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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

EDITORIAL 31.08.10

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month august 31, edition 000613, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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












  5. A FILTER AT 62 - K.T. THOMAS 
































If reports emanating from London are to be believed, then the Pakistani cricketers have been on the take, spot-fixing and match-fixing for huge sums of money, for quite some time now. Mazhar Majeed, the bookie who acted as the middleman — dalal in South Asian parlance! — is believed to have boasted that the Sydney Test match between Pakistan and Australia in January this year was rigged too, as was the first Test match between Pakistan and England in the just-ended series. It may be recalled that England won the Nottingham match by 354 runs. If what Mazhar Majeed claims is true, then the Pakistani team threw away the Nottingham match for a fistful of silver — in this case, British pounds. The latest scandal to hit the cricketing world came to light with a sting operation conducted by the British tabloid News of the World, usually not the most reliable of sources for information, coinciding with Pakistan virtually throwing away the Test at Lord's and Scotland Yard detectives seizing thousands of pounds from both the middleman and the cricketers, which has lent credibility to the story that has understandably shaken both fans and cricketers. The Pakistani team's captain Salman Butt has been named as among those guilty of bringing disrepute to the game, along with wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal and opening bowlers Mohammed Amir and Mohammed Asif, who have a huge fan following but are now being denounced by those very fans for having let down their country, the game and their (blind) worshippers. This is not the first time that Pakistani cricketers have been found to be bending the rules of what once-upon-a-time used to be known as a gentleman's game for personal aggrandisement in so wretched a manner. Nor should we forget that this is an illness that afflicts players across national boundaries: In the past, Indian cricketers have also been found to be indulging in the same offence. It is another matter that while India has dealt with the problem by ruthlessly cleansing the team of the morally weak — established and promising cricketers were shamed and shunned — Pakistan has chosen to turn the proverbial Nelson's eye, pretending all is fine when it clearly isn't. That said, it would be self-defeating for India to ignore Mazhar Majeed's allegation that there is an Indian connection to the latest match-fixing scandal.

The ICC has asked the Pakistan Cricket Board to take stern action against the tainted players. It is possible that once investigations are over and if the players are declared guilty, they will face a ban. But this and other measures are unlikely to have a long-term deterrent effect. To cleanse cricket, countries which face this problem could consider making betting legal instead of adopting a bogus moral position which, in any event, has proved to be meaningless. The dark underbelly of betting in India (as also in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh) remains unseen, but that does not mean big money is not constantly changing hands. More importantly, we need to demystify cricket and stop idolising cricketers. The mad craze for the game has turned fallible human beings into infallible heroes; when they fall, the shock and awe, therefore, is that much greater. If cricket were to be de-commercialised and the game became just another sport, the Mazhar Majeeds of the world would be forced to take their obnoxious business elsewhere. 







Now that weather experts have finally concluded that this year's monsoon will be absolutely normal — in fact it is expected to be a notch above normal — the farmers and the Government will heave a sigh of relief while politicians will have to find some other issue to score debating points over one another. Rains and their absence have been regularly exploited by our leaders, sometimes for genuine purposes but often to run down opponents. While people struggle to cope with the backlash of floods or drought, losing their wherewithal and dear ones, our netas fling allegations when they should be applying their minds to ameliorating the suffering of the masses. Let alone doing that, they seem to be even not acting enough to curb natural calamities that continue to occur with unfailing regularity. This year's bountiful monsoon means that we will not be subjected to political farce and the tragedy of farmer suicides. The bountiful rains should help the 25 crore farmers of the country to look forward to a good year ahead. According to experts, the deterioration in the intensity of the El Nino over the Pacific and the presentation of a favorable La Nina have contributed to the rich rains. Though cyclones Laila and Phet had caused some deviation, the monsoon has kept its promise in most parts of India. While nationally the shortfall in rains is some three per cent, experts believe that the deficit may yet be wiped out and we could end with an above normal monsoon. True, some parts of the country have received less rains, but the overall situation is bright because of the monsoon's excellent show in other regions. Kerala, for instance, is expected to more than make up for its small deficit of less than 12 per cent, with heavy rains likely over the next few days. Heavy rainfall in the west and south should more than make up for the monsoon's poor show in the North-East. 

Still, worries exist over the disruptions and deviations that are occurring in the behaviour of this year's monsoon and its distribution that are even threatening major occupational shifts. For example, held hostage to poor rainfall year after year, the people of large areas of the hilly Wayanad district in Kerala are on the brink of giving up agriculture. Wayanad suffered a shortfall of 53 per cent in 2008 and 24 per cent in 2009; this year the rain deficit is a shocking 54 per cent so far, causing widespread disquiet and distress. The North-east, which has always received more than ample share of the annual rains, has fared far worse. For instance, till last week Meghalaya had received 54 per cent less than its usual share of rains while Manipur was 52 per cent short of the normal rainfall. We need to check the trend, and one sure way of doing that is to prevent the depletion of forest cover across the country. Blaming weather change on global warming is the laziest way out to cope with declining rains. 







Abuse of female cadre is not new among so-called revolutionary groups. Maoist leaders regularly sexually exploit female cadre

In a welcome development for India's beleaguered forces that are fighting the Maoist menace across several States, women cadre have begun to revolt and speak out against the gender abuse by the armed insurgents. Young Shobha Mandi (also known as Uma and Shikha), barely 23, surrendered to the police on August 27 after seven years as a bush fighter. 

In a secret meeting with journalists a few days before surrendering, the CPI(Maoist) Jhargram area commander who led 25-30 armed squad members, confessed that the appeal of an ill-defined 'azadi' faded before the brutal reality of routine rapes of female cadre by male hoodlums-cum-colleagues. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram informed Parliament that the Government was aware of the plight of female Maoist cadre; one hopes that this means that all girls/women wishing to flee tortured lives in the jungle will be helped to rebuild their lives.

Shobha escaped by pretending she needed medical assistance some four months ago, and then went underground and sought surrender. Her personal story, she told newspersons, was rape in a forest camp in Jharkhand, at the tender age of 17 years. Her assailant was Bikash, currently head of the State unit's 'military commission'. Shobha asked Akash, Maoist leader Koteswara Rao's confidant and member of the State committee, to help when other seniors also exploited her, but learnt to her dismay that Akash's wife, Anu, was living with the Maoist supremo. The atrocities did not stop even after she personally complained to Koteswara Rao.

Bikash, it may be recalled, is the man who displayed his weapons before television cameras in 2009, and boasted about the Maoist role in demolishing CPI(M) leader Anuj Pandey's palatial home. This was generally seen as the pinnacle of the Lalgarh movement in West Bengal, where people's pent-up anger exploded and a stunned nation learnt of the extent of corruption of party leaders. 

For Shobha, sexual exploitation simply became part of her 'revolutionary' life. It ended only when Kamal Maity, a Bengal-Jharkhand-Odisha regional committee member, made her his personal companion with the consent of Koteswara Rao and other top Maoist leaders. Thereafter she rose steadily in Maoist ranks.

Such is the true face of those claiming to fight for the 'liberation' of the downtrodden in the remote regions of the country. Virtually all female recruits are exploited by senior Maoists; senior women leaders go along with the trend of having multiple sexual partners. Children are detested; pregnancy ends in abortion. In village hideouts too, villagers are forced to shelter the gun-toting goons and keep all-night vigil to alert them in the event of police raids. They also have to suffer the rape of their women during these times. 

Shobha joined the People's War group in 2003, after which it merged with the MCC to become the CPI(Maoist). She received three months arms-training in Gorabandha forest of Jharkhand, and was asked to mobilise tribal women at Jamboni and Dahijuri in West Midnapore district of West Bengal. 

Prior to this life, Shobha and her parents worked as farm labour, or collected saal leaves, mahua flowers, and red ants (kurkut) to sell. The family hailed from a village in West Bengal's Bankura district. Around 2002, her younger brother Sanjay, a Class VIII student, was taken away by the extremists (he is currently in jail). Their father was an alcoholic suffering from tuberculosis. The family sold its little land for money for medicines, and then incurred debts. At this stage, some 'party' members offered help in lieu of Shobha working for them. Of course, she soon realised that she was trapped for life, shackled to an ideology and movement she neither understood nor empathised with. 

In seven years of violence, Shobha allegedly got involved in the massacre of 24 EFR jawans at Sildah in February 2010; a raid on Sankrail police station in which two policemen were killed and an officer abducted in October 2009; and is a suspect in the murder of Jharkhand MP Sunil Mahato in 2007. 

However, given the Union Government's breathtaking financial generosity towards slain insurgents and surrendered (possibly unreformed) terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir, one hopes that due compassion will also be extended to young women like Shobha, who are truly victims of circumstances beyond their control. A special amnesty scheme may be appropriate.

The abuse of female cadre is not a new development amongst so-called revolutionary groups. When this writer was researching the problem of gun-point conversion in Tripura in 2005, a sensational scandal shook the State and led to a police crackdown on the separatists. At that time, the police found that National Liberation Front of Tripura cadre were abusing women cadre by making and selling pornographic films to raise funds for their terror campaigns. The separatist leaders — doubtless inspired by some international criminal mind(s) — used to force male and female recruits to act in pornographic films shot in the jungles. The CDs would be sold in various parts of India and neighbouring South Asian countries, thus raking in huge profits to finance the armed guerrilla campaign against security forces. 

Seized cassettes and CDs of sleazy films featuring tribal women were found to be dubbed in Thai, Burmese and other languages. Here again, it was female NLFT cadre who had managed to escape and surrender who exposed the sexual abuse by male leaders. The girls said that many ATTF and NLFT female cadre, who joined the organisations inspired by the dream for an independent tribal homeland, found their lives reduced to a relentless saga of sexual exploitation by male commanders. The Tripura tribal girls had managed to escape from camps based in Bangladesh.

Video parlour owners in Agartala confessed that when they received the raw footage, they could see boys with automatic rifles and revolvers threatening the girls; they had to cut that footage and "just concentrate on the sex", as the BBC reported on August 28, 2005. There were also reports of Tripura insurgents trafficking young women to neighbouring South Asian countries. 

Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee would be aware of these developments in her State and region. When she protests at the justified killing of Maoist spokesperson 'Azad' Cherukuri Rajkumar by the Andhra Pradesh Police in Adilabad district on July 3, she must tell us what stakes she and her party had with him. 



                                                                                                                                                                                                                         THE PIONEER




In the context of China's protestations on Arunachal Pradesh, its hardening attitude on Jammu & Kashmir is reflected in the continuing visa row. This is to remind us that both the western and eastern portions of the India-China border remain disputed. Also, China is making its presence felt in the sub-continent as the next power to reckon with

Farooq Abdullah spoke with the usual fervour and passion when Parliament discussed Jammu & Kashmir on August 26. He pointed out that most Kashmiris wanted to solve their problems within India and not in Pakistan, China or America. This should not surprise anyone because Pakistan today looks a hopeless proposition to many Pakistanis too. 

The former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir made another very valid and important observation when he referred to parts of Kashmir under Pakistan's occupation. He reminded the House of the Resolution passed several years ago saying that the entire State including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan were an integral part of India. He demanded that India should seek the return of these territories, including that which Pakistan had illegally handed over to China.


It was, however, disturbing to find that the Treasury benches and even other stalwarts from the Opposition were eloquent in their silence, something that has become part of an ominous trend in the last few years. In February 2007, the US Congressional Research Service put out a thoroughly incongruous map of India which showed Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as parts of Pakistan and Aksai Chin as merely an Indian claim, but we did not protest. When Baroness Emma Nicholson, the EU Rapporteur to Jammu & Kashmir in her report to the EU confirmed from historical evidence dating from 1909 that Gilgit-Baltistan were parts of the Riyasat of Maharaja Hari Singh, we only murmured modestly. It was perhaps awkward for us to assert our right lest Gen Pervez Musharraf, with whom we were working out some unknown deal, got upset. Clearly, we had put aside long term geostrategic interests or simply not read them.

Since the 1970s Pakistan has been nibbling away at Gilgit-Baltistan in an effort to detach it from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to make the region an integral part of the rest of Pakistan. The Karakoram highway is a strategic life line for both China and Pakistan. Ruthless suppression of the Shia Ismaili minority and demographic changes by sending in Sunni Pushtoon was the favoured tactic of the various dictators to tame this remote region that borders Afghanistan and China. Not satisfied with access to Xinjiang through the Khunjerab Pass on the Karakoram Highway, Gen Zia-ul Haq tried to enhance Pakistani and Chinese positions when he moved towards the Karakoram Pass across the Siachen glacier. Had this move succeeded, China would have had an alternative access to Pakistan through Tibet with immense permanent consequences for our security and geostrategic interests. 

China has always been interested that Pakistan retains control over Gilgit-Baltistan. This not only ensured its own vital interests in Gwadar overlooking the Persian Gulf and its vital resources but also was another brick in the wall against India's access to Central Asia. About three years ago, there were reports that China was incorporating the Gilgit-Baltistan area into Xinjiang's logistic grid by widening the highway and exploring the possibilities of a Pakistan-China rail link, with the ultimate aim of securing a land route for its energy supplies.

Recent reports of the presence of 7,000 to 11,000 PLA troops in the region and a simmering revolt there would suggest that Pakistan has sought Chinese assistance to tackle this crisis. This is an addition to other no-go areas for the Pakistani administration, which include Balochistan and FATA. Besides we must not overlook that there are US bases west of Indus and more than 1,000 US Marines have landed in Pakistan, ostensibly for flood relief.

In the context of Chinese protestations on Arunachal Pradesh, their hardening attitude on Jammu & Kashmir is reflected in the continuing visa issue now that a serving Lt General of the Indian Army has been denied this. China has chosen this period in time to remind us that both the western and eastern portions of the India-China border remain disputed. This is as much a reflection of its unease about growing India-US relations as India's opposition to the China-Pakistan nuclear deal. China has raised its profile in the Jammu & Kashmir region even though its relations with the US are tense in the South China Sea. All things considered, China is making its presence felt in the sub-continent as the next power to reckon with. 


Now, more than any other time, and given the evolving situation to our disadvantage, it is necessary that we address our own problem in the Valley and get out of this endless cycle of protests, sops and promises. Winning hearts and minds does not begin or end with elections. Jammu & Kashmir has far better socio-economic indicators than many other parts of India. Its literacy rate is on par with the rest of the country; the State Government employs more than 35,0000 people while Rajasthan, which is five times the size of Jammu & Kashmir, employs only 60,0000 people; for the Tenth Five-Year-Plan, Jammu & Kashmir got a per capita allocation of Rs 14,399 compared to States like Bihar (Rs 2,536) and Odisha (Rs 5,177); the State's per capita income of Rs 12,399 a few years ago was lower than the national average but considerably higher than States like Bihar (Rs 5,108) or Odisha (Rs 8,547). 

Appeasement is not the answer nor does the route lie via Pakistan. Additional economic or financial sops are not required; what is needed is a sense of fair play and justice seen to be delivered. If we need the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to remain then we must also ensure that the perpetrators of the Machhil monstrosity are brought to public trial soon. Leaders in jammu & Kashmir, across the political spectrum, must learn to accept that the practice of incessant political mismanagement and then blaming New Delhi, when the streets erupt, has to cease.

Jammu & Kashmir has a population of a little more than 10 million; only a section of the population in the Valley talks of self-determination. Surely this cannot hold a billion of us to ransom. As for this constant refrain of political problems, Jammu & Kashmir has its own Constitution, Article 370 and bounty for being troublesome. There is no 'good boy bonus' for the other States. When the US floods Pakistan with money and goodies, we complain that this is aiding terrorism. Are we not doing the same thing in Kashmir then? 

A state has to be just, not soft; it has to be sympathetic, not indulgent. Jammu & Kashmir needs good governance in all its manifestations; so do we all. For those who talk of azadi, let it be said that we attained our independence in 1947. There is no greater independence than that. 

(The writer, a strategic affairs expert, is former Secretary, Research & Analysis Wing.)






The debate over whether a mosque should be allowed to come up at — or near — the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood is intimately linked to the November elections

The great journalist HL Mencken once said that nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public — but I may be about to prove him wrong.

Three or four months ago, I started betting various friends that the Democrats would lose control of both Houses of the US Congress in the mid-term elections this November. I was way ahead of the opinion curve, so I got lots of takers. But now, when the general opinion has shifted in that direction, I begin to think I was wrong. And it all has to do with the "Ground Zero mosque."

If you have been paying attention and are fully sentient, you will know that it is not actually a mosque. If the sponsors can raise the money (which remains to be seen), it would contain a prayer room, but also a restaurant, a 500-seat theatre, basketball courts and a swimming pool that would be open to all. It would not have a minaret, but there would be a memorial to the 3,000 people (including 300 Muslims) who died in the 9/11 attacks.

And it is not, of course, at Ground Zero. It is two blocks up and around the corner, invisible from where the World Trade Center once stood. Not that there's any reason for it to hide around the corner: There's nothing wrong with an Islamic cultural centre. It should also be pointed out that the Pussy Cat Lounge, an upmarket strip club, is closer to the site and not invisible at all.

So should we ask whether those on the Right-wing of the Republican Party who started this business about a mosque at Ground Zero intended to exploit the latent Islamophobia of the American public? You might as well ask if the Pope is a Catholic. This is a "wedge issue," deliberately concocted to drive the dimmer elements of the Republican Party into supporting the Right-wing's other positions as well.

I hear you protesting that the Republican Party doesn't have a Left-wing any more, so how can it have a Right-wing? But everything is relative in politics, and the real contest this autumn is not being held in November. Most Congressional districts have been gerrymandered to the point where they are safe seats for one party or the other, so the real contest is in the primary (which chooses the party's candidate) in any given district.

Senate seats cannot be gerrymandered in the same way, but there are also bitter primary struggles between "Left" and "Right" Republicans in many of them. Republican senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate, survived the Arizona primary on August 24 only by shifting sharply right on many issues, including climate change and immigration. Other moderate Republican senators are doing the same, but they may not be so lucky.

The "Ground Zero mosque" campaign was begun by players like Fox News and Mark Williams, organiser of the Tea Party Express, who warned that "The mosque would be for the worship of the terrorists' monkey god." (It's really hard to tell Muslims and Hindus apart, especially if you're really stupid.) But the campaign works for the hard right because a large proportion of the US population is anti-Muslim.

Exactly how large nobody knows, but we may safely assume that the 24 per cent of Americans who believe that US President Barack Obama is a Muslim are not thinking: "Good. When Americans elected a black, Muslim President, we showed how tolerant the country is." They are thinking: "Oh my god, there's a black Muslim terrorist in the White House. America is doomed."

Let us assume, therefore, that the proportion of Americans who fear and hate Muslims (in most cases without ever having met one) is somewhere between that 24 per cent and the 61 per cent, according to a recent Time magazine poll, who oppose the "Ground Zero mosque."

How excited should we get about this? Not very. You would probably get a similar figure if you asked people in almost any Muslim country whether they see contemporary Americans as a new generation of "crusaders". They aren't, any more than Muslims are terrorists, but the Muslim Middle East has a rather one-sided view of the Crusades.

After five centuries when the Middle East and North Africa had been mostly Christian, Islam conquered the whole region in the 7th and 8th centuries. The Crusades, three centuries later, were a counter-attack aimed at recovering some of the lost territory for Christendom, neither more nor less reprehensible than the original Islamic conquest. It's just history, and nobody has clean hands. But I digress.

Why am I going to lose my bets on the outcome of the mid-term elections? Because the primaries attract at most 10 per cent of the potential voters, and they tend to be the ideologically committed ones. Hard-right candidates can win that audience over — but when 50 or 60 per cent of American voters come out in the real election, the extremists tend to lose in the critical districts where the outcome might go either way.

The Democrats will keep their Senate majority. They might even keep the House.

(Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.) 







Since the war began, this southern city and surrounding countryside have been marked as the heartland of the Taliban, the insurgents' springboard to retake all of Afghanistan. It has witnessed some of the bloodiest fighting. Now, as US and allied forces wrestle with urban warlords and take on die-hard insurgents in booby-trapped orchards and grape fields, the battle for Kandahar city is being described as the decisive campaign, a linchpin of American strategy to win the nine-year-old conflict.

