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Saturday, August 7, 2010

EDITORIAL 07.08.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month august 07, edition 000592, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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
































  3. DRIVEL 24 X 7 






























For all those who favour peace with the Taliban as a way to end the war in Afghanistan, Bibi Aisha is a grim reminder of the disaster that lies in store if that step is taken. Aisha is an 18-year-old victim of the cruelty routinely perpetrated by the Taliban: Her nose and ears were chopped off on the orders of a Taliban commander for fleeing the home of her abusive parents-in-law. If the Taliban can do something so horrific when it is supposedly on the run and despite the presence of a huge number of foreign armed forces, imagine the havoc its members will unleash if it were to regain power. Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai must rid himself of the thought that the 'moderate' Taliban should be part of a political solution. Unfortunately, Mr Karzai's view appears to be shared by some in the West too, largely because they feel so frustrated with the unending war that they just want to get out of Afghanistan. But such sense of frustration must not be nursed by Mr Karzai. On the contrary, he should feel outraged over Aisha's plight — brought to light by Time — and abandon plans to appease the brutal organisation; indeed, he must call for a stepped up offensive against the Taliban. Of course, there are those in Kabul who believe that an isolated incident of a woman being punished in so gruesome a manner should not be allowed to cloud the larger issue of peace. As reported by Time, Aisha is only one of the many victims; the crime committed against her is not unheard of. Hence, it would be erroneous to claim that it's an isolated incident or that it does not reflect what lies in store if Kabul were to fall to the Taliban: Women are known to have been whipped for not wearing a burqa long enough to cover their ankles or for failing to cover their face; even the use of cosmetics, for instance something as innocuous as nail enamel, can fetch the Taliban's savagery. Aisha lost her nose and ears to those who believe women deserve no better. 

The US Administration, in an effort to legitimise President Barack Obama's decision to begin pulling out troops by next summer, are now at pains to explain that the Americans are in Afghanistan not to reform that country's society but to punish those behind the 9/11 terror attacks. That's not only warped but also a rancid view: The war in Afghanistan would amount to no more than wasted lives if the Taliban remains unaffected. Let's not forget that Afghans had welcomed the US-led forces not as invaders but as liberators. That liberation from the Taliban's oppressive dictatorship is now at stake as Mr Karzai, goaded by both the US and Pakistan, is seeking to cut a deal with those very forces that are primarily to blame for Afghanistan's sorrow. The peace council that he has established to negotiate with his "upset brothers" — as he calls the Taliban — could end up legitimising





It would be silly to even think of making sense of the mess that has become of Indian hockey. Despite numerous efforts by various national and international bodies for its revival, our national sport seems to have been cursed to live forever in ignominy, the latest incident being the formation of the 'new' Hockey India body on Thursday. It has a president, Ms Vidya Stokes, who is 83 and has, for 26 years, been head of the women's hockey body which has been defunct since 2000. This body has a general secretary, Mr Narendra Batra, who was part of the KPS Gill-headed Indian Hockey Federation. How this constitutes as a new beginning for the sport remains unanswered. And even this body cannot operate as the entire matter regarding its elections is still pending in the Supreme Court. So, till then, we have to go with an ad-hoc body running the show. Who's to say what the Supreme Court will decide? But these are the least of the problems. Just hours after they announced that the polls had been held, the Government withdrew its support because of Hockey India's failure to comply with guidelines, leaving the IHF as the sole governing body of hockey recognised by the Ministry of Sports and the IOA. Hockey India may have the international federation's support but with no Government backing it seems impossible that it will be able to function properly, funding and infrastructure being the mainstays.

Amid this confusion, the condition of our teams and players before the Commonwealth Games remains shrouded in mystery as they have been kept away from the media. The women's team, which has a World Cup to play this month, has no coach and its most successful one, Mr MK Kaushik, is stuck with a sexual harassment case. Even that is not as simple as it sounds. Many former players allege that it is a conspiracy to tarnish the coach's image; what's more astounding is the way the entire issue has been handled. The alleged victim's name has been made public by officials without a second thought. A member of the internal inquiry committee has openly vouched his support for the coach. While no single entity can be held responsible for this awful mess, fingers are being pointed at Mr Suresh Kalmadi and the IOA which he heads. It was their bumbling in 2008, when they suspended the IHF without any hearing or inquiry, that triggered this confusion in the first place. It's difficult to choose which incident in the past decade would classify as a genuine 'eye-opener' for the administrators of the game: So many have come and gone without altering India's declining status in world hockey. We can only hope that Indian hockey shall Phoenix-like rise from the ashes and soar high once again. 








To understand the crisis-like situation the Commonwealth Games preparations have led India to, it is necessary to look beyond Mr Suresh Kalmadi and the mess he presides over at the Organising Committee. The Union Government's attempt to pin all blame on the OC is half-correct and half-hypocritical. In reality, the Government itself is guilty of lack of oversight, turning a blind eye to blatant corruption in some of its own infrastructure and civic agencies and — more broadly — of not taking ownership of what is at the end of the day a national event.

It would be worth revisiting the 1982 Asian Games, since the organisation of those Games is now cited as a model the Commonwealth Games should have followed. The Asian Games Special Organising Committee was headed by Mr Buta Singh, a Union Minister. Giving him political backing was Rajiv Gandhi, then an MP and, more important, the son of the Prime Minister.

Delhi was admittedly an easier place to do business in back then. There was no State Government. The Lieutenant Governor and the Union Home Ministry pretty much ran the city. The Indian Olympic Association and other sports bodies — including the Board of Control for Cricket in India in that pre-commercial age — were much more in Government control. As such, if Mr Buta Singh or Rajiv Gandhi wanted something done, they had the authority to go directly to concerned Ministers or departments. In a sense, they were the ultimate project managers.

The India of 2010 is very different. The Government is not quite the all-powerful entity it was 28 years ago. Politics itself is more coalitional and less of a single-party monopoly. That apart, Delhi has become a State, and local Governments and civic bodies have far greater budgets and powers in today's India. Finally, business and civil society institutions have gained a degree of autonomy. For instance, the Indian Olympic Association or the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee can demand and be expected to be given operational freedom from the Government.

In theory, the India of 2010 is more democratic than the India of 1982. Yet, it is disconcerting that the layered structures of authority have not triggered efficiency but, rather, created opportunities for stonewalling and corruption. One by one, each of the attributes of the 'new' India — the country as it has evolved since the 1980s — has let down the people. The Commonwealth Games fiasco is a shaming example of this betrayal.

The IOA and the Commonwealth Games OC have not been a good advertisement for civil society institutional freedom. The IOA has extricated space from the Government, protested in recent months when the Union Sports Ministry sought to place term and age ceilings on office-bearers. Even so, when it came to organising the Games, the removal of the Government's day-to-day scrutiny only resulted in the worst excesses of crony capitalism.

Having said that, the OC's fiddle is positively small-time compared to that in Government agencies. What didn't help was the complex and unique nature of Delhi, which is not quite a full-fledged State and has jurisdictions divided between the Union and State Governments. Some agencies report to the Chief Minister, some to the Lieutenant Governor, some — like the Delhi Police — tend to bypass even the Lieutenant Governor and speak directly to the Union Home Secretary.

There was ample room for confusion here. The result was a free for all that has, over the past two years, ravaged Delhi. Between them the New Delhi Municipal Council, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the Delhi Development Authority, the Sports Authority of India, the Central Public Works Department and about a dozen other agencies have made a hell of this metropolis. It is a fair assessment that several senior officials have feathered their nests.

The inflated bills of the OC are well known, but those are only the tip of the iceberg. In 2003, when India won the Games bid, it was estimated the nine stadiums the SAI would renovate would cost `150 crore. The final bill is `2,400 crore. Even if the initial figure was understated, one can understand it being doubled or trebled. As it happens, it has gone up 16 times.

For the moment, nobody is alleging political corruption and the charges are limited to bureaucrats and Government engineers. The Union Sports Minister and Union Urban Development Minister are seen as honest men, incapable of being bribed. Nevertheless, the same cannot be said of the agencies under them — whether SAI or DDA or CPWD. For the Delhi Government, the political backlash is already obvious. From smug and condescending, those at the helm of the State administration are beginning to appear tetchy and defensive.

The issue goes deeper (or higher). The Prime Minister and the leadership of the UPA Government cannot escape responsibility for, at the very least, acts of omission. Unlike the cricket World Cup or, say, an ATP tennis tournament, an event such as the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics has a profound diplomatic implication. The buy-in of the national Government, in terms of sovereign guarantees, financial underwriting and legal-political commitments, is essential. The UPA didn't own up to this till very late in the day.

When it came to power in 2004, the Manmohan Singh Government was unsure of where the Commonwealth Games fitted in with its aam aadmi ticket. Rather than face facts, it ran away from them. Even when things got moving, in 2008, responsibility was piecemeal and no one person/institution was given cross-cutting authority. 

Take an example. Delhi Police is not answerable to the OC, the Sports Ministry or the Tourism Ministry; it reports to the Home Ministry. However, the security restrictions that the police puts in place will have profound implications on how the Games are experienced by spectators and visitors. They will also need to be sold to the citizens of Delhi, which is a job the police and the Union Home Ministry couldn't be bothered with but the impact of which is inevitably going to hit the State Government.

It could all have been avoided if a special purpose vehicle, with quasi-government authority and political backing, had been given overall charge of Games preparations. This is how other countries do it. As usual, India decided to be different. 






Non-violence is not only the greatest virtue of man but also the basis of all his other virtues. Without non-violence, other qualities lose their worth. This is exactly what is happening in the world today. Neglecting non-violence is depriving us of other virtues. The greatest crisis of the times is the loss of human values.

Lord Mahavira says, "Joys are welcomed, sorrows shunned. All want to live and nobody wants to die. We must do to others as we wish them to do unto us. This is the foundation of humanity. Hurting, murdering or torturing any man, animal, bird or living creature is evidently brutal. Violence, murder and massacre never have anything to do with human values. These lie in the simple and elevated echoes of live and let live." Non-violence is the prerequisite of peaceful co-existence. Efforts to undermine others' existence in order to preserve one's own is futile and potentially harmful. Acharya Shree Umaswati has said, "Paras paropagraho jivnam. (Thereby all are friends and peers to each other.)" Progress and development of a society is based on this theory of non-violence. 

Through the centuries, mankind has endured the ill-effects of war and violence. While killing others, man kills himself and his divine qualities. Lord Mahavira says in the Acharang Sutra, "Whosoever you want to kill — that is you. Whom you intend to torture is you and whom you want to discipline is also yourself." This advait bhav is the basis of non-violence. 

One act of violence sparks an endless cycle. Non-violence ushers in prosperity. All human values grow, blossom and spread under the aegis of non-violence. In fact, non-violence is the life-giving oxygen to humanity. It is the preserver of nature, environment, earth, water and all living creatures.

Man has made amazing progress in science and technology. Yet respect for others' and one's own lives has been lost. In the Sutrakritanga Sutra, it is said, "Aivam khoo naninon saram jam na hisai kinchan. Ahimsa samayam chaiv atavantam viyaniya. (Being knowledgeable means not killing anyone. Equality based on non-violence is the essence of religion)." This must be remembered at all times. "Vasudhaiva kutumbakam (The whole world is a family)," goes a popular Sanskrit saying.






Rising food prices have dragged out to the public domain a truth long deemed unpalatable — only a small band of people is deriving the benefits of economic growth. A Saturday Special focus.

A new book, How India Earns, Spends and Saves: Unmasking the Real India, published by the Centre for Macro Consumer Research, a unit of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, has said it all. The top 40 per cent account for 50 per cent of the national income and the bottom 20 per cent of the pyramid earn only 7 to 8 per cent. While the incomes of all Indians across different socio-economic strata have changed in the last 19 years, the maximum gain was reported in the top 20 per cent. While the top 20 per cent of this group has grown at a rate of 12 to 13 per cent per annum, in real terms the bottom of the pyramid grew only at 5 to 6 per cent.

It is no exaggeration that few books in recent times have as much impact. Its author, Rajesh Shukla, the director of the Centre, has laid bare such hard home truths that even the beautiful folks who run the pink papers pretending that economic growth has been the tide which has taken everybody up had no choice but grin and bear the consequences of its publication. Hard data showed that two-thirds of India's poor reside in 10 low-income states; 30 per cent of households in these states are poor against 11.4 per cent in the high-income states (where income disparities are highest). Nationwide, Indian families spend as much as 51 per cent on food items, 11 per cent on transportation, leaving only 7 per cent for education of their children and a paltry 5 per cent on health. A solid fourth of Indian households are financially vulnerable and have no idea where their meals would come from if the slender incomes they draw are snuffed out by the vagaries of Manmohanomics.

By mid-week, the report was rocking Parliament. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee quoted it in the Lok Sabha when the Opposition parties rocked the House over prices. With 10.6 per cent inflation stretching the common man's pocket beyond snapping point, Delhi is seeing this week a truth Woodstock. Adding extra colour to the background is the Commonwealth Games scam, which, much like the straw on the camel's back, has broken the common man's faith in the entire edifice of governance.

Since mid-2008, the assurances of the government that inflation would be controlled have led to nothing. But now it's more than apparent that the UPA wants the economy to go only northwards — high growth with lots of collateral damage. Such kind of growth benefits only those with regular jobs and access to urban centres. This class is not affected by high food prices. The industrial growth in the first two months of the year has set high expectation of 9 per cent GDP growth for 2010-11. The Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council has projected a growth rate of 8.5 per cent. 

It is admitted by even the ardent cheerleaders of UPA-2 that the gains from this growth have been offset by the high rate of inflation. In the first quarter of the current fiscal year, the Wholesale Price Index-based annual inflation rate has exceeded 10 per cent. 

The dream of low inflation is now over. India's WPI-based inflation rate crossed the 10 per cent mark in May after hovering above 9 per cent since January. The annual inflation rate in primary articles stood at 17 per cent and has stayed at that level since. For non-food articles it surged to 18.65 per cent. Food inflation is more than 10 per cent and a point of worry for policy makers. Fuel-based inflation stood at 13.8 per cent at the end of May 2010.

The prevailing high rate of inflation is as much a result of the 'base effect' of low rates of inflation during the early part of 2009-10 as it is the illustration of the need for easing supply constraints. Whether related to physical infrastructure or institutional constraints, the impact on raising output is the same. It is clear to the masters of the economy that the UPA's goal of inclusive growth has become a distant dream. The chase will become increasingly unfeasible unless economic activities are carried out with less uncertainty and decreased transaction costs. Meanwhile, the weaknesses in the management of infrastructure are becoming increasingly apparent through frequent accidents and near accidents in aviation and railways. It is now no secret that the biggest and most persistent constraint on economic growth, namely capital, is becoming less binding. 

The first three months of the present financial year have seen unprecedented increases in the prices of many food articles. The items which were worst hit were rice, wheat, sugar, pulses and vegetables. These are a reflection of reduced production. The fourth advance estimates released by the Ministry of Agriculture recently point to an unchanged scenario. There is no major change to be expected in the production levels of foodgrain, estimated at 218.2 million tonnes. The output of rice, wheat and pulses has actually been revised downwards from what was published in May. Given that 2009-10 was a drought year, it is apparent that if monsoon rainfall is normal this year, there may be slight relief for the consumers. 

The depressed outlook is further exacerbated by the fact that until the first week of July, the total area devoted under various crops was only slightly higher than last year — only by 7 per cent. Besides, the government has done precious little in improving the condition of public granaries. This could have huge implications for the economy. There are genuine worries about the shortage of storage space. The three agencies involved in handling stocks — Food Corporation of India, Central Warehousing Corporation and State Warehousing Corporations — have space for storing only 40-45 million tonnes between them. The rest is mostly hired, which means that a lot of foodgrains are stored in open space leading to unnecessary waste. 

-- The writer is Deputy News Editor, The Pioneer 







The UPA government's economic policy is insensitive to the woes of the common man whose share of heady GDP growth is only high prices and misery. The fires of rage now sweeping India was only to be expected.

While the good news is that food inflation has come down to 9.5 per cent in July; the bad news is that headline inflation (measured by the Wholesale Price Index), is still high at 10.5 per cent. Food inflation has come down due to a few cheaper vegetables (potatoes and onions) but dal (pulses) remains beyond the reach of the common man. This foretells more malnourished children in the future. But that is the "India" which the growth-obsessed government and political class is blind to.


The Wholesale Price Index (WPI), which gives greater emphasis to manufactures and fuel, is now in double digits which means non-stop misery on the non-food front as well. The fuel price index has risen to 14.2 per cent because of the government's decision to raise the prices of petrol, cooking gas, kerosene and diesel. It is also significant that industrial growth is sliding and was at 11.5 per cent in May compared to 16.5 per cent in April 2010. Core sector (6 infrastructure industries) growth too has receded and recent company results show that many companies registered a much lower net profit than they did last year.

What's happening is that various capacity constraints are surfacing like inadequate infrastructure, high raw material costs, higher land rents and prices and construction costs. All these would force companies to hike product prices further in the future also because so far they have tried to contain the steep price rise by keeping smaller profit margins. The petrol and diesel price hikes would also add 1 per cent to headline inflation. 

However, one must also take note of the fact that the Chinese are experiencing an industrial slowdown which is cooling global energy and commodity prices and may benefit Indian industry to some extent and help inflation to come down a little. But if it doesn't and headline inflation continues to be high, it would mean lower industrial growth and lower GDP growth in 2011. Besides, the action taken by the RBI to calm inflation (by hiking repo rates recently by 0.25 per cent) may remain inadequate if the money supply in the economy is high due to circulation of black money, Pay Commission handouts, and expenditure excesses like the fraudulent Commonwealth Games. One may expect the demand pull and cost push factors to continue.

Lower inflation is important for giving positive signals to foreign and domestic investors. If it doesn't then all of them would like to simply wait and watch indefinitely. Foreign investors want to take back profits and when there is high inflation, the value of the rupee would erode in terms of dollars.

Inflation would also erode export competitiveness with its accompanying high cost of production. India has recently been ranked second to China in terms of manufacturing competitiveness. But with double digit inflation, this rank cannot be sustained. Thus, while China and Brazil which also faced inflation two years ago due to rising commodity and oil prices and fall in world wheat exports, have controlled inflation by raising productivity growth and increasing the supply of essential goods; in India inflation has persisted. 

Prolonged inflation has been bad especially for the poor and the elderly (pensioners) and people with fixed incomes. They have had to forgo many necessities of life in order to survive. It may not have hit the middle classes as much because they are spending a relatively smaller amount of food than the poor. To the upper income groups, it is even less important whether the price of petrol or tomatoes rise by a few notches — the number of cars on the roads of Delhi would bear this out and people are buying still high-priced vegetables every day. 

But the poor outnumber the rich especially if one takes note of Oxford University's Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index, which is going to be used in the UN's Human Development Report, according to which 421 million Indians live in intense poverty. It says that there are more poor in 8 Indian states ( Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, UP, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and West Bengal) than in all of sub-Saharan Africa's 26 countries, which is home to 410 million poor people. The index reinforces the claim that distribution of wealth generated by India's rapid economic growth is deeply unequal. Indeed according to another report, there are 100,000 Rupee billionaires in India (worth `10 crore each). But there are also 8.7 crore families (Planning Commission estimate) that are below the poverty line. For them to have two square meals a day and spare some money to educate their children and look after their health is a struggle which makes controlling inflation imperative.

One obvious way to do so is to revamp agriculture. On the agricultural front, much still depends on monsoons and how well the government is able to protect and store foodgrains production. The last Rabi crop of wheat, which was a good one, lent itself to colossal waste. According to the BBC, 13 lakh tonnes of wheat lay rotting outside in the open and this amount could have fed 10 million people for one year. This type of negligence is indeed unheard of anywhere in the world in recent times. 

According to the Agriculture Minister, there is a gap in storage capacity of 140 lakh tonnes for which `4,000 crore is required. One fears that such a big expenditure could lead to corruption and another scam. 

Agriculture growth, which declined by 0.2 per cent last year due to the monsoon deficit, would need to rise to 4 per cent which is not an easy task given the uncertainty of monsoons and the decline in public investment. The production of pulses has got to rise in order to satisfy the growing demand from the poor as dal is often the only source of protein. There is going to be an increase in demand for food in the future as NREGA, which has given cash in the hands of the poor, would lead to a spurt in demand for food.

Revamping the public distribution system (PDS) is important but how can the endemic corruption be eliminated? The government is contemplating issuing smart cards which would enable the real poor to access cheap foodgrains. But this would need to go through reality checks. 

The government, which has been enriched by `1 lakh crore from 3G telecom auction sales, would do well to start a scheme of social safety nets for the poor and vulnerable workers in the informal sector covering illness, accidents and loss of jobs. If there is a social safety net, the burden on the poor due to high inflation rate would be much reduced. But the government is ready with a list for spending on other items.

In any case, the common man or woman is helpless against not only continuous price rise but also the rampant corruption that is taking place all over India in not only food distribution, hoarding of essential commodities but also in other mega ventures like the CWG. The political fallout of all this will be bad news for the government.

The writer is an Author and columnist 







Each state is seeing its own variant of political response to spiraling inflation. But however hard the spin doctors in 24, Akbar Road try, they fail miserably in dislodging prices from its primal place in the political agenda.

The Congress government in Andhra Pradesh, the BJP government in Karnataka, the Left government in Kerala, and the DMK government in Tamil Nadu, all have one thing in common: as the Centre struggles to rein in inflation, they are the ones having to deal with popular resentment against the rising prices.

The governments of the southern States have been helpless with the Centre introducing a decontrolled price regime for fuel. Though the Left and the BJP have tried to politically channelise public criticism towards the UPA government, the unchecked increase in prices of almost all essential commodities have resulted in simmering public discontent. Indeed, the move to bring in a decontrolled price regime is generally seen as a weak attempt by governments to politically insulate themselves from the public anger.


Coming as it does on top of growing inflation, the fuel price increase caused prices of almost everything to spiral. The public distribution system (PDS) extends only small quantities of essential commodities of poor quality. In Tamil Nadu, at least, rice is available at `1 a kg, but with the growing prices of vegetables and condiments, the ration shop is no safety net for the poor.

Both Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry, ruled by the Congress, are in an election year. The July 5 Bharat Bandh was the yardstick with which one could feel the pulse of the states. Being an ally of the UPA in Delhi, the DMK government in Tamil Nadu is in a piquant situation. In an effort to avoid antagonising the Congress, it did its best to make the strike a failure, but the government is clearly unhappy, especially when the state is at the brink of an election. In fact, around the time of the union Budget, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had written to the Prime Minister requesting the rollback of the fuel prices effected in February. He had expressed the apprehension that it would have a cascading effect on food prices, causing hardship to the people. The Opposition leader and AIADMK general secretary J Jayalalithaa, has been targeting the Karunanidhi government, holding it responsible for the hike and its inability to impress upon the central ally to curb the inflation. She has demanded that the DMK withdraw support to the union government if the inflation cannot be curbed.

In response, the Karunanidhi government has come out with a host of freebies to help the people avoid the vagaries of high inflation. But Puducherry, ruled by the Congress, is showing no such inclination even though elections are due in 2011. The DMK, being the junior partner in that coalition, has its own interests to protect but cannot do it without the Congress' say-so. Moreover, given all the controversies surrounding the Union IT and Communication Minister A Raja, the DMK is unable to register its protest as strongly as its eastern ally, Trinamool Congress, does.

Karnataka's BS Yeddiyurappa government had ensured the strike was a success, but he has got to tackle a home-grown problem: milk prices, the lowest in the country, were hiked to increase profit. This of course happened after the third Bellary brother, G Somasekhara Reddy, took over as the chairman of Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF). What has irked the people of Karnataka is that the hike was announced just after the declaration that Karnataka is a "milk surplus" state.

The older Reddy brothers and state ministers G Janardhana Reddy and G Karunakara Reddy have been calling the shots in Karnataka, nearly toppling the Yeddiyurappa government last year, until a compromise was worked out by senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. The brothers are now in the thick of a multi-crore rupee mining controversy (allegedly exporting iron ore with false documents).

In Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister K Rosaiah's hands are full with a rebellion in the state Congress, led by YS Jaganmohan Reddy on the one hand, and the smouldering Telangana issue on the other. The squabbles with Maharashtra over the Babhli dam on Godavari River and the results of the recent bypolls have put Rosaiah on the back foot. It being a Congress government, he is unable to tackle the issues independently, leave alone having to deal with soaring prices, especially that of food items.

Kerala showed its displeasure over the rise in fuel prices in full strength on July 5 as the CPI(M) government joined the nation in the protest. However, the demand from trade unions to cut the sales tax on fuel, which is 24.69 per cent in the state, finally forced the VS Achuthanandan government to introduce some reduction before Onam (later this month) to ease the burden on various public transport systems. But the state is reeling under a spurt of terror activities, and Karnataka has accused it of protecting terrorists involved in the Bangalore blast. A new India-hate group has been identified, originating from Kerala.

Recently the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) announced truck strike in the four southern states and Puducherry to protest against the fuel price hike and indiscriminate road toll tariff. Though spearheaded in the south, the strike was expected to get a nationwide response. However the central government has now come forward to address the truckers' concerns and the strike has been put off to August 10.

-- The author is Political correspondent, The Pioneer, Chennai 







A CLASS overflowing with nearly 200 students, most of whom don't even get to sit properly, and many who can't even hear the teacher, is far from the ' quality higher education' that the Delhi University boasts of.


This is yet another example of the negligent attitude of the university administration, particularly its Vice- Chancellor. The university was well aware of the 54 per cent increase in the number of seats following the directive by the human resource development ministry on reservation of seats for candidates from the Other Backward Classes.


A 36 per cent increase had already taken place over the last two years, which had led to serious space constraints. So what prevented the university from undertaking the expansion of infrastructure required to accommodate the increased numbers? Surely two years was more than enough time. Alternatively the university could have requested the HRD ministry for more time as many other institutions had done.


The Vice- Chancellor Deepak Pental's explanation that the matter " didn't strike" him is pathetic. This is further testimony to the patchwork manner in which important policy decisions have been taken and implemented in his tenure. The six month extension supposedly being given to him due to the Commonwealth Games will only be counterproductive for the university.


However, his suggestion that the departments should divide batches into sections and teach late into the evening is probably the only way out of this mess. But given the notoriety of the post- graduate teachers of the university in opposing even the most minor increase in their workload, this measure will be difficult to implement and might even spark another row.


Unfortunately, the welfare of the students is of little concern to both the administration and the teachers.


Lazy cops to blame


THE national capital continues to be a highly unsafe place for women — with 500 cases on an average every year, Delhi has the dubious distinction of also being the rape capital of India. The rape of a 17- year- old Delhi University student by a 50- year- old man inside his car, however, raises a couple of other important issues.


The accused was out on bail in a rape case when he struck again on Wednesday. This makes it clear that he was not a one- time offender but a sexual predator on the lookout for a victim. This made him unfit for bail.


There is need to look into the circumstances in which the man was granted bail by a court.


It must be pointed out here that poor investigative work by the police is one of the main reasons for bail being allowed in a rape case.


The case also highlights the failure of our law enforcement agencies to keep tabs on known sexual offenders. It is only keeping the possibility of serial criminals in mind that the police in developed countries monitor the activities of such people. Had our policemen been equally proactive, Wednesday's victim could have been spared the trauma that will scar her for the rest of her life.


No end to the hockey mess


THE election of 83- year- old Vidya Stokes as president of Hockey India is the saddest thing that could have happened to the sport.


At this age, when she should be resting at home and letting someone like Pargat Singh take over the reins, her election goes to show how coterie politics works in Indian sport despite government guidelines.


The results of the Hockey India election have not been announced formally but the sports ministry has rightly decided that it is no longer the custodian of the national game and derecognised it.


Earlier, the Delhi High Court had said that the Indian Hockey Federation is the only recognised body in the sport, and Hockey India is only a congregation of clubs.


As things stand, the sports ministry has to ensure that the KPS Gill led Indian Hockey Federation works hard to get recognised by the International Hockey Federation again.


In all this politics, it is the hockey players who are suffering, with the Indian women's team unsure if it will get to play in the World Cup this month.



            MAIL TODAY





THERE is hope against hope that the commencement of the holy month of Ramzan next week will bring the protests in Kashmir to a halt. That, it is expected, will give the government some breathing space to gather its wits.


For the moment the Kashmir policy of the government is completely adrift. The prime minister has not even gone on television to address the Kashmiri people and the nation, as one might have expected him to have done.


The Prime Minister is under pressure to appoint an interlocutor for a dialogue with the Kashmiri separatist leaders. Ideally, he might have liked to appoint an experienced political leader from the Congress to the job. Apparently some names were suggested to him, including that of a former Congress chief minister, but he has shown no inclination to discuss the names. Perhaps he realises that such an appointment could be misconstrued by his home minister as an expression of lack of faith in his abilities. The appointment of a non- political person — even one familiar with the intricacies of Kashmir politics — is, however, unlikely to carry much credibility.




Home Minister P Chidambaram has offered the " possibility" of a dialogue once peace and order are restored. He told the Rajya Sabha that the government wanted a dialogue with the separatist leaders. He assured Parliament that he himself would resume the " quiet dialogue" process he had started with the moderate Hurriyat leaders before it was interrupted in December last year with an assassination attempt on one of them.


All the frantic scrambling being witnessed in Delhi could yet lead to a working policy for Kashmir. As of now, however, it is nowhere in sight.


The efforts of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to defuse the situation, on the other hand, clearly have not been good enough for the Kashmiris, although his father Farooq Abdullah says that Omar is doing his best.


Instead of pillorying the central forces for their mishandling of the protests, Omar has tended to blame the protestors.


He also failed to visit the families of the dead, or those injured, in hospital.


When he belatedly visited a hospital on Thursday — after a total of 49 deaths in police firing — he was heckled by the families of the injured.


He has jailed all separatist leaders including moderates like Yasin Malik and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who had some moral authority over the people. With the political leadership removed from the scene, the field was left open for anarchists and hardliners like Masrat Alam and Dukhtran- e- Millat's Aasiya Andrabi.


Surprisingly, even after nearly two months of the street protests, the chief minister remains cut off from the people, his party and the bureaucracy. One of his well- wishers urged him to act on the Churchillian adage, that to be a good head of government one had to be a good butcher first — advising him to get rid of incompetent people around him. Omar has now asked the Centre's help to find him a new Chief Secretary — preferably a non- J& K cadre officer — and he himself is expected to appoint a new Director General of Police — perhaps a Muslim officer.


Omar Abdullah has not mended his relationship with his own party leaders either. The Chief Minister continues to rely on non- political intermediaries like his businessman friend and advisor Devinder Rana who met Syed Ali Shah Geelani in jail and offered him " political space" by releasing him. Had he sent political leaders from his own National Conference like Abdul Rahim Rather, Ali Mohammad Sagar or party spokesman Muhammad Shafi Uri, the political shift that the Chief Minister wants to make would have been more publicly underlined.




After meeting the Union Home Minister earlier this week, Omar held a press conference in Delhi. This is being seen as a fatal mistake by his own party men who think that he should have come back to Srinagar before addressing the media. It would seem otherwise that he talks tough to the Kashmiris from Delhi at the home ministry's behest, perpetuating the myth that he has been elected as chief minister by Delhi. After all, it is the Home Secretary, G K Pillai, who is publicly seen to be deciding the curfew relief timings from Delhi.


The opposition in Jammu and Kashmir has also extended no help to bring the situation under control. The Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) has amply demonstrated that it is not beyond fishing in troubled waters. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has done everything to worsen the situation. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has hinted on several occasions that PDP is fomenting the protests without directly naming the party. However, his government has been unable to provide any evidence to this effect.


What is clear, however, is that the father and daughter duo of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Mehbooba Mufti are in no mood to come to the rescue of Omar Abdullah or the Central government.


Several calculations underlie their unhelpful attitude.


With the separatist sentiment at its peak on the streets, no Kashmiri political party wants to go against it and the PDP is no exception. The PDP is also keen to show that it alone can give good governance and holds the three years of PDP rule from 2002 to 2005 as an example when the state enjoyed relative calm.


At that time the PDP had projected itself almost like the legislative face of the separatists and the militants. Mehbooba Mufti once said when her party was in government, that the militants ought to give up the gun because 16 mujahedeen had now been elected by the people ( PDP had 16 seats in the legislative assembly).


The PDP is also calculating on the hope that a worsening situation would lead to Governor's rule and eventually to elections being called in the spring of 2011 when it expects to worst the other parties.




If the National Conference- Congress alliance is ineffective and the PDP will not help, who can help normalise Kashmir? In utter desperation Omar Abdullah under patently wrong political advice has released the pro- Pakistan Syed Ali Shah Geelani from jail, while keeping the moderates locked up.


Geelani may have the political stature to control the crowds — in any case it is his lieutenants who have been providing men and material for the so- called spontaneous protests. However, if he gives a call to end the prolonged public protests and strikes, as he had done in 2008 and 2009, he is likely to lose legitimacy with his followers. In the worst case scenario, his leadership may be threatened by a younger and more hardline generation. It is quite possible that Geelani might then be forced to continue with the strikes and protests under pressure. How this would help normalise the situation is difficult to see.


If Omar Abdullah really wanted the " political space" to open up for letting off political steam peacefully, then he ought to have released the moderate separatist leaders from jail along with Geelani. It does not make any sense to allow only hardline leaders to address the masses.


This is playing directly into the hands of Pakistan which has successfully converted the Kashmir militancy into a political struggle led by its chosen men.


If all the Hurriyat leaders and Yasin Malik are out of jail, it is possible that the situation might evolve in favour of the moderates.


Only then would a dialogue between Delhi and the separatists be possible. Why is the Centre risking Geelani becoming the sole spokesman of the Kashmiris? What kind of a roadmap is this?







IRRESPECTIVE of the eventual fate of the Commonwealth Games, the sports extravaganza has already caught the fancy of the masses in the far and wide corners of India — thanks to the ' Commonwealth Express', a special train that is attracting thousands of people daily as it spreads the gospel of the Games.


The fully air- conditioned train, being run by Indian Railways— lead partner of the games— comprises exhibits related to legendary Indian sportspersons, their achievements, CWG history, and sports gear is drawing huge crowds, especially at smaller stations where the train is halting.


Using the former world- class sportspersons employed with it, like athlete PT Usha, hockey captains V. Baskaran and Mohammed Shahid, and middle distance runner Bahadur Prasad, the train is enabling people to get a feel of the Games.


" On an average, 2,500- 3,000 people are turning up daily to see the exhibition.


At Gaya, 49,715 people turned up in a day last month and 39,525 at Patna," Jhanja Tripathy, secretary of the Railways Sports Promotion Board, told M AIL T ODAY . At Allahabad, 27,392 people came, 19,853 at Haridwar, and 20,295 at Dhanbad came to see the exhibition.


" Passengers who get down from other trains at stations ask if they can see the exhibition for free. Once they get a ' yes', they go home and bring their family members along. It is also heartening to see both teachers and students throng the train in large numbers, especially at smaller stations," she stressed.


" Also, since many of them have never seen things like bows and arrows used for archery or the shot put or the javelin, which are displayed in the train, they touch them excitedly. We have displayed the gear used in all 17 sports that are part of the Games." The 11- coach train, a brainchild of Railways minister Mamata Bannerjee, is divided into two halves. Five of the coaches are dedicated to CWG while the other six display various aspects of information and communications technology.


The train, designed by Adman Advertising in Delhi, began its journey from the Safdarjung Station and will stop at 47 stations all over the country before returning to Delhi on October 1, two days before the Games begin. Many of these stations are home towns of some of the best known sportspersons, who are also turning out to be a big draw with the masses.


If Ballia- born Bahadur Prasad was present at Lucknow and Allahabad, Shahid was the star attraction at Varanasi as the train passed through Uttar Pradesh. Baskaran will receive the train in Chennai, ace swimmer Sebastian Xavier at Pudducherry and Madurai, Usha at Kollam and Thiruvanantharam, and ex- national cricket captain Diana Edulji at Mumbai.


The entire train has been painted green from outside, with icons of various disciplines being depicted above the window- level to give a feel of a sports field. All the seats have been removed to display the photos of legendary sportspersons and the sports gear.


Also exhibited is the history of the Games, the route of the Queen's Baton relay, models of the stadiums where the competition will be held, information on the 17 disciplines, and a special section on the Railways' contribution to Indian sports and awards won by Railwaysemployed athletes. All in all, it is an exhibition worth seeing.



DESPITE the mess in Indian hockey, money keeps pouring in for the four different bodies, according to sports ministry figures. The bodies are the Indian Hockey Federation ( IHF), the ' ad hoc committee of IHF', the Indian Women's Hockey Federation ( IWHF), and the Hockey India ( HI).


Here's an interesting, and confusing, story about government grants given to these bodies, well after they were suspended — and there's no convincing explanation of how and why this money has been given to them.


A ministry statement, tabled in Parliament this week, showed that in 2009- 10, ' IHF/ ad hoc committee of IHF' received ` 1.81 crore and IWHF got ` 17 lakh even after they became non- existent.


In the same period, interestingly, HI received ` 3.63 crore while ' IOA for hockey', a body with an interesting name, received ` 2.21 crore. In seven months this year, IHF got ` 6 lakh and ' IOA for hockey' ` 79 lakh.


Several people I contacted to make sense of these figures failed to provide a convincing reply as to why the five bodies got the grants from the MS Gill- headed sports ministry.


]" The money shown in the statement is most probably related to old, pending bills.


We haven't separated the accounts of the IHF and the IHF ad hoc committee, so the figures are shown as one. We don't know exactly," was one of the explanations given.


" But you can safely assume that most of the grants shown are the bills from Balmer Lawrie & Co. And the ` 3.63 crore given to Hockey India in 2009- 10 was from the international sports division of the ministry." On being asked why the grants were given so late, he said: " We release only 75 per cent of grants initially and the rest after they submit audited accounts." Phew! The heights of vagueness.



SURESH Raina is one of the few lucky cricketers who not only got a chance to play with his idol, Rahul Dravid, but also received his Oneday International and Test caps — a long- standing ritual for debutant players — from the master batsman.


After making his ODI debut against Sri Lanka in Dambulla in 2005, I remember the left- handed Raina telling me how excited he was to play with Dravid, who was then captain.


" When I was young, I used to paste Dravid's posters on the walls of my room," he had said. Almost five years later, Raina received the Test cap from Dravid at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo on the morning of the second Test last month. He hammered a century on debut.


Dravid too admires the youngster. After the latter scored a brilliant 81 not out to guide India to a fourwicket win over England in Faridabad in 2006, Dravid had announced: " For a 19- year- old to have such a temperament is something special.


He is probably the player of the next decade." His words have started to come true, as the Uttar Pradesh batsman scored a fine 62 in the ongoing third Test against Sri Lanka on Thursday.



AFTER his illustrious international cricket career, Anil Kumble has turned his focus to business along with his brother Dinesh. They have reportedly tied- up with the BCCI to teach etiquette to the Indian team for a handsome sum.


This is not the first time that the duo has worked with the BCCI. About six years ago, they successfully bid to design, build and run the board web site during Jagmohan Dalmiya's regime.


They were, however, never able to start the work as the regime changed.


Sharad Pawar took over the reins of the BCCI and the contract died a natural death.


Pawar's trusted lieutenant Lalit Modi pompously announced that he would build the best cricket website in the world, and for this he appointed Accenture as consultants at a reported cost of a few crore rupees.


Although Modi managed to earn $ 50 million for the board from the BCCI and IPL websites — and like many of his other projects, even this was shrouded in controversy.


The saddest thing is that while the website for Modi's pet project — the IPL — works, the BCCI portal is still nonexistent.











How to shield customer privacy against unsolicited commercial calls? TRAI harder. Accordingly, our telecom regulators wish to replace a phone users' Do Not Call registry with a smarter Do Call platform. Instead of people begging to not be badgered, pestering would require consent. Many Americans think a Do Not Track directory can also help stop online marketers from tailing unsuspecting net users. A Do Not Knock list, likewise, could deter door-bangers, including electioneers, product-peddlers and fishy fund-raisers. 

For now, Do Not Disturb isn't a commandment Indian tele-vendors follow. They ring anytime. They offer paisa hi paisa in personal loans, no questions asked. They say platinum credit cards can turn a terrific titanium. They want everything insured including parts of the anatomy celebrities jiggle, butt of course. They dangle car and home loans and don't admit defeat even when credit-worthy customers decline. They just live to dial another day. They play pre-recorded 'robocalls'. And send SMSes. Some promise fortune-tellers' cures for "job marriage business family" problems. Others announce: Sauna slim belt at your service! A (fat) stomach churner, that. 

Be consoled. Ordinary mortals alone aren't telephonically ambushed. Since the mobile subscriber-cum-consumer is king, pesky callers do play social leveller. Builder of a residential skyscraper, India's richest industrialist was once reportedly offered a humble home loan. More recently, the honour came our FM's way, during his pow-wow with opposition leaders on price rise. An unexpected call made Pranabda combust: "Not now, i am in a meeting!" A finance firm had rung to ask if he needed cash to buy a house! 

The dream of home ownership being ghar ghar ki kahani, even cabinet mantris are getting bombarded by offers of finance. Perhaps ignorant of their victims' exalted status, the callers overlook the free five-star lodgings such ministers get. Why would power-wielders be financially house-bound when posh property prices defy the law of gravity (read: affordability)? As for 'affordable housing', image-wise, can VIP politicos afford to live in a pad they can actually afford? 

Then again, maybe the callers aren't naive. The U in UPA stands for udhaar, as the fiscal deficit proves. Plus, the government's just sought a parliamentary nod for a non-budgeted mammoth-size spend and could borrow heavily this fiscal, belt-tightening be damned. By marketing logic, loan rangers (accessing public coffers) are promising clients. Then, given India's housing crunch and construction being a growth driver, surely every mantri's motto should be "Mera Bharat Makaan". Home truth be told, US economic managers are also mulling borrowings to boost recovery from recession. Just think, it all goes back to small 'subprime' home loans that, going bad, had governments buy up or prop up financial 'houses' too big to fail! 

Why rap sales reps for counting on our debt wish? Down the years, India's ruling netas have ensured payback for profligacy is somebody else's job, at taxpayers' cost. Naturally, out of power, political nest-builders get on every 'Do Not' registry. Do Not Track. Do Not Knock. And, especially, Do Not Call.








The recent visit to India by General Than Shwe of Myanmar, his second in four years, underscores the growing salience of our relations with this key neighbour to the east. We have come a long way from the frigidity which marked our engagement in 1997, when i arrived in Yangon to take up my assignment as India's ambassador. Gradually, we were able to establish a degree of trust and confidence among the ruling generals. This stood us in good stead in dealing with a range of trans-border challenges. Good relations have also helped us to pursue several significant economic opportunities as part of our Look East policy. 

Why is Myanmar important to India and is democracy in that country unimportant to us? It is easy to explain why Myanmar is an important neighbour. We share a 1,400 kilometre-long land border and four of our most sensitive north-eastern states, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram, lie north to south along this border. We share the strategic waters of the Bay of Bengal. 

Since becoming an ASEAN member in 1997, Myanmar also provides us with a welcome geographical contiguity with a politically significant and economically dynamic Asia-Pacific region. It is also a close neighbour of China. This has its advantages in providing a transit route from eastern India to southern China. It has its disadvantages in case India-China relations become tense and the same transit routes are used for arms trafficking by insurgent groups. The geopolitical rationale of good India-Myanmar relations is, therefore, patently obvious and even compelling. 

As a democracy, India would welcome the establishment of inclusive and broad-based multiparty democracy in Myanmar. We have not shied away from stating this preference openly. In our private parleys with the military rulers we have urged that Aung Sang Suu Kyi, National League for Democracy leader, should be released and allowed to play what we expect will be a constructive political role in the country. 

However, public pressure on the regime is unlikely to yield results. There needs to be an appreciation of the difficult challenges any ruling polity must contend with. All along Myanmar's northern and eastern frontiers are restive ethnic minorities which were engaged in long-standing insurgency against the central government. Since the early 1990s, most have concluded ceasefire or arms for peace agreements with the government, in exchange for significant local autonomy. This has been a positive development though integration of these ethnic groups in a federated structure is already proving a complex challenge in the implementation of the new Constitution. 

The groups do not want the de facto autonomy they have enjoyed so far to be restricted. The government is unable to concede, in any formal sense, the continued existence of semi-independent entities, several of whom still have their own armed forces. Since several groups have long-standing links across the border with China and have benefited from extensive border trade and traffic with it, this could be a potential area of conflict between the two countries. 

The enduring hostility that the regime has faced from the US and its western allies has also engendered a sense of siege and sometimes even paranoia among the generals. Suu Kyi has unfortunately become, in their eyes, an instrument in the hands of the West to force a regime change. In fact, Suu Kyi is anything but a puppet. I have rarely met a political leader who has such remarkable strength of character and commitment to her people. Loud protestations of support for her without any willingness to go beyond rhetoric have actually worked to her disadvantage. Engaging with the generals, encouraging them to open the country to winds of change rather than reinforcing its isolation, would have paid better dividends. There are signs that this approach is being reassessed. We should encourage this trend. 

India has pursued a pragmatic and well-balanced policy towards Myanmar over the past decade and this has yielded good results. General Than Shwe's latest visit took place against the backdrop of a complex and uncertain domestic political situation in Myanmar as also new developments in its relations with China. The country's leaders see their interests best served by a more balanced relationship with its two neighbouring giants. We have an opportunity to significantly raise our profile in the country. This will help us deal with cross-border challenges. 

Myanmar has quietly helped eliminate some sanctuaries of Indian insurgent groups on its territory. It has encouraged India to build cross-border infrastructure and transport links across the entire land border. The multimodal transport corridor, with river navigation and road transport in the Arakan province to the south of Mizoram, will give us an alternative access to the north-east from the port of Sittwe, bypassing Bangladesh altogether. Two key roads linking Mizoram and Myanmar's Chin state to the east were also mentioned. There is major potential for generating nearly 2,000 MW of hydro power on the Chindwin river for evacuation to India. 

These projects were reaffirmed during Than Shwe's latest visit. And here lies the rub. The same projects were announced during his first visit. We seem unable to move with any reasonable despatch on these projects despite their obvious strategic importance. Our credibility suffers as a result. In securing our neighbourhood, we need to address this weakness urgently. 

The writer is a former foreign secretary.






Is 83-year-old Vidya Stokes a better choice than Olympian Pargat Singh to run Indian hockey? A majority of officials associated with hockey bodies in this country think so. Those who elected Stokes, a career politician, as president of Hockey India, over Singh — one of the finest ever Indian hockey players and a seasoned administrator — are unlikely to vouch for her understanding of the game. They just don't care whether she, like many among them, has ever even held a hockey stick in her hand. 

Career politicians are holding Indian sports to ransom. The prime example, of course, is Suresh Kalmadi who is in the limelight for making a mess of the Delhi Commonwealth Games. Just what is his claim to head the Indian Olympic Association? Politicians like Kalmadi may be lovers of sports. Good for them. But when their interest in sports is limited to running sports federations like personal fiefs with no results to show in terms of performance, we have a problem. 


The time has come for us to propose a blanket ban on career politicians from running, and ruining, Indian sports. Administering sports is surely not their core competence. So why must these federation chiefs lord over Indian sports as if it is their inheritance? They have proved to be inept, and in many cases corrupt, administrators. They are responsible for India's terrible record in sports. They ought to make way for people who have a proven record of success in sports. 

What would also help is a cap on the tenure of sports officials. Let them, like other professional administrators, retire gracefully when they turn 60 or 65 or when they complete a limited number of terms. Unless we bring in such regulations, it's tough to promote excellence or usher in transparency in the running of sports bodies.







It seems that as a nation we have developed a penchant for diagnosing problems wrongly and then coming up with worse prescriptions. In the wake of the public outcry over mismanagement and financial irregularities in the Commonwealth Games, there has been a suggestion to ban politicians from sports bodies. Furthermore, the victory of Vidya Stokes over former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh in Hockey India's presidential elections, and the subsequent withdrawal of recognition by the sports ministry, has pushed the case for appointment of only sportspersons to these bodies. 

There is no doubt that sports management in India is currently in tatters. Most of the sports bodies in India are no longer apolitical. Many of them have become personal fiefdoms of politicians-turned-managers such as Suresh Kalmadi, Vijay Kumar Malhotra and others. But the suggestion to ban politicians is draconian. The Constitution guarantees basic political rights to every citizen of India. A ban will deprive sports bodies from access to a large pool of talent with proven administrative skills. It will also affect sportspersons who have turned to politics. What is important is commitment towards the cause of sports. In fact, many politicians have aggressively pursued the cause of sports in India and the clout they carry has only helped these sports. 

Secondly, there hardly exists any system of checks and balances to ensure accountability in these sports bodies. It doesn't matter whether a politician or sportsperson is at the helm of affairs, the absence of accountability will allow a system to be manipulated by vested interests. The solution lies in bringing greater transparency to sports management, missing in the current scheme of things. 







After decades of benign neglect, allowing China a free run in South East Asia, the US has signalled a reversal of its policy. The notice came in an innocuous offer during the ASEAN Regional Forum's meeting in Hanoi, when secretary of state Hillary Clinton offered to lend US support to "a collaborative diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving the various territorial disputes without coercion". China's foreign ministry called it a well-scripted "attack on China" and the state media went hammer and tongs denouncing the "American shadow over the South China Sea". 

China's contrived shock and horror says more about the unchallenged position Beijing has built and the submissive compliance it has come to expect than it does about America's ambitions. The fact is that the US's offer to help find a multilateral solution to a vexing international problem strikes at the heart of China's tried and true strategy of 'talk, take and hold'. 

Since 1974, when a swift naval operation saw China grab the Paracel Island from the waning South Vietnamese regime, the Middle Kingdom has steadily expanded maritime areas under its control through surprise attack and stealth. Just think of the Spratly Islands (from Vietnam) and Mischief Reef (from the Philippines). While claiming sovereignty over virtually all of the South China Sea, Beijing proposed postponing resolution of the dispute to instead discuss the joint development of undersea resources. To ease regional concerns, China signed a standstill agreement a so-called Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea with a pledge to exercise restraint. 

In a classic divide-and-rule tactic, China has treated those ASEAN members not having sea borders with China differently from those that do, then sought only bilateral agreements with the disputants. The outcome: countless futile meetings to divert attention away from China's continued effort to strengthen its military control over its possessions and expanding its de facto boundaries by barring its neighbours from fishing in disputed waters or drilling for oil in waters far away from China. In 2007 and 2008, it even stopped BP and ExxonMobil from drilling in waters offshore Vietnam. 

China took its expansive claim to the South China Sea a notch higher by challenging (in 2009) a US Navy survey ship, the Impeccable, some 75 miles from the shore of China's Hainan Island effectively extending its 12 nautical miles territorial waters to a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The US maintains that under the UN Law of the Sea, its naval vessels have the right of free passage through the EEZ. In March, China told senior US officials that its sovereignty over the South China Sea was undisputed and one of the core issues that brooked no compromise. 

This growing Chinese assertiveness, coupled with the double-digit growth of its defence budget, has increasingly worried East Asia. Encouraged by the newfound interest shown by the Obama administration, countries in the region have quietly lobbied Washington to play a more active role in regional affairs. Partly at ASEAN's urging, the US has resumed contact with Myanmar in a bid to coax it towards democratic reform and wean it away from China's embrace. 

Since its assumption of ASEAN's rotating chairmanship last summer, Vietnam has made a sustained effort to draw US attention to the danger of China's rising power in the South China Sea; Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines too have raised concerns with Washington. Some South East Asian leaders attending the April Nuclear Security Summit in Washington held talks with President Barack Obama and other senior officials to voice their worries. At the time, senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had publicly assured Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who also met Obama, "We're going to follow up on that in a significant way. It goes to the heart of freedom of passage in that region." 

The Chinese foreign minister attending the ASEAN Regional Forum is right in saying that Clinton came to Hanoi armed with "a prepared script". Beijing's well-founded suspicions that the strong support for her proposal was similarly scripted explains both its ire and its warning to the region to "remain vigilant against US instigation". This changing environment offers India new opportunity for creative diplomacy to strengthen its position.








Banal and obvious are the two adjectives that immediately come to mind to describe the debate, for the first time in 33 years, specifically on population stabilisation in Parliament. The fact that the Lok Sabha has been apprised of the fact that we are nowhere near stabilisation despite being one of the first countries to put a family planning programme in place suggests that this politically explosive issue has been swept under the carpet for far too long. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who lets his silence speak for him oftener than his words, told us everything we already know: that poverty and early marriage are among the main causes for large families; that population stabilisation cannot be achieved through legal force; that 14 states have achieved the optimum total fertility rate of 2.1 and that there can be no coercion in family planning. But what he didn't tell us is what the government has done, or plans to do, to address the population issue.


Had the health ministry done its job, that of delivering quality healthcare to people, there would be no need for this debate on population, much of it would have been resolved. If maternal and child mortality had been addressed, birth rates would automatically have come down. If the promised 'cafeteria method of contraceptive choice' had been offered, people would have opted for reversible methods of family planning. If men had been involved more in the programmes, family size could more easily be scaled down. If more health workers were sensitised, the message of smaller, healthier families would have got around a lot more and a lot better. So there we have many of the answers if Mr Azad would care to listen. It is a myth that the poor want to have more children. They do so because they have no access to contraception and no guarantee that their children will live past infancy. If the minister had focused on primary healthcare, many of the problems which dog the family planning programme could have been eliminated. Incentives may work in some cases. But the size of a person's family is so personal and inviolate that people don't decide on it according to incentives in cash or kind.


Certainly, there have to be more awareness campaigns on the benefits of a small family, but ultimately it is the choice of the individual. India has been down the path of coercion once with disastrous results. But this doesn't mean that population should be treated as a political hot potato for so long. There are many suggestions by eminent experts on solutions to the issue, all of them easily doable. So perhaps, it is time for Mr Azad to schedule another stock-taking debate so we can ascertain that the population numbers being bandied about add up to something concrete towards stabilisation.






Sanjay Tickoo's observation that everyone in the Valley can, if they want to, work towards restoring peace and order, is relevant in the present scenario (Violence not cast in stone, August 4). When the government and the political parties refuse to take a stand and don't flinch over people dying, citizens must unite to stop the destruction and unrest in the Valley. Despite political leaders crying themselves hoarse over separatist elements ravaging Kashmir, they seem to have done very little for the welfare of the people so far.


Piyush Sharma, Bhopal




Despite people's pro-India sentiments at the 2008 assembly elections, New Delhi has made no fresh attempts to look into the legitimate political aspirations of the people of Kashmir. If the government really wants peace in the Valley, it should treat the civilian population with more consideration and win them over. Rather than pushing them to the brink, it should make an effort to retrieve the situation by apologising for not stopping the security forces from using violence against civilians. More than half the battle in Kashmir can be won if the Indian government tries to address the immediate issues of education and employment among the youth in the Valley.


G. David Milton, via email


Rooted in caste issues


I agree with Gopalkrishna Gandhi's views in The rainbow people (Incidentally, July 31) that those who are born of parents belonging to different castes would feel confused when asked about their caste affiliations. It will only lead the enumerator and the government to impose a caste label, which would not be right. It would be a good idea to leave the  option for those born of parents belonging to different castes open. This would perhaps be more effective than the present system of controlling caste-based issues.


Vasant K. Sharma, via email




It is a fact that the evil of caste has taken root in our society and its offshoots are now flourishing. Be it granting reservation to the minorities or preparing a census report, the economic condition of an individual should be the only determining factor instead of caste affiliations.


If India fancies itself as a secular democracy then it has to do away with petty distinctions that Indian society is mired in. However, whether our political leaders acknowledge the issue and take necessary action to bring about change, remains to be seen.


Manzar Imam Qasmi, Delhi


They work to rue


The editorial Squad that got left out (Our Take, August 3) rightly pointed out the plight of labourers who are working at the Commonwealth Games sites. It is unfortunate that  the government has done nothing to get these labourers registered or ensure their security. The Games come across as a lesson in mismanagement. There seems to have been no planning before work started. With the officials more interested in making money through murky deals, compromises seem natural.


Rajan Kalia, via email


Playing politics with sports


This refers to the report Hosting CWG 'a bad idea', says Bhutia (August 5). Bhaichung Bhutia need not have played a Mani Shankar Aiyar in the Commonwealth controversy. He should regard himself as a sportsman, not a politician. A sportsman must not confuse politics and sports. Didn't he just participate in the baton rally in Kolkata along with Sourav Ganguly? For him to think the  Games is a 'bad idea' smacks of hypocrisy. His view regarding spending money to create infrastructure all over India is, however, welcome.


D.R. Gulati, via email







In a nondescript, overcrowded hospital ward in Srinagar a child flinches in pain as doctors examine his bullet-ridden leg and a distraught mother cradles his head in her arms and wordlessly feeds him fruit pulp with a spoon, her stoic eyes chillingly expressionless. Amir Ashraf is 15 and he is not a stone-pelter. Nor has he ever taken part in a street protest. He merely happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time — returning home from the village madrassa in Bandipore, after reading the Quran, when he was suddenly caught in clashes between protesters and security forces. In fact, the first civilian death that triggered this period of strife began with the death of a teenager Tufail Mattoo who was walking back from a tuition class when a tear gas shell, apparently directed at a protesting mob, claimed his life instead.


