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Monday, August 2, 2010

EDITORIAL 02.08.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month august 02, edition 000587, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. BAN ON IRON ORE EXPORTS
  2. DEALING WITH CASE LOGJAM
  3. NATION PAYS FOR FLAWED POLICY - BALBIR K PUNJ
  4. CASTE POLITICS TO THE FORE - ASHOK BUWANIWALI
  5. DARJEELING IN ACUTE DISTRESS - RANEN DATTA
  6. GIVING UP VIOLENCE - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  7. AMERICA'S PLEASE-ALL POLICY - BARRY RUBIN
  8. PARALLEL ECONOMY IMPACTING PRICES - SHIVAJI SARKAR

MAIL TODAY

  1. TRS BYPOLL SWEEP IS A RESULT OF CONGRESS'S BLUNDERS
  2. A SCAM FOR EVERY SCHEME
  3. THE PARTY IS ON A TRAIN TO NOWHERE - BY MAHESH RANGARAJAN
  4. POWER & POLITICS - PRABHU CHAWLA

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. DEALING WITH NO. 2
  2. SLIPPING IN ANDHRA
  3. A PLAN B IN AFGHANISTAN - BRUCE RIEDEL
  4. 'WE'VE A COMMON PAST, HISTORY, STRUGGLES AND HEROES'
  5. A DANGEROUS GREETING - GEORGE N NETTO

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. STEP ONE IN THE VALLEY
  2. GUN-BOUT DIPLOMACY
  3. GAMES PEOPLE PLAY - ASHOK MALIK
  4. NO PLAN A, NO PLAN B IN THE HOUSE - PANKAJ VOHRA
  5. SPACE STATION DRAMA AS COOLING SYSTEM FAILS

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. TEXTUAL VIOLENCE
  2. LALU'S VOICEOVER
  3. NOT MODI'S WAY
  4. DO WE NEED A HEALTH MINISTRY? - BIBEK DEBROY 
  5. NEW RULES FOR A NEW WORLD - MANISH TEWARI 
  6. 'HE REALISED THE IMPORTANCE OF ELIMINATING CASTE-BASED LEADERSHIP AS A FACTOR IN KERALA POLITICS' - P. C. ALEXANDER 
  7. A CASE OF EXPLODED MYTHS
  8. THE GREAT (DOUBLE) GAME
  9. THE SCHIZOPHRENIA OF SUCCESS - VIKRAM S MEHTA 

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. DON'T SHARE LIKE THIS
  2. BUY AND SELL
  3. WHAT CAN INDIA GET FROM THE UK?- MEGHNAD DESAI
  4. PETROLEUM SHOULD BE PART OF GST - VIKRAM S MEHTA
  5. ANYONE FOR TEA? - ROHIT KHANNA

THE HINDU

  1. TRANSFERRING THE PROBLEM
  2. STRONGER STATE TO STATE TIES
  3. RESTORING BANGLADESH'S CORE VALUES - HAROON HABIB
  4. CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE U.K.-INDIA PARTNERSHIP - PREMILA NAZARETH SATYANAND
  5. "I FIND THE SUBJECT FASCINATING…" - ROSALIND EZHIL K.
  6. MAPPING SERVICE OF GOOGLE STREET FACES LEGAL CHALLENGES - JOSH HALLIDAY
  7. WORLD BANK TO THE AID OF WORLD'S LARGEST MANGROVE FOREST - ATTACKS ON MEDIA ON THE RISE IN INDIA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. CWG MESS GROWS: HEADING FOR FIASCO?
  2. WOMEN & PREJUDICE - JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

DNA

  1. TIME TO DEAL WITH TELANGANA HONESTLY
  2. WILL THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES BRING SHAME AND IGNOMINY?
  3. SATYAM AND THE ART OF BURYING A SCANDAL - R JAGANNATHAN
  4. MULTIPLE CROPPING ZONES TO PROTECT AGRO-ECOSYSTEM - SUMAN SAHAI
  5. ASSERTING OUR FREEDOMS AND THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE - ABHAY VAIDYA
  6. CHINA CLAMBERS TO THE SECOND SPOT

THE TRIBUNE

  1. VALLEY OF VIOLENCE
  2. BRIDGES FALLING DOWN
  3. TAINT OF CORRUPTION
  4. A DIVISIVE EXERCISE - BY D.N. PANIGRAHI
  5. BREAKING HEARTS, CELEBRITY STYLE - BY SUNIT DHAWAN
  6. KEEP THE GENERAL IN GOOD HUMOUR - HARSH V. PANT
  7. WHY WAS INDIAN CIVIL SOCIETY MUTE? - SREERAM CHAULIA

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. CAN PAKISTAN GET OFF THE TIGER?

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. FLAG FOLLOWS BUSINESS
  2. ELECTRIFYING SITUATION
  3. POLITICS OF INFLATION - SANJAYA BARU
  4. CURIOUS CASE OF JANGI THOPAN - SUNIL JAIN
  5. SOME INFLATION IS GOOD - A V RAJWADE
  6. STATSGURU-02-AUGUST-10

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. INTERVENE IN KASHMIR
  2. GAMES BUCCANEERS PLAY
  3. STAY-AT-HOME TRUTHS
  4. CONFUSED SIGNALS - MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH
  5. AFFORDABLE GREEN ENERGY - BJØRN LOMBORG 
  6. 'TOWNS WILL SPUR LUXURY CAR DEMAND' - NANDINISENGUPTA 
  7. TOWARDS VICTORY OVER ONESELF - K VIJAYARAGHAVAN 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. CWG MESS GROWS: HEADING FOR FIASCO?
  2. WOMEN & PREJUDICE - BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN
  3. IN ASIA'S NEW GREAT GAME, US IS THE SUCKER - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. OF AMBITIOUS, DISILLUSIONED NETAS
  5. DOES SATAN EXIST? - BY AMRIT SADHANA
  6. MAD MEN & BAD GIRLS - BY MAUREEN DOWD

THE STATESMAN

  1. NATURE'S GIFT TO THE NATION
  2. DEVELOPMENT COUNCILS TO TACKLE MAOISM
  3. P300 BRAIN WAVES CAN HELP PREDICT TERROR ATTACKS

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. SLIVER OF HOPE
  2. NEW SPACE
  3. LABOUR IN THE DARK
  4. A CASE FOR BAD LAW - GWYNNE DYER

DECCAN HERALD

  1. DEMOCRACY'S BANE
  2. BOLD CAMERON
  3. TAINTED COMMONWEALTH GAMES - M J AKBAR
  4. IN PAKISTAN, ECHOES OF AMERICAN BETRAYAL - BY MOHAMMED HANIF
  5. MONSOON MAGIC - BY SUDHA MADHAVAN

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. HAMAS'S VIOLENT MESSAGE
  2. IRAN IS FEELING THE HEAT - BY C. KRAUTHAMMER  
  3. REALITY CHECK: NOT SO FAST - BY JEFF BARAK  
  4. THE REGION: RADICALISM AND ISOLATION - BY BARRY RUBIN  
  5. NOT JUST A STRATEGIC ASSET, BUT A STRATEGIC BONANZA  BY ROBERT SATLOFF  
  6. WHAT'S IN IT FOR AMERICA? - BY CHAS FREEMAN  
  7. DEMONIZING ISRAEL IS BAD FOR THE PALESTINIANS - BY MUDAR ZAHRAN  

HAARETZ

  1. THE HARM IN CENTRALIZATION
  2. IF LEBANON ERUPTS AGAIN - BY AMIR OREN
  3. WE NEED A STATE PANEL - BY ZE'EV SEGAL
  4. THE RIGHT TO LIVE HERE - BY ALEXANDER YAKOBSON

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. RATIFY THE TREATY
  2. DISGUSTING BUT NOT ILLEGAL
  3. TRIBAL LAW AND ORDER
  4. ARLINGTON'S BROKEN TRUST
  5. ON THE G.O.P. PRECAMPAIGN TRAIL - BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  6. DEFINING PROSPERITY DOWN - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  7. THE PALESTINIANS, ALONE - BY EFRAIM KARSH

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON STUDENT LOANS: HIGH COSTS, LOAN DEFAULTS EXPOSE FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON STUDENT LOANS: WE'RE BUILDING THE FUTURE - BY HARRIS N. MILLER
  3. THE MUSLIM VEIL: EUROPE VS. THE USA - BY STEPHEN PROTHERO

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. VETERANS, NATION ILL-SERVED
  2. THE WEB AND SALES TAXES
  3. BEWARE OF TAX INCREASE!
  4. CONSUMERS NOT TO BLAME
  5. BIZARRE GOVERNMENT DICTATION
  6. 'SANCTUARY CITIES' GET A PASS

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - ARMY STILL TOPS TURKEY'S AGENDA
  2. THE ÇARŞI APPROACH TO MONETARY POLICY - EMRE DELİVELİ
  3. WIKILEAKS: ETHICS TO WHAT EXTENT? - C. CEM OĞUZ
  4. HOW CONSPIRACY THEORIES SPREAD
  5. THE COMBATIVE COLOMBIAN AND THE VOLATILE VENEZUELAN - GWYNNE DYER
  6. GENDER EQUALITY… - YUSUF KANLI
  7. TURKEY: INSIDE THE TENT OR OUTSIDE? - JOOST LAGENDIJK

I.THE NEWS

  1. HARD TIMES
  2. BEYOND A JOKE
  3. AT WAR WITH INSTITUTIONS - S KHALID HUSAIN
  4. MICE INTO LIONS - AHMED QURAISHI
  5. EXEMPLARY CHARACTER - DR A Q KHAN
  6. THE ETERNAL STRANGER - CHRIS CORK
  7. AN ILL-ADVISED UTTERANCE - TAJ M KHATTAK
  8. THE EXTENSION - IFTEKHAR A KHAN

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. INTRIGUING ISSUE OF MYSTERIOUS PAK VISAS
  2. CONSERVATION OF FLOOD WATER
  3. LIQUIDITY CRUNCH OF PSO
  4. OIL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL! - KHALID SALEEM
  5. THE CONTINUITY FACTOR! - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  6. KAYANI'S EXTENSION: SOME REALITIES - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  7. WEST'S MALICIOUS INTENT - NAZIA NAZAR
  8. KISS THIS WAR GOODBYE - FRANK RICH

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. THE GREENS ARE ON CENTRE STAGE
  2. NO MORE ERRORS OR EXCUSES, NO MORE MURDEROUS FIRES

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. SYDNEY UNIVERSITY CUTS TOO DEEP
  2. BUSHFIRES REPORT SHOWS HISTORY'S LESSONS STILL TO BE LEARNT

THE GUARDIAN

  1. TURKEY: A VITAL PLAYER
  2. BP: A NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE
  3. IN PRAISE OF … THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. CAN KOSOVO REDRAW THE MAP?
  2. GO PAST KOIZUMI'S REFORMS TO RESTORE THE MEIJI SPIRIT - BY HUGH CORTAZZI
  3. UNLEASHING INDIANS' DYNAMISM IN THE SHIFT FROM STATE CAPITALISM - BY JASWANT SINGH

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. A UNITED ANTITERRORISM FRONT
  2. THE KHMER ROUGE TRIBUNAL - POKPONG LAWANSIRI
  3. RI-NORWAY PARTNERSHIP: REDD AT A CROSSROADS - YANSEN, QUEENSLAND
  4. THE GOVERNMENT'S SECONDHAND DILEMMA - NURI WIDIASTUTI VERONIKA

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. NEW WARNINGS OF A RETURN TO BREZHNEV ERA - VEDOMOSTI
  2. GEORGIAN SCANDAL OVER ECONOMICS AND BIMBOS - BY MATTHEW COLLIN
  3. 4 THINGS WORTH TALKING ABOUT - BY OKSANA ANTONENKO

CHINA DAILY

  1. PREVENT CRUELTY
  2. GREAT CONTRIBUTION
  3. INCOMPLETE ROADMAP
  4. REALITY BITES
  5. TAKE CLIMATE WARNINGS SERIOUSLY - BY FU JING (CHINA DAILY)
  6. DEBATE: FOREX RESERVES
  7. FM: 'NO POWER SHIFT EASTWARD'

 DAILY MIRROR

  1. EXPORT OF TERRORISM
  2. SELF-SACRIFICE IN THE NAME OF A CORRUPT POLITICAL CULTURE: HONEST BUT PITEOUS
  3. I AM NO CHANDIYA, SAYS MERVYN -  BY JAMILA NAJMUDDIN
  4. PARTISAN PREJUDICES SHOULD BE SHUNNED TO PURSUE URGENT NATIONAL OBJECTIVES - BY MILINDA RAJASEKERA
  5. GOVT. MUST ENGAGE WITH WORLD COMMUNITY TO STOP LTTE FROM REORGANIZING 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BAN ON IRON ORE EXPORTS

SMART MOVE BY KARNATAKA, MAKE THIS POLICY


In a stunningly impressive move, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has banned the export of iron ore from, and its transportation to ports, in the State. Not only does this address serious concerns about illegal mining with its long-term disastrous consequences as well as the increasing political clout of mine owners, but it also puts paid to the Congress's orchestrated campaign against the BJP regime in the State to paint it as being soft towards those who flout rules and regulations. The campaign against the Bellary Brothers, which has the blessings of the Congress high command and is being used by the Governor to embarrass the Government, is now likely to lose all steam. Ironically, the ban on iron ore exports will impact those mine owners who are aligned with the Congress and have been minting money through illegal mining and exporting the ore to China. The Bellary Brothers' operations will largely remain unaffected as they are based in Andhra Pradesh. In a sense, it's a masterstroke by Mr Yeddyurappa who has at one silenced his critics who have been carping about corruption and created problems for the Congress vis-a-vis that section of the mining lobby which is aligned with the party. So much for the Congress's efforts to destabilise the Government through intrigue and deceit, not to mention the conspiratorial role played by the current occupant of the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore. Mr Yeddyurappa has done well to stress that the ban is primarily meant to stop illegal mining and exports as well as help domestic consumers — namely steel producers — who have been feeling the heat of rising prices on account of increasing demand for iron ore in the international market led by China.


The issue, however, is not entirely one of illegal mining. There are several aspects that merit the attention of the Union Government and call for urgent action. For instance, illegal mining is not restricted to Karnataka alone. It poses a serious problem in Odisha, as revealed by a Supreme Court appointed panel, and Jharkhand where politicians and bureaucrats looking for easy money resort to milking the 'system' of illegal mining. Former Chief Minister of Jharkhand Madhu Koda was deeply involved in this racket and much of his ill-gotten wealth has come from this flourishing 'industry'. In Odisha, the gross violation of rules and rampant exploitation of natural resources by greedy contractors and mining firms with no scruples has understandably led to a simmering resistance which could burst into the open any day. The State Governments should push the Union Government for a law to govern mining and export of ore that factors in the concerns of all stake-holders. There really is no reason why the Government should allow the export of precious natural resources that can be better utilised for strengthening Indian industry. For instance, Indian steel manufacturers would get a tremendous boost if the export of iron ore were to be banned across the country. At the moment, prices are artificially bloated because of demand in countries like China. At another level, the Government would do well to consider whether it's such a good idea to meet China's increasing demand for iron ore through Indian supplies. Strategically it makes far better sense to preserve our natural resources and use them judiciously for India's growth and prosperity. Everything cannot be driven by the greed of a few people. 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

DEALING WITH CASE LOGJAM

INCREASING JUDGES' RETIREMENT AGE ALONE WON'T DO


The recent Cabinet nod for increasing the retirement age of High Court judges from 62 to 65 years will only marginally help contain the increasing backlog of cases, because the real cause of the pile-up lies with the performance of many judges themselves. Eminent jurists have often pointed to the tendency among High Court judges to delay pronouncement of judgements even several months after arguments are over. There are others who, close to retirement, consciously avoid rulings on key issues and leave it to their successor to perform the task. The problem is that this not only delays the immediate clearance of cases but also helps them drag further, since a new judge will go through the entire case while acquainting himself with the details. And, by the time he reaches the end, it's time for him to go and perhaps repeat his predecessor's action! Then there are disturbing instances where High Court judges have disposed of cases only to find them routed back by the Supreme Court because they had erred while dealing with them. Either the judges had not applied their mind or failed to observe proper procedure — or worse, simply adopted a lackadaisical attitude while disposing of an appeal. Instances of Supreme Court observations against High Court judgements are on record, such as when the court was "dismayed at the casual manner" in which a criminal appeal had been disposed of or shocked by a "clear case of non-application of mind" or distressed by "atrocious and fallacious conclusions" of a division Bench. Thus, old cases that should have become history remain alive, new cases get added to the list of pending cases. That is how we are faced with a backlog of more than 40 lakh cases in High Courts across the country.


This brings us to the desirability of an audit mechanism for the judiciary, something that several senior jurists have been demanding. Judges who delay judgements or allow proceedings to drag in the court should be held accountable. Statistics must be collated and made public on the number of cases that the Supreme Court refers back to the High Courts and the reasons for that. This will help bring about corrective measures. Unless there is accountability by the judiciary and judges are held responsible for the time taken in disposing of cases, little or no purpose will be served by either talking about the need to clear the backlog of cases or initiating what can best be described as cosmetic measures. Ironically, the enhancement of the retirement age for judges will be a reward for both hard-working members of the judiciary — and there are many such judges — as well as those who take it easy and least perturbed by the logjam created by cases piling upon cases. 


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN


NATION PAYS FOR FLAWED POLICY

BALBIR K PUNJ


Union Home Secretary GK Pillai has been ticked off by Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna for revealing the crux of the David Headley disclosures that the Pakistani Government and the ISI were deeply involved in planning and directing the Mumbai attacks of November 26, 2008. In this way, Mr Krishna, whose Government is presumably fighting terror, has endorsed the objection that Pakistani Foreign Minister SM Qureshi had raised about Mr Pillai's remarks and his equating the top Indian civil servant with a terrorist. This has prompted analysts to ask whether UPA2 is serving the interests of India or Pakistan.


The same Government that is so keen to prevent its bureaucrats from spilling the beans is watching with glee the daily, even hourly, 'disclosures' (or concoctions?) of the CBI in Ahmedabad in the Sohrabuddin case. Ever since July, we have had deliberate leaks from the CBI claiming to connect the encounter killing of the inter-State criminal, extortionist and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operative Sohrabuddin Shaikh with Gujarat's former Minister of State for Home Amit Shah. The media quoted CBI sources almost every day over the last one month, saying Mr Shah was about to be arrested, that he was linked to Sohrabuddin's death and that the Minister wanted the extortionist eliminated at the instance of some marble merchants.


The constant targeting of Mr Shah by the CBI has served to obfuscate the facts of the case. Perhaps that has been the true intention of the CBI and this is what the Congress wanted after its so-far unsuccessful bid to make a dent in the political fortress of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Narendra Modi. Mr Modi has won two consecutive elections and has made his State the most forward-looking and fastest rising economic power among all 28 States and seven Union Territories of the country.


The so-called anti-incumbency factor has failed to touch Mr Modi for all the focussed campaign the Congress and its president have carried out in Gujarat. On the anti-terror front, the State has proved its mettle. Not only have the constant conspiracies to create mayhem in the State been foiled, but the Gujarat Chief Minister even forewarned New Delhi about the serial bombings there and elsewhere which the Union Government ignored only at its own peril. Mr Modi's record has made even his worst critics acknowledge that he is a tough, credible and effective leader.


Contrast this with the namby-pamby Congress leadership that hesitates to carry out the death sentence against Parliament House attack convict Afzal Guru. It has watched Kerala turn into a hotbed of Islamism. Six States are struggling to cope with Maoist insurgency aimed at toppling the Indian state. A burst of official document leaks from the US has exposed Pakistan's strong control over the Afghan Taliban and its targeting of Indian projects and people in that country. And New Delhi does not even react, let alone get the Pakistani establishment to answer at the international level for waging an undeclared war on India. 


There is a glaring contrast between a Mr Modi tackling terror-mongers in Gujarat with a firm hand and a Government in New Delhi soft-pedalling jihad and pandering to every demand of Islamists. The latest is the attempt to insert 'Islamic culture' into the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, as if Muslims in India do not consider Indian culture as their own. 


The CBI's witnesses and records seem to be an open book for the media. Some of these witnesses are themselves people with a serious criminal record. On the other hand, the CBI leaks to the media that Mr Shah has been constantly in contact with the accused police officers. As Home Minister how many times has he been in contact with other police officers across the State on any given day? This statistical detail is hidden from public view while the other statistics are bandied about and even padded and then planted in media by the investigating agency to bolster its case.


We have had several instances of the CBI changing its stand by the minute on Ms Mayawati, Ms J Jayalalithaa, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, swinging in the direction of the political wind, especially when the UPA Government badly needs their votes. How did the Italian middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi, prime accused in the Bofors bribery case, escape the net? How did the Government allow him to get his bank account in London unfrozen? Why did it take weeks to respond to the Argentine Government that had detained him and thereby facilitate his acquittal?


The Congress is going all out to appease the jihadis. Look at what is happening in Kerala. The very Chief Minister whose party was once chummy with the jihadis is now publicly saying that there is a conspiracy to Islamise Kerala and his bitter rival, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, is seen backing him on this matter. But look who is objecting. It is none other than the local Congress leader and Leader of Opposition, Mr Oommen Chandy. Mr Chandy says the Marxists are maligning a whole community even when the Chief Minister has revealed that the so-called Popular Front of India is planning rallies across every city in the State on Independence Day to denounce the Indian state — rallies which the State Government has now banned. 


Read this along with Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh's lament over arrests in Azamgarh of jihadis who go about planting bombs and his giving a clean chit to the accused and pointing the finger of accusation at the police instead. Read this with the UPA Government's kowtowing to Pakistan on the Headley admissions and admonishing its own Home Secretary for telling the truth. Read this with the Centre standing by a dreaded terrorist and going all guns blazing at half-a-dozen patriotic police officials and the popular Narendra Modi regime that has a sterling record on all fronts. What is the picture that emerges? Who is the real culprit? Who will lose the game? The nation.

 

 punjbalbir@gmail.com 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CASTE POLITICS TO THE FORE

ASHOK BUWANIWALI


Mirchpur has become a new political battleground in Haryana. Abundant venom and viciousness is being employed for securing a political victory. More than two months ago, a gory and gruesome incident of arson took place at Mirchpur village of Hissar district in Haryana, in which two persons belonging to the Dalit community were torched alive and nearly two dozen houses gutted.


The Haryana Government rendered all possible help to provide relief and rehabilitate the victims. Their safety and security was ensured. The administration's timely intervention restored peace and the issue became localised. There was no communal fallout. No doubt, the incident was unfortunate. But what has happened in its aftermath is even more so. Allegations of instigations, intrigues, intimidations and insensitivity were levelled by the communities against one other.


The insidious face of Indian politics once again showed its ugly face. Leaders of all political parties came rushing in search of votes to the burnt homes of the Dalits. Others did not come for fear of annoying their vote-banks. Dharnas were sponsored, rallies organised and stories planted in the media to score political points. All kinds of committees and commissions came up to justify their existence. All of this did not provide any solace or succour to the Dalits. It rather widened the gap between the two communities. Anyone who has taken the pains to travel to Mirchpur may or may not have gained what he or she had wished for but the residents of that village were certainly the losers.


The caste system is the bane of Indian society. No living Indian can be held responsible for this obnoxious segmentation of society. But we need to learn to live with this inherited reality. Social harmony is essential for peace and progress. Political pygmies of dubious intent earn livelihood and false respectability by exploiting the heterogeneity of our society. These imposters beguile the credulous, and masquerading as their saviours and sympathisers. Only if these monsters are identified and exposed, we can ensure that a repeat of the Mirchpur incident will have been successfully pre-empted. 


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THE PIONEER

OPED

DARJEELING IN ACUTE DISTRESS

THE QUEEN OF THE HILLS HAS LOST MUCH OF HER MAJESTIC LUSTRE AND THE WORLD FAMOUS DARJEELING TEA HAS FALLEN VICTIM TO BAD POLICY AND LABOUR UNREST. THE WEST BENGAL GOVERNMENT'S INDIFFERENCE TO THE HILL DISTRICT'S ECONOMY HAS BEEN COMPOUNDED BY THE RENEWED AGITATION FOR GORKHALANAD. THE FUTURE NOW LOOKS GRIM, SAYS RANEN DATTA


Queen of the Hills' is the name it was known by in the old days. The 'Queen' today is in rags. A town that started its journey as a tourist centre and was inhabited as such in the middle of the 19th century had, for the initial years of its life, existed as a small resort for the expatriates working in the plains of undivided Bengal and affluent families living in Kolkata. In the second half of the century, it developed as a centre for the famous Darjeeling tea. 


To give a brief background of the place, it should be mentioned here that Darjeeling is the name of the district as well as the town. The district comprises four sub-divisions: Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Siliguri, the last being located on the plains. The population of the entire district is nearly 16 lakhs and that of the three hill sub-divisions together is approximately eight lakhs. Darjeeling tea is grown in 86 gardens spread over the three hill sub-divisions. These gardens alone can legally market their tea as 'Darjeeling tea'. 


At one time, all raw materials as well as the finished product of the industry had to pass through the hill towns. It is not so now. The hills continue to remain dependant on the tea industry to a large extent as nearly half of the total population of the three hill sub-divisions reside in tea gardens. From the middle of the 20th century, however, dependence of the tea industry on towns such as Darjeeling and Kurseong began to decline as faster and more economical road transport dispensed with freight by the hill railway system. With this shift in the mode of transport, the need of infrastructure to store tea and raw materials and the manpower to handle the infrastructure disappeared. However, the tea industry even now employs about 50,000 permanent and 20,000 seasonal workers. 


Besides the tea gardens, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a relatively large employer of the local population, with around 1,000 people on its payrolls. Patronage of the hill railway by the tea industry contributed to the local economy as the maintenance and administration of this sector of the Indian Railway was based in the hills and largely manned by locals. With the requirement of transport shifting from the narrow-gauge railway to faster moving trucks with more mobility, the earlier connection of this railway with the tea industry came to an end and the rail traffic, now totally dependent on passengers, also decreased. Infrastructure of this sector of Indian Railway was understandably reduced, although it was a gradual process.


In the rural areas of the hills, agriculture had never contributed significantly to the economy. One reason is the paucity of cultivable land because of the terrain and the rocky sub-soil. Most of the larger spaces are occupied either by tea gardens or are designated forest land although trees are not always visible there. Crops, other than tea, are oranges, cardamom and ginger but are grown on a very small scale. A large bulk of the vegetables, fish and meat are brought in from the plains where local people only participate as small traders. Though infrastructure, including communication, had excluded many other options in the past, no serious exploration has ever been made about developing horticulture or small industries such as IT that would thrive in a cool and unpolluted climate. 


A brief economic break-up of the urban population may shed some light on the current situation. Taking Darjeeling as an example of an urban centre, the last census recorded its population as around one lakh. About 10 per cent of this population are salaried employees working in various Government departments, small private businesses and the Army while the remaining are self-employed. Those employed in small businesses are not necessarily paid salaries especially when 'bandhs' are called by political parties. Because business has become uncertain due to such frequent stoppages, earnings are erratic and poor but the impact of the unpredictable situation is on the daily wagers who, as everywhere, are in the majority. 


Realising the potential of tourism, hill entrepreneurs focussed on development of this industry. In the absence of any long-term plan or economic vision about the rate of growth of tourism in these hills, investments were frequently irrational and unviable. The situation was aggravated by the indifference of the Government in improving the infrastructure in this part of the State. In an age when private players were unable to proceed without active assistance of the Government, this factor played a role in the insufficient development of tourism in the hills. As an outcome of this, only the less affluent tourists opted for Darjeeling, Kalimpong or Kurseong for their holidays. Efforts to promote tea gardens as holiday resorts remain entangled in bureaucratic red tape. The combined effect of this is the absence of developing tourism in a competitive environment. 


As these hurdles became increasingly obvious, renewed political agitation followed by repeated disturbance of normal life added to existing problems. The hospitality industry as a whole suffered as tourists became wary about making travel plans fearing they might have to be cancelled at the very last moment. The Government has relaxed its efforts to promote Darjeeling hills as one of the tourist attractions of the State, as this goes well with its policy of blaming only the locals for all shortfalls. 


The continued agitation for a separate State is putting the final nail in the coffin for Darjeeling's economy which is being ignored by all parties concerned who, while speaking of development of the area, are systematically sabotaging its prospects.


The writer was Secretary-General of Darjeeling Planters' Association. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

GIVING UP VIOLENCE

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


But Maoists giving up arms may just be playing for time


Choosing to exit a so-called people's war is not the same as seamlessly re-joining the mainstream. It would be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that the surrender of Jiten Giri, Madhusudan Mondol and "many others" whose names the West Bengal Government is reluctant to disclose is the same as their desire to return to rejoin the mainstream, politically. 


Surrenders could be no more than the decision to opt out of a movement that is engaged in a war of attrition. It is most likely, however, that the announced exits are a response to the now obvious Government strategy of continuing the confrontation against Maoists for as long as it takes to 'curb' the movement and restore 'normalcy'. In other words, those who had not bargained for the long haul and had hoped for a quick end to the fight may be the first ones to have signed up for the surrender. 


To claim, as the West Bengal Government is doing that the surrenders signal disenchantment with the 'cause' and a return to the mainstream is premature and politically naïve. What is not known and will not be known for some time is why those who originally joined the Maoists or the Peoples' Committee Against Police Atrocities did so and why they have decided to surrender or are in the process of doing so. To them, the mainstream may mean something very different from what the West Bengal Government thinks of as the mainstream. 


For it is highly improbable that a Madhusudan Mondol, Jiten Giri or a Sushil Mahato will meekly return to a quiet life, home and hearth, the daily grind and more accumulation of grievances. A sterile rehabilitation package — a one size fits all measure — cannot deal with the individual's problems and needs. Jiten Giri, for instance, is not a young idealist who can be mythologised as being misled; he is in his late forties. Therefore a package of Rs 1.5 lakh, plus Rs 2,000 per month for three years and vocational training is hardly the appropriate response to Giri's needs and problems.


The sooner the Union Government and the West Bengal Government realise that the success of their policy of confronting the Maoist terror is critically linked to how the surrender is handled the better it will be for dealing with the problem of disenchantment with 'normalcy', mainstream politics and inefficient, corrupt, oppressive governance. 

The surrender, in other words, is a volatile moment. Opportunity and disaster are evenly poised at this juncture; opportunity to substantiate what is meant by rehabilitation and normalcy. The disaster would be if the Government failed the test of trust that is implicit in the act of surrender. By moving back from the illicit underground life, those who have surrendered or are in the act of doing so are in fact giving the Government a second chance. 


For the Government of India as well as that of West Bengal, this is when they need to come good on dealing with the greatest threat to internal security. If there is a question mark over Government capacity and goodwill in this matter it is because of the dithering that was evident over how Government would handle the Maoist menace. It may be recalled that in the case of West Bengal in particular, the Union Government revealed a strange pattern of response; it called for peace talks just when the State Government pushed to strengthen the security operation. There was a visible lack of coordination in action, policy and strategy that certainly impacted the initial stages of the security operations.

As of now there is a near political consensus that the failure to deliver development is the principal cause of discontent among people who are backward, poor and discriminated against socially, economically and politically. The disability of the mainstream to be sensitive and respectful of tribal mores and sensibilities and to apply a formula of mainstreaming the indigenous populations in areas like the Jangalmahal and Santhal Parganas that rode roughshod over their sentiments has been identified as a root cause of discontent. If this analysis is correct, then the moment of surrender offers an opportunity to demonstrate how differently Government can think and act.


The allegations of dispossession and displacement, abuse of human rights and just plain thievery that deprived tribal populations from the benefits of schemes and programmes designed for their development or welfare are all true. The surrender, therefore, is a moment when Government — West Bengal in this instance — can prove that the thievery and human rights abuse can be stopped. It is tricky administratively and politically complicated. It requires skill and adroit leadership that does not convert the moment into a cheap political fight between mainstream parties vying for votes. The ball is in the Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s court. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AMERICA'S PLEASE-ALL POLICY

BARRY RUBIN


Going easy on Arab regimes won't help US restore direct talks between Israel and Palestinian leaders as the latter believe in no compromise and won't mind sabotaging a negotiated pact


Shouldn't this farce teach us a lesson? The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the US and others have telephoned Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and begged him, pleaded with him: Oh, please please — one can imagine them saying — negotiate with Israel so we can give you a State as soon as possible. We will give you a lot of gifts if you do it, so we can then bestow even more goodies on you! And Mr Abbas says "No!"


Why? Why if Palestinians are so eager for a two-state solution, for a country of their own, for ending the "horrible" "occupation" (which mostly ended in 1994-1996), putting a stop to the "suffering" of their people, putting a stop to violence, enabling their children to go to school, raising living standards, and all the other benefits of putting an end to this long-standing conflict?


Why? Why? If it is Israel that is blocking peace is Israel's Government ready to negotiate — and has been for more than a year — while the PA says no?


Because it is precisely the PA, and Hamas of course, that is sustaining the conflict. It refuses to make peace because:

 

  It still hopes for total victory.

 

  It believes that if it can sabotage a negotiated agreement there will be an imposed one giving the PA everything it wants without compromise or concession on its part.

 

  It doesn't want to end the conflict forever, accept less than 100 per cent of British mandatory Palestine, and give up the demand that Palestinians can go and live in Israel in order to subvert that country.

 

  It fears that any compromise will ensure that the PA, or the individual leaders who make a deal, is branded as a traitor.


And here, too, is the PA openly thwarting US President Barack Obama, who publicly bristles at the tiniest Israeli disagreement, yet seems to accept this disrespect without demur.


Sooner or later, there will probably be direct talks — as there were from 1992 to 2000 — and the PA will simply ensure that these fail. But it is fascinating to see how long Mr Abbas will hold out. When he first came to Washington, about 15 months ago, Mr Obama urged him to negotiate with Israel. Mr Abbas refused. Last September, almost 11 months ago, Mr Obama announced there would soon be direct talks. Mr Abbas refused.


Yet I'll bet most Western journalists and academics would (wrongly) say that Mr Abbas wants a negotiated peace and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu doesn't.


Moreover, the Arab League meeting was a step backward. It is generally being reported as giving the green light for Mr Abbas to negotiate with Israel. On the contrary, it is the exact opposite: It sets preconditions. This is a defeat for US policy and may be the death knell for direct negotiations this year. After all the flattery, distancing from Israel, and going easy on Arab regimes, the Obama Administration has failed to get them to deliver what his three predecessors obtained easily without such measures: Direct Israel-Palestinian talks.

What is needed is a paradigm shift in the West to bring public views — in private, Government officials often admit that the Palestinians are the problem behind the failure to achieve peace — into line with daily observable reality.

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

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

PARALLEL ECONOMY IMPACTING PRICES

SHIVAJI SARKAR


The Government admits lack of liquidity that leads to moderation of market or lower growth. Meanwhile, inflation continues to play havoc with prices as industrial production falls


Inflation is on the rise. The rupee is not being allowed a chance for revaluation and the RBI is not changing its prescription. Over a year, the RBI's hackneyed approach of playing with the cash reserve ratio, repo and reverse repo rates has not helped the economy. Is the parallel economy calling the shots? 


The RBI prescription has added to the inflation by jacking up lending rates. It has also caused problems for the industry in getting easy credit. Tough policy measures like increasing repo and reverse rates are extreme measures to reduce liquidity. The RBI accepts "there is severe tightness in liquidity conditions". It blames the Government's "sudden need and sharp increase in cash balances arising out of significantly higher mobilisation for telecom auctions of 3G and BWA". This has robbed the commercial banks of all the cash that they had for financing the companies to fund the auctions. 


Despite this admission, one wonders why the RBI has taken a step that is likely to be counter-productive. It makes lending expensive and does not help in bringing down prices. As interest rates firm up, prices rise on all counts. The very premise on which the first quarter monetary policy is based is incorrect. 


It also raises a question. If liquidity is so low and credit difficult, why are prices on the rise? It is simple logic. If liquidity — cash availability with the people and industry — is less, the market could not be expected to be buoyant. This should have led to the fall in demand and consequently growth should have been affected. 


Official figures claim that growth prospects are upbeat despite a fall in factory production. It appears to be a miracle. Hopes are being raised but would they really be fulfilled? 


The RBI has been raising repo and reverse repo rates since April 2009. It has increased these by 50 basis points and has also increased the cash reserve ratio by 25 per cent. In simple words, it has sucked all the money away from commercial banks into its kitty to fund the Government deficit. Despite that, the impact on prices that was expected a year back is not being seen. 


This raises a vital question. The RBI is ignoring obvious signs. If prices and demand are rising despite a lower liquidity, it needs to be asked where the money is coming from. Lack of liquidity should have led to either moderation of the market if it was all going in a positive direction or a depressed state of affairs. This has not happened as per official statistics, except in the housing sector.


One needs to know from where the money is flowing into the market, which is experiencing over 10.5 per cent wholesale price inflation and over 17 per cent food inflation. It is well known that much of the inflation is managed through hoarding of products, which requires constant funds flow, or in some cases owing to supply side pressures. 


The apex bank candidly admits "monetary policies may not be the most effective instrument to deal with supply side pressures on inflation". Then why is it using the tools that are likely to create more problems and also not address the basic question of tackling the liquidity flowing in from parallel sources — away from the legal domain? 

The RBI has estimates but keeps them close to its chest. Its powers to tackle this liquidity legally are limited. But it has powers to suggest ways to check it. It is a politically volatile issue. Estimates available are ancient. Estimates of black money circulating in the economy have varied widely from time to time. In 1967-68, it was placed at Rs 3,034 crore. But by 1978-79, it had soared more than 15 times to Rs 46,867 crore in just 12 years. Black money was estimated to be 9.5 per cent of GDP in 1967-68, rising to 49 per cent of GDP in 1978-79 and 50.7 per cent in 1987-88. 


Last time the Government released an estimate was in 1983-1984, when the parallel economy was said to be as big as Rs 31,000-37,000 crore at about a fifth of the size of the then official economy. 


The official economy is touching Rs 65 lakh crore. By the same formula, the size of the parallel economy should be at least Rs 13 lakh crore now. If the Union Budget of Rs 12 lakh crore is taken into consideration as the unit, it would amount to Rs 2.4 lakh crore. These are conservative estimates and the figures may be larger. 


Since this parallel economy is ruling the roost, the official measures bound by several legalities face limitations in the curbing of prices. The generation of parallel money is not restricted to the domestic sector now. It has international dimensions and international companies and the mafia fuels it. A glimpse of this was available in the funding of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The food sector is apparently being largely managed by the non-official economy. With its large clout, it is dictating and manipulating the stocks, supply and prices. The official measures have little role in controlling them or checking their fall or rise. 

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

TRS BYPOLL SWEEP IS A RESULT OF CONGRESS'S BLUNDERS

 

THERE is no doubt that the resounding verdict in favour of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi ( TRS) in the recent bypolls is a vote for a separate Telangana state. Not only did the 11 TRS legislators retain their seats, they garnered in excess of 70 per cent of the vote, which is phenomenal.

 

The results are a major embarrassment for the Telugu Desam Party ( TDP), which lost its deposit in most of the seats, as well as the Congress, whose state president D. Srinivas was trounced in Nizamabad.

 

It seems that the polarisation in the state is complete and denying Telangana statehood will become politically untenable. The Congress is largely to blame for precipitating this crisis by vacillating on the Telangana issue and its failure to tackle the crisis politically.

 

The agitation is not new and can be traced back to the 1946 Telangana rebellion. Even the sweep by the TRS is similar to the electoral victory of the Telangana Praja Samiti in 1971.

 

Such centrifugal forces gain momentum due to weak leadership. Chief minister K. Rosaiah just doesn't seem to come out of the caretaker mode with the state going from one crisis to the other after the demise of Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy. This is made apparent by the Telangana agitation, Jaganmohan Reddy's rebellion and the farmer protests in Sompeta, all taking place in the last few months.

 

The Congress should have acted decisively on Telangana and put the issue in the realm of the due processes of a commission in the first place rather than succumbing to an agitation.

 

The state needs strong leadership as has been displayed in the past by K. Brahmananda Reddy, N. T. Rama Rao and Rajasekhara Reddy, whose tenures had effectively contained the Telangana movement as well as the Naxals.

 

A SCAM FOR EVERY SCHEME

MAIL TODAY ' S story exposing a health scam of over ` 200 crore in Uttar Pradesh highlights once again how well- intentioned schemes rarely serve the purpose for which they were instituted. The only difference, as far as the case before us is concerned, is that while most schemes are abused by government officials, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana ( RSBY) scam involved fake patients, private hospitals and insurance companies.

 

So, many individuals belonging to below poverty line families — that had under the RSBY got an insurance card which entitled them to annual reimbursement of up to ` 30,000 for medical treatment undertaken at empanelled public or private hospitals — colluded with hospitals to get certificates for fake medical treatment, with the money reimbursed by the state being split among the fake patients, hospitals and insurance firms.

 

While the Uttar Pradesh government is investigating the matter, it is really a surprise that the simple modus operandi of the scam was not anticipated at the time the RSBY was launched. In fact, such lack of foresight when it comes to effective implementation of welfare schemes has really been this country's bane, whether the scheme in question is the RSBY or the much- touted National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

 

Bangladesh at crossroads

BY STRIKING down the fifth constitutional amendment, Bangladesh's Supreme Court has restored secularism as the cornerstone of the nation. This amendment, introduced by General Zia- ur- Rahman's regime in 1979, opened the doors for the use of religion in politics.

 

Not only will this help Bangladesh eliminate religious extremism, it will also strengthen democracy in the country as the religious parties have always worked to subvert democracy and legitimise military rule. This, along with the recent trial of some Islamists accused of war crimes during the war of independence, will help Bangladesh gain closure over the forces of Islamism that questioned the basis of the nation since its very inception.

 

This decision should also be viewed in the context of the general public opinion against religious extremism in Bangladesh, which was reflected in the thumping victory of Sheikh Hasina's Awami League in 2008.

However, her government needs to guard against the constitutional anarchy that might arise if all the decisions taken by Zia- ur- Rahman's military junta are annulled and the polarisation that might take place in the country.

 

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            MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

 

THE PARTY IS ON A TRAIN TO NOWHERE

BY MAHESH RANGARAJAN

 

THE monsoon may have advanced across north India, its welcome showers bringing relief to farmers and townspeople alike. But it has done little to clear doubts about where the ruling combine or the Union government are headed.

 

The Telangana bypolls offer proof, if any is needed, as to how out of touch the Congress is with ground level opinion in a region that has been its stronghold in recent times. The sweep by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi ( TRS), taking 11 of the 12 assembly seats, shows the issue is alive and well.

 

For the ruling coalition in New Delhi, this is a humbling of sorts. For too long, ever since 2004, it has sung hosannas to the idea of a separate Telangana in public and done all it can to drag its feet in private.

 

As Lincoln famously remarked, " It is not possible to fool all the people all the time". Telangana has immediate repercussions in its sole southern bastion of Andhra Pradesh.

 

Jaganmohan Reddy, the son of the late chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, has implicitly challenged the high command on his yatra. With a flock of some 28 members of the Andhra Pradesh legislative assembly with him, he may well threaten the coherence, if not the survival, of the government in Hyderabad.

 

The sense of drift is not confined to one state or region. It pervades the wider structure of the ruling party and the government.

 

Many had expected the second Manmohan Singh government to get down to the unfinished task of ensuring reforms with a human dimension. Such hopes have fallen flat.

 

Differences

 

To be sure, the major enactments on the rights to information and work are being followed up. The rights to education and to minimal nutrition may be passé for most democracies of the industrialised world.

 

Here, they have had to wait for over six decades since the coming of independence.

 

There are also initiatives to give more teeth to the forest rights Act and to empower adivasis in the scheduled areas.

 

But such government interventions, significant and positive as they are, cannot and do not make for a clear sense of political direction. By next summer, India will have completed two decades of the reform era. But today, as at its start, all talk of effecting major political changes come down to the debates in one party: the Congress.

 

The party demonstrated strong resilience in its eight years out of power and, even more impressively, led its alliance to a victory last year. But the sense of drift that has been evident in Manmohan Singh Mark- II has deepened.

 

There is sound political reason for the ship looking rudderless. The contrast with the first term in office clarifies the picture.

 

Despite challenges from the likes of the then human resource development minister Arjun Singh, the Prime Minister won the strong and unquestioned backing of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. She also got party managers in line to take upon and survive the head- on attack by the Left on the nuclear agreement with the US. Congress leaders are remarkably good at reading their chief's mind and heart.

 

Once it was clear the PM was here to stay, his troubles faded away.

 

By getting the party back into power after five years, he demonstrated that he was an asset in terms of goodwill and credibility.

 

Yet, the government now seems at odds with itself. Always a loose agglomerate of warring interest groups, the party is used to muddling through such faction fights.

 

Its very diversity enables it to reach out to a wide spectrum of opinion.

 

The party and sections of the intelligentsia that do business with it encompass a cross- section of opinion. This is the case even in contentious questions such as how to deal with Maoism or the best way to balance growth with the amelioration of poverty.

 

But when party leaders express their criticism of senior ministers, it is a different matter altogether. The Congress is like a club, where members do brawl but behind closed doors. The major reason for the open sniping is that leaders are getting set for transition.

 

Rahul

 

The shift will be to a Rahul Gandhi- led government which will happen at a time of his choosing. Given that both Sonia Gandhi and the general secretary show no inclination of working in the present government in any capacity, this would have been fine. But Rahul is yet to take the party by the scruff of its neck and change the ways in which it worked.

 

The reforms of the youth and student wings are a fine starting point. They have brought about a mass enrolment and also given the moribund parent party a taste of grassroots democratic elections.

 

But it is a pride of lions that awaits taming and there is only so far that the youth wing reforms will take him. Thirty- five years ago, Rahul's uncle, the late Sanjay Gandhi, had a simple five- point programme that wrecked more havoc than many might have imagined in a short span of time. But Sanjay did create a band of loyalists who, in his mother's famous words, " stole the thunder" from the parent party.

 

Rahul's cupboard, unlike Sanjay's, has serious and far- reaching programmes that if implemented with an iota of honesty will have far- reaching impacts on the poor and middle- class alike.

 

But in the absence of an energised and dynamic organisation, the Congress may not find it easy to romp home at the hustings the way it did last year.

 

Challenges

Telangana is not a flash in the pan. The picture across the Ganga plain is equally serious. The much- touted mass contact programme in Uttar Pradesh was wound down with the soaring temperature in May as " reason", but it has not been resumed.

 

The Bihar unit is at war with itself even as the plank of a positive agenda of economic and social betterment has been taken over by chief minister Nitish Kumar.

 

West Bengal may have a Left Front that is bracing for the worst but it is the regional ally led by Mamata Banerjee and not Congress that is the spearhead of change.

 

But the major party has lost the common touch. Even the Congress of Rajiv Gandhi's time had more teeth such as when it forced a roll back of a similar hike in 1987. But then, the All India Congress Committee has not even met since January 2005. The Congress's greatest advantage now, as in the past, is its ability to assimilate ideas and carry them into action via policy.

 

But to recover lost ground, the Congress has to set its house in order and reach out to those who stand to gain from its socioeconomic programmes.

 

The crisis in Opposition ranks is all too real with the major cadre parties, the BJP and the CPM each struggling to remain relevant. But politics abhors a vacuum.

 

It may yet be possible to lose control of the political agenda due to one's own folly rather than the intelligence of the opponent.

 

By not doing so in time, it may soon discover that it is its own worst adversary.

 

Comment@ mailtoday. in

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MAIL TODAY

POWER & POLITICS

PRABHU CHAWLA

 

ATTACK IS THE BEST DEFENCE

THERE is a fear of the unknown that is stalking the UPA- II which now threatens to cripple the government. In a week that saw Narendra Modi's right hand man Amit Shah being arrested and newspapers carrying banners about the possible interrogation of the Gujarat chief minister himself, the UPA government should have been sitting pretty.

Not quite. If indeed it were so, the government would have taken on the might of the combined Opposition and defended itself on its performance in Parliament.

 

True, there is a catalogue of disasters which the government cannot disown and just as it is the opposition's job to gun the treasury benches, it is the latter's duty to hold the opposition by the scruff. Instead, the government is seeking shelter behind the safety of legalese and parliamentary procedures.

 

What is the government afraid of? That the Congress does not have a majority by itself is no state secret. But by playing hokey in Parliament, the government is also exposing a lack of courage. Its spirit to fight has been numbed by the lack of numbers.

 

Even if the entire Opposition votes for a censure motion against the government for its failure to control prices, the government is unlikely to fall.

 

It will suffer a jolt but at least it will get an opportunity to rebut its critics point for point.

 

Yes it is dependent on the support of non- UPA parties, but equally certain is the fact that there is a TINAMAN factor ( There Is No Alternative to Manmohan) at work.

 

Sonia Gandhi realised the perils of heading a minority government six years ago and opted out and Rahul Gandhi, who will surely take over, is waiting for the day when the Congress has a majority of its own. But look at the flip side.

 

The NDA does not have the support of more than 150 MPs. Even together, the confused BJP and the bruised Left would have had a tough time cornering the Congress, which alone has over 200 MPs and would have slaughtered its opponents numerically and on scoring brownie points.

 

There are at least half a dozen cabinet ministers who are itching to take on the Opposition.

 

Ministers like Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, M. Veerappa Moily and Jairam Ramesh would have made the current crop of Opposition " stalwarts" look like lambs to the slaughter, while the Opposition old guard, the likes of L. K. Advani and others, are fading into political sunset faster than their mindsets.

 

The arithmetic and the ideological composition of the 15th Lok Sabha is such that no alternate government can be formed without the Congress. Barring, Sonia Gandhi of course, the unlikely eventuality of the joint Opposition discovering yet another V. P. Singh to bring the Left and the Right together to lend support.

 

It is the constitutional responsibility of the government to face Parliament and seek approval for its performance.