"As goes Kandahar, so goes Afghanistan," has almost become the military's mantra. Not all agree, arguing even if success in Kandahar is achieved, the war will be far from over. That success is far from guaranteed: The obstacles are overwhelming, the time to overcome them may prove too short, and victory may hinge not on what happens on the ground in Kandahar, but in the American political arena. "This is Western military thinking which is totally irrelevant to Afghanistan," says Mr Marc Sageman, a former CIA operative in the region now with the Washington-based Foreign Policy Research Institute. "You can pacify Kandahar and you'll still lose the war because Afghanistan remains a highly decentralised society, and in the countryside, the Kabul Government has little legitimacy." 

Southern Kandahar is unquestionably important. The city itself, the country's second largest with some 5,00,000 inhabitants, served as the capital of the Taliban during its years in power. Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden used it as his base during the 9/11 attacks. 

Now, the insurgency draws its greatest strength from the province and the neighbouring region, dominated by the Pushtoon ethnic majority who form the Taliban core. "If you win in Kandahar it will have a major effect throughout the south. If Kandahar flourishes, other things will flourish. This is an iconic place for the Pushtoon psyche," the British commander of Nato forces in the south, Maj Gen Nick Carter, told reporters recently. 

In other words, the domino theory, Afghan-style. Others argue the focus on Kandahar and the surrounding province of the same name is diverting troops and resources from other areas of the country where the insurgents are making significant gains, that the war, according to some on-the-ground US officers, must be fought village by village, valley by valley.

Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has estimated the insurgency has spread to about one-third of the country's districts. Shadow Taliban governors, some reports say, exist in 33 of the country's 34 provinces. And there are other strategic hotspots besides Kandahar, including the Kabul region and stretches of the border with Pakistan, where Al Qaeda — Washington's prime target when the war was launched in 2001 — is concentrated. Commanders describe the operation for Kandahar — dubbed "Hamkari Baraye Kandahar,"or "Cooperation for Kandahar" — as not a conventional offensive but rather a "slow, rising tide," where military muscle plays a secondary role. 

At its height, roughly 25,000 Nato and Afghan troops will be deployed in the city and surrounding countryside. "This is not Stalingrad or Fallujah. This fight is about governance, the mobs, the mafia," Maj Gen Carter said. "Success will be judged how we connect a credible Afghan Government to the population."

But some tough fighting is taking place, with US and Afghan forces concentrated on the city's western approaches to stem the inflow of fighters, suicide bombers and funds. About 80 per cent of one Taliban stronghold, the lush and heavily mined Arghandab Valley, has been secured, Maj Gen Carter says, and next month a major operation will be launched in adjacent Zhari, an insurgency-wracked district where the radical Islamist movement was founded in 1994. 

Within the city, "sleepers" have been planted to gather information, and plans call for US military police and the Afghan National Police to have blanketed Kandahar with 11 security stations by the end of September. Intelligence-led operations will target what Maj Gen Carter calls "a resilient insurgency."

Simultaneously, development projects are to be rolled out, including temporary measures to boost electric power, which is not expected to come on full stream until 2014. But perhaps the toughest, and most essential, nut to crack will be the parallel, warlord Government that has taken root in a vacuum left by the decimation of tribal leadership and the absence of effective Kabul governance. 

Among several families essentially running the city is that of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of President Hamid Karzai who has shown little inclination to remove his relative despite widespread allegations of his involvement in racketeering, drug-trafficking and assassinations of rivals. The younger Karzai denies those allegations.

"The problem in Kandahar is that the population views Government institutions as predatory and illegitimate, representing the interests of key power-brokers rather than the populace," wrote the US-based Institute for the Study of War last month. An earlier survey of the province, roughly the size of Israel, showed endemic corruption, along with a lack of security and basic services. The situation "sets conditions for a disenfranchised population to respond either by not supporting the Government, or worse yet, supporting the Taliban," it says.

Eighty-five per cent of respondents in the survey, funded by the US Army, said they regarded the Taliban as "our Afghan brothers." Most were against the "Cooperation for Kandahar" mission. Nato commanders concede that transforming mafia-style rule with a semblance of clean, representative Government along with other tasks are a massive undertaking. Will there be enough time to do it?

"Kandahar's significance is political rather than operational. If Nato commander Gen David Petraeus fails to achieve success there by next summer, President Barack Obama will have a very difficult time making the case that his Afghan strategy is working. In that event, time will run out," says Mr Andrew J Bacevich, professor of international relations and history at Boston University, and a Vietnam War veteran.

And politics do not seem to be on Mr Obama's side. A nationwide poll this month conducted by The Associated Press and GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications showed 58 per cent of Americans opposed the conflict, while only 38 per cent supported Mr Obama's expanded war effort.

"Eleven months are enough to make a dent. But (US) counter-insurgency doctrine presupposes a long term commitment," says Mr Arturo Munoz, an expert on Afghanistan at the RAND Corporation, referring to Mr Obama's pledge to begin pulling US troops out of the country in July next year. 

"The current doctrine constitutes a viable and effective strategy. The big question is whether the American body politic is willing to expend the resources, time and blood needed to implement it."

A study by the RAND think tank looking at 90 insurgencies since 1945 found it took an average of 14 years to defeat insurgents. The current US counter-insurgency doctrine — COIN for short — was adopted just three years ago in Iraq. Focussed on protecting and winning over the population, COIN is summarized as "shape, clear, hold, and build." The doctrine has its critics. "The US is still conceptualising a war it should be actively fighting as if the next year were somehow to be the first year of the war," writes insurgency expert Anthony H Cordesman in a recent study for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The head of the US Special Operations Command, Adm Eric Olson, has said too much emphasis is being placed on protecting locals and not enough on fighting the enemy. "Counter-insurgency should involve countering the insurgents," he says.

Some of COIN's key assumptions were questioned at a March conference in England of Government officials, military officers, aid agencies and academics. Rather than winning hearts and minds, a conference summary said, aid may have the opposite effect when "many Afghans believe the main cause of insecurity to be their Government, which is perceived to be massively corrupt, predatory and unjust." With the clock ticking, COIN faces its first major test of the nine-year war in Kandahar. 

-- AP 









THERE is a bigger tragedy staring at us than just the spot- fixing allegations that will stain the lives of at least three extremely talented cricketers. It is that the latest betting allegations, if proven true, could end Pakistan cricket as we know it.


Just about everyone — including the Pakistani cricket establishment — had given up on any international team playing cricket in that country after the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in March 2009.


Thousands have died since then in repeated terror attacks across Pakistan's cities, as well as in the Waziristan region. That was reason enough for teams to stay away from the troubled country. These allegations could make them stay away forever.


In many ways, Pakistan has been the enfant terrible of international cricket. It has very little domestic cricket to talk of, its cricket board is filled with politicians who have no idea how to run the game, its team itself is a ragtag collection of players who often do not gel with each other, and it is the one team which has consistently faced match- fixing allegations and has done nothing to uproot it.


Three other teams that faced match- fixing allegations during what are called the darkest days of cricket in 2000 — India, South Africa and Australia — have more or less cleaned up their Augean stables. India placed a life ban on alleged match- fixer Mohammed Azharuddin from all forms of cricket, even though he was one of the leading cricketers of the world at the time. Ajay Sharma got a life ban, while Ajay Jadeja was handed a five- year ban along with Manoj Prabhakar, the whistleblower.


South Africa banned its then captain Hansie Cronje for life, and Australia slapped heavy fines on Shane Warne and Mark Waugh for offering weather and pitch information to bookies. None of these decisions was overturned, except for that on Jadeja, who, in any case, was never chosen to play international cricket again. Pakistan, too, banned Salim Malik and Ata- ur- Rahman for life, but both these decisions were overturned, making a mockery of the decision.


If Pakistan has to revive its cricket in the short term, it must immediately act against Salman Butt, Mohd Asif and Mohd Aamer.


Thereafter it must clean up its act thoroughly.


Pakistan cricket needs an institutional overhaul.


It cannot hide behind the veil of unpredictability and maverick talent to carry its torch any longer.







MANY of those who were eagerly awaiting A R Rahman's theme song for the Commonwealth Games are bound to be a tad disappointed on hearing the number. The question is not whether Khelo jeeyo hey- o is good or bad. A composition by India's best known composer is bound to possess quality.


The issue is whether the song is good enough for the occasion for which it was created i. e.


the greatest sporting event India has ever hosted. When judged by this yardstick we have no option but to say that the number falls short, with a certain tackiness it possesses doing it little good.


This being so, questions are bound to be raised about the manner in which the Games organisers went about this job. Had Mr Rahman offered his services for free there would have been some justification for no other composer being considered. But this wasn't the case. He has charged a hefty ` 5.5 crore for the number.


In other words, since the citizens were paying through their nose for it, why wasn't the theme song chosen after a competitive process where different composers presented their offerings? After all, Mr Rahman, genius though he may be, is not the only good composer in this country.


A competition would have ensured that the song was chosen for its quality rather than being appreciated because of the reputation of its creator, which is likely to happen now, as is evident from the response of the music and film industry to Mr Rahman's creation.


Creativity, people often forget, doesn't always work best when artists are commissioned for the purpose. Great songs, paintings or books happen. Often they are created by great artists but not everything that such artists produce is great. Unfortunately, it is the latter truism that holds for the Games' theme song.








THERE is an uncanny similarity between the BJP and the Congress these days. This resemblance remains obscure because the Congress- led UPA is in power at the Centre and the BJP- led NDA has been out of power since 2004.


The 2004 victory of the UPA was essentially the defeat of the BJP, while its 2009 victory was its own in every way. Since 2009, the UPA- II has been fumbling, seems rudderless and beset with confusion. The BJP has been in this state of sanctified chaos since 2004, pretending to get its act together, but struck by allround ideological confusion.


While the BJP remains strong in several states, its top leadership continues to crumble into disarray with each passing day. In contrast, the Congress seems to exhibit an unchallenged top leadership, but its fortunes in many states show no significant signs of improvement. To put it mildly, the UPA- II is in a crisis, and the crisis is both ideological as well as one of governance.




