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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

EDITORIAL 04.08.10

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 04, edition 000589, 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. LABOUR'S 'P' FACTOR
  2. BACK TO BLOCKADE
  3. INDIA HAS A ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN - ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. INDIA'S LOST TRADITION - MANISH GARG
  5. NEEDED, PARLIAMENTARY REFORM - TUHIN A SINHA
  6. UK EXPORTS ISLAMISM - DANIEL PIPES
  7. CHINA AHEAD OF JAPAN - JOE MCDONALD 

MAIL TODAY

  1. GAMES AFFAIRS ARE GETTING MURKIER BY THE DAY
  2. DON'T TAKE THE YOUTH DIVIDEND FOR GRANTED - BY DIPANKAR GUPTA
  3. ADVANTAGE JAGAN IN HISBATTLE AGAINST CM - A SRINIVASA RAO

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. LEADERLESS STATE
  2. THE WRONG APPROACH
  3. INVESTING IN WOMEN - SAROJ PACHAURI
  4. 'IT'S THE MANIFESTATION OF ANGER AMONG KASHMIR'S TRAUMA GENERATION'
  5. GAMES THEORY - JUG SURAIYA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. MAIN COURSE AS STARTERS
  2. THE POWER OF FEAR
  3. VIOLENCE NOT CAST IN STONE - SANJAY TICKOO
  4. THE EYELASH HAS IT
  5. LET'S GO BY THE BOOK - SHAILAJA FENNELL

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. THE NEXT INNINGS
  2. WRONG FOCUS
  3. SOUTH CHINA SEA - C. RAJA MOHAN 
  4. COMPLICATED ENCOUNTERS - AJIT KUMAR DOVAL 
  5. A TECTONIC SHIFT IN TELANGANA - V. ANIL KUMAR 
  6. LESSONS IN LIVING

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. DILUTE TO 51%
  2. CAST THEM ASIDE
  3. CALCULATING THE COST OF THE GAMES - BIBEK DEBROY
  4. THERE'S MUCH ROOM FOR ENGAGEMENT - TARUN RAMADORAI
  5. WHEAT HIGH - SANJEEB MUKHERJEE

THE HINDU

  1. KASHMIR'S CRISIS OF AUTHORITY
  2. LONG-ACTING INSULIN
  3. UNDERSTANDING KASHMIR'S STONE PELTERS - MALINI PARTHASARATHY
  4. SOUTH EAST ASIA AND HEALTH-RELATED MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS - JAI P. NARAIN
  5. WHAT THE £35,000 COCKTAIL TAUGHT US - ADITYA CHAKRABORTTY
  6. BHOPAL DISASTER AND THE BP OIL SPILL

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. IS KALMADI OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY?
  2. 100 DEGREES IN J&K - INDER MALHOTRA
  3. HE GRAND MUGHAL OF CINEMA - AYUB KHAN
  4. LET'S GET AQUA-SAVVY - M.S. SWAMINATHAN

DNA

  1. WHY WE ARE SUCKERS FOR UNREAL REALITY TV
  2. MR MUKHERJEE, STAY CLEAR OF REGULATORS
  3. MULTIPLE AGENDAS MAKE JAMMU & KASHMIR SUFFER
  4. VAST GULF BETWEEN INDIC RELIGIONS AND THE REST - RAJEEV SRINIVASAN
  5. THERE'S NOTHING ABRAHAMIC OR HINDU ABOUT TERRORISM
  6. THE TRUTH: THEY'VE PLANTED THEIR FINGERS IN PUBLIC COFFERS - E RAGHAVAN

THE TRIBUNE

  1. VALLEY MUST BE SAVED
  2. BACK TO WORK
  3. WOMEN IN UNIFORM
  4. PAK ARMY AS DOMINANT FACTOR - BY AIR MARSHAL R.S BEDI (RETD)
  5. THE THREE ON TWO WHEELS - BY B.K. KARKRA
  6. INADEQUATE NUMBERS BLUNT THE CUTTING EDGEBRIG SANTOKH SINGH (RETD)
  7. CHECK EXODUS OF TECHNICAL MANPOWER - WG CDR D.P. SABHARWAL (RETD)

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. DO OSAMA NOT ELVIS, KARAN - RAJA SEN

 

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. BULL TAKES A BREATHER
  2. KEEP MICROFINANCE HEALTHY
  3. RATE HIKES - HOW MUCH MORE?
  4. WHILE A COUPLE OF MORE HIKES ARE PERHAPS WARRANTED, A MORE AGGRESSIVE  - ABHEEK BARUA
  5. CASHLESS OR CLUELESS ON HEALTH CARE? -SUBIR ROY
  6. CASE OF THE BAD TYPIST - M J ANTONY

 THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. POLICY IS GOVT'S PREROGATIVE
  2. MARKET NPS BETTER
  3. ON THE CLOTHESLINE
  4. STOCKS LOOK VULNERABLE TO VERTIGO
  5. ENOUGH IT USE IN TAX DEPARTMENT? - T V MOHANDAS PAI 
  6. LAST THORN IN USO'S FLESH - ROHIT PRASAD 
  7. STYLE VERSUS SUBSTANCE - VITHALC NADKARNI 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. IS KALMADI OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY?
  2. 100 degrees in J&K - By Inder Malhotra
  3. EVER WONDER WHY GOD PUT YOU ON EARTH? - BY DAVID BROOKS
  4. THE GRAND MUGHAL OF CINEMA - BY AYUB KHAN
  5. WHAT IS OUR DHARMA? - BY SWAMI TEJOMAYANANDA
  6. LET'S GET AQUA-SAVVY - BY M.S. SWAMINATHAN

THE STATESMAN

  1. GUJARAT VS UNION 
  2. SHORTAGE PERSISTS 
  3. SMOKER'S LAMENT 
  4. ANOTHER THREE YEARS~II - ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. PARTY PEOPLE
  2. SORRY SPORT
  3. THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY - BHASKAR DUTTA
  4. VEAL PIES - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

DECCAN HERALD

  1. NETAS FOR SALE
  2. CURBING CORRUPTION
  3. BRITAIN GETS PRACTICAL - BY HARSH V PANT
  4. NEED TO DIVERSIFY STATE'S ECONOMY - BY N V KRISHNAKUMAR
  5. A LOVE STORY - BY DOROTHY VICTOR

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. A WRONGHEADED CHANGE ON IDF EXEMPTIONS FOR HAREDIM
  2. EVERYTHING POINTS TO THE MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT - BY RAY HANANIA  
  3. BRITAIN'S NEW EXPORT: ISLAMIST CARNAGE - BY DANIEL PIPES  
  4. IN MY OWN WRITE: YEKKE PAR EXCELLENCE  - Y JUDY MONTAGU  
  5. WONDERFULLY SCRIPTED PROPAGANDA - BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN  
  6. WHITHER ISRAEL'S AL-JAZEERA - BY BRENDA KATTEN  
  7. DAVID CAMERON LOOKING BOTH WAYS - BY ZALMAN SHOVAL  
  8. SHIMON PERES VERSUS THE BRITS - BY EFRAIM KARSH  

HAARETZ

  1. A HASTY DECISION ON DRAFT-DODGING
  2. LET ZACH BE -BY AVIRAMA GOLAN
  3. THE LIE BEHIND THE RIGHT WING'S TRUTH - BY SHLOMO AVINERI
  4. THE WEST BANK ILLUSION - BY MENACHEM KLEIN
  5. WHO'S BUILDING THE LAND OF ISRAEL? - BY KARNI ELDAD

 THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. A MONUMENT TO TOLERANCE
  2. RAGE AND FLOODS IN PAKISTAN
  3. PUTTING INVESTORS FIRST
  4. THE HUNT FOR AMERICAN DECENCY IN THE ARIZONA QUICKSAND - BY LAWRENCE DOWNES
  5. TRAGEDY OF COMEDY - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  6. BROADWAY AND THE MOSQUE - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  7. WHY I WAS ANGRY - BY ANTHONY WEINER
  8. THE SENATE'S IMPORTANT LUNCH DATE - BY RICHARD G. LUGAR

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE: BIG VOTES DRAW BIG MONEY FOR A COMPLIANT CONGRESS
  2. OPPOSING VIEW ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE: NOTHING IMPROPER WAS DONE - BY BRADLEY SMITH
  3. MR. PRESIDENT, QUIT AFGHANISTAN TOO - BY RONALD GOLDFARB
  4. ATHLETES, AGENTS AND THE NCAA: IT'S TIME FOR A FIX - BY JIM TANNER
  5. MOSQUE IS NO WAY TO 'BUILD BRIDGES' - BY THOMAS S. KIDD

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. WAFFLING ON PARKING
  2. A TROUBLESOME BORDER SKIRMISH
  3. OBAMA TO END IRAQ COMBAT?
  4. STILL DEADLY WAR IN AFGHANISTAN
  5. SELECTIVE OUTRAGE ON SPENDING
  6. TOO MUCH 'STACKING THE DECK'
  7. NEWSWEEK CHANGES

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - FLOTILLA PROBE COULD MEND TIES WITH ISRAEL
  2. MEANWHILE, IN THE ISLAMIST CAMP… - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  3. THE AKP: MASTER OF BALANCE IN DOMESTIC AND GLOBAL POLITICS – 2 - TAYLAN BİLGİÇ
  4. WHY JERUSALEM? THE POLITICS OF POETRY - SIDRA EZRAHI
  5. THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON FOR A 'YES' VOTE -CENGİZ ÇANDAR
  6. ISRAEL SUCCUMBS TO UN! - YUSUF KANLI
  7. DISTORTING AND DISTRACTING - JOOST LAGENDIJK
  8. WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER GULF? - JOHN DEFTERIOS

I.THE NEWS

  1. VIOLENT DAYS
  2. THE BIG SQUEEZE
  3. TIME TO RETHINK DRONES - ZEENIA SATTI
  4. OUR SHOULDERS FOR OTHERS - SALEEM SAFI
  5. PAKISTAN'S FIRST STEPS IN DIPLOMACY - PART IVS KHALID HUSAIN
  6. OUT OF SYNC - FAKIR S AYAZUDDIN
  7. EXPOSING A 'WICKED' WAR - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  8. SWAT NEEDS HELP - ZUBAIR TORWALI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. GATES FOR OPERATION INSIDE PAKISTAN
  2. PRESIDENT HINTS ABOUT DIVISION OF KARACHI
  3. NO HEADWAY IN RECOVERING WAIVED-OFF LOANS
  4. WHEN PAKISTAN WAS PAKISTAN — I - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  5. WIKILEAKS: PAK-FIXATED CYBER ACTIVISM - MUHAMMAD NAWAZ KHAN
  6. TWIST & TURNS BY CAMERON - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  7. A FAREWELL STRATEGY - ALI SUKHANVER
  8. WHO IS NOT LETTING 'DEAD OSAMA' DIE? - DR SHAHID QURESHI

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. LIBERALS IN LEAGUE AGAINST PARENTS
  2. RESERVE'S CALL ON RATES POINTS TO REAL DEBATE
  3. RESERVE'S CALL ON RATES POINTS TO REAL DEBATE
  4. WHEN THE 'NANNY STATE' SAVES LIVES

THE GUARDIAN

  1. PAKISTAN: A WASHED-OUT STATE IN NEED OF INTERNATIONAL AID
  2. MENTAL HEALTH: THE INVISIBLE ILLNESS
  3. IN PRAISE OF … VÁCLAV HAVEL'S NEW CAREER

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. BOJ'S PLAN TO BOOST BUSINESS
  2. MR. KAN ADDRESSES BUDGET PANEL
  3. KOSOVO DECISION SETS A DISASTROUS PRECEDENT - BY VUK JEREMIC
  4. $1 TRILLION WASTED ON WARS - BY KEVIN RAFFERTY
  5. IS ANOTHER WAR IN THE MIDEAST INEVITABLE? - BY VOLKER PERTHES
  6. THAT 70S SHOW IN RUSSIA  - BY SERGEI GURIEV AND ALEH TSYVINSKI

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. A DROP OF LIFE
  2. A BETTER JAKARTA: BETWEEN PROMISE AND REALITY - DENNY KAILIMANG
  3. IN SEARCH OF THE TRUTH: 'BALIBO FIVE' VICTIMS STILL MISSING - SHIRLEY SHACKLETON
  4. PROBLEMS IN WOMEN'S INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICS - TUTI ALAWIYAH
  5. THE MOSCOW TIMES
  6. PUTIN SANG SONGS WHILE RUSSIA BURNED - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  7. WHY THE KREMLIN IS FURIOUS WITH LUKASHENKO - BY VLADIMIR RYZHKOV
  8. THE UPSIDE OF PRIVATIZATION - BY KIM ISKYAN

CHINA DAILY

  1. GREAT EXPECTATIONS
  2. DEVIOUS INTENT
  3. GREEN LEAPFROG
  4. NO DISPUTE OVER THESE WATERS - BY JIANG HE (CHINA DAILY)
  5. LET'S ACCEPT FACTS AND GUIDE THE YOUTH - BY ERIC SOMMER (CHINA DAILY)
  6. A ROADMAP FOR DEVELOPMENT -BY DONG SUOCHENG (CHINA DAILY)

DAILY MIRROR

  1. DENGUE BONFIRES AND THE BAD MONTH
  2. LTTE INTERNATIONAL GROWING RAPIDLY AS OUR FOREIGN SERVICE SLUMBERS
  3. US-PAKISTAN TIE-UP AND INDIA'S 'BIG BROTHER' ROLE
  4. PUBLIC DATABASE ON IDP'S, AND DETAINEES: BEST WAY TO COUNTER LTTE  - ISINFORMATION
  5. DUDLEY SENANAYAKE AND YASHWANT SINHA - BY ILICA MALKANTHI KARUNARATNE

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

LABOUR'S 'P' FACTOR

MILIBAND BACKS TERROR ENTERPRISE 


It is not surprising that Mr David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary in the Labour Government, should feel offended by British Prime Minister David Cameron's straight answer to a straight question on Pakistan and terrorism during his recent visit to India. "We cannot tolerate in any sense," Mr Cameron had said, "the idea that this country (Pakistan) is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror." Compare this to Mr Miliband's callous comment when he visited India soon after the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai that was organised by Pakistan through the ISI's pet terrorist organisation, the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba. On that occasion, Mr Miliband had virtually blamed India for bringing about the terrorist attack on itself and had gone on to give Pakistan a clean chit. Mr Miliband may have thought he was being 'diplomatic', but his uncouth comment fetched him and his Government the collective ridicule and contempt of every Indian. Even the chattering classes were aghast that he could have been so obnoxious. It is, therefore, only natural that Mr Miliband should go out of his way to describe Mr Cameron as a "loudmouth" and a "cuttlefish squirting out ink" for having told the truth as it is, and standing by it despite Pakistan's manufactured outrage. "I don't think the British taxpayer wants me to go around the world saying what people want to hear," Mr Cameron said, insisting that "it's important to speak frankly and clearly about these issues." Obviously Mr Miliband doesn't think there's any need to be truthful about Pakistan and the Islamist terror it exports to ports around the world; on the contrary, he would rather pander to Pakistani denial — after all, Britain has two million Muslim voters, nearly 70 per cent of whom are of Pakistani origin, and can influence the outcome in 30 constituencies in varying degrees. Having abandoned all notions of lofty idealism, Labour, as was witnessed during this year's election campaign, is perfectly at ease to pander to Islamists and their frighteningly deviant ways. Thus has Great Britain been reduced to Little England by the likes of Mr Miliband. A second factor that would have prompted Labour's shadow Foreign Secretary to lash out at Mr Cameron is the race for the party leadership. Mr David Miliband and his brother Mr Ed Miliband are locked in a neck and neck contest for Labour's top job. By speaking up for jihadis, Mr David Miliband hopes to get the backing of Pakistani-dominated constituencies.


Be that as it may, it is to be hoped that Mr Cameron stays the course and remains firm in his conviction that the menace of Islamist terrorism cannot be tackled without dealing with those who sponsor trans-border jihad: Pakistan cannot be allowed to 'look both ways'. If the truth hurts Pakistan, so be it. The US has chosen to turn a blind eye to Pakistani treachery and reward the Army-ISI-jihad enterprise despite overwhelming evidence of how it's working against America's interest. But there is no reason why the rest of the world should emulate the Obama Administration's strange love for the terror-exporting Pakistani state. In his own way, Mr Cameron has shown that Britain's trans-Atlantic ally does not necessarily determine British foreign policy, at least when Labour is out of power. Which would also suggest that Britain's Labour and America's Democrats mirror each other in more ways than one. That does not make Mr Miliband look good. 


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BACK TO BLOCKADE

VIOLENCE BY ANOTHER NAME


Saddled with a severe law and order crisis fuelled by separatists in the Kashmir Valley, the last thing the Union Government would want is another conflagration elsewhere in the country. Yet, that threat looms large with Naga agitators planning to resume from today their blockade of national highways that connect Manipur to the rest of the country. It is less than two months since protesters lifted a 69-day siege of the highways which had choked the supply of essential commodities to Manipur after being assured by the Union Government that their legitimate demands would be considered. Apparently, the Government has failed to effectively address the issue, otherwise the Nagas would not have resumed the agitation that had caused so much hardship to the people: This time, they have said the blockade will last for 20 days. While some of the demands, like the immediate withdrawal of imposition of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code and 'demilitarisation' of the Naga areas by removal of the Indian Reserve Battalion and Manipur Police commandos, are untenable and cannot be met, others like ordering a judicial inquiry into the May 6 violence at Mao Gate, in which two persons were killed and more than a hundred injured, could have been met by now. There are also demands voiced by Manipuris that need to be looked into. Differing positions require urgent resolution. The UPA's failure to prevent a recurrence of crisis stems from its inability to appreciate the issues that deeply affect the people of the North-East. It took more than two months for the Government to force the Nagas to end the last blockade, with the Prime Minister and his colleagues stepping in only after the agitation had disrupted normal life as never before and all services, including the supply of life-saving drugs, were threatened. It is anybody's guess how long will it take this time.


Given the belligerence of Naga protestors, the Government should have deployed para-military forces along the highway to prevent another blockade rather than wait for it to happen. There is no percentage in toeing a soft line with disruptionists, not least because their intentions are wholly criminal and militate against all tenets of democratic protest. Such blockades have become useful tools for unscrupulous gangs masquerading as 'insurgent groups' to extort money from truckers in lieu of a 'safe passage' on the troubled highways, create a scarcity of essential commodities so that a black market can thrive, and terrorise the masses into submission. Tragically, the political class of the north-eastern States has been indifferent towards the problem of violent agitations and shown little or no interest in taming malcontents. That's because politicians are often hand-in-glove with those who are behind such protests that ultimately cause more damage to the region than to anybody or any place else.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

INDIA HAS A ROLE IN AFGHANISTAN

ASHOK K MEHTA


For the Americans, June was feared as the worst month in Afghanistan for fatalities in their longest campaign in history. Now July has overtaken the average loss of two soldiers a day with more than twice that number wounded. In August the trajectory is expected to rise. The US dilemma of fixing Afghanistan is compounded, it turns out, by first fixing Pakistan where, not surprisingly, they have found a tunnel at the end of light. The choice is stark: Pakistan, a failed state with nuclear weapons, or Pakistan a treacherous state which has to be managed.

For the Americans the journey to Afghanistan is in some ways akin to the 15th century Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus. When he left, he didn't know where he was going. When he had reached, he did not know where he had arrived. When he returned, he did not know where he'd been. That is the reason most Americans are asking: Where are we, where are we headed and how do we get there. To these there are more questions than answers. 


For most Americans, the McChrystal-Petraeus strategy is simply not working. The debate preceding the December review of AfPak strategy is centred on the Biden (US Vice-President) - Peter Galbraith (former UN diplomat in Afghanistan) - Kofer Black and Bruce Reidel (US counter-terrorism experts) and Robert Blackwill (former US Ambassador in India) alternate strategies. The 'Blackwill Plan' is the most radical as it suggests a de facto partition of Afghanistan between Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns.


In one way or another the alternate strategies recommend scaling down US forces from 140,000 to 20,000, holding key population centres and relying on air power and drones to marginalise the Afghan Taliban. The strategic shift is one from COIN (counter-insurgency) to counter-terrorism targeting top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. The exit plan is linked to this strategy through a more robust Afghanisation of the security sector and a yet uncharted reconciliation process to establish a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban. These are the contours of Plan B which leans heavily on Plan A. As both these are unlikely to work, the US must think of a Plan C but more on that later.


Gen David Petraeus has reiterated that the US strategic objective is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a platform for terrorism. Neither Plan A nor Plan B foot the bill. What is worse Pakistan, which is the pivotal player in this strategy, has other ideas to keep the fires burning, WikiLeaks notwithstanding. For the Americans, Pakistan is an indispensable ally as 70 per cent of logistics for the US and Nato forces pass through its territory. Afghan Taliban sanctuaries are located on its soil and the ISI has promised to deliver reconcilable Taliban. 

Further bad news. The Dutch contingent of Nato has pulled out, the British -— like the Americans — have also announced that troops will begin pulling out in 2011 and that all troops will be back home by 2014, a deadline US President Barack Obama has not enunciated. Indicating a time-line is the greatest strategic error, giving joy to the Taliban who say: The Americans may have the watches, we have the time. 


The ground situation is depressing but not outright bad. Only 29 of the 121 key districts of Afghanistan are under Kabul's control. The training of Afghan security forces is behind schedule. Only 23 per cent of the Army and 12 per cent of police are capable of operating independently. Though salaries have been increased to ensure retention of soldiers, desertion rates are 12 and 17 per cent for the Army and the police. Rogue elements — Taliban sympathisers — have since 2008 carried out three deadly attacks against their Western trainers and buddies. 

Operations against Marja, which Gen McChrystal called a bleeding ulcer, were partially successful. Another American troops surge is expected shortly 


but it seems operations are being relaunched in Helmand province as the Taliban have sneaked back. There aren't enough boots on the ground to 'hold' ground which has been cleared. And the concept of 'Government in a box' has failed. Some ground reports suggest that the big offensive to liberate Kandahar, the heart and soul of the Taliban, has been postponed indefinitely if not called off altogether.

Where does all this leave India which was seen to have been relegated to the margins after the London and Kabul conferences? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will get to discuss India's role in Afghanistan with Mr Obama when he visits Delhi in November. India must work on a Plan C but wriggle its way into Plans A and B to stay relevant by combining with its impressive use of soft power some elements of hard power.


As a regional power and the most direct recipient of the spillover of terrorism from AfPak region, Delhi has legitimate interests in Afghanistan. If Nato can be present astride the Hindukush, India, which shares the mountain ranges, has a more immediate compulsion to be there. India's interests must never get subsumed by those of the US and Pakistan. While Washington, DC accepts New Delhi's security concerns, it does little beyond just that, yielding to Islamabad's sensitivities with the gentle remonstration: Pakistan must do more. 

The US is hostage to Pakistan in Afghanistan. It is rewarding Islamabad with billions of dollars of hi-tech military equipment for all its duplicity, atoning for the sin of abandoning Pakistan after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Why does India have to keep paying for acts of omission and commission by the

Americans? 

India must abandon its reactive and diffident policy and become more assertive about its future role in Afghanistan. It should do more with its surplus hard power and, under a UN flag whenever that happens, deploy troops there. It must also enlarge and diversify its development and capacity-building efforts while ensuring the security of Indian workers. This is India's second out of area mission after Sri Lanka where four divisions were maintained by sea and air.


New Delhi can prepare alternative frameworks for Plan C: A regional initiative backed by a UN peace-keeping force when insurgency in Afghanistan has been contained and there is some peace to keep. In the meantime, India and Pakistan must talk to each other about sharing strategic depth in Afghanistan. All this and more for Mr Obama's November agenda.


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S LOST TRADITION

MANISH GARG


This refers to the article "Awaken the Warrior" (July 27). Mr Claude Arpi has successfully generated reader interest in Air Marshal RK Nehra's book, Hinduism & Its Military Ethos, which analyses the wars the country has witnessed in the last 2,300 years. As an avid reader of history, the subject of the book is, in fact, one close to my heart. I, too, have often wondered why foreign invaders were successful in plundering the wealth of our land.

While I agree with Air Marshal Nehra that a bogus interpretation of the values of ahimsa (non-violence), shanti (peace) and satya (truth) have done Indians no good especially in recent times, I differ on the contention that Hindus adjusted easily to slavery. A young person studying history written by Western and Muslim scholars would hardly be informed that Indian rulers were far from weaklings. 


Apart from Spain, from the Reconquista of which we may learn a lesson or two, India has been the only country that time and again gave a bloody nose to Islamic invaders. Within a few decades of Muhammad's demise, most of the ancient civilisations in Persia, Turkey and Egypt had been overrun by them. But India was never a cakewalk. 

Until Muhammad bin Qasim finally took control of Sindh, earlier campaigns resulted in a total rout of the Caliphate forces. Under Bappa Rawal, Hindus accomplished a great victory. But unlike Spanish Christians or the Arabic forces, they had no way of converting the defeated into their own religion. Neither did they pursue them to finish them once and for all. Later they beat a retreat under threat of arson on their deity of Aditya by Muslims. The Hindu Shahi kings of Afghanistan were defeated by deceit after their initial victories. And, more importantly, probably owing to their ethical bent stemming from their religion, the Hindus never managed to give their victories the final flourish. 


An interesting fact. Khan is an identity tag for Muslims nowadays but few know that Hulagu Khan, a descendent of the great Kublai Khan, was Buddhist by faith. He defeated and executed the Caliph of Baghdad. Arabia was ruled by Buddhist Mongols for a couple of decades during the 12th century before the rulers converted to Islam.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

NEEDED, PARLIAMENTARY REFORM

TUHIN A SINHA


While we need stringent rules to curtail the growing anarchy inside our Parliament and State Assemblies, a deeper analysis of the menace calls for changes within our parliamentary system. Decisions that impact the future of the country and its people cannot be reduced to mere arithmetic manipulation. Instead, the Government could go for a referendum 


The violence that Bihar Assembly witnessed recently has a good chance of causing serious heartburn to many of hardened criminals languishing in Patna's Beur Jail and making them dreamy-eyed about a political career. The violence, which continued unabated for two days, led to the suspension of 64 MLAs.


How did violence which should be the last resort of the weak and defeated become the prerogative of our 'powerful' elected representatives? After all, if similar violence occurs on the streets, the perpetrators are booked for rioting. While the violence in the Bihar Assembly was triggered over the Opposition's flimsy allegations of irregularities by the Government, in the Maharashtra Assembly last year the cause of violence was an MLA's refusal to take oath in Marathi. 


Now, let us travel back a few months and ponder over the circumstances in which the all important Women's Reservation Bill had to be passed in the Rajya Sabha. More than a hundred marshals were called in to bundle out seven MPs blocking proceedings and protesting against the Bill, before it was finally put to vote. Here, violence in a sense was employed by the other side — the Government. Irrespective of who employed it, fact remains that the use of force defeated the very essence of consensual decision-making that parliamentary democracy epitomises.


There is a reason why one compares what happened in the State Assemblies of Bihar and Maharashtra with what happened in Parliament over the Women's Reservation Bill: A distinction needs to be drawn between violence which is resorted to on purpose and the violence/ruckus that our parliamentary system inherently breeds.

There is little doubt that unprovoked ruckus needs to be dealt with sternly — possibly by barring the culprit representatives from contesting elections for life or making them compensate financially for the loss to property and of business, depending upon the severity of the offense.


However, how does one deal with such ruckus in Parliament that also has the country divided on important issues? For instance, should critical decisions involving the country's future — be it the nuclear deal or Women's Reservation Bill — in a multi-party democracy like ours, merely be reduced to opportunistic, arithmetic manipulation?


It is a sad commentary of our times that most important Bills nowadays are passed simply by the ability of the ruling coalition to cobble up the required numbers in Parliament by hook or crook. So the incentives given to smaller regional parties in exchange for support could be varied — in some cases, it is a promise to withdraw CBI investigation against the regional leader and in other cases supporting the regional party in the next State elections. In effect thus, our fixation with 'numbers' reduces the taking of important national decisions to a joke.

Now interestingly, in private conversations, a sizeable number of the MPs of both the Congress and the BJP were opposed to the Women's Reservation Bill, as it threatened the careers of most sitting MPs. But sheer political tokenism and the greed to not lose out on the women voters, had their political bosses toe a different line. How is an MP in this case, torn between personal conviction and his party's official stand, expected to behave? To be fair to the MPs, they did not pelt furniture, mike or slippers. They did what a trade union worker facing forced expulsion would.


Given the limitations that our present political dynamics thus impose, one even empathises with an MP trying to stall the Women's Reservation Bill. Not because one doesn't want women to prosper in politics, but simply because the Bill kills whatever limited semblance of meritocracy that we can boast of today and prepares the right breeding ground for more Rabri Devis. 


We must understand that certain decisions that impact the future of the country and its people cannot be reduced to a mere tug of war involving illegitimate ganging up of members in Parliament or Legislative Assemblies. For when it becomes so, ruckus, disorder and potential violence become inevitable. Such decisions will be best arrived at if the opinion of the common citizen is incorporated. This is where we need to acknowledge the limitations of our Parliamentary system and look at corrective solutions beyond the Legislature.


Our parliamentary democracy would do well to incorporate the provision of referendum on important issues. Let the people directly make their choice on what impacts them. This would also be the biggest step forward in helping our people evolve politically and restoring rationale to our important national decisions.


For instance, in an unusual situation like the Women's Reservation Bill which had both our main political parties support the Bill but their MPs oppose it, it would have helped if we had a clause wherein a petition by one-third of the total MPs in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha would have qualified the Bill for a referndum. Of course, this clause cannot be thought of without first putting in place a mechanism to check its abuse, especially in strife-torn States. 


Our decision making bodies, despite their outward semblance of inclusiveness, operate at the beck and call of a select few. Inner democracy among our parties is an illusion. The silent frustration that is piling up among the larger whole thus explodes from time to time in our Parliament and Legislative Assemblies. 


The growing disorder in the country's legislature is a bigger malaise than it appears and calls for far-sighted solutions. 

The writer is an author, scriptwriter and columnist
. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

UK EXPORTS ISLAMISM

DANIEL PIPES


Twenty-eight countries, including India, have suffered on this count


Britain's largest and longest-running terrorist investigation ended last month with the conviction of three British Muslims. Their 2006 plot involved blowing up trans-Atlantic airliners with the hope of killing up to 10,000 people. That near-disaster offers a pungent reminder of the global danger poised by UK-based radical Islam.

The Heritage Foundation calls British Islamism "a direct security threat" to the US and The New Republic dubs it "the biggest threat to US security." Officialdom agrees. The British Home Secretary compiled a dossier in 2003 that acknowledged his country offered a "significant base" for terrorism. A CIA study in 2009 concluded that British-born nationals of Pakistani descent (who can freely enter the US under a visa waiver programme) constitute America's most likely source of terrorism.


Confirming, updating and documenting these reports, London's Centre for Social Cohesion, run by the formidable Douglas Murray, has just published a 535-page opus, Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections, written by Robin Simcox, Hannah Stuart, and Houriya Ahmed. It consists mainly of detailed biographical information on two sorts of perpetrators of what it calls "Islamism-related offences" or IROs — that is to say, incidents where evidence points to Islamist beliefs as the primary motivator. 


One listing contains information on the 127 individuals convicted of IROs or suicides in IROs within Britain; the other provides biographies on 88 individuals with connections to Britain who engaged in IROs elsewhere in the world. The study covers 11 years 1999-2009.


Domestic British terrorists display a dismaying pattern of normality. They are predominantly young (mean age: 26) and male (96 per cent). Nearly half come from a South Asian background. Of those whose educational backgrounds are known, most attended university. Of those whose occupations are known, most have jobs or study full time. Two-thirds of them are British nationals, two-thirds have no links to proscribed terrorist organisations, and two-thirds never went abroad to attend terrorist training camps. Most IROs, in brief, are perpetrated by basically ordinary Muslims whose minds have been seized by the coherent and powerful ideology of Islamism. One wishes the terrorists' numbers were limited to psychopaths, for that would render the problem less difficult to confront and eliminate. Britain's Security Service estimates that over 2,000 individuals residing today in Britain pose a terrorist threat, thereby implying not only that the "covenant of security" that once partially protected the UK from attack by its own Muslims is long defunct but that the United Kingdom may face the worst internal terrorist menace of any Western country other than Israel. As for the second group — Islamists with ties to Great Britain who engage in attacks outside the country: The report's authors modestly state that because their information constitutes a sampling, and not a comprehensive list, they do not provide statistical analysis. But their sample indicates the phenomenon's reach, so I compiled a list of countries (and the number of British-linked perpetrators) in which British-linked IROs have occurred. 


The centre's list includes Afghanistan (12), Algeria (three), Australia (one), Azerbaijan (one), Belgium (two), Bosnia (four), Canada (one), France (seven), Germany (three), India (three), Iraq (three), Israel (two), Italy (four), Jordan (one), Lebanon (one), Morocco (two), the Netherlands (one), Pakistan (five), Russia (four), Saudi Arabia (one), Somalia (one), Spain (two), the US (14), and Yemen (10). I add to the centre's list Albania, where an attack took place before 1999, and Bangladesh and Kenya, which seem to have been overlooked

In all, 28 countries have come under assault from British-based Islamist terrorists, giving some idea of their global menace. Other than India, the target countries divide into two distinct types, Western and majority-Muslim. An odd trio of the US, Afghanistan, and Yemen has suffered the most British-linked terrorists. 

This documentation prompts several questions: One, how much longer will it take for the British authorities to realise that their current policies — trying to improve Muslims' material circumstances while appeasing Islamists — misses the ideological imperative? Two, evidence thus far tends to point to IROs on balance strengthening the Islamist cause in Great Britain; will this remain the pattern even as violence persists or will IROs eventually incur a backlash? Finally, what will it take in terms of destruction for non-UK Governments to focus their immigration procedures on that percentage or two of Britons from whom the perpetrators exclusively derive — the Muslim population? Unpleasant as this prospect is, it beats getting blown up.

The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

CHINA AHEAD OF JAPAN

ITS LOWER PER CAPITA INCOME NOTWITHSTANDING, CHINA IS TIPPED TO SURGE AHEAD OF JAPAN AS ASIA'S BIGGEST ECONOMY AND THE WORLD'S SECOND LARGEST ECONOMY. THIS IS NOT WITHOUT SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES, WRITES JOE MCDONALD 


China is set to overtake Japan as the world's second-largest economy in a resurgence that is changing everything from the global balance of military and financial power to how cars are designed.


By some measures it has already moved to second place after the US in total economic output — a milestone that would underline a pre-eminence not seen since the 18th century, when the Middle Kingdom last served as Asia's military, technological and cultural power.


China is already the biggest exporter, auto buyer and steel producer, and its worldwide influence is growing. The fortunes of companies from Detroit automakers to Brazilian iron miners depend on spending by China's consumers and corporations. And rising wealth brings political presence: Chinese pressure helped to win developing countries a bigger voice in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. 


"Japan was the powerhouse driving the rest of Asia," said Mr Rob Subbaraman, chief Asia economist for Nomura Securities. "Now the tide is turning and China is becoming a powerful influence on the rest of Asia, including Japan."


China's rise has produced glaring contradictions. The wealth gap between an elite who profited most from three decades of reform and its poor majority is so extreme that China has dozens of billionaires while average income for the rest of its 1.3 billion people is among the world's lowest. Beijing has launched two manned space missions and is talking about exporting high-speed trains to California and Europe while families in remote areas live in cave houses cut into hillsides.


Japan's people still are among the world's richest, with a per capita income of $ 37,800 last year, compared to China's $ 3,600. So are Americans at $ 42,240, their economy still by far the biggest. But Japan is trapped in a two-decade-old economic slump, the US is wrestling with a financial crisis, and China's sheer economic size and the lure of its vast consumer market adds to its clout abroad.


Its explosive growth has driven conflicting shifts in Asia and beyond, triggering a scramble for commercial opportunity but fueling unease that the wealth is helping to finance a military buildup to press the Communist Government's claims in the region.


"I think everyone in the region is trying to benefit from Chinese economic dynamism but at the same time is trying to make sure China does not become a regional hegemon," said Mr Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian newspaper.

Exactly when China passes Japan formally will be unclear until after this year ends. It depends on shifting exchange rates and data reported in different forms by the two Governments. China is growing at 10 per cent a year, while Japan's expansion this year is forecast at no more than three per cent.


"On that basis, the crossover probably happened last quarter," said Mr Julian Jessop, chief international economist for Capital Economics in London, in an e-mail. Beijing appears to take it for granted that it already has overtaken Japan.

"China already is the world's second-biggest economic body," said a deputy central bank governor, Mr Yi Gang, in a policy discussion posted July 30 on the foreign exchange agency's website. 


Australia has been one of the biggest beneficiaries as China's voracious appetite for iron ore, coal and other commodities drove a mining boom that kept its economy growing through the global crisis. That booming trade prompted Australia to reconsider its stance toward China, previously seen as a Communist aggressor. In 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaker who was a diplomat in Beijing, called for closer political, economic and academic engagement with the Chinese Government.


But Mr Rudd also displayed Australia's independence from Beijing by talking about human rights, Tibet and China's Muslim minorities — issues Chinese leaders want other countries to keep quiet about. And Australia affirmed its longtime security alliance with Washington — a counterweight to China's growing might. Mr Rudd's successor, Ms Julia Gillard, has given no sign of a major change of direction.


"Now, Africa has an alternative development model," said Mr Derek Scissors, a Heritage Foundation scholar in Washington. Instead of Western investment with environmental or other strings attached, Mr Scissors said, "they now see the Chinese as an alternative."


Of course, even after slipping to third place, Japan is still rich and comfortable — the Switzerland of Asia. The society that created hybrid cars and the Walkman has 99 per cent literacy and the world's longest life expectancy at 83 years. Tokyo is the capital of fine dining, with more Michelin-starred restaurants than Paris. Toyota has overtaken General Motors as the biggest global automaker at a time when China companies have yet to establish their own brand names.


Now, with Japan in the rear view mirror, can China catch up with the US? Yes, say many analysts. China could match the US in total output as early as 2020, said a World Bank forecast in June. But still, it said per capita income would be one-fourth the US level.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

GAMES AFFAIRS ARE GETTING MURKIER BY THE DAY

 

THE skeletons seem to be tumbling out of the cupboard one after the other as far as the Commonwealth Games are concerned. First we had the Central Vigilance Commission's damning report that said contracts for Games projects had been rigged in various ways to jack up costs, besides sub- standard work being passed off by state agencies through forgery and other means.

 

Around the same time we had the High Commission in United Kingdom informing the government that the country's authorities were investigating payment of Rs 1.7 crore — in addition to £ 25,000 every month — by the Organising Committee to a UK- based firm for the Queen's Baton relay in London last year.

 

Now comes more evidence to suggest that corruption and extravagance may have played a good part in the Games' Budget going through the roof. The OC has hired overlays at astronomical rates — in cases even higher than the actual costs of the goods — running up a bill of Rs 650 crore under the head.

 

The OC is hiding behind the shield of ' quality' to justify such spending. This just does not wash when one remembers that it is quality that is otherwise lacking in projects executed for the Games.

 

This is not all. The Enforcement Directorate is investigating payouts worth Rs 50 crore to two foreign firms, suspecting money laundering.

 

Also, the Sports Ministry wants sacked from the OC two tainted officials, one of whom is also facing a customs probe. We already know about the commission that a Singapore based firm will earn for Games endorsements it never brought.

 

If this is not murky, what is? Nothing short of a thorough inquiry into all Games expenditure will suffice here. But that must await the completion of the event.

 

He is unfit to be a V- C

 

THE comments made by the Vice- Chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University ( MGIHU) Vibhuti Narain Rai on female writers, truly belong to the gutter.

 

The remarks are distasteful and reveal a convoluted and misogynistic mentality.

 

If indeed Mr Rai had certain disagreements with the feminist discourse in general or even with certain feminist writers, he should have voiced his criticism in an academic manner rather than resort to such expletives.

 

It is a travesty of the Hindi literary world that a person with such obnoxious views presides over the MGIHU, the first central university specially meant for the promotion of Hindi. A Vice- Chancellor is supposed to be the upholder of academic standards in the university. But Mr Rai's comments go against any standards of civilised discourse, let alone academic standards.

 

What kind of leadership would such a person provide to the university? Moreover, how will women academics ever be able to work freely with such a person? Mr Rai's comments are even more shocking given the fact that his wife is herself a writer.

 

The Bharatiya Jnanpith has rightly removed Mr Rai from the selection panel for the Jnanpith Awards. The Human Resource Development Ministry should follow suit and take strict action against him.

 

Inadequate compensation

 

THE widow of retired bureaucrat Trilok Nath Makan will surely feel vindicated that the Delhi High Court has held the Municipal Corporation of Delhi ( MCD) liable for her husband's death. The civic body has been ordered to pay her Rs 5 lakh as compensation.

 

Mr Makan, who had been an aide to former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, had fallen into an uncovered pit at an MCD work site near his south Delhi home.

 

The judgment is heartening because it denies MCD an escape from liability. However, the moderate penal amount is unlikely to be a deterrent for the organisation.

 

Usually the courts take multiple factors into consideration while deciding such cases — like age, the earning capacity and lifestyle of the victim. Yet, the moot point is that acts of grave negligence, like the one involving Mr Makan, should attract exemplary punishment.

 

A compensation of Rs 5 lakh does not qualify as such. Similar incidents over the past year prove that the MCD is unwilling to learn from its mistakes.

 

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            MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

DON'T TAKE THE YOUTH DIVIDEND FOR GRANTED

BY DIPANKAR GUPTA

 

WHAT does India want to be when it grows up? More than 50 per cent of its population is under 50 and about 60 per cent is between 15 and 60 years of age. With so many young people India's future can only be awesome. So when is the party? Not so fast! If this population profile is to translate into an asset and become a democratic dividend then the young have to be skilled and qualified. In other words, the economy must keep it coming at all levels.

 

Between 1965 and 1990, Latin America resembled East Asia in terms of its age structure, but only the latter surged ahead because it had proper policies in place. East Asia rapidly up- skilled its labour force, educated the population and raised the productivity of those in the working age.

 

In India, sadly, the working class is still quite backward. The Institute of Applied Manpower Research tells us that the percentage of workers who have middle and high school qualifications is actually declining. Even in India's glamour Information Technology ( IT) sector, only a third of its professionals have a formal engineering degree. Instead of a demographic dividend we could well be looking at a demographic drag.

 

Statistics

 

To state the obvious: when there are a large number of jobless, or underemployed, youth, crime rates tend to go up. In other words, if there are more young than old it does not naturally lead to development. As Jose de Carvalho has famously argued, a young population can become a demographic dividend only when social policies shine a light on it.

 

Without such measures, a crowded young set is just a tawdry street away from a life of vagrancy and worse.

 

One, therefore, tends to worry about the recent Census data on employment. The numbers show that there has been a slow fall in the percentage of main workers ( those employed for more than six months) and a steady rise in the case of marginal workers ( those who are clearly under- employed and or have work for less than six months). This is not good news.

 

To make matters worse, employment in the organised sector resembles a still life painting. Its numbers have more or less refused to budge from the minuscule 28 million or so it achieved two decades ago.

 

In addition, there has been a fall in the number of daily workers in registered factories.

 

This picture too has to change with fairly quick brush strokes for the young to look good.

 

The principal reason why a large percentage of Indians are below 60 is because Infant Mortality Rates ( IMR) have fallen on account of better drugs, primarily, antibiotics. Even though IMR in India is 55 per thousand, and much too high by civilised standards, it has dropped significantly over the last fifty years. On the other hand, a falling IMR has other consequences.

 

Window

 

Societies with low Infant Mortality Rates ( IMR) do not keep churning out babies. Over a period of time couples realise that they now have more children than they want, or need. This depresses fertility, resulting in fewer births. The time then to take advantage of an overwhelmingly young population is very short, just about a generation or so.

 

It is that fleeting period between falling IMR and a high fertility rate when the that rising numbers do not necessarily lead to lower per capita incomes. Even the United Nations, which is a notorious slow learner, has woken up to this reality.

 

It has now curbed grants for purely population control interventions.

 

The emphasis among demographers today is to look at the age structure and not just at numbers, especially when linking population with development. This draws our attention to the difference between demographic crowding on account of a birth boom, and a true demographic dividend. It is only in the latter case that a society can stick out its chest for its young are usefully contributing to it.

 

It is not just a falling Infant Mortality Rate that raises the proportion of those in the working age group. This figure can also go up if the elderly population does not live very long. The number of people over 80 years of age in India is about six million in a country of over a billion. In the United States more than 9 million people cross that age and it has only a quarter of our population.

 

Span

 

Sweden did not always have a low birth and death rate. Before 1800 life expectancy in Sweden was like it was in the rest of the world, somewhere between 20 and 30 years of age. From 1918 onwards the situation began to change in that country. Health care facilities are now so good in Sweden that today almost 5 per cent of its population is over 80 years old.

 

Japan has an old age profile similar to Sweden and it achieved this transition in less than 25 years on the back of strong social insurance and health policies. Even China, whose numbers are equal to ours, has more than 12 million people above 80.

 

Our old age care is clearly not up to much.

 

This factor cannot be overlooked when discussing the demographic dividend. If they don't watch out, the sins of the young will soon visit them when they get old.

 

Demographers, such as Ronald Lee, have found that the health of the elderly does not depend so much on family care.

 

If they are living longer it is because of savings resulting from pension wealth accumulation. But for most of India's aging population, there is no pension.

 

After all, 93 per cent of the population works in the unorganised sector where such benefits are unheard of. This forces many to work beyond what would be considered the proper age of retirement.

 

In rural India, for example, about 43 per cent of the population is made up of active cultivators. This is not very surprising till we break this figure up in terms of age. Now we find that about 65 per cent of these cultivators are actually over 60 years old. Instead of heading for the forests, as recommended in tradition, they shakily dig the earth every morning for a living.

 

Only social policies can convert a proportionately large working age population into a demographic dividend. This has been the universal experience. India too needs a very visible and determined effort for candles to light up in its coming of age party. No natural law or unseen hand can strike the match on its own.

 

comment@mailtoday. in

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MAIL TODAY

DECCAN BUZZ

ADVANTAGE JAGAN IN HISBATTLE AGAINST CM

A SRINIVASA RAO

 

THE cold war between the Congress leadership and Kadapa MP Y.S.

 

Jaganmohan Reddy appears to have reached a flash point. With the high command completely ignoring his massive show of strength during his recently concluded 22- day Odarpu Yatra (tour to console the people) in Srikakulam and East Godavari districts, the young MP declared that he was running out of patience.

 

"I do not know how long I can remain patient, after watching the injustice being meted out to my supporters," Jagan said at a huge public meeting at Kakinada on July 30, that marked the culmination of his yatra.

 

Obviously, he is impatient with the high command which has refused to acknowledge the kind of response he got from the public to his yatra and his claim for the chief minister's post. The entire campaign of his followers during his yatra revolved around not just consoling the families of those who died for his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy, but to highlight the "desire" among the people to see Jagan as YSR's successor as chief minister.

 

His "I-am-impatient" statement is being viewed as an ultimatum to the Congress high command. And the way he mobilised 28 MLAs to his public meeting was seen as a threat to split the party and bring down the Rosaiah government in the state, if he is not made CM. However, this has had little impact on the high command.

 

On the other hand, CM K Rosaiah has started hitting at Jagan's political and business support. On the political front, he got Jagan's right hand man Ambati Rambabu suspended from the party for making unsavoury comments against him. This was a warning to Jagan, whose yatra was in defiance of the high command.

 

Jagan openly expressed his anguish over the suspension.

 

On the business front, the government recently wrote to the Centre to keep in abeyance the lease granted for mining of iron ore at Bayyaram forests in Khammam district and order a re- survey. The beneficiary of the Bayyaram iron ore is Rakshana Steels, which is believed to have benami investments of Jagan's brother- in- law Anil Kumar. The lease agreement was signed during YSR's regime.

 

Another blow to Jagan's camp was the suspension of Sri Krishnadevaraya University Vice- Chancellor Dr Kusuma Kumari on charges of financial irregularities and favouritism in university appointments. Kusuma is the sister- in- law of former TTD chairman Bhumana Karunakara Reddy, a staunch Jagan loyalist who was actively involved in the Odarpu Yatra. She was cherrypicked by YSR only because of Karunakara Reddy.

 

In fact, Kusuma made a direct allegation against Rosaiah that she was targeted only because she was appointed by YSR and was loyal to Jagan. According to latest reports, the Rosaiah government is also planning to banthe export of iron ore from the state, as was done by Karnataka.

 

This would hit the Bellary mining tycoons the Reddy brothers, indirectly affecting the business empire of Jagan.

 

Apparently, the Congress government does not want Jagan to take control over the state politics using the allegedly ill- gotten mining money. Under these circumstances, it remains to be seen how long Jagan would remain patient.

 

FESTIVAL UNITES ANDHRA FOR NOW

THE TRADITIONAL festival of Telangana, Bonalu, which is celebrated for two days over the entire month of Ashadham ( falling in July and August) has now crossed the regional barrier.

 

For the first time, Bonalu is being celebrated at the Goddess Kanakadurga temple at Vijayawada in the coastal Andhra region this year in the same manner as it is celebrated in Telangana.

 

The reason for this sudden cultural exchange is not beyond one's comprehension.

 

The recent Telangana agitation has virtually divided the people of the state into two— for and against the bifurcation. While the Telangana protagonists are trying to prove a point saying that Telangana has a different cultural heritage, as is reflected in festivals like Bonalu and Bathukamma, the United Andhra leaders have decided to prove that Telugu culture is one and united. Hence, they want to celebrate Telangana folk festivals in Andhra in a big way.

 

Bonalu is celebrated to welcome the onset of monsoon and pray to Goddess Kali to keep away all evils and epidemics during the season.

 

The people offer traditional bonam ( a corrupt form of the word Bhojanam, which comprises rice mixed with green vegetables, jaggery and curd) to the goddess. Big processions are taken out with drum beating and whip lashing by Potharaju ( a person leading the procession). On the second day, there is Rangam where an oracle predicts what beholds the state for the next one year.

 

CITY GETS PAINTED IN PROTEA COLOURS

INDIA and South Africa share a lot of cultural characteristics and it was reflected at a unique exhibition held in the historic Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad last week. The exhibition was organised by the Centre for Exposition of World Arts and Culture ( CEWAC), in collaboration with the South African Association for the Visual Arts ( SANAVA) to mark the 150th year of the first Indians arriving on South African shores. And the theme of the exhibition was aptly designed: The Land — Diversity and Unity.

