have demonstrated on numerous occasions, we will continue to fight the Taliban, be they Afghan or Pakistani, if they come to the aid of their fellow extremists in disputing the writ of the state within Pakistan. Nor does it suit us today to connive with them in planning or launching operations against American forces. That would be the height of folly. Noticeably, the WikiLeaks, which mostly hark back to the past, reveal nothing that is authoritatively contrary to this stance, then or now. Although there are hints a-plenty, mostly from unfriendly Tajik Afghan intelligence operatives, that Pakistani armed forces personnel were involved in the planning of attacks on coalition forces. 

In some respects Pakistan's dealing with a hostile entity such as the Taliban is similar to that of the US with regard to the Indian presence in Afghanistan, especially that of Indian intelligence operatives and armed forces personnel in Kabul and other cities. Despite the immense resentment, the suspicion and fears that it arouses in Pakistan, the Americans have encouraged a burgeoning Indian presence in Afghanistan and afforded Indian intelligence operatives, posted mostly in Indian consulates and sub-offices in Afghanistan, a free rein in the country. 

With the active encouragement of the former Afghan Interior and Intelligence heads, both notoriously anti-Pakistan, the Indians predictably used the opportunity to stir up trouble in Balochistan and arm criminal and extremist elements fighting in Pakistan. Despite a reference by McChrystal that Pakistan views the Indian presence with considerable suspicion, nothing was done to deplete the numbers of Indian operatives. In fact, American spokesmen go out of their way to proclaim that India has vital security interests in Afghanistan, thereby fuelling resentment in Islamabad and Beijing that the US wishes to sponsor a heightened Indian role in Afghanistan in the hope that India will share with the US the task of warding off a Taliban resurgence when the time comes for America to depart. 

Just how India will accomplish this task, or police any withdrawal agreement that may be arrived at between the Americans and the Taliban, is not clear, unless the idea is for India to strengthen the Northern Alliance Tajiks with weapons and funding to fight the Taliban in the war that may follow an American withdrawal. One presupposes, of course, that India will not be mad enough to send troops to aid her favoured protagonist in such a conflict.

With the day of an American departure drawing closer, the Obama administration should perhaps pluck up the courage to heed, in the December review of its Afghan policy, what was a favourite piece of advice of Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson: "You should never take the counsel of your fears." In other words, do what America is afraid to do and leave Afghanistan to its own devices. Occupying a whole country and killing its inhabitants, wittingly or not, is not the solution. On the contrary, it is compellingly counterproductive, as time has shown. 

A visit to three European capitals recently revealed galloping distaste for the war among those who take an interest in international affairs, and a positive aversion to their continuing involvement in the general public. As for dealing with Al Qaeda, the actual reason for the American invasion, Europeans in the know felt that there are a number of ways of dealing with that problem were Al Qaeda to relocate in Afghanistan, or in the tribal areas of Pakistan and, noticeably, all of them took for granted the willing cooperation of regional states, especially Pakistan, for the success of any action that may be necessary.

Of course, there is the possibility, some would argue the certainty, that Afghanistan will revert to what it has always been, a polyglot entity of differing ethnic groups and quarrelsome tribes, in other words, more a geographical expression than a state in the accepted sense of the word, following an American withdrawal. And, yes, as the Taliban seek to spread their dominance, old ethnic schisms may well reignite. However, the other ethnic groups which once chafed under Pakhtun dominance are far stronger than they were and may be able to strike a modus vivendi with a future Pakhtun/Taliban-dominated regime in Kabul, assuming that power, like water, will invariably find its own level. 

On the other hand, a continued stalemate and an American occupation virtually guarantee the further destabilisation of Pakistan and its ever-increasing radicalisation in the name of Islam. Already, there are disturbing reports of entire madressahs in some areas of Pakistan volunteering for the jihad against the Americans. A prospect that becomes ever more dreadful if, under the guise of protecting their security interests, distant powers were to enter the fray. 

However, such dire premonitions may never come to pass if agencies like the ISI, entrusted with handling the various parties to the ongoing war, are able to bring them together. And for this to happen there will have to be more rather than less communication and contact, open or furtive among, among the protagonists, or else there may be no compact.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:







Every Saturday morning, as I am doing now, the great Bombay writer Behram Contractor would hunch over his typewriter and punch out his weekly column. It was a special edition of his daily column, which was called Round and About, by Busybee, Contractor's writing name.

He wrote for an afternoon newspaper (called The Afternoon Despatch & Courier), and so he was writing the column on the same day as it was being published. He wrote very early, just after the Times of India had been delivered to his flat around 5:30 am, giving him material to comment on.

Saturday's Round and About was different and would always begin with the words: "And, for a Saturday, a few stray thoughts and a few general observations and a few points of view (all my own work):"

After this opening line, he would then offer a dozen or so of his opinions. Some would be one line, and others two, but never more. All lines would open with the word, "like". For instance:

"Like there is no business like movie business. If you do not believe me, go see Dr Zhivago at the Regal this evening. It is one of those rare occasions when the book and the movie are equally great." Then he would move on to the next thing he wanted to say.

Unlike other writers, Busybee did not feel obliged to explain why he felt what he did; he assumed the reader would know. And for many readers, this would be true, because he expressed himself simply and easily, and his approach was loaded with common sense rather than argument.

Saturday's piece would end with a final line always preceded by the words: "And this final point of view" and always beginning with the word "that".

I have been going through some of his old columns (they are available on the website and here's the last line on one from October, 1996: "That I have been observing Mr Balasaheb Thackeray. In the beginning, he was against South Indians, then against Gujaratis, then Muslims, now he is against judges."

This would be the end of the column.

Busybee wrote every day for 36 years, beginning in 1955, and he died in 2001. He was one of the few Indian writers in English who had an individual style and that made him special. He was confident enough, and good enough, to develop it and stay with it for decades. Like Hemingway, he had found his writing voice early in life and did not change it.

An individual style is limiting, and Busybee compressed the space available to him even further by all these formats we have seen. But he was comfortable in this restriction. Writing in a specific voice is a difficult thing to do also because our views are often inconsistent. That is why he created the character, Busybee — the man who was buzzing about, curious about things — and I can imagine Behram putting on the manner of Busybee a second before he would begin to type out the words.

He created an entire world of his own that he would write about. He had no children but wrote of his sons Daryl and Derek. He had a talking dog called Bolshoi the Boxer, and a Gujarati neighbour who was sceptical and wealthy and was always referred to as "my friend on the 26th floor".

Round and About was a very South Bombay column and there was almost no reference to the suburban parts of the city, where most of the population lived. Perhaps because Busybee felt that the real Bombay was the British part of the city. If this is so, his views mirrored those of Aldous Huxley, who wrote a superb book called Jesting Pilate in the 1920s, when he described the disorder that took over immediately when the suburbs began. Bombay stops and India begins with the suburbs.


Busybee's writing was given width by his interests. He was India's finest reviewer of restaurants, especially those that weren't fancy. His knowledge of the subject was not as refined as that of the Hindustan Times's Vir Sanghvi, who is easily the best writer on food in the subcontinent and probably farther afield, but Busybee's love of good food made his column readable and entertaining, and left the reader salivating. Many restaurants in South Bombay have a laminated review by him on their walls to demonstrate their pedigree.

He did not write about high culture — things such as Classical and Hindustani music — but he liked the movies. He was interested also in theatre, and wrote reviews under the grand name Edward H Phipson.

Busybee liked the theatrical. He thought day-and-night cricket would be much better if the audience were admitted to the stadium in silence with only guiding lights on, and then, when everyone was seated, the floodlights would come on together in a moment of drama. He wrote about how it would be more impressive for the third umpire to give his decisions over the giant screen than through the field umpires, years before this actually came to be.

Though Busybee was a loner, he was far and away the best interviewer in journalism of his time. Again, strangely enough, the best one today is Vir Sanghvi, who interviews these days mainly for television also but his best work I think is in print.

Sanghvi is a serious sort of interviewer, however, and Busybee was more interested in the unusual, and in detail. For this reason, his subjects stayed on in the mind. When he interviewed PC Alexander, then governor, he informed the reader that His Excellency always listened to All India Radio's news bulletin when shaving in the morning.

Busybee loved the British era, and there is nostalgia in his columns about the Bombay of his childhood, in the 1930s and 40s. He described the business district of Fort and its shops better than any other writer has (actually, very few have ever written about this), and it gives a history to the geography. There is never any bitterness about the way the city is now, ruined by the Indians who have governed it for over 60 years.