 

But in the first week of the monsoon session, the government appeared to be running away from this responsibility.

 

Manmohan Singh has only to look at the recent past to see the number of times he gambled and won decisively. The civil nuclear energy Bill of UPAI, the women's reservation Bill and cut motion on the finance bill are strong examples of the minority UPA dividing the Opposition to rule.

 

I cannot recall another occasion in the recent times when the government looked shaky as early as in its 15th month in office. It is an ominous sign as it could cripple the government and allow the bureaucracy to run riot.

 

With many important issues waiting to be attended, it was hoped that the Prime Minister would lead from the front. He is the first non- Gandhi family political leader to complete six years in office and there's nothing to stop him completing a full 10 years. He has nothing to lose. He has the credibility, as of now. But he has to gather the courage. It's time he called the Opposition bluff and restore his and the government's credibility and authority.

 

Public perception is somewhat fickle. The same people who admire him for his honesty and integrity will begin to abandon him when they realise that he lacks the courage. He has to take a call now on whether he wants to be a PM for the record books or be known as one who was both in power and in control.

 

Even temples not spared by politicos

 

ALL POLITICIANS swear by secularism, Narendra Modi being a notable exception.

 

Even the Marxists who swear by it cannot keep their hands off some of the rich temples whose managements they try to seize every time they come to power in Kerala.

 

The state's Marxist- led government even has a minister for temples whose job presumably is to grab a share of the hundreds of crores of rupees that comes into the coffers of nearly 5,000 temples in the state. It is all about money and patronage.

 

Something similar happens in Tirupati every two years.

 

On August 24, the chairmanship of the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam( TTD), which manages the famous temple devoted to Lord Balaji, falls vacant. There is hectic lobbying by politicians and businessmen now going on for the post. The Balaji temple is India's richest.

 

Its annual budget is in excess of ` 2,000 crore and income from the sale of laddoos alone account for over ` 110 crore every year. The outgoing chairman, D. K. Adikesavulu Naidu, was a Telugu Desam MP who saved UPA- I by cross- voting for the government in the vote on the nuclear Bill in July 2008.

 

He was duly rewarded by the then Andhra chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who made him chairman of the TTD, a post which carries cabinet status in the Andhra government. Adikesavulu now wants another term, but there are other moneybags who are in the fray, including five- time Guntur MP, Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, industrialist G. M. Rao, owner of the GMR group that built the new terminal at the Delhi airport, and Indira Reddy, two- term TTD board member and wife of former Union minister T. Subbirami Reddy, who was known best for the flying darshans he organised for the rich during his tenure as chairman of the TTD. It's a battle royale. Unfortunately, it has nothing to with piety. It's all about patronage.

PLAYING HOST TO OUR ' FRIENDLY 

NEIGHBOURHOOD DICTATOR'

 

HOW IRONIC that in the week that India hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron, it also welcomed General Than Shwe, the despot from Myanmar. The man is regarded as among the world's worst dictators, but that did not prevent the government from rolling out the red carpet. And if some warped minds in the foreign office are to be believed, this was aimed at countering the increasing Chinese influence over Rangoon.

 

As befitting a tyrant, Shwe came in through a side door — he flew from the Burmese capital to Gaya in Bihar and then proceeded to the Bodhgaya temple. All along the way, he was booed by hundreds of protesters waving black flags. His five- day tour included a visit to Hyderabad where, at a dinner hosted by Andhra Pradesh governor ESL Narasimhan, he is said to have expressed a desire to listen to songs from Mother India and Aawara . Unfortunately, there were no seasoned singers around but governor Narasimhan hit a brainwave. He dispatched his ADC to the nearest computer to download the songs.

 

Job done, the ADC copied these to a pen drive which were then played for the audience.

 

I presume the dictator, who earlier in the morning had visited some of the IT hubs in Hyderabad, was so impressed by the technological marvel that he began to clap and sing along.

 

At a banquet that followed hosted by the governor, the menu consisted of some of the mouthwatering non- vegetarian dishes that the city is famous for. The dictator was surprised to see the governor and chief minister K. Rosaiah sticking to veggie fare. He was told that both were vegetarians and listened patiently when someone told him about the benefits of veganism and the cruelty involved in killing animals. The despot is said to have settled for pesarattu dosa and upma. It is to be hoped that the words ring in his ears the next time the junta orders troops to shoot down innocents in Myanmar.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

DEALING WITH NO. 2

 

In a momentous event China has cruised past Japan to become the world's second largest economy, behind only the US. That's no doubt a tremendous achievement that caps three decades of rapid Chinese growth, and that has helped hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty. However, Indians won't be alone in the world scratching their heads and wondering what's next. 


To give just an indicative example, the Indian economy was 80 per cent of the size of China's in 1990, but only 25 per cent now. What's imponderable is how this growing disproportion could affect Chinese strategic calculations. As of now there are signs that Beijing is growing more and more assertive not only on the world stage, but also in its immediate neighbourhood. It has, for example, asserted its "indisputable sovereignty" over the South China Sea, including the Spratly and Paracel islands variously claimed by neighbouring nations such as Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia. Beijing's territorial claims are leading to verbal duels with Washington. It's quite possible that as Beijing's confidence grows, it will become less and less amenable to settling the boundary dispute with India. On the contrary it could increasingly use its alliance with Islamabad to pressure India, making the prospect of India-Pakistan peace recede. If so, this could shape up as New Delhi's greatest foreign policy challenge. 


Any attempt to meet this challenge will require a sophisticated approach vis-a-vis the middle kingdom. First, we need to bring our economy up to par. We can't allow this economic disproportion to grow further, but should attempt to reverse it. That will not only enhance our bargaining power vis-a-vis China there's nothing Beijing respects more than economic strength it's worth doing for its own sake. Second, as a strategic hedge, we need to get over our Cold War hangovers and broadbase our relations with the West, whether in terms of trade, defence cooperation or energy security. As part of this policy, we need to deepen our ties with Japan and South East Asian nations as well. 


However, this is not to say that we look at China through the prism of suspicion. Engaging and pursuing better bilateral relations with Beijing is in New Delhi's interest. A primary requirement for this is the cultivation of greater China expertise in India. There's plenty to learn, as well, from Chinese successes in poverty alleviation and in building infrastructure. What's required is a supple and flexible foreign policy that takes into account the realities of a powerful neighbour, and economic policy that meshes with it. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

SLIPPING IN ANDHRA

 

The by-elections in Telangana should serve as a wake-up call for the Congress. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) swept the polls winning 11 of the 12 seats. The BJP candidate, supported by the TRS, won the other seat defeating state Congress chief D Srinivas. Add to this the support Jaganmohan Reddy has received for his odarpu yatra, which is pregnant with political overtones. Despite an unwritten gag order from the Congress leadership, MLAs have participated in the Jagan yatra. The situation doesn't augur well for the Congress. Andhra Pradesh under YSR had become the party's citadel in the south. The remarkable success in two consecutive assembly and Parliament elections had helped the Congress immensely. The party won 29 and 33 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats from the state in the 2004 and 2009 general elections, a tally unmatched in other states. This state of unrivalled Congress supremacy is now under threat. 


The Congress strategy to contain the pro-Telangana sentiment in the region by buying time has not succeeded. The TRS, which failed to make an impact in the general elections, has shown remarkable resilience to stay afloat, lead a movement and win assembly seats. The main opposition in the state, the Telugu Desam, seized an opportunity in the Babhli barrage issue to energise cadres. Chandrababu Naidu's water politics didn't help the party win any assembly seat, but it has helped the party reclaim the opposition space. Now if Jagan presses ahead with his claim for a larger role in state politics, Congress will have a task at hand. It will not be easy for chief minister K Rosaiah, an experienced administrator but lacking in charisma and energy, to keep the flock together and keep the party flag flying high

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

A PLAN B IN AFGHANISTAN

BRUCE RIEDEL

 

As the war in Afghanistan approaches its ninth anniversary next month, Americans and our allies are looking for alternatives to the high cost of maintaining almost 1,00,000 American and 50,000 European and other country troops in central Asia. War weariness is growing everywhere for understandable reasons. 


For now, US President Barack Obama has embarked on a bold gamble to try to reverse the damage done by seven years of neglect of the war by George Bush. The 90,000-plus documents leaked by WikiLeaks last week reveal tragically how the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) commanders in the field were starved of the resources they needed to fight and watched as the Taliban regrouped across the Durand line in Pakistan and made a spectacular comeback. 


By increasing our troops on the ground, adding considerable civilian resources and building a global coalition to back Afghanistan's recovery (symbolised by the Kabul conference), Obama is rightly trying to revive Afghanistan from the disaster he inherited. Many are proclaiming defeat already but, in a complex insurgency, it is far too soon to call it one way or another. 


In the best case, a year from now the president's strategy will be showing signs of modest success. In Afghanistan, the momentum of the Taliban insurgency will be broken, Kandahar will be a somewhat safer place and perhaps parts of the insurgency will be open to a political dialogue with the Hamid Karzai government. 

We will see if the Taliban or part of it is interested in reconciliation once they know that they are not on the path to inevitable victory as they think they are now. In Pakistan, the Taliban may be on the defensive as well and the al-Qaeda will be further degraded from drone operations and counterterrorist measures. 


If that is the case, a big if, then the US and NATO can begin the long process of handing gradually more control over to the Afghan national security forces. By increasing the salaries of Afghan troops last year we are already seeing growth in numbers and retention rates. This will take years and even when accomplished will require a substantial NATO residual presence to provide intelligence support and other help to the Afghans. And NATO will have to help fund the Afghan security forces for years to come. 


If the situation a year from now is not moving in the right direction, then Obama will face the same tough options he has looked at since his inauguration. He knows he can't cut and run. That would give al-Qaeda a world-changing victory, threaten the stability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as India and vastly increase the threat to the American homeland from a larger terrorist base. The future of NATO itself will be in doubt. 

So the alternative option will be to trim down the NATO presence in Afghanistan and focus on a smaller counterterrorist mission. Several analysts have put forward ways to do so. US vice-president Joe Biden has been associated in the press with this approach although he says he is firmly on board with the president's approach. But this option still requires America to have a significant military presence in Afghanistan. Ironically, it would look a lot like Bush's failed approach. 


In my view, this option could be best described as Fortress Kabul. NATO would concede much of the south and east of Afghanistan to the insurgents but would maintain a large base or bases in the north to wage drone and Special Forces attacks on al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists to try to keep them off balance. Rather than shortening the time frame for a complete American and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan, it would lengthen it. 

We would be committed to an open-ended containment approach to fighting terrorism with little hope of destroying the terrorist nest. The counterterrorist focused strategy accepts living in an Afghan quagmire for years. We could hope the Taliban agrees to talks with Kabul but there is no reason to see why they would. 

There are many flaws to this plan B but perhaps the worst is that it would remove any incentive for Pakistan to shut down the safe havens it has given the Taliban on its territory. On the contrary, Pakistan would have every reason to strengthen its ties with the Taliban as a hedge against further NATO retreat. It would require even more drone attacks in Pakistan to try to disrupt terror plots. The tension would be a major challenge for both Washington and Islamabad to manage, and increase the risk of another military coup in Pakistan. 


India has vital national security interests at stake in the success of Obama's strategy. When Obama visits New Delhi later this year, the first ever visit by an American president in his first term, he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh need to plan together for success. 


( The writer is a senior fellow at the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution.) 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'WE'VE A COMMON PAST, HISTORY, STRUGGLES AND HEROES'

 

Fakhar Zaman , noted Punjabi writer-politician from Pakistan, founded World Punjabi Congress (WPC) to bring together two Punjabs and promote the divided region's culture at the height of India-Pakistan tension during the Siachen crisis in 1984. Zaman, a key aide to late former Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto and the only Pakistani to receive Indian Punjab's Shiromani Sahitik Award, spoke to Sameer Arshad about the need for greater cultural exchanges to bridge the India-Pakistan gulf: 


How important are the two Punjabs to the India-Pakistan peace project? 

The key to improving ties lies in greater exchanges between the two Punjabs. There are around 110 million Punjabis on the either side of the border and a whopping 65 per cent Pakistanis speak Punjabi. The focus on shared culture and heritage could be a vital binding force between the two Punjabs and eventually the two countries. WPC has so far organised 24 international conferences in India, Pakistan and across the world with the emphasis on improving the ties between the two countries as well as promoting Punjabi language, culture and the shared Sufi heritage. 


How difficult has the road been so far? 

We've made a historical contribution but faced difficulties as well. I've been under the fanatical threat and my house in Lahore was attacked in 2001. The organisation has made a historical contribution in bringing the two countries together starting with its foundation in Lahore in 1984, which didn't go down well with the fanatics. The conference came in the backdrop of the Siachen conflict. WPC played a prominent role in promoting good relations when it organised a conference in 1986, even when the rapprochement seemed difficult. 


WPC talks about Punjabiyat. How would you define the concept? 

Punjabi culture or Punjabiyat is the ethos of tolerance. We need to revive Punjab's rich Sufi legacy. It's because of this legacy that Punjab historically stood up to bigotry. It's also about celebrating our heroes. Every year, WPC organises a march to commemorate Bhagat Singh's supreme sacrifice in Lahore on March 23. We lay a wreath on the spot on Lahore's Shadman Chowk, where the prison Bhagat Singh was hanged once stood. We've also decided to build a memorial for the Punjabi hero. We're also lobbying to rename Shadman Chowk as Shaheed Bhagat Singh Chowk. We expect that heroes from Pakistani Punjab would similarly be honoured across the border. We can have a Dulla Bhatti Road in Amritsar and what a great binding factor this could be. Bhatti was one of the great sons of the soil, who led a peasants' movement and was killed during Mughal emperor Akbar's reign. 


We've a common past, history, struggles and heroes. Let them be the binding force. We've so much in common to be friends and very little of what divides us. 


What can be the cultural confidence-building measures between the two countries? 


I think we've taken a lead in this. After i took over as the head of Pakistan Academy of Letters (Pakistan's equivalent of Sahitya Academy), we published a large volume on Amrita Pritam's poetry. We've also begun to translate Indian languages poetry into Urdu. Let intellectuals take the lead and isolate terrorists and not allow them to hold the subcontinent's overwhelming peace-loving people to ransom. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

A DANGEROUS GREETING

GEORGE N NETTO

 

Why do we shake hands when we meet someone? I suppose it's because shaking legs is not socially acceptable and our trotters are not prehensile. And how did the handshake the universally accepted form of greeting originate? My guess is that it was prehistoric man's way of ensuring that the stranger he was meeting didn't try to clobber him clasping his hand firmly was, perhaps, a foolproof way of preventing this. 


Today, the handshake has a variety of practitioners who are all too familiar to us. There is, for instance, the palm-crusher whose handshake unwittingly borders on sadism. Your digits are crushed in a vice-like grip, forcing you to manfully mask your grimace with a grin. It's no laughing matter, especially if your greeter happens to be a strapping, sausage-fingered six-footer like the one i met recently. My palm felt like pulp and my scrawny fingers ached. Yet, even as i winced inwardly, i managed to put on a facade of normalcy or rather stoicism that would've won me an Oscar! The guy, of course, was blissfully unaware of the damage he had inflicted. 

Another exponent of the crushing handshake was an American zoologist i knew back in the 1980s. A giant of a man, the heartiness of his handshake was directly linked to the cheerfulness of his mood the more effervescent he was, the more punishing was his well-intentioned handshake. Few who were introduced to him willingly chose to shake hands with him again, shrewdly resorting to the 'namaste' instead. Indeed, one of his 'victims' observed quite aptly, "Cliff's handshake would certainly come in handy as a tourniquet!" I myself was always wary of Cliff's effusive handshake my bony fingers wilted under his grip. Being introduced to him was sometimes a mild form of corporal punishment. 


Then there's the arm-wrencher whose aim, apparently, is to loosen your arm from its moorings. Of course, he doesn't succeed in doing so but he usually leaves your arm aching, especially if he happens to be a beefy guy. In fact, you feel it would be easier to wrench your hand out of a crocodile's jaws than his iron-fisted grip. His intentions, however, are not mala fide; it's just a case of unrestrained ebullience. 


There's also the hand-clinger the type who doesn't release your hand after a handshake but continues to clasp it while conversing with you. While some don't mind having their fingers massaged in this manner, many consider it unmanly and have learnt to artfully disengage their hands. A friend who is often subjected to this form of 'handling' says he's planning to stake a claim in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest, uninterrupted handshake! 


On the other hand, the passive handshaker usually from the fair sex has a soft, dainty or limp clasp so unlike the vice-like grip of the palm-crusher and the arm-wrencher. I suppose it's just that some men take the handshake far too literally. Perhaps such hand-grippers could be cured of their addiction by introducing them to one of those gigantic WWF wrestlers whose bone-crushing stunts we see on TV. Such an introduction would probably leave our desi hand-gripper wringing his own hands for a change instead of somebody else's. 


All in all, the way it's practised by many today, the handshake has degenerated into a refined form of arm-twisting or arm-wrestling. I've now hit upon a novel way to counter this. The next time i'm due to meet a known palm-crusher or arm-wrencher, i'm going to grease my own palm (for a change!) quite literally. Thus, besides disconcerting my greeter, i'll be able to slip out of his grasp unscathed! 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

STEP ONE IN THE VALLEY

 

Home Minister P. Chidambaram has been candid in his description of the situation in Kashmir as "not yet normal". Clearly, with protesters erupting in the cause-and-effect spin-cycle of irate stone-throwing crowds and deaths caused by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) firing, the clashes are deeply worrying for Delhi as well as Srinagar, not to mention for the ordinary people of Kashmir whose normal lives have been disrupted for the past two months. If the reported deaths of five protesters, including that of a 13-year-old, by CRPF fire last week isn't bad enough, the images of women joining young men in pelting security forces with stones — along with an image of a policeman stripped down to his underwear after being beaten by a mob returning to his post — tell a story that hasn't yet reached its climax, never mind its end. Yes, vested interests such as the Hurriyat (Gilani) have ensured that there is a method to this madness. But it would be wise to consider that the latest rupture between the Kashmir Street and the Valley's administrators is also a genuine show of frustration and protest, not just manufactured dissent fuelled by professional secessionist groups under the tutelage of Pakistan.

 

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah doesn't have an enviable job. The fact that Mr Abdullah and the Centre are seen as the common adversary by those protesting in Kashmir, adds to the mindgames that are sinking Kashmir into the proverbial quagmire. Mr Chidambaram has said that the Government of India has no reservations on "talking to our own people". Without crying blasphemy, he should consider the possibility of a divergence in the government's and many Kashmiris' definition of 'our own people'.

 

Curfew has been clamped in the Valley and, at this stage, the priority has to be to stop the violent action-reaction cycle. But the onus is on the governments in Srinagar and New Delhi to ensure that there are no more fatalities, no more unexplained 'disappearances' — considering that the latest round of deaths was caused reportedly after the CRPF 'defended' itself against a violent mob near Sopore protesting against the 'disappearance' of a teenager who was allegedly in police custody. Those willing to exploit the latest round of 'troubles' in Kashmir are being fuelled by fatality figures. Despite the difficulty, Srinagar and New Delhi must do all to ensure that there are no more deaths caused by security forces. Let them show — rather than tell — the Kashmiri people that it serves no one except vested secessionist interests for the Valley to go down the road of 'abnormalcy'.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

GUN-BOUT DIPLOMACY

 

If you are one of those who feel outraged that a Washington-based Pew Research Centre survey shows that three in four Pakistanis think India is a bigger threat than the Taliban or al-Qaeda, you could be looking down the wrong barrel. Of course, India is a bigger threat. And likewise, we feel that Pakistan is a bigger threat than the other two gentle outfits mentioned. Because with our wild-eyed brothers in al-Qaeda and the Taliban, what you see is what you get and don't you think that is a whole lot easier to deal with?

 

Take the recent foreign minister-level talks between S.M. Qureshi and S.M. Krishna. First, there is all that welcome reception waste of time, the handshaking and inquiries about the family and, finally, thank heavens, a bit of hostility. But not before the old do-drop-in-again routine. Now say, tongue-tied Krishna or fork-tongued Qureshi were dropping in on the Taliban or al-Qaeda for a natter on peace. The welcome would be a gun salute, at the very least or a Stinger missile greeting, preferably aimed at the visiting party. If the caller got past that, there wouldn't be any of that nonsense of incremental talks, it would be the Taliban brand of 'my way or the highway to heaven' diplomacy. "Ahmed, bring out the scimitar for the exalted dignitary to get a feel of how well we keep our armaments."

 

This could serve to solve the problems between the two sides lickety split instead of all this yammering about confidence-building. One look at that blade and you'd be flooded with confidence and other feelings. Our only regret is that we have been led up the Khyber Pass by so-called experts calling for the need for greater incremental engagement. If they had seen the light earlier, we could have had a happy celebration in Tora Bora, had a bit of a blast and ended it all in a blaze of glory.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY

ASHOK MALIK

 

As New Delhi prepares for the Commonwealth Games, the legacy question is looming large. This refers to the civic infrastructure and sporting facilities the Games will leave behind. Typical of India, it also points to the mopping-up operations that will be required.

 

Here, the experience of the 1982 Asian Games may be instructive. Those Games were put together by the Asian Games Special Organising Committee (AGSOC), expected to be disbanded shortly after the closing ceremony in December 1982. It is sobering to learn AGSOC is still around. Its secretary general, K.S. Bains, still attends office. Now long retired from the IAS, he does not draw a salary but continues to avail appropriate perquisites, including the services of a personal assistant.

 

For 28 years AGSOC has been locked in a legal battle with a Dubai-based contractor. It cannot be dissolved till its court liabilities have been met. Recently, AGSOC won the case against the contractor and is now hiring lawyers in Dubai to force the offending company to adhere to the Indian court's verdict and pay compensation. Even if the Dubai lawyers waive their fees, AGSOC will earn itself no more than Rs 1.5 crore. In the past quarter-century, the government has spent well above that in keeping the two-man AGSOC office alive!

 

Horror stories like these add to the growing scepticism about those who are organising the Commonwealth Games. Indeed, alleged financial swindles related to the Games are expected to burst upon India before the year is out. They will make the Indian Premier League (IPL) scandal look like child's play.

 

For one, the sums involved are much larger. Also, in the end, IPL was about private money and embezzlement. The Commonwealth Games involve taxpayers' money. For instance, it is unclear why sponsorship funds paid by a public sector company on the advice of its administering ministry are shared between the Commonwealth Games organisers and a mysterious Singapore-registered 'marketing company'. Is this a replica of the Mauritius entities that picked up 'facilitation fees' on major IPL deals?

 

At the root of the Commonwealth Games mess is the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and its handpicked Organising Committee (OC). The OC is responsible for the actual conduct of the Games. Its chairman, Suresh Kalmadi, has divided the OC's work among 24 sub-committees, some of which have 64 members. The OC has also hired 450 employees.

 

How is the OC meeting its expenses? To run the Games, and pay allied costs such as multi-year salaries to 450 unknown professionals, the OC had sought Rs 400 crore in its original projections of 2003. That sum has gone up to Rs 1,620 crore and the OC now demands more, arguing it has no money to pay caterers and feed athletes. As for the 450 employees, the government has no record of who has been hired and how much he or she is being paid. Some activists have moved a petition under the Right to Information Act and hope to get an answer.

 

In addition, the OC has also sought Rs 687 crore for 'overlays' — temporary fittings at stadiums already built and handed over to it by government agencies. The procurement of these temporary fittings will be left to the OC and it will choose the vendors. At the end of the Games, it will no doubt declare that all the temporary fittings have been irreversibly damaged and the Rs 687 crore should be written off.

 

To be fair, Kalmadi and the OC have been insisting they are only borrowing money from the government and will pay back the Rs 1,620 crore, the Rs 687 crore and whatever else they get. They propose to do this from the Games revenue. How feasible is this?

 

The 2003 bid projections estimated revenue collections worth Rs 1,708 crore. So far sponsorship deals of about Rs 400 crore have been signed. Much of the money has come from PSUs. Even if this money is used to repay the government — and given the OC's record that is extremely unlikely — it will only recycle taxpayers' money. Where are the incremental earnings?

 

Brazen to the last, the IOA has gone and bid for the 2019 Asian Games (the Olympic Council of Asia or OCA has moved the date from the scheduled 2018). It appears the economic recession has scared away other potential hosts and New Delhi may actually win. To add to the frightening prospect, the IOA has recommended the term of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee be extended to 2019.

 

The IOA decided to bid for the Asian Games in December 2009. It informed the OCA but forgot to tell the government of India, only sending an email on April 28, 2010. After eight reminders, it finally came up with a vague plan in mid-July. This gives an indicative budget, allegedly based on estimates of the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. In 2019, the IOA says it can host Delhi's second Asian Games for $401 million. It has even promised revenues amounting to $450 million.

 

Believe it at your peril.

 

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

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NO PLAN A, NO PLAN B IN THE HOUSE

PANKAJ VOHRA

 

The first week of the monsoon session of Parliament has demonstrated that the Treasury Benches and the opposition have both adopted a faulty strategy even as they are blaming each other for holding up the proceedings. The deadlock is likely to continue for a while.

 

The ruling coalition must be having anxious moments going by the display of unity among the Opposition parties on the crucial price rise issue. It would have done well to split its detractors. One way would have been to raise the Sohrabuddin issue in Parliament where not only its constituents but even the Left and other secular parties would have gone hammer and tongs at the BJP.

 

In fact, the saffron brigade would have found itself isolated. Since the issue is already hogging the headlines, the treasury benches could have created a wedge in the opposition ranks quite effectively.

 

Equally surprising is the decision of both the BJP and the Left to move an adjournment motion on the price rise issue knowing full well that the Speaker will not permit it. The price rise matter is so overarching that it touches a chord everywhere. There are elements even within the ruling coalition that concur with the opposition on this. But since the Speaker has already given her ruling, discussions will now perhaps be held under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha under which any matter can be raised. This rule, like the adjournment motion, can also lead to voting on the subject.

 

However, going by the gravity of the subject, the BJP or any of the opposition parties could have insisted on moving a no-confidence motion under the conduct of rules of business of the Lok Sabha under Rule 198. Any member can move this motion and if it has the support of a stipulated number of MPs, it has to be taken up as an overriding priority. The motion entails voting and the Speaker cannot sit on judgment if its movers do it as per procedure.

 

Many may argue that since the UPA government had demonstrated its strength on a cut motion during the budget session, this move would be counterproductive. After all, the UPA has a majority in its favour on paper. However, a no-confidence motion is also a tool to ascertain the kind of support this government enjoys on the price rise issue. Fence-sitters who were supporting the adjournment motion but were against voting on the subject will also have to commit themselves on the floor.

 

The division on a no-confidence motion will reflect partywise views on the issue and at the same time will compel the UPA government to take serious remedial steps. If the fence-sitters abstain from the voting, this will go against them in the state assembly or subsequent parliamentary polls.

 

The Opposition, in fact, has nothing to lose from any angle. If the ruling coalition wins, it will be that it was expected but the issue of price rise will certainly come under the kind of scrutiny it needs. It will require all the resources of the treasury benches to get past this. Once the game is settled, the normal business of Parliament can be transacted.

 

It appears that the Opposition, by going in for a motion under rule 184, has exhibited its lack of confidence in taking the government head on. Unless it feels that once the 184 option is exhausted, it can still corner the government under Rule 198 later at a more vulnerable time. Rule 198 may thus be its nuclear weapon at that juncture.

 

To ward off this seeming embarrassment, the treasury benches may resort to other tactics of dividing the Opposition and to ward off any visible threat. But its most effective tool at this moment is the Sohrabuddin/Amit Shah case. This has the potential of pitting the entire Parliament against an isolated BJP. But in the scheme of things as they exist at the moment, good strategy is the casualty in the game of realpolitik. Between us.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

SPACE STATION DRAMA AS COOLING SYSTEM FAILS

 

A failure of the cooling system on the International Space Station forced astronauts to reroute power Sunday as NASA planned emergency spacewalks to fix the problem.

 

One of two cooling loops shut down on Saturday night, triggering alarms throughout the orbiting station, which is manned by three Russian and three American astronauts.

 

NASA said the crew is not in any danger. But an attempt overnight to close the circuit breaker and restart the pump module that feeds the vital ammonia to the cooling system failed.

 

Astronauts closed down two of the gyroscopes that position the station as they rerouted power from the Destiny Laboratory research module to keep the temperature system stable. One gyroscope was later put back on line.

 

"The station is in a stable configuration with most systems receiving cooling and many systems operating with redundancy following the installation of jumper cables from the Destiny Lab's power system overnight," the US space agency said.

 

"The crew is not in any danger and is monitoring systems and relaxing on an otherwise off duty day," the statement added.

 

"Temperatures on the main bus switching units, which route power to various systems, are a little higher than normal, but well within normal parameters and are stable."

 

Despite the reassurances, NASA approved a preliminary plan for two US astronauts, Doug Wheelock and Tracy Caldwell Dyson, to conduct a spacewalk to fetch a replacement pump module.

 

"Although a final decision on a new spacewalk plan is still pending engineering and timeline analysis, the most likely scenario would call for an initial spacewalk no earlier than Thursday by Wheelock and Caldwell Dyson to replace the pump module and structurally bolt it into place on the S1 truss, with an additional spacewalk by the duo two or three days later to mate fluid and electrical connections," a statement said.

 

A briefing to discuss the latest developments and spacewalk replanning was scheduled for 2000 GMT on Monday.

 

According to NASA figures, without thermal controls the ISS's sun-facing side would roast at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 Celsius), while the outpost's dark side would plunge to some minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit (-157 Celsius).

 

A statement posted some years ago on NASA's website suggested: "There might be a comfortable spot somewhere in the middle of the Station, but searching for it wouldn't be much fun!"

 

Before the module can be replaced, any residual ammonia must first be pumped out of the system, according to NASA.

 

Wheelock and Caldwell Dyson had already been scheduled for a spacewalk on Thursday to do routine maintenance work.

 

The ISS, which orbits 350 kilometers (220 miles) above Earth, is a sophisticated platform for scientific experiments, helping test the effects of long-term space travel on humans, a must for any trip to distant Mars.

 

NASA has set November 1 for the launch of space shuttle Discovery's mission to the space station. Endeavour will blast off on February 26 on the final shuttle mission to the station before the space shuttle program is phased out.

 

Once the program ends, the United States will rely on Russia's Soyuz rockets to carry its astronauts to the space station until a commercial US launcher can be developed. That is scheduled for 2015.

 

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T tion c wo Indian scientists -- Ajay Anil Gurjar and Siddhartha A. Ladhake -- are wielding sophisticated mathematics to dissect and analyse the traditional medita- chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six tion chanting sound `Om'. The `Om team' has published six monographs in academic journals, which plumb certain acoustic subtlety of Om that they say is "the divine sound".

Om has many variations. In a study published in the Inter- national Journal of Computer Science and Network Security, the researchers explain: "It may be very fast, several cycles per second. Or it may be slower, several seconds for each cycling of [the] Om mantra. Or it might become extremely slow, with the mmmmmm sound continuing in the mind for much longer periods but still pulsing at that slow rate." The important technical fact is that no matter what form of Om one chants at whatever speed, there's always a basic `Omness' to it. Both Gurjar, principal at Amravati's Sipna College of Engineering and Technology, and Ladhake, an assistant professor in the same institution, specialise in electronic signal processing. They now sub-specialise in analysing the one very special signal. In the introductoy paper, Gurjar and Ladhake explain that, "Om is a spiritual mantra, out- standing to fetch peace and calm."

No one has explained the biophysi- cal processes that underlie the `fetch- ing of calm' and taking away of thoughts. Gurjar and Ladhake's time-fre- quency analysis is a tiny step along that hitherto little-taken branch of the path of enlightenment. They apply a mathematical tool called wavelet transforms to a digital recording of a person chanting `Om'. Even people with no mathematical back- ground can appreciate, on some level, one of the blue-on- white graphs included in the monograph. This graph, the authors say, "depicts the chanting of `Om' by a normal per- son after some days of chanting". The image looks like a pile of nearly identical, slightly lopsided pancakes held together with a skewer, the whole stack lying sideways on a table. To behold it is to see, if nothing else, repetition.

Much as people chant the sound `Om' over and over again, Gurjar and Ladhake repeat much of the same analy- sis in their other five studies, managing each time to chip away at some slightly different mathematico-acoustical fine point. The Guardian

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TEXTUAL VIOLENCE

 

Girls gone wild" is the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University Vice Chancellor's idea of conversation about the state of contemporary letters. "There is a race among women writers to prove that they are the greatest prostitute... The title of a recently published autobiography of a highly promoted and overrated writer could be 'How Many Times in How Many Beds'."

 

Vibhuti Narain Rai, a 1975-batch IPS officer, had been appointed vice chancellor of MGIHU in 2008. The university was specially set up to nurture and promote excellence in Hindi literature. Rai, in an interview with the Bharatiya Jnanpith's Naya Gyanodaya journal, decried the shamelessness of women who wrote about "infidelity" in the name of feminism. This is, of course, textbook misogyny, one that can only understand women in idealised angel/whore terms — it is deeply threatened by any evidence of a woman's humanity.

 

But Rai's revulsion, expressed in clear and considered terms, is exactly what generations of women have to contend with. English professor Elaine Showalter signposts the story of women writers into four stages — "feminine," "feminist," "female," and finally, "free", where first they imitate the dominant tradition, protest it, discard it to search themselves, and finally write with real autonomy and abandon, and gender ceases to matter. The anxieties and hostility they evoke from men — what Nathaniel Hawthorne called the "damned mob of scribbling women" — forge them into a constituency, no matter how wide and various their concerns. While his attitudes only reveal that rampant sexualised insecurity, Vibhuti Narain Rai heads an institution dedicated to literature; it is indeed incredible that he thought he could get away with his casual verbal violence. (Lawrence Summers lost his job as Harvard president for a much smaller sin, all things considered: for merely floating the thought-bubble about women's under-representation in the sciences, and the reasons underlying them.) Bigotry and coarseness of this kind must be followed with serious consequences.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LALU'S VOICEOVER

 

In the opening days of the monsoon session of Parliament, as each opposition party used the issue of price rise in part to work out its space in the politial spectrum, Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal too joined the chorus. He admitted that his party was low in strength — just four MPs in the Lok Sabha — but he said his voice was strong enough to make these four MPs count for a lot more. Lalu's political idiom allows him to convey more than what he states, and he knows that the current composition of the Lok Sabha gives his party leverage in excess of what the numbers may ordinarily indicate. Yet, as the final lap to the Bihar assembly elections begins, his political clout in national politics could be on the line.

 

Last week, the Election Commission derecognised the RJD as a national party. The party had got just 5.03 per cent of the vote in the Jharkhand assembly elections last year, short of the 6 per cent it needed to notch up the requisite four states to enjoy the benefits of a national party. It argued that in alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP they had got more than 6 per cent of the vote, but the EC was not swayed. In any case, the derecognition is no big setback to the party, as it knows its future will be made or unmade in the Bihar elections. However, the argument does reveal the RJD's endeavour. Ever since the Congress resolved to go it alone in the 2009 general elections, the RJD has been searching how to build a social and political coalition in order to approximate its dominance of the 1990s and 2000s. Its subsequent unity with the Samajwadi Party and the LJP is a way of cornering a patch, away from the NDA and searchingly vis-à-vis the

 

Congress-led UPA.

 

In the complex, sliced-and-diced social coalitions of Bihar's politics, Lalu knows better than anybody else the importance of appearing to be a viable challenger — and thereby getting the numbers to get his possible allies interested. Therefore, how he throws his voice in the clamourous run-up to the assembly elections may be crucial.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NOT MODI'S WAY

 

For the Bharatiya Janata Party, the reinvention that should logically follow two successive general election defeats is not quite proceeding apace.

 

Any changes have stopped short of the comprehensive overhaul of its rhetoric and ideology that is genuinely essential for its reinvigoration as India's principal opposition party. And that the BJP is confused as to its direction became even clearer this week through two separate events.

 

The first was the reappearance in the national consciousness of what some are now, carefully, calling "Hindutva terror". Not, fortunately, through another terrorist act, but through various revelations and moves by the government — such as transferring the responsibility for investigation of the Samjhauta Express blast to the National Investigation Agency — that forced the BJP's ideological gurus in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to respond. One of them, Ram Madhav, told The Sunday Express that the Sangh was concerned that its image would be "sullied" by the association. The BJP, too, must know that this is the most scalding of hot potatoes; its spokesmen are moving with care, and have avoided directly tackling the question so far. Presumably it is the party's opinion that this is sufficient to insulate it from any blowback. But is it really enough? The second development, from Gujarat, should give them pause. Stung by the arrest of a key aide and the request from the CBI that cases against the former minister of state for home be transferred to another jurisdiction, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi lashed out in the manner he knows best: he said that this was an "insult to Gujarat", and specifically to its lawyers and judges. This sort of irresponsible invective is Modi's stock in trade, and no longer surprises. It may even, as before, keep him secure behind the ramparts of his Fortress Gujarat. But nothing is clearer than that his strategy of head-on, rhetorical assault will not work for the BJP nationally. The question of complicity in a faked encounter is a matter of substance and should be, and by all appearances will be, settled in a court of law; and the BJP, as the main opposition party at the national level, is expected to concede this.

 

If the party takes a longer view, this is instead the moment the BJP has been waiting for, the moment of reinvention. The party should take the conversation higher. It should accept that some fanatics in the Hindutva right may be willing to use terrorist methods. And it could then once again be the party that is tough on terror.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

DO WE NEED A HEALTH MINISTRY?

BIBEK DEBROY 

 

 Inflation, railways, India-Pakistan talks, Kashmir, CBI, Sharad Pawar, Bhopal — there is plenty of stuff for MPs to discuss during the monsoon session. In addition, the health minister wants an entire day (or half a day) to discuss population stabilisation. He has written a letter to the prime minister to that effect, stating: "Over the last decade, the family planning programme per se lost focus, adversely impacting our ability to achieve the desired level of population growth. Of particular concern is the high fertility that continues to persist in almost all the northern states and Orissa."

 

Here is the horror story according to Ghulam Nabi Azad. Between 2005 and 2010, China's annual rate of population growth has been 0.6 per cent, against India's 1.4 per cent. Around 2030, India will become the most populous country on earth — with a population of 1.6 billion by 2050. Gujarat and Haryana will reach replacement levels of fertility in 2012, Assam in 2019, Rajasthan and Bihar in 2021, Chhattisgarh in 2022, Madhya Pradesh in 2025 and Uttar Pradesh in 2027. I wonder if the health minister has read Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb. If not, he should. And he should recommend it as mandatory reading for all MPs. In 1968, Ehrlich wrote: "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980." And: "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks that India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971."

 

I wonder if the health minister has read Ashish Bose's Head Count, published in 2010. If not, he should. And he should recommend that as mandatory reading to all MPs too, because he might obtain some new insights on demographic transition. But before Bose, no doubt the health minister knows that the First Five Year Plan document, in a chapter on health, had a sub-section titled "Family Planning". This said: "The recent increase in the population of India and the pressure exercised on the limited resources of the country have brought to the forefront the urgency of the problem of family planning and population control... The main appeal for family planning is based on considerations of the health and welfare of the family. Family limitation or spacing of the children is necessary and desirable in order to secure better health for the mother and better care and upbringing of children. Measures directed to this end should, therefore, form part of the public health programme."

 

Thus, way back in 1951, India was the first country in the world to talk about family planning. Everything that Azad wants now — late marriages, delayed first children, proper spacing — was on the agenda in 1951 too. The health ministry's website, in the section on family welfare, has slogans like "Control Population" and "Have Fun with One". This also has the National Population Policy, which tells us that in 1952 India was the first country in the world to introduce family planning.

 

Has this not worked and why has it not worked? A quote floats around, "Development is the Best Contraceptive". It's not very clear who first coined it. It may have been Dr Karan Singh, as minister for health and family planning, at the First World Population Conference in Bucharest in 1974. It may have been Indira Gandhi, or it may have been Ashish Bose. There may be high rates of population growth in some smaller states or union territories. But the key ones are larger states mentioned in the health minister's letter — Bihar, UP, MP, Rajasthan and Orissa. In attitudes towards population bombs, one detects an element of paternalism on part of those who formulate policies and they are naturally those who aren't poor. The poor don't know what is good for them. They breed like rabbits. There must be coercive contraceptive practices. Hence, there is sneaky admiration for forcible sterilisation during the Emergency and China's one-child policies. Such coercion not only distorts population pyramids, it also tends to be anti-women. We have had coercion after a fashion in panchayat elections in Haryana, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, MP and Himachal Pradesh and there are studies to show how these have restricted women's choice. Therefore, there are understandable reasons why Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and UP have not experimented with coercion.

 

Why is population a liability rather than an asset? Why was Ehrlich wrong? In part, because he failed to anticipate India's Green Revolution. There is a second green revolution every prime minister and every government since 1991 have talked about. This includes Dr Manmohan Singh in several speeches and interviews. With a second green revolution, we should have no food security issues. Nor should we have issues connected with water, land, or other natural resources, and even urban planning. Unless we assume we won't be able to reform and will continue to use land, natural resources and labour inefficiently, population shouldn't be a problem. There is a quote ascribed to Mao, about every mouth coming with two hands attached. We can't have it both ways. Logically, we can't deride a large population and simultaneously salivate at the demographic dividend, which will accrue in the BIMARU states, with Orissa added. Implicit in paternalistic beliefs is a mindset that poor people aren't productive. They don't contribute to the GDP. Therefore, by extrapolation, murders of poor people are good for the cause of the GDP.

 

Since 1976, the Chinese adopted a policy of "later, longer, fewer", which eventually became the coercive one-child policy. Surely, we don't want to follow China in becoming a country that becomes grey before it becomes wealthy, with all its adverse consequences. As it is, India's demographic dividend will whittle away beyond 2040. Of course, one wants "later, longer, fewer", but that should be the outcome of natural and voluntary choice. BIMARU and Orissa fare ill on every development indicator — urbanisation, education (including women's literacy), skills, physical infrastructure, drinking water, poverty, health (mortality, morbidity). Several of these are outside the health ministry's ambit. But some, like infant mortality rate (IMR) and couple protection rates are under Azad's purview. Why are IMR figures (for 2002) 61 in Bihar, 85 in MP, 87 in Orissa, 78 in Rajasthan and 80 in UP? Why are couple protection rates 21.2 per cent in Bihar, 45.9 per cent in MP, 37.6 per cent in Orissa, 36.1 per cent in Rajasthan and 38.0 per cent in UP? If there is going to be a debate in Parliament, let's have one on why these numbers aren't dropping fast enough. Let's pin the health ministry down on outlays versus outcomes. If these are state subjects, let's debate on whether we need a Central health ministry.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist

 

express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

NEW RULES FOR A NEW WORLD

MANISH TEWARI 

 

 As the 21st century unfolds, India's power dynamic will be determined by its ability to finesse its strategic dilemmas and manage complimentary yet adversarial relationships.

 

The rubric that now includes multilateral conversations on the economic meltdown, trade and climate change will become even more complex, leading to a reassessment of the very basis of national interest and global engagement. Some of the triggers of this reappraisal are the following.

 

What is India today and what part of India does foreign policy seek to serve? Is it defined by geographical features alone or does it include oil and gas interests in Africa, Latin America, Russia and the Middle East? Does it also include the diaspora's resources and Indian business empires? How do you then define national interest, and consequently, the concept of securing it? If the basis of foreign policy is to serve national interests, is it not a duty to serve the corporate sector as well where 74 per cent of India's GDP and economic interests lie?

 

Whom do we engage with, since Indian interests are impacted by more than just nations — there are non-state actors, rogue nations, private players. Should foreign policy be readjusted to account for these? Is it time to develop back-channels with non-state actors? Should India informally engage with radical groups if doing so protects us?

 

How do we deal with the Microsofts and GEs, corporate entities that shape the development agenda of India more than any sovereign nation? Many such conglomerates have more impact on India's GDP than any of our neighbours do, yet we do not engage with them.

 

Policy frameworks moving from a nation-centric to an issue-centric approach, with no permanent enemies or allies, clearly pose a new challenge. How can we redefine the conventional framework for alliances and yet secure the national interest? For example, India has voted against Iran on the alleged violation of the NPT, but it needs Iran for its hydrocarbon needs. The US might oppose India's economic relationship with Iran, and yet the US and India are to remain good partners. Another instance is the India-China collaboration on climate negotiations and trade talks, despite the boundary issue and historical hostilities.

 

All these nuances imply a new complexity in foreign policy-making. However, as the prime minister has pointed out, we still lack a strategic culture. We need structured intellectual inputs on strategic dilemmas and appropriate policy. The fracas over the Indo-US nuclear deal and now, the nuclear liability bill, are glaring examples. Almost all the drivers of India's security and threat response frameworks are going to be tested by a "capability and capacity" deficit. Managing this gap is India's central policy challenge.

 

Unfortunately, the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), meant to coordinate the inputs of different ministries and departments, could have done much more had it not been for inherent structural limitations. First, ministries/ departments would not be formulating policy through their own narrow prisms, and second, the intelligence-gathering/ collating body would not have been responsible for assessments as well.

 

India must evolve the intellectual architecture to support it as one of the poles of a multilateral world. There should be an Office of Strategic Assessments (OSA), formed through an act of Parliament, which can draw upon the best talent available in government, civil society and the private sector, with access to both classified and public information.

 

The OSA can subsume the existing NSCS, the office that services the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and the Strategic Policy Group (SPG). It may be headed by the national security advisor or any other independent person reporting directly to the PM (the Australian model of the Office of National Assessments may be a good example to look at, given that it sits between their internal and external intelligence services, although its autonomy is guaranteed by an act of Parliament).

 

Moreover, the act of Parliament would provide insulation, to the extent that legislation can, so that the OSA is not pressured into providing command assessments that suit the requirements of the administration in office. It would be tasked to provide impartial assessment, however unpleasant it may be, and an oversight committee could be set up. That level of hard-headed assessment is what India requires, as it charts its course in the next decade.

 

It would provide a cushion of expert advice to fall back on, as

 

India tries to reorient positions that may cause discomfort to the wider political establishment, too long used to outdated posturing. It could be one of the building blocks of a reinvigorated India.

 

The writer is a lawyer and Congress MP. Views are personal

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'HE REALISED THE IMPORTANCE OF ELIMINATING CASTE-BASED LEADERSHIP AS A FACTOR IN KERALA POLITICS'

P. C. ALEXANDER 

 

 When death takes away a distinguished personality from our midst it has become very common to pay tribute to his memory by stating that it has left a void which can hardly be filled. If we look at the services which the late Mr K.M. Mathew rendered to journalism during the half-century he was closely associated with the Malayala Manorama, we will discover the versatility of his talents, the breadth of his interests, and the innovative nature of the various new journalistic ventures he started during this period.

 

Most people will remember Mr K.M. Mathew as a skilled expert in journalistic management. From a circulation of about 31,000 at the time of the demise of his illustrious father Mr K.C. Mammen Mapillai, he raised the Manorama to the status of the largest circulation-daily in an Indian language. This certainly was a great achievement. But what made him truly great was the fact that he stood for certain great moral values and principles and never sacrificed any of them for commercial reasons. I had the privilege of knowing him during our college years, and I can say with full confidence that those who have admired Mr Mathew have done so because of his innate gentlemanliness and goodness.

 

The most important contribution which Mr Mathew made to public life in Kerala, I would say, was the promotion of harmony and cooperation between different caste groups in the state. The Manorama under the leadership of his father had become a virulent critic of the Diwan of Travancore Sir C.P. Ramasamy Iyer in the pre-independence period. Iyer had warned Mr Mammen Mapillai that his newspaper and the bank of which he was chairman, the Travancore National and Quilon Bank, would have to pay a very heavy price for it; but Mr Mammen Mapillai was not willing to change his support to the state Congress movement for responsible government. Ultimately the newspaper as well as the bank were closed down by the government.

 

Politics in Travancore during the pre-independence period was largely led by leaders of caste organisations representing the interest of certain important castes in the state, but after independence, when Travancore became part of the new Indian state, Mr Mathew realised the importance of eliminating caste and caste-based leadership as a factor in politics, and supporting the state Congress as a full-fledged political party. Though not directly involved in politics, those who knew about his work from behind the scenes understood the importance of his contribution to the elimination of caste-based political leadership in the state.

 

In this connection I am reminded of the effective role Mr Mathew played in defusing tension in Kerala that arose from the discovery of an old church building in a place called Nilakkal in north Travancore. Some of the leaders of the Hindu and Christian communities took a very uncompromising stand about rebuilding the church there, as it was on the way to the pilgrimage to the famous Sabarimala temple. However, through quiet diplomacy and very skilful handling of the situation, a few people like Mr Mathew were successful in finding a compromise which was acceptable to both the communities, and today the church in Nilakkal has become the symbol of communal and caste harmony in the state.

 

I should also mention the personal contribution which Mr. Mathew made to encourage talent in elocution among the young students of the state. The All Kerala Balajana Sakhyam, founded by Mr Mammen Mapillai, became very active among the student community in Kerala because of the assistance and patronage which the Manorama could extend to the young students. Mr Mathew was present on most occasions at the awards ceremony as a gesture of encouragement to the competitors. The annual elocution competition held all over Kerala, and the final award of prizes to the winners in the elocution competition, have become an excellent location for training in speech-making for the state's young students.

 

I join the thousands of Mr K.M. Mathew's friends and admirers in paying my humble tribute to the memory of a

truly great and good man.

 

The writer, a former Rajya Sabha MP, governor of Maharashtra, and high commissioner to the United Kingdom, was principal secretary to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A CASE OF EXPLODED MYTHS

 

Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, has been accused of many bad things in its own country. It has been held responsible for rigging elections, sponsoring violent sectarian groups and running torture chambers for political dissidents. More recently, it has been accused of abducting Pakistanis and handing them over to the United States for cash.