It was a rare occasion in which several Indian and South African artists assembled at the palace, exchanging ideas and mutually admiring the each other's work. The paintings showcased were a series of personal interpretations by the South African artists that reflected their country's terrain, including geographical, industrial and urban sites and the identities of the people who inhabit them. Chief guest HM Mjaeke, the high commissioner of South Africa, recalled the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi to their freedom struggle by mobilising the first political party in South Africa.

 

A collection of South African Indian biographies, titled Shared History, Struggles Remembered , by Vidya Bhandarker, was released on the occasion. A video message from Ela Gandhi, a granddaughter of the Mahatma , was screened. Two South African artists, Makiwa Mutombe and Amita Makan, and some local artists were awarded prizes for their works.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

LEADERLESS STATE

 

As violence in the Kashmir valley continues to escalate with eight more deaths on Monday taking the toll in the current spate of violence to 37 it is fast becoming clear that Srinagar is in the grip of a serious leadership crisis. The state government has been shown up by administrative as well as communication failures, worsening the law and order situation manifold. Chief minister Omar Abdullah, far from delivering on the promises of hope and a fresh approach, has displayed an unfortunate lack of leadership skills. His inability to effectively strike a chord not just with the people of his state but also members of his own ruling coalition has meant a damaging loss of credibility. 


It was expected of Abdullah to personally intervene by way of showing solidarity with those affected by the violence and adopting a hands-on approach to restoring normalcy. This would have restored the people's faith in the state government. But failure to do so has resulted in a massive trust deficit. J&K police, for example, are pathetically under-equipped and under-trained, despite promises made long ago of implementing non-lethal crowd-control measures. At present they appear to have practically ceased to function. Substituting them with CRPF personnel is not a good solution as the latter, trained in counter-insurgency and lacking local knowledge, cannot be expected to control crowds or maintain law and order. 


The current cycle of protests-deaths-protests needs to be broken at all costs, while the state government must simultaneously step up communication with people in the Valley. Abdullah has spoken of a 'political package' to calm the situation, but this is nebulous as long as the contents of such a package aren't fleshed out and agreed upon by stakeholders in the Valley. For that dialogue is necessary and the Centre must come forward, but it is incumbent upon opposition and separatist groups to participate as well. 


The People's Democratic Party may have cynically calculated that letting the state burn will burnish their opposition credentials and help them in the next election cycle, while moderate Hurriyat leaders may fear elimination by militants. Conducting dialogue in the media spotlight is conducive to posturing, which won't lead to any lasting solution. Therefore, quiet diplomacy, as suggested by home minister P Chidambaram, is the best way forward. To create the conditions for that, however, the present drift must be arrested. The anarchic situation in the Valley, which is causing suffering all round, must speedily be brought to an end. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

THE WRONG APPROACH

 

There have been rumblings about job reservations in the private sector for disadvantaged sections of society such as scheduled castes and scheduled tribes before, but mercifully they have never been realised. Now, the government seems inclined to try again with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion mooting mandatory 5 per cent SC/ST reservation in private sector companies. But in doing so, it has caught the wrong end of the stick. Caste reservations are a remarkably blunt instrument for securing social justice, and it's a failure of imagination to think of them as the only possible means of affirmative action. Reservations have not been self-limiting as they ought to have been if they were truly successful; instead, there has been consistent political pressure to push them into new domains. 


Certainly, socio-economically disadvantaged sections of society must be made stakeholders in what has, to a significant extent, been the engine of India's economic growth. But that can't be done through purely mechanical means, setting aside the principle of merit which makes private sector companies competitive. Affirmative action in a broader sense implies creating an enabling environment by imparting vocational training, leveraging Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives to fund educational programmes and encouraging hiring policies that don't discriminate against certain groups, all other things being equal. In any case a survey carried out by the CII in southern states showed SC/STs to be well-represented in the private sector, making up 16.2 per cent of the workforce. Caste reservations have gone far enough in the Indian polity, it's now time to think of other forms of affirmative action as well as of implementing policies that lift all boats, such as better infrastructure and universal education. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

INVESTING IN WOMEN

SAROJ PACHAURI

 

As a community health physician in India, i am regularly confronted by the challenges that women face when they try to bring a child into this world. Trained healthcare professionals, medicines and transportation to the nearest clinic are often in short supply, increasing the risk for complications or life-threatening situations. 

While there has been progress in recent years to improve the health of girls and women in India, too many still die of causes that are almost entirely preventable. Every year, 68,000 women in India die from pregnancy-related issues, more than any other country. An additional 74,118 women die from cervical cancer, the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in India. 


We have the knowledge, resources and tools necessary to keep women and girls healthy. With a few key investments, we can avoid a significant number of these deaths. For example, cervical cancer is both preventable and treatable if women can get screened in time. 


For maternal health, we have seen that simple solutions such as access to family planning services can save both money and lives. There is now clear evidence that investments in family planning yield a positive return every Rs 100 spent on family planning saves Rs 140 in medical costs due to the prevention of unintended pregnancies and, ultimately, maternal deaths. 


These investments are also necessary to ensure that India meets the United Nations Millennium Development Goal Five (MDG 5) to improve maternal health and achieve universal access to reproductive health. As India bears a disproportionate share of worldwide maternal deaths, the achievement of MDG 5 by 2015 in India is critical to meeting global targets. 


To meet these ambitious goals, health delivery systems must be strengthened so that facilities provide women with the quality services they need to stay healthy during and after pregnancy. In recent years, the government's Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) programme has successfully raised the number of births that are attended by trained healthcare professionals for poor women in largely rural settings. The government's flagship National Rural Health Mission has contributed to improved health services in rural India by setting up village-level voluntary health and sanitation committees and employing Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), who are tasked with, among other things, accompanying pregnant women to ensure they receive the services they need. These progressive and encouraging initiatives now need to be strengthened and replicated across India. 

In addition to basic healthcare services, new life-saving technologies need to be available to all Indian women. For cervical cancer, HPV testing identifies high-risk types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical cancer. The test allows women to learn their risk of developing cancer earlier so they can receive appropriate treatment before problems arise. The promise of HPV testing to prevent cervical cancer has already been demonstrated here in India. Scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer conducted a study of 130,000 women in Maharashtra and found that a single round of HPV testing significantly reduced the numbers of advanced cervical cancers and deaths when compared to other screening methods. 

A version of the HPV test has been developed for low-resource settings and does not require highly trained personnel, running water or electricity. Soon even women in rural India, who may have never had access to any other screening methods in their life, could have access to state-of-the-art HPV screening. 

Additionally, the drugs controller general of India has approved new HPV vaccines. Providing women with access to these vaccines would ensure protection for the next generation of women as well. 


However, new technologies alone are not enough. We need to integrate these tools into our existing reproductive health services, train healthcare workers, and ensure that implementation of screening and vaccination is affordable and accessible to all women. 


At the recent Women Deliver conference with more than 3,500 participants coming together in Washington DC women's health, cancer and business organisations issued the Declaration for Universal Access to Cervical Cancer Prevention, which called for increased political and financial resources from countries worldwide to fight cervical cancer. All sectors in India must work together to make sure that India answers this call as urgently as it has been given. 


We can only achieve progress by working in partnership. Civil society must continue to deliver critical maternal health services, advocate for political support for women's health initiatives and share best practices with other organisations and sectors. International donors and national governments, even in economically troubling times, must recognise that investments in women will return large dividends. Finally, the private sector must also help to deliver critical services and partner to make their life-saving technologies available to all women. 

As i have seen in communities throughout India, improvements in healthcare can be slow and uneven. But some successful programmes and new technologies show us that there is hope and promise for improvement, if we commit ourselves to making change and spreading progress. Our daughters and mothers deserve nothing less. 

( The writer is regional director for South and East Asia at the Population Council .) 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'IT'S THE MANIFESTATION OF ANGER AMONG KASHMIR'S TRAUMA GENERATION'

 

Mushtaq A Margoob is an internationally recognised expert on disaster psychiatry. A faculty member in the department of psychiatry, Government Medical College, Srinagar, and honorary director, Advanced Institute for Management of Stress-related Disorders, Margoob spoke toHumra Quraishi : 


A decade ago, you said 90 per cent of the Kashmir valley's population suffered from emotional distress due to the persistent violence in the region. What is the condition today? 

The amount of emotional distress, caused by the perpetual state of uncertainty, insecurity and moment-to-moment living, is hard to imagine. More than 58 per cent of the adult population has experienced or witnessed traumatic life events. The disabling disorder PTSD is currently prevalent in more than 7 per cent of the population. More than 19 per cent of people suffer from depression. Women and children are the worst affected. Take the children between 5 and 12 years living in orphanages. More than 40 per cent suffer from PTSD, 25 per cent from depression and more than 12 per cent from conversion disorder. Kashmir is today among the world's worst medicinal opium preparation abuse places. 


What could be the impact of the death of young boys and teenagers? 

Harm deliberately caused by others can lead to shifts in societal conventions and processes, including an increased sense of rage and entitlement to revenge when mourning loss or reversal of feelings of helplessness and humiliation. Under such circumstances even a fully-grown up adult's brain automatically shifts operations from highly evolved reality-based action processes to instinctual/emotion-based reactions. Since the young brain is yet to fully develop psychological mechanisms, children/adolescents are much more vulnerable to emotional actions and reactions. When they assume that they are getting pushed against the wall they get dominated by their emotions and stop caring for the consequences. Youngsters identify with the group rather than with their individual identities and can accordingly get heavily involved in activities that essentially had been nonexistent in the society earlier. 


Young Kashmiris reflect the above-referred psychological processes in more ways than one. The recent developments of defying law and order could also be a manifestation of the ever-increasing indescribable levels of frustration and anger among this 'trauma generation', who have hardly seen a minute of complete peace or tranquillity in their lives. 


Could there be some relief or emotional cushions for the affected? 

The specific issues pertaining to children and adolescents need to be understood with the appropriate psychological perspective. They can't be treated as miniature adults. Of the many people exposed to stress, although only a minority ultimately develops full-blown psychiatric disorders, a significant proportion suffers from a dissatisfied life on account of unrecognised emotional issues and different psychosocial problems/adjustment difficulties. Post-disaster survivors are charged with a mix of disbelief, anger, grief and frustration, which they need to ventilate. Supportive listening without excessive probing into the event is extremely helpful to relieve survivors of their emotions. Appropriate psychological support can remarkably enhance the capacity of the affected to regain the power to resolve problems. This can be achieved by helping survivors to get back their psychosocial skills, which can be of immense help to prevent future emotional complications and associated disability. Spirituality is also a strong tool to reinforce resilience among the survivors and cope with various difficulties through the course of trauma. 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

SECOND OPINION

GAMES THEORY

JUG SURAIYA

 

A hue and cry has been raised that our national honour will suffer irreparable damage as a result of corrupt and inefficient officials who've been getting kickbacks and cutting corners at the expense of the country's reputation as it prepares to host the Commonwealth Games. With less than two months to go before zero hour, horror stories abound, raising fears that the CWG tiger mascot, Shera, may well have joined his real-life jungle counterparts as an endangered species. 


Not one of the 16 Games projects inspected by the Central Vigilance Commission to date has passed quality control tests. Stadiums have roofs that leak or, worse, come crashing down. Already, in a swimming rehearsal, an athlete was injured because of defective equipment. It has been revealed that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had, in a report submitted to the government a year ago, warned that bureaucratic bottlenecks would inevitably lead to inordinate delays and that there was little or no hope of the time-bound targets being met. Instead of tabling this report in Parliament, as is customary, the government decided to keep this information to itself. 


The result of all this bungling and wheeling-dealing? The cost of the Games, according to sports minister M S Gill, has gone up 17.5 times: from Rs 655 crore in 2003 when Delhi bid for the Games to Rs 11,494 crore at present, and still counting. With panic buttons being hit as the deadline looms dangerously near, whatever little financial prudence there has been is likely to be thrown to the winds and costs are bound to further escalate as money is poured into desperate last-minute efforts to complete hopelessly delayed projects. 


So are the Games going to be a totally ruinous exercise for India? Should those responsible, starting with the Organising Committee, be denounced as traitors and made to face the consequences of their many sins of omission and commission? Of course not. In India, as always, every dark cloud has a silver lining, which generally has to do with someone's pocket. Whether it's the Games or any other sarkari project from the newly-opened and dysfunctional-from-day-one T3 addition to Delhi's airport to the NH8 Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway enormous escalation in costs is the order of the day. 


Conventional wisdom might view such throwing away of money as a shameless waste of scarce national resources. However, according to what might come to be called Games theory, such unrestrained sarkari expenditure could well be the secret of India's growth story. Think of it this way: which private sector component of India Inc can boast of a 17.5-fold growth in value in seven years as the Games can? Very few, if any. Yet look at almost any project sponsored by the present government or indeed any of its predecessors and you're likely to discover that its value, in terms of money spent on it, far exceeded all projections. 

If India is to achieve double-digit economic growth as the prime minister and the finance minister keep reassuring us that it will it will be in no small part thanks to such value additions made by the sarkar in open-handed pursuit of its own projects. Or, at least, so says Games theory, which believes in the dictum that what goes around, comes around. In other words, the more money you spend, the more money is circulated through the system, boosting the economy. And not just the domestic economy, but the recession-strapped global economy as well. Because a lot of the Games-related loot will fund the purchase of luxury penthouses in London, or villas in the south of France. 


Far from being punished, the organisers of the Games should be given the next Nobel prize for economics. Indeed, Games theory is going from strength to strength. India is reportedly planning to bid for the 2019 Asian Games. China is said to have overtaken Japan as the world's No. 2 economy. Thanks to its Gamesmanship, the Indian elephant might well leapfrog over the Chinese dragon. 


Games, set and match. 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

MAIN COURSE AS STARTERS

 

As Parliament debates the costs of last year's drought that are visiting us now, there is no escaping India's need for deep and wide farm sector reforms. Historically, food inflation has ratcheted up by 4 percentage points in every year after the monsoon fails the sub-continent. The latest data would indicate, though, that the fever has broken in food prices, wholesale inflation on this account is back in the single digits for the first time in months. The wild card — this year's monsoon — is not truant and should buttress the nascent trend. The softening is set to persist as the malignant inflation of a year ago will provide a high base and if prices stay at current levels food inflation should decline by over a percentage point each in subsequent weeks.

 

The continuing story in the inexorable rise of food prices is the Indian population is growing faster than farm output. At an estimated 1.5 per cent, the annual rate of increase in population is ahead of the 1 per cent growth in grain production in 2008-09. Food prices also get pushed upward by the invisible hand of the markets and the very visible hand of the government. Depending on how you choose to measure it, food makes up from 25 per cent to 65 per cent of the weight in the several price indices the government puts out. The pressure of food on the price line unfortunately has not received the policy attention it deserves. India has a long way to go before it can get food into every mouth that needs it. First, we need a fix on how many people face hunger. Varying estimates of poverty muddy the picture as do the perverse fiscal incentive of claiming inflated incidence. If our policymakers zero in on one number they still have to figure out how to get the food to them before it rots in granaries or is stolen. The world's second largest producer of fruits and vegetables loses a quarter of its produce between the farm and the table. Likewise, nearly 7 per cent of Indian grain rots. Furthermore, it costs nearly R 7 to transfer one rupee worth of benefits to the poor through the public distribution system and just over half the total food subsidy reaches the consumer.

 

Then there is the larger question of whether subsidised food is the most convenient option to keep hunger at bay. Much the same result can be achieved by widening the circle of prosperity but the process is slower. Enhanced farm productivity is vital for keeping food prices in check, on the one hand, and raising rural incomes, on the other. Also, mitigation, not management, is what should shape India's approach drought. That would involve agriculture technology upgrades, a shift towards drought-resistant seeds, and rehabilitation of water delivery systems.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

THE POWER OF FEAR

 

Andrew S. Grove may not admit it, but we are fairly certain what inspired him to write his iconic book Only The Paranoid Survive. He must have surreptitiously studied the habits of our very own netas, the sly dog, and kept it to himself because he didn't want to give credit where credit is due. The fact that J. Jayalalithaa, AIADMK supremo is among us is only because she discerned early in her career a threat from varied quarters like the LTTE, rival DMK, her mentor MGR's wife and, of course, that old bogeyman, the CBI. Had she not declared that any or all of the following may do her in, would she be reading War and Peace in peace today?

 

Or Grove may have seen how the Trinamool Congress' Mamata Banerjee has the antenna of a cold war spy when it comes to threat perception. No sooner does a train accident take place, she is the first to tell us that this is part of a larger international communist plot to do away with her. The commies have gone to the extent of introducing roaches into railway food hoping she might drop in for a bite some day. Behenji routinely detects threats to her bejeweled personage and the source is dealt with firmly with a whack in the snout from her doughty handbag. Her rival Mulayam Singh Yadav sees all sorts of threats, some in the shape of an incoming Amar-shaped missile. And it is our duty to allay these fears so that they may continue to enrich us with their ever more innovative survival tactics.

 

We only wish we had access to their resources, sorry, our resources, to devise ways to keep danger at bay. In case you don't hear from us for a few days, don't worry. We're getting a feeling that we're being watched. When this dis

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

VIOLENCE NOT CAST IN STONE

SANJAY TICKOO

 

Kashmiris feel deserted by their representatives, who disappear during disturbances, leaving them to the mercy of god or in the hands of those who have vested interests in prolonging conflicts. Recently, we also heard of certain leaders, pretending to be the representatives of the Union government, issuing proactive statements, which have contributed to the crises. The imposition of curfews to tackle crises has failed, and youngsters brought up in these years of turmoil have become hostile to the system.

 

The administration needs to deal with the youth humanely. The local police must be used to control mob situations and the deployment of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel should be the last option. Members of Legislative Assembly, along with senior citizens, should be involved to pacify people. Local women can also play a vital role, but they must be accorded respect by the administration.

 

We have seen all parties blaming each other. On most occasions, misunderstandings are created by certain officials, the police and intelligence operatives for their own ends. The state government should deal firmly with such behaviour. Politicians haven't been completely honest in their utterances on the relations between Kashmir and the Centre. They either affirm or backtrack on accords, depending on political convenience. Recently, the National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP) raised the Kashmir Resolution again, only to further confuse people. Our parties carry three flags in their pockets: one of India, one of Pakistan and one of Kashmir. Calls for autonomy, self-rule and human rights are interchangeable.

 

There are no officially recognised student elections in Kashmir and it is hard to blame students for the present conflict. They only reflect the despair, caused by the failure of a consensual discourse among their elders. The hopelessness and frequent human rights disasters cause some students to raise extremist slogans. Till date, schoolchildren are being deprived of their childhood. Both rulers and militants are responsible for this tragic predicament in Kashmir. Also, Pakistan has added fuel to the fire through its representatives.

 

The Union government has placed agents in every administrative structure. These people have muddied the waters. Our parties maintain lobbies at the Centre that work for narrow political gains. I propose the installation of a coalition government, tasked with producing a resolution on Kashmiri aspirations. A joint parliamentary team should visit the Valley and address everyone from separatists to students to minorities. The government, with the Centre's backing, should encourage the formation of a 'crisis management team', which should work towards reconciliation without letting local officials interfere in the process.

 

The state government claims that the number of active militants has declined. I suggest that the Armed Forces (Special Protection) Act (AFSPA) should be replaced with a milder law. This will enable people to go about their daily lives and give them a ray of hope. It will indicate that the system is serious about settling outstanding political issues.

 

The Valley's minorities can play a vital role in the dialogue process. As a non-migrant Kashmiri Pandit, who has lived in downtown Srinagar throughout the troubled times but is dejected by our malfunctioning government, I have two points to make: first, the minorities are safe and enjoy cordial relations with Kashmiri Muslims. The Amarnath Yatra is taking place smoothly and the rest of India need not worry about the yatris. Second is a request to the media to be fair-minded and compassionate while reporting on Kashmir. The Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti interacts with different shades of opinion. We try to keep alive a conversation for the re-emergence of a plural society. We want sanity to prevail in all of Kashmir.

 

Sanjay Tickoo is President of the Srinagar-based Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE EYELASH HAS IT

 

Last week President Barack Obama appeared on The View, a daytime talk show. Finding myself in the right

 

place at the right time — in the US, at my Dad's house, jet-lagged and sprawled in front of a television — I was happy to monitor this quasi-historical event while wearing an expression that betrayed no hint of emotion. As an American I refuse to allow anything about America to shock or surprise me, even though I haven't lived there for 20 years and I haven't visited in two. When, for example, my son starts reading me bits from an article in The Economist about the ridiculously harsh prison sentences routinely handed down in the US, I feel a need to affect a certain world-weary nonchalance. "This guy did 17 months in jail for selling orchids without the right paperwork," he says, aghast. "Yes," I say. "Some get more." It's a terrible pose, but it's important to me, a small shard of self I am keen to retain.

 

Settling down in front of the TV, my face betrays no hint of alarm when I discover that Whoopi Goldberg is one of the hosts of The View, a programme I have never seen. Before Barack Obama makes his appearance, there is an ad break. I don't wince during the Playtex commercial, when a woman looks down at her bra and says, "If the girls are happy, I'm happy." I bite my tongue during the whole of the next ad for Kraft cheese. "Only one nation could create it," says the voiceover, "and that is America." To the outsider, there may be some comic mileage in unironic patriotic pride being expressed over the invention of processed cheese-food formed into yellow sheets and stacked like Post-it notes, but not to me. I'm unmoved.

 

At the start of the next ad my brow furrows imperceptibly. It's for something called Latisse, a product that appears to enhance the fullness of one's eyelashes. It is a prescription medication that, when applied on the base of your eyelids, will make your eyelashes grow longer. In a breathless voice, a female announcer then goes on to run through some potential side effects for users of Latisse. Among them is "the potential for increased brown-eye pigmentation which is likely to be permanent".

 

"Since when do normal people risk irritation, possible infection and changing the colour of their eyeballs for ever, just so they might possibly end up with slightly longer lashes?" I find that I am standing up. "Who goes to a doctor and presents with short eyelashes? Who asks for a prescription for eyelash medicine?"

 

"If you got it without a prescription, you'd go to jail for 50 years," says my son. "Like this guy who . . ."

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

LET'S GO BY THE BOOK

THE HRD MINISTRY, WITH THE PRIVATE SECTOR, PLANS TO PROPOSE NEW EDUCATION MODELS. INSTEAD, IT SHOULD RELY ON TRIED AND TESTED BLUEPRINTS, WRITES SHAILAJA FENNELL

 

WHILE THE INTENTION OF THE GOVERNMENT'S EDUCA- TION POLICY IS TO PROVIDE EDUCATION THAT IS OF AN ACCEPTABLE QUALITY FOR ALL CHILDREN, THIS DOES- N'T REQUIRE A COMPLETE DISMANTLING OF THE STATE SYSTEM OF EDUCATION

 

There are 220 million children in India who receive very poor quality education and 21 million who are out of school. Children in both contexts are are out of school. Children in both contexts are unable to exercise their right to education despite the adoption of the Right to Education Act on April 1, 2010, a situation that has the potential of turning a historic opportunity into a poor Fool's Day joke.

 

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has been pushing forward the public-private partnership (PPP) model of education as a way to reduce the deficit in the provision of education and to improve the delivery of educational services in the country. At a recent conference on `Building Infrastructure: Opportunities and Challenges', the education minister focused on three models set out in the original document of the MHRD in September 2009 -from (a) the simple task of school infrastructure being built by the private sector, (b) the upkeep and maintenance of the building and non-educational the services like canteens, to (c)

full provision of educational services, including teaching and examination, the private sector.
byThe primary intention of bringing in the private sector is clearly driven by financial considerations. No Indian government to date has been able to allocate the 6 per cent of the GDP to the education sector that was recommended by the Kothari Commission as far back as 1964.


Today, there is an urgent need to find resources to ensure improvements in the education sector. But whether this can be ensured by inviting the private sector to increase its activities in this sector is far from clear.

 

The report of the public consultation on the PPP note of the MHRD, submitted in November 2009, questioned the assumptions of the note that the government school system had completely failed and that the private sector would improve the provision of education by incurring lower costs, ensuring better results and allowing for greater accountability.


While the need for additional finances finds agreement from all quarters, there is less conviction among both educationists and civil society organisations that there has been a serious consideration of which model(s) would be most suitable for adoption by state governments.

 

Rather than a simple listing of models -currently there are over 30 variants within the broader literature on PPPs in infrastructure -what would be timely and helpful is for the MHRD to set out how the investment of the private sector in schools would operate in relation to the current flow of government educational funds from the level of district, to blockand cluster-level institutions. The implications for ownership of schools in the note on PPP aren't clear -and this when we already have the categories of government, government-aided private and unaided private schools in usage. Under the new models being proposed by the MHRD, would it be the case that if a private organisation takes over the entire educational operation of a school, it'd change its status from a government school to a private school (through an opting out of the state system for new academies, as is being suggested by David Cameron's government)? Also, if private finance was only for the upkeep of the building, would it create a new category of private-aided government schools?

No private sector organisation would seriously contemplate an investment in hard infrastructure (whether railways or roads) without ascertaining its financial liabilities and returns. There is little reason to imagine that these criteria will not be as, if not more, important with regard to entering into the new sector of soft infrastructure (education and health).


As the MHRD note currently stands, there has been no setting out of entry criteria required by entrants from the private sector beyond their financial ability to invest. A consequence of this lacuna is a moral hazard waiting to happen -there will be no way to ascertain the quality of provision till after the completion of education by a particular cohort of pupils. In the case of Charter Schools in the US (where the school management is undertaken by parent bodies), it's been found that the public examination results at these schools is not better than that at state schools, even though parents are notably happier with them as they can exercise more control in the management.

 

While the intention of the government's education policy is to provide education that is of an acceptable quality for all children, this doesn't require a complete dismantling of the state system of education. There are many aspects of the system that are functioning well -there are government schools like the Kendriya Vidyalayas and the Navodaya schools that are able to ensure good examination results and are upheld by the MHRD to be model schools. Second, many states have nationally-recognised educational interventions -in Karnataka there is the Nali Kali method of learning and also the phenomenon of private sector partnering through the School Nurture Programme -that could be the basis for devising further engagement with the private sector within a state.


As provision of education is a state subject, such intra-state models that have emerged as a response to local educational challenges will strengthen local educational institutions.

 

One way forward to improve district level educational institutions is through partnerships with civil society organisations, as has been shown by the programmes of organisations like the Pratichi Trust in Bengal and the M.V. Reddy Foundation in Andhra Pradesh. The MHRD will do well to map such organisational arrangements that have a track record of improving educational quality as possible models rather than provide a list of models that have not been tried in India, and which do not have an entirely unblotted copy book elsewhere in the world.

Shailaja Fennell is Lecturer in Development Studies and Fellow of Jesus College, University of Cambridge The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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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

THE NEXT INNINGS

 

Anil Kumble has made an offer to the BCCI that, by all accounts, is proving irresistible. He could oversee a personality development programme for contracted players, to mentor them in tackling different aspects of off-field conduct: managing finances, interacting in the dressing room and with the media, handling "instant success", dealing with the anti-doping regime, etc. The proposal highlights an absence in cricket, in fact sport, in this country: an establishment that guides sportspersons by setting a standard of conduct, and also by showing enough good faith for the sport so that any advice given is taken seriously.

 

In Australian cricket, for instance, this culture of carefully considered conduct is fed by little rituals. When a cricketer debuts for the country, obtaining the cap is occasion for ceremony. The legends of the game dwell long on the repair the original "baggy green" has needed, because for them it is a matter of pride to not replace it. These are not rules, and even as conventions they were carefully choreographed by captains like Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh. To take just one example, while Waugh enhanced his authority on the field and off with these nods to the cap, he in turn enhanced its aura by his graceful exit from the game when his time was deemed to be up. This is not to say that Australian cricketers are incapable of the boorish gesture. But that the process of having cricketers internalise a standard for conduct needs constant nourishment with overt gestures that privilege a certain ethic.

 

If the process can actually be outsourced to an individual, perhaps no other candidate could match Kumble's credentials. He can walk his wards through the curriculum just by his own example. Otherwise a man of spare gestures, he would emphasise the privilege it was to play for the team in his own ways: by bowling with a broken jaw to grab the biggest West Indian wicket, by taking all 10 wickets in an innings, by heeding his instinct on when to retire. He may after all inculcate the graceful gesture in cricket's new generation, in their off-field dealings. And if he does, he'd give them something to take to the field too.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WRONG FOCUS

 

That India's private sector is overwhelmingly dominated by upper castes is beyond dispute. Study after study has made this clear: in most surveys of urban professionals in information technology, the number of employees from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is too small to be expressed as a proportion, and some large surveys haven't thrown up a single person from an SC/ ST background in the sample. Upper castes are massively over-represented, and the remainder are mostly OBCs. (Muslims, as is now well known, are under-represented too.) Some of this is, of course, due to inequality of opportunity: the greater social and physical capital that higher-caste people possess on average transfers itself into better educational outcomes, which affect their employability. But that isn't all. One large-scale study of job applications in the private sector, by Sukhadeo Thorat and Paul Attewell, showed that "appropriately qualified applicants with a Dalit name had odds of a positive outcome that were two-thirds of the odds of an equivalently qualified applicant with a high caste Hindu name." Discrimination exists, and it can't be wished away.

 

But the state's response to the fact of this inequality and this discrimination must be carefully measured. Several ministries in UPA-II have this summer determined that not enough is being done; and it appears that a job quota for SCs and STs in some sectors — that benefit from government incentives — is once again being seriously discussed; on Tuesday this newspaper reported that the commerce ministry has asked for views from major industry bodies. But is this the way forward? Legislating proportional representation as an end to discrimination is usually problematic, and can be self-defeating. And then again, anecdotal evidence suggests that even those companies that wish to have a more diverse workforce often do not have a diverse enough pool of qualified candidates to choose from. And any quotas will come into force in the organised sector alone, which is too small a fraction of the private sector to make enough of a difference.

 

Effective solutions will only emerge from a larger consideration of the complex of societal pushes and pulls, of merit and opportunity and prejudice, that lie at the source of this lopsided result. When true equality of opportunity arises in a free market, discrimination doesn't pay; anyone who hires the people you turn down for reasons other than merit will wind up doing better than you. What policies, what intervention, will increase opportunity for all? Those that ensure that the targets of discrimination, whether people with SC, ST, or Muslim names — or women — have better access to quality education, to the wealth that funds job searches, to the credit that allows entrepreneurship.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

SOUTH CHINA SEA

C. RAJA MOHAN 

 

 China's declaration last week claiming "indisputable sovereignty" over the South China Sea has set the stage for a tense power play in the waters that connect the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

 

After nearly three decades of lying low in order to improve its position in the western Pacific, Beijing has put its ties with the region at risk with a strong assertion of its territorial claims and flexing its newly powerful naval muscle.

 

As China's anxious neighbours, especially in southeast Asia, turn to the United States for protection, the Obama administration has waded into the dispute by calling for an "international framework" to resolve the disputes.

 

Unsurprisingly, China says it is opposed to internationalisation of the contesting territorial claims in the South China and that it is prepared to negotiate bilaterally with all other states that have competing claims over South China Sea. The weak southeast Asian states, of course, have no reason to sit down alone and separately with China at the negotiating table.

 

After a year-and-a-half of attempting to accommodate a rising China, the Obama administration has finally decided to reclaim its role as the principal arbiter of regional security in the western Pacific. India, which has a big stake in protecting the sea lanes of communication all along the Asian littoral must prepare itself for a new dynamism in the region as it will be drawn willy-nilly into the new debate on the geopolitical future of the South China Sea.

 

Vietnam's oil

 

India's plans to acquire the troubled oil major British Petroleum's off-shore assets in the South China Sea, apparently discussed during the recent visit of Petroleum Minister Murli Deora's visit last month to Hanoi, are certain to put India in the crossfire between China and Vietnam. Last year, under Chinese pressure, BP announced that it will cease exploration in Vietnam's Nam Con Son basin. If Hanoi does support the Indian bid, it might be based on the expectation that Delhi will not back off when confronted by Beijing.

 

Meanwhile the Indian Army Chief V.K. Singh's visit to Hanoi, for the first time in 15 years, coincided with the gathering tension between Vietnam and China. For the moment, at least, it is not Delhi that worries Beijing, but Washington's new bonhomie with Hanoi.

 

In an editorial last week, Beijing's Global Times warned both Washington and Hanoi. "Pressure to maintain an influence and guard against a rising China, the West is eager to cosy up to Vietnam and other southeast Asian countries". "Meanwhile", the paper added, "the Western media likes to poison Sino-Vietnamese ties by painting China as 'an elephant' which can easily trample on the interest of Vietnam. Vietnam should also be careful about not becoming a chess piece for the US as it pursues a broader regional agenda."

 

Cantonese protests

 

Language protests? In China? But don't all Chinese people speak the same language? For most Indians, who learn to live in the Tower of Babel, reports from southern China of popular protests against the imposition of Mandarin certainly come as a surprise.

 

Unlike India where multiple tongues flourish and often feed into the linguistic divide, Communist China has consciously sought to promote national unity by replacing the diversity of hundreds of Chinese dialects with a standardised version of Mandarin. Clearly, it has not been easy to wipe out the Cantonese dialect spoken by nearly 70 million people in the booming provinces of southern China. The recent protests in Guangzhou (earlier known as Canton), the capital of Guangdong province, were triggered by reports that the government was planning to yank off all television programming in Cantonese.

 

There have been reports that companies were under pressure from the government to fine those who speak Cantonese at work. In the Guangdong province and the neighbouring Hong Kong, Cantonese is the vehicle for a vibrant popular culture. In a tribute to the strength of the Cantonese sentiment, the local government denied any plans to impose Mandarin on all TV programmes. The official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, People's Daily, stepped in to call for a balance between promoting Mandarin and respecting local cultures.

 

The daily quoted a director of the local TV station as saying, "Guangzhou TV always sticks to dual language broadcasting. We serve two audiences who speak either Mandarin or Cantonese and do not intend to abandon either of them." It is not a surprise that in southern China, the market tends to prevail over the overzealous nationalists.

 

raja.mohan@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

COMPLICATED ENCOUNTERS

AJIT KUMAR DOVAL 

 

 Beware of half truths — because you may be holding the wrong half. After having seen and read so much about the Sohrabuddin episode in the last five years, one might believe one knows it all. Sohrabuddin is now cast as an innocent victim of police excess.

 

However, it would be worthwhile to explore the real facts about Sohrabuddin, the nature of police encounters, and the real issues at stake. Sohrabuddin was an underworld gangster who was involved in nearly two dozen serious criminal offences in states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. He maintained transnational links with anti-India forces from the early '90s onwards, until his death in 2005. Working with mafia dons like Dawood Ibrahim and Abdul Latif, he procured weapons and explosives from Pakistan and supplied them to various terrorist and anti-national groups (had it not been for his activity, at least some terrorist acts could have been averted). Sohrabuddin was solidly entrenched in the criminal world for a decade-and-a-half. Around the time he was killed, the Rajasthan government had announced a reward on his head. In 1999, he had been detained under the National Security Act by the Madhya Pradesh government.

 

In a 1994 case investigated by the Ahmedabad crime branch, he was co-accused along with Dawood Ibrahim and convicted for five years, for waging war against the Government of India, planning an attack on the Jagannath rath yatra in Orissa, and other offences under the IPC, Arms Act, etc. During the investigation, 24 AK-56 rifles, 27 hand grenades, 5250 cartridges, 81 magazines and more were seized from his family home in Madhya Pradesh. In 2004, a fourth crime was registered against him by Chandgad police station of Kolhapur district in Maharashtra under sections 302, 120 (b), and 25 (1) (3) of the Arms Act, for the killing of Gopal Tukaram Badivadekar. As fear of him often silenced people from reporting his whereabouts, let alone deposing against him, the Rajasthan government had to announce a reward on his head after he killed Hamid Lata in broad daylight in the heart of Udaipur, on December 31, 2004. So much for Sohrabuddin's innocence.

 

However, irrespective of who Sohrabuddin was and what he did, the use of unaccountable force against him is indefensible is the public view of many (often at variance with their private view). There are many who feel that there is a higher rationale for such actions in compelling circumstances, as the law of the land has repeatedly found itself helpless in dealing with individuals bent on bleeding the country. Their argument, that the rule of law is a means to an end and not an end in itself, often finds support in the jurisprudential principles of salus populi est suprema lex (the people's welfare is the supreme law) and salus res publica est suprema lex (the safety of the nation is supreme law). Even the Supreme Court of India, in the case of D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal [1997 (1) SCC 416] accepted the validity of these two principles and characterised them as "not only important and relevant, but lying at the heart of the doctrine that welfare of an individual must yield to that of the community." The validity of the principles of salus populi est suprema lex and salus res publica est suprema lex could have been part of an enlightened national discourse, and what could be the governing instrumentalities, empowerments, legal checks and stringent processes if these principles were to be invoked. It is better to accept reality as it is and then strive to change it for the better, rather than what we wish it to be. Feigned ignorance is the worst type of hypocrisy.

 

But there is another vital question that needs to be addressed. While pursuing the Sohrabuddin case, was the government really serious about stopping the menace of fake encounters, or was it pursuing a different agenda? Encounters have been taking place all over the country under all regimes, at times degenerating into what are called fake encounters. Between 2000 and 2007 there have been 712 cases of police encounters in the country with UP topping the list at 324, and Gujarat figuring almost at the bottom with 17.

 

In some of the cases there was not much on record, even to establish the criminal past of those killed. Settling political scores through security and investigative agencies like the CBI is not only bad politics, but also destructive for the nation's security. To convey the impression (explicitly or implicitly) that Sohrabuddin was targeted for belonging to a particular community, thereby creating a sense of insecurity in a section of society, is detrimental to national interests. It is little known that a large number of Sohrabuddin's victims were Muslims while a good number of his closest associates (including Tulsiram Prajapati, who was also killed in a similar encounter), were Hindu. William Blake could not have been more right when he said that "a truth that is pursued with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent".

 

The other negative impact of the Sohrabuddin case is the impression it is creating that all encounters in which police and security forces are involved, are fake. Society needs to be reassured that the majority of encounters are genuine and mostly in response to murderous attacks on security personnel. The fact that, on average, over 1,200 policemen get killed every year grappling with terrorists, insurgents, underworld mafia and other anti-social elements, bears ample testimony to this fact. Playing up a few aberrations and blowing them out of proportion and presenting them as the only truth is not in the national interest.

 

The other downside of the publicity around such cases is that it erodes the people's trust in governance. Administrations begin to be seen as instruments of repression and self-aggrandisement and politicians as perceived as manipulating their power for political and personal gains. This erosion can lead to a dangerous delegitimisation of the polity. Democratic politics is an exercise in regime-legitimisation, and to lose the confidence of the governed would set the government on a self-destructive path.

 

The writer is former director of the Intelligence Bureau

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A TECTONIC SHIFT IN TELANGANA

V. ANIL KUMAR 

 

 The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has decisively won 11 out of the 12 seats in the recent by-elections in Telangana. The president of the Pradesh Congress Committee, D. Srinivas, was defeated by the BJP candidate in Nizamabad (Urban). TRS leader Harish Rao won his seat with a resounding majority, even surpassing the record of former chief minister Y.S.R. Reddy. Many non-TRS contestants have lost their deposits. In short, it has been made abundantly clear that the people of Telangana want Telangana state.

 

This seems like an obvious point, and it must be remembered that the TRS has won previous elections like this and also lost badly, subsequently. But these by-elections are significant both for Telangana and for the Indian polity. While earlier, the TRS has won elections and squandered its political goodwill in no time, this time the movement is qualitatively different.

 

For one, there is a Srikrishna Committee watching the developments; secondly, the movement has moved beyond electoral politics and become a social movement with its own inexorable logic. This time, people voted for Telangana and defeated the Congress, the Telugu Desam Party and others that also championed the same cause. And this is not because of "sentiment", as glibly assumed — the reasons lie elsewhere.

 

There is no dearth of writing on Telangana that depicts the movement as a product of "regional backwardness". This argument assumes that providing an economic fix will solve everything. However, parts of Telangana are highly developed. Almost all of Telangana is, for that matter, economically, socially and politically better developed than the northern coastal districts of Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam. Warangal district has a National Institute of Technology, a medical college and other higher education institutions of repute. Telangana has a rich heritage, and what's more,

 

Hyderabad is the heart of Telangana. Therefore, this "economic package" argument is at least partially wrong.

 

The real story is that of rural backwardness and relative inequality, when compared to the coastal and Rayalaseema districts. The latter benefited from colonial rule and accompanying advances in modernity, irrigation projects, etc. Inequality is always a relative term; and the genuine argument often heard is that Telangana has always been relatively ill-treated by post-Independence dispensations, even the people are fully aware that they deserve a better deal in economic and political terms.

 

Therefore, Telangana has taken on a clear social dimension. Telangana people do not want to be told that they, their language, their accent and culture are in any sense inferior to that of coastal Andhra Pradesh. At their peak in 2009, the Telangana protests were expressed in folksy, popular forms, while the coastal Andhra-dominated form of popular Telugu cinema, technically sophisticated as it is, was perceived as humiliating the Telangana language, culture and people. This was one of the causes of Telangana grievance, and now this protest is being expressed by ordinary, subaltern Telangana people. The movement has grown deep social roots, and now it is up to the TRS to live up to it.

 

The reassertion of Telangana in the by-election has a significant lesson for the Indian polity, and these are not just about small-state-versus-big-state debates. One, grassroots movements can emerge to force the political system to take note of their grievances and in the case of Telangana, despite the efforts of the joint action committee efforts, the movement and the voting patterns are largely spontaneous. The Telangana that is now emerging is a subaltern Telangana, of the lower castes and lay people. And they will not listen to platitudes any more. And they are now reclaiming the public sphere.

 

The writer is assistant professor at the Centre for Political Institutions, Governance and Development, at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

LESSONS IN LIVING

 

This is a column about two ways of thinking about your life. The first is what you might call the Well-Planned Life. It was nicely described by Clayton Christensen in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review, in an essay based on a recent commencement talk.

 

Christensen advised the students to invest a lot of time when they are young in finding a clear purpose.Once you have come up with an overall purpose, he continues, you have to make decisions about allocating your time, energy and talent. Christensen, who is a professor at the Harvard Business School, notes that people with a high need for achievement commonly misallocate their resources. If they have a spare half-hour, they devote it to things that will yield tangible and near-term accomplishments. These almost invariably involve something at work — closing a sale, finishing a paper.

 

"In contrast," he adds, "investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn't offer that same immediate sense of achievement. ... It's not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, 'I raised a good son or a good daughter.' " As a result, the things that are most important often get short shrift.

 

Christensen combines a Christian spirit with business methodology. In plotting out a personal and spiritual life, he applies the models and theories he developed as a strategist. He emphasises finding the right metrics, efficiently allocating resources and thinking about marginal costs. When he is done, life comes to appear as a well-designed project, carefully conceived in the beginning, reviewed and adjusted along the way and brought toward a well-rounded fruition.

 

The second way of thinking about your life might be called the Summoned Life. This mode of thinking starts from an entirely different perspective. Life isn't a project to be completed; it is an unknowable landscape to be explored. A 24-year-old can't sit down and define the purpose of life in the manner of a school exercise because she is not yet deep enough into the landscape to know herself or her purpose. That young person — or any person — can't see into the future to know what wars, loves, diseases and chances may loom. She may know concepts, like parenthood or old age, but she doesn't really understand their meanings until she is engaged in them. Business is about making choices that maximise utility. But the most important features of the human landscape are commitments that precede choice — commitments to family, nation, faith or some cause. These commitments defy the logic of cost and benefit, investment and return.

 

The person leading the Well-Planned Life emphasises individual agency, and asks, "What should I do?" The person leading the Summoned Life emphasises the context, and asks, "What are my circumstances asking me to do?" These are questions answered primarily by sensitive observation and situational awareness, not calculation and long-range planning.

 

In America, we have been taught to admire the lone free agent who creates new worlds. But for the person leading the Summoned Life, the individual is small and the context is large. Life comes to a point not when the individual project is complete but when the self dissolves into a larger purpose and cause.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DILUTE TO 51%

 

The Lok Sabha on Monday cleared the SBI (amendment) Bill that will enable the government to reduce its stake in India's largest bank to 51%. At the moment, the government of India owns just over 59% of the shares in SBI. The Bill will enable SBI to raise somewhere between Rs 15,000 crore and Rs 16,000 crore through the issue of fresh equity and preference shares. The bank can also reward its existing shareholders with bonus shares. The Bill provides SBI with a lot more financial flexibility than it has without diluting its public sector status. The dilution of SBI's public sector status would, of course, be a step too far for this UPA government, even though it makes perfect sense to dilute the government's share to well below 50%. That's the only way SBI can get the operational and financial autonomy to become a truly competitive bank, perhaps even India's first bank with a global outreach. But for now, as far as the bank is concerned, the dilution down to 51% is welcome, as is the government's decision to allow anyone who holds shares worth at least Rs 5,000 to contest for the directorship. That's good for corporate governance.

 

The government ought to consider diluting its stake in other public sector banks as well. The government, for example, controls 80% of the shares in Central Bank of India and Indian Bank. It holds around 65% stake each in Bank of India, Syndicate Bank and UCO Bank. And in the Punjab National Bank and Indian Overseas Bank, the government has holding close to the 60% it holds in SBI. These are just a select few public sector banks. And there is considerable scope for the government to offload stakes in these and other banks. Of course, no other state-owned bank comes close to SBI in terms of size and market share, but they could all raise crucial additional resources if the government were to commit dilution of its stake to 51% in all public sector banks. Apart from raising resources, this will help the cause of autonomy in operations and corporate governance. And in a political economy mostly averse to the privatisation of banks, dilution of stakes now could be a very important incremental step towards more sweeping reforms some years down the line.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CAST THEM ASIDE

 

The latest chapter of the Indian reservation saga involves the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), under the Union commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma, telling the corporate sector that companies benefiting from various government incentives may be asked to reserve about 5% of employment needs for the SCs and STs. This development has to be seen in continuity with the common minimum programme announced by UPA-1, wherein "a national dialogue with all political parties, industry and other organisations" was promised to figure out how affirmative action should be handled. Even at that time, the industry chambers—the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce—expressed scepticism about quota legislation. And the pattern is being repeated in the present moment, where the chambers are once again arguing that reservations in the private sector will adversely affect merit and efficiency. Overall, this argument goes, India's comparative advantage will take a hit if reservations become de rigueur. We must note that the objecting parties are not against affirmative action per se. The question is whether transmission losses between theory and practice are worth the gains. There is evidence suggesting that such gains will not really outweigh the pains.

 

Given India's demographic prospects and growth ambitions, we know that that urbanisation, development and skills enhancement are going to have explosive significance. We also know that these prospects and ambitions are being addressed via public policy. But public policy must consider the efficiency principle as seriously as it likes to address the equity principle. Evidence from a range of sources points to the inefficiency of reservations from education to the labour markets. It isn't just about standards being lowered. There is the issue of creamy layer cornering all available benefits, and then there is the question of whether the resulting ghettoisation is actually a desirable goal for a modernising nation. Does it merely reinforce caste categories instead of mitigating them? Should the government not focus on addressing the inequalities in opportunity that arise out of a moribund education system, at primary, secondary and tertiary levels? The problem of differential access to education and skills cuts across caste barriers. Reforming that system is a lot harder than attempting populist gimmicks like job reservations. Overall, the proposal for caste-based reservation in the private sector appears extremely suspect.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CALCULATING THE COST OF THE GAMES

BIBEK DEBROY

 

While no one can deny that Mani Shankar Aiyar has a tendency to shoot his mouth off, the second part of his controversial statement on the Commonwealth Games (CWG) is relevant for future decisions. "Basically, I will be very unhappy if the Games are successful because they will start bringing Asian Games, Olympic Games and all these."

 

It just so happens that Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has bid for 2019 Asian Games. How much is that going to cost? How much will CWG cost? We don't know and it is an unfair question to ask. After all, we still don't know how much Asian Games of 1982 cost. Estimates range between Rs 700-1,000 crore.

 

We don't know because there are different types of expenditure—roads and transportation, offices and commercial space, hotels, sports infrastructure, housing, communications and other services. Direct expenditure is difficult to pin down and government window-dressing of accounts doesn't help. For CWG, we are roughly talking about Rs 140 crore for the bid, Rs 2,100 crore as a central budget allocation for 2010-11, Rs 4,000 crore spent by NDMC and MCD, Rs 400 crore for opening and closing ceremonies, Rs 3,400 crore for constructing and renovating stadiums, Rs 175 crore for the organising committee's (OC) offices, Rs 500 crore for new parking, Rs 350 crore for streets/footpaths, Rs 1,100 crore for the village, Rs 100 crore for coverage and an additional Rs 15,000 crore spent by Delhi on infrastructure. That's close to Rs 30,000 crore and there are items one hasn't included. Plus, there will be cost escalations. So we end up spending close to Rs 40,000 crore. If we spent Rs 700 crore in 1982, Rs 40,000 crore is a more realistic figure than the Rs 3,500 crore that floats around. Capital is scarce in developing countries and opportunity costs of capital are high. Costs of developing infrastructure are also high. Also, revenue sources are scarce. Barring Los Angeles in 1984, there is not a single instance of such mega sports events having generated surpluses.

 

Therefore, these are public resources, even if sponsorships from PSUs masquerade as non-public sources. While there is no longer any point in asking whether we should have spent Rs 40,000 crore on CWG, we should certainly ask whether we can make better use of such money in the future.

 

The point isn't so much corruption, bribery and leakage, instances of which may be surfacing now. If Rs 40,000 crore is being publicly spent, we tend to accept 5% or 10% will be siphoned off. How is it different from the telecom saga? All that has happened is greater opportunity to 'manage, multiply and defend corruption'. Public expenditure implies privatisation of gain. The indignation seems to be more about poor delivery, across the multiplicity of IOA, OC (with its 24 sub-committees), MCD, NDMC, DDA and sports ministry. By all accounts, the Asian Games special organising committee (AGSOC) of 1982 was more efficient and successful, though it is also true that external scrutiny (including media) was less then. Following the sports minister, everyone now uses image of the great Indian wedding, with a wonderful event pulled off at the last minute. There will be resort to Indian technique of 'jugaad'. In fairness, there were hiccups in 1982, too (Talkatora swimming pool, players' building) and allegations of violations of planning norms and regulations.

