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Sunday, August 8, 2010

EDITORIAL 08.08.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month august 08, edition 000593, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. IS 'NATIONAL PRIDE' A DIRTY PHRASE? - CHANDAN MITRA
  2. GOVT, OPP MADE FOR EACH OTHER - SWAPAN DASGUPTA
  3. KERALA'S SLIDE INTO RADICAL ISLAMISM - KANCHAN GUPTA

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. EXPENSIVE SOLAR POWER CAN MEAN ANOTHER ENRON - S A AIYAR
  2. GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE CWG SCANDAL - SHOBHAA DE
  3. A VALLEY RIVEN BY ANGER & HISTORY - M J AKBAR
  4. OBAMA'S FOCUS IS PAK DUPLICITY - DILEEP PADGAONKAR
  5. 'I AM AN AMERICAN AS MUCH AS AN INDIAN AND MUSLIM' - SHOBHAN SAXENA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. INDIA'S NOT A SERIOUS PLAYER IN THIS GAME - VIR SANGHVI
  2. A SILENT SHAME - KARAN THAPAR
  3. WE, THE BAD GUYS - INDRAJIT HAZRA
  4. LET'S CONTEST THIS - MANAS CHAKRAVARTY

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. MAKING THE CHANGE - MEGHNAD DESAI 
  2. TRAGEDY OF COMEDY
  3. LESSONS FROM THE GAMES - TAVLEEN SINGH 
  4. WHY HAVE WE BECOME SO CALLOUS? - SUDHEENDRA KULKARNI 
  5. CULTURE CONNECT MARKETING - SHOMBIT SENGUPTA 

THE HINDU

  1. THE SNAKE BOAT AND THE DRAGON BOAT - SRINIVAS INJETI
  2. YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE, BREASTFEEDING IS BEST FEEDING - DR. ARAVEETI RAMAYOGAIAH
  3. IT'S THE BIRTHRIGHT OF YOUR BABY - DR. P. DURAI
  4. WHO SUFFERS THE MOST, THE CRYING BABE OR THE PINING MOTHER? - MALATHI MOHAN

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. A NATIONAL EFFORT IS NEEDED IN LEH
  2. TIME TO ROCK THE BOAT - ARUN NEHRU
  3. CAMERON RIGHTS HISTORICAL WRONG - K.C. SINGH
  4. BIRTHDAYS & WIVES - CYRUS BROACHA
  5. WAY TO GO - DILIP CHERIAN
  6. MASTERS & COMMANDERS: A POWER TRIP - S.K. SINHA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. ROADBLOCKS IN N-POWER REFORM  - BALAKRISHNAN
  2. THE TWO-PRONGED DIVIDE IN EUROPE 
  3. REGULATING THE MEDIA - BY N.K. SINGH
  4. ON RECORD - BY JOTIRMAY THAPLIYAL
  5. KELEKAR: GANDHIAN AND PROLIFIC WRITER - BY HARIHAR SWARUP

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. DRAMA OR SPIRITUAL AWAKENING?

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. CAESAR'S WIFE
  2. DISPARITY UNDERLIES PROSPERITY IN CHINA - ANURAG VISWANATH
  3. NEEDED - AUTHORITY WITH ACCOUNTABILITY - SURESH BANGARA
  4. THE DREAM OF A HARDOI WEAVER - SREELATHA MENON
  5. 'LITERACY MUST BE OUR IMMEDIATE PRIORITY' - MANMOHAN SINGH

 DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. A NATIONAL EFFORT IS NEEDED IN LEH
  2. TIME TO ROCK THE BOAT - BY ARUN NEHRU
  3. MASTERS & COMMANDERS: A POWER TRIP - BY S.K. SINHA
  4. 'INQUIRIES DEMORALISE EVERYONE'
  5. WHAT TO OPT FOR? PAK IN A TURMOIL - BY K.C. SINGH
  6. IN PRAISE OF OLDER WOMEN - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

THE STATESMAN

  1. SEARCH FOR V-C 
  2. ACTING IN HASTE
  3. OH, DEER! 
  4. REPRESSION IN TIBET - CLAUDE ARPI
  5. RETTY HINDU WOMAN… - URBANE ANGST 
  6. CHINA'S GENERATION OF ANGRY YOUTH
  7. SAILING ROUND THE WORLD AT 14 - JEROME TAYLOR

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. MANTLE OF A HINDU
  2. THE DECLINE OF BENGALI FOOD - AMIT CHAUDHURI

I.THE NEWS

  1. STILL UNEDUCATED
  2. ADVANCING FLOODS
  3. DESPITE THE 'CODE'
  4. OVER THE TOP - MASOOD HASAN
  5. DROWNING IN DESPAIR - GHAZI SALAHUDDIN
  6. MY POLITICAL STRUGGLE - M ASGHAR KHAN
  7. CAPITAL SUGGESTION - DR FARRUKH SALEEM
  8. I, THE STATE… - MIR ADNAN AZIZ

 PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. CAMERON'S PERSISTENT ARROGANCE
  2. PM APPEALS FOR GLOBAL AID
  3. ATTIQUE'S GOODWILL GESTURE TO IHK
  4. NEED TO TAKE STOCK OF FOOD INDUSTRY - DR ZAFAR ALTAF
  5. UNPRODUCTIVE MACHINATIONS - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  6. UNITY INEVITABLE FOR FREEDOM - M YOUSUF NAQASH
  7. BEGINNING OF THE END - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  8. DON'T LOOK AWAY AGAIN - BARKHA DUTT

 THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. AVOIDING THE HOT SPOTS
  2. RUSSIA'S NEW WAR ANNIVERSARY
  3. INTERESTING TIMES ON ASIA'S SOUTH-EAST SEAS - BY TOM PLATE
  4. LET'S TALK ABOUT AN ATTACK ON IRAN - BY GWYNNE DYER
  5. SALVAGING BRITAIN'S FAILED RIGHTS REVOLUTION - BY JONATHAN SMALL

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

IS 'NATIONAL PRIDE' A DIRTY PHRASE?

CHANDAN MITRA


The world will laugh at us if the Commonwealth Games ends up the resounding failure some people want it to be

Over the last fortnight "national pride" has become a term of ridicule in the eyes of many who believe that recourse to this phrase is the only defence of those who refuse to succumb to the hounding of Kalmadi & Co by the media. It is not my case that the Czar of India's sporting establishment, Congress MP Suresh Kalmadi is a paragon of virtue and that the media has unfairly targeted him. Once someone ascends to the top of any managerial pyramid the buck has to stop with him. So, sceptics are fully within their rights to point to alleged misdeeds conducted under his nose and demand convincing answers. Kalmadi and all those accused of financial impropriety must be questioned and if found guilty sent behind bars. In other words, the focus on the alleged mess in organising the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi is entirely legitimate.


But a few aspects of the ongoing inquisition raise some concerns. First, I am baffled by the sustained onslaught exclusively on Suresh Kalmadi and the CWG Organising Committee when the total amount of funds at their disposal was `1,500 crore — a small fraction of the `35,000 crore that has apparently already been spent on preparing ground for the Games. The bulk of the expenditure was obviously incurred on building appropriate infrastructure for Delhi. As every miserable resident of India's Capital knows, the quality of the projects, the inordinate delay in their execution and the chaotic conditions that prevail at present in almost every corner of the city are proof of the utter ineptitude and venality of those entrusted with their implementation. However, the selective targeting of Kalmadi and his team, no matter how indefensible some of their reported lapses, suggests a motive that goes beyond genuine concern for probity in public life.


Second, the growing tendency on the part of sections of the media to play plaintiff, prosecutor, judge and hangman all in one is disturbing to say the least. Trial by media has become the norm rather than exception in recent years. Sometimes, media hype is fully deserved and actually helps prevent miscarriage of justice as the Jessica Lall case showed. But of late a determined onslaught on various individuals, institutions, political parties among others has created a lynch mob mentality reminiscent of the Wild West in the US in the early 20th century. The pressure exerted by sections of the media is sometimes so intense that heads roll even before guilt is established through the due process of law.


Once the "kill" is made media moves on to its next target. A fortnight ago it was Amit Shah in Gujarat; last fortnight it was Kalmadi and his team. Ironically, the same media steadfastly refuses to turn the mirror inwards. Paid news is an established fact of life, and despite much breast-beating by some well-meaning media professionals it continues unabated. Any attempt to extend the scope of libel or falsehood laws to TV through an electronic media counterpart of the Press Council of India is fiercely resisted with cries of "Freedom in danger" renting the air.


Third, at the risk of sounding like a dinosaur, I must reiterate that India's national prestige is closely associated with the Games. If we put up a miserable show and systems collapse during the fortnight-long event, the world will rightly laugh at us. As it is, India has won only grudging recognition as an economic power to reckon with. India's image, particularly in the West, may no longer be defined by maharajas and snake charmers, but is not exactly flattering either. Indians are regarded as duplicitous, corrupt, inefficient and self-serving, among other attributes. We don't need to accept the Western perception for they are themselves guilty of many such things and their sniggering attitude often belies the deep discomfort they have with non-white nations surging ahead in the global economic race. 


But the current uproar over CWG has ended up confirming almost every element of the Western critique of India's shortcomings. Undoubtedly, corruption in high places must be probed and minimised if not eliminated if India is to assume its rightful place in the global pecking order. My point is only about the timing of the hoopla and the effect it is having on participating countries. The Western media is exultant with these reports and they are being played up in countries like Britain, Australia and Canada severely denting our reputation.


This is not to suggest that the CVC or CAG should have stayed clear of the issue. They have done their job. But now it is for the Government to order its investigative agencies to probe or, better still, promise a judicial inquiry into the charges once the Games conclude. Prima facie all agencies involved in building sporting and urban infrastructure for CWG appear guilty of corruption in various magnitudes. Some of this is evident from the slipshod manner in which roads have been widened, pavements laid and re-laid, stadiums renovated and so on. But the fact is that whatever the lapses, we have to make do with that as no time is left to rectify them to everybody's satisfaction. Besides, some teething trouble is inevitable when gigantic sports facilities are built; every mega-event venue in the world has faced these. 


Arguably, building of the infrastructure should have commenced and been completed at least six months earlier. As a resident of Delhi, I am in fact, more upset about the haphazard planning and execution of city projects that will be here to stay long after the Games are over. It was reported some time ago that the much-touted Barapulla Elevated Road is so wrongly aligned that there is a yawning six-inch elevation gap between the main corridor and the clover through which vehicles will access Ring Road. Surprisingly, this astonishing case of criminal negligence on the part of engineers has hardly received attention. Similarly, if stadium roofs are leaking the CWG OC can hardly be blamed for it as civic agencies were responsible for building these venues.

Comparisons are nowadays being drawn with Asiad 1982 as if it was Rajiv Gandhi's sole genius that was responsible for its success. The fact is that the scale of operations for that event held almost 30 years ago was significantly smaller than CWG which has bequeathed two permanent landmarks to Delhi — a gigantic world-class airport and a vastly expanded metro network, Asiad 82 contributed only seven flyovers in terms of city infrastructure, The real difference between then and now is that India was poorer then but still took pride in its destiny and aspirations. Today, a significantly more cynical nation thinks "national pride" is merely a smokescreen for corruption. Quoting Mark Twain, a leading national daily even debunked it as the "last refuge of scoundrels". I for one am ready to be counted among the scoundrels because the nation's pride is important to me; it's not a 'refuge', first or last.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

GOVT, OPP MADE FOR EACH OTHER

SWAPAN DASGUPTA


For the first time since its re-election in May 2009, the UPA Government conveys an unmistakable impression of being in utter disarray. The tell-tale signs of a regime losing direction are all too apparent. The oft-repeated promise, made at the beginning of the year and subsequently, to bring inflation under control, has turned out to be hollow. The Kashmir Valley which enjoyed two years of relative calm has erupted viciously, much to the delight of Islamabad. The 'peace process' with Pakistan which features very high on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's agenda has floundered horribly, leaving Indian diplomacy in a state of incoherence. There is an undeclared civil war within the Congress on various issues, with its General Secretary Digvijay Singh openly questioning the political sagacity of Home Minister P Chidambaram on the battle against Maoists. In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress has experienced a humiliating debacle in the by-elections in the Telangana region. And finally, the extravagant 'coming out party' for a resurgent India that was to have coincided with the Commonwealth Games in October, has left India's international image in tatters, with the Congress caught between the need to save "national honour" and yet maintain a healthy distance from a party MP who is fast becoming the personification of sleaze. 


In normal circumstances, the appearance of political vulnerability should have had those in power scurrying to call in disaster management experts. The mood in the governing establishment is, however, far from purposeful. The party is still proceeding on the assumption that all is well and the present difficulties are a storm in the teacup. 

The sense of complacency, somewhat reminiscent of the smug reassurance of the British in "fortress Singapore" in the last month of 1941, is based on the belief that the Opposition has been hobbled in a series of pre-emptive strikes. In Gujarat, the dangerous Narendra Modi is thought to be beleaguered on account of the assault launched by the Congress' crack 'special operations' team, aka CBI. In Karnataka, the kerfuffle over the Reddy brothers of Bellary has given the State Congress ammunition for a more conventional war. In West Bengal, a rampaging Mamata Banerjee is causing endless grief to a dispirited CPI(M). 


And as an act of bravado, the China-friendly Minister of Environment has carried the spirit of political vendetta to Odisha, against a Naveen Patnaik Government whose only crime is to have won three consecutive elections. Jairam Ramesh has earned himself lots of brownie points by endorsing the Delhi Government's transformation of India's greenest metropolis into a concrete jungle and yet playing spoiler to the Posco project that subverts the interests of countries which view India as an endless source of raw materials.


The Congress belief that an Opposition more concerned with hosting the equivalent of kitty parties, where MPs and leaders can showcase the careers they perhaps should have pursued, is incapable of mounting a serious political challenge to the Manmohan Singh Government may well be right. On the CWG controversy, for example, a section of the BJP leadership has entered into cozy sweetheart arrangements with the ruling establishment and been sufficiently compromised into offering nothing more than token resistance. A wing of the CPI(M) is so anxious to settle scores with its General Secretary Prakash Karat that it has little inhibition about wanting to 'settle' with the Congress at the national level in return for a covert anti-Mamata understanding in West Bengal. A faction of the Janata Dal (U) has been pressing Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to jump into bed with the Congress, an arrangement they believe could lead to a happy convergence of interests in both Patna and Delhi. 


The creation of a compromised, 'loyal' Opposition is a legitimate part of politics, and a strategy that both the UPA and NDA have, during their stints in office, deployed. Yet, even a discredited and wilfully ineffective Opposition cannot help the Government if it is unwilling to help itself. Unless it specialises in its own shenanigans, the focus of any electorate is not primarily on the Opposition but on the Government. Unless the Government does it what it has been elected to do, and does it well and with a measure of integrity, it cannot use the reality of a disjointed Opposition to press its case for re-election. 


The Congress does not have anything approaching a simple majority of Lok Sabha seats. It is dependent on its two major allies, DMK and Trinamool Congress, and a clutch of smaller UPA partners to see it through the Lok Sabha. Moreover, it needs the RJD and even the Samajwadi Party to feel comfortable. It is, therefore, quite astonishing that the Congress often gives the impression that its position is akin to that enjoyed by the Nehru-Gandhi family in its heyday. Had this been a conscious bluff, a part of a psychological operation against the enemy, it would have been understandable. However, it would seem that the Congress is convinced of its imagined net high worth and is proceeding on the belief that a few acts of dereliction, waywardness and truancy will not jeopardise its innate infallibility. After all, or so the argument goes, the party has two further aces up its sleeve: an Opposition that lacks self-confidence and, most important, the real leader who will seek his rightful inheritance before the next election. 

 

The game plan seems quite attractive-assuming it is a game plan at all-but for two imponderables. What if the sheer exasperation of the electorate throws up an Opposition leader who seeks victory rather than settling for a small nest egg? And what if the heir apparent finds the mess he has inherited is incapable of a quick-fix solution? Worse, what if the electorate sees UPA rule as a continuum and not something that can be divided into neat time zones-the dismal present befitting a Singh and a golden future worthy of the King? 

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

KERALA'S SLIDE INTO RADICAL ISLAMISM

KANCHAN GUPTA


There's nothing surprising about the rash-like emergence of violent Islamism in Kerala. God's Own Country, as Kerala was known for its natural splendour and cultural heritage, is rapidly turning into the springboard of jihad in India. This hasn't happened overnight, nor has Islamism spread its tentacles over the past few months to make its presence felt in the most shocking manner: The attack on a professor for allegedly denigrating Islam has served to highlight the seeping terror unleashed by homegrown jihadis. 


The rain-gorged verdant plains and hills along the lush Malabar coast are fast turning into the billious green of radical Islam. Roadside brick-and-mortar glass-fronted shrines dedicated to Virgin Mary with flickering candles lit by the devout and ancient temples with amazing hand-crafted brassware and bell metal utensils that once celebrated the Hinduness of Kerala are overshadowed by spanking new mosques that seem to be mushrooming all over the place. Not only are they built with Arab money — donations by Muslim Malayalees working in Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia, add up to only a fraction of the cost — but they also symbolise the increasing influence of Arab 'culture', which is largely about visible manifestations of Islam and Islamism, that threatens to stamp out Kerala's rich indigenous culture rooted in India's civilisational past.


Huge billboards, advertising 'Arab Pardha' in English and Arabic, now jostle for space along with those advertising jewellery, new apartment blocks and investment schemes. The 'Arab Pardha' billboards are illustrated with larger than life images of women clad in head-to-toe burqas: They look shapeless and formless, their identity smothered by black fabric and their eyes barely visible through slits. "Arab Pardha", declares one billboard, "All pious women should wear it." The copywriter has it all wrong; it should have read, "All pious women should disappear behind it." For, that's what the burqa is meant for — to make women disappear, make them invisible, deny them the right to exist as individuals. Any argument to the contrary is spurious and any religious edict cited in support of this grotesque suppression of individual liberty is specious.


But there is a larger purpose behind propagating the 'Arab Pardha', or purdah, which is insidious and frightening for those who value freedom. This is one of the many instruments adopted by Islamists to push their agenda of radicalising Muslims and imposing their worldview on others without so much as even a token resistance by either civil society or the state. The darkness of the world in which they live is now being forced on us. Decades ago Nirad C Chaudhuri was to record in his celebrated essay, The Continent of Circe, "Whenever in the streets of Delhi I see a Muslim woman in a burqa, the Islamic veil, I apostrophise her mentally: 'Sister! you are the symbol of your community in India.' The entire body of Muslims are under a black veil." The Continent of Circe was first published in 1966; forty-one years later, the community wants the black veil, the 'Arab Pardha', to envelope 'secular' India.


Kerala's 'Arab Pardha' billboards are a taunting reminder that in 'secular' India we must remain mute witness to the communalisation of culture, politics and society by peddlers of Islamism and its offensive agenda that is rooted in the most obnoxious interpretation of what Mohammed preached millennia ago. Even the economy has not been spared: Islamic banking, Islamic investments and Islamic financial instruments have surreptitiously entered this country under the benign gaze of an indulgent UPA Government whose Prime Minister spends sleepless nights agonising over the plight of Islamic terrorists and demands that all Government initiatives must be anchored in his perverse 'Muslims first' policy. The Prime Minister's admirers claim he is a "sensitive person" who is easily moved by the "plight of the helpless". Had he been moved by the pathetic sight of a Muslim woman, as much an Indian as all of us, forced to wear an 'Arab Pardha', his claimed sensitivities would have carried conviction. But such expression of sympathy, if not resolve to combat the insidious gameplan of Islamists inspired by hate-mongers and preachers of intolerance who draw their sustenance from the fruit of the poison tree of Wahaabism that flourishes in the sterile sands of Arabia, would demand a great degree of intellectual integrity and moral courage. The Prime Minister may be an "accidental politician", but he is a practitioner of politics of cynicism. For that, you neither need intellectual integrity nor moral courage.

Every time there is criticism of the Islamic veil, which comes in various forms of indignity — the hijab, the niqab, the burqa, the chador — whether from within or outside the Muslim community, we hear the frayed argument: It's a matter of personal choice; it's an expression of religiosity; it's culture-specific; it's a minority community's right, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. All that and more is balderdash, not least because there is no Quranic injunction that mandates a Muslim woman to wear an 'Arab Pardha'. Given the nature of the community's social hierarchy and the grip of the mullahs, rarely does a woman protest, leave alone rebel. Those who do, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalian activist whose book The Caged Virgin provides a revealing insight into Islamism's warped religio-political ideology, are hounded and live in perpetual fear of losing their lives. Blasphemy is not tolerated by those who live in a world darker than the darkest burqa, a world in which even Barbie wears the Islamic veil lest her plastic modesty be compromised.


But this is not only about the denial of an individual's liberty, nor is it about the suppression of human rights in the name of faith. It is about the in-your-face declaration of Islamists that they can have their way without so much as lifting their little finger. It is a laughable sight to watch Malayalees trying to navigate crowded streets in Kochi wearing white Arab gelabayas, the loose kaftan like dress that along with thekafeyah — or 'Arab rumal' — has become a symbol of trans-national radical Islam, their 'Arab Pardha' clad wives and daughters in tow. But it is not a laughable matter.


Increasingly, we are witnessing a shifting of loyalties from Malabar to Manipur. Faith in India is being transplanted by belief in Arabia. This should alarm those who believe in the Indian nation as a secular entity. 


-- Follow the writer on: http://twitter.com/KanchanGupta. Blog on this and other issues at http://kanchangupta.blogspot.com. Write to him at kanchangupta@rocketmail.com 

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

EXPENSIVE SOLAR POWER CAN MEAN ANOTHER ENRON

S A AIYAR

 

What's desirable is often not practical. The National Solar Mission has set a target of 20,000 MW of solar electricity by 2020. This may be desirable, but at today's solar technology costs, it will be economic suicide. 

Remember that just 700 MW of high-priced power from Enron in 2001 was enough to bankrupt the Maharashtra government, which therefore refused to pay. At the time, Enron's power cost Rs 4 per unit if run at 90% capacity, and Rs 7 per unit if run at less than half capacity, as was often the case. Solar power today costs Rs 9 to Rs 10 per unit in roof-top photovoltaic panels and other applications.

 

Hopefully, technological breakthroughs in the next decade will send costs crashing and make solar power economical.  Rich countries are spending billions of dollars on solar R&D. The National Solar Mission Plan hopes to reduce the cost to Rs 4 to Rs 5 per unit by 2017-20 in order to make solar power competitive with coal-based power. But this represents a hope unsupported by any track record and grossly overestimates the cost of rival coal-based power.


Globally, no technical breakthrough may come. After the second oil shock in 1980, many hoped that amorphous silicon and other photovoltaic technologies would make solar power economical. Alas, photovoltaics remain hopelessly uneconomical today.

 

Meanwhile a breakthrough has come in concentrated solar thermal (CST) technology, using parabolic mirrors. Pilot CST projects in the US and Spain have raised hopes of solar power at Rs 5 per unit. But this is still far higher than the tariff per unit for India's ultra-mega power projects at Sasan (Rs 1.19), Tilaiya (Rs 1.77), Mundra (Rs 2.26) and Krishnapatnam (Rs 2.33).  The first two are based on Indian coal, and the other two on imported coal. Even allowing for rising coal import prices and a heavy carbon tax, coal-based power looks much cheaper.

 

Now, some private power plants are selling limited amounts of electricity at Rs 6 to Rs 7 per unit to industries desperate for power. This encourages the government to think it can bundle expensive solar power with cheap coal-based power, and remain viable. Maybe, but remember, this was exactly the argument used for Enron — that expensive Enron power could be bundled with cheap power from MSEB stations — and it proved a financial fiasco.

 

Besides, solar power needs a lot of land. This can be neglected in a small pilot project, but not in large, commercial projects.  The biggest CST projects in the US use 6 to 10 acres per MW of power.  By this yardstick, even a pilot project of 100 MW requires 600 to 1,000 acres of land.  A commercial project of 1,000 MW needs 6,000 to 10,000 acres. After the troubles of Tata Motors at Singur and Posco in Orissa, we must be cautious about land-intensive projects.

 

State governments rightly want companies to buy land at commercial rates, not ask for acquisition. The market rate in many states is now Rs10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per acre. So, 1,000 acres for a small solar project could cost a whopping Rs 100 crore to Rs 200 crore, making it totally uneconomical.

 

Cheaper land is available in the deserts of Kutch and Rajasthan. But even in Kutch, industrialists have paid Rs 2 lakh to Rs 10 lakh per acre. Besides, CST projects need huge amounts of water for cooling towers, and the Rajasthan desert is inappropriate for that. However, CST plants in Kutch could use sea water.

 

So, while solar power is desirable, we should proceed cautiously.  Global spending on solar R&D runs into billions, and any breakthroughs will come from abroad. We should not waste money duplicating global R&D. Rather, we should limit ourselves to pilot projects, testing the best global technologies in Indian conditions.

 

If global technical breakthroughs arrive, then we can scale up in a big way. That will not require fancy National Solar Missions. Private entrepreneurs will flock to build solar plants once they are proved viable. But if no breakthrough comes, we must not waste money on an arbitrary target of 20,000 MW of solar power by 2020. We must learn from the fiascos of Enron and Singur.

 

A small voice in my head tells me i may be on the wrong track. "Swami, the government knows all this. But it needs to do something in global climate negotiations. The US will not come on board unless China and India are seen contributing, and without US participation the climate talks will fail. So, we have made fancy long-term projections — 20,000 MW by 2020; 100,000 MW by 2030 — getting good publicity. But our near-term target of 1,000 MW by 2013 implies no more than some pilot projects. This will keep climate negotiations going at little cost."

 

Is that the government's hidden agenda? If so, I need to think again.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF THE CWG SCANDAL

SHOBHAA DE

 

Let's call it the best bum deal in the world! Going by reports, Commonwealth Games (CWG) athletes will be completing their daily ablutions in royal style (though, most of today's kadka royals cannot afford such absurdities). Toilet paper rolls at 4,000 bucks a pop, are what will define the stink created by the corruption corroding the prestigious CWG. People may eventually forget the treadmills, taxis and poorly finished surfaces. But who can ever get over Kalmadi and Co placing orders for the priciest butt-cleaning paper in the world? Scraping the bottom of the barrel? Eventually, it was the infamous "let them eat cake" quote that got Marie Antoinette into big trouble. She, poor lady, had her head chopped off. But here in India, heads never roll — the only thing that ever does, is currency. So why are we feigning surprise at what's going on? Is it the monumental scale that's getting to us? As if to say: "Thoda thoda corruption is fine. Chalta hai. But this is too much, yaar!" It is this staggering and brazen flouting of all rules that has finally made us sit up and demand explanations. Frankly, it's a bit late in the day to do anything about the gargantuan mess. Let's face it — what are the options? Scrap the bloody games and book the culprits? That's not going to happen.  Sorry to bring in a sidetrack (as they say in Bollywood), but has anything of consequence happened to the top-bracket star cast of the IPL saga? Similarly, in this sordid drama too, a lot of noise will be made across news channels. Heavy duty panelists will hold forth. A couple of sting operations may get the sluggish TRPs going into overdrive; there will be a few more exposes... finito. All of this is seen as entertainment of a nasty kind —  a night cap that helps viewers sleep better. We go to bed thinking, "Oh good! Something is being done, after all. Let's see how those rascals get out of this mess." By the next morning, once reality kicks in, we know it was a particularly grim midsummer night's dream. And even with more dirty details emerging from those clogged toilets…err, CWG offices,  Kalmadi and Co will still be around, crowing about their myriad achievements. Besides, what's the point in sacking him at this stage? That's hardly going to salvage the doomed CWG. Or get back our money.

 

I have a better suggestion for all those fat cats who have traipsed around the world at taxpayers' expense looking for the softest toilet paper: Why don't we push them onto those high-end Rs 10 lakh-a-grunt treadmills and get them to sweat away their culpability? It would be in the fitness of things, surely. Let them be the ones to twist their ankles on poorly surfaced tracks. Why not use them as guinea pigs to check out the various facilities and risk their lives under crumbling roofs? Let the officials supervising synchronized swimming with just three participants training in America get into the deep end of the pool themselves to make up the numbers. Why not televise Darbari's open darbar as he explains all the wheels within wheels and deals within deals? As a reality show, it would give Salman Khan's latest gig a run for its money. As for those flower pots bought at a staggering Rs 30 crore (money plants suddenly got a whole new meaning), since they have been dubbed a security risk, perhaps our weightlifters can put them to some use, unless of course, a Rs 80-crore order for dumb bells (diamond-studded and made of pure gold) is already in place. Now what do we do with the sub-standard 14 synthetic surfaces at the R K Khanna tennis complex? Why not chop them up and sell them at Mumbai's Chor Bazar as imported-from-Australia carpets? That way, we'll be able to recover a part of the monumental cost. In fact, India excels at recycling any damn thing and this is our opportunity to do so – nearly everything we have paid top buck for has the potential for reuse (except the toilet paper). Maybe that was the whole idea. Maybe the shopping list has already gone out to interested parties to submit tenders. That's us — geniuses when it comes to making money several times over from the same product.

 

The real fault lies with the name of the games. Who told the organizers to call them 'Commonwealth Games' in the first place? Why blame our officials for taking that literally? It's not their fault that they thought the 'wealth' was 'common' and decided to share it generously with family and friends. Look at the misunderstanding that has caused! Hardly any time left, and there is still some wealth that remains to be shared. Indian taxpayers are most understanding. They realize it is a matter of national prestige. They won't mind if more funds are allocated at this stage. They also won't say a word if the Games do get cancelled and the insurance companies refuse to pay up. Our citizens are asli patriots; "my country first" they vow, even as fictitious Swiss and British companies pop out of the woodwork and nimble officers pole-vault over damaging evidence. One thing has been established — Kalmadi and Co can create new world records for hurdles, long jump and high jump. They have excelled in all three and are getting ready for the decathlon. But it is the stamina required of a determined long-distance runner that will eventually provide key answers to investigators. That is, if anyone is at all serious about getting to the bottom (oops! wrong word) of this scandal.

 

One question: now that India has discovered toilet paper, what happens to the lowly lota?

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

A VALLEY RIVEN BY ANGER & HISTORY

M J AKBAR

 

General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the chief, was commissioned in August 1971. The other four-star general in the Pakistan army, Tariq Majeed, is due to retire on October 7, which makes him an exact contemporary. Lt Gen Khalid Shameem Wyne, chief of general staff, will lay down his baton on March 8 next year and is consequently just a few months junior. Lt Gen Syed Absar Hussain, who is in charge of Army Strategic Forces, was at the Command and Staff College in Quetta in 1971. He got his artillery commission in April 1972. Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha, director-general of the ISI, is already on extension, so is of Kayani's age. Lt Gen Javed Zia, head of Southern Command, Quetta, Lt Gen Muhammad Mustafa Khan, commanding 1 Corps, and Lt Gen Shahid Iqbal of V Corps are retiring either this year or next.

 

What do the men at the top of Pakistan's army have in common? They are officers of the "traumatized generation". Each joined an army that had been humiliated in the 1971 war, which ended not only in the gut-wrenching surrender of more than 90,000 troops to an Indian general, but the partition of Pakistan and the reinvention of the East as Bangladesh. The only war that Kayani has fought, barring recent civil wars of course, is the game-changing 1971 conflict.

 

His generation, still burning with an adolescent heartache that can never quite heal, has had a silent, consuming mission: revenge for Bangladesh through Kashmir, preferably within its career span or at least in its lifetime. The tortured angst of zealots is even more acute because in their fevered imagination, a "Muslim" army on jihad had been disgraced by a "Hindu" force. If the status of Kashmir changes in the next five years, this generation will have realized its religio-nationalist fantasy.

 

The Indian analysis of Bangladesh differs from the Pakistan narrative: we believe that the Indian Army's intervention in 1971, formalized by an infructuous Pakistan air strike on the night of December 5, was only the last paragraph of a long suicide note written by an incompetent president, Yahya Khan, and a brilliant megalomaniac, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. We believe a series of racist political mistakes was topped by denying Sheikh Mujibur Rahman a chance to form the government after he had won a majority in a general election.

 

Four decades later, Pakistan is waiting for Omar Abdullah to become the Yahya Khan of Kashmir, and tweaking events with just enough intervention to help a mistake gravitate towards a crisis. This may sound far-fetched in Delhi, but there is optimism in Islamabad. The Jamaat e-Islami, which advocates accession to Pakistan, is, at long last, in the vanguard of an upsurge; the slogan on the streets is that Omar may be in government but the Jamaat's Syed Ali Shah Geelani is in power. From across the LoC, Syed Salahuddin, leader of the Pakistan-sponsored Hizbul Mujahideen, urges Kashmiris, in a speech widely believed to have been delivered through a mobile phone and broadcast over microphones, to flood the streets as victory is imminent.

 

There was little premonition of this summer's conflagration. Last year's elections passed off so peacefully that there were self-congratulatory smiles all around. Calm bred complacency, and its principal side-effect, arrogance. A death on June 11 was shrugged off as an incident. It took eight weeks for Delhi to rise from slumber, and then only to offer boring clichés as balm. Shoot-at-sight orders have had no effect: you can't shoot a whole city.

 

Estimates differ but the death toll in Kashmir between June and the first week of August is around 40. Rampaging Muhajirs, outraged at the murder of their Shia leader, Syed Raza Haider on Monday, have killed more than 80 and injured hundreds of Pashtuns in Karachi. This was not a Hindu-Muslim riot; this was Muslim-Muslim carnage. Muhajirs are UP-Bihar migrants who left their land in 1947 for the Promised Land. Six decades later, they need private militias to defend themselves because they offend Pathans in a "pure" country that has virtually eliminated "infidels" from its demography.

 

It is an evil moment in history when a corpse-count becomes the comparative difference between two nations. A fact is staring at us: 1947 unhinged Muslims of the subcontinent, and a once-cogent community is split politically and psychologically, inflamed by passions that veer between unhealthy fear, violent anger and dysfunctional dreams. If Kashmiri Muslims believe they can achieve independence, then they understand neither India nor Pakistan.

 

Generals are transient. Pakistan's generals do not count corpses because they believe that death is a mere statistic in a larger war. Democracy transcends the prejudice of generations, and demands a ruling culture far beyond the ambitions of any coterie. India cannot diet on such cold calculations. A daily drip of blood has corroded the credibility of Srinagar's government. If the mood of the people does not change, the government must. 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

OBAMA'S FOCUS IS PAK DUPLICITY

DILEEP PADGAONKAR

 

In the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures about how the war in Afghanistan has turned out to be a nightmare for the American-led international forces, analysts had rushed to conclude that the US Congress would compel President Obama to bow to domestic public opinion, which wants American soldiers to be brought home at the earliest. But statements made at the highest levels of his administration over the past week suggest otherwise. They point to the emergence of a more coherent and better focused strategy to arrest, roll back and eventually eliminate the influence of al-Qaida and its Taliban affiliates in that beleaguered country. 