It is comatose and yet manages to create a din by the sheer noise of contradictions between its ministers and between ministers and party leaders. It gives the feeling of entering a very noisy mortuary.


The first major sign of lack of policy and vision was the way the government handled the question of Telangana. On this question, the Congress betrayed a singular lack of political will and transparency. Neither did it cover itself in glory on the question of the Maoists. The party and the government have spoken in different voices and the cacophony of apologies being rendered to P. Chidambaram by ministers and Congress functionaries alike has now reached a crescendo.


The government seems to have entered a Hobbesian state of nature, a state of war of all against all. Praful Patel and Jairam Ramesh do not seem to agree, Mamata Banerjee and the rest cannot see eye to eye, A. Raja continues to be in the Cabinet defying all odds in the name of coalition politics. On the policy front, the euphoria of passing the women's reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha has been short- lived and there is little effort to create a consensus in the Lok Sabha for its eventual passage. The amendments that the nuclear liability Bill has passed through would give a well- knit patchwork quilt a deep and abiding complex.


The government clearly does not seem to have a strategy and a vision for Kashmir either, a failure that will have longterm repercussions. The mess that the Commonwealth Games have turned out to be would have merited a more decisive response from a government that had clarity and vision, but all that the present dispensation has done is to create more committees and mouth platitudes.


Above all, it seems to flounder on the issue of inflation and rise in prices of essential commodities, carrying happily the excess baggage of an agriculture minister who seems jaded, disinterested and more inclined towards cricket than crops.


The first edition of the UPA seemed more coherent and decisive; there was talk of an arrangement between the party and the government that seemed to make things work. The balance of power and influence between Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh was seen as a novel experiment in Indian politics.

The first term in power inspired many positive schemes and initiatives that seemed to indicate that the Congress was back on the path of social democracy, something that it had lost in the heady days of economic liberalisation.


The NREGA was one such step, destined to change the lives of many and the fortunes of the Congress.




The RTI Act was a spectacular step in deepening democracy. The nuclear deal was pushed through with great will and sense of purpose. In short, it seemed to handle crises well, and exhibited a sense of direction and purpose. Politically too, it exposed the cloak and dagger politics of the BJP and the CPM, exposing them as strange bedfellows, united together in bringing down an elected government.


Apart from faltering at the Centre in its second avatar, the Congress seems hesitant to do anything radical in terms of refurbishing its organisational structure either. Leaving aside attempts by Rahul Gandhi to improve the working of the Youth Congress, nothing substantial has been attempted in the states as well as at the apex of the organisation.


The party still runs on the strength of a coterie and faithful retainers. The CWC, the highest decision- making body of the Congress, is largely an unelected group of party bosses. The party continues to falter in elections at the state- level and nothing seems to go right for it in states where it is only a minor presence. It seems to have no strategy even to hold on to states where, until recently, it had a significant presence, for instance, Andhra Pradesh.




While the Congress has given up on ideology a long time ago, it has always stood by certain inherited values.

These are articles of faith that it returns to repeatedly, even if such a return is guided by pragmatism and expediency.


These are secularism, social justice and democracy. In the current lifetime of the UPA- II, the Congress seems

again to have lost communion with these three principles.


The government seems like a holding operation at the Centre and a free- forall at the level of the states. The

much talked- about working relationship between 10 Janpath and 7 Race Course Road seems invisible. The Prime Minister looks tired and listless and so does the Congress president. Neither seems to inspire nor communicate, neither with the party nor the country.


This is not to remotely suggest that either the Prime Minister or Sonia Gandhi ought to simulate the prolixity displayed by the leaders of the BJP. But they must intervene at crucial moments.


Their enigmatic silence reminds one of an old film song, which, when translated, would go as: He complains that I say very little/ But it is my habit that I say nothing ( Unko yeh shikayat hai ke hum kuchh nahi kehtey/ Apni to yeh aadat hai ke hum kuchh nahin kehtey) . The example of Narasimha Rao's pouty silences is hardly one that the Prime Minister ought to emulate. But more crucially, they must be seen to be decisive and firm.

A noisy government with a silent leader is a sure recipe for disaster.

The writer teaches politics at the University of Hyderabad









THIS Thursday there is no official holiday and still Mumbai will come to a near standstill. No, there is no bandh called by Shiv Sena or Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena.

The city will be celebrating Dahi Handi, a festival that cherishes Lord Krishna's childhood.


Over the years, festivals, too, have been hijacked by political parties and Dahi Handi is no exception. Celebrations are on a gigantic scale and the economics, therefore, need much more than voluntary contributions.


This is where the political parties come in the picture.


But not all political parties celebrate every festival. It all depends on the hue the party has acquired and the community base it enjoys. So Dahi- Handi and Ganesh Festival in Mumbai belong to the Marathi Shiv Sena, Navratri ( or daandia raas) is claimed by the Bharatiya Janata Party that is largely supported by the Gujaratis who account for more than 20 per cent of Mumbai's 1.2 crore population and also hold the cash strings.


There was a time when daandia was played mainly at Gujarati strongholds in suburbs such as Goregaon, Malad, Kandivali and Borivali in the west and Ghatkopar, Mulund in the east. It helped the local BJP connect with its voter base.


Times have changed and with film stars and Bollywood composers jumping in the fray, the festival is no longer a mere congregation of families and friends.


Celebrating Ganesh Festival in a public manner was Bal Gangadhar Tilak's idea who led the Congress before the Gandhi- Nehru era. The idea was to rouse Indian public against the British.


Over 60 years after independence, the festival is now firmly in the hands of Shiv Sena that used it to fund itself and its activities through contributions, often dubbed as annual extortion by the local traders who prefer to pay the bully rather than catching the bull by its horns.


When they do, they pay much more than what they would otherwise pay as contribution.


There was a time gutkha barons funded the celebrations, now it's the builders who eye the redevelopment of old dilapidated buildings and want the residents to give a nod to their proposal.


Dahi Handi has been a festival that had no such patronage, not so far. There are several disadvantages — it gets over in hours, unlike daandia and Ganesh Festival that run in nine nights and ten days respectively. Political parties had so far not paid much attention, except that die- hard sainiks saw it as an adventure sport that challenged their lads.


Eyebrows were raised, therefore, when Sanjay Nirupam, who was in Shiv Sena in the 90s', suddenly raised the stakes.


He offered a cash prize of ` 1 lakh to any mandal that would break the dahi handi organised by his mandal.


It suddenly caught on as teams across Mumbai vied for the cash prize. Over a decade later, Nirupam has moved and settled in the Congress but the prize money is going up at a breakneck speed. Interestingly, two young NCP leaders Jitendra Avhad and Sachin Ahir are now ace dahi handi organisers and both offer cash prizes of over ` 75 lakh. Ahir's dahi- handi , that showcased belly- dancing, attracted controversy last year as NCP's RR Patil is sternly opposed to dance bars.


Similarly, Avhad was accused of not paying the promised prize, a charge he has stoutly refused.


If you want to see how religion and politics go hand in hand, visit Mumbai for Dahi Handi on Thursday.



NCP chief Sharad Pawar may be ailing, but he still has great political acumen. Realising that he was getting a bad name over the rising food prices even as he was getting ready take over as ICC president, he offered to relinquish a few portfolios.


Pawar had said that he would give these away before the monsoon session of Parliament.


It's end of August and there is no sign yet.


Meanwhile, realising that he was losing grip on the party, he held an extended executive session of the NCP in Mumbai over the weekend.


Apart from the usual discourses, he made a couple of interesting observations about the opposition parties and Eknath Khadse in particular. He pointed how the Leader of Opposition ( Khadse) made corruption allegations over development proposals in Mumbai and then entered an understanding with them. Khadse raised several issues in the legislature where he alleged that Chief Minister Ashok Chavan had committed several irregularities while granting NOCs to the construction proposals.


Even as Pawar defended Chavan, his nephew Ajit Pawar, — a minister in Chavan's cabinet— described him as selfish though without naming him. He told his audience in Satara that the Ashoka tree was quite selfish and doesn't even offer shadow to others. " It grows itself, without letting others grow," he commented, leaving the audience in raptures.


Chavan is not allowing several of the NCP proposals and has kept the administration on a tight leash, much like his father. A peeved Pawar returned the favour in public.


The saga will not end here.



THE Bombay High Court is now hearing a petition over the legacy of Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah's bungalow in Mumbai's posh Malabar Hill area.


While the central government claims ownership over the bungalow as per the Enemy Property Act, his daughter Dina Wadia has been claiming right to the property that was also the venue where Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah discussed the partition of India in 1944.


As an act of goodwill to Jinnah, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru did not acquire the property under the Enemy Property Act and even offered rent to him. With Jinnah's death in September 1948, the issue remained unresolved, only to be resurrected after his daughter staked her claim to the property.

It's not so much her claim to the property, but the basis of the claim that is quite interesting.


Her lawyers have cited that Jinnah was not a mainstream Muslim, and that he was a Khoja Shia and therefore the Islamic Sharia does not apply in deciding the issue of inheritance of his property. They state that it is the Hindu law which should be applied.


This claim is rather interesting and even amusing, since Jinnah, in his avatar as the leader of the Muslim League, had advocated that the Hindu majority and its representatives in the Indian National Congress will crush the Muslim minority. That was the foundation of his claim for a separate land for Muslims.


Almost six decades after his death and the birth of Pakistan.


Jinnah's daughter has turned the clocks back.


It will be interesting to see how the courts view the argument. It will be some years, but the verdict will make headlines if the courts ruled Hindu law to decide the ownership of the property of the founder of an Islamic republic.








The allegations that Pakistani players, including their captain Salman Butt, collaborated with a betting racket during the England-Pakistan Test series could have a debilitating impact on the game. The immediate fallout will be felt in Pakistan, a country that has produced some of the game's finest players. Cricket in that country has been in limbo for reasons extraneous to the game. The internal security situation had starved players and fans of cricket. Steps were taken to organise Tests involving the Pakistani team at neutral venues. These efforts will come to naught if the charges that players were involved in spot-fixing are confirmed. 