Of course, as the stark images of raw, defiant rage on the streets of Srinagar show, children are not always out there by accident. Notwithstanding appeals from the government, it's not just women — but very often — little boys too, some of them not even 10 years old, who mingle with protesters, raise their fists in precocious anger and speak a language of accelerated adulthood. You can certainly argue about the ethics and wisdom of exposing children to possible death and you can question why the only separatist leader of significance to make an appeal for non-violent protests is the man considered to be the most hawkish of all — Syed Ali Shah Geelani. But, the fact is, that no matter what your ideological position is on the Kashmir crisis — when teenagers and children become the face of the conflagration, politics is morally obliged to reinvent its approach.


And that is the one thing — imaginative and robust politics — that we have seen abysmally little of in the last two months. Some tentative beginnings are being made at last. The chief minister finally made an attempt to reach out to the injured civilians this week amid questions of why it took 45 deaths for him to do what should have been any leader's first instinct. The home minister had an intelligent, nuanced response in Parliament — careful not to demoralise the security forces, but conceding the need to deliver on failed promises and expressing personal regret for the loss of lives. But with no real consensus within the government or indeed the national political establishment on how Kashmir should be handled, will New Delhi make the fatal mistake of believing that it should simply brazen this out?


A fortnight ago, when the Army was requisitioned by Omar Abdullah's government — for the first time in Srinagar in 15 years — some of us implored the Centre to not confuse quiet on the streets of Srinagar for calm. Stillness, we argued, was often the sound of stasis and implosion. We hoped that the prime minister would intervene himself, perhaps, even go on television to talk directly to the people in the state. I heard the home minister telling Parliament that these "were our own people". It was important to stress that it wasn't just the land, but also the people who were integral to us as a nation.


So didn't our own people merit a more direct political engagement or at the very least a more visible expression of empathy? Yes, there can be no justification for violent protests or setting police stations, railways tracks and other public property ablaze. But when Naxal violence can be officially handled by what the government likes to call a "two-pronged approach," couldn't violence in Kashmir have been tackled in a similar way? In the seeming lull that these ten days provided, where was the other prong?


There is a false debate being constructed by some ideologues that to push for a political intervention in Kashmir is to undermine the suffering of soldiers on the ground. This sort of clap-trap comes from those who don't really care about the lives of our security forces. We would do well to remember that it was the Army chief who spoke of the failure to build politically on security gains in the valley. Do we really think our paramilitary forces want to be locked into a hostile loop of never-ending confrontation? Do we have any idea how difficult it is for a local Kashmiri Muslim to be a police officer in the present environment of hate and resentment? For an intelligent understanding of the soldier's perspective, speak to former Border Security Force chief E. Rammohan- who ironically also investigated what went wrong in the Dantewada massacre — and listen what he has to say on how our soldiers need better training in non-lethal weapons and crowd control.


The truth is that this is not 1990 or 2000. In 2010, Kashmir has thrown up an entire generation of young men who have been brutalised, hardened and often, radicalised by perennial conflict and the changing nature of the separatist campaign. On television, the other night, I decided to censor out the politicians and hear directly from two articulate young Kashmiris: Junaid Mattoo and Faizan Ali. To listen to them, was to understand the extent of their generation's disengagement. The discourse within the valley may not always be rational; some of it is indeed intolerant and frighteningly aggressive at times. But it is the duty of a smart politician to find a language that speaks to those who don't want to listen.


When young parliamentarians made a direct attempt at communication with the boys of the valley, I was heartened. I thought of Rahul Gandhi's stopovers at Dalit homes in the heartland. We need something similar in Kashmir — a politician who is willing to look public anger in the eye and make a human connection. To look away this time, would be to miss the fork in the road. And, if we do that, there will be no turning back.


Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV  


The views expressed by the author are personal.







At what point in our collective history did we lose our capacity for outrage? I am talking of middle class placidity in the face of outright corruption that seems to be piling up faster than the debris in Delhi's national stadiums. Some, like the ongoing Commonwealth Games with new scams unfolding by the hour, will cause raised voices in drawing room conversation. Yet, today's headlines seem destined to becoming tomorrow's footnotes. We lurch from scam to scandal, but life goes on.


Rs 18,000 crores of foodgrain rots after being left out in the open because we don't have the capacity to store it. The government sets up committees. And we in the middle classes agree that it's a criminal waste but do we demand resignations or ask for accountability? We do not.


In Karnataka, we watch the resilient Reddy brothers, Karunakara, Somashekar and Janardhan, manoeuvre and counter-manoeuvre moves in an intricate ballet of power and money, wondering (if at all we wonder) when the endgame will unfold. Corporate India's biggest scandal, the Rs 7,000 crore Satyam fraud has not even reached trial stage. Madhu Koda, former Jharkhand CM arrested for alleged money laundering is out on parole making speeches in Parliament. Everywhere it's the same story, different lead character. A Lalit Modi here or a Suresh Kalmadi there; an A. Raja in telecom or MLAs demanding cash for votes in Jharkhand. We watch. But we ask no questions.


Yet it was middle class outrage over the Bofors arms deal that led to electoral defeat for the Congress in 1989. No evidence of financial wrong-doing was ever found but the whiff of impropriety was enough to cause collateral damage to the Congress. In Maharashtra, A.R. Antulay was sent packing for asking for donations to a private trust in exchange for cement quotas.


Today, the middle class seems to have lost its will to shake the system. Where is that rage that could bring down governments and dismiss chief ministers? Is it that we are just overwhelmed by the sheer scale and regularity of scams? Multi-crore swindles reduced to snappy names — fodder scam, urea deal, hawala, match-fixing, Tehelka sting, oil-for-food — hit us with such regularity that they have dulled our response capacity.


The generation that demanded answers 20, 30 years ago wore values of decency, honesty and thrift as badges of pride. We called politicians our public servants, and that is how they behaved. Much before 24x7 television and streaming internet news updates, we were shaken by events whether in far-away Nellie or with under-trials in Bhagalpur. Now, the visual image has lost its ability to shock.


The post-90s liberalisation generation has been lulled into complacency with washing machines and malls full of imported goods. We dream of becoming a superpower but see encounter killings as the expedient thing to do — why should the benefits of a legal system accrue to alleged terrorists and undesirables? The sensex not the torture of undertrials in some backwater is what moves us.


We react only to what directly concerns us, to our immediate environment. Middle class outrage will still bring justice for Jessica Lall but we are unmoved by those killed for 'honour'.


A suicide at La Martiniere school, Kolkata will cause angry debate, yet last week in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh where was the outrage over the death of 13-year-old Lakshmi, a dalit girl who committed suicide after being forced clean her school's toilets? Why were no tears shed for her?


Outrage is a powerful tool in any democracy. In a fledgling democracy like ours where power and wealth are

concentrated in the hands of a few, it becomes even more important for the middle class to keep the fires of indignation alive. The have-nots are too busy waging a struggle for daily survival. Who will speak for these people? Who will demand accountability of those we elect? Who will stand up and say: enough? A great nation must be known for its moral standards. In India, the one-time custodians of those standards are simply not being vigilant enough.


Namita Bhandare is a Delhi-based writer


The views expressed by the author are personal.



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






Despite the sound of it, it is not remotely funny. Union Finance Minister and veteran politician Pranab Mukherjee must have well-screened callers on his mobile. Yet one of those undodgeable, catch-you-anywhere — and, of course, unsolicited — telemarketers slipped through when Mukherjee was meeting with opposition leaders on the price rise issue. This week, MPs and ministers shared the trauma most mobile subscribers have long complained about and given up on being redressed — the daily bombardment of unsolicited telemarketing calls and text messages that has made life in these distinctly connected times unbearable in myriad non-violent ways.


What happens now? The telecom minister, A. Raja, has at last swung into action, asking his ministry to take immediate steps to prohibit the intruding calls. How long that process will take or how soon it will see results, if at all, will be coloured by public doubting, given that the scale has been heavily tipped against consumers in this battle. There's the national "do not call" registry where subscribers need to register if they do not want to be disturbed. However, not only has it failed, but it has also put all onus on the victimised consumer, reiterating in this sphere too just how fragile the sanctity of individual privacy is.


At present, there's no foolproof way to dodge telemarketers; and the subscriber has to take each step, right from being careful with giving out her number. TRAI finds it difficult to catch them, especially if they are unregistered; and even then a telemarketer, who can work from home, can just get a new telephone connection if one is blocked. It may be more sensible at the start to immediately convert the "do not call" registry into a "do call" one as many have suggested, so that only subscribers who opt for telemarketing calls and messages can be reached. However, telemarketers need to fear the law instead of just casually having to check one register or another.







The Giving Pledge, announced by 38 American billionaires (almost one in 10 of a total 400 in that bracket), dedicates about half their wealth totalling about $115 billion, to charity. A plan engineered by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, the list includes New York mayor and moneybags Michael Bloomberg, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and others of that ilk. If their promises materialise, this will be a dramatic leap forward for philanthropy, and an example for the rest of the world.


In the last century, the US has devoted about 2 per cent of its GDP to charity, across all income groups. Andrew Carnegie's suggestion, that the rich view themselves as stewards of their economic surplus, has been acted upon by generations of do-gooding tycoons from Rockefeller to George Soros. Now, a new kind of charitable giving has taken root, one that gears private sector principles for the public good. Bill Gates is the biggest exemplar of this new philanthrocapitalism. His global good works are unparalleled, combining a shrewd understanding of incentives and networks to energise the non-profit world, fighting poverty and infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. In June 2006, Warren Buffet famously decided to give away most of his wealth to the Gates Foundation (staggered at 5 per cent every year, and supervised). Buffet admits the chanciness of the market system he has benefited from: "I've worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate's distribution of long straws is wildly capricious."


Compare that with the rich in India, whose philanthropic record is mostly dismal. Even though big business families spend on a few chosen projects to burnish their name, they largely think that their outsized rewards are their children's due. The default setting is indifferent or determinedly libertarian — the wealthy like to pretend that their fortune has sprung from between their own brows, that they owe nothing to circumstance and dumb luck. If only they'd take a lead from the Giving Pledge.







Reserve Bank of India Governor D. Subbarao, delivering the C.D. Deshmukh memorial lecture in Hyderabad on Thursday, told his audience that the RBI could not, and should not, focus all its energies on achieving for India a desired, or "target" rate of inflation. In emerging economies, Subbarao says, central banks "need to balance between growth, price stability, and financial stability."


On the surface this may appear a purely anodyne what-we-should-all-work-towards statement. But it isn't, at all. It is, at its root, an attempt from a governor who should know better to add his voice to the traditional chorus from Mint Street — one that has as its refrain an aversion to accountability.


What does ducking accountability have to do with the apparently eminently sensible statement that a monetary policy authority should keep growth and financial stability in mind? Simply this: does Subbarao's argument run that an inflation-targeting bank will heedlessly destabilise the economy to serve some technocratic obsession with a particular inflation rate? Clearly, that would not be the case, and nobody expects it would come to that. No, what is being demanded here, with a spurious appeal to post-crisis "changes" in conventional wisdom — actually determined, as in the case of the new UK coalition government's thoughtless moves on regulation, by petty politics — is a continuation of an old system. That set-up, in which multiple goals for one institution lead to manifold conflicts of interest, and with that make it impossible to set standards by which it can be held responsible, has not served us well.


The central point is this: all these goals — inflation, financial stability, growth — are desirable for our government to pursue. But that doesn't mean every component of our administration handles them all at once. Just like employees in an organisation, the incentives and yardsticks for government institutions need to be carefully mapped out, to avoid conflicts — or else, invariably, the institution's leaders will evade responsibility. Even if that works elsewhere — and it doesn't — it can't be allowed to happen here, where the transcripts of meetings, the reasoning behind decisions, are left so opaque, and where governors of the RBI are not hauled up before committees of Parliament to explain themselves. The RBI's independence is valuable. Its commitment to economy unquestioned. But this is a question of institutional design and service delivery, and its governor has got the answer wrong.









 Let us begin with a straightforward question: are you for the Commonwealth Games, or against? Straightforward and simple, you might say. Everybody is against the wretched Games, and so, of course, am I. Think again.


You didn't hate the CWG until two weeks ago. In fact, you were proud that your country, and its capital, was holding a major competitive event and, as a consequence, it was getting a long-overdue makeover. Hoardings and newspaper advertisements were coming up, drilling basic lessons in civic sense: how to treat foreign tourists with dignity, keeping the city clean, etc, etc. For at least three years, as much of our city was dug up to build the Metro, flyovers and new roads, we responded with a grin-and-bear attitude. This was becoming a quantum upgrade, and you had begun to see results already, particularly with the arrival of new, low-floor and spacier buses, the opening of new sections of the Metro. At least one major problem of the city, commuting for the poor and the middle classes, was being addressed. We felt great when the new airport was opened, within schedule. All the old stadia were covered in scaffolding and everybody knew they were being renovated. Meanwhile, work was moving on new power plants to feed Delhi with more than 3,000 MW. Not only were we not complaining about any of this, we were indeed pleased that the Commonwealth Games had become such a gift to India's capital. So what went so wrong in just two weeks?


The surfacing of allegations that oodles of money is being made in the name of Commonwealth Games. The cause of the Games was not helped by the fact that Kalmadi and his cohorts look like the usual suspects even in the most usual of times. But these are not even usual times. The government has handed over to his Organising Committee nearly Rs 2,500 crore and a stink has begun to rise over how some of it is being spent, or stolen. In fact, a disclosure is in order that four of the first stories that built this "hawa" of corruption were broken by the reporters of The Indian Express (Ritu Sarin on Kalmadi's son's purported share in the new Formula 1 track in Noida, Sobhana K. on the alleged platinum ring "import", the commissions paid out to SMAM, and how PSUs were being arm-twisted to commit large amounts in sponsorship). Frankly, while these stories did paint a disturbing picture of the goings-on in the Organising Committee, we had never imagined that these would ultimately lead to a campaign of abuse and calumny that would paint the very Games as evil.


The way the campaign against these Games has been run underlines the dangers of what twitterisation of journalism can do. "Sab chor hain" is a popular line in our country. But to say that the entire Games are a multi-ten thousand crore scam just because there's evidence of some theft (which does not add up to more than a crore or two at the most) is a horrible self-goal for India. Yes, it looks really bad if you hear that 35, 40, 50 or at last count (JD-U's Sharad Yadav in the Lok Sabha) one lakh crore are being spent on a mere sporting extravaganza. Then it begins to look so utterly outrageous when you believe that all this money is being spent under the watch of Suresh Kalmadi and his buccaneers who are accountable to none. But please examine this story in the cold light of facts.


Elsewhere in our paper today our reporters give you the entire, detailed beak-up of the moneys spent on the Games and related projects. If you add all the agencies (the Delhi government, the sports ministry, the MCD, Kalmadi's OC, the NDMC), the total amount would indeed come close to Rs 40,000 crore. But how is it broken up? Rs 16,887 crore is for phase II of the Metro. Rs 1,800 crore is for the new buses for the DTC and Rs 400 crore for the construction of new bus depots. Rs 12,000 crore is for the new power plants. Another Rs 4,000 crore go into other crucial infrastructure upgrades in Delhi, almost all inevitable, including the sewage and drainage systems under the new, expanded airport. Frankly, 85 per cent of all expense incurred has nothing to do with the CWG and is going into entirely virtuous development (though there is the odd gem like Rs 30 crore for potted plants). The Games, if anything, have become a wonderful antidote to the usual delays and corruption. A look at the list of expenses will tell you that almost everything has been completed way below the budgeted figure. Do such things happen in India, except with the Delhi Metro? They usually don't, because there are long delays and cost overruns. The CWG deadline has prevented any delays beyond a month or two (the only disgrace being the NDMC with its relatively minor projects, like the Connaught Place upgrade). Of the Rs 4,459 crore sanctioned directly for the CWG, Rs 2,904 crore is being spent directly by the ministry of sports, mostly on stadium upgrade. And whatever else you may say about M.S. Gill, nobody would ever say that he stole a paisa, or let anybody steal, under his watch. Not even Mani Shankar Aiyar will say that. Another Rs 827 crore is being spent by the ministry of urban development for visible projects. The questions, and the problem, lie with the Rs 2,394 crore given over to Kalmadi's OC. That is what the government now needs to put under a strict watch. That is the commitment you need from the prime minister in Parliament.


It is nobody's case that leakage or corruption may still not have happened. But why blame the Games for that? And why build this mass opprobrium against them? There is corruption also in purchases of defence equipment. You try to catch the thieves, of course, but do you stop buying weapons? Disband your armies? Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater is old common sense. But in this case, we are throwing out the baby, but keeping the bathwater.


Demonising the Commonwealth Games just because people made money in some deals (the London limo deal, by the way, was worth a total of Rs 1.7 crore, so you can guess how much money someone would have made from it) is indeed colossal stupidity. It also highlights this worrying twitterisation of our profession where you charge without checking, and then use a broad brush dripping with black to paint whatever you feel like. Or run with viewer/ reader comments like: I won't go to the Games because the stadiums are so unsafe there will be a risk to my life.


There is no argument that sporting events of this size and prestige are important to nations. The Congress leadership, which has dumped these Games on their squabbling functionaries, some of whom nurse vicious mutual antagonisms, would do well to remember the way Indira Gandhi showed commitment to Asiad '82, with her call of "India can do it." She was honoured by Juan Antonio Samaranch, the then IOC chief, with the Golden Olympic Order, the first Asian and the first woman to receive it. Now her party takes great pride in withdrawing from the 2018 Asiad bid as if India cannot do in 2018 what it could 36 and 68 years earlier (1982 and 1950). And all because you do not like Suresh Kalmadi's face.


These Games must be saved, from Suresh Kalmadi, and from the rest of us feral beasts (apologies to Tony Blair). Indira Gandhi threw her son, then just over 35 and so new to politics, into Asiad '82 and it became his launch pad and one of his finest moments. This has been done around the world. In the US, Mitt Romney built a national profile by organising a great Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Obama himself went to lobby for the 2016 Olympics. Here, we take on the responsibility of conducting our biggest sporting event so far, and can get no one higher than our sports minister to defend them, and that too apologetically. How far backwards we have slipped in the three decades since Indira and Rajiv Gandhi.







 There's the difference of a single zero between 35,000 and 3,500, but both numbers have captured our imagination when it comes to fixing the magical, almost mythical, number of tigers that have walked India's forests.


There is wide agreement, however, that the number of tigers in the country now, following the labour of a painstakingly conducted scientific census, is only1,500. Contrast this with the other numbers that routinely do the rounds: tiger-lovers and raconteurs recall "35,000 tigers in India at the turn of the century", while state departments are adamant that the numbers were a healthy 3,500 around 2002.


And since India has made statements bordering both on the vague and the ambitious on saving large numbers of tigers, it would certainly be good PR to join other tiger range countries, as they push for a joint declaration that wild tigers will double worldwide by 2022. But India has said no. In perhaps the first official admission that our tiger numbers cannot go up hugely — till now, the contrary claim has been loud — India is set to oppose the declaration, which in all likelihood, will be adopted at a Head of State summit in Russia at year-end.


China, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and Vietnam have more or less agreed to the draft declaration, but India is instead going on record that tiger numbers cannot be substantially higher here, and may not cross 2,500. This is the first time that this has been spoken aloud — and it may actually be hitting the nail on the head.


In climate change-esque international summits, numbers, and deadlines, are thrown about; but tiger numbers aren't quite the same. And therein lies what should be seized and built upon: instead of an obsessive focus on population numbers, the focus has to be on preserving so many other things around the tiger, which get routinely forgotten in the numbers debate — jacking up protection, moving 80,000 families out of tiger reserves, and filling up hundreds of vacant forest staff positions.


Close to 50,000 sq km fall within the protected area network of reserves dedicated to the tiger in India. Close to 1,500 tigers in India — half the world's total wild tiger population — are actually spread out over 90,000 sq km. But while the size difference between those areas is huge, 80 per cent of the tigers are confined to the protected area network, solid proof that tigers can be saved from poachers only with rigorous protection regimes.


Wildlife ecologists say that 300,000 sq km of India are potentially good tiger habitat. But this never-never land will probably not happen; and so what remains is optimising the protected 50,000 kilometres. Within this are areas where poor protection has meant that tiger numbers are not swelling as they should — including areas within the Naxal belt, the reserves of Indrawati, Palamau, Simlipal, Buxa and Valmiki.


But what of the reserves which are doing well? In the odd success cases of Corbett, Bandhavgarh and Ranthambhore, healthy tiger populations have lead to tigers also dying. Tigers straying off-reserve have been poached or poisoned; and in two successive cases in Bandhavgarh run over by vehicles, once by a tourist, and the other time, allegedly by the forest department itself. So while there is space in our imagination for "many, many" tigers, we have no policies in place for actually dealing with what happens when tiger populations go up, and the animals spill out of the reserves.


On Tuesday, Myanmar announced another impressive number — 6,400 km, the size of their new Hukuang valley protected reserve dedicated to the tiger, the world's largest. Their challenge will now be to use this area as well as possible, creating genetic security, and tracking and protecting tigers that stray out of the protected area, in which most of our reserves perform poorly.


By declaring conservative numbers, India may actually be doing itself a favour. As long as it remembers its commitments to all that makes tiger numbers possible in the first place.








 NDTV's Buck Stops Here prefaced its debate on Commonwealth Games by observing that corruption allegations have claimed the "skulls" of three organizing committee members. Pity that NDTV quickly corrected "skulls" to "heads". "Skulls", I felt it in my bones, was a brilliantly insightful linguistic snapshot of at least some of news TV's approach to the CWG scandal stories. Consider the following.


Buck Stops Here, having started with 'skulls", proved to be remarkably consistent in delivering a smorgasbord of chilling anatomical, topographical and emotional imagery. Put your hand in your heart, NDTV told a CWG official. "In", not "on", you understand. If your hand is "in" your heart, is it any wonder that your head will become a skull? It smells of rot, it smells of dirt, NDTV said. Is dirt smelly enough to make this aspect of it a metaphor, you may be asking. Dirt mixed with skulls and bloody hearts can be very smelly indeed, and then there are severed arms. An NDTV panelist said the CWG chief's arms are cut. Gosh! This gory wasteland, where there's "no more patriotism"; this, from the same NDTV panelist. There are three passionate women (in the studio), NDTV told a CWG official, give us something to believe in. There was one puzzled TV viewer (me) who thought okay let's review our notes on what other broadcasters have been saying on CWG.


Death again! It's infectious on prime time. A panelist on CNN-IBN's India at 9 said we must acquire a culture where the crooks are put in jail. Yes, we must; agreed. But that kind of stuff you can get from newspaper commentaries. News TV gives you the extras. The CNN-IBN panelist elaborated: crooks here must go to jail because unfortunately we can't, like China, execute the baddies. Had we be been able to, the panelist pointed out, it would have been even better. How steely-nerved TV anchors are! On hearing a panelist saying death is better than dismissal as a systemic response to venality, the anchor didn't say "Good god" or stuff like that. The anchor said we will come to that point because "all that we have at the end of the day is suspension of officials" (emphasis mine). Come to that point! That point where we thoughtfully discuss on live TV the execution of CWG officials! This could be better than movies, man. But, sad, so sad, it wasn't. True, the panelist gave dates of when China executed some officials. True, he said we are a helpless, voiceless, impotent country when it comes to corruption. But the anchor merely asked, of another panelist, will the guilty go to jail. As far as I could make out, a death verdict wasn't passed. But, and to borrow a frequently heard phrase on CNN-IBN, let's hold on to that thought. There are many days before the CWG begins, and many more evening chat shows.


Note, in this context, that Times Now, as far as I saw, stayed away from death and related issues while talking about CWG. Times Now was in London for a CWG story. Good for it. But it wasn't exactly clear whether footage of the reporter's walkabouts in London suburbs, short conversations with a front-desk person of the company named in the story and with a lady who claimed to be a resident of the address that's apparently the company's postal address, as well as visuals of the reporter having a scratchy phone conversation with the company head, lent awesome journalistic value to the story. You say you have the papers that nail the story. Show what's in the paper clearly, explain the whole thing clearly, let the reporter doing the story be front and square while all this is done — you will have a better-presented story. All we would miss are some shots of London suburbs.


The skeletons will still tumble out. And the skulls will roll.








 Kashmir is very much in the news these days. BJP MLAs from Jammu & Kashmir came to New Delhi last week, met the prime minister and submitted a memorandum cautioning him against any dilution in the presence of security forces in that state. They also urged him not to succumb to the acceptance of any separatist demand.


For the BJP, the issue of Kashmir's complete integration with India is one which the party has pursued relentlessly since its birth as Bharatiya Jana Sangh. Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, founder-president of the Jana Sangh, laid down his life for the cause of the state's integration. At the first national conference of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh held in 1953 at Kanpur, Dr Mookerjee gave the nation a resounding slogan with profound significance :


Ek desh mein do vidhan, do pradhan, do nishan — nahin chalenge, nahin chalenge (We cannot have two constitutions, two presidents, two flags, in a single country).


Dr Mookerjee's martyrdom in Kashmir led to the achievement of two of the three goals identified in this slogan. The two presidents that existed till 1953 — one in New Delhi who had no authority over Jammu and Kashmir, and the second in the state, exercising full authority under the title "sadar-e-riyasat", became one. The office of sadar-e-riyasat was abolished, and the president's authority was extended to Jammu and Kashmir. Also, the two flags became one: the national tricolour, which until 1953 could not be hoisted in Jammu and Kashmir (which had its own flag), became the flag of the state as well. In the movement launched by Dr Mookerjee, several Jana Sangh and Praja Parishad activists actually became martyrs to police bullets while hoisting the tricolour! But the third goal identified by our great leader still remains to be achieved: Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which provides for a separate constitution for Jammu and Kashmir and which continues to breed separatism, must go.


In the Kashmir Valley, the situation today is of total anarchy, and the government seems clueless about how to deal with it. The memorandum given to the PM by BJP MLAs from the state says:


"The separatists have adopted an alternative strategy. They have realised that the global acceptability of acts of terror has ceased to exist. They are also aware that India's patriotic and professional security forces can repel such terrorists and insurgency linked sabotage, blast and violence. Since 2008, the separatists have decided to resort to mob violence rather than stray acts of terror. Their strategy is to convince the world about the so-called justness of Kashmir's cause.


The separatists are today getting instructions from across the border. From young school children to women and elders, stone throwing at security forces and governmental buildings is the preferred strategy. They indulge in mob violence in order to provoke the security forces to resort to defensive action. Disguised terrorists are also a part of these violent mobs. In this defensive security action, there are injuries and casualties. So far, 1262 security personnel have been injured. Participants in mob violence have also been injured. Some have even lost their lives.


India's strategy at dealing with terrorism and sabotage was clear and well-defined. The government, however, appears to be clueless in facing the current challenge. The state government has become extremely unpopular. There is a personal resentment against the chief minister. He appears to be getting alienated even from his own party cadres."


In his book Virginibus Puerisque (Latin for "To girls and boys"), Robert Louis Stevenson has written: "Man is a creature who lives not by bread alone, but principally by catchwords." One such catchword that very much sustains Indian politicians, is "communal". There is nothing pejorative in the original meaning of the word, which is linked with commune and community. But over a period of time it has become, in Indian political parlance, a word of vile abuse. Jawaharlal Nehru used to hurl it at the great patriot and parliamentarian, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, and at the party which he founded, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The epithet continues to be thrown at the Bharatiya Janata Party till today.


Of course, the BJP is an ideological party which has a distinct approach to several matters. On some issues, it is practically a loner, even though among the people these issues command wide support. Until 1998, our stand that India must have a nuclear deterrent was exclusively our own. In 1998, all our allies in the NDA endorsed this stand. Today the entire nation feels proud that our country possesses nuclear weaponry.


The BJP is today the only political party in the country which holds that Article 370 of the Constitution, which confers a special status on Jammu and Kashmir state, ought to be scrapped. We regard this provision as a big barrier in the psychological unity of the country. I can understand someone disputing our argument and disagreeing with our stand. But I feel surprised when the BJP's demand for the repeal of Article 370 is cited as proof of our communalism. That only underscores how perverse these catchwords have become. It would be in place to recall the rationale given by our Constitution-makers to justify the inclusion of this article.


At the time of Independence there were more than 500 princely states in the country. Most of these had framed their own constitutions. When on October 17, 1949, the Constituent Assembly took up this particular provision for consideration, N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, who introduced the provision, drew attention to the fact that in the case of all other princely states, their constitutions had been embodied in the Constitution of India, but this had not become possible with regard to Jammu and Kashmir which continued to have a separate constitution.


Maulana Hasrat Mohani interrupted Ayyangar to ask why Jammu and Kashmir was being "discriminated" against? Thus for Mohani, J&K continuing to have a separate constitution was an act of discrimination against the state !


Ayyangar replied: "The discrimination is due to the special conditions of Kashmir. That particular state is not yet ripe for the same sort of integration as has taken place in the case of other states. It is the hope of everybody here that in due course even Jammu and Kashmir will become ripe for the same sort of integration."


The Constituent Assembly debates record that Ayyangar's above declaration, that in course of time, Jammu and Kashmir would be brought in line with other states, was greeted with cheers.


Ayyangar then went on to explain why the state was allowed to remain an exception for some time. "In the first place," he said, "there has been a war going on within the limits of Jammu and Kashmir state." Also, he added, "We are entangled with the United Nations in regard to Jammu and Kashmir state, and it is not possible to say now when we shall be free from this entanglement."


Thus, it is very clear from the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly that the special status given to Jammu and Kashmir state under Article 370 was only in the nature of an interim arrangement. The rationale was Pakistan's invasion, and the UN dimension. This article had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority state, the argument that is being advanced today to condemn our demand for its abrogation.


Immediately after the death of Dr Mookerjee in Srinagar where he had been detained, the nationwide anger that erupted made the government take a few positive steps in quick succession. The permit system that existed to allow entry into Jammu and Kashmir, and for whose violation Dr Mookerjee had been jailed was scrapped. In course of time, the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, of the Election Commission, and the Comptroller and Auditor General also were extended to the state.


Whenever Shri Vajpayee raised the issue of Article 370 in Parliament, Pandit Nehru would invariably reply that a gradual erosion of the article was taking place, and in course of time the article would go. Early in 1964, a discussion took place in UN Security Council in which, on behalf of Pakistan, Z.A. Bhutto argued that the "Security Council should interdict India from carrying on further integration." Soon after, the minister of education, M.C. Chagla made an excellent speech in the Rajya Sabha (February 24, 1964) in the course of which he made this very pertinent observation about Article 370:


"The prime minister (Jawaharlal Nehru) the other day spoke of the gradual erosion of Article 370 of the Constitution. I only hope that the erosion is accelerated and I also hope that very soon the article will disappear from the Constitution of India. After all, it is transitional and temporary. I think the transitional period has been long enough."


As one who had ably represented India's case on Kashmir in many an acrimonious debate at the UN, Chagla's exasperation was understandable. After all, 14 years had elapsed since the adoption of the Constitution, and yet this temporary article relating to Jammu and Kashmir state continued to sully the Constitution, suggesting that Kashmir was still a disputed matter. Yet another 46 years have flit by since Chagla made these remarks. Not only has the transitional period still not ended, today any Chagla merely suggesting that the temporary article be repealed, runs the risk of being characterised as communal and reactionary!


The writer is former deputy prime minister and a senior BJP leader








 The showdown between the Indian government and Research in Motion, the Canadian company behind the BlackBerry service has reached a crescendo. Indian security agencies have always been leery of BlackBerry's walled garden approach. But after the UAE, Saudi Arabia and now Lebanon announced a ban on BlackBerry services, the Indian government seems to have been galvanised into action.


Is there really a security risk with the BlackBerry or is the government over-reacting? There are many ways to access email with your mobile device. Most smartphones are designed to integrate the mobile device with the office network. To the server, the smartphone appears as just another computer which can pull emails from the server and users read emails on their phones in much the same way as they do on their laptops. The BlackBerry service, on the other hand, is designed so that all data sent by a BlackBerry device is compressed to a fraction of its original size before being sent to vast RIM server farms in Canada. These servers connect to individual BlackBerries using a "push" technology that allows email messages to reach the recipient device almost as soon as it hits the Canadian server. The compression also ensures that the message is encrypted, imparting, in addition to rock-steady reliability, an unparalleled privacy in email communication.


Now, while privacy is good — perhaps even necessary for the legitimate business user — it is a nightmare for law enforcement agencies constantly locking horns with tech-savvy terrorists. The inability to read email exchanges between individuals plotting anti-national activity is often the difference between preventing a crime and getting there too late.


Under Indian telecom licenses, the government has the right to require telcos to allow the government access to their networks. However, interception is of little use if the message being intercepted is itself encrypted. The encryption algorithms used by BlackBerries are designed to withstand decryption attempts by super-computers. Which is why the Indian government wants RIM to part with its encryption keys.


Even if RIM does agree to do this, of itself, this will not solve the problem. Even if the government has access to encryption keys in respect of all retail customers, it would still be unable to access emails sent from corporate BlackBerry accounts. Enterprise customers can buy their own BlackBerry servers with advanced security features. These private BlackBerry servers have their own encryption keys, over which RIM has no access, in order to assure customers that no one outside their organisation have access to their email. It is currently impossible for RIM to provide the government access to the many thousands of keys already issued to enterprise customers even if a decision is taken to do so going forward.


There is a third service that is potentially even more dangerous from a law enforcement perspective — BlackBerry Messenger. Anyone who has a BlackBerry device can share their PIN with any other BlackBerry owner and send messages between their respective devices instantly and without charge. This extremely popular application has a huge following in the Blackberry universe, but since it enables instant messaging, has real time implications for law enforcement.


There is little doubt that the fears of Indian law enforcement agencies are well founded. But practically, is there anything one can do about it?


The BlackBerry service provides an encrypted solution that protects customer emails without the need for customers to implement complex settings. However, encryption technology, of the high level used by the BlackBerry service, is not the exclusive preserve of RIM. Anyone with even moderate computer skills would be able to implement the same level of encryption to cloak email passing between personal computers or other mobile devices. It will be relatively easy for a terrorist armed with such devices and using the normal 3G or GPRS data connectivity to ensure that their messages are impossible to read, even if intercepted. What then will the government do next — ban all connected mobile devices? While there is every need to be vigilant and to constantly evolve our defences, we must be rational and measured in our reactions. There is a fine line between precaution and paranoia.


The writer is a Bangalore-based lawyer








 In his piece, 'The power of one' (IE, July 31), Shekhar Gupta has highlighted the role of heroes in public service. When he argues that all it takes to transform an institution is one person with no past and no greed for the future, he is seeking people who will emerge from anonymity to perform the necessary act of heroism, and then disappear into noble obscurity.


He has cited the examples of T.N. Seshan and J.M. Lyngdoh as election commissioners, and how they built and ensured the credibility and impartiality of the election commission. Certainly, the country owes them an enormous debt of gratitude. At the same time, one should not overlook the way the executive has tried to ensure that there will be no future Seshans, by expanding the commission into a three-person body, and making sure that no chief election commissioner gets a long enough term to strengthen the commission further.


The same is true of our Supreme Court. While the US has had 17 chief justices in 221 years of its history, India has seen 36 chief justices in 63 years since Independence, with an average tenure of a mere 21 months. The tenures of secretaries to the government, chiefs of armed forces, and heads of departments have progressively shrunk to ensure that the chances of an incumbent attempting radical reforms in the institution he is in charge of, is minimal. The generalist philosophy of our administrative culture ensures that in a majority of cases, by the time the office-holder learns the intricacies of his job, it will be time for him/her to retire. The entire Indian political, administrative and judicial system has been structured to maintain the status quo.


When T.N. Seshan and James Lyngdoh were appointed chief election commissioner and member of the three-person election commission respectively, the calculations of the powers-that-be, based on their past records could not have been that they would carry out their tasks in the spirit and style they did. T.N. Seshan had been defence secretary and cabinet secretary and was known for his loyalty to Rajiv Gandhi. Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar appointed him on the recommendation of Rajiv Gandhi. When he took charge of the election commission, he was a pillar of the establishment. He was an ambitious, brilliant, hard-working civil servant who reached the top of the hierarchy as an efficient manager, not an innovator. He was known for his loyalty to the current boss, assertiveness in his dealings with colleagues and his reputation of being a hard taskmaster to his subordinates. For the first time, as chief election commissioner, he found himself with the Constitution as his boss and not a bureaucrat or politician. It was a case of the man and the moment coming together to produce a beneficial result for the nation.


James Lyngdoh reached the top of his career as a civil servant as secretary (co-ordination) in the cabinet secretariat, not a highly fancied post among IAS officers. That would indicate that he was not a high-flier as a civil servant. Whatever the reasons for his appointment, perhaps nobody expected his stubborn streak and his capacity to resist bullying. As election commissioner, he was his normal self, but refused to budge to political pressure.


This interpretation of the personalities and roles of the two election commissioners is not intended to diminish the sterling roles they played. But election commissioners and the judiciary operate in constitutional enclaves which provide them a splendid autonomy, and which these two officers used creatively.


The posts of central vigilance commissioner and director of the Delhi Special Police Establishment, to call the CBI by its appropriate name, do not enjoy that constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy. The enactment governing the CVC clarifies the limits of his supervisory functions. The CBI is not under the administrative control of the CVC but of the department of personnel. While the Central government preaches to the state governments to reform the police and make crime investigation autonomous, the Centre itself has not shown any inclination to make the CBI autonomous. A single person without any past and no greed for the future can follow the Seshan-Lyngdoh model only when the CVC and CBI become constitutionally, or at least legally endowed autonomous enclaves.


Let us look at the irony of the situation today.That qualification of a man without a past and one without any greed about the future will not fit anyone more aptly than our prime minister, Manmohan Singh. Is he able to make the office of the prime minister what he himself would like it to be? He had to threaten to resign to get his way on the Indo-US nuclear deal, a threat he cannot hold up for every issue he wants to promote. As an accidental PM with no career in the party, his powers and ability to innovate are circumscribed. It is highly doubtful, if he had risen through the party hierarchy, whether he would have still been a man without a past or greed for the future.


We have the examples of Khrushchev, Gorbachev and P.V. Narasimha Rao as men who rose to the top because they played a very conformist role vis-a-vis their leadership, and concealed their individual views to advance in the party as useful and efficient tools of the leadership. If they had exhibited any signs of independent thinking, the leadership would have parked them somewhere on the wayside. The same fate overtakes non-conformists in the bureaucracy and armed forces and any other large organisational structure. But these three were not men without a past. They had many IOUs to discharge. They ended up without a future not because they had no greed, but because but they lost their fight with the system.


In spite of all this, there is no denying that the role of the individual is very important in day-to-day good governance. An index of good governance is the average tenure of people in important offices. Shuffling people in high offices and ensuring they do not stay long enough to assert their autonomy is the surest way of ensuring centralisation and stunting institutions. That is the state of Indian misgovernance today.


The writer is a senior defence analyst









RBI governor D Subbarao made out a strong case against inflation-targeting at the CD Deshmukh Memorial Lecture in Hyderabad on Thursday. Some of the points he laid out in favour of his case are reasonable enough. Inflation in India is indeed often driven by supply-side factors—the recent spell of persistent food inflation being a prime example—and monetary policy is not the best way to tackle this type of inflation. A second point about the faulty inflation indexes we continue to use in India is also valid—should RBI be targeting WPI or CPI, both of which often diverge by some margin? But while both these factors make the practical task of inflation-targeting harder than in other economies, they aren't enough of a basis for dismissing inflation-targeting altogether. In fact, these constraints to inflation-targeting are a rather weak basis for the governor's preferred alternative—to maintain price stability, output stability and financial stability all at the same time. While that may not sound impossible superficially, it does become impossible when you consider the often forgotten axiom of the impossible trinity of macroeconomics.


Governor Subbarao believes, and he has expressed this on more than one occasion, that India's central bank has little choice but to manage the impossible trinity of free capital flows, an autonomous monetary policy and a managed exchange rate. At times, it may even be possible to do a juggling act between the three. But over a longer term, no central banker has been able to tame the impossible trinity—one of the three goals has to give. RBI, it would seem, prefers the prospect of restricting capital flows if that is needed to protect the setting of an independent monetary policy and managing the exchange rate—the central bank has been receptive to discussions on a Tobin Tax. On the other hand, not much serious thought seems to have been given to abandoning the management of the exchange rate instead. Imposing more restrictions on capital flows, especially when there is a surge that puts pressure on the exchange rate, is simply inefficient and likely to deter capital flows that are important for the country. On the other hand, RBI must be more willing to let the currency appreciate when the pressure is on—that often helps the battle against economy-wide inflation, even if it distresses a narrow interest group of exporters. It seems obvious enough whose side RBI ought to be on.







Even when the US economy has been taking knocks left, right and centre, it clearly remains a haven for interesting ideas. Overlaying entrepreneurial capitalism with philanthropy is not exactly a new idea but there is no denying that Messrs Gates and Buffett have dynamically reinvented it. At a secret meeting in May 2009, they met up with selected fellow billionaires like David Rockefeller and Oprah Winfrey. Some dinners across New York and San Francisco later, they came up with the idea of a Giving Pledge. This is not a legal contract but a moral commitment pledging that the participants would give away at least half of their fortunes, either in their lifetimes or after their death. As of this week, 40 US billionaires have signed on. The Pledge is critically timed. Not only has big business gotten really bad press through the global economic crisis, philanthropic donations have seen their deepest declines since 1956, as per the Giving USA Foundation. Meanwhile, spending by the rich has become increasingly central to the US economy. A new research suggests that the richest 5% of Americans now account for 37% of all consumer outlays. In short, the US is poised at a tipping point; Messrs Gates's and Buffett's intervention is significant on more than one count.


Such an intervention inevitably attracts some cynicism. Celebrities like Bono would be more than familiar with such cynicism. It is the siamese relative of all celebrity philanthropy. The case of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett is slightly dissimilar insofar as they are businesspersons. They also have to tackle attacks along the following lines: wouldn't their dollars do the world more good when invested in economy-enhancing business concepts rather than just given away? For an answer, flip back to earlier chapters on US benignity. One of the Rockefellers coined the phrase 'venture philanthropy' back in the 1960s. Remember, this family, apart from vast endowments directly benefiting the US, has spread its largesse across the world and humanity. Think penicillin and the dwarf wheat. A good philanthropist shares his hat with your usual venture capitalist: backing schemes that appear worth the odds, backing out of the ones that appear to be losing the odds. Good management is key. Balance sheets are not immaterial. The question is where are India's philanthropists? The answer is, most of them are still calculating the odds. Ponderous beings, they haven't jumped into the fray yet.








On Friday, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia put into effect a ban on the use of the messenger services on the BlackBerry smartphones. This ban follows closely on the UAE's decision to similarly pull the plug on a wider range of BlackBerry features, including the bread-and-butter e-mail and mobile applications. These decisions, which have been met with worldwide dismay and condemnation, are believed to stem from the refusal of Research In Motion (RIM), maker of BlackBerry, to allow these governments access to the large volumes of encrypted data that flow through RIM's servers. An additional level of frustration for these and other countries' governments is that RIM's servers are based in Canada, which effectively puts them beyond the reach of their jurisdiction.


In an era of increasing threat from terrorist and criminal activity, law enforcement and national security agencies of every government in the world are looking for ways to ensure that every sliver of information that is even remotely related to potential threats is identified and tracked. As these countries go about enacting laws that give their government agencies increasingly wide-ranging surveillance powers, services such as BlackBerry, which hang their hats on their exceptional security measures, come as a major hurdle to effectively executing these surveillance mandates.


BlackBerry's communication is protected by 256-bit encryption, which is quite a stiff ask for any external hacker to break down purely through brute force methods, and even more sophisticated technologies can take quite a bit of time. When the Indian government first asked RIM for access to their encrypted data, it was accompanied by another—extremely amusing—request, to use a lower grade encryption so that they could snoop on the data without RIM's active support. What this means is that governments will have to receive decryption keys from RIM to unlock the data, because it's too difficult to do it on their own.


There are two distinct aspects to BlackBerry operations—the enterprise and the consumer. While in both cases, RIM's communication servers are the backbone of the service, and its encryption, there is one additional layer in the case of the enterprise environment. This is the authentication system that lies in the BlackBerry Enterprise Server that is deployed by enterprises to manage their e-mail and communications on wireless networks. All e-mail traffic for enterprise users is mediated through the Enterprise Server before it reaches RIM, which receives the plaintext, or unencrypted, data and uses a combination of a public (server-generated) key and a private (BlackBerry PIN) key. This ensures that only the recipient device can decrypt and read the data that is sent through.


In the case of BlackBerry Messenger, a peer-to-peer messaging system, encryption is done using a common system shared across all devices. This system is routed entirely through RIM's servers, regardless of enterprise or customer use. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Lebanon, the Blackberry Messenger is an extremely popular communication tool and cuts across large cross-sections of users, and is particularly secure because it is mediated through RIM's offshore servers only. While this keeps users happy that the snoops are out of their business, it makes governments nervous, as is evident in the Middle East.


However, security experts such as Bruce Schneier suggest that there is nothing unusual about the requests made by the Middle Eastern countries; they are only asking RIM to give them what they already provide to other governments. RIM has agreed to give American authorities data, provided there is a court order accompanying the request. In China and Russia, RIM has agreements with both governments on data sharing, although they are tight-lipped about the details. In India, the dispute between RIM and the government dissipated without warning. These examples and others lead to the speculation that RIM is being disingenuous when it claims that it has no access to the decryption keys for the data it hosts.


International security scenarios are forcing governments to compromise citizens' privacy rights in order to keep them safe, while businesses such as RIM have no such luxury as they jostle for elbow room in a very crowded marketplace. In doing so, they are also forced to deal with the complex and sometimes draconian legal frameworks of the countries in which they operate, and will have to choose between keeping their customers or being kicked out of these countries. RIM has found ways to stay in business, but whether it has been completely honest with its users is questionable. Meanwhile, the stare-off is under way in the Middle East, and while RIM has blinked first in other markets, what will happen in this case remains to be seen, and the result could well determine a cascade of similar events across the world.


—The author, a digital marketing professional since 2004, is now part of Microsoft Advertising's India team








It is not going to be easy for foreign companies having permanent establishments (PE) in India to say a quick adios to their Indian ties, since the taxman seems to be in a mood to hold on to them. A case in point is a recent ruling of the Mumbai tax tribunal, in which the assessee, a foreign company, had chartered out its rig to an Indian company for use in Indian waters. The assessee had all along claimed depreciation on the rig and offered its net income to tax in India. The assessee terminated its charter contract and informed the tax authorities that it had discontinued its Indian business. Subsequently, it filed a tax return declaring 'nil income' for the year, neither offering tax on the gains arising on sale of rig nor disclosing the facts thereof. Tax authorities held that the gains arising from aforesaid sale would be subject to tax in India.


The assessee contended that once the rig moved out of Indian territorial waters, its taxability ceased. Also, as the sale of rig took place outside India, it was not liable to taxation in India. However, the tribunal held that capital gains arising from sale of rig would be subject to tax in India under both the Income Tax Act, 1961, as well as under the relevant India Mauritius tax treaty. The tribunal observed that a PE and its assets are to be treated as independent of the foreign entity under the Act. In this particular case, the income generated from the chartering of the rig and thus the profits on sale of PE assets have to be treated as PE's profits (accruing in India), irrespective of their region of sale.


This view if commonly adopted by the tax authorities in future, would represent a major shift in the scheme of taxation of foreign companies in India. However, one must not forget that the tribunals or any court for that matter render their ruling on the factual matrix presented before them. And given the peculiar facts in the current case, door would always be open for challenging and distinguishing the aforesaid ruling of the tribunal.


Shailesh Monani is executive director, PwC. This article is co-authored with Gaurish Zaoba, assistant manager, PwC








It is tempting to see the upsurge in Jammu and Kashmir as a return to the early 1990s, to the black, scary days when Srinagar crowds chanted "Azaadi, azaadi", and when veterans of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan, fresh from their defeat of a superpower, decided to make India's most troubled province their new theatre.


Superficially, things may seem to be slipping to the same low. Yet, there is an ocean of difference between 1990 and 2010. Broad international opinion is far more in India's favour than it was 15-20 years ago. After 9/11, even the vestigial support for an independent Kashmir, decoupled from the Indian Republic, has died down in policy circles in Washington, DC, and other major capitals.


There is a realisation that a notionally free Kashmir, even one with sovereignty shared between India and Pakistan, would be a non-starter and inevitably become a sanctuary for the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its Islamist blood brothers. In the words of one analyst, "It would resemble a small-scale Taliban-ruled Afghanistan."


That aside, the revolt of 1990 was the result of pan-Kashmiri anger and a coalition between Kashmiri nationalist (as opposed to Islamist) groups such as the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and the rising dominance of the religious extremists, many of them schooled at madrassas in Pakistan. Adding to the mix were transnational jihadists, just out of Afghanistan. In the 1990s, Indian security forces took on not just Kashmiri and Punjabi militia, but even fighters with origins in Yemen or Central Asia.


The current situation is far removed. There is no concentrated military assault of the sort seen in the early 1990s. India has benefited because the Greater Jihad is being fought in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan; Kashmir is very much the Lesser Jihad. The nature of the challenge is more domestic, with strategic inputs from sections in Pakistan.


As opposed to 1990, today's crowds are urban (Srinagar) Sunni Muslims. The Shia community is not part of the movement; there are indications that even rural Kashmir is quiet. On the other hand, the Kashmiri nationalist element of this throng has been completely effaced by the pan-Islamist element. Far from an independent status for Kashmir, those instigating the protests have a strategic goal of merger with Pakistan.


The tactics have also evolved. After a certain Tuesday in September 2001, the world has become extremely uncomfortable with a combination of religious mobilisation and armed activism. That is why for about two years now—since the Amarnath yatra land transfer protests of 2008—the hard-line separatist leadership has promoted 'civil disobedience' as the weapon of choice. In its most extreme form, it has resorted to stone throwing and a Kashmiri version of the intifada.


In the first phase of the ongoing unrest in Srinagar, the crowds played by the script. There was stone throwing but otherwise non-violent protest. The security forces responded with guns and muscle. The consequence was a PR disaster for the Indian state. In the second phase, the crowds have broken the rules. There have been targeted attacks, arson and physical violence against police officers.


The call by Syed Ali Geelani, seen as a hawk and the most pro-Pakistani of the Kashmiri Islamist leaders in the Valley, to eschew arson and stone assaults and to adhere to sit-ins and civilised protest has to be seen in this light. He has two worries. First, the crowds are going out of control and not modulating their activism as per his wishes. Second, the protests people like Geelani triggered have acquired a momentum of their own. The street leadership is moving towards hotheads rather than hypocritical and cynical but otherwise structured political practitioners.


This also leaves the Indian government in a quandary. The crowds in Srinagar have no obvious leadership. Geelani is trying to pretend they listen to him; Mehbooba Mufti Sayeed of the People's Democratic Party is hoping to emerge as their spokesperson; chief minister Omar Abdullah of the National Conference is attempting to salvage his crumbling administrative credibility. For the moment, none of them can really claim to speak for the mob.


This makes well-meaning suggestions such as "the government must negotiate, it must talk" meaningless. Who does the government talk to? How can it negotiate with a crowd without a viable political agenda, a feasible ask and a formal political infrastructure?


Not that New Delhi is blameless. The period since 2002 has seen the two fairest assembly elections in Kashmir's history. It has seen sections of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference (widely considered the political arm of Kashmir's militancy-separatist complex) being willing to sit down with the Union government's representatives. Unfortunately, the UPA government wasted numerous opportunities. Now it must wait it out—as India has in earlier, more testing times in the Valley—before it thinks of a political package.


—The author is a political columnist








Iraqi insurgents have reacted to President Obama's talk of a "responsible end" to the Iraq war by killing 26 people in a day's attacks across Baghdad and the eastern city of Kut. The attacks cause serious problems for Mr. Obama's purported reduction of U.S. troop numbers to 50,000 by August 31 and for his long-term intentions. First, insurgents are widely thought to be regrouping around several Iraqi cities in preparation for the latest round of U.S. withdrawals. Secondly, Iraq's politicians are yet to form a coalition government, nearly five months after the general election. Thirdly, Washington's talk of reduction covers only combat troops and conceals the fact that the U.S. will maintain a network of gigantic bases in Iraq. The one at Balad, about 100 km north of Baghdad, can house 20,000 personnel; it covers 40 sq km and has an internal bus service and the usual American facilities. Inside, U.S. law applies and staff need not even set foot outside. The Al Asad base, 160 km west of Baghdad, holds 17,000 troops; one of its runways is 4.26 km long. The base is to be connected to the national electricity grid. Other U.S. stations in Iraq include Camp Falcon-al-Sarq at Baghdad, and Camp Victory near Baghdad International Airport, which can take 14,000 troops. The plan is apparently to maintain 70,000 troops and 200,000 contractors, or mercenaries by any other name, in Iraq.


The terms "enduring bases" and "permanent access" do more than evade the Congressional ban on permanent bases in foreign countries. The creation of such huge outposts in Iraq is entirely consistent with the Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Defense Strategy, both of which in effect put U.S. interests above the sovereignty or independence of other states. The possible counter that the Philippine Senate closed Clark Field and Subic Bay after nearly a century of U.S. tenure is negated by the subsequent Visiting Forces Agreement, under which Washington continues as before. In Iraq, the key document is the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed between the U.S. and the then government in Baghdad. The Iraqi cabinet passed the agreement, but the ratifying referendum was postponed twice. It was then planned for March 2010 but nothing happened. So SOFA is de facto Iraqi law, despite being signed by a puppet regime in a country occupied and controlled by the U.S. According to one critic, instead of building the bases to wage war, the U.S. has waged war to build the bases. Noam Chomsky, for his part, calls the bases an empire, meaning they are not for U.S. security but for global dominance. In this, the Obama administration is indistinguishable from its infamous predecessor.







The planned introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from April 1, 2011, was not expected to be smooth even though until very recently there were many reasons to be optimistic. By the end of July it seemed that the pragmatism displayed by the Centre matched by a conciliatory stance of most States would be able to deliver the most significant indirect tax reform on time. There have been, to be sure, some significant compromises by both the Centre and the States. The Centre which just six months ago had favoured a single tax rate over a wide base with very few exemptions and a relatively low tax threshold yielded considerable ground and more or less embraced the recommendations of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers. A consensus was reached on key aspects of the GST: a dual structure comprising a Central GST and a State GST; and three separate rates to converge over a three year period into a single GST. The Finance Minister also promised to compensate the States for possible revenue losses. To assuage States' concerns over loss of financial autonomy, it was also decided to leave out petro products and electricity from the ambit of the GST. The Centre however stuck to its stated position of a lower and uniform exemption limit of Rs.10 lakh for both goods and services, while the States wanted a higher exemption threshold of Rs.1.5 crore for goods.


All these have shortened the odds, but it is clear that several major obstacles will still remain. High up in the list is the difficult task of restructuring the legal architecture to pave the way for the GST. Constitutional amendments are required that would, among others, enable the Centre to tax goods outside the factory gate and the States to levy a service tax. New institutional arrangements such as a GST Council and a GST Dispute Authority have to be put in place. Unfortunately the draft constitutional amendments circulated by the Centre are not acceptable to many States. A specific provision that confers veto powers to the Finance Minister even on matters relating to the State GST has been opposed. While an agreement is still possible, it is unlikely that the required constitutional amendments which require the support of two-thirds of the members present and voting in both Houses of Parliament and ratification by at least 15 States can be pushed through in time for the scheduled launch. It is certain that the States' opposition to the constitutional amendments is rooted in their lingering concern over loss of fiscal autonomy. The Centre should do all that it can to assuage their genuine concerns.










In 1798, Thomas Robert Malthus offered the piercing insight that geometric population growth would inevitably outstrip food production, leaving society destitute and hungry. Since that time, our optimism of beating the "Malthusian curse" has waxed and waned. Few people in modern history have done more to help humanity surmount the Malthusian challenge than Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, whose brilliant essays describe the complexity of the problems that humanity faces in ensuring a permanent and ecologically sustainable escape from hunger.


Perhaps the sustainability challenge truly is a conundrum that fits into the famous category: "If you are not thoroughly confused by now, you just don't understand the problem." The more one thinks about the sustainability puzzle, the more one sees both sides of the debate, and indeed the more difficult it becomes to predict the future. But that is really Swaminathan's consistent point that rather than predicting the future, it's our job to shape it. And if we try, we can indeed overcome the Malthusian scourge. Swaminathan powerfully points the way forward.


The unswerving pessimists — those who believe that the world is condemned to hunger and environmental ruin — are surely wrong. Population growth can be slowed through voluntary means, as has already occurred through much of the world. Moreover, food production can be increased dramatically, as India proved in its world-changing Green Revolution of the mid-1960s, an agronomic success so dramatic that it quickly spread throughout much of the world in the 1970s and 1980s. The Green Revolution was most importantly the handiwork of two visionaries, Dr. Swaminathan, of course, and Dr. Norman Borlaug. Swaminathan and Borlaug were empowered by dynamic Indian politicians (notably the Union Agriculture Minister, Chidambaram Subramaniam), the U.S. Government, and the Ford Foundation and Rockefeller Foundations. This group effort epitomises the kind of global scientific-government-philanthropic partnership that is needed to tackle the complex challenges of sustainability. Today, we would add the private sector as another major partner and stakeholder.


The unswerving optimists — those who believe that technological advance will inevitably solve the problems of hunger and environment — are also surely wrong. Economists generally believe that ingenuity, mainly embodied in technology, will save the day: if food becomes scarce, its price will rise, and this will stimulate innovation and boost farm productivity. The optimists believe that the history of food productivity since Malthus's time proves their optimism. Yet excessive optimism is naïve, even dangerous. First, unless we are proactive, hundreds of millions of people can suffer from deep hunger, and often an early death, before the requisite productivity increases take hold. Second, the great agronomic successes since Malthus' time, including the Green Revolution itself, have come at huge and sometime irreversible environmental costs. Even with all our technological wizardry, we have not yet conquered the Malthusian challenge since we have not yet adopted a truly sustainable method of feeding the planet.