 

But last week — after thousands of classified United States Army documents were released by WikiLeaks, and American and British officials and pundits accused the ISI of double-dealing in Afghanistan — the Pakistani news media were very vocal in their defence of their spies. On talk show after talk show, the ISI's accusers in the West were criticised for short-sightedness and shifting the blame to Pakistan for their doomed campaign in Afghanistan.

 

Suddenly, the distinction between the state and the state within the state was blurred. It is our ISI that is being accused, we felt. How, we wondered, can the Americans have fallen for raw intelligence provided by paid informants and, in many cases, Afghan intelligence? And why shouldn't Pakistan, asked the pundits, keep its options open for a post-American Afghanistan?

 

More generally, the WikiLeaks fallout brought back ugly memories, reminding Pakistanis what happens whenever we get involved with the Americans. In fact, one person at the centre of the document dump is our primary object lesson for staying away from America's foreign adventures.

 

Hameed Gul, now a retired general, led the ISI during the end years of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and together with his CIA friends unwittingly in the 1990s spurred the mujahedeen to turn Kabul — the city they had set out to liberate — into rubble. According to the newly released documents, Gul met with Qaeda operatives in Pakistan in 2006 and told them to "make the snow warm in Kabul ... set Kabul aflame."

 

This would seem highly sinister except that, today, Gul is nothing more than a glorified television evangelist and, as the columnist Nadir Hassan noted, "known only for being on half a dozen talk shows simultaneously." He is also, for Pakistanis, a throwback to the lost years of our American-backed military dictatorships, a stark reminder of why we distrust the US.

 

The ISI and the CIA have colluded twice in the destruction of Afghanistan. Their complicity has brought war to Pakistan's cities. After every round of cloak-and-dagger games, they behave like a squabbling couple who keep getting back together and telling the world that they are doing it for the children's sake. But whenever these two reunite, a lot of children's lives are wrecked.

 

In the West, the ISI is often described as ideologically allied to the Taliban. But Pakistan's military-security establishment has only one ideology, and it's not Islamism. It's spelled I-N-D-I-A. It will do anybody's bidding if it's occasionally allowed to show India a bit of muscle.

 

Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani Army chief, has just been given an unexpected three-year extension in his office, due in large part, it is said, to American pressure on Islamabad. Yet Gen. Kayani headed the ISI during the period that the WikiLeaks documents cover. Since he became the head of the Pakistan army — and a frequent host to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — the number of drone attacks on Pakistani territory have increased substantially. It seems he has found a way to overcome his ISI past.

 

While he generally keeps a low profile, Gen. Kayani in February gave an off-the-record presentation to Pakistani journalists. His point was clear: Pakistan's military remains India-centric. His explanation was simple: we go by the enemy's capacity, not its immediate intentions. This came in a year when Pakistan lost more civilians and soldiers than it has in any war with India.

 

Yet it has become very clear that an overwhelming majority of Pakistani people do not share the army's India obsession or its yearning for "strategic depth" — that is, a continuing deadly muddle — in Afghanistan. They want a peaceful settlement with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir and a safer neighbourhood. None of the leading parties in Parliament made a big deal about India, Afghanistan or jihad in their election campaigns. They were elected on promises of justice, transparency and reasonably priced electricity.

 

Lately, Americans seem to have woken up to the fact that there is something called a Parliament and a civil society in Pakistan. But even so, it seems that Americans are courting the same ruling class — the military elite's civilian cousins — that has thrived on American aid and obviously wants an even closer relationship with Washington. A popular TV presenter who interviewed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit later jibed, "What kind of close relationship is this? I don't even get invited to Chelsea's wedding?"

 

Pakistan's military and civil elite should take a good look around before they pitch another marquee and invite their American friends over for tea and war talk. There are a lot of hungry people looking in, and the strung lights are sucking up electricity that could run a small factory, or illuminate a village. Besides, they're not likely to know what WikiLeaks is — they've been too busy cleaning up after their masters' guests.

 

Hanif, the former head of the BBC's Urdu service, is the author of 'A Case of Exploding Mangoes'

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE GREAT (DOUBLE) GAME

 

The trove of WikiLeaks about the faltering US war effort in Afghanistan has provoked many reactions, but for me it contains one clear message. It's actually an old piece of advice your parents may have given you before you went off to college: "If you are in a poker game and you don't know who the sucker is, it's probably you." In the case of the Great Game of Central Asia, that's us.

 

Best I can tell from the WikiLeaks documents and other sources, we are paying Pakistan's army and intelligence service to be two-faced. Otherwise, they would be just one-faced and 100 per cent against us. The same could probably be said of Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai. But then everyone out there is wearing a mask — or two.

 

China supports Pakistan, seeks out mining contracts in Afghanistan and lets America make Afghanistan safe for Chinese companies, all while smiling at the bloody nose America is getting in Kabul because anything that ties down the US military makes China's military happy. America, meanwhile, sends its soldiers to fight in Afghanistan at the same time that it rejects an energy policy that would begin to reduce our oil consumption, which indirectly helps to fund the very Taliban schools and warriors our soldiers are fighting against.

 

So why put up with all this duplicity? Is President Obama just foolish?

 

It is more complicated. This double game goes back to 9/11. That terrorist attack was basically planned, executed and funded by radical Pakistanis and Saudis. And we responded by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? The short answer is because Pakistan has nukes that we fear and Saudi Arabia has oil that we crave.

 

Pakistan, 63 years after its founding, still exists not to be India. The Pakistani Army is obsessed with what it says is the threat from India — and keeping that threat alive is what keeps the Pakistani Army in control of the country and its key resources. The absence of either stable democracy in Pakistan or a decent public education system only swells the ranks of the Taliban and other Islamic resistance forces there. Pakistan thinks it must control Afghanistan for "strategic depth" because, if India dominated Afghanistan, Pakistan would be wedged between the two.

 

Alas, if Pakistan built its identity around its own talented people and saw its strategic depth as the quality of its schools, farms and industry, instead of Afghanistan, it might be able to produce a stable democracy — and we wouldn't care about Pakistan's nukes any more than India's.

 

Saudi Arabia is built around a ruling bargain between the moderate al-Saud family and the Wahhabi fundamentalist establishment: The al-Sauds get to rule and the Wahhabis get to impose on their society the most puritanical Islam — and export it to mosques and schools across the Muslim world, including to Pakistan, with money earned by selling oil to the West.

 

So Pakistan's nukes are a problem for us because of the nature of that regime, and Saudi Arabia's oil wealth is a problem for us because of the nature of that regime. We have chosen to play a double game with both because we think the alternatives are worse.

 

Is there another a way? Yes. If we can't just walk away, we should at least reduce our bets. We should limit our presence and goals in Afghanistan to the bare minimum required to make sure that turmoil there doesn't spill over into Pakistan or allow al Qaeda to return. And we should diminish our dependence on oil so we are less impacted by what happens in Saudi Arabia, so we shrink the funds going to people who hate us and we make economic and political reform a necessity for them, not a hobby.

 

I am tired of being the sucker in this game.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE SCHIZOPHRENIA OF SUCCESS

VIKRAM S MEHTA 

 

 It is sad that the first thought that crosses my mind when I see a flyover under construction is: "I wonder how much money has been paid to officials in bribes and commissions," not that once the flyover is completed the traffic congestion will ease, and there will then be benefits for commerce and development.

 

It bothers me that whenever I am in Delhi and witness to the frenzy of the preparations for the Commonwealth Games (CWG), I think first of the consequences of compromised standards and quality: "How long before the stadium, parking lots, houses, etc. built for the games start to develop cracks?" This is an unjustified concern, as I do not have any evidence of shortcomings other than the anecdotal evidence provided by journalists — and that is not proof enough. Still, I seldom reflect that, once completed, Delhi could be a world-class metropolis, and may provide a platform for an eventual bid for the Olympics — the avowed ambition of Suresh Kalmadi.

 

It troubles me that when I share these thoughts with my bureaucrat or politician friends in informal drawing-room conversations — people who, while not directly involved with flyovers or the CWG, have an indirect responsibility by virtue of being in the fraternity of officialdom — they do not chide me for cynicism or pessimism. But, on the contrary, they reinforce my views by providing details of the mechanisms by which money changes hands, and by describing how the sinews of our governance system enable the longer-term public interest to be shortchanged for immediate and personal gratification.

 

Those thoughts juxtapose with the converse, uplifting evidence of our economic development. I travel a great deal and there is no international or national conference at which India's recent economic performance is not lauded. A decade back the conversation bracketed China and India — but then usually moved on to a discussion on China alone. India was recognised for its potential but the not-so-subtle presumption was that its culture, bureaucracy and politics would forever smother the realisation of this potential. China was the only game in town.

 

Today the reverse is often the case. China remains big game; but more and more senior executives are giving public vent to their frustrations. The CEOs of BASF and Siemens were recently told to "calm down" by the Chinese PM after they had catalogued the mercantilist and protectionist practices that favour Chinese companies and workers in a speech made in his presence. India on the other hand has ratcheted up the agenda of board discussions. The shenanigans of our political class and the inflexibility of the bureaucracy do get talked about, and corruption is a massive concern — but the conversation no longer ends there. It moves on to the dynamics and entrepreneurship of industry; the capabilities of our technocrats; the potential of rural demand and the enduring advantages of a pluralist and transparent society.

 

 

On the international front, too, there is public acknowledgement of India's strength. Obama left the White House to shake hands with our foreign minister — the first time apparently he has made such a physically testing gesture. Cameron was here last week with his top cabinet colleagues and 60 other delegates to put flesh around the "special relationship" that his government had called for, through the medium of the Queen's opening speech to Parliament. And there is near unanimity that India should have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

 

My somewhat schizophrenic thought process will not surprise anyone. India has multiple personas, and there must be many with similarly conflicting mindsets. The question that this schizophrenia raises is, however, a concern. To what extent will the arrow of our economic progress get blunted by mindsets such as mine? To what degree will institutionalised corruption and the erosion of public morality impede sustainable development?

 

I am reminded of an article I read some months back in the Financial Times. The author had lived in Athens in the months before the Athens Olympics. He wrote that there was a general mood of scepticism about those games. Few people had confidence that it would be a success. They talked of the pollution in the city; delays in the construction of facilities; and factionalism within the organising committee. In the end, as everyone knows, the Athens Olympics were a huge success, and the resultant fallout was palpably positive: the Greeks stopped talking about all that was wrong with their society, they recovered their self-confidence, and the economy "boomed." Today, less than a decade later, Greece is effectively bankrupt, and Greek officials stand, cap in hand, at the doorsteps of stronger economies in the European Union and the IMF. The author asks: "how did such a situation come to pass?"

 

His answer touches on all the now well-known reasons — financial profligacy, accounting fudges and poor leadership — but he adds one important albeit neglected factor. He writes the Greeks focused only on "what had changed." They did not ask the obverse question: "what had not changed?" Had they done so, they might not have got so carried away by the accolades that they received (and undoubtedly deserved) after the Athens Olympics.

 

I think there in a lesson in this for us too. We need to ask a similar question, and by doing so, direct the spotlight on the structural malaise that continues to afflict our society. It is not that we should not be proud of our economic success — but we must also ponder the longer-term implications of eroded moral leadership. Greece did not fall over the edge overnight. It crumbled slowly but inexorably because the fundamental weaknesses of their society had not been addressed.

 

The schizophrenia of people like me arises because of the growing worry that the base of our progress may not be that solid: And that economic triumphalism is cloaking underlying problems.

 

The author is Chairman of the Shell Group in India. The views expressed are personal

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DON'T SHARE LIKE THIS

 

The petroleum ministry's suggestion that the government should bear two-thirds of the estimated oil subsidy burden in the financial year, leaving the remaining one-third to be apportioned between the crude oil producers and downstream fuel retailers, is not only impractical but also goes against the very grain of the deregulation initiated in the oil sector. Asking the government to bear with this burden would mean that the direct cost to the government from petroleum subsidies would have to go up, as pointed out by FE last week, from Rs 26,000 crore last year to Rs 35,333 crore this year, which is more than 10 times the petroleum subsidy in the Budget allocation for the year. Such a large outgo through petroleum subsidies would not only neutralise a large part of the revenues gains from the auction of telecom spectrum but also dent the attempts to reduce the revenue deficit and lower government borrowings to preempt the diversion of credit from the private sector, which is so essential for sustaining growth.

 

In fact, it also makes little sense to saddle the oil PSUs with one-third of the burden, given that the under-recoveries of the oil marketing companies were a massive Rs 46,051 crore last year. The only way out of the dilemma is to ensure that the entire burden of the high international oil prices is fully passed over to the final consumer. This will not only help contain the growing oil imports to some extent, but also curb wasteful spending because, as have been pointed out on occasion, the major part of the oil subsidies go to the higher income groups and only a small share trickles down to the poor. In fact, a recent study by the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy shows that the largest beneficiary of the oil subsidy were the citizens of the small state of Goa where the per capita petroleum product subsidy was as high Rs 1,646, which was close to eight times the per capita subsidy availed by the citizen in a poor state like Bihar, who could, on an average, claim only Rs 227. A more sensible option is to directly transfer cash subsidies to the poorest. Also, the burden of the under-recoveries by the oil companies will soon have an impact on the public sector investments in oil exploration and refining. Although India will emerge as the largest refined oil product exporter in Asia by 2012, the combination of managed petroleum product prices and large budget outflows to the oil marketing companies have now become unsustainable, thereby even jeopardising the gains already achieved.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BUY AND SELL

 

Indian companies are increasingly looking at domestic mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and sectors like healthcare, cement, metals, banking and financial services are taking the lead in acquisitions. According to Grant Thornton, a global agency that tracks M&A activities, there were 225 domestic M&As amounting to $16.5 billion in the first half of this calendar year. In contrast, during the same period last year, there were only 64 deals with an announced value of $4.28 billion. Last year was, of course, a difficult period for corporate India as most companies saw shrinking revenues because of the global economic slowdown. Even 2008 was no better in terms of domestic acquisitions with an announced value of $4.26 billion and 110 deals. At that time, however, companies were aggressively looking at cross-border outbound acquisitions to build scale and tap new markets overseas for growth. Data show that in first half of 2008, there were 108 cross-border outbound deals with an announced value of $7.06 billion. This year, too, there was one big ticket cross-border outbound M&A—Bharti's acquisition of Zain Telecom's Africa operations for $10.7 billion, which formed the bulk of the $17.87 billion cross-border outbound deal in the first half of this year. Still, the spurt in domestic M&A activities indicate growing confidence levels of Indian corporates. With the global economy recovering, M&A activities will pick up in the near future and recovery in the capital markets will make it easier to finance deals.

 

Growing domestic acquisitions further indicate the fact that companies, especially in real estate and pharmaceutical sectors, are increasingly getting out of non-core business and are mending their highly leveraged balance sheets after the global economic crises and the credit crunch. Interestingly, private equity investments have grown over 40% in the first six months of this year as compared with the same period last year, and most of the deals happening in the market are of closely held smaller companies. This is a positive trend and will encourage entrepreneurs to start new businesses. Moreover, the new Sebi takeover code recommendations to raise the open offer threshold to 25% will help private equity firms invest more in Indian companies. Private equity investments are a good indicator to gauge the prospects of various sectors in the near and medium term and going by that yardstick, growing investments by private equity players in sectors like telecom, cement and pharma bode well for the overall growth of these sectors.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT CAN INDIA GET FROM THE UK?

MEGHNAD DESAI

 

David Cameron came to sell things and borrow capital. This is more or less what Sir Thomas Roe came to do in

Jahangir's Court. The British then had only wool to sell, which they thought should be a hit with the Indians. They ended up buying textiles and a lot else and paying for it in gold. This was so until they got power and then used Bengal Treasury to settle the balance of trade deficit. Later still, they found that selling Indian opium to China paid for the British imports of tea from China.

 

It was only when the textile trade was reversed after the Industrial Revolution that the balance changed. India still had a 'drain', i.e., an export surplus, which paid for the army and the pensions of retired British officers. In the 50 years before 1914, India had a trade surplus of about 6% of GDP and out of that around half was drained away. India imported machinery as well and many other knick-knacks from Britain and exported foodgrains to pay for it all.

 

Now again a 100 years later, the British want to sell to India. This time India is a growth opportunity for them. The problem is Indians do not want to buy much. The private sector entrepreneurs know that for technology they are better off with Germany or the US rather than the UK. The UK needs Indian capital and management as Ratan Tata has already shown. It could also use skilled Indian labour if only the local politics in Britain did not feel so hysterical about immigration. This is, of course, more about unskilled European migration but as that cannot be legally prevented, all the opponents of immigration have to go for is immigration from non-EU sources. British business is dead against such restrictions but then even the Labour Party was pandering to anti-immigration sentiments at election time.

 

Britain brought to the table armaments and civilian nuclear know-how to offer. Even in these sectors it has to compete with the US, France and Russia. The same goes for higher education, which the UK has some comparative advantage in, but even there the US may be better. It may try to sell consumer goods such as beer and chicken tikka masala, but soon the list will run short.

 

What, however, the UK has always had was a lead in soft technology or what I may call abstract goods. For all the depredations of colonialism, who can put a price on the knowledge of English language that the Brits passed on to Indians? And what about cricket? How many Koh-i-Noors is that worth? There is also the legal system to which Indians have taken like fish to water. Whatever the legal system was before the British established did not have things like suo moto, which trips off our tongues. Many arcane disputes today, ranging from the fake encounter killings in Ahmedabad to mining disputes in Karnataka and in Orissa with Vedanta, hinge on law as laid down by Macaulay.

 

It is time, therefore, to import something else from the Brits than what Cameron was offering. This is honesty in economic policy presentation. Recently, David Cameron was criticised publicly by Sir Tom Scholar, the chairman of Statistics Service. The charge was that in answering a question in Parliament, Cameron had conflated two statistical series that were incompatible and hence given a false impression of the effect of the Budget. Previous Prime Ministers have been pulled up for releasing data prematurely or using it before the wider public had access to it. Indian debates on the issue of inflation would be immensely helped by an independent agency, which could correct politicians' misuse of data in public debates. Faith in official statistics is an intangible asset of great value.

 

There is also a strong argument for independence in monetary policy with or without an inflation target. A Monetary Policy Committee like the UK has, with the minutes of its monthly meeting published, would be great help in making policy transparent. RBI performs well but often it cannot move without the permission of the finance ministry and this must cost Indian economy some non-negligible amount in delays in controlling inflation.

 

The new government in UK has also begun another bold experiment—an Office of Budgetary Responsibility—to vet the forecasts of income, expenditure and public revenues used in the Budget. The government has promised that a parliamentary committee has the right to interview candidates for the jobs of chairman and members before their final appointment. Thus, transparency and honesty are reinforced. India could emulate this practice.

 

But perhaps the best export will be good parliamentary manners. British MPs do not rush down to the well ( there isn't one); nor do they force adjournment without getting any business done and they do not walk out. That would save a lot of money!

 

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

 PETROLEUM SHOULD BE PART OF GST

VIKRAM S MEHTA

 

The benefits of the GST to the petroleum sector and others that use these products would be considerably diluted if petroleum products are exempted from the GST. The finance minister is contemplating such an exemption because of the objections of the state governments to include petroleum in the GST ambit. They fear that the inclusion will result in a significant loss of revenues and the power to use the tax rates for various socio-economic objectives. This article will argue that the states' concerns can be managed and mitigated through the levy of a supplementary excise tax without compromising the essential design and the objectives of the GST. The current structure of petroleum production taxation is complex, inefficient and time-consuming. Several factors have contributed to this state of affairs.

 

First, petroleum products are subject to a plethora of central and state taxes that include Cenvat, service tax, CST/VAT, entry tax/octroi, National Calamity Contingent Duty (NCCD), oil cess and royalty. Each of these taxes is levied at specific tax points. For example, Cenvat is levied at the factory gate on the transaction value of the goods cleared from the factory; service tax on the invoice value of the service provided and NCCD on the quantity of crude extracted. Moreover, tax rates vary from product to product and across states. Thus, VAT on motor gasoline in Karnataka is 25%, whereas in Maharashtra it is 26% plus Re 1 per litre and in AP it is 33%. Against this backdrop, tax administration is not complex and time-consuming.

 

Second, the current tax framework is replete with ambiguities that cause delays and litigation. Four questions will illustrate this point. 1) Is a transaction involving the supply of an oil rig with specialised operating staff a 'good' or a 'service'? It constitutes the provision of a 'good' (viz heavy equipment) but it also provides a 'service' (operating personnel). The answer is important as VAT is chargeable on a good 'service tax' on services. (2) Is the point of sale for crude oil the well head or the refinery gate? An oil producing state will claim it should be the well head and it will levy VAT; the oil producing company will argue it should be the refinery gate and (assuming the refinery is located in a state different from the state in which oil is produced) claim that it should be subject to the relatively lower central sales tax. (3) Should Maharashtra levy taxes on an advertising company based in Mumbai but producing 'products' that are displayed only in Kerala or should Kerala? Where is the 'origin' of the service provided? (4) How should credit be apportioned for taxes that are levied on capital and service inputs but that are used in the production of products that are tax exempt (e.g., natural gas) and also taxable (e.g., crude oil and refined products)?

 

Third, the current structure blocks the credit of taxes paid on inputs used in many instances, leading to increased costs on account of cascading. Whilst exploration and production is exempt from Cenvat, the services and capital inputs that are critical for its success (surveys, transportation, cargo handling) are taxable. These taxes are not recoverable and there is a cascading of tax costs across the value chain. This also creates distortions and inefficiencies and raises the cost of investment for the oil companies. Exclusion of petroleum from the GST scope will mean that no credit will be allowed for any GST paid on capital investments and other inputs acquired for use in exploration, production, refining or transportation of petroleum. Experts have estimated that the cost burden of this non-recoverable tax on the industry will be about Rs 30,000 crore annually.

 

All the ambiguities and complexities will become redundant if the petroleum sector is brought within the ambit of GST and all input taxes are made creditable. Else they'd perpetuate and lead to new layers of complexities.

 

These problems are known to the finance ministry. They recognise that the current system is too complex and that ideally petroleum should be included within GST, as has been brought out in their response to the empowered committee's First Discussion Paper. But they have apparently decided not to push for it because the opposition of the state governments to this measure may delay implementation of GST in its entirety. Their logic is "let not the best drive out the good".

 

The point is that the best is attainable. There is a solution wherein the states can meet their revenue objectives; the Centre can derive the fullest benefits of tax rationalisation and the oil companies can be unshackled from a distortionary and complex tax structure. That solution lies in the levy of a supplementary/excise tax. I am told that such a tax has been recommended by the 13th Finance Commission; that it has international precedence; that it can be set independently of the GST tax rate and that it will not compromise the GST design or stability of the rate structure. If this is the case then the Centre must expend the effort to persuade the states to accept this win (Centre)-win (state)-win (company) solution.

 

The author is chairman of the Shell Group of Companies in India, and chairman, CII Committee on

Hydrocarbons

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ANYONE FOR TEA?

ROHIT KHANNA

 

India's tea industry is moving from hammer to mouse, suggesting that it is finally on the path to modernisation. But we don't have smooth sailing yet, as traders continue to be in nostalgic mode about manual auctions. Such scepticism had hitherto limited e-auctions to only low-value tea varieties.

 

Until date, of the total tea sold in Kolkata through auctions, only about 30% has been processed through the e-auction platform. Traders feel that e-auctions have yet to make any impact on price realisation. This is in contrast to the original idea of tea board officials, who expected that e-auctions would lead to true price discovery as the scope for parallel bidding increases in the electronic process. The e-auctions have brought much-needed transparency to the sale of CTC and dust varieties. In fact, all the CTC and dust tea varieties in Kolkata are now being sold via e-auctions.

 

Between January and May 2010, 45.46 mn kg of tea was auctioned in Kolkata, up from 40.37 mn kg sold during the same period last year. And in the last two sales, 41,70,729 kg was sold through the e-auction process. The Tea Board of India is doing its part to popularise e-auctions, launching them in Coimbatore, Cochin, Guwahati and Siliguri. It has also directed the Kolkata auction centre to bring at least 10% of orthodox teas within the e-auction platform, with the aim of extending the platform to all the tea sold in India.

 

The entry of e-auction specialists like MSTC has added a brand new dimension to this trade. Transparency and professionalism are expected to increase. Traders, however, say that the e-auction methodology will have to change before it becomes popular. After all, there is no time limit set in manual trading, making it a more comfortable proposition. Other bottlenecks like technical inefficiency and lack of sale disclosures by traders also need to be addressed to encourage growth of tea. The need is to have a separate platform for e-auctioning high-value Darjeeling and Assam orthodox teas. MSTC's new platform could meet this need.

 

rohit.khanna@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

TRANSFERRING THE PROBLEM

 

After some initial reluctance, the Centre has accepted the Supreme Court collegium's recommendation that Karnataka Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran be transferred to the Sikkim High Court. Evidently, the collegium effected the transfer from a large high court such as Karnataka to the smallest high court in the country as a show of displeasure over Justice Dinakaran's defiance of all canons of judicial propriety and sticking to office amidst a welter of corruption and land-grab charges. While the move might solve the immediate problem in Karnataka, where Justice Dinakaran has been facing determined opposition from the bar and not taking up judicial work, can it be justified in principle? The Sikkim High Court is not a bustling hive of judicial activity but how can a person considered unfit to preside over the Karnataka judiciary be regarded suitable to head any other high court? The transfer order contains the disturbing implication that the dignity of the Sikkim High Court is less important than that of Karnataka for the collegium, which is exactly what angered the bar association and fuelled protests in the hill State when the proposal was mooted this April. The collegium's proposal was a knee-jerk reaction to Justice Dinakaran's refusal to heed its advice to go on leave. It also exposes the helplessness of the panel in this situation, for while — following the Supreme Court judgments in the Second and Third judges cases — it has assumed the authority to make binding recommendations to the executive on the appointment and transfer of judges, it has no control over the functioning of the judges themselves. At the same time, it draws attention to a longstanding lacuna in dealing with errant judges — the absence of a speedy and efficient statutory mechanism, short of the unwieldy constitutional, and ultimately political, process of impeachment.

 

Impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice-designate of the Sikkim High Court are under way, with a notice admitted in Parliament and a three-member Rajya Sabha committee examining the charges. But there is still a long way to go before the various steps required under the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968, are taken and the impeachment motion comes up for vote in Parliament. Law Minister Veerappa Moily has announced that the draft Judges Standards and Accountability Bill, which contains many measures to strengthen the functioning of the judiciary — including a much less cumbersome mechanism to deal with errant judges — will be tabled in Parliament in the monsoon session. It has been delayed long enough and the Centre must ensure that it is passed quickly.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

STRONGER STATE TO STATE TIES

 

The recent visit of the head of Myanmar's military government, Senior General Than Shwe marks a clear shift and some clarity in India's policy towards its eastern neighbour. For a decade now, New Delhi has been trying to befriend Yangon in a bid to bolster its security architecture in the region and build a bridge to South-East Asia. In the mid-1990s, India was apparently more concerned over the continued detention of pro-democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aang San Suu Kyi. But, of late, there has been a gradual switch in focus, and the United Progressive Alliance government seems to have realised the importance of firming up ties with the ruling junta, which has proved enduring. This is in tune with the thinking of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) that it would make better sense to remain constructively engaged with the military regime than to toe the Western line of marginalisation and sanctions — a policy which in any case is unlikely to work, given Myanmar's proximity to and close strategic relations with China.

 

The bunch of bilateral agreements signed during the Senior General's five-day visit — they related, among others, to security, oil and gas exploration, trade promotion via the north-east region — reflect India's new priorities. The one on oil exploration needs to be viewed against the backdrop of India losing out in bids in 2006 because it needed to get Bangladesh on board for a gas pipeline project. Another major venture India will support relates to railway infrastructure. As for India's nagging worry about insurgent groups active in the northeastern States operating from out of Myanmar, the military rulers have promised to ensure that it does not happen. Whether New Delhi can expect the same level of cooperation from the military regime as it gets from Bangladesh on this front is a big question. For the ruling junta, the red carpet rolled out to Senior General Than Shwe should make a huge difference in the context of Myanmar's marginalisation. But any hope of the general election in Myanmar, due later this year, becoming an inclusive democratic event — with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy allowed to participate in it — will be vain. No amount of nudging by New Delhi towards that end is going to help. The generals have floated their own political party to cling on to power and anyone wanting to do business with that country may well have to work with them in the future too. And the change in New Delhi's position should be seen in this perspective. Strengthening of state-to-state ties dictated by strategic imperatives ought not to be seen as approval of the military dictatorship.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

RESTORING BANGLADESH'S CORE VALUES

THE BANGLADESH SUPREME COURT'S JUDGMENT NULLIFYING THE 5THAMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION ENACTED IN 1977, IS SEEN AS A MILESTONE IN RESTORING THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURSE OF THE NATION'S HISTORY.

HAROON HABIB

 

Bangladesh has been waiting for a return to its core values, affirmed through its Liberation War. The nation has suffered for nearly three decades the consequences of unconstitutional and undemocratic practices and processes set in motion to seize state power and then nourish the illegality.

 

Now democracy stands restored thanks to a massive and united movement against autocracy, and many good things have emerged from the change. The latest is the nullification of the controversial 5 {+t} {+h} Amendment to the Constitution by the appellate division of the Bangladesh Supreme Court. The Amendment, made in 1977, helped some elements to usurp the country's constitutional processes through martial law decrees. The landmark judgment delivered on July 28, therefore, will be seen as a milestone in restoring the constitutional course of Bangladesh's history.

 

The ruling by the six-member full bench headed by former Chief Justice Mohammad Tafazzul Islam, has laid the foundation for a process of reviving the secular spirit of the Liberation War. This spirit was at the core of the original Constitution framed by the Constituent Assembly in 1972, a year after the Liberation War.

 

The 5th Amendment, incorporated in the Constitution during General Ziaur Rahman's tenure, was meant to provide constitutional legitimacy to governments in power — be they military-led or others — following the 1975 assassination of the nation's founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Upholding a previous historic verdict of the High Court that in 2005 had declared the 5th Amendment to be illegal, the Supreme Court said it is now up to Parliament to enact laws to prevent the recurrence of martial law administrations. But it observed: "We are putting on record our total disapproval of martial law and suspension of the Constitution or any part thereof in any form." It added: "[The] Preamble and the relevant provisions of the Constitution in respect of secularism, nationalism and socialism, as existed on August 15, 1975, will revive."

 

Justice A.B.M. Khairul Haq of the High Court in August 2005 gave the first ruling that declared the 5th Amendment illegal, in a petition challenging the legality of a martial law regulation. In that landmark ruling, the first such by a court of law in Bangladesh, the judiciary declared illegal three regimes that were in power between August 15, 1975 and February 1979. These were headed by Khandaker Mushtaque Ahmed, Abu Sa'dat Mohammad Sayem and General Ziaur Rahman respectively. But the ruling exempted certain measures that the regimes had initiated for the public welfare.

 

There were immediate judicial challenges against the High Court ruling, which had shaken the then ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally, the Jamaat-e-Islami. But, rejecting their petitions, the Supreme Court has observed: "The perpetrators of such illegalities should also be suitably punished and condemned so that in future no adventurist, no usurper, would dare to defy the people, their Constitution, their government, established by them with their consent."

 

This strong condemnation of military rule by the Supreme Court should serve as a deterrent against any future adventurism by the Generals who might want to rely on the supremacy of the gun. But whether the Generals will really respect such a judicial caution is still an open question. Yet, the ruling has given a solid legal and moral footing against any such eventuality.

 

The verdict has come as a clear denunciation of military takeovers of state power and a message against extra-constitutionalism. The judiciary has, in unmistakable terms, upheld the core values of the original Constitution — and thereby restored its own image as well.

 

The 1972 Constitution has four basic state principles — democracy, nationalism, secularism and socialism. The latest judgment has restored those principles. The verdict observed that by "omitting secularism, one of the [principles of] state policy, from the Constitution," the martial law proclamations had "destroyed one of the basis of our struggle for freedom and also changed the basic character of the Republic as enshrined in the preamble as well as Article 8(1) of the Constitution."

 

General Ziaur Rahman, who founded the BNP while he was in power, had deleted Article 12 of the Constitution that prohibited religion-based politics and communalism in all forms. The Supreme Court has now restored that Article. Of course, this has caused consternation among those religion-based political parties that had grown in their dozens over the years, and their patrons at home and abroad.

 

The judiciary in Bangladesh has clearly laid the foundation for reviving the spirit of the Liberation War which was at the core of the Constitution. In fact, the Supreme Court has upheld the return to unfettered democracy. The judiciary has also given the nation an opportunity to restore the secular spirit of the Constitution.

 

Secularism has never represented a negation of religion; it has been a principle meant to ensure equal rights for those belonging to all faiths. But that understanding was given a negative colour by sections of the religious leadership and those politicians who seek to use religion to make political capital. The omission of the particular Article of the Constitution by a military ruler not only facilitated the resurgence of religion-based politics but also paved the way for Islamist militancy.

 

Now that the judiciary has expressed itself strongly in favour of restoring the core values, the legislature has taken a bold step to go for a major amendment to the Constitution. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has constituted a 15-member parliamentary committee to draft a vital amendment in view of the Supreme Court's ruling.

 

Nonetheless, there are some crucial lessons to be learnt from the judgment. One is that it is the fundamental duty of all citizens to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against any onslaughts as and when they are made. The Supreme Court has ensured a progressive democratic future for Bangladesh, no matter what the future may hold.

 

The Awami League-led ruling mahajote government has more than the required two-thirds majority to change the Constitution. It could have brought about necessary changes even in the absence of the court's judgment, had it decided to do so. The Supreme Court's ruling makes such a step easier. It has also put a special responsibility on the Sheikh Hasina government — for what are needed are fundamental amendments that would require consideration at the highest political level.

 

There are some fundamental observations that the Supreme Court has made on certain crucial national issues over which political parties have fought for decades. One of them is the identity of the citizens of Bangladesh. The court has ruled that this identity would be as 'Bangladeshis'; and as a nation the people are 'Bengali'.

 

Despite the favourable circumstances it enjoys, the government needs to give serious thought to certain issues. Probably considering the political consequences of those issues, Prime Minister and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina announced that her party was not going to delete Bismillah, a term inserted in the Constitution by means of the now illegal 5thAmendment. However, the judgment does not cover the incorporation of Islam as the state religion in the Constitution by another military dictator, General H.M. Ershad, by means of the 8th Amendment. There is also another concern. What is going to be the fate of the religion-based parties, which will stand automatically banned if the Supreme Court judgment is to be honoured in letter and spirit?

 

The parliamentary committee that has been assigned the task of suggesting amendments to the Constitution will need to ponder seriously over many issues before formulating its report. The major Opposition parties, the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami, have not nominated their members to the 'all-party' parliamentary committee despite repeated appeals made by the Prime Minister. While reserving comment on the Supreme Court ruling, they have launched a scathing attack on the government over its plan to amend the Constitution. The religion-based parties, which are the natural allies of the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami, are mulling over their future course of action.

 

There are other realities to be considered, too. The Awami League, which led the Liberation War, has ruled the country for only 10 out of the 39 years of Bangladesh's existence. For the rest of the period, those who were the promoters or direct beneficiaries of the 5th Amendment were in power. The constitutional reforms may be set in motion at a time when the Sheikh Hasina government has taken up yet another major task — to hold the trial of the war criminals of the Liberation War.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS    

CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE U.K.-INDIA PARTNERSHIP

POLICYMAKERS AND BUSINESS LEADERS MIGHT FIND IT USEFUL TO LEAF THROUGH UNCTAD'S JUST-RELEASED WORLD INVESTMENT REPORT 2010: INVESTING IN A LOW-CARBON ECONOMY.

PREMILA NAZARETH SATYANAND

 

Climate change, till now a 'global' issue, is inserting itself into India's bilateral agenda as well. For, at David Cameron's initiative, it is to be a central leg of the strategic new U.K.-India relationship.

 

Business collaboration goes 'green'

 

Collaboration has begun with the U.K.-India Business Leaders Climate Group. Comprising well-known CEOs, the group will work jointly on national emissions-reduction strategies, private sector-driven low-carbon models, and synergistic business opportunities.

 

Given climate change's stated importance in the U.K.-India partnership, policy-makers and business leaders in both countries might find it useful to leaf through UNCTAD's just-released World Investment Report 2010: Investing in a Low-Carbon Economy, which examines global flows of 'low carbon' foreign direct investment and proposes strategies to encourage it.

 

The report makes two essential points, which if implemented could significantly enrich the U.K.-India initiative. One: transnational corporations should be factored into global efforts to mitigate climate change, since they are both principal greenhouse gas emitters and 'low carbon' technology innovators, Two: it might be time for governments to expand the climate change discourse beyond a single-minded focus on national targets to incorporate performance milestones for individual firms. (In fact, going a step further, U.K.'s Environment Minister has broached the subject of tradeable carbon credits for each individual Briton).

 

It also presents a number of ideas for the two nations to pilot within their partnership, while using their joint experience to advance the climate change effort at the global level. For instance, FDI could be mainstreamed into low-carbon development strategies, with both countries working together to promote and support low-carbon investors and encourage strategic technology. They also need to ensure that policies incentivise, reward, and create a market for low-carbon investments, while incorporating climate-friendly provisions (including low-carbon investment promotion and environmental exceptions) into investment agreements. The report also suggests the establishment of an international low-carbon technical assistance centre, combining a global low-carbon technology database with advisory and support services.

 

The most compelling idea is the creation of a single global standard for corporate greenhouse gas emissions disclosure, which would significantly boost the accuracy of emissions monitoring and correction. The report finds 87 of the world's 100 largest transnational corporations reporting on emissions, many voluntarily. But it also finds two common gaps in this reporting. First, nearly a half of those that report are failing to specify the source of emissions — i.e. own operations, value chain, or energy use. Second, only 21 disaggregate their emissions by country.

 

In choosing practical initiatives to seed the U.K.-India environmental partnership, the U.K. government and the Business Leaders Climate Group might encourage British TNCs in India to report in detail on their local greenhouse gas emissions. This would be the most powerful way by which to establish the U.K.'s dual commitment to India and environmental protection. It would also be a major step in advancing global and Indian 'best practice' in emissions disclosure.

 

Voluntary carbon-emissions reporting

 

Carbon disclosure is already a well-established practice in the U.K., and its Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) runs an annual survey of corporate emissions-reporting/ environmental management practices among British firms. By publicly reporting findings, CDP encourages firms to continually improve environmental performance, and keeps the public, policy-makers and investors in the loop. Since 2007, CDP has run a similar survey in India, funded by the British High Commission as part of its 'Low Carbon High Growth Programme. Survey results highlight areas for shared improvement.

 

In CDP 2009, Indian firms performed as well, if not better, than U.K. counterparts on basic parameters, such as measuring and recording emissions, separating them by source, and in setting reduction targets. But U.K. firms considerably outperform Indian counterparts in public reporting on a variety of key parameters, including emissions, reduction targets, and emissions forecasts. They are also far ahead in isolating, measuring and reporting value-chain emissions.

 

More important, many of U.K.'s top carbon disclosers — which outperform U.K. counterparts by a 20-points average — have a large and committed India presence. Among them are Unilever, Royal Dutch Shell, HSBC, Barclays, GlaxoSmithKline, Thomas Cook, Reckitt Benckiser, AstraZeneca, Aviva, and Royal Bank of Scotland, who outperform counterparts by 30 (out of a potential 100) points on the very parameters in which Indian firms are the weakest. All these firms are visible corporate citizens in India, and run active environmental and social responsibility programmes.

 

There is thus much scope for a productive U.K.-India partnership on improved carbon disclosure. With climate change now firmly on the corporate agenda, Indian firms are actively looking to develop best practice across a variety of related areas.

 

The U.K. and India in the global 'low-carbon' FDI picture

 

A word of warning, though. While the U.K.-India environmental partnership is to rest on private sector collaboration, the World Investment Report shows that the U.K. is still a minor player in global low carbon FDI. . Only BP features in its ranking of Top 20 foreign direct investors in the alternative/renewable energy generation, and only three U.K. firms — BP, Bronzeoak, and D1 Oils — feature as Top 20 investors in environmental technologies manufacturing (i.e. the production of wind turbines, solar panels, bio-diesel plants, and other environmental equipment).

 

BP made only nine of the 728 international greenfield investments in alternative/ renewable energy generation between 2003-2009; all these in developed economies. BP made twelve of the 806 greenfield international investments in environmental-technology manufacture in this period, ten in developed economies. Bronzeoak made six and D1 Oil five; all in developing economies. The World Investment Report provides no indication on the size of these various investments.

 

This data is based on UNCTAD's analysis of the 1,725 international greenfield investments and 281 mergers and acquisitions in renewables, recycling and low-carbon technology manufacturing between 2003-2009 – collectively worth US$344 billion. Of these, 806 greenfield investments were in environmental-technology manufacture: nearly a half in developing economies. The 728 greenfield alternative/renewable energy investments and the 129 greenfield recycling investments concentrated in developed economies. In all cases, India has been an important destination.

 

The report also surveyed 240 leading TNCs to find climate change squarely on their agenda. 45 per cent of respondents said they factor host countries' GHG emissions-reduction requirements in planning investments, 32 per cent use in-house technologies, know-how and skills to reduce GHG emission in foreign projects, and 31 per cent use international M&As to obtain technologies and other created assets related to emissions reductions.

 

Balancing conflicting Indian interests

 

But, the more committed India becomes to a low-carbon paradigm, the more carefully its policymakers will need to balance conflicting Indian interests.

 

Take solar power. The government's new policy on grid-connected projects targets 100 per cent local equipment sourcing. This requirement could be counter-productive, in limiting our solar industry to a handful of (relatively new) local suppliers, whose equipment is often costlier than international competitors'. Financing might also be more difficult initially, since financiers are more confident about tried-and-tested equipment. Most worryingly, we might be blocking our industry from immediate access to important solar innovations internationally.

 

Another case in point is thermal power, where cost is still the defining parameter for technology choice, as a result of which we now liberally source power equipment from China, although it is considerably more polluting than costlier European and American models. — Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre, New Delhi

 

( Premila Nazareth Satyanand writes on foreign direct investment issues.)

 

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THE HINDU

 NEWS ANALYSIS    

"I FIND THE SUBJECT FASCINATING…"

WORLD CHESS CHAMPION VISWANATHAN ANAND ON THE UPCOMING SIMULTANEOUS MATCHES HE IS TO PLAY WITH MATHEMATICIANS AND HIS INTEREST IN THE SUBJECT.

ROSALIND EZHIL K.

 

You will be playing against 40 mathematicians simultaneously during the forthcoming ICM. Do mathematicians make better chess players… have you had reason to suspect such a link?

 

I think they would definitely have the aptitude for it and I think I can have some interesting games. Both areas require a lot of work, a lot of practise… you need to keep on learning. I think in mathematics like in chess, there are many different areas. The broader the chess player you are, the easier it is to be competitive and the same seems to be true of mathematics – if you can find links between different branches of mathematics it can help you resolve problems. In both mathematics and chess you study existing theory and use that to go forward.

 

You enjoy reading about mathematics. When did you develop this liking? Did you like mathematics at school?

 

I was reasonably interested in mathematics in school. Typically what happens is… when you start playing chess it takes up a lot of your attention. But about 10 years ago I found that the internet is very good to start learning about a lot of subjects. I am interested in Astronomy also. The internet gives you access to a lot of material and it's fun to sit and read. I go to something like Wikipedia and look at different topics… I find the subject fascinating. I like to read about concepts and mathematicians. There are also books. Of course I am an amateur — I enjoy reading about it but don't have the background to work on it on my own…

 

What do you think about the way mathematics is taught at school? What were your teachers like? Is there anything that you think could be done differently in the way mathematics is taught at school?

 

Well, nowadays it seems there's access to a lot of tools which can make math much more interesting. I wouldn't say school is bad — teachers have a few months to get the subject across and then you have to pass the exams.

 

I don't think they could have done it differently. But I think on the whole, the subject could be presented differently. Because it is very gripping once you start reading about it. Nowadays, as a consumer if you like, you find a lot of people have taken a lot of effort to make it fun and enjoyable. And then it's a blast. But in school they don't have the context to do that. Perhaps they should redesign it. But this has to be done at a fundamental level. I don't think it's up to individual teachers, of course they can make some difference.

 

Depending on how it's presented you could fall in love with it or it can turn you away… So much of modern life is built on mathematics and I'm not sure school really prepares you to enjoy this fully. Things like the financial markets — a proper grounding in mathematics could help the common man. I believe that if people are more familiar with mathematical concepts… it can help deal with modern life which is increasingly complex.

 

Are there any specific branches of mathematics that you find interesting? Why?

 

There used to be a column in the New York Times on mathematics by Steven Strogatz. I found that very interesting. Basically it's not a specific area of mathematics… if anything is explained well, it is very enjoyable. It used to cover a lot of topics. The column seems to be taking a break…

 

Do you think you would have liked to be a mathematician if not a chess player?

 

Yes … it is definitely something I wish I could have done more of.

 

( Rosalind Ezhil was a Ramaseshan fellow at the Indian Academy of Sciences.)

 

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THE HINDU

MAPPING SERVICE OF GOOGLE STREET FACES LEGAL CHALLENGES

JOSH HALLIDAY

 

Nearly half of the 60 worldwide legal or criminal investigations faced by Google relate to the company's Street View service. It is facing around 28 actions against the mapping service, 11 from inside the US.

 

Although in the U.K., the country's information commissioner last week lifted some of the heat on Google's suspected breach of the British Data Protection Act, the search giant still faces lawsuits or criminal investigations in every continent except the Antarctic. Its products have been the subject of bans or threatened bans in at least 23 countries, and Google faces 33 lawsuits in the US alone, according to new estimates by the analysts Aqute Intelligence.

 

Street View, which shows 360-degree views of towns and cities, kept Google's lawyers particularly busy in the first half of this year. In May, Google admitted that its Street View cars had picked up approximately 600 gigabytes of personal data from Wi-Fi connections while mapping homes in more than 30 nations. Cue litigations from internet service providers, private companies and aggrieved citizens.

 

Some of those aggrieved object to pictures of their home being made public, while others take umbrage over Google's apparently inadvertent collection of personal data. All actions boil down to an individual's right to privacy — and what information requires prior consent before being made publicly accessible. Of the 60 litigations faced by Google worldwide, 28 pertain to Street View: 11 in the U.S., 14 in Europe, two in Australasia and one in Asia. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

WORLD BANK TO THE AID OF WORLD'S LARGEST MANGROVE FOREST

 

The World Bank (WB) is helping Bangladesh carry out a series of studies to develop a program for sustainable development of the Sundarbans, the world's single largest mangrove forest in the country's south-western part. A comprehensive plan based on these studies would be developed to integrate prioritized interventions to address the region's main conservation and development challenges.

 

The studies will be drawn upon the main challenges of poverty reduction, climate change adaptation, and biodiversity conservation in the Sundarbans, a WB release was quoted as saying by national news agency BSS on Sunday.

 

The studies, expected to be completed by September 2011, will take full account of the distinction between protected areas (where resource extraction is not allowed) and surrounding inhabited areas for assessing the development challenges of the Sundarbans, and identifying alternative interventions to address them. Bangladesh and India share the world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans and 62 percent of the Sundarbans falls in Bangladesh.

 

Due to its rich biodiversity and unique ecosystem, the ecological importance of Sundarban Reserve Forest is immense.

 

The Sundarbans is home to an estimated 425 species of wildlife, including 300 species of birds and 42 species of mammals, as well as the Royal Bengal Tiger.

 

Over 3.5 million people live in the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area, with no permanent settlement within the Sundarban Reserve Forest. Among them, about 1.2 million people directly depend on Sundarbans for their livelihoods.

 

The study will integrate the ecological dimension and importance of the Sundarbans' biodiversity while maintaining a careful distinction between protected and inhabited areas to ensure that conservation of the protected areas can be upheld. — Xinhua

 

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THE HINDU

ONLINE & OFF LINE   

ATTACKS ON MEDIA ON THE RISE IN INDIA


A growing number of incidents of violence against, and restrictions on, journalists in several parts of India over the past few months has caused concern at the national and international level. July was a particularly bad month for the news media: they confronted hostility and intimidation from the Army, the police, anti-social elements, and militant communal organisations in Delhi, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu.

 

While Delhi and Mumbai witnessed vandalism let loose by a mob of religious bigots at the premises of two news television channels, it was the Army that imposed severe restrictions on journalists in J&K.

 

In Orissa, the ongoing battle between owners of mines and industrial interests provided the background to physical attacks on journalists who dared to expose the clandestine operators and their exploitation of the poor and the marginalised.

 

Attempt to silence the media

 

In the evening of July 15, a mob allegedly belonging to Hindutva organisations stormed the office of the New Delhi-based TV Today network of the India Today group and vandalised whatever they could reach. The attack was in protest against the telecast of tapes showing "secret meetings" of a Hindutva organisation in which there were discussions on carrying out "terrorist attacks against meetings of Muslims." Headlines Today, the news channel of the TV Today network, had telecast the video footage.

 

According to the channel, the video it telecast was extracted by investigation agencies from the laptop of one of the accused in the Malegaon blast case. The Cover Story of the latest issue of Frontline("Militant route to Hindu Rashtra," August 13, 2010) provides good insights into the whole episode.

 

The attackers, armed with sticks, were on the rampage for about 15 minutes, causing damage to glass windows, doors, and furniture. Some security guards and officials were injured. The attackers did not spare the police personnel. Although the TV channel's officials had prior information about the attack and had informed the police, the custodians of law and order were caught on the wrong foot.

 

Given the nasty circumstances, things could have gone much worse for those inside the building. It was clear that those who had set up the mob wanted to send a message to the news channel. Condemning the attack, the Editors Guild of India pointed out that such methods to try and silence the media would only backfire.

 

Even as the office of the Headlines Today was being attacked, Zee 24, another TV news channel in Mumbai, came under Shiv Sena attack for picking up the news.