The most significant element of the strategy is that the deadline for the start of the withdrawal of US troops — scheduled for July 2011 — is not set in stone. On ABC's "This Week", defence secretary Robert Gates asserted that the drawdown will be limited in nature. Lots of troops will still be around 19 months from now. 

This spells bad news for Pakistan's army. Its conduct in the war has been rooted in the belief that all it has to do until the Americans pack up and leave is to run with the Taliban hare even while claiming to hunt with the American hound. The double-dealing won't work anymore. Not least because in the same interview to ABC, Gates also announced that the US is undertaking a major build-up in eastern Afghanistan — the stronghold of the Haqqani faction of the Taliban, which has been attacking the international forces — in order to have a "decisive push against terrorist safe havens close to the borders with Pakistan". The operations, he added, will be mounted on "both sides of the border" to prevent the terrorists from crossing it. 

 

It is this Haqqani faction that the Pakistani army and ISI have been cultivating in the hope that it will stake a claim in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul once the US forces exit. It was reckoned that this would go some way to realizing Pakistan's goal of gaining "strategic depth" in Afghanistan. The army will surely be constrained when it comes to cooperating with the international forces to smash the Haqqani network because the Americans have let it be known they will deploy high-end weaponry to kill the network's leaders and hardcore supporters. 


Such a development is bound to widen the rifts between the Taliban and the Pakistani army. Several recent reports suggest that relations between the GHQ and its protégés are already strained to breaking point as a result of Pakistan's two-faced policy. Taliban leaders have been arrested and even killed at America's behest since 9/11. One of them told Newsweek: "They feed us with one hand and kill us with the other." The Afghan insurgents are convinced more than ever before that the only thing that interests Pakistan is to promote its national interest. That interest now lies in influencing Afghan politics in order to neutralize India's presence in the country. 


To sweeten the bitter pill that the Pakistani army will be forced to swallow, Gates reassured it that America will not repeat what it did after the defeat of the Soviets — pack up and go, leaving Pakistan to collect the debris. He seemed to suggest that this provoked the change in "strategic calculus". Could that have prompted Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan's envoy in Washington, to tell an American news channel that neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan would have any truck with a Taliban-style regime? 


President Obama himself has spelt out America's emerging strategy with clarity and vigour. Speaking in Atlanta, the president warned that his administration would "not tolerate" sanctuaries for terrorist outfits in Pakistan. It is from Afghan and Pakistani soil that they plotted and trained people to murder innocents in America and in countries allied to it. Should Afghanistan be engulfed by a wider insurgency, he added, al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates would have even more space to plan their next attack. He promised he would not let that happen. He did not show any concern about the July 2011 deadline for the drawdown. 


In the days and weeks ahead, New Delhi will need to know whether any quid pro quo is involved between the US and Pakistan in the conduct of the war. Will Washington go some way to address Islamabad's concerns about Kashmir and the Indian presence in Afghanistan? Or will it bring pressure to bear on Islamabad to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to book and dismantle terrorist outfits operating on its soil? 

New Delhi's leverage in this unfolding scenario would be strengthened if it moved swiftly to end the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir. It needs to reach out to all sections of opinion in the Valley and pay genuine heed to Kashmiris' grievances. A rigid law-and-order approach alone would be counter-productive. That requires bold thinking and prompt action. Both, alas, are not much in evidence at present.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ALL THE MATTERS

'I AM AN AMERICAN AS MUCH AS AN INDIAN AND MUSLIM'

SHOBHAN SAXENA

 

In 2009, President Barack Obama offered an olive branch to the Muslim world with a flowery speech at Cairo. It was seen as a break from the Bush years. Rashad Hussain, a Washington attorney of Indian origin, was seen as crucial to it. This year, Obama named Hussain his special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) and tasked with engaging with Muslim communities around the world. Hussain was in India earlier this week, travelling to Aligarh, Patna, Mumbai and Delhi. He told Shobhan Saxena about the challenges of America's engagement with the Islamic world. Excerpts: 


The US believes in the separation of church and state. Why does it support an organization that represents only Muslim countries? 

As the president outlined at Cairo, we seek partnership with people all over the world and that means we work with people on areas of shared interest and mutual responsibility. The president is engaging Muslims based on the realization that people, whether they are Muslims, Hindus, Christians or Jews, have the same fundamental aspirations and concerns. They want to make sure that they are able to care for their families; they are concerned about jobs, education and healthcare. The basis for the president's interest in improving relations with Muslim community lies in the fact that we should be working together in these areas. 


But many of these countries don't share the American values of democracy, human rights, women's rights, etc. Isn't that a problem? 

No. If you look at their charter, the OIC is very interested in moving forward in those areas. Many of these countries share those values with us and we realize that we do not always have to agree with what the OIC is doing but our goal is to maximize the areas of agreement, improve our relations and come to peaceful resolution

when there are dispute. 


Do you think it would be a good idea if all the Christian countries came together, like the OIC, to create a group with a political voice? 

We are dealing with the world on the basis of the way it exists and recognizing that there is an organization of Islamic countries. We use it as an opportunity to engage those countries. There isn't unanimity on all issues within even the OIC countries. It's important for us to have bilateral relations with those countries as well. I am visiting not only OIC members but also Muslim communities generally. India is not a member of OIC but I am here. 

Shouldn't India be a member of the OIC? 

That's a matter for the OIC and India to decide. In 1969, India almost joined the OIC but the idea was shot down by Pakistan. Pakistan is a close ally of yours — can you influence Islamabad to accept India in the OIC? 


Pakistan, acting as an individual country within that body, is part of the process by which the OIC determines who is and who isn't a member. We leave that to the OIC and its members to decide. 

 

India has had a few spats with the OIC over the organization's stated commitment to the "Kashmiri struggle". The OIC has dismissed the 26/11 attack as an "incident". Is this organization in synch with the 21st century? 

There are certain areas of agreement that we have with the OIC and those are the areas we are expanding our cooperation with. Our engagement with OIC doesn't mean that we are in agreement on every issue and it doesn't mean that we take a position on every issue that the OIC has taken a position on. 

Ever since Obama moved into the White House, the US has been trying to engage with the Muslim world. But how do you convert the positive words into policy? 

We think that we have made tremendous progress since the president came into office. We still have a lot of work to do. But we see progress on three fronts. First, the president has created a comprehensive framework for engaging Muslim communities around the world. He realizes that our engagement should be based on the fact that people all over the world share many concerns and we shouldn't engage one-fourth of the world population on the basis of the belief of a fringe group. Second, we have created partnerships in a number of areas, including programmes in education and healthcare even in India. The third major area is political as the president talked about the source of tension between the US and Muslim world. The US is committed to ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we are actively seeking a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. These are all areas of change. Just getting the relationship back on track and creating a framework for engagement is a huge accomplishment. 


Where does India figure in this strategy? 

We have cooperation with India on a number of fronts. Certainly, one part of that comprehensive, broad partnership with India is continuing to work with Muslim community here. 


Is there any particular reason Obama chose you, an Indian-American Muslim, to represent the US at the OIC? 
I wouldn't say so much because I was Indian as it is that someone who has worked on partnerships and the frameworks that the president has articulated and someone who is from the Muslim community in the US. I started off in the administration working as an attorney. I didn't come to administration as a Muslim. 

How do you see yourself — an American, an Indian-American, an American Muslim, an Indian Muslim? 

I am very proud of my Indian roots and I am very happy to be back here. My Indian identity is as strong a part of me as my American identity and my Muslim identity. 


Have you ever felt that your Indian background is a baggage? 


I think one of the beautiful things about America is that we embrace diversity. So I am proud that I am person of Indian origin. I embrace my Indian identity completely. 


How did you keep in touch with your roots? 

It was primarily through family. But we were in touch with what was going on in the cricket world and Bollywood.


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HINDUSTAN TIMES

REFLECTION

INDIA'S NOT A SERIOUS PLAYER IN THIS GAME

VIR SANGHVI

 

International sporting events are meant to serve as advertisements for their host countries. The recently-concluded soccer World Cup demonstrated that no matter what we may have read, South Africa was well-organised enough to host a global tournament with style and élan. The last Olympics served as China's coming-out party to the world in much the same way as the 1964 Olympics served notice that Japan was ready to became an international player.

 

I think we can all agree that there is little hope that the Commonwealth Games will be a global advertisement for India. Forget about replicating the success of the South African World Cup or the Chinese Olympics, it seems likely that these Games will not even approach the success of the 1982 Asiad.

 

I am enough of an optimist to believe that in true Indian fashion we will manage to ride over all the obstacles at the last minute and that the Games will not be the fiasco that some writers are predicting. But I do believe that the mess we find ourselves in raises certain long-term questions which deserve answers.

 

I have no desire to sit in judgement over Suresh Kalmadi who loudly protested his innocence in an interview to HT on Thursday but even a four-yearold can tell that the Games reek of corruption and dishonesty.

 

The sheer weight of the charges -kickbacks, needless commissions to mysterious off-shore companies, forged letters, unexplained payments to nonexistent London firms, inflated purchase figures, etc. -is so great that no denials will seem convincing. Clearly a lot of people have got very rich out of these Games.

 

Now that the skeletons are tumbling out, the organisers of the Games are blackmailing us. We may be crooks, they say, but if you act against us then this could endanger the Games which are only a few weeks away. So like it or not, you are stuck with us.

 

The problem is that they may be right. Any action against the crooks may have to wait till the Games are over. The racketeers are hoping that, in classic Indian style, if the Games go off relatively well, we will forget about these charges.

 

Here too, they may be right. The fact that people who are famed for their corruption have been put in charge of organising the Games shows how little accountability there is in the Indian system. No matter how much of a sleazeball you are regarded as, you can always manipulate your way to the top of the system.

 

So, here's my question: why does the Indian system allow crooks to get so far? Why does it take the media to expose the level of rank dishonesty?

 

The Commonwealth Games mess is a symptom of many deeper malaises. One of them is the sickness that afflicts Indian sport. Many of the people who have been responsible for this mess -across sports federations -are the same people who have been running Indian sport for decades.

 

Because the Commonwealth Games are so high-profile, we have finally been forced to pay attention to what they are really up to. And everything we have learnt over the last four weeks confirms what sportsmen and women have been saying for decades: Indian sport is run by crooks who have no interest in sport but care only about their own wallets.

 

It is significant that in all the discussions about the Games the players have hardly been mentioned. We now treat it as a given that despite being the most populous country in the Commonwealth, we will not emerge at the top of the medals tally. The story of Indian sport (outside of cricket) is a story of permanent third-ratedness interrupted by brief spells of secondratedness.

 

So, here's my second question: why don't we look beyond these Games and ensure that the crooks who have brought Indian sport to this sorry pass are thrown out of sports organisations forever?

 

It is convenient to treat Suresh Kalmadi as the source of all that is wrong with the Games -and certainly he has a lot to answer for.

 

But the truth is that it isn't just the Games organisers who have failed. The leaking infrastructure, the collapsing roads, the delayed projects, the incomplete Games village, etc. have little to do with the Organising Committee.

 

They are entirely the fault of the government.

 

The Sports Authority of India, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA, under the Urban Development Ministry), the New Delhi Municipal Committee (NDMC) and the state government have all failed to meet their targets or to complete projects to international standards.

 

What's worse is that many of the cases that the Central Vigilance Commission is looking at relate to corruption within government bodies, not just the Organising Committee of the Games.

 

Yet, have you heard one central minister (I exclude the Delhi Chief Minister because she has been honest and upfront) accepting responsibility for the screw-ups or promising action against errant and dishonest officials?

 

They are all thrilled that Kalmadi is in the line of fire because it gets them off the hook. And sadly, we are content to let them get away with it.

 

So, here's my third question: why doesn't the government of India accept that it shares responsibility for the disaster? The government has failed to impose accountability on the organising committee; the sports ministry is a joke which should be renamed the `talk ministry'; and government departments have failed to deliver the infrastructure on schedule.

 

And finally, the big question. The Games will cost upwards of R 35,000 crore. Spend that money on improving the road traffic systems of Bombay and Delhi and you would reduce jams and congestion -a benefit the citizens of both cities would value more than the stadiums that have been built in the capital. Spend that money of developing an infrastructure for Indian sport at the mass level and you would give talented sports people a means of breaking through.

 

I use these two examples -rather than the hundreds of schools and hospitals you could build with this money -because the two arguments used to justify this expenditure are that a) Delhi will get civic improvements and b) that Indian sport will benefit.

 

Both are weak and unconvincing justifications.

 

In fact, there is only one reason for hosting an international sporting event: to show off your country to the world.

 

So, here's my final question: given that we have no desire to show Suresh Kalmadi off to the world; given that the Commonwealth Games are not a global event on par with say, the Olympics or the soccer World Cup; and given that sport is not the strongest selling point in the India story; should we be wasting so much money and diverting funds meant for Dalits and other poor people on such pointless spectacles?

 

There are things that India does well. And we should show them off.

But organising a sporting tournament is not one of them.

 

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

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

REFLECTION

A SILENT SHAME

KARAN THAPAR

 

'If 50 people were shot dead by the police on the streets of London what would the British government do?" This sharp question was how Pertie greeted me on my return from Britain last week. I mistook his inquiry for levity but he soon cut me short. "Would Cameron keep silent, appear unconcerned and unaffected, or would he fall over himself explaining and apologising?"

 

I realised Pertie had an important point to make. Whatever the cause and the necessity, how should an elected government — and, more specifically, an accountable prime minister — respond when security forces in Kashmir end up killing the very people they're intended to protect. But before I grappled with his question I tried to deflect it. "The CRPF did not intend to kill," I began. "They were forced to shoot to control rampaging crowds. And remember they were themselves under attack. They were being mercilessly pelted with stones."

 

I think Pertie snorted. At any rate he seemed to dismiss my response with contempt. "What do you mean they didn't intend to kill? Do you know that almost every single one of the 50 people killed were shot above the waist? Many were shot in the head. And remember the protestors were only throwing stones. Is shooting to kill the best, leave aside the only, way of tackling such protests?"

 

Pertie's argument seemed difficult to counter. I sensed the need for a tactical retreat. So I quickly changed subjects. "Why do you ask how David Cameron would handle a similar situation in London? What's that got to do with things?"

 

"Because our prime minister, Manmohan Singh, hasn't said a word. Literally not a squeak. It's almost as if he doesn't know or care. Or as if Kashmir doesn't count or isn't part of India. I simply can't fathom this silence. It's inexplicable."

 

"Well," I said, startled by this sudden realisation. "Perhaps he doesn't want to further inflame matters by saying anything. Perhaps in the circumstances silence is the most sensible course of action."

 

"You can only say that because you're not a parent. But if your kids were shot dead by policemen and the government had nothing to say you'd be livid. These were innocent children. Some of them were not even teenagers. And yet the government can't bring itself to express regret!"

 

Once again Pertie had me stumped. Democratic governments need to respond to such tragedies no matter how difficult, tricky or sensitive. Silence is never the answer. "But what should the PM have done?" It was a genuine question.

 

"Express deep regret, share his anguish and even, yes even, apologise." "Apologise?" My tone clearly conveyed my surprise. "What sort of apology do you mean?" "Even when something is essential and unavoidable you can apologise for having to do it. But in this case killing young people was neither essential nor unavoidable. It was gratuitous and uncalled for. So an apology is all the more necessary."

 

I suddenly remembered that Singh apologised in Parliament for the Sikh killings of 1984. Even after 20 years he felt the need to do so. He wasn't in anyway responsible yet this is what he said: "I bow my head in shame."

 

Today, in contrast, when he is the PM, he is silent. For all intent and purposes his head is held high. I wonder how the people of Kashmir — and, in particular, the parents who've lost their sons — feel when they notice the difference?

 

The views expressed by the author are personal 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

REFLECTION

WE, THE BAD GUYS

INDRAJIT HAZRA

 

Oh, it's not nice to be treated like a perpetrator. Especially when you've been weaned on tales of you being the victim. If the Shoah (Holocaust) has provided the Jews a protective sheath against any guilt for the Nakba (Catastrophe) of the Palestinians, it would be fair to say that India — victim of colonialism, victim of global capitalism, victim of terrorism, victim of plain old bad luck — is gobsmacked to even think that it could be the bad guy.

Right on top of every Kashmir pundit's priority of worries is the concern that he may be seen as naïve. So in a perpetual attempt to not be caught as a simpleton, we hear him say things that make the Kashmir problem complex. The very term 'Kashmir problem' itself is a giveaway. The pundits will yank things back to 1947, when the monarch of Jammu and Kashmir Hari Singh hastily gave into Nehru-Patel's Princely State stamp-collecting spree to protect his independent kingdom from Yusufzai raiders sent by Pakistan to expand its two-nation theory eastwards into Muslim-majority Kashmir. The pundits will talk about Pakistan, the anachronistic diplospeak of 'plebiscite', the need or not for 'tripartite talks', the Simla Accord, Pakistan, terrorism, Kargil, the Agra summit, 'vested interests' and, for good measure, more Pakistan.

 

But never in their living daylights are they able to realise the wisdom of that old chestnut of William of Occam: the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. And in the context of what's happening in Sopore, Srinagar and other parts of the Kashmir Valley since July, the simplest explanation — a.k.a. a simple observation — is: people are protesting against police forces killing people who are protesting against police forces killing people who...

 

This isn't a chicken-and-egg cycle. It's a variation of Newton's third law of motion: every police action of death or disappearance has an opposite, if hardly equal, reaction of stones hurled at policeman and violent mobs beating them up and burning down police stations.

 

It's difficult to think that the stones being hurled at security personnel have been smuggled in from Pakistan or that their hurlers, overwhelmingly teenagers but most visibly younger kids, are all being mobilised or goaded on by nefarious agents of the ISI. When you see the corpse of an eight-year-old boy, killed in a stampede caused by police firing on protestors, wrapped in white funereal cloth being carried by crowds, you come to either of the two conclusions: that the people who think that the policemen and their bosses are the victims must be mad; or, that by simply hurling stones at those who have, since July 11, regularly killed civilians — just to underline the fact that these people haven't yet morphed into 'terrorists' or 'insurgents' — Kashmiris are mad to have stopped at stone-throwing, police-beating and burning down police stations. We can think of doing those kind of things in helpless anger when stuck in bad traffic.

 

You don't have to be a Kashmiri pundit to realise that a new generation of Kashmiris are thrashing out against a high-handed 'shut up or we shoot' force. To think that all this is being orchestrated by a Geelani or an Alam or an Andrabi is like believing that the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in 80s Afghanistan were working solely for an American purpose. It's one thing to make hay while the sun shines and quite another to be the sun shining.

 

You do have to be a proverbial Kashmiri pundit to figure out why on earth New Delhi is not pulling out of the Valley. But surely you don't have to be the (strangely quiet?) prime minister to know who are the victims here. A week away from India's Independence Day and 79 days away from Jammu and Kashmir's Dependence Day (J&K acceded to India on October 26, 1947), young Kashmiris with forceful and angry bowling actions don't much care for history like they did some 20 years ago. All they care for is not one of their own to be shot dead by what any fool can see to be an occupying force. 

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

REFLECTION

LET'S CONTEST THIS

MANAS CHAKRAVARTY

 

Who could have imagined that the Commonwealth Games would be so exciting? Never has any sporting competition been so much fun, never has it been so widely and avidly followed. Games organisers from Beijing to London to Johannesburg are enviously asking just one question: how on earth did we manage it?

 

The simple secret of success, hatched from the fertile brains of the Organising Committee, lies in one powerful idea: pre-Games competitions. They knew that nobody gave a rat's fart about the Commonwealth Games —most countries didn't compete, star athletes avoided it like the plague and it was ignored on TV. The only way to grab eyeballs was to have a series of contests before the Games.

 

That's when they thought of breaking a few records. "Why not," said a bright spark in the committee with a brother-in-law in the umbrella business, "try to break the world record for buying things at the most outrageous prices? Things like umbrellas, for instance?" "Or even chairs, air-conditioners, treadmills?" he added, nodding to committee members with relatives in these businesses. And thus was born this remarkable game everybody is talking about. Why, the other day a contractor with the Pentagon, who held the world record in high-priced toilet rolls, was forced to admit defeat. Veteran purchasing managers in government departments have said that the way the committee has gone about buying things is an inspiration. 

 

The committee has also organised a series of slugfests. The Mani Shankar Aiyar versus Suresh Kalmadi bout, for example, was a great hit, with Aiyar landing a body blow with his quip that those who were organising the event were evil, while Kalmadi's riposte branding Aiyar anti-national was wildly cheered. TV channels airing the bout saw their TRPs zoom. Other fights with a large fan following include the Indian High Commissioner in London versus the Organising Committee, Aiyar vs M.S. Gill and CAG vs CWG. People were confused initially why the Commonwealth Acrobatic Group was against the Commonwealth Games, but that was cleared up when they realised CAG stood for Comptroller and Auditor General. For those who want to bet, CAG is the clear favourite.

 

Yet another contest they dreamed up was: which contractor could finish his project as close to the opening day of the Games as possible? It is because they want to come first in this Just-in-Time contest that stadiums haven't yet been completed and roofs haven't been fixed. The odds for the swimming pool winning this event are 30 to 1, but I have an inside tip it'll be completed seconds before the Games begin.

 

Another interesting competition is between cities that host such games and consists in trying to maximise the number of people they can evict. Beijing held the world record with its Olympic Games, but Delhi is now the clear winner, kicking out slum dwellers, homeless people, stray dogs, cows, donkeys, rats, beggars and even snakes with unparalleled zeal.

 

Other interesting pre-Games contests include who can forge the most e-mails, which roof leaks the most, who can tell the tallest tales and which official can make the most foreign trips.

 

Even the athletes are excited. "Every day at the Games will be an adventure," gushed one of them. "One never knows when a railing or roof will collapse, when the floor will cave in or when a track turns into mud. It puts an amazing zing into things." He added he wasn't worried about leaking roofs, as he would be protected by a R6,000 umbrella.

 

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MAKING THE CHANGE

MEGHNAD DESAI 

 

 Haroun-Al-Rashid used to go around his capital incognito to hear what his citizens were saying. Pranab Mukherji has had the inadvertent experience of suffering what his fellow citizens (or at least all those who own a mobile) suffer constantly. This is unwanted messages from people trying to sell things you do not want to buy. Luckily now that the powers-that-be know what it is like to be at the other end of an unwanted intrusion, we may have reforms on that score.

 

If only everything was that easy! If only Ministers knew what it was like to access public services while they drive in Delhi free of traffic snarls, even as citizens fume as they speed past with their lal battis and outriders. If any minister would try to get his passport renewed standing in a queue at the Passport Office, he would know how much contempt citizens suffer at the hands of people who are supposed to be public servants. Try to get to South Block on one of Delhi's buses and you would know what daily oppression is.

 

We may get rapid reform of Delhi buses if Delhi MLAs and Municipal councillors took the bus everyday. The Mayor of London has gone one better. He has initiated a scheme whereby people can ride free bicycles from one location to another and then leave them for others to use. It is a free Rent-a Bike scheme . What is more, he himself rides a bicycle to work. David Cameron used to do the same when he was Leader of the Opposition. Now he has to fight his security guards to walk the five minutes from Downing Street to Parliament but he still manages it many times.

 

Why is it that we see ministers and even ex-ministers in other countries behaving much more like their ordinary citizen brethren do than we do in India ? They do not need to find out what happens in the world. You only invoke the aam aadmi when you want to bring Lok Sabha to a halt, not to benefit him a jot. Imagine being dependent on PDS yourself for your food shopping and then imagine how long would MPs defend it. Or obtaining a gas cylinder or suffering power cuts.

 

Sometime, of course, the distance is even vaster. If you are not a citizen of Kashmir, you never experience your mobile phones being shut off for days when the authorities feel like it or not knowing whether your child who has gone to school will return safe or will she be gassed or arrested or killed or all three. If you are not a Kashmiri, you have the luxury of doubting their motives for protesting, even their loyalty. Why can't they enjoy their membership of a democratic secular socialist republic like the rest of us ? Why do they have to march against extra-judicial killings or blatant rape for which they will get no redress?

 

We have seen the spectacle of a Gujarat Minister being arrested for his alleged involvement in an encounter killing. One can only hope that the CBI will stick to its guns and get him tried. Being of a cynical disposition, I suspect the CBI may suddenly botch the case and suffer a summary dismissal by the courts of all their pleas. In that case, it will confirm my suspicion that the entire case was dragged up to divide opposition in Parliament on the eve of the crucial debate on inflation. I only wish I am wrong. In any case, the so-called secular Opposition parties always fall for this obvious ploy.

 

In Kashmir of course there are encounter killings often, but they are not juicy enough from a Parliamentary perspective to be investigated. When I used to march for civil rights for Black Americans in the Sixties, the White Racists used to complain that all these agitators were outside infiltrators. We hear this all the time in Kashmir, about all the trouble being caused by these bad elements. In the US it was these outside agitators who brought about the radical change. Kashmir may yet solve its troubles if only there were more of them.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

TRAGEDY OF COMEDY

 

I got an e-mail from Sam Wasson, the 28-year-old author of Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M., the best seller about the making of Breakfast at Tiffany's, thanking me for mentioning the book.

 

I've never met Wasson, a film student turned film writer hailed by The New Yorker as "a fabulous social historian." But within seconds, after I told him that I loved the bit in his book about the on-screen/off-screen chemistry of Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney in the incandescent Two for the Road, we were madly e-mailing back and forth on a subject of mutual obsession and depression: Why romantic comedies now reek. Here's our exchange:

 

Me: "How did we get from Two for the Road to The Bounty Hunter and He's Just Not That Into You?"

 

Sam: "This is the question I ask myself every morning and keep asking all day, and annoy all my friends and lovers with. Every time I see Jennifer Aniston's or Jennifer Garner's face I wince. Basically, every time I see someone named Jennifer. They say the problem is teenage boys and girls, that they drive the marketplace. But I say they only drive the marketplace because there's nothing out there for grown-ups to see. Apropos, I can't remember the last time I saw two people really falling in love in a movie. Now all we get is the meet cute, a montage, a kiss, then acoustic song into fade out. Nothing experiential, only movies manufactured from movies.

 

Me: "Why can't studios and stars find witty writers to go beyond bridesmaid dress movies?"

 

Sam: "I am not joking when I say that because there is nothing to see (especially, and tragically, in romantic

comedy) my girlfriend and I have had to stay home and in some cases fight. If there were better movies out there, I am sure so many relationship disasters may have been averted. Also, romantic comedies, the good ones, taught me how to love, or at least instructed me on how to try. If I were falling in love now for the first time and going to see this garbage thinking this was real, I would be in deep (expletive). It was only after I saw Annie Hall as a wee Jew that I realised what it was to be a person in love. It has been a touchstone ever since. Back in the days of one-foot-on-the-floor, wit was the best (and only) way to talk about sex. Even something as ridiculous as Pillow Talk winks at you. If people only realised that Paramount in the '30s and '40s was the golden age of American wit. The question is, will there be a backlash? A renaissance? I don't think people realise how dire the situation is. I mean culturally, emotionally, the whole idea of romance is gone, gone, gone. ... And I don't care how good the novelist, I've never read anything that touches Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby. Is it too early to drink?"

 

Me: "Where are new Sturgeses and Lubitsches?"

 

Sam: "When Up in the Air (which I actually liked) came out last year, people were calling Jason Reitman the new Preston Sturges. What they meant was Reitman respects language. He is interested in the vernacular, like Sturges was. The major difference is that Sturges invented a dialect all his own, one that really sang with American pluck. But that the comparison was ever made goes to show you how desperate (certain) people are for real romantic comedy. If the bar were any lower, they'd be calling James Cameron the next Sturges. As for Lubitsch, there will never, ever, ever be another. Ever. A guy like that comes around once in a universe. Proof is that even Billy Wilder, whose motto was 'What would Lubitsch do?,' tried but never came close."

 

Me: "With so many women running studios, you'd think they'd focus on making better rom-coms."

 

Sam: "Even the studios that are run by women aren't run by women. They're run by corporations, which are run by franchises. Unfortunately for us, Jennifer Aniston is a franchise. So is Katherine Heigl and Gerard Whatever-His-Name-Is, and even when their movies bomb, their franchise potential isn't compromised because overseas markets, DVD sales and cable earn all the studio's money back. I'm told that Knight and Day, that awful Cruise/Diaz movie, has already been good for Fox for exactly this reason. The worst part of it is, from Hollywood's point of view, it ain't broke. I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for TV."

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

LESSONS FROM THE GAMES

TAVLEEN SINGH 

 

 Never in all the years I have known him have I ever agreed with Mani Shankar Aiyar about anything. So it is with some nervousness I admit that on the Commonwealth Games I agree with him one thousand per cent. Who was the lunatic who bid for them in the first place? He needs to be identified and horsewhipped in public for putting India in such a disgraceful situation. If it was Suresh Kalmadi, then horsewhipping is not punishment enough because having landed the Games he should at least have known that he should do nothing that would expose India's corrupt and incompetent underside to an international audience.

 

Did nobody in the Government of India notice that cities that bid for international sporting tournaments are cities that have some basic civic amenities in place? They have decent roads, a public transport system that works, hotel rooms in adequate supply so usually all that needs to be built are a few new stadiums. If you go through the Rs 11,000 crore budgeted for these Games, you will find that nearly half the money is being spent on extras like improved policing and cleaner monuments. Yes, the Asian Games were held in Delhi once long ago (and a side benefit was colour TV) but they were on a smaller scale and in retrospect as much a waste of taxpayers' money as the Commonwealth Games. The stadiums fell to ruin in months because they were built in shoddy fashion and Indian athletes were rarely allowed to use them. The Asian Games village was first occupied by politicians and high officials then the apartments were sold. This may have been the only profit the Games made for the Delhi government. What is more important is that not a single sport in India benefited in any way.

 

Instead of these mega events, what Indian sportsmen need are basic facilities like proper stadiums, decent accommodation, financial support and nutritious food. Until we provide these facilities, not just in small towns but in villages too, we are not going to produce sportsmen who can win medals in international sporting competitions. When, somehow, one emerges despite the absence of basic facilities, we make such a ludicrous fuss over said sportsman or woman that it makes me personally cringe with shame.

 

So lesson number one, from the appalling mess that these Commonwealth Games have turned out to be is that we need to create basic facilities for Indian sportsmen. China did even when Mao Tse Tung was killing off millions of his people through famines. There was always food and shelter for athletes. This is why China's tally of medals at the Olympics is always in double digits. Russia did even when it was the Soviet Union and most of its citizens lived in misery. India failed in sports facilities almost as miserably as we have failed to create the schools and universities we so desperately need. So our young people are busy picking up guns and fighting real wars from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. Stadiums may not stop children from stoning policemen in Srinagar or get the Naxalites to surrender their arms but they will help channel some of the energies of that half of India's population that is under the age of 25.

 

The second lesson we can learn from these Commonwealth Games is that we must ensure that politicians and bureaucrats are kept firmly away from sporting organisations. It cannot be the job of ministers in the Government of India to head major sports bodies. Nor can it be the job of senior bureaucrats. Judging by the appalling state of governance in India they should have more than enough on their plates without interfering in sports and sporting events. At the Olympics, the Indian team is an embarrassment because there are usually more officials in it than athletes.

 

The third lesson we can learn from the Games is that we must stop deluding ourselves into believing that India has escaped the Third World category and is now an emerging economic superpower. We are not. If we ever reach that position, you can be sure that the first thing that will happen is for our cities to start looking like modern cities instead of glorified slums. As things stand, we have to sadly admit that there is not a single Indian city that is modern even by the standards of Asian cities like Hong Kong, Singapore or Bangkok. Delhi, despite all efforts to tart it up for the Games, still looks bad and it is much better than the rest. In Mumbai, you know you have landed in a Third World country from the moment you touch down in an airport that appears to be sprouting out of a slum. So until we get our fundamentals right, no more Games please.

 

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

WHY HAVE WE BECOME SO CALLOUS?

SUDHEENDRA KULKARNI 

 

 Samir Zaveri is an angry man. And his anger is incendiary. "Whenever I encounter callousness and corruption in the railways, police department, public hospitals and government offices, I feel that these guys should be hanged," he says. But Samir isn't a Naxalite. "I am a follower of Gandhiji. I read him daily. But not all the angry young men in India are Gandhians like me. If corruption and indifference to the common man's suffering continue, the gun culture is bound to make its way from the far-off forests to our cities."

 

Samir lost both his legs twenty years ago when he was overrun by a speeding train in Mumbai, one of the thousands of victims of such mishaps that occur routinely on the tracks of the city's suburban railway system. He was lucky to have survived due to two strangers who quickly shifted him to a nearby hospital. But such luck eludes a shockingly high number of railway commuters in India's most populous metropolis. Nearly 4,000 people get killed each year—about 8-10 each day. No government at the Centre has so far cared to tackle this problem.

 

Limbless, but not hopeless, Samir has been leading a more active life after the tragedy than before. Supported by artificial legs, he has discovered an altogether new meaning and purpose in life—he has chosen to be an indefatigable activist for the cause of preventing the colossal loss of lives on Mumbai's railway tracks. With missionary zeal, he and fellow activist Bhavesh Patel, who runs an NGO called Manavata, try to mobilise "golden hour" medical assistance to accident victims. They have both seen too many people die because of the absence of an efficient and caring service to ensure immediate medical treatment. They try to contact victims' relatives (not an easy task), and get authentic information about the accident for further action (an even more difficult task). Beyond continuing their life-saving efforts, they have also been fighting against a railway system whose institutional response to deaths and injuries on its tracks—and also the response of the related system of police, hospitals and courts—reveals a level of apathy that borders on the criminal.

 

For example, Samir, who has filed over 50 RTI applications for the benefit of accident victims, and several PILs/petitions in the High Court and Supreme Court, has documents showing that, out of the 9,049 accidents in 2008-2009, Railways provided ambulance service in only 7 per cent of the cases. He and Bhavesh have been unsuccessful in their campaign to force private hospitals, and even railway hospitals, to admit railway accident cases. They have scores of tales about how money and other valuables are stolen from the bodies of victims. They know of too many cases of the police demanding bribes from victims' relatives for giving copies of the panchnama. Hearing all this made me sick. But I wasn't prepared for the numbing experience when Bhavesh, who has been instrumental in saving several hundred lives, showed me gory photographs of unclaimed bodies of accident victims stacked in the mortuaries of our public hospitals. "How would relatives feel if they had to search for their near and dear ones in this macabre environment?" Bhavesh asked. "Are we a civilised society?"