The fallout of the corruption allegation could be more devastating than the temporary break terrorism has forced on cricketing activity in Pakistan. The International Cricket Council (ICC) must suspend the current Pak tour of England until investigations are concluded. The ambit of investigation must include the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as well. The overindulgence of some players by the PCB, even after they were caught compromising the ethics of the game, could have led to this sordid state of affairs. Mazhar Majeed, the London-based Pakistani businessman and bookie at the centre of the present controversy, has claimed that he works closely with PCB officials. Unfortunately, the world has no reason to disbelieve him. 

If the PCB had been firm with players who were accused of match-fixing in the past, things would not have come to this pass. Unlike cricket boards in India and South Africa, which showed zero tolerance of players tainted by match-fixing allegations, the PCB had refused to crack the whip on errant players. Those believed to be the ring leaders were banned, but the ones who collaborated, and hence no less guilty, were let off with minimum punishment. Some of them later became captains, coaches and even selectors. What is the signal that goes out to budding players when the board is lenient towards players who are scouting for that extra income from bookies and match-fixers? Or is it just that the rot in the Pakistani polity has spread to cricket? 

World cricket can't afford to let bookies and unscrupulous administrators wreck Pakistani cricket. Two of the players currently in the dock, 
Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif, are among the most gifted players in world cricket today and their bowling has been one of the highlights of cricket in England this season. However, the best of players must not be spared if found guilty of violating the ethics of the game. The ICC and PCB must ensure that for the sake of the game.



                                                                                                                                                            C OMMENT



Reaffirming that age has never been an obstacle for Indian politicians, a recent report lists India as the country with the oldest head of government as well as the oldest ministerial cabinet among 15 of the largest economies in the world. At 78, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is one of the only two septuagenarians on the list. The average age of the Indian cabinet 64.4 years is almost two-and-a-half times the country's median age at 25.9. This is far greater than most of the developed economies where the difference is only a decade or so. Even the Chinese leadership is more youthful with an average cabinet age of 61.2 years. 

We might have one of the youngest populations in the world, but the difference in age between our leaders and the populace is palpable. There is thus an increasing disconnect between the leadership and the people. Apart from the age gulf dynastic politics too is a massive hurdle to youth finding expression. The present lot of young leaders has to live in the shadow of political patriarchs until the latter make way, which in the Indian context could take an extraordinarily long time. A gerontocracy is fundamentally conservative and risk-averse, blocking reform in any direction. India's yawning age gulf goes a long way towards explaining the quality of the leadership we get. Reservation for women is now a hot-button political issue. Perhaps we also need to think in terms of reservation for youth, leaving out the creamy layer of those who come with dynastic connections. Institutionalisation of inner-party democracy would help, too.







Another mosque, another time, another argumentative democracy. In the US, a dispute has erupted over a proposal to build a mosque; in India, 18 years ago it was about tearing one down. A controversial issue in both cases is: Which central idea forms the essence of any multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation? Must such a society uphold a particular culture that defines the core values of the nation? Or, must it not merely tolerate diverse cultures, but actually celebrate diversity as a defining value? 

In December 1992, a band of Hindu militants destroyed an old mosque in Ayodhya, the Babri masjid. Bloody riots broke out between the two communities in several towns, chaos engulfed the nation for days and a fierce argument ensued over what we should understand by the idea of India. 

There were those who argued that with the partition of India in 1947 and the establishment of the Islamic nation of Pakistan, specifically created as a homeland for the subcontinent's Muslims, the republic of India was free to become a nation primarily for Hindus, with its core values including tolerance and secularism embedded in ancient tradition. In this view, the demolition of the mosque had been a symbolic act to re-establish Hindu primacy in a nation long misled by "pseudo-secularists". 

And there were those of us who countered by pointing out that India was imagined by its founding fathers to be what Pakistan was not. It would be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, democratic republic, in which a carefully crafted Constitution would guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of religion. The argument continues with the Allahabad high court weighing in with its judgement on Babri masjid. 

It is a complex debate, not least because the idea of a diverse, multi-religious democracy is a modern concept incorporated legally, and in writing for the first time, in the American Constitution as updated in 1791 with a Bill of Rights. The framers of India's Constitution studied the US Constitutionclosely and inserted similar fundamental rights in our document. Those rights have ensured for every citizen the right to be different from every other citizen, and in what we can say or do and in pursuit of religion. 

Although on the surface the argument over the proposed Islamic cultural centre in Lower Manhattan is over protecting citizens' constitutional rights versus the raw emotions of those who see it as an affront to the memory of victims of 9/11, the issue is larger. Lurking in the strands of the debate are key questions: What does it mean to be an American today? Is it enough to swear to uphold the Constitution, to enjoy all legally guaranteed freedoms, and to lead life any way you please within the generous limits outlined in the Constitution? Or is it also necessary for all citizens to defer to the preferences and habits of a dominant culture, which is Protestant Christian or, as commonly described nowadays, Judeo-Christian? 

The argument has been on for a while. When Irish Catholics began to migrate to the US in large numbers they were not initially welcomed with open arms. It took decades before Catholics could become fully accepted within the mainstream. Ditto for the Japanese; and for the Jewish migrants who escaped European intolerance for a more hospitable society but had to wait a few decades of uneasy coexistence with devout Christians before the term Judeo-Christian could become the preferred way to describe Euro-American civilisation. Hispanic migrants today may be Christian but to many they are the Other. 

For Muslims of all hues the case has become immensely more complicated post-9/11. On one hand, they are asked to prove their moderate credentials and condemn the jihadi radicalism of a few. On the other, they are greeted with fury when reformers, like Imam Feisal Rauf, want to set up a cultural centre that will encourage interfaith dialogue, promote moderate Islam and will have a prayer room because it is two blocks away from Ground Zero. A majority of Americans don't want the centre there. They somehow hold, even as they say they don't, the entire Muslim community responsible for 9/11. 

The idea of America, like the idea of India, remains a work in progress. For many Americans, national identity is synonymous with a cultural identity; for others, multicultural coexistence forms the essence of American nationalism. But to gain an insight into what the idea of America was to those who founded the nation, we could study the far-sighted spirit embodied in the Bill of Rights. With its guarantee of free speech and the separation of religious preferences from the conduct of public affairs, the US Constitution offers a fine set of principles by which to live in a diverse and rapidly evolving world.

Those who dreamt up the vision of America found no contradiction in endorsing tolerance while remaining true to their faith. Wrote Thomas Paine in his 1776 pamphlet 'Common Sense': "I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us: It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness." Today, going by nationwide opinion polls, American common sense seems surprisingly reluctant to accept such ideas. 

The writer is a FICCI-EWC fellow at the East West Centre in Washington, DC.



                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




Reality, it seems, is too depressing to be inflicted on the masses at least according to BJP leader L K Advani. That seems to be the gist of his reaction to Peepli Live, actor Aamir Khan's new offering as a producer that was specially screened for NDA MPs. According to Advani, although he was greatly impressed by the movie, he wished it had been on something like the NREGA no surprise there instead of farmer suicides. His reasoning? He felt that the families of farmers who actually had committed suicide would be distressed if they saw the movie and found that it had made a mockery of their suffering. He has missed the mark spectacularly. 

The movie does not mock the farmers' suffering; it mocks our apathetic, voyeuristic reaction to it. That has always been the prime function of satire, a concept of which Advani seems to be ignorant. It is precisely in situations where the reality is so terrible that art becomes a potent medium of comment. Witness movies like MASH or Catch-22, and the book the latter was based on. Both tackle the inhumanity of war with razor-sharp wit and morbid humour. Every absurdity is mined for queasy laughs, and that is precisely how they drive home the horrors of their particular context. 

Satire and art in general has a long, honoured tradition of making society face up to truths it might not want to. Jonathan Swift, for instance, famously highlighted the impoverishment of the Irish by devoting his essay, A Modest Proposal, to detailing how Irish parents might alleviate their poverty by selling their children as food. Closer home, Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali was criticised in several quarters for exploiting poverty. Posterity has vindicated these artistic efforts and shown the flaws in the reasoning adopted by Advani. 







BJP leader L K Advani rightly said that Peepli Live's filmmakers should have chosen a subject like NREGA rather than farmers' suicide as its central theme. Even though Aamir Khan has produced a movie that is raking in the crowds, there are genuine reasons to be upset over the way the whole issue of farmer suicides has been portrayed in the film. In an act of gross insensitivity, the movie depicts farmers committing suicide to claim compensation from the government. They had no right to make a mockery of the cruel reality faced by our farmers. Advani has justifiably vented the feelings of those distressed farmers and their families who suffered and witnessed those horrific events. 

At the heart of the issue is the tendency of our filmmakers to serve up poverty porn to grab attention and garner critical rave reviews. We cannot expect a foreigner like Slumdog Millionaire's Oscar-winner director Danny Boyle to be sensitive about depicting India and its problems, but an Indian movie should not have exploited and made fun of poverty in the same way. In Peepli Live's case, the movie has been structured for India's new urban rich who do not have direct contact with the problems of the rural heartland. We should resist comparison to Satyajit Ray masterpieces such as Pather Panchali or Ashani Sanket, which depicted poverty in a naturalistic and internal manner rather than make a voyeuristic target of opportunity out of it. 

When India is developing and there has been a visible improvement in every quarter of social life, we must stop this fetish for exploiting poverty for commercial reasons. Being a mass medium, cinema has a constructive role to play in society. It should certainly highlight social issues, but it also needs to suggest that despite all the hopelessness, there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

VIEW: He misses the point entirely







A visiting Kiwi acquaintance with a reputation for gastronomic daredevilry joined us for a meal at a famous Hong Kong Thai restaurant known for its wickedly pungent fare. Loud and jolly, the man came with two giggly Filipino girls on his massive arms to take on the eatery's scorching hot selections.

Central to the cuisine was a tiny curly chilly known as 'prik kee noo suan'. The menu card gave the usual heat level warnings. When the waiter appeared, Mike told him, "Gimme your hottest raw chilly", and smiled broadly at the girls. The waiter returned with chilled lager and a side plate of three tiny curly chillies. "What? Just three?" he exclaimed, picking them up disdainfully and popping them into his mouth like they were cocktail peanuts. 