 

The key is so-called 'legacy' effects, highlighted in India's bid document too and invariably mentioned by proponents of mega sports events like CWG. There is the intangible of prestige. On tangibles, there is plenty of cross-country research available. And these show limited and almost non-existent legacy effects on sporting performance, tourism and subsequent use of sports infrastructure.

 

This is true of 1982 Asian Games also. What have we done with Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Talkatora Stadium, Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium and Yamuna Velodrome? How many weddings, film-type functions and rallies are there going to be? Real, as opposed to imagined, legacy effects are restricted to improvements in transportation (Munich 1972, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Beijing 2008), housing (Munich 1972, Los Angeles 1984, Atlanta 1996) and by extrapolation, urban planning. For Delhi in 1982, this meant sports village, hotels (Kanishka, Maurya Sheraton, Taj Palace), flyovers (Moolchand, Sewa Nagar, Oberoi) and roads (Ring Road). The Siri Fort area, and much of South Delhi, owes its development to 1982 and the influx of unskilled labour into Delhi also received a stimulus. However, a counter-factual question remains. Wouldn't these have happened had there been no Asian Games in 1982? Wouldn't we have had colour television without them? We probably would have. It is just that rigid deadlines meant such infrastructure expenditure didn't have time over-runs, though cost over-runs are different. At best, this highlights the inertia of normal government decision-making and is a poor argument for CWG. Wouldn't Delhi metro have happened without CWG? As in other countries, there is also the broader issue of whether expenditure geared towards to a mega sports event meshes into urban planning for any city, or bypasses it and leads to selective development in enclaves. Delhi may, or may not, become a world-class city in October 2010. But 50% of that Rs 40,000 crore would still have been spent and Delhi in October 2010 would have been different, had it not been for CWG.

 

—The author is a noted economist

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THERE'S MUCH ROOM FOR ENGAGEMENT

TARUN RAMADORAI

 

David Cameron and the UK delegation's visit to India has been the topic of many column inches in recent days. In the UK, the commentary has been pessimistic, ranging from questions about whether there is still anything to gain from emphasising historical ties when it's really just a euphemism for colonialism, to questions about whether this desire to make nice with India heralds the ultimate decline of British power and the rise of the new powers of Asia, to speculation about whether the trip is just a distraction from the tough domestic policy issues that are currently being faced in the UK.

 

While this is a slightly biased characterisation of the coverage of the trip, some of the commentary has been unduly pessimistic. Practically speaking, there are three main areas in which increased trade would be mutually beneficial. First, there is high-tech manufacturing. Second, there is the much-derided financial services industry. And third, there is a huge opportunity in media and communications.

 

In the UK, firms such as Rolls-Royce and BAE systems already have significant and deep technological bases, and organisations such as the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts have been issuing reports encouraging the UK to rebalance its economy towards high-tech manufacturing. In India, technology services and outsourcing firms have been moving in the direction of high-tech manufacturing, and are now participating in the creation of key infrastructure such as supercomputers. There are also examples of traditional engineering firms making the transition towards more technologically innovative products. (A good example is the Bharat Forge and KPIT Cummins plug-in, which 'hybridises' petrol-engined cars in literally two hours.) It's not just a matter of technology transfer in one direction, since India has developed world-leading skills in generating robust, low-cost technology that is extremely valuable in emerging markets. It's also not just about opening up Indian markets to British firms, since there is the possibility of real collaboration on the creation of technology, opening up global markets to Indo-British ventures.

 

Financial services have taken a severe beating recently and the UK has become the world's favourite whipping boy because its economy has been tilted towards this. It's worth pondering two things. First, India might take the (to my mind incorrect) lesson that the recent crisis has shown us that financial innovation is not worthwhile. This may be true for excessively complicated financial instruments (economists Xavier Gabaix and David Laibson present a very believable model in which sophisticated consumers of complicated products are essentially subsidised by the unsophisticated). But the experience of the recent crisis should be tempered by the wealth of evidence linking levels of financial development with economic growth. India's burgeoning middle classes and credit-constrained firms could use some help connecting with one another.

 

Second, London has been a financial centre for virtually as long as it has been in existence, and a centre of world commerce since 1st century AD, when the Roman historian Tacitus wrote of the town as filled with negotiatores (roughly, traders and brokers). Technology transfer from the world's leading international financial centre to help with Mumbai's aspirations in that direction would be welcome. And there's plenty of icing for London financiers struggling with anaemic European growth rates.

 

Finally, media and communications represent a huge potential growth area and one in which I believe India can take the lead. The political scientist Joseph Nye famously coined the phrase 'soft power' to describe the ways in which culture could be used to increase a country's influence. India already has a remarkably exportable culture in terms of its film industry, food and music, to name just three facets. Partnering with the UK, the world's second largest exporter of film and television programmes (and the pioneers of chicken tikka masala) would generate significant benefits to both economies.

 

The roadblocks to future cooperation have little to do with the history of colonialism or worries about the relative status of the UK and the US. Rather, the worry is the lumbering bureaucracies in both nations. Most people find that both the UK and India are relatively difficult places to do business because of the significant amount of red tape that is entwined around all aspects of commercial activity in India, and the often slow pace of decision-making in the UK. The new special relationship could flounder unless this is confronted firmly by decision-makers in both countries.

 

—The author is a financial economist at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHEAT HIGH

SANJEEB MUKHERJEE

 

In an unexpected move, wheat prices that were poised to drop sharply under the weight of rising inventories have jumped to multi-month highs, stroking concerns that after gold the next big boom could come in foodgrains. Though sceptics believe that there is an element of speculation in the recent rally, the likely factor has been the sharp drop in production and exports in Russia, the world's fourth-largest wheat exporter. The US department of agriculture recently said that wheat output in Russia may drop to 50 million tonne (mt) this year, 19% less than last year as the worst drought in 130 years trimmed output. Russia's exports may decline 23% to 14 mt, which can seriously impact availability of the widely consumed Black Sea wheat. The International Grains Council has downgraded world wheat stockpiles forecast by 2.5% to 192 mt by June 2011, reversing a June forecast for higher inventories. The fall in Russia's production coupled with concerns about wheat production in Kazakhstan and western Australia have hurled prices northwards.

 

The September-delivery contract in Chicago rose as much as 0.6% to $6.975 a bushel on Tuesday; it had reached $7.1125 on Monday—the highest level in the last 22 months. Experts believe that any move by Russian authorities to curb exports will hurl wheat futures towards $8.50 per bushel. But does Russia's reduced presence in world markets open a window of opportunity for India, where godowns are brimming (stocks as on July 1 were estimated to be around 34 mt against a buffer and strategic requirement of 20.1 mt)?

 

Even if the government allows private traders to export wheat—prospects are limited as there is hardly any surplus—the export price of the grain purchased from UP (the only state where private traders are active), will be around $330 per tonne after factoring in transportation and other incidental costs. Australian and Argentinian wheat is available in the global markets at a lesser price of $260-$270 per tonne (FOB), January-December delivery. As an alternative, the government could start exporting wheat from its godowns as and when returns become remunerative. Or it could subsidise private exports, which looks unlikely.

 

—sanjeeb.mukherjee@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

KASHMIR'S CRISIS OF AUTHORITY

 

Ever since July, when a tear-gas shell ended the life of a Srinagar teenager who had committed no crime other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Jammu and Kashmir has inched closer to the abyss each day. For all practical purposes, the authority of the state has collapsed. The State police personnel have been beaten on the streets; their weapons snatched; their homes torched. Most tragic of all, ever-growing numbers of young people have been shot in the course of increasingly desperate attempts to restore order. On Monday, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called for additional central forces to restore order, and is believed to be considering a large-scale reorganisation of his administration. Even as Mr. Abdullah reiterated his demand for dialogue between the Indian government and a cross-section of political opinion in the State, he made clear that mobs could no longer "put a police station on fire and expect the policemen there to exercise restraint." Even the harshest measures, though, are unlikely to immediately deter the young people leading the protests: appeals for restraint from politicians like Kashmir's Islamist patriarch, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, and even Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Mohammad Yusuf Shah, have done little to still the violent tide.

 

For all its scorching intensity, the violence this summer ought not to have overwhelmed the state. Secessionism has long been an entrenched part of the State's political life, fed by ideology, economic resentments and human-rights violations. There is no evidence, though, that its base has expanded dramatically in recent months. Far larger secessionist mobilisations were seen in 2008, after all, when competing ethnic-religious chauvinisms tore Kashmir and Jammu apart. The crisis is, in fact, the culmination of two years of drift. Ever since he took power in 2008, Mr. Abdullah reached out to the secessionist constituency — much as the opposition People's Democratic Party had done, with considerable success. The National Conference, Mr. Abdullah's advisers argued, had come to power only because it won eight seats in Srinagar, where there was little voter turnout, and its prospects would depend on developing a base in low-turnout urban areas where it has had little presence historically. But Mr. Abdullah's failure to develop effective administrative instruments and the resentments within his party cadre ensured that the National Conference ceded authority to secessionists. Mr. Abdullah is right: his overwhelming priority now must be the restoration of peace, with the very least bloodshed possible. But unless he begins focussing on building an administration and a political system that addresses those who voted him to power, the next crisis will not be far away.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LONG-ACTING INSULIN

 

With animal studies trying out a single injection of a large assembly of insulin molecules (supramolecule insulin assembly) yielding promising results, the traditional method of treating Type I diabetes with multiple injections of insulin every day to maintain the normal glucose level can possibly be done away with. One injection of 200 microgram supramolecule was able to control and sustain the release of insulin in animals for a prolonged period of 120-140 days. The results of the study have been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences —"Supramolecular insulin assembly II for a sustained treatment of type I diabetes mellitus," by Sarika Gupta et al., of the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi. The insulin supramolecular assembly was produced by altering the way the insulin protein folds. A slight misfolding of the protein attracted other insulin molecules to form a supramolecular assembly. The supramolecule, which is in itself an inert material, releases biologically active insulin on a sustained basis at a basal level (physiological range). Animal studies showed that sustained release of insulin through a novel drug delivery mechanism was able to maintain tight glycemic control both after a meal as well as during prolonged periods (12 to 18 hours) of starvation. Early morning low blood glucose level (hypoglycemia) episodes after a long gap between food intakes are a major problem with the traditional insulin therapy.

 

Unpublished data from studies on animals with Type II diabetes showed that the supramolecule was able to maintain normal glucose level for 30 days when higher doses were used. In India, there are more Type II than Type I diabetic patients who are on insulin. Human clinical trials, which will also include Type II patients, are set to begin next year. Initially, human trials are to start with once-a-week injection and will gradually switch to one shot in four weeks. Unlike in the case of Type I, maintaining tight glycemic control in Type II patients will be quite challenging. It often turned out that drugs producing excellent outcomes in animal studies are not so successful in humans. How exactly supramolecule acts on the humans remains to be seen. There is overwhelming scientific evidence of the number of new diabetic patients in India rising year by year. While new treatment methods will help those with the disease, making prevention a priority is the only way to reverse the trend. Healthy food habits and regular exercise can surely delay the onset of the disease; they can also go a long way in preventing it.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

UNDERSTANDING KASHMIR'S STONE PELTERS

IT IS NOT HARD TO SEE WHERE THE FRUSTRATION OF THE EDUCATED KASHMIRI YOUTH COMES FROM. ON THE ONE HAND, THEY ARE TOLD THAT THEY ARE INDIAN CITIZENS BUT THEY ARE SHUT OUT OF THE NARRATIVE OF INDIA AS AN EMERGING ECONOMIC POWER.

MALINI PARTHASARATHY

 

As tensions escalate in Srinagar between angry mobs led by stone pelting teenagers and the security forces, there is a real fear that the situation in Kashmir is fast spinning out of control. Heartrending spectacles of teenage boys defiantly hurling rocks at the police and paramilitary personnel and of mothers weeping besides the bodies of loved ones killed in the indiscriminate firing by the security forces, playing out daily on television screens nationwide, have jolted us out of our collective complacence as regards Kashmir.

 

Since end-April, quiet rage has been building up in the Valley. It has taken several weeks to explode into full scale violence. That is why it is all the more inexplicable why there has been an inertia and a curious passivity in the responses of the Centre and the Omar Abdullah administration to the events as they have been building up these last two months.

 

While stone pelting has become a routine feature of street protests in Srinagar since the summer of 2008, it had revived with particular intensity after April, when three youths were alleged to have been killed in a fake encounter in Machhil. The accidental death of a schoolboy, Tufail Mattoo, as a result of teargas shelling on June 11 was the apparent flashpoint setting the Valley afire as mass protests erupted all over. Waves of stone pelting protesters descended on the streets of Srinagar, defying curfew orders. As security forces retaliated by firing on these teenagers armed only with rocks, those killed in the firing were immediately appropriated and anointed as shaheed or martyrs to the separatist cause, thereby infusing fresh dynamism into the separatist agitation.

 

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in his press conference in New Delhi on Monday appeared to be at pains to balance the two imperatives of the situation he is now confronted with. He stressed that the cycle of violence would have to be broken and was clear that law-breakers would have to face the consequences. At the same time, the Chief Minister was careful to underscore that the problem of Kashmir was "a political one" and the state needed a "political package". But with the ground situation worsening by the day, it may be a case of "too little too late" if Mr. Abdullah is seen as relying primarily on a law and order approach to the protests instead of moving swiftly to address what is essentially a crisis of confidence in the political system.

 

Yet it is also clear that alarmist descriptions of the street protests in Srinagar as the beginning of an intifada as

in Palestine protesting Israeli rule or a new tehreek (movement) akin to the movement of the early '90s when the movement for self determination began in the Valley, do not convey the true picture of what is happening in Srinagar today. From many accounts, the situation in Kashmir is manifestly retrievable.

 

According to experienced observers such as Wajahat Habibullah, the street protests today have very little of the sting of the protests of the '90s which had a strong undercurrent of intense anti-India sentiment. Today's protesters might shout anti-India slogans such as azadi, but their anger is specifically directed at the security forces in the context of the brutal killings of innocent boys. Unlike the '90s, the street protests are spontaneous gatherings reacting to events. If this latest manifestation of popular outrage is suppressed by force, there is a danger that these protests will become currents merging in the larger separatist movement.

 

The protesters on the streets, apart from the teenagers, are educated doctors and MBAs, frustrated at the lack of employment and economic opportunities. It is not hard to see where the frustration of the educated Kashmiri youth comes from. On the one hand, they are told that they are Indian citizens but they are shut out of the narrative of India as an emerging economic power. With mobile phones and internet communication being restricted, their sense of participation in the larger Indian discourse is sharply reduced.

 

Film maker Sanjay Kak has pointed out in a perceptive analysis in the August issue of the South Asian journal Himal that Kashmir's new generation of protesters are "children of the tehreek, born and brought up in the turmoil of the last two decades". They "have not and probably will not become armed mujahedeen". Yet by adroit use of social media such as Facebook, as Kak has observed, the educated youth of Kashmir are setting up new sites and new ways of confronting the Indian state which needs far greater ingenuity in dealing with the current situation.

 

It is not as though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does not have the requisite ingenuity and experience to deal with this present crisis. In his first term as Prime Minister, he had held three Round Tables on the issue in 2006 and 2007. Five working groups which were set up as a result of the round table initiative, including one on centre-state relations, have presented their reports. These reports might not have been particularly imaginative in their potential but signalled the government's willingness to address the concerns of the average Kashmiri, alienated by decades of New Delhi's indifference.

 

Dr. Singh, who visited Srinagar in early June, has held back from picking up the threads of his earlier parleys with the parties and leaders of the Valley, presumably to allow the newly elected Omar Abdullah state administration the political space to formulate its own policies. In retrospect, to have allowed the momentum to peter out of the peace process that had been set in motion during Dr. Singh's first term might have been a costly mistake. New Delhi should have underlined that its commitment to the pursuit of a political solution remained intact regardless of the change of regime in Srinagar.

 

The earlier power sharing arrangement that the Congress had with the PDP when it won the Assembly elections in 2002 had enabled the Manmohan Singh dispensation after 2004 to seize the high ground on Kashmir. The perception that New Delhi was willing to reach out to the separatists in the Hurriyat and was simultaneously restarting talks with Pakistan to resolve the long standing dispute over Kashmir's status had brightened the mood in the Valley considerably.

 

The PDP while still being seen as a party owing substantively to its connections with Delhi, by asserting its relatively local roots and acknowledging the serious deprivations arising from the State's alienation, had appeared to gain credibility and salience. The PDP-Congress coalition made some headway in its launching of a reconciliatory process in the Valley, thereby undercutting into the base of the separatist agitation.

 

But in recent years, the series of opportunistic moves on the Amarnath yatra and the Shopian episode designed to mobilise communal and separatist sentiments have damaged the PDP's image as a responsible interlocutor. Thus if the National Conference carries the burden of a daunting historical baggage, the PDP stands considerably discredited by its dalliance with separatism.

 

Yet both these parties at heart recognise that it is essential to keep Kashmir anchored to the Indian union, albeit with loosened ties. It is their duty at this historically crucial moment to step back from the brinkmanship that is a perennial feature of their competitive politics and work together to find a solution in the state's and the national interest.

 

The reality is that these parties are yielding critical space to Islamist fundamentalist groups such as the Tehreek-i-Hurriyat and the Duktaran-e-Millat. It is not too late for the mainstream parties to reach out to the moderate elements of the Hurriyat such as Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq and Yasin Malik, co-opting them in the project of bringing peace back to the streets of Srinagar.

 

Otherwise they would only be making it easier for the Islamist separatists to take control of this youth-driven agitation, described by the Chief Minister as a "leaderless" protest, and turn it into a deadlier force, more aggressively hostile to the Indian union. Now is the time for the Manmohan Singh government to work with the Omar Abdullah administration and other political forces such as the PDP and the Hurriyat on a framework for autonomy for the State. The second imperative for the Prime Minister is to make clear to the nation that a resumption of the composite dialogue with Pakistan on the gamut of issues including Kashmir is inevitable and unavoidable.

 

The moral authority of India's actions in the Kashmir valley will be strengthened by a demonstrable willingness to work with Pakistan to find a permanent solution to the dispute over its status. It will help in large measure to heal the wounds and the angst of the Kashmiri people who feel they are hostages to a larger geopolitical wrangling.

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS ANALYSIS    

SOUTH EAST ASIA AND HEALTH-RELATED MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS

THOUGH THERE HAS BEEN PROGRESS TOWARDS ACHIEVING MANY OF THE MDGS, THE SOUTH EAST ASIA REGION STILL HAS MILES TO GO TO ACHIEVE EQUITY IN HEALTHCARE.

JAI P. NARAIN


The South East Asia Region (SEAR) has recorded many improvements over the past three decades in its health systems and yet, it is struggling to achieve important health outcomes, especially among the poor, vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups. Therefore, while addressing global commitments made under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are crucial, equally strategic is addressing these goals with "Equity" in the centre-stage. Equity in accessibility, affordability and quality of services to the most vulnerable, hard-to-reach and desperate population groups will be a key to the region's success on health.

Left with only five years to achieve the MDGs in 2015, it is time to review the progress made and identify the challenges and the lessons learnt, particularly relating to communicable diseases in the SEA Region.

 

On reflection, of the eight MDGs established in September 2000 by 189 heads of state, three relate directly to health. These include reducing child mortality by two-third (MDG 4), reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters (MDG 5) and halting and reversing the spread of HIV, malaria and other major diseases such as TB (MDG 6). The MDGs are, however, interdependent since other goals have an indirect influence on health.

 

Progress on health-related MDGs

 

Overall, fair progress has been made in the region towards achieving the MDGs, but the progress remains unequal and challenging. In relation to MDG 6, HIV/AIDS prevalence among young adults (15-24 years) has been on the decline in various countries (Fig.1), with an overall prevalence in the region of 0.3 per cent. The coverage of prevention intervention has increased, while the coverage of antiretroviral treatment (ART) is, unfortunately, low and must be scaled up in order to achieve universal coverage.

 

In TB, a treatment success rate of 88 per cent has been achieved in the region (Fig. 2). The incidence of TB and infection rates has declined in many countries. It is estimated that TB prevalence has been halved and mortality reduced by a third, putting us back on track on achieving the TB-related MDG.


However, the progress on reducing malaria mortality is insufficient and the mortality rate for 100,000 population remains at 2.1. There has been some progress in bed-net distribution but not enough to make a difference. Overall progress in malaria control in the region is far behind the exemplary progress being made in Africa.

 

With regard to MDG 4, the under-five mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) is estimated at 63, as compared to 14 in Europe. More than 2.4 million children and adults die in the region of acute diarrhoea and respiratory infections despite simple, effective and low-cost interventions being available. Priority must be accorded to scaling up prevention and control interventions using an inter-sectoral and coordinated approach, going beyond mere case management.

 

Tragically, the region is performing poorly on MDG 5 — reducing maternal mortality — with deaths per 100,000 live births remaining as high as 450. In South East Asia and Africa, less than 50 per cent of women receive skilled care during childbirth and the region contributes more than 170,000 maternal deaths each year. The inequities in terms of wealth and mothers' education are unacceptably high. Contraceptive prevalence is also increasing rather slowly.

 

Remaining challenges

 

In light of the above facts, it is clear that we are on track on achieving the MDGs relating to communicable diseases. However, rapid reduction in maternal and child mortality is of utmost priority. Strengthening the health system, including use of the Global Fund and GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) resources will be critical to achieving all health-related MDGs. In this regard, the following issues are relevant:

 

1. Focusing on "delivery" of effective interventions and, to do so, ensuring the appropriate ratio of healthcare workers to population.

 

2. Improving monitoring and evaluation systems including the health information system and use of data for planning national policies and strategies.

 

3. Identifying social, behavioural, cultural and economic determinants of health and addressing these.

 

4. Optimising resources and services and delivering a comprehensive package of effective health interventions, targeted at populations at risk, through an integrated approach.

 

MDGs are indeed a powerful advocacy tool in the fight against diseases and in rendering equity and social protection. As a priority, data generated on MDGs should be used for fine-tuning national policy and strategy. Miles have been covered, yet a long road still lies ahead should civil society and leaders be keen on achieving the MDGs. The un-finished agenda under various health issues, especially communicable diseases, surely warrant investment in quality services, perhaps more so in scaling up best-practice models in various countries in the SEA Region.

 

As many studies have demonstrated, some immediate strategic investments are required such as: evidence-based advocacy with key policy makers, elected leaders and civil society; strengthening institutional capacities of bodies that are best poised to plan and deliver; enhancing technical and managerial skills of providers in delivering quality health services; translating field-based scientific research into policy and programmes; ensuring equitable accessibility, affordability and quality of drugs and services to the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach population groups and; fostering Public-Private partnerships including use of civil society resources thereby ensuring that the existing resource-gap is bridged.

 

Finally, we have to agree that ensuring investment in the health of the socially vulnerable — in particular, women and children — is not only good but also the right thing to do.

 

(The author is Senior Director, Department of Communicable Diseases, World Health Organisation, Regional Office for South East Asia.)

 

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THE HINDU

 NEWS ANALYSIS    

WHAT THE £35,000 COCKTAIL TAUGHT US

IF WE DO NOT SORT OUT THE WEALTH GAP, WE ARE HEADING FOR ANOTHER MELTDOWN.

ADITYA CHAKRABORTTY


In the winter of 2007, the British celebrated what would be their last boomtime Christmas for quite a few years to come. High streets swarmed with shoppers who didn't yet have to worry about losing their jobs. Bankers received their final bonuses before the banking system fell in. And I discovered that a London nightclub had begun selling the most expensive cocktail in the world, at £35,000 a glass. That would buy you a shot of cognac, half a bottle of Cristal, a diamond ring and two security guards, presumably to offer protection from the other punters.

Writing this up at the time, I rang an MP who decently worked himself into a quotable outrage ("You might as well set fire to your money in front of those less well-off"); and a social commentator for the requisite sneering ("the buyers are barely literate, one step up from a potato"). A few months later Lehman Brothers collapsed and we all had bigger things to worry about.

 

Still, that cocktail, which cost more than three-quarters of the workforce earns in a year, remains a potent sign of how unequal boomtime Britain had become. And when people pinpoint just why the widening gap between the rich and the poor is wrong, they usually fall back on the sort of criticisms made by that politician and pundit — that it wastes resources or is immoral. Or they might quote from The Spirit Level, last year's brilliant study by public health specialists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, which demonstrated how social evils — from crime to suicides — get worse when the well-off leave the rest of the pack too far behind. The pair has come under fire from the Right in the last few weeks, but their argument has held up well.

 

No, the big problem with these points is that the Right-winger's riposte to them is simple: So what? Liberal bedwetters might not like inequality, he or she can say, but that is the price you pay for a thriving economy. America may be the most unfair of all the big economies — but it is also the richest.

 

Except that a big gap between the haves and the have-mores does not necessarily denote capitalist success at all; indeed, it can just as well indicate imminent economic failure. That is the argument convincingly made by Raghuram Rajan in his new account of this crisis, Fault Lines. Mr. Rajan is not interested in the eye-catching but ultimately trivial problems such as bankers' bonuses. Instead, he analyses the major problems in the world economy — the ones which could cause another massive meltdown.

 

When it comes to crises, this former IMF chief economist knows what he is talking about. Nowadays, analysts who claim they spotted this bust coming far outnumber musicians who swear blind they saw the Sex Pistols play Manchester's Free Trade Hall in 1976. But Mr. Rajan really did, bravely telling America's bubble-blower-in-chief Alan Greenspan just that at a 2005 conference.

 

Forced to borrow

 

So when Mr. Rajan names as the first of his fractures the gap between America's rich and the rest, it's worth paying attention. The reasoning is simple: since middle-American families saw barely any increase in their wages over the last decade, they were forced to borrow dangerous amounts to buy houses, to keep up living standards — or simply to keep from falling behind.

 

As he points out, Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush allowed this lethal explosion in credit as it was "the path of least resistance". Clamping down on all those dodgy home and car loans and credit cards would have been tantamount to sticking two fingers up at their own voters.

 

How bad was America's wealth gap? By Mr. Rajan's calculations, from every dollar of growth in income between 1976 and 2007, 58 cents went to the top one per cent of households. The other 99 per cent of American families had to scrap over the 42 cents of loose change. The result was a country as unequal as it had been just before the Wall Street crash of 1929 — and with much the same results.

 

Lessons from history

 

That an economy so lopsided would eventually topple over should have been obvious to anyone who knew a bit about history. After all, as John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out in his classic analysis of the Great Crash: "The rich cannot buy great quantities of bread. If they are to dispose of what they receive, it must be on luxuries or by way of investments ..." In modern times, that meant funnelling money into the housing market, or funds run by fraudster Bernie Madoff. Or £35,000 cocktails. Because, as America's mini-me economy, Britain's wealth gap was almost as bad. As British analyst Stewart Lansley points out, most workers in the U.K. have seen a huge squeeze on their wages, even while they have continued to be highly productive.

 

But that did not apply to the top 10 per cent; a banker or a corporate executive would have seen his or her earnings rise 100 per cent over the last three decades, even while those at the bottom would have been only 27 per cent better off. The results we all know: mortgages as big as the Himalayas and a world-class bout of borrowing.

 

Modern, unbuttoned Conservatives say that they are just as concerned about inequality as any lefty. Perhaps. But, the message from Mr. Rajan and a growing number of other economists is that this is not just a kind of luxury angst one affects to appease voters. No, sorting out the wealth gap is essential if we are not to repeat the financial crisis. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

BHOPAL DISASTER AND THE BP OIL SPILL

 

The $20-billion fund made available to the U.S. government by BP has highlighted a double standard in the dispensation of justice after the two disasters.

 

Comparing the compensations for victims of the Bhopal disaster and the BP oil spill, and calling for an equitable dispensation of justice, the former members of the International Medical Commission on Bhopal, Dr. Sushma Acquilla (U.K.), Dr. Rosalie Bertell (U.S.A.), Professor Paul Cullinan (U.K.), Dr. V. Ramana Dhara (U.S.A.), Professor Birger Heinzow (Germany & Australia), Dr. Gianni Tognoni (Italy) and Dr. Marinus Verweij (The Netherlands), say :

 

We, the former members of the International Medical Commission on Bhopal (IMCB) welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of India to set up a high level ministerial Committee to reopen the issue of the Bhopal tragedy, considered the world's worst industrial disaster. We understand the committee, chaired by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, met recently to explore and decide on the future of Bhopal victims and the fate of the residual Union Carbide plant. We are a group of independent experts in different fields of medicine and public health who studied the long-term health effects amongst the survivors of the Bhopal disaster, ten years after the accident.

 

This study was done at the invitation of gas victims who were frustrated by the Madhya Pradesh government's announcement that there were no long-term effects of the disaster and that the Bhopal case could be closed. Our study was the only one of its kind that attempted to define the gas-related illnesses in the population known as the "Bhopal Syndrome" and which showed that there were indeed long-term effects on multiple body systems.

 

We welcome the setting up of the ministerial committee and would like to offer our expertise to the government of India, as the only independent group of experts with detailed knowledge of the disaster and the effects of the gas.

 

IMCB in their 1994 report, made the following recommendations:

 

1. Reorganisation of the health system to establish a network of community-based primary care clinics.

 

2. The gas-related disease categories need to be broadened to include central nervous system and psychological (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) injury.

 

3. A conference to determine best practice rehabilitation medicine, including both western and Indian expertise, must be undertaken to develop rational treatments and prescription drugs for survivors.

 

4. Health data collected by the Indian Council of Medical Research should be communicated to the population and submitted for publication in professional journals.

 

5. Gas victims to have the right of access to their medical records.

 

6. Victim organisations should be adequately represented in the national and state commissions dealing with the disaster.

 

7. Criteria for compensation should include medical, economic and social damage to the victims.

 

8. Allocation of resources for economic and social rehabilitation of people and their communities should be made.

 

9. Thorough examination of the impact of the toxic waste buried on the Union Carbide site and its potential for further damage to public health needs to be researched.

 

To our knowledge, only the first recommendation has been partly implemented.

 

The recent $20-billion fund made available to the U.S. government by BP for the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico has unwittingly highlighted a double standard in the dispensation of justice for the two disasters. The Gulf oil spill is, undoubtedly, ghastly but it is as yet much smaller in scale and consequences than the Bhopal disaster. According to the official figures published by the Indian government, 3,500 people were killed outright with the subsequent death toll claimed to be in excess of 15,000. Union Carbide abandoned the plant after the disaster and has been accused of failing to clean up the site, exposing local people to water supply contaminated with toxic chemicals. The deep water tables in Bhopal and surrounding areas are now considered to be at risk of contamination. Even though Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide's assets, it has refused so far to take responsibility for its liabilities.

 

While there were Congressional hearings to hold BP publicly accountable for the Gulf oil spill, similar action did not occur for Union Carbide's monumental disaster in Bhopal, even though the company was cutting jobs, decreasing safety training, cutting maintenance costs, and using inferior technology in Bhopal compared to a similar plant in Institute, West Virginia. It took 17 years for the Indian government to obtain a once-for-all settlement of $470-million compensation on behalf of the victims — a meagre sum compared to the interim compensation fund of $20 billion, set up by BP.

 

The BP fund was set up without knowledge or evidence of injury/loss of human life, apart from those who were on the rig at the time of accident. Yet in Bhopal, without knowing the size of the damage — for example, the number of people who died or assessing the levels of disability and the effects of long-term morbidity amongst the survivors — the full settlement for compensation was agreed at $470 million. This agreementbetween the government of India and Union Carbide was considered by the victims to be a violation of their human rights.

 

If international human rights laws and principles are to be applied, it is clear that there is a vast chasm between the current approach to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Bhopal victims and their environment. Transnational corporations must be under exactly the same set of obligations, no matter where their operations take place in the world. We support holding those responsible for the Bhopal disaster to account in the same way as those responsible for the BP Gulf leak.

 

Earlier last month, several Indian senior managers at the time of the accident in the Bhopal plant received two-year prison sentences and a small fine each, prompting an outcry in India that this disaster was treated like a minor traffic accident. The verdict has been described as "outrageous" and calls have been made for the former Union Carbide CEO, Warren Anderson, now 89, to be sent to India to stand trial.

 

We welcome the decision by the Indian government to review the plight of the Bhopal victims at this time, and to pursue the cleanup of the Bhopal toxic waste site by Dow Chemical. It may be late but better late than never.

 

(Further reading: Wikipedia page on International Medical Commission on Bhopal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

 

International_Medical_Commission_on_Bhopal)

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

IS KALMADI OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY?

 

Much in life depends on something called timing. Good decisions can sometimes turn bad, or vice versa, depending on when they are taken, and in what circumstances. Someone should have reminded the Indian Olympic Association, its president Suresh Kalmadi and his cohorts who egg him on to higher and bigger doings about this basic truth about life. Even as a welter of skeletons continue to tumble out of the 2010 Commonwealth Games cupboard regarding every imaginable aspect of the event, the IOA went ahead and submitted a bid for the 2019 Asian Games. While March this year was the original deadline for submission of bids to the Olympic Council of Asia, it was pushed back to the end of June and 10 cities — including New Delhi, which hosted the first Asiad in 1951, and thereafter in 1982 — were reported to be in the race. The usual practice — given the vast scale of infrastructure and logistical upgrades required — is for the concerned National Olympic Committee to inform its government about its intention to place such a bid. But, as the snowballing controversy surrounding the coming CWG here this October clearly indicates, Mr Kalmadi operates in a zone of his own. And as details continue to emerge on an almost hourly basis about shoddy infrastructure, inflated contracts, incomplete deals and leaking venues for the Commonwealth Games comes the news that the Government of India, at least, was not in the loop when it came to deciding on the 2019 Asiad bid. In fact, the Union sports ministry has gone a step further and said that this was not the sort of decision to be taken casually, and that consultation of several stakeholders like the government and its many arms who would play key roles in any such eventuality, was a minimum consideration. None of that, obviously, was thought necessary by the IOA and its bosses who have become used to first making commitments, and thereafter falling back on all and sundry to make sure that those promises are honoured.


As the Commonwealth Games stumble from one fiasco to another, the increasingly shrill call is that of national pride and the need to pull together, not work as cross-purposes. This is something the IOA chief should first answer himself, but he has all of a sudden vanished from public view, leaving his lieutenants to grapple with the storm of accusations and allegations, many of which are being defended on increasingly flimsy grounds. The public, too, has woken up to the fact that it is paying for what is potentially a huge shambles — warnings about which have long been aired and by those who are in the business. None of them were paid any heed to, people appointed to oversee preparations by a concerned global federation systematically sidelined and every best practice that has been learned over years of experience thrown into the dustbin. The result is there for all to see — and to pay for. To this day, with deadline after deadline having expired, agencies continue to work at cross-purposes — and each act escalates the overall bill bit by bit. There has to be a reckoning for all of this, but instead the public is being asked — in the name of national honour — to grin and bear it. And by way of increased taxes and levies, to even pay for the mayhem. Incidentally, Mr Kalmadi's ambitions are far above a mere Asian Games! He wants to bring the Olympic Games to India as well. An opinion poll today will suggest that he is probably in a very small minority which wants that headache as well.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

100 DEGREES IN J&K

INDER MALHOTRA

 

THE FIRST thing to be said about Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah's meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other members of the Union Cabinet's Committee on Security is that it should have come much earlier. For more than five weeks the Valley has been in the grip of a vicious cycle of violence, with stone-pelting mobs and firings by security forces inevitably leading to deaths of civilians, including teenagers.


Even more virulent protests, almost always in utter defiance of curfew, then follow. This is too long a period for which to delay crucial consultations between the Centre and the sensitive state. All through it one witnessed only inaction in Srinagar and silence in New Delhi.


Secondly, Mr Abdullah, who has the Union government's full support even while being reminded of his responsibility to control the ground situation, is entirely right in saying that Kashmir is essentially a political problem that should be tackled politically. He has also rightly added that no political initiative can be taken until the mindless violence ends and there is "a semblance of normalcy". That is the obvious first step. Alas, that is where the rub seems to lie. For despite his impassioned appeal to the civil society of Kashmir to cooperate with the government in restoring peace and calm from his press conference in Delhi, the situation in the Valley has worsened rather than show any sign of abating.


It is noteworthy that until four or five days ago the protesters in Kashmir towns, including Srinagar, used to confine their violence to stone throwing and thrashing security personnel falling into their hands. Since then their activity has taken an alarming turn. They, including rather large number of women, have taken to setting ablaze police stations, railway stations, police vehicles, even ambulances, indeed, every symbol of state authority. This reprehensible pattern persists after the Delhi discussions. Kashmir is no longer on the boil; it is burning.


Mr Abdullah's third point is that the motley mobs wreaking havoc on Kashmir streets are "leaderless". He is right inasmuch as there is no discernable line of command in the current agitation. But it is also true that Syed Ali Shah Geelani, leader of the hardline faction of Hurriyat, and some of his cohorts (one of them in hiding) regularly issue "protest calendars". Not only students and private citizens but also state government employees obey these, the latter neglecting their duties with impunity. Yet there is danger that the situation might spin out of even their hands.


Under the circumstances, political leaders of the state who do not share the nefarious agenda of the separatists must establish contact with the locality elders and people in general. But what is the actual position? Over the weekend, rather belatedly, Mr Abdullah formed three ministerial groups for this purpose and these teams have since visited three of the major trouble spots in the Valley. But, in this respect, shouldn't the chief minister have taken the lead himself? Leaders of other political parties should also be doing the same, but that is far from being the case.


One can sympathise with Mr Abdullah about his difficulties vis-à-vis the main Opposition party, the People's Democratic Party (PDP), led by the strident Mehbooba Mufti whose relationship with him is one of implacable hatred. The country witnessed that, despite a personal appeal by the Prime Minister, she refused to attend an all-party meeting called by the chief minister to evolve a consensus on dealing with the grim challenge facing the state. But what about senior leaders of the ruling party, the National Conference, founded by the chief minister's grandfather, the incomparable Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, or, for that matter, the Congress Party, the NC's partner in the ruling coalition? Sadly, the state of affairs could not have been more regrettable than it is.
There is a virtual chasm between Mr Abdullah and his senior party colleagues who are not ministers. Their complaint is that he ignores them. Obviously, the party's and indeed the country's collective interest is of no concern to them. As for the J&K Congress, it is a house divided against itself. Rival factions are busy fighting each other, and have no time to confront the enemies of Kashmir's peace and stability. Ms Mufti was not the only state leader to absent herself from the chief minister's all-party conference. Another conspicuous absentee was Tara Chand, deputy chief minister belonging to the Congress! Has anyone in the party's national leadership called him to account?


It is also curious that all the blame for civilian deaths is being heaped on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and at one remove, on the Central government. The constitutional position is that the CRPF has no authority to act anywhere on its own. It does so only in aid of civil authority and thus under the orders of the state government. Moreover, why doesn't the Kashmir government deploy more Kashmiri police that includes 63,000-strong armed constabulary, instead of calling the Border Security Force at the drop of a Karakuli cap? Of course, the forces are stretched because of the Amarnath yatra which explains the Centre's prompt willingness to send more CRPF battalions to J&K.


What is required is that the reinforcements should consist of those who are better trained and better led.
Another strange facet of the situation is that the Accountability Committee of the state, which served a useful purpose because people with grievances could approach it for redress, no longer exists. Not because it has been abolished but simply because, under the law, its members have to be chosen jointly by the chief minister and the leader of the Opposition, Ms Mufti. The twain cannot agree even on the time of the day.


The present challenge in Kashmir is graver than that at the time of the Holy Relic Crisis in December 1963-January 1964, when the whole Valley seemed to hang by a thread. Jawaharlal Nehru, though ailing, immediately sent his trusted troubleshooter, Lal Bahadur Shastri, to Srinagar with instructions to stay there until the crisis was resolved. How radically the times have changed since then!

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

HE GRAND MUGHAL OF CINEMA

AYUB KHAN

 

We have all read about Mughal emperor Akbar in our history books. His conquests and reign over India, his just ways and the ability to encompass society as a whole gained him the epithet of "Akbar the Great". But as a young student, something else about this time in history held my fascination. Something that was greater than all the wars Akbar had fought and won. I was like a person possessed, constantly flipping through the pages of history books, searching for the slightest mention of Akbar's strained relationship with his precious son, Salim, over a courtesan called "Anarkali".


What a great story it was. Wasn't this the defining moment of Emperor Akbar's life? How was it possible that there was not a single mention of this in any history book. The historians, I thought then, must be crazy! After all, for millions of people the historical classic Mughal-e-Azam epitomised love, romance and rebellion.
Why wasn't this classic tale of doomed love part of our history curriculum? If there was Shah Jahan's Taj Mahal dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal, then which was the fort in India in which Emperor Akbar deceived his son into believing his love had been entombed? I couldn't figure this out till much later in life. I guess it must have been the performances of all those great actors who had me believe that this fiction was history.
Mughal-e-Azam was a magnificent tale with some of the greatest performances by stalwarts like Prithviraj Kapoor, Madhubala, Durga Khote, Nigar Sultana, Ajit, Murad, Sheila Dalaya, Jiloo Bai and my idol, the great thespian, the enigmatic Yusuf Uncle, better known to all as Dilip Kumar. Every dialogue spoken by Yusuf Uncle resonated in my mind. It was sheer poetry:


"…Kahan hain Akbar-e-Azam, jin ke hukum se Khuda ke bakshi hui saanse bhi galle mein ghot di jaati hain";
"…yeh talwaar jisne bade-bade surmaon ka ghamand toda hain, haafiz hai aaj, na sirf Anaarkali ki, balki un tamaam aam mohabbat karne walon ki, jinko Shehenshah ki gulaami manzoor nahi!".
Every time Yusuf Uncle appeared on screen and delivered these dialogues as Salim, he made me long to have a love story of my own that would be, if not greater, then at least as great as that of "Salim and Anarkali"!
Not that there is any comparison, but I can confidently say that if girls grew up on a slew of love stories from Mills & Boons that had them fantasising about what their lovers would be like, then for most young men in India at that time, it was Mughal-e-Azam that epitomised a true love story.


I wasn't able to fully grasp then what it took to make this epic, of what a Herculean feat it was for director K. Asif — the costumes, the sets, the most powerful and profound dialogues ever written by Kamal Amrohi along with Aman Sahab, Eshan Rizvi and Vajahat Mirza and Naushad Sahab's lilting mu­sic. But what constantly captivated me was the fi lm's impact. Every scene made me sit up and believe. It seemed mo re real than reality itself.


The over-powering pr esence of Prithviraj Ka poor as Emperor Akbar and his booming voice ga ve me goose bumps and I felt affection every time the loyal-unto-death Durjan Si ngh, played by the great Ajit Sahab, came on screen.


The film's epic battle scenes, that forlorn look on the face of my all-time favourite actress Madhubala when she sang Mohabbat ke jhooti kahaani pe roye..., or when she said those famous lines, "...Parwardighar! Mujhe itni himmat aata farma ke main Sahab-e-Aalam se bewaafai kar sakoon" — for me it was all real. I can barely put in words the emotions I went through watching the beauteous kaneez challenge Emperor Akbar with Jab pyaar kiya toh darna kya.

Salim's love story in Mughal-e-Azam may have been fiction, but for me this was the moment in history when Emperor Ak bar, the greatest Mughal ruler ever, was besieged by one of the greatest dilemmas of his lifetime — what would be the right thing to do when dealing with matters of the heart!


AS AN actor or filmmaker, one longs for one's work to be remembered, revered. All go on in the hope that one scene, one dialogue, one performance will be able to stand the test of time and remain for posterity. Mughal-e-Azam had that magic — 50 years later the film still epitomises romance for millions. A movie whose scale of production baffled people then, baffles us even now. A film like Mughal-e-Azam will take more than courage and big bucks to attempt today. If remade, it will only be possible with the help of advanced technology, such as computer graphics, but the soul that the original had would be missing. And that's because of the people associated with it.


As far as acting is concerned, for me and for millions of others, each frame occupied in every movie by my uncle defined "great performance". He is that one and only actor Hindi silver screen has had who made it impossible to imagine any actor portray a character in any other way than the way he had portrayed it. Every time I watched him on screen or on the sets, I was astounded by the depth, understanding, innovation and emotional-connect he brought to a role. If I remember correctly, the inspiration to be an actor for me came while I was watching Yusuf Uncle play Salim.


"I would wear the costumes and walk around the sets for hours, to get the feel of a prince", I remember Yusuf Uncle telling me. "I revelled in the lines given to me... I had to blank out most things around me even though they were for the benefit of the scene. I had to create my own reality in my head during the shoot."
As a grown up, I remember spending a few very special evenings with him, walking around Jogger's Park, while he unfolded bits and parts of his life that he thought I needed to know. His anecdotes were not like a never-ending freight train; they were sprinkled with humour and memories that got me even more curious about his life. But time would fly and suddenly it would be time to say goodbye. The anxiety of not having got all that I would probably need from him for my ca r e er bothered me every ti me he left. I would eagerly wait for our next meeting.


I was stepping into his world, and though he wanted me to find my very own path in this industry, to judge right and wrong myself, I sensed that his paternal instincts at most times got the better of him. The inimitable Dilip Kumar was, after all, my Yusuf Uncle.

 

Mughal-e-Azam released on August 5, 1960

 

 

Ayub Khan is a Bollywood and TV actor. Son of Nasir Khan and Begum Para, he is Dilip Kumar's nephew.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

LET'S GET AQUA-SAVVY

M.S. SWAMINATHAN

 

The ap p r oach will include measures for augmentation of supply, managem e nt of de m and, and harnessing new techno logies that relate to drinking water as well as recycling of waste water. The aim of this mission is the development and dissemination of rese a rch-based technologies for addressing the serious water challenges facing the country.On the direction of the Supreme Court of India, the department of science and technology of the Government of India has launched a technology mission titled, "Winning, Augmentation and Renovation (WAR) for Water".highlighted the need for promoting "jal swaraj", or sustainable water security throughout the country. Building a sustainable water security system for a human population of nearly 1.2 billion and a farm animal population of over a billion is a priority task for the government and the people of India.Chronic differences in opinion relating to sharing of water from inter-state rivers haveAt present, only about 40 per cent of the cultivated area is irrigated, the rest 60 per cent being rainfed.The conjunctive use of these water sources will help to enhance the irrigated area for agriculture.India's water security system sho uld give concurrent attention to all the major sources of water, namely, rain, surface, ground, sea and recycled sewage and waste water.


Saving and sharing of rain water should become a national et h ic. I would like to highlight here five areas where we should pay particular attention.It is essential to harvest every drop of rain water and store it underground or in tanks, since most of the rainfall in India comes within a limited period.Unfortunately, ground water expl o i tation is happening in an unsustainable manner, leading to a steep drop in the water table.
If this is done, we will have a national grid of bioindustrial watersheds.
The "watershed programme" should place emphasis on improving both on-farm productivity and non-farm employment.The institution of a Water Security Saviour Award to recognise and reward the work of the best MGNREGA Water Harvesting Team will help generate awareness of the importance of the work unskilled labourers are doing for public good.Our aim should be to bring about synergy between labour and intellect in this programme.l Rain Water Harvesting and Efficient and Equitable Use: This is a priority item of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MGNREGA).


Since sea wa ter constitutes nearly 97 per cent of gl o bal water resource, sea water fa­rming will help to utilise this un d er-utilised resource for food security.Ne a rly 20 per cent of India's population li ves near the coast and the sea water farming movement will help to generate more jobs and income for co a stal communities.An effective method of de s alination of sea water is its use for promoting agri-aqua farms (cultivation of mangroves, Atriplex, Salicornia, Casuarina, Sesuvium and ot her salt-tolerant species, to g e t her with coastal aquaculture).l Sea Water Farming: India has a shore line extending to over 7,500 km as well as the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep group of islands.


On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Dandi March, we should launch a Mahatma Gandhi Sea Water Farming Movement to strengthen the ecological security of coastal areas, through mangrove and non-mangrove bioshields, which will serve as speed breakers at the time of tsunamis and coastal sea water surges, as well as lead to livelihood security of costal communities.Through the Dandi March, Gandhiji emphasised that sea water is a social resource.


One approach will be the development of a national network of Ground Water Sanctuaries, which are concealed aquifers that should be tap p ed only in severe dr ought.l Water Security for Farm Animals: There is need to plan for water security for the over one billion farm animals of India. Under conditions of drought, "cattle camps" will have to be organised around sources of water.

This situation is now changing due to the development of community water harvesting ponds.l Harnessing Flood Water in the Northeast: The Jal Kund (water pond) movement already started by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in the Sorah (Chirapunji) area of Meghalaya can be replicated all over the Northeast so that there is no water scarcity from December to April. Sorah receives nearly 14,000 mm of rainfall during a year and yet there is water scarcity during winter months.


Such a National Corps of Community Water Masters will also be helpful in organising Pani Panchayats (water parliaments) and in maximising farm productivity and income per drop of water.They should also be trained in sustainable aquifer management.l National Corps of Community Water Masters: We should train at least one woman and one man in every panchayat or local body in the science and art of water harvesting, efficient water management and equitable sharing of the available water.


This is the only sustainable route to winning the War for Water.Conflicts can then give way to cooperation, resulting in a dynamic and science-based land and water care programme in every panchayat and nagarpalika.If developed and trained property, the two crore friends of the environment can spearhead an aqua-happiness movement in the country.Recently, the ministry of environment and forests had initiated a programme for enrolling two crore young boys and girls to serve as "Paryavaran Mitras".

 

M.S. Swaminathan is the chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. He is considered to be the father of India's green revolution.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

WHY WE ARE SUCKERS FOR UNREAL REALITY TV

 

Perhaps Abraham Lincoln was wrong and you can indeed fool all the people all the time.

 

The way the peccadilloes of a non-entity and his equally unknown wife have captured our popular space shows how "reality" TV makes itself real, no matter how artificial it actually is. In the "real" world, Rahul Mahajan would be no more than the son of an unfortunately murdered politician who has led something of a rocky life.

 

However, from a mixture of tragedy and notoriety, Mahajan has earned stardom and, as a result, has an unreal wedding based on a TV show that helped him pick a bride. Then, when all is not well in this TV-made marriage, he makes the headlines once more.

 

In George Orwell's 1984, the ministry of war was called the ministry of peace. Similarly, "reality" TV disrupts normal life with its carefully controlled situations and then sells it back to us as if that is how life really happens. No wonder we are fascinated, because it gives us the impression of being more real than reality. And unlike lavish soap operas or melodramatic larger-than-life films, these are apparently ordinary people who lead manufactured lives, all neatly performed for us in front of television cameras. Why, we even do it ourselves with webcams and the internet and without the help of mega studios.