 

Preventing fatalities on Mumbai's railway tracks is the subject of an ongoing study that my colleagues and I at the Observer Research Foundation have been doing. However, the questions that the study has provoked in me go beyond this specific problem, for which the governments in New Delhi and Mumbai seem to have no solution—and also no time to think of a solution. Why has the government machinery in India become so insensitive to the pain and suffering of common citizens? Why doesn't it show any concern for their dignity, both when they are alive and also, often, when they are dead? Why has corruption become so ubiquitous in every branch of government, not leaving even the judiciary untouched? And why are even good Samaritans like Samir and Bhavesh—and their number is not inconsiderable in our society—made to face such hardships at every step that, in frustration and anger, they too sometimes feel that non-violent methods are useless?

 

Answers to these questions are not difficult to find. The bottom of the government has become rotten because the top has become heartless and corrupt. After all, the policemen and railway personnel who have no qualms of conscience in making money out of the victims of accidents are well aware of the loot of hundreds of crores of rupees by the high and mighty in almost every government project, from the award of telecom licenses to the Commonwealth Games. Moreover, they know that the long arm of the law rarely catches the scamsters at the top.

 

A far bigger tragedy than the deaths on Mumbai's railway tracks, therefore, is the death of moral authority in our political and government establishment. Have we ever heard anybody in India's top leadership expressing anger at the spreading cancer of greed, selfishness, unscrupulousness, inefficiency, dereliction of duty and unconcern for the plight of ordinary citizens? The decomposed and uncared for bodies in the photographs that Bhavesh showed me are indeed a metaphor for the moral decay in our system of governance.

 

sudheenkulkarni@gmail.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

 

CULTURE CONNECT MARKETING

SHOMBIT SENGUPTA 

 

 Marketing practices in India generally try to superimpose experiences from Western books. Let me illustrate why I'm convinced that culture connect marketing is desperately required for India.

 

Returning home every evening about 30 km from Sealdah railway station after art college in Kolkata was a nightmare. To get a seat I'd sprint to the platform's end, compete with other passengers to jump into the train still chugging in. Those who couldn't make the door would throw in a handkerchief to reserve a window seat, and fights among passengers about owner authenticity of the handkerchief were commonplace.

 

Once the train would start, the compartment would get noisy. Suddenly a betel leaf chewing man carrying a small suitcase would appear and shout, "Gentleman!..." Then in Bengali: "Aeje moshaira ... kukurer... shuorer (soft muffled speech interspersed with loud words meaning son of a b***h...... son of a p*g......)." A shocked silence would follow. When he'd figure somebody was ready to retaliate, he'd dramatically add, "If they should bite you, the cure is here!" He'd take out small glass jars from his pocket, saying, "This is Kalipodo Dey's miraculous ointment (ascharjya malam)." Without bothering to ask permission, he'd lift the shirt of a passenger near him, and start applying the ointment.

 

As I was a regular traveller, he became familiar with me and told me he had to travel for eight stations, change compartments to finally sell 170 to 200 pieces every day. This was in 1971. I have never experienced such theatrical sales in suburban trains from Paris, London, New York, Tokyo or Sydney. This is India's typical experiential, cultural brand promotion. The salesman knew how to attract people's attention in their uncomfortable condition, would articulate the benefits of his ointment and would go on to apply it for the product feel experience to knock-out any doubt about quality.

 

When I visited my parents in Kolkata in 1984, it was the mango season. Accompanying my father and me to Gariahat market, my eight-year-old France-born son spoke enough Bengali to ask the mango seller if the mangoes were sweet. The seller looked at my son and me and said, "Don't keep the mangoes near salt." At home, my son insisted his grandmother keep the mangoes away from salt. Confused, my mother asked my father to explain. My father laughed and explained that the seller's metaphor for guaranteeing the mango's sweetness was that salt would become sweet if kept near these mangoes.

 

The next day I asked the mango seller if my father was right. He said, "Of course." I realised I'd grown distant with this culture already. But the mango seller's mystifying selling pitch proved my theory that "Marketing is story telling of a selling proposition which has differentiating extra benefit."

 

In 2001, IIM-Bangalore Professor Dr Mithileswar Jha invited me to take a marketing session for a students and guests forum at the institute's amphitheatre. As I started speaking about my marketing fundamentals of "Visibility, Proximity and Availability of the product to consumers," three peanut vendors came before the stage with their carts, roasting peanuts and making the familiar iron-ladle-on-hot-iron-vessel sounds. The inviting aroma of roasted peanuts wafted through. The students couldn't help themselves; they approached a vendor, and came away with a notebook-paper cone that upturned easily to drop peanuts into their hands. In my 90-minute session they'd finished the peanuts of all three peanut sellers.

 

Nobody had understood that I'd deliberately organised the peanut sellers. I used them to demonstrate their incomparable creation of visibility (the cart, the ladle sounds to attract people), proximity (the inviting aroma, the easy-to-pour takeaway packs) and availability (when hunger came, peanuts are easily available). Knowing that I give lectures, seminars and workshops in prestigious institutes in Europe and the US, the students were expecting sophisticated Parisian marketing jargon from me. Instead, they learnt lessons from a live example of cultural connect marketing that's very Indian, experiential and practical. At the end, I told them not to waste money on learning sophisticated things while overlooking the basics. Mithileshwar asked, "What's your message, Shombit?" India's cultural marketing is simple, I said; people need to learn these tactics and convert them into very effective marketing with strong activation according to Indian culture.

 

This peanut story may have a sophisticated counterpart in Starbuck's history. Starbuck's visibility is emitting a specific coffee aroma into the street, its proximity is that being able to spend as much time you want at Starbucks, and its availability is being ever present in US street corners.

 

Western marketing is highly related to their cultural aspect. We need to extend our cultural stories as marketing case studies to understand and deploy. We can learn technical processes and discipline from the West, but deployment should follow our multi-faceted culture. In any category, we don't pay serious attention to product engineering, consistency and coherency. Instead marketers in India spend excessive time in advertising communication. A brand will have good national penetration if you execute the fundamental marketing job of cultural association like Kalipodo Dey's miraculous ointment, the mango seller and peanut vendor did, and maintain the product's quality and aspiration at any price point.

 

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

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE SNAKE BOAT AND THE DRAGON BOAT

CHINA VENTURED INTO HOSTING MEGA EVENTS ONLY AFTER ESTABLISHING ITSELF AS A MAJOR SPORTING POWER. BUT ONCE IT TOOK THAT RESPONSIBILITY, IT NEVER LOOKED BACK.

SRINIVAS INJETI


The Snake boat, with over 400 years of history, dating back to the Kings of Alappuzha in Kerala, and the Dragon boat, with over 2000 years of history, associated with the iconic river of Chang Jiang (better known as the Yangtze in China), symbolise the strong tradition of indigenous sports in the two countries. But the sporting performance of India and China over the last five or six decades reminds us of the famous fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. India hosted the first Asiad in 1951, nearly four decades before China did it in 1990, but failed to reap the early bird advantage.

China, on the other hand, made its first appearance at the second Asiad in 1954 and stood sixth in the medal tally, just below India. However, unlike India, China fully recognised the power of sports and harnessed it completely. No wonder, the Tortoise slowly and steadily overtook the Hare. China came third in Tehran in the 1974 Asiad, second in Bangkok in the 1978 Asiad, and first in Delhi in 1982 Asiad; a position that it has retained for the past 28 years and is expected to repeat at Guangzhou later this year.

 

In Olympics, after drawing a blank in Helsinki in 1952, China withdrew from the Games for over three decades, before returning in 1984 and securing the fourth position at the Los Angeles Olympics. Finally, in 2008, at the Beijing Olympics, China topped the medal tally. Perseverance, patience and purposefulness paid off, and the Tortoise won the Olympic race!

 

China's continuous surge has been largely attributed to its single-minded mission to reach the top. It was all along focussed on the promotion of community and competitive sports to the highest standards. A Physical Health Law was passed in 1995, and it formed the basis of a nationwide physical fitness programme. With over 6,00,000 stadiums and 2,00,000 training centres, today more than 60 per cent of China's population aged between seven and 70, and 95 per cent of its student population meet the national fitness standards. No wonder, China has now emerged as a major sporting nation.

 

In stark contrast, India is still hugely deficient in sporting performance. Barring around 50 million, the population does not even have access to basic sporting facilities. More than half of the 1.2 million schools in the country have no access to playing-fields. There aren't enough sports and physical education instructors. And the integration of sports and physical education with school curriculum is still a far cry. Our pathetic sports performance says it all!

 

China ventured into hosting mega events only after establishing itself as a major sporting power. But once it took that responsibility, it never looked back. It has excelled in both staging the Games and topping the medal tally. China is credited with having staged the most spectacular Olympics till date, which has even left London, the only city to host Olympics thrice in the past, extremely nervous.

 

Our sports administrators, on the contrary, appear obsessed with staging mega events notwithstanding our indifferent sporting performance. The argument that mega events help to create a lasting sporting legacy, besides promoting excellence, still remains largely unsubstantiated, going by our own experience. Empirical evidence also shows that most countries that have hosted mega events have had a long track record of strong sporting performance. So, no matter how swanky Delhi looks, or how spectacular the opening ceremony of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games may be, our national prestige will essentially lie in our sporting performance and not merely in our staging performance.

 

China's focus on select sports is another reason for its success. Unlike our 'Jack of all trades' approach, China's 'focus sports' like gymnastics, weightlifting, table tennis, shooting, badminton, judo, swimming, and athletics and traditional sports are those having the maximum events and hence, offering maximum medal prospects. The problem staring us in the face is our abysmally low level of performance in core sports such as athletics, gymnastics and swimming. Hence, if at all we are to do well in international sports, we must start from scratch. Let's do what China did in 1995 – make sports for all, compulsory!

 

Another major advantage that China has over India is the inclusion of many of its traditional sports such as fencing, wushu and karate in major competitions, which account for nearly 50 events. India, on the other hand, has managed only the inclusion of kabaddi in Asiad.

 

Other traditional sports such as kushti (Indian- style wrestling), kho kho, mallakhamb, kalarippayattu and Thang Ta are still nowhere on the horizon of becoming international sports.

 

This brings us back to the Snake boat and Dragon boat story. While both, along with boats from other parts of the world, are poised to make an appearance at the 2012 London Olympics inaugural ceremony, Snake boat racing, as a sport, is yet to venture out beyond the Indian shores, whereas the Dragon boat racing has firmly established itself as a popular international sport, having already gained entry into the Asian Games and knocking at the doors of the Olympic Games.

 

Come on, India! Let's wake up as a nation, prepare ourselves as a nation, and compete as a nation to catch up with the Dragon boat!

 

( The writer is a civil servant and the views expressed here are his own. His email is srinivasinjeti26@gmail.com)

 

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THE HINDU

YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE, BREASTFEEDING IS BEST FEEDING

DR. ARAVEETI RAMAYOGAIAH

 

Hello, I am Mother Nature calling.

 

My dear Homo sapiens moms, Best wishes to you. How are you?

 

I understand that you have been observing Breastfeeding Week from August 1. I wish to share certain emotions with you on this occasion.

 

I really don't know why — you human beings have become peculiarly special.

 

Do you know that I have created 4,326 mammals, apart from you? These are your own statistics. They are not observing any such week and I am not greeting them.

 

You are celebrating Breastfeeding Week thinking that you have discovered breast milk. Thank God, you have not given the Nobel Prize to anybody for the discovery. The patent rights of breast milk are mine. You were sensible and feeding your children with your milk like other mammals.

 

Alas! You have become selfish. You have learnt to top-feed your children thinking that you are wasting time feeding them with your milk. You are responsible for the deaths of about 10 lakhs of my grand grandchildren and for several diseases to crores of them.

 

I often hear you discussing 'what milk is good for my baby?' Are you not wasting time on these futile discussions? I have designed milk suitable to the needs of various mammals — intelligence to your offspring, and physical growth to the offspring of cows and buffaloes. Milk is species-specific. If protein is higher in buffalo's milk, you are tempted to use it for your children. You are bloody selfish and idiotic. Your babies don't need more proteins at that tender age and they are harmful to them. The milk proteins of other mammals are foreign to them.

 

You have manufactured milk powder as an alternative to your milk. You subject milk to various processes. You kill the milk, make it lifeless, mix it with water and feed your children. But the milk designed by me is a living fluid. When you kill it, how can your children get milk in living form?

 

For manufacturing milk powder, you use energy; you cut trees and hurt me. For production and transport of milk, you use tin, plastic, etc., and dump them on me. I cannot bear this burden.

 

You think that your milk is not sufficient for your baby. For continuation of milk production, I have created a hormone, viz., prolactin. If you feed your babies frequently, you will produce more prolactin and thereby more milk. Soon after birth, you fill the baby's stomach with dirty, glucose water. So your children do not suck. So you don't produce prolactin and thereby milk. That is why you fail. Prolactin prevents ovulation and immediate future pregnancy. I gave this facility to you. You are losing this facility also. What a pity!

 

For the easy flow of your milk to the baby, I have created a hormone — oxytocin. You should be happy about it. You suffer from all negative thoughts viz., selfishness, jealousy and stress. So you cannot produce oxytocin. Human relations are getting eroded. Other mammals are leading a lovely, harmonious life.

 

Oxytocin contracts the uterus and prevents haemorrhage after delivery. It saves you from death. You talk of maternal mortality but you don't use this protection given by me.

 

While the baby suckles, it is not just breastfeeding alone. You look into the eyes of the baby, you caress it, kiss it, you provide warmth, you muse, you talk — it is complete love. Lots of language flows in between. Is there love in the feeding bottle?

 

Recently, I heard some strange news about you. It appears that you follow a lot of discipline in child rearing and follow timings to feed; I feel like laughing, what an ignorant lot you are! You follow scheduling in breastfeeding? Nonsense. When the child cries, you don't feed. No prolactin production, no milk production. You feel tense. No oxytocin production. Breastfeeding fails once and for all in your species. But your ancestors were not like you.

 

You give birth to a baby in America with an eye on U.S. citizenship. Ship your baby back to your country to stay with your moms. You provide the best, imported milk powder. How can the child get your love? Even then you cannot provide milk equal to that designed by me.

 

I also come to know that there are doctors who prescribe milk powder. Most of the mammals don't have doctors. They are immune to such advice. They are so lucky.

 

If your kids are passing urine more than six times a day and growing well, your milk is sufficient for them. You don't seek any advice. Feed your children for six months with your milk only. Start home foods after six months and feed them with your milk as long as possible, but for at least two years.

 

It appears that millions of your under-five children are dying of diarrhoea and pneumonia. Feed them with your

milk and save them. Then you also don't suffer from breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.

 

I also learn that manufacturers boast of maternalising and humanising milk powder. What? You humanise milk powder? First you humanise yourself.

 

It appears that you have got organisations, viz., the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and the

Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) to save you from going astray. Somewhat good.

 

My lap is excellent and a heavenly abode for you. Please listen to this mother at least now. Let bygones be bygones. You also emulate other mammals.

 

No need of any Breastfeeding Week celebrations. Bid goodbye to them.

 

(The writer is Founder, Organisation for the Promotion of Social Dimensions of Health (OPSDH), Additional Director of Health, Andhra Pradesh (Retd.), Former State Coordinator, Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI))

 

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THE HINDU

IT'S THE BIRTHRIGHT OF YOUR BABY

LET'S CONVINCE OUR YOUNG MOTHERS THAT NO MAMMAL IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM DENIES ITS KID BREAST MILK.

DR. P. DURAI

 

Scenario 1 : An air-conditioned consultation room with cosy interiors in a metropolitan city. Enters a young mother clad in an ultra modern dress. The consultant paediatrician examines her baby and asks her whether she breastfeeds the baby exclusively. She chuckles and names a popular brand of infant milk substitute. Will someone please explain how these brands become popular when the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes prevents any form of advertising? Her purse outweighs the doctor's advice and she walks out coolly just to make another ceremonial visit some time later.

 

Scenario 2: A semi-ventilated room with naked furniture and a bellowing fan in a rural area. A woman in dirty linen, embracing poverty as her religion visits her doctor. Here too, the same question is indeed asked with a tinge of nativity. The reply is almost the same, except that the woman utters it with a different accent and pronunciation.

 

The above instances are not rare, but are a common observation in our diverse economic and social set-up. In either case, the mother is neither guilty nor heavy-hearted in divulging that she couldn't or doesn't breastfeed her baby.

 

Irrespective of their social background, women are indeed ignorant of the fact that it is the baby's right to be breastfed. Of course, how can we expect our mothers to be aware of their children's right when they are ignorant of their own?

 

How callous have we become over the years to deny a child its nature's share.

 

A woman's bosom (usually in a semi-naked pose) is projected by our media gurus to advertise anything from

perfume to fabric, from necklace to automobile. What a ruthless, insensible, perverted notion is this! Our silence has been taken as approval by these elements. Has any one cared to acknowledge that it is the organ nature has gifted to a woman to secrete elixir?

 

The transformation from home to house, from mother to mummy and from a joint family to nuclear family dictated and maintained by the digital revolution has started taking its toll. In fact, I feel we have committed ethical and traditional suicide. Human values and culture are being constantly buried. A vast majority of our population is steeped in ignorance and subsist on ambiguity without being able to identify what is wrong and what is right.

 

Let us contemplate what best could be done to mitigate the situation. Is it not our duty to break the shackles which have chained the minds of fellow womenfolk?

 

Is not breast milk the birthright of the baby? Let's convince our young mothers that no mammal in the animal kingdom denies its kid breast milk.

 

Our civilisation has learned the art of stealing three-fourths of cow's milk and leaving one-fourth to the calf. Even with this reduced milk, the calf survives. So how healthy would be the kid, if the mother feeds the baby from her breast?

 

Goddess Parvathi breastfed baby Thirugnana Sambandhar, a Saivite saint of Tamil Nadu, when he cried out of hunger. The all-powerful almighty didn't find any other means to suppress hunger.

 

Let's remember these axiomatic truths:

 

Breast milk is a unique and precious gift of nature and has no price.

 

It helps the infant fight infection and diseases.

 

It is easily assimilated by the baby due to the perfect combination of protein, lactose and fat.

 

There are health benefits for both the mother and the child.

 

Breastfed infants are less prone to childhood obesity than others.

 

Breastfed infants have a higher IQ than those who are not.

 

Nursing mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of acquiring premenopausal breast cancer and a decreased risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.

 

Breastfed infants are closer to their mothers and feel secure with them than are others. There is a special feeling of bonding between the mother and the child which cannot be valued on any scale.

 

(The writer is a doctor based in Tirunelveli and his email is: drpdorai@ yahoo.com)

 

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THE HINDU

WHO SUFFERS THE MOST, THE CRYING BABE OR THE PINING MOTHER?

MALATHI MOHAN

 

A research finding, recently reported, said "Babies don't suffer when mothers go back to work"

 

Having run a crèche for a short time, I witnessed quite a few, heartbreaking scenes between mothers and babies as they parted every morning. The screams could have pierced anybody's heart and the poor mother used to hide behind a pillar, a hedge and wait in the driveway before gradually tearing herself away. And the baby? As soon as the mother was out of sight, it would suddenly stop screaming and merge with other children in the nursery. So who do you think suffered the pangs of separation more, the mother or the little termagant? I'm sure the mother suffered guilt pangs through the day.

 

When maternity leave is for three months, the mothers who have to return to work have many problems. If some part of the leave period is used up before delivery, the time after delivery becomes too short. I know of women who returned to work by the 45th day. They started the baby on a formula feed by the third or fourth week so that both of them had time to adjust and for the baby to accept the change in diet. The natural flow of breast milk would continue, the mother would experience physically and emotionally pain. Women know that even the thought of the baby makes milk flow out and this can be embarrassing at the workplace. A woman doctor was given night duty as soon as she reported for work after maternity leave. The baby used to be taken in a rickshaw to the hospital for the night feed! So, who suffered here, the mother or the baby? Then what about the other family members who were acting mother at home?

 

The World Health Organisation had not brought in the compulsory breast-feeding-only-for-six-months recommendation then. On what basis can such rules and judgments be made by a world public body, when the mother-baby relationship is so personal and individualised?

 

If good quality mothering with love is available for the baby, whether at home, or in a day-care centre, and if the parents can afford to leave the baby in good hands, the baby may not suffer at all. Collecting and refrigerating breast milk is possible for the feeds during the mother's working hours. No need for the rikshaw ride! However, do ask the mother about her problems at work.

 

An elderly aunt (who had 13 deliveries, by the way) used to entertain us with hilarious escapades of life after childbirth. The mother and the child were 'imprisoned' in a small, dark, room, the ' sambrani' (incense) fumes after bath would give a pleasant smell but woe unto them who could not bear the smoke! They were given a lime-sized ball of 'hing' (asafoetida) to swallow every day, presumably to initiate the uterus to contract and get back to its original fist size. These contractions brought back the pain and discomfort of labour pain which most women forget when they have a healthy baby in hand. Further, hot water, nearly at boiling temperature, was splashed on the poor woman's stomach for the same reason of contracting the uterus! Please don't forget that women had babies at a very young age, at that time. And yet, they preferred being pregnant to escape the shameful treatment during the monthly 'outings'!

 

Returning to the present, it is the mothers who face the music, even if there are a few advantages of economic improvement, affordable, high quality childcare, nutritional care and social networking. The nuclear family situation, being away from close family members, travel expenses and none to help when the mother is sick are major stress factors.

 

Added to this are older children and their care can be tedious if help is not available at home. True, the young father may share responsibility, but not everybody pitches in. The working hours and the attendant problems are also there and differ from woman to woman depending on their careers.

 

(The writer's e-mail is: malathimohan00 @yahoo.com)

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

A NATIONAL EFFORT IS NEEDED IN LEH

 

The frightening effects on the landscape and human ecology produced by the cloudbursts over Leh earlier this week could hardly have been imagined. It is truly difficult to visualise a six-kilometre block of earth holding up an entire village being virtually uprooted and creeping up under the pressure of violent rain and wind to collide with thetown of Leh 12 or 13 km away. This is just one episode of horror from the narrative of nature's fury which numbed Ladakh on the midnight of Thursday and early Friday morning, cutting a 150-km swathe between the Leh-Manali road and the Leh-Srinagar highway. Well over 100 people are reported dead, hundreds injured, and many more missing. These are initial figures and we can have a better appreciation of the calamity only in due course as rescue and disaster management teams spread out. While landslides are a frequent occurrence in mountainous regions, it is unheard of for hills and mounds to move in the manner of the forest of Shakespeare's imagination in Macbeth. This challenges the very notion of terra firma so critical for human habitation.


It is easy to see that if Ladakh were a heavily populated region, the scale of the human disaster following from the cloudbursts might be unprecedented. As it is, the crown of India is a cold desert and the most sparsely populated region of the country. While this reduces the scale of human loss and suffering, the injury done through nature's whim to this ancient land of great cultural magnitude and fragile geomorphological features cannot be minimised. Ladakh is home to Buddhist treasures that attract pilgrims and tourists from across the world. The land is dotted with small and big monasteries and palaces, each with its own micro-history. There is no knowing at this stage how this heritage has fared. If any of it has been lost, damage would have been done to the soul of Ladakh and India. From early reports, one fears the worst for the Leh Old Town that sits atop the main bazaar of this picturesque and ancient settlement with its complex sociological fabric. Here sits the confluence of history arising out of Buddhist impulses and those of Islam that trickled down in the process of interactions over centuries with Eastern Turkestan, now Chinese Xinjiang. Ladakh is a tri-junction of India, China and the Northern Areas of the Old Jammu and Kashmir state, under Pakistani occupation since the late Forties. This imbues the region with tremendous security-related sensitivities, and accounts for its fairly dense military and communications infrastructure. The sudden and extensive flooding following the cloudbursts is likely to have eroded these capabilities as well.


National effort is called for to make good the damage caused in Ladakh. It is said that half the annual rainfall the region typically gets was received in the course of a few hours. This is thought to be the consequence of excessive heating — leading to the build-up of unconscionable humidity over a short period — attributable to climate change caused by human activity. It may be worth studying if checking the heavy tourist inflow to the area would help in forestalling damage caused by nature in the future. As we mourn our dead in Ladakh, and seek to repair the damage caused to people's homes and livelihood and to the national infrastructure in the area, we should also commiserate with the people of near-contiguous areas in China and Pakistan which have seen the worst flooding in nearly a century and are in the throes of monumental suffering.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

TIME TO ROCK THE BOAT

ARUN NEHRU

 

We have a tense situation in Kashmir where 50 people have been killed since the trouble started about seven weeks ago. Sadly, no one has a solution to offer and while it is true that most political issues cannot be seen in black-and-white, the fact is that we are witnessing a civil disobedience movement and increased violence and more deaths will only reduce the credibility of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.  

 

We all talk of change, we all talk of young leadership and take it for granted that this applies only to those in governance. While the separatists and the Opposition in the Valley may take advantage of the situation, the fact is that the real leadership of this movement has moved on to another generation.


The security forces have done well to control the terrorists and infiltrators but they cannot be a substitute for political will and dialogue. Clearly Kashmir, like the rest of the country, is coming out of old feudal values and attitudes and as things stand it is clear that a massive mandate in favour of good governance has been eroded over the past year.


We will do well to remember that the People's Democratic Party had won more seats than the National Conference (NC) in the Valley and the formation of the government was possible only when the Congress tilted towards the NC for all the right reasons.


Mr Abdullah cannot be expected to deliver a miracle on his own. But with the help of all elements in the NC, the Congress and the assistance of home minister P. Chidambaram and the excellent intelligence and information network, a great deal can be done to pacify the public in the Valley. We should wish Mr Abdullah well in his efforts.

 

THE CONTROVERSY surrounding the Commonwealth Games continues to dominate the headlines. I think it is tragic that we are confusing the setting up of the facilities for the Games with the organisation of the Games. A great deal of good work by hundreds and thousands of workers is being negated by a handful of individuals in the Commonwealth Games Organisation Committee.


Some of the facilities have teething problems but that can be handled in the time available. The fact is that we are paying the price for neglecting work in the first few years after winning the bid to host the Games. But holding a discussion now, at this stage, is not right as there will be enough time for post-mortem after the Games.


The Commonwealth Games Village is handled by the Delhi Development Authority as are the "soft" facilities in the stadiums. We should put our best talent to deal with this situation.


The Congress is supporting Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and ignoring the affairs of Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and his associates. After the forgery issue they should have resigned or the government should have taken suitable punitive action.


The United Progressive Alliance government, the Congress and all of us are embarrassed as we see the amount of money being paid for things like mosquito repellents — Rs 135 has been paid for rental whereas they can be bought for Rs 100. If we go from item to item — liquid soap dispensers, plug points, ice-making machines, dust bins, pedestal fans, bookcase — each one seems a bigger, more embarrassing scam than the other.

Murky deals like the AM Auto hire or commission paid for advertisements will continue till all those guilty are replaced by members of the Organising Committee whose hands are clean and who can take charge of the Games.


Union sports minister M.S. Gill can handle the situation if there is a clear political indicator. This issue has festered beyond a certain period and those in governance will suffer more than anyone else as the media cannot be curbed. The issue of national pride cannot be invoked in cases of fraud and forgery.


In the context of the Commonwealth games some references have been made to the Asian Games in 1982 and though my memory is a little blurred, I do remember that we discussed the issue for well over a fortnight from all possible angles before Rajiv Gandhi took over responsibility for the Asian Games.


There were many who had doubts and this is inevitable in a democratic framework. The first step was to assemble a team and Sardar Buta Singh, then a deputy minister, was promoted to minister of sports and K.T. Satarawala, Sankaran Nair and S.S. Gill were inducted. Along with Arun Singh we assisted Rajiv Gandhi on a 24x7 basis. We had no mobile phones but each of us got a car and were known by our wireless codes (1, 2, 3). My job was to ensure that schedules were maintained and that there were no bureaucratic delays (there weren't any). We had the full support of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi but we rarely troubled her or anyone else in the government. All credit for the success must also go to the many hundreds and thousands who worked for the Asiad.


We had to take several unpopular decisions and there were no free VVIP and VIP passes. Some senior Cabinet ministers were respectfully escorted back to their cars twice but no one really complained as there were no "exceptions". We saw little of the Asian Games but the amazing thing was that everything, including the telephones, worked.


I hope the Commonwealth Games 2010 will be a success and wish everyone well who has any responsibility, big or small, for its success.

Arun Nehru is a former Union Minister

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

CAMERON RIGHTS HISTORICAL WRONG

K.C. SINGH

 

UK Prime Minister David Cameron's rise went almost unnoticed in India as his assumption of office followed the uncertainty of a split verdict. That he had shown great interest in India even as Opposition leader, having visited India, was also ignored. Therefore in Bengaluru on July 27 he could have been just any head of governmentfrom a friendly European capital. However his comment on the export of terror from Pakistan woke everyone up. Was this a foot-in-the-mouth incident and would the usual retractions follow? He not only stuck to it but forcefully defended it more than once. He surprised the world, delighted India and caused nervous consternation in Pakistan, particularly as it happened on the cusp of an official visit by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to the UK.


Such candour in India-UK relations has been long awaited. Interestingly, Mr Cameron arrived in India via Turkey, where too he did some plain speaking, getting to the root of the Turkish frustration with Europe. He correctly pronounced that a strategic North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally cannot be treated as a stranger when it came to European Union membership. He was reeling Turkey back from its foray into new alliances with the Islamic world to its south and Iran to its east. Mr Cameron was announcing his arrival on the international stage with a bravura performance, reading correctly the new power shifts underway globally. US President George W. Bush had similarly read them in 2005 when the India-US civil nuclear deal was announced. US President Barack Obama has calibrated that vision to fit his needs. The financial crisis compelled engagement with China; orderly retreat from Afghanistan requires appeasement of Pakistan. Mr Cameron has inserted himself in the space vacated by Mr Obama, who will have his work cut out for his November visit. India has a new sweetheart.


Asked by Nik Gowing on his BBC live broadcast out of Delhi, as the two Prime Ministers dined at Hyderabad House, I felt that Mr Cameron was actually undoing a wrong committed 60 years ago. When India complained to the UN Security Council on January 15, 1948, following the accession by the Maharaja of Kashmir to India, over the incursion by armed Pakistani raiders into the state, the then British secretary-general for the Commonwealth, Philip Noel-Baker, defying Prime Minister Clement Atlee, drafted a completely pro-Pakistan resolution ignoring the factual and legal realities. In Washington Robert Lovett, the US undersecretary of state, refused to endorse the charade. Nevertheless, grave damage was attempted and lasting harm done to India-UK relations as a rap on Pakistan's knuckles at that early stage would have put the whole Kashmir issue on a different track. This also sowed the seeds of Indian distrust of the UN Security Council and the Western powers.
It seems Mr Cameron is deliberately repositioning Britain. Foreign secretary Ernest Bevin had similar dilemmas post-World War II. Noticing receding US interest in British recovery, in a Cabinet memorandum on January 4, 1948 he argued for a third pole around a European system "backed by the power and resources of the Commonwealth... to develop our own power and influence to equal that of the United States of America and the USSR". This thought was aborted by the sudden communist upsurge in Czechoslovakia two months later. A proposal was made, and accepted, for the US to lead an Atlantic alliance and the Treaty of Brussels signed on March 17, 1948. Except for the Anglo-French 1956 attempt to overthrow President Nasser of Egypt, which the US helped fail, Britain's foreign policy, post-1945, was of alliance with if not subservience to the US. The global geo-strategic tectonic plates are shifting again and it is a time to choose. Mr Cameron is doing that in South Asia.


David Miliband's laconic dubbing of Mr Cameron, over terror remarks, as a loudmouth is rooted in domestic electoral considerations as indeed slavery to the past. Labour depends heavily on half a million Mirpuri votes, which in ghettoised concentration pulls a punch. Displaced by the Mangla dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, they migrated en masse to the UK in the 1960s. Mr Miliband similarly courted trouble in 2009 when he explained the 26/11 Mumbai attack in terms of Kashmir being the "main call to arms".


President Zardari and PM Cameron met on August 6 in UK. The joint statement suggests annual summits, urges strategic and cooperative ties and lauds the role of the democratic government in fighting terrorism. The sacrifices of the military are mentioned, though parenthetically. Compared to the tone and content of India-UK declarations, the mismatch is obvious. Mr Cameron has massaged the Pakistani ego, but did not recant his terror remarks in India, nor replay his expansive vision of India-UK relations.


Hopefully more allies of Pakistan in the West would choose similar candour. Pakistan's future lies in a collaborative partnership with India and not in corrosive combativeness. India will rise with or without Pakistan. The question is whether Pakistan wants to join the growth saga or opt for self-annihilating radicalisation and backwardness.

 

The author is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

BIRTHDAYS & WIVES

CYRUS BROACHA

 

I'm shivering. If you add that to the regular discharge of vomit (every 53 seconds), and the absurd level of anxiety (as characterised by my eye balls rolling in and out of place every 1.7 seconds), I've become quiet a sight. Of course, while I'm in this state, everyone around me seems to have taken a pretty positive perspective of my plight.

 

Yesterday I overheard my son, "Come, see a man emit three bodily functions simultaneously by sweating, crying and shivering at the same time. Only Rs 27". Now it's one thing to have five seven-year-olds stare at you in an absurdly patronising fashion. It's another thing though when they constantly request for autographs or, as my son put it, "For just Rs 10, the world's most frantic personality will sign you a personal autograph".
By now having mistakenly ploughed through this first paragraph, you the reader must be asking two relevant questions: a) why is he shivering; b) should his son be paying service tax on his brand new enterprise?
People tend to suffer from bouts of panic and anxiety for a variety of reasons. One really shouldn't generalise. In fact, when you generalise, you tend to accelerate panic. Case in point: Statement — A mosquito can cause malaria which may cause death to a human being. Generalised statement. Raju knows a guy who says he saw a mosquito which obviously means the end of civilisation as we know it. So please don't generalise. Being at a loss as to cause of the panic, I asked my father who is sometimes known to be quite the wise old bird.
Dad, for once, was at a bit of a loss, "But your wife's out of town so why would you have any anxiety?"
I make a mental note of the inevitability of the ageing process. Dad, quite clearly, becoming less wise and more bird. I then turned to my friend Kunal, whose passion for food allows him to look up from his plate once every three hours, albeit for just seven seconds.


"Eh, your wife's in Hyderabad?" Kunal began but the rest got drowned out under a torrent of raita, mutton biryani and a flurry of shammi kababs all jostling for position at one and the same time.


So this morning I took the extreme steps (all right, all right, it was quiet a few steps plus a long drive and then once again quite a few steps) to go consult a professional psychologist.


Initially I've avoided them, just like I've avoided the illness pneumonia. It's the extra "P" that has often put me off. Seems to me like a real cry for attention adding an extra, senseless, unbelonging "P" to a perfectly well balanced and settled word like syciatrist. And this guy with his unnecessary extra "P" is to give you advise on mental health seems absolutely Pnonsensical to me.


Anyhow, this morning, unable to bear more humiliation from my cold-blooded, visionary son and his friend, I finally mustered up the courage to meet such a professional, or should I say Pprofessional.