I was reminded of Busybee when I first read the descriptions of Lahore in the 1950s, by the writer A Hamid. His sketches, called 'Lahore, Lahore Aye', were published in the Daily Times, translated by the very fine writer Khalid Hasan, with whom I was acquainted. These translations are available at a couple of places on the internet and it would be rewarding to spend some time with this writing: cleanly written, unpretentious, lovely flecks of detail and, as always with Khalid Hasan, bringing characters to life.

He may have written about the elite part of the city, but Busybee was not parochial and though there would have been a lot of material available for him, he almost never wrote about Parsis as a community. When he did, it was with a light touch. Remarking on the contributions that the community made to Bombay through their philanthropy, and the fact that they are dying out (only 50,000 or so remain), he opened one piece with the line: "The first Parsis I met were statues."

For him, all Indians were one people. And if there was something that was going wrong with politics or governance, it was a specific problem and that person, or that law, was in error. In that sense he was not cynical, and never in despair.

Perhaps this is one reason why his readers so loved him, though it went against the evidence on the ground.

Busybee married a very young, and quite beautiful, woman called Farzana, who now runs a magazine of her own called Upper Crust. She does this from the same building that the Afternoon newspaper was brought out from, refusing to give it back to its owner after Behram's death, claiming a dispute. I am not sure Behram would have liked to have this as his legacy.

Behram Contractor was a slight man, thin and stooped, fair and wearing glasses. He wore a collared t-shirt and slacks, and was always very quiet, observing from the shadows. In his office he had no cabin and sat with the other reporters in the newsroom even in his 60s.

In his 50s, he worked at Mid Day, a paper that I would work for years later. He had launched the paper in 1979, with its owner (who was then also its editor) Khalid A-H Ansari. They were friends and would get together after work for a drink at Ansari's flat on Pedder Road. One night, after things ended particularly late, Busybee came down and could not find a taxi. He went up and, not wanting to impose himself, asked for a copy of the newspaper. He came down again, spread the paper on the ground and settled down for the night on the streets of the city he loved, covered in the words he had written that morning.

The writer is a director with Hill Road Media in Bombay. Email:







It took a two page report and a video on their website by the New York Times to demonstrate to many young people the abysmal state of tax collection in Pakistan. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook were awash with outraged tweets and posts of the article which described how only 2.5 million people in Pakistan pay income taxes whereas there should be at least 10 million registered tax payers. 

This is nothing new. Tax evasion is a game which is played in the highest echelons of power and emulated all the way down the power tree. Pakistan has one of the most regressive taxation systems in the world where the poor pay for the dishonesty of the rich via indirect taxes like the General Sales Tax (GST), levies on utility bills, petrol, medicines, and anything that they need to scrape out an existence. The rich keep buying their luxury vehicles and living in palatial homes which nobody will ever question. Most politicians' income declarations enable them to apply for the Benazir Income Support Fund yet they drive cars worth millions of rupees. 

Tax evasion didn't just arrive in Pakistan as a sport, we wrote the manual for it decades ago. But in October or even earlier things are going to get worse. The World Bank and the IMF have decided that it's not funny anymore and if the government of Pakistan wants to borrow billions of dollars then it better start collecting more taxes. The political will to tax agriculture just doesn't exist so we're going to get hit by the Value Added Tax (VAT) or a modified GST which will again increase the burden of taxation on the poor people of Pakistan and the middle class. Incidentally these aren't the people who are buying four wheelers yet they're the ones the super GST is going to shaft the most. 

Recently, I was present during a conversation between a non-resident Pakistani (NRP) and a friend who has worked at the IMF for a decade. The NRP was talking about using fool-proof technology to incentivize people to pay their taxes like his new home while the IMF-wala was trying to explain to him (rather unsuccessfully) that all the laws and systems in the world existed in Pakistan yet when it came to political and bureaucratic will we failed. He recounted a meeting with the former finance minister where the minister was talking about reforming the taxation and collection system — his observation was that the bureaucrats in the ministers' team were smirking visibly as if to say "let him talk, he'll be gone soon and we'll be here for decades". The said minister resigned soon after. 

So what look like simple solutions to people with a few brain cells turn into complex collider experiments once they enter the machinations of the government of Pakistan. Everyone wants to know one thing and one thing alone, "What's in it for me and mine?" This was not the public service our grandparents had in mind when the arrived in Pakistan sixty odd years ago. But the truth is that Pakistan is a large cow and there are parasites which have attached themselves to it for decades and there's no one who's going to pick the ticks off. There's a reason why such few Pakistani businesses have succeeded like their Indian cousins internationally. The lack of political and bureaucratic support just doesn't exist for them to succeed the way they have managed in Pakistan. Essentially we are a rent seeking economy where the seths have gotten a flavor for easy money without really feeling the need to pay taxes. The property business is a case in point with the fabled "file". Say a commercial plot in Defence Karachi costs 1 crore PKR and an investor buys it. The file will show the value of the file as 5 lacs PKR instead of 1 crore. Everyone knows this happens yet the FBR and the CBR can't do anything about it because our political and bureaucratic leaders don't allow it. 

In India something very similar used to happen, until the Indian government announced that it would buy any property at the value stated on the file and pay a 25 per cent premium to the owner. Within months the files started to reflect the real value of the property and there was a massive increase in revenues for the taxation authorities. There are thousands of creative ways to plug the gaps without passing on the burden of taxation to the poor in the form of indirect taxes. Unfortunately all of them require the essence of public service to come back to the folks in Islamabad instead of being concerned about stuffing their pockets. 

An interesting piece of research released recently demonstrates that the assets of our legislators double within two years of getting elected – and this is not a trend started by this particular Government, it's something which happens with every government once it's elected. October is around the corner and unless we can get our house in order and fast, there are going to be crushing indirect taxes which will be imposed on the masses and the middle classes. Buying SUVs requires money and the international community has decided that they're not going to pay for them anymore.

The writer lives in Karachi. Email: shakir.thenews@gmail .com








Pakistan was born into a bi-polar, politico-military confrontation between the former Soviet Union, along with its satellite states, and the US allied with its client states. Pakistan, with an empty treasury and an inimical potent neighbour in the east, needed a militarily strong, deep-pocketed patron-protector. 

The US and the Soviet Union, the primary protagonists, never overtly clashed but recruited proxy states to fight out their politico-military-economic warfare. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 or the 'Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union' ceded Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Moldavia to the Soviet Union. By the end of World War II, Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Albania had become the Soviet Union's satellite states. 

The Truman Doctrine of March 12, 1947, aimed at containing the Soviet expansion, had already recruited Greece and Turkey into the western coalition a mere six months before the birth of Pakistan. In 1948, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the UK signed the Treaty of Brussels forming a mutual defence shield. In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty was signed by the member-states of the Treaty of Brussels plus the US, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. 

The Western coalition, led by the US, having identified 33°40'N 73°10'E as an area of extreme interest went on to entice a newly born, poor, overly eager ally that lay sandwiched between India and Afghanistan. Pakistan signed CENTO. Pakistan signed SEATO, collective defence to stop communist expansion in south-east Asia. Pakistan signed 

America has long been dependent on Pakistan's geography. In 1957, Prime Minister Suhrawardy allowed President Eisenhower to build the then top-secret Peshawar Air Station in Badaber (from where Gary Powers flew Lockheed U-2C spy plane). America has long been dependent on Pak Army (General Kayani now seems to have outsmarted Admiral Mullen). On February 15, 1989, a CIA-ISI coalition brought down America's principal Cold-War adversary. 

Pakistan has long been dependent on the US for dollars. We have accumulated more than $54 billion worth of Paris Club, multilateral and bilateral debt. The US has 265,219 votes at the World Bank and 371,743 votes at the IMF. Over the past decade, direct overt US aid, security and economic related, stands at $18.6 billion. 

Pakistan has long been dependent on the US to keep India at bay. Over the recent past Pakistan Air Force has received 18 new F-16C/D Block 50/52 combat aircraft, P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, 2,007 TOW anti-armour missiles, six C-130E transport aircraft, 60 Mid-Life Update kits for F-16A/B, 115 M-109 self-propelled howitzers, 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 500 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and six Phalanx Close-in Weapons System naval guns. 

America isn't Pakistan's friend. Neither is America Pakistan's enemy. Pakistan isn't America's friend. Neither is Pakistan America's enemy. America has core, geographical and military-strategic, interests in Pakistan. Pakistan has core, economic and military-strategic, interests in America. 

And then, there's politics that revolves around these core interests. America, fighting a losing battle in Afghanistan, finds an easy scapegoat in Pakistan. But America also needs Pak Army for a safe exit. Pakistan at times brings out the IPI Gas Pipeline to extract even more benefits from Uncle Sam. 