Much of our "conquest" of the Malthusian challenge is a temporary stopgap, not yet an ultimate solution. Consider, for example, the role of nitrogen-based chemical fertilizer, one of mankind's greatest inventions for raising food output. The world's farmers are now putting on so much nitrogen-based fertilizer that our lakes, rivers, and estuaries are becoming poisoned by excessive nitrogen (and phosphorus) runoff, leading to eutrophication, marine dead zones, and the massive destruction of vulnerable and vital marine ecosystems. Moreover, the nitrogen inputs, while essential for food production, are also a source of nitrous oxide emissions, one of the three main greenhouse gases leading to manmade climate change.


More generally, the intensification of agriculture has come with a massive set of global headaches. Around the world, there is pervasive deforestation to make room for new pastureland and arable land. There is a massive over-consumption of fresh-water from underground aquifers and by water diversions of tens of thousands of large dams. There are massive greenhouse gas emissions associated not only with nitrogen, but also with deforestation, methane from rice paddies and ruminant livestock, and the energy inputs into agricultural production. Remarkably, around one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions can be traced back to the agriculture sector. In addition, agricultural practices such as monoculture production are leading to reduced biodiversity, a loss of genetic diversity, and a vulnerability to new pests and invasive species. The crowded conditions of farm animals reared for "industrial" meat production is probably contributing to more frequent and dangerous recombinant pathogens such as the new H1N1 virus.


Complexity and unsolved problems are therefore at the very heart of the sustainability challenge, and the very heart of Swaminathan's thinking and essays. We have no better guide in the world than Swaminathan through this thicket of issues. He is an exemplary scientist, statesman, humanist, and ethicist, and brings a lifetime of experience to these issues that is unique in its scope, achievements, and breadth of engagement.


The first thing that we learn from Swaminathan is that he recognised already in the early days of India's Green Revolution that the new breakthroughs could create major new ecological problems if not properly managed. Here is how he describes the advice he gave to farmers as early as 1968:


In order to ensure that a productivity-based agriculture does not result in ecological harm due to the unsustainable exploitation of land and water, adoption of mono-culture and excessive use of mineral fertilizers and chemical pesticides, he appealed to farmers in January 1968 not to harm the long-term production potential for short-term gains. He pleaded for converting the green revolution into an ever-green revolution by mainstreaming principles of ecology in technology development and dissemination. Further, he pleaded for avoiding the temptation to convert the green revolution into a greed revolution. Unfortunately, ecologically unsound public policies, like the supply of free electricity, have led to the over-exploitation of the aquifer in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh region. The heartland of the green revolution is in deep ecological distress. The need for adopting the methods of an ever-green revolution has therefore become very urgent.


Swaminathan has in multifaceted ways explained the key components of an ecologically sound, ever-green revolution. The lesson throughout is to apply systems thinking, that is, to consider the problem of food production holistically. The food sector is a livelihood, a source of survival, the key to nutrition, and an ever-present challenge to ecosystem health. It is also a repository of cultural knowledge, cutting-edge technology, and sometimes of bitter political conflict.


Swaminathan's wisdom is not readily summarised, but still it may be useful to highlight some of the many important messages he has tried to spread.


•Ecologically sound management requires holistic (systems) thinking and community-based approaches, emphasising site specific strategies aligned with ecology and culture.


•New institutions are needed. Our institutions must evolve with changing circumstances.


•Progress will be achieved by marrying cutting-edge technology — including in genetics, information and communications technology (ICT), and ecotechnology — with indigenous and traditional knowledge.

•Demonstration or pilot projects at the village level can provide invaluable lessons, inspiration, and guidance for complex management challenges.


•Ecological management is multi-faceted, including soil nutrients (macro and micro, just as with human needs), water harvesting, biodiversity conservation, and the integration of climate science and forecasting.


•Special efforts are needed to promote the yields of rain-fed agriculture.


•There are untapped reserves of food potential in Eastern India, where water is plentiful but scientific management of local resources has lagged.


•Public education and awareness are critical. Each community should be a Knowledge Centre, empowered by ICT and by trained local staff.


•Communities should plan systematically for climate and weather shocks, using scientifically based codes for droughts, floods, and other conditions.


•Communities vulnerable to droughts and floods should train and maintain water security managers to support the communities in anticipation of and response to hydro-meteorological shocks.


•The sciences of agronomy and nutrition should partner to make sure that locally produced foods also meet vital nutrition needs.


•Hunger itself is complex, multi-faceted, and best approached through a "life-cycle" perspective of human development and human needs.


•Sanitation should be brought into the hunger-nutrition mix, given the heavy costs of unsafe drinking water and water-borne diseases as co-factors in undernutrition.


•Free trade in agriculture can inflame poverty and environmental degradation unless proper care is taken to combine trade with government policies for the poor (such as microcredits), protection of indigenous knowledge, and infrastructure needed for cost competitiveness.


•Sustainability requires partnerships, among scientists, communities, governments, and other stakeholders.


•The job of sustainability is never completed. "Eternal vigilance is the price of stable agriculture."


Swaminathan brims with ideas, prescriptions, policy plans, and experiments. He knows that we can meet the great sustainability challenges ahead, but only through tremendous will, scientific knowledge, ethical commitment, and openness to partnerships and cooperation. It's a tall order, but Swaminathan has proved time and again that it can be done.


( Jeffrey Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The article is based on his foreword to the book, From Green to Ever-green Revolution, Academic Foundation , New Delhi, August 2010.)









We read with dismay Professor Noboru Karashima's requiem for the International Association of Tamil Research (IATR) in The Hindu of July 23, 2010. We were both Vice Chairmen of the World Classical Tamil Conference held at Coimbatore in June 2010 and we may narrate the circumstances that led to the Government of Tamil Nadu conducting the conference on its own.


IATR is an academic body established in 1964 and registered in Paris. It has a General Body, a Central Council, and an Executive Council. It has no funds or office of its own. It has been existing from conference to conference and has conducted eight conferences so far, the last one being at Thanjavur in 1995. All the conferences, excepting the one held at Paris, have been conducted with the active participation and funding of the government of the country concerned.


It is not true to say, as Professor Karashima has done in his article, that the second conference at Chennai in 1968 was a celebration of the DMK victory. In a democracy, the ruling party constitutes the government and its support to the conference cannot be described as politicisation.


The pattern for IATR conferences was well established during the second conference. It consisted of academic sessions strictly restricted to the delegates and general programmes outside and away from the academic sessions for the benefit of the public. The IATR conferences in Tamil Nadu have always had these two components in parallel sessions — an arrangement with which the academic scholars and the general public alike were happy.


In his article, Professor Karashima has harped on the IATR conferences in Tamil Nadu being politicised. May we in this regard quote from a letter written by Professor Stuart Blackburn, Department of Culture of South Asia, University of London, to Professor Karashima on April 6, 1999. It reads as follows: "I understand your reluctance to have another conference in Tamil Nadu. However, I thought that the Tanjore experience wasn't so bad; the politics was isolated from the papers and we shouldn't overlook the fact that by holding the conference in Tamil Nadu many of our Tamil Colleagues are able to attend; that is a very big advantage."


The separation of academic activities and the general programmes was more severe and strict in the recent World Classical Tamil Conference at Coimbatore.


Dr. V.C. Kulandaiswamy, in his letter of February 18, 1999, to Professor Karashima conveyed the invitation of the Government of Tamil Nadu to conduct the ninth conference. But Professor Karashima, in his letter dated March 10, 1999, declined the offer saying that he was not in favour of IATR conferences being held twice successively in Tamil Nadu. There was also his obsession with politicisation of the conferences held in Tamil Nadu.


The opportunity of holding a conference in 1999-2000 was also lost by the overly rigid stand taken by Professor Karashima on his own without consulting any of the office bearers. For 15 years after the conference at Thanjavur, IATR was hardly functioning and the office bearers were worried about its future. It was in this background that the offer was made by the Government of Tamil Nadu to host the ninth conference. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu himself wrote to Professor Karashima, seeking his support for the conference.


Among the four objections raised by Professor Karashima, three were settled and the only remaining issue was the timing. While he suggested December 2010 or January 2011, the Government of Tamil Nadu wanted to hold the conference at the end of June 2010 since State Assembly elections were due early in 2011. In any event, the difference of six months is too trivial an issue to turn down the offer of the government to the IATR to hold the conference.


Dr. Kulandaiswamy, as Vice President and also as President of the Executive Council, went to the extent of assuring Professor Karashima that we would be able to persuade the Tamil Nadu Government help IATR have its own building in Chennai, and also provide the necessary corpus fund for maintaining an office and conduct its research activities. Professor Karashima, in his reply to letters from Professor V.C. Kulandaiswamy and Dr. Iravatham Mahadevan, finally declared his unwillingness to accept the date proposed by the Tamil Nadu Government.


The question that one would naturally ask is: who authorised Professor Karashima to reject the offer of the Government of Tamil Nadu in the manner he had done? He did not convene a meeting of the Executive Council. He did not even consult the members of Central Council or the Members of the Executive Council. In fact, three of the four members of Executive Council and six of the nine surviving members of the Central Council pleaded with him in writing to accept the offer of Tamil Nadu. As President, he was bound by the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the office bearers. But he acted on his own.


In the above circumstances, Dr. Kulandaiswamy, in his capacity as Vice President and also as the President of the Executive Council, convened a meeting of IATR and obtained partly in person and partly in the form of written letters the support of six out of the nine members in the Central Council. He informed the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister that IATR had the mandate to hold the conference. However, the Chief Minister, after due consideration, expressed his unwillingness to associate IATR with the conference in the absence of unanimous support.


Consequently, the Government of Tamil Nadu went ahead and conducted the conference under the title, the World Classical Tamil Conference. One of the grandest of conferences ever conducted, it was attended by some of the tallest of research workers like Professors George Hart, Asko Parpola, Jaroslav Vacek, Alexander M. Dubyansky, and many others. IATR has lost the opportunity of hosting this conference due to the intransigence of its President.


Professor Karashima, in his characteristic way, declares that IATR has fulfilled its mission. It is not for the President, all by himself, to declare the virtual end of the international organisation he has been presiding over. It is but a confession on his part that after 15 years of inaction, he would not be able lead IATR in future.


Finally, we wish to recall the great contributions made by scholars like Professors V.I. Subramoniam, Jean Filliozat, and Fr. Thaninayagam, the founding fathers of IATR. They were also men of exceptional intellectual integrity and courage of conviction. They interacted with politicians, but managed to maintain the academic independence of IATR and built up its resources to serve the cause of Tamil studies. What we now need is not a 'new IATR' but a new leader at its helm, deeply committed to the cause of Tamil, sensitive to Tamil sentiments and aspirations, and with wise statesmanship. Given such leadership, the IATR will resurrect itself and play its historic role for the promotion of Tamil studies.










In the action-packed theatre of Afghanistan-Pakistan, or Af-Pak, the game keeps changing. That is one of the reasons why, in the wake of the WikiLeaks documents release story, analysts from New Delhi to Washington made two basic assumptions, and got both wrong.

The first assumption, widely written up, was that the release of the documents heralded the beginning of the end for international forces engaged in Afghanistan. Those who made the assumption dubbed Afghanistan the "unwinnable war". Some like American political analyst George Friedman said the 90,000-plus classified military cables and reports had made "the most powerful case yet for withdrawal". The assumption was also based on the fact that a pullout would be natural progression from the Kabul conference in London this January. At that conference Britain had pushed for talks with all the Taliban groups, a move the U.S. and Afghanistan seemed to support — with both endorsing Pakistan's stewardship of the process. With the Wiki-leaked documents showing on the one hand how badly the International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) operations in Afghanistan, particularly the southern offensives in Marjah, Helmand and Kandahar, were faring and on the other hand revealing the extent of the ISI's role in squiring the Taliban counter-offensives despite claims to the contrary, it seemed clear that the next step would be negotiating a cut-and-run from the mess.


But the message that came home this July was very different. A slew of American officials visiting New Delhi — beginning with NSA Jim Jones, followed by Af-Pak envoy Richard Holbrooke and backed up by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen — carried a three-pronged message: that the U.S. no longer saw July 2011 as a pullout or "drawdown" date. In fact, officials accompanying Mr. Holbrooke went on to say that it was merely the time the "surge" in U.S. troops, which is being completed this month, would be revaluated for effectiveness. And, that very few of the Taliban groups would be talked to as part of the reconciliation process but clearly, the solution to Afghanistan would be political and not military.


That message of a turnaround in thinking was bolstered by the dramatic row between the British and Pakistani leadership after Prime Minister David Cameron, reacting to the WikiLeaks release, accused Pakistan of "promoting the export of terror". It ended with ISI chief Shuja Pasha calling off his visit to London, Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari facing a cold reception when he reached the U.K., and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi summoning the British High Commissioner to Pakistan over what he called Mr. Cameron's "surprising" comments. Clearly the most surprising part was the reversal in the close working ties between London and Islamabad — remember, Britain was till then most encouraging of Pakistan's efforts to bring even the extreme Hekmatyar and Haqqani groups to the table for talks with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's government. The change, however, should have been evident in British Defence Secretary Liam Fox's speech at the Heritage Foundation in July, where he said a "premature pullout" and handing over of power to the Taliban "would be a shot in the arm to jihadists everywhere, re-energising violent, radical and extreme Islamism." Significantly, in that speech Mr. Fox made no mention of the reconciliation process.


Perhaps the turnaround that cut Islamabad the deepest was that of the Karzai government — the President's spokesman reacted immediately to the WikiLeaks revelations, saying the ISI-Taliban details only proved what Afghanistan had complained of for years. A few days later Mr. Karzai was tougher, asking why the ISAF was not considering bombing the insurgents in Pakistan directly. In Pakistan, the remarks were seen as betrayal, and certainly a far cry from the "conjoined-twins" analogy Mr. Karzai had proffered earlier in the year. Clearly, for Pakistan all the fluctuating reactions from Washington, London and Kabul between January and July, proved a lot can change in a month, a day and a Wiki!


The second erroneous assumption was the one made in India that the confirmation of ISI's virtual control of Taliban attacks targeting Indians in the WikiLeaks documents meant India should call off the dialogue process with Pakistan entirely. The assumption was strengthened when General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, who had been at the helm of the ISI during the critical 2004-2007 period mentioned in the leaked documents, was given a three-year extension as Army chief. But if anything, the WikiLeaks revelations prove how easily the dynamics on the ground change — not just in the Af-Pak context but also in the India-Pakistan one. In such a situation, New Delhi must remain as engaged as possible rather than disengage, and play its game with many of the original principles in place. At the top of those principles are its promises to the Afghan people to help reconstruct the torn nation and to not forget the consequences of allowing the Taliban back into government in Kabul — a subject South Block briefly showed an alarming degree of flexibility on. India needs a more direct role in Afghanistan that is not, as at present, contingent on the pleasure of the U.S. and the UK and the displeasure of Pakistan.


It is also time to work on a bigger template — one that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has often spoken of when justifying talks with Pakistan — that India cannot aspire to double-digit growth without coming to terms with its neighbours. The newly concluded Af-Pak transit trade agreement that seems to cut India out of the equation may, surprisingly, be a good place to start. To begin with, Pakistan has at least conceded permission for Afghan trucks to bring goods up to Wagah — this pertains not just to fruit and vegetables but also to India importing the considerable mineral reserves — iron ore, copper, lithium and gold — that will be the next great game in Afghanistan. Also of significance in that agreement is a "national treatment" clause insisted on by Afghan officials that gives Kabul the benefits from any future India-Pakistan trade treaty. In effect, any liberalisation in trade between New Delhi and Islamabad carries an added bonus in allowing New Delhi more access to Kabul, something Pakistan has denied India for years.


That kind of liberalisation may seem unthinkable at present, especially given the continuing bitterness over the Foreign Ministers' meeting, but it is certainly among the more doable options for those trying to work on the "trust-deficit". Had negotiations not gone off the rails at the Foreign Ministers' meeting, they were in fact going to propose a meeting of Commerce Secretaries in the next few months. Some in Pakistan, too, recognise that the economy is their second greatest threat — after the fear of Taliban-terror overrunning the country. Pakistan "needs to realise India is South Asia's anchor economy" says the former Pakistani Finance Minister, Shahid Javed Burki, even as he grades Pakistan "Asia's worst performing economy", with a GDP growth rate half that of Bangladesh and one-third of India, growing more dependent on international aid by the day.


As India looks at the constantly changing dynamics in its neighbourhood, recalibrating its approach will involve a much larger and more long-term version of the "great game". And, some flexibility in the "changing game". As economist John Keynes said famously, when asked about changing British monetary policy on the Great Depression: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"


(Suhasini Haidar is Deputy Foreign Editor, CNN-IBN.)









Pakistan has been doggedly pushing the demand that the additional chief judicial magistrate and the investigating officer in Mumbai who recorded the statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist taken alive in the course of the assault on Mumbai, appear before the Pakistani anti-terrorist court trying the half a dozen terrorism masterminds who orchestrated the attack. This plainly appears to be a device to enable the anti-terrorism court not to complete its labours. India has sent Pakistan authenticated copies of the statement in which Kasab has named the senior Lashkar-e-Tayyaba figures who planned and helped execute the Mumbai attack, and are undergoing trial in Rawalpindi. Why this should not suffice for the prosecution in Pakistan to do its work passes comprehension, unless that legal process has been wired not to succeed. It will be recalled that Pakistan had initially asked for Kasab to be cross-examined by its anti-terrorism court. It is inconceivable that any country in similar circumstances would accede to such an unprecedented request, especially when it comes from a jurisdiction such as Pakistan where the highest organs of state are internationally thought to be mixed up with extremism and terrorism. Appreciating eventually that Kasab's transfer to Pakistan was an impossibility, Islamabad came up with the demand that the senior Indian officials who recorded the killer's testimony appear before its judicial authorities. Whatever for, considering that an authenticated copy of the statement they recorded is already with Pakistan's anti-terrorism court? Given the context and background of Pakistani behaviour after Mumbai, and Pakistan's current stance, suspicion has only grown that Islamabad is not really interested in the Rawalpindi trial and is going through the motions through the proceedings of its anti-terrorism court. Remember, Islamabad had initially even denied that Kasab was Pakistani.

In the event India has signalled its willingness to Pakistan to let the two Mumbai officials communicate with the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi through the video-conferencing method provided the Bombay high court is agreeable. This is clearly a concession made in the broader interest of re-establishing normality. The Mumbai attack ruptured the composite dialogue process. In spite of strong domestic reservations, India has sought to return to a form of early contact in an effort to eliminate or narrow the "trust deficit" between the neighbours but requires Pakistan to prosecute those of its nationals who masterminded the 26/11 attack. To enable Islamabad to meet this condition (to which Pakistan has ostensibly agreed, although after much foot-dragging) the Indian authorities have gone the extra mile by contemplating judicial communication through video-conferencing. The Pakistani response would be watched with interest. But it should occasion no surprise if Islamabad says no to video-conferencing and insists that the two Mumbai officials appear in their anti-terrorism court. If that happens, India will know for sure that Pakistan's nominally civilian government — which operates in the heavy shadow of its military and intelligence establishment — is not interested in normalising relations, whatever it is obliged to say for the sake of record, or to placate international opinion.

The Manmohan Singh government has urged Pakistan foreign mi nister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to pay a return visit to India. It is evident, however, that these diplomatic niceties are up against a roa dblock. The recent report of the US Quadrennial Defense Re v i ew Independent Panel, a bipartisan congressional instrument, has officially raised the anxiety that Pakistan could be at risk of su­cc umbing to an Iranian-style theocratic revolution on account of the character of its military and intelligence establishment which co nsorts with jihadists. The prognosis is grim and we may hope th at it does not come to pass. But all things considered, it is pointless being starry-eyed about prospects of normality in the near term.








 "In 1905 Lenin asked 'What Is To Be Done?'

Long before him, Bachchoo asked 'How Can One Avoid Doing It?'"

From Biographia



Asif Ali Zardari, the President of Pakistan, has not cancelled his tour of Great Britain in the wake of David Cameron's blunt speaking on his own recent tour of India. Mr Cameron accused Pakistan of nurturing terror, exporting it and facing two ways when it came to the allied effort to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the notoriously open frontier between the two countries.

Some referred to the pronouncement as bold. It would have been much bolder if he had made such pronouncements in Islamabad. Indian audiences and the media take it as read (what the Americans and their pretentious imitators call a "no-brainer") that Pakistani groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba train terrorists and send them, for instance, to Mumbai with guns, grenades and explosives and maps marking hotels where the rich take their entertainment and rest and houses owned by Jewish sects.

Indians, with most of the civilised world, take it as self-evident that the Pakistani state did, and perhaps still does, finance, shelter, entertain, arm, nurture, protect and turn a blind eye to terrorist groups who operate from its soil to terrorise Kashmir or fight their jihad in Afghanistan. Neither is it any great secret that Pakistan, with the connivance and finance of the US, generated the Taliban to bring Islamic uniformity to the upheaval and anarchy that resulted from the (yes!) American-nurtured Muj ahideen war-lordism that butchered a reformist government and drove their supporting Soviet troops out. US policy created one chaos to replace the other they had nurtured.

but it will be generally accepted that Henry VIII had six.undeniable. One may quibble about the definition of "wives"This is history —

"facing both ways" allusion was not an accusation against the poor Zardari government. Everyone knows that the poor man holds his position as a licensee of the armed forces. They have ruled Pakistan for three quarters of the years of its existence and they permit civilians to hold elections and set up governments when it suits them. The Army, Navy and Air Force reserve real powers for themselves and their Inter-Services Intelligence (an official oxymoron?) had and possibly still has umbilical connections to the Taliban.Mr Cameron's
Mr Cameron was alluding to this paradoxical position when he spoke to his Indian audience. He wasn't telling them anything they didn't know.

Neither was he saying anything that the rest of the world, including Mr Zardari, his foreign minister and the outraged mobs that burnt effigies of Mr Cameron on the streets of Karachi, doesn't know. But should he have said it?

Should the child who noticed that the Emperor was walking down in state bollock-naked not have loudly announced the fact? No doubt the courtiers and some of the public that watched the parade and were full of praise for the monarch's outfit were outraged. They didn't burn effigies of the little boy but surely his parents berated him for his bad manners and for breaking the spell.

That is presumably what Mr Cameron set out to do. If the alliance of which Mr Cameron is now one of the chief leaders does not recognise that the West is fighting the wrong war in Afghanistan and has never publicly identified or characterised the enemy formation it faces, they will continue to be humiliated. The spell of unknowing had to be broken.

Why hasn't any British politician ventured to say what Mr Cameron has just begun to say? Because they are more cautious and experienced than the tyro Prime Minister? There is a political lobby in Britain that contents itself with pronouncing the new Prime Minister "naive".

They are wrong. Mr Cameron was not simply sucking up to the prejudice of his Indian hosts. He was not simply acting on the obvious — that India can be a senior trade and international policy partner and that in the immediate future Pakistan and Afghanistan are together a threat and a drain on life and money.

He didn't say it because he is naive, blundering and inexperienced. He said it because it's true and because he can! The reason he can is that his domestic constituency and that of the MPs of his Conservative Party is not reliant on the votes of the ex-Pakistani and ex-Bangladeshi immigrant population of Britain. The Labour Party to a significant extent and in key constituencies is reliant on the "Muslim" vote. This is the result of early immigration from Mirpur and Sylhet supplying labour for inherently working class towns and cities. Even if six per cent of the population of these mosque-and-redundant-mill towns is of immigrant extraction, victory at the ballot box can depend on their loyalty.

In the 1980s, when I worked for a bold and innovative national TV channel, one of the programmes in my remit investigated the constituency of Roy Hattersley who was then the deputy leader of the Labour Party. One organiser of the Labour Party, an immigrant of Pakistani extraction, persuaded that he was not being filmed and was speaking off the record, told the interviewer, "Of course, we fix the (internal Labour Party) vote for Hatterji sahib. We register hundreds of people under Muslim names as members and we pay their membership fees and add some houses and addresses onto each street".

won the support of whole Muslim constituencies.The Liberal Democrat Party, now in coalition with Mr Cameron's Conservatives, were the only major party to oppose the Iraq war and on that platform of opposition
To gain support by providing policies that sections of people want or trust is democracy in action and long may the mechanism operate. The point is that Mr Cameron's vote doesn't depend on these communities because they don't vote Tory and he and his advisors have realised that they needn't, unlike their opponents, suffer from that particular electoral inhibition.

That the democratic process itself allows the views of a minority to be overlooked, ignored or traduced is not a cause to celebrate. Except perhaps if the views of that minority support the burning of radical novels, the murder of writers, translators, cartoonists and filmmakers, the stoning of women accused of adultery, the bombing in the name of religion of innocents on trains and planes and denial of the fact that Pakistan has been the training ground for the leaders and activists of every group of mass murderers or would-be mass murderers apprehended, tried and jailed in Britain.








The law to protect whistleblowers may be finally here. As I write this, the Union Cabinet is supposed to be discussing the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill 2010, which has been on the agenda for years and almost made it to Parliament last year. The law would be a reassuring step towards proving our commitment to democratic freedoms. But it is far from enough.

First, let's see what the bill involves. It attempts to empower us to file complaints against corruption or make damning disclosures in the public interest against government employees. Any information on the misuse of public money or authority would constitute a public interest disclosure.

The bill also attempts to prevent disciplinary action against whistleblowers — in this case, those who expose corruption in government — by laying down penalties. The identity of the informer would not be revealed; if it is, their superiors would be held accountable.

Complaints are to be made to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which would have the powers of a civil court, including the power to order a police investigation and to provide security to the whistleblower. The CVC would not divulge the identity of the person filing the complaint.

But the public needs to have more information about the scope of the bill. We need to know, for example, if the law is applicable to the private sector, i.e. would it protect corporate whistleblowers? In the interest of fairness, it should also extend to non-governmental organisations. And within the public sector, would it restrict itself to government employees or apply — as it most certainly should — to the various contractors and subcontractors that the government so happily farms out work to? Would it apply to the armed forces, police and perhaps even the intelligence agencies — as long as it doesn't endanger lives and national security?

We have been talking of the crying need to protect whistleblowers since the death of Satyendra Dubey in 2003. Dubey, a project director with the National Highways Authority of India, had written to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee exposing rampant corruption in the construction of highways. Although he had requested that his identity be kept secret, his letter was openly tossed between various government departments, leaving him exposed and vulnerable. He was killed shortly thereafter.

Horrified media campaigns and a public outcry prompted the Supreme Court to get the government to issue the Public Interest Disclosures and Protection of Informers Resolution in 2004. It specified the CVC as the nodal agency for complaints. But not much changed. As was clear from the murder of Manjunath Shanmugham the next year. The sales manager of Indian Oil Corporation was murdered in late 2005 for opposing the petrol adulteration racket.

Murdering those who try to expose corruption continues to be a handy tool of corrupt officials and their criminal associates. Because there is no protection mechanism for those who dare to challenge the crooks. Of late, activists using the Right to Information (RTI) Act to expose such offences have been easy targets. In just the first seven months of this year, eight RTI activists have been murdered and dozens attacked around the country.

If RTI activists and other whistleblowers were protected, it would certainly encourage us to expose wrongs that harm our country, its people and the environment. And containing corruption is the first step to good governance. Most of our nation's ills — including sectarian violence, failure of poverty alleviation, lack of development — are a result of corruption and bad governance.

There are reservations about the bill. Some want it to be named The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill, instead of "Protection of Informers". Nobody likes a snitch and "informers" sound like police moles. Besides, specifying a timeframe for complaints may be used as an escape route by our clever bureaucrats and politicians. The bill states that no complaint will be probed if it is made 12 months after the petitioner got to know of it, or five years after the date of the alleged offence. These clauses need to go, say activists.

Besides, the CVC has its limitations. It was set up back in 1964 to help tackle corruption. Like the illustrious detective Remington Steele, it works freely and in an advisory capacity. Unlike Remington Steele, it is not fictitious, and is expected to look over a country of 1.1 billion real people. Also unlike Remington Steele, it is not an investigative agency and needs to depend (apart from its own officers) on government investigators like the police or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). So as long as the police and the CBI are under the thumb of politicians and bureaucrats, the CVC cannot really have a free hand.

Which leads us to suspect the level of protection that the CVC can offer whistleblowers standing up to powerful criminals. It is fine to say that people who take disciplinary action against the whistleblower would be penalised. But in our country the "disciplinary action" is often murder. People are frequently killed even under police protection. And when the stakes are high, perpetrators will do all they can to silence the whistleblower. Just a law won't do — we also need the infrastructure to implement it properly.

And some precautionary measures may be useful. For example, RTI activists or applicants who face death threats must not only be given protection but their allegations must be investigated as soon as possible, and the findings made public. Also, there should be a law that if a whistleblower dies — under even slightly suspicious circumstances — there must be an investigation into not just the death but all that he or she was in the process of unearthing. That way, murder would cease to be the chosen method of silencing the whistleblower.
In short, we desperately need a law to protect whistleblowers. But it better be effective. The only thing worse than not having a protective law is a law that offers the illusion of protection.


Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted








Philanthropy in the UK continues despite the recession — and we have just experienced it in Somerset with the local population (including Alexander Evelyn, the grandson of novelist Evelyn Waugh, the author of Brideshead Revisited) raising money to fund a school in India. This week we attended a literary festival for the fundraising and came away rejoicing that we could discuss serious issues, our own books and yet be able to collect money over a great meal, great wine and even greater yoga. I was thrilled to know that in that wonderful, pastoral and fabulous part of the world, we could still think of the deprived children back in India. The event was called "Indian Summer" and was organised by the marvellously talented author and Indophile, Charles Allen (presently writing a book on Ashoka). I was simply amazed to be there, and to discuss my book. My husband spoke about the links between India and the UK — it was, indeed, a day to rejoice about long-lasting bonds. Because during dinner, looking over a fabulous estate opening up to the Welsh border, I met descendants of Lord Irwin, Lord Clive and many others still connected, almost by an umbilical chord, to a country where they feel still very much at home.

And this was the happy part. The sad part is to find (despite strong arguments from a fellow attendee Pankaj Mishra to keep the flow of aid from UK to India through agencies like DFID alive) that our idyllic respite for a nobler, higher purpose in the Somerset valley had been, perhaps, in vain. Is that money being painstakingly raised by that bunch in Somerset even needed in India? Because the India the happy philanthropists are working for, is quite busy stealing money from its poor… I have just landed in Delhi right in the middle of the Commonwealth Games scam and I wonder if there is any point collecting these small amounts of money when the Government of India appears to be throwing away crores in peculiarly foolish ways.

And then, the contrast between the two countries in dealing with a scam is quite an eye opener. When underhanded dealings are discovered in the UK, there is an enormous price to pay. People are indicted and heads roll — there is a quick investigation and even if the government is slow to act, the media is relentless. Perhaps because it is a small island, the media lands at the doorstep of the scamster and nothing is left to the imagination. In more cases than one, the investigation is often led by the media — which is independent of selective government leaks.

In India I am astonished that people are content to allow the "truth" to emerge at a convenient time — often 25 years after the event. And if the media is aggressive, it is swatted away. Similarly, now the argument is to investigate the issue after the Commonwealth Games are over. There is an amazingly cynical agenda at work: let us allow the thieves to get away because after all the glory of India is far more important than the many crores snatched away unfairly. What false pride are we interested in? Isn't it better for the government to step in and confess that a huge mistake was made? And that they trusted the wrong people? Wouldn't there be much more glory if, for once, India owned up that corruption exists? But instead of that we have a marvellous scenario wherein plenty of time will be given for all to escape…

But quite honestly, for those at the helm to say they had no knowledge of what was going on is, frankly, disingenuous. My husband and I were present at the so-called ceremony in the UK to hand over the Queen's Baton at Buckingham Palace. Anyone with any experience of event management would have been perplexed at the poor organisation: the seating arrangements, the stage management, the clumsy entertainment, including "circus" type acts which included people on stilts! It had very little to do with India and even less with sports. We watched the entire programme frozen with embarrassment and then hoped that no one in the UK had noticed how bad it was.

That event alone should have been enough for an enquiry to be pushed through immediately. But there was a conspiracy of silence — and now, alas, we have no choice but to let the Games roll on. So let us blame Darbari, Kalmadi etc… but the truth is that Delhi is rife with rumours about who is involved… and who is betting that the real criminals will get away. Calls are now out for someone in the government to take responsibility, but, of course, no one ever will.


MEANWHILE, LET us look at another neighbouring country whose President is having a really tough time. In London, fierce protests broke out over Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's visit to the UK. Sadly, MPs from the Labour Party were also instigating the violent reaction. Mr Zardari was unwelcome because firstly the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, had already slammed Pakistan for harbouring terrorists, a charge denied by the Pakistani government. Secondly, a few elements determined to derail the Pakistani President's visit, protested that Mr Zardari should not have come to the UK because there were floods in Pakistan. The truth is somewhere in between. Mr Zardari needed to come because he is an important partner of the UK and there is a long way that both countries have to go. Even if Mr Cameron decided to speak out about Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), little harm was done as the facts are well known. However, what was shocking was the week-long protests by the Brit-Asians of Pakistani origin. Does this mean that those of Pakistani origin in the UK had no idea of the role of the ISI, or did they simply decide that they will not recognise it?

I can see that there is a common approach between the denial of the Pakistani community in the UK over Mr Cameron's remarks and that of the United Progressive Alliance over the scams in the Commonwealth Games… sometimes we desperately hope that the wearing of blinkers will make the problem disappear.


MEANWHILE, A word of support for the newly-launched "Boris bikes" in London. The cycling Mayor of the city, Boris Johnson, is trying to inveigle us onto bikes by making them available to us at strategic points all over London. You can hire them for an hourly price and dock them in post-journey. A lovely idea which one wishes could be emulated in Delhi to get rid of the frequent traffic jams. But could such a scheme survive scams and monsoon floods? Unlikely.


The writer can be contacted at








Tara Fitzgerald opened a can of worms by threatening to sue Dell this week over her shocking experience with a Mumbai tech rat.


It turned out Dell techie Riyaz Shaikh downloaded nude pictures of the American caller during a tech-help request after she gave him remote access to her computer.


Shaikh downloaded 16 pictures from Fitzgerald's computer during the trans-Atlantic call to create a porn site Bitchtara.


Oh, the creepy Mumbai techie also used Fitzgerald's Dell credit card to send a $800 Valentine's Day gift to a Tennessee woman he had chatted up on another call. How on earth does such tripe get past Dell when it records customer calls for training purposes?


The Riyaz Shaikh incident is a wake-up call for India's tech services industry. It has to purge sleazebags like Shaikh because one slimy techie can spook millions of trusting Americans desperate for tech support.


Shaikh could be a freak aberration. I have received first-rate service whenever I have been bounced to an Indian

call centre from New York. A few weeks ago my HP laptop began sputtering. To get a geek in Manhattan to just diagnose my laptop would cost $150. So I dialled HP tech support instead and was soon talking to cool and professional Aruna in Bangalore.


She heard me out and then gave me instructions to fix the problem. Twenty minutes into the session I was struggling with firewalls and running system checks. Aruna gently asked if I would like her to take remote control of my laptop. I was utterly relieved! She emailed a legal agreement to me; I ticked the box, and before I knew it, she was 'in', using her mouse and keyboard to control my laptop remotely.


It was surreal watching Aruna opening my laptop programmes from half a world away while I made small talk. She told me it would take 40 minutes so I moseyed off to grab a sandwich at Starbucks.


It didn't occur to me that Aruna might nose through personal files. Did I have stuff on my laptop? Sure. If Aruna was the Wicked Witch of the East she could have downloaded and then sold pictures of my son sitting with his rubber duckies in his bathtub to a smutty child porn site.


My laptop also had scanned copies of my passport and bank information. I guess I was lucky — I got the tech goddess in Bangalore who repaired my laptop and not the Mumbai tech rat.








Over the past several years, it has become apparent that women's safety, or the lack of it, plays a central role in determining their mobility and access to a city.


Recent findings of a joint survey by the Delhi government, Delhi-based women's resource centre Jagori and women's rights group Unifem reinforces earlier reports — women and girls face constant threat even when going about their daily activities.


The heartening news, however, is that the girls are standing up, making their comfort with confrontation and rightfully claiming their space in the city with sarcasm, scream or even a loud slap. And the families are firmly backing them up.


The extensive survey of 5,010 people spanning nine districts and 22 locations in New Delhi, covering both male and female respondents, has thrown up several interesting findings.


One half of the report is depressing. Over 90% of the women and 85% of the men surveyed feel that the very fact of being a woman leads to vulnerability.


Over 70% of the women reported to being routinely subjected to staring and verbal harassment; 30% harbour fear of assault. Sixty-six per cent women reported violence and harassment between two and five times in the past year, 28% having faced such incidents more than five times.


The most vulnerable are the school and college-going students who reported maximum cases of verbal harassment (87%) and staring (75%).


The other part the report, informs that women in the city are learning early that it's a jungle out there. And they are not taking things lying down even though they have been taught to avert their gaze, carry safety pins and stay indoors after dark.


"We are told since childhood to never walk too close to a car; to walk away, to look in all directions. And you think, Excuse me! Can I just walk on this road?" asks a respondent.


According to the data, more than 60% of the women respondents have confronted the perpetrator in some way, a trend observed across all age groups and occupations.


Even 50% of the schools and college-going women say they didn't just walk away. One woman says, "Ek 30-35 saal ka aadmi mere peeche khada ho kar mujhe haath laga raha tha. Achanak maine uska haath pakda, aur uske mooh par do thappad mare"(A man of 30-35 standing behind me, tried to feel me up. I turned around and gave him two tight slaps!)


Given that women's silence and public apathy have been cited as reasons for men walking away with impunity, it is unfortunate that the confrontations are largely not backed by public support. The survey establishes that 69% men and 54% women witnesses prefer to be mere onlookers, a fact echoed by 17% of the women who had ever sought the support of bystanders.


Family support, the report suggests, has been forthcoming; nearly 65% of the women across all age groups turn to their families when faced with sexual harassment. While there may still be many incidences of families restricting women's mobility due to fear of violence, the responses indicate a significant shift in family attitudes. Family support is key to boosting women's self-confidence and ability to deal with violence.


Here, it is interesting to note that over 50% of the women say their families motivated them to be independent, and that when they narrate incidents of sexual harassment at home, less than 10% reported to being grounded.


It is encouraging to note the trend of increasing self-assertion and growing support from the families, even as the women's every day continues to be marked by fear.


While it is recognised that the police, the state and other institutions must fulfill their role in creating safer cities for women, we must remember that the actions and beliefs of individuals and the society at large, can make a tremendous difference.









JAMMU and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's efforts to end the cycle of violence in the valley have got support from an unexpected quarter — hardliner Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Gilani. Appealing to the people not to resort to violence to express their resentment against the government, on Thursday Geelani expressed the view that Omar "is a powerless person…. It is for the Central government to restrain the security forces". There is no harm if this leads to reducing the people's anger against the Chief Minister, whose sincerity cannot be doubted in controlling the situation. In fact, any help from anybody under the circumstances must be welcomed. Today what is most important is an end to bloodshed in the valley.


On his part, Omar made the right move by visiting the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences in Srinagar on Thursday to express his sympathies for the victims of violence. The Chief Minister may have made mistakes in the past, but harping on his follies will take the country nowhere. Keeping in view the prevailing situation, he is the best bet available for the nation, and his hands must be strengthened so that those trying to fish in troubled waters like PDP leaders do not succeed in their destabilising designs. Any change of guard at this juncture will not be in the larger national interest. Therefore, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram is fully justified in extending his all-out support to Omar.


However, the real support that the beleaguered Chief Minister needs today should come in the form of concrete action by the Centre. If the Centre is keen on fulfilling its promises on Kashmir, as Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha on Friday, it should go ahead quickly. The immediate issues that need to be taken up with a view to lowering the temperature in the valley are related to punishing guilty security personnel, the deployment of the security forces in the state and the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act. These issues may come up during the coming meeting that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold with an all-party delegation from J and K and leaders of the parties in Parliament. Of course, Kashmir requires a very cautious approach, but there is no time for dithering.









THE Centre's proposal to enact comprehensive legislation to protect whistleblowers is most welcome. The need for such an Act has become greater today in the context of increasing killings of Right to Information (RTI) activists in the country. In the absence of an effective legislation, the whistleblowers don't get any protection from the state governments and their lives are always in danger. With the murder of Amit Jethwa, who was campaigning against the illegal mining lobby in Gujarat's Gir lion sanctuary, near the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad on July 20, the lives of as many as eight RTI activists were snuffed out this year alone. Satish Shetty, another prominent RTI activist, who was exposing the real estate mafia in the Pune-Mumbai expressway project, was killed in January. Ever since the RTI Act was enacted in 2005, it has become a powerful tool in the hands of the people to expose corruption and increase accountability and transparency. However, this has come at an increasingly dangerous cost.


The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill, 2010, is a step in the right direction because it seeks to empower citizens to make complaints of corruption against the employees and officers of the Centre, states and public sector undertakings to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The CVC would have the powers of a civil court, including the authority to summon anybody, order police investigation and provide security to the whistleblowers. Significantly, the Bill gives sweeping powers to the CVC to protect whistleblowers from any disciplinary action for exposing corruption in a government department. If a person making a disclosure is victimised and his/her identity is revealed, the victim's superiors will be held liable under the proposed law. Similarly, there are penalties for frivolous or malicious complaints.


The law as such is not new. It was conceived after RTI activists demanded a legislation to protect whistleblowers after National Highways Authority of India project director Satyendra Kumar Dubey was murdered in Gaya, Bihar, in 2003. Dubey fought corruption in the prestigious Golden Quadrilateral project. While Parliament needs to enact the Bill fast, it will be effective only if the CVC, the nodal authority under the law, exercises its powers properly. For RTI activists believe that in the past the CVC has failed to enforce the guidelines to protect the whistleblowers, including the one on keeping their identity confidential. 









THE International Hockey Federation (FIH) recognises Hockey India, but the Government of India does not do so. On the other hand, while the government now recognises the KPS Gill-led Indian Hockey Federation, neither the FIH nor the Indian Olympic Association have accorded it official recognition. Confusion describes the latest developments in the administration of hockey in the nation.


In the wake of the election of Mrs Vidya Stokes as president of Hockey India, the Sports Ministry derecognised the organisation. It did not find the answers filed by HI regarding the clarifications sought by the ministry satisfactory. HI, on its part, declared that it is a private body, and as such is not bound by the government guidelines, that would have, among other things, placed a 70-year limit on the age of officials. Ironically, the government has now recognised the very body it had gone to great lengths to derecognise, the IHF. The ham-handedness of the officials then had led to the High Court decision against the de-recognition, which triggered the present crisis. Officials in the Sports Ministry and other sports administrators are guilty of not taking proactive action and thus allowing the situation to deteriorate into a crisis. At stake is the future of international competitions that the Indian team is to play, including the Women's World Cup in Argentina, and the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.


The Supreme Court is expected to shortly sort out the confusion that surrounds the future of hockey bodies in the country. Once that has been done, focus will have to be brought back to the players. Unfortunately, at the time they should have been concentrating on improving their game, they are caught in a web since they don't know who their boss is. Our hockey associations have a miserable track record. They exist ostensibly to help find the best players and to nurture their skills, but they have failed to do so. It is high time the players got a body that is devoted to them and their game. They have a right to ask for this much. 

















THE WikiLeaks disclosures have burst upon the world scene like a thunder and the impact will be seen during the coming months. The 91,000 documents, which an American serviceman with access to all these sensitive papers has provided, cover a period of six years, from 2004 onwards. These leaks have been described as more damaging to the defence establishment of the US than the Pentagon papers, which were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971. Daniel Ellsberg wanted to expose the futility of the long-drawn-out war in Vietnam and the impact of what he did at that time was devastating.

The most important aspect of the WikiLeaks documents is that they have clearly exposed the collusion between Pakistan's ISI and the Taliban. Pakistan, which was receiving billions of dollars in aid from the United States, was cynically abetting and indeed actively helping the attacks on the Americans as well as the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. While these have come as a revelation to the public at large, the US itself was fully aware of what was happening, as the WikiLeaks disclosures have so clearly demonstrated.


Julian Paul Assange, who is behind the WikiLeaks website, considers himself a master whistleblower and a crusader. He believes that such leaks are an integral part of the information warfare and calls himself a media insurgent. He has announced that apart from the 91,000 documents in his possession, there are 15,000 more documents which are yet to be analysed and released on the web. To go back into the history of the war in Afghanistan, it started with the Russian invasion in 1979. The US and Pakistan pooled their resources – the US with financial help and weapons, and Pakistan with proxy manpower, and after 10 long years, that too after a regime change in the Soviet Union, the Russians withdrew from Afghanistan.


The Pakistan-backed fighters, the Taliban, were subsequently enabled to take control of Afghanistan. Probably no one would have bothered to disturb the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and its close links with Pakistan but for the dramatic attack carried out on the World Trade Towers in Manhattan, New York, on September 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda, having taken shelter in Afghanistan, were considered as the biggest threat to the US, which led to the entry of American forces in Afghanistan. The US worked out a coalition of forces for which several countries contributed their troops.


With this deep involvement, it was a shocking revelation when the intelligence taps were indicating the Pakistani collusion with the Taliban in mounting attacks on American forces as well as the US-led coalition forces.


Pakistan's double game was known to the US all along but it had to necessarily work with Islamabad in dealing with the militarily difficult Af-Pak region and the Taliban in Afghanistan. President Obama had announced that, effective from July 2011, there would be a phased pullout of US troops from Afghanistan. There had been clarifications, however, that this would depend upon the situation on the ground. However, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda believe that this is the beginning of the end of the presence of the American troops in Afghanistan.


Undoubtedly, this has led to a power struggle between the various factions in Afghanistan. Pakistan would like to position itself in a manner that it would be recognised as the most dominant military factor in the country. Towards this end, which Pakistan apparently considers as a matter of time, it is collaborating with the Taliban. Even conceding that Pakistan's double game was in pursuance of this reasoning, how would any observer explain the perfidy of Pakistan almost since 2004?


While the WikiLeaks should come as a shock and eye-opener to the Americans, they are unfortunately in no position to take a harsh line towards Islamabad since the US has to depend on Pakistan a great deal for sustaining the war in Afghanistan. The military supplies go through the Af-Pak territory. The Americans have reportedly given almost $18 billion by way of aid in various forms to Pakistan ever since 2001. There is also a commitment for an infusion of $2.5 billion per annum for a period of five years commencing next year. Commenting on the WikiLeaks, the US National Security Adviser, Gen James Jones, said that such "irresponsible leaks" would have no impact on the US commitments to its partnership with Afghanistan-Pakistan, and this only exposes the helplessness of the US. As for India, the leaks show the unrelenting hostility of Pakistan on India's role in Afghanistan.


The ISI had actively promoted the attack by the jihadi elements affiliated to the Haqqani faction of the Taliban on the Indian Embassy in Kabul, not only in July 2008 but also last year, when the attempt had failed. It also promoted attacks against the Indian labourers engaged in development activities in Kabul. If Pakistan could play a dangerous double game against its own benefactor, the US, would it not be futile to expect it to fulfil any of its commitments to India?


The most important factor that emerges from the WikiLeaks is that Pakistan cannot be expected to ensure that terrorist attacks against India are stopped, much less stringent action taken against those who launched those strikes against India in November 2008. There is also no guarantee that the attacks like those unleashed in Mumbai in November 2008 would not happen again in India. The WikiLeaks disclosures have administered a big dose of realism to India.


The writer is a former Governor of UP and West Bengal. 





1st Commonwealth Boycott Games

By Harbans Singh Virdi


GOING by the deluge of boycotts and withdrawals, the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee has decided, at its emergency meeting, to rechristen the games as the First C'wealth Boycott Games to be held in India. Just as Athens earned the honour of holding the first-ever Olympic Games in 1896, Delhi will become the first-ever city to hold the "boycott games" on a Commonwealth scale in 2010.


All the main characters in the drama — chairman Suresh Kalmadi, Randhir Singh and sports minister MS Gill — have agreed in principle that this was the only honourable option left to them to stem the tide of undue media criticism.


It was no doubt a bolt from the blue when the fastest man on earth, Usain Bolt, pulled out of the Commonwealth Games. As if it was a red rag to other athletes, stars like Shell-Ann-Fisher, Chris Noy, Veronica Campbell Brown and Dwain Chambers all followed in hordes like cows do on Indian roads.


But the boycotts have not rattled the Kalmadi-Gill combine a bit. They bet that the boycott by foreign athletes will lead to higher participation by foreign officials. In addition, India will harness medals on will in the face of limited competition which might be reduced to just India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.


Besides, the Kalmadi-Gill duo has also rescheduled the itinerary for the "boycott games". When the media pointed out that the Jawaharlal Stadium might be flooded in view of the extended monsoon, quick came the reply from Kalmadi: "So what then, we will shift the swimming competition from the Talkatora Stadium to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium."


Another disgruntled scribe shot back: "Sir, if the Delhi roads were flooded?" Quick came the reply, this time, from MS Gill: "We will organise steeple chase on flooded roads. "Have you got any knowledge of sports or not?" Gill snubbed a journalist from Kal Tak, a Hindi channel.


Yes, knowing the nationalistic sentiments of the BJP, the CGOC is also working overtime to showcase some out-of-the book races to attract the world attention. The buzz is there may be a race between Aroosa Begum of Pakistan and Sushma Swaraj of the BJP. It is heard Aroosa Begum is being given special permit to train at the Moti Bagh Palace of former chief minister Amarinder Singh, ahead of the games.


It has also been gathered from intelligence sources that the government has instructed the Ministry of Road Transport to follow route of ancient roads and bridges built in Mughal times than recently built flyovers, while ferrying the foreigners from the Indira Gandhi International Airport to their hotels, for safety. After all, we cannot ignore, read boycott, their security. 








THERE was a time when joining the civil services was a matter of prestige. Increasingly now the public looks upon the entire gamut of civil services as self-seeking, greedy and corrupt. Some perceptions and realities need to be juxtaposed sequentially and re-stated because they impact hugely upon the quality of governance.

The civil service is not an island floating on its own, but a reflection of the ethics and mores that exist in society. When the arena of politics is so highly contaminated, it is too much to expect that civil servants alone would be distilled purity. Particularly when instant protection is given by the law makers to inveterate lawbreakers on grounds of caste, community, religion, and money power, there is really little hope that the civil services alone will rise and miraculously provide good governance.


But first a little reverie about the times when things were different. As the seven-year-old daughter of a woman officer recruited to the Central Secretariat Service post independence, I spent my childhood in the fifties playing with children of my mother's colleagues in the Ministry of Home Affairs. A picnic at Surajkund, a family movie and an occasional dinner party were the highest points of the evening life of the officer class, otherwise spent in the corridors of New Delhi's Khan Market where they bought everything from groceries to the first gas burner.


Looking back, the most distinguishing feature was the complete absence of anyone outside the civil services in this select group and their modest-even spartan lifestyles. (Notwithstanding that ICS households baked a caramel custard pudding instead of the pedestrian sooji halwa.)


In the late sixties, after I cleared the IAS, I was trained in turn by three stalwarts — T.N. Seshan and later B.N. Tandon and Gopi K. Arora. All of them (at least then) maintained unpretentious lifestyles both in the office and at home. A game of bridge or an evening of classical music helped tie a familial knot that has lasted more than 40 years.


Conversations always carried a sense of admiration for honesty and hard work and an abhorrence and intolerance for wheeling-dealing. The minimalism of their homes, the simplicity of their families and their self-made children was what I observed.


But elsewhere something else was happening. The children of once deprived families had grown older, entered the civil services yearning to announce their arrival. There was also a need to look after the biradari which had nurtured them through a disadvantaged childhood. Some longed to flaunt their new-found status and a realisation came that proximity to power could help to leapfrog into positions of even greater influence out of turn.


Postings with the power of patronage and great visibility could actually be manipulated quite effortlessly just by using the right connections. One powerful connection led to the next. The colours and contours of the civil service began to change, making this the preferred route for an increasing number of officers as the years passed. Products of the old school were not eliminated altogether because all governments need honest, hardworking officers to have credibility and substance. But they had to be really exceptional to reach the top.


For the greater part, garnering and wielding visible authority became heady business. To take a rather extreme example of encounter killings criminals were regularly liquidated in stage-managed episodes all in the name of saving the public. A former Chief Secretary of Maharashtra said emphatically: "Many policemen hang out with criminals and are often engaged by rival gangster groups to eliminate their rivals. Sometimes politicians promote these killings. Sometimes it is a purely police enterprise." But he added, "How else can extortion by the underworld be stopped? Ultimately, a society gains; does it not?"


In direct contrast stands another phenomenon which has demoralised the service ethos incalculably. In every state, there is a section of officers (and they come from rural, small town backgrounds or could be the products of elite backgrounds and institutions,) who spurn the politician-businessman nexus. They neither hanker for powerful jobs while in service nor crave Governorships, constitutional posts, or government perks after retirement.


Regardless of what bosses wish to hear, such officers can be infuriatingly straightforward and brutally frank. The political executive and a pliable senior bureaucracy complain about their pig-headedness but use them like kitchen devices — indispensable, but easily replaceable. Over the years, their marginalisation has destroyed idealism and initiative; also given a mistaken message to young officers: the future does not lie in following the rulebook. Honesty and uprightness can actually flush you out.


Instead, amassing and displaying wealth and wielding visible authority are seen as the true signs of success. When the bureaucrat-politician-businessman links are strong and interdependent, no Civil Service Authority or Public Service Law (we hear of) can alter the picture significantly. Only a Lokpal (Ombudsman) can investigate alliances in high places founded on dishonesty.


Sadly, however, the Lokpal concept has been shelved repeatedly for 44 years. The Benami Transaction Act (1988) is bereft of rules for 22 years because notifying the rules will immediately render all benami transactions at the risk of forfeiture. Despite the Second Administrative Reforms Commission prodding the government to move promptly on both these fronts, there is no tangible progress. So we continue to rely on the Central Vigilance Commission and the Central Bureau of Investigation who have given ample evidence of being inept, partisan and inefficient for too long.


Alternatives have been tried elsewhere. Indonesia established a Corruption Eradication Commission — born out of public reaction to the brazen corruption during 30 years of President Suharto's rule. So irrepressible was the public outcry in 1998 that the incoming government was forced to create a powerful anti-corruption agency — Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi — as an Act of Parliament. KPK's resounding success (at least until early 2010) — carries some lessons for India.


The KPK has reportedly prosecuted and jailed over 100 high-ranking officials in five years. It has won every case before the corruption court and had all verdicts upheld by the Supreme Court. Indonesia says her ranking in the International Corruption Perception Index has improved thereby, giving the country a more ethical reputation worldwide.


Among others, the KPK has jailed a Minister, Members of Parliament, heads and key officials of the Central Bank, the Election Commission, the Competition Commission, Governors and Mayors, as well as senior officers from the police and the Attorney General's office. It has also jailed businessmen, heads of private companies and notably the father-in-law of the President's son. Because KPK is headed by a five-member Commission which operates as a collegium, the manipulation of the entire body becomes very hard. KPK Commissioners are identified by a special selection team appointed by the President from among known leaders in society and representatives from the prosecution and the police. Names of prospective candidates are placed on a website for public scrutiny. Ten candidates are recommended by a selection committee to the President, who then sends the names to Parliament which makes the ultimate choice of five Commissioners.


The Indian polity badly needs a similar system to stem the rot. Meanwhile, there is a lot members of the civil services can do by refusing to join the world of corruption-ridden interdependencies. Also by refusing to keep mum. When a few in every service still have a sense of ethics left and feel disturbed and angry when they see trade-offs taking place, they need to rally together and tell colleagues that following the rulebook may not bring immediate results but will ultimately give peace of mind — more precious than anything money or power can buy once retirement comes.


The writer is a former Secretary to Government of India and Chief Secretary, Government of Delhi 








THE Indian Administrative Service plays a pivotal role in governance at the Centre and in the states. On account of their perceived status in Indian society, they are treated with awe and respect by the common public. At the same time, many consider the IAS an elite group of self-seekers, who wield arbitrary and undeserved power. Some sections of the intelligentsia hold the IAS in disdain and even contempt.


The strengths of the IAS as an institution for development and regulation include tested and demonstrated intelligence and capacity, a high level of self-confidence, a rich and varied experience, especially at the cutting edge of public service, comparative personal integrity and honesty, ability for crisis management, adaptability to change, an image of impartiality and a high motivation to perform.


Equally, its weaknesses as an instrument for governance are well documented. These are eroding levels of sincerity, integrity, dedication and application, and a declining work ethic that earlier defined the service. Furthermore, an inevitable proximity to power — in the person of political leaders as well as business houses — tempts an increasing number of IAS officers to collude with vested interests for securing personal and career benefits, such as powerful posts and assignments.


Good governance demands transparency, accountability, honesty and efficiency in delivery of public services for all. The government should create conditions where enterprise and individual initiative are rewarded, and oppressive discretionary controls of junior officials removed. Red tape is seen to breed corruption. The World Bank (2008) ranks India at 120 among 178 countries in the ease of doing business index. Successive surveys confirm the view that corruption in India is widespread and permeates all branches and levels of government.