Now psychiatrists are doctors, or so I thought, being classically conditioned in the ways of the medical community. Upon entering the clinic, I immediately removed my shirt and lay face down on the couch. My 72-year-old mental health expert was not one to the frazzled. She let her 55 odd years of psychiatric evaluations lead her forward. She screamed. She screamed and then attacked me with her folder which, I must add, had much more body to it than the folders of my youth. After the police had been called and the psychiatrist decided not to press charges, we sat down to have a healthy chat. Thanks to the incident I was sweating even more than normal. Dr Sharma had one look at me and then amazingly deduced, "This really shouldn't be happening if your wife's out of town".


Just when I was thinking of dealing with this maturely, by removing my pants to spite the good doctor, she spotted a grey hair falling leisurely to the floor. "When's your birthday?" "Tomorrow". And that's when the penny dropped. The sweating, the perspiration , the frenzy, the shivers et al had to do with the upcoming birthday. So, do me a favour, and please don't tell anyone it's my birthday. And now for the coup de grace — my wife's returning home tomorrow on my… er… birthday. Oh! Phell!

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

WAY TO GO

DILIP CHERIAN

 

In one fell sweep, three Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers have been compulsorily retired for an unsatisfactory service record. This could well be the thin end of the wedge, if the trend catches on. Himachal Pradesh chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has given marching orders to two senior IAS officers in the state — Dr Desh Deepak (1983 batch) and Vijender Kumar (1987 batch). The third IAS babu to be sent packing is Shalini Vashishth of the Tamil Nadu cadre.

 

According to babu-watchers, these decisions were taken after the two state governments sought permission from the Department of Personnel and Training for compulsorily retiring these babus. The final decision, apparently, was taken by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, which found merit in the reports submitted by the state governments. The move has undoubtedly warned incompetent IAS babus that they can no longer take their sarkari kursi for granted.

***

A little too late

Uttar Pradesh has faced a babu crunch for long. Now, six years after the last induction, the state is poised to promote 100 provincial service officers to the state cadre of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). The delay in their induction was due to delayed cadre reviews and a writ filed by some Provincial Civil Services (PCS) babus with the Central Administrative Tribunal. Apparently, the departmental promotion committee, comprising state chief secretary Atul Kumar Gupta and representatives of the state personnel department, has completed the formalities and a notification will be issued soon.


Surprisingly, not many PCS babus are pleased with the prospect of promotion to the coveted IAS cadre since they are on the verge of retirement. At least 10 babus are already in the pay scale of principle secretary while 65 babus are in the secretary pay scale. Clearly, for these babus the promotion has come a tad too late.

 

***

 

Kabul calling

The government is planning to send babus on deputation to war-torn Afghanistan under a United Nations programme to mentor Afghan civil servants. And to lure candidates for this challenging assignment, Bharat sarkar is offering an "attractive" remuneration package — at least four times the monthly salary drawn by the Cabinet Secretary! Since the period of deputation is nearly a year, it could help the chosen babus build up a neat nest egg!


A government circular inviting applications from interested candidates has generated considerable excitement in babudom. However, only babus with at least a decade in the civil service will be eligible to apply for this assignment. Will the initial excitement and the financial "sops" lure my favourite tribesmen to tread in "hot" terrain? Watch this space for updates.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPED

MASTERS & COMMANDERS: A POWER TRIP

S.K. SINHA

 

U.S. President Obama's dismissal of his commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, underscores the supremacy of the civil over the military. This supremacy of the civil took its time establishing itself. For centuries heads of government suffered the rank insubordination of their brilliant generals, some times bordering oninsolence, dismissing them only on reasons to do with the conduct of war. The fact that they served under an elected government did not stand in the way of commanders who were often related to the monarchy, or held in high esteem.


During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln went to the house of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, the commander of the Union Army. The general sent word he would meet the President in his office. Lincoln was later asked how he tolerated such insolence. He replied he would hold the stirrup of McClellan's horse for the sake of victory. Later, Lincoln dismissed him for military failure and replaced him with Ulysses S. Grant.


Otto von Bismarck was the architect of Prussia's military victories. During the Franco-Prussian War, a correspondent asked the Chancellor how far the Prussian Army was from Paris. He replied that he knew no more about that than the correspondent; Generalfeldmarschall Helmuth von Moltke (the Elder) would send his war despatches only to Emperor Wilhelm I. In Britain, the Duke of Cambridge, a cousin of Queen Victoria, was Commander-in-Chief of the Army for 30 years. During that period no Prime Minister could interfere with the Army.


Supremacy of the civil over the military was fully established and exerted only in the 20th century. Two incidents pertaining to the conduct of war during the Great War (1914-18) are of significance. Winston Churchill wanted a Navy operation through the Dardanelles to knock Turkey out of the war. The First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher, remonstrated with Churchill, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill overruled Fisher and expounded his plan to the Cabinet. Fisher was in silent attendance. He felt it would be disloyal of him to oppose his minister. The Cabinet construed Fisher's silence as concurrence and sanctioned the operation. The Dardanelles became the greatest disaster in the Royal Navy's history. A parliamentary panel indicted both: Fisher was dismissed and Churchill sent into political oblivion, for a while. The second instance pertained to Prime Minister Lloyd George and the Army Chief, General Robertson. Lloyd George felt the war had been fought to a standstill in the trenches of France. He wanted some divisions diverted from France to operations against Turkey. Gen. Robertson opposed this as he felt France was where the war had to be fought and won. The French opposed any diversion of effort. This was discussed at the Supreme War Council in Paris presided over by French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau. Clemenceau asked Robertson for his professional advice, which was contrary to that of his Prime Minister. Lloyd George was furious and sacked Robertson. A few months later the Germans launched their big offensive of 1918 which the Allies just barely beat back. Things may have been very different had divisions been diverted. Lloyd George realised his mistake and promoted Gen. Robertson, then in retirement, to field marshal.


A little after World War II, there was friction between US President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur, possibly the greatest American military leader of all time. His military genius was put to test during the Communist invasion of South Korea. He undertook his operation against the advice of the American Chiefs of Staff and personally conducted the operation from a warship off the coast at Inchon. MacArthur wanted an all-out offensive. He wanted nuclear waste laid along the Yalu river against Chinese intervention in Korea and an all-out offensive against China in Manchuria and from Formosa into the Chinese mainland. Prophetically, he added that Tibet and Indochina would suffer Communist rule. Truman wanted the war limited to Korea. Europe was still recovering from the Second World War and the Allied powers did not support MacArthur's war plan. Moreover, the Soviet Union had become a nuclear weapons state. MacArthur made indiscreet remarks to the press. He said he did not know the aim of the war in Korea and added that in war there was no substitute for victory. He wrote a private letter to an American senator expounding his views, which the latter leaked to the press. Truman dismissed MacArthur unceremoniously despite the American people's regard for him.
There have been hiccups in civil-military relations in India. General K.S. Thimayya was a charismatic leader and the only Indian to command a brigade in war during the British period. He personally led the attack in the battle of Zoji-la in Kashmir. As Army Chief, his relations with then defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon soured. He resigned over the promotion of a major-general to lieutenant-general. This greatly damaged his reputation, particularly when Jawaharlal Nehru first persuaded him to withdraw his resignation and later criticised him in Parliament. Had Thimayya chosen to resign on a more substantive issue and stuck to his resignation, he would have gone out a great hero. The other instance was of rank insubordination to the defence minister by Navy Chief Vishnu Bhagwat over the appointment of his deputy. Bhagwat was sacked.
President Obama's dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal is being compared with the recall of MacArthur, but it is more in line with the dismissal of Bhagwat. There were no policy differences. McChrystal was dismissed for insubordination after an article appeared quoting Gen. McChrystal and his staff using objectionable language for the President and his security establishment. The supremacy of the civil was maintained.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

PERSPECTIVE

ROADBLOCKS IN N-POWER REFORM 

NEED TO FIX DEFICIENCIES IN THE NUCLEAR LIABILITY BILL, SAYS BHASKAR BALAKRISHNAN

 

MONTHS after the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) clearance and the Indo-US nuclear agreement, comprehensive reforms of the policy framework for nuclear power remain stalled. The fuel shortage for the operating nuclear plants has been relieved, enabling indigenous fissile material to be available for the strategic programme.

 

Nuclear power remains a government monopoly at a level of 4.5 GW, in the hands of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), while the need to strengthen regulatory systems remains unaddressed.

 

One suspects that the main short-term objective of the nuclear deal was to access nuclear fuel while maintaining state monopoly over the sector. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain the tardiness in addressing key policy issues in this sector.

 

The hastily and poorly drafted nuclear liability bill remains stalled after many of its deficiencies were pointed out. The plan to achieve 20 GW of nuclear power (since scaled up to 45 GW, post the Indo-US deal) by 2020 requires a Herculean effort. At about $2 million per MW, the financial outlay alone would be some $30 billion, or $80 billion if the more ambitious target mooted by the Prime Minister is considered.

 

This is a conservative estimate, based on efficient implementation, no cost escalation or delays. Experience in many countries indicates that the costs could well be more than this. Putting up one 1000 MW plant takes 5-7 years after the site has been obtained. Under Indian conditions, one can be realistic and expect cost and time overruns, especially if we go in for the latest European Pressurised Reactors of 1600 MW each.

 

Clearly, the government alone cannot implement such a programme. Nor should it. It has other heavy responsibilities such as the strategic programme, Thorium fuel cycle development, and regulatory, safety and security. The private sector should be the key participant in our future nuclear power development. To do this we have to move away from a narrow dog-in-the-manger approach and make comprehensive reforms to open up the sector to private participation, both Indian and foreign.

 

Experience of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) process shows that administrative ministries usually protect their PSUs from competition and loss of market share by opposing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in their sectors. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the Department of Atomic Energy opposes FDI in the nuclear power sector. We have seen this before in sector such as power generation, civil aviation, where eventually reformers have prevailed, and the sectors have been released from the shackles of PSU domination.

 

Given the enormous financial and technical requirements of our nuclear power programme, we must allow FDI into the sector, up to 100 per cent as in the case of other power subsectors. Fair competition between the NPCIL and new players, and with other power producers must be ensured. Balance between the concerns of producers and consumers must be struck. This is the challenge before the regulatory system which must be faced. Only then will large-scale investment flow into the nuclear power sector.

 

The government seems to take the line that all future power projects must have the NPCIL as a majority equity partner. This means at least 50 per cent equity stake (if not more), and if one allows for a reasonable debt-equity ratio, the NPCIL would have to cough up some $ 5 billion for the lower target, and some $ 14 billion for the higher one.

 

Do we really want the entire nuclear power sector to be dependent on the NPCIL alone? Is it not better for the NPCIL to have to compete with other private players? Our experience with Air India should provide some food for thought. There should be no difficulties in allowing 100 per cent FDI for nuclear power projects, subject to security, safety and regulatory requirements being met.

 

The nuclear liability regime needs to be clarified to encourage private players into the sector. The deficiencies pointed out in the present Bill need to be fixed. Best practices followed in the European Union should be taken into account. The US practice may be somewhat unbalanced in favour of business interests.

 

Should we allow FDI into the sector, a system of security clearances for the foreign participant will be needed. In addition, there should be clear security guidelines and clearance procedures for all personnel involved in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants. This should be a uniform requirement, for all plants and not nationality specific.

 

Nationality alone cannot be the basis for security assessments. Many countries have adopted such systems for sensitive installations and there are plenty of examples to follow.

 

Safety is a prime consideration in the nuclear industry. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) is understaffed and needs to be strengthened to meet its increased responsibilities. A culture of openness and dialogue with the public will go a long way in removing apprehensions and objections to nuclear power.

 

While the government has selected sites for nuclear power complexes, already there are groups opposing such plans. Concerns of local stakeholders are important and must be met by highlighting and maximising specific benefits accruing to them.

 

Overall, the scenario for Indian nuclear power is gloomy, with a timid government, clinging on to outdated monopolistic policies, in spite of the momentum generated by the NSG clearance and the Indo-US nuclear deal. It is time for policymakers to wake up if they are really serious about targets.

 

The writer is a former Ambassador of India to Greece and Cuba. He has a Ph.D in Particle Physics and has dealt with investment, energy and technology-related issues

 

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THE TRIBUNE

THE TWO-PRONGED DIVIDE IN EUROPE 

THE IRON CURTAIN IS MADE OF ECONOMICS, NOT POLITICS, SAYS ASH NARAIN ROY 

 

LAST year the British government published a slew of secret documents on the response of the big powers to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only weeks after the Wall had come down, says one document, Francois Mitterrand's exasperation was clearly visible when he told Margaret Thatcher during a meeting in Strasbourg that a restored Germany would "dominate" Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, leaving "only Romania and Bulgaria for the rest of us."

 

Today, when the world teeters on the brink of the new age of rage and Europe faces a tinderbox moment, new fault lines are visible between Germanic northern Europe and southern Latin Europe, on the one hand, and between the western and eastern Europe on the other. Rising economic crisis including the volatility of euro is leading to a social fury in both southern and eastern Europe. Luckily, there is no Fascist threat this time.

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has blamed the feckless Greeks and Latins for the euro debacle. Apparently, Berlin prides itself on German wage discipline and work culture, insisting that others should do the same.

 

According to the World Economic Forum's competitiveness report for 2009, Finland, Germany, Netherlands and France are the euro zone's most competitive countries while Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal are the laggards. The north-south divide has grown steadily since the introduction of euro in 1999, says the European Central Bank's competitiveness index.

 

The cracks are even more clearly visible along the old Berlin Wall. Last year, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenk Gyurcsany even spoke of "New Iron Curtain" in exasperation. In the past two years, several east European countries have witnessed wide protests against the austerity measures. Several heads of government have either lost elections or been forced to resign. Gyurcsany too resigned. Of course, there is no going back on the days of the old Communist era. But some people may be getting nostalgic about the era of stability which the Soviet power and Marxian economics had provided.

 

Sometime ago, Mojmir Hampl, vice-governor of the Czech National Bank, said what was indeed quite revealing. He said, "While the East has already managed to shed its prejudice that everything in the West is just great, the West should get rid of the opposite prejudice." Hampl further said that "the East knows much more about the West than vice versa." In other words, the divide between East and West too is still very much a reality. But there is a difference. This Iron Curtain is made of economics, not politics.

 

Europe has been plagued for centuries with dividing lines. And this divide can hardly be bridged with the motto, "all for one and me for myself". Some right wing groups are already in favour of saying goodbye to Greece and are advocating a union of strong economies and creation of Franco-German euro. George Soros recently told the Die Zeit weekly that "a collapse of the euro and the European project cannot be ruled out."

 

If the far right is pleading for Franco-German euro, Portuguese Communist leader Jeronimo de Sousa said his country has become a "protectorate of Brussels". Portuguese Communists are not the only ones who are complaining. Italy's Rifondazione Comunista, France's Parti Anti-capitaliste and Germany's Die Linke are all capitalising on the crisis of capitalism. If Germany and other stronger economies don't succeed in accelerating growth, many would begin to lose confidence in Europe.

 

The continuing crisis has revived the clichés about the north-south and east-west divide. There is a perception, maybe a distorted one, that people in north and west are thrifty, honest and hard-working, whereas those living in south and east are spendthrift, more fun-loving, lazier and even more flexible in their morality.

 

Many have begun to question the wisdom of welcoming too many "Club Med" countries into the eurozone. Some even talk of splitting the currency into "neuros" and "souros". That may or may not happen, but Europe will find its capacity to exercise power abroad greatly constrained by the lack of political and economic integration at home. Europe's leverage will become more constrained.

 

Gideon Rachman of Financial Times says that Europe is facing a "midlife crisis." The modern European Union "has its origin in the Treaty of Rome of 1957. That means that the Union is now 53 years old — a classic age for a midlife crisis. And sure enough, the EU betrays every sign of a debilitating loss of a sense of purpose." What should Europe aim at — peace, prosperity, power projection, spread of democracy or simply practical benefits to its citizens like passport-free travels, cheaper phone calls etc? All these goals have become controversial and with rapid expansion even controversial.

 

Much of Europe's idealistic goals have begun to flounder in the wake of the economic crisis. If liberalisation has become a dirty word for some, immigration is unacceptable to others. As Rachman puts it, "The Union is like a middle-aged man whose inconclusive reveries about the meaning of life have been interrupted by the unpleasant realisation that he has not saved enough for his retirement — and may have to start eating cat food on a more regular basis."

 

There are many who argue that what Europe is facing is a long-term economic decline. In analysing the current economic crisis in Europe, both similarities and contrasts in Asia come to mind. Let us see Japan, for instance. With a public debt to GDP ratio of about 200 per cent, Japan is the most indebted industrial economy in the world. It has racked up debt totaling $9.4 trillion, while its GDP is only $5 trillion, close to twice the country's GDP.

 

Public debt as a percentage of GDP in Europe too will soar even in Europe's anchor economies. Dan Steinbock of Stanford University says that in the absence of gradual adjustments, "it will climb to almost 200 per cent in UK and France — and to some 150 per cent in Germany and Italy by the year 2020. Historical experience indicates that as the debt ratio exceeds 90 per cent, it will tax economic growth." In any case, the budget deficit as a share of GDP even in Germany is equivalent to some of not so well performing economies of Asia like Thailand and Philippines.

 

Like Japan, Europe too is wrestling with ageing population and low fertility problems. It will only worsen in future. By 2050, the UN projects, the working age population in Europe will decrease by over 110 million people. Already more people now die in Europe than are born. The total fertility rate is 1.47 children born per female. Fertility rates above 2 per female are required to maintain the current population.

 

A century ago Europe was home to 25 per cent of the world's population. Now it stands over 10 per cent. Asia, Africa and Latin America will account for practically all population growth over the next 20 years; less than 3 per cent of the growth will occur in the West.

 

One need not be overly pessimistic about Europe and the European project. After all, no region has achieved what Europe has — Schengen, euro and above all, peace and democratic consolidation. Europe will come out of its midlife crisis. Sometimes, problems themselves become part of the solution. Europe will, of course, have to reconcile with a four speed world, rather than a two speed world. To end, both the present and future world powers would do well to remember the words of Jean Monnet, regarded as the chief architect of European unity, "nothing is possible without people, nothing is durable without institutions."

 

The writer is Associate Director, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

REGULATING THE MEDIA

STATE CANNOT BE THE FINAL ARBITER

BY N.K. SINGH

 

A judge cannot sit in his own judgment" thus goes the argument preferred by the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials who have prepared a draft proposal for setting up a broadcasting authority for regulating the media under soothing phrases like "co-regulation", "independent body" and Broadcast Authority (they have now replaced the obtrusive phrase, Regulatory Authority).

 

"As a judge cannot sit in his own judgment, the electronic media, too, cannot be left to judge itself", they argue equating the media with banking, telecom, insurance or other similar industries. And, therefore, in para 13 of the draft, they have proposed to set up a National Broadcast Authority of India (NBAI).

 

Predatory creatures have a bizarre skill to move slow and without any noise during the final leap on the prey. The state appears in its predatory best. It has provided in the draft certain clauses that prima facie give an impression as if it is the sole custodian of the public interest and is also at the same time a protector of media autonomy — a sine qua non for a functional democracy.

 

However, it has by design tried to retain the final arbiter's role. Its NBAI will have all the necessary ingredients of the state — funding, appointment and legislation but it has sought to do it in a circuitry manner so that its intentions remain concealed. 

 

In the days to come, it will become another allurement for "looking forward" judges and bureaucrats — a cozy slot for which most of the top people in statecraft become servile a few years before retirement to appease the government.  

 

True, no body can or should sit in his own judgment. But contrast the government's assertion with another latest situation. In June 2010, the Union Law Minister had said the government proposed to bring in a legislation to once again take into its hands the appointment of judges. For the past 17 years, this job has remained in the hands of a collegium of the Supreme Court judges following a decision in the S.P. Gupta case.

 

The Minister feels that the collegium has not served the purpose well. It is common knowledge that the Indian state is the biggest litigant in the country. By selecting judges, will it not chose its own judges? Can this not amount to "the litigant appointing his judge"?

 

Moreover, when a judge does not sit in his own judgment, this job of adjudication against him is not given to any extra-judicial body. Here the government intends to ask its cabal selected by it — albeit by proxy — to control the media and still claim that it would be an independent body.

 

The CBI is used to shackle the political adversaries into submission. Everybody knows how top bureaucrats, judges are accommodated in cosy slots after retirement. Prasar Bharti was brought into existence claiming that it would remain completely autonomous. Today everyone knows how Doordarshan functions.

 

Para 11 of the draft talks about co-regulation but while creating regulatory structure it has resorted three-tier vertical hierarchy. Ironically, at the lowest rung the individual media organisation has been asked to create a complaint redress mechanism. At middle tier it envisages a body by the industry which will look into complaints and will be empowered by law to take punitive action against erring channels. But both these tiers will be under the direct control of the apex tier, i.e. the NBAI.

 

The catch lies in how the NBAI will be structured, funded and empowered. It is at this level that the media will have no say in any manner except that it can nominate one person in the proposed seven-member authority. The appointment of the NBAI chairman and members is proposed to be made by a committee comprising the presiding officers of the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha and a Supreme Court Judge who can be nominated by the Chief Justice of India.

 

Alternatively, the committee can also comprise the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, a Supreme Court Judge and a nominee of the President of India or the Chairman of the Press Council of India.

 

Besides, the proposal also envisages two other steps — the funding of the NBAI by the state directly and its existence through a parliamentary legislation.

 

Now while the Ministry officials do talk about co-regulation, there is hardly any say of the so-called "independent" media in all three functions — appointment, funding and legislation so far as the apex tier is concerned. It is pertinent to note that the Supreme Court, while interpreting Article 12 of the Indian Constitution, had in over a dozen judgments, including the Mohini Jain case, clearly laid out criteria for what constitutes the state. "If a body is brought into existence by way of a legislation, it is funded by the state and is appointed by the state it will be termed as part of the state", it ruled. The NBAI fulfils all the three criteria.

 

Are we, after over 60 years of democratic practices, being controlled by the state?

 

Often, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials cite the example of the media regulators in the US, the UK and Australia. However, in those countries, the mighty state and its representatives cannot dare put pressure on the "independent institutions".

 

In 1913, an Australian judge could not take oath because a newspaper brought out the fact that the Attorney-General had sought the judge's view on certain issues in which the government was involved before he was elevated to the High Court. The judge could not dare take oath after this expose. Recently, a British minister had to resign because his personal staff had taken an out-of-turn air ticket in a particular flight.

 

A better option could have been empowering the industry's body and watch it work for three years. If it fails, the civil society and not the state should start developing a body. But this may not suit the predatory state.

 

The writer is General Secretary, Broadcast Editors' Association (BEA), New Delhi

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ON RECORD

BY JOTIRMAY THAPLIYAL

FIGHT THE MAFIA TO SAVE FOREST WEALTH: DABRAL

 

IT is a one-man army standing against the mighty Uttarakhand Forest Department. Very few know of Jayprakash Dabral, founder President, Himalayan Chipko Foundation. An MBA from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, he shot into limelight over the Tehri Dam transmission line issue, where he saved 85 per cent of the 90,000 trees. After he approached the Supreme Court, its Central Empowered Committee restricted the felling.

 

His fight against the timber mafia has certainly come at a cost as Chipko volunteers have faced murderous attacks. He, too, has received threats. Dabral was conferred the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004 by Ashoka Foundation, Washington DC and the Real Heroes Award in 2008 by CNN-IBN news channel. He speaks to The Tribune in Dehradun.

 

Excerpts:

 

Q: How did you get to the depth of this mammoth wood scandal?

 

A: There is a big forest scam involving lakhs of trees in Uttarakhand. The timber mafia has cut thousands of trees in connivance with the State Forest Department officials in the name of Hak hakook (people's traditional right to use wood for their consumption). The wood smugglers cut many more trees than the sanctioned number. They cut the wood in marketable sizes and sell it in black market.

 

Q: What about villagers' response to the timber mafia?

 

A: The beneficiaries have no clue of the official sanction for cutting trees. Village Pradhans apply on their behalf to the Forest officials. The latter get paid a paltry sum for the applications. After clearance, the applications are given to the timber mafia who cut the trees and sell the wood in the market.

 

Q: Is Hak Hakook proving counter-productive for forest conservation?

 

A: While it is an essential part of livelihood in the hills, its misuse must be checked. The people in the hills should not be deprived of these age-old rights. At the same time, we won't allow the timber mafia to destroy the Uttarakhand forests in the garb of these rights. There should be a mechanism to check cheating of the local villagers.

 

Q: Did your public interest litigations in the Supreme Court further your case of forest conservation?

 

A: Certainly. Acting on my PIL, the Supreme Court ordered the state government and the Ministry of Environment & Forests to enquire into the complaints.  Initially, the state government officials denied any illegal cutting of trees. But the Ministry of Environment and Forest report corroborated all the facts of the petition. It mentioned the forest officials' cover-up operations after the PIL in the Supreme Court. Then, the state Forest Department, in an affidavit, admitted the misuse.

 

Q: Do you fear the timber mafia?

 

A: Not at all. Fighting the timber mafia is not so easy. It does involve high risk. One of my men and his family members faced almost certain death at the hands of timber mafia recently. Shiv Prasad and his wife Kavita were mercilessly beaten by the timber mafia in Pauri Garhwal district. It was only after my intervention that some medical relief came for the couple and the report could finally be lodged. I have also received threats earlier. But such cowardly act would not desist me from taking on the strong land mafia.

 

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THE  TRIBUNE

OPED

KELEKAR: GANDHIAN AND PROLIFIC WRITER

BY HARIHAR SWARUP

 

NOTED Konkani litterateur, Ravindra Kelekar, decorated with the prestigious Jnanpith Award, is 85 and has been ailing. He was brought in an ambulance to receive the Award presented by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

 

Besides Konkani, he has widely written in Hindi and Marathi. His acceptance speech was read out at the Award function by noted Hindi critic Namwar Singh. Kelekar expressed concern over excessive obsession among the people over English language in virtually every sphere of life. Stating that this was weaning away people from regional languages, he remarked that this mindset was instrumental in producing "Bonsai intellectuals, Bonsai writers and Bonsai readers".

 

A Gandhian activist, freedom fighter and a pioneer in modern Konkani movement, Kelekar is a well known scholar, linguist and creative thinker. He actively participated in India's freedom movement, Goa's liberation movement and later led the anti-merger campaign with Maharashtra. He spearheaded the literary campaign for recognition of Konkani as a full-fledged language and its recognition as the state language of Goa.

 

Kelekar was born in Cuncolim, South Goa. His father, Dr Rajaram Kelekar, was a reputed physician who took keen interest in literary activities. He had the distinction of translating Bhagwad Gita in Portuguese. While still a high school student, Ravindra joined the Goa liberation movement, bringing him close to several national leaders including Dr Ram Manohar Lohia. Under Lohia's influence, he was able to recognise the power of language to mobilise the people. Later, he saw the potential in his native Konkani language which became his life-long work.

 

Deeply influenced by Gandhian philosophy, he left his native Goa in 1949 for Wardha to be with the noted Gandhian and writer, Kakasaheb Kalelkar, and stayed under his tutelage until 1955, when he was appointed librarian of Gandhi Memorial Museum, New Delhi. This stay, however, turned out to be short-lived as only a year later, he plunged back into the Goa freedom movement.

 

With a mission to reconnect the Goa diaspora all over the world, he started the weekly, Gomant Bharti (1956-60), published in Roman script. Soon after his active participation in the freedom struggle, he was imprisoned by Portuguese rulers, but was released as the Indian Army liberated Goa from the Portuguese in 1961.

 

However, Kelekar's political activism was far from over. He joined the successful socio-political campaign

against the merger of Goa into neighbouring Maharashtra. The campaign ended after the plebiscite of 1967 with Goa retaining its separate identity albeit as a Union Territory, until 1987 when it was declared a separate state.

 

After Goa achieved statehood, Kelekar took to literary activism with the objective of getting Konkani independent status and not just as a dialect of Marathi. This was a long drawn struggle. During this period, he penned some of his most important works, promoting Konkani language including Aamchi Bhas Konkanich, a dialogue revealing the importance of Konkani to the common man. The struggle finally ended in 1992 when Konkani was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution as an official language of Goa. With his life's mission having been completed, Kelekar retired from public life and has been writing.

 

The pinnacle of his career came with the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship and Jnanpith Award which was for the first time given to a Konkani language writer. Among his books, Himalayant (In the Himayalas), a travelogue in Konkani, won him the Sahitya Akademi Award. A number of his books have been translated into Hindi and other North Indian languages and are used in university education. Kelekar has penned nearly 100 books in Konkani and also edited Jaag (awakening) magazine for more than two decades.

 

Kelekar translated the epic Mahabharat in Konkani, running into two volumes. In his version of the Mahabharat, he has successfully tried to rationalise the mythological characters and events. His interpretation and style of writing are so interesting that one gets a feeling of reading the epic afresh. Kelekar married Godubai Sardesai in 1949 and they have a son, Guirish. He presently stays in his ancestral home 'Kelekar House' in Priol, Central Goa, built by his father in 1937.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

DRAMA OR SPIRITUAL AWAKENING?

THE NEWS ABOUT JULIA ROBERTS ADOPTING HINDUISM JUST BEFORE RELEASE OF EAT, PRAY, LOVE LEAVES MANY QUESTIONS UNANSWERED


 Marketing and promotion is a big part of a movie's success and some film personalities go to great lengths with statements and actions to help their projects. But remember what happened to Shah Rukh Khan at the Newark airport? There are cynics who maintain that last year Khan staged the brouhaha with the Department of Homeland Security, to bring attention to My Name is Khan. I am not one of them. I know that the US immigration officials cannot be bought for a film's publicity. Plus Khan seems to be sensible enough not to indulge in such a stunt. 

 

 But I am quite baffled by Julia Roberts, born to Baptist and Catholic parents, as she told Elle magazine that she converted to Hinduism during the shoot of her new film Eat, Pray, Love – the story of a divorced woman who travels to Italy, India and Bali in search for a deeper meaning of life. Roberts said she and her family now go to a Hindu temple to chant and pray. 

 

I have never understood how people can convert to Hinduism, since it is not an organised religion like Christianity, Judaism or Islam, with a prophet, or a holy book where conversion steps are prescribed. After Roberts' admission, some publications quoted a swami at Hari Mandir in Pataudi, where the film was shot, saying he witnessed her praying at a temple, "run her hands over the lamp and her hair." The swami added that he tied the sacred thread and applied tilak on Roberts and her children. I suppose that makes them a Hindu. 

One person who was thrilled with Roberts' apparent conversion is a Nevada based self-styled and publicityhungry Hindu priest Rajan Zed. In 2008 Zed singularly launched a massive campaign criticising Paramount Pictures for their film The Love Guru. His barrage of statements convinced several media outlets to take him seriously and to believe that he spoke for the millions of Hindus in the world. 

 

 Zed is obsessed with celebrities and this time around he quickly jumped at welcoming Roberts' into the fold of Hinduism. As someone who claims to have understanding of the religion, he even offered his assistance to guide her through its practice. 

 

 Setting aside all of that, I find it intriguing how Roberts very conveniently decided to mention her new found love for Hinduism, just when her film is about to open. I understand religion is a private thing and she rarely gives interviews. But given that she claims to visit a temple regularly, no one – the paparazzi that follow her and her family, day and night for gossip tabloids or even a Hindu priest – ever broke this news to the press. 
    Will more people (perhaps more Hindus) go to see Roberts' film now that she has shared this secret with us? Only time will tell. Eat, Pray, Love opens next week. 

 

It is possible what Roberts says is true. She has always had issues with the pressures of being that a celebrity. Perhaps she found solace or had a spiritual awakening at the temple in Pataudi, while she was surrounded by the chaos of the film shoot. 

 

 But what is remarkable is that the press – in India and abroad, jumped at her one little statement. People posted comments on social media sites – many cynical and others seemingly in admiration. 

 It happens each time a celebrity claims to show support or acceptance for an Eastern religion or philosophy. Many times I hear people mentioning names of Hollywood celebrities who practice yoga. Sting's proclamation that he could prolong his sexual performance by practicing yoga got some ridicule, but it also generated enough curiosity. Often I hear that Richard Gere, Uma Thurman and Orlando Bloom are Buddhists. It seems to give credibility to our religions, but also to our lives. 

 

Perhaps then we are all like Zed, seeking some connection with Hollywood celebrities, finding similarities between their lives and ours. Maybe it is a comforting feeling to know that these celebrities have troubles too and our way of life brings them calmness.

 

ASEEM CHHABRA OFFERS A WEEKLY NEW YORK PERSPECTIVE ON INDIAN ISSUES

 

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

EDITORIAL

CAESAR'S WIFE

POSTING A JUDGE TO SIKKIM WHILE HE'S UNDER A CLOUD IS A BIT MUCH

 

So is it the size of Sikkim (just six lakh residents, only a tenth of which live in cities) or the distance from the seat of power (the distance from New Delhi to Gangtok is 1,598 km) that makes it so irrelevant? How else can you explain the judicial system posting Justice P Dinakaran to the Sikkim High Court as its chief justice even while a three-member committee set up by Rajya Sabha Chairman and India's Vice President Hamid Ansari is still finalising a charge sheet against him? The lawyers in the court are so incensed with the step-motherly treatment that they have threatened to boycott his oath-taking ceremony next week. It is true that the charges against Justice Dinakaran have not been proved — the three members met at the residence of Justice V S Sirpurkar of the Supreme Court earlier in the week and decided that they needed some more time to study the bulky documents. But the charges against him are serious — illegal encroachment on government land, evasion of stamp duty, possessing agricultural land in excess of the ceiling — and if the evidence is accepted, Justice Dinakaran may face impeachment proceedings in Parliament.

 

How could the system be so cynical that it posted a judge as a chief justice even while he is under a cloud? Caesar's wife has not only to be as pure as the driven snow, she has to be seen to be as pure. In such a case, surely the operating principle should have been guilty till proven innocent. In the case of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court, who is also under a cloud and is facing impeachment proceedings after the Chief Justice of India wrote to the government on the matter in 2008, the saving grace is that he continues to be on leave and is not hearing any cases. And in Justice Sen's case, a division bench of the court had cleared him of the charges. Despite this, however, the Chief Justice of India formed an internal committee and asked him to resign; when he refused, the CJI asked for impeachment proceedings to begin.