In this game of core interests, both Uncle Sam and the Islamic Republic are both beyond principles. Core interests will remain where they are and politics will continue to revolve around them. Politics, they say, makes strange bedfellows and Americans, I am told, will go to hell for a bag of coffee.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email:









AT the very outset of the new financial year, the State Bank of Pakistan has projected a very dismal picture of the country's economy forecasting that the Government might miss almost all economic targets. Announcing the monetary policy at a news conference, Bank's Acting Governor Yaseen Anwar said the inflation target was unlikely to remain within the targeted limit of 9.5% and may end up at 12% while fiscal deficit may go beyond 5% of the GDP instead of 4% announced in the budget. Similarly, the revenue collection target of Rs 1,667 billion is unlikely to be achieved as it would require over 25% growth in tax collection.

Based on these assumptions, the Central Bank has increased its policy interest rate by 50 basis points to 13 per cent, prompting experts to apprehend that it would hit the growth hard. We believe that the policies of the Government and the SBP themselves have to be blamed for this dismal state of affairs, as instead of approaching any innovative ideas to address the economic ills of the country, the managers are resorting to hackneyed approach that has so far failed to produce any positive result. At a time, when the entire world was bringing the interest rate down to spur growth, Pakistani economic managers have adopted a strange approach of hiking it further and even then they expect the economy to grow. The economy is already under great stress and squeeze due to international slump, deteriorating law and order situation and mindless approach of the Government to increase rates of inputs every now and then, making industrial production costly. Higher interest rate will affect industrialisation and negatively impact the growth and creation of job opportunities. It will also increase the cost of doing business and this ultimately affects the price of the product as well. Under these circumstances, those questioning the logic of enhancing interest rate are justified, as the move has failed to serve the very purpose of reducing fiscal deficit or controlling inflation at all, which is evident from the ground realities. Targets are set so that all policies are directed at achieving them but in our case setting of economic targets is mere a formality as policies of both the Government and the SBP negate this principle. We hope that the policy-makers would join their heads to rectify the situation as the current state of affairs is not salutary for overall economic growth.







SOME circles believe that British Prime Minister David Cameron churned out anti-Pakistan statement on the Indian soil just to please his hosts in a bid to win business favours for his country. This being so, Cameron might have evoked favourable response, earning kudos to him in India, but his venomous statement has done immense damage to Pakistan-UK relations, as is evident from the public reaction and diplomatic row that has erupted since then.

In our view, the British Prime Minister has hurt not only the sentiments of the Pakistani people but has also dealt a severe blow to the smooth relationship between the two countries. It was a highly irresponsible statement from diplomatic point of view as well, because it came on the heels of planned visits of President Asif Ali Zardari as well as ISI chief and the remarks of the British Prime Minister have vitiated the atmosphere. While the President is reported to be adamant to go ahead with, what some diplomatic observers believe has effectively been reduced to a pleasure trip because of headstrong remarks of the British leader, the Pakistan Army has taken the right decision to cancel the visit of General Shuja Pasha to London, which was aimed at consultations with intelligence counterparts. By doing so, the Army has once again reflected the public sentiments on the controversial statement of Cameron. Earlier too, Pakistan Army had adopted an upright approach towards the objectionable contents of the Kerry-Lugar Bill, which was in sharp contrast to the compromised policy of the Government. We firmly believe that the response and reaction of the Army is timely and dignified and that is how we should behave as a sovereign and self-respecting nation.







THE UN has removed names of five Taliban from its list of terrorism sanctions on the recommendations of Afghan President Hamid Karzai who had sought the removal of up to 50 former Taliban officials from the blacklist. But it is a known fact in the context of UN-US relations that the world body has become subservient to US dictates and the decision was taken with a nod from the United States. 

This action therefore will be interpreted by all the stakeholders as delisting of Taliban by the United States from the terror list with the objective to extend another olive branch to resistance in Afghanistan. We say so because from various acts of the United States it is visible that the world's sole superpower is desperate to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan as the death toll of its troops is mounting. July 2010 has turned out to be the deadliest month for American forces in the nearly nine year war as the toll peaked to sixty and for the overall NATO-led force with 104 fatalities. With increasing body bags going back, American public opinion is turning against the war which many think tanks and analysts in Washington believe is unwinable. The US can't hold the current course indefinitely. President Obama's decision to set a public deadline to initiate withdrawal in July 2011 makes it all the more essential for the United States to start some sort of behind the scene dialogue with Taliban through its proxy, President Hamid Karzai. So the removal of the names of some of the top Taliban leaders from the UN terror list is aimed at paving the way for such negotiations in and out of Afghanistan. This is the option that holds out hope of enabling a US withdrawal in return for guarantees that Al-Qaeda would not be allowed to use Afghan soil for terrorist activities. One hopes that General Petraeus will develop an exit strategy that recognizes that there are likely some other better ways of combating international terrorism than by fighting tribal powers in Afghanistan. In this perspective it is important for Pakistan to start dialogue with the Taliban sooner the better instead of the ongoing suicidal single-track policy so that we do not face any situation that was witnessed after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan..








When Karl Marx wrote about 160 years ago 'The ruling ideas of any epoch are the ideas of a ruling class, that is, the class the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.' and he goes on to say ' It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but o the contrary their social being that determines their consciousness.' 

Karl Marx still rides the intellect that he had and that he developed in the libraries of Paris. The applicability of these epigrams have retained their applicability up to our time, given the subsequent emergence of a class of men that have ruled the roost in their favor. The unlimited powers of current capitalism furthered by the consciousness of the men of our times in Pakistan have sullied the very 'Pak' name of the country. The exploitation that is going on is remnant of the current democracy and enlightenment that regimes have brought one after the other. The current existing democracy made up of local elected representatives have a hard time settling down as the consciousness of the current elites is in an exploitative mode. Those that were in the past have laid the ground works of capitalism to their end and to the exploitation of the poor. The inflation factor was never worked in to the mean and rapacious policies of the enlightened power and ruling class. The invidious nature of things has permeated to everything in this country. Pakistan has followed the model of the west albeit not so energetically. 


The corporate attack from the west was so marked that Pakistan started looking at the models of the west for development and in the process missed out on the indigenous development of the locals. The monstrous MNCs have had a field day at the expense of the locals. In 2000 the combined sale of 500 largest global corporations was $ 14 trillion. Pakistan's MNCs were bit players but still taking a hefty cake from the economics of this country. The WB/IMF helped by saying that the profits of these countries were to be repatriated and the current account suddenly became convertible. The power of these MNCs is beyond production and trade and they enter in to every crevice and social existence. The power of capitalism is not challenged any more because the underlings of the present world are in one way or the other dependent on these MNCs. Capitalisms rationale came with the WTO and in the process lent dignity and support to the MNCs system. The country and the rest of the world forgot that their performance was akin to the seven deadly sins. The media and the consumerism that has come to Pakistan play a part in that role of lending dignity to the MNCs. The media is the transmitter and not the originator of the ideas of the ruling class. Go back to the last regime and see how the media was perverted- graft in the form of plots and other benefits accrued to them.

The universities of the west are the originators of these silly and stupid armchair development theories. There are so many of these theories floating around that the development economist in developing countries is awash and confused. It is only after some experience of the countries conditions that one sees the real situation. All these armchair economists are capable of doing is to preach as to what is good for the country without knowing the situation in these countries. The universities of the west are propagating the ideas of the powerful and now there is critical mass available in the developing world that are properly brain washed to take these obsolete technologies and then to surrender to the west and its dictates. 

Dissent that one sees amongst the economists is merely playing their particular turf. They are incapable of making any substantial improvements in the life of the people of the developing world. There is political dissent coming up as well and that is because of the globalization factor. The developed world and the G-7 were very keen to open up the markets of the developing world and then to make consumerism work there. The shine of developed country products is immense and yet can any balance supply and demand. Keynes was probably in his elements when he wrote his General theory of Equilibrium. The books of economics write of elasticity of demand. It's an element that is not workable in real life. When they want to fit in practice then starts a lot of massaging of data. Is the free market concept a juvenile attempt to circumvent decency? The answers seem to be in the affirmative. The fact that neither system works what works is what should be applicable. That means not necessarily with the theories of economics but with the adaptation of such matters as is possible to implement. Our forefathers lived well and within their means and there was no economic theory and no WB and no IMF in sight. So where did we go wrong. What is the way to get a sure grasp of economics? The questions that economists must answer: 1. What do we need to know about the economy? 2. What must be done in order that the economy better serve human, social and environmental needs? The current level of policies that are going around the world in which the powerful keep on exploiting the poor and the weak indicate the weakness of the system. 