The IAS officers may plead that they are unable to perform to potential as they do not enjoy security of tenure as they move from post to post, at the pleasure of their superiors, the political leaders. The personnel policy subjects them to frequent arbitrary changes in assignment. Quite often, they fail to acquire specialised skills for want of in-service training. Of late, several middle-rung IAS officers have opted to leave government service altogether, to accept more lucrative, and perhaps more satisfying jobs in the private, corporate sector. That the concerned business houses engage such young IAS officers suggests that, per se, the system has generated high-grade human resource. Why then does the same human material fail to deliver adequately on the governance front? Has the IAS become a soft service, afflicted by inertia? Can the service be redeemed through reform measures? Or would the IAS need to be discarded altogether to make way for a new order?


Some experts, notably Inder Sud of Emerging Markets Forum, a US-based think tank of international economists prescribe that, for transforming public officials to public servants, the IAS as a national service should be abolished, fresh recruitment be made separately for the central and state levels of government, and professionals with experience and skills inducted from within or outside government.


This model proposes that with each government level having its own civil service, the present system of transfers and postings should end, specialists being placed in specialist position for fixed terms. Class III and Class IV services are proposed to be cut to a minimum so that the officers are compelled to stand on their own feet.


Such drastic overhaul would bring Indian bureaucracy closer to the systems prevailing in many developed countries. In so far as models like Sud's commend the dissolution of the IAS as an institution, they are flawed. However imperfect the service might be, it has developed as a product of the national milieu. It has established itself as an instrument of governance. There is no guarantee that any alternative civil service will not acquire the deficiencies besetting the IAS today.


Perhaps a surer, softer reform remedy could be to remould the IAS as a human resource and remove impediments to its efficient functioning. The service can be strengthened by lateral induction of professionals at various levels from other sectors of the economy. Important senior appointments should be on contract and open to the IAS as well as others. To prevent arbitrariness, an empowered, autonomous board should determine postings and transfers at the Centre and in the states.


As a rule, officers must be assured of a minimum tenure in any assignment. Scientific monitoring of performance should determine reward and punishment. For this it may be necessary to amend Article 311 of the Constitution which gives vast protection to civil servants from removal from service. To shake the IAS out of stupor, some desperate appliances are called for. Now is the time to act.


The writer is a former Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab 








The thing about uncertainty is that it makes you hoard cash. If you don't know whether your job is secure, or whether your business is going to do well, then you just conserve cash, and tighten your spending. 


This is the situation in which most of the western world is caught. In the US the total amount of cash held in companies is about $1.6 trillion, more than 10 per cent of annual income. The companies are cautiously recovering, but don't yet have to gust to spend all that cash on new projects. Hence no hiring, no expansion. 


Hence the result is that unemployment is very high. Those people with jobs also prefer to save rather than spend (which is what the spendthrift American lifestyle is famous for). The national savings rate in the US has remarkably moved from being negative one per cent to plus 10 per cent. It is as if the great financial and economic crisis of 2008 and 2009 has made everybody, people and companies extra cautious, and extra thrifty. 


Of course all this is bad news for the economy as a whole, since GDP cannot grow if everybody is cautious, and doesn't spend. The recovery from the financial crisis was rapid and unexpected. This was mainly because of government provided stimulus accompanied by very low interest rates. Most governments like the US, UK, Spain, Greece and others are reporting record fiscal deficits. It will take years to wipe all that red ink, and consumer cautiousness is not helping. 


The Indian consumer by contrast has no need to be ultra cautious. Our GDP is growing at 8 or 9 per cent, jobs are growing. But we have a different problem. The Reserve Bank of India is alarmed that currency in circulation (i.e. cash in your pocket) has risen rapidly in the past four months. It has grown at three times the normal rate. The RBI prints money, but it has probably had to run three shifts in its printing press to meet this unprecedented demand. The total increase in the currency in past four months is about 58,000 crores, and will increase further. 


The ironic thing is that all this cash lying idle with the public is losing purchasing power rapidly. With inflation still running at 12 per cent, the rupees in your pocket are steadily depleting. It would make sense to keep this idle cash either in a bank account (and earn at least 4 per cent interest), or in a mutual fund and earn maybe 10 percent. Cash locked into appropriate financial assets can at least undo the impact of inflation. 


But we are a country where only a small fraction of the population has access to financial assets. Although 600 million Indians have a cellphone connection, less than 100 million households have a bank account. Only 40 million Indians have some exposure to capital markets. So for a vast majority, the only alternative to hanging on to cash is gold, land or cattle. Yes, holding cattle is also like savings. But none of these options are as liquid as cash. They cannot be used in an emergency. 


It is inflation that is causing people to hold more cash, since they require more cash for their daily transactions. Ironically it is that same inflation which is causing them to lose more money power. Inflation is thus a cruel and silent tax that all citizens pay, and it hurts the poor more than the rich. It hurts those who are financially excluded from banking much more. While we wait to ensure that millions of Indians become financially included (i.e are given access to bank accounts, savings products, mutual funds etc), the quicker remedy to stop the bleeding of their purchasing power is to control inflation (Of course that cannot simply be done by shutting down Parliament or having a Bharat bandh).





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The question has long been asked: why can't India score greater success in manufacturing, especially the export of manufactured products? The answers have varied (high infrastructure costs for power and shipping; unhelpful labour laws; etc). One causative factor that has been ignored is the very success achieved in the export of services, which now prevents a manufacturing thrust. That may not seem an obvious reason, but the argument is simple enough: India has a $118 billion deficit on the trade in goods (goods imports are a staggering 65 per cent higher than goods exports, which last year totalled $180 billion). In the ordinary course, such a massive imbalance would lead to a drop in the value of the rupee, which would make exports more competitive, imports more expensive, and eventually yield a better balance on trade.


 This sequence is short-circuited because India also has a massive surplus of about $75 billion when it comes to the trade in services (like software, but also the export of people who send remittances home). This reduces the net deficit on the "current account" to a manageable figure that is more than covered by the inflow of capital. The excess inflow thus boosts the country's foreign exchange reserves and has the perverse effect of pushing up the rupee's value. Although Indian inflation has consistently been higher than American inflation, the rupee's dollar value today is not very different from what it was at the start of the decade. This is upward valuation in real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) terms, and puts even more pressure on manufactured exports, especially when China is busy under-valuing its currency.


What should policy-makers do? They cannot tell Infosys and Tata Consultancy to go easy on the ground that their very success in software exports is undermining the competitiveness of Indian manufacturing. Nor can you tell migrant Indian workers to stay home when there aren't enough job opportunities here. The third option, of blocking the capital inflow, is also unattractive for a variety of reasons. The only option then is to do something about the other reasons why Indian manufactured exports have not done well.


But that, it would seem, is beyond the capability of the system — at least in the medium term. The transport network and linkages do not compare on speed or cost with that of rival economies, electricity costs more than it does elsewhere, and despite widespread unemployment, there is wage inflation because of the shortage of skilled people. The cumulative impact of all these systemic inefficiencies, plus irrational industry-specific policies, presents a formidable hurdle for exporters — which is one reason Bangladesh has made a success of its textile exports while India has not.


The only answer that is left, it would seem, is to go for the enclave solution. Tamil Nadu has shown how this can be done by creating an industrial hub outside Chennai, which will be linked by a dedicated, high-speed expressway to the Chennai and Ennore ports — facilitating the export of (among other things) tens of thousands of cars by companies like Hyundai and Ford. Gujarat hopes to create its own enclaves, using the opportunity provided by the proposed Mumbai-Delhi transport-cum-industrial corridor. The special economic zones (SEZs), which this newspaper has criticised in the past because of the tax losses involved, are yet another attempt at finding an enclave solution to the problems faced by manufactured exporters; and the figures suggest that the overwhelming bulk of export growth in the last couple of years has come from the SEZs — which becomes a clinching argument. Enclaves are always a second-best solution to achieving system-wide efficiencies, but it would seem that that is the only practical option left.








An asset-based MAT may be premature because any levy which asks for efficiency in the use of assets requires ease of exit for inefficient manufacturing units, something India doesn't have

The global crash of 2008 was bad for most people, but like all disasters, it marked an upward turn in the fortunes of some. Prior to the crash, whole seminars were held on the irrelevance of the IMF. Today the IMF has a new set of biceps after having presided over the rescue package for the Greek imbroglio, and is prepared with rolled-up sleeves to take on more. Prior to 2008, fiscal policy analysts had just about the lowest standing in the economics profession, a tad above accountants. After the crash, their status has not exactly risen, but they are being asked, if a bit tetchily, to design tax policy such that exit from the fiscal stimulus is enabled through enhanced revenue, without diminishing public and private spending.

As it happens, there is a new (direct) tax policy in India with the draft Direct Taxes Code (DTC) circulated in August 2009, to replace the Income Tax Act of 1961. The DTC, incorporating some revisions issued in June, is to be placed before Parliament in the ongoing monsoon session.


The code aims at cutting out exemptions, thereby lowering tax avoidance and broadening the tax base. The broader base then serves as a platform for rate reduction, which will lower the benefits from, and hopefully the revenue lost to, evasion. So far, so good.


Ideally, a quantitative estimate should have been provided of avoidance under the present regime, and how much of that will be eliminated in the new code. Avoidance, unlike evasion, can be estimated from filed returns.


Fortunately, budget documents in recent years provide estimates, based on electronically filed returns, of revenue foregone from both direct and indirect tax exemptions, disaggregated by the relevant section of the code in each case. For 2008-09, the estimates carry the further advantage of being based on returns filed during the full fiscal year, because of the delay in budget presentation in 2009 to the month of July.


An exclusive focus on corporate taxation will help keep things simple, and is justified since corporate taxes yield two-thirds of all direct tax revenues. More compellingly, all corporate tax returns were electronically filed in 2008-09, as against 90 per cent for non-corporate firms, and just 13 per cent for individuals.


The document does not generate avoidance percentages from the estimates of absolute revenue foregone. A simple enough step, one might imagine, but not that simple as it turns out.


Corporate returns filed in 2008-09 pertain to the previous year (PY) 2007-08. Data on taxes paid (inclusive of all cesses and surcharges) during 2007-08 show an effective tax rate of 22.24 per cent of profit before taxes. Placed against the statutory tax rate of 33.99 per cent (inclusive of add-ons), this yields an avoidance rate of around one-third.


But if the revenue foregone is applied to corporate tax revenue actually collected in 2007-08, we get a lower avoidance estimate of one-fourth of potential revenue. This is because total corporate tax collections in 2007-08 were Rs 1,92,911 crore, higher than taxes reported as having been paid by the universe of all taxpaying corporate entities during the year, by about Rs 33,000 crore. About half of this was revenue from the Fringe Benefit Tax, and the Dividend Distribution Tax. That leaves an unexplained element of additional revenue amounting to 0.3 per cent of GDP.


If we accept mystification, and place avoidance at 25 per cent of potential revenue, it implies that corporate tax collections, amounting to a little under 4 per cent of GDP in 2008-09, could have ramped up to 5.2 per cent with zero avoidance. Is that where the DTC will get us to? Not quite. Exemptions accounting for around half of revenue presently foregone still remain, in the form of profits in specified sectors listed in the thirteenth schedule, and retention of enhanced capital allowances for accelerated depreciation and scientific research. (There were no appreciable changes in the June revisions in corporate tax exemptions). So, an avoidance rate of around 12.5 per cent will remain, on average.


Even if it had started out with zero avoidance, the tax code could not have stayed that way. Corporate tax history the world over shows that parsimonious exemptions get loosened over time because of the power of corporate lobbies. A Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) acts as an avoidance cap. The purpose is achieved whether the MAT is based on assets or on book profits. But an asset-based MAT carries some additional advantages over a levy on book profits. It curbs tax evasion by bypassing reported income and going straight to the income-generating base, and carries the efficiency gain of incentivising better returns from assets (but this could be punitive without carry forward). The absence of carry forward in the draft DTC asset-based MAT was a design defect.


The switch back to a book profits base in the June revision seems to have been because the 2 per cent rate of MAT levy, at a corporate tax rate of 25 per cent, placed the minimum expected return at 8 per cent of assets. This could have been addressed by a MAT rate reduction to 1.25 per cent, or lower. The principle was surrendered for a rate, which was unfortunate. And a sectorally varied MAT rate structure is always possible. The only good reason why an asset-based MAT in India may be a bit premature is that any levy which asks for efficiency in the use of assets, requires ease of exit for inefficient manufacturing units. And that is something we still do not have.


Finally, the misalignment between a corporate tax rate of 25 per cent, and the maximum marginal rate on individuals of 30 per cent, is inequitable when dividends are not taxed in the hands of recipients. A Dividend Distribution Tax at 15 per cent is retained in the DTC, but this alters the incentive structure away from dividend payouts, in favour of deferred capital gains, which always receive lenient tax treatment. Alignment between the corporate and individual rate structures addresses the equity issue in a more non-distortionary way.


The author is honorary visiting professor, Indian Statistical Institute








The world of techie communication gets weirder by the minute — only this morning, I had an SMS from Sai Baba (or someone purportedly acting on his behalf) offering "daily alerts in quotes, trivia and prayers" from the holy man himself at Rs 30 a month. Tarts, real estate tycoons and many others are also in daily touch with me despite my best efforts to block their unsolicited calls, messages and emails. From the US, there is a stream of horror stories of the offensive and bizarre behaviour of techie support staff at Indian call centres. Unethical, nutcase employees of reputable computer corporations have conned American callers, in search of simple technical assistance, to hack into their laptops and misuse private information — from credit card numbers and personal pictures — and go on spending sprees or set up porn sites.


 That's the dark side of the remorselessly intrusive and persistent assault of instant communication. But is it all bad news? Not if you consider the pale-faced, silvery-haired visage of Julian Paul Assange, the Australian founder of, universal whistleblower and cyberspace czar, whose online site recently posted thousands of secret reports of the US Army's actions in Afghanistan between 2004 and 2009 and had governments quaking round the world.


WikiLeaks has been around for just three-and-a-half years but its relentless crusade to make government and corporate secrets public has made it one of the most powerful and feared communication agencies in the world — not a news organisation so much as a "media insurgency". It is the 21st century embodiment of the press baron Lord Thomson's famous aphorism that "news is what someone, somewhere is hiding; the rest is advertising".


WikiLeaks has survived and thrived only because the Internet is an uncontrollable space, beyond the purview of any government or corporation. In Assange's words, it is "an uncensorable system for mass document leaking and public analysis". An 11-page profile of Assange, his secretive organisation and its modus operandi published in The New Yorker in March remains one of the most-read features of the year in the prestigious weekly.


The truly extraordinary aspect of WikiLeaks is that it has no permanent physical address and Assange is a man of no fixed abode. Together with a small band of activists and computer hackers (reminiscent of Lisbeth Salander, the beguiling dragon-tattooed heroine of Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy), it is on the move and will set up shop anywhere, in locations as diverse as Iceland or Canada. It is manned by unpaid volunteers and funded by donations. Anyone can leak classified materials, including videos, anytime to WikiLeaks and from anywhere in the world, which are only made public after rigorous authentication. It has published highly incriminating documents and videos from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay and from Sarah Palin's private Yahoo account to corruption in corporations, banks and governments.


Assange's setup is impervious to threats, legal action and closure because it exists out there — in cyberspace. Cornering it would be like trying to capture a cloud. Those who have tried have failed. "A government or company that wanted to remove content from WikiLeaks would have to practically dismantle the Internet itself," reports The New Yorker.


In the end, Assange's achievement, endorsed by Amnesty International awards and invitations to speak by the most influential networks in the world, is both a tribute to and miraculous manifestation of communication technology. It is also a reflection of how rapidly the old media is becoming unsustainable. The latest casualty this week was the sale of the 77-year-old magazine, Newsweek, for a token one dollar (excluding millions of dollars of accumulated debt).


For all the intrusions of junk mails and messages, and unethical practices unleashed by remote-control computer hacking, WikiLeaks is also a product of the same technology. Intrusiveness is crucial to information that someone, somewhere is trying to suppress.









On 15th August, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort. He shall do so for the seventh time. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi spoke from the ramparts 17 and 16 times, respectively. The occasion provides the prime minister to do some stocktaking of what his government has done during the past 12 months. It also is an opportunity to enunciate his vision for the next year. Dr Singh is not given to radioactive verbal incontinence. He is a careful person. He is also a thoughtful realist who has avoided the "Dr Feel Good" complacency or optimistic vivaciousness.


Neither India nor the world is an orderly place. Attempts to reorganise the whole of life have always failed. Hence, prime ministers have been somewhat guarded in their Red Fort speeches and have avoided high-pitched pronouncements. Another restricting factor is the monsoon session of Parliament. The head of government cannot go into details of what his government has in mind. That, however, does not mean that Independence Day is a routine ritual. It is not. I know from personal experience the amount of hard work that goes into preparing this particular speech.


 We have been a working, secular democracy for 63 years. During these six decades, much has been achieved. Much more needs to be done. To my mind, our nation state has not done enough in three vital areas. These are: education, health and the judiciary. We all accept that the national and international agendas of 1947 and 2010 are very different. The fact remains that our educational system needs not evolutionary, but revolutionary overhauling. So do the health and judicial areas. Only the other day, the prime minister and Prof Amartya Sen spoke of the inadequacies that plague the health and educational institutions. "A very long way to go," said the prime minister. No time frame was mentioned. How long is very long?


Except in the IT sector, excellence is generally missing from our schools, colleges and universities. No one denies that our IITs are world class. We need very many more. The unpleasant truth is that almost 35 per cent Indians cannot read or write. The percentage of the illiterates in other developing countries is much lower. Sixty years have not been wasted but reform is the urgent need. Can "education" be outsourced?


Take health. Leaving out a dozen cities, medical facilities in rural India are dismal. As usual, the poor are at the receiving end. They invariably are. According to the UN Development Programme, eight Indian states have 421 million poor people. Under-nutrition in India is "twice as high as sub-Saharan Africa". The children suffer the most. Hundred-and-twenty million children die prematurely.


Inequality and injustice are rampant in India, that is Bharat. Pending cases in our judicial establishments are mind-boggling. Justice delayed is justice denied, is not a tired cliché. It is a stark reality in India. We just do not have enough judges.


I often ask myself — why do our people so docilely accept these inequities? Does their not-so-cheerful fatalism make them accept the unacceptable? Their identities are those of a people marginalised. The walk on pathways that lead to misery and suffering. Even today, potable water is not available to all. One could give many more examples.


The real test of progress is the quality of life. Here we come out very poorly.


We cannot, however, give in to progressive disillusionment. We cannot and should not abandon hope. Let's wait and see, what the prime minister says on August 15, 2010!


Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom is 43 years of age, endowed with an engaging personality. He has no Raj hang-ups. He endeared himself to Indians by candidly stating that "Pakistan cannot look both ways". The reaction from Islamabad was explosively virulent. Mr Cameron had said nothing subversive. He was stating a fact. Where he erred was to speak critically of Pakistan while in India. This, if I may say so, is "not done". A product of Eton, Mr Cameron should know that. The damage will be repaired in no time. Mr Zardari, who is now in London, will ensure that.


The situation in Pakistan is a source of deep concern to all its neighbours. Terrorism is problem number one. That the ISI is involved in exporting terrorism has been highlighted in the 92,000 classified and secret documents of the US Department of Defence, recently made public (leaked) by an enterprising Australian and his "Tell All" outfit. No Pakistani denials will now wash. The cat is out of the bag.


The passing away of K M Mathew distressed me very much. I knew him well for over 15 years. He was cheerful, dedicated, polite and did his profession proud. On Saturday he sent me a book by Wendy Moffat, E M Forster: A New Life, on Sunday he passed away. He will be sorely missed.


The author is a diplomat, writer and former foreign minister










Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it
— Max Frisch, Swiss novelist and playwright


Why do MNCs excite extreme emotions in India ? If you take any one of them from banks to pharma and chemicals to defence and aerospace, they are all clubbed together with the "usual suspects" who do more harm than good despite all the good intentions they might have had. Is it because technology is always a double-edged weapon that we understand so little of, or because the numerous variables and different parameters have unintended consequences that cannot possibly be anticipated? Whatever, the latest to join the gang is Monsanto Seeds that the noted French journalist and documentary filmmaker Marie Monique Robin writes about in The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Politics, Power(Tulika Books and New Press, Rs 675), that is a devastating critique of one biggest chemical companies in the world and the provider of seed technology for 90 per cent of the world's genetically engineered (GE) crops.


 First the bare facts before getting into the pros and cons of the ongoing worldwide debate.


1. Monsanto's $11.7 billion of annual sales comes from seeds, increasingly of genetically modified (GM), or transgenic, varieties and from licensing genetic traits. Indeed, it is now best known, for better or for worse, for applying biotechnology to seed production.


2. GE/GM means "the deliberate modification of the characters of an organism by the manipulation of genetic material and is a special set of technologies that alter the genetic make up of an organism expecting better results". In Indian agriculture, this has led to debates between NGOs, representing farmers, and regulatory bodies, representing biotechnology advancement, regarding the hazards and potential for solving problems of this technology.


3. Monsanto's innovations fall into two categories. The first is selective breeding, which accelerates better mapping of a seed's genetic qualities and its suitability to grow in a particular place.


4. Monsanto was founded in 1901 as a chemical company in the US. But it has got a bad name because it is intimately linked to the production and promotion of highly toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange (used as a chemical weapon in Vietnam ) and PCBs (widespread toxic pollutants).


5. Because of acquisitions over the last decade, Monsanto has bought up over 50 seed companies around the world to become a global power. Today, 90 per cent of all GE seeds planted in the world are patented by Monsanto and hence controlled by it. This gives Monsanto unprecedented power, to the extent that it prohibits farmers from saving patented GE seeds from one crop to replant the next season, through "a gene police", according to Ms Robin.


6. As would be expected, for a company with such muscle power, its influence doesn't stop at the US border. The book documents the impact of Monsanto's seeds which includes real-life stories of cotton farmers in India (Bt cotton) who ended up with hopeless debts. (Some farmer suicides in India have been traced to GE technology and the increased costs of inputs that have left farmers in debt to local money-lenders.) Much the same story gets repeated with families in Paraguay that have been bankrupted with Monsanto's GE soya seeds.


These six factors have been accepted as controvertible facts and have not been challenged. So, how does Monsanto's claim stand that without this sort of technological breakthroughs, there was no chance of doubling agricultural output by 2050 when there would be less land and water available? Look at the ground realities where nothing dramatic has happened. And what are the costs of increased yields, if any, and would the Indian farmer be able to buy it?


When pudding comes to proof, the picture doesn't look too bright from our point of view. Consider the basic question of costs which is what the Indian farmer (or for that matter farmers all over the world) would first take into account.


The fact that GM crops don't produce their own seeds, which have to be bought afresh for the next crop, is the first disincentive to the farmer. Also, are these seeds as disease-resistant as the traditional seeds? What about extra costs for fertilisers and irrigation? Above all, what is the guarantee that yields would increase commensurate with the increased costs of inputs? Some field studies have been done on these vital questions and initial results have not been encouraging. Much the same has been the case in Latin America and Africa, where GE seeds have been much more widely used. These may be early days, but technological breakthroughs have never been achieved without increased costs.


Ms Robin's The World According to Monsanto (it is also a documentary film, snap shots of which can be accessed on the Net) is a blow-by-blow account of Monsanto's malpractices around the world. Based on field research over a three-year period across four continents, it will make you think about the whole nature of agri-business run by MNCs and giant corporate houses that use science "to squeeze the last penny out of the world's poor".









Till a few years ago, on April 29 every year, a handful of men, some old and stooping, some young and angry, used to gather at the Srinagar home of veteran journalist, communist supporter and Kashmiri Pandit P N Jalali. They would drink tea and toast the first recorded organised demands day in Kashmir's history, the rebellion of the shawl bafs (shawl weavers) that led to the killing of 28 weavers in 1865, well before the Russian Revolution. Shawl bafs were — and are — the creators of the wonderfully fine silk or wool lengths that have such fine embroidery; there is not a shawl baf above 35 who does not have something wrong with his eyes. Justly prized, these shawls entailed a lot of labour but shawl bafs earned very little. The regimes of successive Dogra kings used the shawl industry, then exporting to Europe, as a means of augmenting state revenues. The weavers were forced to weave (punished for abandoning their looms unless a substitute was in place) — and what they earned, the state took away by imposing prohibitive taxes.


Hit by famine, angered by exploitative taxes, in April 1865, as many as 4,000 shawl bafs abandoned their looms and began marching with their families towards Lahore and Amritsar. Families of hungry farmers joined them en route. They were stopped near the old-city neighbourhood of Zaldagar. Dogra troops asked them to disperse. When they refused, they were fired upon. As they fled, they were gored to death with spears.


 Shawl bafs rose again in 1924. This rebellion was also put down in a similar manner.


It is the stories of rebellions of this kind — and the Valley saw many in the 430 or so years of its history during which it was ruled by Afghan, Mughal, Sikh and, later, Dogra dynasties — that Kashmiri children have been reared on. So, if you want to understand the phenomenon of protests through throwing stones on symbols of authority, well, it is firmly rooted in the political tradition of the state.


Against this background, look at what is happening today. We already know that the Kashmiri people love protests: 10,000 of them can come out on the roads at an hour's notice to join the funeral procession of someone they don't know. They also detest authority, especially Indian/Hindu authority.


But, we were told, there was hope. During 2009 (Ministry of Home Affairs data till November), terrorism-related incidents dropped by 27 per cent, those of killing of civilians by 17 per cent and of security force (SF) personnel by 19 per cent, compared to the corresponding period in 2008, merely following a secular trend of declining violence since 2001.


So what changed ?

Assembly elections were held in J&K in the winter of 2008 and polling for eight constituencies was held in and around Srinagar on December 24, 2008. Results came out on December 28. On Christmas Day, the Abdullah family called on Sonia Gandhi — who had previously consulted with the two factions of the Congress party, one led by Ghulam Nabi Azad (who is anti-National Conference); and the other led by Saifuddin Soz (who, while not being pro-NC, wants to stymie Azad at every possible opportunity).


The Abdullah family meeting with Gandhi sent the desired message to the 17 Congress party MLAs who were elected. But it sent a quite different message to the voters of Kashmir.


The whole state saw how the election in Srinagar was managed. On the foggy morning of December 24, NC volunteers went from door to door to get sympathisers to vote. The Opposition, People's Democratic Party (PDP), was less vigilant. The moment the sun came out, a rumour went round the city that militant groups had called for a boycott of the election. After 11 am, people stayed at home, fearing violence. The turnout should have been 40 per cent. It was 21 per cent.


The people of Kashmir noted that not only had Omar Abdullah got a fractured (many said, manufactured) mandate, the Congress leadership was firmly behind him. The reaction to the 2009 Shopian incident (the alleged rape and murder of two girls who the CBI found had actually drowned accidentally) represented the first rumblings of discontent in the Valley.


The denouement followed. The Centre promised the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Ministry of Defence prevented a proposal to this effect from reaching the Cabinet. The thinning out of the army and paramilitary forces from orchards and schools was invisible and slow. Corruption in government recruitment and in the police reached new heights. An MLA described his efforts to get a local boy released from the police's manufactured FIRs, torture and no recourse to lawyers. The trail of broken promises by an elected government is enough to break your heart.


Does it surprise anyone that Kashmiris detest India and their own government? In throwing stones and setting fire to police stations, they are only doing what comes naturally to them — since 1865.









A few months after he took over as Air India (AI) chairman, Arvind Jadhav's plan to turn the financially crippled state-owned airline around was contingent upon his saving Rs 2,000 crore in 2009-10 — only then would the government inject fresh equity of a similar amount into the airline. Of this, Rs 800 crore were to come from halving the Performance-Linked Incentive (PLI) part of the airline's Rs 3,100-crore wage bill. With the unions up in arms, the airline's board, which includes independent directors like Ficci's Amit Mitra, Mahindra&Mahindra's Anand Mahindra, has jettisoned the plan to cut costs (Air India achieved a cost reduction of just Rs 800 crore last year and didn't touch the PLI).


Instead, while announcing the new plans, Air India said if traffic continued to increase, it might even need to expand the fleet from the current 130 planes to around 250 (no date was mentioned for this, but it would be a significant addition to the 111 planes that were ordered in 2006 — of these, around 60 have already been delivered). The plans included increasing efficiency by launching more flights and achieving higher passenger load factor (PLF) of 75 per cent in the domestic market. A plan to start a low-cost carrier (LCC) is still on the cards, though no explanation has been asked for as to why the airline was unable to do this by September last year as had been planned— Jadhav's original plan was to have 27 pairs of daily domestic flights by moving 10 aircraft to the new Air India Express low-cost carrier.


 Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel has already justified the new thrust on expansion, and on not touching the unions, by arguing that the market has improved and that AI will now need the staff as well as extra planes. The passenger growth in the year's first quarter, he said, was up by 18 per cent.


Apart from the fact that smarter managements try to control costs in an upturn, the point worth keeping in mind is that Air India's performance continues to plummet and there is nothing to show it has done anything to take on the competition — an LCC is all very well, but unless its costs match those of the competition, how is it going to succeed? Getting SBI Caps to restructure the airline's expensive debt is a good idea, so is the plan to try and monetise some part of its land and buildings (think of the iconic Nariman Point headquarters!), but if the airline's operating costs are out of whack, how long will the band-aid help?


In the domestic market, Air India's market share in March was 17.8 per cent and this fell to 16.9 per cent by June. During this period, market share of JetLite went up from 7.1 per cent to 7.8 per cent; that of SpiceJet from 11.9 per cent to 13.3 per cent; for GoAir it was 5.3 per cent to 5.8 per cent. Full-service airlines have lost market share — for Jet it fell from 18.9 per cent to 18.7 per cent and for Kingfisher, it has come down from 23 per cent to 21 per cent. So, the move to LCC looks sensible.


Except, while the cost per available seats per kilometre for most efficient LCCs in India is Rs 2.40, that for AI is supposed to be around double this (the airline does not divulge its numbers). Air Asia, the Malaysian LCC, has a cost per available kilometre of less than Rs 2, and it already operates in Indian from nine destinations to Kuala Lumpur. With aggressive LCCs like Air Asia already penetrating the hinterland of India, it would be very difficult for AI to take it on — more so, since Air Asia, benefitting from the liberal bilaterals policy, has aggressive expansion plans in India


Nor is Air India's planned PLF of 75 per cent particularly high. It is, of course, high considering where the airline is today — 75 per cent for domestic flights and 66 per cent for international flights. But LCCs in India have PLFs of 85-90 per cent; It is 81 per cent for Kingfisher (including the international) and 79.1 per cent for Jet. On the international circuit, Emirates' PLF is 80 per cent, that of Jet is 80.1 per cent and Air Asia's is 77 per cent.


Not surprisingly then, while Air India's traffic grew 18 per cent in the first quarter, that for Jet grew 35 per cent. While Air India's revenues rose 28 per cent, Jet's rose 31.7 per cent, SpiceJet's by 34 per cent and Kingfisher's 29 per cent.


Air India also seems to have overlooked the fact that even the higher growth in revenues this quarter has been more than offset by the fact that its costs have gone up even more. So while traffic revenues grew by Rs 638 crore, its costs (fuel costs and depreciation and interest costs for the new aircraft which it is buying ) went up by Rs 688 crore.


Any well thought-out turnaround plan cannot be successful on the basis of expectation of a revenue growth alone. That is only one part of the puzzle; the more important element is a relentless attempt to reduce operational costs. AI seems to have forgotten the latter.








Nothing is quite perfect in this world and certainly not human beings, as the Mahabharata reminds us. Our tendency to latch on to bad news at the expense of good news is unequalled, and we tend to lose all balance in our judgements and miss out on the small victories of the day. Lalit Modi, the creator of the Indian Premier League (IPL), has gone on from being a public hero to becoming a public enemy and this turnabout causes us some discomfort. If only we realised that dharma in the public place is different from private morality, we might be spared the confusion.


The good Vidura tells us in the Mahabharata that in judging a king's action he looks at results. If it benefits people, it is an act of dharma. Hence, a ruler would agree to "sacrifice an individual for the sake of a village and a village for the sake of a nation". Vidura is half-brother and royal counsellor to the king of Hastinapur and he speaks from the experience of managing a state. In agreeing to sacrifice a person in order to save many, he has drawn a distinction between public and private dharma, a pragmatism that is uniquely suited to public policy. The English thinker, Jeremy Bentham, went on to make this criterion famous in the 19th century via his utilitarian slogan: "the greatest good of the greatest number."


 Our confusion in judging Mr Modi arises from our inability to distinguish between public and private acts. Like Yudhishthira, we get into a muddle because we bring in intentions. Mr Modi's problem began in March when it was decided to expand IPL from eight to ten teams. The winning bids came from the Sahara Group for Pune and the Rendezvous consortium for Kochi. The affair came out in the open on April 11 when Mr Modi revealed in a tweet that among the shareholders of the Kochi group was one Sunanda Pushkar from Dubai, who had received Rs 70 crore in sweat equity and been seen in public with Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, who had introduced her as his fiancée. There was public clamour. Who was Ms Pushkar and why did she receive stock options worth Rs 70 crore? And if this was Mr Tharoor's share, what did he do to deserve it?


Mr Tharoor twittered back saying it was a case of sour grapes since the teams Mr Modi had backed had lost the auction. Mr Tharoor claimed that he was merely mentor to the Kochi franchise without any financial interest. Ms Pushkar explained that she was an events manager in Dubai who planned to promote the Kochi team and it was common for professionals to get sweat equity instead of salary at the start. Neither the Opposition nor the government was convinced and Mr Tharoor resigned as minister. Within three weeks, Mr Modi was suspended.


Sources close to Mr Tharoor allege that after the auction, Mr Modi tried to coerce the Kochi winners to back off, offering them $50 mn to do so. Since they were adamant, he allegedly appealed to them to shift their franchise to Ahmedabad. Mr Modi counters that 75 per cent of the Kochi franchise was from Gujarati businessmen who wanted to stage the matches in a Gujarat city. Besides, the Kochi stadium was incomplete and likely to be embroiled in environmental issues for years.


Other allegations were made against Mr Modi — he was a benami shareholder in the Rajasthan team and his relatives had stakes in the Punjab and Kolkata teams; $80 million was paid as "facilitation fee" by Sony/MSM to the World Sports Group to compensate the latter after the contract was renegotiated but the money allegedly went into dubious bank accounts. Lalit Modi's extravagant lifestyle did not help — a private jet, a yacht, a fleet of Mercedes Benz and BMWs. But he was always a high roller. His father apparently gave him $5,000 to buy a modest car when he was a student in America, but the young man promptly gave a down payment for a Mercedes Benz. He was also convicted of drug abuse.


Mr Modi retorts that he comes from a wealthy family and what does his lifestyle have to do with it? Since he does not suffer fools, he quickly made enemies with the minions at BCCI who were consumed with envy over his success. But they admit that IPL would not have been born if the flawed Mr Modi did not possess a rare talent for execution. When faced with adversity in its second year, he shifted IPL's entire structure to South Africa within weeks, and without a hitch. If he had not snatched autonomy from the small minds of BCCI, IPL would have ended as Ranji trophy's pale copy where they sometimes forget to bring a ball.


The only explanation for Mr Tharoor's supposed gains is that that businessmen in India still place great faith in the power of politicians to influence outcomes, and in this case 4.5 per cent equity was the price to ensure that their bid won. The losing consortia may also have had their political mentors. It is another reminder of the ever-present danger of crony capitalism in a free market democracy.


How do we judge the moral failures of IPL? Vidura would balance the good against the bad. He would point to the magical nights that it brought to millions of cricket fans on TV; the new cricketing talent it unearthed; the Rs 600 crore that the government earned through service and income taxes; the staggering $4.13 bn in brand value it achieved; and the indefinable value of rare, flawless execution in a nation that is in agony over the Commonwealth Games. Vidura would then weigh this against the negative deeds of Mr Modi and unhesitatingly agree that the law must take its course, and Mr Modi should be punished for wrongful acts.


But in his personal judgement, Vidura would be ambivalent. As he would do in judging ambiguous figures like Dhirubhai Ambani, Pratap Singh Kairon, and the Pandava heroes in the epic. Let me illustrate. A few years ago, a young man on a beach in Goa jumped into the sea and saved a drowning child. A few days later, the hero confessed to a reporter that he may not have jumped if no one had been watching. He did it, he said, to impress his friends, and particularly one girl in their college party. The reporter said, "In that case, you are not such a hero!" Vidura, however, would have looked at the result and said, "But the child was saved! Dharma was done. Why worry about his motives? But, Yudhishthira would have jumped in even if no one had been looking. He would have done it as his dharma, as a duty to ahimsa, to save a life."


It is because we confuse intentions and consequences, ends and means, that dharma is sukshma, or "subtle", according to Bhishma. In Mr Modi's case, we bring in his motives: He got tempted by greed; he needed to feed his ego and extravagant lifestyle, etc. We must remember: The child was saved! What difference does it make if the hero was trying to impress a girl?


Das is the author of 'The Difficulty of Being Good: On the Subtle Art of Dharma'









CHARITY is not exactly new to India's well-heeled. So why should they bother about the campaign by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, urging billionaires to give away at least half their fortunes? There are two things that are novel about the campaign, which has prompted 40 Americans to pledge $150 billion to charity. One, the scale: at least half their net worth is significantly more, to say the least, of what Indians are used to, committing to charity. And two, the efficiency and accountability of spending by charities demanded by the scale of giving. Mr Buffett, Bill Gates' friend and bridge partner, has committed to give away the bulk of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but attached conditions on the performance of the foundation. The foundation itself adopts fairly business-like methods to ensure that the money it spends on immunisation, AIDS, other healthcare and education gets the maximum bang for every buck. This is entirely as it should be. 

There are some departures that the Indian approach to charity would need to make from tradition. One is to move away from religion. Building temples, donating to temples, funding religious functions, etc, has been the mainstay of traditional Indian philanthropy. This is not to ignore the funding of key research institutions by the Tatas or the education initiatives of the Birlas, and, more recently, of our tech entrepreneurs at Infosys, Wipro and HCL. This trend must become mainstream. Another departure is to scale up the amounts given away. Sociocultural, don't even mention tax, factors in India might preclude generosity laying claim to half anyone's fortune, but a significant step-up is still possible. There also has to be a new focus on how efficiently donations are put to use. Echelons close to the funding source eating up a large part of the charity corpus in administrative expenditure is commonplace, but has to be excised. An effort to prioritise the areas of organised benevolence could help fill vital gaps in our social infrastructure: mental health, skill formation, the teaching of maths, Indian languages and English, for example. Let charity begin at home, in earnest.







PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh has appointed yet another panel of wise men to look into power transmission and distribution losses of over `40,000 crore per annum. Considering the wealth of expert reports, reviews and status reports that we have accumulated over the last 20 years of putative power sector reforms, what is clearly required now is concrete action on the ground. What's plain is that aggregate technical and commercial losses in power distribution are much too high. The huge leakages are due to inadequate investment in line capacity, dated transformers, the lack of metering and the like, but mostly due to open theft of electricity and its political patronage. Fortunately, reforming states like Gujarat have demonstrated political and administrative will to stem losses in power distribution including in rural areas, and boost the quality of supply in the process. Under Gujarat's Jyotigram programme, there's separation of feeder lines: a heavy-duty one for tubewells and a light-duty one for domestic use and small-scale manufacturing and services. The idea is that consumers get 24×7 power supply for non-agricultural purposes, enhancing both domestic and commercial possibilities. But tubewell power is restricted to eight hours, providing enough water for crops, thus avoiding over-pumping from aquifers and attendant misuse. The dual-feeder system does cost extra: under the scheme, panchayats are required to pay 30% of the estimate cost or `25,000, whichever is more, with the balance 70% met by the state government.


It's public-private partnership all right, and the electricity utility in Gujarat is one of the very few profitable ones. Reportedly, the total investment for Jyotigram was about `1,500 crore for the entire state. We surely need to scale up the programme pan-India. In tandem, theft of power needs to be declared a criminal, and not merely a civil, offence, and the law duly enforced. The prime minister's office can help in two areas: making the financial accounting of state utilities transparent and public, putting an end to populism and giveaways in the power sector.







 COULD the sudden and minute but nevertheless very welcome fall in the prices of vegetables and food be an unexpected silver lining to the Commonwealth Games (CWG) cloud? For years, vegetable vendors and kirana store owners have been padding their margins and selling wares at inflated prices to an unsuspecting clientele. With no Central Vigilance Commission to queer the pitch with uncomfortable questions about tender norms and actual prices, purveyors of both goods and services had operated in an era of benign ignorance. Now, with the media hot on the heels of villains passing off local treadmills as imported items and putting the spotlight on even the wholesale price of rolls of toilet paper, the chances of the aam aadmi doing the same on the next outing to the market are rising exponentially. Why only those peddling foodstuff, from the flower-seller hawking jasmine strands at `10 for three to the fellow knocking irritatingly on car windows offering up to 10 boxes of tissue paper for `100 depending on the duration of the traffic light, every price could now be up for scrutiny. Are these the actual prices or CWG-type prices, they can justifiably ask. For, as we have gleaned from the exposes of purported wrongdoings, an extra paisa or rupee slipped into the bills here and there — in the case of the CWG, of course, it seems more like several lakh rupees — can add up to a hefty amount at the end of the day. Of course, the common man has little chance of personally making any of the CWG culprits accountable for inflated bills. So, the best option would be to start with those who have a more direct bearing on his finances: the vegetable vendor and grocery store owner. 


 Time was when fictional TV crusaders such as Lalitaji and Rajni reminded people of that old warning: caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. The ongoing revelation of murky deals and substandard work for the CWG has provided a new and all-too-real context for extra vigilance. The price of every potato counts.






CATEGORIES are cognitive constructs meant to organise large amounts of information into manageable units. Goods classified as belonging to the same category are more similar to each other than to goods in other categories. Such comparability and equivalence of attributes makes it easier for consumers and other market participants to judge the relative value of the goods within the category based on shared assumptions of what is normative for that category. 


Thus, categories are crucial to making market goods commensurable, which, in turn, is critical to enabling market exchange. For example, until the early 1990s, when 20thcentury Indian art was generally characterised as 'decorative art' in international art circles, it was categorised with other items from that category. This kept values low, commensurate with those of other decorative art objects. 


After 1995, following a movement among critics, art historians, academics and players such as galleries and auction houses, the same art was classified as modernist and, therefore, 'fine art'. It was perceived as aesthetically and economically more valuable, in keeping with the values of fine art more generally… It is important for entrepreneurs and innovators to co-opt changes in the broader context as opportunities for creating new markets. For example, auction houses were able to capitalise on the fact that 20th-century Indian art was being reinterpreted and redefined by academics.









ONE of the dirty secrets of economics is that there is no such thing as 'economic theory'. There is simply no set of bedrock principles on which one can base calculations that illuminate realworld economic outcomes. We should bear in mind this constraint on economic knowledge as the global drive for fiscal austerity shifts into top gear. 


Unlike economists, biologists, for example, know that every cell functions according to instructions for protein synthesis encoded in its DNA. Chemists begin with what the Heisenberg and Pauli principles, plus the three-dimensionality of space, tell us about stable electron configurations. Physicists start with the four fundamental forces of nature. 


Economists have none of that. The 'economic principles' underpinning their theories are a fraud — not fundamental truths but mere knobs that are twiddled and tuned so that the 'right' conclusions come out of the analysis. 


The 'right' conclusions depend on which of two types of economist you are. One type chooses, for non-economic and non-scientific reasons, a political stance and a set of political allies, and twiddles and tunes his or her assumptions until they yield conclusions that fit their stance and please their allies. The other type takes the carcass of history, throws it into the pot, turns up the heat, and boils it down, hoping that the bones will yield lessons and suggest principles to guide our civilisation's voters, bureaucrats and politicians as they slouch toward utopia. 


Not surprisingly, I believe that only the second kind of economist has anything useful to say. So what lessons does history have to teach us about our current global economic predicament? 


In 1829, John Stuart Mill made the key intellectual leap in figuring out how to fight what he called 'general gluts'. Mill saw that excess demand for some particular set of assets in financial markets was mirrored by excess supply of goods and services in product markets, which, in turn, generated excess supply of workers in labour markets. 


The implication of this was clear. If you relieved the excess demand for financial assets, you also cured the excess supply of goods and services (the shortfall of aggregate demand) and the excess supply of labour (mass unemployment). 


Now, there are many ways to relieve excess demand for financial assets. When the excess demand is for liquid assets used as means of payment — for 'money' — the natural response is to have the central bank buy government bonds for cash, thus increasing the money stock and bringing supply back into balance with demand. We call this 'monetary policy'. 


When the excess demand is for longer-term assets — bonds to serve as vehicles for savings that move purchasing power from the present into the future — the natural response is twofold: induce businesses to borrow more and build more capacity, and encourage the government to borrow and spend, thus bringing the supply of bonds back into balance with demand. We call the first of these 'restoring confidence', and the second 'fiscal policy'. 


When excess demand is for highquality assets — places where you can park your wealth and be assured that it will still be there when you come back — the natural response is to have creditworthy governments guarantee some private assets and buy up others, swapping them out for their own liabilities and thus diminishing the supply of risky assets and increasing the supply of safe assets. We call this 'banking policy'. 


Of course, no real-world policy falls cleanly into any one of these ideal types. Right now, the European Central Bank (ECB) worries that continued expansionary fiscal policy will backfire. Yes, it argues, having governments spend more money and continue to run large deficits will increase the supply of bonds, and thus relieve excess demand for longer-term assets. 


But if a government's debt emissions exceed its debt capacity, all of that government's debt will become risky. It will have relieved a shortage of longer-term assets by creating a shortage of highquality assets, and so be in a worse position than it was before. 


 The ECB contends that the core economies of the global North — Germany, France, Britain, the US and Japan — are now at the point where they need rapid fiscal retrenchment and austerity, because financial markets' confidence in the quality of their debt is shaken, and may collapse at any moment. And policymakers are falling into line: in late July, Peter Orszag, director of the US Office of Management and Budget, said that the coming fiscal consolidation in the US over the next three years will be the country's deepest retrenchment in 60 years. 


Yet, as I look at the world economy, I see a very different picture: one in which markets' trust in the quality of government liabilities of the global North's core economies most certainly is not on the brink of collapse. 

I see production 10% below capacity, and I see unemployment rates approaching 10%. More importantly for near-term economic policy, I see a world in which investors have enormous confidence in core economies' government debt — for many, the only safe port in this storm. In these circumstances, we can be sure of what Mill would have recommended. 


(The author is professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley and a research associate at the National Bureau   of Economic Research) 

 © Project Syndicate, 2010






 THE real estate sector is showing signs of revival, with the economy projected to grow by 8.5% this fiscal year. Property prices have started moving up and tier-I and tier-II cities are expected to fuel growth in the sector in the coming years. This is good news for realty developers. They will, however, have to reckon with stringent regulation that the government plans to enforce to promote orderly development of the sector and curb malpractices. Santosh Rungta, the president of Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Associations of India (Credai), an apex body of organised realty developers and builders, foresees a rise in real estate prices when states implement the new piece of legislation to regulate the sector. 


"There are provisions in the model Real Estate (Regulation of Development) Act that, if implemented in its current form, will change the price dynamics of the country's real estate sector. It will also escalate property prices across all segments by at least Rs 250 per sq ft. And this could hurt consumers looking at affordable housing projects." 


 The Real Estate (Regulation of Development) Act drafted by the Centre last year has proposed the setting up of a regulatory authority and an appellate tribunal to regulate, control and promote planned development, construction, sale, transfer and management of colonies, residential buildings, apartments and so on. The authority will maintain a website with all project details to safeguard public interest. The model law also aims to check flyby-night operators. 


 Among the crucial provisions is the proposal to have compulsory registration of projects. The builder will have to furnish a bank guarantee of a certain percentage of the estimated cost of the development works to a competent authority. Stringent penalties are proposed for non-compliance or failure to register a project. 

The model law also makes it mandatory for builders to execute a registered agreement to sell before they accept deposit or advance from the buyers. Time over-runs will not be taken lightly. The builder will be liable to pay penal interest on the advance taken from the buyer. 


 The idea is to safeguard the rights and interests of the buyers and prevent losses to the government. Policy managers reckon that tightening of regulation and legal requirements will reform the realty market, bringing in more transparency and accountability. State governments are expected to enact the law based on the model Act. 

 Worry lines have been drawn for realtors who claim that the sector is already over-regulated. The rule to register every project with the regulator is unsettling for developers. "If implemented, the rule will delay projects, lead to cost and time over-runs, and push up construction costs. Project delays will impact the country's growing housing needs and make it unaffordable for end-consumers. The registration of each project will create a situation similar to the licence raj, add to bureaucratic hurdles and, thus, defeat the purpose for which the new law has been conceptualised. The real estate industry is already overregulated. This provision may open more windows for corruption," he said. 


According to him, obtaining multiple clearances from local authorities to complete a certain project will lead to operational delays and non-compliance by civic authorities. 


 He reckons that the service tax on real estate projects under construction, especially in the residential space, will escalate project costs and, in turn, impact prices. He foresees the unit price to increase by at least 2-3% in the near term. 


The near-saturation of free tracts of land in metro cities has compelled developers to look at hinterland. "Realtors have, over the years, shifted their focus to the periphery and suburban regions of key metros, where demand is on the surge. I foresee the development of several township projects in cities developing at a fast pace as well as multiple projects in cities that have a good infrastructural set up," he said. 

The industry also needs more workforce to meet the growing demand for housing. But the sector is now facing a shortage of construction workers. "We are, therefore, organising skill development programmes for workers as part of the government's National Skill Development Corp (NSDC) initiative. Credai has started activation of such programmes in Pune. If the initiative is scaled up nationally, we will be able to tackle the problem," Mr Rungta said.







THE West, especially the US, may have pronounced the death of newspapers, but in India, they still rule the roost. More importantly, out of the 10 most-circulated dailies, at least four are in Hindi. With the boom in the economy and increase in literacy levels, the future of print journalism, particularly of Hindi publications — Hindi being the mother tongue of the vast majority — looks promising. 


Over the last two decades, Hindi newspapers have invested heavily in content and design. However, the new educated middle class still feels that they lack professionalism. 


The reason for this thinking dates back to the freedom movement where every single Hindi newspaper was low on professionalism and high on mission, as was the need of the hour. Their contribution to the freedom struggle cannot be ignored. In the post-Independence era, the vacuum created by mission journalist was filled by Vidyalankars of Gurukuls and Hindi teachers struggling to find suitable government jobs. 


Though Hindi journalism saw a few good editors such as Sachidanand Vatsyayan 'Ageye', Dr Dharmveer Bharti, Manohar Shyam Joshi and Raghuveer Sahay, mostly working for weekly publications, the first ray of professionalism was visible with the arrival of Late Sh Rajendra Mathur on the scene, whose 75th birth anniversary falls on August 7. He was a professor of English language and literature in a postgraduate college in Indore. Yet, he opted for Hindi journalism. Perhaps he wanted to reach out to the masses and create an atmosphere that could inspire and encourage professionalism. 


During his stint with Navbharat Times (1982-1991), he contributed many thought-provoking articles in The Times of India. His English was as impeccable as his Hindi and he always emphasised that a Hindi journalist should also have a working knowledge of English as information is mostly available in this global language. 

His writing was so rich and diverse that very early in life, he was recognised and later referred for Navbharat Timeseditorship by the then-editor-in-chief of The Times of India, Giri Lal Jain. 


In Navbharat Times, he formed a team of dynamic journalists and intellectuals who could give shape and sheen to the paper. Some of his team members occupy high places in electronic and print journalism today. Well-known media personalities like Late Sh S P Singh — former editor of Ravivar and chief of Hindi news channel Aaj Tak — and Raghuveer Sahay — former editor of Hindi weekly Dinman and an eminent poet — worked with him for years. 


He inspired his readers to voice their opinion by writing letters to the editor and thus participating in nation-building. Sometimes, he himself wrote letters to encourage the readers. 


This created a class of citizen journalists that was better equipped and more articulate. Navbharat Times used to get 70-80 letters per day and, at times, he used to edit these himself. Those who worked with him were fascinated with his dedications and his ability to tirelessly work for hours. He invited Sharad Joshi, the satirist and shortstory writer, to write a daily column for Navbharat Times which became quite popular. Sharad Joshi's stories have been recently adapted into a TV serial, Lapataganj. 


He was the first editor who broke the myth that an editor's job is to only advise the government by writing articles sitting comfortably in an ivory tower. Instead, he continuously strived to bring out readerfriendly, content-rich and thought-provoking issues. He was a storehouse of knowledge, moving around with zest and zeal, and always attentive to the needs of his team. He created a new language of Hindi journalism by introducing many colloquial words from the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh that are used extensively today. He was a democratic editor who always gave space to others though he had some fixed notions about Congress, capitalism and the Indian nation-state. He was unassuming, yet firm, in his commitment to journalism and freedom of Press. 


During the emergency in 1975, he was one of the few editors who aggressively opposed Press censorship. He was a visionary who could see through things and interpret the approaching trends objectively. Back in 1991 when the first Iraq war took place and USSR still boasted of socialism, he wrote an article in which he established that there is no alternative to capitalism. An excerpt: "Does it not trouble you to think that in the coming future, only capitalism will rule with all its weakness and problem, its conflicts and contradictions. Yet, there will be no alternative to it." 


Are we not living today in the same scenario upbeat with new economic policies while the preamble of our Constitution still declares India as a socialist state?


 (The author is a former executive editor of     Navbharat Times)








DUALITY divides. Oneness unites. When we think, we divide ourselves. Thought creates a duality or division —by a 'mind-made scale' for measurement of good or bad, pain and pleasures, sukhand dukh, more or less; gain or loss: virtue or vice. Thought varies with time, space, individual and object. It creates diverse situations and options. Each person is often led to Karma by invisible thought force that drops from the Universal Reservoir of Unknown or Universal Mind. Intertwine mode of thought and karma projects I-ness as distinct from Oneness. In Buddhism, thought is the causative factor of Desire and, therefore, of pain. 


It is said Divine Thought created duality: in forms of mind, matter and their multiples. It was a 'primordial sin' of separation from the Lord. This made sentient beings limited from the Unlimited in diverse forms of flesh. 

What is to be inferred from 'flesh'? It is bondage to (the prison house of) body. How can one cut himself off from the world of flesh? That is feasible only if one is under no compulsion to reincarnate in any flesh form in future. To deflesh perpetually is to overcome duality and merge with Oneness. 

 In domain of bodies and flesh, 'Karmic debits and credits' accrue. This apparently symbolises Godman relationship as a balancesheet. In the affairs of body, mind, soul, Nature, time and space, balance-sheet cannot be annualised. Settlement of 'Karmic credits and debits' of past lives — that may be good or bad — can be done through retribution (payback) in subsequent life forms or when debt is waived. 


Good thoughts or karmas, from spiritual point of view, take consciousness inward and upward. Negative thoughts or bad karmas have tendency to pull mind downward and outward. This is the broad distinction for determining what is 'good' or 'bad'. 


The irony is that neither good nor bad karmas can liberate us from 'primordial sin' of separation. Humans undertake 'karmic settlement' in flesh forms on this 'karmbhoomi' by reaping whatever is sown — good or bad — in earlier lives. The cycle of transmigration and consequent pain and pleasures never terminate so long as 'flesh' and 'separation' survive. 


Our own good karmas and Bhakti may create conditions for that Oneness. But, 'primordial sin' or separation is forgiven, when Divine act of mercy (taras) takes place. Call it grace, meher, kripa, rehmat, bakhshish, maafior by any other name. It is then that 'Karmic debits and credits' are wiped out, relationship with flesh finishes, duality dies and Oneness attained.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Cyberabad MLAs, particularly those from the Congress, were outraged when the home minister, Ms Sabita Indra Reddy, reduced the number of gunmen providing them security.


The decision was taken by a security committee on the basis of the threat perception. Each MLA was initially provided two gunmen, working in two shifts (2+2).


But this was cut down to one gunman, working in two shifts (1+1). This angered the MLAs so much that they 'surrendered' the gunmen to the government and even lodged a complaint with the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah.


"When the home minister's son could have gunmen without having any position, why can't an elected representative have more gunmen?" an MLA asked. Those who lost gunmen include the Medchal MLA, Mr Kichanagari Laxma Reddy, Malkajgiri MLA, Mr Rajender, Uppal MLA, Mr Bandari Raji Reddy, LB Nagar MLA, Mr Sudheer Reddy, and the Serilingampally MLA, Mr Bikshapati Yadav.


After much wrangling, the government proposed a 2+1 formula; two gunmen in the day and one in the eight. The MLAs reluctantly agreed. As everyone knows, a gunman hanging around is more a status symbol for MLAs than a 'security matter'.




It is evident to all now that the Praja Rajyam chief, Mr Chiranjeevi, and the Telugu Desam president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, consider each other rivals and are trying to outsmart each other. And the political novice, Mr Chiranjeevi, has been scoring over Mr Naidu in recent times, though he still has to go a long way to match the strength of the TD in terms of numbers. After Mr Chiranjeevi walked from Tirupati to Tirumala and hogged the headlines, Mr Naidu too has decided to undertake a similar exercise on August 7. He will stage a protest at the TTD administrative building and will conduct a padayatra to Tirumala. The PR chief scored another point by announcing his decision to take up the Byyaram mines controversy with a tour of Khammam district, the first Seema-Andhra leader to do it in Telangana. He also plans to undertake the Jana Chaitanya Yatra, focussing on price rise.