 

The last word might well belong to PT Barnum, the circus maestro, who most succinctly said, "There's a sucker born every minute". When it comes to "reality" television, that sucker is us.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

MR MUKHERJEE, STAY CLEAR OF REGULATORS

WEDNESDAY

 

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee did not face too much opposition in the Lok Sabha on Monday when he introduced the bill to replace the ordinance issued in June to resolve the standoff over unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips).

 

Market regulator Sebi and insurance regulator Irda were earlier locked in combat over who should regulate Ulips.

 

The opposition was critical of the need for an ordinance and wanted to know why the bill could not have been brought earlier.

 

The BJP's Nishit Kumar Dube suggested that as the new regulatory mechanism was located in the finance ministry, it would be much better if the many regulators were all disbanded and the ministry became the sole authority. Mukherjee had good humouredly disposed of the idea saying that the complexities of the market required a network of regulators.

 

Whilearguing for the Securities and Insurance Laws Amendment and Validation Bill, 2010, Mukherjee assured members that the new regulator in the ministry which will decide on jurisdiction disputes will not function as a super-regulator.

 

He confessed that he had asked Sebi and Irda to file a joint petition with the high court but the two refused to do so. That is a strange confession from a man who is in control of so much in the UPA government. Had the matter gone to court, a judicial ruling laying down the criteria would have been useful for companies selling Ulips as well as the retail buyers.

 

The larger issue is this: while the new bill allows the finance ministry to step in to resolve disputes between regulators, it is still a sub-optimal solution. Regulatory issues should be settled by someone who's at an arm's-length distance from the politicians who run the ministry. That's the only way to guarantee some measure of independence.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

MULTIPLE AGENDAS MAKE JAMMU & KASHMIR SUFFER

 

There can be little doubt that the ineptitude of the Omar Abdullah government is largely responsible for the current volatile situation in Kashmir, where people are dying in street protests almost everyday.

 

Clashes with the security forces in the past three months have seemingly put paid to all hopes that life in the Valley was on the road to normality. However there is also a cynical manipulation of popular sentiment going on by the state's regional parties.

 

The protests have suited the PDP and the Hurriyat and even Abdullah's own National Conference (NC). Each is using the events, or fuelling them, inadvertently or otherwise, to further his or her own agenda. The idea that democracy and development are the only ways to bring long-term peace and prosperity to the region is not one that suits everyone, specially not in the short-term.

 

Kashmir's separatist parties have found a handle which they can use to advantage. The "need" to introduce Pakistan into the equation is once again being voiced. This clamour is bound to get stronger if the protests worsen. It, of course, suits our western neighbour to have a troubled Kashmir since it can then deflect attention from its own culpability in nurturing the Taliban and assorted terror groups that target India.

 

For the PDP, this is not just an opportunity to win political points against the NC. It is a chance to push for more trade with Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and tread the "Kashmiriyat" line — softly and without the vigour of the separatists, but to shift to that side nonetheless.

 

The PDP has been known to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds in the past. Even within the National Conference, there is a growing feeling that the turmoil can be used to demand more autonomy for the state. But given the abject failure of the state government, the NC may well find that it is at a disadvantage.

 

Regional parties, as we have seen in the rest of the country, run on very limited platforms. The bigger picture must include a plan to bring Kashmir back to the mainstream with some measure of increased autonomy.

 

For the Centre, though, there can be no dithering. The law and order situation must be contained but the security forces must also be equipped with less lethal weapons so that every protest does not end up leaving more dead bodies in the Valley.

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DNA

COMMENT

VAST GULF BETWEEN INDIC RELIGIONS AND THE REST

RAJEEV SRINIVASAN

 

Ram Puniyani's assertions are a textbook example of the classical "charvita charvanam" — literally, chewing the cud, or metaphorically, "truth by repeated assertion".

 

Apparently "progressives" in India are incapable of a single original thought or insight — they specialise in recycling bromides of circa 1950 vintage.

 

The fact is there is a history of Semitic/Abrahamic faiths, all of which accept the dichotomy between good and evil. There is a vast gulf between Indic religions and these religions of the desert.

 

The former are fundamentally accepting of diversity, while the latter declare their allegiance to a "jealous god". Communism falls squarely into that category — after all, like in the crusades and jehad, Communism too has sacrificed a hundred million people to its own jealous god. Just look at Cambodia for an example.

 

Communism, stripped of propaganda, is identical in structure to the Christian church. It too has its traditional church — the Soviet one (although sadly eclipsed now) and the Protestants (the Chinese church). It has its schism, its scriptures (Marx's and Mao's works). And its blind faith in dogmas("the state shall wither away").

 

When Communism was invented, the only differentiation left was to say "there is no god". So they did say exactly that. However, it is interesting that new religions generally violate their own dicta — thus Christianity treats the Bible and the cross as sacrosanct idols; similarly, Communists invented a jealous, vicious god ("dialectical materialism").

 

 

Furthermore, Puniyani's claim that the various shades of Communism are vastly different is laughable — they are all intent on seizing political power, and their differences are either over personalities or about hair-splitting theological arguments, like medieval Christian monks argued about the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin. Puniyani's understanding of Communism is either naïve or meant to obfuscate.

 

Puniyani segues cleverly into the Moral Equivalence tap-dance favoured by India's "progressives" — claiming crusades, jehad and dharmayudh as the same. Not true. The concept of "just war" is there in all cultures, and is religion-agnostic. In the case of Hinduism, it was never used as an excuse to attack people from other religions.

 

India's "eminent historians" keep claiming that there are innumerable instances of Hindu kings fighting religious wars against Buddhists and Jains. However, when pressed by Arun Shourie for actual evidence, they were only able to come up with two examples, after much huffing and puffing. Did someone say something about the exception that proves the rule?

 

Puniyani's grand finale is the blanket assertion that there is no such thing as religious terrorism. Pretzel logic, and wrong again. Hinduism does not support religious terrorism: there is nothing in Hindu scripture that asks its followers to indulge in holy war. Even the much-maligned caste system has no scriptural authority, only the support of a dyspeptic medieval monk.

 

But in the case of Christianity, there is the clear edict that "the sons of Shem shall rule over the sons of Ham". Similarly the bits about "killing the idolaters wherever you might find them" in the Koran are well known. No, Puniyani, the US media and the CIA did not invent this.

 

In both cases, there is an explicit injunction in their books to go out and convert all infidels to their faith; this justifies crusades and jehad. There is nothing comparable in Hinduism. Krishna advises Arjuna about the need for war only after all other avenues, samam, danam, bhedam, that is, negotiation, concessions, and attempts and division, have failed. This strikes the impartial observer as rather fair. Appeasement at all costs is self-defeating.

 

Puniyani valiantly aired many red herrings, clichés (half-baked platitudes like vasudhaiva kutumbakam) and diversionary tactics.

 

This sort of dissimulation is a thriving cottage industry in India.

 

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DNA

COMMENT

THERE'S NOTHING ABRAHAMIC OR HINDU ABOUT TERRORISM

 

Ram Puniyani Rajeev Srinivasan's article on Hindu terrorism (DNA, July 27, 2010), while making a correct point that what is being presented as Hindu terrorism is not related to Hindu religion, falls into the trap of the prevalent misconception that terrorism is due to religions.

 

He states that only Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) are associated with religious terrorism, while there is no history of Hindu terror. He also goes on to list Communism as a religion associated with terrorism. This latter part can be dismissed right away as Communism is not a religion; it is a political ideology.

 

Coming to Abrahamic religions, the common factor is that they derive their lineage from Abraham; they believe in a single god and single book. One can say these religions have a prophet who is supposed to have brought the message of God to human society.

In contrast, Hinduism does not have such a prophet as it evolved over a period of time and added different traditions under its umbrella, Vedic, post-Vedic and contemporary ones. Here the concept of god-goddess is very diverse. From animism to polytheism and monotheism to atheism, all can come under the spectrum of Hinduism.

 

Religions also have to be seen in the context of the social situation of their time. There is mention of peace and harmony in most of the religions, while one can also pick up aspects related to violence from their scriptures. The isolated examples of violence in Abrahamic religions don't make them preachers of violence and terror, as terror and violence both are the products of social situations, not religious doctrines. Many a time the rulers have used the cover of religion to expand their kingdoms. Hence, crusade, jehad and dharmayudh. To single out jehad and crusade and leave out the dharmayudh is a selective and partial

 

understanding of the past.

 

While, on the one hand, Hinduism will talk of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam, on the other there is an inbuilt structural violence in the form of the caste system, from the Vedas to Manusmriti. The Mahabharata exhorts the hero, Arjuna, to take up arms to do his religious duty. In the Ramayana, Lord Ram kills Shambuk to save Hindu religion. Pushyamitra Sunga also massacred Buddhists for saving Hinduism. The mass violence directed against minorities is instigated 'to save' religious communities.

 

The practices of many followers of most of the religions need not be exactly in accordance with the scriptures. In the same religion we have people like Hitler and Nelson Mandela. In the same religion we have people like Mahatma Gandhi and Nathuram Godse. In the same religion we have Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Osama bin Laden. To think that any violence is due to religion is a totally misplaced understanding.

 

Unfortunately, in contemporary times, US designs for controlling the oil wealth have resulted in a politics which has resorted to the cover of religion. It was in the US brainstorming centres that the core words of Islam, kafir and jehad were give a deliberate twist to train the Al Qaeda for the US goal of getting the Russian army defeated in Afghanistan.

 

The US media also popularised the phrase Islamic terrorism and it has become a part of social thinking. After Malegaon, some journalists started using the word Hindu terrorism.

 

This word is as much wrong as the word Islamic terrorism or Christian terrorism. Christianity also talks of peace and the word Islam stands for achieving peace by submission to Allah.

 

One can say that the life of Gandhi has been the epitome of practiced religious values. While Godse or Osama bin Laden have political goals and they have been presenting these goals in the language of religion, in the face Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Swami Dayanand Pandey and company, the temptation to call this Hindu terrorism has to be resisted. Religion needs to be delinked from politics and terrorism, and both.

 

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DNA

COMMENT

THE TRUTH: THEY'VE PLANTED THEIR FINGERS IN PUBLIC COFFERS

E RAGHAVAN

 

Headlines in newspapers these days portray a very dismal story. Whether it is illegal mining, the padayatra the Congress has undertaken to demand a CBI inquiry, a counter padayatra by the mining lords to shore up support.

 

Whether it is the story of a mining company giving licence to mine on the very day it was formed by the Chhattisgarh government or whether it is the manner in which sports administrators have dipped into the funds meant for Commonwealth Games, due to be staged in Delhi a few weeks from now, the sordid story is the same.

 

Everyone, whether it is a pure-play politician, a politician-businessman or a politician-sports administrator, seems to have made dipping into public money a full time occupation. Nothing unusual, one might argue. Corruption, after all, has been part of the mainstream in India for as long as one can remember. That is true but the scale to which this has risen, still has the capacity to shock.

 

Take, for instance, the stories one hears about the preparations for the Commonwealth Games. The extent of gold plating in every conceivable work for which tax payers' money was to be used is truly astounding. A treadmill rented at Rs10 lakh, chairs rented at Rs9,000. God knows what else was to be bought or rented out at an exorbitant price.

 

The casualty, of course, is not only the tax payer whose money was surely diverted; it is also the image of the country. The image that stays in the mind, like the discarded chewing gum that sticks to footwear, is that this country is incapable of doing anything right.

 

That may not be true at all. Many things get done in this country and it still has decent guys that are involved in governance.

 

However, the current political environment in the country has created a class of operators who know no rules and who, in any case, care little for rules.

 

If there was even an iota of self respect, then a Suresh Kalmadi would have at least offered to step aside and let someone else run the show until the truth was found out. Elsewhere in the world, anyone in his position would have been sacked by now. Not in this country because there are too many powerful people involved. The under preparation, not in the sports arena but in putting up the required infrastructure is a national shame of the first order.

 

Given these circumstances, Mani Shankar Aiyar seems to have been very mild in what he said about the preparations. It was known for sometime that our babus built world class infrastructure exactly like they build tenements in jhuggi jhopri colonies and the facilities for the games were no exception. Aiyar, seems to have raised the pitch at the right time and what we now have is a long list of what was never right so far as the Commonwealth Games are concerned.

 

Whether it is the CWG or the mining issue in states like Karnataka, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, the underlying message is that if there is money to be taken, it shall then be taken, as always, by the powerful. After a bit of shouting and screaming by the media, the political establishment will quietly put aside such embarrassing episodes and move on in life. The Kalmadis of the world will survive no matter who wields political power. A badly organised Commonwealth Games is only a minor set back for them.

 

The spectacle you see in Karnataka is equally unedifying. Road shows, instead of a proper and thorough investigation, seem to be the political response to an enormous scandal in which all political parties seem to have a hand. There is no sense of urgency to address the core issue — of halting illegal mining — but an unseemly hurry to score political points. What is forgotten is that while politics may be a game of one-upmanship — rallies by the ruling party to counter padayatras by the Opposition — governance is not.

 

The resources that are being mined illegally or the political muscle that is used for this purpose are all at the cost of the people. These issues ought to be addressed from that perspective and not as a political strategy to counter the Congress. Even that seems to be somewhat unimaginative because chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, it appears, wants to go on his own padayatra in the middle of August and, not to be left behind, JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy also wants his own road show.

 

That is what happens when one fails to make a distinction between a Walk and Walk the Talk. Meanwhile the plunder will continue in one form or the other and at all levels because those who are supposed to govern us and protect our interests have no sense of shame at all.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

VALLEY MUST BE SAVED

NEED FOR DEVELOPMENT-ORIENTED STRATEGY IN J&K

 

WITH the death toll continuing to rise in the unending violence in the Kashmir valley, both the Centre and the state government need to swing into action to bring the situation quickly under control. Monday's high-level meeting in New Delhi, presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and attended by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, besides others, came out with the consensus that any political or administrative initiative cannot bear fruit unless people are prevented from taking the law into their own hands. The Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister believes that what is being witnessed in the valley today is more a political problem than anything else. And hence his demand for a political package from the Centre. There is a clear hint that the troubled state needs more autonomy. He also referred to the question of withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and creation of ample job opportunities to arrest the growing unemployment problem, contributing to the unrest in Kashmir. His observations deserve to be given serious thought.

 

Surprisingly, he did not refer to the role of Pakistan's ISI in fanning the trouble in the state. It seems quite logical that the ISI has devised a new strategy of instigating people to throw stones at security forces and resort to mass protests at every available opportunity to settle scores with India after it failed to destabilise Jammu and Kashmir through "fidayeen" (suicide) attacks. However, any outside agency can succeed in implementing its destructive designs only when there is strong resentment among the people against the government of the day. There is, therefore, need to first concentrate on the resentment factor. Removing people's grievances as far as possible and reviving economic activity on a large scale through massive investment in development projects can work wonders under the circumstances.

 

However, it must be pointed out that the Omar Abdullah government did fail to realise the gravity of the situation in the beginning, when it would have been easier to handle it effectively. By its lacklustre style of handling the crisis at the initial stage, it allowed the situation to worsen with every passing day. Omar must be wiser now. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BACK TO WORK

MAKE BEST USE OF PARLIAMENT

 

IT is a matter of regret that Parliament could not transact any business last week because of disruption by the Opposition. The government was reluctant to give in to its demand for a discussion on price rise under an adjournment motion that entailed voting. While the Opposition's conduct was unfortunate and undemocratic, the government's failure to evolve a consensus on the issue contributed to the impasse. Now that Parliament is back to work, thanks to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's initiative, members should rise above party considerations and make proper use of the monsoon session. If Parliament does not perform its main function of legislation effectively through proper debate and discussion in both Houses, it will lose its utility and significance.

 

While it is not clear whether the current session would be extended beyond August 24 to compensate for last week's loss, among the 59 bills listed for introduction in this session are 36 new Bills, including the Goods and Service Tax Bill and the Direct Tax Bill. Parliament will also examine the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill and the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill. Two contentious pieces of legislation — the Women's Reservation Bill and the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill — are also listed. On March 9, the Rajya Sabha passed the Bill seeking to reserve 33 per cent of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies amid vociferous protests by the Samajwadi Party, the JD (U) and the RJD. As they continue to demand quota for the OBCs, Dalits and minorities within the Bill, the government needs to deploy all its skills to ensure its passage by the Lok Sabha in its present form.

 

The Civil Liability for Nuclear Dialogue Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha in the Budget session, was referred to Parliament's Standing Committee on Science and Technology following opposition from the BJP and the Left. Though it makes the operator exclusively liable in case of an accident, it is silent on the suppliers' liability. In the wake of the recent Bhopal gas tragedy verdict, it remains to be seen whether the government would change its stand on the Bill. In any case, as all these Bills are crucial, forward movement is possible only if there is a political consensus. Consequently, the government and the Opposition should understand their collective responsibility in the larger interest of the nation and act accordingly.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WOMEN IN UNIFORM

PERMANENT COMMISSION MARKS A TRIUMPH

 

IN a man's world women have to consistently fight battles to get what should be rightfully theirs. Time and again they have to beat all odds to break the glass ceiling that men have created for them on grounds that are at best frivolous but otherwise reek of blatant gender discrimination. What else can explain the Army's stubborn refusal to grant them a permanent commission? But now serving women officers in the Army have a reason to smile about as after seven years of legal battle the government has assured to give them a permanent commission in the legal and educational branches of the Army. Since a commission in the combat arms like infantry and armoured corps is still out of bounds for them, the government's acceptance of their demand symbolises a limited, albeit, a significant victory.

 

In times when women occupy unassailable positions of power in various domains, to deny them a proper role in the defence forces is not only illogical but also discriminatory. In fact, women in uniform may be in a minority but their presence is being increasingly recognised and accepted. Not too long ago, women in the Indian Air Force had won a long court battle that allowed them a permanent commission in all branches. The Border Security Force's all-women battalion has even celebrated one year of its existence. What is also heartening is that women were part of the retreat ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border this year. The Indo-Tibetan-Border Police too has got its first women contingent.

 

Why should the Army then have taken such an intransigent stance on women's role? No wonder, the apex court pertinently enquired – if you can't give permanent commission then why at all give short service commission to women in the Army? The Army which is besieged by shortage of officers should welcome women who have time and again proved their merit in various fields from business to banking to foreign affairs to politics. In a free democratic nation no one should be denied an equality of opportunity, more so on the basis of gender. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PAK ARMY AS DOMINANT FACTOR

REMOTE POSSIBILITY OF RAPPROCHEMENT WITH INDIA

BY AIR MARSHAL R.S BEDI (RETD)

 

THE recently concluded negotiations between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan got stalled, ostensibly at the behest of the Pakistan Army. As soon as the Army realised that the direction in which the talks were heading was not in keeping with its thinking, the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen Ashfaque Parvez Kayani, hastened to meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari who had to postpone their previously scheduled meetings with India's External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna in order to receive the General. General Kayani has, therefore, emerged as the most important player in shaping Pakistan's foreign policy.

 

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, notwithstanding his taunts about Krishna seeking advice frequently from Delhi during the course of the negotiations, had to hold comprehensive consultations with his Army Chief before meeting India's External Affairs Minister. General Kayani, who has managed an extension in service for himself, is the key element in Pakistan's power structure and controls the mechanism for taking decisions on major policy issues. He even summons the civilian bureaucracy to General HQs for finalising agendas, particularly on matters of foreign policy. Grant of a second tenure as Army Chief is not without reason. The Gilani-Zardari combine has managed to pre-empt the chances of military takeover and ensured mutual safety for the next three years at least. The Pakistan Army cannot escape the blame for the India-Pakistan talks getting derailed.

 

Even when the talks were in progress, the Pakistan Army was playing spoilsport. It kept the LoC alive by intermittent heavy firing and infiltrating militants in ever-increasing numbers. Whenever an Indo-Pak engagement takes place at the political level, something untoward happens that stalls the talks and ensures that the status quo ante is not disturbed. The Army is constrained to hold the Indo-Pak normalisation process hostage. It cannot let its primacy slip away. India must, therefore, remain a cause for concern for the Pakistan Army.

 

Surprisingly, India always appears keen to engage Pakistan in talks despite Islamabad's repeated attempts to strike at it in various ways. It was Pakistan that attacked India in 1947, 1965 and 1971 without any provocation. The Kargil misadventure of 1999 was planned by General Musharraf at a time when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was visiting Lahore for peace talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Could there be worse perfidy than this? If one is to consider the other means employed by Pakistan to destabilise India, the list is long and devastating. Attacks on Indian Parliament, Akshardham in Gujarat and the Mumbai terrorist killings in November 2008 are just a few examples of how provocative Pakistan's behaviour has been all these years

 

Pakistan has been exporting terrorism since the days of Gen Zia-ul-Haq with impunity. Despite promising repeatedly that it would not allow terrorists to operate from its soil, Islamabad has failed to honour its pledge so far. Pakistan's proclivity to go back on its promise and deny its hand in most brazen acts of terrorism perpetrated by its state agencies bewilders India, to say the least. And yet India continues to show genuine restraint, extent of provocations notwithstanding. However, India is worried about its mounting security concerns. The military leadership in Pakistan has to be careful that it does not cross India's threshold of strategic restraint.

 

Pakistan may like us to believe that there is some sort of trust deficit between the two nations due to which their relations remain perennially tense. But the facts are different. Pakistan's insatiable desire to cut India to size has led it astray on a path of compulsive hatred and animosity. The Pakistan Army in particular views India as its national enemy number one. It is not trust deficit, therefore, but the lack of strategic vision on its part due to which it continues to push India beyond a point all the time. Why does India fall in such honey traps and tow Pakistan's line of trust deficit? It has been one-way traffic all the time.

 

"Non-state actors" is yet another Pakistani invention. By calling its militants/extremists whom it provides all the succour they need as "non-state actors", it washes its hands off any responsibility for their acts of subversion and mayhem in India. How can a government disown its responsibility when its citizens, operating from its soil and often under official patronage, try to destabilise a neighbouring country? How does India accept such ridiculous alibis from Pakistan?

 

The problem with Pakistan is that it has not been able to reconcile itself to the asymmetries in our size, resources, population, GDP and comprehensive national power. India's growing strategic capabilities, particularly after the civilian nuclear deal with the US and progressively increasing conventional force superiority should have convinced Pakistan about the rationale of India being the dominant South Asian power. But Islamabad refuses to see the writing on the wall. It continues to compete and seek parity with India. It fails to realise that it is an unequal match and, therefore, it is futile to aspire for parity. But as long as the military remains the dominant factor in Pakistan, the possibility of better understanding or any rapprochement with India is rather remote.

 

It must be mentioned here that the Pakistan Government, a facade for a democratic dispensation, is in no position to take any action against the perpetrators of 26/11.

 

The writer is a former Director-General, Defence Planning Staff

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

THE THREE ON TWO WHEELS

BY B.K. KARKRA

 

IN Delhi, the capital of perhaps the most liberal democracy of the world, you often see three uncouth-looking youth riding a two-wheeler at great speed, honking all the while, flailing their arms in ecstasy, letting all sorts of sounds to amuse the persons passing by and believing innocently that the traffic regulations do not apply to them. I tell you, they are a great sight. At least this is what they think of themselves. They seem to believe that the road all but belongs to them. After all, the person from whom they have borrowed the bike must have paid his road taxes.

 

For some reason, they are always in a tearing hurry. Perhaps the bike is available to them only for a while and their idea is to enjoy their short ride to the hilt. They weave their way deftly through the traffic, riskily and noisily startling one and all. But this does not ruffle many feathers because we are such a patient lot that we can take all sorts of nuisance and noise in our stride. Even when much of traffic is not there, they drive in such a curly manner as would put a 'nagin' (female snake) to shame.

 

Once I saw one of these threesomes riding a scooter in Dwarka sub-city of Delhi. They were driving on the wrong side, and, as usual, at quite some speed. To top it all, the one who was driving had a mobile tucked between his right shoulder and head and he was talking on it all the while. Often he felt the need of taking away his right hand from the handle to adjust the ever-slipping mobile.

 

As luck would have it, a truck appeared in front of them rather suddenly. The truck was on its right side and more importantly, it was being driven by one who, after all, was a truck driver. He drove it close to the scooter in a manner that brought its riders to the mother earth instantly. Their mobile was cast quite a distance away. The bike grazed against the divider hissing angrily and finally skidded on the ground. Its riders fell front-rolling over each other in the manner of judo fighters. The truck driver got down, held them by the shoulder one by one and brought them to their feet.

 

They now looked lost and bewildered. Someone recovered their mobile and put it in the listless hands of one of them. It took some time for their vacant looks to get into a properly seeing mode. Fortunately, there were no fractures. But they had bruises all over. However, it was not the bruises that bothered them. It was the visible damage to the borrowed bike that was worrying them no end.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE ARMED FORCES ARE SHORT OF 14,244 OFFICERS, AS STATED BY DEFENCE MINISTER A.K. ANTONY IN PARLIAMENT. AS THE SECURITY ENVIRONMENT THROWS UP HUGE CHALLENGES, MANPOWER ISSUES CONTINUE TO PLAGUE THE ARMED FORCES, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICER CADRE AND SOME TECHNICAL TRADES. THE NEED TO ATTRACT TALENT TO MAINTAIN THE FORCES' CUTTING EDGE CANNOT BE OVER-EMPHASISED. 

INADEQUATE NUMBERS BLUNT THE CUTTING EDGEBRIG SANTOKH SINGH (RETD)

 

SHORTAGE of officers in the armed forces, particularly the army, which besides fighting six wars (including Sri Lanka) after the Partition, has been constantly involved in internal security duties is a matter of serious concern.

 

Compared to other government establishments and the private sector, service conditions of the armed forces, which continue to receive step motherly treatment, are a lot more strict and difficult. Even the Supreme Court has opined that the government treats them as beggars. No wonder, therefore, that the well informed youth of today are not attracted to donning the military uniform, the prestige and love for it having considerably waned. A number of academies that came up in the 50s and 60s to train aspirants for getting a commission in the forces, have closed shop for this reason.

 

Against authorisation of 23 officers, infantry units, for example, are having a posted strength of only 10 officers. Considering officers on courses, leave or temporary duty, those actually present in a unit at any one time are just five of six. This adversely affects administrative and training commitments. The situation gets accentuated for units deployed in operational areas like J&K.

 

Substantially increased authorisation of 48 junior commissioned officers (JCOs) in a battalion is a welcome step to create more avenues of advancement for the ranks. For active operations, however, old, slow, less educated and less adventurous JCOs, at the fag end of their career, cannot fill the void in frontline leadership provided by young, dashing and adventurous officers. This is amply borne by the number of officer casualties during anti-terrorist operations. A colonel from 18 RR killed in June, a lieutenant colonel from of 37 RR injured on July 13, a major killed on July 14 and another major injured on July 15 are recent instances.

 

As a tool of the government, the army is used in aid to civil authorities for all sorts of jobs, ranging from rescuing children from bore wells to combating natural calamities. It is now being considered to fight Maoists, which will further add to the demand on officer leadership for operations in a number of the Maoist affected states.

 

Yet, the government seems to have a "chalta hai" attitude about the shortage of officers, perhaps in the belief that a conventional war with potential adversaries is a remote possibility. In this context, the leaders could do well to refer to erstwhile Deputy PM V. Patel's letter of November 7, 1950 (mentioned in Unsung Battles of 1962) to the Jawaharlal Nehru, wherein giving a detailed visualisation of China's long term designs in the region, he emphasised the need for preparing the country for a military threat from that quarter. Twelve years later in 1962, we got a rap from China, the obvious reson of which was the scant attention paid to his assessment and warning.

 

The contents of that letter are all the more relevant now with resurgent China's emphatically increased assertions of its interests in Tibet, Arunachal and Ladakh, as also for its multifaceted collusion with Pakistan to change the balance of power with India. As regards Pakistan, its foreign minister Quereshi's consultations with Pak army chief a day before the July 15 meet at Islamabad and later his arrogant conduct during parleys, allegedly on behest of Gen Pervez Kayani who has now secured a three-year extension, represents the extent of the army's predominance in that country.

 

Again, it is chiefly for the doings of its army that Pakistan has positioned itself as indispensable to the two world powers. To match this strategic success, the Pakistani army, having received massive US military aid may undertake any Kargil-like adventure to try and wash the stigma of its successive military defeats at India's hands. The ISI sponsored 26/11 strike in Mumbai may well be a feeler to gauge our capability and will to strike back in reprisal.

 

As such, armed conflicts with our neighbours caused by a Mumbai like provocation or other geo-political reasons are a distinct possibility. In any case, the best way to avoid a war, as the saying goes, is to be prepared for it. The capability to hit or to hit back well, despite all what we possess in terms of armaments and equipments, calls for requisite leadership and that too in adequate numbers at the cutting edge of the armed forces.

 

Unit commanders, as the proverbial wearers of the pinching shoes, should not just serve time to somehow complete their tenure of appointments, but formally represent in black and white about the shortages of officers. Such representations should then be processed up the channels for the services chiefs to ring the bell and ring it well in the concerned quarters to impress upon the government to make the armed forces effectively strong and kicking at the delivery ends. As a military power to count in the region, besides befitting our rising prestige and place in the international polity, we would certainly dissuade the adversaries from offending us at will.

 

The need, therefore of attracting the aspiring youth to the armed forces by ensuring the warranted adequacy of pay, perks, pension and above all prestige for defence officers to be seen, heard and held in respect, cannot be over emphasised

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CHECK EXODUS OF TECHNICAL MANPOWER

WG CDR D.P. SABHARWAL (RETD)

 

WARS may be fought with machines but are won by the men behind them, is an age-old maxim whose wisdom can neither be negated nor denied. But that it can be ignored, is perhaps the notion many present day air force commanders seem to have. It is sad as it cannot be proved during peacetime that it can be ignored and in times of war it would be too costly in terms of lives and equipment lost.

 

Driving a car is easier than maintaining it. Moreover, the car and its systems are relatively less in number and simple as compared to an aircraft. A modern day aircraft costing hundreds of crores of rupees is a very intricate and complex machine. To maintain it in a fly-worthy condition round the clock is a challenging if not daunting task. Therefore, the men entrusted with this task have to be fully fit physically and more so mentally. This however is not the case, if one looks at the number of technicians seeking pre-mature release.

 

Technicians are among the most important assets of the air force, constituting almost 65 per cent of the manpower. For the past many years, they are leaving in large numbers. There are many important aspects linked to this that need consideration. Firstly, they are leaving in the prime of their lives, at an age of 38-40 years. Secondly, they are leaving after an experience of 20 odd years, which is too good to be lost. Thirdly, those who are leaving are no dead-wood. In fact they are generally the best. They are skilled and have enough confidence that they will be able to settle in another job outside. On the contrary those who are not confident of themselves prefer to remain in service, keep cribbing about the not-so-conducive environment and continue giving their second or third best to the organisation.

 

There may be many reasons why technicians leave, but the sad part is the organisation is apparently not interested in knowing these. This feeling arises from the simple fact that there is no system in place to obtain the exit feedback. The air-warrior gives his unwillingness to continue in service almost 30 months before he can hang his uniform. During this long period, he is not interviewed by his immediate section commander or the commanding officer or any other specialist from higher echelons. He is neither advised nor counseled against leaving or continuing in service. He is just asked by Air Force Records Office, which he visits for final clearance, to fill a two-page performa stating his reasons for leaving. What happens to this lone performa, no one knows.

 

Upward communication in any organisation, is as essential as downward communication for proper functioning and growth. In fact many organisations regard it more useful and value upward communication from its employees, since it is considered good for growth as well as employee morale. The defence forces, at one point of time, used to employ this method to great use. There used to be "barakhanas" (lunch or dinner with subordinates in their mess) and "welfare meetings" that were meaningful. Subordinates were made comfortable and coaxed to come out with grievances, small or big, relevant or irrelevant. The fact that they were able to do so in the presence of their commanding officer, considered to be the father figure, gave them a lot of solace and mental satisfaction. All this is being done today, but apparently without any heart and soul in it and merely as a formality on the part of seniors. Even subordinates tend to feel uncomfortable at such meetings and in fact, are reluctant to bring out irregularities or disturbing points for fear they may be harassed and victimised.

 

Another important area in which the air force has not done anything except making cosmetic changes is related to security duties by highly skilled technicians. Imagine technicians who are paid Rs 25,000 or so per month are required to do night duties guarding buildings and hangers. How effective they are in performing such duties is anybody's guess, but one thing is clear. Professional security personnel such as pre-maturely retired army personnel can perform such duties more efficiently.

 

Yet another important point is that technical airmen seeking pre-mature release make a beeline for clerical jobs, preferably in banks, while there is a great shortage of trained technicians in civil airlines. There is no cell in the vast Air Headquarters to look in to this aspect and do the necessary tie-up with Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

 

The air force is going in a big way to modernise its ageing fleet. More complex and state-of-the-art aircraft would require trained and skilled technicians. Before the new aircraft arrive, the air force needs to modernise its thinking process, look into the reasons for the large outflow of the skilled manpower and take timely steps to arrest the trend. Only then will it be able to "touch the sky with glory".


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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

DO OSAMA NOT ELVIS, KARAN

REMAKING AN INDIE WITH A GREAT IDEA THAT FALLS SHORT OF ITS POTENTIAL MIGHT BE SMARTER THAN TAKING ON A FILM WE ALREADY LOVE

RAJA SEN


 Afew weeks ago, I watched an independent little American movie called TiMER. The premise was staggeringly good: it's set in a world where the guesswork has been taken out of love, and a digital timer embedded in your wrist counts down to the day you meet your soulmate. The high-concept film follows through cleverly enough – dealing with potential complications like fake timers, skeptics, class relations, blank timers and those showing times too early and too late – and the basic idea comes across very solidly indeed. 

Yet despite the great concept, this isn't what can be called a good film. Most of the cast is too weak, especially the supporting actors, the dialogues aren't sharp enough, and the film could really have used a coat of polish. It sounds sacrilegious, but I really wished TiMER wasn't an indie but a big, glossy Hollywood romcom, something bright and smart enough to do justice to the idea but also shiny and well-made enough to attract the casual viewer. 

 Because film, as much as it is about concept and content, is also about craft. 

 

Which is why Karan Johar should look into remaking Tere Bin Laden. 

 

I watched 'the Osama film' last week, a quirky, zany, politically provocative comedy directed by first timer

Abhishek Sharma. Applause all around, largely because the film's central conceit – that of an ambitious, America-obsessed Pakistani journalist finding a Bin Laden lookalike and making a fake Al Jazeera style tape to earn some quick dough – is mouthwateringly delicious. An unabashed farce, the film manages to make a strong enough political statement, while tickling the gentry in the first few rows. It's quite an accomplishment. 

And yet it doesn't even feel like a real film, sadly enough. It feels like an overlong episode of Jaspal Bhatti's Flop Show (one which hasn't been 'mis-edited' properly), leaving in too much filler between a few great gags. And despite the occasionally intelligent jokes and political asides, the film wallows in too much frontbench juvenilia to end up a truly funny product. 

 

 Pradhuman Singh Mall is excellent as the role of the poultry farmer coerced into playing Osama for the camera, but the rest of the cast doesn't even seem to be 'trying' to act. Pakistani popstar Ali Zafar, this film's leading man, has a likeable, refreshing presence, but visibly cares more about the camera catching his better side than he does actual acting. Theatrical icons like Piyush Mishra and Barry John ham up roles with immense potential. Actually, all the characters are far more interesting than the actors inhabiting them. Rahul Singh, for example, gets a terrific part – radical radio-jockey Comrade Qureishi – and while initially according to him appropriate pomp, flubs it up miserably when having to act drunk. 

 

 It 'is' a fun, watchable film, a runaway success – and heaven knows we should all feel grateful for starless hits - but nowhere near a film as good as the premise promises. Which is why I'm all for a big-budget, well-cast, finely polished Bollywood version. 

 

 Because remakes are about the idea, aren't they? Karan Johar is currently remaking Stepmom, his We Are Family featuring powerhouse A-list actresses, yes, but also, as the trailers promise, a frightening amount of gloss. The Chris Columbus original, with Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon, is a tearjerker, and we all know Karan can crank those out in his sleep. Why not then take a film with a great idea that falls short of its potential, and come up with a remakebetter than the original? 

 

 By the way, in the upcoming film, Kajol, Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal murder Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock. That's reason enough to stay away, really. 

 

 Blasphemy notwithstanding, We Are Family may well turn out to be a monster hit, but Karan, remake Tere Bin Laden – surrounding Pradhuman with real actors, sharpening the script, mounting it big enough to take to the SRK-loving audiences – and you may well have a world-conquering, festivalsweeping, politically relevant, excessively entertaining goddamned masterpiece. Think about it.

 

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

EDITORIAL

BULL TAKES A BREATHER

Q1 PROFITS FALL BY A FIFTH, MARGINS A THIRD

 

If any proof was required that industry was slowing — standard year-on-year numbers show a healthy 11.5 per cent growth but the seasonally adjusted numbers show a sharp decline in growth — the first quarter results provide ample evidence. While sales for 793 manufacturing sector firms that account for 70 per cent of India Inc's net profits grew at a healthy 24 per cent (hence the increase in the HSBC Markit PMI that most newspapers reported yesterday), this is lower than 2009-10's last quarter growth of 33 per cent. More important, even though growth in raw material prices started reducing in Q1, it was still higher than the growth in top-line revenues of companies and so, as a share of the top line, raw material costs rose from 40.4 per cent in Q4 2009-10 to 43.3 per cent in Q1. As a result, the bottom line has taken a huge hit — operating profit margins are down from Q4's 17.1 per cent to 14 per cent in Q1 and net margins from 9 per cent to 6.2 per cent. Once public sector oil refining/marketing firms declare their numbers, things are likely to look worse.

 

If commodity prices start easing, as is expected, once Chinese growth slows, the impact on margins will be immediate. Automobiles, for instance, will see margins recovering — Q4 margins of 9.3 per cent fell to 7.7 per cent in Q1 as a result of rising raw material costs. The impact on commodity firms will be negative, so the net impact will not be as straightforward as one may naturally assume, but on balance, it should be positive. Curiously, while CMIE data suggest capital spending continues to boom — in the June quarter, CMIE's CapEx database had 900 new announcements with investments totalling Rs 5,80,000 crore, a number that is higher than earlier peaks — other indicators point in different directions. The IIP's capital goods index rose a healthy 34 per cent in May but this was lower than April's 70 per cent. Seasonally adjusted data show a fall in growth right from April onwards. To the extent that companies finance investments through raising fresh capital, the funds raised in Q1, in India as well as globally, are down a fourth — given the large cash balances that companies have, however, this indicator needs to be treated a bit cautiously as firms don't have to immediately tap markets to finance projects. The poor profits performance, though, suggests the stock market may be a bit over-priced and that could have its own consequences. The continuing demand for cars would suggest that demand continues to be robust even though there is pricing pressure. Apart from watching out for the impact of the latest round of rate hikes, a lot depends on how the recovery in the US and the euro area picks up or whether it falters — the IMF suggests it is picking up, but its forecasts have been wrong in the past.

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JBUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

KEEP MICROFINANCE HEALTHY

WHY NOT BANKING LICENCES FOR THE BEST?

 

 

The initial public offer (IPO) by SKS Microfinance has catapulted the sector into the limelight, bringing lending very small amounts to very poor people right into the financial mainstream. This is a matter for rejoicing. If hardnosed risk capital can support such lending, then a major weapon will have been found to fight poverty. But Muhammad Yunus, father of microfinance, is not happy. His concern is that when you go for an IPO "you are promising your investors that there is a lot of money to be made and that is a wrong message". His sense is that "poor people should not be shown as an opportunity to make money out of". He would have been happy if investors were told upfront that this was a social business from which they should not expect any returns. On the other hand, SKS founder Vikram Akula has emphasised that it is the prospects of high and assured returns which will bring funding to the sector whose needs are gigantic.

 

There is everything to be said in favour of professionally run microfinance organisations proudly declaring that they are a viable business and emphasising that if you get your processes and skills right, lending to the very poor is, in fact, safer than commercial lending. But some of the current practices of target-oriented, hard-driving, corporate-type microfinance organisations have also given rise to a few unhealthy trends. Multiple lending (a borrower taking loans from more than one organisation) is rampant and the practice of securing group guarantees from borrowers ensures high recoveries but also introduces an element of peer pressure and harassment of potential defaulters. This leads to taking one loan to pay off another. So, in a sense, a bubble may be growing; annual growth rates of near 100 per cent, hardly sustainable, indicate so. Microfinance organisations charge upwards of 24 per cent interest. With growth, costs should come down and borrowers should benefit, but can you do that while chasing high quarterly returns? The more professional microfinance organisations have formed an association which has sought to self-regulate the sector by seeking to curb multiple lending and bringing transparency in lending rates, but its success will be known only with time.

Since high investor returns are justified on the need to secure continuous funding, and since microfinance has been found to be viable, attention should really turn to making available cheaper funds to the better run institutions so that they can keep up the good work without having to maximise profit always. This is important because the very poor are more vulnerable to shocks than other sections of society, and for them to have to clock a steady repayment rate of 98 per cent plus may not be realistic. One solution is to issue banking licences to the best run institutions so that they can access cheap funds. As RBI has promised a discussion paper on the issuing of new bank licences, the case for microfinance institutions to be included should be examined by the paper. After all, they are safer (have higher rates of repayment) than regular banks.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

RATE HIKES - HOW MUCH MORE?

WHILE A COUPLE OF MORE HIKES ARE PERHAPS WARRANTED, A MORE AGGRESSIVE APPROACH IS UNNECESSARY

ABHEEK BARUA

 

Let me ask a trick question. How much has RBI hiked its policy rate this year? If your answer is one percentage point or a percentage point and a quarter (depending on whether you are referring to the repo or the reverse repo rate), you would be wrong. While the individual rates have been indeed hiked by that quantum since January, the banking system has moved from a liquidity surplus to a deficit from the end of May. From parking thousands of crores of surplus with RBI at the reverse repo rate, banks were at the time of the policy announcement last week borrowing equally large amounts from the central bank at the repo rate. Thus, while the effective policy rate was the reverse repo rate of 3.25 per cent in January, it is the repo rate of 5.75 per cent today. In short, the policy rate has moved up by a whopping two-and-a-quarter percentage points over 2010. RBI's supporters would argue that the central bank hasn't exactly been sleeping over inflation.

 

This liquidity deficit came about by accident, not by policy design. As telecom companies paid the government the charges for the 3G and broadband spectrum auctions, roughly Rs 1,00,000 crore left the banking system and went into the government's account. This created a liquidity hole that banks tried to bridge by borrowing from RBI at the repo window. The initial response from the central bank was that this deficit was temporary and it would do its best to return the system to surplus.

 

 The importance of last Tuesday's monetary policy was RBI's admission that it actually prefers this liquidity deficit to a surplus. It would, as a policy objective, keep the system in "injection mode" — that is ensure that banks keep borrowing from the central bank rather than lend to it. The logic is simple — for monetary policy to make a dent on inflation, policy signals have to translate into higher lending rates. (Tuesday's policy statement incidentally jettisoned the usual waffle on the need to balance growth and inflation and clearly pointed out that inflation was the dominant concern). Then it should not quite take rocket science to figure out that banks are more likely to up deposit and lending rates if they are short of cash than if they are flush.

 

What are the implications? If indeed RBI wants to ensure a liquidity deficit rather than surplus, it will have to manage the quantum of liquidity directly rather than simply alter the policy rates. That means more active use of the cash reserve ratio, the fraction of deposits that banks are mandated to keep with RBI. Thus, if the liquidity impact of the auctions dissipates (at HDFC Bank we expect a small surplus in August), RBI could impound some of this cash by raising the cash reserve ratio and taking the system back to deficit. For banks, the strategic implications are a no-brainer. If liquidity is indeed likely to remain scarce and the central bank is also likely to raise the price of liquidity (the repo rate), the only thing to do is to hike deposit rates. Since banks are in the business of maximising profits, this makes sense only if they can protect margins and lend at higher rates. The bottom line is that there will be an immediate hike in deposit rates and lending rate increases will follow with a lag. This lag could be three months or even shorter.

 

Credit data show that there is much more traction in corporate loan demand than in retail. In fact, some of my colleagues on the retail side of our business complain of aggressive price wars fought between banks in retail markets. Thus, the initial rise in lending rates is likely to be for corporate loans and higher rates for retail loans will come later.

 

How much more should RBI hike rates? That depends on how much behind the curve the central bank finds itself at the moment. Recent comments by a senior RBI official (reported widely in the media) suggests that the central bank has fallen far behind. My colleague and committed econometrician Jyotinder Kaur runs a variant of the Taylor rule model that is widely used to determine a central bank's optimal rate response to inflation and growth. Jyotin uses the difference of current inflation from the target of 5 per cent and the deviation of industrial growth from its underlying trend as explanatory variables. She concludes that RBI is less than 50 basis points below the curve if the repo rate is likely to continue to be effective policy rate. Thus, while a couple of more rate hikes are perhaps warranted if RBI wants to climb back on the curve, a more aggressive approach is perhaps unnecessary.

 

There are other caveats as well. In order to earn its kudos from the inflation hawks, RBI has suddenly jettisoned all other objectives that it was grappling with and returned to a textbook template. However, problems like instability in the global financial markets or the possibilities of a sudden stop in capital flows have not gone away. China and the western economies, particularly the US, are again beginning to look rather fragile. RBI needs to keep its antenna up for these risks and calibrate policy accordingly. Otherwise a full-on jihad on inflation through aggressive monetary policy could lead to undesirable collateral damage.

 

The author is chief economist, HDFC Bank. The views expressed are persona

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CASHLESS OR CLUELESS ON HEALTH CARE?

PROFESSIONALS ASSOCIATED WITH PRIVATE HOSPITALS DELIVERING HEALTH INSURANCE SAW THE PRESENT STAND-OFF COMING

SUBIR ROY

 

Professionals associated with private hospitals delivering health insurance saw the present stand-off coming. Unable to bear losses well exceeding 20 per cent, public sector health insurers stopped cashless treatment since July, so patients have to first pay and then get reimbursed. Cashless treatment is being slowly restored as private hospitals fall in line, agree to standard charges for standard treatments and procedures, and get included in insurers' "preferred provider networks" (PPN). At the time of writing, topmost hospital chains like Apollo and Max and standalone hospitals like Manipal in Bangalore are still negotiating.

 

 Who are the bad boys? The Indian Express reports Naresh Trehan, industry leader and head of Medicity, acknowledging there had been some instances of over-billing. Insurance companies have legitimate concerns over mismatch between premium collected and payment made. "So, there is a need to bring alignment... balance between best price and quality health care," he said.

 

The root cause is the unviability of the business model. There is no incentive for private health-care providers to reduce cost for patients. In fact, the incentives are for the opposite. Hospitals judge specialists empanelled with them by how much business they bring. An apocryphal story about a leading non-profit run by a business house in Kolkata says a trustee's spouse one day decided to step in and shake up things. She called for a list of how much business each specialist brought and decided to sack the non-performers. It turned out that all the anaesthetists were getting axed! Unsurprisingly, specialists at Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore are salaried employees and the hospital has already agreed to standard rates and joined the PPN.

 

Professionals readily agree that a patient's bill jumps as soon as the provider knows he is covered by health insurance. Yes, there are rate charts for standard procedures but it is easy to explain why unforeseen this or that had to be performed. Specialists in India routinely get a commission for tests recommended. It is not even illegal. Runaway health-care costs were reined in in the US once insurers got serious and third-party administrators (TPAs) got cracking.

 

TPAs in India initially tried to pre-authorise admission and perform concurrent audit. But volumes overwhelmed them. Introduction of cashless treatment has led to a surge in business. With the industry growing at over 30 per cent, all stakeholders realise that the goose laying the golden egg should not be killed. All need to become good boys, including patients who say things like: let me stay on in hospital till the stitches are removed, after all the insurance company is paying. And if the hospital is like a five star hotel then the adverse incentive is obvious.

 

The whole matter is not really a public policy concern. It involves the richest of Indians, less than the top 10 per cent who go in for private health insurance. Health-care facilities for the vast majority of Indians are appalling or non-existent. The policy issue is that in the absence of a functioning public health-care system and with rising upper crust incomes, India is opting for the one truly bad model coming out of America, its drug and insurance firms-driven health-care system. What should have been adopted is the European model of universal state-provided health care of high quality.

 

I asked a hospital administrator whom I respect how he wished to tackle the information asymmetry between the patient and the doctor whose "advice" he accepted implicitly. The reply was that people are becoming increasingly aware, courtesy, among other things, the Internet. The nightmare I see before me is that of the endless wrangles between US patients and their insurance companies — over some new treatment that the patient has come to know of and is insisting on getting — coming to India. The administrator also says price controls are wrong; patients benefit from price competition among providers. Still, how about having a benchmark, which is not the best in class but an average of the best? How about a hospital telling the insurance company: we will better your standard rates, do for less, give us more business?

 

But it is no good saying the European model is better when public sector health care in India does not deliver. There seems to be a way out and it is happening in the south. The Yeshasvini cooperative health-care scheme for Karnataka farmers, started in 2003, collected Rs 36 crore premium (Rs 150 per head) in 2008-09, got government help of Rs 30 crore, handled 75,000 surgeries, which was 2.46 per cent of enrollment. The Rajiv Arogyasri health-care scheme in Andhra Pradesh for below poverty line families has from April 2007 till now pre-authorised Rs 2,000 crore in treatment. In Tamil Nadu, the Kalaignar health insurance scheme now has 14 million enrollments. Entitlement is Rs 1 lakh per family for four years, premium is Rs 469 per family. Over 30,000 have been treated so far for Rs 102 crore.

 

The model is mostly public funding of private delivery — wide coverage, small premium paid by the poor, the state chipping in quite a bit, and care provided by a network of public and private hospitals, with the latter doing business under tough standard-cost guidelines. These state governments are reasonably resource-rich and know what to do to stay in power. Tamil Nadu and Kerala, in any case, have the best public health-care systems in the country. My sense is, have private health care by all means, but also have a well-functioning public health-care system to have a sense of balance.

 

subirkroy@gmail.com

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

CASE OF THE BAD TYPIST

EVEN AFTER THE SUPREME COURT POINTS OUT GLARING ERRORS IN LEGISLATION, THE LAWMAKERS LEAVE THEM AS THEY ARE

M J ANTONY

 

The legal profession confers on provisions of law the reverence demanded by religious texts. Lawyers can often be found in courts elucidating legal phrases like a scientist explaining a classic theorem. Even blunders made by draftsmen and typographical gaffes retained in statutes for decades do not dilute their sacred fervour. The Supreme Court says that such forensic foul-ups could be the "trial judge's nightmare".