These questions become difficult to answer if the person has not been in the field. Drawing room economics is not needed. Out in the field the sweating farmer is waiting for better days. The economist with a better assessment of his theory never wants to go in to the field. Worse comes forward when governments see these very policies as their rationale for harming the people of their country. Just examine this in the light of what is going on in Islamabad these days. A physical infrastructure is created and then within a year it is demolished. The plans and the blue print of Doxiades the Greek architect are in ruins. We have made sure that the only planned city in this country shall suffer at the hands of morons. One has replaced another and surely one more will replace another one. Is economics then to be applied without a scathing analysis? Are there at least a few that can be upheld as radical economist and see what they have to say? 

Suffice it to say that homegrown economists or home grown rational individuals whose heart is in the right place would better serve Pakistan. Let me take you to John Ruskin whose work influenced Gandhi and Mao. His four lectures titled 'Unto this last' [based on Christ's Sermon on the Mound] are a piece of literature. He was a Professor of Fine Arts at Cambridge. Those lectures-four of them written in 1860's still stand the most vigorous scrutiny. Adam Smith was professor of Moral Philosophy and his original lectures are treat to read and he was there in the 1776's. What does this tell us? It tells us that ethics and moral values are essential for the countries to survive. Veblen was right when he said ' to be an economist is to have developed a trained incapacity to comprehend the vital elements of the socio-economic process. Today's economic theorists are even more ignorant than when Veblen was alive. Is economics then floating pleasantly unconnected to social reality? Is the budget really for the people? Or does it serve the needs of the rich and the powerful? The country is ours and we have to do well by it. It's a tall order-this doing well by the country. Yet it has to be done. Take care of those to whom we owe a duty of care? It's meaningless if we by our stupidities receive another shock? Life can be so energizing and so exponentially exciting. Money and economists must take a back seat and if possible keep them there. 

The developing countries are made up of people that want to exploit the developing world and feel that they are doing a good job. This world is therefore ready for more of the 9/11 if they do not stop misbehaving with the poor. That is the reality of the present set up. Is USA now ready to quit Afghanistan? They are for what I see and the reason is apparent. The west and its cohorts in developing countries are now facing the brunt of the actions of the leaders of the war on terror. The economic life can be tolerated for only that long and if it is not understood then the ensuing period is laced with war and terror. What Karl Marx suggested and was done by Lenin and partners would have been terrorism had it been tried in the west. 

The choice of the world is different at different times the media hype and the denial factor now is such that the world is now in distinctive worlds. The haves shall keep on exploiting the have nots and will keep on having surrogates of the East India company to do their jobs. The end is then what it will be. The end will be terrible for all of us-the exploited and the unexploited. The war and its ramifications would be better understood if it was played out in the USA, Europe and the developed countries instead of in the countries daring to survive.

The world is one and yet the angels of the west are destroying it. Are the others so helpless? For their wrong doings shall Iraq have war reparations from USA? So what is the case for Afghanistan?








War diary is an account of daily events occurring during war. Each HQ/unit/intelligence agency maintains this diary which subsequently helps in finalizing war history. While the unit in the field records the events based on its limited internal resources, higher HQs and intelligence agencies make their assessments based on intelligence reports, agents, intercepts, information provided by friendly intelligence agencies, source reports, electronic and print media, internet, satellite communication, etc. These reports are marked as classified and placed in folders marked as restricted, secret and top secret. Very few are authorized to handle top secret documents, stored in special lockers which can be opened using codes. 

In Afghanistan, US military has been maintaining record of day to day happenings since the start of war on terror in October 2001. Since the US is up against faceless enemy fighting guerrilla war and great majority of Afghans are anti-Americans, hence human intelligence of US military is very weak. Any Afghan trying to fraternize with Americans is dubbed as an American spy and shot dead by militants. For the fear of reprisals very few among the Pashtun Afghans risk working for US intelligence agencies. For this reason, outreach of CIA and FBI in southern and eastern Afghanistan in particular is limited. The latter have therefore been banking a lot upon RAAM as well as RAW to complete their daily/weekly/monthly reports which they have to forward to Pentagon in Washington. As is well known, RAAM, which is filled with non-Pashtun Northern Alliance elements only, is the reincarnation of KHAD. This setup came to life in 2002 with the help of oxygen provided by RAW. Both have therefore become complimentary to each other and have been operating as a close knit team and have common objectives. 

Wikileaks has gained access to 92201 US classified documents titled 'Afghan documents 2004-2009'through an Australian Julian Assange. Out of these, it has leaked 75000 confidential documents provided by an Australian named Julian, while a little over 15000 containing sensitive information have been withheld. The report covers the period from 2004 to 2009 and is silent about the initial period from October 2001 till 2004 and six months of 2010. New York Times, Guardian and Der Spiegel were the first to leak. Wikileaks had first time revealed US military wrongdoings in Iraq. 

Glancing through the leaked 75000 documents one gets an impression as if these are Pakistan specific but in actuality 37000 make some mention of Pakistan and 35000 documents are about the role of US-NATO in Afghanistan and Afghan security forces. Of 92000, 180 mention ISI and in it only 30 mention ISI disparagingly. Documents that are yet to be disclosed reportedly contain sensitive information about agents used by US intelligence agencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan as double agents with focus on Pakistan and objectives to be achieved. 

The leaked report is in disjointed form in bits and pieces and lacks coherence, continuity and objectivity. There are too many frills and less of meat in this overstuffed document. It exposes war crimes of coalition troops against Afghans in great details. Excessive use of force by trigger happy US military against innocent civilians has been recorded on videos some of which are gruesome. These videos are good enough to indict the culprits in court of law. However, reports mostly based on source reports which are initiated by very low level officials of spy agencies lack credibility and hence cannot be termed as authentic and an instrument for indictment. 

Perusal of documents related to Pakistan mostly provided by Afghanistan intelligence indicate joint effort of RAW and RAAM to involve ISI in most terrorist acts in Afghanistan. ISI has been accused in attack on Indian Embassy in Kabul, in plotting to kill Karzai, arranging militant attack on Indian nationals working on road project, linkage with Taliban and Haqqani network and supporting them to wage attacks in Afghanistan. Each story has been skillfully devised to prove the hand of ISI.

ISI-Taliban linkage is an old allegation which has been in circulation since 2004 in various forms. The US and western newspapers, think tanks and officials have been harping upon this theme with regularity. As such there is nothing new that has come to light through Wikileaks disclosure except that the timings of this leakage are of consequence. It has been leaked at a time when pressure on Pakistan has been maximized and its arm is being twisted to make it fall in line and do as told to do during the forthcoming final phase of USA in Afghanistan. 

Unsubstantiated and fabricated allegations against Pakistan and its premier institutions are so absurd and decayed that it gives nausea to the reader. Only ones who enjoy the stale jokes are its manufacturers or the game players. ISI-Taliban closeness has been drummed up in such a manner as if it is the biggest sin ever committed. Each time it is presented with a new flavor to make it look more breathtaking. This unholy practice has been going on systematically and incessantly for the last six years to condition the minds of the world audience and to convert falsehood into truth. Story of this nature is routinely published in western media every fortnightly. Prickly Hillary Clinton can see ghost of Osama sauntering in Pakistan each time she lands in Pakistan. Through her lens she sees ISI in cahoots with Taliban. She again reminded our harried rulers that any attack on US homeland with connection to Pakistan would have devastating consequences upon Pak-US relations. She conceitedly dangled few carrots to make them do more. Grim looking Holbrooke and tense ridden Adm. Mike Mullen harbored similar ideas. The trio wanted Pak Army to cut off its entire links with Taliban, consider Indians as friends and to promptly launch an operation in North Waziristan to chase out Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the two outfits most dreaded by USA. LeT has been put on the hit list to please India. 

Wikileaks is a follow up of London Report and some of the objectives behind it are to keep Pakistan pressured and cornered, authenticate Indian allegations about ISI's involvement in various acts of terror in Afghanistan, demonise LeT and defame ISI, exert pressure on Obama Administration to affect a change in its policy of softness towards Pakistan, reconciliation with Taliban and withdrawal of coalition forces. India together with Northern Alliance and pro-war American senior officials are possibly behind the Wikileaks scandal. This report is less harmful for Pakistan and more injurious for USA. Moreover, such manipulated leakages would further widen rather than build trust gap between USA and Pakistan. 

The US leadership has understood the repercussions this report will have on war on terror in Afghanistan at this critical stage and has therefore played it down. Realizing that the leak is fast turning into a big embarrassing scandal, Washington has ordered a probe and private serviceman Bradley Manning is under interrogation. 