Likewise, Mr Chiranjeevi took a clear stance on the Telangana issue supporting a Samaikhya Andhra while Mr Naidu is still vacillating. It has now become a joke in political circles that what Chiru does today, Mr Naidu will do tomorrow.




The Nandyala Congress MP, Mr S.P.Y. Reddy, has a strange nickname. Fellow Congress leaders affectionately call him a 'Lashkar-e-Tayyaba' man. At first sight, one may wonder if the MP has some terror link. But that is not so. The origin of the name is rather convoluted.


Generally it is the duty of the 'Lashkar' in the irrigation department to open gates of reservoirs to release irrigation waters to canals and later to close them. But Mr Reddy, an engineer, often forcibly lifts the gates and releases water to canals. He does this whenever he feels that officials are not doing their task.


In fact, the MP's peculiar habit has created 'terror' among the engineers of Nandyala.


Though police has booked cases against the MP over this, he is not showing any signs of budging. Since he often undertakes the job of the 'lashkar,' fellow leaders have started terming him the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba man.







Pakistan has been doggedly pushing the demand that the additional chief judicial magistrate and the investigating officer in Mumbai who recorded the statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist taken alive in the course of the assault on Mumbai, appear before the Pakistani anti-terrorist court trying the half a dozen terrorism masterminds who orchestrated the attack. This plainly appears to be a device to enable the anti-terrorism court not to complete its labours. India has sent Pakistan authenticated copies of the statement in which Kasab has named the senior Lashkar-e-Tayyaba figures who planned and helped execute the Mumbai attack, and are undergoing trial in Rawalpindi. Why this should not suffice for the prosecution in Pakistan to do its work passes comprehension, unless that legal process has been wired not to succeed. Appreciating eventually that Kasab's transfer to Pakistan was an impossibility, Islamabad came up with the demand that the senior Indian officials who recorded the killer's testimony appear before its judicial authorities. Whatever for, considering that an authenticated copy of the statement they recorded is already with Pakistan's anti-terrorism court? Given the context and background of Pakistani behaviour after Mumbai, and Pakistan's current stance, suspicion has only grown that Islamabad is not really interested in the Rawalpindi trial.
In the event India has signalled its willingness to Pakistan to let the two Mumbai officials communicate with the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi through the video-conferencing method provided the Bombay high court is agreeable. This is clearly a concession made in the broader interest of re-establishing normality. In spite of strong domestic reservations, India has sought to return to a form of early contact in an effort to eliminate or narrow the "trust deficit" between the neighbours but requires Pakistan to prosecute those of its nationals who masterminded the 26/11 attack. To enable Islamabad to meet this condition, the Indian authorities have gone the extra mile by contemplating judicial communication through video-conferencing. The Pakistani response would be watched with interest. But it should occasion no surprise if Islamabad says no to video-conferencing and insists that the two Mumbai officials appear in their anti-terrorism court. If that happens, India will know for sure that Pakistan's nominally civilian government is not interested in normalising relations.
The Manmohan Singh government has urged Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to pay a return visit to India. It is evident, however, that these diplomatic niceties are up against a roadblock. The recent report of the US Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, a bipartisan congressional instrument, has officially raised the anxiety that Pakistan could be at risk of succumbing to an Iranian-style theocratic revolution. The prognosis is grim and we may hope that it does not come to pass. But all things considered, it is pointless being starry-eyed about prospects of normality in the near term.








 "In 1905 Lenin asked 'What Is To Be Done?'

Long before him, Bachchoo asked 'How Can One Avoid Doing It?'"

From Biographia


Asif Ali Zardari, the President of Pakistan, has not cancelled his tour of Great Britain in the wake of David Cameron's blunt speaking on his own recent tour of India. Mr Cameron accused Pakistan of nurturing terror, exporting it and facing two ways when it came to the allied effort to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the notoriously open frontier between the two countries.


Some referred to the pronouncement as bold. It would have been much bolder if he had made such pronouncements in Islamabad. Indian audiences and the media take it as read (what the Americans and their pretentious imitators call a "no-brainer") that Pakistani groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba train terrorists and send them, for instance, to Mumbai with guns and maps marking hotels where the rich take their entertainment and rest and houses owned by Jewish sects. Indians, with most of the civilised world, take it as self-evident that the Pakistani state did, and perhaps still does, finance, shelter, entertain, arm, nurture, protect and turn a blind eye to terrorist groups who operate from its soil to terrorise Kashmir or fight their jihad in Afghanistan. Neither is it any great secret that Pakistan, with the connivance and finance of the US, generated the Taliban to bring Islamic uniformity to the upheaval and anarchy that resulted from the (yes!) American-nurtured Mujahideen war-lordism that butchered a reformist government and drove their supporting Soviet troops out. US policy created one chaos to replace the other they had nurtured.


This is history — undeniable. One may quibble about the definition of "wives" but it will be generally accepted that Henry VIII had six.


Mr Cameron's "facing both ways" allusion was not an accusation against the poor Zardari government. Everyone knows that the poor man holds his position as a licensee of the armed forces. They have ruled Pakistan for three quarters of the years of its existence and they permit civilians to hold elections and set up governments when it suits them. Mr Cameron was alluding to this paradoxical position when he spoke to his Indian audience. He wasn't telling them anything they didn't know.


Neither was he saying anything that the rest of the world, including Mr Zardari, his foreign minister and the outraged mobs that burnt effigies of Mr Cameron on the streets of Karachi, doesn't know. But should he have said it?


Should the child who noticed that the Emperor was walking down in state bollock-naked not have loudly announced the fact? Courtiers didn't burn effigies of the little boy but surely his parents berated him for his bad manners and for breaking the spell.


That is presumably what Mr Cameron set out to do. If the alliance of which Mr Cameron is now one of the chief leaders does not recognise that the West is fighting the wrong war in Afghanistan and has never publicly identified or characterised the enemy formation it faces, they will continue to be humiliated. The spell of unknowing had to be broken.


Why hasn't any British politician ventured to say what Mr Cameron has just begun to say? Because they are more cautious and experienced than the tyro Prime Minister? There is a political lobby in Britain that contents itself with pronouncing the new Prime Minister "naive".


They are wrong. Mr Cameron was not simply sucking up to the prejudice of his Indian hosts.


He didn't say it because he is naive, blundering and inexperienced. He said it because it's true and because he can! The reason he can is that his domestic constituency and that of the MPs of his Conservative Party is not reliant on the votes of the ex-Pakistani and ex-Bangladeshi immigrant population of Britain. The Labour Party to a significant extent and in key constituencies is reliant on the "Muslim" vote. This is the result of early immigration from Mirpur and Sylhet supplying labour for inherently working class towns and cities. Even if six per cent of the population of these mosque-and-redundant-mill towns is of immigrant extraction, victory at the ballot box can depend on their loyalty.


In the 1980s, when I worked for a bold and innovative national TV channel, one of the programmes in my remit investigated the constituency of Roy Hattersley who was then the deputy leader of the Labour Party. One organiser of the Labour Party, an immigrant of Pakistani extraction, persuaded that he was not being filmed and was speaking off the record, told the interviewer, "Of course, we fix the (internal Labour Party) vote for Hatterji sahib. We register hundreds of people under Muslim names as members and we pay their membership fees and add some houses and addresses onto each street".


The Liberal Democrat Party, now in coalition with Mr Cameron's Conservatives, were the only major party to oppose the Iraq war and on that platform of opposition won the support of whole Muslim constituencies.


To gain support by providing policies that sections of people want or trust is democracy in action and long may the mechanism operate. The point is that Mr Cameron's vote doesn't depend on these communities because they don't vote Tory and he and his advisors have realised that they needn't, unlike their opponents, suffer from that particular electoral inhibition.


That the democratic process itself allows the views of a minority to be overlooked, ignored or traduced is not a cause to celebrate.


Except perhaps if the views of that minority support the burning of radical novels, the murder of writers, translators, cartoonists and filmmakers, the stoning of women accused of adultery, the bombing in the name of religion of innocents on trains and planes and denial of the fact that Pakistan has been the training ground for the leaders and activists of every group of mass murderers or would-be mass murderers apprehended, tried and jailed in Britain.








The law to protect whistleblowers may be finally here. As I write this, the Union Cabinet is supposed to be discussing the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill 2010, which has been on the agenda for years and almost made it to Parliament last year. The law would be a reassuring step towards proving our commitment to democratic freedoms. But it is far from enough.


First, let's see what the bill involves. It attempts to empower us to file complaints against corruption or make damning disclosures in the public interest against government employees. Any information on the misuse of public money or authority would constitute a public interest disclosure.


The bill also attempts to prevent disciplinary action against whistleblowers — in this case, those who expose corruption in government — by laying down penalties. The identity of the informer would not be revealed; if it is, their superiors would be held accountable.


Complaints are to be made to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which would have the powers of a civil court, including the power to order a police investigation and to provide security to the whistleblower. The CVC would not divulge the identity of the person filing the complaint.


But the public needs to have more information about the scope of the bill. We need to know, for example, if the law is applicable to the private sector, i.e. would it protect corporate whistleblowers? In the interest of fairness, it should also extend to non-governmental organisations. And within the public sector, would it restrict itself to government employees or apply — as it most certainly should — to the various contractors and subcontractors that the government so happily farms out work to?


Would it apply to the armed forces, police and perhaps even the intelligence agencies — as long as it doesn't endanger lives and national security?


We have been talking of the crying need to protect whistleblowers since the death of Satyendra Dube in 2003. Dube, a project director with the National Highways Authority of India, had written to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee exposing rampant corruption in the construction of highways. Although he had requested that his identity be kept secret, his letter was openly tossed between various government departments, leaving him exposed and vulnerable. He was killed shortly thereafter.


Horrified media campaigns and a public outcry prompted the Supreme Court to get the government to issue the Public Interest Disclosures and Protection of Informers Resolution in 2004. It specified the CVC as the nodal agency for complaints. But not much changed. As was clear from the murder of Manjunath Shanmugham the next year. The sales manager of Indian Oil Corporation was murdered in late 2005 for opposing the petrol adulteration racket.


Murdering those who try to expose corruption continues to be a handy tool of corrupt officials and their criminal associates. Because there is no protection mechanism for those who dare to challenge the crooks. Of late, activists using the Right to Information (RTI) Act to expose such offences have been easy targets. In just the first seven months of this year, eight RTI activists have been murdered and dozens attacked around the country.


If RTI activists and other whistleblowers were protected, it would certainly encourage us to expose wrongs that harm our country, its people and the environment. And containing corruption is the first step to good governance. Most of our nation's ills — including sectarian violence, failure of poverty alleviation, lack of development — are a result of corruption and bad governance.


There are reservations about the bill. Some want it to be named The Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblowers) Bill, instead of "Protection of Informers".


Nobody likes a snitch and "informers" sound like police moles. Besides, specifying a timeframe for complaints may be used as an escape route by our clever bureaucrats and politicians. The bill states that no complaint will be probed if it is made 12 months after the petitioner got to know of it, or five years after the date of the alleged offence. These clauses need to go, say activists.


Besides, the CVC has its limitations. It was set up back in 1964 to help tackle corruption. Like the illustrious detective Remington Steele, it works freely and in an advisory capacity. Unlike Remington Steele, it is not fictitious, and is expected to look over a country of 1.1 billion real people. Also unlike Remington Steele, it is not an investigative agency and needs to depend (apart from its own officers) on government investigators like the police or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). So as long as the police and the CBI are under the thumb of politicians and bureaucrats, the CVC cannot really have a free hand.


Which leads us to suspect the level of protection that the CVC can offer whistleblowers standing up to powerful criminals. It is fine to say that people who take disciplinary action against the whistleblower would be penalised. But in our country the "disciplinary action" is often murder. People are frequently killed even under police protection. And when the stakes are high, perpetrators will do all they can to silence the whistleblower. Just a law won't do — we also need the infrastructure to implement it properly.


And some precautionary measures may be useful. For example, RTI activists or applicants who face death threats must not only be given protection but their allegations must be investigated as soon as possible, and the findings made public. Also, there should be a law that if a whistleblower dies — under even slightly suspicious circumstances — there must be an investigation into not just the death but all that he or she was in the process of unearthing. That way, murder would cease to be the chosen method of silencing the whistleblower.


In short, we desperately need a law to protect whistleblowers. But it better be effective.


The only thing worse than not having a protective law is a law that offers the illusion of protection.


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








Ninety per cent of India's commerce is by sea. At present, 60 per cent of our seaborne trade moves (and comes from) Westwards to Africa, Europe and the US, while 40 per cent moves Eastwards (and comes from) across the Asia-Pacific region. Hence, maritime developments impacting seaborne trade (e.g. Gulf of Aden piracy or the rising maritime tensions in the Asia-Pacific region) need to be monitored closely, and counter measures taken to safeguard our national interests, keeping in mind that sea power takes generations to build up and is directly linked to our national prosperity and security.


The recent spate of events in the seas bordering China and its neighbours (US-South Korea Navy exercises in the Sea of Japan, and the Chinese Navy weapon firing exercises in the South China Sea) have once again highlighted the importance of sea power in the Asia-Pacific region. A few weeks earlier, the US Navy conducted large-scale exercises with other Asia-Pacific regions, and US secretary of state Hillary Clinton sought to internationalise the South China Sea territorial disputes because global commerce flows through it.


Conventional wisdom lists seven "essentials" for a nation to become a great sea power. These are, large size of country, large population, geographic location to dominate sea trade routes, at least two coasts, science-technology-industry, seafaring tradition, and political will of the government to exploit sea power in the national interest.


China does not meet three of the seven "essentials" for sea power, but is striving to overcome these handicaps. Firstly, China has historically not been a seafaring nation, but is learning fast and today its sailors are sailing the world's oceans on merchantmen, fishing trawlers and warships.


Secondly, though sea commerce flows through the China and Yellow seas, China cannot completely dominate the sea trade routes due to the presence of other modern littoral states.


Thirdly, China has just one coast facing Eastwards, and its exit to the Pacific Ocean "can be blocked" by South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. Its exit southwards towards the Indian Ocean requires it to pass close to Vietnam, and then through the choke points of the straits of Singapore-Malacca, Sunda and Lombok. Almost 90 per cent of China's oil requirements are imported from West Asia and Angola, and these move by ship through the Indian Ocean choke points which can be blocked in the event of war.


But China has taken the following measures in an attempt to become a global sea power:


* A combination of technology and innovation is being used by China in an ongoing experiment to detect and target "enemy" warships at sea, at long ranges using the 1,800-km range land-based DF-21 ballistic missile, with terminal homing. If the DF-21 experiment succeeds, the concept of sea power will change globally since a similar experiment can later be attempted with the 8,000-km range DF-31 and the 14,000-km range DF-41. The target data for the missiles could be provided by a combination of long range "over the horizon radars" using high frequency "sky waves" along with indigenous satellites for surveillance, communications and navigation data.


* Ongoing attempts to make the South and East China seas its territorial waters, and thus attempt to control international shipping movement, while exploiting the mineral, oil and fishing wealth. On May 16, 2009, China imposed a "summer fishing ban" in the South China Sea and sent ships to enforce this ban, overriding Vietnamese protests about traditional fishing rights. On January 5, 2010, China announced tourism packages to some disputed and uninhabited islands in the South China Sea. On February 9, 2010, China announced new oil and gas fields in the South China Sea, while its similar "finds" in the East China Sea led to Japan appealing to an international maritime court. On April 13, 2010, a flotilla of 10 Chinese warships and submarines passed between the international waters of Japanese islands of Miyako and Okinawa to exercise in the South East Pacific (On July 4, 2010, two Chinese warships repeated this deployment). On June 30, 2010, China announced a six-day live ammunition firing exercise by its Navy in the East China Sea.


* China has financially, militarily and technologically supported two nuclear armed nations (Pakistan and North Korea) to act as its proxies which will, respectively, "distract and engage" India, Japan and South Korea.


* After the failure of half-a-century of coercive diplomacy, China has set out to woo Taiwan. The recent June 29, 2010, ECFA (Economic Co-operation Framework Agreement) to reduce or eliminate tariffs on 539 Chinese items and 267 Taiwanese items, is financially advantageous to Taiwan, but if China eventually achieves reunification with Taiwan, than it removes one strategic geographical obstacle for its Eastwards move to the Pacific Ocean.

* Flush with over $2.5 trillion foreign exchange reserves, China has invested in South Asian and African littoral states so as to secure its sea lanes of commerce and to avoid sending its oil ships through the straits of Malacca, Sunda and Lombok. In pursuance of its "strings of pearls policy", China not only gifted and built the Gwadar Port for Pakistan (which will unload West Asia oil, to be moved by Chinese-gifted roads and pipelines to China through the proposed Karakoram highway), but is now building ports in three countries which are India's neighbours. In Sri Lanka the Chinese are funding and building the $9 billion Hambantota seaport (three times larger than Colombo) and the nearby Mattala International Airport, both to be ready by 2015. In Bangladesh the Chinese are funding and building two deep water terminals at Chittagong and a brand new seaport nearby. Both these terminals and the new port will be linked by road and oil pipelines to Kunming in China, and will pass through Burma. Similarly Sittwe deep water port in Burma is being funded and built by China, and will also be connected to Kunming by road and oil pipelines. China has also invested in similar facilities in Tanzania and Angola.


* In 2009, Chinese think tanks suggested that once China gets its own aircraft carrier by about 2015, the US Navy should "look after" the sea area east of Hawaii, while the Chinese Navy would "look after" the rest of the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Chinese investment in nuclear submarines too, will aid a "two ocean deployment capability" in the future.


Strategically-located peninsular India, with 1,197 islands, meets six of the seven requirements of sea power. It only needs to augment its sea power and display palpable political will power to use that sea power in its national interest.


* Vice-Admiral Arun Kumar Singh retired as Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam







Breathing is a divine act. It takes one deep within one's body and soul; it explores the realm of sound that awakens the consciousness. It explores the zahir, the outward, and the batin, the inward.


"And remember when thy Lord said unto the angels:

Lo! I am creating a mortal out of potter's clay of black mud altered.


So, when I have made him and have breathed into him My spirit...' (Quran 15:28 -29)


This reveals through the breath, the mystic relationship between the Creator and His creations and the sanctity and the unity of each creation. Each breath contains the whole world and the whole world is contained in one breath. Allah uses several ways of exemplifying this phenomenon. In sound and prayers; in ways of doing; and the essence of the act. Allah uses the word nafs for His own breath, and He uses the word ruh for His own soul and these same words are used to mean the human breath and the human soul, through which it's been proven that we all come from one source and to that one source we return.


The discovering of the self and divinity through the breath is a universal happening. Breath is an active area of study which bridges the body, mind and soul and connects civilisations across the globe. In many cultures breath is envisioned as a direct manifestation of the spirit. Baraka, prana, chee, num, lung, pung, pneuma, ruach... It is the subtle energy which enlivens us, and we receive this subtle energy by breathing it in or having it breathed into us from above. As the Prophet of Islam said, "Travel to China to seek knowledge". He probably talked about the primordial knowledge of breathing which was inherent in the Chinese way of seeking divinity and secrets of longevity. It was known as chee, the vital energy contained in the air we breathe.


The Sufis resort to the use of divine names, which condense and compress the effect of a longer recitation into a brief space, which becomes Dhikr.


Yoga teaches that the body reflects the breath, the breath reflects the mind, the mind reflects the heart and the heart reflects the soul. The Kapalbhaati and the deep breathing in pranayaam is a measure of one's healing power. As you learn to become still, you take your attention to where you want the healing to happen.


For the Taoist, the conscious cultivation of breath offers a powerful way not only to extract energies from the outside world but also to regulate the energetic pathways of our inner world, helping to bring our body, mind and emotions into a harmonious balance.


As Lao Tzu says: "Without leaving his house, he knows the whole world. Without looking out of his window he sees the ways of heaven". To experience this we need to breathe naturally, free from unconscious motivations and constraints of our self image. Visualise and sense your internal organs... sense your organs, sense the outer movements of the breath... go deeper into sensations. A perceptual re-education of breath and movement in martial arts, tai chi, dance etc tells us that the body-mind-breath synchronisation is capable of remarkable intelligence, sensitivity, and action when we rid ourselves of unnecessary tension.


As Ilse Meddendorf, the breath therapist, points out: By perceiving our breath as it comes and goes, we discover an opening into our own unconscious life, and bring about a conscious expansion into the whole of ourselves. This conscious welcoming of everything that we are lies at the heart of deep, inner quiet and relaxation. Listen to your body. Sense yourself. Let the mind become still. The 10,000 things rise and fall while the self watches their return. They grow and flourish and then return to the source. Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.


We live in a universe of energy and energy transformations, and we depend on these to think, to feel, to move, and so on. The sound of Aum is deep and resonating and the sound of Hu or Allah Hu equally resounding and cleansing. It is the agent upon which divine permission is borne and is responsible for conveying divine attributes from the heart to various centres of the body. Breath is not just oxygen, but emerges from divine origin of our existence. It belongs to the Beloved who has breathed life into me...


"I belong to the beloved, have seen the

two worlds as one and that one call to and know,

First, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human being".


(A free translation of Rumi by Coleman Barks)

— Muzaffar Ali is a filmmaker and painter.

He is the Executive Director and Secretary of the Rumi Foundation.He can be contacted

t [1]









INDIAN sport is fast approaching its nadir: alas, we still do not know how much further it will sink before a comprehensive clean-up of the administrative mechanism takes effect and players get opportunity to give full flow to latent talent. Today, for all the wrong reasons the headlines centre around the Commonwealth Games, overshadowing the farcical situation in which Indian hockey finds itself ~ uncertainty over which controlling body is legitimate. These have taken some of the heat off the IPL, and relegated to a footnote the alleged sexual harassment of women athletes by their coaches. The showing of a Saina Nehwal, Sachin or Sehwag does not suffice to redeem. Collectively have the government and the federations brought things to this sorry pass ~ and for the siphoning off of CWG monies the local authorities in the Capital cannot evade responsibility. Both the Lieutenant-Governor and the Chief Minister of Delhi (and to a degree the Union Urban Development Minister) failed to play their monitoring role. True the head of the CWG Organising Committee cannot be directly blamed for much of what the Central Vigilance Commission has slammed ~ Suresh Kalmadi faces plenty of flak from other quarters ~ but those who strut about at "inaugurations" cannot duck their share of responsibility. And that includes the Minister of Sport; had he done his job sincerely there might have been no cause for him to promise Parliament that the guilty will not be spared. The action taken by the OC thus far is less than token. Maybe time does not permit major divesting of authority and appointment of a fresh team to undertake a salvage mission ~ as Jagmohan did for Asiad 82 ~ but the Prime Minister has no alternative to "getting his hands dirty", rather than emulate Pilate. Had he paid heed to apprehensions expressed by CWGF officials months ago he would have spared his government, and the country at large, the major embarrassments already suffered. And worse could follow.  

The "hand" of MS Gill/Suresh Kalmadi is also clearly visible in the hockey fiasco. Getting rid of KPS Gill was not a bad idea, but it was done in the hamhanded manner so typical of the sports minister now clearly caught "off side". If only Dr Manmohan Singh could summon up the moral courage to flash some red cards. Fish, the saying goes, rots from the head, so the Gills, Kalmadis etc have to be banished to the sidelines.



IT is really quite amazing that the political class ~ collectively ~ should take umbrage at "unsolicited" calls and short text messages on their mobile phones. Having opted to ride the tiger that technology is, their complaint seems to be that the tip of the beast's tail now tickles them. Most if not all calls and SMSes are unsolicited, but semantics aside what citizens of the country must take note of is the fact that politicians cutting across party lines could put their heads together for what is at best a personal irritant. Consistently, they have shown themselves incapable ~ or unwilling ~ to find common cause in dealing with the problems of far greater substance that people confront every single day. If Mr Pranab Mukherjee must get testy at being asked if he is interested in availing a loan, perhaps he also ought to expend a small part of his outrage on the manner in which banks treat ordinary customers, or how government wastes money, the corruption in which the system wallows or the utter nonsense politicians have made of parliamentary proceedings. These are things to be outraged about, not a phone conversation that can be easily terminated, or a short message that can be dismissed with the delete command. Besides, Mr Mukherjee, didn't someone tell you it is polite to put your phone on silent mode when at a meeting, or to divert calls to your secretary?  

Without wishing to hold a brief for mobile phone operators ~ grubby as a class and therefore unworthy of sympathy ~ or telemarketing personnel, isn't it important to take note of a few truths before deciding to turn ministerial ire on them? Mobile operators pay huge sums of money ~ officially for spectrum, and unofficially to spectrum scamsters ~ for the privilege of finding ways to recover that money and more. These calls and messages are a way of recovering investment. And telemarketing is simply an offshoot of the so-called Business Process Outsourcing platform for which India prides itself, and sells so assiduously to the rest of the world. In other words, Mr Mukherjee, Ms Ambika Soni, Mr Venkaiah Naidu and the rest who complained so bitterly to the Telecom minister, about whom the less said the better, need to seriously consider what they say before they say it. It isn't nice for our leaders to sound so stupid, at least not so many of them at the same time!

DRIVEL 24 X 7 

What exists, but doesn't benefit 

A publicity blitz would not have been necessary if the raft of schemes being reeled off by the rural development ministry had benefited the people tangibly. If Krishi Darshan has proved inadequate, a 24 x 7 channel is now proposed  to be launched to make the people "adequately aware" of what is on offer. As a prelude, the ministry is anxious to dispel the very probable impression that "it will be an extension of the PIB". Such misgivings exist within the ministry itself, if not the rural populace just yet. The programme will deal with problems that are endemic, but with which governments, at the Centre and in the states, have tinkered with. Notably, agriculture, land, water and sanitation. It is a  mite presumptuous too; farmers will be expected to learn from the TV anchor how to preserve seeds ~ and a year after the withering drought. To propose that panchayats will highlight development projects seems hilarious given the overwhelming failure of these quangos, and not in West Bengal alone. If one of the 17 Doordarshan channels is converted to a rural channel, it is an official media-generated exercise in self-deception that works on the dangerous premise that villagers will actually be able to power television sets.   

Well may the Centre imagine that the channel will "bring the rural masses and the government closer". The work must do the talking. This is the short point that the rural development ministry hasn't realised even as it orchestrates the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Swarnajayanti Gram Dwarojgar Yojana, the Indira Awaas Yojana et al. The drumbeat will now be stepped up with an audio-visual sideshow. It is almost certain that the practical application will remain ever so inadequate. Generally, these schemes showcase a series of public sector disasters. It is perhaps not so ironical that rural viewers will be enlightened about schemes that could have benefited them, but haven't. And the ministry obfuscates matters by attributing the failure to what it calls "lack of information". Nearer the truth would have been an admission that there has been a lack of implementation. The information deficit  has rendered the RTI Act a misnomer. In rural India, the deficit has inconvenienced the administration as well.









"Demography is destiny," wrote Auguste Compte, the 18th century French philosopher and pioneer of scientific sociology. The most important source of demographic data is the periodic population census, usually decennial and sometimes quinquennial. It bears recall that India was partitioned on the basis of the population's communal composition, as per the 1941 Census. The subsequent linguistic reorganisation and carving out of states also relied on the census data. The periodic reallocation of parliamentary seats and the demarcation of parliamentary and assembly constituencies reflect the population growth. The inter-state allocation of financial resources is largely based on their population. 

After independence, the reservation for Scheduled Castes and Tribes was based on their approximate numbers. The introduction of  similar reservations in government jobs for OBCs in 1990 led to more strident demands for increased quotas. Caste enumeration was its corollary. 

India has built up a good reputation for population census, starting with the 1872 census and regular decennial census since 1881. It used to be generally free from political overtones and motives. This can't be taken for granted any more because of recent moves to politicise caste classification. 

Inflated numbers

IN many countries, census operations  have been aborted or the results rejected due to large-scale inflation of the count. An immigrant may prefer to conceal his identity or not be counted at all; a person (or a group of persons) may falsify caste or economic status to obtain special benefits. This reportedly happens on a large scale with regard to "below poverty line" (BPL) and caste identification cards. A group may be motivated to deliberately inflate its numbers by reporting non-existent households and individuals. The  population count can suffer if certain sections deliberately increase their numbers. 

In view of the caste-count controversy, the people and the enumerating staff may well  distort the results. The concurrent exercise of unique individual identification (UID), based on bio-metric features, should detect such false cases, but the census results may still be affected. 

Caste became the central issue in Indian politics when the caste cauldron was suddenly stirred through VP Singh's ill-conceived move in 1990, offering OBC reservation in government jobs. The Pandora's box opened further when UPA I extended such reservation in higher education.  There is also a demand for quotas on religious grounds. Quota is an emotional and appealing issue to many, and also easy to implement by a single stroke of the pen. Six decades of reservation have done little to improve the lot of the low castes. Empowering people and their real development require promotion of primary and secondary education, health services, etc. The casteist parties are silent on these issues because it will call for  planning and hard work.  

Certain parties are demanding a caste count, claiming that the number of people in the reserved categories may be higher than what is reflected in the quotas. Both secular and communal parties are supporting the demand lest they lose their vote-banks. Conceding the demand will revitalise the Mandal lobby, and the census will accentuate social tension. The casteist parties argue that caste is an inseparable element of Hinduism, which should be reflected in the census. The clamour for caste-count will end if the quotas are frozen like the inter-state allocation of parliamentary seats. 

The 1931 Census was the last enumeration of the caste-count. The 1951 Census, the first after independence and the coming into force of the Constitution, had excluded caste. Nehru and Patel decided against caste classification to discourage community distinctions.  However, in view of the constitutional provision, an exception was made for the  SC/STs. 

Apart from discrimination, caste enumeration poses practical problems. These are rooted in various nomenclatures and the absence of a clear distinction between castes and sub-castes. The SC/ST classification can also be misleading. For example, in the 2001 Census more than 18,000 entries were recorded though only 1,885 have officially been listed. Problems arise over surnames and clan names. And the practical difficulties are compounded by the classification of languages. While the Constitution lists 22 scheduled and 100 non-scheduled languages, 6,661 mother tongues were recorded. After scrutiny, the number was reduced to 1,635 and eventually to 122 for publishing the results. 

Time-consuming process

Census operations entail the preparation of questionnaires, the drafting of manuals for the enumeration staff, their training, and preparations for data coding, processing, and analysis. All these steps ~ save caste enumeration ~ have been completed for the 2011 Census. The field work is in progress. To add caste at this advanced stage will create fresh problems, upsetting the work schedule. Scrutiny and correction of the returns, their classification and coding constitute a time-consuming process.  If the questions are complex, the replies are still more so.  The quota rules preclude the recruitment of the requisite staff, particularly at lower levels; there are few takers for low-paying jobs. Even higher posts in the government, including faculty appointments in higher educational institutions, remain unfilled for lack of qualified people. 

The NDA government had rightly decided against a caste-count in the 2001 Census. The authorities had referred to the operational difficulties and warned that the integrity of the census could be jeopardised. This perception was iterated in 2005. For the 2011 Census, the Home minister, doubtless guided by the census authorities, objected to the inclusion of caste till he was abruptly overruled. The Centre, apparently concerned more with its survival than principles has yielded to the blackmail of the divisive forces of caste-centric parties, thereby sacrificing the larger interest of the country at the altar of political expediency. It is ironical that the Congress, which led the independence struggle and influenced the framing of the Constitution that banned caste discrimination, is now setting the stage for reinforcing the  quota regime and the dangerous social divides. 
Our Prime Minister once rescued the economy from the hydra-headed monster of licence-permit raj. He should now ignore the  pressure tactics of the caste-centric parties. This will protect the system from sinking further into the disastrous mire of the quota regime. As a matter of policy, there should be a roll-back of the quota regime, and eventually abolish the entitlement altogether as had been envisaged in the Constitution. As a first step, the current census operations must be saved from caste-driven politicisation.


(The writer is former Technical Adviser, Computer Methods and Applications, United Nations, New York and former Director, Computer Services Division of the Planning Commission )








Prasad Kariyawasam is Sri Lanka's High Commissioner to India. Prior to this, he served in New York as Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations. He joined the Sri Lanka foreign service in 1981 and has held diplomatic assignments at Sri Lankan missions in Geneva, Riyadh, Washington and New Delhi. He was Deputy High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in India holding the rank of an Ambassador. He also served as Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Consul General of Sri Lanka to Switzerland and Personal Representative of the Head of State of Sri Lanka to the G-15. In an interview to SIMRAN SODHI, he spoke on Indo-Sri Lankan relations.

How would you describe India-Sri Lanka relations, especially after the visit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India this year? 

This was President Rajapaksa's second state visit to India after having been re-elected with a resounding electoral endorsement of his policy. In our view, the state visit was a landmark, it broadened and deepened our bilateral relationship with India in many ways. We have taken our relationship to another, higher level in terms of the areas of interaction. 

The United States has expressed its support for a UN panel in investigating alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka. What is your reaction? 

Firstly, the UN is not having an investigation on Sri Lanka. It is only a panel and its mandate is only to advise the Secretary-General on the issue of accountability during the last stages of the war. That's all. In our view, the action by the Secretary-General is uncalled for because usually such procedures should take place only if member-states request it either through the General Assembly, the Security Council or through the United Nations Human Rights Commission. So the Secretary-General setting up a panel to advise him is not logical. 

Why do you think the USA has backed this panel? 

In our view, some countries may be saying things to support the Secretary-General but we don't call it backing because we think we have set up domestic mechanisms. We have a commission on lessons learnt and reconciliation with very eminent people. The commission has a mandate to inquire into the situation during the past two years of the LTTE's military defeat and to present the government's findings through consultations with those affected to provide restorative justice and not retributive justice. 


How would you define restorative justice? 

Restorative justice means that any party affected by the conflict should be able to find solutions and justice but retributive justice is different. That is not a concept we Asians are comfortable with. Retributive justice is not there in our grain. Restorative justice is what we are looking for and which we will provide through the mechanism of the commission. So we are disturbed by some parties in the western world calling for retributive action against Sri Lanka.

What is happening to General Fonseka? Is it a personal battle where both President Rajapaksa and General Fonseka want to take the credit for defeating the LTTE?

None of that is true. It is a simple case where there are allegations against Fonseka's conduct and there are legal, judicial procedures taking place in terms of the allegations that have been levelled against him. It's with regard to his conduct as a military officer and afterwards. 

Does Sri Lanka give credit to General Fonseka for defeating the LTTE?

Definitely we give him credit. The Sri Lankan nation and the government have recognised his role as a good military commander but that does not absolve him in terms of the judicial processes he has to face in terms of the charges levelled against him. 

How do you react when Tamil politicians in India raise the issue of Tamils in Sri Lanka? 

Sometimes we feel that some Tamil politicians get affected by the Tamil diaspora that has been supporting the LTTE for many years and feel aggrieved or disappointed that the LTTE is no more. We will not allow violent action in support of separatism. That is where we find that some Tamil Nadu politicians do not understand the ground realities of Sri Lanka and they say things that are totally off the mark. We, therefore, would want them to visit our country and see things for themselves at any time rather than relying on LTTE supporters abroad. But let me say that most Tamil politicians are very good. 

How critical was India's support in defeating the LTTE?

We had to take this action against the LTTE because we were pushed to the wall and because violence was hitting us badly. In that effort, we have had countries like India who understood our predicament and who gave us a lot of moral support and some material support.

Does Sri Lanka support India's candidature for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council? 
We fully support India's candidature for a permanent seat in the Security Council. We have believed in the wisdom of the Indian nation since the time of King Ashoka. So we are comfortable with a strong India and, as our President said, India is our relation, others are friends.







Speaking half in jest during a chat with friends much before the money scam of the Commonwealth Games had surfaced, I said that the mismanaged preparations could lead to revolution. I was referring then to the dug up capital, the lack of preparation despite seven years' notice, the incoming rains and the signs of collapse. The money scandals erupted later. I recalled how in 1905 badly governed Tsarist Russia lost a naval battle against tiny Japan. The humiliation caused triggered revolution. That revolution failed but it laid the foundation for the 1917 Russian Revolution which succeeded. 

Today's public wars are fought on the playing field. Consider how bigger corruption related to power projects and defence deals failed to evoke half the public attention that IPL's cricket scam did. Sport touches the public mind in a way that big business and politics don't. So now, not in jest but in earnest, one asks what kind of fallout will the CWG ending in a fiasco cause. 

China made a spectacular display in the Beijing Olympics. South Africa enthralled the globe with World Cup football. How will the world and the public in India react if the CWG ends as a scandalous failure? Already the corruption has attracted international attention. That disgrace is considerable. If Delhi is presented to foreign visitors as a shambles, if the CWG, heaven forbid, collapses with participants walking out of events in protest, or sports infrastructure breaking down, what will be the fallout? 

Rightly or wrongly, in the public perception the entire political class is brazenly corrupt. The ruling elite wallows in vulgar conspicuous consumption while the mass of people groan under an unprecedented price rise. Major crime is openly associated with ministers and national leaders. To cap this, if India becomes a laughing stock for the entire world will it not be the last straw? 

Our wise politicians will dismiss all such fears as being exceedingly foolish. They could be right but they need to be cautious. Shakespeare pointed out, "A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool." One hopes the government knows what is at stake. 

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist








As a village boy I have studied under a kerosene lamp. I used to walk 10 km every day. So I know the life of a villager. Don't ridicule my sensitivity. 

Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee during a debate on inflation. 

If the government becomes unpopular, we will benefit. But that is the language of a businessman. We are not businessmen but guardians of the interests of people.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. 

English is an international language. If someone does not know the language, he will have to lag behind.
West Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in Krishnagar. 

The Marxists are going to lose power soon and they think that by killing, they can continue to rule. 
Trinamul chief Mamata Banerjee. 

Last time, when the Trinamul Congress accused us like this, our leaders and workers were later murdered. We fear a repetition of such incidents. Such allegations raised by the Trinamul Congress are completely baseless. 
Left Front chairman Biman Bose when Mamata Banerjee alleged that the CPI-M was hatching a conspiracy to kill her. 

Jammu and Kashmir needs a political situation. It needs political handling. 

J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah on the spiralling protests in the Valley. 

Once peace and order are restored, I am confident that we can explore the possibility of reactivating the political process that holds the key to solutions.

Union home minister P Chidambaram in Parliament on the situation in Kashmir.

For a long time, we've been fighting against state terrorism by the joint forces in Junglemahal. Now, Mamata Banerjee is conducting a rally against such oppression and terrorism by the security forces. Hence, we've decided to join. 

Manoj Mahato, general secretary, People's Committee Against Police Atrocities. 

I am looking up to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to revitalise our workers and leaders in West Bengal.
PCC president Manas Bhuniya. 

After I got out for 15 in my first innings against Pakistan, I was not sure I would play another Test match. I felt I really did not belong there. Luckily, I got some runs in the next match and felt more confident. Looking back now, it was a great learning experience. 

Sachin Tendulkar, after becoming the most-capped Test player (169) overtaking Steve Waugh. 

It saddens me that the Indian government has done nothing to promote the sports infrastructure. 
Indian football captain Baichung Bhutia. 

Some people seem to be converting common wealth to individual wealth. 

Venkaiah Naidu on the corruption charges against the Commonwealth Games organisers.









Ray Bradbury's powerfully dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451, made into a brilliant film by François Truffaut, envisions a world without books. While that may not be the case just yet, a time could soon come when bookshops finally disappear off the face of the earth. So far, common readers have had enough reasons to be thankful that fanatic book-burners, masquerading as firemen, were not at large. However, it seems as though they now have another fearsome foe to contend with: the millions of uncommon readers who are putting even the grandest bookshops out of business. Who could have imagined, even a few years ago, America without Barnes & Noble or Britain without Borders? Yet, that is precisely what is happening, as swarms of e-readers keep shoving good old bookshops out of their way. These uncommon readers seem to savour the cold glare of handheld screens rather than the feel of a crisp new paperback in their hands. They cannot be bothered to trail through rows of books in musty, or glitzy, shops when they can order whatever they fancy with a click of the mouse. Even better, in the labyrinths of the virtual world they can browse and access an infinite Borgesian library.


So where does all this leave the poor common reader? What would happen to the seasoned collector, whose heart still leaps with serendipitous delight the moment he sights a precious title volume tucked away in the depths of some dingy shop that looks more like an underground dungeon? He is, for sure, left with fewer options to choose from and enough reasons to grumble. Then there is a real possibility that he may wish not to be left out of the loop. As Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad do brisk business, seasoned bibliophiles may not be able to resist, for long, the temptation of holding entire libraries in their own electronic arms. Amazon, for instance, claims to have sold more e-books than printed hardbacks in the last quarter — which definitely makes electronic ink the biggest saviour of trees in this age of global warming.


Yet, the extinction of the bookshop, as a phenomenon, would take a long time to travel to the less prosperous Eastern shores. If bookstores are being forced to shut shop here, that is largely due to the decline in readership than for any other reason. At the same time, secondhand and niche bookshops, which are becoming increasingly rare in the West, are still alive in the East, even though they may not be thriving as they once did. Only in these havens of obscurity does one still stumble upon the odd cache of letters, a solitary visiting card or a withered leaf that was once pressed inside the pages of some prized volume and then quietly forgotten. It is in such stores that one may discover a book with copious marginalia or with a sad or silly or sentimental inscription on its opening pages. Whatever passion the Kindle might kindle in its users' hearts, it would never be able to lead readers into the private lives of books.










It will be 68 years on Monday since the catchy jingle — "Sarkar ki mal/ pani mein dal (Into the water with State property)" — rallied Indians for what the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, called "by far the most serious rebellion since that of 1857". August 9, 1942, the day that shook the world, may have driven one more nail into the coffin of the British raj but it was also responsible for an affective divide that accounts for much of today's disorder.


However necessary it was to launch the Quit India movement, its legacy exalted protest, made violence a way of life and incorporated words like hartal, gheraoand bandh and, at a slightly more emotive level,andolan, sangathan and satyagraha, into everyday speech. India hasn't looked back since. From Jayaprakash Narayan to the Communist Party of India (Maoist), no one with a cause recognizes that the State has changed colour. JP was Mahatma Gandhi to the Congress's colonial State, his "total revolution" another call to arms in this land of a million mutinies. Inquilab zindabad!


Governments may no longer be alien but are seen not as the national authority but as creatures of the ruling party. Not only are they fair game for those of other political persuasions but whatever belongs to them is up for grabs. Quit India bestowed respectability on damaging public property. Attacks are not always frontal. The highly-placed criminals whose thievery over the Commonwealth Games has disgraced India internationally are as vicious saboteurs as any terrorist. Nor is every murderer on the rampage in Jammu and Kashmir or involved in the attacks that have devastated Bombay since 1993 an al Qaida warrior in Pakistani pay. Many of India's worst enemies are Indian.


An all-out war of independence such as the Americans or Vietnamese fought and Subhas Chandra Bose contemplated might have avoided the confusion between "them" and "us" that underlies civil disorder. But transfer of power meant a bewildering overlap, with no one quite knowing how to cope with rebels become rulers. An amazed world watched the bizarre spectacle of a government protesting against itself when this happened in West Bengal in 1969. It might happen again in 2011 with equally explosive consequences.


For some, Quit India was an upsurge of nationalist fervour. Others saw it as a tactical failure since it excluded Mohammed Ali Jinnah (he called it a "Himalayan blunder") and the Muslim League. It presented communists with the choice of joining the "bourgeois" campaign for swaraj instead of fighting the "People's War" shoulder to shoulder with their Soviet comrades. Indians at the 1948 Conference of Youth and Students of Southeast Asia Fighting for Freedom and Independence (otherwise the Calcutta Conference) argued fiercely over whether Quit India was a movement, a revolution, a revolt or an uprising. Many speak of August Kranti.


Ironically, Gandhi chose 'Quit India' as his slogan in preference to 'Get out', which he thought impolite. But politeness did not interest the mob which sanctified violence and vandalism in the name of freedom. If the police confiscated and burned Gandhi caps,swarajists forcibly replaced topees with Gandhi caps. But the fun evaporated when they set fire to railway stations and signal boxes and tore up railway tracks. Bridges were bombed, telephone and telegraph lines cut and post offices, police stations and government buildings burned down. In one instance, a group of policemen were doused in kerosene and burnt to death. Some anti-Brahmin militants established "people's courts". The army and police retaliated with extreme brutality. Precedents were set for Chhatra Sangharsh Samitis, Naxalites, khaps and Maoists.


"If any people think they are helping Gandhiji by these ruinous activities, they are deluding themselves and bringing cruel discredit on him," Chakravarti Rajagopalachari admonished, magnanimously exonerating Gandhi of blame for lawlessness. Rajajiopposed Quit India for the sound reason that disenchantment with the British was no reason to welcome the Japanese "who will be ten times worse". It was a question of priorities: the invader had to be repulsed first. But Rajaji's was — as so often — a voice in the wilderness. Understandably so, for many private irons sizzled in the patriotic fire. True, the criminal underworld may not have been able to hijack the movement if Gandhi and his colleagues had not been rounded up in the early hours that day. But all political organizations engage musclemen to do their dirty work and the Congress is no exception. Some historians believe "Birla Brothers and the Marwari community" financed strikes and sabotage "so as to hit the British capitalists hard".


Gandhi's own attitude seems to have been more ambivalent than Rajagopalachari's comment suggests. He banked on non-violent non-cooperation but the enabling resolution's pledge of "a mass struggle on non- violent lines on the widest possible scale" went somewhat further. Gandhi's own "Karenge ya marenge (Do or die)" exhortation at Bombay's Gowalia Tank not only went even further but appeared to contradict the fetish he made of the sanctity of means over ends, even to the extent of reiterating that means were the end. Mobs are not strong on subtlety. Since "violence breeds violence" — another Gandhi aphorism — clashes with authority were inevitable.


Sir Padamji Ginwala withdrew from politics without abandoning his commitment to independence precisely because of this: he knew that preaching civil disobedience would encourage disrespect for the law. The jurist, G.D. Khosla, thought Indians may have been harking back to an older ethic. He wrote an article listing a number of instances from the epics (stealing the nectar of immortality from the churning of the ocean, deploying the hermaphrodite, Shikhandi, or the "Ashwathama hatah... iti gaja" legend) that I published in the Seventies under a heading something like "A Little Evil For the Greater Good". Orthodoxy rumbled its disapproval but no one challenged the examples.


Not that I would attribute current rumbustiousness to atavistic duplicity. Trains are derailed and offices closed down because 63 years after the British quit, there is still little sense of identification with the government. Agencies like West Bengal's Tram and Bus Fare Enhancement Resistance Committee or Bihar's State Struggle Committee of Workers and Employees against Price Rise and Professional Tax are as proud of defiant nomenclature as of their ability to bring life to a standstill. Venal politicians and civil servants who wallow in the pomp and protocol of the raj (shades of Orwell's Animal Farm) compound the distance between ruler and ruled. Churchill's dictum that if you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law remains relevant for liberalization notwithstanding, India still bristles with dos and don'ts.


Occasionally, there are flashes of belonging. As railway minister, the late Madhavrao Scindia was fond of recounting a possibly apocryphal story of public-spirited commuters on Calcutta's Metro (this was before Delhi had one) angrily pouncing on a man who had crumpled up his used ticket and thrown it on the platform. Apparently, they forced him to pick it up and deposit it in the litter bin. The Metro was theirs; it had to be kept tidy.


Such concern for public property is rare. When announcing his reforms as finance minister, Manmohan Singh memorably reminded listeners that Indians are no longer pitted against the East India Company. But who paid heed? He may have convinced rich Indians (whose households for the first time outnumber low income households, according to the National Council of Applied Economic Research) that all multinationals don't nurse imperial ambitions. But ordinary folk have yet to be persuaded that government is, indeed, of, for and by the people. There is no short and simple formula to counter Quit India's anarchic legacy. But it would be a beginning for "Incredible India" not to turn up its nose at the large pockets of backwardness that constitute what the prime minister calls India's biggest internal security threat.



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





Hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has suddenly become relevant as the Union and Jammu and Kashmir governments groped in the dark for weeks to defuse the latest crisis in the Valley that nearly spun out of their control. Geelani surprised his followers and rivals when, on Wednesday, he issued an appeal to the people to shun violence and carry on with their protests peacefully. From all available accounts, he did so after considerable prodding from beleaguered chief minister Omar Abdullah and a worried Manmohan Singh government. As such, nobody should really have any objection to Singh or Abdullah approaching Geelani to douse the Kashmir fire, even though it reflects desperation on their part. The question, however, is whether Geelani is actually the force behind the violent protests whose objective appeared to be to provoke security forces give up their restrained approach and, thus, create conditions for more violence. Anarchy is what they want. 

Despite their single-minded attempts for almost a decade-and-a-half, terrorists had failed to create and sustain a state of lawlessness in the Valley. The Hurriyat leader, who has consistently advocated the Valley's integration with Pakistan, was never a harbinger of peace. His sympathies were always known to be with the terrorists. To be sure, even while calling for peaceful protests, he made it a point to mention that he continued to stand for an end to Delhi's rule in Kashmir. So, why has he suddenly turned a peacenik, so to say? The answer might well be that he is not really the man behind the ongoing unrest. If this is so, he might have just taken advantage of the situation to revive himself politically. 

Who, then, masterminded the unrest? The governments in Delhi and Srinagar must go to the roots of the crisis to effectively address it. There is a nagging suspicion that the main opposition People's Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti could be one of the villains, though she denies any role. It is no secret that her party has had past links with militant groups. Mehbooba, who lost her Congress ally and also power in Jammu and Kashmir to Abdullah after the last assembly elections, has not demonstrated any interest in cooperating with the state government to help bring the situation under control. Her ambitions cannot be countered by courting Geelani. Abdullah and his Congress ally would must give priority to political mobilisation to shield and take forward the normalisation process forward.   








The Bangladesh Supreme Court has reasserted the supremacy of democracy and secularism in the country's polity by invalidating the distortions made by military and pro-Islamist governments in its original Constitution. In a judgment, the top appellate court in that country has upheld the basic features of the Constitution adopted by the country after its liberation in 1971. The government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, had endorsed a secular, socialist and democratic Constitution. Much of Bangladesh's history after the assassination of Sheikh Mujib is the history of military coups. The Fifth Amendment introduced by Gen Zia-ur-Rahman legitimised military takeovers. The word secularism, which defined the nature of the state, was dropped. Subsequent military and the pro-Islamist Khaleda Zia governments promoted the idea of an Islamic state.

The word Islamic still remains in the Constitution but the court's judgment makes it clear that it has no legal and political significance. The judgment empowers the government to ban religion-based political parties, though Sheikh Hasina's Awami League government has made it clear it has no immediate plans to do so. Begum Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamist parties are naturally unhappy with the judgement. It is for the government and other secular sections of the society to make the judgment the accepted reality of the country's politics. The Constitution can only define the state. It is for the people to practise it. The judgment also makes any military takeover illegal. But a future dictator will be deterred by the determination of the people to protect that constitution. 

Islam in Bangladesh was never strident and political. By returning to its democratic and secular foundations, Bangladesh has sent out a potent message to the entire Islamic world and has belied the wrong notion that Islam and secularism are incompatible. There are more Muslims who live in democratic and secular countries than elsewhere in the world. India may also find it easier to deal with a neighbour which shares some of its own best constitutional principles.







A Tughlaq-like governance is in vogue in Karnataka where two different power centres with competing interests have emerged.


With nearly all of Sonia Gandhi's men in Karnataka -- mighty and low, with families and friends in tow -- turning foot soldiers and enlisting themselves in the Congress party's  'nada rakshana nadige' (save the land march) to expose illegal iron ore mining in  Bellary by some ruling BJP ministers, the political climate in the state is red-hot.

At any given time, the 320-km march from Bangalore to Bellary, now into its 13th day, has seen at least 5,000 people hitting the  mofussil roads in unison, exhibiting such rare solidarity that even the initially diffident BJP and its ideological arm, the RSS, were so shaken that they instantly got into damage control mode. But, alas, damage had already been done. 

By the time Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa announced four retaliatory rallies across different parts of the state, the Bellary quartet -- B Sriramulu, Reddy brothers G Janardhana, G Karunakara (all three ministers) and B Somashekara (Bellary MLA), whom the Congress is targetting for illegal mining -- had defied the party whip and launched a 'swabhimana samavesha' to save their own dented image, while caring two hoots for the party's or the chief minister's image. They would not stop even after the chief minister cried halt, while the RSS summoned one of the brothers, Janardhana Reddy, for a pep talk. The least that they obliged was to heed the RSS advice to facilitate the Congress to have an event-free rally in Bellary on August 9, the finale of their padayatra, and save the government from blame for any breach of peace. It is the Bellary quartet who had challenged the Congressmen to trespass into Bellary. Even the minimal success that the RSS achieved, in getting an assurance of peace from a Reddy sibling, the director general of police could not manage, even after camping in Bellary and holding an all-party meeting of the BJP, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) in a bid to 'buy' peace.

Decentralised administration

The Bellary foursome holding governance to ransom is not new. The BJP has got acclimatised to it. But this time around, some MLAs did rebel and persuaded the chief minister to drop a couple of the Bellary quartet and face the eventuality. Chief among the rebels was Renukacharya, a former Reddy faithful turned opponent. 


ed up as he is with the Reddy-Sriramulu antics,  the chief minister approached the party's central leadership for consent to reshuffle his ministry, but failed. The state BJP and council of ministers are now a hotbed of bickering and multiple groupings -- the Yeddyurappa group backed by regulars like Law Minister Suresh Kumar, Home Minister V S Acharya, Udasi, Basavaraj Bommai etc; the Bellary quartet; the Renukacharya gang, the neutral group of Ashok, Katta Subramanya Naidu and the so called troubleshootering group of members of Parliament Ananth Kumar, Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj and others.

As if this is not enough, the BJP administration stands decentralised with the chief minister's team running the show from Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat in Bangalore, and the Bellary quartet calling the shots from Vikas Soudha, the district-level mini-secretariat in Bellary. The chief minister went on a hospital inspection to check on rising dengue cases instead of point blank telling his health minister that he was not doing his job. Without stirring from Bellary, Sriramulu held a follow-up meeting there and asked the people to telephone him directly if they faced any admission problems at government hospitals. The minister's private secretary then sent out an SMS giving details of the number of public calls the minister received and that he attended to four cases in person. Minister Janardhan Reddy launched a tourism-related project, again from Bellary.

Shadow boxing

The chief minister's woes are in a way self-inflicted. He could perhaps have put the lid on the illegal mining scam by referring it to the Central Bureau of Investigation as demanded by the opposition Congress and the JD(S). Instead, Yeddyurappa is resorting to shadow boxing, defending the Reddy gang at times and also admitting that illegal mining is rampant in the state and banning all export of iron ore.

To add to the government's woes, the Zilla Panchayat elections are due in November-December. The JD(S), which is waiting to capitalise, has deferred its own padayatra to October to expose the failings of the government.

Buffeted by intra-party rebellion and lack of support from central leaders, the runaway success of the Congress foot march, and the JD(S) challenge round the corner, the chief minister's hands are full. Political and administrative management have inevitably taken a back seat.








The potential border casualties now include a way of life, well-documented but decaying by the day.


Never a particularly pretty place, the border is at its ugliest right now, with violence, tensions and temperatures all on high. 

Once thought of by Americans as just a naughty playland, the divide between the United States and Mexico is now most associated with the awful things that happen here. In towns from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, drug gangs brutalize each other, tourists risk getting caught in the cross-fire, and Mexican laborers crossing the desert northward brave both the bullets and the heat. Last week, a federal judge in Arizona blocked portions of new far-reaching immigration  restrictions that she said went way too far in ousting Mexicans. Meanwhile, National Guard troops are preparing to fill in as border sentries.

All these developments are unfolding in what used to be a meeting place between two countries, a zone of escape where cultures merged, albeit often amid copious amounts of tequila. The potential casualties at the border now include a way of life, generations old, well-documented but decaying by the day.

The flow of people at the border has never been one way. The 1,969-mile stretch has long been a netherworld crossed by Americans in search of forbidden pleasures as much as by Mexicans desperate for work.

It is an area neither completely Mexico nor completely El Norte. And a dollop of danger, a quest for sin, was always part of its charm.

Thirsty Americans

The modern story begins with Prohibition, when Mexico became the place for thirsty Americans to go for a cheap, legal drink. Over the years, the lure of cheap booze gave way to quickie divorces, dog races, strip shows, slot machines and brothels where fathers sometimes brought their sons when they hit 16. Through it all, there were plenty of drugs — medicinal (cut rates with no prescriptions) as well as illegal (marijuana, cocaine, heroin).

World War II only boosted the market for a generation of soldiers on leave, and for postwar adventurers seeking music and thrills and sex. In the 1960s, Mexico firmly solidified its place as America's marijuana and heroin provider. As commerce — licit and illicit — grew, politicians and police protected it. But the rules of engagement that once protected innocents eventually began to break down. Nowadays, anything goes.

Free-spending tourists

The naughtiness that used to give the border its flair seems innocent now. The prostitutes, hustlers and con men who once had free rein are, like everyone else, scared out of their wits. The easy smiles of Kerouac's Mexican border guards, welcoming free-spending tourists, are giving way to fences and armed American soldiers.

And as this happens, longtime lovers of the border fear most for the back-and-forth itself — for the interchange, even if asymmetrical and exploitive, of poorer Mexicans and free-spending Americans that over the generations has, to some degree, fostered understanding between the two countries.

As the violence rises — on July 15, officials reported the first car bombing of Mexico's drug war, in Juárez — tourism has flagged all along the border. Even the State Department forbids its own officials to drive through the border crossings.

The latest State Department travel warning speaks of "large firefights" in broad daylight, of grenades being hurled and of highways blocked by outlaws.