 

The latest instance in which the judges had to scratch their heads and ask themselves "what the Dickens?" is that of a judgment last week dealing with commercial arbitration. The Afcons Infrastructure Ltd vs Cherian Varkey case raised the question whether the court can order the parties before it to go for arbitration even when there is no such clause in the agreement. The answer was no.

 

However, the Supreme Court had to tread carefully through a crucial provision in the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) to arrive at the answer. The reason was that the long provision drafted with clumsy clauses and sub-clauses had to be ironed out before it could be made functional. Arbitration as an alternative disputes resolution mechanism has attained great relevance, but this provision had been in the statute since 1976 without anyone noticing the vexation it caused to judges in the civil courts.

 

Section 89 of the CPC provides for five modes of alternative disputes resolution — arbitration, conciliation, judicial settlement, including settlement through Lok Adalat or mediation. But the first anomaly, according to the judges, is the mixing up of the definitions of "mediation" and "judicial settlement". It makes no sense to call a compromise effected by a court as "mediation". Nor does it make any sense to describe a reference made by a court to a suitable institution or person "judicial settlement". Mediation is a synonym for conciliation, in legal parlance.

 

"When words are universally understood in a particular sense, and assigned a particular meaning in common parlance, the definitions of those words in Section 89 with interchanged meanings has led to confusion, complications and difficulties in implementation," the judgment remarked. "The mix-up of definitions of the terms 'judicial settlement' and 'mediation' is apparently due to a clerical or typographical error in drafting, resulting in two words being interchanged." The rules will be clear only if the words are in their right places.

 

It is not clear whether the court was indulging in euphemism or tickling the lawmaker's ribs when it attributed the serious error in law to a humble typist. But one can be sure that the draftsmen and the lawmakers would miss the point. Their past conduct regarding the same code ensures that.

 

Five years ago, the Supreme Court pointed out another error in CPC, in its judgment in the Salem Bar Association case. The bad typist, or the printer's devil, mixed up the phrases, defendant's witnesses and plaintiff's witnesses in the 1976 amendment. The confusion confounding the subordinate judges since then cannot be easily imagined.

 

The court cut the Gordian knot thus: "To avoid confusion, we direct that till the legislature corrects the mistake, the word plaintiff's witnesses would be read as defendant's witnesses in Order VII Rule 4. We, however, hope that the mistake would be expeditiously corrected by the legislature." The trust was misplaced and the hope was belied.

 

The civil courts normally do not hear about Supreme Court judgments for many years as they have no funds to buy law journals or shelves to keep them, let alone a library. So, many judges might still be struggling to make sense of the wrong phrases left in the statute, despite the alarm bells from the Supreme Court.

 

It is not just this code that suffers from bad draftsmanship. There are several instances when the court proposes and Parliament disposes. In last year's Commissioner of Excise vs SKF India case, the court observed: "If the object of the law is to state clearly and unambiguously the obligations of the person whom the law addresses and to spell out plainly and without any confusion the consequences of failure to discharge the obligations cast by the law then four sections of the Central Excise Act fall miles short of the desired objective. Even, as originally cast, the provisions were far from very happily framed and worded. Subjected to amendments from time to time, those provisions have now become so complicated that in order to discern their meaning, it becomes necessary to read them back and forth several times."

 

About the much acclaimed Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the court stated in its judgment in the Bhatia International vs Bulk Trading case, that the Act was not well-drafted, leading to contrary judgments by various high courts on its applicability to foreign and Indian awards. The Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act is another statute criticised for its inaccuracies. These are only specimens; there are rows of them.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

POLICY IS GOVT'S PREROGATIVE

BUT TRAI'S VIEWS MUST BE HEARD

 

TELECOM regulator Trai and the government have been contesting each other's remit when it comes to making policy. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India believes that telecom policy is its preserve. The government asserts that policymaking is its prerogative. Now, the whole tenor of the law that created the regulatory body for telecom makes it clear that its role is to make recommendations on matters of policy, and to regulate the operation of telecom services. This is how it should be. Policy is the prerogative of the elected government. Its implementation without showing fear or favour to anyone is the job of the regulator. However, this does not mean that the telecom ministry or the minister should take their whim as policy. Or that the only check on them should be Parliament. Once the government has set up a regulatory body that builds up institutional expertise in its area of operation, it makes eminent sense to consult the body on any matter of policy. Trai comes out with consultation papers that are subjected to public debate before it formulates a recommendation. Well, most of the time. Such a reasoned recommendation that incorporates not only its own expertise but also insights distilled from public debate on the subject deserves to be taken seriously by those who make policy. In fact, the government should, if it ever chooses to depart from a recommendation by the regulator, write down its reasons and lay them before Parliament. Such a procedure would ensure that policymaking is institutionally sound and procedurally beyond reproach. 

 

 As the economy becomes progressively more complex, it will need a variety of regulators. The right to make policy cannot be hijacked by these bodies, just because they exist and have expertise. Regulators are vulnerable to capture by those whom they regulate. The right to make policy belongs to the people, and the regulators' job is to help them exercise the right wisely, through the government.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MARKET NPS BETTER

LET SACKED INSURANCE AGENTS SELL NPS


 AROUND one million insurance agents will reportedly lose their jobs when insurers prune costs to comply with their regulator's new rules on unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips). This is not good news for agents, but unavoidable to protect the interests of policyholders and better their returns. The government can rescue the army of sacked insurance agents by converting them into distributors of the new pension scheme (NPS). Though wellregulated, the NPS is floundering due to a faulty marketing model. The wafer-thin asset management fee prevents fund managers from marketing the scheme using their money. Also, there is no incentive for the points of presence (PoP) — banks that open NPS accounts for subscribers — and others, to rope in subscribers. So, the government should offer to pay the agents' commission as it does for the public provident fund (PPF) scheme. In fact, the same agents who sell small savings should be roped in, as well, for the NPS. Surely, this is a more efficient way to market the NPS than providing a subsidy to the pension account of every NPS subscriber. A year ago, the pension fund regulator PFRDA had recommended offering incentives to PoPs, but the government opted to offer a subsidy of Rs 1,000 to new retail subscribers. Footing the tab on commission makes sense till the NPS takes off. A course correction is, therefore, in order. Eventually, however, all financial products should move to fee-based model that allows an investor to directly negotiate charges with her agent. An agent who offers a service to the investor should charge a fee that is mutually agreed upon, and not solely fixed by the seller of the insurance product. Sure, this would make the task of agents more difficult, but they should reconcile to that correction. 

 

 Today, there is also a disincentive in the form of a discriminatory tax treatment on NPS compared to savings schemes such as the PPF. NPS withdrawals are taxed at maturity, while those from the PPF are not. The government has promised to exempt NPS from tax in the revised discussion paper on the direct taxes code. The intent should reflect in the Bill to replace the Income-Tax Act to end the uncertainty. In parallel, the NPS should strengthened through legislation. The government should reintroduce the lapsed Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill in Parliament to give legal backing to the regulator and the NPS at the earliest.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ON THE CLOTHESLINE

MONSOON MELODY DISSONANCE


 IN A country where too little rain derails the agricultural economy and too much results in floods, even a normal monsoon pattern of daily showers can cause mild concern among vast sections of the urban population who rely on the cheapest drier for removing dampness from washed clothes. The uncertainty arises if there is bright sunshine when the clothes are being washed but if it rains minutes after they are hung out to dry. The irritation gets compounded if the clothes are washed once in four days so as to give a full load to the washing machine. There are just too many imponderables. For instance, in India's Silicon Valley of Bangalore, where the power for different areas is cut at least thrice a day for an hour at a time in an unpredictable manner, one can only hope that the washing machine has an uninterrupted run. 

 

 Items on the clothesline being ambushed by rain for four days in a row further aggravates the angst being generated by non-stop viewing of TV news channel reports on corruption acquiring not just a national but a Commonwealth flavour, with images being repeatedly telecast of showpiece stadia leaking from the roof! The Indian middle class, which is modestly aware that macro problems can only be solved at the highest level, would even be relieved if someone invents an inverter that also supplies backup power to the washing machine, the microwave oven and the fridge. Until then, the only consolation for not just us but the ruling Commonwealth Games troika of Kalmadi, Gill and Sheila Dikshit is in perhaps listening to the Beatles lyrics of "I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in/ And stops my wind from wandering". As Herman Melville's sailor-protagonist Ishmael states at the beginning of Moby-Dick, his plight of unemployment is in no way less important than the day's newspaper headlines on the war in Afghanistan or the US presidential election!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CITINGS

STOCKS LOOK VULNERABLE TO VERTIGO

AFTER GOING THROUGH A CORRECTIVE PHASE TILL SEPTEMBER THIS YEAR, THE STOCK MARKET WILL REBOUND IN THE FOLLOWING QUARTER TO RING IN MONEY FOR INVESTORS, SAYS SUNIL KEWALRAMANI


 EVEN PIGS can fly. Rarely could sporting triumph have come as such a welcome distraction as World Cup victory has for Spain. After the trials and tribulations of past six months, the flag-waving and dancing in fountains that followed the extra-time winning goal in the Fifa World Cup 2010 final were as much about relief as euphoria. 

 

Spain of 2010 was a country wracked by crisis of confidence. Thanks, therefore, to La Roja — the Reds, as the Spanish national football team is referred to — and their footballing rescue of a troubled nation. 

 

While in economic terms, Spain was depicted by its critics as one of the PIGS — the derisive term for struggling economies of Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain — wallowing in the mud, on the pitch, La Roja played with a style that was credit to their nation. 

 

Spaniards are once again Prussians Of The South, as they had been dubbed by EU partners in late 1980s — well-organised hard-workers seeking common goal. 

 

 Stress tests themselves should be subject to stress tests. One lesson of 2008 was most institutions met their capital obligations on the day they failed. Queues formed outside Northern Rock only weeks after it announced plans to return 'surplus capital' to shareholders. 

 

 The St Louis Fed's Financial Stress Index began rising before market peak in 2007 and peaked before market low of 2009. Longer timeframe doesn't show consistent pattern of financial stress leading the market. While only seven of 91 European banks failed to pass the 6% tier-I threshold, there were 10 marginal fails with tier-I ratios of 6.3% or less. 

 

At 7% threshold, 24/91, or one out of four banks, would have failed the test. The key missing stress in European stress tests was sovereign rescheduling. 

 

Five out of six Greek banks passed stress test with varying degrees of distinction. 

 

Even if Greek government — without ability to raise enough taxes — succeeds in complying with EU and IMF austerity norms, its debt-GDP will be around 150% by 2013. 

 

Any politician who tries to induce Dutch or German taxpayers to bail out Greece could be ejected. Greek rescheduling will imply haircut up to 40% and severe capital erosion of European banks. 
  hinese version of stress tests reveal banks may struggle to recoup about 23% of Rmb7,700 billion lent to

local government investment vehicles. 

 Chinese purchasing managers' index (PMI) slid from 52.1 in June to 51.2 in July; however, after adjusting for seasonal factors, it shows stabilisation rather than deceleration. 

 

Improved outlook of Caterpillar, FedEx and Honeywell in US, Honda and Hitachi in Japan, and Siemens in Europe could be held back by supply chains weakened by downturn. 

 

 With one in 10 US mortgages in default or foreclosure, additional 5 million houses are likely to hit the market over two years, adding to pricing pressure. 

 S&P 500, in short term, reflects consumer sentiment. Chart enclosed evaluates Consumer Confidence Index as leading indicator of the economy. 

 

Asian central banks hold over $6,600 billion (10% of world GDP) in foreign reserves. A 20% appreciation of renminbi versus People's Bank of China's foreign assets would result in hit of about 10% of GDP. Similar appreciation of Singaporean or Taiwanese dollar would generate losses twice this amount. 

OVER 14 months, Swiss National Bank spent more than SFr150 billion — 30% of Swiss GDP — accumulating euros to stem rise of Swiss franc. Mark-to-market losses, in excess of SFr20 billion (20%) are politically unsustainable, if not financially. 

 

orrelation between individual US stocks is now higher than in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers debacle. Correlation between European stocks is almost perfect. 

 

 With mission to play creatively in the World Cup — to pass, move, think, act rather than react — Spain found a winning approach. Their teamwork teaches us lessons of international diversification and collaboration for economic gain. 

 

 Daiichi Sankyo's profit totalled ¥70.1 billion in April-June (¥7.2 billion last year), thanks to stellar performance of Indian arm, Ranbaxy. 

 

 Earthmoving major Caterpillar's second-quarter revenues were up 116% and 62% in Latin America and Asia-Pacific respectively; doubling operating profits in the process. 

 

Future is cloudy (in 'cloud computing') and that suits software multinational Microsoft just fine. 
 

George Soros' proposed 4% stake in BSE endorses potential of emerging markets. 

 Banks will be aided by relaxed Basel-III proposals and introduction of 3% leverage ratio in 2018 — less than the 4% feared by French banks, which typically have low equity-to-asset ratios. 


 However, widening interest differentials between East and West will exert upward pressure on regional currencies, putting world's tolerance for capital controls to test. 

 

US 2-year and 10-year bond yields languish at 0.586% and 2.985% respectively. In a normal economic expansion, signs of a recession have been accompanied by low or negative spread. Yield curve inversion flagged recessions in August 1978, January 1989 and February 2000, plus false alarms in 1998 and 2005. 

 

But these are not normal times — Fed remains reluctant to tighten ultra-loose monetary policy, anchoring short end of the curve. 

 

 Anthony Ward recently made headline news by taking physical delivery of cocoa of 2,40,100 tonnes, or 7% of world's crop. By linking him to James Bond supervillain Goldfinger, some have insinuated that he is the ultimate ruthless speculator. 

 

 Reports of the death of James Bond are exaggerated. Sony had success reinventing 007 series with Daniel Craig starring in the 2006 thriller Casino Royale, which grossed $594 million at the global box office. 

Typically, S&P 500 declines during three months before Congressional elections of a first-term US presidency. 

 Alan Greenspan said over the weekend on NBC's Meet the Press, "we are in a pause in a recovery, a modest recovery, but a pause in modest recovery (Q2 US GDP grew 2.4%) feels like a quasi recession". 

 

After correcting through September 2010, stocks are likely to reinvent the winning formula that could ring in money for investors in last quarter of calendar 2010. 

(The author is a Wharton Business School     MBA and CEO of Global Money Investor)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FAC E - O F F

ENOUGH IT USE IN TAX DEPARTMENT?

T V MOHANDAS PAI 

 

Board Member Infosys Technologies Progress is satisfactory 

 

 THE income-tax department has had a chequered history in the use of IT. Being one of the first users from the government, they faced various challenges. IT usage got a boost as a result of the Kelkar Committee recommendations with the setting up of the tax information network (TIN) in an outsourced mode. TIN was a revolutionary concept and for the first time a data base of tax receipts and taxpayer expenditure in various areas, was available in a single data base with the permanent account number as the filter. TIN was outsourced to NSDL and the model worked well with low cost, fast execution and good quality. Possibly, a large part of the increase in tax collection between fiscal 2004 (Rs 1,15,000 crore) to fiscal 2010 (Rs 3,40,000 crore) could be attributed to TIN. Along with TIN, the banking system also provided an online tax collection system. This eliminated the collection loss and reduced the float in the banking system. 

 

 Today, the department has e-filing, a national database of filers and taxpayer payment information system, a reasonably good accounting system, a centralised processing centre (CPC) for assessment that has scaled up in Bangalore and good data centre with two business continuity centres. What is needed to complete the system is upgradation of legacy software and a more effective document management system. To make full use of IT, there is a need for an intelligent application layer on top of the database, a risk-based system to pick up cases for scrutiny assessments, an effective surveillance architecture to pick up patterns of tax evasion and trained people to use the huge amount of data available for better policing. Overall the progress is satisfactory and within the next two years the department would have a sophisticated tax management system with all facets in place. However, there is a need for further investment in people to create the cadre to use these facilities for better tax management. Compared to the other revenue departments the income tax department certainly has the edge. Tax payers should this year see the benefits of the CPC in the form of quick refunds and assessments.

 

T R RUSTAGI 

FORMER JOINT SECRETARY, MOF NO, IT'S MOVING AT A SNAIL'S PACE 

    BY DESIGN, the tax structure in India has remained afflicted with complexities and distortions. Confining to the realm of indirect taxes, the distribution of constitutional powers between the Centre and the states has restrained ushering in of an equitable, widely based, and easy-to-administer tax system for taxing goods and services. Yet, given the well known constraints and compulsions, the reforms carried out since 1991 in the tax structures are no mean achievements. The rates of customs and excise duties have achieved remarkable convergence of widely scattered rates, besides tapping services as a source of revenue. The states have replaced the archaic sales tax regime with VAT. Be that as it may, the thrust of the reforms has been on tax structure with much less attention paid simultaneously to enhance efficiency of tax administration. Sadly, the use of IT in tax administration has come about at snail's pace. 


    The use of IT in filing of customs documents, processing of data, determining export incentives, enabling e-payment of duties has had a significant impact on administration and reducing compliance cost. However, the use of IT in the area of excise and service tax came much later. The use of IT in obtaining registration, filing of returns, e-payment of excise duties and service tax is a big leap forward. But a lot more needs to be done. The %paper work in day-to-day administration continues to be legacy of the past. Response to taxpayers' queries is mostly non-existent or disturbingly slow and qualitatively poor. The use of emails even in inter-departmental correspondence is grossly inadequate. The use of modern tools like video conferencing is yet to come. For an efficient tax administration, comprehensive use of robust IT infrastructure is a necessity. It also requires proper training and changing the mindset of tax officials. Is it not a sad commentary that as of date the CBEC's official website portrays the Central Excise Act updated only up to April 2008, the Customs Act updated up to August 2008 and the 'Service Tax Law' updated upto August 2008? The status of rules portrayed is no better.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GU EST COLU M N

LAST THORN IN USO'S FLESH

ROHIT PRASAD 


 THE revolutionary micro-telecom architecture developed for electricity-starved rural areas tailors the strength of the signal to the need of the location by using a central tower that provides umbrella coverage along with village towers that provide capacity where needed. 

 

 This architecture uses a far lower amount of energy than the conventional approach, overall and at the level of the individual tower, and thereby makes solar energy viable. Given the importance of reducing energy costs and environmental damage, a consensus seems to be building that micro-telecom is the way to go. However, there remains one thorny issue. 

 

 While the central tower in the micro-telecom architecture can be shared, the village tower cannot, and building additional village towers to let in competition seems to inflate capital costs significantly. 

 

So, the choice is between a monopoly with micro-telecom at the initial stages — at the level of a cluster of villages — versus three or more operators sharing towers with the conventional approach. 

 

 A business model developed for Rajasthan shows that both the micro-telecom as well as the conventional approaches are unprofitable in the villages targeted by the Universal Service Obligation (USO) in phase II. 
    However, the micro-telecom monopolist is far less unprofitable, has much lower environmental impact, empowers the local entrepreneur, and provides higher quality services with full data capability. In addition, the micro-telecom architecture promises to be the launching pad of a crop of Indian telecom manufacturers who currently have a lead in this technology. 

 

 A monopolist is regarded as undesirable because it charges higher prices and sells lower quantities than the welfare-maximising competitive firm. In the case of the USO, there is the additional threat that the monopolist may choose to squat on the franchise rather than provide services to needy citizens. This is believed to be less likely to happen if there is competition. 

 

 However, monopolies are regarded as necessary when economies of scale are such that costs are minimised when one firm supplies the entire market. In these cases, the government not only condones monopolies but actively works toward their creation and regulation, either in the public or the private sector. Price regulation or rate of return regulation are some of the regulatory instruments adopted to check the accompanying harmful effects of 'natural monopolies'. 

 

Villages with 500-2,000 population targeted by phase II are also natural monopolies, albeit not of the classical kind. Due to low population density, low purchasing power and high costs, they do not provide a viable business case even for a single operator on a micro-telecom solution. 

 

The losses become worse with more than one firm, even when the additional firms are using shared infrastructure with the conventional approach. Indeed, total industry losses increase with every additional firm as confirmed by Citibank and Credit Suisse studies. 

 

 The monopolist in the village, then, is not the rapacious business unit exploiting the poor villagers, but rather the pioneer operating at the tattered edges of the market economy with the additional burden of regulation. 

 But doesn't the subsidy from the government restore the business case of the monopolist? Provided there are enough bidders, competition in an auction to determine the monopolistic recipient of a subsidy is exactly equivalent to competition in the marketplace post-auction. The net present value of profits or losses plus subsidy determined should approximate only the normal rate of return, not the monopoly return. 

 

Indeed, given a large number of bidders, the winner of the auction is the one who expects the value of the market to be the highest. Since the true value is likely to be the average of the bids, the winner tends to end up overpaying and being assured of less than what it needs as a basic rate of return. 

 

Experience with phase I of the USO has demonstrated that competition is not sufficient to prevent squatting. Neither is it necessary. Only the most optimal business case, namely that afforded by a micro-telecom-based operator, along with strong regulation through bank guarantees, can work to bring long overdue services to our rural citizens. 

 

It is ironical that a government that has delayed the spending of the substantial USO fund for so long, in effect denying the service of even asingle operator to the target villages, is willing to abandon the multi-dimensional benefits of micro-telecom in favour of the less-viable competitive solution. 

 

We should delink the issue of competition at avillage level from the issue of providing voice and data coverage to the most needy citizen, at least at this time.

We should let the introduction of coverage along with relevant applications raise the economic conditions of the village to a point where additional operators become viable. Let the notional, tenuous and theoretical gains of competition not choke the promise of a new India spread out before our eyes. 

(The author is associate professor at MDI, Gurgaon)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CO S M I C U P LI N K

STYLE VERSUS SUBSTANCE

VITHALC NADKARNI 



TOWARDS the end of his megaseller The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho tells the story of a good man living in ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Tiberius. He has two sons. One serves in the military and is sent to the most remote parts of the empire. The other sibling is stay-at-home poet who wows the Roman chatterati with his delightful verse. 

 

 One night, the father gets a dream in which a prophecy is made: the words of one of his sons are to become world-famous through the ages. Shortly thereafter, the old man dies in an accident while trying to save a child from the wheel of a chariot. Because of the virtuous death, his soul goes to heaven, where the archangel on duty offers him a boon. The old man wants to witness the famous words penned by his offspring. 

 

The angel touches the man's shoulder and they are both projected far into the future, where they are surrounded by a vast gathering speaking out in a strange language. The old man's soul 'sheds' tears of happiness at what he assumes is the future popularity of his poetic son's verses. 

 

Being a fond father, he is unable to resist the question, "Please tell me which of my son's poems were being repeated," he asks the angel. "They are the words of your other son," the angel replies. "Though your poetic son's words had a huge fan following in the city of Rome, after the death of the emperor, he gradually fell out of vogue. His poems were completely forgotten." 

 

The other son, in contrast, who became a centurion, adhered to the path of virtue and honesty. When one of his servants became mortally ill, he searched high and low for a cure. That's when he heard of a rabbi who miraculously healed the sick, maimed and the blind. 

 

As he rode out to meet the healing Messiah, the centurion met many people who had been cured by the Master and he learned that the man he was seeking was the Son of God. He also imbibed the Master's teachings. Thus, it came to pass that the Roman centurion converted to their fledgling faith. Shortly thereafter, he arrived at the place the Messiah was visiting. He told the Master that one of his servants lay gravely ill and the rabbi made ready to leave with the centurion. 

 

But the man said, "My Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word and my servant will be healed." He knew he was in the presence of the Son of God and his words became immortal. Faith always wins over fashion.

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

IS KALMADI OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY?

 

Much in life depends on something called timing. Good decisions can sometimes turn bad, or vice versa, depending on when they are taken, and in what circumstances. Someone should have reminded the Indian Olympic Association president Suresh Kalmadi and his cohorts who egg him on to higher and bigger doings about this basic truth about life. Even as a welter of skeletons continue to tumble out of the 2010 Commonwealth Games cupboard regarding every imaginable aspect of the event, the IOA went ahead and submitted a bid for the 2019 Asian Games. While March this year was the original deadline for submission of bids to the Olympic Council of Asia, it was pushed back to the end of June and 10 cities — including New Delhi, which hosted the first Asiad in 1951, and thereafter in 1982 — were reported to be in the race. The usual practice — given the vast scale of infrastructure and logistical upgrades required — is for the concerned National Olympic Committee to inform its government about its intention to place such a bid. But, as the snowballing controversy surrounding the coming CWG here this October clearly indicates, Mr Kalmadi operates in a zone of his own. And as details continue to emerge on an almost hourly basis about shoddy infrastructure, inflated contracts, incomplete deals and leaking venues for the CWG comes the news that the Government of India, at least, was not in the loop when it came to deciding on the 2019 Asiad bid. In fact, the Union sports ministry has gone a step further and said that this was not the sort of decision to be taken casually, and that consultation of several stakeholders like the government and its many arms who would play key roles in any such eventuality, was a minimum consideration. None of that was thought necessary by the IOA and its bosses who have become used to first making commitments, and thereafter falling back on all and sundry to make sure that those promises are honoured. As the CWG stumble from one fiasco to another, the increasingly shrill call is that of national pride and the need to pull together, not work as cross-purposes. This is something the IOA chief should first answer himself, but he has all of a sudden vanished from public view, leaving his lieutenants to grapple with the storm of accusations and allegations, many of which are being defended on increasingly flimsy grounds. The public, too, has woken up to the fact that it is paying for what is potentially a huge shambles — warnings about which have long been aired and by those who are in the business. None of them were paid any heed to, people appointed to oversee preparations by a concerned global federation systematically sidelined and every best practice that has been learned over years of experience thrown into the dustbin. The result is there for all to see — and to pay for. To this day, with deadline after deadline having expired, agencies continue to work at cross-purposes — and each act escalates the overall bill bit by bit. Incidentally, Mr Kalmadi's ambitions are far above a mere Asian Games! He wants to bring the Olympic Games to India as well. An opinion poll today will suggest that he is probably in a very small minority.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

100 degrees in J&K

By Inder Malhotra

 

THE FIRST thing to be said about Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah's meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other members of the Union Cabinet's Committee on Security is that it should have come much earlier. For more than five weeks the Valley has been in the grip of a vicious cycle of violence, with stone-pelting mobs and firings by security forces inevitably leading to deaths of civilians, including teenagers.

 

Even more virulent protests, almost always in utter defiance of curfew, then follow. This is too long a period for which to delay crucial consultations between the Centre and the sensitive state. All through it one witnessed only inaction in Srinagar and silence in New Delhi.

 

Secondly, Mr Abdullah, who has the Union government's full support even while being reminded of his responsibility to control the ground situation, is entirely right in saying that Kashmir is essentially a political problem that should be tackled politically. He has also rightly added that no political initiative can be taken until the mindless violence ends and there is "a semblance of normalcy". That is the obvious first step. Alas, that is where the rub seems to lie. For despite his impassioned appeal to the civil society of Kashmir to cooperate with the government in restoring peace and calm from his press conference in Delhi, the situation in the Valley has worsened rather than show any sign of abating.

 

It is noteworthy that until four or five days ago the protesters in Kashmir towns, including Srinagar, used to confine their violence to stone throwing and thrashing security personnel falling into their hands. Since then their activity has taken an alarming turn. They, including rather large number of women, have taken to setting ablaze police stations, railway stations, police vehicles, even ambulances, indeed, every symbol of state authority. This reprehensible pattern persists after the Delhi discussions. Kashmir is no longer on the boil; it is burning.

 

Mr Abdullah's third point is that the motley mobs wreaking havoc on Kashmir streets are "leaderless". He is right inasmuch as there is no discernable line of command in the current agitation. But it is also true that Syed Ali Shah Geelani, leader of the hardline faction of Hurriyat, and some of his cohorts (one of them in hiding) regularly issue "protest calendars". Not only students and private citizens but also state government employees obey these, the latter neglecting their duties with impunity. Yet there is danger that the situation might spin out of even their hands.

 

Under the circumstances, political leaders of the state who do not share the nefarious agenda of the separatists must establish contact with the locality elders and people in general. But what is the actual position? Over the weekend, rather belatedly, Mr Abdullah formed three ministerial groups for this purpose and these teams have since visited three of the major trouble spots in the Valley. But, in this respect, shouldn't the chief minister have taken the lead himself? Leaders of other political parties should also be doing the same, but that is far from being the case.

 

One can sympathise with Mr Abdullah about his difficulties vis-à-vis the main Opposition party, the People's Democratic Party (PDP), led by the strident Mehbooba Mufti whose relationship with him is one of implacable hatred. The country witnessed that, despite a personal appeal by the Prime Minister, she refused to attend an all-party meeting called by the chief minister to evolve a consensus on dealing with the grim challenge facing the state. But what about senior leaders of the ruling party, the National Conference, founded by the chief minister's grandfather, the incomparable Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, or, for that matter, the Congress Party, the NC's partner in the ruling coalition? Sadly, the state of affairs could not have been more regrettable than it is.

 

There is a virtual chasm between Mr Abdullah and his senior party colleagues who are not ministers. Their complaint is that he ignores them. Obviously, the party's and indeed the country's collective interest is of no concern to them. As for the J&K Congress, it is a house divided against itself. Rival factions are busy fighting each other, and have no time to confront the enemies of Kashmir's peace and stability. Ms Mufti was not the only state leader to absent herself from the chief minister's all-party conference. Another conspicuous absentee was Tara Chand, deputy chief minister belonging to the Congress! Has anyone in the party's national leadership called him to account?

 

It is also curious that all the blame for civilian deaths is being heaped on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and at one remove, on the Central government. The constitutional position is that the CRPF has no authority to act anywhere on its own. It does so only in aid of civil authority and thus under the orders of the state government. Moreover, why doesn't the Kashmir government deploy more Kashmiri police that includes 63,000-strong armed constabulary, instead of calling the Border Security Force at the drop of a Karakuli cap? Of course, the forces are stretched because of the Amarnath yatra which explains the Centre's prompt willingness to send more CRPF battalions to J&K.

 

What is required is that the reinforcements should consist of those who are better trained and better led.

 

Another strange facet of the situation is that the Accountability Committee of the state, which served a useful purpose because people with grievances could approach it for redress, no longer exists. Not because it has been abolished but simply because, under the law, its members have to be chosen jointly by the chief minister and the leader of the Opposition, Ms Mufti. The twain cannot agree even on the time of the day.

 

The present challenge in Kashmir is graver than that at the time of the Holy Relic Crisis in December 1963-January 1964, when the whole Valley seemed to hang by a thread. Jawaharlal Nehru, though ailing, immediately sent his trusted troubleshooter, Lal Bahadur Shastri, to Srinagar with instructions to stay there until the crisis was resolved. How radically the times have changed since then!

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

EVER WONDER WHY GOD PUT YOU ON EARTH?

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

This is a column about two ways of thinking about your life. The first is what you might call the Well-Planned Life. It was nicely described by Clayton Christensen in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review, in an essay based on a recent commencement talk.

 

Christensen advised the students to invest a lot of time when they are young in finding a clear purpose for their lives. "When I was a Rhodes scholar", he recalls, "I was in a very demanding academic programme, trying to cram an extra year's worth of work into my time at Oxford. I decided to spend an hour every night reading, thinking, and praying about why God put me on this earth".

 

"That was a very challenging commitment to keep, because every hour I spent doing that, I wasn't studying applied econometrics. I was conflicted about whether I could really afford to take that time away from my studies, but I stuck with it — and ultimately figured out the purpose of my life."

 

Once you have come up with an overall purpose, he continues, you have to make decisions about allocating your time, energy and talent. Christensen, who is a professor at the Harvard Business School and the author of several widely admired books, notes that people with a high need for achievement commonly misallocate their resources.

 

If they have a spare half-hour, they devote it to things that will yield tangible and near-term accomplishments. These almost invariably involve something at work — closing a sale, finishing a paper.

 

"In contrast", he adds, "investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn't offer that same immediate sense of achievement... It's not until 20 years down the road that you can put your hands on your hips and say, 'I raised a good son or a good daughter'". As a result, the things that are most important often get short shrift.

 

Christensen is a serious Christian. At university, he was the starting centre on his basketball team and refused to play in the championship game of an important tournament because it was scheduled for a Sunday. But he combines a Christian spirit with business methodology. In plotting out a personal and spiritual life, he applies the models and theories he developed as a strategist. He emphasises finding the right metrics, efficiently allocating resources and thinking about marginal costs.

 

When he is done, life comes to appear as a well-designed project, carefully conceived in the beginning, reviewed and adjusted along the way and brought toward a well-rounded fruition.

 

The second way of thinking about your life might be called the Summoned Life. This mode of thinking starts from an entirely different perspective. Life isn't a project to be completed; it is an unknowable landscape to be explored. A 24-year-old can't sit down and define the purpose of life in the manner of a school exercise because she is not yet deep enough into the landscape to know herself or her purpose. That young person — or any person — can't see into the future to know what wars, loves, diseases and chances may loom. She may know concepts, like parenthood or old age, but she doesn't really understand their meanings until she is engaged in them.

 

Moreover, people who think in this mode are sceptical that business models can be applied to other realms of life. Business is about making choices that maximise utility. But the most important features of the human landscape are commitments that precede choice — commitments to family, nation, faith or some cause. These commitments defy the logic of cost and benefit, investment and return.

 

The person leading the Well-Planned Life emphasises individual agency, and asks, "What should I do?" The person leading the Summoned Life emphasizes the context, and asks, "What are my circumstances asking me to do?"

 

The person leading the Summoned Life starts with a very concrete situation: I'm living in a specific year in a specific place facing specific problems and needs. At this moment in my life, I am confronted with specific job opportunities and specific options. The important questions are: What are these circumstances summoning me to do? What is needed in this place? What is the most useful social role before me?

 

These are questions answered primarily by sensitive observation and situational awareness, not calculation and long-range planning.

 

In America, we have been taught to admire the lone free agent who creates new worlds. But for the person leading the Summoned Life, the individual is small and the context is large. Life comes to a point not when the individual project is complete but when the self dissolves into a larger purpose and cause.

 

The first vision is more American. The second vision is more common elsewhere. But they are both probably useful for a person trying to live a well-considered life.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE GRAND MUGHAL OF CINEMA

BY AYUB KHAN

 

We have all read about Mughal emperor Akbar in our history books. His conquests and reign over India, his just ways and the ability to encompass society as a whole gained him the epithet of "Akbar the Great". But as a young student, something else about this time in history held my fascination. Something that was greater than all the wars Akbar had fought and won. I was like a person possessed, constantly flipping through the pages of history books, searching for the slightest mention of Akbar's strained relationship with his precious son, Salim, over a courtesan called "Anarkali".

 

What a great story it was. Wasn't this the defining moment of Emperor Akbar's life? How was it possible that there was not a single mention of this in any history book. The historians, I thought then, must be crazy! After all, for millions of people the historical classic Mughal-e-Azam epitomised love, romance and rebellion.

 

Why wasn't this classic tale of doomed love part of our history curriculum? If there was Shah Jahan's Taj Mahal dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal, then which was the fort in India in which Emperor Akbar deceived his son into believing his love had been entombed? I couldn't figure this out till much later in life. I guess it must have been the performances of all those great actors who had me believe that this fiction was history.

 

Mughal-e-Azam was a magnificent tale with some of the greatest performances by stalwarts like Prithviraj Kapoor, Madhubala, Durga Khote, Nigar Sultana, Ajit, Murad, Sheila Dalaya, Jiloo Bai and my idol, the great thespian, the enigmatic Yusuf Uncle, better known to all as Dilip Kumar. Every dialogue spoken by Yusuf Uncle resonated in my mind. It was sheer poetry:

 

"…Kahan hain Akbar-e-Azam, jin ke hukum se Khuda ke bakshi hui saanse bhi galle mein ghot di jaati hain";

 

"…yeh talwaar jisne bade-bade surmaon ka ghamand toda hain, haafiz hai aaj, na sirf Anaarkali ki, balki un tamaam aam mohabbat karne walon ki, jinko Shehenshah ki gulaami manzoor nahi!".

 

Every time Yusuf Uncle appeared on screen and delivered these dialogues as Salim, he made me long to have a love story of my own that would be, if not greater, then at least as great as that of "Salim and Anarkali"!

 

Not that there is any comparison, but I can confidently say that if girls grew up on a slew of love stories from Mills & Boons that had them fantasising about what their lovers would be like, then for most young men in India at that time, it was Mughal-e-Azam that epitomised a true love story.

 

I wasn't able to fully grasp then what it took to make this epic, of what a Herculean feat it was for director K. Asif — the costumes, the sets, the most powerful and profound dialogues ever written by Kamal Amrohi along with Aman Sahab, Eshan Rizvi and Vajahat Mirza and Naushad Sahab's lilting music. But what constantly captivated me was the film's impact. Every scene made me sit up and believe. It seemed more real than reality itself.

 

The over-powering presence of Prithviraj Kapoor as Emperor Akbar and his booming voice gave me goose bumps and I felt affection every time the loyal-unto-death Durjan Singh, played by the great Ajit Sahab, came on screen.

 

The film's epic battle scenes, that forlorn look on the face of my all-time favourite actress Madhubala when she sang Mohabbat ke jhooti kahaani pe roye..., or when she said those famous lines, "...Parwardighar! Mujhe itni himmat aata farma ke main Sahab-e-Aalam se bewaafai kar sakoon" — for me it was all real. I can barely put in words the emotions I went through watching the beauteous kaneez challenge Emperor Akbar with Jab pyaar kiya toh darna kya.

 

Salim's love story in Mughal-e-Azam may have been fiction, but for me this was the moment in history when Emperor Akbar, the greatest Mughal ruler ever, was besieged by one of the greatest dilemmas of his lifetime — what would be the right thing to do when dealing with matters of the heart!

 

AS AN actor or filmmaker, one longs for one's work to be remembered, revered. All go on in the hope that one scene, one dialogue, one performance will be able to stand the test of time and remain for posterity. Mughal-e-Azam had that magic — 50 years later the film still epitomises romance for millions. A movie whose scale of production baffled people then, baffles us even now. A film like Mughal-e-Azam will take more than courage and big bucks to attempt today. If remade, it will only be possible with the help of advanced technology, such as computer graphics, but the soul that the original had would be missing. And that's because of the people associated with it.

 

As far as acting is concerned, for me and for millions of others, each frame occupied in every movie by my uncle defined "great performance". He is that one and only actor Hindi silver screen has had who made it impossible to imagine any actor portray a character in any other way than the way he had portrayed it. Every time I watched him on screen or on the sets, I was astounded by the depth, understanding, innovation and emotional-connect he brought to a role. If I remember correctly, the inspiration to be an actor for me came while I was watching Yusuf Uncle play Salim.

 

"I would wear the costumes and walk around the sets for hours, to get the feel of a prince", I remember Yusuf Uncle telling me. "I revelled in the lines given to me... I had to blank out most things around me even though they were for the benefit of the scene. I had to create my own reality in my head during the shoot."

 

As a grown up, I remember spending a few very special evenings with him, walking around Jogger's Park, while he unfolded bits and parts of his life that he thought I needed to know. His anecdotes were not like a never-ending freight train; they were sprinkled with humour and memories that got me even more curious about his life. But time would fly and suddenly it would be time to say goodbye. The anxiety of not having got all that I would probably need from him for my career bothered me every time he left. I would eagerly wait for our next meeting.

 

I was stepping into his world, and though he wanted me to find my very own path in this industry, to judge right and wrong myself, I sensed that his paternal instincts at most times got the better of him. The inimitable Dilip Kumar was, after all, my Yusuf Uncle.

 

- Mughal-e-Azam released on August 5, 1960

 

- Ayub Khan is a Bollywood and TV actor. Son of Nasir Khan and Begum Para, he is Dilip Kumar's nephew.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WHAT IS OUR DHARMA?

BY SWAMI TEJOMAYANANDA

 

The word dharma has been translated variously as "righteousness", "duty", "inner disposition" and even as "religion". But it is not until we go to the linguistic origin of the word that we discover the deeper significance of this word. The verbal root dhr means "to uphold", or "to sustain". Dhr also means "to integrate".

 

Dhaarayate iti dharma — dharma is that which sustains and also that which integrates. Thus, the true meaning of dharma is the essential nature of a thing, without which it ceases to be. For instance, the dharma of the sun, moon, water, air, fire and earth are eternal. Fire is always hot, the sun gives light and heat, and water is always wet. The entire world is sustained because all these elements follow their dharma. Similarly, all the animals and birds abide by their essential nature, their basic instincts. Nature on her own would be fine; it is man who breaks all of her rules, destroying others as well as himself in the process. Therefore, it is important that man follows his true dharma.

 

But what is our true dharma? Man is believed to be a social animal, therefore it becomes his duty to uphold and integrate the society which will automatically result in prosperity for all. We can live to our fullest potential only if we practice dharma at all levels: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. We need to make sure that all our actions contribute toward the sustenance and integration of society, and avoid actions that go against the natural laws, which is called adharma.

 

At the physical level, dharma is that which nourishes and supports the health of the body. Whether we want to serve others, obtain liberation, or even enjoy life in this world, we need a healthy body. It is the primary tool for achieving our goals in life. But our body can only be healthy if our life is disciplined. Proper sleep, healthy eating, exercise and cleanliness all contribute to good health. Therefore, practicing these are all acts of dharma. To exercise when we have a fever or to eat spicy food when we have an ulcer would be considered adharma because they can be harmful. So this clarifies that no particular action in itself can be called dharmika or adharmika.

 

At the mental level we all want to be peaceful and happy. Therefore, to think in a loving way is dharma and to think negatively of someone is adharma because it will disturb our personality and can also cause harm to the other person. The same rule applies intellectually. We all want enlightenment and knowledge and do not want to be ignorant or exploited because of our ignorance. Independence and freedom are our inherent desires.

 

We want freedom from sorrow, freedom from fear and grief, and most importantly freedom from delusion. Knowledge helps us attain the understanding that frees us from any dependence.

 

But in the process of trying to be free we become slaves to the very things that we thought would make us happy and due to ignorance we do not even realise that. Therefore, knowledge and enlightenment are dharma and ignorance is adharma.
Any action at the individual as well as at the communal level that integrates and brings prosperity to all is considered to be dharmika. Dharma is not opposed to gaining wealth or affluence. In fact, proper application of dharma by all will lead to greater prosperity in the society. Everyone will be happy, and everyone's personality will unfold and progress towards attaining liberation.

 

Therefore we must know that dharma is not a particular action, but that which contributes to the integration of all. This is what is known as "absolute good". But is there such a thing as absolute good?

 

The answer is that good and bad are only relative. For example, sugar is not good for a diabetic but one with low blood sugar may actually benefit from it. Therefore, whether sugar is good or bad for one's health is relative. But whatever promotes health and greater integration is called dharma. The absolute good is the maintenance of health. Everyone wants to be healthy. Even those who indulge in harmful habits still want good health. Therefore, that which everyone desires is known as the absolute good.

 

— Swami Tejomayananda, head of ChinmayaMission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller. To find out more about Chinmaya Mission and Swamiji, visit www.chinmayamission.com[1].
© Central Chinmaya Mission Trust.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

LET'S GET AQUA-SAVVY

BY M.S. SWAMINATHAN

 

Chronic differences in opinion relating to sharing of water from inter-state rivers have highlighted the need for promoting "jal swaraj", or sustainable water security throughout the country. Building a sustainable water security system for a human population of nearly 1.2 billion and a farm animal population of over a billion is a priority task for the government and the people of India. On the direction of the Supreme Court of India, the department of science and technology of the Government of India has launched a technology mission titled, "Winning, Augmentation and Renovation (WAR) for Water".  The aim of this mission is the development and dissemination of research-based technologies for addressing the serious water challenges facing the country. The approach will include measures for augmentation of supply, management of demand, and harnessing new technologies that relate to drinking water as well as recycling of waste water.

 

India's water security system should give concurrent attention to all the major sources of water, namely, rain, surface, ground, sea and recycled sewage and waste water. The conjunctive use of these water sources will help to enhance the irrigated area for agriculture. At present, only about 40 per cent of the cultivated area is irrigated, the rest 60 per cent being rainfed.

 

Unfortunately, ground water exploitation is happening in an unsustainable manner, leading to a steep drop in the water table. It is essential to harvest every drop of rain water and store it underground or in tanks, since most of the rainfall in India comes within a limited period. Saving and sharing of rain water should become a national ethic. I would like to highlight here five areas where we should pay particular attention.

 

* Rain Water Harvesting and Efficient and Equitable Use: This is a priority item of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (MGNREGA). Our aim should be to bring about synergy between labour and intellect in this programme. The institution of a Water Security Saviour Award to recognise and reward the work of the best MGNREGA Water Harvesting Team will help generate awareness of the importance of the work unskilled labourers are doing for public good. The "watershed programme" should place emphasis on improving both on-farm productivity and non-farm employment. If this is done, we will have a national grid of bioindustrial watersheds.
* Sea Water Farming: India has a shore line extending to over 7,500 km as well as the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep group of islands. An effective method of desalination of sea water is its use for promoting agri-aqua farms (cultivation of mangroves, Atriplex, Salicornia, Casuarina, Sesuvium and other salt-tolerant species, together with coastal aquaculture). Nearly 20 per cent of India's population lives near the coast and the sea water farming movement will help to generate more jobs and income for coastal communities. Since sea water constitutes nearly 97 per cent of global water resource, sea water farming will help to utilise this under-utilised resource for food security.

 

Through the Dandi March, Gandhiji emphasised that sea water is a social resource. On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Dandi March, we should launch a Mahatma Gandhi Sea Water Farming Movement to strengthen the ecological security of coastal areas, through mangrove and non-mangrove bioshields, which will serve as speed breakers at the time of tsunamis and coastal sea water surges, as well as lead to livelihood security of costal communities.

* Water Security for Farm Animals: There is need to plan for water security for the over one billion farm animals of India. Under conditions of drought, "cattle camps" will have to be organised around sources of water. One approach will be the development of a national network of Ground Water Sanctuaries, which are concealed aquifers that should be tapped only in severe drought. 
* Harnessing Flood Water in the Northeast: The Jal Kund (water pond) movement already started by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in the Sorah (Chirapunji) area of Meghalaya can be replicated all over the Northeast so that there is no water scarcity from December to April. Sorah receives nearly 14,000 mm of rainfall during a year and yet there is water scarcity during winter months. This situation is now changing due to the development of community water harvesting ponds. 
* National Corps of Community Water Masters: We should train at least one woman and one man in every panchayat or local body in the science and art of water harvesting, efficient water management and equitable sharing of the available water. They should also be trained in sustainable aquifer management. Such a National Corps of Community Water Masters will also be helpful in organising Pani Panchayats (water parliaments) and in maximising farm productivity and income per drop of water. 

 

Recently, the ministry of environment and forests had initiated a programme for enrolling two crore young boys and girls to serve as "Paryavaran Mitras". If developed and trained property, the two crore friends of the environment can spearhead an aqua-happiness movement in the country. Conflicts can then give way to cooperation, resulting in a dynamic and science-based land and water care programme in every panchayat and nagarpalika. This is the only sustainable route to winning the War for Water. 

 

- M.S. Swaminathan is the chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. He is considered to be the father of India's green revolution.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

GUJARAT VS UNION 

CBI SITS IN JUDGMENT 

 

AMIT Shah is a sinister symbol of communal Gujarat. And counsel for the Central Bureau of Investigation has advanced a clarification in the face of Narendra Modi's outcry over the reported submission that the Sohrabuddin case be shifted out of Gujarat.  Counsel's damage-control doesn't spell out, let alone deny, what he had reportedly suggested last weekend. It verged on contempt of the judiciary. The CBI had reaffirmed its role as a political plaything by casting aspersions on the state's judiciary even as the trial is underway. Misgivings that the Congress ~ faltering at the national level ~ is using the CBI against Mr Modi are not unfounded.  Having failed to make headway in the Assembly elections, the Congress seems intent on turning the screw on quite its most effective adversary. The CBI obviously had its back to the wall when Mr Modi posed the three questions: Isn't Gujarat a part of India?  Whether the Centre considers Gujarat as an "enemy state"? And are the judges of Gujarat useless?  The Congress reaction that Mr Modi is indulging in drama baaji is wholly inadequate, almost perfunctory. Neither the party nor the CBI ~ useful for all seasons ~ has advanced a shred of evidence to substantiate a contrived, even prejudiced, claim.  


The status report, filed by the CBI, proceeds from conclusion to premise when it claims that the "atmosphere in the state is not conducive for a fair trial". The damage-control doesn't rebut this claim either. The investigating agency, which has stumbled a little too often to protect its political masters, appears to have arrogated to itself the role of sitting in judgment over the process of the hearing. Such matters are best left to the Supreme Court. The Congress ~ should it feel aggrieved ~ has the right to appeal. Till then the CBI must hold its fire instead of being politically meddlesome. This is not to defend either Mr Modi or his acolyte, Shah; only to stress that the CBI cannot transcend its jurisdiction for no reason but to please the dominant ruling party. Indubitably serious are the charges against Shah, a former minister. But they are a different kettle of fish in the context of the investigating agency's critique of the judiciary in Gujarat. This is the larger issue that transcends the controversy over shifting the trial venue.


SHORTAGE PERSISTS 

OVERHAUL ARMY MANPOWER-USAGE

IT HAS become routine that in every Parliament session the defence minister updates the figures pertaining to officer shortages in the armed forces. While there is token improvement indicated in the latest statement of 14,000 it is apparent that the 6th Pay Commission award has not done the trick. It might also be that the much-publicised declining standard of higher level "officering" has deterred young men. Marginal increases in slots in training academies will hardly prove remedial ~ it has oft been stated that there is no dearth of applicants, just an unacceptable fall in "quality" ~  since that could take another decade to fill the blanks. Nor will re-employment of brigadier-level officers work wonders, already there is an abundance of grey hair when young, unencumbered, dashing officers are required to provide the cutting edge. A re-evaluation of manpower usage is required, particularly in the Army where the problem is most severe. For starters it would be advisable to identify where the shortage has hit hardest: after all the Army has lived without 11-12,000 officers for years, it is possible that the "real" shortage is considerably less. That would facilitate addressing the problem. It might be argued that inducting more women ~ their role and future is most unclear, despite the legal action ~ would "free up" more men for combat duties; but the preferences indicated at the time of commissioning point to a reluctance to opt for a fighting role, so vacancies could still persist. 