—The writer is a defence analyst








Pakistan is in the grip of a deadly crisis. Whether it is political or economic domain, social or religious life, private or public sphere, the chaos is overriding. Watch for the utter disregard for social and moral values, and social norms on the one hand, and on the other for rules and laws, and the constitution, rampant at every level without any exception. That tells not only of the moral bankruptcy of Pakistani society but of the gravity of the deep moral crisis also. This piece traces the roots of this moral crisis. 

The morals of the ordinary people reflect those of the dominant elites of the society. In Pakistan, this broadly includes military, political, religious, and intellectual elites. These elites set the tone and tenor of moral quality and direction of our society. Since it is they who form the ruling class by way of election or military overthrow or other such routes, ultimately it is they who are responsible for implementing the constitution, laws and rules of the country. Thus, it is they with whom rests the responsibility of setting examples of moral uprightness and regard for the laws and rules. Being in a position of authority, or as a popular personality, it is for them to be icons of honesty, truthfulness, and dutifulness. Also, it is for them to be men of principle, as well as tolerant, consistent and considerate beings.

But the Pakistani elites utterly failed on all these counts. Rather, they defied and defiled all these norms, and more than that ridiculed them so much so that such arrogant behavior itself came to be regarded as a norm of pomp and power, and that made the ordinary people learn utter disregard for the rules and laws of the land. That fatally struck at the root, at the morality and value system of the society. 

Let us have a quick look at the role of each elite. The Military elite is a monolithic entity. Throughout the history of Pakistan it played on the logic of 'might is right.' It was not one institution among others to serve the purpose for which it was created, rather eclipsed all the other institutions leaving the civil government in a wilderness. In one sense, this is the cart that was put before the horse in Pakistan. It did not entertain an iota of regard for the greatest value of the country, i.e. its constitution(s) and laws, and distorted and disfigured them at the will of this or that military ruler, as a result of which the greatest value of human society, i.e. 'right is might' just disappeared from the society giving rise to mafia groups and fake parties in every realm of social life. That was the end of social and moral values.

The Political elite comprises all the parties on the right and left with divergent interests. It is a heterogeneous entity but mostly without any substantial difference in their political philosophies. Power politics is the focus of their electoral and day to day activities. It is just now and then that one sees a major difference in their political opinion and goals. One such example is Pakistan Muslim League (N)'s struggle for the restoration of the deposed judges which can be set against the Pakistan Peoples Party's position vis-à-vis the same issue. The only contribution that the Pakistani politicians made is the constitution of 1973. But at the same time they are the main culprits who could not protect its sanctity. Their crime is more horrible as they always acted hand in glove with the military rulers in disfiguring the constitution. Also, on their own part they did not spare any opportunity to distort the constitution to strengthen their interests. To keep their grip on the political reins of the country strong, they too created various types of mafia.

The Religious elite comes from a number of groups, and extends its presence to political and intellectual domains that help it multiply its influence many fold. Their singular 'achievement' consists of strengthening religious formalism, and weakening the religious spirit. That caused a divorce of morality from religion in social life. By also putting their political interests over and above the religious spirit and its moral ideal, they became part and parcel of the power politics. They have their share in disfiguring the constitution also, in complicity with military and civilian rulers by justifying their immoral, illegal and unconstitutional acts with the help of religious endorsement.

The Intellectual elite, an amorphous entity, consists of academia, media, madrissa, think-tanks, free-lance intelligentsia and literary/artistic figures. Some take sides towards this or that elite, or towards this or that political or politico-religious party, or hold independent opinions like free ideologues. However, by virtue of their dealing in ideas they influence and drive the environment of public opinion to a great extent. Not only did they badly fail in achieving quality and excellence in their fields, but they suppressed independent opinion and committed the crime of not letting a hundred flowers blossom let alone allowing the truth to be regarded as the highest value to be sought for. This dried the font of knowledge in Pakistan. They also provided intellectual support to the political and military adventurers. Instead of being part of the civil society to safeguard the interests and fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan, they rallied around the military, political and religious elites to grab the crumbs from their tables. Surprisingly, they too enjoyed the fruits of rent-seeking and claimed it as their right, being the servers of the nation. For instance, this or that poet or artist whom people loved and government showered with its favors, in the final analysis turned out to be a burden on the tax payers till he died.

In view of this quick survey, it is evident that in the totally morally bankrupt Pakistan there is no prospect of amelioration in any domain. This finds its proof in the fact of the independent-minded judges being denigrated, pressurized, and attacked not only by the ruling classes, but all the above elites directly or indirectly also. This also warns those of us who want to see the country come out of this crisis, to be on guard to protect the independent judiciary, which is the only hope in this darkest hour of our history. It is crucial because the only way out of the deep moral crisis is the establishment of the rule of law in Pakistan which can only be achieved if this independent judiciary survives. 

—The writer is founder/head of the Alternate Solutions Institute.








Kashmir is the core issue of conflict between Pakistan and India and has lead to war between them on more than one occasion. After the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, there had been a long period with relatively few direct armed conflicts involving the military forces of the two neighbors - notwithstanding the efforts of both nations to control the Siachen Glacier by establishing military outposts on the surrounding mountains ridges and the resulting military skirmishes in the 1980s and also fought a Kargil conflict in 1998. In an attempt to defuse the situation, many times both countries agreed for dialogues for Kashmir issue but there was no implementation of these agreements but till now this tension remains the same between Pakistan and India.

But now there is some ambiguity about the status of Kashmir as Indian Army Chief General VK Singh has confessed of 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, this statement is given on 13 July, 2010. On one hand this statement shows that India accepted her wrong head ness over Kashmir but on the other hand this statement degrade the Indian image at international level because India for many decades are trying to annex Kashmir with itself but now all of the sudden India concedes its mistakes regarding Kashmir issue. This change shows that there must be some rationale or strategy of India behind this statement by their army chief. Now its time to analyze that why India is doing so and what will be the implication of this Indian army chief's statement for Pakistan.

Pakistan and India both have their interests in Kashmir e.g. flow of water from Kashmir which comes in India and Pakistan as well, that's why both countries want to annex Kashmir with themselves. But now India talks about the Kashmir as an independent state perhaps for few reasons. Firstly India is emerging as a regional power but there is some negative image in the world about India due to its wrong head ness over Kashmir, so now perhaps India wants to improve its image in the world by talking about the independency of Kashmir. Secondly India by separating Kashmir will be capable to counter the cross border terrorism and will get rid off from unwanted activities by the infiltrators and freedom fighters in India. Thirdly India also has some interest in Kashmir but at some extent because water flow form Kashmir to India is a major interest for India but India already made dams and stored water for future use, similarly Indian influence will be remained the same on Kashmir even Kashmir becomes independent state so India can afford to loose Kashmir. Fourthly India is emerging power and now its focus on the prosperity and wants to become hegemonic rather than engage in territorial disputes with Kashmir. Similarly the statement of Indian army chief has some implications for Pakistan as well. Firstly Pakistan has more interests in Kashmir as compare to India and secondly Pakistan will never be agree with the independent status of Kashmir because if Pakistan accepts the Kashmir as an independent state then Pakistan will also have to loose its northern part which will be annexed with Kashmir and after loosing the Northern part Pakistan will deprive of trade root because northern part is the major trade root of Pakistan. Secondly Pakistan for water depends on Kashmir because water flows from Kashmir to Pakistan. Thirdly, due to these interests Pakistan will wish to annex Kashmir with herself, in this way India will be free from blame that India don't want to separate Kashmir but all blames will come on Pakistan in the world and its a Indian strategy to put Pakistan at the front because India always try to destabilize Pakistan by some how. Fourthly if Kashmir will become independent then there is a chance that Kashmir would like to make its strong alliances with India as compare to Pakistan because India is a emerging and strong power while Pakistan is a weaker state so threat perceptions for Pakistan is more as compare to India if Kashmir become independent. It's an Indian strategy to destabilize and demoralize Pakistan while talking about the independent status of Kashmir.

About Kashmir issue there is also some role of extra regional powers. US have good alliances with India and in case of Pakistan US are just using Pakistan as a front line for war on terror. USA and India security cooperation is flourishing. US wants India as a hegemonic power over the Muslim world so US support India in every aspects, even US gave India an assistance in the development of nuclear power industry even though India has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Similarly US promised to provide security umbrella to India. It is also said that due to US, UN did not resolve Kashmir dispute. So US while preserving its own national interests using India as a tool. In Kashmir issue US yet did not play a positive role but now US wants Kashmir as independent state just to put Pakistan under more pressure and for this purpose US is using India as a tool and assured to preserve India's interests while providing security umbrella to India. So it can be said that the statement by Indian army chief is a strategy which includes the Indo-US interests to destabilize Pakistan further.