 

It is well known that communalism and chauvinism of all shades are fiercely intolerant of criticism and dissent. Unless the state ensures that the fundamental rights in the secular Constitution, especially freedom of speech and expression, are meant to be enjoyed by all citizens, they will remain only on paper.

 

Restrictions on movements of media persons

 

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) has expressed its concern over reports that journalists are facing harassment in certain conflict-ridden States in India, notably Manipur and J&K.

 

In Manipur, where security forces are involved in a confrontation with several armed gangs, newspapers stopped publication in protest against the forced entry of three gunmen into a journalist's house on July 21 for questioning him about a newspaper report. The print media announced a cessation of publication until the government took action against the intruders.

 

In Jammu and Kashmir, the State Government had to seek the Army assistance after its efforts to control internal disorder among sections of people failed. The first thing the government did after the Army intervened was to impose severe restrictions on journalists. The officials followed it up by cancelling curfew passes issued to journalists and others. They also instructed the police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) not to allow any mediaperson to move around. In some instances, cameras were seized. In protest, the media organisations suspended operations for a couple of days. The protest at a national and international level forced at least a partial relaxation of the restrictions on newsgathering.

 

Conditions in Orissa have been difficult for journalists wanting to report freely. According to a special report brought out by the Free House Speech, in the current year (2010) 12 cases of physical attacks on reporters, stringers, or photographers have been recorded. The report noted that "the most widely broadcast channels and the largest circulating daily are owned by powerful people. Given this reality, reporting the depredations caused by national and international business houses that have descended on the State to exploit its ample natural resources has become a perilous task."

 

In Madurai in Tamil Nadu, the police arrested on July 22 S. Manimaran, Editor, Dina Bhoomi, a Tamil daily, and his son, for publishing articles on the business misdeeds of quarry owners in their newspapers. All manner of grave charges were initially recorded on the basis of a complaint made by an association of quarry owners that the daily had published a series of news items, "false and misleading," about their business. Illegal operations by quarry owners and the resultant loss of huge revenues to the State exchequer have been reported in the press from time to time. It took protests from several media organisations, and the intervention of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, to have the grave charges removed and the editor and his son released on bail. That the relief came the very next day after the arrest highlighted the efficacy of media solidarity in bringing to public notice high-handed actions by the police in violation of accepted norms and procedures and indeed respect for freedom of expression.

 

The rise in attacks on journalists in India is indeed a matter of concern. It is also heartening to see more and more journalists and their organisations venture into new areas of investigative journalism, even if they involve more resourcefulness, ingenuity, and risk to limb and life.

 

readerseditor@thehindu.co.in

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

CWG MESS GROWS: HEADING FOR FIASCO?

 

With just 62 days left to go for the start of New Delhi's much-hyped Commonwealth Games in October, skeletons continue to tumble out almost every single day. Given that a five-year lead time was available, the manner in which preparations are being completed at this extremely late stage make for a sorry tale of procrastination, indecision and adhocism. Inevitably, those who hover looking for opportunities to make a quick buck under precisely such conditions are reportedly having a field day. The latest shockers range from unspecified payouts for the Queen's Baton Relay rollout in London — strenuously denied by organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi — to the far more serious matter of shoddy construction work deliberately concealed by means of false/forged quality assurance certificates for the many infrastructure projects taken up all around the nation's capital. If even a tenth of these reports are true — and there is no reason at present to suppose they are not — it simply highlights how corruption and opportunism of the worst kind are at play here. At stake is India's image as host to an international sporting event that might draw close to 10,000 athletes and officials from around the world. Given the scale and success of what South Africa pulled off with the 2010 Fifa World Cup, the focus will be sharper than it might otherwise have been. Adding to the mess are reports that four years ago the Delhi government had sought an exemption into any sort of investigation or examination of the work on the ground, which suggests that even then it suspected that all would not be above board as the inevitable rush began to complete projects. This is what is happening now, and going by past experience, the Games deadline will be used as a driver to set aside all other issues, leaving the question of punishment for the corrupt or merely inept for a later date that might never come. India is now striving to shed its image as a regional power and join the world's top table. It is therefore very much possible that simply ensuring that the Games go through with as little disruption as possible will be the priority, and related matters and problems that are mushrooming by the day will be looked on for now as distractions from the larger purpose. In doing so however, those guilty of flouting the law or even of inefficiency and sloth will escape yet again, as they have so successfully done for many years now.


Sharpen the focus to the Games themselves, and the picture is no better. Mr Kalmadi has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for delayed or poorly refurbished stadia and other Games-related infrastructure. But someone must carry the can for shoddy preparation and work. At an event to test the preparedness of the swimming venue, one young participant was injured by a loose tile — just days after the pool and playing area was handed over to the organising committee. This is just one example of how Games venues are throwing up problems, which ideally should have been spotted and sorted out months earlier, and not at this late stage. But when you have people at the top who are adept at passing the buck instead of standing up and taking responsibility, it sets a template for others to follow. So we have — and will continue to have — the spectacle of last-minute work and consequent problems, emergency purchases and last-minute finalising of contracts, adhocism on issue after issue. All this in the name of just making sure that the Games are held, regardless of the long-term costs involved. Greece is still paying the price of a similar approach to the 2004 Athens Olympics. Delhi 2010 threatens to be no different.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

WOMEN & PREJUDICE

JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

In the last week of July the Supreme Court delivered an important judgment with farreaching consequences for the women of this country. Unfortunately, the din and ruckus of day-to-day politics in our society prevented a full appreciation of the ramifications of this judgment. Women's rights activists have long agitated about the status and condition of women in India. The very same women who had fought shoulder to shoulder with men to obtain freedom from colonial rule and who played in equal measure a part in drafting the Indian Constitution, which guarantees to all citizens that there will be no discrimination on the grounds, inter alia, of gender, now find that they have been left far behind in the paradigm of development of this country.


The reasons for the comparative lack of development of women in almost all sectors, including life expectancy, health, nutrition, education, employment, decision-making and a hundred other areas, are complex and diverse. However, the simplest and most profound explanation is rooted in the patriarchal, social and family hierarchy of our society. If women were to attain true equality in all fields, especially for example in decision-making and employment, the social and family hierarchy of our society which is overwhelmingly male-dominated will become completely destabilised. And a male-dominated society can never deal with that. This is the reason why as long as the struggle was against the alien colonial force women found space in the ranks of the freedom fighters but the moment Independence was achieved traditional male-dominated family and social structures swung back into place.


Women all over the world of all classes have been traditionally responsible for housework, cooking, cleaning, fetching fuel and drinking water, other household chores and child rearing. In low-income and middle-income families, therefore, women have always filled both roles, as wage-earners as well as of home-makers and child rearers. However, women's rights activists have always questioned the fact that the arduous and daily drudgery involved in fetching fuel, drinking water, cooking, cleaning and child rearing has not only been the woman's lot but is rarely appreciated by the men in the family or by society at large.


Thus it is that a woman spends approximately one-third of her lifespan cooking and producing food for the consumption of her family. She does this with love, and that too everyday without a break, without a holiday on Saturday or Sunday, without salary or provident fund, without retirement benefits and often without even a word of gratitude from the members of her family.


However, the moment the chore of cooking which women do for their family goes out of the domestic and into the public arena, as for example, making vadas or tea in a tea shop, it becomes economically remunerative and men come into the picture. You don't see women but men in tea shops and dhabas cooking parathas and vadas and making tea and getting paid handsomely for their pains. In five-star hotels the most highly paid chefs are men. And yet the moment all these men step back into their own homes, it is the unpaid and under-appreciated women of their households who will have to hand them their tea and tiffin.


In agriculture and in construction sites the women do the most strenuous work. It is the women who carry bricks on their head and trudge up steep ladders to hand it to the mason who simply slaps on the cement. Also, women do the backbreaking work of sowing paddy. And yet, their work and contribution are not taken seriously by the society at large.


I once saw a TV documentary where men belonging to various professions were interviewed. Each one was asked what work he did. They answered that they were doctors, lawyers, clerks, engineers etc. Then they were asked what their wives did. Every single one of them said "Oh, she is a housewife, she does not do anything". Then the camera panned to their wives who were shown cooking, washing clothes, fetching cooking fuel, looking after children, toiling without break from dawn until night. The point of the documentary was that the work done by women at home is very important and productive work and should be considered as a major contribution to the national economy and the gross domestic product. In fact, it is estimated that the unaccounted world domestic output of work done by women could be in the region of $18 trillion.
Yet despite hundreds of petitions from the women's movement, governments remained stubbornly blind to this problem and have refused to classify women's domestic work as "productive labour" in terms of national economies. In fact, under the Indian Census rules the domestic work done by women is not only "not" considered "productive labour or work", but is also placed in the category of beggars and prisoners. There can be no greater insult to the women of India and that this insult exists in the Census rules framed by the government itself only highlights the level of prejudice under which women live in this country.
In this background, the judgment of the Supreme Court in CA 5843/2010 is a significant and heartwarming recognition of the contribution of women and their work. In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court disapproved of Clause 6 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, which divided persons into the category of non-earning persons and spouse and as far as the spouse is concerned, the income of the injured in both fatal and non fatal accidents has been categorised as one-third of the income of the earning and surviving spouse.
In other words, the spouse (no rmally the woman home-ma ker) who does not earn is co m puted at a value of 1/3 the value of the earning person. The court held that this was a gender bias, in clear violation of the Constitution and was demeaning and insulting to women and tremendous work rendered by them in terms of domestic work wi thin their own homes. The co urt directed that the Motor Vehicles Act should be suitably amended to remove this gender bias. It is the demand of every right-thinking citizen that the go vernment should not only su i tably amend the MV Act, but also ensure that the Census gi ves due credit to domestic work done by women and that this is duly reflected in the GDP.

 

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

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

TIME TO DEAL WITH TELANGANA HONESTLY

 

The victory of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in 11 of 12 assembly byelections held on July 27 is a loud and clear indication that both the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) will have to think beyond the habitual political cunning that they have shown to deal with the demand for a separate Telangana. Days before the poll, TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu enacted a dramatic protest near the Babhli barrage over river Godavari in Maharashtra, highlighting the stakes of the people in the Telangana region. The people were not impressed.

 

State Congress president D Srinivas suffered a humiliating defeat in his home constituency in Nizamabad after he indicated that he would want to stake his claim for the chief minister's post. It seems that the Congress leaders in the state and at the Centre were toying with the idea of making a man from Telangana the chief minister as a way to deflect the demand for a separate state and diffuse the rising anger of the people in the region. Through the poll verdict, the people have shown that playing lowly power games is not the way to deal with serious issues.

 

The Congress party, which holds the reins at the Centre, will have to deal with the question honestly, avoid pitting one region against another, or one leader against another. Similarly, the TDP which is capable of whipping up emotions and triggering violence in the Andhra region should resist the temptation of doing so.

 

]The TRS is partly justified in claiming victory for its demand for a separate state. But it has an obligation to rein in popular sentiment which has taken violent and tragic turn in the last one year, the latest one being the suicide of an Osmania University student on Saturday.

 

It can still be argued that the Telangana problem can be solved within the framework of the present Andhra Pradesh. But that would need sagacity on the part of political leaders all around. Even if a new state is to be carved out, it has to be done without unleashing anger and violence.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

WILL THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES BRING SHAME AND IGNOMINY?

 

It has been clear for the past year that all is not well with our preparations for the Commonwealth Games, due to be held in the national capital in October this year. It began with fears about the budget being continually raised while work was distressingly slow. Now it has blown up into what seems to be a massive financial scandal. The Central Vigilance Commission has found that quality certificates in at least 16 Games projects are either forged or suspect.

 

This is not just a major embarrassment for India but more frighteningly, shows how endemic corruption has become in our system — as if we needed further proof of that. The Commonwealth Games have been touted as a reason for pride, as an event that will show to the world how we are ready to shine on the international stage. Instead, what we have on offer is shoddy workmanship, badly-made and potentially dangerous infrastructure and a few richer contractors, bureaucrats and politicians. The result — if we continue like this — is going to be national shame and international ignominy.

 

The Sheila Dixit is currently stonewalling all queries but that is not a defence that can last very long. Also in the dock is Suresh Kalmadi, who is head of the Indian Olympic Committee as well as the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC). The awarding of contracts by the OC to a UK firm has shown severe irregularities and in effect blown the whistle on the scandal beneath.

 

Just after former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar took on Kalmadi saying he hoped that the Games failed, current sports minister MS Gill has again raised the question of the spiralling budget — Gill claims it has jumped 18 times from 2003, from Rs611 crore to Rs11,494 crore.

 

What we have here appears to be a combination of hubris and inefficiency. Given the number of scandals which are emerging in sports which are controlled by the government and the arrogance of those in charge, it is evident that Indian sports — from the treatment of players to the creation of infrastructure — is in need of an urgent overhaul. The question of government and political interference can and must be raised again.

 

That however is the bigger picture. Right now, it is a question of egg on our face in front of the world because the shameful Indian tendency to make a fast buck wherever it can has jeopardised our reputation. Perhaps the Games need to be taken away from the IOC to a temporary authority. The punishment and recrimination can come later.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

SATYAM AND THE ART OF BURYING A SCANDAL

R JAGANNATHAN

 

The country's most shocking terrorist outrage — 26/11 — has resulted in a conviction in 18 months. The country's biggest corporate scandal — the Rs 7,000-and-odd crore Satyam fraud — hasn't even got to the trial stage during the same timespan. And this, when the prime accused, B Ramalinga Raju, started it all with a confession.

 

What does this say about our political-executive-judicial system? Simple: justice happens only when the politicians will it. 26/11 is on its way to making legal history because the entire political system wanted a verdict. Satyam is not going anywhere because the system is in cahoots with the accused.

 

In fact, the Satyam scandal is probably well on its way to being buried. All the accused, barring the principal one, are out on bail. As for Ramalinga Raju — the self-confessed fraudster — he is now ready to twist the knife in the systemic wound by not only asking for bail but by preparing the grounds for a complete recant.

 

Reports from Hyderabad suggest that Raju's legal team has now shifted gears from a resigned "mea culpa" to a cautiously offensive stand where he no longer may stand by his confession of January 7, 2009. The new line of argument — which makes a mockery of all our investigating agencies and our judicial system — is that the confession was not an admission of guilt, but merely a statement of moral responsibility.

 

If the courts accept this argument, Raju would have made monkeys out of all of us. Let's see why. If Raju is only taking moral responsibility, the crime was done by other people under him, who were offered bail a few days ago. If they are the ones who did the dirty on Satyam shareholders, Raju should have squarely accused them of skulduggery and turned approver.

 

If, on the other hand, they were doing all this at the urgings of Raju, both should be nailed. The only plausible conclusion is that they are all guilty and in league with one another to bail themselves out. They have decided to hang together and take their chances with the courts rather than cooperate with the CBI and hang separately.

 

This is not to say that the courts and investigating agencies are going to let Raju get away all that easily. But the reverse cannot be assumed too, given the sheer tardiness with which the Special Frauds Investigation Office, the CBI and the Andhra Pradesh CID have handled an open-and-shut case so far.

 

That the political system was, from the outset, determined to thwart justice was apparent from day one. It took the Andhra police two days after the whole world heard about the Raju confession to arrest him. But even this arrest was made to prevent other, more diligent, agencies like Sebi from getting hold of Raju and shaking something damaging out of him.

 

It is obvious that Sebi, which is the market regulator, would have known what to ask and where to look, since the primary confession of Raju was about fudged accounts and cheating investors. But the Andhra CID was given first crack at him, possibly for the simple reason that it was directly under the thumb of guilty politicians.

 

Given the sheer amount of government contracts given to Raju's other company Maytas, it is impossible to avoid the suspicion that Satyam's fraud and Maytas' Andhra government linkages had a symbiotic connection. It is also well known in Andhra that chief minister YS Rajashekhara Reddy (YSR, who was later killed in a helicopter crash) lobbied hard with Delhi to ensure that nothing damaging emerged before the 2009 general elections.

 

As the Congress' most powerful chief minister, YSR got his way. This is the main reason why even though little progress has been made in the case against Raju and the other accused, the government happily sold off Satyam to the Mahindras and Maytas too was packed off to IL&FS. In short, the government moved expeditiously to get the company's future sorted out since thousands of jobs were involved and India's IT reputation was at stake. But we have seen little progress in the prosecution of Raju & Co.

 

In theory, Raju has already spent more than 18 months in jail. But he has managed to get himself into a hospital for large stretches of time, ostensibly for hepatitis C treatment. He has been stonewalling the CBI's efforts to meet him and record his formal statement on the scandal. The judiciary has not covered itself

 

with glory by allowing this to happen.

 

The Ajmal Kasab trial went like a breeze because judge ML Tahaliyani gave the defence no chance to sabotage it with delaying tactics. Sadly, the Andhra courts have not shown the same sense of urgency to prosecute the country's biggest fraudster to date. Though Raju is supposed to be tried by a fast-track court, the road to trial is a slow, dirt-track.

 

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DNA

COMMENT

MULTIPLE CROPPING ZONES TO PROTECT AGRO-ECOSYSTEM

SUMAN SAHAI

 

According to estimates, developing countries in the tropics are more susceptible to climate change damage than those in the temperate zones. Consequently, agriculture in the productive areas of Africa and South Asia will be amongst the worst affected. Almost 40% of the production potential in certain developing countries could be lost.

 

In South Asia, and in India, the biggest blow to food production is expected to come from the loss of multiple cropping zones. The worst affected areas are predicted to be the double and triple cropping zones. To offset most of this loss, an effort must be made to convert today's single cropping areas into two crop zones.

 

This can first and foremost be done by efficient water harvesting and equitable management.

 

Coping with the impact of climate change on agriculture will require careful management of resources like soil, water and biodiversity. Making agriculture sustainable is the key and is possible only through production systems that make the most efficient use of environmental goods and services without damaging these assets.

 

A large scale climate literacy program is necessary to prepare farmers, who are today bewildered by the rapid fluctuations in weather conditions that affect agriculture. Their traditional knowledge does not help them to manage these recent changes.

 

Developing countries face a substantial decrease in cereal production potential. In India, rice production is slated to decrease by almost a tonne / hectare if the temperature goes up to 20 degrees C. By 2050 about half of India's prime wheat production area could get heat-stressed, with the cultivation window getting shorter, affecting productivity. For every 10 degrees C rise in mean temperature, wheat yield losses in India are likely to be around 7 million tonnes per year, or around $1.5 billion at current prices.

 

At the global level, India must negotiate hard to ensure that the emission reduction pledges or commitments are sufficient to ensure at least 50% likelihood that the global temperature rise is capped at 20 degrees C. If this is not done, the impact on agriculture and food security in developing countries will be devastating. Rising temperatures will be beneficial for the agriculture of cold temperate regions since warmer conditions will allow their single crop zones to become two, even three crop zones. India must insist that developed countries must reduce their own agriculture emissions while at the same time paying for adaptation, especially in the agriculture sector, consistent with the polluter pays principle.

 

Regional cooperation at SAARC level is necessary to protect the Himalayan ecosystems and minimise glacial melt. Negotiations on river waters emanating from the Tibetan plateau are urgent so that the river flows in our major rivers like the Ganga and Brahmaputra are maintained to support agriculture.

 

At the national level, appropriate policy and budgetary support for mitigation and adaptation actions is needed. Multiple food and livelihood strategies are needed in rural areas to minimise risk.

 

Food inflation will worsen with climate change as more frequent and unpredictable droughts and floods will result in shortfalls in food production. Just one bad monsoon in 2009 led to a reduction of 15 million tonnes in rice and 4 million tonnes in pulse production, causing prices to go through the roof.

 

A carefully planned programme for strategic research, along with dedicated funding, is needed to develop solutions to cope with the impact of global warming on crops, livestock, fish, soil etc. Renewable energy must be part of our mitigation and adaptation strategy.

 

The real action for both mitigation and adaptation will have to be at the local level. The pursuit of sustainable agricultural development at the local level is integral to climate-change mitigation and combating climate change effects.

 

Developing sustainability in agriculture production systems rather than seeking to maximise crop, aquacultural and livestock outputs, will help farming communities to cope with the uncertainties of climate change. The ecosystem approach with crop rotations, bioorganic fertilisers and biological pest controls, improves soil health and water retention. The more diverse the agro-ecosystems, the more efficient the network of insects and microorganisms that control pests and disease.

 

Agricultural biodiversity is central to an agro ecosystem approach to food production. Such an approach promotes soil fertility, fosters high productivity and protects crop, livestock, fish and soil resources. Diversity in livestock and fish species and animal breeds is as important as in crop varieties. Genetic diversity gives species the ability to adapt to changing environments and combat stress conditions like pests and disease, drought and salinity.

 

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DNA

REPORT

ASSERTING OUR FREEDOMS AND THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE

ABHAY VAIDYA

 

I remember Vinod Mehta as editor of The Indian Post writing about an elderly lady in Mumbai who deliberately subscribed to two copies of his newspaper. The exact words of around 21 years ago are hazy, but her contention was that The Post was a fine newspaper and deserved her support. It offered a refreshing alternative and the freedom of choice.

 

Not having the freedom of choice in your sources of news is a rather dangerous situation to be in for a democratic society, especially in this era of paid news and ad-for-equity "private treaties".

 

Under such arrangements, advertorials seek to influence readers and television viewers — in the guise of news or tips on the stock market — without as much as hinting that the news space they occupy has been paid for in one form or the other. What the innocent reader does not realise is that his implicit faith in the credibility of "news" has been compromised with and he is being cheated.

 

In July 2009, the Securities and Exchange Board of India wrote to the Press Council of India warning that private treaties "could lead to the commercialisation of news reports as well as biased and imbalanced reporting leading to inaccurate public perceptions of the companies involved".

 

When market leaders adopt such practices brazenly, the consequences can be disastrous because then prostitution becomes the industry norm.

 

A rather crass incident emanating from such a culture occurred in Pune some months ago when two journalists from a prominent Marathi daily were summoned by a politically well-connected builder who was infuriated with a negative news report about one of his projects. The builder and some of his hangers-on slapped and humiliated the journalists, convinced as they were, that not a word would appear in print the next day. Their only mistake was not realising that one of the victims was serving as president of the local union of journalists. Consequently, the episode could not be suppressed as desired.

 

Voices against the culture of paid news were first heard somewhat loudly during the 2009 general elections when journalists in Andhra Pradesh and the Network of Women in Media, India protested and submitted a memorandum to the Andhra Pradesh chief electoral officer. They estimated the paid news business in AP alone to be of the tune of around Rs1,000 crore.

 

Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan also finds himself embroiled in a "paid news" case involving haiographic reports in many newspapers during his 2009 election campaign that were allegedly paid for. Such practices can be dented if not diminished only when citizens exercise their power of choice and encourage the multiplicity of news sources.

 

The very first amendment to the American Constitution was made in 1791 stating categorically that "the Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press…"

 

One of the great founding fathers of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, said in 1823: The only security of all is in a free press ... It is necessary to keep the waters pure". He had stated that he would choose newspapers without a government rather than a government without newspapers.

 

The health of any democracy is dependant on the multiplicity of the sources of news. Our freedoms rest on the freedom of choice.

 

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DNA

REPORT

CHINA CLAMBERS TO THE SECOND SPOT

 

Has China overtaken Japan as the second largest economy in the world? Yi Gang, director of state administration of foreign exchange, had casually remarked that China has moved beyond Japan. While it is not surprising that China has moved past Japan — the details can wait — what will remain surprising is that Japan had held on to its position despite a decade of economic stagnation.

 

China is also a reluctant economic superpower, yet to adjust itself to its new position. Western experts feel that Beijing would underplay the superpower status because that would require policy responses, for example on the currency exchange front, which it is not willing to do. Interestingly, the combined size of the Chinese and Japanese economies is less than that of the US alone. And this despite the US' recessionary blues. The US' GDP stands at around $13,000 billion, while that of China and Japan is a little over $5,000 billion each. It is no wonder that the prudent Chinese are not shouting from rooftops. They are aware of the gap between the largest and that of the second largest economy — it is quite wide and very real.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

VALLEY OF VIOLENCE

OMAR MUST GOVERN, AND BE ALLOWED TO DO SO

 

THE fragile peace in the Kashmir valley stands shattered again, with agitations, protest marches and the resultant violence breaking out at many places. A new factor is that now women have also joined the stone-pelters in large numbers, increasing the difficulties of security forces.

 

Whatever the Union Home Minister may say, the fact is that the separatists are calling the shots in large parts of the Valley. They have become so bold that they are enforcing their writ not only on private organisations but also on public sector institutions to hold the weekly off on Friday instead of Sunday. Ironically, it is they who disrupt normal life and then say that the state government is not governing. The most dubious has been the role of avowedly democratic parties like the PDP which are indulging in activities more suited to furthering the cause of the separatists. It is high time they realised the consequences of their ill thought out policies.

 

Then there are elements in the Hurriyat who want to negotiate with the government while holding a gun to its head. Disruption and violence are their most dependable weapons. It is a difficult situation no doubt but Chief Minister Omar Abdullah must plod on regardless, with the Centre firmly behind him. The Centre as well as the state government has been inviting all interested parties to come to the negotiating table but the response has been less than even lukewarm.

 

Of course, the government has to remove various irritants like wide-spread unemployment and rampant corruption. It has also to make sure that the security agencies do not exert undue force while tackling protesters. Human rights violations must also be eliminated. But all this cannot be a one-way street. Restraint and reasonableness are also expected from those who are battling the government. While listening to their allegation that the security men retaliated with excessive force, it must also be assessed what the provocation was. Condemning the security forces outright will be playing into the hands of the enemies of the nation who have started a well thought out campaign to discredit the Army and the CRPF.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BRIDGES FALLING DOWN

RAIN EXPOSES SHODDY WORK

 

IT is during the rainy season that the true strength and reliability of a building is tested. The rain this season has not been excessive or abnormal. Still road and railway bridges have tumbled down in Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. The latest to cave in is the one on the Basantpur-Kingal road in Himachal that leads to the Indo-Tibetan border. 

 

It apparently could not bear the weight of four cement-loaded trucks parked there. The police immediately challanned the truck drivers, who had stopped to have food. The real culprit(s) will be identified after an inquiry.

 

As if it was something unusual, newspapers highlighted the fact that the bridge was completed just a year ago. There are railway and other bridges constructed during the British times and are still going strong. But the way corruption has flourished in independent India, people are more wary of newly built structures than those made when moral degeneration had not set in. The Border Roads Organisation has done a lot of commendable work but with the latest bridge collapse, its reputation stands besmirched even though it had got the bridge constructed through a private contractor. It was expected nevertheless to ensure quality of the project it had outsourced.

 

In Haryana and Punjab, canal breaches have caused massive damage to private and public property in recent days. The railway services between Delhi and Amritsar were disrupted as rainwater washed away soil under the tracks. The authorities have declared 30 bridges as "sensitive" in the Ambala railway division alone. The overflowing canal waters brought down the bridge over the Shahbad-Nalwi road in Haryana, constructed, again, just a year ago. It is not enough to order an inquiry after every tragedy or mishap. Precious lives are lost. Swift and visible action against the guilty alone will act as a deterrent. The heads must roll at the top also as the monsoon arrival this year has not seen any advance planning.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TAINT OF CORRUPTION

STOP MALFEASANCE, DELIVER GAMES ON SCHEDULE 

 

AS the deadline of the Commonwealth Games approaches, there has been a flurry of allegations about the misuse of funds and corruption in various projects associated with the Games. The Central Vigilance Commission has pointed out that tenders were given at higher rates to bidders and the quality of construction was poor in a dozen construction works. It has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to look into the matter.

 

 Another expose put the Delhi government on the mat because of purchase of medical equipment, allegedly at vastly inflated rates. The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee is facing the heat because of a contract given to an event management firm in London, which is being investigated by authorities in the UK. All these allegations must be investigated thoroughly and the guilty must be brought to the book.

 

The Commonwealth Games are just two months away. It is indeed unfortunate that corruption and substandard work have cast their shadow over the biggest sporting event. Swift and efficient completion of various projects associated with the Games is vital to the nation's honour. The situation on the ground is far from encouraging, since most of the projects are running behind schedule, and at times like this, there is a tendency to cut corners, sometimes with serious consequences.

 

The Prime Minister's Office has rightly intervened to sort out matters, since it is obvious that the CWGOC, various associated organisations and the Delhi government have not been able to deliver. Only top-level intervention can save the day. Delhi hosted the Asian Games with great aplomb. For the Commonwealth Games, too, it must pull out all the stops, even as it puts a stop to malfeasance by any official. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

A DIVISIVE EXERCISE

CASTE CENSUS MAY LEAD TO CONFLICTS

BY D.N. PANIGRAHI

 

THE demand for a caste census threatens to acquire political space in the none-too-distant future. The well-known OBC leader, Lalu Prasad Yadav, wielding his lathi, has declared that he will not rest till the demand is met. The foremost Dalit leader, Ms Mayawati, has also lent her unequivocal support to the phenomenon.

Though the matter is under consideration of the Group of Ministers and other co-opted members appointed by the Prime Minister, there has been very little debate on the issue of caste census. An obvious question is whether the normal census operation under way is unable to enumerate and locate the OBCs and other deprived caste groups.

 

The very purpose of census begun after Independence was to identify areas of socio-economic backwardness and economically disadvantaged groups. Also attention has been paid in the National Sample Surveys to enumerate OBC groups as the Mandal Commission report suggests.

 

According to data provided by Economic and Political Weekly (July 17-23, 2010, p10), the Mandal Commission had arrived at the OBC figure of 52 per cent of the total population on "flimsy empirical evidence". The National Sample Survey of 1999-2000 estimated the OBC population at 36 per cent and in 2004-05 at 41 per cent. Such surveys are tools for determining caste data and disadvantaged groups. If that is so, is there any necessity of specifically starting a caste census at enormous public expenditure?

 

Several social groups also clamour for reservations. The Jats threatened recently that they would not allow the Commonwealth Games to take place if they were not assured of a "quota". In Rajasthan the Gujjars have been given 5 per cent reservation. In Tamil Nadu 69 per cent reservations have been made. It is also proposed to give 30 per cent reservation to women. A kind of quota raj is in the offing!

 

Of course, the easy way out is to keep on accepting the demand of each and every caste group till the government collapses to the overall detriment of national good. It is argued here that the quota raj based on caste is harmful and disastrous for the political future of India. It would inaugurate virulent caste conflicts at various levels and eventually affect the morale of our defence forces endangering the security and integrity of India.

 

Since the dawn of Independence, an overwhelming majority of educated middle-class Indians believed that caste was harmful for national growth. It was accepted as an axiom that caste militated against the concept of nationality. As long as caste dominance persisted in the social fabric of India, it was believed that national sentiment, however strong, would remain somewhat mute and quiescent.

 

Caste was also opposed since it denoted social inequality. It was an essential part of a feudal past, which we had aspired to destroy and overgrow. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru dreamt of establishing a casteless and classless society. They considered caste as a regressive force, opposed to the values of common citizenship, Indian nationhood and modernity. It was also argued that just as Jinnah's two-nation theory brought about a religious divide leading to partition of India, so also would caste ultimately prove to be divisive and promote social cleavage difficult to bridge.

 

The caste census is bound to perpetuate caste consciousness and caste solidarity to the detriment of national good. The caste census has in it the power to destroy the values of common nationality cherished by millions of Indians. The Khap Panchayats' demands and subsequent honour killings are to a great extent the consequence of a caste-based social order. No doubt, these have shocked the national conscience, and people hope their demands would not be legitimised by law. Rather, here is an opportunity for the Centre to take a firm and appropriate measure to deal a death blow to such practices. It must be the imperative duty of the Central Government to see that the tragic past based on demeaning caste distinctions did not prevail. The Constitution does not recognise caste as a valid unit of family, village or town. The caste panchayats must be made to function within the constitutional obligations and law.

 

It must also be stressed that caste is not divinely ordained, nor is based on any religion. It has evolved over time. An eminent Vedic scholar, Mahamahopadhyaya P.V.Kane, who was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1963, observed in his classic multiple volume study; History of Dharmasastras, that during the Vedic period before 1000 BC, mention had been made of three Varnas (meaning colour): Brahmans, Ksatriyas and Vaisyas. Sudras (service class) were those who were defeated by the Aryans. They were also known as dasas. (Vol.II, Part I P.33). Owing to cultural advance a division of labour took place and numerous arts and crafts and occupations came into being, giving rise to castes (jati) and sub-castes (p-48).

 

Manusmriti (around I century A.D.) and subsequent Purusukta claimed that the four Varnas were created by Supreme Purusa (p.33). In recent times, however, it is believed that "the caste system was an invention, and artificial product due to the machinations of crafty Brahmans" (p.22). If that is so, why continue with the caste system at all? Caste, however, has not disappeared nor is there any chance of its disappearance if the practices like caste census, Khap Panchayat demands are continued. With the Mandalisation of politics the caste system has received a fresh lease of life, which is being utilised for electoral gains.

 

In the modern age caste distinctions among the urban educated and middle classes are considered abhorrent. Caste has no place in the Constitution. Studies have shown the hold of caste in the urban middle classes has weakened. Andre Beteille, an eminent sociologist, writes : "The doctor in his office, the lawyer in his chamber, the civil servant or even the clerk in his office is no longer bound by the moral authority of his caste in the way the Brahman, the Rajput, the Nai (Barbar) or Dhobi (Washerman) was in the traditional village...... He (middle class man) can't repudiate his obligations to his family even when he finds them irksome; (but) nothing is easier for him than to repudiate the demands of his caste if he finds them inconvenient" (Sudhir Kakar, The Indians: Portrait of a People (Penguin, Delhi, 2007, p 40).

 

No longer family occupations of the past satisfy aspirations of the younger generation of modern middle-class families and all other groups, rich and poor. The nation can grow, flourish and achieve greatness if only it looks beyond caste.

 

]The writer is a retired Professor of History

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

BREAKING HEARTS, CELEBRITY STYLE

BY SUNIT DHAWAN

 

IT had all the ingredients of a glittery ceremony: A posh venue, the company's beaming PR head welcoming the guests at the entrance and beautiful girls escorting them to their seats, dazzling damsels in shimmering sarees conducting the stage and announcing the upcoming proceedings in Queen's English, and the spectators marvelling at their linguistic skills, besides other things.

 

The function had been organised by a famous beauty, health and fitness training institute to felicitate its students. As it turned out to be, it was also the birthday of the founder of the institute.

 

When I reached the auditorium, the stage was all set for the event and the hall was abuzz with conversations. I also got engaged in some small talk with a fellow journalist seated next to me.

 

All of a sudden, the buzz fell silent and all heads turned towards the entrance. "She's there," murmured somebody from a back row.

 

Imbibing every bit of the gaze on her and throwing a cursory glance and smug smile on the gathering, the woman of the moment arrived in style. Flanked by a posse of her close aides, she settled down in the front row, enjoying her celebrity status to the hilt.

 

The staff went into a tizzy, taking turns to welcome the "dignitaries". Bouquets appeared in a jiffy, and were laid to rest alongside the mineral-water bottles on the front tables.

 

A saree-clad announcer formally welcomed the founder-mentor of the institute and extolled her virtues in great details. She was then invited to the dais to light the ceremonial lamp and inaugurate the event.

 

Following that, the founder was prayed to say a few words, and she obliged. While she spoke, a tall man dressed in a safari suit trademark of security personnel stood behind her.

 

After the speech was over, the owner of the institute proceeded towards her seat, escorted by the safari-clad man. As they alighted from the dais, a nicely dressed-up young girl holding a greeting card in her hand stepped towards them.

 

The safari man at once stepped ahead to introduce the girl: "Ye meri beti hai, Madam," he mumbled, but the "madam" ignored them and walked towards her seat. The man tried to call her again, but he was stopped by his daughter. He hugged the girl, perhaps to console her.

 

I couldn't make out whether the lady boss had done it deliberately or it just happened, but I felt sorry for the girl.

 

A little later, I found that the girl had left and the safari man was standing in a corner, holding the card in his hands. It was a beautiful card, perhaps made by the girl herself. I could see the words "Happy Birthday" inscribed on it amidst an attractive pattern of flowers and sparkles.

 

I didn't feel like being there anymore. I wanted to console the girl and her father, but stopped myself from doing so as it might embarrass them. I left the place, telling myself that some things in life are beyond our control.

 

I sincerely hope that the episode turns out to be a blessing in disguise for the young girl, and she does well in her life. And, when she is in an enviable position herself, she does not do to anybody what was done to her.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

KEEP THE GENERAL IN GOOD HUMOUR

IT IS IN INDIA'S INTEREST TO WOO MYANMAR AND COSY UP TO THE MILITARY JUNTA THERE. NEW DELHI DOES NOT HAVE TOO

MANY OPTIONS EITHER, GIVEN CHINA'S PREVAILING CLOUT.

HARSH V. PANT

 

MYANMAR'S reclusive military leader, General Than Shwe, just ended a five-day visit to India and signed a raft of pacts including treaties on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, counter terrorism, development projects, science and technology and information cooperation etc.

 

A memorandum of understanding was also signed to provide Indian assistance in restoring the Ananda temple in Bagan, a major tourist attraction in Myanmar.

 

Two issues were central - energy cooperation and insurgents operating in India's Northeast who manage to use the 1650 km long India-Myanmar border for their hiding purposes. India plans to invest more than $1 billion in Myanmar's energy sector over the next few years. Among the infrastructure and development projects that were discussed include an India-Myanmar-Thailand highway project, a hydro-electric project to be built by the NHPC, a truck assembly plant by Tata Motors and a border trade point on the Mizoram-Myanmar border.

 

In an attempt to restructure the India-Myanmar border areas, Myanmar has agreed to give citizenship cards to people of Indian origin even if they lack any document. In a sign that Myanmar wants to substantively engage India on economic and trade issues, Than Shwe visited the information technology hub in Hyderabad and the industrial centre in Jamshedpur.

 

Than Shwe's visit to New Delhi came days after the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in a speech at the ASEAN meeting urged regional countries to push Myanmar to comply with UN human rights resolutions.

 

The US is anxious that the junta in Myanmar will use its growing engagements with India to gain greater global

legitimacy. The US Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Campbell, suggested that India's growing role in global politics should be used to penetrate the tight military clique that runs Myanmar and that New Delhi should "encourage interlocutors inside [Myanmar] to embrace reforms."

 

After being a strong critic of the Myanmar junta, India muted its criticism and dropped its vocal support for Aung San Suu Kyi since mid-1990s to help pursue its 'Look East' policy aimed at strengthening India's economic linkages with the rapidly growing economies in East and South-east Asia. More important has been the realisation that China's profile in Myanmar has grown at an alarming pace.

 

India's ideological obsession with democracy made sure that Myanmar drifted towards China.

 

As India realised that one of its closest neighbors and a major source of natural gas, Myanmar, is coming under China's orbit, it reversed its policy of isolating the Burmese junta and has now begun to deal with it directly. India cannot afford to toe the western line on Myanmar. India's strategic interests demand that India only gently nudge the Myanmar's junta on the issue of democracy.

 

India's relief efforts after the tropical cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar in 2008 earned it great deal of appreciation. India has gained a sense of trust at the highest echelons of the Myanmar's ruling elite and it would be loathe to lose it. Not surprising, therefore, that India remains opposed to western sanctions on the country.

 

After six years of discussions, India agreed to the building of Sittwe port in 2008 at a cost of $120 million. This will provide an alternative route to connect with South -east Asia without transiting Bangladesh. India has also extended a $20 million credit for renovation of the Thanlyin Refinery, but it also supported Myanmar against the U.S. censure motion in an attempt to lure the junta to grant preferential treatment to India in the supply of natural gas.

 

Bilateral trade between India and Myanmar today stands at almost $1 billion. The junta has cooperated with India in eliminating Naga insurgents. India's long border with Myanmar is an open one where the tribal population is free to move up to 20 kms on either side.

 

Apart from India's existing infrastructure projects in Myanmar, which include the 160-kilometer India-Myanmar friendship road built by India's Border Roads Organisation in 2001, India is looking into the possibility of embarking on a second road project and investing in a deep-sea project (Sagar Samridhi) to explore oil and gas in the Bay of Bengal as well as the Shwe gas pipeline project in western Myanmar.

 

Even as the Burmese military junta was readying for a violent crackdown on monks and democracy activists, the Indian petroleum minister was in Yangon signing a production deal for three deep-water exploration blocks off the Rakhine coast. While India did support the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution against Myanmar, it tried to tone it down and balance its democratic credentials with its desire to retain its influence with the Burmese military government.

 

Yet, India has found it difficult to counter Chinese influence in Myanmar, with China selling everything from weapons to food grains to Myanmar. There is no escaping the clout China wields in Myanmar. The Chinese firms get preferential treatment in the award of blocks and gas, apparently in recognition of China's steady opposition to the U.S. moves against Myanmar's junta in the UN.

 

China's growing naval presence in and around the Indian Ocean region is troubling India as it restricts India's freedom to manoeuvre in the region. Of particular note is what has been termed as China's "string of pearls" strategy that has significantly expanded China's strategic depth in India's backyard.

 

Some of these claims are exaggerated as has been the case with the Chinese naval presence in Myanmar. The Indian government, for example, had to concede in 2005 that reports of China turning Coco Islands in Myanmar into a naval base were incorrect and that there were indeed no naval bases in Myanmar. Yet the Chinese thrust into the Indian Ocean is gradually becoming more pronounced than before. The Chinese may not have a naval base in Myanmar but they are involved in the upgradation of infrastructure in the Coco Islands and may be providing some limited technical assistance to Myanmar.

 

Indian strategic interests, therefore, demand a robust partnership with Myanmar. Democracy promotion is a luxury that India cannot afford at the moment. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WHY WAS INDIAN CIVIL SOCIETY MUTE?

SREERAM CHAULIA

 

A 5-day trip to India by Senior General Than Shwe, the head of the military junta that has ruled neighbouring Myanmar for decades, was expected to pass off smoothly. It did, as neither the Indian government nor the country's activist community rose to the occasion to apply any pressure on the draconian junta.

 

The itinerary of the General's second visit to India included access to the highest portals of power and business centres. Although incredulously dubbed as a "religious visit" by a devout Buddhist, Than Shwe came with a delegation of government officials and met the entire top brass of the Indian leadership. It was a de facto state visit that notched up workmanlike deals and accords on trade, investment and border security.

 

While the Indian government's 15-year-long logic of not upsetting Myanmar's entrenched authoritarian regime by advocating for democracy and civil liberties is strategically and morally questionable, an even more surprising silence has emanated from India's civil society.

 

Than Shwe visited major tourist and business centres across India where there is no dearth of activists, social workers and crusaders for justice. Yet, they did not think it worth their time and energy to display significant dissent.

 

The streets were largely left to Myanmarese exiles in India (unofficially around 100,000 strong) to voice their disgust at the honour and legitimacy being accorded to a man they consider a war criminal.

 

Myanmarese refugee organisations in India clearly have the greatest stake in their homeland's destiny, and they did turn out in sizeable numbers with banners and placards demanding that Than Shwe conduct free elections and release thousands of political prisoners. But glaringly absent from these mini-demonstrations were India's civil society progressives.

 

The Thailand-based Irrawaddy magazine mentioned as a footnote that a handful of Indian intellectuals, film makers, writers and movie stars had written a letter to the Manmohan Singh government denouncing the cosy relations between New Delhi and the blood-stained junta ensconced in Naypyidaw.

 

Some 'progressive' elements from India's marginal political parties, such as Jaya Jaitley of the Samata Party and the youth wing of the Communist Party of India, were observed marching, delivering speeches and burning effigies. However, such interventions belied the concept of 'civil society' participation, which is supposed to be non-electoral and unrelated to the agendas of political parties.

 

It is evident now that pro-democracy forces within the Indian civil society are negligible in number and declining in quality. When Than Shwe's deputy, General Maung Aye, came calling to India with an official entourage in April 2008, expatriate Myanmarese media outlets reported a gathering of over 1,000 Myanmarese exiles, Tibetan refugees and Indian civil society activists to mark their disapproval of the atrocities and repression being perpetrated by the junta.

 

But not even a few hundred Indian activists with some public clout and influence on opinion- making were around this time when Myanmar's head of state arrived.

 

The deficiencies and inconsistencies of the Indian civil society with regard to mobilising concern on issues of international social justice have been exposed in recent years in the Tibet theatre as well. When the Olympic torch relay in the run up to the Beijing summer games was underway in 2008, India proved to be one of the safest transit points. There was no untoward incident or even peaceful expression of mass outrage when the flame was carried by India's cognoscenti and selected sporting legends through sanitised New Delhi.

 

This passiveness stood in sharp contrast to the robust protests and symbolic shaming actions of civil society groups in a number of international cities, distressed by the Chinese government's crackdown in March 2008 on Tibet. The spirit of popular resistance to Chinese rule in Tibet, which were witnessed in the USA, Turkey, Japan, the UK, France, South Korea, Australia et al, were contrasted by sleepy anti-climaxes in India, West Asia, Africa and Latin America.

 

An interesting North-South divide has emerged in civil society approaches to murderous regimes in the decolonised world. While civil society activism in rich countries is global as well as self-critical in its range of interests, social movements in poorer, formerly colonised countries tend to be ambivalent about indignities meted out by states of fellow developing countries.

 

India's raucous civil society- a self-proclaimed defender of justice that estimates itself to be an avant garde force standing up against impunity and misrule- barely raised a whimper in the final stages of Sri Lanka's war in 2009. Except a few prominent figures like the novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy, who has critiqued Chinese oppression in Tibet, Sri Lankan state terrorism, as well as the US 'war on terrorism' in equal measure, most Indian social activists kept deafeningly quiet about the gory endgame of the war in Sri Lanka and the Indian government's acquiescence to it.

 

It would be unfair to label Indian civil society an accomplice of the Indian state, because the former does intercede with gumption against domestic state policies that militate against justice and equality. Even in foreign affairs, in recent times, Indian civil society entities have staged impressive protests and agitations drawing in crowds in excess of 20,000 against the US war on Iraq and Israel's attacks on Lebanon and Gaza.

 

But their no-show on Myanmar or Tibet reveals disturbing double standards that condemn Western iniquities but condone or ignore human-made disasters in Asia owing to ideological limitations of seeing villains only if they are white or capitalist.

 

Opposing state and corporate misdeeds stemming from the West and from within India, but remaining disinterested or misinformed about tyranny elsewhere in Asia and beyond, reproduces the toxic conditions in which Than Shwes of the world thrive.

 

(The author is Associate Professor of World Politics at the OP Jindal Global University in Sonepat, Haryana)


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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

CAN PAKISTAN GET OFF THE TIGER?

THE OBSESSION WITH INDIA HAS LED TO A COMPLETE SENSE OF DISCONNECT WITH THE COST PAKISTAN ITSELF IS PAYING FOR TERRORISM


Ayear or so ago a respected social scientist told me a telling account of his meeting with a Pakistani general and his wife at a reception in a foreign capital. They were being asked worried questions about the deteriorating security situation in their country but cheerily swatted away all such queries – 'what the hell are you talking about' – and then, for good measure, added, 'Come to Islamabad, we still have the best wine and cheese, you know." 

 

 It sounds almost apocryphal but the story for me has come to symbolise the Pakistani elite's deep state of denial over the terrible crisis it is facing. The chickens have long been coming home to roost on Pakistan's Janus-faced response to terror but nothing illustrates the ostrich-like denial better than the public response to the WikiLeaks revelations. A thoughtful article in Foreign Policy magazine notes that in the first two days after the story broke, there was a 'deafening silence' in the Pakistani media. Pakistani TV networks barely mentioned it at first and Bina Shah, a novelist based in Karachi, wrote on Twitter: "Why is nobody in Pakistan discussing the WikiLeaks story? It's sensational." The indifference wore away a little towards mid-week but the coverage now largely focused on denials by the ISI and the motive behind the leaks. 

 

This despite the fact that as many as 180 of the leaked files pertain to the ISI arming, financing and training the Taliban insurgency since 2004. According to the military's grading system, 27 of these files are graded as C3 or above (coming from a fairly reliable source and possibly true) and many others are marked Sewoc or signals intelligence electronic warfare centre. The documents cut a wide swathe: the planning of the Indian embassy bombing in Kabul, sending 1,000 motor cycles to Jalaluddin Haqqani for suicide attacks in Khost and Lagar, offering $15,000 to $ 30,000 bounties for killing Indian road workers and even a plan to poison the beer supply of NATO troops. Most of this is not new to anyone who knows anything of the ground situation, including US intelligence. In July 2008, for instance, the CIA deputy chief confronted the ISI with evidence of complicity in the attack on the Indian embassy. 

 

What is different this time is that the claims are now part of the mainstream discourse in the United States, making it just that bit more difficult domestically for American policymakers who have been playing footsy helplessly with Pakistan, as they angle for a way out of the Afghan morass and a possible deal with the Taliban. As the influential New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd notes, "Washington gave the Pakistanis billions, and, in return, they stabbed us in the back, pledging to fight the militants even as they secretly help the militants." 

 

 The problem with the standard Pakistani protestation – "we too are victims of terror" – is that the Pakistani establishment continues to making a distinction between "good" terrorists, the ones who fight in Kashmir or Afghanistan, and "bad" terrorists, the ones who fight its army. Despite the global opprobrium about the ongoing linkages between the Army and the militants, a curious myopia seems to have gripped the Pakistani elites, almost a sense of false triumphalism at holding most of the cards in the Afghan endgame. The obsession with India has led to a complete sense of disconnect with the cost Pakistan itself is paying for this dichotomy. 

 

 Riding a tiger never pays. In the late 1970s, the Congress establishment unofficially backed a then unknown religious leader called Bhindranwale in Punjab as a counterweight to the rising influence of the Akali Dal. Bhindranwale quickly turned into a Frankenstein, leading to the catastrophe of Blue Star in 1984 and eventually the assassination of Indira Gandhi. The fallout kept Punjab aflame for a decade. As Bhindranwale showed, there are no good terrorists. When you ride a tiger, it eventually devours you. Pakistan's current problem is Bhindranwale times hundred. 