A possible solution has been generally overlooked given the class-conscious milieu of our forces: upgrading the role and responsibilities of non-commissioned officers (if proof of that class-divide is needed it can be found in the blanket classification of PBOR, personnel below officer rank: children of a lesser god in layman's perception). The Army's internal educational/training system could select promising NCOs and equip them for some of the tasks now entrusted to young officers. They would have the experience to compensate for relatively lesser academic qualifications, and opening up promotional avenues would inspire. The "space" for that would be created if the Army dared bite the bullet and unshackle itself from the now irrelevant, colonial hangover of Junior Commissioned Officers.


 
SMOKER'S LAMENT 

ON THE NEED FOR UNIFORM RULES

While there is no arguing with official policy to discourage ~ but not ban ~ smoking, there is merit in the lament of the passenger who asks why Kolkata's Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport does not have a smoking room when many other airports in the country do. Smoking is discouraged in the country, and for good reason. Smoking is banned in enclosed public places, for equally good reasons. Yet, tobacco earns the Government nearly Rs 10,000 crore annually on various revenue heads and this might well be the reason why there is no outright ban. This is not to question tobacco policy; on the contrary, we would point out that taxes on tobacco products in India still remain far lower than those in Western countries and aren't a sufficient deterrent. This is to repeat the perfectly valid question that an air passenger raised, which is that even within the Constitutional scheme of a quasi-federal set-up, what is the justification for some airports having smoking rooms and others not? There really isn't any reason why smokers should be indulged in Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai and Lucknow ~ even if it is in modern-day gas chambers ~ while they are forced to skulk around toilets, and break laws, in Kolkata and Mumbai. 


India would do well to compare its anti-smoking laws with those in Singapore, the first Asian country to systematically target the smoker. Today, Singapore offers ambient conditions for the non-smoker but, importantly, allows space ~ yes, a tiny space ~ for those who wish to indulge an increasingly expensive habit. This is as it should be, with no ambiguity in the laws, and with uniform application of rules. Under the less than distinguished regime of Dr  Ambumani Ramadoss, whose zeal was seldom matched by ability, the Health Ministry introduced laws to ban smoking in public spaces, but left enough loopholes for more than a few whiffs of smoke to slip in. Clearly there is need to review the law and rules. There is need to do more to insulate non-smokers from passive smoking. But equally there is need to make the rules fair, and to ensure that smokers don't feel compelled to break them.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER THREE YEARS~II

THE GENERAL WITH A FINGER IN EVERY PIE

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

 

IT was clear on 16 March this year that Kayani was emerging as the key non-American poster boy of the NATO-USA-ISAF trio in the Afghan war. That day, he had presided over a meeting of federal secretaries of finance, foreign affairs, commerce, agriculture, information technology and petroleum to finalise the agenda for the ensuing strategic dialogue with the US administration. It was significantly held at the General Headquarters.
Kayani has a finger in every pie. The General "promises peace and progress in FATA" while addressing the tribal jirga at Parachinar. He gives the assurance that the "Kurram agency would get its share in the budget earmarked for FATA". After concluding his official visit to the US, the army chief first briefed his senior commanders and declared that he "would also take the President and the Prime Minister into confidence about his meeting with US civil and military officials in Washington."


When the Australian Chief of Defence Force meets Kayani, the latter calls upon the international community to help Pakistan with the technology needed to tackle the challenges of low intensity operations. When he makes such an appeal, he often sounds like a civilian Head of State. When the Punjab Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, brother of Nawaz Sharif, publicly thanks the army chief for arranging "quality training for the elite police force",  there is little doubt about the actual source of state power and who the real boss is.
During their visits, the Chinese Vice-Premier, Zhang Dejiang, the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton and the US Admiral, Mike Mullen, have visited the GHQ in Rawalpindi to seek Kayani's views and cooperation. This virtually makes him the most powerful man in the Pakistani establishment by virtue of his ex-officio status of the four-star office.


Repudiation of Musharraf


What are the implications of Kayani's three-year extension for the various stakeholders in and around Pakistan? Quite simply, it means the repudiation of Musharraf. This is bad news for Musharraf who had reportedly lobbied with President Zardari in September 2009 for his favourite, General Nadeem Taj, to be the next chief.  General Taj retires on 28 April 2011.


As regards India, Kayani's extension will ensure the continuation of the "India-centric" gameplan of the Pakistan army.  The ISI will be active from Kashmir to the Kutch front with the help of the Lashkars, Ghazis, Mujahideens and Fidayeens. These groups are just the proxy "regiments" of Pakistan's military Intelligence. There simply cannot be any fullstop on "enterprise-India".
Within the Pakistani army, however, there is likely to be considerable resentment as every eligible Lieutenant-General looks forward to become the chief. Traditionally, those next in line have seldom made it to the top. There is no fixed tenure for an army chief. Between them, Ayub, Zia and Musharraf served for as long as 41 years as the chief, thereby depriving their juniors the opportunity to flaunt an extra star on their shoulders and staff cars.


It bears recall that as recently as 17 May, Pakistan's defence minister, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, a close confidant of President Zardari, had categorically declared: "No service extension for Kayani." Simultaneously, the minister also clarified that "Kayani has not sought extension from the government." It obviously meant that if Kayani sought an extension, he would get it. Hence, it is the privilege of the army chief, and not the civilian government of Pakistan, to decide on extension. This exposes the weakness of the civilian establishment. With Kayani on the saddle for another three years, one wonders what the fate of the defence minister will be three years from now. 


Gilani's role


IT is Prime Minister Gilani, who led the way for a three-year Kayani extension. Fatima Bhutto, the estranged niece of Benazir, has written in her recent book, Songs of Blood and Sword that the ruling "Pakistan People's Party Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani ~ who bears more than a passing resemblance with Saddam Hussain ~ spent his time not in jail but serving on the dictator's (Zia-ul-Haq) Majlis-e-Shoora or religious parliamentary council, rubbing shoulders with General Zia's protégé Nawaz Sharif. Gilani's junta background did not prohibit his entry into Benazir's PPP; instead it earned him the second highest post in the land under the Zardari-led party."
If true, Gilani's links with the army certainly prompted him to take care of Kayani's interests. President Zardari appeared to have abdicated his power to appoint or extend the army chief's tenure in favour of the Prime Minister. In recent years, Zardari suffered at the hands of the army; Gilani prospered because of his association.
Vis-a-vis the USA, Kayani is perceived to be "Washington DC's man" in Pakistan. Familiar with his style of functioning, America is aware that between the continuity of a known face and the army's war of succession, the former is a preferable proposition. No wonder Kayani continues to be the balance-of-power between competing, conflicting and quarrelling groups of two Muslim countries ~ Afghanistan and Pakistan. Strong centrifugal forces are operating in the badlands of  the Af-Pak crescent. Kayani's extension could be bad news for the almost decrepit civil institutions of Pakistan  However, difficult days lie ahead as unforeseen adversaries may crop up to stab him in the back. The situation in FATA, NWFP, Punjab and the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan might deteriorate.


As chief of the Pakistan army, Kayani will have to protect his flank. Circumstances may once again provoke the army to take control of the reins of power in Islamabad, should the Af-Pak situation exacerbate. After all, every Pakistani military chief remembers the words of Zia-ul-Haq on 1 September 1977: "This country can be kept together by the armed forces and not by the politicians".

(Concluded)

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THE TELEGRAPH

PARTY PEOPLE

 

Familiarity is the enemy of enterprise. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee failed to look outside his familiar world while setting up a search committee to find a vice chancellor for the new Presidency University. The committee thus consists of persons who are known to be sympathizers or cronies of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Mr Bhattacharjee's dream of making his alma mater a university of international excellence is confined to the narrow world of Calcutta-based party intellectuals. The composition of the search committee continues the tradition that the CPI(M) has established over the last 30 years. The tradition dictates that every academic committee should be packed with persons who will do what the party asks them to do and every post in educational institutions — from the vice chancellor to a peon — should be held by a yes-man tied to the apron strings of the apparatchiki in Alimuddin Street. Loyalty to the party has always prevailed over merit. There may even be something more than the privileging of loyalty. It is entirely possible that the leaders of the CPI(M), in their delusion, believe that men and women owing allegiance to them are the best and therefore there is no need to look into any other pool of talent. The result has been the rise of worthless people and the destruction of educational institutions.

 

It is no coincidence that the three members of the search committee are all Bengalis from Calcutta. There cannot be an argument that the first vice chancellor of the new university should only be selected by Bengalis. Even if one were to accept such a parochial assumption, why only Bengalis from Calcutta? It is easy to think of any number of Bengali academics of international standing in their fields who are working in different parts of India and the globe. But none of them would say "aye aye'' to the party on every point. The frog-in-the-well mindset is dangerous in every sphere of life; in education it leads to disaster. The search committee shows that the CPI(M) remains trapped in that narrow world. Presidency University is to be an institution for the future, but its first vice chancellor is to be selected by people who are well past their prime — one of them is nearing the biblical four score years. Are they the best suited to visualize the future? Mr Bhattacharjee had a chance to make the future. But he chose to cling to his past.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

SORRY SPORT

 

If India was hoping to prove something to the world by winning its bid for the Commonwealth Games, then the run-up to the games is showing up their organizers in a shockingly perverse light. The organizing committee, especially its chairman, seems to be hell-bent on putting out to the world a rather shameful mix of corruption, brazenness and inefficiency as the characteristic Indian way of meeting a happy challenge. A concerted effort at appearing disgraceful seems to be the only form of concerted effort the games have inspired in the organizers. First, the corruption — and in the highest places. It looks as if the people working most hard in the last couple of months before the games are going to be the Central Vigilance Commission, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. After all, India's rank in the international corruption-perception index is 84, an honour it shares with El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala and Thailand. Interestingly, this is a perception index, and the Commonwealth Games are unlikely to make the world perceive India in a kinder light. The commercial stakes, in this case, are huge and global. Then, the inefficiency. Every realistic inspection of the state of the art in Delhi has resulted in public expressions of deep alarm at the spectacular unreadiness evident everywhere. Unmet deadlines, leaks, overflows, collapse, casualties, lack of coordination, compromised standards: the list is endless, but not unfamiliar.

 

Finally, the callousness. To spruce the city up for the world's gaze, offending human elements — beggars, slum or pavement dwellers, hawkers, rickshaw-pullers — are hastily being moved out of sight without proper rehabilitation schemes in place for them. To enable desperate last-minute construction (the inevitable result of sloth and bad planning higher up), labourers are being hired without proper wages and protection. There has been a significant number of accidents, many of them fatal, among the poorest of these workers, now working round the clock to make up for their employers' lack of organization, discipline and scruple. A senior sports official has invoked the typical Indian wedding to explain his optimism about the games in the face of all this: there will be confusion till the last minute, but everything will go off smoothly at the end. The world is not amused so far, neither is the Indian taxpayer.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY

INDIA'S ECONOMIC SITUATION IS FAR BETTER THAN EXPECTED

BHASKAR DUTTA

 

About a year ago, the phrase, "green shoots of recovery", attained great popularity after the American Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, used it in a television interview to bolster his claim that the American economy was coming out of the global recession. Since then, economists all over the world have been debating for a considerable time whether spring has actually arrived or whether the green shoots will soon wither away and plunge the world into double-dip recession.

 

The jury is yet to come to any definite decision about the state of the world economy. The economies of several Eurozone countries continue to be plagued by very low rates of growth, high levels of unemployment and large public debts. The economy of the United States of America, too, seems to be struggling to keep its head above the water, while the latest figures coming out of China show that its economy has slowed down — although China is still growing at a rate which all countries would love to achieve. However, in the midst of all this, one shining exception seems to be the Indian economy — all indicators suggest that spring has definitely arrived so far as our economy is concerned.

 

According to earlier Central government estimates, the gross domestic product growth was estimated to be 8.5 per cent during the current fiscal year. This is a very healthy rate of growth under most circumstances and is particularly noteworthy against the backdrop of the recent gloomy world outlook. But it turns out that even this is an underestimate. The International Monetary Fund, not known to exaggerate growth rates, has recently estimated that the growth rate of the Indian economy will exceed nine per cent. And now the Central government too has stated that it is revising its estimates upwards on the back of a nine per cent growth of GDP during the first quarter of the fiscal year. While all sectors have contributed to the improved performance, the capital goods industries have led the pack with an amazing growth of 34 per cent. The consumer durables sector is not far away at 24 per cent. If this year's monsoon turns out to be close to normal, then we can look forward to a bumper harvest. In that case, the IMF forecast may well prove to be conservative.

 

Clearly, at least a part of this improvement in the growth rate must be attributed to the set of stimulus measures adopted by the Central government and the Reserve Bank of India during the course of the last year. These included tax concessions, increased public spending as well as a liberal credit policy. The size of the package, in its entirety, was considerably smaller than that of the corresponding measures taken in China, the US and the larger European countries. Despite the significant difference in the relative sizes of these programmes, the measures have met with considerably greater success in India. Of course, this reflects the fact that the crisis was somewhat less severe in India. In fact, unlike in Western Europe and North America, which witnessed actual recession in the sense of an absolute fall in the level of GDP, the Indian economy slowed down but continued to record a positive rate of growth.

 

Paradoxically, success may breed failure. That is, the fact that the economy seems to have attained a high growth trajectory may prompt the government to withdraw the entire stimulus package. However, any precipitous rollback of these measures may have quite undesirable consequences. In the near future, the main growth impetus has to come from within the country since there is some uncertainty about the external demand for Indian products. So, any sharp reduction in the support provided by the government may have a significant negative effect on domestic demand. This may result in an appreciable slowdown of the economy.

 

Having said that, it is almost inevitable that the stimulus package will be withdrawn over time. In fact, a small step in this direction was taken by the finance minister in this year's budget when he increased the excise tax slightly — this was a reversal of the earlier, much larger, reduction in taxes as part of the stimulus package. The level of inflation, particularly the rise in food prices, will put increasing pressure on the government to take some action. The only likely set of actions must involve some effort to cool down the economy. These will take the form of some restrictions on the availability of credit. So, for instance, the RBI may revise the interest-rate structure upwards very soon. The government may also opt to reduce the size of the fiscal deficit by cutting down expenditure. An important consideration for the government and the RBI is the need to act in moderation.

 

Will these restrictive measures help to bring down or, at least, stabilize food prices? Are there other actions which the government can undertake? Unfortunately, food prices react only very slowly — if at all — to small cuts in overall public expenditure or small increases in the interest-rate structure. A more important determinant of the level of food prices will be the monsoon. If this turns out to be normal, then the prospect of a bumper harvest will surely spur private traders to release their stocks sooner than later.

 

This is not to suggest that the only effective course of action available to the government is to pray to the rain gods. I recently came across a newspaper report stating that the Food Corporation of India feels that we have accumulated a larger stock of foodgrains relative to the availability of warehouses. Surely, this is an absurd situation. How can very high food prices across the board coexist with huge stocks of foodgrain held by the government? The only explanation is extremely myopic food distribution policies pursued by successive governments. Instead of complete reliance on the public distribution system, the government must find alternative ways of releasing grain into the economy. This will not help in bringing down prices of pulses or edible oils — these are commodities with limited supplies. But the government can surely find ways of bringing down foodgrain prices.

 

Clearly, there are areas and problems which need urgent attention. But, the bottom line is that the Indian economy is poised to follow close to a double- digit growth path. Manmohan Singh and his economics team can take considerable pride in how ably they have steered the economy through some very troubled times.

 

The author is professor of economics, University of Warwick. This article was written before the RBI's monetary policy review meeting on July 27

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

VEAL PIES

STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

There may, I suppose, be limits to American arrogance. But where? Britain in the 1880s was like the United States of America today. The only global superpower, it imagined itself God's gift to the world — and vice versa. And odiously smug and overbearing we often were.

 

The longer I live in an American satrapy, the more I feel what many Indians felt then. Britain's leaders go on their knees to the White House. Its troops fight America's wars. American prosecutors use an unequal extradition treaty from Blair's day to grab Britons for trial. A Senate committee summons British politicians for interrogation about last year's release of the (supposedly dying) Libyan jailed in Scotland in 2001 for blowing up a PanAm airliner — and huffs and puffs when, for once, the Brits dare to say no.

 

My reaction is rage, the frustrated rage of a patriot. Dr Johnson once declared patriotism as "the last refuge of a scoundrel". If he'd been describing scoundrels, maybe; though I've always got by with humbler excuses such as "I lost the address." But as a definition of patriotism, phooey.

 

I'm a patriot to excess. Shakespeare's "this sceptred isle...this blessed plot" brings tears to my eyes. And not just because I'm old; I could have wept in 1963 when, after 30 months in Mumbai, I saw again from the plane our tiny, green fields. Britain is "my country, right or wrong." And with that phrase, back to my business, language.

 

The phrase is often misused. It doesn't mean I approve of Britain's errors or crimes. All it means is all it says: that, whatever it does, my country it is. Love of country is easily denigrated. My patriotism is your chauvinism, named after a (mythical) Nicolas Chauvin, who supposedly fought under Napoleon and hero-worshipped him. Jingoism began life in a British music-hall song of the 1870s: "We don't want to fight" — against Russia, to be exact — "but by jingo [an old substitute for by Jesus] if we do, we've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too". Jingoism is specifically bellicose; the cleric who recently objected to Blake's poem "Jerusalem", utterly unwarlike in any wordly sense, as "jingoist" was plainly as muddled about language as the Church of England is about theology.

 

On their side, patriots have coined many a fine phrase. Churchill's never... was so much owed by so many to so few on the Battle of Britain is unforgettable. So is W.B. Yeats's a terrible beauty is born, on the anti-British uprising in Dublin in 1916, a seminal event in Irish history. Europe's young were sent to war in 1914-18 with the Latin thought thatdulce et decorum est pro patria mori, it is sweet and honourable to die for your country. Of all people, Kipling, whose son was killed in 1915, came nearer the truth: "If any question why we died, tell them, because our fathers lied." Yet 1918 brought a still-popular British poem (and hymn, nay): "I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above, entire and whole and perfect the service of my love." Above his family? Well. But memorable it is.

 

Not all agreed. If he had to choose to betray his country or a friend, wrote E.M. Forster in 1938, "I hope I would have the guts to betray my country." Britain's highly literate traitor, Kim Philby, later cheerfully betrayed both, but, since his memoirs were edited by the KGB, left no well-worded lie to say why.

 

A pity. And there I reveal a clash between my feelings for my country and for its language. When William Pitt, its then prime minister, died in 1806, his last words, supposedly, were, "My country, how I leave [or, in a rival version, "love"] my country." I prefer the far livelier third version: "I think I could eat one of Bellamy's veal pies." And while I can barely rise to my feet for dreary "God Save the Queen", another national anthem, with music's aid, stirs me deeply — "The Star-Spangled Banner".

 

THEWORDCAGE@YAHOO.CO.UK

 

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

EDITORIAL

NETAS FOR SALE

''IT HAS BECOME A SABHA FOR CROOKS AND BUSINESSMEN.''

 

Suspicions that cash was exchanging hands to get aspirants to the Rajya Sabha elected have been confirmed by a sting operation conducted by a television news channel. MLAs of the Jharkhand Assembly across party lines have been captured on camera offering their votes in exchange for money, even offering to play brokers to cut deals that will deliver the candidate the votes of other MLAs. The MLAs are seen selling their vote for candidates whose identity they don't know. Their only interest is the amount of money they will be paid. One MLA is seen haggling for a car as well. That money is doled out by political parties and politicians to voters during elections is well known. Senior ministers have been caught on camera distributing wads of notes during elections. MPs have been found taking money to ask questions on certain subjects in parliament. That money exchanges hands during government formation or crucial votes of confidence in parliament and state Assemblies is not news any longer. Instances of corruption among our elected representatives does not raise eyebrows any longer, indicating how accustomed we have become to seeing our MLAs and MPs buy and sell votes. Even so, the details laid bare by the sting operation have left the people of this country disgusted as never before. It has laid bare the extreme depths to which our elected representatives have sunk, how easy it is to seal deals with them, how purchasable they are.


The House of Elders as the Rajya Sabha is often referred to is meant to strengthen India's federalism. The elders were largely eminent people who represented in parliament the interests of the state from which they were voted. Decades ago, these elders raised the quality of debate in the House. That sadly is history. Over the years, the Rajya Sabha has ceased to be what the framers of our constitution envisaged as its role. It has become a Sabha for sale with businessmen and crooks using their monetary muscle to buy their way into the Upper House. The Jharkhand MLAs have their equivalents in other states, including Karnataka.


The Chief Election Commissioner has promised action. India will be looking to the CEC to take stern action against the MLAs. But action in this case alone is not enough. We need tough laws that prevent this trading in votes.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CURBING CORRUPTION

''THE SMART CARDS COULD EMPOWER THEIR HOLDERS.''

 

The proposed introduction of smart cards in the public distribution system (PDS) has the potential to reduce corruption. Below poverty line (BPL) ration card holders, who have hitherto held paper cards, will be issued smart cards that will register online the purchase of grain as well as the amount of grain the dealer has received and disbursed. The aim of the smart card system is to curb corruption, thus ensuring that the poor do get the subsidised grain they are entitled to. The government is spending Rs 55,578 crore on the PDS this year. But only 60 per cent of all food grain meant for distribution through the PDS actually reaches the poor, the balance being siphoned off by middlemen. The smart card system is a step towards plugging this substantial leak. The smart cards are expected to empower their holders. It will give people considerable flexibility. Unlike in the past when a PDS beneficiary was compelled to buy the grain from a particular fair price shop (FPS), under the smart card system he can purchase the grain from whichever shop he wants. Thus if he is not getting the service he wants from one FPS, then he can move to another. The smart card system will push FPS owners to improve their service.


The introduction of smart cards has the potential to improve the PDS. Still it is not foolproof. For one, the FPS owner might swipe for 20 kg but give the beneficiaries only half that amount. That is, even if a transaction for 20 kg has occurred and been registered online, a beneficiary might not actually get the grains. It is well-known that the poor often sell their right to rations and are often forced to simply hand over this right to exploitative middlemen. The smart card is not smart enough yet to detect such exploitation.
The smart card is a smart step in the right direction. Its potential can be tapped by educating the poor on their rights to PDS and the working of the smart card system. Corruption in the PDS is not restricted to level of the FPS. The rot goes right to the top, with local/district and state-level officials and politicians part of a giant network that prevents the PDS from working. By itself it is not a solution to corruption. That requires political will.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

BRITAIN GETS PRACTICAL

CAMERON'S REALISM

BY HARSH V PANT


UK is trying to cultivate emerging powers in the Asia-Pacific so that it can leverage the region's economic growth to its own ends.

 

By any measure, David Cameron's visit to India has turned out to be a transformative one. In one stroke, he has re-defined the parameters of the Indo-British partnership for the 21st century. The Conservative Party has been clear about India being a priority for the UK since the visit of Cameron to India in 2006.


Cameron had written fondly of India before his visit: "India is the world's largest democracy, a rapidly growing economy, a huge potential trading partner, a diverse society with a strong culture of pluralism and a key regional player — a force for stability in a troubled part of the world." He had suggested that though Britain's relationship with India 'goes deep,' it 'should go deeper.'


India and Britain had forged a 'strategic partnership' during the former British prime minister Tony Blair's visit to India in 2005 but Cameron's visit has imparted a new dynamism to the relationship.


The visit primarily had a commercial focus. As the centre of gravity of global economics and politics shifts to Asia-Pacific, Britain is looking to cultivate emerging powers in the region so that it can leverage the region's economic growth to its own ends. This is especially important as Britain's traditional economic partners, the EU and the US, are facing long term economic problems putting in jeopardy Britain's role as the world's financial capital.

Disenchanted with their special relationship with the US and disillusioned with the overly bureaucratic EU, Britain is now looking to Asia to develop new partnerships. The aim of Cameron's visit was to use India's economic dynamism to help sustain Britain's status as a major global economy.


Emphasising the commercial nature of Indo-British partnership, Cameron led a delegation that included six ministers and more than 30 senior executives from top UK firms. Britain is seeking ties with India across a whole range of sectors: IT, infrastructure, defence, education, telecommunications and counter-terrorism. The UK is the largest investor in India and the bilateral trade is worth over £13 billion. Indian students are the second largest group in Britain.


Britain supports India's candidature for the permanent seat of the UN Security Council. Britain had supported the US in its efforts to spearhead a proposal in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for modifying its guidelines to allow trade in nuclear fuel and technology with India, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


Not surprising therefore that India and Britain signed the civilian nuclear energy cooperation pact during Cameron's visit. BAE Systems and Rolls Royce also signed a pact to supply India with 57 Hawk trainer jets in a deal worth around $1.09 billion.


Politically sensitive issues


But it was on the politically sensitive issues of Pakistan's use of terrorism as state policy and Kashmir that Cameron managed to break from the past and make a new beginning. Without obfuscating the issue, he warned Islamabad against promoting any 'export of terror,' whether to India or elsewhere, and said it must not be allowed to 'look both ways.'


Cameron proposed a close security partnership with India and underlined that Britain like India was determined that groups like the Taliban, the Haqqani network or Lakshar-e-Toiba should not be allowed to launch attacks on Indian and British citizens in India or in Britain. Despite causing a diplomatic row with Pakistan and his political opponents back home calling him 'loudmouth,' Cameron stuck to his comments.


More significantly, the British prime minister has rejected any role for his country in the India-Pakistan dispute. In stark contrast to the previous Labour government that continues to view South Asia through the prism of Kashmir, Cameron has put aside Labour's condescending posturing towards India and imparted a new 'realism' to British policies towards the sub-continent.


As late as last year, the former foreign secretary and now a contender for the Labour Party leadership, David Miliband, was hectoring the Indian government that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute is essential to solving the problem of extremism in South Asia. Such an approach has left an indelible mark on the Indian psyche of Britain being on the side of Pakistan on this most crucial of issues.


The Labour government failed to recognise that New Delhi's ties with Washington could only evolve after George W Bush administration more or less accepted the merits of the Indian arguments on Kashmir.

Cameron wants to forge a new special relationship with one of the world's major economic powers but he has realised that a genuine political partnership cannot be realised without repudiating Labour government's legacy. No wonder at the end of Cameron's visit, the Indian prime minister described India and the UK as "natural partners to shape a better world."


This is indeed a far cry from 1997 when during Queen Elizabeth's visit to India the then British foreign secretary Robin Cook offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the issue of Kashmir only to be reminded by the then Indian prime minister, I K Gujral, that "Britain is a third-rate power nursing illusions of grandeur of its colonial past."


Cameron's is a bold move to qualitatively transform Indo-British relationship. It remains to be seen if this gambit would actually work.


(The writer teaches at King's College, London)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

NEED TO DIVERSIFY STATE'S ECONOMY

BY N V KRISHNAKUMAR


Financial data from RBI suggests that the state is neither in strong health nor bankrupt.

 

 

There has been a lingering debate on Karnataka's finances in recent months. On the one hand, chief minister B S Yeddyurappa has assured the people that all is well with the state finances and is one of the strongest in the country. On the other the Congress and JD(S) have accused the government of bankrupting the state in the past couple of years.

 

State-wise financial data released by the Reserve Bank of India last month provides a partial answer to the question on how the state compares to other states on various fiscal indicators. The 'Handbook of Statistics on State Government Finances' disseminates financial information of 28 states and two Union territories collated from state budget documents of past three decades (from 1980-81 to 2009-10).


It provides comprehensive financial information on major fiscal indicators, details on revenues and expenditures, interest payments and market borrowings of most states that can be a useful tool for academic research, policy discussions and state-wise comparisons.


Sixth place


By sheer numbers, last fiscal year saw three states having a budget of more than Rs one lakh crore — Uttar Pradesh (Rs 1,21,718), Maharashtra (Rs 1,18,739) and surprisingly Andhra Pradesh (Rs 1,01,037). Karnataka is sixth in terms of revenue behind Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.


Andhra and Karnataka had about the same amount of own tax revenue in the year 2004-05. Andhra has more than doubled its aggregate receipts thanks to the doubling of own tax revenue in the last five years while for the same period Karnataka has seen only a 67 per cent rise in revenues. This suggests that Andhra economy has grown much faster and has become more efficient in collecting taxes than Karnataka.


On the expenditure side, Karnataka does fare better on a comparative basis amongst neighbouring states on both capital and social sector fronts. Andhra (24 per cent) spent the highest in capital expenditure in the last fiscal year followed by Karnataka (23 per cent), while Kerala (14 per cent) lags far behind.


On social sector expenditure, Maharashtra tops with 50 per cent of the budget spent on education, health and various social schemes while Karnataka is second with 40 per cent. Outstanding liabilities of two states have crossed the Rs 2 lakh crore mark and those of three states have crossed the Rs 1 lakh crore mark.


Karnataka with Rs 76,762 crore of liabilities spends alittle more than 8 per cent (Rs 5,578 crore) of the budget on interest payments, a modest number when compared to many other states and can offer great solace to the finance minister.


While UP (Rs 39,658 crore) and Bihar (Rs 23,690 crore) got the largest pie of the share from Central taxes last year, Karnataka received a paltry Rs 7,645 crore. It's a travesty to the hard working people of the state who send more than Rs 30,000 crore in taxes to the Centre to get such a small sum back.

The chief minister along with MPs should impress upon the Centre to allocate more resources to the state. The other fact that clearly comes out of revenue data is that Karnataka along with Maharashtra seems to have suffered most from the world-wide financial crisis and the recession that followed in our country. This could be due to over dependence of both states on service and real estate sectors.


While the political wrangling will continue in future, financial data from RBI suggests that the state is neither in strong health nor bankrupt. It rather indicates that all is not well with the Karnataka government finances.

Also, the neighbouring states have weathered the recession much better which means the state has to vigorously compete with them in the non-IT-BT sectors to diversify the economy. Rather than overly focus on services sector, the state government should pay equal attention to manufacturing and other sectors which has the potential to bolster state's own revenues.


There is an urgent need to diversify the state economy in order to improve state's own revenue and to cushion the state finances from future global recessions. Government must introduce policy measures that can provide a fillip to manufacturing, improve prospects for medium and small scale industries and encourage sectors like tourism. Only this can ensure that the finances of state government improve in the long run and enough resources are available to meet the future capital and social expenditure needs of the state.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

A LOVE STORY

BY DOROTHY VICTOR


This story stands out as a moving illustration of selflessness and self-sacrifice.

 

 

There are many stories that depict true love. There are many relationships that foster unconditional love. There are many situations that bring out latent love. This true story, which reveals all of the above, is a moving tale of a brother's extraordinary love and selfless sacrifice for his older sister.

 

My friend came from a family that today's generation would consider large. She was the oldest of four sisters and one younger brother. Besides being good friends at school, we connected well with each other and shared many a good time at school and outside school. As is always the case, these good times came to an abrupt end with her father being transferred to another city and she joining a boarding school. Years passed and we moved on with our lives, got married and started families of our own. It was the usual the case of old friends losing touch with one another.


A sheer turn of luck bought the two of us again one fine summer morning a few years ago. We bumped into each other at our sons' school. Surprised and overjoyed, at meeting my school buddy, we chatted as we reminisced the good old times. During the course of our chit chat she mentioned that her brother had emigrated from the country for higher studies and subsequently settled in the US. We exchanged contact details and from time to time thereafter kept in touch. However with the hustle and bustle, a whole year went by before I could call on her again.


The resumed phone call brought a lot of bad news. I was pained to hear that the last one-year had been rough on her as she had to endure many health problems. At only forty years, she suffered a complete renal failure and needed a kidney transplant from a compatible donor. Her married sisters were unable to donate a kidney due to health and other family reasons. Surprisingly, her younger brother, an eligible bachelor, decided to make the sacrifice in the prime of his youth and endure the stress and strain of many tests and surgeries.

The rest of the details, as one can imagine are as moving as the story line of a sentimental movie. This drama in real life brought the younger brother from the US amidst his busy schedule, for three weeks, to donate one of his kidneys for his sister. Besides showing his plentiful love for his sister, it was an act overflowing with courage, chivalry, sacrifice, heroism and selfless giving. In an age and time dominated by "I, me and myself", this true love story stands out as a moving illustration of selflessness and self-sacrifice. It is said that true love transcends all barriers and endures every obstacle. The younger brother had indeed proved the wisdom of these words. As Tagore says, "He, who gives all, keeps all" and I'm sure all the joy and happiness in this world will be his

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

A WRONGHEADED CHANGE ON IDF EXEMPTIONS FOR HAREDIM


A secretive cabinet proposal circumvents Tal Law.

 

A little over two weeks ago, the cabinet quietly circumvented the controversial Tal Law to provide a sweeping exemption from military service for yeshiva students who reach age 22. Under the proposal, yeshiva students aged 22 and over who want to get out of the study hall and into the labor market will be allowed to perform one year of mandatory national service instead of enlisting in the IDF.


The change is highly significant. Until now, under a complicated arrangement that first became law in July 2002 and was extended for another five years in 2007, only married yeshiva students with families or those aged 26 could automatically opt for national service, which invariably is performed within the haredi community. All the rest were obligated to enlist in the IDF for abbreviated service, if deemed to be fit for it by the IDF.


Legislators held no public discussion over the change, which effectively does away with the IDF's right of first refusal to draft potentially talented yeshiva students. In fact, the change is being structured as a bureaucratic expansion of the defense minister's authority to grant exemptions, rather than as a legislative proposal, which would have required Knesset passage.


Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz was the driving force behind the move, which, it is hoped, will streamline the transition of yeshiva students into the job market.


Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer had warned last month that the high rates of haredi unemployment are "unsustainable." According to the latest figures, from 2008, 65.1 percent of haredi men aged 35 to 54 do not work, which is 5.5 times higher than the OECD average, according to a recently released Taub Center report. An estimated 60% of haredi families live under the poverty line. And the haredi population's fertility rates are three times the national average.


In coming years haredi non-employment will put an unprecedented strain on the Israeli economy. Arguably, removing any and all obstacles preventing haredim from finding gainful employment is a more pressing objective than the need to strengthen our armed forces.


HOWEVER, THERE are legitimate dissenting opinions. For instance, the IDF's official stance is that every effort should be made to integrate yeshiva students into military service. But the IDF's view was not adequately considered because no substantive discussion took place before adopting Steinitz's proposal. Making it so easy for yeshiva students to opt out of the military strikes another serious blow to the age-old Zionist ideal of "the people's army" which advocates mandatory military service for all.


The Israeli model of the people's army, which was anchored in law in 1949, was the result of a compromise among competing alternatives. Prime minister David Ben-Gurion's personal preference was for a Communist-inspired conscription of the entire labor force into a vast, all-encompassing military that could serve a centralized economy via "labor battalions" in industry and agriculture. In contrast, then chief-of-staff Yigael Yadin advocated a fully professional army. A Swiss model, based on short conscription stints, was also suggested.

In the decades that followed, the people's army has become a centerpiece of Israeli society. Joining in the collective endeavor to defend the Jewish state is a rite of passage as well as a human clearinghouse that brings together politically, socially and culturally diverse populations which would never have made such intimate acquaintance in civilian life.

The "me generation" has challenged the legitimacy of the state demanding two or three years of military service its young people, yet the framework has remained basically intact. Until now yeshiva students have had to pay the steep price of non-employment for removing themselves from this collective endeavor. This will no longer be the case.


If the present government wishes do away with the people's army after over six decades and replace it with something else, let it say so. But this can only happen after a serious, open debate takes place and a feasible alternative is found. Secretively issuing a blanket exemption for yeshiva students is not the way.


Ironically, the cabinet's decision comes at a time when more haredim are being integrated into the IDF thanks to special programs tailored to the needs of the community. Many of these new IDF tracks also provide the haredi soldier with invaluable occupational training.

 

As long as mandatory conscription remains in place, wholesale exemption of an entire segment of society is not fair. It's not too smart, either.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

EVERYTHING POINTS TO THE MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT

BY RAY HANANIA  

 

How a simple conversation turned into a complicated discussion on the Israeli and Palestinian narratives.

 

It all started when I turned on the television set and started watching an old rerun of "Everybody Loves Raymond," a sitcom about an American-Italian family's everyday humorous challenges.


(I've always wanted to produce my own TV show called "Everybody Loves Abdullah," about an American-Arab family and their everyday humorous challenges, too.) 


The topic of that particular episode was about Raymond who was asked by his wife to explain the whole issue of sex to their young daughter.


That's when my wife turned to me and said, "Maybe you should have that talk with Aaron."


"Are you asking me that because my name is Raymond?" I began facetiously.


"I'm being serious," she said.


"You want me to have the 'talk' with Aaron?" 

 

"Yes. I want you to talk to him about sex. He's old enough to know."


"Sex? Me? Why me?" 


Alison gave me that look. You know, the way a border guard looks at an Arab entering Ben-Gurion airport.


"Fine," I huffed. "I'll do it." I know better than to challenge my wife, or any woman, on any issue.


Not that Aaron – who I call Abdullah when my wife isn't around – had asked about sex.


SO I sat Abdullah down and I asked him if he's ever heard of sex. I winced as I anticipated the possible response, "Sure, dad, what do you want to know?" He just looked at me like was I annoying him and said: "Sex is that thing I'm not supposed to talk about."


"Well, that's right."


"So why are we talking about it? Are you trying to get me in trouble?" he asked.


I just started yapping. Going into detail: "There are boys and there are girls, Abdullah. Boys and girls are different. In order to make babies, they have to come together and have, you know, sex. They get together. Then badda bing, badda boom. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Yaani [like, in Arabic] this and yaani that. Kol ma sheh ze lokeah [whatever it takes, in Hebrew]. Whatever. Everyone's happy. And they have a baby. It's simple. Any questions?" 

"Why are boys and girls different," he asked?


"That's just the way it is."


"You mean the birds and the bees?"


"Yes."

"What do birds and bees have to do with sex?" 


I knew this wasn't going too well. "Well, ah, I don't know. Maybe birds are boys and bees are girls. It doesn't matter. It could be anything."


THAT STARTED a whole series of difficult questions. "Do insects have sex?" 


"Not all of them."

 

"Do girls have stingers?" 


"No, but they can cause you a lot of pain if you are married to them and you don't listen to them; which is what's going to happen to me if this conversation about sex doesn't produce results."

"Why?" 

"Why? Because G-d made people that way." Whenever I can't explain something, I always blame it on G-d. "G-d made us all different."


"Why? Is that why you are Arab and mommy and I are Jews? Why did G-d make us different? Why are they killing each other?" 


"Arabs and Jews are basically the same. We're both human beings. People. We just believe in different things." I told him mommy and I have an armistice agreement, which was harder to explain than sex. "Mommy is the boss in our family, but I make all the decisions."


"So, Arabs and Jews are fighting because they believe in different things?" he asked. "How about sharing? Mommy tells me to do that all the time. If you and mommy get along, why can't Arabs and Jews get along?"


How did a simple conversation about sex turn into a complicated discussion about the Middle East conflict? That made me realize the problem we have in the Middle East. This is exactly what happens to Arabs and Jews. No matter what the topic, it always turns to the Middle East conflict. We can't escape it.


Talk about sports turns in to a debate about why the Arabs opposed two states in 1947 when the UN proposed it and used violence to get it all back. Talk about technology turns in to how Israelis are slowly controlling and censoring social networking sites like Facebook and BlogTV. Farming? A debate on who owns what land.

Before I know it, I'm giving Abdullah the Palestinian narrative and then my version of the Israeli narrative, which are different, of course.


"There was this country, Palestine. The Jews lived there. Then the Arabs lived there. Then Jews came back. Then they started to fight over who owns the land. Both sides did bad things to each other and everyone just got madder. Sometimes, one side is tougher and stronger than the other, but the other won't give up.


Then badda bing, badda boom. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Yaani this and yaani that. Kol ma sheh ze lokeah. Whatever. It's simple. Any questions?" 


Right about that time, mommy decided to poke her head into the room and ask, "How's it going?" 

"Great," I said.


"Yeah mommy," my son said. "Daddy says you're the boss but he makes all the decisions."

Ouch! 

The writer is an award winning columnist and Chicago radio talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

BRITAIN'S NEW EXPORT: ISLAMIST CARNAGE

BY DANIEL PIPES  

 

In all, 28 countries have come under assault from British-based Islamist terrorists, giving some idea of their global menace.

 

Britain's largest and longest-running terrorist investigation ended last month with the conviction of three British Muslims. Their 2006 plot involved blowing up trans-Atlantic airliners with the hope of killing up to 10,000 people. That near-disaster offers a pungent reminder of the global danger poised by UK-based radical Islam.


The Heritage Foundation calls British Islamism "a direct security threat" to the United States and The New Republic dubs it "the biggest threat to US security."


Officialdom agrees. The British home secretary compiled a dossier in 2003 that acknowledged his country offered a "significant base" for terrorism. A CIA study in 2009 concluded that British-born nationals of Pakistani descent (who can freely enter the United States under a visa waiver program) constitute America's most likely source of terrorism.


Confirming, updating, and documenting these reports, London's Centre for Social Cohesion, run by the formidable Douglas Murray, has just published a 535-page opus,Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections, written by Robin Simcox, Hannah Stuart, and Houriya Ahmed. It consists mainly of detailed biographical information on two sorts of perpetrators of what it calls "Islamism related offences" or IROs – that is to say, incidents where evidence points to Islamist beliefs as the primary motivator.


One listing contains information on the 127 individuals convicted of IROs or suicides in IROs within Britain; the other provides biographies on 88 individuals with connections to Britain who engaged in IROs elsewhere in the world. The study covers eleven years 1999-2009.


Domestic British terrorists display a dismaying pattern of normality. They are predominantly young (mean age: 26) and male (96 percent). Nearly half come from a South Asian background. Of those whose educational backgrounds are known, most attended university. Of those whose occupations are known, most have jobs or study full time. Two-thirds of them are British nationals, two-thirds have no links to proscribed terrorist organizations, and two-thirds never went abroad to attend terrorist training camps.


Most IROs, in brief, are perpetrated by basically ordinary Muslims whose minds have been seized by the coherent and powerful ideology of Islamism. One wishes the terrorist's numbers were limited to psychopaths, for that would render the problem less difficult to confront and eliminate.


BRITAIN'S SECURITY Service estimates that over 2,000 individuals residing today in Britain pose a terrorist threat, thereby implying not only that the "covenant of security" that once partially protected the UK from attack by its own Muslims is long defunct but that the United Kingdom may face the worst internal terrorist menace of any Western country other than Israel.


As for the second group – Islamists with ties to Great Britain who engage in attacks outside the country: the report's authors modestly state that because their information constitutes a sampling, and not a comprehensive list, they do not provide statistical analyses. But their sample indicates the phenomenon's reach, so I compiled a list of countries (and the number of British-linked perpetrators) in which British-linked IROs have occurred.

The center's list includes Afghanistan (12), Algeria (3), Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium (2), Bosnia (4), Canada, France (7), Germany (3), India (3), Iraq (3), Israel (2), Italy (4), Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco (2), Netherlands, Pakistan (5), Russia (4), Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain (2), United States (14), and Yemen (10). I add to the centre's list Albania, where an attack took place before 1999, and Bangladesh and Kenya, which seem to have been overlooked.


In all, 28 countries have come under assault from British-based Islamist terrorists, giving some idea of their global menace. Other than India, the target countries divide into two distinct types, Western and majority-Muslim.

An odd trio of the United States, Afghanistan, and Yemen have suffered the most Britishlinked terrorists.

This documentation prompts several questions: One, how much longer will it take for the British authorities to realize that their current policies – trying to improve Muslims' material circumstances while appeasing Islamists – misses the ideological imperative? Two, evidence thus far tends to point to IROs on balance strengthening the Islamist cause in Great Britain; will this remain the pattern even as violence persists or will IROs eventually incur a backlash? 


Finally, what will it take in terms of destruction for non-UK governments to focus their immigration procedures on that percentage or two of Britons from whom the perpetrators exclusively derive – the Muslim population? Unpleasant as this prospect is, it beats getting blown up.


The writer (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and a Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

IN MY OWN WRITE: YEKKE PAR EXCELLENCE

BY JUDY MONTAGU  

 

Dress was only part of it, decorum and politeness were paramount, and never being as much as a minute late for an appointment.

 

I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I ever saw my father attired in anything but a suit and tie. Visiting me in Israel one summer, he went out on the first day wearing some fine leather sandals bought specially for the trip – and later returned having agreed to sell them to a man who had admired them in a Tel Aviv cafe. Though he laughed at this "deal," his relief at redonning his formal black lace-ups was evident.


Dress was only part of it, of course. Decorum and politeness were paramount to him. He was orderly and punctilious, and never as much as a minute late for an appointment.


He shared, in short, many of the traits exhibited by the "yekkes" – which might help explain why I have always felt a great warmth and respect for these Jews of German origin who arrived in Israel in 1929-39. Educated, cultured and courteous, they have left their mark in many spheres of Israeli life.


Those yekkes who observed their religion did so largely in the way of Torah im derech eretz – literally, "Torah with the way of the land" – maintaining an Orthodox way of life while embracing Western culture and secular knowledge.

Shutting themselves up in a self-created ghetto was not for them.


A common explanation of these new immigrants' nickname, mockingly bestowed by the mostly Eastern European settlers of the Yishuv, was the suit jackets (German: Jacke) they adhered to – figuratively and literally – under the sweltering Mideastern sun.


I'VE always thought of Devorah (Gertrude) Jerichower as a true yekke, even though her arrival in Israel was far more recent than the Fifth Aliya, and she spent only the first 14 years of her life in Germany.


You didn't have to converse with her for long to appreciate her intellectual curiosity, informed opinions, quiet self-confidence, integrity and solid good sense; also her humor (an attribute that does much to leaven the more sober yekke qualities).


Born in Hamburg, she was sent to England in 1938 with her elder brother on the second Kindertransport, and was thus saved from Hitler; her parents perished in Auschwitz.


In London she qualified as a nurse, married her physician husband, Freddy, and raised four children: David, Allan, Philip and Katia.


After "commuting" between England and Israel for years, she and Freddy finally made aliya in 2006.


The children had arrived here long before, and there were 14 grandchildren.


Devorah's passing in Jerusalem on July 24, aged 85, turned the page on a chapter of my own history.

I GREW up in North-West London in a street very near to the Jerichowers'.


With few observant Jews in the neighborhood, their family formed part of the backdrop of my own life.


They attended the Hampstead Synagogue, where my father was cantor, and I was friendly with David, who was around my age.


Though Devorah and I became close much later in Jerusalem and had an easy, companionable relationship, in those days, back in the '60s, I kept my distance. She cut a formidable figure, raising her brood, the three boys especially, with an iron hand.


Her word was law, and there was no argument.


"You might argue," Philip corrected me, "but you never won."


"I had no choice," she would explain to me disarmingly, decades on, "with three boys to bring up."


I MADE aliya in 1972, and moved to Jerusalem in 1983.


One day in 1984, I was walking along my street in Talpiot when I saw Devorah and Freddy strolling arm-in-arm, with the proprietorial air one assumes close to home.


"What are you doing here?" I asked them, astonished. "We live here," they replied, indicating the building adjacent to mine. I had had no idea that they owned an apartment in Israel, and it was one of those strange coincidences that never cease to amaze.


Devorah and Freddy enjoyed what sounds like an idyllic bond for almost 60 years.


"I found a picture," Philip told me. "They must have been 55 years into their marriage – and there they were, cuddling away. It was a loving relationship."


FREDDY died in 2007, and Devorah was diagnosed with a serious illness that necessitated enervating treatment sessions that she knew would have to be repeated every three weeks, indefinitely. "They keep me alive," she told me.


But her active interest in everything around her remained undiminished. She would phone to ask if I was free to attend some event with her. When a plan to go to a performance of My Fair Lady fell through, she urged: "Let's not waste the evening. Is there a film we could see?" I ended up taking her to Avatar – which I found too long and far too noisy.


What had she thought of it? I enquired, diffidently. She might have been the oldest person in the audience, and I wondered about her powers of endurance. "Marvelous," she declared. "My Freddy would have loved it."


Two falls – breaking first one leg, then the other ("I had to even them up!") – ended her cultural sorties, though she would continue to attend one family simha after another. By this time, she had 10 great-grandchildren.


IT occurs to me that in many respects, Devorah could serve as a role model for Israeli, and Jewish, conduct.

She knew exactly who she was, where she had come from, and what her rights and obligations were, as a human being and as a Jew returned to the ancient Jewish homeland. She knew Jewish and general history – some of it from personal experience – and couldn't be swayed by glib judgments and trendy assertions, however lofty the source. She understood context.


She snorted at political correctness, and the culture of moral relativism – according to which all behaviors are equally understandable and, consequently, allowable – was utterly foreign to her.


She was an observant Jew who engaged enthusiastically with the wider world. She experienced, and imparted to her children, the beauty of Jewish religious life.


"How she presented the hagim" – the Jewish festivals – "was so important in our formative years," Katia told me. "She was vivid in her descriptions of how they celebrated at home: the fun and beauty, and light and life."


It occurs to me also that Devorah has something to teach modern parents, many of whom seem more focused on being their children's friends rather than acting like their parents. Some give the impression that they are scared of their children, afraid perhaps of losing their love if they set boundaries.


Devorah wasn't afraid to set limits; and the care and love her children – and their children – returned to her, especially during her final years, was something to warm the heart.


DEVORAH was tireless in her efforts to remain independent, often fending off attempts to help her, even when she was quite ill. She didn't waste time on self-pity.


Until her second fall, she had been a regular shulgoer.

One Shabbat a few weeks ago, I came out of synagogue to find her outside in her wheelchair, at the bottom of the steps, accompanied by her Filipina carer.


"I came this far," she said, meaning: Next time, I'll make it inside.


The heavy ointment she needed for her skin had attracted several flies, and they buzzed around her annoyingly. She was unperturbed.


"She never complained," Philip told me.


"Whatever was wrong with her, she always carried on. We have a lot to live up to."


THERE are others like Devorah, indomitable, motivated, proud Jews and human beings. Their lives have lessons to teach about purpose, courage and endurance in an era when too many are confused, rudderless and weak. We can, if we choose, learn them.


Rest in peace, yekke par excellence.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

COLUMN

WONDERFULLY SCRIPTED PROPAGANDA

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN  

 

The entire saga of foreign worker children has been dominated by a carefully constructed tale that focuses the debate only on the kids.

 

"If any of you know children who are candidates for deportation, take them into your homes, hide them…let the authorities tear them from your arms. Maybe you won't succeed in averting the evil decree, but this is how human beings are supposed to act. A few years down the road, they become Righteous Gentiles."