It is concluded that the statement by Indian army chief and his acceptance of mistakes regarding Kashmir issue shows that India has some new strategy against Pakistan while keeping her own interests remains the same. Similarly US also has its role in the formulation of this strategy at some extent perhaps because of the same interests of Indo-US that is to put Pakistan in more problems and to destabilize Pakistan by making Pakistan vulnerable regarding Kashmir dispute. Although Kashmir problem can be resolved through by diplomatic channels and US and UN both can resolve Kashmir dispute or Kashmir issue can be presented in International Court of Justice. But behind every crisis US factor always present. US don't want Pakistan to come out from crises and using India as a tool especially in Kashmir dispute. So it can be said that the statement by Indian army chief is a new strategy by Indo-US against Pakistan.






Two things this week have made the hellishness of military violence painfully clear. The first, WikiLeaks' Afghanistan war logs, describes in detail the horror of civilian casualties and "friendly fire" incidents. The second, from the same theatre, is Sean Smith's chilling video of American marines in southern Helmand. Faced with these portraits of war, empathy for the people caught up in it has been unavoidable.

But empathy alone is not enough. If you're not a pacifist, you accept that war is vile, but at times an inevitable part of life on Earth. The question is when and how it can be morally justified. Hence the importance of the just war tradition. Thinkers like the theologian Thomas Aquinas sought a way of containing war, by thinking through the desperate feelings that combat does and should evoke. The aim is to keep a steady view on the demands of natural justice, even when the fog of war threatens to blur everything.

The war logs in particular afford us a steady view on this current conflict, and what's as unsettling as the tragedy they reveal is the possibility that we lost sight of those demands, at least on occasion. The crucial issue is whether that's happened. An answer can be found by thinking about the relationship between jus ad bellum and jus in bello – the justification for the war itself, and the principles that should operate during the conduct of war. Both matter.

Let's assume the war in Afghanistan is justified, and focus on the jus in bello. One of Aquinas's major contributions was the notion of proportionality: how to assess the bad consequences of otherwise well-intended military action. Michael Walzer, a leading modern just war theorist, notes that simply not to intend the death of civilians is not enough. That's "too easy". Instead, there must be a positive commitment to saving civilian lives, rather than just killing no more than is militarily necessary. "Civilians have a right to something more," he concludes. "And if saving civilian lives means risking soldiers' lives, the risk must be accepted."

This highlights a further painful question: how much extra risk must soldiers bear in order to save civilian lives? It's not a balance that can be determined ahead of time. Individual cases must be considered, as the Afghanistan war logs afford, and again give rise to concern.

It's with the use of heavily armed drones that this comes into particularly sharp focus. In Wired for War, Peter Warren Singer notes that "going to war" has become not so different from "going to work" for many robot operators, in the sense that the risk they face is virtually zero. They might be destroying a target at 4.30pm from the office, and be home by 6pm to read the kids a bedtime story. Soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan face grave risks. That too is devastatingly obvious. But their sacrifice is undermined when jus in bello is not considered in the round. For what distinguishes war from mass murder is precisely respecting the rights of civilians. Has due care been taken? Have all feasible precautions been made to protect non-combatants, even when the Taliban and al-Qaida erode the distinction between civilians and military by placing combat facilities in residential areas? What the war logs confirm is that remote aerial bombardments cannot always verify targets. Jus in bello is under threat.

This isn't just an abstract argument. As civilians die, so conflict deepens interminably. To ignore the just war tradition now is to run the real danger that automated 21st-century conflict will turn into perpetual war. — The Guardian







In a time of major uncertainty for the Japanese book world, the latest winners of two major book awards have been announced. The Akutagawa Prize for promising newcomers went to Ms. Akiko Akazome, and the Naoki Prize for more established writers of popular fiction to Ms. Kyoko Nakajima.


. Akazome told reporters that, after entering graduate school in Hokkaido, she sought to portray in writing the humor and sensibility of her Kyoto background. Her winning work "Otome no mikkoku" (The Maiden Informer) portrays a young woman coming of age in the stifling closed world of female university students studying the diary of Anne Frank in German. The judges felt she skillfully juxtaposed that circle of petty jealousies and betrayals against the closed world of Anne Frank in hiding and the mystery of who betrayed her family to the Germans.


Much attention has also been paid to the candidacy of a young Iranian writer, Ms. Shirin Nezammafi, for the Akutagawa Prize (for the second time), since she would have been the first winner to come from outside East Asia.


The winner of the Naoki Prize, Ms. Nakajima, made her literary debut in 2003. A native of Tokyo, she worked at a Japanese magazine before entering the International Writer's Program at the University of Iowa. Her winning novel, "Chiisai o-uchi" (Small Home) depicts pleasant everyday life in Tokyo before and during World War II through the eyes of a maid in the home of a toy company executive.


Unfortunately these young authors are greeted by a publishing world facing an uncertain future. Sales of books and magazines have been in decline for more than a decade, and bookstores have also undergone a difficult period of consolidation; roughly one-third of the stores — mainly smaller ones — have closed since 1999.


The success of the iPad in Japan since its introduction in May has given new impetus to e-book publishing in Japan. Recently there has been a rush of announcements of new electronic readers coming out later this year to handle the Japanese language and of competing schemes to download books from major book distributors and printing firms. Another period of upheaval appears likely before formats and pricing become standardized.







Japanese criminals, too, are becoming more internationally minded. According to a white paper released by the National Police Agency on July 23, domestic criminal organizations are forming partnerships with overseas crime syndicates to smuggle drugs and launder money, and foreign groups are increasingly operating within Japan.


In recent years a European group has carried out jewelry heists, a mainly Nigerian group fenced electronic goods purchased with fake credit cards, and a multinational ring of criminals from Pakistan, Cameroon and Sri Lanka stole and disassembled cars and machinery to ship outside of Japan.


Even furikome sagi ("send me money!") fraud is being internationalized. Swindlers in China are taking advantage of cheap Internet phone calls to target gullible victims in Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore. Japanese nationals lured to China by the prospect of good jobs are used to call Japan and trick people into sending money by bank transfer. In one such case, calls netted some ¥17 million from 13 prefectures; police arrested seven Chinese and nine Japanese receiving such transfers at ATMs in Japan. Catching the ringleaders is hampered by lack of resources, varying jurisdictions and the absence of an extradition treaty with China. However, an office was set up within the National Police Agency in February to concentrate on crimes involving non-Japanese.


Domestic furikome fraud continues to evolve. The most recent variation involves a fake policeman calling to say that information in one's bank account has leaked and money has been withdrawn. The target is then asked to turn over his old cash card (and secret PIN number) to a bank employee who will be coming to his home. The fake bank employee uses the card and number to withdraw money from the account.


Of course, the national custom of carrying cash rather than credit cards makes Japanese travelers prime targets of crime abroad. In the most recent example, in July an Air France flight attendant was arrested on suspicion of stealing cash and jewelry from first-class passengers sleeping on flights from Asia to Paris. According to a French official, Japanese passengers in particular were ideal prey as they travel with lots of euros and yen.








PARIS — Just before Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, Vuk Jeremic, the Serbian foreign minister, warned that in Africa alone "there are about fifty Kosovos waiting to happen." The 50 African wannabes can take heart, as the International Court of Justice has just ruled that Kosovo's action was not illegal, as international law contains no "prohibition on declarations of independence."


The International Court of Justice is a conservative body whose judges are almost evenly split between those whose home countries have recognized Kosovo's independence and those that have not, but 10 of the 14 judges on the panel voted for the ruling. The ruling does not oblige other countries to recognize Kosovo's independence, but it definitely shifts the balance in favor of secession.


What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: minorities seeking independence anywhere will be encouraged by the court's ruling. Five of the European Union's 27 members refuse to recognize Kosovo precisely because they fear that their own minorities might use its independence as a precedent: Cyprus (Turkish Cypriots), Greece (Macedonian Turks), Slovakia (Hungarians), Romania (also Hungarians), and Spain (Catalans and Basques).


Further afield, China worries about Tibet and Xinjiang and Russia frets about all sorts of potential secessionist movements (20 percent of Russia's population are minorities), so both countries sternly condemn Kosovo's secession from Serbia. In fact, only 69 countries have recognized Kosovo. Countries with restive minorities of their own have not, and it is therefore still not a member of the United Nations.


There is an old legal adage that "hard cases make bad law," and that is certainly at work in Kosovo. The Kosovars, who were 90 percent of the population before the 1999 war and now account for 95 percent, are Albanian-speaking Muslims who were mercilessly oppressed by the ultranationalist Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic.