Juárez and Tijuana, it notes, have been particularly deadly places for Americans. Other Mexican border towns are depressing shadows of their former selves, with boarded-up storefronts and "Se Vende" signs as common as prostitutes and offers of cheap Viagra.

Not all is dire. The big-name international brands that operate maquiladora factories continue to operate, taking advantage of free trade and cut-rate labor. And one can still find some art museums, fancy business districts and upscale housing developments along the border — where leaders have made special efforts to show that lawlessness is not always the rule. Tijuana, in fact, is planning a high-tech conference in October, with high-profile participants like Al Gore and Carlos Slim (and their bodyguards).

There is also some talk of addressing the sociological problems of border communities by doing things like building more soccer fields for wayward youth. Border experts cite the need for a "21st-century border," one that uses technology to allow legal trade to flow while slowing the illegal transfers going both ways.

The New York Times






Magnificent art is not limited to natural vistas alone


My wife recently organised a "beauty pageant" for senior citizens in our Senior Citizens' forum. The elegant and graceful lady who bagged the special prize for her immaculately matching tip-to-toe dress presentation was 80 plus, proving the point that age has nothing to do with one's zest for quality life. 

This instinct is invariably predominant in the fairer sex (it is indeed their birth right - though we find a fairly good number of male species too with a fine sartorial sense!) leading to myriad research in the trendy ensemble of apparel, cosmetics and ornament designs to match the time and style. 

Actually, we can see that there is hardly any sphere in our day-to-day life in which the factor of matching doesn't feature. What is amazing is that this perception stretches far beyond mundane earthly aspects. The origin of this delightful phenomenon is Mother Nature herself! How else do we explain the artfully matching and stunningly beautiful landscape laced with breath-taking blend of colours in trees, flowers and various other elements created so skillfully and imaginatively by Mother Nature decorating the face of our planet! 

One cannot help feeling overwhelmed by the incredible splendour, orderly sequence and the pattern of seasons matching the requirement of not only human beings but of every living being on earth. 

This magnificent art is not limited to natural vistas alone. Even the food items that we so relish have to be aesthetically matched if they are to be palatable! Mouth watering indeed are the combinations of "idli-vada and sambar or poori and sagu or chole and bature or pulav and raita"….the list goes on and on. Even a slight mix up in these matching combinations would result in unholy taste -inviting sour faces from connoisseurs.

Come to think of it, we have to appreciate those thoughtful beings who conceived the concept of dress code to match every activity in every facet of our life - be it sports, defence and police services, schools, hospitals, judiciary, religious conventions, etc. 

There is a distinct significance to this concept of matching a particular pattern of dress in order to emphasise the functional identification and importance of every activity. We can't violate the set norms here. It would indeed be a cultural shock if a purohit were to turn up for a function in police uniform and vice versa! 

While this concept of matching things enjoys universal acceptance, it assumes serious proportions when it comes to the matter of wedlock. As per the well-established traditions of our society, marriages are fixed only after carefully scrutinising and matching the horoscopes and other celestial aspects pertaining to the prospective individuals. Ironically enough, it is here that disastrous mismatches often occur, raising certain awkward questions regarding the very process of such mode of matching!




******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




At first glance, President Obama's policy on Iran and its illicit nuclear program is not all that different from President George W. Bush's. They both committed themselves, on paper, to sanctions and engagement.


Mr. Bush, however, was never really that serious about the carrots, and he spent so much time alienating America's friends that he was never able to win broad support for the sticks: credible international sanctions.


Mr. Obama has done considerably better on the sanctions front — at the United Nations and from the European Union, Canada and Australia. But the other piece of a credible strategy — serious engagement — seemed to be getting lost. So it was encouraging that he made the effort this week to reassert his commitment to talks with Tehran. Meeting with journalists from The Times and other publications on Wednesday, he said his pledge to change the United States-Iran relationship after 30 years of animosity "continues to be entirely sincere."


Mr. Obama reaffirmed his interest in bilateral talks within an existing framework for dealing with the nuclear program that involves Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany. And he endorsed separate talks on issues like Afghanistan, drug trafficking and regional stability.


He also stressed the need to outline a clear "pathway" of steps that Iran could take to convince the world that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. "They should know what they can say yes to," he said.


We agree. So we were surprised that Mr. Obama would not provide specifics on what the "pathway" might entail. That's the kind of detail that Iranian leaders need to know now when they appear to be debating whether to engage Washington. If Mr. Obama didn't want to share the information publicly with journalists, we hope he is sharing it privately with Tehran.


The United States and its allies should also present a vision of what normalized relations would look like if

Tehran heeds repeated demands from the United Nations Security Council to curb its nuclear program. A package of inducements first proposed in 2006 — diplomatic ties, trade, nuclear energy technology — needs to be on the table so Iran fully understands its choices. Otherwise, Mr. Obama's talk of an open door for Tehran will be almost as hollow as Mr. Bush's.


Mr. Obama and his team deserve credit for a fourth round of Security Council sanctions and even tougher national sanctions — adopted by the United States, the European Union, Canada and Australia — that aim to restrict business with Iranian banks and oil and gas enterprises. The European Union's penalties were strong and could make it impossible for Tehran to do business in euros. Western leaders need to make sure they are enforced. German compliance is a particular concern.


The administration has had some success getting Russia, Iran's longtime enabler, to implement sanctions. But it seems to be losing ground with China. A vice premier said on Friday that Beijing would continue investing in Iran's oil wealth despite voting for the United Nations penalties. Washington also must persuade Japan, South Korea, Turkey and India to make maximum effort.


President Obama says he hears "rumblings" that sanctions are beginning to bite. Aides believe that technical problems with Iran's nuclear program have bought at least a year for sanctions and diplomacy to work.


The Iranian government continues to churn out nuclear fuel and block international inspections. There's no guarantee it will ever agree to curb its nuclear program. But Washington and its partners are creating a plan that might have a chance of affecting Iran's calculations.







It took a long time, but the settlement between the Federal Trade Commission and Intel, the microchip company, on Wednesday stands a reasonably good chance of curtailing the company's tactics to keep its dominance of the microprocessor market and of bolstering competition and innovation in this vital segment of the economy.



The settlement of the suit brought by the F.T.C. in December forbids Intel from rewarding computer makers that use only Intel computer processing chips and punishing those that buy processors from Advanced Micro Devices, its main rival. But the deal extends beyond the market for processing chips — computers' core building blocks — where Intel has an 80 percent share. It also aims to ensure that powerful graphics processors made by Intel's rivals can work well with its computer chips, the industry standard.


Graphics chips, which can process lots of information at the same time, are at the cutting edge of computing technology. Intel has about 50 percent of the market, but its chips are mostly confined to cheaper PCs and are less technologically advanced than those of rivals, such as Nvidia, that have taken over many tasks from Intel's chips. The F.T.C. accused Intel of changing processing chips so that rival graphics chips would not run smoothly on them and selling bundles of processing chips and graphics chips below cost to keep rivals out.


The agreement forbids these sorts of tactics. And it orders Intel to maintain an access point to its chips — known as a PCI Express Bus — for at least six years to ensure rivals' processors will be able to work atop Intel's chips without suffering any diminished performance.


The settlement does not compel Intel to license its x86 chip technology so rivals could build their own innovations to work on it. But it aims to ensure competitors reasonable access to Intel's intellectual property.


Rivals like A.M.D., Nvidia and Taiwan's Via Technologies should be able to outsource the making of their chips — which rely in part on technology licensed from Intel — without fear of Intel suing the manufacturers for patent infringement. If A.M.D. or Via were to merge with another company, Intel would be forced to enter negotiations to extend the licensing agreements to the new entity.


A settlement as complex as this one will be difficult to police. Still, the settlement and the increased oversight that comes with it offer a fair chance that Intel won't be able to suppress competition in the future. The deal gives makers of graphics chips some assurance that their processors will work with the majority of PCs, and could lead to a growing variety of alternative chips. And, after all, lowering barriers to competition and innovation is the ultimate goal of antitrust policy.







With some shabby sleight of hand, Congress has begun tapping into the food stamp program for the hungriest Americans to help pay for lawmakers' higher election-year priorities. The Senate approved two important measures this week — the $26 billion state-aid bill and the $4.5 billion school nutrition program — in part by shaving food stamp funds as a target of least resistance.


There is no denying that both of the programs are badly needed. The state aid package, regrettably compromised as it was, helps protect jobs for teachers and other workers facing layoffs. The school nutrition program provides the first improvements in a generation, including an increase in meal reimbursements and the power to set federal nutrition standards for schools.


But treating food stamps as the fungible means to worthy ends is a cowardly blight on Congress. After the Bush years of guilt-free tax cutting and deficit budgeting, lawmakers are self-righteously embracing pay-as-you-go legislation lest they be demagogued at the ballot box. So they resort to fiscal triage.


Originally, school nutrition was slated to be paid for by cuts in a farm conservation program. But Republicans rated this a high priority for the livestock industry. A deal was struck with Democrats to cut back on the scheduled boost in future food stamp benefits that was part of last year's economic stimulus. Food stamps took a second hit as lawmakers turned to it like an all-purpose A.T.M. to help cover the cost of state aid.


Senator Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat of Arkansas who fought hard to get the school nutrition improvements, told that the food stamp increase was doomed in any case: "You saw the teachers grab for it." Her comfort was those dollars would feed children. But this is a pale rationalization that downgrades the hunger of entire families. A companion bill in the House, yet to be paid for, is an opportunity to right this wrong.


In the crunch of the recession, if Congress lacks the guts to meet vital needs with deficit financing, it should have the decency to chisel some less-humane program than food stamps.








Donald Molloy, a Federal District Court judge in Montana, ruled Thursday that gray wolves in Montana and Idaho must be provided federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. This is a welcome decision. The immediate effect will be to spare the animals from hunts planned for this fall that are now illegal. The larger hope is that Washington will devise a protection plan ensuring the wolves' survival not only in Montana and Idaho but across the northern Rocky Mountains.


Wolves in Montana and Idaho were removed from federal protection under rules proposed by the Bush administration. The rules were upheld by President Obama's Interior Department, which said that both states had developed satisfactory management plans and that the wolves, in effect, could be released into their custody.


Wyoming's plan was deemed inadequate, and federal protections remained. But in Montana and Idaho, the first reaction was to authorize limited wolf hunts that — though the states argued otherwise — would slowly guarantee the extinction of the species.


Judge Molloy ruled that protections for what is essentially a single species cannot be different in each state — either the wolf must be removed from the list or listed as an endangered species in every state, meaning throughout its range. Judging by early comments, the Interior Department's preference seems to be to persuade Wyoming to improve its management plan so that the government can delist the wolf there — thus bringing the three states into harmony.


This is a terrible idea, and could end up authorizing hunts in three states, not two. The Interior Department, instead, should write an areawide management plan. There are roughly 1,700 wolves across the Rockies — far more than when they were reintroduced in the 1990s. But most biologists believe there should be a minimum of 2,000, with enough breeding pairs to ensure the long-term survival of a dynamic population across the range.


State plans meant to satisfy hunters rather than protect the wolves cannot do that. The gray wolf may need federal protection for years to come.











Connecticut used to be the kind of place where you could predict election results by betting on the least-exciting outcome possible. But no more.


Tuesday is Primary Day in Connecticut. Here are some of the big issues:



If someone employs a large number of people to spend their lives hitting each other over the head with chairs and the occasional sledgehammer, should we hold it against her if she doesn't provide health insurance?



If an unemployed millworker is asked to describe her multimillionaire former boss, do you think she'd be more negative if the interviewer plied her with a sandwich?



What is it about home improvements that politicians find so irresistible?


"Ned Lamont sent a film crew to my house four weeks ago. Just let that sink in," said Dan Malloy, the former Stamford mayor, bitterly in a recent radio interview. He and Lamont are locked in a fierce battle for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Taking pictures of somebody's house doesn't seem like all that terrible a crime. In fact, since Malloy is one of the very few people running for office this year who doesn't live in a castle, you'd think he'd be pleased.


However, Malloy's residence was once refurbished by some contractors who also did work for the city. Although he was cleared of any conflict, this sort of thing is a tender subject in Connecticut. Both a recent Republican governor and a current Democratic mayor have been convicted of taking freebies in the form of home improvements.


And remember the fall of Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska? Bernie Kerik, the New York City police chief? American politics is apparently cursed by the fatal allure of free cabinetry.


Almost every strange trend in national politics is on display in Connecticut this year, including the multiplication of superrich candidates. Lamont owns a cable TV company. The leading Republican gubernatorial contender, Tom Foley, and Linda McMahon, the Senate hopeful, have prior experience in state politics that's mainly limited to giving other Republicans money.


Given their lack of political records, opponents have been going after their businesses. McMahon is hit with questions about the way she ran the family's World Wrestling Entertainment, which employs more than 100 wrestlers who bang each other up in rings around the world, without the benefit of a company health plan. (McMahon claims the wrestlers do get seminars on shopping for insurance, and I think I speak for us all in saying that that is not the same thing.)


Her major Republican opponent, Rob Simmons, a former congressman, suspended his campaign after McMahon won the nod at the Republican convention by promising to finance her own campaign. Simmons had about $900,000 at the time, which was about the McMahon budget for coffee creamer.


He stayed home sulking until a couple of weeks ago when he paid for a quickie TV ad with the central theme of: "I'm Rob Simmons, I'm still on the ballot."


Doesn't this seem sort of passive-aggressive? You kind of want your candidate to be a fighter, but Simmons appeared to expect the voters to do all the work. Hey, Republicans, I'm here. Come and get me if you want me.


"Passive-aggressive is still aggressive," Simmons said cheerfully in a phone interview. He recently emerged from his burrow of solitude and is doing interviews about the less-appetizing side of the W.W.E., the evils of big money in politics and engaging in what the McMahonites called "erratic behavior, bad judgment, acrimony, reckless and misleading exaggerations."


Well, a woman whose claim to fame is having built a professional wrestling empire should certainly know erratic behavior and acrimony when she sees them.


Foley, the gubernatorial candidate, runs a private investment group that once owned a Georgia textile mill that later went bankrupt and closed. Frankly, even if the guy has a 100-foot yacht, it isn't fair to blame him for the collapse of the American textile industry. Although the yacht does make it more tempting.


One of his opponents has been running ads of elderly former factory workers standing in front of their ruined place of work and talking about Foley while mournful music plays in the background. "I would be afraid he would do the same thing to Connecticut he did to the Bibb mill," says one sweet little old lady.


The Foley folks, outraged, suggested that the admakers had coerced or bribed the former workers. The candidate himself charged during a debate that they had all been "treated to a sumptuous lunch."

Do you really think that out-of-work millhands living out their days in their decrepit town would require culinary incentives to speak critically of a rich investor whose company paid itself $4 million a year for managing their doomed factory? Really, it's like defending your country or doing chores for a sick neighbor. There are some things you volunteer for.









Wyclef Jean will be gone until November, if not longer. The hip-hop star officially announced in Port-au-Prince on Thursday that he's running for president of Haiti. The election is scheduled for Nov. 28.


It is a fascinating bit of celebrity news. But it's also a very serious pursuit by an utterly untested and unqualified candidate who has a strong chance of actually becoming the president of that crippled nation.


Jean, a Haitian citizen who grew up in Brooklyn and New Jersey and who many simply call Clef, enters a crowded field. It includes his own uncle, Raymond Joseph, the distinguished silver-haired Haitian ambassador to the United States, whom Jean himself had encouraged to run.


But Jean has been catapulted to the front of that field because celebrity trumps solemnity. If he can prove that he meets the residency requirements, which some doubt, he has a serious chance.


So we must take his candidacy seriously. The question for Wyclef becomes: "Why, Clef?"


It's a pressing question because whoever wins takes over what many considered a failed state even before the devastating January earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people and worsened an already desperate situation.


CNN's Wolf Blitzer put the question to Jean on Thursday on "Larry King Live." Here is the sum total of Jean's rambling, somewhat incoherent, answer: "Well, after Jan. 12th, I would say over 50 percent of the population is a youth population. And we suffered for over 200 years. Now that our country has a problem, it's a chance to rebuild from the bottom on up. And I don't even say I'm trying to be president. I'm being drafted by the youth of Haiti. Right now is a chance for to us bring real education into the school, infrastructure, security and proper jobs. So this is some of the reasons that I'm running."


Wow! Let's just say that he's no Demosthenes.


When Blitzer asked him what made him qualified, Jean responded, "When I look at the past 200 years with what our people have suffered, Wolf — political instability, coups after coup d'états. I feel that me running, it bring as neutral situation — meaning that Wyclef Jean can sit with any political party, have a conversation. I'm coming in neutral."


Neutral, huh? Some Haitians may not see it that way. During the 2004 coup that ousted then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Jean voiced his support for the rebels to MTV News and called for Aristide to step down.


As for management experience, one of Jean's only stints was at the helm of his nonprofit Yéle Haiti Foundation. It came under scrutiny soon after the earthquake because of the way it uses its money. The Smoking Gun reported that, "Internal Revenue Service records show the group has a lackluster history of accounting for its finances, and that the organization has paid the performer and his business partner at least $410,000 for rent, production services, and Jean's appearance at a benefit concert." Jean has denied any wrongdoing and stepped down from the foundation on Thursday.


Since Jean has never held political office, left the country when he was 9, has little management experience and has yet to take any detailed policy positions, the only benefit of a Jean presidency at this point would appear to be his ability to leverage his celebrity. That sounds exciting in theory, but fame has its limits.


First, celebrity doesn't necessarily loosen purse strings.


Former President Bill Clinton, one of the biggest political rock stars in the world, is already on the ground in Haiti as a United Nations special envoy and co-chairman of the international commission overseeing the billions in promised aid. Yet even he's frustrated. Clinton told The Associated Press last month that international donors have given only 10 percent of the aid they have promised and 1.6 million Haitians are still living in tents.


So what would Jean do about this: "If that was me, I would get on my plane and I will go around the world, and — so, I'll start right now and I'm looking at the donors and I'm saying what's promised, we need it." If only it were that easy, Wyclef.


As far as galvanizing other celebrities around Haiti, Jean could face just as much resistance as support.


The actor Sean Penn, who has been a major presence in Haiti since the earthquake, did not welcome the news of Jean's run. In fact, he said that he was "very suspicious" of Jean's motives. "For those of us in Haiti, he has been a nonpresence," Penn said.


Jean can't even count on his former band mates. On Thursday, a former Fugees member, Pras Michel, issued a statement endorsing one of Jean's competitors, another musician named Michel "Sweet Micky" Martelly, "the most competent candidate for the job." Besides being Jean's former band mate, Pras is also his cousin. Ouch.


Even in terms of keeping attention trained on the country, celebrity only goes so far. CNN's Anderson Cooper, one of the most recognized names and fawned over faces in news, has made covering Haiti his hobbyhorse. But his broadcast from that country on the six-month anniversary of the earthquake was met with disappointing ratings. If the Silver Fox of newshounds can't keep people's attention, I doubt if Jean will do much better.


Jean seems sincere, earnest and eager. He wants to help, and that's noble. And the country has had so many poor leaders that it's tempting to simply say: "Why not Wyclef?" But now is not the time to gamble. Haiti needs a serious and seasoned leader at this critical juncture — someone dedicated to the difficult and unglamorous work of applying the principles of good governance on a daily basis. In addition to rebuilding from the earthquake, Haiti's next president must have the commitment and know-how to build viable health, educational and security infrastructures to support the country's citizens, nurture domestic industries and attract foreign investment. It's hard to see Jean as that leader.


A Jean presidency could not only prove unwise, it could prove disastrous. And the last thing Haiti needs right now is another disaster.








The world leadership qualities of the United States, once so prevalent, are fading faster than the polar ice caps.


We once set the standard for industrial might, for the advanced state of our physical infrastructure, and for the quality of our citizens' lives. All are experiencing significant decline.


The latest dismal news on the leadership front comes from the College Board, which tells us that the U.S., once the world's leader in the percentage of young people with college degrees, has fallen to 12th among 36 developed nations.


At a time when a college education is needed more than ever to establish and maintain a middle-class standard of living, America's young people are moving in exactly the wrong direction. A well-educated population also is crucially important if the U.S. is to succeed in an increasingly competitive global environment.


But instead of exercising the appropriate mental muscles, we're allowing ourselves to become a nation of nitwits, obsessed with the comings and goings of Lindsay Lohan and increasingly oblivious to crucially important societal issues that are all but screaming for attention. What should we be doing about the legions of jobless Americans, the deteriorating public schools, the debilitating wars, the scandalous economic inequality, the corporate hold on governmental affairs, the commercialization of the arts, the deficits?


Why is there not serious and widespread public engagement with these issues — and many others that could easily come to mind? That kind of engagement would lead to creative new ideas and would serve to enrich the lives of individual Americans and the nation as a whole. But it would require a heavy social and intellectual lift.


According to a new report from the College Board, the U.S. is 12th among developed nations in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees. The report said, "As America's aging and highly educated work force moves into retirement, the nation will rely on young Americans to increase our standing in the world."


The problem is that today's young Americans are not coming close to acquiring the education and training needed to carry out that mission. They're not even in the ballpark. In that key group, 25- to 34-year-olds with a college degree, the U.S. ranks behind Canada, South Korea, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Israel, France, Belgium and Australia. That is beyond pathetic.


"While the nation struggles to strengthen the economy," the report said, "the educational capacity of our country continues to decline."


Everybody is to blame — parents, students, the educational establishment, government leaders, the news media and on and on. A society that closes its eyes to the most important issues of the day, that often holds intellectual achievement in contempt, that is more interested in hip-hop and Lady Gaga than educating its young is all but guaranteed to spiral into a decline.


Speaking this week about the shortage of degrees in the 25- to 34-year-old demographic, Gaston Caperton, the president of the College Board and a former governor of West Virginia, said, "When I was in school, we were No. 1 in the world in college graduations. When I was governor, we were third, and I was surprised by that drop. Now we're 12th at a time when a good education is critically important to getting a decent job."


Among other things, he called on educators to develop curricula that are more "interesting and inspiring." And he said it is essential for students to work harder.


These are gloomy times in the United States. A child drops out of high school every 26 seconds. As incredible as it seems from the perspective of 2010, the report from the College Board tells us that "it is expected that the educational level of the younger generation of Americans will not approach their parents' level of education."


What is the matter with us? Have we been drinking? Whatever happened to that vaunted American dream? In Hawaii, the public schools were closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year for budget reasons.


When this is the educational environment, you can say goodbye to the kind of cultural, scientific and economic achievements that combine to make a great nation. We no longer know how to put our people to work. We read less and less and write like barbarians. We've increasingly turned our backs on the very idea of hard-won excellence while flinging open the doors to decadence and decline. No wonder Lady Gaga and Snooki from "Jersey Shore" are cultural heroes.


In their important book, "The Race Between Education and Technology," the Harvard economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz pointed out that educational attainment in the U.S. "was exceptionally rapid and continuous for the first three-quarters of the 20th century."


Then, foolishly, we applied the brakes. All that's at stake is our future.








THE steps being taken by government officials to help the economy are based on a faulty premise. The diagnosis is that the economy is "constrained" by a deficiency of aggregate demand, the total demand for American goods and services. The officials' prescription is to stimulate that demand, for as long as it takes, to facilitate the recovery of an otherwise undamaged economy — as if the task were to help an uninjured skater get up after a bad fall.


The prescription will fail because the diagnosis is wrong. There are no symptoms of deficient demand, like deflation, and no signs of anything like a huge liquidity shortage that could cause a deficiency. Rather, our economy is damaged by deep structural faults that no stimulus package will address — our skater has broken some bones and needs real attention.


The good news is that some of the damage done in the past decade will heal. The pessimism that broke out in 2009 is dissipating. The oversupply of houses and office space, which is depressing construction, will wear off. Banks and households are saving quickly enough to retire most of their excessive debt within a decade.


But other problems are not self-healing. In established businesses, short-termism has become rampant. Executives avoid farsighted projects, no matter how promising, out of a concern that lower short-term profits will cause share prices to drop. Mutual fund managers threaten to dump shares of companies that miss quarterly earnings targets. Timid and complacent, our big companies are showing the same tendencies that turned traditional utilities into dinosaurs.


Meanwhile, many of the factors that have long driven American innovation have dried up. Droves of investors, disappointed by their returns, have abandoned the venture capital firms of Silicon Valley. At pharmaceutical companies, computer-driven research is making fewer discoveries than intuitive chemists once did. We cannot simply assume that, when the recession ends, American dynamism will snap back in place.


Many pin their hopes for reviving the economy on gains in worker productivity. But such workplace advances often destroy more jobs than they create. That happened in the Great Depression, when increased worker productivity allowed companies and the economy to expand without creating new jobs.


The decline in American dynamism is not the only problem. It has been accompanied by a decline of what I call inclusion. Not only were low-wage workers largely cut out of the economic gains of the 1990s and 2000s — much of the middle class was, too. In part, this is because the emerging economies around the globe have ended our competitive advantage in manufacturing, and jobs have fled. We can't compete in those industries any more, and our business sector has not yet found new advantages.


The worst effect of focusing on supposedly deficient demand is that it lulls us into failing to "think structural" in dealing with long-term problems. To achieve a full recovery, we have to understand the framework on which our broad prosperity has always been based.


First, high employment depends on a high level of investment activity — business expenditures on tangibles like offices and equipment, and also training for new or existing employees, and development of new products.


Sustained business investment, in turn, rests on innovation. Business cannot wait for discoveries in science or the rare successes in state-run labs. Without cutting-edge products and business methods, rates of return on a great many investments will sag. Furthermore, innovation creates jobs across the economy, for entrepreneurs, marketers and buyers. State-led technology projects do not.


High business investment also depends on companies having confidence in the future. A company might be afraid to invest in research or product lines if it fears the rest of the economy is not doing the same — or if it fears the government might become hostile to its goals. During the Depression, John Maynard Keynes warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt not to damage business confidence with anti-profit rhetoric — to treat titans of business "not as wolves or tigers, but as domestic animals by nature."


What, then, is to be done? One reform would be to create a First National Bank of Innovation — a state-sponsored network of merchant banks that invest in and lend to innovative projects. Another would be to improve corporate governance by tying executives' compensation to long-term performance rather than one-year profits, and by linking fund managers' pay to skill in picking stocks, not in marketing their funds. Exempting start-ups from corporate income tax for a time would also help.


We also need a program of tax credits for companies for employing low-wage workers. That may seem counterintuitive at a time when the Obama administration is pressing education and high-paying jobs, but we need to create jobs at all levels. Early last year, Singapore began giving such credits — worth several billion dollars — and staved off a recession. Unemployment there is around 3 percent.


A revamp of the economy for greater dynamism and inclusion is essential for prosperity and growth. Rather than continuing to argue over solutions to a problem we do not have — low demand — the country needs to focus on fixing the structural problems that, unresolved, will stymie the economy over the long haul.


Edmund S. Phelps, the director of the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University and winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics, is the author of "Structural Slumps" and "Rewarding Work."










Daily Hürriyet has recently been running a series on lifestyles in Iran, with the female dimension of the series catching the attention of two columnists: Tufan Türenç from the same paper, and Türker Alkan from daily Radikal. Both talk about the resistance women show to the rigid Islamic regime in Iran.


In a way, it is no surprise the strongest resistance comes from women, since physically they suffer the most from the regime's interpretation of Islam. "It is mandatory for women to cover themselves in Iran. But if you look at the way they cover themselves, you see they are more comfortable and freer than Turkish women who are ordered to cover by the religious sects in the country," wrote Türenç. "Iranian women wear their headscarves leaving almost half their forehead showing. Parts of their hair are not covered. They also wear make up," he wrote. Emphasizing the contradiction in comparing the women of the two countries, he added: "While headscarves spread in Turkey, Iranian women are putting up a serious fight against the mandatory headscarf. What a contradiction."


Alkan approached the issue from another perspective. Basing his comments on the series published in the daily,

Alkan wrote: "Mullahs have taken control of everything in society, except women. Women are resisting."


"Wearing makeup is banned. But Iran ranks among countries spending the most amount of money on cosmetics. Spending, $2.1 billion, Iran ranks 7th in the world," Türker quotes the series in his article. Talking about the importance of human rights as a measure of civilization, Alkan said women's rights are important not only from the perspective of democracy but of civilization as well.


That Iranian women's resistance to the Iranian regime's false conviction that you become better Muslims by covering up, avoiding makeup and listening to music can, from my and from many other people's perspectives, be applauded.


But at the end of the day, the Iranian state's interpretation of Islam remains an internal matter and not much can be done about it from outside, especially as far as bilateral relations are concerned.  Not only the ruling Justice and Development Party, which probably harbors some sympathizers of the Iranian regime, but previous governments which were more sensitive to secular values, could not do anything about the consequences of the Islamic nature of the regime in the daily lives of Iranians.


Yet the government can and should do something on the plight of Sakine Muhammmed Ashtiani, who was sentenced to death by stoning following a conviction on the charge of adultery. Ashtiani's case prompted international outrage when she was initially sentenced to death by stoning. Although that threat was apparently lifted last month, she may still face execution by hanging.


Unfortunately Turkey's initial reaction has been quiet weak. Stoning is a "medieval punishment which has no role in the modern world," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, standing next to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, when he was asked about the case of Ashtiani at a press conference held after the two held talks in London recently.


One would have hoped to hear the same message from a minister who is known to be a pious Muslim. That would have limited the already terrible damage inflicted on the idea of Islam by Iran's regime.  


As Davutoğlu is known worldwide as an academic with ample knowledge of Islam and Islamic thinking, his words would carry a greater weight and thus be more credible and convincing.


But Davutoğlu missed the opportunity to show to the world that Islam is not an uncivilized, violent religion that some believe it to be. He simply restricted himself to saying that Turkey would raise the issue with Iran.  He might have spent every effort behind the scenes to save her and limited himself to vague statements in order not to hamper his influence over Iranians, however, one would trust his ability to be critical of stoning and the death penalty (by at least saying that Turkey does not approve of it and has banned the death penalty) while at the same time, with utmost care, to avoid offending Iran directly.


Now Turkey is facing a new challenge. Ashtiani's lawyer has applied for refugee status in Turkey. Known for leading an international campaign against the death penalty for minors, Muhammed Mustafa has claimed his office and house were raided and his wife and siblings were taken into custody.  The government should approve his application as soon as possible.


Maybe this is to expect too much from a government that tried to penalize adultery at one stage and is headed by a prime minister who has an advisor that has three wives.








The main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli have asked the prime minister and the former Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt to reveal what they talked about in a meeting following the April 27 e-memorandum. Kılıçdaroğlu and Bahçeli have otherwise threatened to take Erdoğan and Büyükanıt to the Supreme Court when they come to power.


Both leaders seem to have some information in hand. If this is the case, the two should come forward now and share what they know with the public. Should they not?


Circles close to the government and others fiercely fighting against the pro-coup side ask, "Why are the CHP and the MHP pressuring Büyükanıt so much?"


Why it is not revealed


If we hear what the pro-government side says, nothing against practices happened in the Erdoğan-Büyükanıt rendezvous, and both sides later on shared everything with the public. The two agreed to the elimination of military officers who are in err.


Since it is needless to say, "I will take my secret to the grave" for such an agreement, is the purpose here the protection of Büyükanıt?


Unless a statement is issued, Büyükanıt may face accusations like "He saved himself from being accused of the April 27 military e-memorandum and left the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, behind with a heavy price tag."


Considering Büyükanıt shared nothing with his successor Gen. İlker Başbuğ, the desired progress Erdoğan expects has not been made yet. The Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, crisis has occurred as a result. It is correct that the promotion issue of Gen. Hasan Iğsız in the YAŞ crisis is the biggest part of the problem. Disturbed by some of his remarks Erdoğan probably shared this with the YAŞ and gave a clear message: "I am against his promotion."


I was informed that Mr. Prime Minister came forward "not only about Iğsız but also about some other commanders." For instance, it is most likely that Erdoğan is not satisfied with the punishment of only one noncommissioned officer at a commandership where the "Vulgar Prime Minister" password was used, and he was annoyed by a commander still being kept in office although he ignored Erdoğan during an official ceremony and started a speech by saying "Dear guests…"


Büyükanıt example 'off' a little


As the Dolmabahçe rendezvous of Erdoğan and Büyükanıt was publicly debated, Büyükanıt told Fikret Bila of Milliyet daily, "I talked to Mesut Yılmaz and Bülent Ecevit, too. This is state business." I asked Yılmaz about these statements, and he said the following, and I make no comment:


"Büyükanıt was the chief commander or the second chief during my time. He was the General Staff representative in the Prime Ministry. Since he was the military adviser, I once in a while met with him on military issues only. But I never had a lengthy conversation with him as they did in the Dolmabahçe rendezvous. Ours was not a Prime Minister-Chief of General Staff meeting.


"In one-on-one talks with the chief, no minutes were kept. None were recorded, because it was not a meeting with a foreign statesman. If there is no bargaining to hurt democracy or the state institutions, it is at the parties' discretion to reveal what they talk about. However, if there is really an agreement, an explanation will serve democracy."


* Şükrü Küçükşahin is a columnist for the daily Hürriyet in which this piece appeared Thursday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.









The UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided July 30 that Istanbul's historical sites that are on its World Heritage List are no longer under threat, or so we have heard from the newswires. The news was highly doubtful.


Indeed, we now know that the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, during its yearly meeting held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, between July 25 and Aug. 3, decided July 29 that the above-mentioned risk to Istanbul's historical areas is still valid and the eventuality of being downgraded to the List of World Heritage in Danger is still relevant.


The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has long come forward with futuristic projects. These arrogant projects, each of which demonstrates a cliché and rustic replica of the 19th-century Western adoration of new techniques, slowly penetrate our lives as they ruin the heart of the city and alienate city-dwellers.


I copied my title from Süddeutsche Zeitung's reporter as it summarizes perfectly the ongoing tragicomedy. The city's heritage is facing the danger of being no more than window-dressing, of Istanbul being transformed into an Ottoman Disneyland.


Lack of enthusiasm to protect World Heritage


This is nothing new. Those who tried for years to protect the city from decay and deterioration have focused on this never-ending profiteering and the damage it has caused. In fact, the historic peninsula was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. The very same people tried to stress what needed to be done in order to remain on the list. What did the municipality do? It claimed that these are over-exaggerated threats from ill-intentioned traitors, meanwhile underestimating UNESCO's expertise and going ahead with what it had in mind.


Between 2000 and 2004, the WHC repeated – via routine monitoring missions and, since 2005, through close watch reports – that Turkey was not properly observing heritage-protection standards. Since there was no progress, the committee consideredthe downgrading of the property from the World Heritage List at the annual meeting held in Brazil.


So what did the municipality do? First, it sponsored a fake news article saying "Istanbul is not in danger," distributed July 10 by the Anatolia news agency as though UNESCO itself had said so. UNESCO Europe Department Head Mechtild Rossler denied the news.


Meanwhile, Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay realized how serious the situation was and informed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. As a result of his directives, a letter was sent to UNESCO and then the Turkish delegation defended itself in Brazil, making a number of promises and commitments that overrule the existing pattern. Finally, the World Heritage Committee gave Istanbul six months – until Feb. 2011 – to deliver on its long-standing demands regarding protection and restoration standards. It is needless to say how pathetic the announcement on the Istanbul Municipality website, quoted at the very beginning of this piece, looks: "The UNESCO World Heritage Committee gathering in Brazil has unanimously overruled the decision to declare that historic areas in Istanbul are in danger."


Decision 34 COM 7B.102 REV 3, dated July 29, reads as follows in its final paragraph: "Also requests the State Party to submit a detailed report on all the above-mentioned issues to the World Heritage Center by Feb. 1, 2011, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011 with a view to considering, according to the results of the environmental impact assessment and in the absence of substantial progress concerning the other measures, the possible inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger."


What else UNESCO says


As all reasonable citizens, UNESCO observes that the degradation of the vernacular architecture within the protected zones (particularly Ottoman-period timber houses in the Zeyrek and Süleymaniye core areas, and of the quality of repairs and reconstruction of the Roman and Byzantine walls and associated palace structures, including Tekfur Palace and the "Anemas Dungeon" of Blachernae Palace) continue.


UNESCO brings attention to the absence of a World Heritage management plan. The organization also finds a lack of coordination between national and municipal authorities and of decision-making bodies for the safeguarding of world heritage at the site. It sees the potential negative impacts of new buildings and new development projects on the world heritage site, mainly within the framework of Law 5366, and the lack of impact studies before large-scale developments are implemented, in addition to the potential negative impact on the Süleymaniye Mosque's view of the proposed new metro bridge across the Golden Horn.


When in 1985, the World Heritage Committee inscribed Istanbul's historic peninsula on the list, it qualified the Süleymaniye Mosque as a "peerless masterpiece [of] the highest level of Ottoman architecture." Obviously, those "ill-intentioned foreigners" are adamant about protecting our mosques!


This fall, the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture agency, together with UNESCO, will organize meetings on the theme of "how to preserve the world heritage." A new initiative called the Istanbul Cultural Heritage Platform, gathering together a rich variety of scientific, cultural and artistic organizations, will from now on work to raise awareness, to increase protection standards and to ensure that the city is not downgraded. And we'll see how the municipality meets its promises made in Brazil.








The Turkish media spent the past week discussing the amazing adventures of the Supreme Military Council. During this annual meeting, which takes a few days, the top generals typically sit down and decide who among them will be retired, promoted, or demoted. They also often fire some fellow officers from the staunchly secularist organization, mostly for "retrograde activities," such as doing daily prayers, refraining from alcohol, or having a wife who wears a headscarf.


Usually, the generals just decide what to do about all these "internal" issues of theirs, whereas prime ministers and presidents, who are supposed to be above them, just put a signature on what they have agreed upon.


Beyond the Ankaralogists


But things were different this time. Nearly a dozen of the high-ranking officers primed for promotion were suspects in alleged coup schemes prepared against the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government. So, neither Prime Minister Erdoğan nor President Gül, a former AKP minister, were willing to let them be promoted.


That's also why this year's Supreme Military Council took longer and got even more newsy than usual. Our "Ankaralogists," a version of the Kremlinologists of the Cold War, kept on analyzing the intricate details of the four day long summit, trying to understand which "side" (civil or military) prevailed. Things were not fully settled as I was writing this piece, but it was obvious that the civilian side got the upper hand and blocked the promotion of the coup suspects.


Of course, this ascendance of the elected leaders over self-appointing soldiers is a good step for the country. You might not like those elected leaders, and that's just fine. Then you can support other politicians who challenge them. (And that is called democracy.)


The problem in Turkey is that those who did not like the elected politicians have often relied on the military, which itself was more than willing to interfere with politics. What emerged from this alliance was a quasi-military regime, which has been in power since the first coup in 1960.


Today, the gradual demise of this regime not just serves democratization but also allows us Turks to ask questions that did not occur to most of us before. One of them is almost an ontological one: Why does an institution called the military exist at all? 


In democratic countries, the answer to that question is a pragmatic one limited to self-defense: the world can be a dangerous place and sovereign states need some military force to repel potential foreign threats.


In dictatorships, though, the military is not just about foreign threats. Its even more important job is to protect the regime from "internal threats" created by political dissidents. Take the North Korean military, for example. Its constitutionally defined job is to "defend the socialist system and the gains of the revolution." Another of its official texts further explains that the institution exists "to annihilate those who dare to thrust their claws to the headquarters of the Korean Revolution."


To Turks, this must be very familiar. Our generals, too, speak about protecting a "revolution" and its "gains." They, too, threaten the dissidents, real or perceived, who "dare to" oppose that revolution. And, in a way again similar to North Korea, they adhere to an intense cult of personality created around a deceased yet ever-present leader.


Indoctrination at work


One of the outcomes of that ideological nature of the Turkish military is that the institution keeps too many men – now around a million – under arms. It is not rocket science to see that in the age of terrorism and guerilla warfare, we need a much smaller yet better equipped and trained army. But our generals insist on keeping the national mandatory military service, for it is less about preparing soldiers for war than "educating" them with the official ideology.


My personal experience in the military (which was exceptionally short for it was a partly "paid" one) was revealing enough for me: for four weeks in uniform, I dodged just three bullets in total, in a "training" which lasted for 15 minutes. But I then listened to dozens of hours of seminars on "Atatürk's principles." I even heard a long lecture from a two-star general on the glorious history of the pre-Islamic Turks, and the "darkness" that Islam supposedly brought upon them.


All that indoctrination, as you can probably tell, failed to convert me, as it has many others. But it is still a problem that we Turkish men all have to spend many months in such military service which neither we nor our country really need.


What we rather need is a professional military, which will just do its democratically defined job and be responsible to our democratically elected leaders.


You may say I am a dreamer, but I am really not the only one.








We were all eyes and ears for Brasilia last week. As I say "we," I'm talking about Istanbul lovers.


The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, or WHC, was to discuss Istanbul in the 34th meeting in this Brazilian city.


Let me go back to the beginning. Istanbul was inscribed in the WHC list in 1985 because of the Historic Peninsula which is home to historic places such as Sultanahmet, Süleymaniye, the City Walls, Sulukule and Fener-Balat.


However, UNESCO urged Istanbul to make a management plan for the Historic Peninsula in order to protect the Ottoman style wooden houses as a whole.


Istanbul Municipality and other authorities had failed to meet UNESCO's requests for years and managed to annoy UNESCO experts with their acts.


For instance, construction of a metro bridge on Haliç (Golden Horn) is about to ruin the peerless silhouette of the Süleymaniye mosque.


Istanbul Mayor Architect Kadir Topbaş pays special attention to the Haliç Metro Bridge and reportedly contributed to the design project of it. Unfortunately, the bridge violates the UNESCO criteria.


Silhouette of Süleymaniye


For UNESCO protection of Süleymaniye's silhouette is a must. 


Although Topbaş lowered the length of the bridge legs to 10 meters, UNESCO was clearly not satisfied by that.


Because in advance of the Brasilia meeting, rumors have started to spread around that the WCH might include Istanbul in the "Endangered Heritage List."


That put Istanbul lovers on edge.



SOS Istanbul, a new organization to protect the city's texture, has published statements to warn people and has held meetings.



A short while ago I received an e-mail from the Istanbul Municipality. "Istanbul won. According to UNESCO, the historic places are not in danger," the lengthy mail starts.


Honestly, I was puzzled by the remark "Istanbul has won."


Later on I learned the details of the UNESCO decision on Istanbul reached in Brasilia.


It is accurate that Istanbul is not inscribed in the "Endangered Heritage List."


Although the Turkish Foreign Ministry and Istanbul Municipality knew before the meeting that the likelihood of such a decision was quite high, they ran a campaign so UNESCO would not change the status of Istanbul.


Istanbul Municipality adopts a different approach now


Istanbul Municipality exerted tremendous efforts in this direction, so it's been said.


However, Mayor Topbaş, during an interview just a few months ago, gave me the impression that he does not care much about the UNESCO decision.


For the city of Dresden in Germany departed from the "World Heritage List" of its free will, he said, and that the list compared to the past is less prestigious today, the mayor added.


Clearly, Topbaş implied that if someday Istanbul faces a risk this wouldn't be end of the world.


As far as I see, the mayor has totally changed his attitude and said "Istanbul won."


As for the issue of "Istanbul won," as I said, Istanbul was not inscribed in the "Endangered Heritage List" but UNESCO has not stepped back.


They still want to see a management plan for the Historic Peninsula, a holistic approach for the conservation of the Ottoman style wooden buildings and they still want a review of the Haliç Metro Bridge project.


UNESCO set a new deadline to see all these changes: Feb. 2011.


Will Istanbul meet the demands in seven months, given that it has failed to fulfill them since 1985? Will Istanbul be able to do this?


We'll see…


To me, setting a new deadline is an "ultimatum" by UNESCO, but Istanbul Municipality reads it as "victory."


A difference of opinion, this must have been.









The "Ground Zero Mosque" is the latest controversy creating spirited debate in America. The controversy started when the Cordoba Initiative, a Muslim organization, wanted to get a permit to build a "community center," including a mosque, two blocks from the site of the attacked World Trade Center. The emotional fight began and still continues over whether the initiative is an example of insensitivity to the feelings of family members of 9/11 victims, or is it a way forward to bring reconciliation and healing for post-9/11 America?


One of the biggest motives of this controversy is the image of Islam in America, and particularly how it has been perceived since September 11. For many, Islam is a religion which chiefly spreads hatred. A lot of Americans believe that Islam is an exceptionally brutal religion in which basic human rights are unimportant for especially those who belong to other faiths. Since 9/11, this chain of beliefs has gained more evidence to prove its arguments are worthy, in light of many radical Islamic terrorists blowing up innocent women or infants almost every single day.


According to the July 20 National Rasmussen polls, only 20 percent of American people favor the building of a mosque near the 9/11 Ground Zero site in New York City, and 54 percent oppose the idea.  


The segment of American society which has strong reactions against Islam does not only belong to the South or Midwest part of America, places where people are traditionally more conservative and suspicious of foreign culture or religion, but a significant part of the conservative elite, politicians and writers alike, also fall into this segment of society that shares a similar negative perspective of Islam. Members of this spectrum have some knowledge of Islam, through books and discussions which are abundant in number, however many times more extremely limited in context.


The Cordoba Initiative, in its mission statement, clearly states that one of its aims is "bringing back the atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect that we have longed for since Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony and prosperity eight hundred years ago."


Still, the initiative has been under heavy fire for sometime. The matter also became a hot political issue as the midterm elections are getting closer in the United States. Especially many of the Republican Party leaders are reacting strongly to the idea of the mosque, calling it a threat to American values.


One of the loudest oppositions came from the Anti-Defamation League, or ADL's, National Director Abe Foxman. Foxman said, "Ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right," adding, "If you want to heal us, don't do it in our cemetery."


The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, filed suit Wednesday to challenge the Landmark Preservation Committee's decision to let developers tear down a building to make way for the mosque. Therefore even though the Commission gave a green light for proceeding, the lawsuits will follow their course and produce a verdict eventually.


The liberal spectrum of the country and its intellectual community mostly argue that it would be un-American if they interfered in the establishment of a religious house, wherever the location would be. New York's current independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is one of those leading politicians who has been supporting the mosque project, and last Wednesday gave an emotional speech to recall America's founding principles and melting pot-tolerant society. Bloomberg said in his statement, "If somebody wants to build a religious house of worship, they should do it and we shouldn't be in the business of picking which religions can and which religions can't. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else."


It is a contentious issue and both sides have some strong arguments. Nevertheless, it is still such a commendable capability for a country to discuss an event which has left such a big scar in its recent memory.


Nobody should belittle the opposition's arguments. There is a genuine confusion in the minds of Americans in terms of understanding Islam's true nature. Millions of American parents question everyday why their sons and daughters have to go overseas to fight with "Muslim radicals," who hate their way of life. For them, a mosque is a place that breeds the terrorism which haunt their children at the end.


There is also a narrative discrepancy between many Americans who view the Mosques as Muslim barracks and the Domes as their helmets and the rest. In the poll taken by Quinnipiac University last month, 55 percent of New York City voters say, "Mainstream Islam is a peaceful religion," while 22 percent say Islam "encourages violence against non-Muslims."


The first narrative argues that even though the U.S. and the West have invested in the Muslim countries for their well-being, and showed respect for their religions and cultures, they receive violence in return. Many of them laud the concern of the possible effect such a mosque would have on the families of 9/11 victims, and believe that the initiative would also harm cross-cultural understanding, as opposed to what the Cordoba House argues.


The opposite narrative, which goes through many average Muslims' minds in many Muslim countries, is that the West is repulsive, keeps humiliating Islam by invading Muslim lands and ties them up in various conflicts so it can continue exploiting them further.


Frustration with the economy, unemployment or immigration apparently does not stop the American people from spending much of their time in this particular issue. According to the Rasmussen Report, 51 percent of Americans follow the recent news reports about the mosque either "very," or "somewhat," closely. And it is apparent that the mosque project opened a wound that is still too raw for some to even talk about.


In the end, Americans will decide what kind of society they are aspire to hold dear and continue to build. In spite of radical rhetoric which frequently dominates discussion, there is a space for average Americans to let their feeling be heard on the issue. It is true that the American and every other public does it best when they debate.


The Muslim community in America also ought to spend more time considering New Yorkers' sensitivities. Muslims in America must ask for freedom of religion and shall not stop working until they receive their rights fully. And the latest panel decision shows that it indeed received its rights to build. Now, maybe it is time for the Muslims to consider Americans' opposition with respect and be open to make gestures and compromises if necessary.


The gesture could easily be to move the mosque a little further from the site.

Nothing is wrong with hearing others' memories and opinions if the main motive on the both sides is healing.








The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and even President Abdullah Gül would not think for one second that a four-star general would turn down with the back of his hand a golden opportunity to become the Land Forces commander and submit a petition demanding his early retirement.


Erdoğan, Gül and the rest of the AKP governance did not want Gen. Hasan Iğsız to become the new Land Forces commander. An officious prosecutor provided every possible reasoning the government might use in opposing him. Yet, they underestimated the possibility that the remaining other 14 four-star generals of the Land Forces might consider it humiliating to accept to be appointed to a post denied to their comrade in arms, Gen. Iğsız, who under the established traditions of the military ought to be the first choice for that post.


Naturally, while the Supreme Military Council, or YAŞ, was given the duty under law to make suggestions to the government about who should be promoted or appointed to key posts in the Armed Forces, after all it was the "legal duty" of the prime minister and the Cabinet to ink the appointment decrees and it was the privilege of the president to sign and complete either the promotion or appointment processes. Even if all through the past so many decades since the Republic was proclaimed, no government turned a blind eye to the suggestions made by the military members of the YAŞ and made appointments to force commander positions on their own, under law the AKP government was perfectly correct to insist on appointing commanders of its own liking.


The government did not have much of an alternative. It did not want the appointment of Iğsız. Next in line was Gen. Atilla Işık. But, rather than becoming the new Land Forces commander instead of his comrade in arms, a friend for more than 40 years and indeed together with whom he was promoted to the rank of general, Gen. Işık tendered his petition demanding his early retirement from service.


That petition has further deepened the crisis between the AKP government and the military. President Gül's intervention and meeting with the outgoing Land Forces commander and prospective Chief of Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner did not soothe the crisis either. Furthermore, speculations were spreading yesterday that if not allowed to establish his own command chain, Koşaner might not accept to become the chief of general staff and ask for his retirement as well.


What options do we indeed have for a way out of this crisis?


The most unlikely option is the government taking a step back, not only dropping its opposition to Gen. Iğsız becoming the Land Forces commander but apologizing to the general for the controversy created over his name. The government apologizing to Iğsız appears impossible, besides, after all that has occurred over the past week, Iğsız accepting the appointment would hurt his prestige immensely.


Another almost impossible option might be to convince Gen. Işık to withdrew his petition requesting early retirement and make him the Land Forces commander. Yet, the arrow has long left the bow and Gen. Işık withdrawing his retirement petition might hurt him more and thus does not appear to be in the cards indeed.


The third and very difficult option is to appoint one of the remaining 13 four-star Land Forces generals to that post. Yet, Işık's refusal to accept the appointment and ask for his early retirement has set such an example that even if they might be willing to accept such a golden opportunity, none of the possible candidates can accept such an offer and become the Land Forces commander. Very likely whoever is offered the post will follow suit and ask for early retirement as well. Can the government, without sufficiently convinced that the offer will be accepted pull such a trigger that would further deepen the existing crisis atmosphere? On the other hand, can whoever is offered the job resign one after the other and allow the crisis to turn into a real nightmare?


The last and most feasible option appears at this point. If Koşaner is convinced to become the Chief of General Staff and through his help and indeed with his choice the Land Forces commander might be filled with one of the possible top three four-star generals in the line of succession the crisis might be resolved for now.


Yet, who will accept to become the Land Forces commander, a post denied to Gen. Iğsız though he was the first in the line of succession and a post turned down with the back of his hand by Gen. Işık just for the sake of preventing the crisis turn into an unmanageable chaos…


Wanted: A general who might be willing to face all the nightmarish difficulties and consequences, including killing his own reputation and to become the new Land Forces commander.


* Note: This column was written prior to a possible announcement on who would fill the positions in question.








The economic situation is not getting better in Greece, even after the implementation of measures imposed by the EU and the IMF. Their controllers, who were last week in Athens asked the Greek officials why inflation had increased to five percent in June. The reply they got was the following: "You told us to increase the VAT to 23 percent; we did – prices went up and the tax increases were finally paid by the consumers." A logical answer to a stupid question. Now the EU and the IMF are asking the Greek government to privatize the Public Power Company of Greece by selling it and at the same time increase the price of electricity. So next time they visit Greece, they will ask why inflation in Greece has increased to 10 percent and they will receive a similar reply. Allow us to have some doubts on the knowledge of these so-called experts of the EU and of the IMF. We think that their advice is leading Greece to economic disaster. The Greek government should also analyze the measures being imposed upon it, since after all it is supposed to know more about the Greek economy than the foreign controllers. The Hungarian government recently refused to adopt more stringent measures requested by the IMF and the EU, saying that social unrest from any more measures would topple it.


The truck drivers and owners of trucks that carry liquids went on strike. Why? The EU and the IMF obliged the Greek government to open the industry. This means that new permits would be issued costing only 3,000 Euros, while previously the truck owners and drivers had to pay up to 300,000 Euros for such a permit. Many of these drivers had taken loans which they were still paying off. So they asked for their money back from the government and limit their participation to 3,000 Euros. The government refused of course and the truck drivers and owners went on strike and created serious problems for fuel distribution in Greece. The government then issued a rare emergency order to the truck drivers that was ignored also because there was nobody to deliver these notifications to the truck drivers. So then for the first time since 1974, when the military junta collapsed, the government ordered the country's armed forces to help deliver fuel as the strike continued. So we saw army trucks with police escorts, delivering fuel to airports, hospitals, etc. But what an irony! Greece has a socialist government, with a prime minister whose father was arrested by the military junta, calling the army to break a strike. And Greece is an EU country. We wonder what will be the next step. Imposition of martial law and the prohibition of strikes and demonstrations? We hope not but we cannot exclude it.


Ponder our thoughts dear humans for your benefit.








The Universal Health Insurance implementation which began in Turkey in 2008 registers all Turkish citizens under the Universal Health Insurance system. However, a transition period was recognized for some groups in society, one of which is "foreigners." This transition period ends on Oct. 1, 2010, so after this date foreigners specified in the law must be registered Universal Health Insurance holders.


What the Law says


According to "general health insurance provisions" it is necessary to consider clause (d) of the first subclause of 60th article of Law 5510. The mentioned provision is: "d) Foreigners who aren't insured according to foreign legislation and have obtained a residence permit on any condition which takes into consideration the reciprocity principal are regarded as general health insured." According to this law, people with Turkish residence permits who aren't insured in a foreign country are considered to fall within the framework of the "general health insurance provisions" under Law 5510.


However, provisional article 12 states that individuals who are accepted as insured according to subclauses (d) –foreigners-, clause one of Article 60, shall make their declarations within two years after the effective date of this act. Within this period, among individuals who are considered as universal health insurance holders according to sub clauses (d) and (g), clause one, Article 60, those who do not have a registry claim and whose children are under the age of 18 benefit from health services. The registry of these people's children is done as of the date of application to the health service provider.


However, in provinces in which family physician implementation is initiated, these people fall into the category of universal health insurance holder and people they are required to care for, without any regard to the two-year period.


When we consider these arrangements, if you are foreigner, if you are not insured in your country, if you have a residence permit and if you have been in Turkey for a year or more, you must become a Universal Health Insurance Holder – as required by law – as of Oct. 1, 2010.


Where to apply


You must apply for universal health insurance at the "Sosyal Güvenlik Merkez Müdürlüğü" (Social Security Center Directorate), or SSC. SSC directorates are located in every province and many districts. For example, directorates in Istanbul can be found in Bakırköy, Beşiktaş, Beyoğlu, Boğaziçi, Cağaloğlu, Cibali, Doğancılar, Fatih, Fındıklı, Gaziosmanpaşa, Kadıköy, Kurtköy, Küçükçekmece, Maltepe, Pendik, Şişli and Unkapanı. When applying for universal health insurance, remember to have these documents ready: your residence permit document, your Turkish ID number and your passport.


After the application process you will be registered as insured.


How much will you pay for UHI?


If you are registered as a universal health insurance holder, you must pay monthly premiums. Assuming that you are insured this month, you will pay 182 Turkish Liras. After being registered by SSC you can pay premiums at any bank. The monthly payment covers spouses and children.


For your questions:








Every culture has more or less similar, but yet different, ceremonies for weddings and funerals. Religion plays an important role on these differences for the latter. Among them the main difference is the time and the place where people get together. Unlike funerals, weddings, especially big city urban weddings have started to look very much alike.


There are different occasions around the world where people get together for a different purpose, but "coincidentally" discuss business. Golf is an important occasion for that, but as it is at its very early stage, it cannot match with weddings or funerals. These are the two major events where people discuss business - in Istanbul - and politics - in Ankara.


Funeral ceremonies predominantly take place at noon in Turkey in order to ensure friends, colleagues and relatives attendance. There are certain popular mosques for important businesspeople and politicians. The attendants get together for half an hour to an hour before the praying starts to see the family members and pass on condolences. Then everyone waits in the gardens of the mosques for the imam to start the ceremony. Once the praying is over, the deceased is taken to the cemetery. The burial requires more privacy and usually only close friends and family members attend.