Sounds pretty bad doesn't it? Like the shadow of Nazism threatens children and we must save them. Of course this is merely the hyperbole in Israel's newspaper Haaretz issuing forth from former education minister Yossi Sarid. It's typical Sarid. On June 4th he compared himself to Pastor Martin Niemoller, of "I was not a Jew so I did not speak up" fame.


Fantasies of the Holocaust notwithstanding, Sarid is part of the larger "foreign worker" story that has caught the Israel public and parts of the world in its talons. The latest twist on the story was announced August 2 with the claim that the Israeli cabinet has voted to expel 400 children of foreign workers. The newspapers and television shows are ablaze with perfectly scripted "foreign worker" children, their beautiful faces staring back, perfectly placed to look the most vulnerable and cute with signs in English reading "don't deport us: we were born here, Hebrew is our language."


Another photo shows the children gathered with signs in English that read "there are no illegal children" and "let us be together, kids, mom and dad."


The story has been a long time coming. Since the 1990s foreign workers have been coming to Israel, initially legally, to work. The process accelerated during the second intifada when Palestinian labor was replaced by foreign workers.


In 2006, some 700 children of these legal foreign workers were given residency if they were over the age of 10. Over the last five years there has been a major influx of foreigners entering Israel illegally through Egypt. Now there are some 300,000 foreign workers in Israel, the majority of whom are here illegally. And with people come children.


IN THE fall of 2009, the government was set to crack down on the increasingly chaotic situation surrounding the foreign workers, legal and illegal, living in Israel. Activist groups like 'Israeli Children', Hotline for Migrant Workers, Physicians for Human Rights, the New Israel Fund and UNICEF Israel all began a campaign designed to change the debate from one about the 300,000 foreign workers, to one about the 1,200 children supposedly at risk for deportation. Where the exact number 1,200 came from is not clear and seems awfully low considering a population numbering 100 times that number of adults.


The activists succeeded, and in November of 2009 Netanyahu and his interior minister, Eli Yishai of Shas, postponed the deportation to allow the "1,200 children of foreign workers who are staying in Israel without a visa" to finish the school year. The school year ended in June and on August 1 the cabinet approved a plan to grant legal status to 800 children and deport 400. It was a contentious vote with Yishai arguing that more should be deported and Isaac Herzog of Labor declaring "I could not accept deporting a group of five-year- old children."
Binyamin Ben-Eliezer went further saying "this is not the Jewish State I know."


Rotem Ilan of Israeli Children claimed that the Torah demanded Israel show "compassion and kindness" to the children.

There was also the threat of international reaction, Ben-Eliezer declared "this isn't the time for the world to see the state of Israel deporting 400 children."


Eitan Haber wrote in Yediot Aharonot that the world would see Israel as "cruel and heartless" and images of weeping children would show up on CNN and the BBC. They were right. The Sydney Morning Herald headline screamed on August 3, "Israel will expel 400 native-born children of non-Jewish foreign workers to help safeguard the country's Jewish identity."


The Global Post's Sara Sorcher claimed "migrant workers are not allowed relationships, let alone children, while in Israel."


Surely this is just the tip of the iceberg. Katya Adler wrote in the BBC "Israel's government now wants Noah Mae [a foreign child] to leave. Here it's illegal for migrant workers to have children."


This is mostly misinformation, the workers can have relationships and children, the children just don't qualify for residency or citizenship and, along with their parents, must leave the country eventually. The entire story about foreign worker children has been dominated from the beginning by a carefully scripted story that focuses the debate only on the children. Let's start by asking where the numbers come from and why there is no discussion of the parents in this whole story.


Why is the headline "Israel to expel 400 children" and not "Israel to expel foreign workers?" The activists who have latched onto the foreign workers as a cause realize that while many people have little sympathy for illegal immigrants or legal ones overstaying their visas, most people have sympathy for children. But discussing the

"400 children" without the parents is wrong.


Children don't arrive in Israel mysteriously by themselves. Their parents came, with or without the children and raised them here. That was the choice of the parents. The parents claim their children "have never been to the Philippines, how can I tell her she's going home? She hardly speaks a word of Tagalog."


But whose fault is that? Do Israelis who travel abroad and have children and overstay their visas get to complain that their children don't speak enough Hebrew to return to Israel? And let's be honest, the children don't only speak Hebrew, they also speak the language of their parents, every child does.


Controversy about deporting foreigners is not unique to Israel, similar debates are being hotly had in Arizona and France at the moment. But in Israel the media has completely surrendered the field to the activists, allowing them to dictate the terms of the discussion and allowing the perfectly scripted kids whose protest signs are often crafted with the input of activists to be the only face of the debate.


But the face of the debate should be the parents, their lack of concern for their own children's future and their irresponsible wanton violation of the law.


The writer is a PhD researcher at Hebrew University and a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

WHITHER ISRAEL'S AL-JAZEERA

BY BRENDA KATTEN  



If we had our own English-language satellite channel, think of the positives we could broadcast.

Talkbacks (1)

 

As one who has spent the last 12 years speaking for Israel to Jewish and non- Jewish audiences worldwide the question most frequently asked is "Why is Israel's hasbara so poor?"


One of the answers to this question is that from Israel's inception, the powers that be have accorded little significance to advocacy for Israel. From the earliest days the thinking has been "What we do is important not what we say."


The battle today is not only a military one. Today's vitally important battle – that Israel is losing – is being played out daily in the media. The power of the picture is immense as we saw with the recent flotilla experience or as we remember in September 2000, the second day of the second intifada, a French journalist filmed Mohamed al-Dura (the Palestinian boy caught up in the Gaza crossfire) lying in the arms of his father having succumbed to a fatal shot "apparently" from an Israeli bullet. One minute's footage distributed throughout the world became the emotive charge that fuelled the hatred of Israelis and became the emblem of martyrdom of the Palestinians. It matters little that some years on it appears that Israel could not have possibly been responsible for the death of Mohamed – it even being suggested that he is alive and well.


What is crystal clear is the detrimental manner in which the Jewish state is projected throughout the global media. Demonstrations against Israel are becoming a regular viewing occurrence with none stranger than the sight of feminists demonstrating in Hyde Park, London during the second Lebanese war saying "We are all Hizbullah." 

Today Israel is the victim of both verbal and pictorial terrorism.


The BBC operates a world service – both on the radio and TV – that is without question biased. At best, the picture conveyed is distorted and, at worst, projects disinformation. If they invite someone to give the view from Israel, too often they will choose an individual who is known for his or her anti-Israel views. When this is coupled with the Palestinian representative the views expressed are basically the same anti-Israel rhetoric.


THE ARAB and Muslim world have their "al-Jazeera" English language TV network operating 24 hours a day. The programs are geared to give their wealthy Arab financial backers the pictures they wish to project worldwide ensuring the way they are keen to be seen and supported internationally. It is a highly professional and effective advocacy vehicle.


How is Israel confronting the battle of the media? Sadly we are not. The 25- minute IBA News in English is frequently dropped or – often unannounced – changed to another time when and if something "more important," such as a football or basketball game, takes place.


The IBA radio news in English (15 minutes three times a day) is available at the most unsociable hours both here and abroad with the constant threat of being eliminated because of financial constraints.

 

With these pathetic limitations, it is impossible to convey a meaningful picture of Israel's reality.

Prime Minister 
Binyamin Netanyahu and Minister of Information and the Diaspora (also in charge of the Israel Broadcasting Authority), Yuli Edelstein have both spoken about the need for an English language al- Jazeera for Israel. We are a country known for its technological and scientific expertise – we lead the world in R & D. We are recognized internationally as the supplier of the most sophisticated electronic equipment yet we fail to recognize the need to fight today's battle with today's tools. The TV picture is all powerful.


Let us dream for a few moments – what could we show on our own al-Jazeera? Aside from presenting the news as we see it (how important this is) we would have the opportunity of taking our viewers into our hospitals, showing how in this "apartheid state" Palestinian patients from the Palestinian territories, as well as Hamas-controlled Gaza, are being given full medical treatment. Palestinian children are given bone marrow transplants to beat their cancer and sophisticated life-saving heart operations.


We could meet many of the Arab doctors and nurses who hold senior positions in our hospitals. We might spend some time speaking with the plastic surgeons who have carried out numerous extensive operations on the Israeli victims of terror.


We could take the viewer down to Sderot to meet the population there and find out the traumatic psychological and physical stresses which the men, women and children in the South have had to cope with and continue to experience. We could show the true picture of how Hamas utilizes its civilian population as human shields placing IDF soldiers in a no win predicament.

 

On a more positive note we could show the many areas where Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs work play and live together in harmony. We could introduce them to a number of organizations whose sole raison d'être is bringing together Jews and Arabs for a more meaningful understanding of each another. Perhaps they might like to visit the WIZO Day Care Center in Jaffa where Jewish, Muslim and Christian children learn about each others special Festivals as well as the meaning of their names or the WIZO Single Parent Club (also in Jaffa) where – irrespective of religion – the participants find support from the professional guidance as well as from each other.

We are constantly being told by our enemies that we Jews are "running the world" Perhaps there is someone out there "running the world" who is prepared to invest in our al-Jazeera. At this moment when Israel and the Jewish people are feeling the cold wind of isolation surely we must give serious consideration to opening a window onto the real Israel. Birthright found 
Michael Steinhardt and Charles Bronfman. Israel is awaiting clones of these two outstanding philanthropists to do the same for Israel's image to the outside world. The time has long past for just acknowledging the problem. The time for action has arrived. This is a battle Israel cannot afford to lose.


The writer is public relations chair World WIZO and co-chair Europeans for Israel.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

DAVID CAMERON LOOKING BOTH WAYS

BY ZALMAN SHOVAL  

 

British PM apparently believed that by condemning Israel, he could curry favor with Turkey.

British Prime Minister David Cameron raised diplomatic eyebrows the other day when he accused Pakistan of "looking both ways on exporting terrorism."


This may well be true, but a few days before, in Turkey, it was Cameron himself who was looking both ways, condemning Israel for the way it had dealt with the "humanitarian" flotilla to Gaza and equating the Strip to a "prison camp" (never mind that a state of the art shopping mall had just been opened there with great fanfare and that a number of new seaside tourist resorts are being inaugurated).


Cameron recently found himself in an embarrassing situation when he made an erroneous statement about Britain's World War II history, so perhaps one shouldn't judge him too harshly for mis-speaking about the complicated issues in the Middle East, including the situation in Gaza.


Be this as it may, he then paid a brief visit to Washington in order to try to extricate his country from the public relations disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (his efforts were not helped by the revelation that BP had been instrumental in getting the Libyan terrorist responsible for the Lockerbie outrage, in which 270 passengers on a Pan Am flight lost their lives, out of jail and flown back to Libya a free man).


AND FROM Washington to Ankara. After all, Britain does have important political and economic interests in Turkey – so, someone may have advised Cameron, why not engage in a bit of Israel-bashing there, which seems to go down rather well with Turkey's present Islamic regime? Though Britain has in recent years experienced grievous terrorist attacks on its own soil and is still very much a potential target of jihadi violence, the British PM and his advisers apparently believe that by condemning Israel whose civilian population is under constant threat from terrorists (at the time of writing, a medium-range missile launched in the Gaza strip hit Ashkelon, causing severe damage to property, but, fortunately, no casualties) he could curry favor with Erdogan – as well as buy "protection" against terrorism in his own country. Or was he just cynically "looking both ways" when he stated that "the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable"? Nor will this make Britain more popular in America. Even theFinancial Times, more often than not critical of Israel, has faulted Cameron for making these statements, attacking third countries in public, adding that he may be accused of "sucking up to his audience."


Others have blamed him for inexperience, and as the FT also remarked in its editorial, Cameron "has failed to grasp that it is impossible to segment a message in a networked world."


But reality may be even more ominous. Britain in recent years has become a hotbed of anti- Israel activities, often with anti-Semitic overtones.


Its outgoing prime minister, Gordon Brown, had valiantly, though not always successfully, fought against this dangerous – dangerous to Britain itself – trend and one hopes that David Cameron isn't indifferent to those blatant expressions of bigotry either.

IN AN important recently released book, Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England, Anthony Julius has described the long history of Jew-hatred in the British Isles. Harold Bloom, America's most prominent and formidable literary critic and commentator, in his extraordinarily cogent review of the book has pointed out in the New York Times Book Review that "the English literary and academic establishment essentially opposes the right of the state of Israel to exist, while indulging in the humbuggery that its anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism".



To be fair, there is also another, more decent, side to Britain, and the Churchills, the Balfours, the Crossmans are bound to outshine the Chamberlains, the Macdonalds, the Bevins (and the Mosleys) and their present-day imitators and followers on the Left and the Right.


It is up to David Cameron to decide with whom he will choose to be compared by history.


The writer is the former Israel Ambassador to the US, and currently heads the Prime Minister's forum of US-Israel Relations.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

OPED

SHIMON PERES VERSUS THE BRITS

BY EFRAIM KARSH  

 

Was the president really wrong when he called the British establishment 'deeply pro-Arab' partly due to anti-Semitic dispositions?

 

Shimon Peres, Israel's 87-year-old president doesn't usually arouse antagonism among Europeans.


A tireless peace advocate for decades, and architect of the Oslo Process for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize, he has long presented Israel's moderate face to the outside world.


Yet last week he provoked anger among British politicians and Anglo- Jewish leaders when he told a Jewish website that the British establishment had always been "deeply pro- Arab ... and anti-Israel," and that this was partly due to endemic anti- Semitic dispositions. "I can understand Mr. Peres' concerns, but I don't recognize what he is saying about England," said James Clappison, vice-chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel. "Things are certainly no worse, as far as Israel is concerned, in this country than other European countries. He got it wrong."


But did he? While few arguments have resonated more widely, or among a more diverse set of observers, than the claim that Britain has been the midwife of the Jewish state, the truth is that no sooner had Britain been appointed as the mandatory power in Palestine, with the explicit task of facilitating the establishment of a Jewish national home in the country in accordance with the Balfour Declaration, than it reneged on this obligation.

AS EARLY as March 1921, the British government severed the vast and sparsely populated territory east of the Jordan River ("Transjordan") from the prospective Jewish national home and made Abdullah, the emir of Mecca, its effective ruler. In 1922 and 1930, two British White Papers limited Jewish immigration to Palestine – the elixir of life of the prospective Jewish state – and imposed harsh restrictions on land sales to Jews.


Britain's betrayal of its international obligations to the Jewish national cause reached its peak on May 17, 1939, when a new White Paper imposed draconian restrictions on land sales to Jews and limited immigration to 75,000 over the next five years, after which Palestine would become an independent state in which the Jews would comprise no more than one-third of the total population.


Such were the anti-Zionist sentiments within the British establishment at the time that even a life-long admirer of Zionism like prime minister Winston Churchill rarely used his wartime dominance of British politics to help the Zionists (or indeed European Jewry). However appalled by the White Paper he failed to abolish this "low grade gasp of a defeatist hour" (to use his own words), refrained from confronting his generals and bureaucrats over the creation of a Jewish fighting force in Palestine, which he wholeheartedly supported, and gave British officialdom a free rein in the running of Middle Eastern affairs, which they readily exploited to promote the Arab case. In 1943, for instance, Freya Stark, the acclaimed author, orientalist, and Arabian adventurer, was sent to the US on a seven-month propaganda campaign aimed at undercutting the Zionist cause and defending Britain's White Paper policy.


That this could happen at the height of the Nazi extermination of European Jewry of which Whitehall was keenly aware offered a stark demonstration of the mindset of British officialdom, which was less interested in stopping genocide than in preventing its potential survivors from reaching Palestine after the war.
So much so that senior Foreign Office members portrayed Britain, not Europe's Jews, as the main victim of the Nazi atrocities.


THIS ANTI-ZIONISM was sustained into the postwar years as the Labor Party, which in July 1945 swept to power in a landslide electoral victory, swiftly abandoned its pre-election pro-Zionist platform to become a bitter enemy of the Jewish national cause. The White Paper restrictions were kept in place, and the Jews were advised by Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin not "to get too much at the head of the queue" in seeking recourse to their problems.

Tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors who chose to ignore the warning and to run the British naval blockade



"Should we accept the view that all the Jews or the bulk of them must leave Germany?" Bevin rhetorically asked the British ambassador to Washington.


"I do not accept that view. They have gone through, it is true, the most terrible massacre and persecution, but on the other hand they have got through it and a number have survived."


Prime Minister Clement Attlee went a step further by comparing Holocaust survivors wishing to leave Europe and to return to their ancestral homeland to Nazi troops invading the continent.


While these utterances resonated with the pervasive anti-Semitism within British officialdom (the last high commissioner for Palestine, General Sir Alan Cunningham, for instance, said of Zionism, "The forces of nationalism are accompanied by the psychology of the Jew, which it is important to recognize as something quite abnormal and unresponsive to rational treatment"), Britain's Middle Eastern policy also reflected the basic fact that as occupiers of vast territories endowed with natural resources (first and foremost oil) and sitting astride strategic waterways (e.g., the Suez Canal), the Arabs had always been far more meaningful for British interests than the Jews.


As the chief of the air staff told the British cabinet in 1947, "If one of the two communities had to be antagonized, it was preferable, from the purely military angle, that a solution should be found which did not involve the continuing hostility of the Arabs."


One needs look no further than David Cameron's statements on the Middle East to see this anti-Israel mindset is alive and kicking. In the summer of 2006, when thousands of Hizbullah missiles were battering Israel's cities and villages, he took the trouble of issuing a statement from the tropical island on which he was vacationing at the time condemning Israel's "disproportionate use of force."



Four years later, while on an official visit to Turkey, he went out of his way to placate his Islamist host, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by criticizing Israel's efforts to prevent the arming of the Hamas Islamist group, which, like its Lebanese counterpart, had been lobbing thousands of missiles on Israel's civilian population for years.


Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


The writer is professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College London, editor of the Middle East Quarterly and author, most recently, of Palestine Betrayed.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

A HASTY DECISION ON DRAFT-DODGING

 

The 'age of decision' of the Haredi requirement of army service will only get 60,000 yeshiva students off the hook to do mandatory military service.

 

The decision to eliminate the requirement of army service for Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ) yeshiva students aged 22 and older looks like another hasty, opportunistic move perpetrated by the current government with the goal of preventing thorough discussion of and decisions on controversial issues that threaten the coalition's stability. Henceforth, it will be even easier for some 60,000 yeshiva students who declare that "Torah is their profession" to evade service in the Israel Defense Forces.

 

Ostensibly, the cabinet merely lowered the "age of decision" at which yeshiva students can cut the umbilical court that binds them to their yeshivas under the "Torah is their profession" arrangement and embark on a life of employment and economic integration. But in practice, this decision - which strips the army of the authority to decide which and how many yeshiva students to draft - was made secretly and hastily, with the Finance Ministry offering its rationale for this "achievement" only after the fact: that it would lead to more Haredim entering the job market.

 

This explanation is unconvincing, as it is based not on hard data, but merely on shaky assumptions. The decision's advocates never looked into the alternative that the army sought to enact: increasing the number of Haredim who are drafted. The army's proposal was meant to close the gap between yeshiva students and their peers, expose them to a life of responsibility and shared burdens, and also give them the tools they would need for civilian life thereafter.

 

This alternative was included in the recommendations of the Tal Committee, which was set up following a High Court of Justice ruling in 1999. This ruling, basing itself on the principle of equality, stated that "the defense minister has no authority to institute a system that grants a sweeping [draft] exemption to yeshiva students." The committee's recommendations, which were later enacted as legislation (the so-called Tal Law of 2003 ), proposed a problematic compromise that granted yeshiva students a "year of decision," after which they would either continue their yeshiva studies or be drafted. It at least opened a window to their future integration into society.

 

But the recommendations were never carried out. In 2007, after the High Court concluded that the Tal Law had been implemented abysmally, the law was extended for five years. In the interim, another solution was proposed - civil national service for both Haredim and Arabs - but it, too, has evaporated. And now another sweeping decision has been made, in violation of both the court's ruling and the law.

 

This hasty, opportunistic decision once again reveals the blind alley in which the current government is stuck: Lacking any policy of its own, various narrow but powerful sectors are continually dragging it into decisions that hurt society and the state.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

LET ZACH BE

DESPITE NATAN ZACH'S CRUDE RACIST AND CHAUVINISTIC COMMENTS ABOUT THE MIZRAHI JEWS, HIS POETRY MUST NOT BE ERADICATED OR SILENCED.

BY AVIRAMA GOLAN

 

Let there be no doubt: Natan Zach is a crude racist and chauvinist, who has long lost control (if ever had it ) of what he says and his incendiary old age is an embarrassment even to his unrestrained youth. It is a great pity that journalists who take themselves and their profession seriously give him a platform time after time and enable him to spout his recycled nonsense, for the sake of a few dubious rating points.

 

Indeed, the heart refuses to believe that a wonderful poet, the greatest living poet in Israel today, is asked about cultural matters and replies with narrow-minded and prejudice-ridden imprecations. It really is hard to believe that the person who wrote a refined intelligent text, full of love of mankind like "I want eyes forever/ to see / the world's beauty and to extol this wonderful / beauty in which there is no flaw," is suffering from such blindness.

 

It is with reason that Mizrahi (Jews of Middle Eastern descent ) protested about the things Zach said. The poet who has won so may prizes embodies, in his personality and his formative status in Israeli culture, something greater than Zach himself, whereas his remarks, like other comments concerning Mizrahi pop music made a few years ago by his friend Haim Hefer, reveal how rooted certain kinds of ugliness are in the elite to which both men belong.

 

This is the home turf of an entire generation of native-born and European-born Israelis, from the Palmach and its surroundings, who hobnobbed during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and are now feeling discomfort in light of the profound change in Israeli society.

 

This change, during the course of which the silenced voice of the "others" - women, Mizrahis, gays and lesbians, Arabs, religious Jews and more - began to be heard, overturned the division between center and periphery and pushed the circle of white males aside. It is funny to see the extent to which the members of this group, whose "Western" origins were in the small provincial towns of Eastern Europe (apart, of course, from Zach himself, who was born in the cradle of civilization, Berlin, which also happens to be the cultural laboratory that nurtured the deadliest poison of the modern era ), have no patience for anyone who does not speak, write and sing exactly like they do. It is sad to see that instead of delighting in the beauty of all the variety, they prefer to barricade themselves in - to put it mildly - obsolete and conservative preconceptions.

 

Despite all this, the demand by intellectuals from the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow and the Kedma association of Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar that he remove Zach's poems from the curriculum is mistaken. Zach is not alone; the nonsense spat out last week by director Oliver Stone (and he apologized ), the shallow claptrap Mikis Theodorakis uttered in 2003 (and he apologized in 2004, making things even worse ), wicked comments about Mizrahis and women attributed to Haim Nahman Bialik (and his admirers denied them ), the verbal and psychological abuse of women by Leo Tolstoy, Natan Alterman and others, the crudeness and aggressiveness of other poets and writers who walk among us today - all these will not succeed in eradicating their wonderful and important work. By the same token, Zach's work is far greater than its creator and his inclinations.

 

The Mizrahi intellectuals, therefore, must protest and every reasonable person must join their protest, which has already borne fruit - Zach has apologized in an article of his own "for tasteless remarks I made," squirming in an attempt to clarify himself.

 

Zach's poetry, however, must not be eradicated or silenced. Silencing of this sort is a typical rightist practice, of which there are more than enough in Israeli society nowadays. There is no need for liberals who believe in freedom of speech from the left to make use of this practice. It is enough that a Knesset member from the right labels them as anti-Zionist, anti-patriotic or insufficiently Jewish.

 

Let Zach be. Very soon the television interview will be forgotten, and only the bird of great beauty and all the other treasures in his books will remain.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE LIE BEHIND THE RIGHT WING'S TRUTH

THE SUPPORT FOR A TWO-STATE SOLUTION IS NOT THE RIGHT'S NEW TRUTH, IT'S THE OLD TRUTH WRAPPED IN FLOWERY RHETORIC SUPPORTED EVEN BY CHAMPIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS.

BY SHLOMO AVINERI

 

Some people are surprised at recent expressions of support on the right for a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through what appears to be a readiness to grant Israeli citizenship to Palestinians living in territories that would be annexed. I'm surprised they're surprised, because that has been the right wing's position since 1967. It's just that it hasn't been easy to openly advocate an explicitly annexationist stance. It has been much easier to speak of our right to the land, of the right of Jews to settle everywhere in the Land of Israel, while ignoring that this involves not only territory, but also people - millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

Now the cat is out of the bag, comfortably out. For more and more Israelis, it's becoming clear that the chance negotiations with the Palestinians will produce an agreement to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel is not great. If U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy George Mitchell has not gotten the parties to the negotiating table after a year and a half of trying, it's clear, despite the American president's good intentions and commitment to solve the conflict, that his efforts do not look as if they are bound to succeed.

 

What's easier than announcing the failure of the vision of two states for two peoples, which the right has always opposed and is now using to propose its annexationist intentions, which have been its inner truth all along? It's just that now it is wrapped in flowery rhetoric supported even by champions of human rights. So when someone like former Likud politician Moshe Arens, with his American background, supports it, it even appears as if it has been inspired by the non-ethnic civil concepts of American democracy.

 

The annexationist truth now being revealed for all to see is accompanied by a lie hiding behind it. What is apparently offered by some right-wing spokesmen seems a commitment to civil equality, without a hint of nationalism. What is better than offering the Palestinian population of the territories Israeli citizenship? But if you examine carefully the pronouncements of right-wing spokesmen in the media, it turns out that no one is talking about granting automatic citizenship and the right to vote to the residents of the territories to be annexed to Israel. They speak of a "process," and some say it would take a generation.

 

What would happen in the meantime is clear. The Arab residents of the territories to be annexed might be offered citizenship, but it would be subject to conditions. They would be required to declare loyalty to Israel as a Jewish (and democratic ) state. It can be assumed they would have to undergo a security check. It is reasonable to assume they would have to sever all ties, legal or otherwise, with their relatives in Jordan and other countries. It can further be assumed that those who are refugees from the 1948 War of Independence and their descendants would be required to declare they are forgoing both their right of return to Israel proper and their property claims.

 

In short, the annexation of the territories would take place, but equal citizenship wouldn't really be granted. No one on the right speaks of equal citizenship here and now. From a realistic perspective, it's clear Israel cannot possibly annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It's simply impossible from the standpoint of its foreign relations. Israel is not an apartheid state, but it turns out this is the dream of right-wing spokesmen who speak of one state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. Self-righteous sweet talk cannot obscure either the inner truth or the lie that is associated with these ideas.

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HAARETZ

OPINION

THE WEST BANK ILLUSION

ABBAS REPRESENTS BUILDING THE STATE IN STAGES FROM THE TOP DOWN BY NEGOTIATIONS; FAYYAD REPRESENTS BUILDING THE STATE IN STAGES FROM THE BOTTOM UP.

BY MENACHEM KLEIN

 

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are darlings of Israel and the international community. For a long time now, they have been seen as brand names, not as officeholders dependent on circumstances of time and place. Abbas represents building the state in stages from the top down by negotiations. Fayyad represents building the state in stages from the bottom up. To Israel and the international community, they seem eternal.

 

No matter how we define this view - a mistake, wishful thinking or an incorrect perception - we have to plan for the day after Abbas and Fayyad, because that day is visible on the horizon. The negotiations Abbas is clinging so hard to are producing not results but only disappointment among the Palestinians. The Abbas administration has neither democratic backing nor political legitimization. Parliament is not functioning, the president has completed his term and elections are not on the horizon. The green light for negotiations with Israel was given by the Arab League and not by elected representatives of the Palestinian public.

 

The Palestinians' independence in decision-making - the cornerstone upon which Fatah was established and for which the Palestine Liberation Organization fought - has been abandoned. As in the period from 1937 to 1948, Palestinian policy is an outcome of a pan-Arab decision. Lacking institutionalized democratic legitimacy, the PA is relying on the security forces, which are relying on Israeli bayonets, American training and financial aid from the West. Even the little that Yasser Arafat achieved regarding liberation from the Israeli occupation and dependence on foreign elements has been lost.

 

Control of Area C is the key to the success of Fayyad's path. With the help of international pressure, Fayyad has paved several more roads and has put up some public buildings. But Israel's control of Area C remains undisturbed. Fayyad is serving Israel in that he is improving the functioning of the Palestinian institutions in areas A and B. He is thus reinforcing Israel's claim that the Palestinians are the masters of their own fate.

 

Even if Israel allows Fayyad to increase his range of action to Area C, this will not lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state in most of the West Bank. For that to happen, Israel would have to allow hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to settle in Area C. But actually, this territory has been reserved for Jewish settlers. Moreover, according to a recent report by the American expert Prof. Nathan Brown, Fayyad's success in building institutions in areas A and B is far less than what it appears to be in Washington and Jerusalem.

 

The improvement in Palestinian income as a result of the freer movement and the lifting of roadblocks is deceptive. It does not reflect more freedom and progress toward Palestinian independence. On the contrary, this improvement was achieved by the sharpening of Palestinian bayonets and the increased cooperation with Israel. It is also worth remembering that the intifadas of 1987 and 2000 erupted after a year or more of increases in income and employment.

 

Abbas' assumption that U.S. President Barack Obama will give him the Palestinian state on a silver platter without the Palestinians having to fight for their liberation has not been proved and is on the verge of collapse. Israelis on the left who believe that Fayyad has learned the lessons of practical Zionism are in fact seeing themselves. Zionism enjoyed British protection and the possibility of establishing a society parallel to the Palestinian society of the time. Fayyad does not have similar freedom of action, nor is he backed up by the Palestinian diaspora, which is sending in immigrants and money. The Israeli system of control, which looks so stable and perhaps eternal, is in fact a system living on borrowed time.

 

The writer teaches political science at Bar-Ilan University and is a research fellow at the European University Institute in Florence.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

WHO'S BUILDING THE LAND OF ISRAEL?

THE WORLD GOES AROUND, OSLO CAME AND A DEFENSE MINISTER WENT, AND THE BEDOUIN, LIVING SECURELY ON OUR LAND, AREA C, THE AREA OF KFAR ADUMIM, STATE LAND, DID NOT MOVE A METER.

BY KARNI ELDAD

 

When was the last time you saw a roaming Bedouin? I think my last time was at the movies. I was told the Bedouin are nomads who move with their sheep in keeping with the seasons and the quality of the pastureland. That was a lovely story. Romantic. But it had no connection to reality because the Bedouin I knew never felt the pull of nomadic life. And I've known them for 26 years.

 

A few Arabs, with their tents and camels, have banded together near Kfar Adumim east of Ma'aleh Adumim. They settled there, raised goats, stole electricity from the central line that ran overhead, and lived comfortably. From time to time they would let their camels wander through our orchards, or they would be arrested for illegal possession of arms, and each time they would add one more tent. They never roamed, as ostensibly was their nature.

 

The Bedouin's donkeys would amble slowly along the main road, more than once causing fatal accidents. The world goes around, Oslo came and a defense minister went, and the Bedouin, living securely on our land, Area C, the area of Kfar Adumim, state land, did not move a meter. Winter and summer, spring and fall, another tent and another tin shack.

 

Meanwhile, the settlement freeze. No one is laying a single block at Kfar Adumim. The Bedouin, in contrast, have built a mosque, a school and a kindergarten, all out in the open, near Highway 1. These public buildings are funded by foreign organizations.

 

At the same time, thousands more Bedouin have flocked to this area because, after all, it's no-man's-land. The defense minister, his superior and the Civil Administration, which does not hesitate to destroy buildings belonging to Jews, close their eyes when it comes to Bedouin trampling the law underfoot. The method is simple: Under the tent they build a tin shack, and then they remove the strips of tent. Under the shack they build walls of blocks, and then, one morning, a new Arab village is born, within the security fence, in the area of a Jewish community. Congratulations.

 

But today there is no need for such devious methods. Today you can bring tractors and trucks and build whatever you want. No one destroys it and no one will destroy it. When the people of Kfar Adumim approached law enforcement officials they were told they were right: Yes, the buildings are illegal, but "additional enforcement is at the discretion of the authorities, in keeping with priorities and subject to all the general considerations essential to the matter." In other words: No. We won't do anything. Why should we? Who's backing you up? Justice? The rights of your ancestors? The law in Israel? We don't give a hoot about that.

 

There is a plan to settle the Bedouin near Abu Dis. But as in the Negev, here too their illegal expansion is a political matter. Their takeover of Jewish lands is much more meaningful than settling down quietly and in an orderly manner, near public and educational institutions, in a dedicated and planned area.

 

These days Highway 1 has expanded in the section between Mishor Adumim and the Inn of the Good Samaritan on the way to the Dead Sea. That's a main highway. The Bedouin school is built on the area that is to be paved. Even the intercession of the Israel National Roads Company, which cannot be said to be overly rightist, did not help the petition submitted to the High Court of Justice against these buildings. The court chose not to intervene. It even pledged that the buildings would not be demolished during the school year. Well, court, the school year is over. It's time to apply what we have learned.

 

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******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A MONUMENT TO TOLERANCE

 

It has been disturbing to hear and read the vitriol and outright bigotry surrounding the building of a mosque two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. So it was inspiring when New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9 to 0 on Tuesday to reaffirm one of the basic tenets of democracy: religious tolerance.

Instead of caving in to the angry voices — many but not all of them self-promoting Republican politicians — commissioners paved the way for construction of the mosque and Islamic center. It was not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do.

 

The attacks of Sept. 11 were not a religious event. They were mass murder. The American response, as President Obama and President George W. Bush before him have said many times, was not a war against Islam.

 

It was not surprising that Republican ideologues like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin came out against the mosque. A Congressional candidate in North Carolina has found it to be a good way to get attention and, yes, stoke prejudice against Muslims. We expect this sort of behavior from these kinds of Republicans. They have been shamelessly playing the politics of fear since 9/11.

 

Some of the families of the victims of the attacks, who deserve our respect and sympathy, are uneasy about the mosque. But it would be a greater disservice to the memories of their loved ones to give into the very fear that the terrorists wanted to create and, thus, to abandon the principles of freedom and tolerance.

 

There was simply no excuse for the behavior of the Anti-Defamation League, which eagerly piled on with the opponents of the mosque. It should not be built "in the shadow" of the World Trade Center, the group said, because it would "cause some victims more pain." It was distressing to see the rationalization of bigotry used by an organization that has been fighting discrimination of all kinds, especially during some of the worst days of the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it just right in a speech on Governors Island, within view of the Statue of Liberty. He called the proposed mosque "as important a test of separation of church and state as any we may see in our lifetime, and it is critically important that we get it right." The plans for the $100 million center should encourage those who want Muslims and non-Muslims in America to find common ground.

 

Mayor Bloomberg noted in his speech that in the United States and in "the freest city in the world," the owners of the building have the right to use their property as a house of worship. "The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right," he said. We agreed with his assessment that the lawsuits being threatened against the mosque should be easily thrown out. The local community board has given the Muslim center approval as well.

 

This hasn't stopped Rick Lazio, a Republican candidate for governor, from turning the landmark commission's vote into a nasty little photo-op for his campaign. "This is not about religion," he said. "It's about this particular mosque."

 

Mr. Lazio has it wrong. We're curious where in the Constitution he finds the power for the government to deny anyone the right to build a "particular" mosque or church or synagogue or any other house of worship.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

RAGE AND FLOODS IN PAKISTAN

 

The worst floods in a generation in northwestern Pakistan have killed more than 1,400 people, left as many as 1.3 million others homeless and destroyed as much as 70 percent of the region's livestock. Responding to the needs of the region and its desperately vulnerable people is not something the Pakistani government or the United States can afford to get wrong.

 

The region, in the volatile province of Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, formerly the North-West Frontier Province, borders Afghanistan and is a central battleground in the struggle against militants in both countries. And neither the weak civilian government in Islamabad nor the United States stands high in Pakistani public opinion.

 

A new poll by the Pew Research Center found that only 17 percent of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States; the same poll showed that the popularity of Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari, has plummeted in two years from 64 percent to 20 percent.

 

Media reports are filled with tales of infuriated Pakistanis who say the government has provided minimal assistance. And it surely doesn't help that Mr. Zardari is spending the week in Paris and London on an official trip. Instead of blindly sticking to his itinerary, he should hurry back to Islamabad and work with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the Army to execute a rapid and comprehensive rescue and relief operation.

 

Washington has pledged more than $10 million in relief aid. The government says that more than 300,000 meals prepared according to Islamic tradition have been delivered to Pakistani officials for the relief effort. American helicopters directed by Pakistan's Interior Ministry have rescued more than 700 people and transported nearly 12,000 pounds of provisions to flood victims.

 

The United States also has provided inflatable rescue boats, water filtration units and prefabricated steel bridges. The United Nations offered $10 million, the European Union 30 million euros (about $40 million) and China, $1.5 million. But this can only be a beginning. More rains have started to fall, and there are fears that a breakout of water-borne diseases like cholera could cause a crisis. Apart from saving lives, a broad-based humanitarian response aimed at relieving human suffering needs to serve diplomatic purposes as well.

 

Islamic charities with suspected ties to militant groups are reportedly competing with the government to deliver services, including relief and medical camps. Washington and Islamabad cannot afford to be less generous or effective.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PUTTING INVESTORS FIRST

 

In large part, the success of financial reform will depend on regulators writing tough rules and enforcing them, which they have failed to do in the past. An early and important test of such willpower will come soon as the Securities and Exchange Commission finalizes new rules for nominating directors to corporate boards.

 

Currently, it is prohibitively expensive and complex for investors to propose an alternate slate of directors. Boards too often become bastions of cronyism, with directors tied to executives whose practices they are supposed to oversee rather than to shareholders whose interests they are supposed to protect. This dynamic has fostered excessive compensation and other ills.

 

Several chairmen of the S.E.C. have tried to change the nomination rules, and have failed in the face of fierce corporate opposition. Last year, the current chairwoman, Mary Schapiro, tried again, proposing rules that would require companies to include shareholders' nominees in the proxy materials sent each year to investors.

 

The proposal is tough but fair. To get nominees on the proxy-card ballot, shareholders would have to own their shares for at least a year and would need substantial ownership stakes of at least 1 percent for large firms and 5 percent for small firms. Shareholder candidates could compete for a limited number of seats, ensuring that they could not wrest control from current boards.

 

Corporate lobbyists threatened a lawsuit, challenging the S.E.C.'s authority to write such rules. They also lobbied hard to have a provision inserted into the financial reform bill that would have required shareholders seeking to nominate directors to hold an impossibly large ownership stake. In the end, Congress clarified that the S.E.C. has the authority to write these rules. Ms. Schapiro has said she wants them in place in time for next year's annual shareholder meetings, which means the commission needs to vote on them soon.

 

If it stands firm, the S.E.C. will begin to level the playing field in board rooms and gain public trust in the agency's ability and willingness to carry out financial reform in the best interests of investors.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE HUNT FOR AMERICAN DECENCY IN THE ARIZONA QUICKSAND

BY LAWRENCE DOWNES

 

The federal judge who struck down most of Arizona's new immigration law last week wasn't trying to strike a blow for immigrants' rights, about which her ruling said little. She wasn't dictating what immigration laws should look like or how strict they should be. She was making a much more fundamental argument, one that has regularly emerged in America's long and often ugly history in dealing with noncitizens and other vulnerable minorities.

 

The message was that Arizona cannot have its own immigration or foreign policy. It cannot tell the federal government how to enforce its laws. It is not up to any state to seize the power to upend federal priorities, particularly to wield a blunt enforcement tool that will do harm to Hispanics, citizens or not, who live in certain neighborhoods, wear certain clothes, drive certain vehicles and speak Spanish or accented English.

 

One excuse offered up for Arizona's mindless new law was that it is just trying to do a job the federal government refused to do. But the law, SB1070, is far more pernicious than that. It begins with a grandiose statement of its purpose: "to make attrition through enforcement the public policy of all state and local government agencies in Arizona." "Attrition through enforcement" is a theory cooked up in right-wing think tanks — that mass deportation is unnecessary, because with enough hostile laws and harsh enforcement, illegal immigrants will all decide to go home.

 

That's a product of delusion and cruelty. But it's also an article of faith among the Arizonans who have yanked the white-hot center of the national immigration debate to Phoenix, like the law's author, State Senator Russell Pearce; Gov. Jan Brewer, who has surfed the law to high poll ratings and a meeting with President Obama; and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who marches immigrant prisoners through the streets of Phoenix and vows to keep raiding Hispanic neighborhoods, law or no law.

 

District Judge Susan Bolton said it wasn't up to these people to determine America's immigration policy.

 

Professor Hiroshi Motomura of U.C.L.A. Law School, who has written often about America's immigration history, said the Obama administration had a compelling justification for bringing the case, and Judge Bolton was exactly right to rule in the administration's favor.

 

"It has been one of the essential roles of the federal government in U.S. history since the Civil War to make sure that states don't act in ways that exclude or marginalize certain individuals — often by race and ethnicity," he said. "By acting in this case, the Justice Department is asserting its historical role that states and localities aren't given the power that might enable them to harm individuals and communities in those ways. By bringing this lawsuit, the federal government has done something essential for national cohesion."

 

Right now, in Phoenix anyway, things seem to be coming apart, with marches and peaceful protests coming face to face with simmering rage.

 

Last Friday, Sheriff Arpaio's deputies arrested Salvador Reza, a leader of immigrant-rights protests, for reasons that a prosecutor later could not explain. Video shows Mr. Reza standing quietly in a parking lot, a good distance from a protest across the street, when a cordon of armed officers surrounds, handcuffs and hauls him off. It was a scene from another decade or country.

 

Thomas Saenz, the president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, links Arizona's struggle to the civil rights era. He calls the state's politicians the new nullifiers, descendants of the southern segregationists who fought for Jim Crow with the debased theory that states had the power to invalidate federal law. It took federal action and protesters stirring the nation's conscience to make the point: You cannot treat people this way.

 

Mr. Saenz notes the strangeness of Arizona's politicians denouncing immigrants' lawlessness while baring their own contempt for the Constitution. Is he exaggerating? Here's Ms. Brewer on Fox News: "It's unfortunate that it takes a little city or a little state like Arizona to fight the United States federal government, but that's what we're up to."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

TRAGEDY OF COMEDY

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

I got an e-mail from Sam Wasson, the 28-year-old author of "Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.," the best seller about the making of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," thanking me for mentioning the book.

 

I've never met Wasson, a film student turned film writer hailed by The New Yorker as "a fabulous social historian." But within seconds, after I told him that I loved the bit in his book about the on-screen/off-screen chemistry of Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney in the incandescent "Two for the Road," we were madly e-mailing back and forth on a subject of mutual obsession and depression: Why romantic comedies now reek. Here's our exchange:

 

Me: "How did we get from 'Two for the Road' to 'The Bounty' and 'He's Just Not That Into You?' "

 

Sam: "This is the question I ask myself every morning and keep asking all day, and annoy all my friends and lovers with. Every time I see Jennifer Aniston's or Jennifer Garner's face I wince. Basically, every time I see someone named Jennifer. They say the problem is teenage boys and girls, that they drive the marketplace. But I say they only drive the marketplace because there's nothing out there for grown-ups to see. Apropos, I can't remember the last time I saw two people really falling in love in a movie. Now all we get is the meet cute, a montage, a kiss, then acoustic song into fade out. Nothing experiential, only movies manufactured from movies. Apparently, there was once a time when Jill Clayburgh danced around in her underwear. She laughed, she cried, she hurt, but it seems like a legend that never happened. Now we have 'The Bounty' and I don't know what to do on Friday nights. Are you sorry you asked?"

 

Me: "Why can't studios and stars find witty writers to go beyond bridesmaid dress movies?"

 

Sam: "I am not joking when I say that because there is nothing to see (especially, and tragically, in romantic comedy) my girlfriend and I have had to stay home and in some cases fight. If there were better movies out there, I am sure so many relationship disasters may have been averted. Also, romantic comedies, the good ones, taught me how to love, or at least instructed me on how to try. If I were falling in love now for the first time and going to see this garbage thinking this was real, I would be in deep [expletive]. It was only after I saw 'Annie Hall' as a wee Jew that I realized what it was to be a person in love. It has been a touchstone ever since. Back in the days of one-foot-on-the-floor, wit was the best (and only) way to talk about sex. Wit was — this is incredible — commercial. Even something as ridiculous as 'Pillow Talk' winks at you. If people only realized that Paramount in the '30s and '40s was the golden age of American wit. Algonquin Round Table, eat your black hearts out. The question is, will there be a backlash? A renaissance? I don't think people realize how dire the situation is. I mean culturally, emotionally, the whole idea of romance is gone, gone, gone. ... And I don't care how good the novelist, I've never read anything that touches Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant in 'Bringing Up Baby.' Is it too early to drink?"

 

Me: "Where are new Sturgeses and Lubitsches?"

 

Sam: "When 'Up in the Air' (which I actually liked) came out last year, people were calling Jason Reitman the new Preston Sturges. What they meant was Reitman respects language. He is interested in the vernacular, like Sturges was. The major difference is that Sturges invented a dialect all his own, one that really sang with American pluck. But that the comparison was ever made goes to show you how desperate (certain) people are for real romantic comedy. If the bar were any lower, they'd be calling James Cameron the next Sturges. As for Lubitsch, there will never, ever, ever be another. Ever. A guy like that comes around once in a universe. Proof is that even Billy Wilder, whose motto was 'What would Lubitsch do?,' tried but never came close."

 

Me: "With so many women running studios, you'd think they'd focus on making better rom-coms."

 

Sam: "Even the studios that are run by women aren't run by women. They're run by corporations, which are run by franchises. Unfortunately for us, Jennifer Aniston is a franchise. So is Katherine Heigl and Gerard Whatever-His-Name-Is, and even when their movies bomb, their franchise potential isn't compromised because overseas markets, DVD sales and cable earn all the studio's money back. I'm told that 'Knight and Day,' that awful Cruise/Diaz movie, has already been good for Fox for exactly this reason. The worst part of it is, from Hollywood's point of view, it ain't broke. I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for TV. O.K., now I am drinking."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

BROADWAY AND THE MOSQUE

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

There are several reasons why I don't object to a mosque being built near the World Trade Center site, but the key reason is my affection for Broadway show tunes.

 

Let me explain. A couple weeks ago, President Obama and his wife held "A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House," a concert in the East Room by some of Broadway's biggest names, singing some of Broadway's most famous hits. Because my wife is on the board of the public TV station that organized the evening, WETA, I got to attend, but all I could think of was: I wish the whole country were here.

 

It wasn't just the great performances of Audra McDonald, Nathan Lane, Idina Menzel, Elaine Stritch, Karen Olivo, Tonya Pinkins, Brian d'Arcy James, Marvin Hamlisch and Chad Kimball, or the spirited gyrations of the students from the Joy of Motion Dance Center and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts performing "You Can't Stop the Beat" — it was the whole big, rich stew. African-American singers and Hispanic-American dancers belting out the words of Jewish and Irish immigrant composers, accompanied by white musicians whose great-great-grandparents came over on the Mayflower for all I know — all performing for America's first black president whose middle name is Hussein.

 

The show was so full of life, no one could begrudge Elaine Stritch, 84, for getting a little carried away and saying to Mr. Obama, seated in the front row: "I'd love to get drunk with the president."

 

Feeling the pulsating energy of this performance was such a vivid reminder of America's most important competitive advantage: the sheer creative energy that comes when you mix all our diverse people and cultures together. We live in an age when the most valuable asset any economy can have is the ability to be creative — to spark and imagine new ideas, be they Broadway tunes, great books, iPads or new cancer drugs. And where does creativity come from?

 

I like the way Newsweek described it in a recent essay on creativity: "To be creative requires divergent thinking (generating many unique ideas) and then convergent thinking (combining those ideas into the best result)."

 

And where does divergent thinking come from? It comes from being exposed to divergent ideas and cultures and people and intellectual disciplines. As Marc Tucker, the president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, once put it to me: "One thing we know about creativity is that it typically occurs when people who have mastered two or more quite different fields use the framework in one to think afresh about the other. Intuitively, you know this is true. Leonardo da Vinci was a great artist, scientist and inventor, and each specialty nourished the other. He was a great lateral thinker. But if you spend your whole life in one silo, you will never have either the knowledge or mental agility to do the synthesis, connect the dots, which is usually where the next great breakthrough is found."

 

Which brings me back to the Muslim community center/mosque, known as Park51. It is proposed to be built two blocks north of where the twin towers stood and would include a prayer space, a 500-seat performing arts center, a swimming pool and a restaurant. The Times reported that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim leader behind the project, who has led services in TriBeCa since 1983, said he wants the center to help "bridge and heal a divide" among Muslims and other religious groups. "We have condemned the actions of 9/11," he said.

 

I greatly respect the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11 — which was perpetrated in the name of Islam — and who oppose this project. Personally, if I had $100 million to build a mosque that promotes interfaith tolerance, I would not build it in Manhattan. I'd build it in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. That is where 9/11 came from, and those are the countries that espouse the most puritanical version of Sunni Islam — a version that shows little tolerance not only for other religions but for other strands of Islam, particularly Shiite, Sufi and Ahmadiyya Islam. You can study Islam at virtually any American university, but you can't even build a one-room church in Saudi Arabia.

 

That resistance to diversity, though, is not something we want to emulate, which is why I'm glad the mosque was approved on Tuesday. Countries that choke themselves off from exposure to different cultures, faiths and ideas will never invent the next Google or a cancer cure, let alone export a musical or body of literature that would bring enjoyment to children everywhere.

 

When we tell the world, "Yes, we are a country that will even tolerate a mosque near the site of 9/11," we send such a powerful message of inclusion and openness. It is shocking to other nations. But you never know who out there is hearing that message and saying: "What a remarkable country! I want to live in that melting pot, even if I have to build a boat from milk cartons to get there." As long as that happens, Silicon Valley will be Silicon Valley, Hollywood will be Hollywood, Broadway will be Broadway, and America, if we ever get our politics and schools fixed, will be O.K.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHY I WAS ANGRY

BY ANTHONY WEINER

 

LAST week I got angry on the floor of the House. In this age of cable and YouTube, millions of people evidently saw the one-minute-plus clip. But there has been relatively little focus on why the substantive debate that sparked it matters.

 

More broadly, while I appreciate the concern over the future of civility in politics, I believe a little raw anger right now is justified. Democrats make a mistake by pretending there is a bipartisan spirit in Congress these days, and would be better served by calling out Republican shams.

 

The specifics of the debate last week should be an example of an issue beyond partisan dispute. The bill in question was created to help the thousands of citizens who went to ground zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. These are Americans who wanted to help, and who scientific studies now show are falling ill and dying in troubling numbers.