 

 In 1993, when Justice V Ramaswami was all set to be impeached after a three-judge committee found him guilty and all 196 MPs of the Opposition parties voted in favour of this, the Congress party MPs walked out of Parliament, thereby ensuring there wasn't a two-thirds majority in favour of impeaching him. The mood, however, has changed quite dramatically today and Law Minister Veerappa Moily has been pushing for a Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill to take care of precisely such issues of allegations of corruption against judges. If the judiciary isn't going to mend its own house, the politicians are going to mend it for them.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

ANURAG VISWANATH: DISPARITY UNDERLIES PROSPERITY IN CHINA

CHINA HAS MADE EFFORTS TO REPLICATE IN ITS WESTERN REGION THE ECONOMIC SUCCESSES OF THE EAST, BUT THE 'GO WEST' POLICY IS FRAUGHT WITH OBSTACLES

ANURAG VISWANATH

 

The Chinese state has made concerted efforts to replicate in its western region the economic successes of the east, but the 'go west' policy is fraught with obstacles

 

China's 'go west' strategy or xibu da kaifa commenced in 2000, promulgated by the then President Jiang Zemin, amidst much fanfare at the ancient capital of Xian. It proclaimed a commitment to bridge the growing regional divide between China's eastern coastal provinces, which have flourished under the economic reforms of the last 20 years, and its land-locked western provinces, which have remained largely untouched by the reforms. A decade has gone by. There is a celebratory din surrounding the stream of official reports from China this year, but it is pertinent to ask, what are the real gains from the policy-driven industrial and infrastructure expansion, which has been heavily financed by the state?

 

The regional divide and the uneven development is a corollary of China's size (almost three times bigger than India) and geographical diversity, which favours the eastern seaboard. State Statistical Bureau (SSB) statistics of 2004 show the eastern coastal region accounted for more than 30 per cent of China's population, 54 per cent of its GDP and more than 80 per cent of its foreign direct investment (FDI). The so-called 'golden coastline' (huangjin haian) has a strong presence of special economic zones, economic and technological development zones, coastal economic open zones and custom-free zones, due to the state-driven preferential policies of the 1980s and 1990s.

 

In stark contrast, the SSB concedes that the western region, which constitutes the largest area, supported 29 per cent of the population, accounted for just 17 per cent of GDP, and garnered a meagre 3.2 per cent of the FDI. Not much has changed since — 2010 statistics show that the western region accounted for 18.5 per cent of GDP in 2009. Unofficial reports say more people are moving to the prosperous east.

 

China's western region — one-third of the total area — consists of 12 provinces (Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Sichuan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan, Tibet, Guangxi and Inner Mongolia), large areas of which are geographically frail: beset by cold, dry weather, rough terrain, limited arable land, poor infrastructure and home to three-fifths of China's 105 million-strong minority population.

 

Of these, Chongqing is a young municipality, directly under central administration, created after separation from Sichuan province in 1997. Sichuan and Xinjiang provinces are not as poor as the rest: Sichuan is the largest provincial economy of the west, and the largest market in the western region with a long-established industrial base; the economy of oil and natural gas-rich Xinjiang is dominated by state-owned enterprises, and it is the only province of the western region with a GDP per capita above the national average. Shaanxi province (capital: Xian city) also has a strong industrial base. Expectations are that in the future Chendgu (in Sichuan province), Chongqing municipality and Xian will constitute the golden triangle of the region.

 

The western region is home to the dreaded Drapchu Prison (in the Tibetan Autonomous Region or TAR), labour camps (in Qinghai province) and the nuclear testing grounds in the Tarim basin at Lop Nor (in Xinjiang province), and because of the recent ethnic conflicts in TAR, Gansu and Xinjiang provinces, it is colloquially known as luan or chaotic.

 

However, the western region is resource-rich — Xinjiang province has oil fields and Gansu province petro-chemical industries — and has attracted many state-owned industries. But these are largely extractive, primary and mining-related, drawing comparison to the 'east colonising the west' thesis.

 

The peripheral status of the western region can be attributed, in part, to China's roller-coaster regional development strategy. During the 1960s and 1970s, the model of resource allocation, san xian or 'Third Front', sought to avoid concentrating industries on the 'First Front' (first line of attack, the coastal belt), or the adjacent 'Second Front', but instead concentrated large capital projects in interior or 'Third Front' locations. But since 1980 there has been a reversal, underlying which was Deng Xiaoping's belief in the comparative advantage and productive efficiency of the coastal region.

 

Under Deng, the coastal areas were earmarked for preferential policies — tax breaks for foreign and domestic investors, easier access to domestic capital and greater freedom in foreign trade. In fact, after a lull in reforms (following Tiananmen in 1989), Deng, during his historic southern tour of 1992, declared, "Areas with the potential for fast growth should be encouraged to develop as rapidly as they can."

 

But the growing polarisation between the western and eastern regions led to an increasing debate within China.

Economists such as Hu Angang (known for his proximity to China's political elite) and Wang Shaoguang actively pushed for bridging the gap. Thus was 'go west' born.

 

Over the past decade, the state has sought to improve the investment environment by offering tax breaks,

opening up linkages between provinces and invigorating the sleepy west by pumping in an estimated RMB 2.34 trillion (about $320 billion) for more than a hundred infrastructure, environment, energy and water projects.

 

The gains are visible — an impressive build-up of infrastructure (expressways, east-west networks, upgradation of inter-provincial and local roads). TAR, once a remote area, is no longer so, with the commencement of the Golmud-Lhasa section of the Qinghai-Tibet railway in 2006 and the west-to-east gas and power transmission pipeline, a 4,200-km gas pipeline that runs through eight provinces to Shanghai in the east. Though critics have slammed China's 'state-environmentalism' — a 'green wall' from Xinjiang province to Heilongjiang province, which lies in the extreme north-east — the project is on track. Water conservation and afforestation projects in the upper reaches of the Yangtze and Yellow River have been undertaken, and grazing grounds have been successfully returned to forests.

 

However, in the long run, it remains to be seen whether the development is sustainable. Much of the industrialisation, greening programmes and infrastructure development were backed by large subsidies, state-investment or Beijing's 'cheque-book'. The largesse was also top-down — and there are hitches on the ground.

 

There are lacunae in primary education, tertiary education and health care in the mountainous, arid or desert regions populated by minorities — a formidable barrier to development. Moreover, China's coastal region is known for its spirit of enterprise (clusters, township and village enterprises, special economic zones like Guangzhou and Shanghai province), which the western region lacks. The bulk of the rich overseas Chinese entrepreneurs who invested heavily in the coastal region is from the eastern region.

 

Today, the state might have created suitable 'nests' for birds of investment to fly in, but they are literally in the desert, unable to attract FDI, skill and talent, and are struggling to stay afloat with state support.

 

The effort to encourage migration to the western provinces has had little success. China's army of migrants continues to march to the coastal region. Moreover, large areas of the western region have been racked by ethno-religious violence — Xinjiang province in 2009 and TAR in 2008. Thus, much of the gains appears to be blood-transfusion, the result of government investment, and not consumption or indigenous enterprise.

 

So, while the commitment and execution of the 'go-west' policy is praiseworthy, making it self-sustaining is fraught with obstacles. The road to replicating the eastern success in the west seems, at least until now, the one less travelled.

 

The author is a Singapore-based Sinologist

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

NEEDED - AUTHORITY WITH ACCOUNTABILITY

SINCE THE STRUCTURE CREATED BY GOVT DOES NOT UNDERLINE THE NEED FOR ACCOUNTABILITY, IT IS HARD TO PENALISE THOSE IN CHARGE OF PROJECTS

SURESH BANGARA

 

Recent events concerning the holding of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi once again raise the issue of the government's competence in hosting such mega events. The government under the existing dispensation is just not equipped to do so. One may argue that the Asian Games were indeed successfully organised in 1982 and that the Commonwealth Military Games, as also the Youth Games, were recently held in Hyderabad and Pune respectively. Many others would argue, "We are like that only." After all, everything falls into place miraculously by the last day and we pull it off. Is that something to be proud of in a commercially and technologically charged atmosphere?

 

China led the way in proving that countries in the East are also capable of hosting the Olympics — and that too, on a scale much grander than that seen anywhere before. Why and how did they succeed? Planning and execution are the simple answer. Generally, militaries are inherently capable of conducting events with precision. Hence the Republic Day parade at Delhi and the flawless execution of Beating the Retreat every year. The preparations and oversight for both events are largely left to the armed forces. The international fleet review conducted by the navy at Mumbai in 2000 was another feather in our cap.

 

 The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the only event which can match the precision attributed to shows that have been successful. But then, the IPL was never managed by the government. Authority and accountability both rested with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and, what is more, funding was generated with in-house capabilities. That there were allegations of corruption is a matter of checks and balances. The event itself brought laurels to the country.

 

Why then is the government unable to replicate a model most suited to the efficient conduct of such events? Professional management needs real professionals with field experience to run the show — not politicians who are merely rubber stamps, some of them allegedly there only to generate funds for themselves.

 

Typically, government procedures are devised to ensure that public money is not frittered away; hence the tendering process and the choice of the lowest bidder. Over the years, these procedures have been violated not only to favour 'friendly' bidders but also to ensure that time over-runs do occur. With time over-runs there is inevitably a cost over-run. In cases where time is of prime importance there is a good opportunity to enhance the investments, which in turn provides better returns to interested parties.

 

Also, since the structure created by governments does not underline the need for accountability, it is difficult to penalise those in charge of any project. If quality of work is of international standards, when the event is done and dusted, posterity would gladly acknowledge the gift of the infrastructure created. Even that is not guaranteed in the tendering process, and hence it is likely that the infrastructure would be of little value for those who inherit it.

 

What about decision-making? On-time decisions lead to timely completion of tasks. The government structure is such that decisions delayed draw no ire from the system. Why do the Ambanis or Tatas complete projects on time? It is because it is their money and they are accountable to their monitoring system. So, why not outsource the whole project to achieve the best results? Who do you think is planning and managing the creation of infrastructure in such sporting events? Consultants from within and without, who also have limited accountability. Such a model does not always result in successful projects. How about public-private partnerships (PPP) with a clear-cut accountability and funding matrix?

 

Yes, that is possible if the model is based on a win-win formula. This would eliminate decision-making delays, bring in proven consultancies to ensure quality and penalise defaulters. Can the government ensure non-interference once all conditional clauses have been complied with? The new airport at Delhi is an example of a well-managed and high-class product which has been delivered on time. There are teething problems related to coordination and training, which are eminently solvable. Success in this case can be attributed to planning and execution by professionals who met international standards.

 

Why could we not create such a model for mega events and keep the politicians and bureaucrats out? As in the successful information technology industry, which thrives due to minimal intervention by the government, leave it to professionals after ensuring that checks and balances are in place. Until then, let us not even bid for international events, especially those that are of little value to sports lovers. The Commonwealth Games are neither the IPL nor the Olympics.

 

The author is a former naval office

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE DREAM OF A HARDOI WEAVER

LIVELIHOOD AND SKILLING PROGRAMMES FOCUS ON NEW SKILLS WHILE TRADITIONAL SKILLS WAIT FOR A MESSIAH

SREELATHA MENON

 

Momin, till a few months ago, used to weave carpets in a village in Hardoi till he and his friends decided to leave for the city. Orders had stopped coming. So, he is now peddling his stuff in Delhi's suburbs in a rented cycle rickshaw. While he earned a mere Rs 1,600 a carpet and barely survived, today he earns Rs 12,000 a month.

 

 Yet, he is unable to accept this new identity. He is dreaming of getting his artisan friends to start weaving again at their shack in Khoda village in Ghaziabad where they live. Maybe proximity to the city would help them now.

 

Momin and his friends don't figure anywhere in the many programmes that are on to impart skills to the rural youth and help them find jobs. In fact, the question is how relevant are the livelihood and skilling programmes to those who are already skilled but don't earn enough— the artisans, the weavers, the craftsmen…the carpet weavers of Hardoi, the silk makers of Benaras?

 

The Sampoorna Grameen Swarojgar Yojana of the rural development ministry, meant to help people with credit to begin income generating activities, has been a dud in north Indian states. Revamped as the National Livelihood Mission, one of its components is skill development and placements in partnership with industry. Private players like NIS Sparta, Dr Reddy's and Il & FS are setting up training centres wherever there is demand. And the jobs are mainly in retail, BPOs and sectors which require people to leave their towns and villages and migrate. In two months, NIS Sparta has trained and placed 1,700 people in cities after IGNOU certified its training in communication skills.

 

The other programme is the Skill Development Initiative of the labour ministry which has been enrolling private players to set up skill-imparting facilities for rural youth. However, none of these programmes are looking at the large number of skilled people in villages who can earn more with some support.

 

These are artisans and weavers in the country who have not been helped by the Khadi and Village Industry Corporation so far in making their skills count in terms of money.

 

Vijay Kumar, the man who headed Velugu in Andhra Pradesh and who is now helping roll it out nationally as the National Livelihood Mission, says the programme right now does not look at traditional skills or linkage to markets. Its focus is on organising people and equipping them to use loans for their betterment. He cites the example of suicides by powerloom workers in Andhra Pradesh. Then, each group was given a loan of Rs 5 lakh, which helped them pay off the money lenders and make their activities profitable.

 

However, he says that in the case of Madhubani paintings in Bihar, a model of development by Asian heritage has proved successful and will be backed by the mission.

 

If such models are implemented in Benaras or Khurja or Hardoi for weavers and potters, the mission will definitely help find end-to-end solutions, he says, referring to forward and backward linkages to markets, raw materials, and others.

 

Whatever plans the government may have, weavers are migrating to cities in search of work, often abandoning their traditional skills for good.

 

Momin and his friends may or may not succeed in making their dream come true in the city, but it is a fact that the lot of weavers who need no skills is unaddressed. The more traditional skills are neglected, the higher is the chance that they will cease to exist.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

'LITERACY MUST BE OUR IMMEDIATE PRIORITY'

MANMOHAN SINGH

 

I am delighted to be here today to listen to my school friend Amartya Sen. I am glad that Pratichi Trust, Asian Development Research Institute, Patna and the National Literacy Mission have jointly hosted this unique event.

 

The subject of Amartya's lecture today is 'The Centrality of Literacy'. It has taken economists time to appreciate the centrality of literacy & education to economic and social development & empowerment of people. I have often drawn attention to the simple statistic that there is no modern industrial nation that does not have a minimum of 80 per cent literacy. Even at the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, which we so proudly hail as the 'Knowledge Century', a quarter to a third of our people remain 'illiterate'. It is even more unfortunate that a strong gender bias against women persists in the spread of literacy. To make India fully literate and to eliminate the gender bias, literacy – therefore – must be our immediate priority goal.

 

When one looks around the world and studies the history of the promotion of universal literacy, it is clear that a combination of governmental intervention and support and civil society mobilisation has always worked best. Consider the example of Kerala, where literacy rates have been high for a long time. Kerala's achievement is a testimony to the good work done both by successive governments and by a range of civil society movements, religious institutions and non-governmental organisations.

 

The challenge before us in India, therefore, is to seek a productive collaboration between government and civil society organisations like Pratichi Trust to implement durable strategies for universal literacy and mass education. It is in recognition of this centrality of literacy that Rajiv Gandhiji launched the National Literacy Mission in 1988. This mission mode approach helped India record the highest decadal rate of growth in literacy – 12 percentage points – between 1991-2001.

 

Despite significant gains, we still have a very long way to go. According to Unesco's Global Monitoring Report 2006, out of 771 million illiterates in the world, 268 million are estimated to be residing in our country — nearly one-third of the world's non-literates. Even though India's GDP has recorded a very high growth rate in the recent past, the inferior literacy status of our country has contributed to the lowering of our position in the UNDP's Human Development Index.

 

Our government has taken a series of important steps in the past six years to make the light of literacy and education shine for every child, every citizen — irrespective of gender, caste or religion. We have placed special emphasis on the funding and implementation of 'Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan', for the age group of 6-14 years. For removing adult illiteracy, we launched the 'Saakshar Bharat' programme last year with a special focus on female literacy. In launching 'Saakshar Bharat', the government acknowledged that adult education is as important as formal education.

 

It is our government's commitment that paucity of funds will not be allowed to limit the spread of literacy and education in our country. It is on the foundation of this fiscal commitment and political resolve that we went to Parliament and added a new Fundamental Right to our Constitution — the Right to Education.

 

My friend Amartya knows very well that I am what I am today because of the investment that my family and

my country made in my education. There are millions of Indians like me who enter their adulthood with no other asset than education. But what an asset education is! It is the most important differentiator, the most effective multiplier. Education is, of course, far more than mere literacy. But it is literacy that stirs in our soul the unending search for knowledge. Alphabets are the building blocks of human civilisation.

 

I sincerely hope that we in India can pool our energies together to ensure that every one of our citizens is awakened by the light of literacy and empowered by the energy of education.

 

(Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks at a lecture by Amartya Sen on 'Centrality of Literacy' in New delhi on august 3)

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A NATIONAL EFFORT IS NEEDED IN LEH

 

The frightening effects on the landscape and human ecology produced by the cloudbursts over Leh earlier this week could hardly have been imagined. It is truly difficult to visualise a six-kilometre block of earth holding up an entire village being virtually uprooted and creeping up under the pressure of violent rain and wind to collide with the town of Leh 12 or 13 km away. This is just one episode of horror from the narrative of nature's fury which numbed Ladakh on the midnight of Thursday and early Friday morning, cutting a 150-km swathe between the Leh-Manali road and the Leh-Srinagar highway. Well over 100 people are reported dead, hundreds injured, and many more missing. These are initial figures and we can have a better appreciation of the calamity only in due course as rescue and disaster management teams spread out. While landslides are a frequent occurrence in mountainous regions, it is unheard of for hills and mounds to move in the manner of the forest of Shakespeare's imagination in Macbeth. This challenges the very notion of terra firma so critical for human habitation.


It is easy to see that if Ladakh were a heavily populated region, the scale of the human disaster following from the cloudbursts might be unprecedented. As it is, the crown of India is a cold desert and the most sparsely populated region of the country. While this reduces the scale of human loss and suffering, the injury done through nature's whim to this ancient land of great cultural magnitude and fragile geomorphological features cannot be minimised. Ladakh is home to Buddhist treasures that attract pilgrims and tourists from across the world. There is no knowing at this stage how this heritage has fared. If any of it has been lost, damage would have been done to the soul of Ladakh and India. From early reports, one fears the worst for the Leh Old Town that sits atop the main bazaar of this picturesque and ancient settlement with its complex sociological fabric. Here sits the confluence of history arising out of Buddhist impulses and those of Islam that trickled down in the process of interactions over centuries with Eastern Turkestan, now Chinese Xinjiang. Ladakh is a tri-junction of India, China and the Northern Areas of the Old Jammu and Kashmir state, under Pakistani occupation since the late Forties. This imbues the region with tremendous security-related sensitivities. National effort is called for to make good the damage caused in Ladakh. It is said that half the annual rainfall the region typically gets was received in the course of a few hours. This is thought to be the consequence of excessive heating — leading to the build-up of unconscionable humidity over a short period — attributable to climate change caused by human activity. It may be worth studying if checking the heavy tourist inflow to the area would help in forestalling damage caused by nature in the future.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TIME TO ROCK THE BOAT

BY ARUN NEHRU

 

We have a tense situation in Kashmir where 50 people have been killed since the trouble started about seven weeks ago. Sadly, no one has a solution to offer and while it is true that most political issues cannot be seen in black-and-white, the fact is that we are witnessing a civil disobedience movement and increased violence and more deaths will only reduce the credibility of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah.  

 

We all talk of change, we all talk of young leadership and take it for granted that this applies only to those in governance. While the separatists and the Opposition in the Valley may take advantage of the situation, the fact is that the real leadership of this movement has moved on to another generation.

 

The security forces have done well to control the terrorists and infiltrators but they cannot be a substitute for political will and dialogue. Clearly Kashmir, like the rest of the country, is coming out of old feudal values and attitudes and as things stand it is clear that a massive mandate in favour of good governance has been eroded over the past year.

 

We will do well to remember that the People's Democratic Party had won more seats than the National Conference (NC) in the Valley and the formation of the government was possible only when the Congress tilted towards the NC for all the right reasons.

 

Mr Abdullah cannot be expected to deliver a miracle on his own. But with the help of all elements in the NC, the Congress and the assistance of home minister P. Chidambaram and the excellent intelligence and information network, a great deal can be done to pacify the public in the Valley. We should wish Mr Abdullah well in his efforts.

 

THE CONTROVERSY surrounding the Commonwealth Games continues to dominate the headlines. I think it is tragic that we are confusing the setting up of the facilities for the Games with the organisation of the Games. A great deal of good work by hundreds and thousands of workers is being negated by a handful of individuals in the Commonwealth Games Organisation Committee.

 

Some of the facilities have teething problems but that can be handled in the time available. The fact is that we are paying the price for neglecting work in the first few years after winning the bid to host the Games. But holding a discussion now, at this stage, is not right as there will be enough time for post-mortem after the Games.

 

 

The Commonwealth Games Village is handled by the Delhi Development Authority as are the "soft" facilities in the stadiums. We should put our best talent to deal with this situation.

 

The Congress is supporting Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and ignoring the affairs of Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and his associates. After the forgery issue they should have resigned or the government should have taken suitable punitive action.

 

The United Progressive Alliance government, the Congress and all of us are embarrassed as we see the amount of money being paid for things like mosquito repellents — Rs 135 has been paid for rental whereas they can be bought for Rs 100. If we go from item to item — liquid soap dispensers, plug points, ice-making machines, dust bins, pedestal fans, bookcase — each one seems a bigger, more embarrassing scam than the other.

 

Murky deal like the AM Auto hire will continue till all those guilty are replaced by members of the Organising Committee whose hands are clean and who can take charge of the Games.

 

Union sports minsiter M.S. Gill can handle the situation if there is a clear political indicator. This issue has festered beyond a certain period and those in governance will suffer more than anyone else as the media cannot be curbed. The issue of national pride cannot be invoked in cases of fraud and forgery.

 

In the context of the Commonwealth games some references have been made to the Asian Games in 1982 and

though my memory is a little blurred, I do remember that we discussed the issue for well over a fortnight from all possible angles before Rajiv Gandhi took over responsibility for the Asian Games.

 

There were many who had doubts and this is inevitable in a democratic framework. The first step was to assemble a team and Sardar Buta Singh, then a deputy minister, was promoted to minister of sports and K.T. Satarawala, Sankaran Nair and S.S. Gill were inducted. Along with Arun Singh we assisted Rajiv Gandhi on a 24x7 basis. We had no mobile phones but each of us got a car and were known by our wireless codes (1, 2, 3). My job was to ensure that schedules were maintained and that there were no bureaucratic delays (there weren't any). We had the full support of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi but we rarely troubled her or anyone else in the government. All credit for the success must also go to the many hundreds and thousands who worked for the Asiad.

 

We had to take several unpopular decisions and there were no free VVIP and VIP passes. Some senior Cabinet ministers were respectfully escorted back to their cars twice but no one really complained as there were no "exceptions". We saw little of the Asian Games but the amazing thing was that everything, including the telephones, worked.

 

I hope the Commonwealth Games 2010 will be a success and wish everyone well who has any responsibility, big or small, for its success.

 

- Arun Nehru is a former Union Minister

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

MASTERS & COMMANDERS: A POWER TRIP

BY S.K. SINHA

 

U.S. President Obama's dismissal of his commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, underscores the supremacy of the civil over the military. This supremacy of the civil took its time establising itself. For centuries heads of government suffered the rank insubordination of their brilliant generals, some times bordering on insolence, dismissing them only on reasons to do with the conduct of war. The fact that they served under an elected government did not stand in the way of commanders who were often related to the monarchy, or held in high esteem.

 

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln went to the house of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, the commander of the Union Army. The general sent word he would meet the President in his office. Lincoln was later asked how he tolerated such insolence. He replied he would hold the stirrup of McClellan's horse for the sake of victory. Later, Lincoln dismissed him for military failure and replaced him with Ulysses S. Grant.

 

Otto von Bismarck was the architect of Prussia's military victories. During the Franco-Prussian War, a correspondent asked the Chancellor how far the Prussian Army was from Paris. He replied that he knew no more about that than the correspondent; Generalfeldmarschall Helmuth von Moltke (the Elder) would send his war despatches only to Emperor Wilhelm I. In Britain, the Duke of Cambridge, a cousin of Queen Victoria, was Commander-in-Chief of the Army for 30 years. During that period no Prime Minister could interfere with the Army.

 

Supremacy of the civil over the military was fully established and exerted only in the 20th century. Two incidents pertaining to the conduct of war during the Great War (1914-18) are of significance. Winston Churchill wanted a Navy operation through the Dardanelles to knock Turkey out of the war. The First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher, remonstrated with Churchill, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill overruled Fisher and expounded his plan to the Cabinet. Fisher was in silent attendance. He felt it would be disloyal of him to oppose his minister. The Cabinet construed Fisher's silence as concurrence and sanctioned the operation. The Dardanelles became the greatest disaster in the Royal Navy's history. A parliamentary panel indicted both: Fisher was dismissed and Churchill sent into political oblivion, for a while. The second instance pertained to Prime Minister Lloyd George and the Army Chief, General Robertson. Lloyd George felt the war had been fought to a standstill in the trenches of France. He wanted some divisions diverted from France to operations against Turkey. Gen. Robertson opposed this as he felt France was where the war had to be fought and won. The French opposed any diversion of effort. This was discussed at the Supreme War Council in Paris presided over by French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau. Clemenceau asked Robertson for his professional advice, which was contrary to that of his Prime Minister. Lloyd George was furious and sacked Robertson. A few months later the Germans launched their big offensive of 1918 which the Allies just barely beat back. Things may have been very different had divisions been diverted. Lloyd George realised his mistake and promoted Gen. Robertson, then in retirement, to field marshal.

 

A little after World War II, there was friction between US President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur, possibly the greatest American military leader of all time. His military genius was put to test during the Communist invasion of South Korea. He undertook his operation against the advice of the American Chiefs of Staff and personally conducted the operation from a warship off the coast at Inchon. MacArthur wanted an all-out offensive. He wanted nuclear waste laid along the Yalu river against Chinese intervention in Korea and an all-out offensive against China in Manchuria and from Formosa into the Chinese mainland. Prophetically, he added that Tibet and Indochina would suffer Communist rule. Truman wanted the war limited to Korea. Europe was still recovering from the Second World War and the Allied powers did not support MacArthur's war plan. Moreover, the Soviet Union had become a nuclear weapons state. MacArthur made indiscreet remarks to the press. He said he did not know the aim of the war in Korea and added that in war there was no substitute for victory. He wrote a private letter to an American senator expounding his views, which the latter leaked to the press. Truman dismissed MacArthur unceremoniously despite the American people's regard for him.

 

There have been hiccups in civil-military relations in India. General K.S. Thimayya was a charismatic leader and the only Indian to command a brigade in war during the British period. He personally led the attack in the battle of Zoji-la in Kashmir. As Army Chief, his relations with then defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon soured. He resigned over the promotion of a major-general to lieutenant-general. This greatly damaged his reputation, particularly when Jawaharlal Nehru first persuaded him to withdraw his resignation and later criticised him in Parliament. Had Thimayya chosen to resign on a more substantive issue and stuck to his resignation, he would have gone out a great hero.

 

- The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

'INQUIRIES DEMORALISE EVERYONE'

 

The corruption charges being levelled at the Organising Committee of the Commonwealth Games to be held October 3-14 have "diverted the attention of everyone involved at the OC", says OC secretary-general and chief spokesman Lalit Bhanot in an interview to Devadyuti Das. With so little time left, it is not ideal to spend most of the time dealing with enquiry panels, notes the OC top official.

 

Q. There are less than two months to go for the Commonwealth Games. What are the biggest concerns of the Organising Committee at this stage?

A. The delivering of the Games is our first priority. Part of this process is the completion of overlay work at all the 18 competition venues. We have appointed a very big and competent company for this task. They have plenty of experience and have started their work. The joint director-general of overlays and procurement, A.K. Saxena, is overseeing the entire job.

Q. Is the delay in delivery of the venues a worry?
A. At the time of signing the agreement last year, we had asked for all the venues by August 1. The time left might be short, no doubt, but we have already started the process of taking over. This will be complete by the weekend.
The ideal time for venues to be ready is two months before the Games. The field of play was ready well within this timeline. Other landscaping work can go on after our venue management team has taken over.

 

Q. Is there enough time to test the venues after the overlay work has been completed?

A. The testing of venues is an on-going process. Apart from the wrestling and gymnastics stadia, all test events have been held successfully. In the process, all venues were checked along with practice runs for presentation, scoring, technology, security and transportation of teams. Once the venue operations teams take over at all venues, the remaining one month will be reserved only for testing.

 

Q. The Central Vigilance Commission's report has raised doubts about safety at various venues. What is the OC doing to address these concerns?

 

A. Handing-over of venues only means that our venue operations teams will be taking charge. The different departments have to give mandatory clearances. The fire department, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, and different authorities issue these. We're in the process of getting the okays. Venue owners have to collect all this and they have to hand it over to us.


But we can't delay taking over the different stadiums. We have to fix them and get them properly organised for the Games. We have world-class venues and the overlays need to match that standard.

 

Q. The OC is only talking about the competition venues. Don't you think the delay in completion of training venues will affect the athletes' preparation for the Games?


A. I don't think the preparation of the athletes is getting disrupted. In fact, after the Asian All-Star Athletics meet last week, the athletes immediately wanted to return to Patiala as the weather in Delhi is not ideal. There is so much humidity. The athletes will prefer to train in places like Patiala and Pune.

 

Q. With a spate of corruption charges levelled at the OC lately, attention has been diverted in some measure from the Games preparations. How distracting has this been?

A. It has diverted the attention of everyone involved at the OC. With so little time left, it is not ideal to spend most of the time dealing with enquiry panels. It demoralises everyone involved in the process.
Only the senior management can't be blamed as there are close to 2,000 people working in the OC. Every functional area has its own head, and after a point we have to trust them. If anyone is found guilty, action will be taken accordingly.

 

Q. Do you think a corporate structure of management would have been better for organising the Games?
A. I don't think so. Whoever is involved in organising the Games is an expert in his/her field. They have organised the Afro-Asian Games, Asian-level meets, etc. The others involved are benefiting from this experience. I don't think corporate bodies can organise sports, as you and I are looking for. The right people have been involved in the job.

 

Q. Do you think the government should have offered more technical expertise to the OC?
A. We reached out and sought the help of different agencies like the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation and Central Public Works Department (CPWD) on July 15 when the report of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner came out. CPWD even offered to send some of its retired personnel. Should the government have been more involved? I can't comment on that.

 

Q. The overlay work might have begun but when will the catering and merchandising contracts be finalised?
A. The tender process for the venue catering is going on and it will be cleared in the next few days. The Games Village catering is already being handled by Delaware North. As far as I know, seven vendors have participated in the tender. One company has even offered to give a sponsorship of Rs 8-10 crore. I expect it will be finalised by August 10.


Games merchandise will be unveiled on Monday (August 9). There were some delays in clearing the designs but it has all been done.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WHAT TO OPT FOR? PAK IN A TURMOIL

BY K.C. SINGH

 

UK Prime Minister David Cameron's rise went almost unnoticed in India as his assumption of office followed the uncertainty of a split verdict. That he had shown great interest in India even as Opposition leader, having visited India, was also ignored. Therefore in Bengaluru on July 27 he could have been just any head of government from a friendly European capital. However his comment on the export of terror from Pakistan woke everyone up. Was this a foot-in-the-mouth incident and would the usual retractions follow? He not only stuck to it but forcefully defended it more than once. He surprised the world, delighted India and caused nervous consternation in Pakistan, particularly as it happened on the cusp of an official visit by Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to the UK.

 

Such candour in India-UK relations has been long awaited. Interestingly, Mr Cameron arrived in India via Turkey, where too he did some plain speaking, getting to the root of the Turkish frustration with Europe. He correctly pronounced that a strategic North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally cannot be treated as a stranger when it came to European Union membership. He was reeling Turkey back from its foray into new alliances with the Islamic world to its south and Iran to its east. Mr Cameron was announcing his arrival on the international stage with a bravura performance, reading correctly the new power shifts underway globally. US President George W. Bush had similarly read them in 2005 when the India-US civil nuclear deal was announced. US President Barack Obama has calibrated that vision to fit his needs. The financial crisis compelled engagement with China; orderly retreat from Afghanistan requires appeasement of Pakistan. Mr Cameron has inserted himself in the space vacated by Mr Obama, who will have his work cut out for his November visit. India has a new sweetheart.

 

Asked by Nik Gowing on his BBC live broadcast out of Delhi, as the two Prime Ministers dined at Hyderabad House, I felt that Mr Cameron was actually undoing a wrong committed 60 years ago. When India complained to the UN Security Council on January 15, 1948, following the accession by the Maharaja of Kashmir to India, over the incursion by armed Pakistani raiders into the state, the then British secretary-general for the Commonwealth, Philip Noel-Baker, defying Prime Minister Clement Atlee, drafted a completely pro-Pakistan resolution ignoring the factual and legal realities. In Washington Robert Lovett, the US undersecretary of state, refused to endorse the charade. Nevertheless, grave damage was attempted and lasting harm done to India-UK relations as a rap on Pakistan's knuckles at that early stage would have put the whole Kashmir issue on a different track. This also sowed the seeds of Indian distrust of the UN Security Council and the Western powers.

 

It seems Mr Cameron is deliberately repositioning Britain. Foreign secretary Ernest Bevin had similar dilemmas post-World War II. Noticing receding US interest in British recovery, in a Cabinet memorandum on January 4, 1948 he argued for a third pole around a European system "backed by the power and resources of the Commonwealth... to develop our own power and influence to equal that of the United States of America and the USSR". This thought was aborted by the sudden communist upsurge in Czechoslovakia two months later. A proposal was made, and accepted, for the US to lead an Atlantic alliance and the Treaty of Brussels signed on March 17, 1948. Except for the Anglo-French 1956 attempt to overthrow President Nasser of Egypt, which the US helped fail, Britain's foreign policy, post-1945, was of alliance with if not subservience to the US. The global geo-strategic tectonic plates are shifting again and it is a time to choose. Mr Cameron is doing that in South Asia.

 

David Miliband's laconic dubbing of Mr Cameron, over terror remarks, as a loudmouth is rooted in domestic electoral considerations as indeed slavery to the past. Labour depends heavily on half a million Mirpuri votes, which in ghettoised concentration pulls a punch. Displaced by the Mangla dam in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, they migrated en masse to the UK in the 1960s. Mr Miliband similarly courted trouble in 2009 when he explained the 26/11 Mumbai attack in terms of Kashmir being the "main call to arms".

 

President Zardari and PM Cameron met on August 6 in UK. The joint statement suggests annual summits, urges strategic and cooperative ties and lauds the role of the democratic government in fighting terrorism. The sacrifices of the military are mentioned, though parenthetically. Compared to the tone and content of India-UK declarations, the mismatch is obvious. Mr Cameron has massaged the Pakistani ego, but did not recant his terror remarks in India, nor replay his expansive vision of India-UK relations.