The first ceremony at a funeral plays an important role for business and politics due to the following reasons: It provides a spontaneous meeting opportunity (despite the fact that you can imagine who will be there more or less) and you have time to talk before the praying starts. As everyone faces the ultimate end, people have more understanding and patience to talk to each other. It is very quiet and the tone of voice is always low. If you want to set an appointment, the answer you get is yes most of the time. Funerals, like religious holidays, are considered great platforms where individuals get together and resolve conflicts. For the emotional and relationship-oriented culture of Turkey, these are precious moments. On the other hand, as these are moments of respect, attending totally unrelated funerals or frequent abuse of such "spontaneous" moments can create severe irritation. You can find yourself alone in the courtyard.


Once we had a problem with one of the organizations we worked with. Despite our agreement, they refused to take a product and ignored the calls of my subordinates for quite some time. It was a big problem and I was also trying to reach the president of the other party without any success. Coincidentally, while coming back from New York, I read a sad obituary. It was about a friend's father. The next day I went to the mosque to be with my friend and pay my respects. The president of the other company was also there. When I got the chance I told him that if we talked we could sort out the issue. We agreed to meet at his office following the ceremony. An hour later, everything was back in order. 


Weddings, on the other hand, can be more difficult. Like at funerals you meet over a cocktail for an hour and then get seated for dinner. However as they predominantly take place during the evening and are not regulated by praying times, people arrive towards the end of the cocktail. Arriving a bit late for such events is even considered a bit prestigious. Weddings are more crowded and noisy. You use a high tone of voice. People limit themselves on talking business during such events. Therefore, cocktails are used for short messaging. As the seating is predetermined by the couple (to be precise; by their mothers!) who is getting married, you might end up with totally unrelated people around the table. It is a like a caste system determined by numbers and closeness to the stage. Important friends of the fathers and mothers take the first row. Less important friends take the second. Due to respect for age and hospitality, young friends of the couple and relatives are seated at the last tables. You can figure out your face value for the family based on your position. Once you are seated, it is like the lottery. The chance of meeting new friends or spending the whole evening talking to your wife or partner is 50/50.


I was managing a company of 400 people while I was getting married in Istanbul. For the wedding party, I had to limit the attendance to 15 people who directly reported to me. Three days before the wedding an uninvited colleague came to my office, saying he was having a hard time understanding why he was not invited. I was shocked. I said it was a private event and that it was nothing personal.


While doing business or managing in Turkey, don't underestimate how diffuse/integrated your business relationships can be. Your role is and should be always beyond being a business partner or a manager. You should be a good friend and a father/mother role model from time to time. In order to be successful, people should have an emotional attachment to you. And this is only possible by being there with them and sharing sadness or joy. 


Zafer Parlar is the founder of istventures (, which supports international companies in their market entries and development in Turkey, as well as Turkish companies in their local operations and expansion plans abroad.











The ability to read between the lines is an essential attribute in terms of understanding the political landscape in Pakistan. Politicians are not known for their plain speaking or transparency wherever they may be, but the politicians of Pakistan have a tendency to speak in 'doublespeak' that renders much of what they say incomprehensible. Despite this a look at the recent statements of PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab is illuminating. The statements appear to point to a disconnect between the GHQ and the PPP. Her comment that there are 'differences' between the two and that such differences exist everywhere points to the two institutions not being on the best of terms – or even on the same page in respect of a number of key issues. With civilian government in some disarray in the face of multiple problems and threats, it is worth noting that the military made a number of preparatory moves of men and materials in anticipation of a request for assistance with the flood disaster by the civilian authorities. That it did so before being ordered to do so is an indicator of (a) its preparedness and (b) a lack of the same quality in the civil administration. Turning now to the situation in Karachi and the calls by the ANP and others that the army 'take over' responsibility for security in our largest city, it is not difficult to again see the failure of civilian governments and agencies to contain the violence that has claimed almost a hundred lives in the last week. Reading across from this, one has to wonder at the strength and durability of the coalition that, on paper at least, runs Karachi.

The disconnect is not confined to that between the ruling party and the military, there are schisms within the PPP itself and it is not unusual for Fauzia Wahab, who is generally seen as speaking for the party, finding that what she has said was later denied by other spokespersons and Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira. With the floods advancing on Sindh, the president in the UK and the prime minister being befooled by 'ghost' emergency health camps, the military appears to have managed to keep its head whilst those around it lose theirs. There is a gaping hole where there should have been unity and national leadership and this speaks of a comprehensive failure of key figures, most notably the president himself, to lead this country when it needed it most. It is that poverty of leadership that is midwife to the cracks that are now appearing.







According to the National Disaster Management Authority, 12 million people have been affected in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab alone by the floods. More rains could lie ahead and districts in Sindh remain on red alert as the waters roar down the Indus. Before such forces, man can do only little – but there must be some question as to whether even this little has been done or whether official action has largely been restricted to creating photo opportunities. The exposure by Geo TV of a sham health camp set up in Mianwali ahead of the prime minister's visit has caused a few blushes. But even now there is no real evidence of an all-out effort to tackle the situation. With help pouring in from around the world, it would not be too much to ask that people be provided with enough food to ward off starvation or be evacuated from homes in direct danger.

But for this to happen it is vital the government takes the lead. Efforts to do so have, at best, been floundering. We need the prime minister and his cabinet to give a more definite sense of direction. All ministers, especially those from affected areas, should be playing a part in organising relief. Some MNAs and MPAs have been active in their constituencies. Others need to be encouraged to stand with people, assess the situation on a day-to-day basis and take measures to ensure that people receive the help they need. The lack of cohesion in the relief effort has affected many and added to the scale of the calamity posed by the worst floods in our nation's history.







Parts of the report on the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore last year have come into public space. The 120-page document is the result of the work of an inquiry commission headed by a Lahore High Court judge. The excerpts make for miserable reading. They show that the police had no security plan that would have been appropriate for such a high-profile event and displayed dereliction of duty. They were poorly equipped, incompetently led and lazy. The catalogue of incompetence is added to by the CCTV footage of the attackers not being engaged by the police on the spot -- police patrol vehicles bypassing the attackers as they made their getaway and the ease with which they melted into the urban landscape. 

It will be recalled that after the attack the ICC ruled that Pakistan would have to play all its matches at neutral venues. Cricket is our national passion. Pass by any street in town or village and there will be boys and men with bat and ball and an improvised pitch. Cricketers are our national heroes (and villains) and we follow every twist and turn of cricketing stories as if they were the stuff of life itself. Despite this we were unable to provide adequate security for international visiting cricketers and yet again besmirched our international reputation. Our team is banished to far-off places to play in front of small crowds and away from their fan-base and familiar home grounds. There seems little sign that this situation is going to improve in the coming years. And there is nobody to blame for this but ourselves.







The Constitution makes it mandatory for all laws of Pakistan to be in conformity with Islamic laws. Therefore, in case any of them is not, it would be struck down by the courts. Muslim family laws that eventually emerged during the 2nd and the 3rd centuries of the Hijri calendar were mainly influenced by the socio-economic, political and indigenous tribal values of those times. During the developmental phases of the classical legal schools Islamic jurists frequently adopted a patriarchal approach towards women's rights and family laws. 

This approach is evident in Pakistani family laws. The resistance to the introduction of laws in Pakistan to empower women is motivated by the traditional, not Islamic, belief that women should be restricted to domestic environment while men should enjoy all kinds of freedom. Reinterpretation of the Shariah is of utmost importance in this regard in accordance with the present situation. 

The inclination of our legislators is to control the woman through law. Therefore procedures in family laws have deliberately been made complicated for women. If a woman approaches the courts to secure her rights, she gets entangled in the mesh of Pakistan's family laws. Women victims of domestic violence often face bias in the judicial system, an example of which is the assumption that domestic violence is a family matter.

The Muslim Family Law Ordinance, 1961, a major breakthrough for Pakistani women, did usher in a degree of freedom from oppression. It restricted polygamy and provided more rights and protection for women. But there are many aspects in the family laws that need to be looked into urgently. For example, the procedure for khula (whereby the wife divorces her husband) entails the applicant's entanglement in a harassing legal procedure. Even if she is successful in getting a decree in her favour in the family court where she filed for khula, she has to approach another court, the arbitration council, to receive the divorce certificate. Here she goes through the same reconciliation procedure she had undergone in the family court, before the divorce certificate is issued ninety days after the new reconciliation bid. It is beyond comprehension why the certificate cannot be issued by the same court which handed down the decision. 

In 2002, the Family Courts Amendment Ordinance inserted a regressive stipulation in Section 10 of the West Pakistan Family Courts Act, 1964. Under this amendment, as a rule, it becomes mandatory for a woman to forego her haq mehr (the husband's pledged dowry money) if the reconciliation effort fails in the new round of arbitration. 

Not only is the stipulation against the basic concept of marriage in Islam, even the courts generally do not approve of it. In the Munawar Iqbal Satti vs Mst Uzma Satti Case (2003 YLR 599 Lahore), the court ruled that haq mehr is "a sine qua non of a valid marriage, without which union between the spouses could not be legal but would rather lead to self-destroying and hazardous legal consequences." Haq mehr is "in its essence not a benefit returnable to the husband in consideration of a grant of khula. A gift or a benefit was always something which was gratuitous and voluntary in nature, bestowed by one upon another without any consideration. Haq mehr could not be regarded as a benefit or gift which could be restored to the husband in consideration of khula divorce." 

The Supreme Court held in 2006 that a woman is entitled to her haq mehr if she files for khula on the grounds of habitual cruelty and non-payment of alimony. But the ground reality is that the amendment is still there and is being misused. It is high time this proviso is struck down, since even the Superior Court does not approve of the khula-seeking wife having to forego the haq mehr. 

The insertion of this proviso nearly four decades after the passage of the West Pakistan Family Courts Act is the display of a mindset that favours the husband. The effect of the insertion of this proviso is that men refuse to divorce their estranged wives, who are left with the choice of filing for khula. They must run in vain from court to court and in the end have to forgo all their rights and benefits.

The other problem faced by wives is the return of their dowry articles to them when the marriage fails. As a rule, the husband's stance in the court is that his wife did not bring anything with her, or that she took all her belongings back when she left his home--even when, in fact, she had been thrown out of the house without her belongings. 

The court inevitably demands a list of dowry articles assumed to have been prepared at the time of the marriage. But in the majority of cases such a list has not been prepared in advance, and in the absence of proof a woman is usually deprived of everything she had brought with her from her parents' home. 

In 2008, in the case titled Mohammad Habib vs Mst Safia Bibi and Others, the Supreme Court favoured the woman complainant. In that case, the contention of the husband was that no such list of dowry articles had been prepared at the time of the marriage and the list shown in the court was fabricated. But the Supreme Court held the list valid because the articles contained in it were those ordinarily given to a bride. 

An effective way of dealing with this particular problem is a legislation which makes it compulsory for the preparation of a list of dowry articles at the time of the wedding, with the bridegroom required to sign the list. This important issue, which has been left unaddressed by the country's legislatures, needs to be attended to urgently. 

The Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act, 1976, is a law that was promulgated to help wives, but instead it is being misused by husbands because of a loophole in it. 

Inheritance is another matter in which there is clear discrimination against women. A woman is entitled to half the inheritance to which a male is entitled. Few women receive even this share, which is usurped by the male members of her family through pressure and social taboos. In many cases a woman is forced to forego her share.

As to domestic violence, to which so many women are subjected, there is no specific legislation in Pakistan against the abuse. With violence against women increasingly coming to light, it is high time for strict laws to be enacted to put an end to it. Similarly, there is no specific law against women's abduction for rape. Here, a fake nikah-nama comes in handy for the abductor, since "marriage" is the most effective defence against charges of rape because of legal grey areas. Authorities have to stop accepting such "marriages" as a defence.

Pakistan's development will remain a mirage unless its women, who make up more than fifty per cent of the country's population, are truly empowered. The effort should be twofold: while women are given greater representation at all levels of government, effective efforts should be made to promote equal opportunity employment and discourage discrimination at the workplace. 

The writer is an advocate






Global warming is causing increasing alarm because the rising global temperatures have the power to alter monsoon rain patterns. The recent floods that engulfed northern Pakistan have, in a way, not just affirmed the threat of weather aberration, but also spelled out its consequences. According to UNICEF, around three million people have been affected just in northern Pakistan, with 1,400 dead.

After the devastating earthquake of 2005, the National Disaster Management Committee (NDMC) was formed to deal with such situations. The NDMC is headed by the prime minister and it implements its decisions through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) which is responsible for coordination between different stakeholders, including the ministry of defence and the provincial governments. 

The recent floods were one of the first major tests for the NDMA. The intensity of the floods and the shortage of resources can be cited as valid reasons for the less-than-adequate response to the disaster, but the NDMA was also unable to fully utilise even those resources that were available. 

For instance, consider the efforts undertaken to rescue marooned survivors. These survivors were stranded on structures such as buildings or electricity poles. Timing is critical in such situations as these structures are likely to give way due to damage to their foundations and bases. Helicopters provide the quickest means of rescue in such instances. 

But as stated in the NDMA's flood update of July 30, only 21 helicopters were deployed in the affected areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. As seen in media reports from the areas, this number was clearly inadequate given the scale and spread of the calamity. This weakness remains as the efforts move into the next phase: upper Swat and Kohistan are cut off from the rest of the country because of the total destruction of their road infrastructure. 

More than 350,000 people need supplies for mere survival, and helicopters remain the only viable way of making these deliveries. But the Aug 1 update from the NDMA states that only 30 helicopters were engaged in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, of which 20 belonged to army. 

This small number of helicopters would have been acceptable if these were all the helicopters that could be spared. But statistics from show that in 2006 the army had 143 helicopters, of which at least 100 are of the sort that can be used for these operations. If the only helicopter at the disposal of the Punjab government can make the rounds at this hour of need, then surely the army could have spared more than just 20 helicopters. There can be no valid excuse for this underutilisation, especially when the cost of it is measured in terms of human lives. 

There also is a relative sense of apathy among unaffected Pakistanis when it comes to donations for relief efforts. This is in sharp contrast to the outpouring of sympathy after the 2005 earthquake. In my opinion, a major catalyst in that united and concerted effort resulted from the focused and dedicated reporting from our electronic media then. Televised stories of survival and tragedy mobilised the whole nation into action; the urgent needs of the affected areas became breaking news, and the actions of volunteers across the country were assisted by information from TV news channels. 

It was shocking that none of the mainstream Urdu news channels interrupted their regular programming to cover the initial phase of the floods disaster. This lack of focus came right after the non-stop coverage of the Airblue plane crash, an event that is dwarfed in magnitude by the calamity brought about by these floods. Some quarters say that alerts from the Pakistan Meteorological Department were not given due coverage by the media because of the extensive focus on the plane crash. 

It also wasn't that the other competing news items were of equal significance. For instance, on Aug 31, when the director general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was holding a press conference, none of the mainstream Urdu news channels chose to broadcast it live. Instead, there were talk shows lamenting the president's upcoming visit to the UK and--believe it or not--comedy shows on two channels. Similarly, when the chief minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa addressed his first post-disaster press conference, only one main channel broadcast it live. The sole exception in the initial phase of the flooding was a Pashto news channel, many of whose online callers lamented the apathy displayed by the Urdu media.

The role of the government was also very weak, the main alibi being that officials weren't prepared for the magnitude of this flood. Even if we acknowledge that the intensity of the floods caught the government off guard, the post-realisation reaction left a lot to be desired. For instance, while the prime minister declared a day of mourning because of the plane crash, a similar acknowledgement was not given to the inundation of whole cities and towns. Similarly, the decision of the president not to cancel his trip to Europe stands in sharp contrast to the post-earthquake involvement of Gen Pervez Musharraf. Furthermore, leadership was desperately required in the ensuing chaos in the affected areas, but most elected officials from those areas were absent from their constituencies. 

Lack of preparation was not only relative to the intensity of the floods. As the Annual Report of the NDMA for 2009 suggests, the agency that is responsible for the coordination of our response to disasters was given very low priority in financial allocations and disbursements. The NDMA apparently had to rely a lot on donor money in meeting the requirements of the Risk Management Framework. There are also instances where the NDMA was not disbursed funds that were approved by the prime minister and the NDMC.

Global warming is a phenomenon that will probably last the lifetime of most of us living today. This means that consequent disasters such as this one are very likely to occur again, and in the near future. Our response to the floods shows that we are unprepared for such calamities. The destruction caused by these disasters is much more than the dreaded bombing campaigns from our neighbouring countries. If we can dedicate Rs342 billion of our budget for protection against those threats, then we cannot leave the defence against these natural threats to the mercy of international donors.

The writer is an economist working in Islamabad. Email: imran.khan.hks@







As it turns out, people don't have a sense of humour any more. Look at me, two columns old and already thinking of quitting. Actually two columns ago I used to be an aspiring writer who taught at a university. The sun was shining in my life, and all the butterflies were fully intact. And then I decided to shoot myself in the head and wrote my first column in this very newspaper. Bang! Whoosh went the sun, nosedived all the butterflies, and now two columns later I am nothing but an aspiring writer who does not teach at a university.

You see, my ex-employers (those-who-must-not-be-named) have a policy that they must not be named. And they keep this little piece of information hidden from all until the time comes when someone writes about fake degrees in the newspaper, and has to be told to leave. I wonder if I will be sued next for naming the 'you-know-who' on my resume. I would have asked my handler this question, but unfortunately could not do so primarily because she hung up on me.

O come on all you who are picking up your phones to deal with me now. Be honest! I am sure I would still be working for you had my column been about fat ducks in Peru, and not fake degrees in Pakistan. Lighten up buddies. The last time I checked, you guys were talking about changing the world. Hang in there and say 'cheese'. You can still change the world if you try.

Ah! So the world has lost its sense of humour. Ali Zafar's film has been banned, academics are after the small fish, the government is after the big fish, and people in general continue to take themselves too seriously for their own good. Recently they arrested a poor guy from Sharakpur for making and selling fake degrees. Here's the story:

It was reported in this newspaper that a fake-degree maker was arrested by the CIA from an unromantic little spot called Saggian Bridge. The unsuspecting soul was merely on his way to deliver his newly stamped goodies to some eagerly awaiting goons when the CIA caught him and put him in jail. I think instead of taking this revenge, the CIA should have made him run in the elections from Saggian Bridge instead. I mean doesn't the CIA know that the eagerly awaiting goons could have been the future of democracy in Pakistan? I mean why, why, why, I ask, everyone is conspiring against democracy like that. On the one hand everybody who is anybody has a fake degree, and nobody is putting any one in jail. And then some poor ex-con is put behind bars just because he is supplying what is in great demand around here. Why don't we ask him about his clients and put them in jail too? But we can't do that. Actually these clients too have a policy that they must not be named, especially by ex-cons.

By the way, on a serious note, I along with some million others am getting tired of this democracy-in-danger business. I have looked up in all the dictionaries I have, and nowhere do they say that criticism is synonymous with go-democracy-go. Maybe my dictionaries are fake too. Must buy some real ones from Saggian Bridge.

Now that I am unemployed and have no hope of ever being hired by a university again, I will do what all unemployed people do -- complain! 

My dear VIPs! Every day we cry over our electricity bills, our grocery lists, our children's fee notices, our depleting saving accounts, the hiking potato prices, and the shape of our lives in general. Please let us laugh at something at least. Feel pity for us whose only joy in life is those crying ladies of parliament and the frothing-at-the-mouth gentlemen MPAs, all pretending to be a democracy gravely in danger. Please let us at least laugh, since laughing and waiting for the next election (at its right time) are the only two things we can do.


The writer is an academic. Email: adiah







A characteristic of South Asia's elite is its insatiable appetite for symbols of grandeur and obsession with exclusivity. Witness the jubilation over India and Pakistan joining the global Nuclear Club, New Delhi's smug satisfaction at being invited into the Group of 20, its tireless effort to get a permanent UN Security Council seat and Islamabad's fierce opposition to this.

Such craving for status comes naturally to our upper crust which spends millions of rupees on exhibitionist weddings and patiently waits for years for the local gymkhana club or golf course membership. Status fetishism expresses itself in buying children's admissions to super-expensive schools offering international courses. 

Of a piece with this is the Indian government's decision is to create a new sign for the Rupee. "With this", said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Rupee "will join the select club of currencies such as the US Dollar, British Pound sterling, Euro and the Japanese Yen that have a clear distinguishing identity." Even China's Yuan doesn't enjoy such status.

It's doubtful if the new Rupee symbol "captures the Indian ethos and culture", as promised. It's an amalgam of the Roman and Devanagari scripts--and lacks high recognition value given the world's unfamiliarity with Devanagari. The Dollar, Pound and Yen have been convertible for decades. The Euro sign is new, but through its stylised "e", it conveys continuity with the Greek letter epsilon--and with the European civilisational heritage. The Rupee sign lacks such attributes.

It's hard to see the world readily adopting a new sign for a non-convertible currency in which very little trade occurs. Despite recent growth, India's foreign trade represents only about 1.3 per cent of the global total. The US and China each have about a one-tenth share. 

Currencies in which governments hold their foreign reserves, and oil, gas, minerals and metals are traded, enjoy a special status. Here, the Dollar remains dominant although the Euro is growing. 

China has just displaced Japan as the world's Number Two economy. If China sells off its enormous $2 trillion-plus holdings of US government bonds, it can cause the US economy's collapse. Yet, the Yuan isn't the world's reserve currency. India, whose GDP is only one-fourth that of China, isn't remotely in that league. 

India's adoption of the new Rupee symbol, then, is less about global acceptance of India as an economic superpower than about its ruling elite's grandiose self-image. The world still sees India as an emerging power, not as China's peer, or even as The Next China. China is an industrial giant. Despite its services growth, India isn't a great manufacturing power. India is seen as--and in reality, remains--a poor country.

However, New Delhi's policymakers want to raise India's global profile. Consider India's hubris-driven attempt to transform itself from an aid recipient to a donor. The attempt to reduce dependence on official development assistance (ODA) goes back to the India Development Initiative announced in 2003. Under this, India kicked out all aid donors barring six--US, UK, Russia, Germany, Japan and the European Union (EU). It announced it would no longer accept tied aid. And it launched an ODA programme for some poorer countries. 

The aid was terminated in a fit of pique by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which was upset at the worldwide criticism of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and some EU countries' effort to fund the victims' relief and rehabilitation. The official explanation was that the small donors' aid carried high administration costs. The real reason was political. Thus, US aid was retained although it's minuscule (under $50 million). So was paltry Russian assistance. But Dutch and Nordic aid, although substantial, was stopped. 

Such refusal of aid is morally reprehensible. A government which has failed to eradicate poverty in 60 years and presides over huge income divides and persistent destitution has no right to refuse aid which could benefit the poor. The United Progressive Alliance continued this policy. Indeed, in 2004, it launched a power-projection drive by sending relief material and medical assistance in naval ships to several countries affected by the tsunami.

India has since stepped up loan guarantees, technical training and ODA to some poorer countries. This was done partly to generate goodwill where India is investing, and partly to balance growing Chinese influence in Africa. But China is in an altogether different league. Its ODA is $25 billion. India's is under $1 billion on the best estimates. 

Yet, India continues to depend on external aid. It annually receives bilateral aid totalling $2 billion--mainly from the EU and Japan. Some of this is well-targeted: two-thirds of British Department for International Development aid goes to health and education. India is also the World Bank group's biggest borrower. Its concessional finance is essential for programmes like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and metro railway. 

Indian aid has doubtless done some good in Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Especially relevant are Indian training programmes for legislators, judges, police, diplomats and technicians. India's $1.7-billion aid for Afghanistan has attracted praise because of its fine targeting, emphasis on capacity-building, and elimination of middlemen. Even if some of this is driven by strategic calculations--to neutralise Chinese and Pakistani influence--, the overall effect is positive. This is also true of India's cancellation of debt owed by Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Guyana and Nicaragua.

However, much of India's aid is tied to Indian goods and services. This contrasts with India's refusal to accept tied aid! Such double standards are also evident in India's economic relations with Africa, based on the extraction of oil, gas and minerals. India, like China, is practising the kind of mercantile colonialism in Africa for which it has always, rightly, criticised Western imperialists. India must revamp such relations and rethink its aid policy. 

Today, neither India nor China presents a model worthy of emulation by the rest of the Third World. Their rapid growth has extracted a high price: ecological destruction and explosive disparities. India's social sector record is as abysmal as Pakistan's. 

The UN Development Programme has just released its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) estimates, which assess deprivations in education, health, assets and services, besides income. There are more MPI-poor (421 million) in eight Indian states--Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, UP, and West Bengal--than in the 26 poorest African countries combined (410 million). 

India can set a worthy example by adopting an equitable, balanced, climate-responsible development model which assures basic needs with human dignity for all its people, including food security, safe drinking water, sanitation, healthcare, education and public participation. India can also put its growing global power to good use by representing underprivileged peoples and nations and demanding reform of today's unequal global order.

Tragically, there's no domestic debate about the purposes of India's power and what India should do to make the world a better place. India will be ultimately judged by the world not on the basis of its GDP growth, IT achievements or number of billionaires, but its success in combating poverty, creating a secure, peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood, and making a better world possible. To do this, its elite must give up its delusions of grandeur.

The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai







The writer is a former newspaper editor.

The worst floods in living memory have caused death and destruction in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa, while the carnage in Karachi has claimed scores of innocent lives as a result of the ghastly murder of an MQM leader. This has cast a pall of gloom all over the country. 

Meanwhile, the furore over the recent remarks of British Prime Minister David Cameron in India, accusing Pakistan of double-dealing the West and the ISI of covertly supporting the Taliban, has reached a crescendo. President Zardari has come under severe criticism for going ahead with a state visit to the UK despite the storm.

Unfortunately, even a natural calamity has been made a subject of intense politicking. The usually laconic prime minister has complained that the chief minister of Punjab is hogging the limelight. However, he failed to explain what prevented the ruling PPP and its stalwarts being more visible in relief activities?

The two major coalition partners at the centre and in Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, the MQM and the ANP, are now engaged in virtual civil war in Karachi. The situation has markedly deteriorated as a result of the murder of Raza Haider, an MPA belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. Despite the fact that both the ANP and the federal government have termed the murder as a sectarian terrorist incident, Pakhtuns living in urban Sindh have been indiscriminately targeted. 

It is the military and the paramilitary forces that are visible in relief activities in Sindh, as well as in restoration of order. Politicians are busy squabbling, while civilian law-enforcement and relief agencies are simply absent from the scene.

Prime Minister David Cameron, in spite of coming under severe criticism at home and in Pakistan, has refused to withdraw his remarks criticising Islamabad. In fact he, like the White House, has openly disagreed with President Zardari's assessment published in an interview with Le Monde that allies (in which he includes Pakistan), are in the process of losing the war against the Taliban. According to the president, "this is because we have lost the battle for hearts and minds."

It seems that the West is in no mood to bail out Islamabad, which has come under severe criticism there in recent months for its alleged support for the Taliban. In the eyes of sceptics, the WikiLeaks revelations are further proof of the ISI's allegedly training and abetting the Taliban. Recently, Matt Waldham a former Oxfam official in Kabul, said much more in a report he wrote, titled, "Sun in the Sky, the relationship between Pakistan's ISI and Afghan insurgents." 

Commissioned by the Carr Centre for Human Rights policy of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the report accuses the elements of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and the ISI of supporting the Taliban. it goes to the extent of making the fantastic claim that the ISI sits on the Quetta Shura of the Taliban. According to Waldham, the ISI not only trains the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network at training camps in Pakistan, as well as providing them sanctuaries, but it also funds them in the form of monthly stipends.

The credibility of the so-called study can be judged from the fact that only this week the commandant of the FC was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Peshawar for his role in the nabbing of hundreds of Taliban militants.

Despite denials, Nato forces in Afghanistan are in the process of changing their goalposts. With the appointment of Gen David Petraeus in place of Gen McChrystal as the Nato commander in Afghanistan, there has been a definite change of gear. Ironically, in a state of desperation to achieve results before the much-touted drawdown of forces by July 2011, counterinsurgency has been put on the back burner. Instead, counterterrorism, in the form of targeted killings of militants, is the new normal. 

Ironically, this is happening on the watch of Gen Petraeus, the author of the COIN (counterinsurgency) manual. The lofty goal for winning hearts and minds has been abandoned for the time being. In any case, this strategy was doomed. It is difficult to win hearts and minds if innocent civilians are being killed on both sides of the Durand Line in incremental drone attacks and bombings.

The mantra of ushering in an era of democracy and pluralism in Afghanistan has been replaced with more realistic and achievable targets. The other day, President Obama emphasised in an interview with the US television network CBS that "it is important for our national security to finish the job in Afghanistan." However, in the same breath he declared that "nobody thinks that Afghanistan is going to be a model Jeffersonian democracy." 

If the goal of the West was that Al Qaeda does not use Afghanistan's territory for more attacks on US soil, what are the ISAF forces doing in Afghanistan in the first place? A columnist in the Washington Post wrote recently that Al Qaeda is now in Pakistan, which is providing substantial military and financial support and sanctuaries to the insurgency.

In an article titled "The Great (double) Game," the New York Times' influential columnist Thomas Friedman said: "We are paying Pakistan's army and intelligence service to be two-faced. Otherwise, they will be just one-

aced, and one hundred per cent against us."

Whatever the truth about the ISI's alleged collusion with the Taliban, Pakistan is being increasingly targeted in the West. We can blame this on the Indians and the pro-Israel lobbies in the West. Or we can take a realistic view and clean our Augean stables with regard to our policy on Afghanistan.

Washington's wish list is simple. It wants Islamabad to alter its traditional India- centric policy and end its strategic-depth paradigm and act against the safe havens of the Taliban and the Haqqani network in North Waziristan. Ironically, pressure is being exerted on Islamabad with full force at a time when there is a fresh wave of intifada in Indian-held Kashmir.

Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has excellent rapport with the US military and the political leadership dealing with the region. Reportedly, the Pentagon lobbied for his three-year extension. He should be able to convince his American interlocutors about the role Pakistan is playing in the war on terror.

It should be emphasised by him that there is a clean break from the double-dealing policies of the Musharraf regime. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as Gen Kayani was at the helm of affairs even in those days. Hence, deeds will have to do the talking with the Americans rather than mere words. 

It is inconceivable that the ISI delegation to the UK cancelled its visit without a nod from the government. If the strategy was that the ISI should be the bad cop in cancelling out and Mr Zardari the good cop in going ahead with his visit, it was a flawed one from the outset. 

The ISI, being Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, should be quietly doing its job that includes liaison with the premier intelligence agencies of other nations, including Britain, rather than playing to the gallery. It should also be kept in mind that having the second-largest contingent of troops in Afghanistan, and being a democracy, Britain simply cannot ignore the ever-increasing number of body bags coming home.


Hence, whatever the optics, the ISI delegation should have gone ahead with the visit, if for nothing else than to see what was on the table. As for President Zardari's visit, no harm can come to Pakistan as a result of his going ahead with it, despite the barrage of criticism. However, if he had cancelled the visit it would have sent the right message. Pakistan is pivotal to a political solution of the Afghan imbroglio. It should not sell itself cheaply. 








The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug 6 and 9, 1945, resulted in the killing of around 200,000 people within hours of the explosions, with hundreds of thousands more dead in the following months and decades. The first use of atomic weapon impacted the course of world politics in a number of ways. 

They heralded the atomic age and a nuclear arms race was triggered, causing diversion of huge resources to the development of weapons at the cost of socio-economic development. Many developing nations like India and Pakistan wasted their immense energies to build nuclear weapons, instead of focusing their efforts on human-resource development. The bitter reality is that the acquisition of atomic weapons could not eliminate widespread poverty and unemployment in the subcontinent.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki serve as a constant reminder of the horrors of war. The biggest lesson that needs to be learned from the bombings is to step up efforts to achieve a nuclear-free world and pave the way to global peace and prosperity. Only the abolition of nuclear weapons can prevent the risk of their use in future or the danger of their falling into the hands of terrorists. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968 requires states equipped with nuclear weapons to "negotiate in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament." 

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, 2010, has adopted a declaration that reiterates the NPT goals of nuclear-weapons-free zones and also emphasises the need to urgently address nuclear proliferation concerns. But the formidable obstacle in ensuring nuclear non-proliferation is the sluggish process of reduction of nuclear arsenals and the double standards of major powers in implementing the non-proliferation agenda. The hard truth is that the steps laid down in the final document of the 2001 NPT Review Conference have not materialised. Rather, efforts are underway to upgrade and modernise nuclear weapons. Bold nuclear disarmament initiatives will restore the confidence in the NPT across the world. Above all, the task to forge an effective strategy to tackle nuclear proliferation concerns will become easier.

It goes without saying that the support of the United States is vital to the achievement of the goal of global nuclear disarmament. President Obama has attempted to reorient his nuclear policy with seriousness. The 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit in April resolved to take measures to secure vulnerable nuclear materials in the next four years in order to avert the danger of nuclear terrorism. In addition, the US has also declared that it will not use nuclear weapons against any state which is party to the NPT and acting in compliance with its non-proliferation obligations. It is expected that this will lead to a decrease in US defence spending over the coming years. The New START Treaty concluded between the US and Russia stipulates the reduction of deployed nuclear warheads from 2,200 to 1,550, along with limiting associated delivery vehicles. But the treaty awaits ratification by the US Senate as some hawkish Republican senators are reluctant to extend their support.

To increase the pace of US-Russian reductions, it is imperative that other nuclear-armed states also join in the reduction programme. A transparent mechanism needs to be established to exchange verifiable data about existing nuclear weapons and fissile materials. A phased approach, if followed persistently, can help the world attain the goal of a "global nuclear zero." The regional conflicts that encourage the development of nuclear weapons should be resolved in an amicable manner. The happiness of one nation cannot be built upon the ruins of another.

Email: naumanlawyer@gmail .com








PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari, who is visiting United Kingdom these days, has been pictured with British Prime Minister David Cameroon, along with his family members viz shalwar-kameez clad son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and daughter Asifa Bhutto Zardari, on the occasion of the dinner the arrogant Chief Executive of Britain hosted in their honour in London on Thursday. The photograph conveys sharing of joyous moments between the ruling family of Pakistan and the British Prime Minister in the backdrop of a host of controversies surrounding the visit.

Many circles in Pakistan have started criticising the publication of the photograph which conveys the impression as if the visit of the President was purely private in nature and merely a family affairs, having nothing to do with the statecraft. No doubt, we understand, the worthy President must have availed this opportunity to raise the issue of the highly controversial and contemptuous remarks that Cameroon made in Bangalore, India. This is because, after all, Asif Ali Zardari is Head of the State and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and it is his duty to defend the cause of the country. He must have conveyed bruised and enraged sentiments of Pakistani people and told the host that his remarks belied the ground realities and are an outright attempt to belittle great sacrifices that Pakistan has made and is offering for the sake of regional and global peace. Carmeron's statement was not only degrading but also reflected the British Raj mindset. Though there is no official word but the President must have also raised many other issues that agitate the minds of the Pakistani people including apathy of the British Government towards gross human rights violations by the Indian troops in Occupied Kashmir, a product of the unjust approach adopted by the British imperialism during partition in 1947. But irrespective of the fact what the President might have raised or missed, it would have been very appropriate from projection point of view that the photograph should have conveyed business-like approach. The President is accompanied by five Federal Ministers and senior officials and the photograph should have shown these officials to relay right kind of signals. Earlier too, a similar type of mistake was committed when photographs of the President were published visiting his sprawling palace in France. This is nothing but lack of proper planning, coordination and necessary vision which have marred this foreign trip.









THE country and its people are, these days, passing through a multitude of serious challenges and crises requiring unity, harmony and solidarity but regrettably this spirit is not as visible as it was during catastrophic earthquake that hit some portions of the then NWFP and Azad Kashmir in 2005.

The question arises as to why this is so despite the fact that the magnitude of the devastation caused by floods, which have no precedence in 90 years, is much larger than the damages caused by the quake in 2005. To add to it, we have very delicate situation in Karachi where over one hundred people have lost their lives in target killings and surge in activities of the militants who have successfully targeted the boss of the FC in Peshawar. These developments have plunged the country into extreme shock bordering the state of helplessness, which is quite contrary to 2005 quake when each and every political party and different segments of the society tried to excel each other in offering every possible cooperation to mitigate the sufferings of the earthquake victims. In fact, similar spirit was also visible when 2.5 million people were rendered homeless in the face of terrorist activities. There seem to be several reasons for this sorry state of affairs. First of all, both the quake and IDPs issues were confined to a limited area and the rest of the country was comparatively in a good shape. Now almost entire country is in trouble due to rains, floods and terrorist activities and therefore, the entire population, in one way or other, is affected and no one is in a position to care for others. Secondly, there is lack of coordination and cohesion in the response of the Federal and Provincial Governments. Thirdly, some irresponsible elements have started a blame-game pointing accusing fingers at political entities or provinces for the tragedies befalling different regions. Fourthly, there is lack of faith and confidence among people because of lack of transparency. The spirit is still there but it demands change of attitude and policies on the part of our rulers and policy-makers.







WHILE the target killings continue in Karachi, the entire Mega City is in a state of chaos and fear adversely affecting the normal life and business activities. The cycle of violence that broke out after the assassination of MQM MPA Haider Raza five days ago has forced the Interior Minister Rehman Malik to issue orders to Rangers to shoot on sight anyone trying to incite violence.

In fact gangsters and criminals who are on a shooting spree have made hostage the entire city and no one feels secure to go out. As a result the industrial production has gone down and exports badly affected. Various Associations of Exporters are worried that their shipments worth millions of dollars are overdue, as the consignments could not be shipped, because the workers were not reaching workplaces. If the current situation in the city prolongs and factors damaging trade and industry are not checked, a time could soon come that foreign buyers would start looking for new supply sources and that would be suicidal for Pakistan's economy which is already under great stress. Another report said that about ninety percent financial businesses remained closed for the third consecutive day which not only hit the business and industrial sector but the common people as well. All this shows that while the city is bleeding with around 90 deaths in the past five days, the economy has also suffered in billions of rupees. We fear that if urgent measures were not taken to control the precarious situation, it would go completely out of control. There is no other way left but to take the coalition partners into confidence and a clean-up operation is launched to eliminate the dens of criminals, outlaws and mafias. We hope that Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, who is well aware of the ground realities, would take a firm decision and order heavy deployment of security forces in all the troubled spots to restore peace in the nerve centre of the country's economy.









The worst floods since 1929 have devastated the lives of more than 4 million people, who have lost their homes, their livestock and standing crops. The catastrophe, which started about two weeks ago, has killed more than 1,500 people and left thousands injured. The situation is likely to exacerbate as more rains are expected. A breakout of water-borne diseases has been reported, though no case of cholera has come to light so far. But the post-floods scenario could be threatening because there would be shortages of food, meat and other products that could further increase prices of essential items of daily use. Nevertheless, Pakistan's army jawans are busy in rescue and relief operations and have saved lives of thousands of people marooned and stuck in floods. India is a contributory factor to the devastation because it has diverted the flood water to Pakistan whereas earlier it was depriving Pakistan its share of water by building dams on Pakistan's rivers.

It is indeed impossible to stop or avert natural calamity but its impact can be reduced substantially by judicious planning. In Pakistan, civil administration has absolutely no plans for disaster management, which underscores the necessity of a meticulously worked-out standing operational plan for the civil administration for facing the emergencies. Because of flawed policies of various governments coupled with Pakistan's puny industrial base does not help generate enough revenues to be generous in rescue and relief operations. However, the army always rushes to send rescue and medical teams to areas ravaged by floods or cut off by tremor and roadblocks caused by landslides, as it had happened in epic-scale tragedy – earthquake of October 2005. In the present floods, most roads linking flood-hit areas have been blocked and 91 bridges have been either washed away or damaged, so access to affected areas is still a challenge. The severest-ever devastating floods have ravaged the lands in all provinces, but the worst-hit is Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, with nearly the entire province immersed in flood water. Villages after villages have been wiped out and innumerable homes swept away.

According to reports, Nowshera has completely been inundated and entire infrastructure has been destroyed by floods. There is a perception that had Kalabagh Dam (KBD) been built, Nowshera would not have been immersed in flood water because the KBD would have accommodated 7.1 cubic metre feet water. It has to be mentioned that the then government had modified the plan for Kalabagh Dam by reducing its height to 915 ft whereas Nowshera is 1000 ft above the sea level. But KBD has become a matter of ego for Sindh and Pukhtunkhwa provinces, and nobody is willing to listen to any reasonable argument or the facts submitted by the technical experts that tried to allay the fears of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly NWFP) and Sindh. NWFP had apprehensions: Historic flooding of Peshawar Valley including Nowshera town would be devastating in the event of recurrence of 1929 record flood; drainage of surrounding area of Mardan, Pabbi and Swabi plains would be adversely affected by the reservoir thus creating water-logging and salinity; fertile cultivable land would be submerged and large number of people would be displaced. Sindh province had also expressed concerns, and its apprehensions were: Sindh would be converted into a desert with the construction of Kalabagh Dam; high level outlets would be used to divert water from the reservoir; cultivation of riverian (Sailaba) areas would be adversely affected; sea-water intrusion in Indus estuary would accentuate; mangrove forests, which are already threatened would become extinct, and Kotri Barrage's lower areas will suffer due to lack of potable water. After a lot of bickering and debating, there was almost consensus on construction of Diamir-Bhasha Dam. 

Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) had decided to go ahead with practical work on 4500 MW Diamer-Bhasha Dam from mid-2009, and foreign financial advisor was appointed to manage financial resources. But the moot question is whether funding has been lined up to finance the project, because mere appointment of financial advisor would not solve the matter as many agencies are involved in the project. Secondly, an earlier report had indicated that the World Bank refused funding of Bhasha Dam. There is no denying that water and energy are matters of life and death for Pakistan, and the construction of Bhasha Dam along with other dams is vital not only for our survival but also for enhancing the agricultural out-put, for increasing overall industrial productivity, reducing the cost of production due to cheap electricity and generating new job opportunities. It is estimated that successful completion of the Diamer-Bhasha dam would help develop agriculture and also generate cheap energy for industrial development. According to one estimate, Pakistan is merely producing 6,000MW electricity through hydel projects against its capacity of generating 40,000MW. The Diamir-Bhasha Dam will be located on the Indus River about 315km upstream of Tarbela Dam, 165km downstream of Gilgit, 40km west of Chilas and 210km north of Islamabad. The cost of Bhasha Dam was then estimated $6.5 billion and it will take at least 7 years to build. Meanwhile, with declining rupee value against dollar, the cost of construction has gone up to $12 billion. The government should expedite the construction without any delay, because no large water reservoir has been built during the last three decades.

It is rather strange that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh are opposing construction of KBD because of some reservations and also because they do not trust Punjab. But they do not utter a word on water-theft rather water-terrorism by India. In 2008, Pakistan suffered a loss exceeding five billion rupees in paddy crop production only in the wake of water shortage after India stopped Chenab water to fill its Baglihar dam during the month of September 2008. India is violating Indus Water Treaty, and the objective is to dry up Pakistan. The reason being, India wants Pakistan not to press for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, and it also feels that Pakistan is a major obstacle in its hegemonic designs against the countries in the region. India's think-tanks have been working on river diversion plans with a view to creating acute water shortage in Pakistan, which could lead to acute shortage of wheat and other crops and also to stoke inter-provincial conflicts over distribution of water. But those who think that India could make Pakistan a desert through river diversion plans are living in a fool's paradise, as the war between two nuclear states would be disastrous for both the countries. 

The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist








Judiciary is considered a vital pillar of national strength. Justice is the fulcrum, which keeps people contended and satisfied and ensures the propriety and respectful image of any society. Pakistan's bleak period of military rule from General Ayub Khan, down to Gen Pervez Musharraf is a saga of utter degradation of apex court, which 'legitimized' ouster of the elected leaders on contrived pleas of corruption and inefficiency and the Parliament compliantly endorsed the judgments. The outgoing dictator, who was given a proper send off, under the civil government, as if he were a rightful ruler, was an act which shows how puerile is our political mind. A viable military is indeed a very important element of national power, but it must not transgress its obligation to remain glued to its professional acumen, and be in a state of constant readiness to take on the 'enemy' should it embark upon any adventure against Pakistan. The blunder the Army commander (Gen Pervez Musharraf) committed resulted in the Kargil fiasco. 

I had an occasion to visit Sri Lanka to attend a Conference on Brahimi Commission Report on United Nations Peace Keeping Operation (May 11-15, 2002), which was attended by top brass retired military officers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, besides some very outstanding foreign scholars. I was the only civilian as the rest were top brass military retired personnel from South Asia. From Pakistan, besides myself, there were Lt Gen (Retd) Talat Masood and Maj Gen (Retd) Jamshed Ayaz and we used to have special late after-dinner interactional sessions with the Indian (retd) Army officers (Lt Gen Satish Nambiar, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff and several others. Discussions mainly converged on the Kashmir issue and the so-called cross-border terrorism on the part of Pakistan. What became very obvious was that Gen Pervez Musharraf was the most "hated" among the Indian Army personnel and quite "unreliable" a person. After he reneged from the historical UN-supported Resolution on Kashmir and offered so called "out-of-box" approach, he became relatively acceptable to the Indian strategic thinkers. What is intended to convey that armed forces should not take any unilateral military action. It must have the approval of the Prime Minister and his cabinet which represents the Parliament, in order to ensure it legitimacy. The executive must not interfere in the domain of the judiciary, which must remain independent, to lend respectability to the democratic governance of the country. 

Unfortunately, during the military rule, the bureaucracy provided full support to the dictators and in return, they got a free hand in the governance of the country. The feudal lords, the armed and civil bureaucracy gravitated as natural allies, with the result that a culture of corruption emerged as a distinctive feature of Pakistan, which ironically makes a mockery of "Islamic Republic,' particularly when its parliamentarians are expected to be the law makers, are in fact, the law breakers, as at least a very sizeable number of them have "fake degrees". When the Law Minister of the country, degrades a 'doctoral degree', by affixing his name Zahiruddin Babar Awan with 'Dr', which is considered to be the highest intellectual achievement. I am quite cognizant of what it takes to achieve this academic honour. I never heard the name of 'Monticello University, all through my stay in USA. It has come to light that, it is a fake University of South Dakota and Hawaii and any degree awarded by it, as per judgment of Hawaii Court, would amount to an act of fraud and this so called university had to pay a very substantial amount for its crime. He is also very keen to parade his knowledge of Islam, which is considered to be a great hypocrisy by the great Persian Poet Hafiz Shirzai: Hafiza mai khuri, wa rindi kun wa, khush bash waley; Dam-e-Tazvir makun choon digran Quran ra. (Oh Hafiz, drink wine and enjoy the state of drunkenness and be happy, but never use like others, the Holy Quran as a net of chicanery and fraud.) Now he has embarked upon an unethical practice, quite unbecoming of a Law Minister, of doling out governmental funds to Bar Councils and some lawyers, in order to create a wedge between the Chief Justice and the members of the bar, a very vicious move indeed. It is aimed at creating a 'force of defiance' against the Supreme Court which is going to give the judgment on the review petition of the government on implemental orders of Supreme Court on the infamous 'National Reconciliation Ordinance' (NRO) a brain child of the crafty General Pervez Musharraf and his US supporters, which is totally repugnant to the sanctity of law and essentially a moral perversion. The much trumpeted 18th amendment is considered a great achievement by the Parliament, as the representative of the people. In principle, it is the most sacrosanct institution which frames laws and makes necessary amendments in the Constitution. The 1973 Constitution which had the full support of the elected members of all the provinces, unfortunately, the founder of the Constitution, himself made several amendments towards curtailment of fundamental human rights within few days of the passing of the 1973 Constitution. Besides these, the face of the Constitution was badly mauled by General Ziaul Haq in 1985, which changed the very spirit of the Constitution, to make it conform to his own interpretation of Islam and thus fanning extremism in the country. 

The 1973 Constitution represented the true ethos of the people, who wanted liberal and modern interpretation of Islamic laws. The right to equality was the worst casualty, which is totally against Constitutional propriety under Ziaul Haq. Parliament indeed is a supreme body but it also has its limits, for instance, by two third majority it can not change the name of Pakistan. 

It should be remembered that Hitler was also democratically elected leader. At times, in history the whole Parliament may act in a fit of temporary 'insanity'. The recent Punjab Assembly's debunking of media is a case in point. The concept of "basic structure limitation" on powers to amend Constitution, a very revolutionary concept, was propounded by Prof. Conrad, who was the head of the Law Department of South Asian Institution at Heidelberg – Germany. The Indian Constitutional lawyers implemented the concept of Conrad that basic structure of the constitution cannot be amended. The "basic structure", as one would now relate to "the relative functioning of Parliament, the executive and the judiciary, and that these must operate within their specified domains.' 

In the 18th amendment, this principle has been violated as formation of judicial commission and the parliamentary committee, which consists of the Law Minister and the Attorney General, tantamount to giving political representatives a role in the appointment of judges of superior courts. Will it not amount to politicizing the onerous body of the judges? If the principle of 2/3 majority, in selection of superior judges, involving civilian representatives is accepted in principle, in the consequent amendments it could be extended to four or more parliamentary members. Therefore, it is against the spirit of the Constitution which must be dispensed with, for maintenance of the judicial decorum. Political influence in the judiciary in whatever shape, it goes to nullify the "institutional harmony." Moreover 1985 amendments in the Constitution should be done away to bring back the true essence of 1973 Constitution. The present government had to yield to the "vox populi" (The voice of the people). The present attempts by so called "Dr." Awan to defy Supreme Court may ignite another revolutionary step by the people for the preservation of the dignity of the higher judiciary. The Law Minister must essentially symbolize as the upholder of Law and not its "killer".

—The writer is Secretary General, FRIENDS..









President Karzai went ballistic as if WikiLeaks were a holy gospel in the context of its disclosures about Pakistan. One hopes that he believe with equal conviction about the authenticity of the entire report including what it says about him, his coterie, his American mentors and the Afghan war. It is refreshing that he got due snubbing form his American masters for jumping the gun. David Cameron's reaction was another example of how statesmen are ever ready to issue anti-Pakistan statements without verifying the credibility of the contents, especially when they are in India. Though 'The New York Times' and 'The London Times' had expressed doubts over the veracity of the reports concerning ISI since much of the stuff was provided by the Afghan intelligence, in his eagerness to sell some war machines, the Prime Minster opted to slip down to a shop keeper's level. 

Since 9/11 Britain has all along been making a concerted effort of shifting the burden of his citizens' acts of terrorism to Pakistan. During cold war era, CIA and KGB were castigated for all the evils under the sky. Now ISI is the favourite whipping boy for every ill under the sun. Everyone who has a stake in maligning Pakistan castigates ISI regularly and religiously. From Pakistani perspective, ISI shields the country from its enemies, it is the eyes and ears of national leadership, hence it constitutes the outer shield for national security. Our adversaries' intent for carrying out perennial attacks on the ISI is understandable. That is to make the shield porous to weaken the overall protective mechanism. ISI has undergone massive reforms over the previous years, and its image has improved amongst the people of Pakistan. ISI personnel have paid with their blood, like every other component of the Pakistan military, in executing international campaign against extremism and terrorism. Americans are known for using information leak as a policy tool, however this time it's appears to be a battle of reverse frontiers.

Afghan war lobbyists who don't wish to see an end to conflict have intervened proactively to put the Obama administration on back foot. As a matter of fact, out of 92000 documents, only around 180 vaguely point towards some support of ISI to Taliban in Afghanistan and that too unsubstantiated. Mainstream international media is of the view that most of these reports are from paid informers. Majority of the reports pertain to American forces and their brutal actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example a classified video was posted online under the title "Collateral Murder." This video, taken from the gun-sight camera of a US Apache helicopter, depicts the July 2007 massacre of over a dozen civilians in Baghdad, including two journalists; chatter of the helicopter crew reveals the killing. It also shows an attack on a family that tried to aid the wounded, killing yet more unarmed civilians and wounding two young children. Yet the entire media is entirely focusing on unverified and unsubstantiated reports pointing towards ISI. The ISI bashing spree is on. This is yet another assault on Pakistan's credibility as a responsible entity among the comity of nations. The Afghan intelligence agency, NDS, and paid informants are the main sources of information, which are trained and tasked to blame ISI. Afghan NDS was fathered and groomed by India to defame and marginalize Pakistan in support of India. Nowhere in the 92,000 documents is there any mention of India, good or bad; this exhibits a strategic silence on India. 

Fictional narratives of Osama's presence in Quetta since as late as 2006, and holding monthly meetings much like a corporate world CEO were never shared with Pakistan. Interestingly, leaks also point towards Osama's visit to India in 2003 with the consent of US and Indian authorities. Osama seems to surpass the role of James Bond, he indeed deserves an Oscar! Anti-Pakistan bias of the report can be gauged from the fact that identities of American personnel have been protected but those of ISI officials have been made public. Reports are based on framed ideas to create ruptures in Pak-US relations and de-synergise the war effort. These reports appear to have been prepared to create mistrust and suspicion among the coalition partners in Afghanistan, especially USA and Pakistan.

America and Pakistan have rightly rejected the contents of leaks. U S has shown its strong disapproval of such reports. The US has forcefully condemned the leaks as harmful to their national security interests. One is heartened by the comments of some ranking US lawmakers who have taken into account the tremendous sacrifices rendered by Pakistani security forces in dealing with the militants. From war fighting point of view, the leaks bring to lights some of the facts like: use of portable, heat-seeking ground-to-air missiles(SAMs) by the Taliban, existence of a secret US commando units called 'Task Force 373' that eliminates insurgency leaders on the basis of a 'capture-kill list', the CIA paid the budget of Afghanistan's NDS and ran it virtually like its extended arm, America's enhanced use of drones and CIA-led paramilitary operations in Afghanistan and that the figures of composite Afghan civilian casualties is much higher than reported. According to some analyses, the documents released so far record the deaths of over 20,000 Afghans during the US-led war and occupation between 2004 and 2009. This is undoubtedly only a fraction of the actual total, as many known mass killings are not included in the material. 

Understandably, the US frustration is mounting by each day. While maintaining an image of bravado, it is totally dependent on a nod from Taliban leaders like Haqqani, Mullah Omar and Hekmatyar for a face saving exit. Away from the eyes of western media it is at a critical stage of negotiating a politico-military settlement with the powers that be. This indeed is aimed at rupturing this process. The WikiLeak group has held back another 15,000 documents, consisting largely of intelligence reports, saying it wants to review them for information that could potentially place individuals in Afghanistan at risk. Real test of American will be in its ability to prevent leakage to these held back reports.

—The writer is international security and current affairs analyst & former Assistant Chief of Air Staff of Pakistan Air Force.







The other day, I was watching a well known TV talk-show whose guests were; the ex Director General IB, Col Iqbal Niazi along with a well-known columnist and an anchor person of another talk show. They were discussing Mr Zardari's incarceration in the late 1990s, and how he was purportedly maltreated. I cannot comment about the physical torture AZ was allegedly exposed to or how an alleged attempt was made to assassinate him. But I found obvious twisting of the facts when it came to his medical condition. If I had their contact numbers, I would have called the show to set the record straight because I was privy to certain information on the matter.

I served as Director General of Health, government of Pakistan from December 1996 to October 1999. I was selected in that position by the interim government of Meraj Khalid and was asked to continue when Nawaz Sharif's government took over in 1997. One Sunday morning I received a call from my private secretary saying that Sen. Saif-ur-Rehman was looking for me and that he had given him my private telephone number so he could contact me. My PS could not tell me what the nature of the call was. Being the Chief of Ihtesab, the Senator was known for his bullying behaviour and scary techniques. I felt a slight twinge in my stomach and started wondering what I had done to warrant a call from him. An hour or so later he rang. That was my first contact with him. He spoke softly and politely and wanted to know if I knew of any cancer specialist. I answered in affirmative and told him that I myself had had training in the field at The Royal Marsden Hospital London. It is one of the most prestigious cancer hospitals in the world. I presumed he wanted to talk about a friend or a relative who suffered from cancer but I was wrong. Instead, he told me that Asif Ali Zardari was admitted in Agha Khan Hospital where a specialist had diagnosed him with prostate cancer and had advised him to go abroad for further assessment and treatment. Senator Saif-ur-Rehaman wanted a second opinion. I asked him to send the medical records for me to study and if need be to discuss further with other specialists in the field. Three days later, I received a copy of his report. I studied it briefly, it made me smile. Although my main field of oncology training at The Royal Marsden Hospital was breast and colorectal cancers, I did also work in the Urology department from time to time, handling urological malignancies such as prostate cancer. The reason given in the medical report diagnosing Asif Zardari with cancer of prostate was not less than mirthful. I'll come that later. 

I contacted the Senator and gave my initial assessment based on the report but wanted more information so that I could discuss it further with other specialists before coming to a final conclusion. Sure enough, I received more reports. After going through them, it became clear that the reason for sending AZ abroad could be anything but cancer of prostate. The diagnosis was just a ploy. What happened was that the specialist found microscopic heamaturia (tiny amount of blood seen only under microscope) in his urine. This type of finding can be real or it can be adulterated. But this definitely does not mean a person has got cancer of prostate. The more ridiculous finding of the report was that they found 'cancer cells' in his urine and linked them with the prostate gland. It was ridiculous because cancer of prostate is not diagnosed with its cells floating in urine. Incidentally, and as a matter of fact, it is only recently the UCLA scientists have identified for the first time cell-of-origin for human prostate cancer, a discovery that could result in better predictive and diagnostics tools and the development of new and more effective targeted treatments for the disease. So, observing prostatic cancer cells in urine, at that time, as primary diagnostic tool was ludicrous. 