 

Things can only change if there is a deep questioning within Pakistani society, instead of the defensive scrum that we have become accustomed to seeing every time an uncomfortable fact is raised. There are enough sane civil society voices in Pakistan who recognise the abyss it is moving towards but there is little hope for forward movement as long as they are drowned out by the security establishment. 

 

 This is the big question for India as it ponders its next steps after the disaster of S M Krishna's visit: does the Pakistan Army really want to get off the tiger?

 

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

EDITORIAL

FLAG FOLLOWS BUSINESS

CAMERON PICKS MAJOR'S THREAD ON INDO-BRITISH PARTNERSHIP

 

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron knows a thing or two about public relations. Even so, his carefully crafted visit to India, with senior Cabinet ministers meeting a wide range of policy- and opinion-makers and business leaders in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore, should be deemed a success. It has helped take the bilateral relationship back to the template first created by another Conservative Party prime minister, the unfairly under-rated John Major. It was Mr Major who first altered the metaphor in this complex bilateral relationship between a former colony, "the jewel in the crown", now an "emerging market", and a former global power by launching what was called the Indo-British Partnership Initiative (IBPI). The idea of "partnership" was new to the bilateral discourse, though that is precisely what India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had envisioned for the relationship. A fact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reminded his audience at Oxford University in 2005 when he paid a self-confident tribute to Britain's enduring influence on modern and free india.

 

Yet, the momentum built during the 1990s decade of partnership was dissipated in more recent years by a variety of factors, ranging from the trans-Atlantic financial crisis to the short-sighted compulsions of domestic politics in both countries and the impact of the war on jehadi terrorism on the bilateral relationship. Britain's Labour Party, especially during the months of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's tenure, was quite willing to upset India to score points with Muslim opinion at home. That is an electoral compulsion that a Conservative Party PM does not have, even if some of his coalition members may still do. Mr Cameron does not have to look over his shoulder to check what Muslim voters may be thinking at home, when he makes candid statements about sources of jehadi terrorism in South Asia. This gives the British government an opportunity to reconnect with India and "renew" and "enhance" a partnership that Mr Major was the first to author.

 

 Ironically, though, while today Indian outward investment into Britain exceeds inward investment into India from Britain, there are few areas outside of defence, energy and finance where Britain is a competitive source of investment. Thus, even South Korea has been able to overtake Britain as an investor in India. This is why the British government complains so much about barriers to foreign investment in areas like insurance, banking and retail. These barriers will go away too, like all the other ones have, but not in a hurry, given global uncertainties and rising protectionism in developed economies. Prime Minister Singh's assurance that India will be more welcoming of British goods, services and capital and that, in turn, Britain should remain open to Indian goods and services was timely. Apart from their shared interest in the further universalisation of the English language, India and Britain do indeed have shared strategic interests around the world. The challenge for both governments is to convince domestic public opinion that better relations with the other is in their self-interest. While a growing number of Indians visit the UK and a new generation of Indians is neither awed nor intimidated by Britain, India's profile and image in the UK leaves much to be desired. The British media and academia have not played a helpful or constructive role. Hopefully, Mr Cameron's new interest in India will help.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

ELECTRIFYING SITUATION

STATE GOVERNMENTS CAN'T VIOLATE THE ELECTRICITY ACT

 

With the Supreme Court considering a petition filed by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) on whether the Tamil Nadu government has the right to prevent electricity suppliers within the state from selling power outside the state under Section 11 of the Electricity Act, it is obvious the situation is quite serious. Last year, states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu used this provision to prevent sales outside the state. Orissa, which allows such sales, insists that all private generators sell only to the state-owned Gridco — Gridco then sells this to other states at a much higher price, pockets the difference and this is used to subsidise power sales within the state. What is happening in Delhi is different in specifics — it hurts consumers while the others hurt power companies — but the broad tendency is the same, of state governments consciously violating the letter or spirit of the Electricity Act. In the case of Delhi, the three electricity distribution companies (discoms) enlisted the support of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who ordered the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC) to not issue an order which would lower tariffs — even though raw material prices, including those of electricity purchases, have risen, the DERC's logic is that with thefts reducing, the discoms have more money with them (if theft levels fall from 45 per cent to 20 per cent, as is roughly the case in the last eight years, assuming no rise in raw material costs, tariff levels should come down by 44 per cent).

 

The DERC got the Solicitor General of India's opinion which said Ms Dikshit's order was invalid; the DERC has also questioned the claims of the discoms that they are cash-strapped, by producing reports of a credit rating agency that show they are in reasonably good financial shape. Bank loans could not have been given to them at below PLR if their finances were so precarious, it has argued. In one communication to the Delhi government, the DERC has said that while the discoms have said they had a shortfall of Rs 604 crore in 2008-09, they actually had a surplus of Rs 25 crore — the Delhi government's order to not issue new tariffs for 2010-11, the DERC says, will give them an additional Rs 300 crore per month on top of the Rs 3,577 crore surplus they would have had under even the new tariffs. Differences among members of the DERC blur the issues, but the question of whether the discoms are right or the DERC is not really material. The point is that there is a well laid-out appellate procedure for tackling such disputes — in case discoms don't agree with the regulator, they are free to approach the Appellate Tribunal of Electricity and, finally, the Supreme Court. The Delhi government, like so many state governments, is undermining the regulator by interfering with this procedure. The Supreme Court's verdict in the Tamil Nadu case will undoubtedly shape the credibility of the regulatory process.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

OPINION

POLITICS OF INFLATION

THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF INFLATION MANAGEMENT DOES NOT MAKE CENTRE THE ONLY VILLAIN

SANJAYA BARU

 

What is it about Manmohan Singh and inflation?! There seems to be some karmic connection between the prime minister and the price index.

 

As a young economist of 41, Dr Singh earned his spurs slaying the dragon of hyperinflation under the admiring gaze of the prime minister of the day, Indira Gandhi. The spectre of inflation had come to haunt India in 1972-74. The fiscal consequences of a war with Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh, of a post-War election and the spending compulsions of the time and, finally, the first oil shock combined to send prices spiralling.

 

 The opening line of the annual Economic Survey of the Union Ministry of Finance for 1974-75, published in February 1975, ironically four months before Emergency was declared, read as follows: "By all accounts, 1974-75 was a year of unprecedented economic strains in the history of independent India. However, it was also a year of determined action on the part of the government, demonstrating vividly the basic resilience of our democratic polity in grappling with crisis situations."

 

The Survey's author, the Government of India's chief economic adviser Manmohan Singh, had reasons to be pleased. A year earlier, he had been summoned by Prime Minister Gandhi and told that neither the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), nor the ministry of finance, nor any other economic policy-making institution was able to get a grip on the price problem. Did he have any ideas?

 

Dr Singh's crafting of the anti-inflation strategy of 1974-75 earned him Mrs Gandhi's respect and admiration. The rest, as they say, is history. He was made secretary, economic affairs, in the Union finance ministry at 44, and RBI governor at 50, the second youngest after C D Deshmukh (who became governor in 1943 at the age of 47).

 

But the spectre of inflation returned to haunt Dr Singh in1992. The combined effect of the 1991 devaluation and a sharp rise in commodity prices contributed to the "stagflation" of 1992. A year later, he was once again claiming credit for restoring to the economy its growth momentum of the 1980s, but with a lower fiscal deficit, higher foreign exchange reserves and a lower rate of inflation.

 

But Dr Singh and the price index did not live happily ever after. In his six years as prime minister, he has had two major episodes of inflation. The first, in 2006, was triggered mainly by the global hike in commodity prices. The sharp increase in oil, minerals and food prices the world over got imported into India.

 

Dr Singh tried to educate public opinion at home that this "imported" inflation was a global phenomenon. It was a view that found endorsement from two very different quarters. On the one hand, The Economist (UK) said so editorially. On the other, Cuba's supremo Fidel Castro told Dr Singh, when he called on him in his hospital room in Havana in September 2006, that developing country inflation was being caused by the diversion of land from food crops to biofuels. Rising oil prices had contributed to inflation, and so did rising commodity prices, a consequence of such land diversion to biofuels.

 

In India, the government of the day was attacked and even the Congress Party kept blaming it for not doing enough to control prices. So much so, in February 2007 a senior spokesperson for the party, now a Union minister, attributed the party's defeat in the state assembly elections in Punjab to the government's mismanagement of inflation!

 

Last week, as the Parliament's monsoon session kept getting disrupted on the issue of inflation, nobody from the Congress party or the central government made the point that the Centre alone cannot be held responsible for food price inflation in India. It is as much, if not more, the responsibility of state governments. Why stall a debate? Why not take the battle into the enemy's camp?

 

The Congress party is in office on its own in less than half a dozen states. The Bharatiya Janata Party is in office in as many, the Left rules its bastions and UPA allies run state governments too. If the Centre has been remiss in not managing the food economy well, and perhaps that is a fair charge (given that the food and agriculture minister has been busy playing cricket!), what have the states done to increase food production, ensure better procurement and better functioning of the public distribution system?

 

]The political economy of inflation management does not make the Centre alone the villain of the piece. Acts of omission and commission by state governments are as much to blame for inflationary pressures building up in the economy. Rather than be defensive on inflation, the Congress party must come forward with a reasoned defence of its actions, stating clearly where states, many administered by national opposition parties, have failed as well.

 

As so often in the past three decades, in the past six years also mismanagement of the food and agricultural economy and populism in providing fertiliser and energy subsidies have all contributed to the resurgence of inflation. All political parties are equally responsible for these pressures and state governments must deliver too on better management of the food economy.

 

Indeed, the Congress party would only be mocking the people and making a mockery of governance if, on the one hand, it legislates a Right to Food Bill, and, on the other, pays no attention to the policies and the infrastructure required at the state level that would ensure both adequate production of food and its proper distribution.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CURIOUS CASE OF JANGI THOPAN

READ THE COURT JUDGMENT ON HOW HIMACHAL ALLOWED A $1 COMPANY TO BID FOR A RS 6,000-CR PROJECT

SUNIL JAIN

 

Anyone looking for case study on how not to deal with bids for public property, and how state governments can brazen their way out of anything, would do well to read the Himachal Pradesh High Court's judgment in the Jangi Thopan and Thopan Powari (480 Mw each) hydroelectric power projects in the state (http://hphighcourt.nic.in/inetjudord/judgements/CWP27482008.pdf).

 

In October 2005, the judgment tells us, the Himachal government issued an advertisement inviting bids for these two power plants, the last date for submission of bids was March 2006, and the bid was won by a consortium headed by a firm called Brakel Corporation NV after it promised to pay the government Rs 36 lakh per megawatt. Since the consortium did not pay the upfront deposit of 50 per cent, Reliance Infrastructure which was the second-highest bidder, offered to match Brakel's bid if it was given the projects. Since there was no response, it filed a case in the Himachal court. Pretty straightforward so far. Before replying to the court's notice, the state government issued a show cause notice to Brakel in January 2008 and, a few weeks later, got a reply from a company called Brakel Kinnaur saying it wished to deposit Rs 173 crore and this was accepted by the government. Meanwhile, after hearing all parties, the court said, in June 2008, that the government's stand was contradictory and inconsistent and told the government to explain its stand.

 

Meanwhile, partly due to the Opposition (which is now in government!) casting doubts, an investigation was carried out and a memo was put up to the Cabinet saying Brakel had misstated facts, that it was actually incorporated in February 2006 and not February 2005 as it had said in its bid, that its consortium partners (SNC-Lavalin, Standard Bank of South Africa and others) had not actually agreed to put money into the consortium, that it was only a $1 company bidding for a project that would likely cost Rs 6,000 crore, and so on. The Cabinet, in July 2008, decided to issue a show cause notice to Brakel and re-advertise for fresh bids.

 

Brakel replied to the show cause, Reliance Infrastructure went to the court and a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) was set up to examine the matter afresh. The special secretary, power, prepared a detailed draft order detailing all the shortcomings in the Brakel bid. Read what the high court has to say about how the draft was dealt with by the CoS: "The Committee of Secretaries should have dealt with the various points raised ... and dealt with in the draft order. We are constrained to observe that the Committee of Secretaries dealt with (it) … in a very slipshod manner … Surprisingly, there is no mention of the draft order in the report of the Committee of Secretaries … The serious allegations leveled against Brakel were not dealt with by the Committee of Secretaries … The Committee also came to the conclusion that suppression of material facts by Brakel cannot be established. To say the least this part of the report of the Committee of Secretaries is totally baseless."

 

So, what did the CoS say that so angered the court? It said the technical bid by Brakel "suffered from one serious infirmity" since its financial strength was based on the commitments made by the consortium partners but there was actually no such commitment made. This should have been noticed, it continued, at the evaluation stage but "had been consciously over looked by the then Whole Time Members of the HPSEB".

 

What followed was hilarious. The Committee was unanimously of the view that though the evaluation process made by the previous government was vitiated on the grounds that the Brakel consortium didn't have the requisite financial strength, "the blame thereof cannot now at this belated stage be laid on M/s Brakel". The matter was then referred to the state's Cabinet.

 

Not surprisingly, given how the issues were framed, the Cabinet, in November 2008, took the view that "because legally a successor Government cannot put the blame for said infirmities now on M/s Brakel, it would now not be legally possible to back out from the allotment made by the previous Government, especially since in the eyes of law the contract has been established with the payment by M/s Brakel of the Up-Front and penal interest imposed by the present Government" (that's called creating facts on the ground!). Lest you should think the meeting was a complete copout, the Cabinet ended up with asking the HPSEB to change its bid document as well as the technical evaluation process further "so that it does not allow financial bids to be opened of such parties which cannot display the required financial strength".

 

In October 2009, the court quashed the Cabinet's decision to give Brakel the contract as "being arbitrary, illegal and irrational". A few weeks later, the Himachal government cancelled the allotment and issued a show cause notice to Brakel for causing delays and financial losses to the government, and decided to call for fresh bids. The chief secretary said the state government would not appeal to the Supreme Court — Brakel did and so did Reliance since it didn't want rebids but wanted to get the project since it had agreed to match Brakel's bid. In December, the government decided it would impose a penalty of Rs 281 crore on Brakel for the loss of revenue caused by the delay.

 

]End of story? Not quite. A few days ago, the Himachal government filed its affidavit in the Supreme Court in Brakel's appeal saying "all decisions taken from time to time … were keeping the interest of the State as supreme" and then repeated the arguments given by the CoS — that Brakel couldn't be held responsible for the fact that the previous government had got it wrong and, in any case, Brakel had paid the money eventually!

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

SOME INFLATION IS GOOD

THE GOVERNMENT'S FOODGRAIN POLICY IS THE REAL PROBLEM

A V RAJWADE

 

Now that the uncertainty about likely monetary steps is over, it is perhaps time to ponder over some more basic issues. One fundamental assumption underlying any discussion over the subject is that inflation is bad, particularly for the poor. Globally, the inflation hawks are often in the editorial pages of market fundamentalist publications like The Wall Street Journal and The Economist, not particularly noted for their concern for the poor. They also generally believe in the efficiency of markets and the rational expectations of economic agents resulting in pricing assets correctly, more generally in laissez-faire policies. This belief also extends to the external value of a currency, but not to its domestic value which is supposed to be kept stable by "manipulation" of money supply and/or interest rates. One wonders to what extent this stance is the result of their anxiety to protect the purchasing power of the savings of the rich. One traditional inflation hawk, the IMF, seems to be defecting from the ranks: in a co-authored paper, its chief economist Olivier Blanchard recently argued that central banks that target inflation should double the target to 4 per cent so that they have enough room to ease interest rates at the time of banking crises or recession!

 

 The standard argument is that inflation is "good" for long-term growth. One wonders to what extent this view is still influenced by the hyperinflation of the 1920s in Germany, and the stagflation in much of the western world in the 1970s, after the sharp hike in oil prices. It is true that excessive increase in money supply can inflict enormous miseries on the people. At the other end is modern-day Japan with practically zero growth over two decades, and falling prices and nominal GDP, despite excessively loose monetary and fiscal polices, which clearly overturn all the conventional wisdom of macro-economics. Are Keynes' "animal spirits" missing? Globalisation and the ever-changing, market-determined exchange rates have added another dimension to the domestic variables. An equally interesting puzzle for me is how Asian countries like China and Korea have far larger monetary aggregates as a proportion of nominal GDP than we do, but a consistently lower inflation rate.

 

Western economists talk of NAIRU (non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment) for the desired level of unemployment. The idea is that a certain minimum unemployment is necessary if inflation is to remain low and stable — that is, policy should be aimed at keeping a few millions unemployed for the benefit of the rest of us. Higher inflation, growth and job creation would actually help the poorest in these countries. What we need is not NAIRU but GMROI, a growth maximising rate of inflation on a 10-year time horizon.

 

Tighter monetary policy is supposed to reduce inflation by curtailing demand. But, higher interest rates may well lead to lower investment, growth and jobs — in India, growth came down sharply for about five years after the tight money and high interest rates of 1995-96. In the US, the extremely high rates of 1979 led to a few years of recession in that country itself, and in large parts of the world, and a debt crisis in Latin America and Africa. Surely, a poor person would prefer a Rs 5,000 job with 10 per cent inflation to no jobs at 3 per cent inflation!

 

To turn to the inflation scenario in India, the basic cause remains food prices, which also influence non-food inflation through wages — directly through indexation or otherwise. (Global increase in commodity prices since the middle of 2009 is also a factor.) Higher food prices are a positive feature from a socio-economic perspective: They transfer purchasing power to the farm economy where per capita income is less than half that in the rest of the economy! The successive increases in the minimum support prices are surely aimed at increasing the prices the producer gets, to transfer income from India to Bharat. Again, many reports suggest that agricultural wages have gone up after the introduction of the NREGS, the UPA's flagship programme. But surely, this means higher agricultural cost and, therefore, higher prices? Overall, we need to accept the need for food inflation, perhaps for some years. The real failure is in the criminal waste of food through lack of storage facilities and infrastructure, the hurdles in introducing more productive seeds, etc. (Something like a third of vegetables rot, and currently 18 million tonnes of grains purchased by the FCI are lying in the open!) Surely, domestic and foreign investments in organised retail are needed to reduce the yawning difference between what the producer gets and what the consumer pays, to substantially increase the monetary and managerial resources needed for building infrastructure — not just breast-beating on food prices!

 

avrajwade@gmail.com  

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

STATSGURU-02-AUGUST-10

 

Though the IMF has raised its global growth projection for this year by 0.4 percentage points to 4.6 per cent — it is 3.3 per cent for the US, 1 per cent for the Euro area, 10.5 per cent for China and 9.4 per cent for India — things don't look that rosy. With the stimulus programmes now coming to an end, the US is slowing — a consumer survey showed the lowest level of intended car buying in more than 40 years; after removing inventory accumulation, Q1 growth of "final" sales was just 0.2 per cent compared to Q4 2009. In India, industrial production has fallen — while the y-o-y data don't capture this, seasonally adjusted data show a fall for many months; the fall in capital goods is particularly severe; core sector growth has also slowed.

 

Growth in net sales for India Inc has fallen to 23.7% in Q1 and this reduces to 17.2% if you exclude oil companies. Profits growth has gone into negative territory — it remains positive at 12.7%, but sharply reduced from the 60.3% of Q4 2009 if you remove oil firms. In each case, things are worse for the PSUs. Growth in the cost of raw materials has reduced a bit; as a ratio of net sales it has risen somewhat. Staff costs to net sales are up for the private sector. Operating profit margins are steady at over 19 per cent for the private sector but have collapsed for the public sector — expect a further reduction once the oil-marketing PSUs numbers come in. Tax collections are in the negative zone thanks to the PSUs. The software sector has maintained its net margins; steel has seen a collapse from 13.1% in Q4 2009 to 9.8% in Q1; despite rising sales, margins are down for automobiles from 9.3% to 7.6%; power generation is down from 17.3% to 14.8% and electrical equipment from 10.6% to 7.6%. Funds raised in the capital markets, both in India and abroad, have fallen a third in this quarter. All this could change if growth prospects look up globally, but with the likelihood of a slowing in both the US and the Euro area, this could take a while. The rate hike hasn't helped, though the RBI's view is that inflation is a bigger danger.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INTERVENE IN KASHMIR

THE CENTRE MUST STEP IN

 

 KASHMIR is out of the state government's control. Its ham-handed handling of protests by youngsters armed with stones has only served to feed the frenzy and warm the cockles of the separatists' hearts. Reports suggest that even as Hurriyat leader Geelani has become a mascot of the new rebellion, he has no control over it. It is not yet clear who leads, if at all any one individual or organisation leads, the new wave of protest in the state where resentment broods a micrometer below the surface at the best of times. Popular sentiment clearly holds the local administration in contempt. Even the Centre has its reservations about how the Omar Abdullah government has handled the stone-pelting mobs, given the publiclystated advice to the state government to display restraint in deploying central forces. Home minister P Chidambaram's statement that he is more than ready for quiet dialogue with all groups is indirect admission that the level of dialogue has moved beyond the state government. Given the mood of the people, and the vicious circle of security enforcement breeding yet more intense protest because such enforcement involves the killing of young Kashmiris, there is need for a change of tack. And that change can come only from the Centre. 

 

 The situation prevailing in Kashmir would have called for dismissal of the state government and imposition of President's rule, had it played out in any other state. The party that rules the Centre is a junior partner in the ineffectual government of Kashmir headed by Omar Abdullah. That should not prevent the Centre from making an objective assessment of the situation and taking the course of action that is needed. Admittedly, there is a risk in removing the buffer of the state government and the Centre dealing directly with the rebellious street. But for the rebellious street to give in to the inevitable exhaustion of protest, sooner rather than later, it needs a token of having registered its point. That can be acknowledged only by the Centre, in the current context. The Centre must move, and fast — whether over the head of the supine state government or by replacing it is a matter of political judgment the central leadership has to take

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GAMES BUCCANEERS PLAY

HOSTED BY POOR PROJECT MANAGEMENT

 

 ALLEGATIONS of corruption in building facilities for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi call for prompt investigation to prosecute the culprits. But we must recognise that corruption is aided by wholly-deficient project development, monitoring and management skills, leading to delays and cost escalations. The Games expenditure seems to have gone up by a preposterous factor of 10 or more in a matter of just about seven years. It's plain that the policy of estimating realistic, firm costs for public projects has simply been given short shrift. It underlines a general lack of accountability, proclivity to ignore budget constraints and eschew modern project management. Yet, muddling along by routinely compromising prior estimates and time schedules would be at huge national cost. It would divert funds from other heads, needlessly shore up costs across the board, and generally misallocate resources economy-wide. 

 

 We need proactive policy for project implementation, including for large, prestige projects. There are innovative software tools available for project monitoring and follow through, and the entire process of project conception and implementation needs to be made transparent and accountable. To begin with, project costs need to factor in inflation, with reasonably scope for further revision of working expenses, on account of, say, higher commodity prices. But if we are to provide carte blanche hikes in project costs, we might as well do away with budget-making and sundry other pretences. The new software tools now make it possible for all concerned to monitor projects online and in real time. The Planning Commission and other oversight institutions must stop approving nominal project costs that have a way of being revised time and again. Instead, we need realistic cost estimates and modern, business-like project execution. Project monitoring tools, in tandem with the Right To Information, can help check corruption, deficient project management's significant other in their union of bloated underachievement.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

STAY-AT-HOME TRUTHS

DAYTIME TV CAN PAY DIVIDENDS

 

 US PRESIDENT Barack Obama appearing on daytime TV — the first incumbent of that august office to do so — has raised eyebrows on a lot of counts. There are those who have commented on his innate ability to say a lot without giving anything away; others have observed that his legs remained demurely crossed at exactly the same angle as the five 'hostesses' of the show with nary a nervous waggle or shift of position. And there were those who sniggered about the nation's chief executive stooping to conquer the clap-happy daytime audience as his ratings plummet. But it was actually a clever move that Indian politicians should have also seriously considered, had there been such a slot as daytime TV here. With elections always around the corner in vibrant democracies like theirs — and ours — the stay-at-home demographic is conveniently forgotten. In India, that valuable time has been ceded to repeats of the episodes of primetime serials while in the west, they are devoted to maudlin 'chat shows' with some notable, if rare, exceptions like the one Obama chose. That show chosen was apt for it clearly targets a sassy, thinking audience, predominantly female — the type who were once surefire Obama-mamas but are now not so enamoured of him. By talking engagingly on a range of issues from racism to Lindsay Lohan's incarceration, Mr Obama may have dispelled to some extent the impression of being just a wordy, forbiddingly intellectual and somewhat detached policy wonk. 


The first adjective could never be used to describe our own prime minister, but there is a marked similarity on the other two counts between Obama and Dr Manmohan Singh. Unfortunately, even if Dr Singh wants to show his smarts, India's daytime TV audience is unlikely to get a peek into his mind on issues from food inflation to fatherhood any time soon due to lack of a platform. When will political managers understand that 'they also vote who stay at home'? Mr Obama has.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CONFUSED SIGNALS

THE RESERVE BANK OF INDIA'S FIRST-QUARTER REVIEW SUGGESTS A DIFFIDENT CENTRAL BANK, ONE THAT IS NOT SURE OF ITSELF, AND THAT IS BAD NEWS FOR THE ECONOMY, SAYS MYTHILI BHUSNURMATH


 THE Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has taken up the war against inflation in right earnest. So the Governor assured us in his postpolicy briefing with the press. So it seems on a reading of newspaper headlines the day after the central bank presented its first quarter review of its monetary policy for the current fiscal year. 

 

 But has the central bank suited action to words? A closer reading of the review suggests the RBI for all its avowed intention of putting the fight against inflation on the front burner, has not come out as strongly against price-rise as one might have expected of a true inflation-fighting central bank. 

 

 The biggest giveaway of the bank's ambivalent (diffident?) stand is the asymmetric hike in the repo and reverse repo rate. While the RBI has hiked the reverse repo rate — at which it absorbs liquidity from the market — by 50 basis points, it has hiked the repo rate — at which it injects liquidity — by only 25 basis points. Why the asymmetry? 

 

 An unambiguous signal of tightening, which is what was clearly warranted even as per the central bank's own admission, would have called for a sharper increase in policy rates, or at the very least, a symmetric increase in both. 

 

 To this, the RBI's defence is that it is in a liquidity-injection mode, and in such a scenario, it is the repo rate that is the policy instrument. While there can be no quarrel with the broad statement that in a liquidity-deficit mode, the policy instrument is the repo rate, the more fundamental question the review does not answer satisfactorily is why is the RBI in an injection mode at all? If inflation is the scourge, the RBI claims it is, the central bank should be in liquidity-absorption mode, not in a liquidity-injection mode. Especially since by its own reading of the situation, inflation is no longer driven by supply-side forces but has become much more generalised with demand side factors accounting for 70% of the inflation. 

 

 Consider what the RBI says: the dominant concern that shapes the monetary policy stance is high inflation. Even as food price inflation and, more generally, consumer price inflation have shown some moderation, they are still in double digits. Non-food inflation has risen and demand-side pressures are clearly evident. Wage revisions to offset the effect of inflation on purchasing power and return of pricing power of firms could strengthen the interaction between inflation expectations and actual inflation. 

 

That is not all. The review adds, 'Further capacity constraints are visible in several sectors. Inflationary expectations also remain at an elevated level. Given the spread and persistence of inflation, demand-side inflationary pressures need to be contained. More so since despite the increase in policy rates by 75 basis points cumulatively, real policy rates are not consistent with the strong growth that the economy is witnessing. Lower policy rates can complicate the inflation outlook and impair inflationary expectations particularly given the generalised nature of inflation.' 

 

 Yet, after saying all this, the RBI inexplicably opts for a moderate and asymmetric hike in rates on the grounds that it will narrow the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) corridor? Sure it will; but how important is a narrowing of the corridor in the fight against inflation? After all, in the past, when there was excess liquidity and the RBI was in absorption mode, it saw no need to follow a similar strategy and effect an asymmetric hike in policy rates. 

 IN FACT, the RBI's actions and words are at odds with each other in more ways than one. This is evident not only in its statement that it is in liquidity-injection mode at a time when the balance of its policy stance has shifted decisively to containing inflation and anchoring inflationary expectations but also in the higher hike in reverse repo rate in a scenario where the reverse repo rate is largely irrelevant. Why is it irrelevant? 

The reason is that when lenders have a choice between lending to RBI and lending in the inter-bank call money market, they will choose the call money market and not the reverse repo window of the RBI whenever the call rate is higher than the reverse repo. In fact, the RBI's reverse repo rate constitutes an effective floor — call rates will never fall below this as the RBI is always willing to absorb any amount of money from the system at this rate. 

 

 So, in a tight liquidity condition that, according to the RBI, is what exists today, no bank would come to the reverse repo window. So, raising or lowering the reverse repo rate will make no difference. However, for reasons that remain unclear, the RBI hiked the reverse repo rate and by more than the repo rate; and at a time when it argues the latter is the operative policy instrument! 

 

 Moreover, is the current lack of liquidity so serious? Granted the telecom bids have drained out a huge amount of liquidity, but that liquidity will come back to the system as the government begins to spend. Should the RBI's policy rates be framed keeping in mind temporary liquidity mismatches or should they be more forward-looking and address the longer-term structural issue, which in the current context is demand pressure? 
    Remember, absence of banks' lending to RBI does not necessarily mean banks do not have enough liquidity. Well-run banks do not depend on the call money market for funding their assets; they use it for lending or borrowing only when there are unforeseen short-term shortages or surpluses. Therefore, a situation where banks do not lend to the RBI does not necessarily mean liquidity is tight. 

 

 Even assuming liquidity is not as plentiful as it was in the days of large capital inflows and low credit offtake, is that such a bad thing? Surely, the RBI wants to rein in liquidity, given the pressure on prices. So why this unwillingness to countenance even a temporary tightening of liquidity due to the telecom bids? If the RBI pumps in liquidity each time there is a slight liquidity tightening, what does that mean for its longer-term battle against inflation? 

 

 Could it be that the RBI is not sure of its reading of the liquidity situation? It would seem so. The diffidence and lack of focus of the policy is clear from the rumblings even within the RBI (witness the outburst by a senior official of the central bank). And that is not good news.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

AFFORDABLE GREEN ENERGY

BJØRN LOMBORG 


 PUBLIC scepticism about global warming may be growing, but the scientific consensus is as solid as ever: man-made climate change is real, and we ignore it at our peril. But if that issue is settled (and it should be), there is an equally-large and important question that remains: what should we do about it? 

 

 One prescription that is bandied about with increasing frequency certainly sounds sensible: the world should drastically cut the amount of greenhouse gases that it pumps into the atmosphere each day. Specifically, we are told, the goal should be a 50% reduction in global carbon-dioxide emissions by the middle of the century. Even its backers concede that achieving this target won't be easy — and they are right. In fact, they are so right that they are wrong. Allow me to explain. 

 

Our dependency on carbon-emitting fuels is more than enormous. It is overwhelming. For all the talk about solar, wind and other hyped green-energy sources, they make up only 0.6% of global energy consumption. Renewable energy overwhelmingly comes from often-unsustainable burning of wood and biomass by people in the Third World. 

 

Fossil fuels account for more than four-fifths of the world's energy diet. So, in order to cut global carbon emissions in half by the middle of the century, we would obviously have to start getting a lot more of our energy from sources that don't emit carbon. 

 

 Can we do this? According to the International Energy Agency, here's what it would take to achieve the goal of cutting emissions by 50% between now and mid-century: 30 new nuclear plants, 17,000 windmills, 400 biomass power plants, two hydroelectric facilities the size of China's massive Three Gorges Dam, and 42 coal and gas power plants with yet-to-bedeveloped carbon-capture technology. 

 

 Now consider this: this list does not describe what we would have to build between now and 2050, but what we would have to build each and every year until then! 

 

One more thing: even if we managed to do all this (which we obviously cannot), the impact on global temperatures would be hardly noticeable by 2050. According to the bestknown climate-economic model, this vast undertaking would likely wind up reducing global temperatures by just one-tenth of 1° C (onefifth of 1° F), while holding back sea-level rises by only 1 cm (less than half an inch). 

 

That's not a lot of bang for the buck. Indeed, the projected costs of this approach — some $5 trillion annually by mid-century — are so much greater than its likely benefits that it makes no sense to call it a solution at all. 

 

 Fortunately, there is a better, smarter way to deal with global warming. What if, instead of spending trillions of dollars trying to build an impossible number of power plants — or, more likely, condemning billions of people around the world to continued poverty by trying to make carbon-emitting fuels too expensive to use — we devoted ourselves to making green energy cheaper? 

 

 Right now, solar panels are so expensive — about 10 times more than fossil fuels in terms of cost per unit of energy output — that only wellheeled, well-meaning (and, usually, well-subsidised) Westerners can afford to install them. 

 But think where we'd be if we could improve the efficiency of solar cells by a factor of 10 — in other words, if we could make them cheaper than fossil fuels. We wouldn't have to force (or subsidise) anyone to stop burning coal and oil. Everyone, including the Chinese and the Indians, would shift to the cheaper and cleaner alternatives — and global emission targets would automatically be met. 

 

 Can we achieve this technological miracle over the next 20-40 years? In a word, yes. The price of solar energy has been dropping steadily for 30 years — by about 50% every decade — and we could likely accelerate that decline further with sufficiently large investments in research and development. How large? If we were willing to devote just 0.2% of global GDP (roughly $100 billion a year) to green-energy R&D, I believe that we could bring about gamechanging breakthroughs not just for solar power, but also for a wide variety of other alternative-energy technologies. 

 

 This belief in the potential of technological progress strikes some climate activists as naïve or even delusional. But is it really? Consider one of the miracles of the modern age: the personal computer. These devices didn't become household items because governments subsidised purchases or forced up the price of typewriters and

slide rules. 

 

No, what happened is that, largely as a result of the space race, the US government poured lots of money into R&D for solid-state physics and electronics engineering. The resulting breakthroughs not only got Neil Armstrong to the moon in 1969, but also made it possible for Apple to introduce the first Mac in 1976 and IBM to debut the first PC five years later. 

 

 We can do the same for clean energy. Forget about subsidising inefficient technologies or making fossil fuels too expensive to use. Instead, let's fund the basic research that will make green energy too cheap and easy to resist. 


    (The author is head of the Copenhagen     Consensus Center and adjunct professor at     Copenhagen Business School) 


    ©Project Syndicate, 2010

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET I N T E R A CT I V EWILFRIED AULBUR

'TOWNS WILL SPUR LUXURY CAR DEMAND'

NANDINISENGUPTA 

 

 FOR a luxury car brand that's clocking nearly 70% growth in sales, Mercedes-Benz is in top-gear form in India. After conceding market leadership to arch-rival BMW last year, the company has zoomed back to claim 40% marketshare in the first six months of the calendar year. Not surprisingly, managing director and CEO Wilfried Aulbur is looking to add a shift and ramp-up production. Mercedes-Benz has a brand-new plant in place at Chakan where the second shift will soon kick in. "We have aspiration targets to meet and enough capacity on the ground to cater to the demand," he says, clearly not unhappy with India's speeding car demand. 

 "Last year, we sold 3,200 cars, and by June this year, we hit 2,404 units. So, the first half has been good and we want to keep up the pace." 

 

 Merc's sales vroom has as much to do with the country's economic boom. The new global model launches that Mr Aulbur has lined up — the latest being the Rs 2-2.5 crore SLS sports car — as with a brand-new profile of customer that the company is now targeting. "Back in 1995, when we entered India, we were talking to old money and the luxury perception was very different," Mr Aulbur says. "India was known for spirituality and Mother Teresa. Showing off wealth just wasn't kosher." 

 

 Fifteen years on, everything has changed. "India has had a total rebranding thanks to infotech, there's cheap financing available, real estate prices are zooming, salaries are going up, the stock market is going up… So, it has become more acceptable to indulge yourself with luxury," Mr Aulbur explains. The result of these macro trends is a sea-change in the customer profile. For one, they are much younger: a significant number are in the 35-40 year age group. "Entrepreneurs who made it early, young successes in the corporate world… there are enough young people who want to buy Mercs." 

 

 The change in demographics has also resulted in a cultural shift. "A totally new set of customers is upgrading from a Honda Civic or Toyota Innova, and it's increasingly becoming difficult to judge them, profile them or stereotype them," he says. So, marketers need to be careful. For example, "regional language is becoming more important whereas earlier English was more predominant among Merc buyers," he says. What it also means is a greater degree of interest from the hinterland, non-metro towns and cities that were earlier not on the Mercedes-Benz radar. 

 

 "We have mapped all the cities of India and are looking for a footprint beyond the metro markets," Mr Wulbur says. Smaller cities are beginning to turn into profit centres for the three-pointed star. Although urban demand will continue to grow, 15-30% of Mercedes-Benz demand will come from hinterland, he adds. 

 

 To cater to that demand, Mercedes-Benz is stepping on the gas in terms of new launches, the SLS being the 16th global product to debut in India. It's also upping local component sourcing and pushing up productivity at its Chakan factory. "India is the most-efficient factory for Mercedes-Benz outside Germany in terms of processes, productivity and cost. So we do a high degree of value addition in the country," Mr Aulbur says. 

 Going forward, the company is looking to introduce its financial services in India "sooner than we may be allowed to say", he says. After all, BMW is already working in that direction, so Mercedes-Benz can illafford to not respond. 

 

Add to that the commercial vehicle venture that parent Daimler is setting up in Chennai and the German marque's focus on this market becomes clear. The Daimler commercial vehicle subsidiary will offer Mercedes-Benz India synergies in the network. "May be we could use some of their network and they could use some of ours," says Mr Aulbur. Ditto for the research centre in Bangalore. "We share human resources, finance, infotech and other backroom functions with them," he adds. 

 

 All of which will keep costs down and increase efficiency. But at the end of the day, it's the delectable cars that will keep the Merc story vrooming. "We will bring all of our global systems here and our global model range as well. We don't want to take our foot off the accelerator," says Mr Aulbur. India is in fast-forward mode after all.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

TOWARDS VICTORY OVER ONESELF

K VIJAYARAGHAVAN 


THE guideline given in Bhagavad Gita(6,7) for ensuring that one becomes his ally in his own progress is strikingly similar to a powerful and remarkable quote of A J Cronin. He notes, "The virtue of all achievements is victory over oneself. Those who know this victory can never know defeat." 

 

 This simple message is also contained in an ancient proverb, which observes that none is to be deemed free who does not have perfect selfcommand. 

 

 Indeed, it is this virtue of 'victory over oneself' that distinguishes those who finally do justice to the gift of human intellect. 

 

 The manifest signs of one who has attained progress in obtaining the needed control over his unrefined instincts are continued peace and that 'sacred, substantial, neverfading bliss'. 

 

 This tranquility, in the manner it works, has also been conceived of very aptly by Benjamin Franklin in his words, "Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable." 

 

 The key to attaining that state of control, poise and clarity lies, as James Allen notes, in right thinking. Observing that "the wise man controls his thinking, the fool is controlled by it", he also points out that the wrong thinker goes through life as a 'helpless tool of impulse, whim and passion'. 

 

 Victory over oneself thus begins through self-restraint and in ensuring that one not only does or says the right thing at the right place and time but even more importantly, in leaving undone or unsaid what he otherwise would by any impulse, whim or passion. 

 

 The process thus commences first with the realisation that one has many flaws within, that he needs to improve and that he is still at the starting level. This very realisation is that stepping stone, which, when discovered through the needed analysis, as applicable to one's own self, would lead naturally on to the subsequent stages. Indeed, all journeys commence but with the first step. It is in this spirit that Gita too points out (6,25) that the needed tranquility and steadiness is to be attained 'little by little' (shanaihi, shanaihi). 

 

 Doubtless, this earnest beginning, characterised by searching self-honesty and also accompanied by the needed will and patience, is the true road map to winning over one's base self. In this, is naturally inbuilt, that sublime achievement of victory over oneself — a victory that 'can never know defeat'!

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CWG MESS GROWS: HEADING FOR FIASCO?

 

With just 62 days left to go for the start of New Delhi's much-hyped Commonwealth Games in October, skeletons continue to tumble out almost every single day. Given that a five-year lead time was available, the manner in which preparations are being completed at this extremely late stage make for a sorry tale of procrastination, indecision and adhocism. Inevitably, those who hover looking for opportunities to make a quick buck under precisely such conditions are reportedly having a field day. The latest shockers range from unspecified payouts for the Queen's Baton Relay rollout in London — denied by organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi — to the far more serious matter of shoddy construction work deliberately concealed by means of forged quality assurance certificates for the many infrastructure projects taken up all around the nation's capital. If even a tenth of these reports are true, it simply highlights how corruption and opportunism of the worst kind are at play here. At stake is India's image as host to an international sporting event that might draw close to 10,000 athletes and officials from around the world. Given the scale and success of what South Africa pulled off with the 2010 Fifa World Cup, the focus will be sharper than it might otherwise have been. Adding to the mess are reports that four years ago the Delhi government had sought an exemption into any sort of investigation or examination of the work on the ground, which suggests that even then it suspected that all would not be above board as the inevitable rush began to complete projects. And going by past experience, the Games deadline will be used as a driver to set aside all other issues, leaving the question of punishment for the corrupt or merely inept for a later date that might never come. India is now striving to shed its image as a regional power and join the world's top table. It is therefore very much possible that simply ensuring that the Games go through with as little disruption as possible will be the priority, and related matters and problems that are mushrooming by the day will be looked on for now as distractions from the larger purpose. In doing so however, those guilty of flouting the law or even of inefficiency and sloth will escape yet again, as they have so successfully done for many years now. Sharpen the focus to the Games themselves, and the picture is no better. Mr Kalmadi has repeatedly refused to take responsibility. But someone must carry the can for shoddy preparation and work. At an event to test the preparedness of the swimming venue, one young participant was injured by a loose tile, just days after the pool and playing area was handed over to the organising committee. This is just one example of how Games venues are throwing up problems, which ideally should have been spotted and sorted out months earlier, and not at this late stage. But when you have people at the top who are adept at passing the buck instead of standing up and taking responsibility, it sets a template for others to follow. So we have and will continue to have the spectacle of last-minute work and consequent problems, emergency purchases and last-minute finalising of contracts, adhocism on issue after issue. Greece is still paying the price of a similar approach to the 2004 Athens Olympics. Delhi 2010 threatens to be no different.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WOMEN & PREJUDICE

BY JAYANTHI NATARAJAN

 

In the last week of July the Supreme Court delivered an important judgment with farreaching consequences for the women of this country. Unfortunately, the din and ruckus of day-to-day politics in our society prevented a full appreciation of the ramifications of this judgment.

 

Women's rights activists have long agitated about the status and condition of women in India. The very same women who had fought shoulder to shoulder with men to obtain freedom from colonial rule and who played in equal measure a part in drafting the Indian Constitution, which guarantees to all citizens that there will be no discrimination on the grounds, inter alia, of gender, now find that they have been left far behind in the paradigm of development of this country.

 

The reasons for the comparative lack of development of women in almost all sectors, including life expectancy, health, nutrition, education, employment, decision-making and a hundred other areas, are complex and diverse. However, the simplest and most profound explanation is rooted in the patriarchal, social and family hierarchy of our society.

 

If women were to attain true equality in all fields, especially for example in decision-making and employment, the social and family hierarchy of our society which is overwhelmingly male-dominated will become completely destabilised. And a male-dominated society can never deal with that.

 

This is the reason why as long as the struggle was against the alien colonial force women found space in the ranks of the freedom fighters but the moment Independence was achieved traditional male-dominated family and social structures swung back into place.

 

Women all over the world of all classes have been traditionally responsible for housework, cooking, cleaning, fetching fuel and drinking water, other household chores and child rearing. In low-income and middle-income families, therefore, women have always filled both roles, as wage-earners as well as of home-makers and child rearers.

 

However, women's rights activists have always questioned the fact that the arduous and daily drudgery involved in fetching fuel, drinking water, cooking, cleaning and child rearing has not only been the woman's lot but is rarely appreciated by the men in the family or by society at large.

 

Thus it is that a woman spends approximately one-third of her lifespan cooking and producing food for the consumption of her family. She does this with love, and that too everyday without a break, without a holiday on Saturday or Sunday, without salary or provident fund, without retirement benefits and often without even a word of gratitude from the members of her family.

 

However, the moment the chore of cooking which women do for their family goes out of the domestic and into the public arena, as for example, making vadas or tea in a tea shop, it becomes economically remunerative and men come into the picture.

 

You don't see women but men in tea shops and dhabas cooking parathas and vadas and making tea and getting paid handsomely for their pains. In five-star hotels the most highly paid chefs are men. And yet the moment all these men step back into their own homes, it is the unpaid and under-appreciated women of their households who will have to hand them their tea and tiffin.

 

In agriculture and in construction sites the women do the most strenuous work. It is the women who carry bricks on their head and trudge up steep ladders to hand it to the mason who simply slaps on the cement. Also, women do the backbreaking work of sowing paddy. And yet, their work and contribution are not taken seriously by the society at large.

 

I once saw a TV documentary where men belonging to various professions were interviewed. Each one was asked what work he did. They answered that they were doctors, lawyers, clerks, engineers etc. Then they were asked what their wives did. Every single one of them said "Oh, she is a housewife, she does not do anything".

 

Then the camera panned to their wives who were shown cooking, washing clothes, fetching cooking fuel, looking after children, toiling without break from dawn until night. The point of the documentary was that the work done by women at home is very important and productive work and should be considered as a major contribution to the national economy and the gross domestic product. In fact, it is estimated that the unaccounted world domestic output of work done by women could be in the region of $18 trillion.

 

Yet despite hundreds of petitions from the women's movement, governments remained stubbornly blind to this problem and have refused to classify women's domestic work as "productive labour" in terms of national economies. In fact, under the Indian Census rules the domestic work done by women is not only "not" considered "productive labour or work", but is also placed in the category of beggars and prisoners.

 

There can be no greater insult to the women of India and that this insult exists in the Census rules framed by the government itself only highlights the level of prejudice under which women live in this country.

 

In this background, the judgment of the Supreme Court in CA 5843/2010 is a significant and heartwarming recognition of the contribution of women and their work.

 

In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court disapproved of Clause 6 of the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, which divided persons into the category of non-earning persons and spouse and as far as the spouse is concerned, the income of the injured in both fatal and non fatal accidents has been categorised as one-third of the income of the earning and surviving spouse.

 

In other words, the spouse (normally the woman home-maker) who does not earn is computed at a value of 1/3 the value of the earning person. The court held that this was a gender bias, in clear violation of the Constitution and was demeaning and insulting to women and tremendous work rendered by them in terms of domestic work within their own homes. The court directed that the Motor Vehicles Act should be suitably amended to remove this gender bias.

 

It is the demand of every right-thinking citizen that the government should not only suitably amend the MV Act, but also ensure that the Census gives due credit to domestic work done by women and that this is duly reflected in the GDP.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

IN ASIA'S NEW GREAT GAME, US IS THE SUCKER

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

The trove of WikiLeaks about the faltering US war effort in Afghanistan has provoked many reactions, but for me it contains one clear message. It's actually an old piece of advice your parents may have given you before you went off to college: "If you are in a poker game and you don't know who the sucker is, it's probably you". In the case of the Great Game of Central Asia, that's America.

 

Best I can tell from the WikiLeaks documents and other sources, we are paying Pakistan's Army and intelligence service to be two-faced. Otherwise, they would be just one-faced and 100 percent against us. The same could probably be said of Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai. But then everyone out there is wearing a mask — or two.

 

China supports Pakistan, seeks out mining contracts in Afghanistan and lets America make Afghanistan safe for Chinese companies, all while smiling at the bloody nose America is getting in Kabul because anything that ties down the US military makes China's military happy. America, meanwhile, sends its soldiers to fight in Afghanistan at the same time that it rejects an energy policy that would begin to reduce our oil consumption, which indirectly helps to fund the very Taliban schools and warriors our soldiers are fighting against. So why put up with all this duplicity? Is US President Barack Obama just foolish?

 

It is more complicated. This double game goes back to 9/11. That terrorist attack was basically planned, executed and funded by radical Pakistanis and Saudis. And the US responded by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? The short answer is because Pakistan has nukes that we fear and Saudi Arabia has oil that we crave.

 

So we tried to impact them by indirection. We hoped that building a decent democratising government in Iraq would influence reform in Saudi Arabia and beyond. And after expelling Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, we stayed on to stabilise the place, largely out of fears that instability in Afghanistan could spill into Pakistan and lead to Islamist radicals taking over Islamabad and its nukes.

 

That strategy has not really worked because Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are built on ruling bargains that are the source of their pathologies and our fears.

 

Pakistan, 63 years after its founding, still exists not to be India. The Pakistani Army is obsessed with what it says is the threat from India — and keeping that threat alive is what keeps the Pakistani Army in control of the country and its key resources. The absence of either stable democracy in Pakistan or a decent public education system only swells the ranks of the Taliban and other Islamic resistance forces there. Pakistan thinks it must control Afghanistan for "strategic depth" because, if India dominated Afghanistan, Pakistan would be wedged between the two.

 

Alas, if Pakistan built its identity around its own talented people and saw its strategic depth as the quality of its schools, farms and industry, instead of Afghanistan, it might be able to produce a stable democracy — and we wouldn't care about Pakistan's nukes any more than India's.

 

Saudi Arabia is built around a ruling bargain between the moderate al-Saud family and the Wahabi fundamentalist establishment: The al-Sauds get to rule and the Wahabis get to impose on their society the most puritanical Islam — and export it to mosques and schools across the Muslim world, including to Pakistan, with money earned by selling oil to the West.