 

Hopefully more allies of Pakistan in the West would choose similar candour. Pakistan's future lies in a collaborative partnership with India and not in corrosive combativeness. India will rise with or without Pakistan. The question is whether Pakistan wants to join the growth saga or opt for self-annihilating radicalisation and backwardness.

 

The author is a former secretary inthe external affairs ministry

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

IN PRAISE OF OLDER WOMEN

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

 

This is the title of the autobiography of a Hungarian writer Stephen Vicinczey, now a professor in a Canadian University. The amazing thing about him is that he hardly knew 50 words of English when he went to Canada and published his first novel at his own expense — and it became his international best-seller. It has been translated in all the major languages. I saw it advertised in a London journal as an erotica masterpiece. Being a man with a dirty mind I did my best to get hold of it. A friend sent me a photocopy. It has just been published by Penguin Viking (India). The cover has a middle-aged woman displaying her ample bosom.

 

It is as bizarre a story as I have ever read. It is based on Hungary in the last year of World War II. Stalin's Red Army is closing in on Hungary; Hitler's storm troopers fighting a losing battle in Austria. American GIs who take over Austria have a language problem communicating with the locals and with their libidos. Stephen who is five-year-old and can speak both Hungarian and English gets a part-time job as a kitchen boy in an US Army mess. He intended to take vows of celibacy and become a monk; he becomes a pimp arranging rates between US officers, GIs and Hungarian women who have been reduced to poverty and can't even afford two square meals a day for their families, prostitute themselves for milk powder, tinned eggs, cans of soup and cartons of cigarettes. He has plenty of opportunities of seeing what the barter is about. With his accumulated dollar salary he is able to buy a flat for his widowed mother in Budapest, and return to school. Under the Spartan rule of the Soviets there are few places left for Hungarians to have fun. One of them is an old Turkish bath house where women get into bikinis and men in shorts. They make dates and have lots of sex. It would appear that Hungarian men and women, married or single, gather and make love with two or three lovers at the same time. Then Stephen with a party of anti-Communists escapes from Hungary and is given asylum in countries of their choice. Stephen opts for Italy, gets a job in a college and escorts women older than him. He finds that older women, particularly those married and with children make better lovers than the young and inexperienced. It is the same in Canada where he now lives.

 

I like reading and writing erotica. I was eager to see if Stephen had done better than I have in my novel Sunset Club to be published by Penguin Viking in a few months. I don't think so.

 

Coorg saga

 

Sarita is a Coorg. For some reason she resents being called a Coorgi. They are a people apart from other South Indians. They are light-skinned i.e., Sarita could well be Kashmiri. They are from a handsome race with grey eyes. They have martial tradition: two of our Chief-of Staff were from Coorg: the first was General Cariappa, the second General Thimayya. Sarita's father was a Colonel of a Gorkha regiment and after retiring he was posted Deputy Military Secretary to the President. She spent many years in Delhi and speaks Hindustani fluently. Both her parents are back home in Coorg.

 

Sarita married a fellow Coorg Mandanna. She did an MBA from Bengaluru after marrying Mandanna, who is an architect and an MBA from Wharton Business School. Then he was posted to Canada. The couple befriended David Davidar and his wife Rachna. Sarita showed some of her writing to David who was head of Penguin Viking. He was impressed and suggested she write a novel about Coorg. She got down to it working about round the clock with three to four hours of sleep. It took her five years to finish her first novel Tiger Hills (Penguin Viking). It was an imminent success. She paints the landscape of Coorg with its undulating hills and coffee plantations with aroma of coffee in flower and weaves a tale on 1878 romance blissful prose. But for a few errors in describing the flora and fauna of the region she makes compelling reading.

 

Saas versus Bahu

 

A young Indian excitedly tells his mother he's fallen in love and is going to get married. He says, "Just for fun, Ma, I'm going to bring over three girls and you guess which one I'm going to marry." The mother agrees. The next day, he brings three beautiful girls and sits them down on a couch and after a while he asks: "Ma, guess which one I'm going to marry."

 

She immediately replies: "The one on the right." "That's amazing. How did you know?" Mother replies, "I don't like her."

 

(Contributed by Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SEARCH FOR V-C 

AND THE ABSURDITY OF A DEADLINE 

When the Presidency University proposal was mooted last November, it was generally acknowledged that the selection of the Vice-Chancellor would be an intricate task. The search committee, that has been formed to prepare the short-list, showcases a galaxy of talent. Amiya Bagchi is an economist of international renown; Shankar Pal is a noted statistician who has served as Director of ISI; and Pradip Narayan Ghosh is the present V-C of Jadavpur University. The Chief Minister has clearly picked members with sterling credentials. That said, it will be difficult for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to dispel the impression that the panel is tilted in favour of committed fellow-travellers on the academic circuit. It is no reflection on the panel to submit that the government allows no space to reputed academics without political connections. And should a consensual short-list prove elusive, the Presidency University Bill provides that the panel will have to consult the higher education minister. Indeed, the scope for ministerial intervention is what had prompted the Governor to return the Bill. Now that sanction has come from Raj Bhavan, the way is clear for ministerial meddling. In a sense, the government reserves the right to handle the remote control device of this unitary university. And the temptation may even be irresistible under a new political dispensation. The distinction between academics and political loyalties was blurred long ago.  

 

What raises greater cavil is the absurd, even intriguing, deadline. One can almost hear the rumblings within the search committee. Prof. Ghosh, the convener, has reportedly threatened to pull out "if there is a deadline to finalise the selection of the V-C by 3 September". The government's inexplicable hurry flies in the face of the rulebook. The university has three months after the Governor's assent to the Bill ~ 7 July ~ to select the V-C. A professor-in-charge could well have held the fort till the appointment was finalised. The higher education department had set the deadline before at least two members were notified of their appointment. And still more ridiculous, even before the first meeting of the search committee has been convened. The government appears to be proceeding from conclusion to premise. Does it have an incumbent in mind?  Is the search committee expected to give the person the nod without even a semblance of a search? Answers to these questions will not be readily available. With the creation of the university, the Chief Minister had achieved a breakthrough by ignoring his party's education cell; it now devolves on him to drop the absurd 3 September deadline. 


ACTING IN HASTE

WHY PEACE ELUDES BODOS

THE recent killing of five Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Assam's Bodo region could be the handiwork of any outfit ~ though the police suspect the involvement of the anti-talk National Democratic Front of Boroland (formerly Bodo Security Force) led by Ranjan Daimary. Ulfa has reportedly claimed responsibility just because the victims happened to be security personnel. Its elusive commander- in-chief Paresh Barua has claimed the outfit does not believe in killing innocent civilians. That the February 2003 Bodo accord which led to the formation of the Bodo Territorial Council under the Sixth Schedule was never intended to bring lasting peace in the region has long been confirmed because it was signed by the NDA government merely to refurbish its image in the North-east. It persuaded the Bodo Liberation Tigers, a fledgling outfit, to give up arms and sit for talks at the expense of the dominant NDFB, whose presence was ignored because at that moment its cadres were holed up in Bhutan along with Ulfa members. During the tumultuous Bodo agitation days, it was the NDFB that had struck terror with mindless killings and extortion in tea gardens and that after the December 2003 Bhutan crackdown its cadres would create a serious law and order problem was never in doubt.
  After signing the 2005 ceasefire accord, Daimary disappeared, in the process frustrating those who were in designated camps. This resulted in a split in the outfit. Blame this on the Centre for failing to initiate early talks. If the Centre and the NSCN(IM) are incapable of taking a bold decision even after 13 years, it is because only one Naga group is talking. The same is happening in the Bodo-controlled region. Now that Daimary is in Dispur's custody after his recent arrest in Bangladesh, a peaceful method to settle differences between the strained NDFB teams and the BTC leaders should be worked out.


OH, DEER! 

ONE WAY TO FEED THE TIGER 

Animals have the right to life. The West Bengal forest department's latest policy in relation to the deer overlooks this fundamental fact. It is disingenuous, and the risk of a marked decline in their numbers is not just substantial, but definite. The logic is bizarre and cruelly so. There isn't enough space at Alipore Zoo. Therefore, close to 70 spotted deer  are to be shifted not to a designated deer park, but to the wilds of the Sundarbans. They will have to adjust to the hostile environment and, no less crucially, face the risk of infection. The nemesis is chilling. From captivity in the zoo they will be freed in the forest, there to serve ~ horror of horrors ~ as food for the hungry tiger. To protect one species, another is being consciously sacrificed. The laboured justification, advanced by the forest department, is just not acceptable. It makes a travesty of the tenets that guide the preservation of fauna and the conservation of wild life.  Just as the regal tiger needs to be sustained, so must the deer ~ a remarkably attractive creature. One can't be left at the mercy of the other. Yet that precisely seems to be the plan of the forest department.  After a veterinary check-up, the deer will be released in the wild. Thus does the department hope to ensure a source of food for the tiger and eventually curb the straying into nearby villages. The two-pronged strategy is as daft as it is cruel ~ to relieve the pressure on space at the zoo and remain a mute witness to the killing of deer in the forests. 


Why do tigers stray into human habitat, the Chief Minister had once asked. He now needs to reflect on the forest department's plan of action. It would be almost criminal to provide the endangered tiger with the meat of another endangered species.  The wild life enthusiast is aghast.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

REPRESSION IN TIBET

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT TAKES THE LID OFF

CLAUDE ARPI

 

A new report of Human Rights Watch (HRW) entitled "I Saw It with My Own Eyes ~ Abuses by Chinese Security Forces in Tibet, 2008-2010" has recently made the headlines. It deals with the unrest on the Tibetan plateau in March-April 2008. As a lot of ink has already gone into the subject, one could ask why publish a new report, two years after the happenings? It is not really the sequence of events which preceded those tumultuous days, but rather the way the Chinese authorities handled the riots which are unveiled in the HRW report.
For the human rights organization: "The Chinese government has yet to explain the circumstances that led to dozens of clashes between protesters and police. It has not addressed how its security forces responded to the unrest …Nor has it revealed the fate of hundreds of Tibetans arrested during the protests, or disclosed how many it has detained, sentenced, still holds pending trial, or has sentenced to extra-judicial forms of detention".
In other words, Beijing has something to hide. Nicholas Bequelin, who is based in Hong Kong and worked for HRW explains in an interview with the French daily, Le Monde: "We worked without a priori, but to answer the main issue, what is the Chinese government trying to hide by locking the entire Tibetan plateau since the demonstration of March 2008."


Bequelin considers that it is now difficult for Beijing to refute the HRW Report based on official Chinese sources and eye-witness accounts (200 interviews conducted by HRW between March 2008 and April 2010).
One of the conclusions is that the scale of human rights violations was far greater than previously believed. Chinese forces broke international laws such as disproportionate use of force, torture and arbitrary detention. Further, it reveals that violations continue, including disappearances, wrongfull convictions or persecution of families.


Let us recall the facts. The troubles started on 10 March 2008 when 300 monks from Drepung Monastery, near Lhasa started a peaceful protest march towards Barkhor Street, in Central Lhasa. A few monks were immediately arrested by Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials. The next day, the Sera Monastery in turn got involved in peaceful demonstrations. Again some monks were arrested, severely beaten and manhandled by PSB officials. The following day, about 2,000 Chinese troops fired teargas to disperse hundreds of Sera Monastery monks calling for the release of their fellow monks while shouting pro-Tibet slogans.


March 14, 2008 will remain etched in the history of protests in Tibet. It was subsequently termed 'the 3/14 incident' by Beijing, probably to make it sound like a terrorist attack against the People's Republic of China. In the morning, about 100 monks from Ramoche monastery began to demonstrate against the arrest of monks. Once again they were stopped and beaten by the police. This infuriated the Tibetans who happened to pass by the area. From then on, the situation went out of control.


Soon, a large-scale demonstration involving tens of thousands of people led to a confrontation between Tibetans and the People's Armed Police. The unrest spread to all the Tibetan-inhabited areas of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. All the events occurred when local party cadres were attending the annual National People's Congress in Beijing.


Many eyewitnesses told the HRW tales of horror: "The witness described soldiers beating an elderly man in his sixties who continued to shout slogans after he had already been loaded in a truck: From inside the truck he kept shouting 'May His Holiness the Dalai Lama live for 10,000 years!' and 'Tibet is independent!', and for this, five or six soldiers threw him to the ground and beat him so severely that he seemed close to death."
The Chinese government immediately put the blame on the 'Dalai Lama and his clique'. An official in Lhasa told Xinhua that there had been enough evidence to prove that the sabotage in Lhasa was "organized, premeditated and masterminded" by the Dalai clique. Though the Chinese government always maintained that it applied 'limited' use of force (and spoke about the loss of 10 lives 'mainly Chinese and Muslim business persons!'), the Dalai Lama's administration mentioned at least 100 dead.


Instead of cooling down the situation, Zhang Qingli, the party chief in Tibet, created more resentment by calling the Dalai Lama "a wolf in monk's clothes, a devil with a human face" and declaring that "those who do not love the motherland are not qualified to be human beings". The HRW report, however, points out that no evidence of any external intervention has ever been given by Beijing.


Interestingly, another report prepared by a Chinese think-tank, Beijing Gongmeng Consulting, was published in 2009. It had also contradicted the party's official version. The authors, a group of Chinese lawyers spent one month in Tibet "interviewing Tibetan monks, nomads, farmers, scholars, migrants, artists, and business people".
The lawyers first point out "major errors in government policy" after the March-April 2008 protests. One was 'over-propagandizing of violence'; another, encouragement of racist sentiment towards Tibetans: "The excessive response of the government all over Tibet was to regard every tree and blade of grass as a potential enemy soldier."


According to them, this further strained relations between the local Tibetans and the Han migrants. One of their conclusions was: "Understanding is a precondition for discussion, unity and development. If the promotion of healthy development in Tibetan areas is truly desired then there must be a change in thinking and an adjustment in thinking behind the current nationality theories and policies."


The lawyers' report found that in Tibet, the difficult terrain has created "locally fixed power networks, which inevitably lead to a high incidence of corruption and dereliction of duty." For the Chinese lawyers, this new aristocracy, which is 'legitimized by the party', is even more powerful than the old one.


The Tibetan Diaspora probably could not disagree with some of the lawyers' conclusions. Particularly, when they say that, 'foreign forces' and 'Tibet independence' are used by "many local officials as fig leaves to conceal their mistakes in governance and to repress social discontent …elevating everything to the level of splittist forces in order to conceal their errors."


A similar conclusion was arrived at in the 70,000 character petition sent by the previous Panchen Lama to Premier Zhou Enlai way back in 1962, for which the Lama spent 17 years in jail. Ater his release, he worked closely with the Communist Government, but continued to be disturbed by the situation inside Tibet. In January 1989, while declaring open the tombs of his predecessors at the Tashilhunpo Monastery, he declared: "The Chinese rule in Tibet had brought more destruction than benefit to the Tibetan people". Four days after delivering this historic speech (witnessed by the then party boss, today President Hu Jintao), he passed away.
The mysterious nature of his death generated a lot of speculation. Six years later, soon after the Dalai Lama formally announced that Gedhun Choeki Nyima, a six-year old boy born in Tibet, was the genuine reincarnation of the Eleventh Panchen Lama, the boy was arrested. Since then, he is known as the "youngest political prisoner in the world". Beijing later 'discovered' its own incarnation of the Panchen Lama who has recently been 'promoted' as a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Incidents like these are the root cause of the resentment of the local Tibetan populations against the Chinese occupants. There is no need to go further to understand the events of March-April 2008. The HRW report is, however, a welcome addition.

(The writer is an expert on China-Tibet relations and author of the Fate of Tibet)

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

RETTY HINDU WOMAN…

URBANE ANGST 

 

Julia Roberts is a Hindu. So am I. But, unlike her, I would only admit to it if you held a gun to my head. 
 In all other situations, I have equal contempt for all religions, a little more for some than for others ~ I may not be a Pretty Woman but I do like to think of myself as a Thinking Man who gets it contextually, is always game for insights into the matrix of self, people, places and paraphernalia that makes each individual's existence fit in the context of their specific earthly life in all spheres and, hell, I even celebrate the mundane, so why shouldn't I? 


I hasten to clarify that I have nothing against adherents of any faith ~ it's not their fault that both nature and nurture have conspired to make them believers ~ but apart from being a Hindu-If-Gun-At-Head I am also a Muscular Liberal. This is sometimes confused with being a Neo Conservative but it's not the same thing at all, despite certain commonalities of interest. 


Also, I believe in the rule of law and don't give a toss that its origins, as of the social contract or the notion of equality of opportunity, emanate from the Christian tradition; approximations of these theses, both theoretical and practical, can always be found in other faiths but that's not my game. I am not an insecure Hindu who wants to push his religion's case to be the new "it" thing; that's a derivative discourse best left to socially disabled, sexually inept and intellectually moribund proselytisers of all faiths. 


In fact, I am the only Muscular Liberal Hindu-If-Gun-At-Head I know who doesn't want to convert anyone. Just couldn't be bothered; there may be safety and legacy in numbers but there is also such profound boredom there. I am morally ambivalent ~ each to their own as long as it doesn't break the law of the land ~ but aspire to be ethically correct at all times as a matter of faith. So, I think I'm an irregular sort of Hindu, the only one I aspire to be despite the Sanatan Dharma regulars (respect). 


Longish preamble, but necessary I think. Because only Hinduism as an Indic civilizational way of life, and that's the notion of the religion that claims me when push comes to pistol (you didn't seriously think I was from the ranks of the Ram Sene/Bajrang Dal did you?), allows me to take the above position without being excommunicated or worse. Indeed, it's a moot point who would, if they could, excommunicate me because there isn't any central ecclesiastical authority I recognise or one that can enforce such a decision if I don't go by the book, as it were. It's also for these and other such reasons that Roberts can declare she is a practicing Hindu without having a love interest from that faith to pander to or cultural particularity to take into account, and without having to change her name, her diet, her profession or even how she chooses to dress. 


Because in the essence ~ not core, mind, but essence ~ of this way of life is the individual and his/her freedoms in all spheres (what more religious and perhaps less muscular Hindus refer to as the individual path to salvation). Don't get me wrong, though. This is not some airy-fairy new age traveller number that makes of a flawed, living, breathing religion a kind of hippy-happy, anything goes, structureless entity. Of course not. The empirical realities of caste, kinship and family structures and what they have come to represent in the form of group rights trumping individual rights, to take just one example, mitigate against such a reading of the religion. But still.

  
Roberts can just get up and leave at any point and at any time of her choosing, without ascribing any reason whatsoever. It's what philosophers call the "right of exit" from any cultural/religious community for each and every member thereof without having to give up their adherence to the cultural context of their lives ~ whether that be a result of choice or circumstance or as most often a bit of both ~ and this includes how they eat, love, pray... 

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

CHINA'S GENERATION OF ANGRY YOUTH

 

Following 30 years of reform and opening up, China's educated youth are split into two distinctive groups. Some of them, benefiting from the country's growing economic success, have become intellectual elites with dominant social status. Their less fortunate peers, who missed these opportunities, are still struggling at the bottom rungs of society. 


In such an unfavourable context, they may turn into so-called "angry youth", radically critical citizens furious over any malpractice by public powers, and thereby sowing the seeds of social inequity. This group, who defy mainstream values, will have a profound and far-reaching impact on Chinese society. 


The social underdogs are those who usually stay in cities after leaving school. They do not have stable jobs or local household registration. 


This group mainly consists of three kinds: idle youth from urban families relying on their parents' income; unemployed college graduates from the rural areas swarming to cities looking for jobs or the so-called "ant tribe"; a new generation of migrant workers born after the 1980s who have had secondary education and who fight for their livelihood in cities but are still identified as farmers. 


Among the three, utmost attention should be paid to jobless college graduates from rural families, especially the new generation of migrant workers. The new generation of migrant workers accounts for five to six per cent of the total population of 130 million migrant workers. 


The difference between jobless urban and rural youth and the new generation migrant workers is that the rural labourers have no basic living guarantee in cities once they lose jobs. As city dwellers, their urban counterparts can, however, continue with their parasitic life, either relying on social welfare or on parents to get by. 


Irrespective of the family backgrounds of these "angry youth", most of them attribute their miserable lives to unfair social systems, rather than themselves. 


A typical ideology of this energetic group, labelled "angry youth consciousness" is taking shape gradually.

Contrary to the mainstream social values, this ideology reflects a shared outlook among the underdogs. 


Once this consciousness takes root, it will cause more social unrest at the grassroots level. We can see this budding mentality at internet forums where views opposing mainstream values are expressed with regard to political proposals or controversial social issues. These defiant opinions reflect the social underdogs' dissatisfaction and protest and, if not checked, will aggravate hatred against the bureaucracy. 


Although the older unemployed migrant workers are also in a weak position in the social strata, survival is their most pressing problem, not political participation. Even if they cause social unrest, they usually blame it on their employers directly rather than the local governments. 


But the expectations of poor educated youth are different from common migrant workers. Most of the youngsters will probably think of corruption by officials first when they accuse the unfair social system for their personal troubles. 


A simple comparison between their better-off classmates and themselves may easily direct their dissatisfaction to the system. Gradually, they will become apathetic to life and resent society, and become increasingly rebellious. 


The problem of poor educated youth is closely related to the exclusive nature of institutions formed after the reform and opening up. The main feature of the exclusiveness is that huge obstacles exist which prevents members at the bottom rungs of society from climbing up the social ladder. 


Children of the rich and powerful always have better opportunities and corner more social resources. The abuses of public power and financial resources are eating into the very foundation of social fairness and justice. The monopoly of power and wealth by the elite few intensifies the "angry youth's" strong resistance to official homilies on social values. Breaking the monopoly of public power to provide upward flow on an equal footing is urgently needed. 


Decision-makers should get a keen glimpse of the underdogs' lives and try to understand their concerns and behaviour. Political research should not only focus on elite intellectuals, but also reach people at the grassroots to understand the dynamics of China's domestic governance system. 


And, developing basic social identification among the youth is crucial to promoting their emotional attachment to society. Through building a fair social security system, governments at various levels should provide citizens with equal public services regardless of their backgrounds. 


china daily/ann

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

SAILING ROUND THE WORLD AT 14

JEROME TAYLOR


As Laura Dekker's boat finally set sail for the start of a voyage that could one day lead her to be crowned as the youngest person to sail solo around the world, it was her lawyer Peter de Lange who provided the most succinct explanation as to why a 14-year-old would undergo such a task. "Laura has salt in her veins," he said.
For the past 12 months, the teenager has been stranded on dry land following a bitter legal dispute between her family and Dutch child welfare services who refused to let her leave the country. But the schoolgirl finally set off from Den Osse harbour for the start of a two-year odyssey which will see her journey for months on end without support or company through some of the world's toughest seas. 


Her court case provoked a debate over whether someone so young should be allowed to take on such a daunting challenge. Supported by her father Dick – and belatedly by her mother after she dropped her initial opposition – Laura argued that she was an accomplished sailor who could tackle a solo global voyage and keep up with her studies at the same time.


Welfare officers in the Netherlands disagreed, launching a legal bid to stop her from undertaking the voyage and even threatening to take her into care. But, in a dramatic reversal of fortune for the young sailor, a court in the Netherlands struck down a supervision order which had barred the teenager from going abroad, arguing that the ultimate responsibility for Laura lay with her parents. 


Speaking to reporters next to her 38ft yacht Guppy, the teenager dismissed any concerns for her safety, even though she will have to travel through pirate-infested waters and battle tropical storms on her own. "I am not really afraid," she said. "I am very happy. I want to see the world and it would be great to become the youngest (person to circumnavigate the Earth)". 


For the opening stages of her voyage to Portugal she will be accompanied by her father. "We want to be sure that the boat is completely ready, so this is the last test sail," Laura explained. "From Portugal I start officially by myself, sailing towards the Canary Islands."


Part of the reason the court lifted the supervision order was because she made a series of adjustments, opting to travel in a larger boat, taking first-aid courses as well as practising solo runs across the North Sea and undergoing sleep-deprivation exercises. She will not try to circumnavigate the globe in one go, opting instead to take regular stops to meet her family. She will also avoid the ocean during stormy seasons. Her route will take her across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific, past Malaysia and Thailand, around the southern horn of India and through the Gulf of Aden, a stretch of water notorious for piracy. 
Her voyage is part of a trend that has seen younger and younger participants attempt to snatch the record. Last year the 17-year-old American Zac Sunderland became the youngest sailor to sail around the world – only to have his record broken six weeks later by the British sailor, Michael Perham, also 17 years old. In May, the Australian sailor Jessica Watson reduced the age record once more, completing a circumnavigation in less than seven months, just shy of her 17th birthday. If Laura is to beat Jessica's record she will need to complete her circumnavigation by not later than 16 September 2012.


the independent

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

MANTLE OF A HINDU

 

Hindu spirituality, or what is perceived by that term, has had an allure for certain Westerners ever since William Jones and his peers discovered the Indian past. From writers like Christopher Isherwood, who had his epiphany in a meeting by the river with an outstanding scholar, Leopold Fischer, who donned the ochre robe as Swami Agehananda Bharati, to the innumerable flower children who sought instant karma with Mahesh Yogi in the upper reaches of the Ganges and those who want to get rid of their stress though varieties of yoga, there are many to whom the 'Hindu way of life' has appeared as a viable alternative to the materialist civilization of the West. Julia Roberts is the latest distinguished addition to a very long list. The quest is to find inner peace, which seems to elude some in the West through the agency and the rituals of the Christian church of whatever denomination. In Ms Roberts's case, there is also the search for an escape. She has admitted that she goes to a Hindu temple to "chant and pray and celebrate'' so that in her next life she will be born as "something quiet and supporting". She, presumably, has had enough of being a celebrity. It is possible that a similar quest brought George Harrison to Mahesh Yogi's ashram in Rishikesh.

 

There is no denying the mystique of India's past which seems to flow seamlessly into India's present. The very idea that a verse of poetry, first recited on the banks of the rivers in Punjab around 1000 BC, is still chanted on the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi or wherever Hindus gather to worship is enough to bewilder some or send shivers of excitement down the spines of those who are sensitive to religious traditions and their persisting influence. It is this so-called absence of change in India that evokes wonder among those encountering India from a different culture. Hinduism or the Hindu way of life is equated with this unchanging quality — it is endowed with special powers of redemption and simplified so it becomes adaptable for practice in the West.

 

Devoted Hindus imbued with the scriptures and practising the rigours of the innumerable rituals that mark the daily life of a conscientious Hindu may well ask what Ms Roberts means when she describes herself as a "practising Hindu". Does going to a temple and chanting prayers without knowing their meaning and context make one a Hindu? The very strict would argue that it is not possible to become a Hindu. A person is born a Hindu and remains one. The idea of conversion is alien to the Hindu way of life. It is not easy to be a Hindu, as current champions of Hindutva have discovered. A Margaret Noble could transform herself into Sister Nivedita through dedicated work and acts of renunciation. In India, fantasy can turn anything into a god but not anyone can become a Hindu.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

THE DECLINE OF BENGALI FOOD

BENGALI CUISINE IS ALL ABOUT AROMA AND RETICENCE

TELLING TALES: AMIT CHAUDHURI

 

Two recent encounters with the food at Oh! Calcutta led me to return to Orwell's famous essay, "The Decline of English Cooking". Except there was no such essay. The piece I'd confused it with is a brief, lovely thing called "Decline of the English Murder" — in which Orwell reviews the passing of a certain form of domestic homicide in England (involving adultery or jealousy, undertaken in stealth by respectable members of society) in favour of a new species of gratuitous violence. No, the essay I was looking for is called "In Defence of English Cooking" — for how could the reputation of that entity (cuisine is too posh a word for it) possibly have 'declined' any further? In 1945, when Orwell wrote this piece, that reputation had already reached its lowest nadir; as he points out: "It is commonly said, even by the English themselves, that English cooking is the worst in the world." Orwell then launches into his "defence", describing a lineage of Keatsian plenty — by 'Keatsian', I mean a plenty which, even at its best, is tinged with lack: as it would have been in the England of rationing in 1945. And yet the array he invokes is, for that very reason, delightful — as is the ground-breaking impropriety of the essay itself, because English cooking doesn't seem like a fit subject for any kind of writing: literary, journalistic, or culinary. So it's with pleasure we attend to "kippers, Yorkshire pudding, Devonshire cream, muffins and crumpets... treacle tart and apple dumplings... innumerable kinds of biscuit... new potatoes [cooked] in the English way — that is, boiled with mint... not to mention redcurrant jelly... [t]hen there are the English cheeses".

 

I thought of this essay when I realized that almost the only restaurant that served anything like consistently good Bengali food — Oh! Calcutta — had lapsed into mediocrity. (May I digress here and remark on the Bengali tendency to take labels pertaining to their city out of context, and to reuse them guilelessly, without a trace of irony. Oh! Calcutta! as we know, is the name of a semi-pornographic West End production from the early Seventies. Thankfully, the term "city of joy" from the ghastly book and film of that name, seems to have gone out of circulation; and, for some reason, it hasn't occurred to anyone to name a bar City of the Dreadful Night. But this is a puzzling tendency that deserves a separate essay.)

 

I suppose I should start by saying that Bengali cuisine is a great cuisine, although it's a great unknown. I mean, besides the one restaurant I've cited, there are no retail chains or outlets on a national scale to promote Bengali food; only, in various cities, private delivery services set up by someone's aunt. In this, it's like two other distinguished Indian cuisines that, in spite of their delectable quality, have never been properly marketed — the Goan and the Parsi. Goan food at least bustles in its own region; but Parsi food, belonging to a community of historical exiles, is only available at a few cultish restaurants in Bombay, and at ceremonies and weddings no one but Parsis and their close friends have access to. Bengali food, though, outdoes both these cuisines in terms of range and variety, especially in the amazingly intricate and fragrant gradations of its vegetarian fare. But, until not very long ago, Bengal didn't even have a proper Bengali restaurant. The real custodians of Bengali food are not famous chefs (though the extinction of a strain of Oriya cooks who made the terrific food at Bengali weddings has been a real tragedy), but families — possibly, today, relatively few families. But there was always a great divide between the families that produced and consumed good Bengali food, and the great majority that dutifully and daily cooked food to be eaten unmindfully, and forgotten quickly. And even the dogged attempts of the majority are now replaced by the food rustled up by the part-time cook, who arrives in the morning, creates some daily variation of the cuisine, and leaves after two hours, possibly for another house.

 

Often, Bengali home cooking, which is still the incarnation in which this food is mainly found, is watery and insipid: very different, in this regard, from the spiced-up cooking of the rest of India, and more congruent, oddly, with the reputation English food had before it became chicken tikka masala. There may be many reasons for this. The influence of Bengali puritanism shouldn't be underestimated. Given its zealous agenda, from the 19th century onwards, to do with self-denial, austerity, suggestiveness, and the implicit in life, literature, and taste (in every sense of that word), I'm surprised that more scholarly energy hasn't been expended on the genealogy of this entirely modern moral domain of Bengali life. It must to a great extent be responsible for the colourless gravies in which fish swim unappetizingly in many of our homes. Secondly, there's the imputation that food from West Bengal is sweetish and bland; from the East, robust, spicy, and full of flavour. This is probably a reminder that the West, being the cultural centre of Bengal for some two hundred years, embraced that reformist puritanism more completely than the East, which occupied the margins, remained eccentric and feudal, its cuisine benefiting from the Muslim influence that the West had more thoroughly supplanted. But even the provocative sauces of the East must have sprung from a mysterious syncretism, because, if you got to Bangladesh today, you find little evidence of the old and superlative technology of East Bengali food.

 

There's a third reason for the aura of austerity around Bengali cuisine, and it's fairly well known; paradoxically, it's what engendered plenty. I mean the cruel dietary regime imposed on Hindu widows, forbidding them not only meat and fish, but various things including the putatively aphrodisiac onion and garlic. These bizarre strictures (now, surely, less adhered to) have led to a vegetarian repertoire unparalleled, I think, in its subtlety, with a range of condiments, ingredients, and approaches peculiar to the region: chhana, inaccurately and persistently translated as 'cottage cheese', and mashed in a way that makes it distinct from paneer; paanch phoron, the fragrant mix of aniseed, cumin, fenugreek, and the untranslatable radhuni and kalonji; the use of unground elements of garam masala without the frontal assault of onions and garlic. Unrelated to the widows is the ubiquitous use of mustard: mustard oil, which you have to be careful to heat to boiling unless you want an incongruous undertaste to the meal; ground mustard, which you must grind not only with energy but with a pinch of salt if it's not to taste bitter. Raw mustard oil, of course, with either muri or boiled rice has provided a wasabi-like kick to generations of every class, from the destitute to the leisured. This is not to forget the other recurrent ingredient: the addictive, infinitesimal poppy seed or posto. Bengali food, in its deceptive way, is all about aroma and reticence. No doubt it was the aroma that caught the English writer, Geoff Dyer, unawares when he was in Calcutta earlier this year. "It looked like green gunk," he said in surprise of the vegetables he'd had at Oh! Calcutta, "but tasted really good." The food can seem unpromising, then, massed and overdone (the Bengali word for this is the expressive ghaynt), but the array of preparations, defined mainly by strange, serio-comic, two-syllabled words (labra, chaanchra, shukto, ghanto, dalna, chhakka, the exception being the evocative rasha), is a delicate combination of the vernacular and the sublime.

 

I wish to distinguish, quickly, between the decline I'm suggesting here and the well-worn tale of decline that is now Bengal's. Unlike Bengali literature, cinema, music, and even science, Bengali food is a well-guarded secret. As a result, it isn't actually seen to be in decline, and regularly receives endorsements from celebrity visitors who are searching hard, in Calcutta, for nice things to say: "I love mishti doi"; "I just love the fish here". Leave aside the devastation of hilsa (how prescient Buddhadeva Bose's poem, where he described their "gleaming corpses", now seems), we know Bengal's pabdaand tangra are not what they once were. The venue for the best Bengali food — the wedding — is now a nightmare. There's the hybrid catered food, of course, whose advent began 25 years ago with chilli fish fry; but, even when Bengali food is served, it's often served cold. The sensory outrage of cold food and gravy is something that Bengalis, with their 'good boy' exam-oriented values, seem wholly indifferent to. Then, occasionally, there's the spectacle of food being improvised not far from the toilet. If it's a buffet, you're confronted, finally, with a basin full of other people's plates into which you must lower your own. The Bengali is now blind to this kind of ugliness. He has only, as Satyajit Ray once said to the Indian film-maker, to open his eyes.

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

STILL UNEDUCATED

 

Brave words need to be followed by brave deeds. Our president had vowed to 'educate' British Prime Minister David Cameron at their meeting at Chequers on Friday, but it would seem that suddenly education was off the agenda. There was very little educating going on and rather a lot of the recycling of diplomatic platitudes that were bland and largely meaningless. There was talk of the 'unbreakable' relationship with the UK – which given the fact that there are over a million Britons of Pakistani origin is fairly safe ground. The joint statement – not a press conference, far too dangerous with all those feral journalists with their pens sharpened and questions at the ready – had a Zardari classic embedded within it. "I'm looking forward to a relationship where Britain supports Pakistan around the world" – which for sheer vacuity wins this week's award for emptiness. The very last thing these two men wanted was any sort of meaningful dialogue that would shine a light on the true nature of their relationship or what actually passed between them when they met.