There are set investigative procedures to reach that diagnosis, such as; digital examination; prostate specific antigen (PSA), an Ultra Sound, a CT or MRI Scan of pelvis including prostate gland; cystoscopy and lastly biopsy. The last procedure could be done as part of open surgery or, alternatively, needle biopsy as preoperative diagnostic requirement. Some specialists avoid needle biopsy because of danger of spread of the disease and thus changing its classification stage. The notes did not show that any of these investigations were done. It, definitely, did not fare well for Agha Khan Hospital which, I personally knew, had the highest medical standards. Anyway, I took the report and discussed it with two of the top urologists of the country. They were as surprised by the findings as I was and one of them felt embarrassed as he knew the specialist who suggested the treatment abroad. Now, I had two choices; either to speak to the specialist or talk to the president of AKDN, Dr Shams Kassim-Lakha. Agha Khan University and the hospital came directly under him. I opted for the latter because I knew him personally. He was in France when I called him. I explained the situation. He apparently wasn't aware that one of his specialists had recommended AZ's treatment abroad. When I told him about the clinically weak ground his specialist based his diagnosis on and that it could bring a bad name to his prestigious institute, he realised its severity. He said he was going to take the next flight back to Pakistan and asked me to hold on to the reports. 

Three days later, he was in Islamabad. After going through the papers, he understood my point. He, then, picked up his mobile, went out of the room and spoke to someone. I presumed it was the specialist involved. On re-entering the room, looking annoyed, he could only utter something like, 'these politicians can go to any length.' Obviously, the poor specialist was put under pressure by AZ or one of his friends to falsify medical report. Did they threaten the specialist; I didn't know, neither did I ask. Dr Lakha promised that a false report could never be issued by Agha Khan Hospital no matter what the consequences. He stood by his promise. I was told later, when AZ was asked to go through proper investigative procedures to confirm the diagnosis, he declined. As far as Senator Saif-ur-rehman was concerned, he took a sigh of relief as he was also under tremendous pressure from powerful lobbyists both within and outside the country to send AZ abroad for his supposed cancer of prostate.








Tariq Aziz is slumped on a tattered brown sofa seat cradling his walking stick and cigarettes, his gaunt face topped, incongruously for a practising Christian, by a Muslim prayer cap. It is perhaps only the familiar black-ringed spectacles that signal to the visitor that this was Iraq's former face to the world – Saddam Hussein's right-hand man, his most powerful deputy. Apart from his captors and lawyers, Aziz, says he has not seen or spoken to a foreigner since the fall of Baghdad. But after years rotating between solitary confinement and a witness box in court, he is now more than ready to speak. "It's been seven years and four months that I have been in prison," he told the Guardian in an exclusive interview. "But did I commit a crime against any civilian, military or religious man? The answer is no."


In his first face-to-face interview since then, Aziz seemingly longed for the old days, while at the same time calling on the US president, Barack Obama, not to "leave Iraq to the wolves"."Of course I was a member of the Revolutionary Command Council, a leader of the Ba'ath party, deputy prime minister, foreign minister – all of those posts were mine," he says inside the Iraqi prison that he now calls home. Aziz had just returned from another court hearing inside Baghdad's green zone, where the ghosts of Iraq under Saddam are being exorcised in a series of painstaking trials. However, he claims that he was powerless to stymie the will of the leader he served, and that none of the blood on the regime's hands was also on his.

Aziz is serving a 15-year sentence for one conviction for a crime against humanity, but faces many more charges. He claims he is being convicted because of guilt by association, and that he is nothing other than an Arab nationalist loyalist. "Being a member of the government, I had a moral responsibility to defend the government," he said. "If you go back to the history, I asked Saddam Hussein not to invade Kuwait, but I had to support the decision of the majority. "When the decision was taken, I said to him, this is going to lead to war with the US and it is not in our interests to wage war against the US. But the decision was taken. I was the foreign minister of the country and I had to defend the country and do everything possible to explain our position. I stayed on the side of right."

Aziz's influence after the 1991 Gulf war rose substantially, largely because of the loyalty he had shown. Through 12 years of sanctions and the lead up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, he claims he knew every one of the regime's secrets – including that there was no secret weapons program, and no will to resurrect one from the ruins of Iraq's three bombed nuclear reactors and adjoining research laboratories. He said that he and Saddam were convinced that the US was going to invade by late 2002, and his job of escorting sceptical UN inspectors around Iraq was largely futile. "I was trying to prove a negative." Aziz says the events of 9/11 were shocking to him and Saddam. "We were against that at the time, but we were not speaking to the American government. Saddam Hussein called me and said he would like me to write a letter to Ramsey [Clark, a former US attorney general] and say that we condemn the attack. I did that."

But he did not foresee that that day would lead to the fall of Baghdad 18 months later. "Some things became clear to both myself and the president as the world leaders increased their rhetoric against us. They were going to invade anyway. "Bush and Blair lied intentionally. They were both pro-Zionist. They wanted to destroy Iraq for the sake of Israel, not for the sake of the US and Britain." Aziz says he will not pass judgment on his former boss, Saddam, until the day when his freedom comes. "If I speak now about regrets, people will view me as an opportunist. I will not speak against Saddam until I am a free man. Wisdom is part of freedom. When I am free and can write the truth I can even speak against my best friend.

"I don't say that I am a great man and that I was correct in everything that I did. But I am proud of my life because my best intention was to serve Iraq. There were mistakes though, there were things that were not completely correct." The one regret he will talk about is his decision to surrender to the US on 24 April 2003. He had, days earlier, bade farewell to Saddam in a house in the Baghdad suburb of Mansour. "I told him I support what he has done and I support him as president. Then I said goodbye. "Through an intermediary, I contacted the Americans. If I could return to that time, I wish I would be martyred. But the war was here and Baghdad had been occupied. 

I am loyal to my family and I made a major decision. I told the Americans that if they took my family to Amman they could take me to prison. My family left on an American plane. And I went to prison on a Thursday." Aziz has perhaps a surprising request of the US commander-in-chief, whom he initially welcomed as a clean break from George W Bush. Aziz now wants the occupation to continue. "He cannot leave us like this. He is leaving Iraq to the wolves," he said. "When you make a mistake you need to correct a mistake, not leave Iraq to its death." — The Guardian









NO matter what spin Labor puts on it, they cannot escape the truth that its Building the Education Revolution program has been a gold-plated disaster.


Julia Gillard's $16.2 billion scheme will be the stuff of legend, picked over by analysts and policy makers for years as they try to make sense of how the government got it so wrong. The interim report of the Orgill taskforce is a damning indictment of an exercise so badly structured that the Prime Minister had no option yesterday but to agree to dismantle it, with the money now to be spent under the conventional rules.


The report's release ahead of the election is welcome. There is hope the scandals of the past months, with up to 12 per cent of money wasted, can be cauterised. But Ms Gillard and her predecessor, Kevin Rudd, must still answer to the nation's parents, teachers and children for the way they mangled this once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver real value for money after decades of government neglect. What will they say to the community at Cattai public school in NSW, which wanted a hall, were told they could have a library and a covered outdoor learning area instead, but when costs blew out had to settle for a library alone? The Orgill report has destroyed the fatuous justifications advanced by Labor in recent months as it became clear hundreds of millions of dollars were being wasted because of basic flaws in the program; the sidelining of school communities best-placed to keep an eye on costs; and the haste insisted on by Canberra. The taskforce has confirmed what was known to schools boards around the country -- that a "cookie cutter" approach to projects, and a bureaucracy unable or unwilling to control costs, led to gouging and overruns. Worse still, schools did not get the structures they needed but the structures the bureaucrats foisted on them. It was a classic case of "provider capture", with schooling controlled by the people who produce it rather than its consumers. Inflexibility, lack of consultation with school communities, and excessive management fees were the BER hallmarks.


This newspaper has always supported the upgrade of schools infrastructure, but from June last year, as we investigated the problems being experienced on the ground, we kept coming back to two questions -- were schools getting value for money, and were they getting the buildings they needed? Now we know. There were big variations between the school systems, with NSW public school costs more than double those in the ACT public system and the Tasmanian and Queensland Catholic systems. The figures are staggering. The $3900 per square metre average in NSW compares with $2100 that Rawlinson's Construction Handbook, the respected guide to building costs, specifies as a guide for an architect-designed house. Not surprising when it is revealed that the NSW department spent up to 24 per cent of funds on management and design fees, at least double the typical levels. The report rejects NSW's claim that its costs were higher than those of private schools because its buildings were of higher quality. Lack of transparency has been a big problem in the efforts of schools to ensure value: Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland must now publish school-specific data.

It is beyond dispute the states have been poor stewards of this program, but the Prime Minister cannot hide behind their incompetence. She held the pursestrings: she should have fixed the BER program.







JULIA Gillard says she has no regrets about the Building the Education Revolution program and would do it again.


She says this, confident all media will faithfully report her words and accept her spin doctors' assessments of Brad Orgill's report, and just as confident almost none will read its 99 pages. Unfortunately, so far as the public interest is concerned, she is right about most of the media. The BER saga has exposed an alarming reality about Australian journalism -- that the balance between those scrutinising government and political minders has swung against the public interest. Too many print, broadcast and online journalists have abandoned their duty to treat government with scepticism, an essential quality for journalists.


From the middle of last year, The Australian applied the basic tools of journalism -- asking questions, reading reports -- to investigate whether the stimulus program was providing value for money. Others, however, who lean towards social justice advocacy rather than news reporting, put the perceived social good of the BER, particularly in state schools, ahead of rational cost-benefit analysis. One of the few criticisms voiced early on by the ABC for example, was that the scheme granted money to private schools, which missed the economic point of the scheme and the issue of how well it was being implemented. The federal government attacked The Australian in parliament, but as more examples of price gouging, duplication and waste emerged in our pages, talkback radio hosts such as Ray Hadley in Sydney, who is in touch with the community, scooped rival stations, including the ABC. Managing director Mark Scott should demand to know why. It is clear middle Australia grasped the problems with the BER, but the growing chasm between them and journalists meant the media was left flat-footed. In April, news of the Orgill review, which came about largely because of our highlighting of the waste, must have come as a bolt from the blue for people relying solely on the scant coverage of the ABC and The Sydney Morning Herald. While Media Watch's Jonathan Holmes scolds suburban newspapers with a staff of two for reprinting press releases, he seems reluctant to ask why hundreds of ABC journalists are content to do the same, albeit with a little more guile.


The Orgill report was scathing, but the coverage is largely a lazy  "he said, she said"  formula. Government spin has had plenty of airplay, but there is no sign most journalists have taken an hour or two to read the report. For all the speculation about the future of the media, technology is not the biggest threat. It is the failure of too many journalists to break news, to the detriment of the public interest.







JULIA Gillard is lying when she says the BER program saved us from recession and ensured Australians did not lose their jobs.


The Prime Minister is not the only one being dishonest. The entire Labor government, former prime minister Kevin Rudd included, has been lying about the stimulus spending for the past year. Labor's decision to spend money at the height of the global financial crisis is defensible. What cannot be excused is that from last October, when it was clear Australia had avoided recession, neither Ms Gillard as then education minister, nor Mr Rudd, were prepared to address the flaws in the BER program. They stuck stubbornly to Plan A, driven by electoral expediency more than good economic management. For months, Ms Gillard batted away evidence presented by this newspaper that public schools were being stuck with unwanted halls, inadequate kitchen blocks and ludicrously expensive shade-cloths as she claimed billions of dollars were being put to good use in maintaining jobs and holding back the recession. The truth lies elsewhere.


Australia had avoided a recession by the time the BER money started rolling out. Indeed, yesterday's report shows $10 billion of the $16.2bn is still to be spent, a year after Australia escaped the recesssion. Far from saving the nation, the schools stimulus has crowded out housing construction as the supply of tradesmen is stretched, and added to the inflation pressures behind interest rates rises. This is the lesson for Labor from this debacle: intervention in markets can have serious unintended consequences. One understands why the Rudd government wanted to grab hold of the levers of power and embark on a big nation-building exercise. But when the GFC passed us by, Labor should have taken a break and reassessed the BER to ensure the right projects were undertaken and that the stimulus did not distort the economy.


The related lesson for Labor is the folly of central planning. The Kremlinesque dictates from bureaucrats about the style and type of projects to be funded reveal a shocking adherence to a model of governance that can have no place in a modern market-driven economy. The better outcomes achieved by private schools demonstrate why governments should never attempt to deliver major projects. Ms Gillard seems to have got that message, telling ABC Radio she had "learned some lessons about involving commercial expertise in things like the BER". If she is re-elected, the Prime Minister will have a chance to show if, this time, she is indeed telling the truth.









THE report into the implementation of the federal government's grandiosely titled ''Building the Education Revolution'' program makes plain the delivery of the program was not up to scratch. Quite clearly many schools did not receive value for money. Costs were, in some cases, inflated by up to 12 per cent. Other schools received buildings which ill-suited their needs.


The taskforce has received 254 complaints from individual schools to date, and its work continues. While this represents just 2.7 per cent of all projects, the instances of mismanagement detailed in the report are of broader concern.


Major problems identified include the use of inflexible templates for construction, a lack of transparency about the true level of cost overruns and inflated management fees and a general lack of consultation with school communities. Many of these problems were no doubt compounded by the tight deadlines required to deliver timely stimulus, but that should not excuse them entirely.


Taxpayers will want to know who is to blame. The federal government, as instigator of the program and the author of guidelines for its delivery, must shoulder some of it. But what the Orgill report makes clear for the first time is the extent to which the federal government was hamstrung by having to work through state bureaucracies - and the NSW government in particular.


The report singles out the NSW education administration for particular critique. While NSW accounted for only 22 per cent of the projects delivered under the scheme, it gave rise to 56 per cent of complaints. Frankly, this should not surprise anyone - least of all residents of NSW who live every day with the consequences of this state's inability to plan, let alone provide, adequate infrastructure.


What is concerning is that the very same brains that have kept this dysfunctional state Labor Party in power for more than 15 years have now latched on to Julia Gillard, and were responsible for propelling her to power.


Perhaps we should also not be surprised that such a pretentiously named program, ''Building the Education Revolution'', should turn out to be a triumph of image-building over intellectual substance, straight out of the NSW Labor Right's little book of spin. Its title claims it to be the conduit through which the government will deliver its broader education revolution. In truth it does no such thing.


Ultimately it has been a quick and possibly rather shoddy building program designed to stimulate jobs and economic activity. It is hard to see any of the projects having the lasting value of the community schools built in the late 19th century that have, in some cases, become heritage items. More likely these school projects will remain local eyesores. The Prime Minister is thus deluding herself, and the public, if she thinks this is a revolution. After nearly three years as education minister, Gillard barely stirred an uprising, let alone a true education revolution.


This week's decision to delay a decision on an overhaul of the funding system for non-government schools until 2013 effectively guarantees any reform will not come until a third- or fourth-term Labor government. Gillard has had ample opportunity to implement major reform of the education funding system, and she has baulked at it.


]Obviously the real value of the recent spurt of $16 billion worth of capital works at schools was not the contribution it will make to improving educational outcomes, but the contribution it has made to stimulating economic activity and creating jobs. On this criteria it has been a resounding success, perhaps even worth paying a slightly inflated price for.


Let's hope such drastic actions will not be needed again any time soon, but if they are it is important that such obvious mistakes as have bedevilled the education ''revolution'' are not made again.


The Orgill taskforce has made 14 recommendations, including greater community involvement in school projects, more accurate record-keeping of costs and for projects yet to be completed, by March, to be governed by the ''business as usual'' criteria for capital works.


Gillard has accepted them, as well she should.


As things stand, her much-touted education ''revolution'' has lived up to only the very worst part of its name: a messy and haphazard affair. The true meaning of a revolution - a social movement to produce lasting change - remains elusive.


Parental leave in Swaziland


REGAL notes from Swaziland: the 12th consort of King Mswati III, and mother of two of his 23 children, is said to have been caught in flagrante with the Minister for Justice, Ndumiso Mamba. She is now under the guard of her mother-in-law, officially titled the Great She-Elephant; he is in jail. The punishment - exile for her, death for him, at least according to tradition - will be decided when King Mswati returns from an official visit to Taiwan. We would have thought royal wives 1 to 11 would have been feeling more neglected and tempted to stray. The explanation may be that there is already a wife No. 13 and the annual Reed Festival - when half-naked virgins dance before the leopard skin-clad monarch - is about to take place. Mswati has in the past complained to the BBC about the ''stress'' of having to ''satisfy'' his people. When his household totalled only 10 wives, he had to buy each of them her own BMW. Now 42, the king must be feeling ever more stressed by his royal duties.










WHEN Tony Abbott launches the Coalition's campaign in Brisbane tomorrow, he will do so knowing that he might be about to make history. No first-term federal government has been defeated since 1931, yet the Nielsen/Age poll we publish today confirms that the Gillard government (or should it now be the Gillard-Rudd government?) is in serious trouble. The Coalition leads Labor in the two-party preferred vote, 51 per cent to 49 per cent. True, polls have see-sawed in this most unusual of election campaigns and an average of the three polls taken since July 20 would flip the latest figures, with Labor on 51 and the Coalition on 49. But on a uniform swing even a 50-50 split of the two-party vote would result in a change of government. Labor needs better than 51 per cent to be confident of victory, and with the poll that really counts only a fortnight away the message is that a campaign that had hitherto appeared to be a contest between two risk-averse contenders mostly engaged in shadow boxing has suddenly become very interesting indeed.


As Mr Abbott speaks to the Coalition faithful, however, he will also be aware that swings are never uniform and that the two-party vote, when it is so close, never tells the whole story. Other opposition leaders since World War II have gained a majority of the vote without winning a majority of seats - Kim Beazley, Andrew Peacock, Arthur Calwell and H.V. Evatt - and it is entirely possible that, on the night of August 21, Mr Abbott will find himself in their hapless company. If the contest remains close it will be decided by regional differences in swings and, perhaps, by voters' evaluation of the two leaders. On the latter measure, the advantage is still with the government: Prime Minister Julia Gillard leads Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister by 49 per cent to 41 per cent, and that is one gap that has not narrowed between polls.


Even with that continued endorsement, however, Ms Gillard knows that to have any chance of reclaiming the ascendancy she held so effortlessly only a month ago, Labor's primary vote must be dragged above the 36 per cent mark where it is stubbornly stuck. To that end, this week saw one of the most remarkable political comebacks since John Howard toppled Alexander Downer as leader of the Liberal Party. Kevin Rudd, the man Ms Gillard replaced as Prime Minister, did not reclaim that job and Labor's leadership. But, still recuperating from surgery, Mr Rudd returned to the national limelight - with the approval of the Prime Minister and others on Labor's frontbench who had previously preferred that he be quarantined in his electorate of Griffith for the duration of the campaign.


Mr Rudd, who will meet Ms Gillard today, will instead argue the case for Labor nationally, reminding voters of the government's success in keeping the global financial crisis at bay and reviving economic growth, and warning that electing an Abbott government would jeopardise these achievements. He will no doubt also try to rebuild support for Labor in his home state of Queensland, where his ousting from the prime ministership has been one reason for the ALP's slide in the polls. In a campaign in which surprise has repeatedly been piled on top of novelty, he is not the only former prime minister to have entered the fray. Mr Abbott's mentor, John Howard, also weighed in, exhorting Liberals to believe they really can win, and Malcolm Fraser, who quit the party late last year, countered by saying that the Coalition is not yet ready to govern. Mr Rudd's intervention, however, is the most significant of the three. In part this is because, however determined he and Ms Gillard may be to put all rancour aside, Labor's need of him in the campaign will inevitably keep alive the question of whether the party's MPs were right to abandon him in the first place. That question will be asked even if the government is returned, and most keenly if it is defeated. In the short term, however, Mr Rudd's return signals Labor's recognition that it is struggling because thus far it has failed to convince voters that it deserves credit for an economic success story that is the envy of other developed democracies. Australia not only survived the financial crisis without falling into recession, but has low unemployment, low underlying inflation and low public debt - Mr Abbott's protestations to the contrary on the last point notwithstanding. The Opposition Leader has largely got away with exaggerated assertions about Australia's debt and economic prospects. If Mr Rudd exposes such assertions, it might be, as the Prime Minister famously said to the Opposition Leader, ''game on'' - though not in the sense she intended at the time.


Source: The Age






HOW one reads the interim report on the Building the Education Revolution depends heavily on one's view of the need for an economic stimulus. Julia Gillard yesterday stood by the decision to roll out the $14 billion BER program, saying jobs were saved and recession was averted.


Tony Abbott did not accept that jobs would have been lost without the stimulus and said the global financial crisis lasted only six to eight weeks. One reason he may have made that contentious assertion is that the taskforce headed by businessman Brad Orgill concludes that the overall program achieved its goals.


The thrust of its findings is clear: ''Our overall observation is that this Australia-wide program is delivering much-needed infrastructure to school communities while achieving the primary goal of economic activity across the nation. There has clearly also been an added benefit of construction industry up-skilling, beyond just sustaining employment.'' Value for money was assessed against three criteria - quality (was the building fit for purpose), delivery on time, and cost - and trade-offs between these were inevitable. Some of the 22 education authorities achieved better value for money than others, with gaps between BER and pre-BER costs of 0-12 per cent. ''Overall, delivering BER P21 within the short time frame to achieve the economic stimulus objectives may have added a premium to pre-BER business-as-usual costs of between 5-6 per cent.'' Authorities that took a ''one size fits all'' approach have the highest on-time completion rates, notably NSW with 95 per cent (Victoria's figure is 64 per cent), but paid more and prompted more complaints.


Out of 10,550 projects in 7900 schools, the taskforce received complaints from 254 schools. Most involved ''very valid concerns'' about value for money, inflexibility and lack of consultation, but the report says ''system-wide school-level self-management would not have achieved the implementation timetable required''. Recommendations that projects to be finished after March 2011 be delivered with less urgency via pre-BER procedures, and with more community involvement, are sensible. Problems with state authorities' planning and implementation processes have been identified. To ensure the education dollar goes as far as it can the lessons of mistakes made and deficiencies exposed must be heeded.


Source: The Age









By this time of year, you can detect the same thought in the eyes of many inhabitants of towns or cities that have made the gargantuan mistake of marketing themselves as tourist destinations: who are these zombies who block pavements, photograph themselves next to such wildly exotic objects as letter boxes, phone booths and policemen, who jam entrances, fill restaurants – in short, strip city centres of their last graceful vestiges? And when will they all go away? The invasion unfailingly renders the temporary object of its desires unrecognisable. The Trevi fountain in Rome is not a scene out of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita but Day of the Dead. The Mona Lisa is not a painting at all. It is a trigger for millions of identical digital snaps taken from behind a bulletproof screen in the Louvre. Why look at a painting when you can photograph it? We have two modest proposals to deal with this. First, tourist destinations should be taken off the map, or relocated to Dartmoor or the Gobi desert. This is easily done in the digital age. If the Soviets hid whole cities successfully for decades, so can we. Second, tourists should be asked to fill out a short questionnaire about what they want to see, what they know about it, and why. This not need not be unduly taxing. One question could be: Where are you? It would stump many. If their answers are unsatisfactory, they would be politely but firmly directed to another queue, which leads to the bus to the airport. The transfer would be free, and swift.








The sense of outrage was building by the hour at home in Pakistan. The president of a country in which one quarter of a million homes had been damaged took time out of his European schedule to inspect his 16th-century chateau in Normandy. As the worst floods to hit Pakistan in a century swept down into the most fertile part of the country, destroying crops, sweeping away cattle, leaving villagers clinging to tree branches, President Asif Ali Zardari was dining at Chequers with his son and heir Bilawal. This was too much even for a country used to its insouciant feudal barons. And what, it was being asked at home, had Mr Zardari got in return from the British prime minister who had accused Pakistan of exporting terrorism, and, worst of all, made this accusation in India?


The answer turned out to be a fair amount. In the eyeball-to-eyeball session, it was Mr Cameron who blinked first. Mr Zardari got a bland communique declaring that the relationship between the two countries was unbreakable, a British commitment to a Marshall plan for Afghanistan, and above all, no hint of anyone in the Pakistan security establishment "facing two ways". As a result, a beaming Mr Zardari could claim afterwards that there had never been any problem in the relationship. He dismissed the fact that the head of the ISI had refused to accompany him to London, such was the fury in the Pakistan army at Mr Cameron's remarks. We would never know if he came, the president claimed, because such visits were always secret. Further, Mr Zardari claimed he has used his trip to raise funds for the floods from Abu Dhabi, France and Britain. Mr Zardari, the artful dodger of Pakistan, had apparently escaped near-certain political death again.


In September he will have lasted two years of his presidency, which is being seen as an achievement in itself. He has done this by shedding power to parliament, to his prime minister and to the all-powerful army. No one can explain under what law or precedent General Ashfaq Kayani was granted a three-year extension of tenure, but the term dovetails neatly with Mr Zardari's own presidential term. He has bought himself time, rightly calculating that his removal would create too much instability for his enemies. An unpopular president at the head of a weak civilian government has manoeuvred himself into a position where he has become the highest political denominator.


At every opportunity Mr Zardari will portray himself as the man who has selflessly devolved the many powers of his office to his parliament. But he is not just, as he claims, a political figurehead. He is not only the current keeper of the precious Bhutto political brand, but the head of the country's most important political party, the Pakistan Peoples party. He is, in other words, the Sonia Gandhi of Pakistan. This is a heavy responsibility on which most of the gains that democracy has made in his country rests. Thus the space that Mr Zardari occupies is a crucial one. It is his nation's enduring tragedy that these shoes are not filled by a bigger man.


He said yesterday that he did not come to Britain to preach but to learn. But it is Mr Cameron who has done the learning about the realities of Britain's relationship with Pakistan's intelligence services. There will still be doubts voiced privately in Washington and London about the ISI's continuing contacts with the Taliban and its support for the Haqqani network, one of several sending suicide bombers into Kabul. But as the war falters, and we lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the Pashtun inhabitants of southern Afghanistan, it will be to Pakistan that we will be turning for support. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has already got the point. Like it or not, the ISI will play a part in Britain's exit strategy. As next year's deadline for the start of the troop drawdown nears, the volume knob of the criticism of a "two-faced" Pakistan will be turned down.







Philanthropy is so 2010. Like all successful trends, its momentum is built partly at least on supportive external factors. Conspicuous giving, which reached a new peak this week with the launch of Bill Gates's and Warren Buffett's challenge to America's biggest billionaires to donate half their wealth to good causes, coincides in the US and the UK with a return to levels of inequality not seen since the 1930s. Greater wealth is concentrated in fewer hands than at any time since the Edwardian era. It also overlaps with a revival of popular scepticism about the role of the state, reflected in the small print of the "big society" message. The state can't do it all.


No one could deny that history is littered with well-meant public failure. When Bill Gates told the World Economic Forum in Davos three years ago that applying the creativity of new global industries such as Microsoft might be a way of tackling some of the world's most intractable problems, it seemed reasonable at least to consider what he called creative capitalism. Nor would anyone question that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has brought a new focus and a lot more cash to the fight against poverty and the diseases of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Philanthropy applied on such a scale to such evident need appears an unequivocal good.


There are, however, some hard questions too. US business, like UK business, devotes much energy to finding ways of not paying tax. Bloomberg, for example (whose eponymous founder was one of the big names at Wednesday's Giving Pledge launch), reported this summer that the US treasury lost out by $60bn last year through what is called transfer pricing – taking profits where taxes are lowest. This is one of several aspects of income shifting, the report continued, that costs around $120bn a year. Tax relief on charitable donations in the US is worth $40bn – and even in the UK, where the tradition of philanthropy is much less developed, gift aid on individual donations last year cost the British taxpayer £1bn. Meanwhile, the good causes favoured by the super-rich tend to be self-serving, at least according to sceptical observers like the former US treasury secretary Robert Reich. Nine of the top 10 recipients of large individual donations are arts foundations and universities. In the UK, the amounts are much smaller but the pattern, according to the Charities Aid Foundation, is the same.


Needy causes attract much smaller donations, but many more of them. So let donations flow this weekend to the Disasters Emergency Committee's appeal for urgent support for flood victims in Pakistan. And also let the government keep its promise to keep spending our taxes on international development, so that such a crisis is less likely to happen again.









There are more than 40,000 people aged 100 or over in Japan and this number is expected to increase. In 2009, Japanese women had the world's longest life expectancy of 86.44 years and men the world's fifth longest life expectancy of 79.59 years. Japan is certainly a country of long life expectancy. But recent events highlight a problem — some families have very weak bonds with elderly relatives.


In late July, the mummified body of a man was found in his house in Adachi Ward, Tokyo. Until recently the ward office believed that he was Tokyo's oldest living man at age 111. A district welfare commissioner's complaint in January that it was impossible to meet him eventually led to the discovery of his body. It is believed that he had been dead for more than 30 years. Four family members, including his 81-year-old daughter, have been living in the same house.


Soon afterward it surfaced that the location of a 113-year-old woman, registered in Tokyo's Suginami Ward and regarded as Tokyo's oldest living person, was unknown. Her 79-year-old eldest daughter said the last time she saw her mother was more than 20 years ago. Her second eldest daughter had not contacted her family members for some 50 years and did not want to meet them. Her second eldest son said his mother went away some 30 years ago. (Her eldest son is dead.)


Kyodo News reports that as of Aug. 5, the location of 44 people aged 100 years or over in Tokyo and 16 other prefectures was unknown. Remarks from their relatives include: "About 30 years ago he went away to live in a facility. I don't know where he is now." And "He went to Nishi Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture, 30 years ago. Since then I have not contacted him."


Local government workers and district welfare commissioners do not have the legal authority to meet elderly people if their families refuse to let them. The central and local governments should use every possible means to locate elderly people, which is obviously the first step in helping them in case they are in need and in preventing usurpation of their pension benefits.







After receiving a complaint about a foul smell emanating from an apartment in Nishi Ward, Osaka, on July 30, the police went into the apartment and found the bodies of a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old boy. The 23-year-old mother of both children has been arrested. It is suspected that she left the studio apartment in late June, abandoning them.


This case leaves many questions unanswered. Married in December 2006, she for sometime blogged about the joy of having and raising children. Divorced in May 2009, she started working in the sex industry in January 2010. She told the police that around that time she came to hate taking care of her children.


But she apparently did not ask for advice or help from anybody. When she placed her last phone call to her parents in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, in late April, she did not give the impression that she was having difficulties, and did not even tell them her address.


In early July, however, she phoned her former husband and complained that working and raising the kids were so hard. Perhaps if he had still been involved in his children's lives this tragedy could have been averted.


Neighbors heard the children crying many times and a children's welfare center received three "hotline" calls. A welfare-center worker visited the apartment five times starting in March but no one ever answered the door. The center workers did not forcibly enter the apartment because to do so, the children's welfare center first would have had to obtain the registered names of the residents and obtain court permission. In this case, the center was unable to locate the mother's family registry at the ward office, because apparently the mother had never filed one.


The police reported that when they entered the apartment they found the refrigerator empty and the air conditioner turned off. The kids were naked, having apparently taken off their clothes because of the heat. The room was full of garbage.


It is most regrettable that bureaucratic red tape made it difficult to save these children from their horrible fate. The system must be revised to allow quicker entry into a residence in cases where child abuse or neglect is suspected. One way to do so would be to allow the police to launch investigations when they receive tips about suspected cases of child abuse or neglect.


Currently cases involving child abuse and neglect are handled by children's welfare centers. The police cannot get involved unless it is suspected that a crime has taken place, or the children's welfare center requests police involvement.


In addition, cases of child abuse and neglect are on the rise nationwide. In fiscal 1990, when the government started recording statistics, children's welfare centers handled only about 1,100 consultations on child abuse. In fiscal 2008, that number reached a record 42,664. In 2009, 28 children died of abuse. In the first half of 2010, police investigated a record 181 cases of child abuse, which victimized 187 children, with 18 of them having died.


Unfortunately there are not enough children's welfare-center workers to handle all cases in an adequate manner. Local governments should make efforts to hire more children's welfare-center workers.








This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty's coming into force. Despite its central role in shaping the global nuclear order, the NPT's future looks anything but promising.


The main challenges the NPT now faces come from within its regime, not from the nonparties. The nations outside the NPT fold that wanted to go nuclear have done so. And having acquired nuclear weapons, those states are in no position to join a treaty that essentially is rigidly structured and is thus not amendable.


It has been widely forgotten that the NPT originally was intended to prevent countries like Japan, West Germany and Italy from acquiring nuclear weapons. Japan, did not ratify the treaty until 1976 — eight years after the NPT was concluded, and six years after the pact took effect. Over the years, however, the challenges to the NPT have come from outside the list of its original targets.


It is remarkable that the NPT has survived for so long and that it was extended indefinitely in 1995. As a result of the 1995 action, the treaty — originally conceived as a 25-year bargain between nuclear-weapons states and nonnuclear-weapons states — has become permanent.


For the foreseeable future, nuclear weapons, with their unparalleled destructive capacity, are likely to remain at the center of international power and force capacity. Nuclear weapons, as the 2002 U.S. nuclear posture review stated, will continue to play a "critical role" because they possess "unique properties."


Some 95 percent of all nuclear weapons are in the arsenals of the United States and Russia. The U.S. has announced recently that it has 5,113 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, plus "several thousand" more waiting to be dismantled. Russia is believed to have a fairly similar number of nuclear weapons in deployment.


Although their arsenals have declined, both Russia and the U.S. still maintain "overkill" capabilities — that is, either can destroy the entire world several times over. There can be no justification for maintaining such large arsenals today, and the reductions proposed by the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the U.S. and Russia will not change the overkill capacities of the two sides.


The latest U.S. Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) incorporates a welcome shift by proclaiming that the U.S. will not use nuclear weapons against a nonnuclear-weapons state or in response to a nonnuclear attack. Yet that assurance is hedged with caveats — the nonnuclear-weapons states have to be fully "in compliance" with their nonproliferation obligations; and given the catastrophic potential of biological weapons, the U.S. reserves the right to respond with nukes against a biological attack.


It would have been better had the posture review made clear — without any qualification — that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to deter a nuclear attack. Instead, the NPR declares such a sole purpose as a long-term goal. With the burden of the Nobel Peace Prize weighing heavily on U.S. President Barack Obama's mind, the caveat-ridden NPR comes across as being more posture than review.


Given the fact that every nuclear- weapons state, by definition, is a proliferator, the varying standards still being applied on proliferation underscore the nonproliferation challenges. Geopolitical interests, rather than objective criteria, usually determine a response to any proliferation problem. Also, who is a legitimate nuclear-weapons state or who is not has remained a subject of controversy. The NPT recognizes as nuclear powers only those countries that tested a nuclear device before 1967. But it is hardly a good advertisement for the NPT regime that some nuclear-weapons states remain outside its fold.


Actually, the real "success" of the NPT has been in reinforcing the system of extended deterrence by giving countries such as those in NATO and others like Japan, Australia and South Korea little choice other than to continue to rely on the U.S. for nuclear-umbrella protection. Minus the NPT, these countries would have been the most-likely candidates to go nuclear because they also happen to be the most-capable states technologically. So, the effect of the NPT has been to either strengthen extended deterrence or to drive nuclear programs underground, as was symbolized by North Korea.


A few technologically capable countries, like Sweden and Switzerland, of course, voluntarily relinquished their nuclear-weapons option even while staying out of any alliance system. Their decision was based on a careful judgment that their security would be better protected without nuclearization.


Today, a key question that arises is whether any of the countries ensconced under the U.S. nuclear umbrella would be willing to forgo the benefits of extended deterrence in order to help lower the utility of nuclear weapons and give a boost to the cause of nuclear disarmament.


Today, the world has a treaty (although not in force) that bans all nuclear testing but no treaty to outlaw the use of nuclear weapons. In other words, those that are party to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty are prohibited from testing a nuclear weapon at home but are legally unencumbered to test the weapon by dropping it over some other state. That anomaly must be removed.


Brahma Chellaney is the author of the 2010 international best-seller, "Asian Juggernaut" (HarperCollins).








MELBOURNE — People sometimes forget that the boy who cried wolf ended up being eaten. True, nobody has been killed by a nuclear weapon since the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 65 years ago this month.


And, with Cold War tensions long past, it is all too easy for policymakers and publics to resist the doomsayers, be complacent about the threats that these weapons continue to pose, and to regard attempts to eliminate them, or contain their spread, as well-meaning but futile.


But the truth is that it is sheer luck — not statesmanship or anything inherently stable about the world's nuclear weapon systems — that has let us survive so long without catastrophe. With 23,000 nuclear weapons (equivalent to 150,000 Hiroshimas) still in existence, more than 7,000 of them actively deployed, and more than 2,000 still on dangerously high launch-on-warning alert, we cannot assume that our luck will hold indefinitely.


We know now — with multiple revelations about human error and system breakdown on both the American and Russian sides during the Cold War years and since — that even the most sophisticated command and control systems are not foolproof. We know that some of the newer nuclear-armed states start with systems much less sophisticated than these. And we know that, across the spectrum of sophistication, the risk of destabilizing cyber attack beating cyber defense is getting ever higher.


So it should be obvious that maintaining the status quo is intolerable. Moreover, there is the real risk of proliferation, especially in the Middle East, multiplying the dangers that nuclear weapons will be used by accident or miscalculation as well as design.


There is also the sometimes exaggerated but unquestionably non-negligible risk of non-state terrorist actors getting their hands on insufficiently secured weapons or fissile material and exploding a bomb in a major population center. And there is the disconcerting prospect that new civil nuclear-energy players will insist on building uranium-enrichment or plutonium-reprocessing plants of their own, rightly described as "bomb starter kits."


President Barack Obama came to office alert to all these threats and determined, as no other U.S. president — and almost no other world leader — has been, to eliminate them. His leadership inspired hope that more than a decade of sleepwalking was behind us, and brought some modest gains over the last 18 months.


They include the conclusion of the U.S.-Russia new START treaty, which would reduce deployed strategic weapons; modest limitations on the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. nuclear doctrine; a Washington summit that reached useful agreement on the implementation of improved nuclear-security measures; and hard-to-achieve consensus at the recent pentannual Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference on useful steps forward, including a 2012 conference on achieving a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East.


But START treaty ratification is going nowhere fast in the U.S. Senate and progress on other key issues has been slow or shaky: bringing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force; starting negotiations on a new treaty to ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons; strengthening the nonproliferation regime with effective measures to detect violations and deter treaty walk-outs; reaching agreement on some form of international management of the most sensitive aspects of the fuel cycle; and, above all, starting new rounds of serious disarmament talks, involving not just the two nuclear superpowers but all eight nuclear-armed states.


Arms control and disarmament is a grinding, unglamorous business that brings few quick returns. With domestic issues and re-election anxieties now dominating most political agendas, it will be all too easy for commitment to wane. If that is to be avoided, continued leadership from the top — above all from Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — will be indispensable. But there are a number of major contributions that less powerful states and leaders, as well as civil-society organizations, can make.


The most immediately important task is for those with credible voices to take every opportunity to bridge the complacency gap. The messages must be stark: Nuclear weapons are not only the most indiscriminately inhumane weapons ever invented, but the only ones capable of destroying life on this planet as we know it.


The second major task is to set a clear global disarmament action agenda — with credible timelines and milestones. It is probably too difficult right now to set a reliable target date for getting all the way to "global zero": There are still too many difficult technical problems of verification and enforcement to be worked through, as well as the obvious geopolitical and psychological ones. But it is not incredible to set a date like 2025 as a target for minimizing the world's nuclear arsenal to less than 10 percent of its current size, with very few weapons actually deployed, and their role in all states' military doctrine dramatically reduced.


Nor is it too early to begin work on crafting a new nuclear weapons convention that provides a workable framework for multilateral negotiations, and on devising an independent high-level monitoring mechanism that would spell out clear benchmarks for progress, track how they are being met, and create real pressure for change.


These are all recommendations of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. As the world commemorates the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this August, we should recognize that our luck is running out — and take them seriously.


Gareth Evans, a former foreign minister of Australia and president emeritus of the International Crisis Group, is cochair of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament and a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne. © 2010 Project Syndicate









People's skepticism over the ability of TransJakarta (busway) to address traffic chaos is understandable, considering traffic in the capital city is even worse now — six years after the operation of the Bogota-style public transportation system.


But the busway is still the only feasible project to ease the frustrating traffic congestion. Unlike other alternative solutions — monorail, subway and water transportation – whose share in helping ease the city's traffic have not been tested, the busway has helped influence many motorists to leave their cars at home and use its service to their working places, reducing the number of cars on the city's streets on a daily basis.


The busway is a victim of the half-hearted commitment of city authorities. Road users blame it for seizing one road lane that undeniably worsens traffic congestion. Its customers complain that it has failed to serve them well as they have to queue for long periods of time at bus stops and once inside, the buses are very crowded.


The city administration's move to expel private vehicles from busway lanes from Monday (Aug. 2, 2010) has received strong opposition from motorists. The police, however, persisted. On the first day of the crackdown, they issued tickets to more than one thousand motorists for violating the policy.


On some occasions, however, police officers were hesitant to prevent motorists from entering certain busway lanes because they knew how congested regular lanes were.


We are now waiting for serious commitment from policy makers, particularly the city administration and the city legislative council, in implementing a time schedule to fully operate the 10 existing busway corridors, which had cost hundreds of billions of rupiah of taxpayers' money for their construction. Two of the corridors are not in operation yet, while the others, except Corridor I for the Blok M-Kota route, suffer a serious bus shortage.


In order to optimize the busway service, the city administration must deploy buses in all corridors. Procuring more buses should be the highest priority of the city administration. It can either use taxpayers' money or invite private companies to invest in this.


The administration must also maintain punctuality of its timetable. Ideally, a bus should arrive at a stop every five minutes, but currently people wait for more than 30 minutes.


Lastly, the city administration must make maximum use of the already constructed busway lanes. Currently some lanes are unused, tempting other road users to occupy them.


The full operation of the TransJakarta busway, whose networks cover a vast territory across the city, is expected to provide public transport users with reliable, affordable and convenient transportation. At the same time, the city administration can begin applying traffic measures such as electronic road pricing (ERP), in its attempt to reduce vehicle population on Jakarta's streets.


It is the city administration's responsibility to provide the public with mass, but affordable and convenient modes of transportation, and concurrently attempt to ease the acute traffic congestion. And we still believe that the busway can meet its objectives.







Approaching the commemoration of Indonesia's 65th Independence Day on Aug. 17, 2010, people in this country are unceasingly overwhelmed by painful experiences.


There were LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) explosions at homes, torture of anticorruption advocates, train accidents, massive traffic jams, violence by municipal police and deepening of deprivation among low-income people resulting from an increase in basic electricity tariffs.


How do we make meaning from those painful experiences? Some of the people, and maybe the majority of bureaucrats and public policy makers, would like to utter that the huge agonizing experiences were consequences (abbreviated to C) of some activating events (abbreviated to A) that had already existed in the society.


Hence, C results from A. This is the "A-C logic". In this perspective, people say that the torment of the anticorruption campaigner is a consequence of the campaigner's anticorruption activities that have already created inconvenience and worry among many corrupt officials in the country.


Those home LPG outbursts are considered to be a consequence of a necessity to change the daily use of kerosene to LPG at homes throughout the country in order to save the state budget, although this necessity is not intermingled with the readiness of people to quickly become accustomed with the safe use of LPG at home.


Train accidents were regarded as a consequence of an already poor railway affairs infrastructure.


Municipal police's violence were deemed to be a consequence of society's unruliness which then rose the need for augmenting repressive actions by the municipal police. Huge traffic jams are believed to be a consequence of an increasing number of cars on roads.


And deprivation that becomes deeper among the grassroots following the increase in basic electricity tariffs is believed to be an inevitable consequence of high electricity production cost.


In a nutshell, those many agonizing experiences are understood under the A-C logic which emphasizes that some activating events (As) — which have already existed in society — have worked to produce painful experiences (Cs).


Utilizing the A-C logic, bureaucrats and public policy makers gain a safe haven, for the reason that under the A-C logic their roles in creating an agonizing experience in society are disregarded.


A painful experience in society (a C) is merely considered to be a consequence that resulted from an already existing reality in society, which functions as an activating event (an A). The process of an A yielding a C is absolutely not connected with bureaucrats and public policy makers as well.


People don't blame bureaucrats and public policy makers. If they want to blame, please blame the reality, because reality itself brings about painful experiences.


The A-C logic can be infiltrated covertly into people's collective unconscious without significant resistance. Whereas in fact, as insisted by Paul Chadwick, Max Birchwood, and Peter Trower (2003), the A-C logic is flawed.


The three cognitive therapists were inspired by Albert Ellis (the founder of the rational emotive behavior therapy), and then insisted that the right logic was the "A-B-C logic" (the "Activating event-Belief-Consequence logic").


This logic indicates that a painful experience in society (a C) does not result from a reality that has already existed in the society (an A), but resulted from a policy created by bureaucrats and public policy makers who use their "personal belief" (B) to achieve personal meaning from reality (A), and then based on the personal meaning they create that policy.


That cognitive therapists's clarification is in accordance with the philosopher Immanuel Kant's thought, that humans could never get reality as noumena, for example. reality as it is.


According to Kant, what human beings can only do is to achieve personal meaning from the reality and take on the reality as "phenomena", for example, the reality as it appears to humans.


The anticorruption pursuits which are realized by anticorruption activists will seem in front of corrupt officials as personal phenomena, which bring about fear and anxiety for them.


The cognitive therapists will elucidate that the corrupt officials suffer from fear and anxiety, since they personally interpret the anticorruption campaigner's activities in the perspective of their own belief (B), which can be represented by the utterance "My interest is higher and more than anything".


In the context of that belief, the anticorruption activists are big dangers and huge threats, so they should be dismissed.


Based on the A-B-C logic, the home-use LPG outbursts cannot be considered as a consequence of the people's incapability to use gas in a proper manner.


The outbursts are consequences of the realization of the bureaucrats and public policy makers's belief that their interest is higher and more than anything, accordingly they ignore society's safety and 


The poor railway affairs infrastructure cannot be judged as the cause of many train accidents in the country.


Those accidents rooted in the bureaucrats and public policy makers's belief that their interest is higher and more than anything, therefore they do not take the rail users's wellbeing into account.


The same belief — "My interest is higher and more than anything" – is also at the root of municipal police's violence as well as the deepening of deprivation among low-income people in this country.


It is very important to highlight the A-B-C logic as a right standpoint prevailing over the A-C logic. That

highlighting emerges two major awareness.


The first, bureaucrats and public policy makers should not close their eyes to their inherent responsibility in the

context of many painful experiences occurring in society.


This awareness is very important to motivate bureaucrats and public policy makers to unceasingly improve their performance as public servants.


The second, one of the basic mental problems of this nation — despite that the nation gained its independence 65 years ago — is the unconscious belief that individual's interest is higher and more than anything.


As long as the nation never changes that belief with a new belief that public interest is higher and more than individual interest, people will always suffer from many painful experiences.

The writer, a psychotherapy-consultant psychiatrist in Malang, is chairman of the Psychotherapy Division of the Indonesian Psychiatric Association.








What is ASEAN Consciousness? Is it Brand Marketing, a foreign policy or beyond that, a vision of community integration?


Academic questions such as these surfaced in a recent gathering of women entrepreneurs aiming at region wide business expansion. Contrary to the expected norm of discussion to focus on business regulations and trade practices, the entrepreneurs wanted and reveled in a lively discussion on societal integration.


Though the current ASEAN vision 2015 is lesser known to some than the others, almost all wanted to go big on the one common thing: one ASEAN Community, a community of diverse cultures and languages, religions and customs, but united by a common will to integrate, harmonize and co-exist.


Of course in business sense, a larger single market is worthier than a fragmented one. However, the topic of the day was not on business, but on what underpins the success of any enterprise, commercial or charitable: i.e. societal needs and demands.


A thorough understanding of the multitude of societal needs and rights across the various ASEAN countries is more of a long term sociological research project. Yet, there is also much homogeneity in culture based habitual needs for rice, soya, woven textiles; and a common demand for all services that cater to the survival and dignity of life in general, such as health services, clean water services, educational facilities and standards, food supplies and essential financial services.


Business is back to the basics of human rights — be it local, regional or international! People consciousness is now more overt than ever, and an interconnected Southeast Asia or East Asia for that matter is no longer a distant dream, already manifesting beyond the political arena, through cross cultural fashion shows, inter-university exchange programs, organized tourism and holiday travels, and indeed through region wide marketing of various business brands and music icons.


The more focused on customer needs, the more sustainable a brand is. The more adaptable a brand of service is to changing times and needs of customers, the better life time the brand enjoys among our society. Invention and Re-invention of Brand Identities is as ancient as the human race and empires, and as time tested as the human struggle to belong and participate in a sense of communal togetherness.


What then is the current ASEAN Brand of Service? Aug. 8, 2010 marks the 43rd anniversary of the ASEAN Day — a grand day of interest and purpose to start understanding the ASEAN Brand, in all its dynamics and progress. The brand ASEAN carries within it all the intangible sentiments and histories of its people, the goals of a much larger community of dialogue partners and business councils, dreams, hopes, aspirations and the livelihoods of communities of people in the arts, science & innovative technology, governments and business.


One has to just read The ASEAN Charter that expounds on the modus operandi of the ASEAN mechanism and systems to get an insight into the level of sophistication. Now then, as complex and sophisticated as it is, can ASEAN branding be well defined in the first place? Who do we call for help to understand our own collective conscious identity and branding — the politicians, sociologists, academic research experts with ASEAN Studies Institutes or all?  


Nation branding is a regular practice in international relations as well as in strategic marketing of goods and services of state owned corporations. nation building and branding is also instrumental in developing both productive and constructive civil order and corporate citizenry. And yet nationalism gets diffused in an inclusive brand strategy of a regional grouping, to thrive in a collective stamp of 
identity and solidarity.


Again, a recurrent question: what is ASEAN consciousness that encompasses the peoples of the region to propel us as one community, to identify ourselves as "We the peoples of ASEAN"? Is this live branding in a collective market sense? Or is it years of systemic foreign policy, winning now the hearts and imagination of our people?


However perceived, the making of the ASEAN Brand  is an ongoing one, neither static nor formulaic, hopefully participative and people centered. Management gurus of brand studies and architects of regional Policy would perceive alike with business leaders and statesmen that it is worthwhile to build ASEAN citizenry by developing the ASEAN image among peoples.


But will there be an ASEAN renaissance? Will ASEAN ever become a household name? Or as a label of reference, will ASEAN ever be discussed within households, wide spread across the region, for food choices, fashion and art trends, educational standards and business brands? Yes, if the women and children are actively engaged in building One ASEAN: one home! The ASEAN consciousness!

     The writer is currently chairperson of ASEAN Secretariat Women's Wing.









The issue of gridlock in Jakarta is familiar among many Indonesians. Lately, newspapers or newscasts have highlighted again the Jakarta paralysis. It was mentioned vehicles will not be able to move out of their garage by 2014.


Indeed, this issue is not unique to Indonesia. Several countries also forecast this situation: A travel paralysis. Perhaps this will occur, perhaps it won't. However, certainly we should not stand idle. It is indeed true that traffic congestion problems have shown a progressive trend of worsening annually.


The Indonesian government was aware enough to plan a transport system that was no longer oriented on providing private vehicle facilities. One results of this was the operation of a Jakarta-wide bus rapid transit (BRT), the Transjakarta system, or popularly known as the busway, in 2004.


Recently, a pattern of macro transportation was devised, combining four public transport options: BRT, monorail, mass rapid transit and a waterway. We are supposed to have faith that those megaprojects, swallowing trillions of rupiah, will help us from a daily congestion problem in the future.


Deservedly, we need to relearn from the case of Transjakarta, deemed somewhat less successful in shifting private vehicle users to use the BRT. People feel much more comfortable and secure when they use their cars.


In regards to motorcyclists, they have to spend transport costs twice as much if they use Transjakarta instead. So it would seem that the present BRT users are merely shifting from other buses such as Kopaja and Metromini minibuses. Therefore, the presence of BRT merely becomes a new competitor to existing buses instead of an attractive alternative to private transport.


The question then arises as to whether this will recur with the next mass transport programs. This certainly is worrisome, since these programs do not come cheaply. Observing our past policies, it seems that we almost always try to create a solution without considering long-term consequences and benefits. More importantly, when we want to solve our problems, we almost always find the need to come up with something new rather than recognizing our available resources and endeavoring to use them to the utmost of their potential.


A simple example is how Singapore overcame its congestion problems. The first step taken was not to make a BRT system or do road pricing, but instead merge all public bus services into a single national company and make the best of it. When they finally opted to build a mass rapid transit system it was after more than 10 years later. Nowadays, Singapore has transformed from a disorganized Asian slum in the 1950s to a country that has one of the best transportation systems in the world.


So rather than come up with new and expensive transportation megaprojects in Jakarta, perhaps we should just make the most of our current Transjakarta system. Scheduling combination, headway optimization, or a mileage based fee of the Transjakarta is one of the possible alternatives to optimize the existing conditions. Not all the buses passing have to stop at all bus shelters.


By evaluating passenger demand at each bus shelter, we can find a way to schedule the buses so that some of the buses only stop at bus shelters with large passenger volumes with other buses merely passing through. By doing this, it is expected that demand can be spread out at all shelter points. As a result, both waiting time and travel time can be reduced.


It is hoped that plans for mass transport be based on existing public transfer, not only considering construction, but also to encompass optimization to maximize potential. In regards to the current situation, it is clear that Transjakarta requires more buses and perhaps more lines.


Addressing these issues is much more affordable and tangible than building an entirely new monorail system, which has relatively unknown prospects. The operation of Transjakarta would also be greatly supported by the regulating existing public transport companies owned by individual and community groups, for example by applying a minimum standard of service, thus increasing appeal to the common customer.


Introducing a new transportation system cannot be considered a panacea, a miracle drug, to remedy transportation problems. It also requires continuous maintenance and optimization to adapt and develop in sync with the developing society it serves. This is a vital factor often forgotten. Rather than go for a new transportation system, making the most of our Transjakarta and allowing it to live and grow with Jakarta's society certainly is a better course.

The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, and a PhD candidate at Kyushu University, Japan.








The issue of gridlock in Jakarta is familiar among many Indonesians. Lately, newspapers or newscasts have highlighted again the Jakarta paralysis. It was mentioned vehicles will not be able to move out of their garage by 2014.


Indeed, this issue is not unique to Indonesia. Several countries also forecast this situation: A travel paralysis. Perhaps this will occur, perhaps it won't. However, certainly we should not stand idle. It is indeed true that traffic congestion problems have shown a progressive trend of worsening annually.


The Indonesian government was aware enough to plan a transport system that was no longer oriented on providing private vehicle facilities. One results of this was the operation of a Jakarta-wide bus rapid transit (BRT), the Transjakarta system, or popularly known as the busway, in 2004.


Recently, a pattern of macro transportation was devised, combining four public transport options: BRT, monorail, mass rapid transit and a waterway. We are supposed to have faith that those megaprojects, swallowing trillions of rupiah, will help us from a daily congestion problem in the future.


Deservedly, we need to relearn from the case of Transjakarta, deemed somewhat less successful in shifting private vehicle users to use the BRT. People feel much more comfortable and secure when they use their cars.


In regards to motorcyclists, they have to spend transport costs twice as much if they use Transjakarta instead. So it would seem that the present BRT users are merely shifting from other buses such as Kopaja and Metromini minibuses. Therefore, the presence of BRT merely becomes a new competitor to existing buses instead of an attractive alternative to private transport.


The question then arises as to whether this will recur with the next mass transport programs. This certainly is worrisome, since these programs do not come cheaply. Observing our past policies, it seems that we almost always try to create a solution without considering long-term consequences and benefits. More importantly, when we want to solve our problems, we almost always find the need to come up with something new rather than recognizing our available resources and endeavoring to use them to the utmost of their potential.


A simple example is how Singapore overcame its congestion problems. The first step taken was not to make a BRT system or do road pricing, but instead merge all public bus services into a single national company and make the best of it. When they finally opted to build a mass rapid transit system it was after more than 10 years later. Nowadays, Singapore has transformed from a disorganized Asian slum in the 1950s to a country that has one of the best transportation systems in the world.


So rather than come up with new and expensive transportation megaprojects in Jakarta, perhaps we should just make the most of our current Transjakarta system. Scheduling combination, headway optimization, or a mileage based fee of the Transjakarta is one of the possible alternatives to optimize the existing conditions. Not all the buses passing have to stop at all bus shelters.


By evaluating passenger demand at each bus shelter, we can find a way to schedule the buses so that some of the buses only stop at bus shelters with large passenger volumes with other buses merely passing through. By doing this, it is expected that demand can be spread out at all shelter points. As a result, both waiting time and travel time can be reduced.


It is hoped that plans for mass transport be based on existing public transfer, not only considering construction, but also to encompass optimization to maximize potential. In regards to the current situation, it is clear that Transjakarta requires more buses and perhaps more lines.


Addressing these issues is much more affordable and tangible than building an entirely new monorail system, which has relatively unknown prospects. The operation of Transjakarta would also be greatly supported by the regulating existing public transport companies owned by individual and community groups, for example by applying a minimum standard of service, thus increasing appeal to the common customer.


Introducing a new transportation system cannot be considered a panacea, a miracle drug, to remedy transportation problems. It also requires continuous maintenance and optimization to adapt and develop in sync with the developing society it serves. This is a vital factor often forgotten. Rather than go for a new transportation system, making the most of our Transjakarta and allowing it to live and grow with Jakarta's society certainly is a better course.

The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, and a PhD candidate at Kyushu University, Japan.





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