 

So Pakistan's nukes are a problem for us because of the nature of that regime, and Saudi Arabia's oil wealth is a problem for us because of the nature of that regime. We have chosen to play a double game with both because we think the alternatives are worse. So we pay Pakistan to help us in Afghanistan, even though we know some of that money is killing our own soldiers, because we fear that just leaving could lead to Pakistan's Islamists controlling its bomb. And we send Saudi Arabia money for oil, even though we know that some of it ends up financing the very people we are fighting, because confronting the Saudis over their ideological exports seems too destabilising. (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.)

 

Is there another a way? Yes. If we can't just walk away, we should at least reduce our bets. We should limit our presence and goals in Afghanistan to the bare minimum required to make sure that turmoil there doesn't spill over into Pakistan or allow Al Qaeda to return. And we should diminish our dependence on oil so we are less impacted by what happens in Saudi Arabia, so we shrink the funds going to people who hate us and we make economic and political reform a necessity for them, not a hobby.

 

Alas, we don't have the money, manpower or time required to fully transform the most troubled states of this region. It will only happen when they want it to. We do, though, have the technology, necessity and innovators to protect ourselves from them.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

OF AMBITIOUS, DISILLUSIONED NETAS

 

Cutting a political cake

Cutting a birthday cake has become a political gesture for Congress leaders in Uttar Pradesh eyeing the post of PCC president. As is the wont in UP, they are using the celebrations as shows of strength to impress the high command which is looking for the right candidate.

 

Outgoing UPCC president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who is aiming for an extension of tenure, celebrated her birthday last week by cutting cakes, distributing fruits to the sick and posing with street children. Journalists were requested to cover the "event", and press cuttings were duly dispatched to New Delhi to show how popular she is. Not to be left behind, former chief minister Ram Naresh Yadav also celebrated his birthday with much gusto. To stake his claim, CLP leader Pramod Tiwari, for the first time, also celebrated his birthday in a big way.

 

The price of probity

 

The Rajasthan BJP's dalit face, Kailash Meghwal, is now paying the price for believing the party line that it is committed to "suchitha" (probity) in public life. He levelled serious charges of corruption against those in power in the erstwhile BJP government. Though the BJP did nothing to prove its commitment to probity, the Congress happily took up the issue and its leader Ashok Gehlot banked his whole campaign on the allegations hurled by Mr Meghwal. When the Congress romped home, a senior leader even told journalists that the party's star campaigner was Mr Meghwal. As punishment for believing in "suchitha", the saffron party denied a ticket to Mr Meghwal for the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections and also removed him from the post of party vice-president. This has angered his followers, one of whom quipped: "This is not a party with a difference, but a party with indifference to probity".

 

Paswan finds a cook

LJP chief and former Union minister Ram Vilas Paswan loves chicken curry and wants an ideal mix of meat

and masala so it becomes neither too spicy nor too bland.

 

When he discovered a cook in Patna whose culinary experiments with chicken matched his particular tastes, the dalit leader's dinners after hectic helicopter tours of Bihar became as blissful as they were in Delhi. Kanhaiya, the unassuming teenager cook, is performing his vocation professionally for the first time. "Appointing him as cook a fortnight ago was a fortunate discovery", Mr Paswan said.


LJP leaders hope this also works well for them in the selection of candidates for Bihar's Assembly polls in November. But leaders of the RJD are praying that Mr Paswan would not cook their goose.

 

Comrades in a conundrum

The CPI(M) politburo's attempts to control the damage cause by the publication of excerpts from the forthcoming memoirs of former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee have boomeranged royally.
Mr Chatterjee had said that five members of the politburo had decided to expel him during the controversy over the UPA government's trust motion. Party general secretary Prakash Karat issued a rejoinder, saying that it was totally wrong to say that five members of the politburo had decided to expel him.
It finally came out that seven politburo members had decided to expel him. Mr Karat did not realise that his nitpicking and hairsplitting helped to prove Mr Chatterjee's charge that his expulsion was not a majority decision by the 17-member politburo. Bengal CPI(M) secretary Biman Bose also made a similar faux pas. He unwittingly confirmed Mr Chatterjee's claim that Jyoti Basu had sent a note to the politburo suggesting that the then Speaker should preside over the confidence motion in Parliament.


"How did Mr Chatterjee know the content of Jyoti Babu's handwritten note?" Mr Bose asked, confirming that there was such a note. No wonder Mr Chatterjee is smiling a lot lately.

 

To get Gogoi's crown

With the Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi all set to undergo a heart surgery, ambitious Congress leaders have started making moves, albeit subtly, to wrest his crown at least temporarily.

 

The aspirants include Bihar governor Deva Nanda Konwar, Cabinet minister Bhumidhar Barman and PCC chief Bhuwneswar Kalita. Some younger ministers have thrown in their hat.


The local media added fuel to their ambitions by claiming that the chief minister's family members have sought an appointment with Congress president Sonia Gandhi to request her to spare Mr Gogoi the burden of chief ministership.
With nobody willing to confirm the news, the ambitious lot are using other ruses to somehow gain the attention of the high command.

For instance, several have been bitten by the patriotic bug and have speculated loudly on who would be fulfilling the constitutional obligations of hoisting the national flag on Independence Day. It has left everyone amazed about the various disguises that ambition wears.

 

A lesson from Raman Singh

 

Chief ministers who face trouble from the Opposition can take a leaf from the book of Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh.


Mr Singh, currently in his third term, has tactfully managed the Opposition Congress to ensure smooth running of the Assembly. This time, however, Congress members were determined to stall the Assembly over the growing Maoist violence in the state. They disrupted the morning session of the House on July 27 and threatened to continue their demonstration in the afternoon too.

 

During the lunch break, Mr Singh invited all Opposition MLAs to go on a joyride with him to Naya Raipur, the new capital of the state coming up barely 25 km away. He virtually became a guide when he took them around the sprawling area, briefing them about the project and also not forgetting to treat them to a sumptuous lunch. Needless to say, the post-lunch session of the House ran smoothly without a murmur of protest from the Opposition.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

DOES SATAN EXIST?

BY AMRIT SADHANA

 

This question may sound irrelevant in today's world dominated by science and technology, but believe it or not, there was a panel discussion on the ABC news channel of America on their night programme Face Off, and the subject was: Does Satan Exist? The anchor of the news channel said that 70 per cent of Americans believe that Satan exists.

 

The panelists were three men and one woman. Deepak Chopra was one of the panelists. The woman was as glamorous as any filmstar could be and one wouldn't expect her to be discussing myths like Satan and God. But she sincerely believes in both the guys. Not only that, she has conversations with them.

 

Other two were clergymen so it was necessary for them to believe in Satan and God. For business purposes, you know. The assorted people gathered in the studio as audience were deeply involved in the discussion and cheered at the right time.

 

Mr Chopra was the only one who spoke against the fictitious existence of Satan. He said, "Belief is a cover for insecurity. If something is real you don't believe in it, you experience it".

 

The fact that people of developed countries cling to these old-age myths reflects on the sorry state of humanity. In today's world everybody is terrorised, plagued by insecurity and fear. It doesn't matter whether they belong to the developed country or the developing country — their emotions are equally primitive. Their material growth has not helped them grow spiritually. When it comes to the belief system, it shows that everybody is undeveloped.

 

For Osho there is no difference between the Satan and the God. Shocked? Quite naturally. But the root meaning of the word "divine" and the word "devil" come from the same Sanskrit root, div. They are not separate; devil and divine are two sides of the same coin. Just as darkness and light are two aspects of the sun. But you have been told that they are polar opposites and that there is a universal fight going on between God and Satan, good and evil. If that is true then it seems that God is losing continually.

 

Osho explains it with an original insight: "The devil is winning because everywhere you can see an increase in crime and people becoming more and more inhuman. It does not seem that God is winning. God cannot win because he is the other side of the devil. They are together, they are partners in the business".

 

"If you try to understand the complexity of your misery you will see that all that is good is connected with all that has been condemned as bad. And you have been told to drop the bad and save the good. This is the dilemma you have been put into by your priests, by all your religions, by all do-gooders. They have put you in such a schizophrenic state... Once you see that good and bad are together you will be immensely relieved, you will feel such a relief because the whole conflict was baseless. You were fighting against shadows, you were fighting against yourself. It is as if my left hand is fighting with my right hand. Do you think there is any possibility of coming to a conclusion? There is no possibility. Both are my hands; there is no need for them to fight, they can be together and friendly. They can be helpful to each other, they can be a tremendous support to each other. And that's the whole difference between me and all the religions of the world. They have been trying to create a conflict in you, between good and bad, and I am trying to bring your good and bad closer and closer so that you can start using them in a harmonious unity."

 

— Amrit Sadhana is in the management
team of Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops around the country and abroad.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MAD MEN & BAD GIRLS

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

Back in the early '60s, Holly was the woman we wanted to be. The slender and stylish New York beauty was supported by men, yet she seemed free. Now, back in the early '60s on TV, Betty is the woman we don't want to be. The slender and stylish New York beauty is supported by men, and she seems trapped.

 

Breakfast at Tiffany's was cool because of its modern glamour, ushering in a sexy future. Mad Men is cool because of its retro glamour, recalling a sexy past. Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly, a call girl with a crazy streak, got money from strange men at boîtes for "trips to the powder room". January Jones' Betty Draper, a housewife with a crazy streak, cheated on her husband, when she was pregnant, with a strange man at a boîte.

 

The tightly wound Betty is a gilded bird in a cage; she needs to belong to someone, this season to a new, older husband, an adviser to governor Rockefeller. The wild-child Holly is terrified someone will put her in a cage — in the Truman Capote novella, she won't even walk past the Central Park Zoo — and she doesn't want to belong to anyone. (She also doesn't want anything to belong to her; that's why she dumps her cat in a garbage can at the end. In the tacked-on happy ending of the movie, she finds the cat; in the book, which has no leading man to tell her she's already in a cage of her own making, she doesn't.)

 

The alcohol-swigging Betty never calls her blue periods "the mean reds", as the alcohol-swigging Holly did, but the women have their vertiginous moods in common: luminescent looks overlaying dark psyches.

 

In Georgetown, in the window of a vintage store called Annie Creamcheese, there's an iconic poster of Audrey Hepburn as Holly, sleek with cigarette holder, long black Givenchy dress and pearls. Right around the corner, in the window of Banana Republic, there's a huge picture of Jon Hamm, looking sleek with Don Draper's mysterious, matinee-idol smoulder.

 

Even though many of us grew up not realising it, Holly's a hooker. And in the new season of AMC's Mad Men, which started last Sunday, Don hires a hooker and wants to be slapped.

 

Set in the same era, the two Manhattan fantasies are dashing escapes from the prim, airless Eisenhower era. Both feature magnetic characters, smoke rings and, in Capote's phrase, "martini laughter".

 

Their gorgeous visual style cloaks strangled emotions, and both narratives brim with louche trysts, sexual liberation, bohemian flashes, suppressed demons and reinvented lives.

 

In Mad Men, the single Richard Whitman from Pennsylvania coal country morphs into the married Don Draper after an accident in the Korean War. In Breakfast at Tiffany's, the married Lulamae Barnes morphs into the single Holly Golightly to get out of the backwater Tulip, Tex.

 

"In New York you can become anything", Sam Wasson, who wrote the new book Fifth Avenue, 5 am: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's and the Dawn of the Modern Woman, told Vanity Fair.

 

Wasson asserts that Holly was the precursor of Carrie and the Sex and the City singletons (not to mention TV trailblazers Mary Tyler Moore and Ally McBeal.) Truman Capote had wanted Marilyn Monroe for the role of the teenage hillbilly turned chic prostitute, and it would have been fun to see that version, too.

 

But when the producers chose the less exhausting Audrey, her real-life good-girl persona helped mask the raciness of her character. In the 1960 movie of John O'Hara's Butterfield 8, Elizabeth Taylor's call girl had to die in a car crash for her sins, just as 20 years earlier, Vivien Leigh, playing a ballerina-turned-prostitute in "Waterloo Bridge", had to be punished for her wicked ways with a final leap off the bridge.

 

It would be many years before audiences would embrace overt hookers as heroines: Jamie Lee Curtis in Trading Places in 1983, Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman in 1990 and Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential in 1997.

 

Married to the oppressive Mel Ferrer and with a new baby boy, Hepburn's princess-swan image bled into Holly, making her seem less like a member of the oldest profession and more like a modern, fun-loving single girl.

 

"In Breakfast at Tiffany's, all of a sudden — because it was Audrey who was doing it — living alone, going out, looking fabulous and getting a little drunk didn't look so bad anymore", Wasson writes. "Being single actually seemed shame-free. It seemed fun." So, as a haute hooker, Audrey Hepburn was a fairy godmother, not only to feminism but to the prevailing ethos that style and cool trump all.

 

By arrangement with the New York Times

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

NATURE'S GIFT TO THE NATION

 

THE National Mining Policy 2008 envisaged the exploitation of natural resources in keeping with the country's long-term interests. It was necessary to ensure the security of minerals  during periods of international strife. But the export policy of iron ore runs counter to this commitment.


The superior iron ore is hematite, to use a geological expression. We have reserves of about 12 billion tons of this, and it is sufficient for 30 years. The inferior ore is magnetite, of which we have 11 billion tons. Indian steel mills use little of the magnetite. Thus our reserves will last only about 30 years. This is equal to a few minutes of a day considering the 5000-year history of our civilization. The export of iron ore should, therefore, be immediately banned if minerals have to be made secure.


This is precisely what the United States has done. It has iron ore reserves of 50 tons per capita. It has banned iron ore export. Our reserves are only 21 tons per capita; yet more than half of  the ore production is exported.  There has been a 20 per cent increase in ore exports. Surely, our consumption of steel per capita is less than that of the United States. But we aim to become 'developed' very shortly, don't we? We need to anticipate the future demand and not be focussed on the current low demand. 


Ores are Nature's gift to the nation. They cannot be produced like milk or software. The supply of milk increases if there is a rise in price. But the supply of iron ore cannot increase because the availability is also limited by Nature. Therefore, export cannot be left to market forces. It may not be right to export even if global prices are high just as one does not sell the family jewellery when gold prices soar.


Citizens' rights

THE landed price of iron ore in the Chinese market today is about Rs 5,000 per ton. The cost of production is Rs 300, taxes amount to Rs 300, sea transport to China costs Rs 600 and, say, the profits of the mining company are Rs 100. The total cost is Rs 1,300 per ton. The question is: Who is the rightful owner of the remaining Rs 3,700? This is actually the value of Nature's gift. It belongs to all citizens of the country. Therefore, this money should be collected by the government as the custodian of common rights of the people. But this huge amount is being collected by the mining companies under the present dispensation.


Appropriation of this common wealth by individuals is the reason why mining mafias have emerged across the world. Therefore, a royalty equal to Nature's gift of Rs 3,700 per ton should be collected from all mining companies ~ domestic users as well as exporters. They should be entitled only to normal profits on the expenditure incurred in production.


Further, we should try to secure an increase in the global price of iron ore.  This will enhance the value of  Nature's gift. The major exporters of iron ore are Australia, Brazil and India. In 2008, the main Brazilian exporter, Vale, had sought an increase in price from Chinese importers. The latter did not agree. Instead they imported additional ore from India in the spot markets. That might explain the increase in exports from this country in recent years. As a result, India forestalled an increase in the global price. Just as a section of the trade union teams up with the mill owners and breaks the strike for  petty personal gains, so also did India scuttle the Brazilian effort for short-term benefits. It was wiser for India to cooperate with Brazil and jointly seek an increase in the price from Chinese importers.

Three points emerge. One, a huge increase in the royalty on ores should be effected to collect Nature's gift and use it for the welfare of the people. This money may be distributed to all citizens in cash. This will lead to reduction in mining and help preserve our mineral security. Two, the rates of royalty on inferior magnetite ore may be kept low. This will encourage domestic producers to use this and extend the life of our reserves. Three, India should form an export cartel with Australia and Brazil and jointly impose a hefty export tax in addition to the royalty. Joint action will prevent Chinese importers to play one exporter against the other and keep prices low.


The counter-argument is that we must make exports the engine of economic growth. Theoretically, this is correct. Every country should export those items which it can produce on the cheap. But this applies only to countries that have large reserves of ore and whose domestic requirements are much less than the available quantities. For example, Australia has iron ore reserves of 2,000 tons per capita. India has only 21 tons per capita. The export-led growth argument holds for both countries, but the items to be exported would be different. Australia may surely export iron ore, but India would do well to export labour, which is available aplenty. The farmer first stores grains for his domestic requirement and then sells the excess quantity. We should do the same for iron ore.


Ban on exports

There is a counter-argument to this as well. Banning exports will affect the employment potential of mining companies because domestic steel mills do not have the capacity to consume the entire domestic production. This argument is valid, but only in the short run. About 30 years ago, the export of raw hides was banned. Soon a vibrant industry of finished leather products was developed. Similarly, the domestic steel industry will grow as soon as exports are banned and jobs will regenerate. In any event, jobs in the mining sector are limited by the availability of iron ore.  The question is whether we should generate these jobs now or leave it for the future. The farmer does not sell all the earth for the manufacture of bricks. Similarly we should not sell all the ore and try to grab all the jobs immediately.


The counter-argument is that the petty interests of mining and steel companies are involved in the debate. The mining companies want taxes to be kept low so that exports are buoyant. Steel companies, on the other hand, want export taxes to be jacked up so that domestic availability increases and prices move downwards. These petty interests are certainly at play. But the government should rise both above the mining mafia and steel barons and evolve a policy in the national interest. To ensure the security of minerals and maximise the income from exports calls for an increase in royalties and export taxes.


We should increase the export of manufactured steel instead of iron ore. The logic is correct in terms of value-added exports. But mineral security is a far larger issue. It can be affected both by the export of steel and ore. The government must rise above petty interests of various contending groups and impose a huge royalty as well as export tax on all mining and export of iron ore.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

DEVELOPMENT COUNCILS TO TACKLE MAOISM

 

SIR, ~ This is with reference to PR Dubhashi's article, "Coercion or development" (25-26 July). He has presented a proper analysis of the Maoist phenomenon, even suggesting possible solutions. 
  Let us assume that the Centre announces certain development schemes to meet the needs of the tribal communities. Implementation will still remain the moot point. Second, the schemes prepared by the governments may not be acceptable to the tribals. The Orissa government had once ordered the construction of roads in the backward region of Koraput district. Tribal leaders opposed the scheme, arguing that they don't need these roads. It is difficult for others to gauge the mood and needs of this community. The government of West Bengal, with assistance from the Centre, had constituted the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council to look after development work in that area and fulfil the needs of the people. One of them was made the chairman of the organisation. Orissa had also formed the Western Orissa Development Council to undertake development in this backward region. A representative of that area was appointed as head of the organisation. The Centre can consider forming such Development Councils for the Maoist-affected areas, with the assurance that the government will provide the support that is required. This may also help tackle the law and order problem in the respective areas. As a pre-requisite to such development entities, the states must call the Maoist leaders for talks without preconditions. Mediators like Swami Agnivesh may be urged to help bridge the gap between the two sides. But if we take time to decide, the situation may go out of control.

 

;Yours, etc., Muktipada Panda,

Bhubaneswar, 27 July.

Not a politician

SIR, ~ India needs a proactive Prime Minister with a firm determination and political acumen. Dr  Manmohan Singh's disadvantage is that he is not a politician, but a distinguished economist. He has never dabbled in politics; politics has been thrust upon him. His excessive emphasis on the GDP suggests that it is the panacea for all problems, including terrorism. He and his Cabinet colleagues are least bothered about the sufferings of the masses in the wake of the unprecedented inflation. No action has been taken against the unscrupulous players, intent on reaping huge profits.  UPA-II's style of functioning defies the basic laws of economics. The Centre is so weak and inefficient that it cannot face the challenge. The people of eight states are poorer than the whole of Africa, according to the latest UNDP report.


Has any concrete step been initiated to counter terrorism? Innocents have been killed because of sheer callousness. One is reminded of the observation of a senior judge: "Even God cannot save this country".

;Yours, etc., Debdatta Saila,

Kolkata, 28 July.

 

Leave it to women

SIR, ~ Mona Eltahawy, the Muslim woman columnist's article, "Veiled politics", (Perspective, 24 July) on the French ban on the burqa was a refreshing read. Shabana Azmi had expressed similar views on the veil. The actress had supported the then British foreign secretary, Mr Jack Straw's  call for a ban. She was unjustifiably criticised by the Indian Muslim clerics and politicians alike. To my mind, the burqa is a symbol of male dominance verging on the control of women in a professedly religious garb. It is a legacy of the 7th century tribal culture of the Bedouins in the arid Arabian peninsula. It is bereft of any socio-religious-cultural  underpinning. It has been reduced to a sartorial controversy, one that has affected the rights of women. 
International trends are worth examining. In Europe, Switzerland has already banned the veil. Spain, Belgium and some other countries are considering a similar move. The Grand Sheikh of the famous Al-Azhar ~ the 1000-year-old Islamic University in Cairo ~ banned the veil within the campus in 2009. Syria has imposed a ban in all educational institutions though the hijab (head scarf) has been allowed. Turkey, which had banned the veil earlier, has now also proscribed the hijab. In Egypt, the Ministry of Religious Endowments has renewed the campaign against the veil. In Pakistan and Bangladesh, wearing the veil has been made optional. In Sudan, however, a woman journalist, was jailed for wearing a pair of jeans. However gently, a wind of change is blowing across parts of the Muslim world. The burqa issue should be decided by Muslim women themselves ~ 700 million of them worldwide. It isn't a matter that calls for male intervention.


;Yours, etc., Sanjukta Sarkar,

Kolkata, 26 July.

 

Listed & general

SIR, ~ The results of the All India Medical Post Graduate (MD/MS) entrance tests have recently been published. The prescribed percentages of reservation for the SC/ST and OBCs are in place even after six decades of independence. But even that is not enough to sustain the vote-bank. The intake of these candidates will be further increased by adding a substantial percentage of grace marks. In effect, many of these candidates will supersede a fairly large number of general candidates. For example, by adding 10 per cent, one reserved vacancy candidate with 46 per cent will supersede those general candidates who have scored up to 55 per cent. A large proportion of seats meant for the general candidates will thus be taken over by those in the reserved category. No wonder the deserving and the meritorious feel frustrated.

;Yours, etc., Ashoke Roy,

Kolkata, 6 July

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

P300 BRAIN WAVES CAN HELP PREDICT TERROR ATTACKS

INDO-ASIAN NEWS SERVICE

 

Washington, 1 Aug: A technology based on P300, an electrical brain wave response, can help scientists peer into the mind of a terrorist to know how, when and where the next attack will occur.


P300 is emitted within a fraction of a second when an individual recognises and processes an incoming stimulus that is significant or noteworthy.


That's not nearly as far-fetched as it seems, according to a new Northwestern University study, reports the Psychophysiology journal.


In the study, when researchers knew in advance specifics of the planned attacks by the make-believe "terrorists", they were able to correlate P300 brain waves to knowledge of terror attacks with 100 percent accuracy in the lab, Prof. J. Peter Rosenfeld said.


Prof. Rosenfeld is a professor of psychology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, a Northwestern release said.


For the first time, Northwestern researchers used the P300 testing in a mock terrorism scenario in which the subjects are planning, rather than perpetrating, a crime.


The P300 brain waves were measured by electrodes attached to the scalp of the make-believe "terrorist" in the lab.


"Without any prior knowledge of the planned crime in our mock terrorism scenarios, we were able to identify 10 out of 12 terrorists and, among them, 20 out of 30 crime-related details," Prof. Rosenfeld said.


"The test was 83 percent accurate in predicting concealed knowledge, suggesting that our complex protocol could identify future terrorist activity," he said.


Research on the P300 testing emerged in the 1980s as a handful of scientists looked for an alternative to polygraph tests for lie detection.


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THE TELEGRAPH

SLIVER OF HOPE

 

China's exchange controller has announced that its gross domestic product at purchasing power parity has exceeded that of Japan. This is only the last of a series of calculations relating to China that has announced its rise in various fields. In March, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization had declared that China's share of world manufacturing output in 2009 had reached 15.6 per cent, 0.2 per cent higher than Japan's share. Later in the same month, a report of Retail Banking Research announced that China had attained the second largest number of automatic teller machines, again beating Japan. China's overall growth played a part, but so did the innovative model it adopted: it organized the setting up of ATMs by agents — virtually shopkeepers — in return for a service fee and a commission on ATM transactions.

 

That was an instance of a specific innovation. But China's rapid productivity growth is itself the result of widespread innovation, for people cannot produce more unless they improve products and methods of production. China has virtually invented a new growth model, which has given it such high growth rates; no other country has yet discovered the secret of this model. Not that people have not tried. Many foreigners have visited China to find the key; a good few of them have written about it, making Chinese economics a growth industry in the Western world. But for all their trying, the formula has not been revealed; no other country has been able to attain growth rates equal to China's. That includes India; and Indians have not even tried to discover the secret, for they think they know the answer. Their stock response is that India is a democracy and has a more robust political system that is better at resolving social tensions and conflicts, and is therefore less likely to run into a crisis. To those who bask in this comfortable belief, it is immaterial that China has not run into the predicted crisis till now. Their belief that it will is a matter of faith, and like all faith, not subject to questioning.

 

The faithful are unlikely to learn; but there is a sliver of hope. Pronab Sen has just been removed from the post of chief statistician, and been reclaimed by the Planning Commission. The deputy chairman of the commission must get the 12th five-year plan drafted, and he could think of none better than Mr Sen. Mr Sen could take the easy way out, take out the last plan and change the years and the figures. No one will notice, because traditionally the plan is a 1,000-page document designed to reduce earnest people to tears and to put the rest to sleep. Mr Sen could change that. He should devote himself to asking how India can better China's growth record in five years and call his answer the 12th five-year plan.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

NEW SPACE

 

Indian institutions can still spring a pleasant surprise or two. Bangalore University has become the first academic institution in the country to reserve seats for transgender students in its post-graduate courses. The National Law School of India University in Bangalore intends to do the same soon. For once it would seem that reservations are being put to positive use. The authorities of Bangalore University have shown themselves to be both sensitive and determined, recalling that transgender candidates have been rejected by the university in the past. Yet there are young people from that community fit and waiting to go into higher studies. The university is making sure that their aspirations are fulfilled.

 

The authorities in both institutions are concerned that persons of different sexual inclinations are deprived even of basic rights, and, therefore, of the opportunities of joining the 'mainstream'. But their vision has a dimension that goes beyond political correctness. Many academic aspirants from the group are "brilliant"; hence rejecting them is a loss of human resources. The university is not only offering a separate gender column in its admission forms, it is also arranging for separate bathrooms and restrooms for the new students, as well as counselling sessions for all students so that transgender students are not harassed. The policy is not haphazard or ad hoc, as many populist or politically correct moves tend to be. It also shows how much can be done in academic institutions — whatever the ideological biases of the state government. But the decision could not have come out of thin air. The 'third gender' movement is particularly strong and vocal in the southern states. Visibility matters. While the university is setting an example of the thoughtful use of reservations, the development can also be seen as the fruitful convergence of a minority campaign and its institutional response.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

LABOUR IN THE DARK

THE SPIRIT OF BLAIR HAS NOT BEEN EXORCIZED YET

WESTMINSTER GLEANINGS: ANABEL LOYD

 

Reportedly a regular visitor to Ralph Miliband's house in Primrose Hill, London, with other well-known left-wing thinkers and activists in the 1970s, Tariq Ali is pessimistic at the prospect of either of the 'brilliant' Miliband offspring leading the Labour Party. In his view, the elder, David, is so tarred with the New Labour — Blairite — brush as to be unable to build an alternative image for the party, possibly one reverting more to old Labour roots, while he writes off younger brother, Ed, as weak and indecisive. David was closely associated with all the Blairite policies, and any hint of Labour change currently being touted by the brothers is, he feels, pure pretence, whatever their intellectual socialist background.

 

As for the other leadership contenders, he does not see Ed Balls as a breath of new air, Diane Abbott is damned as well-meaning but inadequate, and Andy Burnham as Blairite to the core — and same old, same old.... Diane Abbott is at least a familiar face on television, Burnham is, in reality, the least high profile and well-known of the candidates, and his role in the race is probably little more than the effect he may have on vote shares that may upset someone else's apple cart. I doubt many of us would recognize him if we saw him in the street.

 

Ali believes that the unions may still determine the leadership in spite of a record of collaboration with New Labour. Unison, the biggest public sector trade union, has come out in support of Ed Miliband, but the unions no longer have their powerful block vote as decided by their leaders. So individual members voting in secret postal ballot are still in a position to make up their own minds.

 

I wrote in May, after a conversation with the former Conservative Party chair and now chancellor of Oxford University, Chris Patten, of his view that if David Miliband wins the Labour leadership, he may reinforce a new collegiate style of politics at Westminster with less of the unending party tribalism and point-scoring of the past. Patten and Ali were contemporaries themselves at Oxford; their views on a more symbiotic relationship between parties are strikingly different. For Patten, greater party consensus means less time-wasting and improved policy implementation. For Ali, it means swerving towards a one-party State, a situation that he foresees in the United States of America as, aside from the diehard extremes, Republicans and Democrats converge, and likewise in other countries, as ideology is subverted by pragmatism and the essential voice of genuine opposition and alternative is barely heard.

 

He is, of course, right that as everyone looks increasingly alike and moves in a similar direction, we may be lulled into a sense of false security where an easy, non-combative atmosphere in Westminster pervades the country like soothing syrup until other ways and other arguments are smothered and we find ourselves with no alternatives when we need them — or perhaps just forget that alternatives may exist. The argument must be kept going, a questioner is always needed and we should never become so apathetic as to allow the itch to be scratched for us and an unchallenged government to know best.

 

Unlike Andrew Rawnsley, Ali believes that while the New Labour government may be dead, New Labour is alive and kicking and vested in the new party leader, whichever candidate wins that role. The party, with an eye to future power in five years or so, will avoid antagonizing the financial or military establishments and, instead, just bide its all too similar time, waiting for the coalition to break down. As things currently stand, the coalition is doing a better job in some areas where Labour might previously have expected to shine, and there is no doubt that we have reached an odd moment when the Conservative lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice, Ken Clarke, attacks a 'bang 'em up' prison culture and is accused by his shadow and former Labour home secretary, Jack Straw, in the pages of the press bulwark of the Right, The Daily Mail, of going soft on crime.

 

In fact, so far the coalition government is proving itself a good deal more liberal on civil liberties, reducing CCTV surveillance and looking for change in other areas where the New Labour government pandered happily to the Daily Mail readership. In the current economic situation of course, the Opposition is able to throw accusations at the government of changes driven by cost-cutting imperatives as opposed to a more forward-looking Conservative ideology, especially with regard to crime and punishment.

 

Somewhat flummoxed by Ali's generally disappointed view of the end of all things in political argument, I clean forgot to ask his view of our economic problems, remembering only to question him briefly on Afghanistan, never far from our thoughts, and, this week, with the international conference in Kabul and more bodies of young British soldiers arriving home, once again the headline of choice. Not surprisingly he feels, like most of us, that the Afghan war is another disaster like Iraq and one the coalition is aware that we need to get out of. The war is lost or, put another way, is unwinnable. And it is massively expensive.

 

On a small note of greater optimism, the clear and untrimmed evidence of the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, to the Chilcot inquiry, supporting Ali's view that our involvement in Iraq had radicalized young Muslims in this country to the extent that an attack like 7/7 in London was inevitable, has led Ali to think that, for a change, the inquiry may not be the sort of total whitewash we saw over the events of Bloody Sunday, as discussed in my last piece, where the truth has taken 30 years to emerge.

 

Finally, and with a view to my recent of his book, The Third Man, I wondered whether Ali did not after all feel that the rash of their-side-of-the-story autobiographies or histories of the New Labour experiment were not laying that ghost to rest or at least offering putative new Labour leaders a chance of a slate wiped clean? The answer was clear: not at all, they are neither here nor there. If they think they are feeding the myth, they are not; neither are they exorcizing the spirit of Blair.

 

Nothing has changed, and whether or not the coalition is fiddling with details, nothing in the political world, here and abroad, is getting better, nor is there any sign of anything new under the sun in our Labour Party whatever it decides to call itself, whoever its leader and whatever smooth face it attempts to present to the public.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

A CASE FOR BAD LAW

GWYNNE DYER

 

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 African wannabes can take heart as the International Court of Justice has ruled Kosovo's action was not illegal; international law contains no "prohibition on declarations of independence".

 

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 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. In fact, only 69 countries have recognized Kosovo, and it is still not a member of the United Nations.

 

There is an old legal adage that "hard cases make bad law," and it is certainly at work in Kosovo. The Kosovars, who were 90 per cent of the population before the 1999 war and now account for 95 per cent, are Albanian-speaking Muslims who were oppressed under the ultra-nationalist 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 suspected of seeking its restoration. He drove some Kosovars into a guerilla war against the regime, and then killed around 10,000 people in an attempt to terrorize the Kosovars into submission.

 

Only way out

 

The Kosovars were not saints in all this, but they owe no allegiance to a state that treated them in such a vile manner. In 1999, the United States of America and the European members of Nato decided that Serbian behaviour 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. When Serbia refused to accept the independence of a province it sees as the cradle of the nation — "our Jerusalem," in Jeremic's words — the US and major European countries told the Kosovars 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 ICJ is right: international law does not ban declarations of independence. But the deal that underlies the creation of the UN, and that has spared us from great-power wars over the past 65 years, does forbid any changes in the borders of UN members that are imposed by force. That deal is embedded in the UN Charter. What they really intended in 1945 was to stop cross-border aggression. In practice, the charter has also been used to delegitimize unilateral declarations of independence all over the world.

 

It was a largely unintended side effect of the charter, and although it has suppressed violence in some places, it has helped perpetuate terrible injustices in many others. The decision of the ICJ 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.

 

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

EDITORIAL

DEMOCRACY'S BANE

''A DEBATE ON PRICE RISE WOULD HAVE BENEFITED ALL.''

 

Come parliament session and the nation is treated to the usual spectacle of confrontation, uproar, disruption of proceedings and repeated adjournments. The first week of the Monsoon Session has been lost without transacting any business. Going by the unrelenting positions of the opposition and the government, the deadlock may continue this week. Since the obituary references on the first day, an assorted opposition has been demanding a debate on price rise through an adjournment motion. The government is not prepared for a discussion which entails voting and can be embarrassing for it if the motion is carried. Since price rise is a matter of widespread concern, even parties which had bailed out the government during the cut motion in the last session may vote against it. The government does not have to resign if the motion is passed but the precarious nature of its support in parliament will be exposed.


The Lok Sabha Speaker rejected the demand for an adjournment motion after the government's explanation that it can be tabled only when there is a failure on the part of the government to carry out its constitutional duties. The failure to contain price rise is certainly a failure of the government, but it can be called a failure to discharge its constitutional duties only by stretching the meaning of words. What is lost in the wrangling over technicalities is the purpose of parliamentary debates. The opposition is more keen on pushing the government into a corner and the government wants to avoid embarrassment at any cost. In the process, the government's floor management strategy has also been exposed as weak.


An informed debate on the issue of price rise, which has affected everybody, would have benefited the entire nation. Parliament is the forum for that. The blockade of parliament exposes the failure to make the institution function the way it should, more than the failure of the government to deal with the price situation. Unfortunately parties do not realise that. The UPA, when it was in the opposition, was equally guilty of such obstructionist conduct. The Monsoon Session has a heavy legislative agenda. Every lost day makes it so much more difficult  for parliament to transact and complete its normal and legitimate business. The losers are the people who pay the bill.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

BOLD CAMERON

''BRITAIN IS KEEN ON IMPROVING INDIAN INVESTMENT.''

 

The dominant theme of British Prime Minister David Cameron's three-day visit to India last week was economic co-operation and improvement of business relations between the two countries. The format of the visit, with Cameron arriving in Bangalore first to attend the signing of a major defence deal before reaching New Delhi was itself an indication of priorities. The British economy is struggling and can gain much from India which has been on a consistently high growth trajectory. The large British delegation that accompanied the prime minister had more industry and trade representatives than others. The deal on supply of Hawk trainer jets between British Aerospace and HAL, worth over Rs 5,100 crore, will give a boost to the languishing British manufacturing sector. The Delhi talks and the joint statement focussed more on economic than political relations. Britain is keen on improving trade and Indian investment. Trade has been improving and India is among the major investors in Britain. Cameron also sought relaxation of FDI norms in sectors like legal services, defence and insurance which could help British companies. These are contentious policy issued in India. However, there was a commitment on the part of both sides to explore fresh areas of co-operation in all fields, including the fight against terrorism.


Cameron's strong comments on Pakistan were first considered nice words spoken to please India. But he repeated the charge of Islamabad's double talk and promotion and export of terror even at the expense of a diplomatic tiff before Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to Britain this week. But there also needs to be the willingness to realise that British, just as US, policies have in the past helped Pakistan to take the dangerous course it has taken. Cameron should also ask himself what his government can do discourage Pakistan from pursuing this policy.


India has reasons to be unhappy with Britain's new immigration policy which is apparently biased against people from non-European Union countries. Cameron's assurance that the policy would not prevent the brightest Indians from coming to his country has not removed apprehensions about an unfair and possible ill-motivated policy. India and Britain have a relationship anchored in history. Cameron said he wanted it to be a more special relationship. There are common interests and concerns for both to warrant such an upgradation.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

TAINTED COMMONWEALTH GAMES

FAIR GAME

M J AKBAR


''Doesn't Prime Minister Manmohan Singh know what goes on in parliament? Does he not read newspapers?''

 

Is there a tipping point to corruption, that last straw, or rupee note, on the corrupt camel's back that ignites the dormant fuse of public response, and transforms apathy into rage? Will there come a subsequent moment when rage escalates to outrage?


Corruption has found a figleaf cover: everyone is corrupt, so why bother? This is the convenient argument that persuades some watchdogs, including within the media, to join the gang, even if their reward is marginal. Cynicism is a lucrative camouflage. If everyone is a thief, then theft becomes the law. There are no outlaws in a country teeming with in-laws.



The robber barons are too sophisticated to steal from one another. They don't need to. That would also introduce unnecessary conflict into a cozy system. They all steal from the public, and there is so much public money available in the exchequer that even if all of them grabbed enough to satiate their hunger, there would still be something left over.


Robbery has graduated to daylight robbery. The thief of the night is apprehensive about guards, and hence seeks the protection of darkness. The daylight robber has no qualms, because the purchased sheriff is snoring at noon, and the bystanders are impotent.


Here are some facts printed on the front page of the 'Times of India' on Saturday. This, remember, is just one day's news; this is not the whole story. The Central Vigilance Commission has scrutinised only 16 Commonwealth Games projects so far, ranging from upgrades of stadiums, road construction, pavements, street lighting, etc worth Rs 2,477.22 crore. Every quality certificate it examined was either forged or suspect. Each one. There is little point wasting space over details; they will be repetitive. Suffice to say that there has not been undiluted stink of this order for some time.


The odour is multinational, but naturally: this is the Commonwealth Games, after all. There is something called the Queen's baton relay, which means that the baton honoured with Queen Elizabeth's blessing has to reach Delhi by relay. If there is an event there must be a function, and if there is a function there must be corruption. The British authorities have provided a small glimpse into what is going on. The CWG Organising Committee sent about Rs 1.68 crore, in British pounds, to a company called AM Films UK Ltd (and is still sending £25,000 every month) for video equipment in a deal where there was no tendering, no procedure and no paperwork. The office address of this company shows only the presence of an AM Vehicles Hire Ltd, and on its books it says that it hired cars, makeshift toilets and barriers, not video equipment. Its director resigned, very conveniently, on 14 July. The organising committee issued a brazen denial that takes about a minute to tear to shreds.

The 'tamasha'


Sports minister M S Gill has admitted in parliament that the cost of the Games increased 17.5 times since the 'tamasha' began in 2003. Repeat that sentence 17 times for better effect.

Doesn't Prime Minister Manmohan Singh know what goes on in parliament? Does he not read newspapers? Is he going to preside over the opening ceremony of the Games in the midst  of those who should be on trial for loot? How long can he distance himself from the muck at his feet by silence? There will come a time, if it has not come already, when this silence will be heard at a volume that speech could never match.


Are we heading towards a 1973 situation? In early 1971, Indira Gandhi was re-elected by margins that surprised her Congress. She reached the pinnacle of her tenure with the military triumph in Bangladesh in December 1971. Within a year, inflation had soured the public mood. By the end of 1973 corruption had deepened the mire in which government was stuck. In 1974 Jayaprakash Narayan, whose own integrity was beyond question, challenged the moral right of Indira Gandhi to continue in office.


The one great difference is too obvious: there is no Jayaprakash Narayan in 2010. The corrupt are comforted by the fact that the credibility of all politicians is so low that the public does not have an effective vehicle through which it can mobilise its anger. This vacuum should be of little comfort to the government. The wrath, real or simulated, of opposition parties is not the spectre ahead, but the rising discontent of the people. The whiplash of food inflation is harshest on the poor, those who earn around a hundred rupees a day. The poor do not protest too often, for the daily task of earning enough to eat is a demanding physical and psychological responsibility that consumes their time. But their patience is not infinite. They voted in large numbers for the Congress in 2009 because they believed in the sincerity of the party. They are beginning to feel betrayed.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

IN PAKISTAN, ECHOES OF AMERICAN BETRAYAL

BY MOHAMMED HANIF


Pakistan's military-security establishment has only one ideology. It's not Islamism. It's spelled I-N-D-I-A.

 

 

Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, has been accused of many bad things in its own country. It has been held responsible for rigging elections, sponsoring violent sectarian groups and running torture chambers for political dissidents. More recently, it has been accused of abducting Pakistanis and handing them over to the United States for cash.


But last week — after thousands of classified US army documents were released by WikiLeaks, and American and British officials and pundits accused the ISI of double-dealing in Afghanistan — the Pakistani news media were very vocal in their defence of their spies. On talk show after talk show, the ISI's accusers in the West were criticised for short-sightedness and shifting the blame to Pakistan for their doomed campaign in Afghanistan.


Suddenly, the distinction between the state and the state within the state was blurred. It is our ISI that is being accused, we felt. How, we wondered, can the Americans have fallen for raw intelligence provided by paid informants and, in many cases, Afghan intelligence? And why shouldn't Pakistan, asked the pundits, keep its options open for a post-American Afghanistan?


Ugly memories


More generally, the WikiLeaks fallout brought back ugly memories, reminding Pakistanis what happens whenever we get involved with the Americans. In fact, one person at the centre of the document dump is our primary object lesson for staying away from America's foreign adventures.


Hamid Gul, now a retired general, led the ISI during the end years of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and together with his CIA friends unwittingly in the 1990s spurred the mujahedeen to turn Kabul into rubble. According to the newly released documents, Gul met with Qaeda operatives in Pakistan in 2006 and told them to "make the snow warm in Kabul ... set Kabul aflame."


This would seem highly sinister except that, today, Gul is nothing more than a glorified television evangelist and, as the columnist Nadir Hassan noted, "known only for being on half a dozen talk shows simultaneously." He is also, for Pakistanis, a throwback to the lost years of our American-backed military dictatorships, a stark reminder of why we distrust the US.


The ISI and the CIA have colluded twice in the destruction of Afghanistan. Their complicity has brought war to Pakistan's cities. After every round of cloak-and-dagger games, they behave like a squabbling couple who keep getting back together and telling the world that they are doing it for the children's sake. But whenever they reunite, a lot of children's lives are wrecked.


In the West, the ISI is often described as ideologically allied to the Taliban. But Pakistan's military-security establishment has only one ideology, and it's not Islamism. It's spelled I-N-D-I-A. It will do anybody's bidding if it's occasionally allowed to show India a bit of muscle.


Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, has just been given an unexpected three-year extension in his office, due in large part, it is said, to American pressure on Islamabad. Yet General Kayani headed the ISI during the period that the WikiLeaks documents cover. Since he became the head of the Pakistan Army the number of drone attacks on Pakistani territory have increased substantially. It seems he has found a way to overcome his ISI past.


While he generally keeps a low profile, General Kayani in February gave an off-the-record presentation to Pakistani journalists. His point was clear: Pakistan's military remains India-centric. His explanation was simple: we go by the enemy's capacity, not its immediate intentions. This came in a year when Pakistan lost more civilians and soldiers than it has in any war with India.


Yet it has become very clear that an overwhelming majority of Pakistani people do not share the army's India obsession or its yearning for 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan. They want a peaceful settlement with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir and a safer neighbourhood. None of the leading parties in parliament made a big deal about India, Afghanistan or jihad in their election campaigns. They were elected on promises of justice, transparency and reasonably priced electricity.


Lately, Americans seem to have woken up to the fact that there is something called a parliament and a civil society in Pakistan. But even so, it seems that Americans are courting the same ruling class that has thrived on American aid and obviously wants an even closer relationship with Washington. 


There are a lot of hungry people looking in, and the strung lights are sucking up electricity that could run a small factory, or illuminate a village. 

NYT

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

MONSOON MAGIC

BY SUDHA MADHAVAN


It comes down in sheets. It thunders. And behold! It turns a dainty drizzle!

 

It makes you uncertain of the next moment, it is whimsical to the extreme. It plays most callously with your time, it wreaks havoc on all plans. It pelts. It lashes like a tormentor. It sways to the mighty winds. It turns the ocean an ominous, lyrical grey and the horizon blurs...


It roars, it chatters, it murmurs. And it gushes in mocking glee. It chortles blithely like a babe and it grins a toothless grin. It beguiles. It sways you with its tremendous force and then disarms you with its feather touch. It comes down in sheets. It thunders. And behold! It turns a dainty drizzle!


And the world around you winks a merry green...


It is absolutely enticing, perfectly beautiful and unquestionably alluring.


Yes! It is the monsoons in Mumbai. It has to be seen to be believed! This  deluge, this display of sheer abundance! It is a heaven sent cleansing of all that is worn and grimy and remnant and old to leave it all looking suddenly rather scrubbed and clean. (Which could be very well rounded a chore if only the municipality and the public could assist by lending a helping hand by improving the drainage system and not throwing garbage carelessly around!)



You get up in the morning to the sound of pounding rain (not the dainty pitter patter, mind you) and you are lulled through the day by the deceptive intervals of drizzle; to go to bed by the extremely short notice downpour that sets in with redoubled energy, as if it had never rained before!


But then, what happens to the milk man, the newspaperman, the presswala, the car wash guy, the maid, the sweepress on the street, the garbage collection truck, the traffic cop... the autowallas, the bhelpuri chap...?

Well, prepare to be shocked. They are all on time and orking... as usual.


Donned in all sorts of makeshift rain gear... with a 'gamcha' on the head, a plastic sheet, a-not-too-healthy umbrella, water proof pajamas and tops (!) or a just run-up-and-down open to the elements, a la Salman Khan! Our sustainers through cosseted lives run to make our lives... er... cosseted; with very little complaint and often a smile and a joke shared...


Pleasing indeed. And a lesson learnt. Of emotionally intelligent behaviour, of tolerance, of a certain respect for one's work and of no favours expected making an excuse of Lord Varuna's largesse...

65

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

HAMAS'S VIOLENT MESSAGE

ROCKETS ATTEMPT TO SNUFF OUT CHANCE OF PEACE.

 

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas received the Arab League's blessing to resume direct negotiations with Israel. On Friday, Hamas launched an Iranian Grad rocket from Gaza that struck southern Ashkelon, causing shell shock to several residents and damage to a building and cars. On Saturday, Hamas lobbed an upgraded Kassam rocket at Sderot, destroying a children's hydrotherapy rehabilitation center at Sapir College.


Mortars were also fired.

The attacks are evidently Hamas's reaction to new hopes, no matter how slim, for peace and stability between Palestinians and Israelis. Thankfully, there were no casualties.

 

But if, heaven forbid, Hamas had achieved its murderous goal of killing Israeli civilians, Israel would have been morally obligated to defend its citizens. A retaliatory attack to maintain deterrence would have been launched against Hamas terrorists.


Due to the unconventional nature of warfare in Gaza, where Hamas operatives regularly dress in civilian clothing and use non-combatants as humans shields, innocent bystanders might well have been killed unintentionally. And Abbas, already reluctant to enter direct talks, would have found an easy way out of negotiations with Israel.


The attacks on Ashkelon and Sderot underline the complexities of seeking peace with the Palestinian people split between Gaza and the West Bank. The US and Europe might manage to muscle Abbas into peace talks with Israel. Israel might continue to make far-reaching concessions, such as the 10-month building freeze in place in the West Bank.


But with Hamas running the show in Gaza, the chances of success in any peace endeavor may well be slimmer than they used to be. This has been the situation since June 2007 when Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas's PA in a violent coup.


Conventional reasoning postulated that in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF's 22-day offensive in the winter of 2008-2009, a temporary, tactical ceasefire – a tahadiya – was in Hamas's interest. The terrorist group needed quiet time to replenish its arms caches and rebuild its stock of mortars and rockets.


Apparently, Hamas, with adamant Iranian backing, now feels it is ready for another round of confrontation with Israel. Despite the destruction wreaked on the Hamas's rocket production facilities during Cast Lead, and despite the blockade – which has been relaxed under international pressure in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident – Hamas has managed to manufacture rockets as well as smuggle in thousands more through underground tunnels.


IT IS blatantly clear that the Hamas leadership and its Iranian patron do not want stability. They do not want the PA and Israel to revive hopes among Palestinians that a readiness for reconciliation and a renewed commitment to negotiations might pay off. Rather, they are advancing the position that the only path to Palestinian self-determination is through armed struggle.


According to a survey conducted in June by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, a significant percentage of Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank agree with Hamas's approach. Some 43.8% surveyed supported, or strongly supported armed attacks on Israeli civilians inside Israel.


However, there is still a non-violent majority. The survey found that 53.9% were opposed or strongly opposed to attacks on Israelis.


A poll conducted in April by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center reached a similar conclusion, finding that 43.7% of Palestinians supported the option of peaceful negotiations, while 29.8% supported armed struggle and 21.9% supported peaceful resistance.


Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad must provide the Palestinian people with a sane alternative to Hamas's creed of violence and hatred. Currently, neither man is making a coherent, urgent, insistent case for a Palestinian state living in peaceful coexistence and mutual respect alongside Israel in a two-state solution.


Under the PA, incitement against Israel and a rejection of the Jewish people's historic, religious and cultural ties to the land of Israel are still rampant.


Hamas's renewal of rocket attacks against Israeli civilians in the South is an attempt to snuff out any faint new chance of progress toward a peaceful settlement to the conflict, and instead to advance the option of armed struggle. Abbas and Fayyad must determinedly offer a peaceful alternative.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

IRAN IS FEELING THE HEAT

BY C. KRAUTHAMMER  

 

The Islamic Republic is beginning to realize that even President Obama's patience is limited.

 

 "They [the United States and Israel] have decided to attack at least two countries in the region in the next three months."

– Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, July 26.


President Ahmadinejad has a penchant for the somewhat loony, as when last weekend he denounced Paul the Octopus, omniscient predictor of eight consecutive World Cup matches, as a symbol of decadence and purveyor of "Western propaganda and superstition."


But for all his clownishness, Ahmadinejad is nonetheless calculating and dangerous. What "two countries" was he talking about? They seem logically to be Lebanon and Syria. Hizbullah in Lebanon has armed itself with 50,000 rockets and made clear that it is in a position to start a war at any time. Fighting on this scale would immediately bring in Syria, which would in turn invite Iranian intervention in defense of its major Arab clients – and of the first Persian beachhead on the Mediterranean in 1,400 years.

 

The idea that Israel, let alone the US, has the slightest interest in starting a war on Israel's north is crazy.

But claims about imminent attacks are serious business in that region. In May 1967, the Soviet Union falsely told its client, Egypt, that Israel was preparing to attack Syria. These rumors set off a train of events – the mobilization of Arab armies, the southern blockade of Israel, the hasty signing of an inter-Arab military pact – that led to the Six-Day War.


Ahmadinejad's claim is not supported by a shred of evidence. So what is he up to? It is a sign that he is under serious pressure. Passage of weak UN sanctions was followed by unilateral sanctions by the United States, Canada, Australia and the European Union.


Already, reports Reuters, Iran is experiencing a sharp drop in gasoline imports as Lloyd's of London refuses to insure the ships delivering them.


Second, the Arab states are no longer just whispering their desire for the US to militarily take out Iranian nuclear facilities. The United Arab Emirates' ambassador to Washington said so openly at a conference three weeks ago.


SHORTLY BEFORE the 1991 Gulf War, Pat Buchanan charged that "the only two groups" that wanted the US to forcibly liberate Kuwait were "the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States." That was a stupid charge, contradicted by the fact that George H.W. Bush went to war leading more than 30 nations, including the largest US-led coalition of Arab states ever assembled.


Twenty years later, the libel returns in the form of the scurrilous suggestion that the only ones who want the US to attack Iran's nuclear facilities are Israel and its American supporters. The UAE ambassador is, as far as ascertainable, neither Israeli, American nor Jewish. His publicly expressed desire for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities speaks for the intense Arab fear approaching panic, of Iran's nuclear program and the urgent hope that the US will take it out.


Third, and perhaps even more troubling from Teheran's point of view, are developments in the US Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden suggested last Sunday that over time, in his view, a military strike is looking increasingly favorable compared to the alternatives. Hayden is no Obama insider, but Time reports ("An Attack on Iran: Back on the Table," July 15) that high administration officials are once again considering the military option. This may reflect a new sense of urgency or merely be a bluff to make Teheran more pliable. But in either case, it suggests that after 18 months of failed engagement, the administration is hardening its line.

The hardening is already having its effect. The Iranian regime is beginning to realize that even President Obama's patience is limited – and that Iran may actually face a reckoning for its nuclear defiance.

All this pressure would be enough to rattle a regime already unsteady and shorn of domestic legitimacy.

Hence Ahmadinejad's otherwise inscrutable warning about an Israeli attack on two countries. (Said Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Fox News: "Who is the second one?") It is a pointed reminder to the world of Iran's capacity to trigger, through Hizbullah and Syria, a regional conflagration.


This is the kind of brinksmanship you get when leaders of a rogue regime are under growing pressure. The only hope to get them to reverse course is to relentlessly increase their feeling that, if they don't, the Arab states, Israel, the Europeans and America will, one way or another, ensure that ruin is visited upon them.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

REALITY CHECK: NOT SO FAST

BY JEFF BARAK  

 

Netanyahu shouldn't allow the Arab League's decision to approve direct talks go to his head.

Talkbacks (6)

 

The Arab League's decision to approve direct talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is a clear-cut diplomatic victory for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been lobbying hard for the resumption of such talks.


The prime minister's recent visits to Washington, Cairo and Amman have paid off and international pressure will soon be brought to bear on Palestinian Authority PresidentMahmoud Abbas to put to one side his understandable skepticism concerning Netanyahu's real intentions and agree to meet him around the negotiating table.

 

But before Netanyahu allows this rare diplomatic success to go to his head, he should pay attention to the worrying statement made by the new British prime minister David Cameronduring his visit to Turkey last week, for it provides a serious warning as to how poorly Israel is viewed in the international community. Addressing Turkish businessmen in Ankara, Cameron first sharply attacked Israel's behavior in the Mavi Marmara affair, saying "the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable."


And then, more significantly, the Conservative leader went on to say: "Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp."


Cameron's words were not chosen purely to please his Turkish audience. Just over a month ago, during a debate in the House of Commons, he declared: "Everybody knows that we are not going to sort out the problem of the Middle East peace process while there is, effectively, a giant open prison in Gaza."


The greatest threat to Israel right now comes not on the battlefield, but from the diplomatic and the assault on Israel's legitimacy and the country's sovereign right to act in self defense. The understanding for Israel's position that world leaders displayed immediately after the end of Operation Cast Lead has evaporated over time, helped by the findings of the Goldstone Report, but even so, the description of Gaza as a "prison camp" or "open prison" is not the rhetoric Israel is accustomed to hearing from the leader of one the European Union countries more friendly to Israel.


Before the knee-jerk reactions kick in and those on the right look to label Cameron as "anti-Israel" or worse, it should be noted that the young prime minister is on record as saying: "I am proud not just to be a Conservative, but a Conservative Friend of Israel."


INDEED, CAMERON'S new coalition government has recently moved to remove one the greatest points of friction in Israel-UK relations, the British law on universal jurisdiction for war crimes. This law, for example, allowed UK lawyers representing Palestinians in Gaza to apply successfully for an arrest warrant against opposition leader Tzipi Livni, in advance of a planned trip to London.


In Livni's case, the warrant was issued by a magistrate based on Livni's leadership role in Operation Cast Lead and a justified fear of arrest led the former foreign minister to cancel her trip to the British capital. Mid-career IDF officers, meanwhile, have accepted for some time that they will have to forgo a year's study-leave at British military academies because of this law.


However last month, the UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke announced that the British government will act "at the first opportunity" to change the law. The government will take the power of issuing arrest warrants on war crimes charges out of the hands of low-ranking magistrates, and require instead the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is expected to take a much more cautious approach to approving such warrants.

The previous Labor government had pledged numerous times to remove this bone of contention between Jerusalem and London but never followed through, so Cameron deserves the credit for moving quickly on this issue, particularly given the opposition of his Lib Dem coalition colleagues to reform of this law.


BUT AS EXPECTED, Cameron's remarks caused the usual outrage among the established UK Jewish community, with the president of British Jewry's umbrella organization criticizing the prime minister's "one-sided, emotive language," although it is doubtful that Cameron's stance on Gaza bothered the majority of British Jews.


A fascinating survey of UK Jews and their attitudes to Israel, conducted earlier this year by the highly respected Institute for Jewish Policy Research and just recently published, found that British Jews are much more dovish than their Israeli counterparts.


Out of the 4,000 UK Jews polled, 78 percent said they were in favor of a two-state solution (with only 15% opposed); 74% are opposed to settlement expansion and a surprising 52% think the Israeli government should negotiate with Hamas, compared with 39% against.


And no, the survey did not just question "self-hating Jews."


Ninety percent of those questioned regard Israel as the "ancestral homeland" of the Jewish people, 87% believe Jews have "a special responsibility" to ensure its survival and 72% of those polled said they considered themselves Zionists.


The views of British Jewry, or even those of the British prime minister, are not particularly important in the wider picture of Middle East diplomacy. But they do provide an interesting insight into how a sympathetic Western audience sees the present situation.


If Netanyahu is serious about direct talks with the Palestinians, he must be aware of the price Israel will have to pay to ensure they succeed. If he simply intends on playing for time and not changing the situation, then we can expect further and more damaging criticism from our diplomatic allies and a serious erosion of Israel's international position.


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

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

THE REGION: RADICALISM AND ISOLATION

BY BARRY RUBIN  

 

Forces that use terrorism, preach a totalitarian ideology and have genocidal goals are responsible for conflict in the Middle East.

Talkbacks (6)

 

In this era, the most common way of dealing with radicalism, repression, terrorism, and such things in the Third World is to blame it on democratic states so often victimized by such things.


The latest contribution to this genre comes from British ambassador to Israel Tom Phillips who said Israel's sanctions' regime on the Gaza Strip "was breeding radicalism."

 

He claimed it had driven "Gaza into a Hamas-controlled tunnel economy, and the Palestinian Gaza private sector has been almost completely destroyed….Young boys on the streets [have had] no role models apart from the Hamas guy in the black shiny uniform on the street corner... creating, in psychological terms, another generation of people that are not going to feel that friendly about Israel."


The message is that the problem is completely due to "us." The other side doesn't actually exist. It has no history, no worldview, no ideology, and no goals. The "other side" is merely a blank screen or mirror, reflecting back what we do.


This is, of course, a racist and imperialist vision. It denies the other any cultural or historical mentality of its own.

If one is only a victim always, one has no volition, higher intelligence, or ability to affect history.


Yet let's look at the events. For instance, Islamist Iran is not radical because it has been isolated; rather, it has been isolated because of its radical behavior.


In the case of the Gaza Strip, the publicly known facts should be recalled.


Let's count the number of times Hamas was treated generously.


The participation of Hamas in Palestinian elections was clearly illegal, since that group did not accept the Oslo Accords, recognize Israel, or cease using terrorism.


Yet despite all of this, the United States actually urged, and Israel accepted, its participation. (1) When Hamas won the elections, neither the United States nor Israel tried to intervene or reverse the results. Again, they didn't "drive" Hamas into radicalism. (2) True, the Palestinian Authority tried for a while to hang on, but in the end it signed a power-sharing agreement with Hamas. (3) Hamas then staged a coup, killed fellow Palestinians, and seized power. Yet even then there was no move by Israel or the United States to unseat the new regime. (4) After repeated Hamas attacks on Israel and Israeli retaliation, a ceasefire was signed.


There were restrictions on supplies but they regularly flowed into Gaza. (5) There was, for example, a border industrial area that provided jobs for Gazans from Israeli companies until Hamas attacked it. Finally, near the end of 2008, Hamas tore up the ceasefire and launched a massive attack on Israel. Israel defended itself and after the resulting war the sanctions' regime we have seen until recently went into effect by both Egypt (which feared Hamas's revolutionary Islamism and status as an Iranian client) and Israel.


This is not a picture of Gazans being driven to radicalism, it is a story of how the consequences of a radical policy unfolded, forcing Israel to react.


THERE'S MORE. Ambassador Phillips, and the many others who speak about events around the world in similar terms, simply fail to comprehend how a dictatorship works. They think that if you engage hardline ideological revolutionaries, they will moderate. If you offer to trade with them, a process of materialism will set in so that the once fire-breathing radicals will be transformed into luxury-loving bourgeois.


Suppose Gaza didn't have a "Hamascontrolled tunnel economy" but merely a Hamas-controlled economy, would that be better? And why should one believe that the economy wouldn't be controlled by the dictatorship, because Western governments or companies were doing business there? But that is equally true of Syria, Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and ideological dictatorships in other parts of the world. Has this turned them toward love and moderation? This Phillips-Pogo view also ignores the political mechanisms of ideological dictatorships. Hamas doesn't wait for young boys to see its cadre as role models.


Here's what it does: • Pays people with the money obtainable, including that siphoned off from aid and trade, to recruit them and make them the arms of the regime.


• Arrests and intimidates opponents so they cannot provide alternative role models. (In the Gaza Strip there aren't that many moderate role models any way. Wealthy businessmen? These are the corrupt figures who were in good with Fatah and against whom people voted for Hamas. Fatah gunmen? Maybe the dedicated UNRWA teacher offers an alternative role model?) • Control of all institutions including mosques, media, youth organizations and schools which all actively and intensively preach the same message.


The regime isn't going to let external institutions or countries that oppose its Islamist radicalism have an influence in its territory. Hamas would rather sacrifice benefits to its people than give up authority to those it knows want to overthrow the regime.


Phillips' line that it is Israel's policy which is creating "another generation of people that are not going to feel that friendly about Israel" is rather ludicrous in light of this reality. After all, the same thing is happening in the West Bank where there is no sanctions' regime in place, Western aid flows lavishly, and supposed moderates are in control.


Here's the truth: revolutionary forces that use terrorism, preach a totalitarian ideology, create dictatorships, and have genocidal goals are responsible for war and conflict in the Middle East.


No matter how intensely Western democracies flagellate themselves, no matter how much they appease and concede, that basic and deadly fact will not change. No, let me correct the end of that sentence: the cost will become more dangerous, bloody, and deadly.


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

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

NOT JUST A STRATEGIC ASSET, BUT A STRATEGIC BONANZA

BY ROBERT SATLOFF  

 

A cost-benefit analysis of the US relationship with Israel over the past thirty-plus years shows an Israeli ally at a bargain.

 

Adapted from remarks given at the Nixon Center (www.nixoncenter.org) debate "Israel: Asset or Liability?" on July 20.


I don't think there is anyone who would disagree with the contention that there is no country in the Middle East whose people and government are so closely aligned with the United States; in some countries, the people are pro-American, in others, the government, but in Israel, it is unabashedly both.


Our two countries share ways of governing, ways of ordering society, ways of viewing the role of liberty and individual rights, and ways to defend those ideals. Some realists tend to dismiss this soft stuff as having no strategic value; I disagree. This commonality of culture and values is at the heart of national interest; it manifests itself in many ways, from how Israel votes at the United Nations to how its people view their role as being on the front line against many of the same threats we face.

 

It is to America's advantage to have in Israel an economy that is so closely associated with ours and that is such an innovator in the IT field, in high-tech medicine, and in green technologies, like the electric car.


Indeed, the strength of our relationship helped turn Israel from an economic basket case into an economic powerhouse – and our economic partner. Just ask Warren Buffett and all the other American investors who view Israel as a destination worthy of their capital.


It is to America's advantage to have had a close working partnership with Israel for the last thirty-plus years in the pursuit of Middle East peace. Some bemoan the peace process as "all process, no peace" and critique the strength of the US-Israel relationship as an impediment to progress, not an ingredient of it. I disagree. First, I would argue that a strong Israel, with a strong US-Israel relationship at its core, has been central to what we know as the peace process.


And second, in historical terms, the Middle East peace process has been one of the most successful US diplomatic initiatives of the last half-century.


In the words of one knowledgeable observer: "The peace process has been a vehicle for American influence throughout the broad Middle Eastern region. It has provided an excuse for Arab declarations of friendship with the United States, even if Americans remain devoted to Israel. In other words, it has helped to eliminate what otherwise might be seen as a zero-sum game."


That sort of praiseworthy peace process was born out of the 1973 war, when two interlocking developments began to take shape – the growth of the bilateral US-Israel strategic relationship, which took off in economic and military terms, and the emergence of a peace process in its current, American-led form.


Since then, the Arab-Israeli arena has changed dramatically in favor of US interests. Over the past thirty years, we have seen peace agreements between Israel and the most powerful Arab state (Egypt) and the state with the longest border with Israel (Jordan). We have also seen thirty-seven years of quiet on the Syrian border and seventeen years of diplomacy between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization. That is also a huge and positive difference.


INDEED, THE first twenty-five years after the establishment of Israel, the regional situation could be described as continuous war with periodic outbursts of diplomacy. The second thirty-five years – the period since 1973, the period since the take-off in US-Israel strategic relations – can be described as continuous diplomacy with periodic outbursts of war.


Since 1973, there has not been a regional war or a state-to-state conflict in the Arab-Israeli area. We have had limited wars – Israel versus Hizbullah, for example – but nothing that engulfed the region. That's a huge and positive difference.


We tend to forget the context – the fear of regional war – that dominated the Arab-Israeli arena for years. For more than thirty-six years, it hasn't happened. Of course, it may happen again and the circumstances on Israel's northern border may be leading in that direction.


But let's look at what we know: The peace process over the last thirty-five years has essentially evolved into a process to resolve issues between Israel and the Palestinians.


These issues are difficult, complex, and highly emotional. The failure to resolve them can lead to bloodshed and violence between Israelis and Palestinians, as we saw in the second intifada. But despite all those ups and downs, it has never reverted into regional war.


Indeed, one of the great achievements of USIsrael cooperation, manifested through their partnership in the peace process, is to have reduced the Arab-Israeli conflict to an Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Look at the experience of the second intifada, for example: approximately 4,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis dead in the worst outburst of intercommunal violence since 1948.


Despite this, the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan survived and not one Arab state intervened to provide military support to the Palestinians; in fact, the only state to lend military support to the Palestinians was Iran.

The observer I referred to earlier as praising the peace process for eliminating the zerosum game of Middle East politics – a peace process whose oxygen is the strength and vitality of the US-Israel relationship – was Chas Freeman.

AND THEN there is the long list of militaryrelated advantages that Israel brings to the United States directly, by its own actions and through the bilateral relationship. I will cite just a few: • Since 1983, American and Israeli militaries have engaged in contingency planning, and Israeli facilities can be made available to the United States if needed. American forces have practiced the use of many Israeli facilities, ranging from 
Ben Gurion Airport to pre-positioning sites. All four US armed services routinely conduct training at Israel Defense Forces facilities.


• The US has deployed an X-band early warning radar for missile defense on Israeli soil.


This facility supplements other American missile defense assets and is available for both America's regional missile defense architecture and our own reconfigured missile defense concept for protecting Europe from longerrange Iranian missiles.


• America began stocking war reserves in Israel fifteen years ago. Those stockpiles are hardly "minimal"– the total value is approaching $1 billion. They're US property and the Pentagon can draw upon them at any time.


America has shown it is able to move military supplies from Israel to the Gulf; for example, it sent Israeli mine-plows and bulldozers to Iraq during the first Gulf War in 1991.


• Israel has proven to be a prime source of effective counterterrorism/counterinsurgency tactics, techniques, and procedures, which have played a significant role in US success (thus far) in Iraq • Israel has also been an outstanding innovator in the technology, tactics, techniques, and procedures of unmanned aerial vehicles, which the US now relies upon so extensively in Afghanistan.


Add all this up: Israel – through its intelligence, its technology, and the lessons learned from its own experience in counterterrorism and asymmetric warfare – has saved American lives. And when you add to this Israel's unique counterproliferation efforts – destroying nuclear reactors in Iraq (1981) and Syria (2007) – Israel's contribution to our security is even greater.


DO A cost-benefit analysis of the US relationship with Israel over the past thirty-plus years and the US relationship with its Arab friends in the Gulf. What do you find? To secure its interests in the Arab-Israeli arena, the United States has spent about $100 billion in military and economic assistance to Israel, plus another $30 billion to Egypt and relatively small change to others. Our losses: a total of 258 Americans in the Beirut embassy and barracks bombings and a few other American victims of terrorism in that part of the Middle East.

Compare that with the Gulf. Look at the massive costs we have endured to ensure our interests there, the principal one being to secure access to the region's energy resources at reasonable prices. The United States has spent more than $1 trillion – $700 billion on the Iraq war alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office – lost more than 4,400 US servicemen, fought two wars, endured thirty years of conflict with the Islamic Republic of Iran and a global al-Qaida insurgency fed originally by our deployment of troops in Saudi Arabia. After all that, the Gulf region is still anything but secure. It's when you boil it down to this very simple arithmetic that I can say that our relationship with Israel helped produce a strategic bonanza for the United States at bargain prices.

Is it a fairytale marriage? Of course not.


Do the two sides have differences, even profound ones, on some critical issues? Absolutely. Do certain Israeli actions run against the tactical advice and preference of various US administrations? To be sure.

 

But their common recognition of the strategic benefits they derive from this relationship has given the United States and Israel strong incentive to manage these differences fairly amicably over the years.


What about the argument that all this has come at a huge strategic price? I know it is de rigueur to cite Gen. David Petraeus on this issue. But look closely at what General Petraeus actually said in his prepared testimony to the Armed Services Committee. In the section of his remarks titled "Cross-Cutting Challenges to Security and Stability," he cited eleven different items. The entire list bears mention: militant Islamic networks; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; ungoverned spaces; terrorist finance and facilitation; piracy; ethnic, tribal, and sectarian rivalries; disputed territories and access to vital resources; criminal activity; uneven economic development and unemployment; lack of regional and global economic integration; and, of course, insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace.

Would US interests be advanced if there were comprehensive peace? Of course.

Who argues to the contrary? But General Petraeus blamed neither Israel nor the USIsrael relationship for the lack of such progress; nor did he even hint that this issue is somehow the key to overcome the other ten major obstacles that he outlined.


And then there's the argument about the US paying for Islamist recruitment because of its relationship with Israel.

Again, in an echo of the long list of factors that Petraeus said pose challenges to security and stability, radical Islamists also have a long list of complaints against America, of which US-Israel relations is only one among many and not nearly the most important.


If you think Osama bin Laden is all about Israel, and not about America, let me quote a very learned fellow: "Mr. bin Laden's principal point, in pursuing this campaign of violence against the United States, has nothing to do with Israel. It has to do with the American military presence in Saudi Arabia, in connection with the Iran-Iraq issue. No doubt the question of American relations with Israel adds to the emotional heat of his opposition and adds to his appeal in the region. But this is not his main point."


That very smart fellow was Chas Freeman.


Bottom line: a disinterested, professional net assessment of the impact of Israel and the US-Israel relationship on US strategic interests in the Middle East would show that the 63 percent of Americans who told the most recent Gallup poll that they sympathize with Israel – more than four times the percentage who sympathize with what the poll presented as the other side, Palestinians (I didn't like the wording, but it's their poll, not mine) – that those 63 percent are pretty good strategists. They know that our relationship with Israel is not just good for Israel, it's good for America.


What we really need in the Middle East are more "Israels"– not more Jewish states, of course, but more strong, reliable, democratic, pro-American allies. It would certainly be nice to have one or two in the Gulf.

The absence of those sorts of allies is precisely what has gotten us into such deep trouble over the past thirty

ears.

The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


Copyright 2010 The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Reprinted with permission.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

WHAT'S IN IT FOR AMERICA?

BY CHAS FREEMAN  

 

It's remarkable that something as fatuous as the notion of Israel as a strategic asset could have become unchallengeable in the US.

 

Adapted from prepared remarks given at the Nixon Center (www.nixoncenter.org) debate, "Israel; Asset or Liability?" on July 20.


There are many reasons for Americans to wish the Jewish state well. Under current circumstances, strategic advantage for the United States is not one of them. If we were to reverse the question, however, and to ask whether the United States is a strategic asset or liability for Israel, there would be no doubt about the answer.

American taxpayers fund between 20 and 25 percent of Israel's defense budget (depending on how you calculate this). Twenty-six percent of the $3 billion in military aid we grant to the Jewish state each year is spent in Israel on Israeli defense products. Uniquely, Israeli companies are treated like American companies for purposes of US defense procurement. Thanks to congressional earmarks, we also often pay half the costs of special Israeli research and development projects, even when – as in the case of defense against very short-range unguided missiles – the technology being developed is essentially irrelevant to our own military requirements. In short, in many ways, American taxpayers fund jobs in Israel's military industries that could have gone to our own workers and companies.

 

Meanwhile, Israel gets pretty much whatever it wants in terms of our top-of-the-line weapons systems, and we pick up the tab.


Identifiable US government subsidies to Israel total over $140 billion since 1949. This makes Israel by far the largest recipient of American giveaways since World War II. The total would be much higher if aid to Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and support for Palestinians in refugee camps and the occupied territories were included. These programs have complex purposes but are justified in large measure in terms of their contribution to the security of the Jewish state.


Per capita income in Israel is now about $37,000 – on a par with the UK. Israel is nonetheless the largest recipient of US foreign assistance, accounting for well over a fifth of it. Annual US government transfers run at well over $500 per Israeli, not counting the costs of tax breaks for private donations and loans that aren't available to any other foreign country.


THESE MILITARY and economic benefits are not the end of the story. The American government also works hard to shield Israel from the international political and legal consequences of its policies and actions in the occupied territories, against its neighbors, or – most recently – on the high seas. The nearly 40 vetoes the United States has cast to protect Israel in the UN Security Council are the tip of iceberg. We have blocked a vastly larger number of potentially damaging reactions to Israeli behavior by the international community. The political costs to the United States internationally of having to spend our political capital in this way are huge.

Where Israel has no diplomatic relations, US diplomats routinely make its case for it. As I know from personal experience (having been thanked by the then Government of Israel for my successful efforts on Israel's behalf in Africa), the US government has been a consistent promoter and often the funder of various forms of Israeli programs of cooperation with other countries.

It matters also that America – along with a very few other countries – has remained morally committed to the Jewish experiment with a state in the Middle East. Many more Jews live in America than in Israel. Resolute American support should be an important offset to the disquiet about current trends that has led over 20 percent of Israelis to emigrate, many of them to the United States, where Jews enjoy unprecedented security and prosperity.

Clearly, Israel gets a great deal from us. Yet it's pretty much taboo in the United States to ask what's in it for Americans. I can't imagine why.


We need to begin by recognizing that our relationship with Israel has never been driven by strategic reasoning.

It began with 
President Truman overruling his strategic and military advisers in deference to personal sentiment and political expediency. We had an arms embargo on Israel until Lyndon Johnson dropped it in 1964 in explicit return for Jewish financial support for his campaign against Barry Goldwater. In 1973, for reasons peculiar to the Cold War, we had to come to the rescue of Israel as it battled Egypt. The resulting Arab oil embargo cost us dearly. And then there's all the time we've put into the perpetually ineffectual and now long defunct "peace process."


STILL THE US-Israel relationship has had strategic consequences.


There is no reason to doubt the consistent testimony of the architects of major acts of anti-American terrorism about what motivates them to attack us. In the words of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, who is credited with masterminding the 9/11 attacks, their purpose was to focus "the American people ... on the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel against the Palestinian people …."


As Osama Bin Laden, purporting to speak for the world's Muslims, has said again and again: "we have . . .stated many times, for more than two-and-a-half decades, that the cause of our disagreement with you is your support to your Israeli allies who occupy our land of Palestine ...." Some substantial portion of the many lives and the trillions of dollars we have so far expended in our escalating conflict with the Islamic world must be apportioned to the costs of our relationship with Israel.


It's useful to recall what we generally expect allies and strategic partners to do for us. In Europe, Asia, and elsewhere in the Middle East, they provide bases and support the projection of American power beyond their borders.

They join us on the battlefield in places like Kuwait and Afghanistan or underwrite the costs of our military operations.

They help recruit others to our coalitions. They coordinate their foreign aid with ours. Many defray the costs of our use of their facilities with "host nation support" that reduces the costs of our military operations from and through their territory. They store weapons for our troops', rather than their own troops' use. They pay cash for the weapons we transfer to them.


Israel does none of these things and shows no interest in doing them. Perhaps it can't. It is so estranged from everyone else in the Middle East that no neighboring country will accept flight plans that originate in or transit it. Israel is therefore useless in terms of support for American power projection. It has no allies other than us.

It has developed no friends. Israeli participation in our military operations would preclude the cooperation of many others. Meanwhile, Israel has become accustomed to living on the American military dole. The notion that Israeli taxpayers might help defray the expense of US military or foreign assistance operations, even those undertaken at Israel's behest, would be greeted with astonishment in Israel and incredulity on Capitol Hill.

Military aid to Israel is sometimes justified by the notion of Israel as a test bed for new weapons systems and operational concepts. But no one can identify a program of military R&D in Israel that was initially proposed by our men and women in uniform. All originated with Israel or members of Congress acting on its behalf. Moreover, what Israel makes it sells not just to the United States but to China, India, and other major arms markets. It feels no obligation to take US interests into account when it transfers weapons and technology to third countries and does so only under duress.


Meanwhile, it's been decades since Israel's air force faced another in the air. It has come to specialize in bombing civilian infrastructure and militias with no air defenses. There is not much for the US Air Force to learn from that. Similarly, the Israeli navy confronts no real naval threat. Its experience in interdicting infiltrators, fishermen, and humanitarian aid flotillas is not a model for the US Navy to study. Israel's army, however, has had lessons to impart. Now in its fifth decade of occupation duty, it has developed techniques of pacification, interrogation, assassination, and drone attack that inspired US operations in Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, Somalia, Yemen, and Waziristan. Recently, Israel has begun to deploy various forms of remote-controlled robotic guns. These enable operatives at far-away video screens summarily to execute anyone they view as suspicious. Such riskfree means of culling hostile populations could conceivably come in handy in some future American military operation, but I hope not. I have a lot of trouble squaring the philosophy they embody with the values Americans traditionally aspired to exemplify.


It is sometimes said that, to its credit, Israel does not ask the United States to fight its battles for it; it just wants the money and weapons to fight them on its own. Leave aside the question of whether Israel's battles are or should also be America's. It is no longer true that Israel does not ask us to fight for it. The fact that prominent American apologists for Israel were the most energetic promoters of the US invasion of Iraq does not, of course, prove that Israel was the instigator of that grievous misadventure.


But the very same people are now urging an American military assault on Iran explicitly to protect Israel and to preserve its nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. Their advocacy is fully coordinated with the government of Israel. No one in the region wants a nuclear-armed Iran, but Israel is the only country pressing Americans to go to war over this.


Finally, the need to protect Israel from mounting international indignation about its behavior continues to do grave damage to our global and regional standing. It has severely impaired our ties with the world's 1.6 billion Muslims. These costs to our international influence, credibility, and leadership are, I think, far more serious than the economic and other burdens of the relationship.


Against this background, it's remarkable that something as fatuous as the notion of Israel as a strategic asset could have become the unchallengeable conventional wisdom in the United States. Perhaps it's just that as someone once said: "people … will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one."


Be that as it may, the United States and Israel have a lot invested in our relationship. Basing our cooperation on a thesis and narratives that will not withstand scrutiny is dangerous. It is especially risky in the context of current fiscal pressures in the United States. These seem certain soon to force major revisions of both current levels of American defense spending and global strategy, in the Middle East as well as elsewhere. They also place federally- funded programs in Israel in direct competition with similar programs here at home. To flourish over the long term, Israel's relations with the United States need to be grounded in reality, not myth, and in peace, not war.


The writer is former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia. These remarks are reprinted with permission.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

DEMONIZING ISRAEL IS BAD FOR THE PALESTINIANS

BY MUDAR ZAHRAN  

 

The negative focus on Israel by the global media has harmed the Palestinians' interests for decades.

 

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the international media have been unhesitant in criticizing the Jewish state on almost everything. This has evolved into a media culture by itself, to the point that many internationally renowned newspapers would have a button labelled "Israel" or "Israeli-Arab conflict" on their Web sites including very little positive content about Israel. Media hostility toward Israel has been mainly focused on its military operations and, in more quiet times, on the living conditions of the Palestinians in Israel.

Amazingly enough, the international media, and particularly the Western ones, pay very little attention to the conditions of the Palestinians living in Arab countries, despite the extreme oppression they have been enduring for decades in most Arab countries.

 

These Palestinians do not have someone to speak for them in the global media, possibly because a news story about countries other than Israel is less interesting or "sexy" by media standards. This tendency to blame Israel for everything has lead to the development of numerous myths about the situation of the Palestinian there that have provided an excuse to purposely ignore and compromise the human rights of the Palestinian in many Arab countries.

THE EXAMPLES for that are plentiful and sometimes cross the line into tragic comedy. While the world is crying over the Israel-imposed blockade on Gaza, the media, for some unknown reason, choose to deliberately ignore the conditions of the Palestinians living in camps in Lebanon.


Lebanon, a country with some of the most hostile forces to Israel, has been holing up Palestinians inside camps for almost 30 years. Those camps do not have any foundations of livelihood or even sanitation and the Palestinians living there are not allowed access to basics such as buying cement to enlarge or repair homes for their growing families. Furthermore, it is difficult for them to work legally, and are even restricted from going out of their camps at certain hours. Compare this to the fact that Palestinian laborers were still able to go to work every day in Israel while Hamas was carrying out an average of one suicide bombing per week a few years ago, and until recently launching missiles daily on southern Israel. Not to mention the fact that Israel allows food items and medications into Gaza if handled through the Palestinian Authority.


The Lebanese atrocities toward the Palestinians have been tolerated by the international community, not only by the media. Today, while some Israeli military commanders have to think twice, in fear of legal consequences, before they visit London or Brussels, well-known Lebanese leaders who had directly participated in mass killings of Palestinian civilians, during and after the Lebanese civil war, are becoming world-respected political figures – Nabih Berri, for example, the leader of Amal Shi'ite militia who enforced a multi-year siege on Palestinian camps, cutting water access and food supplies to them. The Palestinians underBerri's siege were reported to be consuming rats and dogs to survive. Nonetheless, he has been the undisputed speaker of the Lebanese parliament for a long time. He travels frequently to Europe and criticizes Israel for its "crimes against the Palestinians" on every occasion.


MANY OTHER Arab countries are no different than Lebanon in their ill-treatment and discrimination against the Palestinians. Why do the media choose to ignore those and focus only on Israel? While the security wall being built by Israel has become a symbol of "apartheid" in the global media, they almost never address the actual walls and separation barriers that have been isolating Palestinian refugee camps in Arab countries for decades.

While Palestinians targeted by the IDF are mostly fighters pledging war on Israel, the world swiftly overlooked the Sabra and Shatila massacre in which Lebanese Christian and Shi'ite militiamen butchered thousands of Palestinian women and children. Unsurprisingly, the international media accused Israel of being responsible for the massacre, despite the fact that live testimonies aired by Al-Jazeera satellite television a few years ago show massacre survivors confirming that IDF commanders and soldiers had nothing to do with the killing.


The demonization of Israel by the global media has greatly harmed the Palestinians' interests for decades and covered up Arab atrocities against them. Furthermore, demonizing Israel has been well-exploited by several Arab dictatorships to direct citizens' rage against Israel instead of their regimes and also to justify any atrocities they commit in the name of protecting their nations from "the evil Zionists."


This game has served some of the most notorious Arab dictatorships, and still does today, as any opposition is immediately labelled "a Zionist plot."


This model had served Gamal Abdel Nasser in ruling Egypt with an iron fist until he died, and was the main line for Saddam Hussein, who was promoting that "Iraq and Palestine are one identical case" in his last years in power.

The global media must be fair in addressing the Palestinians' suffering in Arab countries and must stop demonizing Israel. It should start focusing on the broader conditions of the Palestinians in the Middle East region.

There is much to see.

 

The writer, a Jordanian of Palestinian heritage, is a researcher at the University of Bedfordshire.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE HARM IN CENTRALIZATION

 

Centralization harms competition, development, growth and the public welfare. It also leads to high prices and mediocre service in the absence of competition.

 

Israel has one of the most centralized economies in the West. About 20 groups control a large part of it, and in each of the main branches such as banking, insurance and cellular telephony only two or three players dominate.

 

The large business groups own both financial institutions and companies in areas such as real estate, energy, retail and the media. These overlapping holdings give the people in control great power that lets them push new competitors out of the market and further increase their strength. Centralization harms competition, development, growth and the public welfare. It also leads to high prices and mediocre service in the absence of competition. The great power of the dominant business groups in their relationship with politicians also creates a threat to democracy.

 

A market economy is essentially opposed to over-centralization, monopolies and cartels. Such an economy can work efficiently only when there are many players and fewer restrictions, providing access to new entrepreneurs as well as small and mid-sized businesses that compete with the giants.

 

\A historical look shows that up to the mid-1980s the Israeli economy was even more centralized than it is today. Three bodies controlled it then: the government (through a large budget and many government companies ), the Histadrut labor federation (through Bank Hapoalim and the companies Koor, Solel Boneh and Hasneh ) and the two big banks, which also owned hundreds of firms. Everything was run from the top, with little competition and extensive damage.

 

The situation has changed since. The banks, Histadrut and government were compelled to sell companies, and the 20 business groups mentioned above bought these assets. As a result, the economy became more competitive, more advanced, more professional and much less political. But that is not enough because control by 20 dominant groups is too high a level of centralization. It's very problematic, so it is high time the matter was dealt with.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently declared he will work to reduce centralization in the economy; to that end he instructed his office's director-general to form a committee. Hopefully the committee will carry out its work quickly and act seriously to reduce centralization and improve the quality of life of ordinary citizens.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

IF LEBANON ERUPTS AGAIN

A NEW U.S. MEMORANDUM DOUBTS THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S ABILITY TO DISSUADE ISRAEL OR HEZBOLLAH FROM ATTACKING.

BY AMIR OREN

 

The rockets that struck Ashkelon and Sha'ar Hanegev, and the IDF's retaliation in Gaza over the weekend, demonstrated once again how deceptive and fragile the quiet on the border is. This could happen in Lebanon too, due to the sensitivity of the Syria-Lebanon-Hezbollah triangle, as the noose tightens around the suspects in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, father of the current prime minister.

 

Last month the Council on Foreign Relations in New York published a contingency planning memorandum by Daniel Kurtzer, who was once an ambassador to Egypt and Israel. Kurtzer's essay, which looks to the future, was titled "A Third Lebanon War."

 

This is a common mistake. Only one of several campaigns took place in the summer of 2006, perhaps the eighth, of the Lebanon war, which has been going on for 40 years. From the armored Operation Extended Turmoil 4 in September 1972 against bases in southern Lebanon, through Operation Litani, Peace for Galilee, setting up the security zone and the South Lebanese Army, Operation Accountability and Grapes of Wrath, to withdrawing the IDF to the international border.

 

Whether it's a war or merely a campaign, Kurtzer urges preparation for the next event, which in his opinion could begin (less probably ) at Hezbollah's initiative or (more likely ) at Israel's undertaking - a decision to be made vis-a-vis Iran.

 

Israel will lie in wait for an opportunity to strike in Lebanon, or at training camps and missile storage sites in Syria earmarked for Hezbollah. The operation will hurt Hezbollah's rocket capabilities, thus denying Iran a 'second-strike' capability, in case Israel decides to hit its nuclear facilities.

 

Kurtzer doubts the Obama administration's ability to dissuade Israel or Hezbollah from attacking. Washington has no negotiation channel with Hezbollah, a terror organization and partner to Lebanon's government, and has nothing effective to convey through such a channel. Israel could perhaps be tempted with military equipment or "some other strategic enhancement as an incentive for not going to war," Kurtzer writes.

 

But pressure on Israel, including a threat to initiate or support a Security Council resolution against it, would encounter firm political resistance and be futile.

 

Kurtzer says the Americans will not receive early and sufficient warning of the IDF's preparations for a strike. The alternatives he proposes include renewing the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group - which held meetings of Israeli, Lebanese and UNIFIL officers - to supervise the understandings following Operation Grapes of Wrath. (A similar framework is used today for meetings of IDF and Northern Command officers with senior Lebanese and UNIFIL officers ).

 

Kurtzer suggests American encouragement for a limited preemptive Israeli strike against military targets, rather than infrastructure and government targets, as a substitute to a wider military operation. If this option is chosen the administration must make the limits and limitations of such an operation very clear to Israel, because Jerusalem tends to interpret U.S. ambiguity as supporting its own views, Kurtzer says.

 

Even a restricted IDF operation in Lebanon or against Hezbollah targets in Syria holds risks, Kurtzer says. It would freeze the peace negotiations and spur Syria to assist anti-American organizations in Iraq. But it could also weaken Hezbollah and break the standstill in the Palestinian or Syrian channel with the help of an American initiative.

 

Too large and fast an achievement would increase Israel's appetite for widening the military operation beyond its original objectives, says Kurtzer. Early failures on the battlefield, however, would drive Israel to continue the hostilities until the battle turns in their favor. In both cases there would be substantial civilian casualties. Hence, Kurtzer says, the United States should generate a cease-fire within a diplomatic context, with an optimal but not maximal IDF success highlighted.

 

Most important, he says, is to authorize the American ambassadors in Tel Aviv, Beirut and Damascus in advance "to intervene immediately and at the highest level to forestall escalation arising from incidents on the border," because the hours and first days after the outbreak of war or campaign are the most crucial (and due to the time differences, Washington sleeps when Tel Aviv decides to attack ).

\

Once in five years, on average, a major event takes place on the Israel-Lebanon front. Four years have passed since 2006. Kurtzer's memorandum indicates there are people trying to figure out two moves in advance. Unfortunately, none of them is sitting has a decision-making role in the Benjamin Netanyahu/Ehud Barak government.

\

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WE NEED A STATE PANEL

THE GOVERNMENT CAN STILL DECIDE TO SET UP A STATE COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO THE GAZA FLOTILLA AND SPARE THE COUNTRY DIFFICULTIES AND EMBARRASSMENT, IF NOT MUCH BEYOND THAT.

BY ZE'EV SEGAL

 

The Turkish flotilla issue and, as it is described in the United Nations' Goldstone Commission report, Israel's Gaza offensive a year and a half ago are similar in that in both cases the Israeli government refrained from establishing an independent state commission of inquiry. Only such a commission will win the confidence of the international community. It may also be able to clear Israel of unfounded accusations.

 

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said in an interview on Channel 2 with Haaretz reporter Dana Weiler-Polak that he will examine the personal responsibility of politicians who made decisions in the flotilla incident. This includes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and it's an investigation the decision-makers hope to avoid.

 

Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman was apparently acting in furtherance of the wishes of the prime minister (who in a reply to the comptroller said he has nothing to hide ) to head off an investigation by an institution such as a state commission of inquiry on politicians' preparations in the flotilla case. The members of such a commission are appointed by the Supreme Court president, not by the cabinet or cabinet ministers.

 

It was Neeman who instead cooked up the selection of Jacob Turkel as chairman of an investigative committee, as well as the other committee members, and made sure its brief would be limited to whether the naval blockade of Gaza conformed with international law. As initially established, the committee was not granted the authority to question witnesses and demand confidential documents.

 

When the cabinet decided that the committee would serve as a government commission of inquiry, as provided for by law, and that the justice minister would grant it investigatory authority, its mandate was not extended to allow it to investigate politicians' preparations for the flotilla's arrival. Netanyahu will testify before the Turkel Committee and the state comptroller, meaning that political issues will be presented in the same way they have been presented at state commissions of inquiry. However, the Turkel and state comptroller inquiries do not enjoy international stature, which is only reserved for a state commission of inquiry.

 

What is true regarding the flotilla investigation is also true regarding the events described in the Goldstone report on the fighting in Gaza. The government's refusal to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission has seriously damaged Israel, and the international community is not yet finished with the matter.

 

The Goldstone report recommended that the Israeli government appoint an independent commission to look into what it called the "serious violations" of international humanitarian law. This recommendation means the report's findings are not final even in the view of its authors. On various occasions, Goldstone himself confirmed that the report is not the last word. Otherwise, the commission would not have called for an independent Israeli commission.

 

Goldstone did not specify the investigative approach his commission recommended, but by calling it "independent," and based on other statements by him, one can assume he meant a state commission of inquiry such as the Kahan Commission, which in 1983 issued a report on the massacres at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Lebanon.

 

The Supreme Court president at the time, Yitzhak Kahan, appointed himself to head a commission, whose other members were Justice Aharon Barak and Maj. Gen. (res. ) Yona Efrat. For the most part, the commission refuted widespread allegations leveled abroad regarding direct Israeli responsibility for the massacres. It found that the defense minister as well as senior army officers bore indirect personal responsibility for failures in the case.

 

Reports in the international media on the Kahan Commission's report, which was released simultaneously in Hebrew and English, show it garnered much credibility based in part on the lack of government involvement in appointing the commission's members.

 

Regarding the investigation of the Gaza flotilla incident, it is not reasonable to decide now on appointing a government committee whose members would be chosen by the Supreme Court president, although that is not impossible. Regarding Operation Cast Lead, the comprehensive inquiries that were conducted under the supervision of the chief military prosecutor can be useful to a state commission of inquiry if one is convened. Such a commission would be able to look into the evidence the Goldstone Commission used and perhaps refute it.

 

In September 2009, the Goldstone Commission recommended that a prosecutor for the UN Security Council file a complaint with the International Criminal Court if Israel didn't decide within six months to launch its own independent investigation. That period has passed, but the Israeli government can still decide to set up a state commission of inquiry and spare the country difficulties and embarrassment, if not much beyond that.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE RIGHT TO LIVE HERE

THE JEWISH PEOPLE HAS THE RIGHT TO ITS OWN STATE LIKE OTHER NATIONS, AND IT HAS THE RIGHT TO ITS OWN LAW OF RETURN, AS DO OTHER DISPERSED PEOPLES, INCLUDING THE ARMENIANS AND THE PALESTINIANS IN THEIR STATE THAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE ESTABLISHED BESIDE ISRAEL.

BY ALEXANDER YAKOBSON

 

The Interior Ministry never sleeps. According to a recent report in Haaretz, it turns out that the same despicable policy applied for many years in East Jerusalem - revoking residence rights of those who left the city for an extended period and want to come back - is also being applied to members of the small Armenian community in the Old City.

 

This community of 2,000 people has been living in this city for hundreds of years and includes descendents of survivors of the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century.

 

These are the people whom the Interior Ministry of the Jewish state has chosen to harass. Members of the community who travel abroad for a few years to study or work discover their residence has expired; this policy also hurts clerics of the Armenian Church. It's depressing (though not really surprising ) that there's no one in the government who can explain to the interior minister that Israel, in its current diplomatic situation, has no interest in provoking the Armenian diaspora with this ugly harassment. But, clearly, it's not the Armenians, but the Palestinian Arabs in East Jerusalem who are the main target of the policy of revoking the identity cards of those who leave the city for an extended period. The ministry is following the letter of the law in this matter, and the law itself is not unreasonable, but its application to residents of East Jerusalem is blatantly unjust.

 

After East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in 1967, most of its residents did not ask for Israeli citizenship for political reasons, and they are living in the city with the status of permanent residents. In the original sense of the term, a permanent resident is someone who came from another country and settled in Israel without taking its citizenship or losing his original citizenship. Permanent resident status is like an Israeli Green Card.

 

When such a person leaves the country for years, it's legitimate in principle (though not in every case ) to decide

that his connection to Israel has expired; this person naturally has a country to which he can return.

 

But the residents of East Jerusalem are not foreigners who came here from abroad. They are natives of this country and city, who have the right to live here. Israel has recognized this right since 1967, and the status of permanent resident provides a solution to most of the legal problems that could arise in this situation.

 

But the right of a person to live in his country and city includes - especially in the current global reality - the right to travel abroad to study or work, or for any other purpose, and return home, even after many years, without being dependent on anyone's good will.

 

I was born abroad and came here under the Law of Return. The right of East Jerusalem residents to live here is no less than mine. There are those who claim that my right is less than theirs. I don't accept that. The Jewish people has the right to its own state like other peoples, and it has the right to its own Law of Return, as do other dispersed peoples, including the Armenians and the Palestinians in their state that is supposed to be established beside Israel.

 

Whoever denies this, denies the principle of equality even as he claims to defend it. But this does not mean that the Jewish state is allowed to violate the right of residence of those who were born here. The Supreme Court should not have given a hand to this injustice, even if it has a formal pretext. The court should set thing straight. The phrase: "To provide a remedy for the sake of justice" was coined for such cases.

 

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******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

RATIFY THE TREATY

 

The New Start treaty, the first arms control agreement signed with the Russians in nearly a decade, calls for modest nuclear reductions, from 2,200 deployed warheads to 1,550. It will make the world safer, guaranteeing each country continued insight into the other's strategic arsenals, with data exchanges and regular inspections.

 

The treaty has been endorsed by nearly every luminary in the Democratic and Republican foreign policy establishments — including Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker, Sam Nunn, William Perry and James Schlesinger — as well as all three heads of the nation's nuclear laboratories and seven former commanders of the nuclear forces.

 

That should make Senate ratification certain. But some Republican members — including Jon Kyl, James Inhofe and Jim DeMint — are still balking. Cold war habits and specious arguments die hard.

 

The critics' biggest objection is that the treaty will somehow constrain American efforts to build missile defenses. They point to a line in the nonbinding preamble about the "interrelationship" between offensive and defensive strategic arms and a provision in the treaty that bans the use of missile silos or submarine launch tubes to house missile defense interceptors. Never mind that American commanders have no interest in using either that way.

 

We are no big fans of national missile defense — the technology has yet to show that it can work. But the Obama administration is moving ahead with a limited program. And Defense Secretary Robert Gates has testified that the New Start treaty will impose "no limits on us."

 

Critics also charge that the Russians can't be trusted, pointing to a recent State Department report that acknowledged several unspecified compliance disputes related to the Start I treaty. But it also said Russia lived up to the treaty's "central limits."

 

What the critics don't mention is that Start I expired last December. If the Senate fails to ratify New Start there will be no inspections and no data exchanged.

 

Finally, critics claim that the Obama administration isn't doing enough to "modernize" the weapons it retains. If we have any complaint, it is that President Obama has gone too far to appease the nuclear lab directors and Republican critics on this point. He has promised $80 billion over the next 10 years to sustain and modernize the nuclear weapons complex and $100 billion to refurbish nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

 

At a time of huge deficits and two costly wars, that is far too much to spend. The United States already has a robust and costly program to ensure the safety and security of its existing nuclear weapons for years to come. President Obama certainly must continue to resist pressure to build an unnecessary new weapon.