Once again we are left with the sense that our president has risen to yet greater heights of mediocrity, and his callow failure to 'educate' Mr Cameron as promised is yet another reason why accidental presidents rarely make good presidents. Simply, our president is no statesman. He may be the head of state but it is an office to which he brings the qualities of a gambler, a chancer. A man more concerned for himself than the state he heads and for Mr Zardari the main event of this trip is going to be the PPP rally at the Birmingham International Conference Centre on Saturday. This was due to be his son's coronation as chairman of the PPP, but Bilawal perhaps wisely has begun to put a little distance between himself and his father and announced that he will not be attending the rally but instead be at a fundraising event for flood victims at the Pakistan High Commission. So what came of the meeting? A commitment to visiting Pakistan by Mr Cameron on a near but unspecified date, a similar visit by Theresa May, the current British home secretary, and a commitment for ten million pounds to help the victims of the worst disaster this country has faced in its entire history. Beyond that, next to nothing. Mr Zardari is reported to have said that if he had realised the scale of the floods in his country he would have cancelled his visit to the UK and France. Statesmen tend to be wise before the event, Mr Zardari, not after it. Mr Cameron remains uneducated, and at a conservative estimate there are 14 million flood affectees — and we do wonder, oh yes we do wonder, just how much this junket has cost the nation. Care to share the details with us, Mr President? 

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ADVANCING FLOODS

 

Misery is quite literally raining down on us with immense anger. According to the latest figures over 14 million have been affected by the floods. This number could rise. Agencies engaged in relief efforts are already stating that the scale of this catastrophe may be even worse than the 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir and NWFP. Around 73,000 perished in that disaster. There is no way of saying what the situation may be as the rainy season continues. Many active in the field believe the death toll is already considerably higher than the 1,400 officially stated to be dead. In Sindh, as waters stream out of rivers to overwhelm village after village, tens of thousands stream out in search of safety. Tragically, they appear to have nowhere to go. Insufficient arrangements exist to offer them shelter or even to evacuate them from submerged homes. In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab we have reports of death due to starvation and disease. The government will need to answer for its failure to do more to tackle what now appears to be the biggest humanitarian crisis in our history. This in itself is saying a great deal given that the territory that makes up Pakistan has seen devastating quakes, floods, cyclones and drought.

An appeal has now been made for emergency international help. Some of this has indeed already arrived. More should now come in. But most of all, the government needs to get its own act together. It is not possible to leave matters to chance or to hope for the best. A full-scale effort is needed to coordinate relief, ensure that the many agencies and government bodies active in efforts work together and that aid reaches all those in need of it. The philanthropic efforts we invariably see at such times have also begun. Individual and organisations are doing what they can to collect relief. But the experiences of the 2005 quake should be remembered. Organisation is needed to ensure efforts do not go waste and the key needs of victims are addressed. At present, we see little of this. Indeed there appears to be growing disarray as the situation worsens rapidly. The government needs to set up a plan. It must also remember that public anger directed against it is rising along with the waters. These sentiments could in time create a storm of their own and add to the turmoil we face as a nation beset with multiple hardships that have come in many forms.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DESPITE THE 'CODE'

 

The ANP and the MQM may have sat together. But there is scant evidence that this has led anywhere at all towards peace in Karachi. Despite the federal government's assertion of an agreement on a code of conduct, the killings that have traumatised the city continue. Most of those who were killed belonged to the working class. The deaths have left behind devastated families even less able to survive than was previously the case. The 'accord' counts as a step forward. However, on its own it is not enough; perhaps even meaningless. What is essential is that the agreement be backed by genuine goodwill and steps to ease the tensions that now divide communities. The setting up of a judicial commission to investigate the killings and the operation of criminal mafias of various kinds can also achieve its purpose only if genuine goodwill and a spirit of cooperation exist. The help of both the MQM and the ANP will be needed to get to the bottom of the violence. We must all hope Karachi can get back to normal as quickly as possible. But for now there seems to be no certainty that this is set to happen.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

OVER THE TOP

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

MASOOD HASAN


I always talk to the cabbies, here or abroad, because from them you invariably get the real on-ground situation, the opinion in the street or what the common man thinks. On a recent short visit to Pind-Canada and New York, I ran into a multitude of cabbies, largely from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India and a host of opinions about everything under the sun but chiefly about the countries they left behind. The Pakistanis seemed to be the most vocal. 

Immigrating to another country and another culture is never an easy option and those who make the journey largely do so because of a series of situations or pressures that often force their hand. Many of course do so willingly, seeking a life that their own country has denied them year after year. Jobless, wandering the streets and marooned on their own island, they choose to leap across oceans, in containers, launches and any means available. Many are illegal and ensure that the useless green book which causes nothing but problems is safely disposed off in the first available gutter. They plunge fearlessly into countries where they cannot speak the language, cannot understand the culture but still wish to adopt as their new home. Any job is good enough. Graduates pumping gas or turning over burger patties is not unheard of and many struggle for years without really getting anywhere. 


The boys from Gujrat I once ran into on a cobbled street in Naples with whom a conversation was swiftly interrupted as Italian police descended on them, the Pathan in New York who has nothing but contempt for America and its crass commercialism and who pines for the dust of his streets of Swabi and the waiter in a sad little eatery who talked emotionally about Lahore and Sant Nagar from where he hailed – there are many, many stories. The common thread remains the dream of a better life and that is what keeps these people going. I met Pakistanis who had been in the US nine months and those who had been here 27 years. Very few – and some had become reasonably successful — were happy deep inside. 


A cabbie who took me to China Town in New York told me in answer to my question that he was from Rawalpindi – the forgotten little city he called it. As we talked, a fascinating story emerged. Twenty-one years ago as a young lad he was happily drifting along with things not exactly rosy but not too dismal either. His greatest asset and reason to be alive was this great love that he had for the girl of his dreams – a sentiment fully endorsed by the young lady in question. But his father had other plans and wanted him to stop mooning and make a life for himself. That life the father had determined was in the US. After months of arguments and debates and quite a lot of controversy, the young man's pleas moved no one and he was forced into 'exile.' Before he left home he told his family that this was against his wishes and that all he wanted to do was marry his sweetheart and set up home here, but since the family thought otherwise, he would go but never return. It has been 21 long years since that day and he has not set foot in Rawalpindi. His father died and so did his mother, but he did not return for a last look and the funerals. 


The anger and the betrayal of 21 years haunt him. The sweetheart struggled and appealed to her family for understanding but was bundled off in tears to a marriage she did not want and the four children she obligingly produced. 'Is there any news you have of her?' I asked. 'No,' said my cabbie friend. 'I cannot find her again and undo time. My family took the only thing that mattered to me and I cannot ever forgive them. Oh I am very successful here and I told my family that I would give them all the money they should ever need, but nothing more. I have done my duty. My sisters all married off, my brothers all in universities and jobs but I cannot forgive any of them.' We kept talking and I asked him to forgive and make peace with his beloved Rawalpindi. I don't know to what extent I succeeded but he said he would think about it but nothing would bring back the years. These and a thousand more stories must run through the lives of many who left Pakistan.


For Pakistan, they are torn between what they feel deep inside and the growing frustration of what the country has become, once a land of promise, now a land of nothingness. My entreaties to remain where they are because things are bad back home are ignored because they are hopelessly in love with that vision, that memory they have of Pakistan. They are unwilling to let it go, unwilling to face the harsh reality of today. They are in love with a mirage, a dream that lives in their hearts and nothing seems to be able to change that. 


Thus the squalor, the corruption, the bankruptcy of every kind that stalks Pakistan is of little consequence to those who have built a shrine to their dreams and will not accept any other opinion. And to add to the conflicting emotions at play here, there is the question of the children. Those who have males are quite happy at the alien culture into which they have plunged but those with girls are petrified. And that is where new problems start. Girls brought up in a western diaspora are expected to marry cousins in Jalalpur Jattan and make a success of it. The elders reign supreme and those girls that defy them pay horrible prices sometimes. Most don't lose their lives but earn almost eternal damnation. 


A short trip can give misleading impressions but across a wide board, I found our people were not really happy. Many are living in great apartments and drive fine cars but there is a nagging yearning, open in some cases and kept under wraps in others, that indicates a pining for lives left behind. As many have discovered, immigration is not really a great option but a necessary one and what can we offer these people were they to return? Saying that Pakistan has gone to the dogs would be insulting to all dogs. For some blissful weeks I steered clear of Pakistani food and news from home. When I made the foolish mistake of asking, I was told that we were all-out for 80 runs in a test match. That was enough and I wisely stayed away till the PIA flight where I was sandwiched between two 'brothers' with luxuriant beards, trousers up to regulation ankle height and the ritual of saying their prayers standing up in spite of the 'Seat Belts On' signs. Between the prayers, both revealed they had green cards, properties in the US and sons studying in good universities, but they were quick to add that they despised the godless people of the US and their decadent, immoral culture. With difficulty I maintained my peace. For well over 14 hours!


The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email: masoodhasan66@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DROWNING IN DESPAIR

GHAZI SALAHUDDIN


This is mourning time in Pakistan. We mourn for an overall state of affairs in which this country seems to be drifting without any obvious sense of direction. We mourn because we feel helpless. And powerless to affect any change in the conduct of our rulers. 


We mourn for tragedies that have afflicted hundreds of thousands of our countrymen, most of them already savaged by fate and circumstances. The most devastating floods in living memory have washed away so many lives and so much livelihood. In addition, there was this deathly glimpse this week of the apocalyptic spirit of ethnic politics in Karachi. 


There was another demoralising evidence of the reach of the Taliban in the assassination, in a suicide bombing, of the commandant of paramilitary Frontier Constabulary Safwat Gayyur in Peshawar on Wednesday. We have lost a very capable and courageous officer, prompting the kind of grief that we find difficult to come to terms with. 

And beyond our frontiers, Pakistan is being accused of double-crossing the world in how we have handled our war against terror, with some reference to WikiLeaks. It certainly does not help that this onslaught in the global media has accompanied the sordid spectacle of President Asif Ali Zardari's junket to France and Britain. Indeed, the statements British Prime Minister David Cameron had made during his visit to India overlap these developments. 

In a sense, the current spell of gloom was activated by the crash of the Airblue jet in Margalla Hills in Islamabad last week. It was a tragedy that had touched us all with its human dimensions. Weather conditions seemed to have played a role in the crash. Relief operations were made difficult because of heavy rains – the same rains that have played havoc with the lives of millions of our countrymen. 


With all this, we, as a people, have almost been pushed to the edge of a precipice. Things were not so cheerful even without these disasters but we grieve the most for the inability of our rulers to put their act together and inspire the people to rise to the occasion. Asif Zardari's visit and the sights it has provided is an act of ignominy that will live in our history. 


Irrespective of how the world has derided this visit, it is suicidal in the context of how it can undermine popular perception about democracy and civilian rule. The great paradox here is that Asif Zardari, by a strange quirk of fate, is now the leader of the party that was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. We can imagine what it would be like if someone like ZAB were at the helm in the hour of such a crisis. 


Well, we have the example of how ZAB had responded to the floods in 1973. I was a newsman in those days and had closely followed the leadership role that he played at that particular time. He was there at the spot, tireless and fully in control. Alas, not a shred of that resolve has been retained by a party that claims his legacy. My younger colleagues are a little perplexed when I recall that his first cabinet, after the debacle of East Pakistan, was sworn in at two in the morning. Whatever else may be said about his other personal traits, the manner in which he lifted the country out of the gloom of 1971 is a model of what leadership can do in a dire moment of national emergency. 


Yes, it has been said that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is now the chief executive and he is in the country. Here is another joke. What kind of leadership has Gilani provided? That sorry episode of how a fake relief centre was put up for him to visit as a photo opportunity tells all. That no heads immediately rolled when this forgery was exposed by Geo is also a measure of the quality of our governance. 


Come to think of it, what a great opportunity this was for Gilani to establish his leadership and authority. He could have immersed himself in flood relief, having rolled up his sleeves, to become a leader in his own right. Ah, but he does not seem to have that imagination and his advisers have proved themselves to be as unreal as the camp they had fabricated. They had also bungled when they led him to hover above the crashed plane's wreckage in a helicopter, dapper as ever and possibly chewing his gum. 


Gilani was in Karachi on Friday, as a follow-up to the brave antics of Interior Minister Rahman Malik who promises us an end to targeted killings after every rise in bloodshed in the city. This week's disruptions in Karachi project another colossal failure of our rulers and our political parties to sort our some fundamental derelictions of our polity and build barricades against a potential deluge that would send its waves in a direction opposite to the furious waters of the Indus. 


Saturday's – yesterday's – lead headline in this newspaper said: "Zardari fails to confront Cameron". This is what would be expected. What they are saying about Pakistan is not something that Zardari, with his prominent grin, can handle. Nor should it be easy for General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to deal with. By the way, Kayani was seen at Sukkur Barrage on Friday, with Sind Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah in tow. Any thoughts about where the leadership now belongs?


I regularly see three international newsweeklies. This week, Time has a column by Joe Klein which says: "Forget the secret documents and even Afghanistan. What counts is how we deal with Pakistan". The piece in The Economist is titled: "Kayani's gambit" and its second headline is: "America is furious about WikiLeaks' revelations on the war in Afghanistan. But Pakistan also has much to worry". On the title of Newsweek is this message: "The double agent: Pakistan". 


Reading these and many other articles in foreign publications can leave you in a state of great bewilderment about the immediate future. In addition, you have the coverage of the floods and graphic pictures that record the misery of the people. Simultaneously, you have the pictures of the president of Pakistan against a backdrop that is dramatically different. Shouldn't the world wonder what Pakistan is all about?


Finally, let me leave you with this thought: what would it be like when the waters recede and millions of people begin their struggle to rebuild their shattered lives? How will they compensate for their losses? What will they think about their rules, about democracy, about justice and about the future? Are we ready for another flood that would surge in the minds of our people?


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

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

MY POLITICAL STRUGGLE

MY EARLY LIFE:PART I

M ASGHAR KHAN


I was born in Jammu on January 17, 1921. My grandfather, a Malik Din Khel Afridi, had moved to Kashmir in about 1855 from Tirah, in the tribal territory of the North-West Frontier. He had four sons of whom my father was the youngest. My grandfather, who died in about 1903, had settled in Buttal Balian, near Udhampur in Jammu province of Kashmir State. His sons joined the state armed forces and my uncle, Summander Khan, in whose house I was born, was living a quiet life, having retired from service as a major-general. He had more leisure than my father and gave us all his attention. A kinder man would be difficult to imagine. No trouble was too much for him. He had no children of his own and treated us with unimaginable love and affection.

I was the second of eleven children born to my mother – eight sons and three daughters. My father had another son from an earlier marriage, who was about 20 years old when I was born. My uncle, his wife, my father, mother, my brothers and I lived, as was the custom those days, as one family. My father joined the Jammu and Kashmir Army, took part in the First World War in East Africa and was a major when I was born. He retired as a brigadier in 1941. My father was a strict disciplinarian and professionally very competent. He could not tolerate incompetence or laziness and set a high standard of morality and character in his personal life. As children, my brothers and I saw very little of him, dreaded his strict nature and spent most of our time in our uncle's care. Our aunt was also like a mother to us and she and our uncle gave us so much love and affection that had it not been for the balancing factor of the terror that our father inspired in our minds, we might have been thoroughly spoilt. As it turned out, the balance was perfect and I do not think that I suffered as a result. As I grew up, I began to feel closer to my father than I had as a youngster and this relationship continued to grow until his death in 1966. My mother, with a new child every year and half to two years, was kept so busy that she could give us very little individual attention.


The early years passed very quickly and at the age of 12, I came across an advertisement in a newspaper which invited applications for interview for entry to the Prince of Wales's Royal Indian Military College in Dehra Dun. The age of entry was 11-12 years and after successful completion of six years at this college, one could appear for an examination for entry into the Indian Military Academy for service as a commissioned officer in the Indian Army. I immediately made up my mind to try to get into this college and began to pester my father. Since the tuition fee was about Rs125 per month which was about one-fifth of my father's total salary, he was reluctant at first but finally agreed to allow me to try. I was selected in the interview and went to Dehra Dun in March 1933. The six years that followed were very interesting and rewarding. 'RIMC.', as it was called, was probably the best school of its kind in India at that time. Run on English public school lines it combined liberal education with a military environment, only sufficient to induce us to lead a regular disciplined life, new to most Indian children. The emphasis was very well-defined and the products of this college did well in comparison with those of other schools in India at that time. The principal and all the staff were British, except the Urdu and Hindi language teachers. The college had a mosque, a temple and a gurdawara and we were marched daily in time for evening prayers to our respective places of worship. Playing facilities were ample and the surroundings and the environment clean and healthy. I was an average student in class and had nothing to show in the way of brilliance in any particular field.


A convention that caused me considerable annoyance was the wrong age with which most children entered schools in India. Since there were no birth certificates, it was normal for parents to show the child's age a year or two less than their actual age. This put those children at a disadvantage in the class whose year of birth had been recorded correctly. So at the age of 12, I was in a class whose average age was 13 or 14. I would have much preferred to have been dropped a class but had to struggle throughout my educational career with some children my seniors in age. Some 30 years later when I put my own children in school, I remembered my experience and when my son Omar was experiencing a little difficulty in class, I asked the principal, much to his surprise, to put him back in a lower class. I wanted him to feel comfortable in class and not undergo the experience I had in school. I think Omar benefited from this decision.


In 1939 I took the entrance examination at Delhi for the Indian Military Academy (I.M.A) at Dehra Dun. In those days, only fifteen boys were selected for the Indian Army every six months for Officers' training. Twelve were selected by an open examination and three were taken from the ranks of the Indian Army. I was one of the twelve who passed the open examination. Another, also from the RIMC, was Yaqub Khan. The examination at Delhi was an interesting affair. There were almost equal marks for the written examination and the interview. The members of the interview board were five or six senior British armed forces or civilian officers and Sir Hissamdudin Khan of Peshawar. Sir Hissamuddin Khan knew my father and the interview was a pleasant affair. A few general questions were asked by the panel and Sir Hissamuddin Khan asked me to do a 'cart-wheel'. This I did and so ended the interview. I am sure that my 'cart-wheel', though not perfect, got me good marks and I had no difficulty in being one of the twelve selected for the IMA. Yaqub Khan was also selected. One of the other three, selected from the ranks of the Indian Army, was Tikka Khan, who also rose to be a general in the Pakistan Army.


Yaqub and I lived in Srinagar and were required to be medically examined at the Combined Military Hospital at Sialkot before joining the IMA. When we reported to the CMH at Sialkot, we were given laboratory tests and examined by Major Puri of the Indian Medical Service (IMS). Yaqub was declared fit but I was told that I was suffering from a serious disease. I was admitted into the hospital. I was told that my laboratory test had shown that I had albumin in my urine which was at a dangerous level. Yaqub bade me farewell and I asked him to inform my father in Srinagar about the state of my health. I felt perfectly well but spent an anxious two days in the hospital until my father arrived with a doctor from Srinagar with a few medical books. These showed that albumin had been considered a dangerous thing in the past but recent tests had shown that some of the Cambridge University rowing crew had albumin in their urine and research on the subject had revealed that albumin was of two kinds – caustic and functional. The caustic variety was considered dangerous but functional albumin was quite harmless. In my case, the albumin turned out to be functional. Major Puri was sufficiently convinced and I was declared fit for joining the IMA.


The two-and-a-half-year course at the IMA was reduced to one and a half years because of the war. Yaqub and I graduated from the IMA at the end of 1940 and I was commissioned in the '9 Royal Deccan Horse'. Immediately afterwards, however, the Indian Air Force asked for volunteers from the army for the Indian Air Force. I was one of those who volunteered, was interviewed and selected without having to do a cart-wheel! Wing Commander Shubrato Mukerjee, the senior-most Indian Air Force officer at the time, was one of the members of the interview board.


(To be continued)

This is an excerpt from the writer's book "My Political Struggle". He is a retired air chief and veteran politician.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CAPITAL SUGGESTION

US AID DOWN A RAT HOLE

DR FARRUKH SALEEM


Over the past five years Pakistan's largest donor was the United States of America; $268 million in grant assistance. Saudi Arabia, at $137 million, was the second-largest and the United Kingdom, at $124 million, was the third-largest. China's total grant assistance stood at a paltry $9 million. 


Over the past five years the largest loan disbursement of $1,197 million came from the Asian Development Bank (the US controls nearly 16 per cent of all shares and has 565,442 votes). The World Bank, at $986 million, was next (America's subscription to the World Bank stands at $26 billion and the US has 265,219 votes). China, at $217 million, was the third-largest source of loans disbursed. 


Direct overt US aid disbursements over FY2002-2011 will total a colossal $18.6 billion. Of the total, economic-related aid was in the amount of $6 billion of which economic support funds stood at $5 billion, food aid $319 million, development assistance $286 million and international disaster assistance $282 million. 


To be certain, all the multi-million dollar US grant assistance plus all the multi-billion dollar loan disbursements and economic support funds have had a near-zero impact on public opinion. According to Pew Global Attitudes Project, 68 per cent of Pakistanis have an unfavourable view of the US. 


Where have all the billions gone? According to a study by Umar Cheema of The News, 92 per cent of all USAID projects go to US NGOs. Research Triangle Institute, one of American government's favourite aid recipients, consumed $83 million for the education-sector reform. Impact on the ground: near zero. Chemonics International got $90 million to 'Empower Pakistan'. Development Alternatives Inc was furnished a $17 million purse for 'Pakistan Legislative Strengthening Project'. Winrock International is spending $150 million on 'Community Rehabilitation Infrastructure Support Programme' (whatever that means!). 


Where have all the billions gone? Has anyone heard of the Maternal & Child Health Integrated Programme or Pakistan Health Management Information Systems Reform Project or Pakistan Initiative for Mothers and Newborns or Reproductive Health Response in Conflict? Does anyone know who has really benefited from all the billions doled out? 


Imagine; the US Agency for International Development's $150 million initiative called FATA Livelihood Development Programme. For $150 million they trained two-dozen truck drivers to read road signs. For $150 million they transported cattle from central Punjab to improve the breed in FATA. Imagine; for $150 million they distributed 278 Ravi Piaggio motorcycles, 10 tractors, 12 threshers, nine reapers, 10 trolleys, six MB Ploughs, six cultivators, 210 spray pumps and 20 auto sprayers. Imagine; with a $3.3 million wallet Pakistan HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care Project, according to its own Pakistan Final Report, has "provided services to 78 HIV-positive individuals and their 276 family members". 


China's grant assistance to Pakistan is less than four per cent of America's grant and yet China is 96 per cent more popular than the US. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has its name on 230 beds of Children's Hospital in Islamabad and Japan also has its name on the Kohat tunnel. Amazingly, Islamabad even has an Argentina Park but absolutely nothing with Uncle Sam on it. 


Can Uncle Sam smell a rat? What is Uncle Sam really up to? Trying to buy trust as opposed to building trust? Repeating a failed experiment? More billions down the same rat hole? 


The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: farrukh15@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

I, THE STATE…

MIR ADNAN AZIZ


"The state is the coldest of all cold monsters, and coldly it tells lies, and this lie drones on from its mouth: 'I, the State, am the people'." Friedrich Nietzsche


As a plane rolled in to stop at the tarmac of a London airport, the door opened and out sauntered a person attired in blue jeans, a band-collared, starched white shirt and blue jacket. Grinning and relaxed, with seemingly not a worry in the world, he was neither a star nor a Casanova, but President Asif Zardari fresh from his visit to his difficult to pronounce French countryside chateau. Trying to appear cool and suave and conveying an aura of nonchalance, he actually ended up portraying himself as a callously oblivious head of state to millions at home and abroad. 


He arrived among harsh rebukes from almost everyone and the accusations of Shaheen Shahzada, daughter of prominent artist Laila Shahzada, holding him responsible for helping steal her mother's paintings worth 300,000 pounds. Back home Pakistan was ravaged from Peshawar to Karachi. Floods saw thousands dead and millions marooned or affected. Karachi came to a standstill yet again with more than eighty killed and hundreds wounded with ruthless impunity as public property and vehicles were torched with the 'iron hand' of the state seemingly amputated yet again. Rehman Malik arrived in Karachi, as usual, after hundreds had died and been wounded with arsonists running amok. He left with the usual rounds of meetings, stern warnings and shoot-at-sight orders for the law-enforcers to sustain the unfortunate people till the next round. 


These images of death and destruction when juxtaposed with the presidential gallivanting seem bizarre and obscene. "Although it is a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out, sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation," said Bertrand Russell. Our president is living up to those words; though it is the lives of the millions here he seemingly has in mind, after all, is democracy not the best revenge?


In a calamity or crisis, it is but human nature to get pessimistic. When a crisis occurs, people naturally look up to their leaders. The one attribute that is the foundation of leadership is credibility. In recent history people like Jinnah, Mao, Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were born to take charge. Harry Truman put a sign on his desk which read, "The buck stops here." What we see in our history is that our narcissist leaders are simply incapable of displaying any trait of leadership. Their self-centred vanity is their very life, their only self-identity. Power without humility and compassion degrades to exploitation and tyranny. 


President Zardari stepped into the political footprint of Benazir Bhutto who had acquiesced to a power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf and total accommodation to the United States' Pakistan agenda. In testing times as today we have this president now accountable to no institution let alone a mortal. The state is seemingly above and oblivious to the tragedies and chaos of our daily lives, but more disturbing is the fact that the president and the prime minister have been entirely absent in terms of command and control. The national ship has no official captain and during this time of crisis, shipmates flounder with little to no direction. Amidst all this the Jatti Umrah 'lion' keeps to his own self with an occasional squeal he imagines will be taken as a roar.


This floundering is obvious to the extent that the prime minister extolling "I, the state, am here" does not even know the nature of his boss's UK visit. His influence extends to ilaichi-munching, suit-clad aerial views of the tragic plane crash site and visiting dummy medical camps for the flood victims. One wonders when they will reconstruct a flood scene at the PM House and a FATA or Karachi scene at the Presidency and come out with a home movie for our consumption. An incident personifies the prime minister's mindset. On his Atabad Lake visit he and the ministers accompanying him were presented with FWO caps. He was heard to have asked the DG FWO for one like the ministers got. He was politely told that only his cap had a golden braid. The reply was: "The other cap matches my suit"! Vanity of vanities, all is vanity and there is nothing new under the sun, so said Solomon more than three thousand years ago. 


This administration has not only failed to fix problems, it has done much to further the same. As they respond to each crisis, exploiting it to further their radical agenda, they sow seeds for the next one. The effects of patronage politics, endemic corruption and pervasive impunity have eroded the legitimacy of this government. Checks and balances of democratic systems meant to control the venal and brutal tendencies of the powerful are entirely absent. The judiciary is being ignored with the executive virtually unaccountable for its misdemeanours. 

The assumption that our democracy (the Pakistan-khappay and fake-degree type) is to convince the people that they have the best to offer for the political future and social welfare of the country could not be more misplaced than in the present context. The president and his party have cooked up the ultimate recipe for keeping political power. A nation in a constant state of anxiety over the threat of terrorism and now its collision course with the judiciary and the army is a nation off balance. This insecurity is the perfect cover to divert public attention from the country's seething domestic problems and the administration's political agenda. 

A checklist of the emotional and interpersonal traits of our political elite reads a grandiose sense of self-worth, lack of remorse or guilt, pathological cheating and lying, total lack of empathy, absence of realistic long-term plans and irresponsibility. The most alarming of all is the frightfully perplexing theme, a deeply disturbing inability to care about the pain and suffering experienced by the common man. A sage would have deemed utterly unconscionable to elect a person to any office, let alone a president or prime minister, lacking empathy, conscience, honesty and integrity.



Lack of resources and capacities inhibits development even in countries with the best-intentioned administrations. This lack of resources becomes a potent poison when ingrained with clueless governance. The state's catastrophic failure negates the premise that it will serve its people even with a reasonable degree of fairness and competency. Absent this faith, as we see, other loyalties prevail fracturing the country along religious, ethnic and linguistic lines. For those who care and understand, with the type of governance we have, loyalty to an identity that is the state seems increasingly neither intrinsic nor unbreakable.


The writer is a freelance contributor. Email: miradnanaziz@gmail.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

CAMERON'S PERSISTENT ARROGANCE

 

PRESIDENT Asif Ali Zardari took a great political risk by proceeding ahead with the UK leg of his European tour in the backdrop of uproar caused back home by the derogatory and insulting remarks made by British Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to India. 


As conveyed by the repeated statements of Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira made at various events in UK, the President was under the impression that he would be able to make Cameron realise his wrong approach and at least neutralise his posture. However, at the end of the day, it seems the diplomatic initiative of the President did not evoke the desired response from the host, as he persisted with his arrogant attitude and did not care for even damage control vis-à-vis UK's relations with Pakistan were concerned. This shows that the statement of the British Prime Minister was well considered and ill-intentioned and that is why he even did not bother to show any worthwhile courtesy towards his guest. By doing so, he has inflicted damage to the political reputation of President Asif Ali Zardari as well, who preferred to undertook the visit despite fierce opposition on the plea that diplomatic isolation was no answer and that he would, instead, convince the host of Pakistan's immense sacrifices and contribution in the war against terror. That the President was unable to persuade Cameron to withdraw his provocative statement was also evident from the fact that the two leaders made only briefest possible statements before the media and did not entertain even a single question knowing well that the very first logical question could be on British PM's Bangalore statement. Regrettably, the British Prime Minister made no mention of Pakistan's lead role in the war and instead talked about cooperation, not to alleviate sufferings of Pakistan, to make streets of London safe. It is absurd that on the one hand UK is depending on Pakistan for turning its streets safe yet on the other hand hurling insults to it. Anyhow, the outcome of Zardari-Cameron parleys ought to be an eye-opener for policy-makers in Islamabad, who should listen to the popular demand for review of the on-going strategy against terrorism and militancy that is not paying any dividend to the country.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PM APPEALS FOR GLOBAL AID

 

WHILE the unprecedented floods have played havoc across the country, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has made an appeal for international support to help alleviate the sufferings of the affected people. The magnitude of the flood disaster is much more than the 2005 earthquake that hit the upper parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Azad Kashmir and the international community came to the rescue of the people in a big way. 


According to initial estimates complied by NDMA about 12 million people have been affected by heavy rains and floods in KP and Punjab and this figure is sure to go up when the super flood passes the plains of Sindh. Pakistan is already facing financial difficulties due to situation on its western borders and the internally displaced persons and it is beyond its capacity to cope with the needs of flood affectees. Though some friendly countries including the United States, UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia and others have rushed relief supplies but these are insufficient if one takes into account the massive displacements, daily food, medical and other requirements of 12 million people who have lost every thing including houses. The Prime Minister has also sought donations for his Flood Relief Fund but so far except for a few businesses houses contributions like PTCL, Ufone and NBP the response is not very encouraging. The Federal and Provincial Governments are doing their utmost to evacuate and feed the marooned people yet there are people in many areas who are still without much needed relief and expressing their resentment. Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has very rightly urged the well off people to share the losses with the flood affectees otherwise no one would be able to stop a bloody revolution. People who have made fortunes, staying in palatial houses and their children studying abroad must also feel the pain of mothers who are desperate to get even one time meal for their hungry kids. We hope that the business tycoons, chambers, philanthropists, individuals and international community would respond and extend overwhelming assistance to mitigate the sufferings of the affectees of natural calamity.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

ATTIQUE'S GOODWILL GESTURE TO IHK

 

IN one of the rarest moves, the new Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan has offered to sponsor relief and rehabilitation services to the victims of floods in Occupied Kashmir. Elaborating his offer further, he said that if any international agency or organisation can provide relief services to the affected people on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) on behalf of the AJK Government, he was ready to provide funds at the cost of his own people.


The offer is imbued with the spirit of sacrifice and expression of complete solidarity with brethren in distress on the other side of the LoC. Such a proposition can only come from a leader of the Muslim Conference that has all along been waging struggle for rights of Kashmiri people and has advocated for the cause of the people of Occupied Kashmir throughout the world. The proposal of the AJK Prime Minister is, however, understandable as the liberated territory is supposed to be the base camp of freedom struggle of the Kashmiri people. This also shows that people on this side of LoC have not forgotten their brethren on that side of the Line, who are victim of both Indian atrocities and excessive rains and flash floods that have caused widespread damage in different areas. There are also reports that New Delhi and its puppet regime in Srinagar are not showing any interest in rescue and relief activities and instead have adopted a vindictive attitude so as to complicate and prolong miseries of the victims. While appreciating the goodwill gesture of the Azad Kashmir Prime Minister, we would urge international organisations to help mitigate sufferings of the Kashmiris affected by floods in Occupied Kashmir. They should also pressurise India to discard the policy of repression and instead allow philanthropists and donors to carry out rescue and relief operations in the region.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

NEED TO TAKE STOCK OF FOOD INDUSTRY

DR ZAFAR ALTAF

 

There has been a proliferation of the food multinational food corporations in Pakistan. This follows the culture that has spread from the students and the rich families that have since spread in this country. For everything that is mean and capricious one can go to the urban areas. The mess that the engineers in the urban areas have created is now having an impact on the rural areas and this can be seen. First let us consider the arrogance of the engineers who think that they can tame nature and in the process concrete can replace the natural systems that have developed. The net result has been seen by the havoc that the current rains have brought to Pakistan. How come that the bridges built by the British before 1947 are still intact while the bridges built by our independent engineers have been washed away. The colossal damage to natural systems is unquantifiable. 


When the dams were being built I had raised the question of watershed management with Wapda and they had just received project aid for the water shed management of Tarbella dam. The point I made to the Wapda chief was that this was not an engineering requirement but a number of disciplines that had to be brought together for successful implementation. Back came a prompt reply saying that the job was to be given to an engineer as a promotion post. Well take the take now. Pakistan has lost about 50% water capacity because of Tarbella. There has been no watershed management worth the name till Sardar Tariq took over as GM Tarbella. Informally we got in to action and the program had barely started before he was sent to the main office as Member water. That ended what had promised to recoup some of the issues and problems that had been raised. This coupled with the FWO's great action in taking a bull dozer and throwing all the land slide waste in to the river Indus. Where would that find a place, logically at the Tarbella dam? Since landslides are common along this Marco polo route one had to relate cause and effect. The reason for that was the engineer's inability to see the fault line that they were disturbing in the great Himalayan mountain range. Eventually the Chinese came to our rescue as the end efforts were difficult to complete and in the process we had a lost a number of personal due to our blasting efforts. The various memorials are testament to the number of lives that were unnecessarily lost. 