In quick time, the Kiwi displayed a flurry of emotions. Eyes opened wide, face took on a wild, pole-axed look and shades of purple, and tears streamed down his cheeks. The girls let out banshee-like screeches, "Fire, fire! Help!" People slapped a gasping Mike's back. Someone else gave him water. Hearing the commotion, a short security guard came running with a small fire extinguisher, blabbering in Cantonese, "Where fire?" 

Finally that night, when we managed to haul him to his room, we learned a lesson or two about 'prik kee noo suan'. Ice cream rather than aqua douses the fire. Meanwhile, Big Mike was parked on the pot all night, roaring in pain until the roar became so high-pitched that he could have well joined the Vienna Boys' choir! 

Back home, a 
Nigerian air force friend once landed up for an Andhra meal. The wife cautioned the guest, saying two of the dishes on the table were hot and spicy, and that the others "won't rock your world". To our surprise, the pilot discarded the 'mild' and 'bland' dishes and descended on the hottest dishes. Then pulling out a little pouch from his jacket, he sprinkled red powder on the bed of curry and rice. "Ghost chilly", he explained, "Picked it up from Chabua base, Assam." While the rest of the table gasped, I thought of Big Mike and wondered what colours Africans take when they ingest hot dishes. To everyone's surprise, the man fell on the fiery fare with relish and no signs of discomfort! Looking around at the stunned gathering, he broke into laughter and said, "Please sir, I want some more." 

I related these incidents to a business associate, a long-time London resident, Mr Naidu. He said, "Incidentally, I've booked a table at the Cinnamon Club for tonight's dinner. That should be interesting. They claim to serve the hottest lamb curry in the world." For some reason, that didn't surprise me. After all, the UK was having a passionate love affair with fiery vindaloo, chicken tikka masala and other such Indian dishes. Diners kept asking for even sharper fiery curries as an excuse to continue the beer guzzling. The surprise was that today 'hotness' could be measured. 'Bollywood Burner', the 'Andhra-style' lamb curry, had chillies with 8,55,000 Scoville heat units, more than one hundred times that of standard jalapeno! 

After the recent fire-eating events, I gave the dish a miss. My host, clad in an old-fashioned dark suit and a white coronation, announced he'd give the full Monty a shy. In time, I tackled my plate of naan and chicken tikka masala. But I couldn't help throwing nervous glances at my host. He, however, was going about his dinner with elan. If 'mega-death' chillies turn a white Kiwi face purple what shade does a wheatish complexion turn, I wondered. 

I needn't have worried. The old sport displaying native 
Guntur colours polished off the plate clean. No sweat, no fuss. As I wiped perspiration off my brow, he turned to me with a smile, and said, "Please sir, I want some more."








India today embarks on a counting exercise ten times larger than anything attempted before by man. Over the next decade, it hopes to provide its 1.2 billion citizens identification numbers that should eventually serve as a fence around legitimate economic and political activity. At Rs 120 a pop for getting your iris and fingerprints lodged in a secure digital warehouse, the Rs 15,000 crore it will cost to roll out the unique identification number project could pay for itself, its managers reckon, in a year by saving the government Rs 20,000 crore in social welfare payouts that end up in the wrong hands because of duplication. For a big government like India's, which spends every fourth rupee of the national income, biometric identification is the first step in moving away from functional anarchy.


The case, of course, is not as strong for the intermediaries in the governance delivery pipeline who stand to lose their discretion. The severely compromised voter and ration rolls speak for themselves. Opposition to a new enumeration argues that a new roll does not eliminate corruption while it opens up the scope for religious and caste profiling. Fortunately, the latest iteration of a national ID sidesteps both issues by offering to tie in economic benefits to purely a demographic count without getting into ethnicity issues. If flagship welfare schemes are co-built with the new database, as is the idea, the prospects of a demanddriven enumeration brighten measurably. Productivity gains in welfare delivery alone can sustain any scaling up needed in future.


The success of any census rests on the purpose the data is put use to. The information Nandan Nilekani and his team are gathering hold out immense possibilities for private business as well. The government is on the right course when it seeks to monetise its Herculean effort within the bounds imposed by individual freedom. The larger role for private agents in building and maintaining a central database and the value proposition it offers to a host of user industries like banks put the exercise on a firmer footing.

The government has shown wisdom in seeking an outsider like Mr Nilekani to get the show on the road. Unconventional thinking was needed to undertake what most countries consider an irksome chore. There is a lot riding on Mr Nilekani. If India succeeds, his identification project could become the prototype for quite a few nations.








Spot-fixing is now all the rage everywhere. Since a chap by the name of Mazhar Majeed was caught on tape counting the money he got from a British tabloid journo to get Pakistani bowlers to bowl three no balls in their match against England in Lord's -we'd have bowled no balls for free! -everyone's now playing the game. For instance, there could be a possibility that we were paid a nice little sum for putting in `possibility' as the 66th word in this editorial. The fact that Mr Majeed was simply showing off his ability to make Pakistani cricketers do anything at his bidding may startle many people, punters included.


But for the reported sum of over £ 150,000 that Mr Majeed reportedly paid some of the players to `fix' the Lord's Test -poor England didn't even get the luxury of basking in the glory of winning the Test -one would have expected something more dramatic: like the wicketkeeper streaking or Pakistan captain Salman Butt declaring that Kashmir is a legitimate part of India or bowler Mohammad Amir, announcing in the post-match ceremony while accepting the Man of the Series award that he's gay.


Instead, the cricketing world and its uncle is het up about spot-fixing. We aren't in a position to confirm or deny anything but just to show all of you that we are totally up for some strategic endorsements, we predict that we have the power to end this editorial on cricket and corruption with a word, say, `permafrost', that has nothing to do with either subjects. For non-believers, all we can say is that we are unmoved by the Pakistani antics and the public show of horror. Nothing can melt our determination to make an income on the side. Like sunshine bouncing off, er, permafrost.



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES






The prime minister has finally spoken in the Parliamentary session. Despite the unprecedented procedure of unanimously adopting a resolution moved by the Chair in both Houses, calling upon the government to take all measures to protect the aam aadmi from the adverse impact of the price rise, the PM didn't intervene. Likewise, he remained silent in the debates on the alarming situation in Kashmir and on the plight of the Bhopal victims. That he chose to intervene on the nuclear liability Bill establishes that silence is often more eloquent than words in expressing the real intentions and priorities of this government.


Reacting to charges that this legislation was aimed at promoting American interests, he said that "this is not the first time that such a charge has been made against me." The reference is to his 1992 budget that ushered in neo-liberal reforms, which he claims has, today, created "a resurgent and assertive India". Two decades later, the impact of this nuclear liability Bill would be similar, he claims.


'Resurgent India' indeed! For whom? Fifty-two Indian US dollar billionaires hold a fourth of India's GDP today. On the other hand, official estimates show that 77 per cent of Indians survive on less than R20 a day. While this column has repeatedly drawn attention to such creation of two Indias, the most high-profile Congress general secretary has now thus spoken.


That the reforms will widen the rich-poor divide was always known. Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, in March 1995, admitted: "In the context of the reforms that we have embarked upon presently in our country" required the need to "commit the resources required to realise the rights for the poor". Thus, within three years, it became clear that the omnipotent 'market' and 'reforms' by themselves won't eliminate poverty. On the contrary, as we see today, the economic disparity has only widened sharply. This is the reality of the 1992 reforms, two decades later.


More recently, last December, Manmohan Singh himself spoke defensively at the conference of the Indian Economic Association on poverty reduction. In an admission of guilt of sorts he said poverty "has continued to decline after the economic reforms at least at the same rate as it did before". Does this create a 'resurgent and assertive India' for all?


Clearly, the neo-liberal growth trajectory was — and is — designed to widen the hiatus between the two Indias, notwithstanding the rhetorical concern for the aam aadmi. The 'shining' India's luminosity is directly proportional to the deprivation of 'suffering' India. Likewise, this nuclear liability Bill is patently designed to promote nuclear commerce for American corporations and their domestic 'add ons'. The PM has announced the target of generating 40,000 MW of nuclear power. By using the nuclear option, India would be spending way beyond R3 lakh crore more than by using the available thermal, hydro or other options. This cost difference, which translates as corporate profits, can build nearly 20,000 fully-equipped 100-bed hospitals or 2.5 lakh Navodaya Vidyalayas with full boarding facilities for 100 students. Super profits for American corporations or true concern for the aam aadmi — this is the question today. The answer, unfortunately for our people, is in favour of the former.


However much we may wish that a nuclear accident never happens, when it does, it causes catastrophic damage to human life and property. The question of liability on both the supplier and operator of nuclear power plants in providing compensation, hence, becomes important. In the context of the plight of the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, due to the absence of adequate liability laws, the Union home minister spoke in the Rajya Sabha recently of "a deep sense of guilt that in all these 26 years neither the executive nor parliament  appeared to have exercised the vigil and supervision that the situation warranted. And, in a sense, the elected political class of the country let down the victims of Bhopal." It is not the 'political class' but the ruling classes in the government, where the Congress and the BJP find common place, that have let them down. They have, once again, joined to pass this Bill.


I had to counter such guilt-free abdication of responsibility by the successive Congress and BJP governments by setting the record straight in the Rajya Sabha. The Left had been raising this issue all along since 1984. Unfortunately, for the aam aadmi, this fell on deaf ears. Similarly, our pleas now to hold the American corporate giant, Dow Chemicals, that acquired Union Carbide liable for damages are falling on deaf ears.


Today, the CPI(M) is forewarning the government and the country that the legal structure for adequate liability in the event of a nuclear accident must be ensured, else, a tragedy exponentially worse than Bhopal is waiting to happen.


Many countries in the world have fixed a floor for the amount of liability payable in the case of a nuclear accident. Instead of this, the present Indian law fixes a ceiling. In the case of a nuclear accident, a ceiling makes no sense, as the amounts of compensation would depend upon the gravity of the accident. By not heeding to this suggestion and refusing to raise the limits of compensation, the Indian ruling classes are, once again, bartering away people's interests for corporate profits. An alternative political trajectory for realising India's real potential is necessary as the Congress and the BJP unequivocally converge on issues of neo-liberal economic reforms and subservience to American imperialism.