Milosevic abolished the autonomy that Kosovo had enjoyed in the former Yugoslavia, and by the late 1990s his troops and police were regularly beating, jailing and killing Kosovars whom they suspected of seeking its restoration. He drove some Kosovars into a guerrilla war against the Serbian regime, and then killed around 10,000 people in an indiscriminate attempt to terrorize the Kosovars into submission.


The Kosovars were not saints in all this, but they obviously owe no allegiance to a state that treated them in such a vile manner. In the end, in 1999, the United States and the European members of NATO decided that Serbian behavior was intolerable, and waged an 11-week war of aerial bombardment to force Serbian troops to evacuate Kosovo. Then they occupied it — and started looking for a way to leave.


The only way to get out was to create a sovereign Kosovo state, with protection for the rights of the remaining Serbian minority (now just 120,000 out of 2 million). When Serbia steadfastly refused to accept the independence of a province it sees as the cradle of the nation — "our Jerusalem," in Vuk Jeremic's words — the U.S. and the major European countries told the Kosovars that they could declare their independence unilaterally.


Kosovo could not reasonably be expected to stay in Serbia after all that has happened, but it is a hard case, and it makes bad law. Or at least, it changes the law in ways that we may regret.


The International Court of Justice is right: International law does not ban declarations of independence. But the deal that underlies the creation of the U.N. and that has spared us from great-power wars — and probably quite a few smaller wars — over the past 65 years, does forbid any changes in the borders of U.N. members that are imposed by force.


That deal is embedded in the U.N. Charter: Thou shalt not change a border by force. What they really intended in 1945 — quite understandably, given what they had just been through — was to stop cross-border wars of aggression. In practice, however, the charter has been used to delegitimize unilateral declarations of independence worldwide.


Once upon a time, a breakaway province could establish its independence simply by demonstrating that it controlled all of its territory and had established a viable government. That is no longer true. The U.N. has become a trade union of the existing sovereign states, operating as a closed shop and refusing to recognize secessions even after they have succeeded in fact.


It was a largely unintended side effect of the U.N. Charter, and although it has suppressed violence in some places, it also helped to perpetuate terrible injustices in many others. The decision of the International Court of Justice undermines this interpretation of the charter, and probably means that more secessions actually succeed in the end.


Whether that is a good thing or not depends on which side of the fence you are on, but it probably means more violence, at least in the short term.


Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.








HONG KONG, PACIFIC PERSPECTIVES — For me, there is no question that Hong Kong is one of the world's most wondrously livable cities. After 30 years of having Hong Kong as my home, I would challenge anyone to claim that — on balance — any other city can deliver the same combination of virtues.


So you can imagine the sense of perplexity when three quite separate organizations recently published "livable city" indexes that left Hong Kong bumbling along in the deep penumbra of "also ran" cities.


This synchronized triple assault came to my notice first in the idiosyncratic U.K. style magazine Monocle, which ranked Munich, Copenhagen and six other European cities in their Top 10 livable cities and let in Tokyo and Melbourne. Whether Europe's cities look as smug in five years — after the deep government spending cuts being implemented to fend off bankruptcy — can only be guessed.


Monocle alone would of course have given me few palpitations. After all, it includes evocative but opinionated factors like a Zara and Starbucks "chain test," which discriminates against cities that have lots of them. Editor Tyler Brule also seems to have a love affair with cycling, a profound eccentricity in steamy, mountainous Hong Kong where everyone uses excellent public transport and only 28 percent of the population bother with a car.


But after Monocle came Mercer, the very worthy human resources consultant that developed its "Quality of Living" rankings to help client companies select preferred locations for overseas operations, and to tell them whether they were sending an expatriate to a hardship post deserving of a "sweetened" salary.


To find Hong Kong wallowing in 71st place, just above San Juan in Puerto Rico, came as a bit of a shock. Again Mercer shows a strong European bias, with Vienna in its top slot, and a total of seven European cities in the Top 10.


If Mercer is counseling on best locations to serve Asia, its clear preferences are Vancouver or Auckland (equal fourth place), or Sydney in 10th. These, too, are among my own favorite cities to visit, but to operate a business focused on Asia — a joke.


The final assault came from the much respected Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) whose "Global Livability Survey" put Hong Kong down in 31st place — just a few notches below Munich, so loved by Monocle. I was, however, finally able to wade through a transparent methodology and work out why Hong Kong gets marked down. For EIU, Hong Kong scores brilliantly by stability, education and infrastructure measures. It slumps in culture, environment and health care — the public health care provision was regarded as just "tolerable."


I am reminded that many Westerners simply cannot fathom how Hong Kong people actually enjoy high-rise living. Perhaps the one source of comfort here is that Hong Kong remains head and shoulders more livable than alternative locations for serving the Asian region — Shenzhen ranked 82nd out of 140 cities, while Shanghai ranked 83rd and even Singapore ranked 53rd.


The real "takeaway" from these various rankings is that they vary widely depending on the factors you choose to determine livability. This makes both Mercer and Monocle controversial and of limited use, because neither is transparent about their methodology. This makes me realize that many of the reasons I see Hong Kong as one of the world's most livable cities are simply not appreciated in the same way by others.


Germans don't seem to mind that shops close at 8 p.m. and don't open on Sundays. These boffins seem not to appreciate how wonderful it is to have just a 25-minute journey from my busy central office to mountain trails or a swim over coral in Clearwater Bay. When complaining about the lack of quiet little squares, they forget the astonishing mountain panoramas around us and the thrill of sunset ferry rides to Tsim Sha Tsui and beyond.


The second takeaway is that these indices measure factors that may matter very little if your company is looking for the best place to base operations to serve needs in Asia. Yes, indeed, Auckland or Melbourne may be wonderfully livable cities, but they rapidly become "unlivable" if you are spending half your year on aircraft shuttling between hotel rooms across the region.


The third takeaway is that in spite of the manifest shortcomings of these rankings, they still have tremendous force. This may be why austerity-smitten foreign ministries across Europe may be considering cutting back on their consulates in Hong Kong.


Talk to Invest Hong Kong or the Trade Development Council, and it is definitely a worry that European and U.S. business leaders are being told that the quality of living in Hong Kong sucks. If this means headquarters don't settle here, it means the financial, legal and accounting services that support their Asian operations also don't settle here, putting in serious jeopardy Hong Kong's aspiration to be Asia's "world city."


Obviously, we must (1) do a better job of getting the message out about how utterly livable Hong Kong is, and (2) do a better job improving the environment, air quality in particular. The government says it is doing what it can. It is not doing enough.


David Dodwell is chief executive of Strategic Access Ltd.© 2010 Pacific Perspectives Media Center









Over dinner at a bar, two friends of mine spent an entire evening arguing over which was the most boring thing in the world: watching paint dry or watching grass grow. What a ridiculous waste of time! Everyone knows the answer is watching CCTV7.


Show regular viewers of CCTV7 some grass growing, and the excitement would probably kill them. No,
wait. CCTV7 is the China government's agriculture channel, so they probably already have shows like
that. "Exclusive 24-hour TV marathon: Live outside broadcast of grass growing."


A guy sitting at the next table said he'd watched a live telecast of a fi shing competition where no one
caught anything. A new low in the history of TV? Surprisingly not. His wife claimed that she had read that an "all-accountancy" TV channel was about to be launched. End of argument.


The following morning I conducted detailed research on the subject (that is, I typed "accountancy TV" into Google) and found she was right. Producers at UK-based Accountancy TV say they will take
popular ideas from regular TV and give them a spin to make them relevant to financial professionals. At the time of writing, no draft listings have been published, so here are some ideas of what the schedule of Accountancy TV could look like.


"The X Files": An accountant keeps his bottom drawer locked. "Big Brother": Sexy accountants (oops,
oxymoron) share a house where hidden cameras catch them peeking at each other's balance sheets. "Late Night With David Letterman": An accountant advises a philandering TV host on how to make his blackmail payments tax-deductable.


"The World's Next Top Model": We're talking about business models, of course, and the hot new one
involves bankers declaring their main income while channeling their bonuses to tax havens. "Baywatch": A group of accountants in swimsuits practice their math while waiting to rescue companies which start to sink. "Friends": Five buddies sharing an apartment get into amusing tangles trying to work out how to divide up the household budget.


"Home Improvement": A do-ityourself expert delivers household tips while his accountant buddy calculates the depreciation caused by amateur remodeling work. "Buffy the Vampire Slayer": A high school cheerleader is assigned by higher powers to cleanse the world of darkness.


In other words, she's an auditor. "Desperate Housewives": The week before taxes are due to be fi led, a group of women discuss how they can cover up the fact that they have thrown away all their husbands' receipts.