 

The political motivation of the anti-Start crowd is all too clear. One leader is former Gov. Mitt Romney, a once and maybe future presidential candidate who is firing up potential supporters with a charge that the treaty could be Mr. Obama's "worst foreign policy mistake yet."

 

John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has set a committee vote for Wednesday. He has made clear that he and Richard Lugar — the ranking member and the Senate's most respected expert on arms control issues — are still searching for enough Republican backing to get the required two-thirds vote.

 

Two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States and Russia still have more than 20,000 nuclear weapons. That is absurd. The Senate needs to pass New Start now.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

DISGUSTING BUT NOT ILLEGAL

 

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who has become one of the First Amendment's most adamant defenders, led the Supreme Court earlier this year in refusing to create a new exception to the free speech clause. With only one dissent, the court struck down a law that banned depictions of animal cruelty. The House has come back with a replacement bill that is an improvement over its predecessor but still misses the constitutional point Justice Roberts made.

 

Historically, the Supreme Court has recognized only a small handful of exceptions to free speech. As Justice Roberts explained in his opinion in April, the court has long held that government can ban obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement and speech integral to criminal conduct, a category that includes child pornography. When Congress tried to add depiction of animal cruelty to this list, the court balked.

 

Justice Roberts said the court cannot create a new exception to free speech by simply balancing the value of the speech against its harm to society. The First Amendment "reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs," he wrote. "Our Constitution forecloses any attempt to revise that judgment simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it."

 

Almost no one would say depictions of animals being crushed or mutilated are worthwhile. The concept is so repulsive that animal rights advocates persuaded a very busy House to pass a new bill outlawing them.

 

Unlike the first one, the new bill excludes videos of hunting, trapping or fishing, or of normal agricultural practices. It bans any images of actual conduct in which animals are intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated or impaled in a manner that would violate federal or state animal cruelty laws. Most important, it simply declares that all such images are obscene.

 

Obscenity, however, is limited in American law to certain prurient sexual content. Cruelty to animals does not fit that category, and Congress cannot simply create a new category of obscenity. A better analogy would have been to child pornography, in which the act of taking pictures of children is itself illegal. But Justice Roberts said animal cruelty is not in that category either.

 

The First Amendment is a remarkably fragile institution that does not need more exceptions carved from its meaning. But attempts to do that arise all the time. A California case coming before the court in the next term attempts to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, though there is no recognized exception to the First Amendment for violence, either. These games, and animal cruelty videos, may be repugnant to many, but America's legal tradition keeps them from being illegal.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

TRIBAL LAW AND ORDER

 

The notion of only one federal patrolman available to police a 2.3 million-acre beat presents ludicrously impossible odds for law enforcement. Yet that was often the case on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North and South Dakota in 2008, when the rate of violent crime was more than eight times the national average and the police force totaled nine members.

 

The Sioux reservation is part of a centuries-old scandal in which the federal government has neglected its treaty obligation to ensure law enforcement on the homelands of Native Americans. Violent crime rates remain more than twice the national average across the reservations, with women heavily victimized by rape and domestic violence.

 

United States attorneys, juggling mixed dockets and inadequate policing, have declined to prosecute more than 50 percent of reservation murders and 70 percent of rapes and sexual assault, according to Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota.

 

The Tribal Law and Order Act, championed by Senator Dorgan and signed last week by President Obama, requires the Department of Justice to create a new unit to track and deal with declining prosecutions. It gives tribal police more authority — they can now be deputized to enforce federal laws. It also allows them to arrest non-Indian suspects, and tribal courts will be able to sentence criminals for up to three years, instead of the present one year. The law will have to be matched with strong budget support to increase the numbers of federal and tribal officers.

 

The possibilities of the new law were glimpsed at the Sioux reservation after an earlier experiment in which the understaffed patrol of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was increased to a more reasonable force of 38. There have since been hundreds of arrests in the sorts of cases that have long gone unprosecuted.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

ARLINGTON'S BROKEN TRUST

 

The nation's obligation to honor its war dead has been shockingly and painfully dishonored at Arlington National Cemetery. We are all familiar with Arlington's iconic images: green hills, simple white gravestones and solemn military guards accompanying the bodies of soldiers and sailors to their rest. Now there is another deeply troubling image: a cemetery defiled by unmarked and mismarked graves; funeral urns unearthed and contents discarded. That is a trauma the families of the fallen should never have to endure.

 

Senator Claire McCaskill, whose Homeland Security subcommittee has been looking into the scandal since it was detailed by the Army inspector general, says the number of mismarked graves may be as high as 6,600.

 

In a report in June, army investigators said the cemetery suffers from lax management. Because the Army and cemetery officials insisted on building their own computer system — as much as $8 million and a decade later it's still not working — officials have to rely on paper records to manage more than 330,000 burial sites and as many as 7,000 funerals a year.

 

Senator McCaskill said those problems were compounded by the lack of serious oversight by Army officials responsible for the cemetery's budget and, for the last decade, no reviews of contracts and no audits. In testimony before the subcommittee last week, John Metzler Jr., who was superintendent for 19 years at Arlington, took "full responsibility" but also blamed unnamed staff members who "did not perform" and inadequate funding. His deputy, Thurman Higginbotham, refused to answer most questions about his role in approving millions of dollars of mishandled contracts.

 

Mr. Metzler has been reprimanded and allowed to retire with full benefits. Mr. Higginbotham was placed on leave pending disciplinary review, before resigning; officials say he will also draw retirement benefits. That is not accountability.

 

Army Secretary John McHugh has named an executive director to oversee management at all the national cemeteries and a new outside advisory commission. He still must appoint a top-notch permanent superintendent for Arlington and resolve the computer problem. Arlington's families must never again have to wonder where their loved ones have been laid to rest.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ON THE G.O.P. PRECAMPAIGN TRAIL

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

 

For the men (and one rather polarizing woman) who might run for president as Republicans in 2012, now is the wilderness campaign. After the midterms, the struggle for the nomination will move out into open country. But for the moment, it's all guerrilla warfare and tactical maneuvering — in the form of Web videos and op-eds, speeches and endorsements, and the occasional public dig at a potential rival.

 

By definition, in a wilderness campaign it's hard to tell who's winning. Are all of the endorsements by Sarah

Palin building an army of "Mama Grizzly" Republicans who will rise up for her in 2012? Did Mitch Daniels's June trip to Washington, during which he managed to irritate both neoconservatives (with talk of defense cuts) and social conservatives (by floating the idea of a social issues "truce"), quiet some of the buzz around the Indiana governor's candidacy? Was Mitt Romney's recent op-ed article attacking the New Start treaty a savvy move that burnished his credentials as a critic of the Obama administration's foreign policy? Or was it an unforced error, because it annoyed pro-Start foreign policy hands in the Republican establishment?

 

Matters will become clearer once the midterms pass and campaign officially begins — but maybe not that much clearer. The Republican Party is famous for always nominating the politician whose "turn" it seems to be, and for choking off insurgent candidacies early on. In 2008, though, there was a wild and un-Republican scramble for the nomination, and the original front-runner, John McCain, only emerged as the winner through a series of fortuitous coincidences.

 

Right now, 2012 looks as if it could be another free-for-fall. In part, that's because the populist temper is stronger among Republicans than it's been since the days of Barry Goldwater. But it's also because the most likely leaders for a populist uprising, Palin and Mike Huckabee, have a more devoted following than most earlier insurgents — and the current "it's his turn" candidate, Romney, inspires little in the way of actual excitement.

 

Palin is Palin: if she runs, there's going to be a constituency that would crawl on broken glass to vote for her, no matter how many soap operas cling to her. Huckabee, meanwhile, is a chronically underestimated figure who straddles two anti-establishment demographics (the Tea Parties and the Christian Right), and whose political savvy rivals that of his fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton.

 

Neither is exactly brimming over with gravitas. But either one might be able to beat the unloved Romney, his money and organizational muscle notwithstanding.

 

This prospect gives Republican insiders heartburn. In the salons and bars of conservative Washington, there's an obvious appetite for a kind of intra-establishment coup, in which Romney is knocked from his perch as the safe, sober choice and a fresher figure takes his place.

 

One candidate for this role is Daniels: He's too wonky for some tastes, but he's a well-connected wonk, with access to the web of power brokers who helped elect George W. Bush. Another is Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who's beloved of party bigwigs despite seeming like a liberal's caricature of a Republican — floridly Southern, heavyset and an ex-tobacco lobbyist. There's also Senator Jon Thune of South Dakota and Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, both safe-seeming choices — though Thune doesn't have much of a record to run on, and lately Pawlenty seems more interested in playing the populist card than in wooing the establishment.

 

Then, of course, there's the ultimate insider, Jeb Bush. Last week, and not for the first time, he publicly denied having any interest in following his brother to the Oval Office. But he denied it the day after appearing at a fund-raiser for Rand Paul, a figure who would normally be anathema to the Bush family — which suggests a man with a strong interest in keeping his political options open.

 

All of this leaves Romney in a perilous position. If he's going to win the nomination, he needs to co-opt some of the populist zeal that a Palin or a Huckabee — or even a Newt Gingrich, who's busy railing against the American elite from his perch inside the Beltway — will seek to use against him. But if he goes too cynically populist, he risks alienating the establishment, and seeing a Daniels or a Barbour (or a Bush) move in and take his place.

 

In a sense, the stronger President Obama looks next year, the better Romney's chances of being nominated. He needs the prospect of an uphill general-election battle to keep his potential rivals for establishment support safely on the sidelines. And then he needs that same establishment to rally around him once the primary voting starts — not out of love or admiration, but out of fear of the populist alternative.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

DEFINING PROSPERITY DOWN

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

I'm starting to have a sick feeling about prospects for American workers — but not, or not entirely, for the reasons you might think.

 

Yes, growth is slowing, and the odds are that unemployment will rise, not fall, in the months ahead. That's bad. But what's worse is the growing evidence that our governing elite just doesn't care — that a once-unthinkable level of economic distress is in the process of becoming the new normal.

 

And I worry that those in power, rather than taking responsibility for job creation, will soon declare that high unemployment is "structural," a permanent part of the economic landscape — and that by condemning large numbers of Americans to long-term joblessness, they'll turn that excuse into dismal reality.

 

Not long ago, anyone predicting that one in six American workers would soon be unemployed or underemployed, and that the average unemployed worker would have been jobless for 35 weeks, would have been dismissed as outlandishly pessimistic — in part because if anything like that happened, policy makers would surely be pulling out all the stops on behalf of job creation.

 

But now it has happened, and what do we see?

 

First, we see Congress sitting on its hands, with Republicans and conservative Democrats refusing to spend anything to create jobs, and unwilling even to mitigate the suffering of the jobless.

 

We're told that we can't afford to help the unemployed — that we must get budget deficits down immediately or the "bond vigilantes" will send U.S. borrowing costs sky-high. Some of us have tried to point out that those bond vigilantes are, as far as anyone can tell, figments of the deficit hawks' imagination — far from fleeing U.S. debt, investors have been buying it eagerly, driving interest rates to historic lows. But the fearmongers are unmoved: fighting deficits, they insist, must take priority over everything else — everything else, that is, except tax cuts for the rich, which must be extended, no matter how much red ink they create.

 

The point is that a large part of Congress — large enough to block any action on jobs — cares a lot about taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population, but very little about the plight of Americans who can't find work.

 

Well, if Congress won't act, what about the Federal Reserve? The Fed, after all, is supposed to pursue two goals: full employment and price stability, usually defined in practice as an inflation rate of about 2 percent. Since unemployment is very high and inflation well below target, you might expect the Fed to be taking aggressive action to boost the economy. But it isn't.

 

It's true that the Fed has already pushed one pedal to the metal: short-term interest rates, its usual policy tool, are near zero. Still, Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, has assured us that he has other options, like holding more mortgage-backed securities and promising to keep short-term rates low. And a large body of research suggests that the Fed could boost the economy by committing to an inflation target higher than 2 percent.

 

But the Fed hasn't done any of these things. Instead, some officials are defining success down.

 

For example, last week Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, argued that the Fed bears no responsibility for the economy's weakness, which he attributed to business uncertainty about future regulations — a view that's popular in conservative circles, but completely at odds with all the actual evidence. In effect, he responded to the Fed's failure to achieve one of its two main goals by taking down the goalpost.

 

He then moved the other goalpost, defining the Fed's aim not as roughly 2 percent inflation, but rather as that of "keeping inflation extremely low and stable."

 

In short, it's all good. And I predict — having seen this movie before, in Japan — that if and when prices start falling, when below-target inflation becomes deflation, some Fed officials will explain that that's O.K., too.

 

What lies down this path? Here's what I consider all too likely: Two years from now unemployment will still be extremely high, quite possibly higher than it is now. But instead of taking responsibility for fixing the situation, politicians and Fed officials alike will declare that high unemployment is structural, beyond their control. And as I said, over time these excuses may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as the long-term unemployed lose their skills and their connections with the work force, and become unemployable.

 

I'd like to imagine that public outrage will prevent this outcome. But while Americans are indeed angry, their anger is unfocused. And so I worry that our governing elite, which just isn't all that into the unemployed, will allow the jobs slump to go on and on and on.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE PALESTINIANS, ALONE

BY EFRAIM KARSH

 

London

IT has long been conventional wisdom that the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a prerequisite to peace and stability in the Middle East. Since Arabs and Muslims are so passionate about the Palestine problem, this argument runs, the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate feeds regional anger and despair, gives a larger rationale to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and to the insurgency in Iraq and obstructs the formation of a regional coalition that will help block Iran's quest for nuclear weapons.

 

What, then, are we to make of a recent survey for the Al Arabiya television network finding that a staggering 71 percent of the Arabic respondents have no interest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks? "This is an alarming indicator," lamented Saleh Qallab, a columnist for the pan-Arab newspaper Al Sharq al Awsat. "The Arabs, people and regimes alike, have always been as interested in the peace process, its developments and particulars, as they were committed to the Palestinian cause itself."

 

But the truth is that Arab policies since the mid-1930s suggest otherwise. While the "Palestine question" has long been central to inter-Arab politics, Arab states have shown far less concern for the well-being of the Palestinians than for their own interests.

 

For example, it was common knowledge that the May 1948 pan-Arab invasion of the nascent state of Israel was more a scramble for Palestinian territory than a fight for Palestinian national rights. As the first secretary-general of the Arab League, Abdel Rahman Azzam, once admitted to a British reporter, the goal of King Abdullah of Transjordan "was to swallow up the central hill regions of Palestine, with access to the Mediterranean at Gaza. The Egyptians would get the Negev. Galilee would go to Syria, except that the coastal part as far as Acre would be added to the Lebanon."

 

From 1948 to 1967, when Egypt and Jordan ruled the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Arab states failed to put these populations on the road to statehood. They also showed little interest in protecting their human rights or even in improving their quality of life — which is part of the reason why 120,000 West Bank Palestinians moved to the East Bank of the Jordan River and about 300,000 others emigrated abroad. "We couldn't care less if all the refugees die," an Egyptian diplomat once remarked. "There are enough Arabs around."

 

Not surprisingly, the Arab states have never hesitated to sacrifice Palestinians on a grand scale whenever it suited their needs. In 1970, when his throne came under threat from the Palestine Liberation Organization, the affable and thoroughly Westernized King Hussein of Jordan ordered the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, an event known as "Black September."

 

Six years later, Lebanese Christian militias, backed by the Syrian Army, massacred some 3,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians, in the Beirut refugee camp of Tel al-Zaatar. These militias again slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians in 1982 in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, this time under Israel's watchful eye. None of the Arab states came to the Palestinians' rescue.

 

Worse, in the mid-'80s, when the P.L.O. — officially designated by the Arab League as the "sole representative of the Palestinian people" — tried to re-establish its military presence in Lebanon, it was unceremoniously expelled by President Hafez al-Assad of Syria.

 

This history of Arab leaders manipulating the Palestinian cause for their own ends while ignoring the fate of the Palestinians goes on and on. Saddam Hussein, in an effort to ennoble his predatory designs, claimed that he wouldn't consider ending his August 1990 invasion of Kuwait without "the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Arab territories in Palestine."

 

Shortly after the Persian Gulf War, Kuwaitis then set about punishing the P.L.O. for its support of Hussein — cutting off financial sponsorship, expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinian workers and slaughtering thousands. Their retribution was so severe that Arafat was forced to acknowledge that "what Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories."

 

Against this backdrop, it is a positive sign that so many Arabs have apparently grown so apathetic about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For if the Arab regimes' self-serving interventionism has denied Palestinians the right to determine their own fate, then the best, indeed only, hope of peace between Arabs and Israelis lies in rejecting the spurious link between this particular issue and other regional and global problems.

 

The sooner the Palestinians recognize that their cause is theirs alone, the sooner they are likely to make peace with the existence of the State of Israel and to understand the need for a negotiated settlement.

 

Efraim Karsh, a professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London, is the author, most recently, of "Palestine Betrayed."

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON STUDENT LOANS: HIGH COSTS, LOAN DEFAULTS EXPOSE FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES

 

When for-profit universities started popping up in the 1990s, they seemed like such a good idea. They would attract money needed to meet surging demand for higher education. They would be innovative and nimble. And perhaps they would even force change at America's non-profit colleges and universities, where costs have soared.

 

The reality, however, has not been so impressive. For-profit universities have succeeded in harvesting billions of dollars annually in federal student aid. Many are also quite adept at paying huge executive salaries and lobbying to keep the taxpayer money flowing. But sky-high loan default rates among students at these schools suggest that they are not delivering on their promise to efficiently produce the kind of skilled workers that America so desperately needs. The Obama administration is right to flag the problem, though its response seems feeble.

 

According to the Department of Education, 77% of for-profit universities' revenue — some $24 billion in the 2008-09 academic year — comes from federal grants and loans. Amazingly, even though the industry accounts for only 10% of students, it is responsible for 44% of all loan defaults. On average, more than one in five people who borrow to attend for-profit institutions is in default within three years of leaving school. The schools don't care because the loans are federally guaranteed — an echo of the practices that led banks to issue subprime mortgages.

 

The Chronicle of Higher Education found six institutions with default rates greater than 40%. They are mostly small schools such as Angley College of Deland, Fla., and the College America at Flagstaff (Ariz.). But in 2004, the Bush administration criticized the nation's largest for-profit school, the University of Phoenix, for its aggressive tactics to increase enrollment. The company settled the case for $10 million.

 

This default rate is a clear signal that something is terribly wrong for the students at these institutions. Either they aren't getting the education they need, or they are being charged too much — or perhaps both.

 

The Obama administration's new rules would require most schools to warn prospective students that the programs they are considering might not lead to salaries sufficient to pay off their loans, a message quite different from the heavy-sell marketing techniques currently in use. The most egregiously underperforming schools would be cut off from federal student aid.

 

These measures are too accommodating. Institutions could continue benefiting from federal funds if as few as 45% of their former students are paying down their loans. The proposition that government should be lending money for any purpose with the expectation that less than half of it will be paid back on time — or at all — is patently absurd. From the perspective of the taxpayers, this is the very definition of waste.

 

From the perspective of the schools, it is less a business model than a scam. But in today's business and political culture, industries see it as a right to tap into government largesse. Whenever government leaders try to get more return for the taxpayers, they whine about excessive regulation.

 

The fact is that some for-profit institutions are a bad deal. The average one charged about $14,000 in tuition in 2009, according the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The average community college charged $2,500. The average four-year public university charged $7,000 annually for in-state students.

 

It's hard to see why taxpayers should lose money sending students to overpriced schools. It's time that such institutions receive the failing grades they deserve.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON STUDENT LOANS: WE'RE BUILDING THE FUTURE

BY HARRIS N. MILLER

 

Higher education needs a change agent. The most important reason is to prepare the 21st century workforce. Even with today's high unemployment, large numbers of jobs remain unfilled because of the skills mismatch. Workers lack skills employers need. President Obama said as much when he challenged the nation to regain its world leadership in college credentialed adults.

 

Private sector colleges and universities are that change agent, educating 2.7 million students, almost 10% of year-round enrollments, and growing rapidly. Most attendees are economically disadvantaged, older, many with children, often single parents.

 

A recent Senate report raises several questions about the education these students receive — questions that have good answers:

 

Career colleges do not receive a "disproportionate" share of student aid. Eligible students receive aid and determine where to spend it. Many choose focused, flexible and student-centric career focused institutions. Aid percentage distributions reflect that career colleges educate a larger percentage of federal aid eligible students.

 

Taxpayer subsidies for traditional colleges and universities constitute far higher levels of support than for private sector schools. The difference is more than 13-to-1 for public colleges and universities, and 7-to-1 for private non-profit colleges and universities.

 

Higher education is regulated so that student outcomes trump the bottom line. Some areas require tightening, such as ending high school diploma mills. Transparency for prospective students about educational outcomes and the consequences of borrowing must be paramount. Misleading promises or recruiting practices are unacceptable.

 

percentages spent by traditional and career institutions for education are not much different. Career colleges spend substantially on student support, counseling and placement, unlike their traditional counterparts. Marketing costs per enrollment among all types of schools are equivalent.

 

Lower-income students default on their loans at higher rates than traditional students, according to the Government Accountability Office, regardless of the type of institution they attend. Default rates at minority-serving institutions, community colleges and career schools are similar.

 

Private sector colleges and universities know it is all about the students. The additional opportunities they are providing millions should be praised, not pilloried.

 

Harris N. Miller is president and CEO of the Career College Association.

 

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USA TODAY

OPINION

THE MUSLIM VEIL: EUROPE VS. THE USA

BY STEPHEN PROTHERO

 

When it comes to religion, secular Europeand spiritual America are more than an ocean apart. So, too, when it comes to the veil.

 

In the USA, even opportunistic anti-immigration politicians are steering clear of the question of head coverings for Muslim women. But legislation banning burqas, niqabs and other forms of Islamic dress that cover the eyes is being hotly debated across Western Europe.

 

On June 30, a Tory member of Parliament introduced in the United Kingdom a bill that would make it illegal to cover one's face in public. On July 13, France's lower house of parliament passed, by a 335-1 vote, a ban on face-covering veils.

 

Politics is, of course, about power, but power is energized by symbols, and in Western Europe the veil symbolizes gender inequality — a "walking coffin," according to the French immigration minister, Eric Besson.

 

It also symbolizes what Christians and secularists alike fear is a growing Muslim threat, which opponents of the veil articulate as a threat to public safety. To paraphrase The Shadow, who knows what evil lurks behind the jihab?

 

In 2004, France, which is home to Western Europe's largest Muslim minority (about 5 million), responded to this threat by banning all religious symbols, including crosses and Muslim head scarves, from its public schools. In parts of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, public school teachers are forbidden to wear Muslim head scarves, though Catholic attire for nuns and priests is allowed.

 

American legislators are going in the opposite direction. In April, Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed into law legislation lifting a ban on religious garb for public school teachers. Enacted during the anti-Catholic panic of the 1920s, this ban wasdesigned to keep nuns from teaching in public schools.In recent years it had been used to dismiss a teacher who wore white clothes and a white turban after converting to Sikhism. But it had not been employed to dismiss teachers who wore crosses.

 

A Western divide

 

According to a Pew Forum survey released earlier this month, support for laws prohibiting face-covering veils is strong across Western Europe, with huge majorities in France (82%), Germany (71%), Britain (62%) and Spain (59%) supporting such legislation.

 

Not so in the USA, where only 28% approve of such a ban.

 

Why the discrepancy? Why are European politicians making hay over this issue, while American politicians are largely avoiding it?

 

One factor is the relative size of these countries' Muslim communities, which according to Boston University's World Religion Database account for only about 1.5% of the U.S. population but 5% of the citizens of Germany, 6% in the Netherlands and 9% in France.

 

A second factor is culture. In the name of their holy trinity of liberté, égalité and fraternité, the French bow down at the altar of secularism. So it should not be surprising that French politicians want their streets and schools to be religion-free zones.

 

America's public sphere, by contrast, has never been naked of religious expression. Then again, it has never been given over to religion either. So Americans struggle with a challenge quite unknown to the French — how to balance a godless Constitution with a Declaration of Independence that derives our inalienable rights not from the state but from the Creator.

 

Years ago, in a gathering on American religions sponsored by Boston College's Boisi Center, Ingrid Mattson of Connecticut's Hartford Seminary asked whether an American Muslim public school teacher ought to be allowed to wear a hijab to work. Mattson, who was at the time the vice president of the Islamic Society of North America (she is now president), said the answer was obvious: Muslim head coverings should be allowed in public schools on religious liberty grounds.

 

I thought the issue was far more complicated. In fact, I thought it presented a classic case of the First Amendment at war with itself.

 

Dueling ideas

 

On the one hand, the free exercise clause ("Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise" of religion) seems to support Mattson's view that public school teachers should be free to express their religious identities at work. On the other hand, the establishment clause ("Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion") seems to argue against any sort of religious dress for public school teachers, on the grounds that impressionable students might read such garb as an indication that their school is pro-Catholic (if their teacher wears a habit), pro-Sikh (if their teacher wears a turban), or pro-Muslim (if their teacher wears a hijab).

 

I believe that the Constitution requires public schools to allow teachers in upper grades (where students are generally less impressionable and less deferential to authority, and typically cycle through various teachers each day) to express their religion in dress, as long as they maintain in their teaching the religious neutrality required by the Constitution. However, I believe that the Constitution requires public schools to deny this same freedom to teachers in lower grades because here, students are generally more impressionable and more deferential to authority, and often have only one teacher in a given school day.

 

Creating a balance

 

My position might seem convoluted, but it is no more so than many U.S. Supreme Court rulings on religion, which are forever trying to balance the demands of the establishment clause for religious neutrality with the demands of the free exercise clause for religious liberty. My position is also in keeping with the views of many ordinary Americans, who continue to differentiate themselves from Europeans when it comes to religious tolerance.

 

To be sure, fear of Islam is a staple for many U.S. radio and television personalities, who worry continually about the imposition of sharia (Islamic law) on American life — a worry even more remote than the possibility of cross-dressing criminals concealed behind burqas starting a spate of bank robberies from London to Rome.

 

Occasionally, this fear spills over into the general public, as recent hearings on the proposed Ground Zero community center and mosque can testify. But the so-called culture wars are a product more of the news media than of the middle class.

 

Ordinary Americans (those without talk shows) exhibit what sociologist Alan Wolfe referred to in One Nation, After All as a striking tolerance for competing religious perspectives — a "soft multiculturalism" that, true to our nation's highest ideals, gives to others the same religious freedoms we want for ourselves.

 

What will happen in the USA if Islam claims the 9% of the population it now claims in France? Or if another 9/11 befalls us at the hands of a terrorist praying "Allahu Akbar"?

 

I don't know. For now, I am grateful that our talking heads are not whipping our legislators into a frenzy, and thatMuslim women are free to wear whatever they want in our public places.

 

Stephen Prothero is a religion professor at Boston University and the author of the book God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World — and Why Their Differences Matter.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

VETERANS, NATION ILL-SERVED

 

Americans have many differences when it comes to politics, government and social policies, but they are united on some matters. One is that veterans who have served their country will be treated with dignity and honor in death. No wonder, then, that revelations that officials at Arlington Cemetery, the nation's most hallowed, seem to be responsible for as many as 6,600 mismarked graves has stirred widespread outrage.

The problem is not new, a point made clear last week when John C. Metzler, Arlington's former superintendent, and Thurman Higginbotham, his former assistant, were compelled to testify before a Senate committee. Both grudgingly admitted that they had been aware of problems with graves as early as 2003. There were other instances, too, that should have spurred corrective. That it failed to do so dishonors veterans and victimizes their families — the antitheses of Arlington's mission and purpose.

 

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, icily reminded them that even if they failed to act in 2003, they should have in 2005. That's when urns with unidentified cremated remains were discovered in a cemetery landfill. Still, the men took no action to rectify those problems, or others that followed. Nothing was done, in fact, until late June, when an Army Inspector General's report found that 211 graves in one section of the 600-acre cemetery that contains more than 330,000 graves were mismarked. The pair, under pressure, then resigned.

 

Subsequent investigations suggest that thousands of additional graves might be mismarked, though the number is uncertain. Kathryn Condon, executive director of the Army's National Cemeteries Program, told committee members that there are "more discrepancies" with the graves at Arlington. The investigation continues. It is possible, then, that more families of veterans will learn to their horror that the remains of their loved ones have been mistreated or mislabeled.

 

Mr. Higginbotham and Mr. Metzler failed to explain how such a sorry state of affairs arose on their watch. The former pleaded the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions. The latter first said that he accepted "responsibility for all my actions and for all of my team's actions," but then reneged. He subsequently blamed his staff, an antiquated card-based record-keeping system and problems with an automated record system for the cemetery's woes. The senators would have none of that self-serving talk. Neither should the American people.

 

The Arlington situation should be made right. An ongoing Army investigation will determine if criminal charges are warranted. That's the first step. The next is to establish operational and personnel policies that help ensure that such mismanagement never occurs again. There is an estimable template available.

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs operates 131 national cemeteries — including the Chattanooga National Cemetery. It does so without a hint of the scandal currently afflicting Arlington. The Army, which manages Arlington, can learn from the VA, and will suffer no loss of prestige if it seeks such expert help. The damage to its reputation in this instance is already done.

 

America promises those who serve that they will be buried with dignity in a place of honor. At most national cemeteries that pledge is kept. At Arlington, though, it is increasingly obvious that the promise is not always met. Mismanagement of burials is a disgrace in any circumstance, but especially so at the nation's most well-known burying ground. Veterans and their families — and the nation that purports to honor both — deserve better.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

THE WEB AND SALES TAXES

 

Legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last month would make it easier for states to require Internet retailers and other out-of-state Web-based businesses to collect sales taxes at the same rate imposed by local stores. The legislation is sound. It does not levy new taxes or establish new rates; it simply would require out-of-state merchants to collect the sales levies that support state and local governments. It is equitable legislation. It should be approved.

 

The bill, introduced by Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., would reverse current policy that allows retailers like Amazon to sell and ship an item to a consumer without collecting sales tax. That practice is based on a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said retailers are required to collect sales tax from out-of-state customers only if they have a physical presence — a warehouse or office, for example — in the purchaser's state. The court added that the myriad state and local codes would make it too difficult to compute and collect sales taxes.

 

The ruling has given out-of-state retailers a big advantage over in-state brick-and-mortar stores. It allows Internet retailers to sell the same product as a local store at a lower aggregate cost. An example: Amazon, which generally offers free shipping on items costing more than $25, can ship a DVD player to a customer for its base price of, say, $199.95. The same DVD player purchased in a store in Hamilton County costs a consumer the base price, plus $18.50, the price of the county's 9.25 percent sales tax. That's not fair.

 

The proposed bill won't resolve all the problems relating to Web-based retailing, but it will make things more equitable. There is, after all, no reason to have a law that in effect allows one merchant to have an unfair advantage over another when selling the same product. Besides, the argument that collecting the sales tax places an onerous burden on out-of-state retailers is moot. Sophisticated new software can quickly compute sales tax rates and prepare tax forms.

 

The current system allows some people to avoid taxes they fairly owe. That in turn robs states and municipalities of needed revenue. Savvy consumers who have taken advantage of the Web's tax loophole might not like Rep. Delahunt's bill, but fairness requires a system that treats all retailers and all purchasers as much alike as possible when it comes to taxes. Rep. Delahunt's bill is a positive step in that direction.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

BEWARE OF TAX INCREASE!

 

Our federal taxes are too high. But watch out! There is danger in an effort to make taxes higher, if President Barack Obama and liberals in Congress think they can get away with it.

 

They may not try to get Congress to vote for an outright increase in taxes. What they will do is try to let earlier tax cuts under the Bush administration "expire."

 

The effect would be higher taxes for some earners, adversely affecting the economy, hurting everyone.

 

Since it would be very politically unpopular to raise taxes on most of our people, the scheme will be to raise taxes on "just the taxpayers in the higher income brackets," to "soak the rich." Who is much concerned about "them"?

 

Those wanting to raise taxes are talking about hitting "only" individuals earning $200,000 or more and families earning $250,000 or more. (Though some want to hit the middle class, too. See next editorial.)

 

"The rich," of course, already pay taxes in the higher tax brackets. The problem of high taxes — on top earners and others — is that our economy tends to be depressed when government takes too large a share of earnings from anyone, thus discouraging free enterprisers who make the jobs that most Americans need.

 

We need less government control of the earnings of all Americans, to encourage the creation of more jobs for people in all earning brackets, and the creation of a bigger national product to benefit us all.

 

The big problem is not that the federal government "taxes too little" — but that it "spends too much."

We certainly should not be raising taxes on anyone, in any tax bracket. Instead, we should be cutting out a lot of unnecessary, unwise and unconstitutional spending.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

CONSUMERS NOT TO BLAME

 

You might call this a case of "blaming the victim." A recent headline on an Associated Press article read, "Wary consumers endanger recovery." The story said consumers' doubts about the supposed "recovery" are "threatening to drag down the economy."

 

The gist of the article was that heavy spending by consumers could spur economic growth, but that shoppers just aren't cooperating with that plan.

 

Unfortunately, the unsound economic policies and reckless spending put into effect by the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have a great deal to do with why consumers are not rushing to the retail stores and the car lots and the real estate market.

 

The American people just don't know what Washington policy is coming next that may leave them less disposable income or even destroy their jobs. So, many are sitting tight on what money they do have and declining to do very much spending beyond what is necessary.

 

Taxes are one of the big unknowns.

 

The Obama administration has declared over and over that it will not raise taxes on anybody except "the rich." Yet Democrat lawmakers are already hinting that they will raise additional taxes on far more than just "the rich."

 

One of the most powerful Democrats in Congress, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, admitted it will be "difficult" for the president to keep his pledge not to raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 a year.

 

Rep. Hoyer said an extension of middle-class tax cuts should be only temporary and that it's time for a "serious discussion" about the future of that tax relief, The Washington Post reported.

 

No wonder consumers are nervous!

 

They have no way of knowing whether they will soon be hit with higher taxes, or whether tax increases on their employers — the frequently criticized "rich" — will lead to additional layoffs at a time when unemployment is already about 10 percent.

 

If consumers — and businesses — lack confidence in the economic path our nation is following, they can hardly be blamed.

 

If Washington would like them to regain confidence in the U.S. economy, it should stop spending money we don't have — and it should most definitely stop its irresponsible talk about economy-crushing tax increases.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

BIZARRE GOVERNMENT DICTATION

 

One of the many troubles of government starting to meddle in private business is that the meddling tends to get more and more intrusive.

 

In California, for instance, state lawmakers enacted a law in 2006 ordering insurance companies to calculate their auto policy rates in ways that lawmakers considered fairer.

 

To see how ridiculously particular this government intervention has become, consider this: The law says that the location where a car will be driven can be no greater than the fourth most important factor used to figure the cost of a policy. Three other factors — the age of the car, the number of miles it is driven and the policy-holder's driving record — must be given greater weight in the formula that insurers use to set rates.

 

Now, there are lots of things that an insurer has to consider when deciding how much to charge a driver for an auto policy. But what would make anyone think that government busybodies have the necessary expertise — looking in from the outside — to determine the precise formula by which insurers should set auto rates?

 

Is government truly capable of determining, for instance, that the number of miles a car is driven is more important in setting premiums than whether the car is driven in a city, in the country or on treacherous mountain roads?

 

Our point is not that the government's ranking of those factors is necessarily incorrect. It's that government has no special ability to make those determinations, period — and no business substituting its judgment on such matters for the judgment of the free-market decisions of millions of Californians and the companies that insure their cars.

 

That kind of interference is a recipe for putting companies out of business and ultimately reducing consumers' options.

 

While California's interference in the free market is obviously less invasive than the "central planning" that Communist nations have engaged in over the years, it relies on the same faulty principle: It assumes that government is better equipped than private individuals and businesses at deciding what prices consumers ought to pay for certain goods and services.

 

But even extremely intelligent government officials cannot accurately predict what consumers will want or need, much less say what they should be willing to pay. That is why government intervention is destructive, and usually to be avoided.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

'SANCTUARY CITIES' GET A PASS

 

Don't you find it strangely backward that the Obama administration sued to get a judge to overturn an Arizona law against illegal immigration — but offers little criticism of "sanctuary cities" around the country that forbid police even to report illegal aliens to federal immigration authorities?

 

Rather than use lawsuits to hound beleaguered states that are trying to defend themselves against illegal invaders, shouldn't the U.S. Justice Department be asking why some cities are protecting people who knowingly broke the law to come to this country?

 

What are Washington's priorities?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - ARMY STILL TOPS TURKEY'S AGENDA

 

Anyone familiar with Turkey is aware of the tremendous leap forward made on democratic reforms over the course of the last decade. These reforms have also included the area of civilian control of the military. Yet anyone who looked at newspaper headlines over the past few days would undoubtedly realize that civilian/military relations still remain a problem area.

"States have an army; the Turkish Army has a state" is a saying heard in the corridors of Ankara to emphasize the weight of the military over the state.

 

The military's prevailing position in Turkey started to be challenged nearly two decades ago, due to the European Union accession process. Unwilling to give up its privileged position, the military resisted change at all levels. But while the army showed resistance, change took place rather smoothly, especially when compared to the current situation.

 

The advance of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to the government has brought this confrontation to the surface. Yet it is fair to say that the confrontation has also taken on a different nature.

 

While previous initiatives about the military were justified by the need to adapt to a democratic standard, the ruling AKP's initiatives are not perceived by the army as motivated by an urge for further democratizing civilian/military relations. The military feels directly threatened by the government. For the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic, active-duty officers have been accused of wrongdoing. That is why the Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, that started Sunday has become so important.

 

The situation of 11 generals and admirals charged in an alleged coup plot who are scheduled to receive promotions at YAŞ has become a new source of tension. The senior army commanders are among 102 suspects for whom a Turkish court recently issued an arrest warrant as part of the "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) investigation, something that could throw an unprecedented wrench into the internal workings of the military.

 

The fact that some of the generals suspected in the purported coup plot have shown outstanding performances in fighting terror does not justify their alleged wrongdoing. But everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

 

We at the Daily News believe the Turkish military should be under civilian control just as it is in any democracy. It would be rather naive to expect this process to be completed without any complication. Yet this process should not take the form of a vendetta. The army should be fully transparent and open to clear itself from any accusation while the government should show every sensitivity to avoid intentionally tarnishing the image of an institution that is an important pillar of any state. We hope the days when the Supreme Military Council is just a routine meeting are not far away.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE ÇARŞI APPROACH TO MONETARY POLICY

EMRE DELİVELİ

 

emre.deliveli@gmail.com

The legendary Beşiktaş fan group Çarşı is renowned, along with their chants that often get plagiarized by the competition, for their never-ending optimism on the team's prospects.

 

Take last year: Despite the rough-going early in the season, there was sincere hope that injured midfielder Matías Emilio Delgado would come back and save the day, or prized new acquisition Rodrigo Tabata would fill in his shoes if he didn't. Both players had a dismal season.

 

I increasingly see the same spirit in the Central Bank of Turkey, or CBT. Their latestInflation Report, which was released last week, continues in the tradition of the previous reports in adopting the asymmetric communication strategy of pumping up positive inflationary developments while downplaying the negative ones as temporary phenomena.

 

In fact, it was due to temporary factors such as softening food & energy prices and unexpected external demand weakness that the Bank was able to soften its stance from the previous report and revise down its inflation forecasts. It now sees inflation fall sharply to 5.5 percent early next year after ending the year at 7.5 percent, and then slowly converge to the end-2012 target of 5 percent after a short hike in the first half of 2011.

 

I would even argue that the end-year target is a conservative one. I also concur with the Bank that inflation will fall sharply early next year due, mainly, to base effects. But the trillion-dollar question is whether it will stay there, and I have two compelling reasons why it won't.

 

First, 24-month ahead inflation expectations, hovering just below 7 percent, have proven to be sticky. The CBT is reaping what it sowed in the last couple of years: The upward revision to the inflation target two years ago and the Bank's pro-growth stance seem to have damaged its credibility as an inflation fighter for good despite its meticulous track-record in being way ahead of the curve in predicting inflation. Expectations could prove to be a real headache for the Bank if they find their way into prices, but there is nothing in the Inflation Report on how it would react if that happens.

 

 

Interestingly, it is not that the market is not buying into the Bank's policy stance. Policy rate expectations have proven to be less sticky and are now pricing 1.2 percent of hikes in the next 12 months. The market is even more forgiving: Cross currency swaps see no hikes for this year and a 1 percent increase in the next. So the market essentially sees inflation staying higher than the Bank's target and the Bank simply not doing anything about it.

 

 

Second, the CBT seems to be overoptimistic on support from fiscal policy. I see that more and more academics and journalists, including some with tentacles in Ankara, are sharing my doubts about the fiscal rule, claiming that Economics tsar Ali Babacan has been isolated on the issue. Adding insult to injury, budget data have started to head for south, hinting on what is to come ahead of the general elections.

 

To fear leads such a fiscal stance for a central banker, as the wise Yoda would say: Not only it would be disrupting inflation expectations further, the new government would likely lean against tax and administered good price hikes, as such knockoff measures are the most common temporary patches to the budget in Turkey. Too bad they would have a side effect of inflation.

 

And if you are wondering, Beşiktaş fans' hopes never materialized, with the team not winning a single trophy, whereas archrival Fenerbahçe was champions for a full two minutes. But I truly believe that Beşiktaş will be champions this year and win the UEFA Europa League. Just the same way the Central Bank thinks inflation will level off at 5 percent…

 

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Read his economics blog at http://emredeliveli.blogspot.com.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WIKILEAKS: ETHICS TO WHAT EXTENT?

C. CEM OĞUZ

 

Have you read "My Guantánamo Diary" by Mahvish Rukhsana Khan, an American-born daughter of a Pashtun family? If you haven't already, it may be worth picking up as it adds important perspective to recent events.

 

Following the Supreme Court's 2004 decision declaring Guantánamo prisoners had to be allowed access to U.S. courts, Khan, while still in law school, began volunteering as an interpreter at a law firm that represented Guantánamo inmates. She first visited the base in 2006 and, except for 14 high-value detainees with alleged ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, met mostly with prisoners of Afghan origin. The majority of these people had spent years in prison before being offered a fair trial or even access to counsel.

 

Much to her surprise, Khan soon discovered many of the detainees she encountered were merely average citizens handed over to U.S. authorities, often by bounty hunters. One elderly detainee named Nusrat, for instance, was picked up after questioning the arrest of his son, who was accused of having ties with al-Qaeda. Another was Ali Shah Mousavi, a doctor by profession, who, after living for years in exile, had returned to Afghanistan to assist in the reconstruction of his country.

 

Even worse, however, was the fact that each detainee she interviewed had a story of being brutally beaten, deprived of sleep, sexually abused, soaked with freezing cold water, exposed to constant noise and, last but not least, left in solitary confinement for days.

 

It is the response by the U.S. Department of Defense to WikiLeaks' publication of secret documents that brought Khan's diary to mind.

 

As you will well remember, last week, three major international newspapers, namely the Guardian, the New York Times and weekly Der Spiegel, simultaneously began publishing information contained in classified U.S. military documents related to the war in Afghanistan. That information came from the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, which espouses government transparency and freedom of information. In response to WikiLeaks' involvement, the Pentagon soon warned, "WikiLeaks may have blood on its hands." According to U.S. authorities, the leaking of such secret documents could cost lives and damage the trust of allies.

 

The reason WikiLeaks has created such a firestorm in Washington is also closely related to the fact that it follows a three-part series ran by the Washington Post questioning the massive increase in the size and cost of the U.S. national intelligence apparatus since Sept. 11.

 

In revealing the truth, the roles both Khan and WikiLeaks have played are actually the same. More importantly, the "damage" Khan did to the trust of U.S. allies is obviously not less than that the publication of secret U.S. military documents have done. But works such as Khan's have not created public discontent; why, then, has WikiLeaks achieved this?

 

The nuance in both cases undeniably lies in the names involved. Australian-born Julian Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, is hailed as a sort of hero for maintaining this kind of service, but experts point out the fact that though names were withheld, such information becoming public can put people's lives and security at risk.

 

From a journalistic point of view, the ethical problem that arises is determining who decides what is at risk and what it is worth. There are also serious question marks with regard to the verification of the documents and the motives of those who sent them. My intention is not to elaborate these issues. I rather want to draw your attention to another aspect of the problem.

 

When it comes to the names of American officers, we show great concern, but who is interested in the names of the Afghans that Khan mentioned, people like Nusrat or Mousavi? All American casualties in Afghanistan or Iraq are being reported by name, but when it comes to the Iraqis or Afghans who lose their lives, they are merely numbers. There is even no agency that keeps track of accurate numbers of Afghans or Iraqis killed. This brings another question to mind: Why is the Pentagon worried about the damage the publication of the documents has done to the trust of its allies, but not about the trust of the Afghan people?

 

In such a milieu, the U.S. and its allies are supposed to win the ever-worsening war in Afghanistan. This apparent scant concern for the welfare of local people only serves to increase opposition to the occupying forces and makes hopes of peace and stability in these countries a distant dream.

 

Let me put it another way: Who, for instance, among you, dear readers, is sincerely interested in what Nusrat and Mousavi are doing today?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

HOW CONSPIRACY THEORIES SPREAD

SONER ÇAĞAPTAY, JACLYN BLUMENFELD AND BURÇ ÖZÇELIK

 

How and why do conspiracy theories spread in Turkey? Recent developments are a case in point, demonstrating the role of government rhetoric in spreading such theories, as well as anti-Western sentiments.

 

Lately, Turkey has experienced a spike in Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terror attacks, resulting in more than 50 deaths in less than two months. This violence has been chipping away at the standing of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, pushing the party to shift focus on the issue and blame not the PKK, but Israel and clandestine actors for the attacks.

 

The party, for instance, now refers to the PKK as a "subcontractor" (taşeron), suggesting that Israel and invisible actors, not the PKK itself, are responsible for the terror attacks. At the same time, the AKP has also begun labeling domestic and international media that have been critical of its foreign policy as other "subcontractors" puppeteered by the same forces that are "behind the PKK." These two new conspiracies are laying roots in Turkey. Here is how.

 

As soon as the May 31 Gaza flotilla incident took place, AKP officials started to imply that Israel was behind the PKK terror attacks that had, hours earlier, killed seven Turkish soldiers in a rocket attack on a naval base in the Mediterranean port city of İskenderun. Speaking on the day's events, AKP Deputy Chairman Hüseyin Çelik condemned Israel, but also made a connection between Israel and the PKK attack: "On the same day [as the flotilla incident], there was an attack on a military unit in İskenderun. We also condemn this act of terror. We do not think that it is a coincidence that these two attacks took place at the same time."

 

On June 9, the AKP government voted "no" to U.S.-led sanctions against Iran's nuclear project. This development prompted a barrage of criticism of the AKP's foreign policy, at home and internationally. The AKP leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, strategically shifted the blame, tying such criticism to "subcontractors."

 

Erdoğan said at the Turkish-Arab Forum held in Istanbul on June 10 that "the word 'media' is associated with Israel and Israeli administration around the world… they have the capability to manipulate as they please as far as this matter is concerned." The next day, in Trabzon, he rebuked the media again for its role as a conspirator: "International media, as supported by Israel, make the very same claims [of Turkey breaking away from the West]. They receive their instructions from the same place."

 

On June 11, Erdoğan spoke on Turkish foreign policy: "And yet as we make an effort to increase the level of cooperation, an insidious hand gets involved in the matter right away. So far, they have managed to design world politics, foreign policy, with this black propaganda, with these aggressive headlines… Get a hold of those papers published in Israel and put them on the table, and then put those certain well-known papers in Turkey next to those, and believe me, you will see no difference between the two, with the exception of language. This is because these are subcontractors [sic]."

 

On June 15, speaking, at an AKP parliamentary meeting, Erdoğan again addressed Turkey's "subcontractors," saying "we shall not submit to that black propaganda. Neither that of the international nor the local media… We shall never flinch in speaking the truth in the face of the stale campaigns of the subcontractors within Turkey… They have of course mobilized those press organizations they provide support for, or the ones that support Israel, as they always do. There are those who support this in Turkey as well... I am very sorry to report that the black propaganda against Turkey, initiated and currently maintained by Israeli supported international media, is openly supported by certain known press organizations within Turkey… We know the real meaning between the lines in those headlines, and the motive behind them all too well."

 

As PKK attacks persisted, Erdoğan continued to shift the blame. On June 20, one Turkish soldier was killed and one was wounded during a PKK ambush in the southeastern province of Elazığ. In a speech in Van the same day, Erdoğan commented on the increase in PKK violence: "We know whose subcontractor the PKK is."

 

Other AKP leaders have joined Erdoğan in promoting the "subcontractor" conspiracy. On June 19, during a press conference concluding an AKP delegation's visit to the United States, Vice Chairman Ömer Çelik was asked whether current criticisms were being leveled at Turkey or the AKP. He responded: "Israel is attempting to portray current events as stemming from Prime Minister Erdoğan. We know what these efforts mean. Those who know Turkish history will recognize that this propaganda is simply an attempt to provoke a coup, or other undemocratic ends."

 

Similarly, speaking at an AKP town hall meeting in Diyarbakır on June 20, deputy chairman Abdülkadir Aksu reacted to the PKK's attack the previous day in Şemdinli, saying, "The PKK subcontracts here and there, for numerous entities."

 

These recent events in Turkey demonstrate how government rhetoric spreads conspiracy theories that ferment anti-Western sentiments. Once the authorities spread such theories, they become part of mainstream thinking, making it difficult to tackle them. The lesson is simple: spreading conspiracy theories is similar to letting the genie out of the bottle; once the authorities promote such theories, it is already too late.

 

* Jaclyn Blumenfeld and Burç Özçelik are research interns at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE COMBATIVE COLOMBIAN AND THE VOLATILE VENEZUELAN

GWYNNE DYER

 

On 22 July, President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia accused Venezuela of allowing