Heed this forewarning, if for nothing else, that a  nuclear accident does not discriminate between the minuscule 'resurgent' India and the overwhelmingly impoverished real India.


Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP. The views expressed by the author are personal.







The devastating cloudburst in Ladakh on August 6 was over in a few hours. Yes, it's true that it destroyed large parts of this spectacular region but the magical town of Leh and most parts of Ladakh have recovered and are safe again for tourists. The cloudburst mainly damaged areas south of Leh. The main market and other adjacent areas, including the hotels and guesthouses, remain unaffected.


The roads to popular destinations were temporarily affected. They are now open and safe for travelling. Tourists have started coming again and they can visit the must-visits in Ladakh: Nubra Valley, Pangong Lake, Tso Moriri and the old monasteries.


The Leh-Srinagar and Leh-Manali highways have reopened though the roads remain partly damaged. To travel to Manali, one has to now drive via Tso Kar, Mahe bridge and Chumathang because a part of the Leh-Manali highway is badly damaged. Treks to most of the routes are possible, with the only exception of Lamayuru-Padum and Markha Valley.


The people of Ladakh depend on revenue from tourism. So if you plan a holiday here, you will be doing a big service to the people here. The flights have started and Ladakh offers many safe and wonderful holidays till the third week of October. Come and have fun in this beautiful region and in the process help the people.


Tashi Motup Kau is a Leh-based hotelier. The views expressed by the author are personal.








The leaders of the Indian National Congress, they hasten to assure us, stand for a politics that transcends the divides of caste and religion that have been so central to elections and electioneering in north India for two decades now. That narrative is pushed in Uttar Pradesh in particular, as the Congress struggles to rebuild there. So why is it that the readers of this newspaper were privileged to feast their eyes on a photograph of another Congress general secretary, former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijay Singh, resplendent in a saffron turban at the second All India Kshatriya Federation conference in Mumbai on Sunday? Many other Congressmen followed Singh's lead there, including Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan.


Indeed, this is a major part of Singh's political calculations: he has painstakingly built for himself a caste-based network of support. Follow the headlines: recently he has flown to Andhra to inaugurate a "Kshatriya Kalyanamandapam"; spoken on Rana Pratap's birthday to a crowd of Kshatriyas in Lucknow; and listened as Shivraj Singh Chouhan, now CM of MP, reminded a similar crowd in Bhopal of favours done when he had been out of power, and Singh in.


Singh would explain, no doubt, as he did to one of these crowds that "a Raja is not born from the womb of the mother but from the ballot box." Yet it seems clear that in this, too, Singh has chosen to defy the currents of change. In much of India, caste mobilisation has served to democratise our politics. But there is something disquieting in seeing it used for exactly the opposite: to maintain the networks of obvious and hidden power which were supposed to be dissolved by that mobilisation. Singh's involvement in this is long-term, and goes beyond merely joyfully embracing community. Like Amar Singh's, his attempt to create a backward-looking political constituency should not be embraced.







Paid news is becoming a catch-all phrase to highlight the ways in which articles and broadcasts are being put out by the news media without fully disclosing conflicts of interest. It is not just that a persuasion industry is becoming increasingly sophisticated in using media outlets to disguise sponsored content as unbiased reportage. It takes two to make that work, and the concern is that by striking lucrative deals some media groups are putting at risk the freedom of press in this country. This freedom draws from a public trust in the need for a free press; and were that trust to be eroded, there could be nobody left to stand guarantee for that independence. It is in this context that the Securities and Exchange Board of India's intervention is welcome.


In a Sebi-inspired advisory, the Press Council has asked media companies to disclose their stake in any company they report on. This disclosure is aimed at bringing transparency on "private treaties", which refers to a practice adopted by some media houses of acquiring a share in a company in exchange for carrying a certain amount of free advertisements. The demand is that a media group disclose the interest at the end of each report mentioning a company with which it has a private treaty, and that it alsomake comprehensive disclosure of its stake in various companies on its website. As a market regulator, Sebi's concern is "such brand buildingstrategies of media groups, without appropriate and adequate disclosures may not be in the interest of investors and financial markets". And though questions still remain on how such an advisory could be enforced, Sebi's concern is well taken.


The larger issue, however, is disclosure. There is enough anec-dotal evidence — and this news-paper has etailed much of it — that a lot of brand-building across politics, sport, cinema, business,etc is guided by considerationsof favour that the reader/ viewer remains unaware of. At a time when journalism is being defined by a set of checks and filters to compare against the onslaught of randomly generated content on the Internet, adherence to established codes of disclosure is all the more critical.







In 2004, as the Taj Heritage Corridor case was being investigated, the CBI said it had another "watertight case" against Mayawati — Rs 20 crore worth of unexplained assets. But a few months later, as the Congress-Samajwadi Party relationship curdled, Mayawati was seen as politically useful and the Taj corridor case was dropped. However, the disproportionate assets case continues to dog her, especially at points of stress between her and the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre. (That amount had apparently swelled to Rs 50 crore by 2007.) But this April, just as the BSP rescued the government from a cut motion, income tax authorities suddenly cleared Mayawati of all charges, and the CBI also showed every indication of letting the matter go. However, now that the government is in the clear, and Mayawati is not a facilitator but once again an opponent, the CBI has obligingly flipped around again.


The Central Bureau of Investigation has been the government's little helper, no matter how momentous the events under investigation. Mulayam Singh's disproportionate assets seem to shrink and loom depending on which side of the UPA his party is on — though the CBI was pursuing the case furiously, it swerved around after the SP bailed out the UPA in the July 2008 confidence motion. Perhaps the most memorable display of the CBI's political pliability is the two-decade-old Bofors scandal, often making arguments it had itself contested and gradually loosening the noose around Ottavio Quattrocchi's neck. Its word on Jagdish Tytler and the 1984 riots has wobbled over and over again. And though the Congress is overwhelmingly culpable in making the CBI a ventriloquist's dummy, it has been just as open to manipulation by the NDA. It shielded L.K. Advani from the heat over Babri Masjid in 2003, only to sheepishly explain its actions to the Congress a few months later.


The CBI is possibly the starkest example of the political undermining of India's public institutions. In the 1997 hawala case, the Supreme Court explicitly reminded the CBI of its statutory freedoms, its insulation from government pressure — but it has continued to drag its feet in cases that involve the powerful, ensuring that high-stakes matters of crime and corruption go unpunished. (For that matter, India's premier investigative agency has not been able to get a fix on the Noida teenager Aarushi's murder, two years back). The CBI's complicity has often been taken for granted. But it's time to ask whether it is now surpassing its own record in subservience to its political masters.








As China adds a new wrinkle to its Kashmir policy, India will soon have to do a little more than send protest notes to Beijing. If China does not show sensitivity to India's core interests, the current spat on visas could escalate to a dangerous contestation of mutual sovereignties in the vast and turbulent frontiers that they share.


Beijing's disinclination to host a senior Indian general commanding the northern sector, which includes Jammu and Kashmir, as part of a broader military exchange between the two countries is not the first sign of Beijing's disturbing new approach to the sensitive state.


Beijing's decision to cite the "disputed" nature of the state in refusing a visa to Lt Gen B.S. Jaswal comes on top of the Chinese government's decision to issue stapled visas to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir.


If Indian concerns do not elicit a positive response from Beijing, Delhi will have no option but to conclude that China's new visa practice reflects a significant evolution in Beijing's Kashmir policy.


The very purpose of the military exchanges between India and China, for example, is to maintain peace and tranquillity on the border, pending the resolution of the territorial dispute.


Why then is Beijing spurning military confidence-building to make a political point in J&K? Has the continuous contestation of Indian sovereignty in J&K become so important for Beijing that it is prepared to rupture an expanding bilateral relationship? These are the questions that Delhi is asking itself.


In our obsession with Pakistan and the emphasis on "bilateralism" when it comes to discussing Kashmir, we tend to forget how China looms so large on J&K.


Until recently China's importance to Kashmir was reflected in three facts. China is in occupation of 38,000 sq km of territory in the Ladakh region that connects the original state of J&K with two Chinese provinces, Tibet and Xinjiang.


Beijing also controls another tract of about 5,000 sq km in Shaksgam valley that Pakistan ceded to China under a 1963 treaty. The Chinese People's Liberation Army spent vast amounts of blood and treasure in building the Karakoram Highway through Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan during the '70s.


As it reflects on the recent Chinese moves on J&K, India must come to terms with a number of new trends. As a rising power, China has begun to assert its territorial claims far more vigorously, as seen most recently in the South China Sea.


Its rapid growth over the last three decades has allowed Beijing to project its economic power across its frontiers into the neighbouring countries. As a consequence, China's capacity to influence decisions of its neighbours all along its periphery — from the Russian far east to Central Asia through the Korean Peninsula and Southeast Asia — has increased.


]In the last few years, India has warily watched Chinese activism all across the Great Himalayas in Burma, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan. Until now India's challenge has been about managing an economic and diplomatic contest with Beijing.


The new questions that Delhi confronts are somewhat different. Is China's rising economic power and growing political influence across the Himalayas morphing into a threat to India's territorial sovereignty in J&K? Has China abandoned its three-decade-old cautious approach to J&K?


During the '50s, China avoided taking positions on the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K. Despite the positive Sino-Indian relations and India's acceptance of the Chinese claim to Tibet, China did not support India's sovereignty over J&K. But Beijing did not support Pakistan either.


As Sino-Indian ties deteriorated from the late '50s, China tilted decisively towards Pakistan and after the 1962 war with India it started supporting self-determination for J&K.


As Deng Xiaoping sought a peaceful environment for his economic reforms from the late '70s, the Chinese position on Kashmir acquired some balance, especially after Delhi and Beijing made an effort to normalise relations.


]The latest Chinese moves suggest that in the fourth phase of its Kashmir policy, Beijing is less concerned about maintaining a balance between Delhi and Rawalpindi. While its new positions do help Pakistan in a tactical sense, India wonders if China wants to become a full-fledged party to the J&K dispute by contesting India's sovereignty.