Since water was considered essential to productivity of agricultural production these dams were provided but these dams became a halter round our neck. The lost ground to local productivity because of the peculiar circumstances meant that the productivity would never be there. This coupled with the lack of policy planners to understand the compulsions of the rural areas added to the issues at hand. Now we have the likes of McDonalds, Nantindo. KFC, Freddies and what have you a doughnut with a hole in it. These are only some of the food MNCs that have come to Pakistan. They ride to aspects of our society both caused by the urban elites and the urban policies encouraged by the WB/ADB. Why? Question these matters. Ever since the days of being with the Punjab government this has been a matter of some considerable concern.


The material that they bring in for the preparation was entirely coming from the west. In fact the farers of the west were the links to the products that they were selling. Pakistan in the beginning took a very minute benefit from this intervention. I n fact in one case to accommodate the food MNC an office of superintending engineer and a general post office was demolished placed at a strategic place in Lahore so as to make way for the prime selection that the MNCs had made. What rot. Before we get in to supporting the small farmer's concept what has to be understood that these MNCs should not be allowed to buy and import stuff for their products from international sources. If that is done then the entire basis for their coming to Pakistan would be lost. 


The measly jobs that are provided to these Pakistanis are nothing to the profits that they have taken away. Now that they are here there is a requirement that they develop a system of giving their requirements to the local vegetable growers and establishing a link with them. The USA uses about 80 000 different chemicals in its food industry and a recent survey by the Obamma government ahs placed the use of these chemicals on the increase in cancer in the USA. Environmental agencies are now taking stock of all these chemicals in order to minimize the effect of these chemicals and to see that nothing that has an adverse health connection go through. This in the best country that I know of and the big business has ruined the health care and the natural ability of the people. 

The connection between the hotel trade and the local businesses has to be managed in a more adroit manner. The fact that dates are selling for as much as 3600 to 4000 rupees per kilogram indicates how the ego is being played. Why not the dates at khairpur and why not dates from Gwadar, from DI khan and so on. This is not what free markets is all about. Free market is a sensitive situation in which the needs of the country are first assessed and then action is taken in a more rational manner. As long as the outcome is not mean and rapacious the free trade is on but when this takes over then the old maestro Adam Smith ought to come into play for all those things that are mean and rapacious have to be struck down. The fetish of the 'Hidden Hand' of Adam Smith has been taken out of context and made to hype with the meanness of nations. The nation has to focus on its own people and take out all those redundant policies that are messing the local markets. If the special marketing cells are examined they have been so selfish as they have been taking petty benefits from the markets that they have helped distort. Thus McDonalds started paying this informal tax in the form of free burgers to the people that were responsible for the messy deal. What a price had been paid. These burgers are nothing but future health creating difficulties. The position could have been addressed by developing a localized food system and a fast food chain that could be nourishing a swell as cheap had there been the will. Instead what have we? A food chain catering for the rich and allowing the poor to wonder at why they have been excluded from what they see as a demonstrative affect provided by the rich families and in the process creating envy and hate in those excluded from the process. Slowly and surely these fat cheap food chains are far more expensive than the food that we can get from out indigenous sources and not only that it will be a fragment of the cost that we pay over there in the MNCs food chain.


Is it not surprising that in this land of the pure the powerful are taking land at peanut prices and have turned all the development processes to their advantage? The nation and my country men be dammed. Take stock of the situation and see how terrible the matter is for the poor. The floods are but a continuation of the flood of adverse policies that we have placed against the survival of the poor. I could go on but suffice it to say that once the imagination is touched the rest will follow. Still give me the smells of this country, its colors and its doings and un-doings. I remain in its service. As always.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

UNPRODUCTIVE MACHINATIONS

ASIF HAROON RAJA

 

During the Afghan war in 1980s Pakistan could have played a double game to milk both the super powers and keep them appeased, but it played a straight game and put all its eggs in the basket of USA . It took a huge risk since Soviet forces after occupying Wakhan corridor were in a position to move into Pakistan . They had genuine reason to do so since Pakistan had stood up as a frontline state and at the behest of USA was providing full support to Mujahideen battling with Red Army. With India on their side, they could heat up eastern and western borders of Pakistan .


Having tested the resolve, resilience and professional abilities of Pakistani people and premier institutions for a decade under trying conditions, there was no earthly reason for USA not to place its full faith in Pakistan and to make it a life-long strategic partner. In reality, reverse happened. The US ditched Pakistan in 1990, developed acute apprehensions and distrust and undertook highly discriminatory acts to penalize Pakistan . Pakistan 's nuclear program was the overriding factor for such an attitude. The US had ignored it throughout 1980s and US President had rendered certificates each year from 1985 onwards that Pakistan was not pursuing nuclear programme.

Besides nuclear program, ISI also became an eyesore for USA since it had seen its outstanding capability and had emerged as the most potent intelligence organization within the third world. Having intimately worked with ISI for a decade, CIA instead of developing deep rooted intimacy and friendship based on respect, it got inflicted with professional jealousy and thereon marked ISI as a target to cut it to size.No sooner the US downed its chief rival with the help of Pakistan ; it started penalizing its ally. To add insult to injury, the US befriended Pakistan 's chief adversary India which had remained in the Soviet camp from 1947 onwards. The US went out of the way to bolster strategic ties with India . At the behest of India , Washington started hounding and persecuting Pakistan through Pressler Amendment and propaganda war to enfeeble its economy and spoil its image. ISI was purged of diehard officers committed to Afghan and Kashmir jihad during the two tenures of Benazir Bhutto at US behest. The US didn't sever linkage with Islamabad since it saw Pakistan as a possible bridge for its future exploits in Afghanistan and Central Asia .


It was owing to US discriminatory policies that democratic era in Pakistan in 1990s failed to deliver and opened doors for military intervention in October 1999. After a brief spell of coldness, George W. Bush US befriended Gen Musharraf and made him a blue-eyed boy. This transition in outlook happened when Musharraf readily agreed to serve US interests in Afghanistan blindly. Besides extending several facilities to USA , the ISI was purged for the third time. This time the axe fell on officers with a religious bent of mind. Even employees working in nuclear facilities were not spared. While US leaders kept hugging secular Musharraf affectionately, lava of aversion kept simmering in their minds and hearts against Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its people. Governed by this mindset, Indo-US-Israeli team worked upon a gory plan to destabilize, denuclearize and fragment Pakistan through covert means. All members of the team excelling in this game put their heart and soul to make the plan a roaring success. FATA and Balochistan, both bordering Afghanistan were picked up as hunting grounds to establish a foothold in Pakistan .


While drumming up threat of terrorism, CIA and FBI started playing a double game by outwardly trying to control terrorism in two fertile grounds but inwardly making peaceful areas restive. After collecting information from Pakistani agencies, instead of working jointly, the US agencies cleverly sidelined them and assumed total control of intelligence acquisition from 2003 onwards. So much so that army units operating in Waziristan were made dependent upon their inputs. No raid could be conducted without clearance from CIA heavy US command centres established in Peshawar , Kohat, Miranshah and Wana. Over 500 pro-government Maliks and clerics were assassinated in FATA by CIA agents, Blackwater and extremists on their payroll, which paved the way for establishment of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and loss of power of anti-Taliban elements in FATA. Idea behind creating TTP was to form a force formidable enough to confront and defeat the Army in guerrilla war. It was trained, equipped, funded and guided to ensure its success since it was evaluated that without destroying the Army none of the objectives conceived could be achieved. 


Pakistani troops were pushed into South Waziristan (SW) in late 2002 without training in guerrilla war, acclimatization, motivation and counterterrorism equipment. Peace deals were promptly disrupted through drone attacks, which also hit anti-US and pro-government elements. Peace jirgas were targeted by suicide bombers. Flames of war were gradually spread from FATA to settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and then to major cities. Western print and electronic media and think tanks duly fed by Indian writers were activated to spread gloom and doom; so were pro-western elements in Pakistan . English newspapers like Daily Times and to an extent Dawn together with several TV channels performed the allotted job loyally to smear Pakistan and its institutions.


All these immoral activities financed through illegal drug trade delighted the master planners. In their excitement to floor Pakistan and then extract its nuclear teeth they lost sight of their primary objective of disrupting, dismantling and defeating Al-Qaeda for which they had sauntered into Afghanistan . Taking advantage of their loss of direction, Al-Qaeda and Taliban kept regaining ground. By the time the US woke up from its stupor, nearly 80% territory had slipped from under its feet. All their gains had been gifted away due to imprudence, myopia and over confidence. Americans had over estimated own strength and under estimated deftness and guts of Afghan fighters and repeated the mistakes committed by Soviets. The Taliban gained complete sway in southern and eastern Afghanistan and acquired the strength to venture into all parts of the country including Kabul . As if this setback was not enough, the conspirators received another shock when Pak army broke the back of Fazlullah led militants in Malakand Division and Swat and Hakimullah Mehsud led TTP in SW in 2009. 


Like Pak Army has pushed the militants in FATA and Swat on the back foot, Afghan Taliban have also achieved moral ascendancy over occupation forces since they have succeeded in defeating their minds. Coalition forces have lost the will to fight and are eager to return home. However, unabated turbulence in Afghanistan and Pakistan suits India and Israel . Hence their desperate efforts to stave-off negotiated political settlement. Both are keen to convert Afghanistan into an Indian satellite and to consolidate Israeli presence for future joint covert operations against Central Asian States and Pakistan . Continuation of war on terror helps in bleeding Pakistan and weakening it from within and keeping its attention away from Kashmir . They also seek to break the will of Pakistan to resist Indian hegemony in the region.


Machinations and intrigues of adversaries of Pakistan are however proving unproductive since unfolding events are not going in their favor. Afghan situation is in a fluid state and USA having lost on all counts, doesn't know how to crystallize it. Israeli blockade of Gaza strip and piracy against peace flotilla in May has for the first time evoked worldwide condemnation and it is fast getting isolated. India is getting exposed in occupied Kashmir due to ongoing protests by unarmed Kashmiris seeking freedom and ruthless action by Indian security forces who had been claiming that insurgency had been quashed. At home Maoist movement has become grave for India .

—The writer is retired Brigadier & a freelance defence analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

UNITY INEVITABLE FOR FREEDOM

M YOUSUF NAQASH

 

Before some two months in the company of my party colleagues, I visited the house of a martyr in Pulwama district to console the family and express solidarity with them. Some pro-freedom leaders were already there. I saw assembly of mourners raising outcry while one of the pro-freedom leaders was delivering speech. They were asking the said leader to answer why leaders are not uniting under one umbrella. Why are they creating fuss and confusion by talking differently, and at times against each other? When the whole nation is united, when our mission is unique why this division? What is it they have resorted to incriminating and recriminating each other? Rhetoric of the leader could not satisfy them. As the assembly was not ready to listen anything other than the answer to their hard-hitting question he was forced to sit down. What happened in Pulwama happens all over. 


The masses are everywhere asking the same question but the leaders fail to answer. Kashmiri people are blindly attached with freedom movement and this sentiment of freedom is embedded deep in their souls. They cannot think of deviating from it. They are perpetually striving for and sacrificing hugely. They even seek refuge in the sentiment for whatever confronts them. They are ready to bear whatever befalls them for the movement. However, the disunity among the regular members of pro-freedom camp has discouraged and alienated them. Unity among the pro-freedom leadership during the land row and economic blockade encouraged people so much and they responded well to the united call and took to streets in millions. Sea of people revolutionized the movement to the extent of shaking world opinion in support of freedom of Kashmir. The revolution was so impressive that it forced even the intellectual class and civil society of India to openly support the freedom of Kashmir. It was an embarrassing situation for Indian establishment when its own citizens suggested quit Kashmir. International community was alarmed due to the revolution in favor of freedom and stressed for a permanent solution of Kashmir as per the wishes and aspirations of its natives. World press thronged Kashmir to report on the new wave that eroded the structures of India. 


The revolution was heading towards the accomplishment of mission freedom and everyone in Kashmir was enthusiastic that this is going to happen now. Fate of people is about to change. Sacrifices are about to bear fruit. It was the people's belief because all including the leadership were active under one umbrella. It was the resolve of masses to take forward the movement. Sixty-eight persons laid down their lives during the revolution. Still people were enthusiastically ready to face any eventuality. The revolution could have been sustained and promoted in case leadership at the helm of affairs had agreed to work unitedly. Alas! the practical demonstration of thoughts and actions also could not last long. One can say one reason of the breakdown of unity was no doubt Indian conspiracy but other than conspiracy had also added in causing disunity for which leadership is solely responsible. Leadership could not propose proper direction of the revolution given the tendency of ego. Though seemingly united they were thinking and acting differently. 


The coordination Committee that they had formed for united actions could not sustain as its meetings every time proved conflicting. Indian intelligence agencies including IB and RAW succeeded in playing their divisive role against the movement and for the failure of the revolution. These agencies slowly worked their game plan in confusing and dismantling the co-ordination committee. Some intentional and unintentional blunders of the leadership contributed in serving the purpose of these agencies. Inclusion of every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the co-ordination committee paved the way for infiltration of Indian agents, who were tasked to sabotage the unity and movement. This happened because the leadership allowed this to happen.


Unity in pro-freedom camp is key to success. It is inevitable for realizing the mission abiding strictly by 1993 Hurriyat constitution for achieving Right to self-determination in the broader context. For that purpose all have to say good bye to self interest, ego and partyism as such tendency will lead us no where. The leaders whatever the position showing disinterest in the unity moves and inclined towards anything other than 1993 constitution should be rejected. Kashmir has strived, sacrificed a lot, and is in perpetual process. No, this cannot be allowed to go in vain.


Not only Hurriyats, others outside also have the obligation to come forward and force for the collective voice and action. So that nation is saved from confusion and asked to adhere to one programme. Soon after the brutal killing of a teenager Tufail Matoo, followed by some more killings by the Indian troopers Sate Police, Umer Farooq in the capacity of Mirwaiz appealed for a joint sitting of all the pro-freedom leaders in and outside Hurriyats and the trade unions, and employees unions. Though the state administration foiled this move of Mirwaiz by house arresting him and arresting him and some others still then the people managed to assemble in Mirwaiz Manzil but the ones who deflected and rejected were the men from Geelani Hurriyat, Yasin's JKLF and Jamiat Ahli Hadees; what was behind this non cooperation is better known to them. To my comprehension, it was intentional to do away with it just to fail it. 


Mirwaiz was on the other hand sincere in his efforts to see the pro-freedom voices joining hands together for a common and popular cause freedom. So, that at least United efforts are taken with one program for forcing demilitarization, repeal of A.F.S.P.A, release of the prisoners, halt on state terrorism, the concerns common to both Hurriyat factions and outside pro-freedom parties. Why then was the hesitation. I think maybe for ego, and self-interest for Allah's sake has to be avoided. Singly Geelani, Mirwaiz, and Yaseen cannot succeed in taking this movement to the logical conclusion. All need to join hands for a powerful joint front against colonial rule and oppression. Programmes calendars are must. However, need to be calculated, with threadbare discussions and mutual consensus, to make them more impressive, workable, affordable, and sustainable. Mistrust and disunity at the helm has encouraged teenagers to force for their way of thinking. That is why teenagers wearing scarves are witnessed announcing their versions of programmes, there by sending confusing signals; that is why the effigies of top ranking pro-freedom leaders are encouraged to burn. That is why the nation and movement at present is devoid of controlling and managing point. Such is the dangerous situation and will fail to deliver in case things are not set right immediately. 


Let those at the helm of affairs know it well. Unity of ideas and actions is necessity for the sake striking balance between successful forward movement of the ongoing freedom movement and necessities of bellies. Otherwise, this vigor will meet the fate of 2008 and will cease to sustain. We have to take movement forward alongside the economic activities to make it more and more indigenous. Empty bellies neither can raise the voice nor can struggle for the cause. This nation is badly reeling under the politico-human and economic crisis and continues to be haunted by colonial interest. The psyche of the people in this context is to be taken care of. This sentiment of freedom is no doubt embedded in all hearts but the realization is a hard task and needs to be worked out through calculated and well-devised moves. That is possible when all pro freedom parties and leaders think and work jointly.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

BEGINNING OF THE END

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

On Sunday the Dutch troops have started their withdrawal from Afghanistan. With little under two thousand troops they have been a small but well equipped and respected part of the international coalition forces. We remember that when their mandate was expiring they were asked to extend it and that led to the break-up of the Dutch government due to public opinion. Though the US is reassuring the world that no void is going to be created by the Dutch withdrawal and that forces of other nations are standing ready to take over, the Dutch decision may not be important so much in military respect, but it could turn out to be a signal for all the other nations whose enthusiasm for the war has diminished greatly and whose mandates are due to expire at one point or the other.


President Obama's new strategy in Afghanistan which was to be a shift from fighting the militants towards defending the civilian population and constructing a well designed civilian local administration which would contribute towards a visible improvement of the lives of the people has not shown much success so far and result of this deviation may affect the Democratic party in the coming elections in November. On the contrary, the doubtful gains in Marja and the delay in the campaign in Kandahar have testified more towards the opposite. General Mc Chrystal's frustration and the subsequent change in command are an ample proof for this. Now we can see that the new supreme commander General Petraeus though heavily denying any change in the strategy of his predecessor has quietly shifted the war from defending the civilian population towards taking out militant commanders. In document called counterinsurgency guidance General Petraeus asks the soldiers to pursue the enemy relentlessly, to get your teeth into the insurgents and don't let goal. These killing missions of the ISAF and US forces seem to have the backing of Washington. This shift will surely not bring a turn in the war, but it is designed to safeguard the lives of the foreign and especially American troops whose losses have mounted during the last few months. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry stressed on Sunday that the solution for the conflict in Afghanistan lies not in military efforts but in finding a political solution just like another senior politician John McCain is doing. With this opinion he is contradicting the hawks in the US government who still want to win the war. Such a negotiated settlement according to him has to include Pakistan, Russia and China even Iran all neighbouring countries of Afghanistan which have a well defined interest in a stable and peaceful Afghanistan and India. Now, how does India come into the game? Obviously, Kerry is promoting the strong man of the region in a territory on which India would like to lay its hands and which comes handy to the US. 


The US is also no neighbouring country of Afghanistan and still wants to be part of the negotiations and settlement! So the Indian and the US claims have a lot in common and this alliance of convenience will probably be a re-occurring factor in South Asian politics, ignoring their understanding with their front line ally country. What does that mean for Pakistan? It is obvious that given the geo-political and strategic situation the alliance between the US and Pakistan is a temporary one which is right now changing. Yesterday's demand of John Kerry for an inclusion of India into an Afghan settlement, before that the British Prime Minister David Cameron's remarks during his visit to India! Blaming Pakistan for promoting terrorism and funding Taliban, this appears to be a pre-planned game. Alas! Pakistani rulers have not been able to understand this gimmick. What a coincidence's Pakistani priorities should be clear from this, the policy of carrying beggars bowl should be changed now to live as a self respecting sovereign country. 


Given the situation at our eastern border our national interest requires a stable Afghanistan and good relations with this neighbour of ours in future also. It can be taken for granted that the Haqqanis, Hekmatyars and Taliban will be part if not the defining part of any Afghan government after the withdrawal of the foreign troops. Therefore, we should keep this situation in mind and act accordingly regardless of any pressure and threats from abroad. Of course, it is the foreign money which is holding us hostage and our present rulers will be eager to get it in order to finance their excessive life style with it. It is here where we have to start changing our policy in order to secure Pakistan's future.


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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

DON'T LOOK AWAY AGAIN

BARKHA DUTT

 

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. 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. The writer is Group Editor, English News, NDTV. — Hindustan Times

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

AVOIDING THE HOT SPOTS

 

This summer is unusually hot. From May 31 to Aug. 1, ambulances took a total of 21,032 people to hospitals for heat stroke; 98 of them died shortly after arrival. The death toll is expected to rise significantly as those who died later are added. The frequency of ambulance dispatches is higher than in 2007 when a record 923 people died of heat stroke. People cannot be too careful in their efforts to prevent heat stroke.

 

When the temperature rises to 35 C or more and there is no wind, the chance of getting hit by heat stroke soars. In principle, one should then refrain from outdoor activities such as sports and agricultural or construction work.

 

At this temperature, even rooms are not safe. One can easily come down with heat stroke inside a room if there is no wind or if an air conditioner or electric fan is not running. At night the critical temperature is 30 C or higher. High humidity and lack of wind can also lead to heat stroke if the temperature is not this high.

 

Avoiding a hot place is the most important advice. When one goes outside, he or she should wear a hat or use a parasol. Drink lots of water. It must not be forgotten that salt is lost as one sweats. Salt can be replenished in the body with a sports drink.

 

Infants and elderly people are prone to heat stroke because their temperature adjustment functions are relatively weak. In 2007, 75 percent of those who died of heat stroke were 65 years old or older. One often fails to notice the onset of heat stroke. A headache, nausea, convulsion or giddiness is a symptom. Cool your body with water or ice or by fanning yourself. Ingest water and salt. Call an ambulance if someone loses consciousness.

 

In urban areas, older people living alone without air conditioning often fall victim to heat stroke. Local governments and neighbors must intervene, if needed, to help these people.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RUSSIA'S NEW WAR ANNIVERSARY

 

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on July 25 signed into law a bill designating Sept. 2 as "the anniversary of the end of World War II." The bill had been approved by the State Duma (lower house) on July 8 and by the Federation Council (upper house) on July 14.

 

The law has been interpreted as effectively commemorating the Soviet Union's victory over Japan on Sept. 2, 1945. Tokyo signed a surrender document on that day aboard the U.S. battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. As this year is the 65th anniversary of the war's end, Russia may carry out large-scale celebrations Sept. 2 centering on the Russian Far East.

 

On July 3-4, the Russian military carried out a military exercise involving some 1,500 soldiers and 200 military and special-purpose vehicles on Etorofu Island, the northernmost and biggest of four islands, northeast of Hokkaido, that are claimed by both Japan and Russia.

 

In 1998, then President Boris Yeltsin vetoed a similar bill in consideration of Japan-Russia relations. Mr. Medvedev has taken the opposite tack. Russia apparently aims to justify its effective control of what Japan calls the Northern Territories and check Japan's attempt to get the four islands back. Japan did not strongly protest the enactment of the law because the phrase "victory over Japan" is not used.

 

Nevertheless, the Kan administration must firmly maintain Japan's official stand on its sovereignty over the Northern Territories and persevere in trying to break the deadlock over the territorial issue. Japan maintains that the Soviet Union declared war against Japan on Aug. 9, 1945, in violation of the Japan-Soviet neutrality pact, and that its military illegally seized the islands between Aug. 29 and Sept. 9 of that year.

 

Despite the anniversary law, Russia considers economic cooperation with Japan, especially in developing the Russian Far East, indispensable for modernizing the Russian economy, which at present relies mainly on natural resource exports. Japan should make every effort to take advantage of this opportunity to improve its position in the territorial row.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

INTERESTING TIMES ON ASIA'S SOUTH-EAST SEAS

BY TOM PLATE

 

LOS ANGELES — The Obama administration is raising the U.S. profile in the South China Sea and in the newly troubled seas around the Korean Peninsula. Its decisions are sound enough, and they have been put forth carefully and with proportionality, but they do entail risks and may test the China-U.S. relationship.

Let's take a look at the two main aspects of this development.

 

The first involves South and North Korean waters, where U.S. and South Korean warships were bobbing last week in a military display. This was for the benefit of North Korea, whose navy apparently was the culprit that sank a South Korean vessel in March, killing 46 seamen. The aim is to deter the communist regime in the north from further foolishness.

 

The other audience for the military show is the South Korean public. The March sinking of the Cheonan vessel shocked the South Korean public, which expected more retaliatory spunk from its navy. But now the secret is out: the South Korean military, whatever its virtues, probably is not ready to run its own show. It still needs the United States there to help call the shots.

 

So there will be a delay for at least a few years in the planned handover of command of forces in the South from the United States to the national government of the South (Republic of Korea). That development dismays Beijing, greatly preferring a reduced American regional profile. But since the Chinese apparently can't keep their North Korean allies out of trouble, there's not much they can do about it except complain.

 

At the same time, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has quietly promised that Beijing will not protect the guilty party, though it claims not to be convinced that the North is the perpetrator. So far, though, that is exactly what it has done, watering down a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution that would otherwise have condemned North Korea for aggression. Beijing, however, has arranged for the immediate resumption of the on-again, off-again six-party talks.

 

China is probably more upset about U.S. naval ships rolling around in the South China Sea. This is the second theater where the Obama administration has staged a show. Earlier in the year Beijing issued a decree that could be read to suggest that it viewed those seas as virtually its personal pond. The idea sent shudders throughout Asia, especially in Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, with their tinier "fleets." It irritated Japan, too, but Japan has a serious fleet.

 

These Asian nations have quarrels with China over island territories in these waters and regard the South China Sea as an international commercial highway. So does the United States, which has made that point of view plain.

 

Nobody in the region wants a fight with China, so none of those worried Asian nations are waving American flags to thank President Barack Obama for ordering more ships into that area. But in fact they are pleased by the move — and by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's firm resolve at a big regional meeting last month in Hanoi.

 

The American expression of solidarity strengthens their hand so that the resolution of these island-ownership disputes can be settled through negotiation, not fear — at least as long as the United States keeps its ships bobbing over the horizon.

 

Because the South China Sea represents waters territorially adjacent to the mainland, China might well go ballistic if it sees U.S. interference. But that would tarnish its image and raise questions about whether its economic rise will be so peaceful, as Beijing has often claimed. At least now the United States is being viewed as helpfully standing up to the Chinese giant that has of late occasionally seemed bullying in manner.

 

East Asia clearly is at a tipping point. But the proper role of the United States is not to provoke China or violate its true sovereignty but to balance its rising military power. In recent years China's naval buildup has been extraordinary and muscles are being flexed. The American balancing on both fronts is an effort to remind the Chinese that they are not the only muscle man on the block.

 

Handled carefully, the U.S. effort could actually serve everyone's interest, including Beijing's. For China is not ready to rule the Pacific unilaterally. That day may come but it's a long way off — at least as long as the U.S. Navy is bobbing around.

 

Syndicated columnist Tom Plate's new book "Conversations With Lee Kuan Yew" is on best-seller lists in Asia. His next book in the "Giants of Asia" series — about former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad — is due out early next year. © 2010 Pacific Perspectives Media Center

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

LET'S TALK ABOUT AN ATTACK ON IRAN

BY GWYNNE DYER

 

LONDON — When Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the highest-ranking American officer, was asked recently on NBC's "Meet the Press" show whether the United States has a military plan for an attack on Iran, he replied simply: "We do."

 

General staffs are supposed to plan for even the most unlikely future contingencies. As far back as the 1930s, for example, the United States maintained and updated plans for the invasion of Canada — and the Canadian military made plans to pre-empt the invasion.

 

But what the planning process will have revealed, in the case of Iran, is that there is no way that the United States can win a nonnuclear war.

 

The United States could "win" by dropping hundreds of nuclear weapons on Iran's military bases, nuclear facilities and industrial centers and killing 5 to 10 million people, but short of that, nothing works. On this we have the word of Richard Clarke, counterterrorism adviser in the White House under three administrations.

 

In the early 1990s, Clarke revealed in an interview with the New York Times four years ago that the Clinton administration had seriously considered a bombing campaign against Iran but that the military professionals told them not to do it.

 

"After a long debate, the highest levels of the military could not forecast a way in which things would end favorably for the United States," he said. The Pentagon's planners have war-gamed an attack on Iran several times in the past 15 years, and they just can't make it come out as a U.S. victory.

 

It's not the fear of Iranian nuclear weapons that makes the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff so reluctant to get involved in a war with Iran. Those weapons don't exist, and the whole justification for the war would be to make sure that they never do.

 

The problem is that there's nothing the United States can do to Iran, short of nuking the place, that would really force Tehran to kneel and beg for mercy. It can bomb Iran's nuclear sites and military installations to its heart's content, but everything it destroys can be rebuilt in a few years. And there is no way that the United States could actually invade Iran.

 

There are some 80 million people in Iran, and although many of them don't like the present regime, they are almost all fervent patriots who would resist a foreign invasion. Iran is a mountainous country, and very big: four times the size of Iraq. The Iranian army currently numbers about 450,000 men, slightly smaller than the U.S. Army — but unlike the U.S. Army — it does not have its troops scattered across literally dozens of countries.

 

If the White House were to propose anything larger than minor military incursions along Iran's south coast, senior American generals would resign in protest. Without the option of a land war, the only lever the United States would have on Iranian policy is the threat of yet more bombs — but if they aren't nuclear, then they aren't very persuasive. Whereas Iran would have lots of options for bringing pressure on the United States.

 

Just stopping Iran's own oil exports would drive the oil price sky-high in a tight market: Iran accounts for around 7 percent of internationally traded oil. But Iran could also block another 40 percent of global oil exports just by sinking tankers coming from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states with its lethal Noor anti-ship missiles.

 

The Noor anti-ship missile is a locally built version of the Chinese YJ-82. It has a 200-km range, enough to cover all the major choke points in the Persian Gulf. It flies at twice the speed of sound just meters above the sea's surface, and it has a tiny radar profile. Its single-shot kill probability has been put as high as 98 percent.

 

Iran's mountainous coastline extends along the whole northern side of the Gulf, and these missiles have easily concealed mobile launchers. They would sink tankers with ease, and in a few days insurance rates for tankers planning to enter the gulf would become prohibitive, effectively shutting down the region's oil exports completely.

 

Meanwhile, Iran would start supplying modern surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that would soon shut down the U.S. military effort there. (It was the arrival of U.S.-supplied Stinger missiles in Afghanistan in the late 1980s that drove Russian helicopters from the sky and ultimately doomed the whole Soviet intervention there.)

 

Iranian ballistic missiles would strike U.S. bases on the southern (Arab) side of the gulf, and Iran's Hezbollah allies in Beirut would start dropping missiles on Israel. The United States would have no options for escalation other than the nuclear one, and pressure on it to stop the war would mount by the day as the world's industries and transport ground to a halt.

 

The end would be an embarrassing retreat by the United States, and the definitive establishment of Iran as the dominant power of the gulf region. That was the outcome of every war game the Pentagon played, and Mullen knows it.

 

So there is a plan for an attack on Iran, but Mullen would probably rather resign than put it into action. It is all bluff.

 

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

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

OPED

SALVAGING BRITAIN'S FAILED RIGHTS REVOLUTION

BY JONATHAN SMALL

 

LONDON — The budget-cutting austerity program of Britain's new coalition government has been claiming all the headlines, but David Cameron's Cabinet is breaking with its Labour predecessor in another key area as well: human rights. Indeed, the human rights experiment that Tony Blair's Labour government brought to Britain has failed.

 

Faulted by some for its inability to prevent "illiberal" antiterrorism measures, the Human Rights Act is criticized by just as many others for hampering counterterrorism policy.

 

Indeed, many people mock the very notion of human rights, which is seen as leading to "loony" concessions that favor criminals and terrorists. Overall, the reaction of both press and public is one of disillusion and cynicism.

 

Britain famously has no written constitution or, until recently, anything resembling a modern Bill of Rights. Instead, we have Magna Carta and cricket. The concept of universal human rights is literally foreign — enshrined in the broad-brush principles of the European Convention on Human Rights, whose court sits in Strasbourg. Until recently, anyone who wished to bring a human rights case against the British government had to go to France.

 

Times changed when Blair came to power in 1997. With fanfare and idealism — reflected in the slogan "Rights Brought Home" — the Human Rights Act came into effect in 2000.

 

But the high-minded liberalism of the then-elite had a practical point as well: Should the government have any soiled linen, it should be laundered in British courts rather than before a panel of international judges. Yet the act is unloved by the British public, which never engaged with the process. As Blair's wife, Cherie Booth, herself a human rights lawyer, lamented, "the majority of people feel that human rights are not relevant to their lives."

 

When compared with human rights abuses that truly affect humanity, the complaints dealt with by the British courts are small beer. Which child goes to what school or what public housing is offered to which asylum seeker will be of concern to many people, and views will differ. But using the broad brush of "human rights" to resolve such issues trivializes the concept. It also inhibits proper debate. After all, what responsible public body wants to be accused of violating human rights?

 

Indeed, the threat of human rights litigation has made providers of public services overly cautious and defensive. This has led the popular press to howl that we now live in a costly, bureaucratic and inefficient "human rights culture" — a charge with profound political resonance. Before he became prime minister, Cameron called for the Human Rights Act to be replaced with something more "British."

 

Paradoxically, some deem human rights to be wholly inefficacious where their recognition is most required. Many members of Parliament who backed the incorporation of the European human rights convention into British law came to view formal recognition of human rights as a grave inconvenience when faced with al-Qaida-inspired terrorism. In short, having brought rights home, the Blair government ended up trying to hide them under the sofa.

 

This conundrum is symbolized by the debate over detaining terrorism suspects without charge or trial. Initially, Blair attempted to force through detention without charge for up to 90 days. Parliament settled on 28 days — still the longest such period in the Western world.

 

So much, then, for Article 6 of the European Convention, which provides that everyone charged with a criminal offense has the right "to be informed promptly" of the nature of the accusation against him.

 

So much, also, for Magna Carta, which provides that "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned but by lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land."

 

Blair's behavior is not unique. The fact is that any piece of legislation purporting to embody human rights is entirely vulnerable to a political system in which Parliament is supreme. The Human Rights Act must inevitably yield to subsequent legislation. All legislation is passed by a simple majority. And judges cannot strike down legislation. The result? Rights brought home one day; detention for a month without charge the next.

 

Indeed, even when the cause of human rights is being advanced, the Human Rights Act is now overlooked. In May, in his first major policy speech, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the sweeping away of the "Big Brother" state that Blair had constructed: no more ID cards or national identity register, new restrictions on the storage of DNA, tighter regulation of the closed-circuit television surveillance that had made the British the most monitored people on earth, and so on.

 

All this and not one mention of "human rights" — an absence that reflects the political sensitivity of human

rights in Britain today, and that tacitly acknowledges that when the stakes are high, the Human Rights Act cannot be relied upon.

 

Where, then, does that leave the Cameron government's supposed extirpation of Big Brother?

 

One way forward would be to go further than Blair by ring-fencing certain principles and creating some form of constitutional court to defend them. But the cost of such rigid rules may be high, and their effectiveness, as witnessed by the vagaries of the U.S. record on human rights, is less foolproof than imagined.

 

So, perhaps in a mature democracy, human rights should be dignified by actions rather than words. Instead of introducing more legislation that is tainted both in the popular imagination and in its utility, Britain could trust its constitution to act when required to safeguard liberty and fair play.

 

For good or ill, democratic sentiment will win out, and Britain's human rights record, while imperfect, remains strong.

 

Jonathan Small is a Queen's Counsel in London.© 2010 Project Syndicate (www.project-syndicate.org)

 

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