"The Flintstones": Fred Flintstone works in an offi ce carving profi t and loss sheets into chunks
of rock and gets into trouble when he loses his chisel. "Spongebob Squarepants": In Bikini Bottom, a
town at the bottom of the sea, a talking sponge does the accounts for The Krusty Krab restaurant. "Mr
Krab, this business is under water," he tells his boss. "America's Funniest Home Videos": An on-stage TV presenter shows clips of accountants making minor errors in calculations, causing a studio audience of auditors to laugh hysterically.


Well, the above list is only a guess. But if that's what they do decide to show, I know what I am going to do. Switch to CCTV7 and wait for "Grass Growing 2: The Sequel."


The writer is a columnist and journalist.








Herman, 23-year-old student activist, died after receiving a shot to the head from a police revolver
in Garut, West Java (The Jakarta Post, July 23). Regardless of negligence or vile intentions, police
reform is doing us shame in the international world and we've only seen the tip of the iceberg.


Throughout the archipelago, the public sentiment remains the same. Indonesians are abashed, ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated by our police institution whose brown uniform, unrefined manners, corrupted ethics and lack of professionalism mislead us to think that they belong somewhere with the junta in Myanmar.


The majority of Indonesians make "rent-seeking" jokes, often silently cursing, at the sight of police
offi cers as we drive by them. The more timid Indonesians readily check themselves for helmets, seat
belts, driving licenses, or ID cards just to make sure they do not have to "voluntarily" contribute cigarette money for those officers. This seems to be common practice, if not local wisdom, obtained from fi rsthand experiences in dealing with such notorious public servants.


Shortcomings in police reform are jeopardizing Indonesia's attempts to eradicate both terrorism as well as corruption. These two priority issues rely heavily on the effectiveness of our police institution in enforcing the law and providing security.


Tempo magazine had stepped into bad terms with the Indonesian Police due to their investigative reports. At the same time, the media's headquarters was attacked and anti-corruption activist, Tama Satrya Langkun, was later battered, possibly for his work on similar cases.
We are not jumping to conclusions that the police are guilty for all to blame, but it is obvious that they
had failed to protect our media as well as civil society activists, and had been slow in finding the culprit behind such attacks. As events unfold, the public disappointingly learned
that investigative reports had fallen on deaf ears, whistle blowers are silenced, while "internal investigations" and "semantics debates" are the weapon of choice utilized to sidestep voices demanding reform.


Why is corruption and lack of professionalism so entrenched despite police reform? Is it because
of intellectual bankruptcy, the lack of power and authority granted to Indonesia's other antigraft institutions, inadequate leadership from the President, or the nonexistence of pressure/interest/elite groups pushing the agenda forward? (the Post, July 11, 19, 20, 21) Arguably, despite the fervor in anti-corruption rhetoric and high public expectations for police reform, there is an insuffi cient collective push from the public. The public needs to ponder whether they have made any worthwhile contribution to anti-corruption efforts. Three factors reinforce this situation.


First, although the public is well informed of reform and corruption fighting efforts, most of them rarely, if ever, provide any form of tangible support. Sadly, our "graft busters" and police reformists are fighting the long uphill battle by themselves.


When the public is not voicing themselves, individuals and institutions that do speak up are easily singled out. They become easy targets for corrupt segments within the police force that hold a vested interest in resisting or even perhaps rolling back the reform.


A previous "clash of institutions" indicates that the police institution is better established and retains
enough capacity to defame, cripple, and silence other institutions before they are even able to "leave their cradle". However, the same clash also reminded us that public attention and support has the ultimate potential to tip the balance.


\Second, existing support from the public usually fails to sustain itself. The public's attention span on police reform and anti-corruption resembles "fi recrackers". Cases such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Susno Duadji, and Tempo's investigative reports are examples
of such "fi recrackers".


As soon as cases are intentionally driven into "political conspiracies to defame", "police being the victims" and the "semantics debate", the public loses interest while there are no public intellectuals engaged to unveil such contemptible tactics.


Third, public support often collides with many confl icting interests. Most media has an interest only
in corruption cases that "sell".


Students, activists as well as writers are exposed to various risks every time they speak out. Policy advice from critical intellectuals are readily dismissed, while intellectuals working closely with the institution become a herd of "yes-man" apologists.


In the future, I believe that Indonesia will become one of the success stories of police reform. But before such a vision can materialize, the public needs to push as hard they can for further police reform.


The writer is a researcher at the Pacivis, Department of International Relations at the University of Indonesia.
This is a personal opinion.







The people have spoken, check out their vote: 86 for kerosene, 12 for gas and two out of 100 abstained in the impromptu ballot casting of a community in Cipayung,East Jakarta. They live not very far from their President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whom they might have voted for, maybe even for the second time last year. Their voting last Sunday was a light moment amid continuing reports of exploding 3 kilogram liquid petroleum gas cansisters. The smiling residents displaying their marked ballots reminded us of the victims, including toddler Rido Januar, whose medical expenses the President himself ordered the state to cover.


Not everyone can just show up at the State Palace. In a bid to stop the list of victims from growing, the government said it had begun withdrawing 9 million canisters after a tiresome blame game, which even encouraged consumers to ensure that canisters and regulators were up to standard. Former vice president Jusuf Kalla met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday, saying he felt "morally responsible" for initiating the LPG conversion program when in office. The program aimed to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and simultaneously led to a rise in the price of kerosene — and now the poor are left with the choice of expensive, scarce kerosene, the scary canisters — or a return to fi rewood. Kalla, now the chair of the Indonesian Red Cross, reportedly discussed ways to improve the program.


Demands of fi xing the basics will continue to hound our leaders. So while we hope for signs of a lively economy, say, higher car sales at the Indonesia International Motor Show, which ends today at the Kemayoran Fairgrounds, all of those new models will end up stuck in the daily, open air showrooms that are our roads. What of the monorail plan? The train to and from the airport? Negotiations and deals are still ongoing, but fi rst, the law on the necessary land clearance for the route to the airport, says Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa.


At least, for those able to use private cars, a heartening ruling came from the Supreme Court this week – that you should be compensated for the loss of your vehicle if it vanishes from a parking lot. The historic ruling, under Indonesian law, is not a binding jurisprudence. It was a victory for citizens Anny R. Gultom and Hontas Tambunan, who struggled for almost 10 years against a parking service company after their car dissapeared in a Central Jakarta parking lot. But hope we must have: that the words at the back of your parking ticket that make one feel utterly helpless — that the company is not liable for any of your losses when parking — may not be legally binding after all.


Small legal victories bring relief to everyone, as we witness the trials of the big scale suspected corruptors — the latest involving the case of the mysterious tape of a suspected case broker. The Attorney General's Office on Thursday said it had never received a recording supposed to prove that businessman Anggodo Widjojo bribed deputies of the antigraft body into halting investigations into his brother's business.


The report was just one of today's discouraging signs of the fi ght against graft, as remaining leaders of the Corruption Eradication Commission, or the KPK, are showing a lack of steam while the public demands that it takes over crucial graft cases. They have indeed taken a heavy battering since their chief was convicted of murder, but millions depend on them for the hope of ending the impunity of our kleptomaniacs.


* * *


The grass is always greener on the other side, especially compared to Sidoarjo in East Jakarta, site of the Lapindo mud disaster. At least there are visible signs of accountability at BP. Its CEO was replaced this week even as the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico managed to be curbed, albeit not permanently.


Here, the mining fi rm controlled by businessman Aburizal Bakrie, now chairman of the Golkar Party, was declared not guilty by the Supreme Court for the gushing of mud which started in May 2006, following its drilling operation. Despite various efforts, new fountains of mud have continued to spew smelly, hot mud that has already buried, engulfed and displaced thousands of residents.


Protests have mainly involved victims and a few supporters, but recent voices of support for the victims have come from unexpected sources: the famed poet Sitor Situmorang and former education minister Daoed Jusuf.


Both in their 80s, they rejected their nomination for the Achmad Bakrie Award, an honor named after Aburizal's late father, an industrial pioneer. "It is against my conscience," said Daoed, who said he had painted scenes evoking the muddy tragedy. They were the latest to reject the award following a number of predecessors.


On faith issues, these are tense days in Kuningan, West Java, where lower ranking offi cials and many other people feel they have offi cial backing to harass members of the local Ahmadiyah sect. The Religious Affairs Minister has reiterated that they are offi cially not Muslims as they claim to be, while the group continues to practice its belief.


In Bekasi, just east of our grand capital, some Christians may still be holding Sunday mass in the open air, with no clear sign of when they can build or complete their churches. Are we going to let the voices of a tyrannic majority drown out our conscience, and the protection of all citizens as stated by the Constitution?


 Ati Nurbaiti



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