 

After nine years, the House had a chance to make this right by voting on a bill that would provide treatment, screening and compensation to Americans who sacrificed their safety that day, as well as Lower Manhattan residents and others who have suffered injury from exposure to the dust and debris.

 

Though it should have been a legislative slam dunk, the bill was defeated on a simple up-or-down vote, with only 12 Republicans voting in favor. Just 21 additional Republican votes would have been sufficient for passage.

 

It was frustrating to hear Republicans say these people didn't deserve more help because, as one put it, "people get killed all the time." Others called it another big entitlement program. Some said it was a giveaway to New York, or complained that the bill would have been paid for by closing a tax loophole. We responded to each of these arguments over the summer in the hours of hearings and markups of the bill. And the answers are pretty simple.

 

The truth is that this is a limited program, with a cap, because it is restricted to 9/11 responders and others directly affected by the toxic substances. As we all remember, the victims of ground zero dust came from all over the nation — they weren't just New Yorkers. And, frankly, I don't see what's wrong with trying to close a loophole that lets foreign multinational corporations avoid paying taxes on income they have earned in the United States.

 

There were also Republican objections that we put the bill on the "suspension calendar," which is generally used for noncontroversial legislation, as this measure should have been. This move meant that the bill required a two-thirds favorable vote for approval rather than a simple majority, but it also kept the bill from getting bogged down in debate and stuck with poison-pill amendments.

 

Still, what upset me most last week were comments voiced by Republicans who claimed to be supporters of the bill, yet who used their time on the House floor not to persuade skeptical Republican colleagues to vote yes but to excoriate Democrats for using the suspension calendar.

 

Although I had already spoken earlier in the debate, on Friday I felt it was important that someone object to this effort to make the health of those at ground zero just another partisan issue. And I got angry. I didn't break decorum, but I did say what I was thinking and feeling.

 

I love the House of Representatives and its rules, and I was careful to respect regular order. But I believe sometimes we mistakenly assume you can't follow those rules and also say what you think, forcefully. Especially when this galling behavior has been on display for years now.

 

This wasn't the first time obstructionism has come to us cloaked in procedure. Recall that after months of negotiations, Republicans voted unanimously against the health care reform bill. And then they complained about process. Similarly in January, after Senate Republicans introduced a bill calling for a deficit commission, they refused to support the legislation when the president took them up on the idea. And, of course, they used technical objections as an excuse.

 

Instead of engaging in a real debate about how to address the challenges we face, Republicans have turned to obstruction, no matter the issue, and then cry foul after the fact. They claim to want an open legislative process with more consultation and debate, but the truth is they simply don't want to pass anything.

 

Meanwhile, conservative television and talk radio programs are full of false anger, intended to scare Americans. I think some genuine frustration at this misleading tactic is overdue.

 

That's why I got mad last week. That's also why I'm going to fight for this bill when we come back in session in September. I'm still angry. Playing politics on important issues is never right. But on health care for 9/11 responders, it's an outrage.

 

Anthony Weiner is a member of the House of Representatives from Queens and Brooklyn.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE SENATE'S IMPORTANT LUNCH DATE

BY RICHARD G. LUGAR

 

Washington

WITH federal child nutrition programs due to expire Sept. 30, the Senate should approve reauthorization legislation this week, before the monthlong Congressional recess.

 

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee in March, and it has no significant opposition. It has simply been a victim of the crowded calendar of the Senate. But if we don't pass the bill immediately, we will imperil programs that have proved vital to our youth, families and schools for decades, and that are especially important during this time of economic stress.

 

Since the recession began in late 2007, the use of federal free and reduced-price school lunches has increased by 13.7 percent. Twenty-one million children — roughly two-thirds of the students eating school lunches — benefit from the program.

 

For many of these children, school lunches represent the bulk of the nutrition they receive during the day, and it is imperative that there are no gaps in providing these meals. The bill would also cut out a lot of red tape in the filing process, ensuring that more families and schools can participate. And it would increase the scope of the afterschool meal program that currently operates in only 13 states.

 

Research shows that food insecurity and hunger rise during the summer, when children don't have regular access to school meals. The bill would continue to enlarge programs, operated through organizations like local recreation departments, that help feed young people when schools aren't in session.

 

Year-round child nutrition programs, on top of improving children's health and teaching them to eat better, are critical to academic success. The school breakfast program has been directly linked to gains in math and reading scores, attendance and behavior, and speed and memory on cognitive tests.

 

By passing the legislation, we would expand access to the supplemental nutrition program that makes certain that low-income women, infants and children are provided healthy foods, information on eating well and referrals to health care. The supplemental program already helps almost half of all infants and about one-quarter of all children ages 1 to 4 in the United States; this legislation would provide millions of dollars worth of further support.

 

The new bill would also make great strides in reducing junk food in schools and improving the nutritional quality of meals. Nearly one-third of our children are either overweight or obese, which is telling evidence of greater social problems. Indeed, it's become a national security issue — 27 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds weigh too much to enlist in the military, according to a recent study by a group of retired generals and admirals. This cannot continue.

 

I have been through many battles on child nutrition, from my days on the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners to my time as the chairman of the Agriculture Committee. We have debated local and state control, nutritional mandates, the scope of the lunch programs and the unhealthy food choices in school vending machines.

 

This bill, though, is as close to a moment of consensus as can be achieved. There is bipartisan agreement, thanks to the efforts of the Agriculture Committee's Democratic chairwoman, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and its ranking Republican member, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. Our only hurdle is the Senate schedule, which we would do well to surmount this week.

 

Given our economic climate and tradition of bipartisan support for child nutrition, we should pass this meritorious bill now. It would be a success that both parties can claim.

 

Richard G. Lugar is a Republican senator from Indiana.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE: BIG VOTES DRAW BIG MONEY FOR A COMPLIANT CONGRESS

 

The days before the House approved a historic financial reform package this winter were hectic ones for lawmakers, and not only on the House floor. Many were busy collecting money from financial interests that were lobbying to defeat the measure.

 

Among the most prolific fundraisers were eight lawmakers on two key financial committees who raked in $128,000 from those interests in the 10 days before the Dec. 11 vote. Some held or attended fundraisers on the eve of that big vote, then scurried back to debate and vote on amendments.

 

Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., for instance, left the House on Dec. 10 for a reception in his honor thrown by a lobbyist. That night, he co-sponsored an amendment to weaken state consumer protections. It produced a compromise favorable to the banks. Another Democrat, Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota, was honored at a lobbying firm's fundraising breakfast Dec. 10 that included a representative of the Financial Services Roundtable, a group of the nation's major financial interests. Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., held his own fundraiser — a " Financial Services Luncheon" — where donors had to pay up to $2,500 for a seat.

 

The other five lawmakers are Republicans John Campbell of California, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Christopher Lee of New York and Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, and Democrat Melvin Wattof North Carolina.

 

The activities of the eight are under scrutiny by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which is looking at whether there is a connection between their fundraising and their votes on financial reform. It's worth noting that the five Republicans had long opposed financial reforms and voted against them. The three Democrats voted for the measure, a move to rein in Wall Street.

 

What's striking, though, is just how ordinary such fundraising tactics are. During the same 10 days, three dozen members from the lead panel on the reform bill either held or attended fundraisers. So did about 250 House members. And those are just the events tracked by the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington non-profit.

 

In a culture where fundraising goes 24/7, Hill insiders seem astounded that anyone would question the propriety of taking a check from special interests one day and voting on their fate the next. Watt, one of those under scrutiny, even argued that if such practices were against the rules, lawmakers could "never do fundraising."

 

The "everybody's doing it so it's OK" rationale seems the most popular retort to all sorts of ethical issues.

 

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., the powerful veteran charged with a string of serious ethical violations, quickly began pointing fingers all over the Capitol to defend his practice of pressing corporate donors with legislative interests to donate to an academic center bearing his name. Rangel's lawyers said other top lawmakers have done the same thing.

 

That attitude sums up what's wrong with Congress: Lawmakers constantly need campaign cash, and special interests and their lobbyists are all too happy to provide it.

 

This blinds lawmakers to the obvious conflict inherent in taking money from people seeking to profit from their votes.

 

The solutions are as obvious as they are hard to reach. Congress needs a new way to finance elections — public financing would be best — so its members are less dependent on special interests. Until that happens, constituents will always be left to wonder whether their Congress member's vote was in their best interest or a favor to a contributor with deep pockets.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OPPOSING VIEW ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE: NOTHING IMPROPER WAS DONE

BY BRADLEY SMITH

 

In June, word leaked that the Office ofCongressional Ethics is investigating eight members of Congress for accepting contributions from the political action committees of financial institutions near votes on a financial regulation bill.

 

To date, no information has surfaced indicating that anything illegal — or even improper — has occurred. Nonetheless, this investigation has imperiled the reputations of eight lawmakers of both parties.

 

According to news accounts, the legislators were targeted because they solicited and received a large amount of contributions from financial sector PACs during the 10 days before a December vote on the financial regulation bill. This is not against the rules, nor should it be. Considering the vast array of legislation considered while Congress is in session, it would be nearly impossible to avoid raising money from interests affected by various proposals.

 

"There are things going to the floor every day," said Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., one of the lawmakers under scrutiny. "If this is going to be the rule, you can never do fundraising."

 

What's remarkable is that none of the members under investigation changed his vote because of a contribution, which would be unethical and illegal. There's no evidence that these contributions impacted voting decisions. As expected, the three Democrats supported the bill and the five Republicans voted against it. Where's the corruption?

 

This investigation — slated to continue until at least the end of August — empowers the professional scandal industry in Washington: the so-called good government groups that use any excuse to demand more restrictions on political speech.

 

When Congress instituted contribution limits and disclosure in the 1970s, it was supposed to eliminate corruption, or at least its appearance. Instead, groups pushing campaign-finance regulation use every PAC contribution to imply a nefarious intent to bribe lawmakers. That's just wrong.

 

Unless there's more than has been reported so far, this investigation is a dangerous effort to regulate matters that are really for voters to decide.

 

Bradley Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, is a professor at Capital University Law School and chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics.

 

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USA TODAY

OPINION

MR. PRESIDENT, QUIT AFGHANISTAN TOO

BY RONALD GOLDFARB

 

How did such a smart president as Barack Obama trip over such an obvious non sequitur?

 

That the U.S. should have pursued 9/11 terrorists into Afghanistan in 2001 is not a reason to be there 10 years later. For proof, he only needed to go to Walter Reed Army Medical Center and see the cost of this misadventure in human tragedy. Then note how much of our escalating national debt is going to underwriting the sputtering Afghan war — made all the more bleak with the release of some 92,000 secret documents by WikiLeaks.org — and imagine what that money could accomplish at home where our economy is in extremis.

 

And ask why this country should partner abroad with a highly questionable character in a battlefield that historically has spurned would-be conquerors? How did we get there?

 

Newly elected presidents, especially Democrats, fear being portrayed as weak, and thus get rolled by the military into fighting unnecessary warsJohn Kennedy learned the lesson fast, after our fiasco in CubaLyndon Johnson lost his presidency over his capitulation to military advisers. LBJ knew we couldn't "win" in Vietnam, but he was afraid to end the war and be seen as a president who gave up. In worrying about losing his second term, he lost it.

 

Obama has allowed himself to be talked into making the protracted Afghan war his, not former congressman Charlie Wilson's. In doing so, he has repeated LBJ's critical mistake.

 

Obama has kept his word about getting us out of Iraq, albeit slower than some might have wished, and intimated that his plans to get out of Afghanistan next year is on track. But there is no way we will accomplish any fundamental changes in that country in this timetable, or longer, and as young John Kerrysaid about Vietnam, who wants to be the last dead U.S. soldier in that illusory cause?

 

The case to pull out

 

Last year, the perceptive critic Garry Wills urged Obama to be a one-term president rather than prolonging an unwinnable war.

 

"If it costs him the presidency, what other achievement can match it?" Wills asked rhetorically. "I would rather see him a one-term president than have him pass on another unwinnable war to the person who will follow him in office."

 

Woodrow Wilson once said: "If my re-election as president depends upon my getting into war, I don't want to be president." He soon was dragged into World War I, despite his fearing a useless slaughter to control the actions of others, according to his recent biographer, John Milton Cooper Jr.

 

I would turn around Wills' premise by suggesting that the best way for Obama to ensure his second term is to stand up to the military, push Congress and use the news media to make the case for coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The best route to a second term is shifting priorities by getting out of these costly wars and focusing on creating jobs and balancing the budget. As the number of troops and deaths rise, along with the national debate, Obama's approval numbers have dropped.

 

Paradoxically, if the president does the politically difficult, right thing, regardless of whether it seems to hurt his re-election chances, he might have a better chance to be re-elected. And, to complete the circle, if he is not re-elected, he will have done the right thing. LBJ didn't have that solace.

 

Ironically, in turning over the war in Afghanistan to Gen. David Petraeus, President Obama may have anointed the one man who could beat him in the 2012 election. From George Washington to Ulysses Grant to Dwight Eisenhower, this country respects powerful generals and turns to them politically in times of national stress. If the Afghanistan war proves successful (by what standard, one might ask), Gen. Petraeus comes home a hero; if it fails, he can complain that the commander in chief didn't let him do what he needed to do to win.

 

We always need to stay longer and up the ante in these situations, according to military experts. Our financial bankruptcy after years of this Afghan indulgence will set the scene for an impatient and fractious country to look for new leadership.

 

Take the moral path

 

The country elected this smart and challenging man to take bold steps when they are correct, even if they are politically challenging. To change the political rules. The paradox in the present conundrum is that the most moral position, even if it is unpopular and politically risky, is the position that this country needs, and thus is the one that could be the most politically wise. One term or two, the president needs to get us out of unnecessary wars. If he demonstrates the power to do so, other good things will follow, including a second term.

 

Ronald Goldfarb is a Washington, D.C., attorney and author who served in the Kennedy Justice Department. He supported Barack Obama in 2008.

 

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USA TODAY

OPINION

ATHLETES, AGENTS AND THE NCAA: IT'S TIME FOR A FIX

BY JIM TANNER

 

Alabama football coach Nick Saban recently compared sports agents who make improper contact with student-athletes to "a pimp." What's more, 20 college basketball coaches recently told ESPN that unethical agents are the No. 1 problem facing their sport.

Their outrage was prompted by a rash of allegations warranting the NCAA's attention:

 

•A series of parties this summer in Miami, allegedly attended by college football players from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolinahas spurred an NCAA investigationinto whether these athletes received improper benefits from sports agents.

 

•The NCAA is reportedly investigating whether Kentucky basketball players received unauthorized gifts, on the heels of similar internal probes by Oklahoma and Syracuse.

 

•In June, the NCAA docked the University of Southern California 30 sports scholarships, imposed a two-year bowl ban and vacated 14 football victories because running back (and Heisman Trophy winner) Reggie Bush and basketball star O.J. Mayo received cars, cash and clothing from sports agents.

 

While these revelations are troubling, it's unfair to paint all agents as corrupt. These cases should be used as impetus to improve regulation of agent-athlete interactions.

 

As someone who represents a number of pro athletes, I would recommend the following:

 

First, the NCAA and its member schools should adopt a policy of "controlled access," where agents and college athletes meet in open, regulated meetings.

 

Many coaches and schools have a blanket prohibition on all athlete-agent contact until the season is over. But a total ban leads to a perverse result: The most ethical agents abide by the rules and stay away, while unscrupulous agents operate in the shadows, currying favor with student-athletes and their families in violation of school policies.

 

Under a policy of controlled access, qualified and vetted agents would be permitted a limited number of meetings during the season with targeted athletes. Expenditures on meals would be capped, and agents would be required to report each meeting to university compliance officers.

 

Second, the NCAA should revisit the idea of paying stipends to college athletes to reduce the temptation to take money from unscrupulous agents.

 

Third, Congress should form a national regulatory body to oversee athlete-agent relations. The Uniform Athlete Agents Act, which requires agents to register in each of the 40 states that have adopted it and prohibits agents from paying collegiate athletes, has been ineffective. Agents are also subject to penalties under the Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act of 2004,which was supposed to allow states and the Federal Trade Commission to sue agents for unethical conduct, but it too has gone unenforced. These laws should be amended to provide for national, centralized agent registration. In addition, major professional players' unions should permanently decertify agents who violate laws governing athlete agents.

 

Student-athletes should know that their conduct in school will have long-term consequences extending well beyond short-term temptations: Student-athletes who violate the rules can slip in the professional drafts, receive smaller contracts and lose endorsements. In light of recent events, the time is right for real and positive change.

 

Jim Tanner is head of Williams & Connolly LLP's sports practice, which represents a number of NBA, MLB and WNBA athletes.

 

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USA TODAY

OPINION

 

MOSQUE IS NO WAY TO 'BUILD BRIDGES'

BY THOMAS S. KIDD

 

On Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted, correctly, to deny landmark status to a fairly nondescript building that formerly housed a Burlington Coat Factory retailer. The only reason that the notion of landmark status had come forward (despite weak arguments about the building representing mid-19th century economic growth) was because a Muslim organization wants to build a mosque there, and the building stands near Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center. Building the mosque near the epicenter of the 9/11 tragedy is in extremely bad taste, but the Constitution's protection of religious freedom should allow it to be built.

 

This case is a perfect example of the delicate nature of religious freedom. Religious freedom is most tenuous when the religious act in question is unpopular, and the building of this mosque is unpopular, to put it mildly. The proposed Islamic center shows an incredible lack of sensitivity on the part of the Cordoba Initiative, the group backing the mosque. One wonders whether Oz Sultan, spokesman for the group, can be serious when he says that the project will "build bridges" and that the Cordoba Initiative is "committed to promoting positive interaction between the Muslim world and the West." Could this group really be so out of touch, or is it intentionally trying to provoke a harsh reaction to prove some point? We don't know, but the overwhelming consensus of public opinion is that the idea of building this mosque on this property is deeply offensive. It insults the memory of those who died at the hands of jihadist terrorists.

 

But the Cordoba Initiative has the right to build that mosque. If our commitment to religious freedom means something, then we cannot single out a particular religious group for discrimination in real estate policy, or any other legal matter, and that is why the Landmarks Commission made the right decision.

 

Just ask yourself if a church, synagogue, or any other religious organization besides a Muslim one wanted to build on that property: would anyone have tried to ban the move by designating this unremarkable building a historic landmark? No, this only happened because Muslims tried to build a mosque, and that's how you know that creating the landmark — and thus blocking the Islamic center — would represent a violation of the freedom of religion.

 

The only recourse for people of good sense, which one hopes will include Muslim leaders, is to plead with this group to find some less sensitive location in New York City to build the center. If the Cordoba Initiative fails to listen, then it has the time-honored constitutional right, under religious freedom, to build the mosque near Ground Zero, and its members should receive protection from police against any harassment and vandalism that will probably result.

 

But no American has to like the idea of building the mosque, and the Cordoba Initiative should not kid itself — erecting a Muslim prayer center near the site of America's greatest domestic tragedy does not improve the popular stereotypes of Muslims in America. The mosque might be constitutional, but this is no way to build bridges.

 

Thomas S. Kidd is senior fellow at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and the author of American Christians and Islam and God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution(forthcoming).

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

WAFFLING ON PARKING

 

One of Chattanooga's best calling cards for recruiting new businesses and improving job prospects and overall quality of life is a thriving downtown. That goal involves a lot of moving parts. One key part, at least as long as residents here rely mainly on their cars for transportation, is parking. Some City Council members may not want to deal with that issue at the moment, but like it not, they don't have much choice.

Parking plans for downtown have been a sticking point for years, wavering between progress and complacency. The topic has recently risen again because Mayor Ron Littlefield needs to meet a promise he made to TVA officials two years ago to build a new 1,000-space parking facility. The agency then was considering moving its offices to Hixson. Mr. Littlefield, quite justifiably, brokered the promise to build a new parking garage to keep TVA's offices downtown.

 

Though TVA would pay for use of the facility and help retire the capital bonds necessary to build it, the city is on the hook for arranging the initial financing. Mayor Littlefield has proposed a $6.5 million bond issue by the city to attract financing partners for the proposed garage, which would cost $13 million to $15 million. He reasonably is seeking participation in financing the package from the County Commission and Republic Parking.

 

At least two sites are under consideration. A 1,000-space parking garage, for example, could be constructed on the Republic Parking pay-and-park lot formerly occupied by the Civic Forum between Market and Broad and 10th and 11th streets. Or it could be built along Chestnut Street just north of 13th Street, next to the Trade Center's parking decks.

 

The former would be a more convenient site for general public and commercial use for downtown visitors because it's more central, visible and closer to shuttle stops and downtown amenities. That location would also facilitate the transition of the Patten Towers, which has no parking, to condo development.

 

TVA clearly needs the parking. The agency built its office headquarters downtown without its own garage on the premise that it would encourage employees to carpool or ride the bus. That hasn't quite worked as planned. Its employees do have rental access to the Trade Center's 1,052-space garage, but TVA needs more spaces both for its own employees, and to lure a new tenant to the quarters in its office building that will be vacated by Cigna Insurance in December.

 

The city needs to add the parking capacity for other reasons, as well. BlueCross BlueShield's move to Cameron Hill left at least eight downtown buildings largely or totally vacant. Potential tenants need assurances of nearby, affordable parking if they are to consider locating or expanding their businesses or shifting their residence to downtown.

 

And as Mayor Littlefield points out, the current lagging economy is the best time to build, due to lower interest rates and an abundance of lean contractors looking for work.

 

Unfortunately, Deborah Scott, Andrea McGary and two other members of the nine-member City Council appear more concerned about the city's present expense for the project than the strategic value of building more parking spaces. Recalcitrant council members should reconsider. It's cheaper, and better for the city in the long run, to meet its duty to lead infrastructure development than to stiff businesses and diminish the city's word. Those costs ultimately are heavier, and longer-lasting, than the current recession.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

A TROUBLESOME BORDER SKIRMISH

 

A deadly clash on the Israel-Lebanon border on Tuesday strongly suggests that a period of relative calm along the Jewish state's borders might be ending. The skirmish, the most serious since a truce ended the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, left at least four dead and one critically injured. The unnecessary loss of life is lamentable. The diplomatic fallout from the confrontation could be considerable and have far-reaching ramifications.

 

As is usually the case, each side blames the other for the incident. Lebanon says Israeli troops crossed into its territory to cut down a tree and then responded with artillery fire when warning shots were fired into the air. Not so, says an Israeli spokesman, who said the soldiers were inside Israeli territory and that maintenance work along the border had been cleared with United Nations peacekeeping forces.

 

Tuesday's clash is the third such incident within days. Over the weekend rocket attacks hit the city of Ashkelon and a college in southern Israel. On Monday, rockets hit both the Israeli resort at Eilat and the neighboring Jordanian resort in Aqaba. It's hard to pinpoint reasons for the renewal of attacks, but there are a couple of possibilities.

 

One is that Hezbollah, the militant, virulently anti-Israel group supported by Syria and Iran and the target in the 2006 war, wants to distract attention from a forthcoming ruling by an international tribune that seems likely to indict it for its role in the slaying of the Lebanese prime minister in 2005. Another is that Hezbollah and other militant Islamic groups want to derail peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. The talks are gaining traction in the region, with growing support from moderate Arab nations increasingly at odds with the militant organizations.

 

Tuesday's incident appears to be isolated. At this writing, there had been no additional military response. There's always a danger, though, that the small skirmish could escalate. Syria and Iran, long intent on controlling Lebanon's political and military life, issued statements following the skirmish that suggest continued confrontation with Israel would be welcome. That's counterproductive. What's needed now are cool heads and even cooler diplomacy, not incitement to more mayhem in a region already prone to violence.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

OBAMA TO END IRAQ COMBAT?

 

Nations sometimes too easily "declare war." But it is very difficult to "declare an end to combat" unless the enemy has been militarily defeated.

 

With Americans sick and tired of the costly war in Iraq, President Barack Obama has declared that the United States will end its combat mission in Iraq at the end of this month, "as promised and on schedule."

 

That would be very good news — if we were sure our undefeated enemies in Iraq also declared a desire to end the Iraq War.

 

But with violent elements still attacking Americans and seeking to topple the shaky Iraqi government, will Mr. Obama's declaration really mean an end to U.S. combat in Iraq — or only encourage our enemies?

 

We certainly would love to be able to end American combat in Iraq — without U.S. defeat. But will the Iraqi government — without U.S. combat aid — be able to assure that our violent enemies will not be able eventually to win?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

STILL DEADLY WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

 

Not only does war still continue in Afghanistan, but we are tragically reminded that it is a most terrible kind of war, victimizing not only soldiers but civilians — even little children.

 

The war in Afghanistan is not only between formal military units. An Afghan suicide bomber, apparently trying to assassinate an Afghan government leader, insanely exploded himself recently in a way that resulted in the murder of six innocent little Afghan children on their way to school.

 

How terrible is the kind of vicious conflict that victimizes children, killing people at random, often with no specific objective — except to terrorize the civilian population.

 

In many parts of the world, people live and many die facing a kind of evil that defies humanity.

 

We obviously do not know how to deal with such a world. There is a deadly price being paid as we seek to prevent evil from prevailing at even greater cost to humanity.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

SELECTIVE OUTRAGE ON SPENDING

 

Did you hear about the mind-boggling salaries that members of the City Council in Bell, Calif. — population 37,000 — were getting?

 

Council members, who work only part time, were "earning" in the neighborhood of $100,000 apiece. Worse still, the city manager was bringing in a hefty $787,000 per year, the police chief was getting $457,000, and the assistant city manager was making $376,000. Those were much higher salaries than similar officials in far larger cities were being paid. And the big checks were paid while 17 percent of the residents of Bell were living in poverty.

 

When residents got wind of the huge paychecks, many were furious. Some demanded the resignations of council members and city employees, some of whom did promptly resign.

 

Anybody can see why the people of Bell were outraged. In a time of recession, they were being "taken for a ride" by their local officials, who were using tax dollars not to improve public services but to fatten some officials' pay.

 

Wouldn't Chattanoogans be equally upset if such a thing happened here?

 

But if there is outrage in a small city over abusive, wasteful government spending, shouldn't there be more anger over the unchecked, far greater and more destructive spending by our federal government?

 

The national debt now stands at well over $13 trillion, and within a few years it is projected to climb to an alarming $20 trillion. Yet the president and liberal Democrats in Congress insist they aren't through spending our tax dollars and borrowing trillions of dollars beyond what already-high taxes bring in.

 

Worse yet, they intend to raise taxes on small businesses at the end of the year! Those are the very businesses that could help reduce our nearly 10 percent unemployment rate. But they are much less likely to invest in expansion and job creation if they have to worry that they are about to get hit by a big tax hike. The president and Congress are creating deep anxiety and uncertainty about what the "rules of the game" will be for businesses large and small. It is no surprise, therefore, that many businesses are "sitting tight" and not investing.

 

Washington could eliminate much of that uncertainty by ending its plans for tax increases and by slashing its outrageous, unconstitutional spending. Until it does so, the American people ought to be every bit as upset as the residents of Bell, Calif.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

TOO MUCH 'STACKING THE DECK'

 

There is understandable excitement about the prospect of widely available electric vehicles that would reduce the need for gasoline.

 

But there is less enthusiasm about the price tags that may be attached to many of those vehicles.

 

For instance, the much-publicized Chevrolet Volt electric car would travel up to 40 miles on a four-hour charge before its gasoline engine kicked in. That initial 40 miles on battery power would be sufficient to travel relatively short distances around town conveniently without needing a fresh charge.

 

A potential downside, however, is the Volt's base price: $41,000.

 

Over time, of course, as technology advances, the price is apt to fall within the reach of more consumers. But unfortunately, as is often the case, the federal government is unwilling to wait. It prefers electric vehicles for environmental reasons, and it wants buyers to snap up the Volt and some similar vehicles even before the price comes down naturally.

 

So it is offering a $7,500 tax credit to artificially reduce the price of those vehicles and make them seem more "affordable" than they truly are.

 

But that is a distortion of the market. It forces taxpayers — the overwhelming majority of whom will not buy one of the cars eligible for the tax credit — to pay the cost of the generous credits for the comparative few who will buy one of the vehicles.

 

And remember: Some auto manufacturers have already been bailed out by taxpayers to the tune of tens of billions of dollars.

 

Washington is "stacking the deck" and picking winners and losers in the market, rather than letting truly free consumer choice guide the market. That is not a proper function of the federal government — or government at any level.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

OPINION

NEWSWEEK CHANGES

 

For several decades, millions of Americans depended not only upon their daily newspapers and television and radio, but also on weekly news magazines for much of their news, with Time and Newsweek being the news magazine leaders.

 

Time has a circulation of about 3.3 million and Newsweek about 1.5 million.

 

But times change (no pun intended) and so does Newsweek. With television, radio, Internet and many other means of news dissemination expanding, the niche for news magazines has declined. And now Newsweek, lagging in circulation and the advertising necessary to pay the bills, faces big changes.

 

Newsweek magazine is being sold by the Washington Post Co. to Sidney Harman, founder of a major audio equipment firm.

 

Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham, a former Chattanoogan and member of The Chattanooga Times staff, is stepping down.

 

Change is constant in news, and so is change among the purveyors of information to our news-hungry world.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - FLOTILLA PROBE COULD MEND TIES WITH ISRAEL

 

After months of growing tension with Israel, culminating in the near-rupture in relations that followed the deadly May raid on the Gaza aid flotilla, the news that Israel will participate in a new probe of the incident is certainly welcome. We won't be so presumptuous as to steal a phrase from U.S.-Russian diplomacy and predict a "reset" of relations. But this does signal a retreat from the downward spiral that has included withdrawal of our ambassador to Israel, restrictions on Israeli use of Turkish airspace and other sanctions.

 

The agreement cobbled together by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon envisions a four-member panel to be chaired by the former prime minister of New Zealand. It will include a Turk and an Israeli. That Israel has signaled a bit of early foot-dragging, suggesting that its commandos cannot be interrogated, is worrisome. But we remain optimistic.

 

Essentially, the acceptance of this formula by Israel constitutes the meeting of the first of three primary conditions that Turkey has insisted upon as required to repair relations. The other two main conditions are a formal apology and compensation to families of those killed in the raid and others who suffered injury.

 

It is reasonable that those conditions be discussed only after the work of this new panel is complete. But while this may be interpreted as a concession on Israel's part, we think Israel has an equal stake in a clear, credible and international investigation. Israel has made its own set of allegations, that the commandos were attacked without provocation and that some members of the aid flotilla were armed. If those charges have any merit, they can only be authoritatively established by a panel with international credibility.

 

So however late, this approach to a resolution of the flotilla crisis is a response that can and should be fair and ultimately helpful to all sides. It should not be a panel that results in a whitewash or produces a report that does not see the light of day. We believe, if good faith prevails, that this is exactly what this panel may be able to do.

 

We would note the name being discussed as the Turkish delegate to the exercise: Özdem Sanberk, the former Turkish ambassador to London. In addition to his time at the Court of St. James, Sanberk has also served as undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign Ministry. He is a widely respected diplomat who should command the confidence of all parties.

 

As we have said many times in this space, Turkey and Israel have deep and historic ties, extensive and growing economic relations and much to offer one another in the future. We have been allies in the past. We can be allies in the future.

 

Word of this panel is a critical step toward that goal.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

MEANWHILE, IN THE ISLAMIST CAMP…

MUSTAFA AKYOL

 

When people discuss Turkish politics and speak about "the Islamists," they often refer to the incumbent Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Yet the folks who really fit into that definition are those of the Saadet (Felicity) Party, which still clings on to the ideas that the AKP broke away from a decade ago.

 

The differences between the genuinely Islamist Saadet and the post-Islamist AKP are obvious. The AKP has been a champion of the EU cause, Saadet denounces it as a "Christian club." The AKP has blessed and advanced free-market capitalism, Saadet denounces it as "a system of exploitation that serves Zionism." The AKP is keen on preserving Turkey's alliance with the United States, Saadet sees the latter as a "global tyrant" that should be defied. Even the AKP's tough stance on Israel is too soft for the Saadet folks; they want a complete breakup of the Jewish State.

 

A change some believed in

 

Tellingly enough, the social surveys which keep finding that only less than 10 percent of Turkish society subscribes to Islamism is confirmed by Saadet's marginal popularity: in the general elections of 2007, the party won a mere 2.5 percent of the vote. In the local elections of 2009, they won 5 percent.

 

There was obviously a rise here, but its cause was not a hardening in Turkish society but rather a softening in Saadet. In October 2008, its leadership was taken by Numan Kurtulmuş, a professor of economics, a beacon of courtesy, and an advocate of change. Kurtulmuş stopped ranting about AKP's "treason," and started to criticize it on more reasonable grounds such as nepotism and corruption. He also took quite liberal positions on thorny issues such as the Kurdish question.

 

Kurtulmuş also said things that countered the categorically anti-Western sentiment in his party, such as his remarks in an anti-Israel rally they organized during Israel's devastating "Operation Cast Lead" on Gaza. While the crowd was chanting for a "Muslim front against Israel," he showed them the photo of Rachel Corrie, the American peace activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while trying to protect Palestinian homes in Gaza. "This is not a matter of Muslimness," Kurtulmuş said from the stage, after explaining Rachel's heroic story. "It is a matter of humanity."

 

Such moves – including his decision, along with any other democrat, to say "yes" in the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments – made Kurtulmuş only more popular. But soon he faced resistance within his party and, most notably, from the godfather of the whole Islamist movement, Necmeddin Erbakan. The 84-year-old Erbakan, who is banned from politics, was ruling the Saadet via loyal yes-men before Kurtulmuş. And tension had been piling up between the two since the latter proved to be independent-minded.

 

The rift turned into a clear struggle last month when Saadet Party had its grand congress in Ankara, at which the central committee was re-elected. The conservatives issued a "green list," which included Erbakan's son, daughter and his most loyal apparatchiks. Yet Kurtulmuş's "white list," despite a lot of trouble, prevailed. "Erbakan lost the Saadet Party," newspapers wrote, "Kurtulmuş won it."

 

Yet Erbakan's team was not willing to give up. Hence, in the past two weeks, we have been listening to their war of words – a quite telling one. Erkakan's 31-year-old son, Fatih, publicly accused Kurtulmuş for "disobedience" to his father, to whom he apparently wants to be heir. This revealing accusation was just the tip of Erbakan's politico-religious doctrine. It defines him as the "commander of the faithful" – a title held by the early caliphs of Islam – and preaches that it is a religious obligation to follow his "orders."

 

This is, alas, theocracy. In other words, it is a usurpation of God's authority, as some commentators in the Turkish press, including myself, have argued. The Islamic political ideal is not theocracy, in which rulers get their authority from the divine. (Only the prophet Muhammad had that mandate, and he passed away a long time ago.) The Islamic political ideal is, rather, a nomocracy – the rule of law – in which everybody, including the rulers, are equally subject to the same legal and moral principles.

 

End to theocracy?

 

Numan Kurtulmuş seems to represent the latter vision, so his success will be a step forward in Turkey's Islamist movement. I still find some of his ideas – particularly the socialist and anti-globalist ones – wrong, but that's fine. I also think he can change those over time. He has proven, after all, to be a man of reason, balance and integrity.

 

As for Erbakan and his folks, now word has it that they are getting ready to form a new party called "Huzur," or "Serenity." I hope he will do just that, and become even more marginal.

 

As for Kurtulmuş, some say he will join forces with the AKP, others expect him to be a principled opponent to it. Both sound fine. What is even finer is that political Islam in Turkey continues to evolve and adapt to the rules of democracy. That should be good news for all – except Erbakan and his son.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE AKP: MASTER OF BALANCE IN DOMESTIC AND GLOBAL POLITICS - 2

TAYLAN BİLGİÇ

 

There is also an equally strong domestic aspect to the power of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP: the collapse of "traditional politics" in Turkey.

 

The Nov. 3, 2002, general elections came in the aftermath of one of the worst economic and financial crises in Turkish history. By the end of 2001, the economy had contracted a massive 5.7 percent, dozens of banks had collapsed, the Turkish Lira was battered, the Central Bank's reserves were depleted and the public had to shoulder tens of billions of dollars of financial institutions' losses.

 

The tripartite coalition government at the onset of that crisis included nearly all the boring "colors" of traditional Turkish politics. It was led by the late Bülent Ecevit's Democratic Left Party, or DSP, and included the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and central-right Motherland Party. Meanwhile, the AKP was being born from the ashes of Necmettin Erbakan's Islamist Welfare Party, or RP, which was battered by the Feb. 28, 1997, coup.

 

The economic crisis shattered all illusions about traditional Turkish political parties. An example to illustrate the extent of the damage would be the change in votes: Ecevit's party led the coalition as it got 22 percent of the votes in the April 18, 1999, elections. In Nov. 3, 2003, it was able to receive only 1.2 percent. The Motherland Party got 5.1 percent while the MHP was at 8.4 percent. All three parties in the coalition were ousted from Parliament, as they could not pass the 10 percent national threshold at the ballot.

 

Meanwhile, the AKP, the new face in politics, got more than 34 percent of the vote. Thus, the ascent of the AKP coincided with the liquidation of traditional Turkish politics.

 

But such liquidation also meant the AKP was "reshaped" as a "coalition" in itself; seasoned politicians from the center left and right and even from the nationalist right, found themselves a new home in the AKP, merging their interests with the core of the party, which was heavily influenced by Islamist Erbakan's "national view" doctrine.

 

Let's give a few striking examples: The current deputy prime minister, Cemil Çiçek, is one of the well-known names of the former Motherland Party and is known as the voice of the establishment and the status quo. Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay is a former social democrat. Former Trade Minister Kürşad Tüzmen has his roots in the far-right, while Turhan Çömez, who has escaped abroad after an arrest warrant was issued against him in relation with the alleged Ergenekon military conspiracy against the government, is a former AKP deputy.

 

Thus, we can describe the AKP as a coalition of differing interests, led by the iron fist and charisma of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In this effort, Erdoğan is likened to the late Turgut Özal, whose liberal Motherland Party was able to unite various political currents in his movement in the aftermath of the Sept. 12, 1980, military coup.

 

But the "restructuring" of Turkish politics under the leadership of Erdoğan went far beyond merging politicians of various factions under the AKP umbrella. He was able to reconcile different "ideas," and, in an effort to solve the country's scabrous problems, offered a hand to the liberal intelligentsia as well. Thus, even today, renowned liberal intellectuals, especially those in the Turkish media, have been supportive of the government. Interestingly, nearly all of these people are former Marxists, who believe the tutelage of the military over Turkish politics must be lifted for any meaningful change in the country. Thus, they represent a current that has "made peace" with the AKP on the condition that it will take courageous steps against the military Sword of Damocles.

 

This is not all. The AKP's balancing act includes reconciliation with the capitalist class of Turkey, as the government has proved to be the most "market-friendly" one in Turkish history. Various incentives, including tax breaks for businesses, privatization of more than $30 billion in state assets, liberalization in regulations including labor laws and an uncompromising stance against labor unions – banning strikes, for example – are only a few of the "economic principles" that have made the party a darling of the business establishment.

 

The allure of the neo-liberal side of the AKP to business is so strong that, even as the government engaged in punishing media boss Aydın Doğan through astronomical tax fines, the business world has been content with a few statements against the government, basically requesting it "not go too far."

 

The same attitude can be observed in the perspective of international financial institutions, ratings agencies and influential global analysts, which have, since 2003, been supportive of the government, albeit with a few criticisms.

 

In light of all this, it would be wrong to assume that the military and the government in Turkey are on a collision course that would bring in a reinstitution of "politics as usual."

 

The world has changed and Turkey's traditional allies in the West are supportive of a leadership that has displayed its merit as a "moderate Islamist," staunchly pro-business and pro-globalization force that has learned fast from the mistakes it made during its delicate balancing act – such as the March 1, 2003, Parliamentary vote that rejected letting the U.S. open up a northern front against Iraq. The AKP government is one that well knows its interests are confined within the realms of global power structures, and it shows no willingness to move beyond that.

 

The military and the "secularist elite" are having a hard time finding an alternative to such prowess. For the foreseeable future, if the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, does not leave aside petty debates on secularism and refocus on Turkey's mounting unemployment, poverty and other economic woes, the AKP will remain firmly in its seat.

 

Taylan Bilgiç is the managing editor of the Daily News. He can be reached at taylan.bilgic@tdn.com.tr

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY JERUSALEM? THE POLITICS OF POETRY

SIDRA EZRAHI

 

Jerusalem: one of the most ancient and richly-imagined cities in the world, and also the city that seems most intractable to peaceful resolution.

 

At least since the time of King David, Jerusalem has been a city claimed by more than one people or religious community, and conquest has been the preferred mode of resolution—from the ancient Israelites to the Babylonians and the Romans, from the Crusaders to Saladin and the Mamluks, from the Ottomans to the latter-day Israelis.

 

Nevertheless, there is some evidence for an alternative model even in the Hebrew Bible. Take, for example, the enigmatic verses that comprise the story of the Jebusites who may have yielded their ancient city to King David's forces rather peaceably. Josephus Flavius' Antiquities of the Jews elaborates on the biblical intimations that David's conquest of the town of Jebus may have been relatively nonviolent, without massacre or expulsion, and may have allowed for peaceful coexistence with the original inhabitants, who are referred to variously as the "inhabitants of the land" or the "inhabitants of Jerusalem" (see II Sam. 5: 1-10; Judges 1:21).

 

In modern times, Iraqi Kanan Makiya's book The Rock, a quasi-fanciful retelling of 7th century Jerusalem based on a reconstruction of the layers of claims, physical and textual, to the Temple Mount, represents the Dome of the Rock first and foremost as a tribute to the Temple of the Jews and to the Foundation Rock of the God of Abraham and Muhammad – a gesture to the Hebrew layer of the early Muslim religious imagination.

 

Beneath the rubble of war and the blood of sacrifice, you might say, there is a thick layer of imagination that suggests alternative realities and posits inclusive alternatives to exclusive ownership and the threat of annihilation of the Other. And perhaps most important, though lost in the noise of political debate, is that quirk of human imagination that engages in acts of substitution or exchange.

 

Substitution was (or should have been) the essence of Abraham's lesson on "one of those hills" in the Land of Moriah (Gen.22) where the old man was sent to sacrifice his son Isaac to an implacable God. In the Muslim version, it is Ishmael who is to be sacrificed; the Christians see the scene as foreshadowing the crucifixion of Jesus. But in all three versions, the story's basic and often overlooked frame is a death-defying, covenantally-necessary act of substitution: in the Jewish and Muslim versions, it is animal for human sacrifice and in the Christian version, Christ is viewed as the sacrificial lamb standing in for humankind.

 

The principle of exchange is demonstrated most dramatically in a much-later biblical text, the Song of Songs. Although Christian and Jewish exegetes insisted on attributing allegorical meaning to the rich evocative imagery, a "plain reading" of the Hebrew text unencumbered by the layers of interpretation exposes the world-embracing, compassionate engine of metaphor that forms the medium of the Shulamith's instructions to her lover. Although the classical Rabbis and the Church Fathers would have us believe that the Song is an elaboration of the relationship between God and Israel, or between Christ and the Church, the "bare text" actually effaces exclusive religious claims. Love's labours carve out a series of increasingly improbable, hyperbolic similes in which the beloved's body parts are likened to or interchangeable with the agriculture, architecture and geology of Jerusalem, with no references to Solomon's Temple or other sacred sites. The self-conscious production of literary imagery, in which every element in the created world is interchangeable and therefore expendable, is the exercise of both human dominion and humility.

 

You might say that I am tracing a psycho-literary impulse in which the substitution of the lamb in Gen. 22 laid the foundation for acts of exchange and substitution as a more inclusive way of relating to Jerusalem in later texts. It turns out that imagining Jerusalem in her many forms is as natural as fighting for her, or as pledging vengeance for ancient wrongs to be exacted in the time of return. During two thousand years of distance from the sacred centre, Jews learned to live in symbols. The ethical dimension of potentially endless acts of substitution and exchange, of metaphor-making and poetic inclusion, cannot be exaggerated.

 

Jewish return in recent times to the city which has been the source of its imagination has resulted in a politics that attempts to literalize metaphor, reclaiming the long-imagined city as Real or as Real Estate, claiming the Temple Mount as place of sacrifice and not of substitution, of one story and not of multiple narratives, of one chosen son and not two – or three.

 

In the idiom of the late 20th century, with its late 20th century municipal and human opportunities and challenges, poets like Yehuda Amichai continue to stand guard at the gates of Jerusalem, reminding us that "in Jerusalem everything is a symbol." If everything is a symbol, then everything is negotiable, except human dignity.

 

I will go so far as to claim that it was poetry – which posits alternative realities – that saved the ancient Hebrews in Jerusalem, and poetry – or more precisely, metaphor – that could save the modern Hebrews and their neighbors. What will defeat us is the literalization of what had remained in a state of metaphoric suspense for thousands of years. If we lose the city, then, it will be for having turned a deaf ear to poetry.

 

Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi is a Professor at the Department of Comparative Literature, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON FOR A 'YES' VOTE

CENGİZ ÇANDAR

 

Certainly we are going through days of head-spinning developments that will leave their marks on the new future of Turkey.

 

A popular vote on a constitutional amendment package and escalating terror in connection with scandals, published one after the other by daily Taraf yet ignored by some media groups; the Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, to determine the structure of the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, while investigations of a total of 102 on-duty and retired military officers as part of the "Balyoz" (Sledgehammer) operation continue.

 

Any of these alone, or all interlaced, is enough to determine the regime, the near future or perhaps the distant future, of Turkey.

 

YAŞ holds annual meetings, which seems routine. But the importance of this year's meeting lays in the examination of 11 generals and admirals who are suspects in the Sledgehammer operation, yet are on the military promotion list.

 

YAŞ will decide their fate. Saldıray Berk, the 3rd Army commander, under arrest as part of the Ergenekon alleged crime-gang operation, is on the list as well. Berk, as the number-one suspect in that case, did not attend the trial. But he attends YAŞ and sits right across from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the table!

 

*** 

 

I read the following on daily Radikal's website the other day:

 

"One of the elements that makes YAŞ interesting this year is 3rd Army Commander Gen. Saldıray Berk. The number-one suspect in the Ergenekon case in Erzurum, Berk is accused of being a 'terrorist organization member.' In the history of YAŞ, he happens to be the first-ever military officer to be on trial while attending this meeting. But in this, the stance of top military commander Gen. İlker Başbuğ was a determining factor, for he said they read the 61-page indictment, and Başbuğ claims the information about Berk was only one page long and believes three claims about Berk are untrue." 

 

If this is accurate, it means the biggest "unlawfulness" in our history of the Turkish Republic is being carried out. It also means we don't need courts, decisions of judges, indictments and prosecutors in the Republic of Turkey.

 

If this is the case, just show an indictment of a military officer to the chief of the General Staff and let him and his friends decide – that's it! If a top military commander decides after examining three separate claims about a "number-one military suspect" as part of a trial that the claims are not true, forget about the rest! There is no need for courts. The suspect is assumed acquitted!

 

This is it!

 

The chief of the General Staff, who is getting prepared to leave office, often stresses the "indication of innocence" in his statements. The indication of innocence is one of the basics of law. Anyone is innocent unless proven guilty. And this is, of course, applied to the 11 generals and admirals who are waiting for promotions but are suspects in the Sledgehammer operation, as well as to retired or active-duty military officers who are the subjects of an arrest warrant.

 

This presumption, however, doesn't eliminate individuals' being "suspects," and it doesn't cancel arrest warrants. And in a law-abiding state, a decision on suspects belongs to the courts, not to the chief of the General Staff.

 

It is incomprehensible to see a suspect attending YAŞ and sitting across from the prime minister and another one showing up next to Interior Minister Beşir Atalay after an incident on which Atalay said: "The Dörtyol incident is nothing, it shows. There are some instigators, provokers." Besides, these are unpleasant scenes, and obviously the concept of law in Turkey is being violated.

 

*** 

 

Namık Çınar of daily Taraf ended his article the other day in rage:

 

"Look! If you do not you lock those 102 suspects in, you must set free all other suspects in prisons. Or else…!"

 

If the government had enough power, it could have done what is necessary long before Çınar's scream full of rage. As the "addressees" are former and current members of the TSK, the government clearly has no power. In order to solve this "deadlock," to prevent an unlawful administrative structure in the country and to relieve pressure on the regime, the most legitimate means is the popular vote. This is what the Sept. 12 referendum is all about.

 

The significance of the Sept. 12 popular vote comes from clearing the way of Turkey through the law rather

than by settling scores with the Sept. 12, 1980, military takeover.

 

Is there any other way but a "yes" vote in the referendum for "democracy based on the rule of law," which is the biggest trump card our country has in hand?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ISRAEL SUCCUMBS TO UN!

YUSUF KANLI

 

Did you read the newspapers? For a change the entire media established a consensus in describing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's surprise decision to support a United Nations probe into Israel's deadly May 31 raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish-led international humanitarian assistance flotilla as "Israel has succumbed to the U.N."

 

First of all, irrespective of their individual political preferences and whether or not the Turkish government might have some degree of responsibility as well in the tragedy, almost the entire Turkish nation united in condemning the "high sea piracy" and the terrorist operation of the Israeli forces on the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship in the international waters of the Mediterranean in full violation of international law.

 

Irrespective what Israel's own investigations resulted in, whatever might be the outcome of an investigation by Turkey of the deadly pre-dawn Israeli raid on the humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters, or what conclusions the U.N. probe might reach, Israel must accept paying compensation. Israel should agree to pay indemnity not only for the nine Turkish nationals – one of them was also carrying an American passport – brutally killed in the disproportional and unlawful Israeli attack, but also to those hijacked onboard the flotilla and imprisoned in the Be'er Sheva prison and who were, under Turkey's immense diplomatic pressures on Israel, eventually handed back to Turkey. Israel has, as well, agreed to hand the confiscated flotilla back to Turkey. Israel should as well pay compensation for any damage caused to the ships.

 

Furthermore, this was the first-ever hostile action from the Israeli state against Turkey and Turkish nationals. Even if it agrees to pay compensation, it should as well officially apologize to Turkey before it can reasonably expect to patch up its tarnished ties with what used to be its key regional ally until very recently. It will not be at all easy for the Turks to forgive the Israeli illegitimate and worse hostile attack on a Turkish ship and Israeli murder of civilian humanitarian aid volunteers.

 

Besides, if Israel is indeed interested in patching up with Ankara, as reports from Tel Aviv have been asserting, senior Israeli politicians should learn to mind what they are indeed talking about. Even if he has been ridiculed frequently in the Israeli media as a "fool", how can a senior politician like