Add to this, China's expanding presence in Gilgit-Baltistan, its plans to modernise the Karakoram Highway and link it to the Gwadar port in Pakistan, and its search for new access routes into Afghanistan. All these developments make India wonder if it must redo its sums in Kashmir.


India can certainly retaliate to China's moves on J&K, with visa denials of its own and stapled visas for Chinese citizens from across the borders in Xinjiang and Tibet. Such diplomatic tit-for-tat may make Delhi feel good but will not address its new China problem on its frontiers.


To deal with the rising Chinese power in Kashmir and other frontiers, India needs a long-term strategy that focuses on a rapid upgrade of India's own infrastructure on the borders, massive economic investments to develop the border regions all along our northern frontiers, strengthening cross-border economic cooperation with our smaller neighbours, and modernising India's military capabilities.


For its part, Delhi must first try and get Beijing to see the dangerous consequences of its moves on J&K. India must also offer to engage China in a comprehensive dialogue on stabilising our shared periphery.


From Balochistan to Burma — through Afghanistan, FATA, Xinjiang, Kashmir, Tibet, Nepal and the Northeast — there is great turbulence. India's preference must be to cooperate with Beijing in bringing peace and prosperity to this region.


If Beijing, however, continues to challenge India's territorial sovereignty across the Great Himalayas, even a

reluctant UPA government — widely seen as weak and lacking the political will on national defence — might be forced to pick up the gauntlet.







The Union law minister has introduced a bill in Lok Sabha for amending Article 217(1) and 224(3) of the Constitution. By the former article, as it is now, every high court judge shall hold office until he attains the age of 62, and by the latter no additional or acting judge shall hold office after attaining that age. The present bill proposes to amend the words "sixty-two" to "sixty-five" in both articles. It is the by-product of a cabinet decision based on the recommendations of the 39th report of the parliamentary standing committee on personnel, public grievances, law and justice.


At the time of making the Constitution, the average lifespan of an Indian citizen was 45. This would have weighed very much with the Constitution-framers when they fixed the retirement age of high court judges at 60 and Supreme Court judges at 62. With the improvement of longevity since, Parliament in its wisdom realised the need to enhance the retirement age of high court judges to 62 and judges of the Supreme Court to 65. This was done about half-a-century ago.


In the present scenario, high court judges are very often, after retirement, appointed as members or chairmen of various tribunals, commissions or other committees, which require much legal and judicial experience. That apart, a good number of retired judges resume practice as advocates either in the Supreme Court or in high courts in which they were not judges. It might be in this background that the law commission has repeatedly recommended the further enhancement of the retirement age of judges. But this time the proposed amendment seeks to uniformise the age of judges of the high courts and Supreme Court at "sixty-five".


]Some reasons are advanced for enhancing the age of superannuation of high court judges without a corresponding enhancement for judges of the Supreme Court. I do not propose to deal with the soundness or otherwise of making the retirement age of the judges at both tiers uniform. My endeavour is to bring to the notice of Parliament the need to use this opportunity to prevent non-performing judges and judges whose integrity is under a cloud from benefiting from the enhancement.


I could overhear two divergent reactions from members of the bar when the news of the proposed bill was flashed in the media. One is a sense of relief and exhilaration that a catena of judges nearing superannuation (whom the bar regards as role models) would continue for three more years. The other is an expression of frustration that some non-performing judges (whose exit by superannuation was eagerly awaited) will have to be borne for three more years. Can these divergent reactions be reconciled?


A few years ago, the retirement age for district judges was raised to 60. This was done through a judgment delivered by the apex court. But then a rider was incorporated that the high court shall examine individual cases on merit, to identify those who are deserving of an extension beyond the erstwhile barrier. I have gathered that this filter has been frequently invoked by some of the high courts to weed out deadwood and persons of questioned rectitude. The principle embodied therein can profitably be adopted in the case of high courts too, particularly when Parliament is contemplating granting extended tenure at that level. It is a stark reality that in almost all high courts there are judges (though their number is not great) who do not have the confidence of the bar, or the public either, due to want of integrity or incapacity to deliver judgments.


]The present mechanism for impeachment of judges as provided in the Constitution has been proved to be practically otiose, if not needlessly protracted. Now Parliament gets a fine opportunity to transmit the message to the tainted judges that the Constitution does not approve their continuance in office at least beyond the age of 62.


It may then be asked when, and which authority, will find out who among the judges are to be denied this extension. The answer to this can easily be discovered, more so at a time when alternative mechanisms for the selection and appointment of judges are seriously being deliberated upon by the bar and MPs. I do not think it is a difficult task for the law ministry to evolve suitable machinery or standards to identify judges who are under a cloud because of doubtful integrity or performative nonfeasance.


The writer is a former judge of the Supreme Court







My guest this week is an unusual leader for two reasons. One, he is one of the very few leaders of the kisan community to be in power in India. And second, for being that rare political leader who is in news for good reasons. Mr Hooda, Chief Minister of Haryana, do you agree or disagree?


I'm doing my duty.


The big story today, particularly in rural India, is land acquisition and the development and the linkage between the two. Your model in Haryana is being quoted as an example for the whole country by none else than your party's most important leader, the second most important leader, if I may say so, Rahul Gandhi.


]I'm thankful to Rahul Gandhi. As far as land acquisition is concerned, when a farmer loses his land, he sees darkness for the future generation. Therefore, they should be properly rehabilitated and they should be provided with alternative sources of income. That was my attitude. Being the son of a farmer, I know the state of mind of someone who loses his land. I can quote one example—the expressway around Delhi, KMP.


Kundli-Manesar-Palwal, the Supreme Court had asked for it to decongest Delhi.


Here, the Haryana government, the government of India, the government of Delhi and the UP government are all shareholders. The western KMP expressway falls in Haryana—it's a 135-km-long road. Before the Congress government came to power in Haryana in 2005, the total acquisition cost assessed, the price to be paid to farmers, was fixed at Rs 160 crore. We decided to fix the floor rate for the whole stretch depending on the potential of the area. After introducing these floor rates, the total compensation paid to the farmers rose to Rs 650 crore.


Why don't you explain the acquisition policy to us? The state has been divided into zones.


Yes, three zones. One is the high potential zone near Gurgaon and Panchkula, then the there is the NCR zone and then there is the rest of Haryana. So, in Gurgaon where the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) has acquired (land) for urbanisation, it has paid Rs 1.03 crore per acre as compensation. In Sonepat, it is Rs 70 lakh per acre. But they have also fixed an annuity. For any land acquired for public purposes—roads, canals etc—or that HUDA acquires for urbanisation, an annuity is paid to the farmers at Rs 15,000 per acre per year for 33 years and every year,


Rs 500 is enhanced for every acre. This (annuity policy) is there nowhere in India. If the government acquires land and gives it to a private developer, then he has to pay Rs 30,000 per year per acre and Rs 1,000 enhancement every year. Besides, the farmer gets residential plots ranging from 3 marlas (75 yards) up to 14 marlas (350 yards). And wherever there is an SEZ, 25 per cent of the jobs are reserved for people who have not only lost their land but also those who resided in that village. Supposing there are some landless people, they too should get the opportunities.


Has that been implemented? Has any SEZ come up which has given jobs?


]No SEZ has come up in the state except Reliance which is trying and in sweat equity with HSIDC (Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation). But the rest of the land was purchased directly. We have not acquired any land for any other SEZ.


What has been the response (to the acquisition policy)?I know you don't like being described in caste terms, but you are a Jat leader and Jats sort of personify or represent India's kisan or Jat equivalence in other states. How do you find people react, respond to the idea of losing their land after this scheme?


I'm the son of a farmer and I am a Congressman. I know it is very painful to part with land because land is the dearest thing to a farmer. But when there is development, job opportunities should be provided. Land holdings are shrinking. A man who had 10 acres of land, his grandson will only have half an acre.


And his aspirations are higher. His children want to go to a medical college or do an MBA.


Naturally. So where will that employment come from? Next, we have to go for acquisition for industrialisation. So some farmer will put up some small industry, some will join as a worker in an industry. That is the idea.


Because Mr Deve Gowda always says one thing and I think it is a good point. He says: Why should we condemn the farmers to farming? If I can use my land, if I can get better value from my land by converting it into a mall or a multiplex, why shouldn't I?


Absolutely. Generation to generation, kya unhi ke naam likha hua hai ki wohi zameen ke saath rahenge? (Why should farmers always remain farmers?). They should also be given opportunities. They should also be treated as other citizens are treated.


Because land is their capital.


Yes, that is their capital. For an industrialist, his capital are his industries. He develops them. So, a farmer should also be given opportunities. If he fetches a good price for his land, then he can do something else also. His children should also be able to put up some industries. His children should also have better education. What I mean is that farmers should be treated at par with other citizens.


Have you found farmers responding favourably? Have people come and thanked you and said, 'Choudhary saab yeh theekh kiya'?


Everyone is happy and the policy we brought in Haryana is being appreciated by our leaders too. Basically, this is the Congress's policy. But I'mthinking of reviewing it too. We can make it better.


Mr Hooda, two problems remain even in Haryana. First, people say in Gurgaon, Mr Hooda gives us Rs 1.03 crore per acre. He also gives us an annuity. But he gives this land to a developer. The state has the power to change land use. So the moment the land use is changed to commercial or residential use and a 60-storey building is allowed, the value of this land becomes Rs 10 crore per acre. Why am I not getting a part of that arbitrage?


I must clarify, the government never gives land to a developer. HUDA develops it. Developers purchase directly from the farmers. In fact, a licence is given in collaboration with the farmers.


The point is that agricultural land becomes residential or commercial when you approve it. When that happens, the value of the land goes from x to 5x. Is the farmer getting a part of that arbitrage?


Yes, we have an oustees policy. We give them an alternative plot, some small commercial plot also.


The second problem is of social impact. I know some are very smart farmers who use a part of their money to buy a car and a house but with the rest of it, they go to Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh or even up to Manipur and buy a much larger parcel of land and start cultivating there. In your experience, what percentage of farmers are able to do this and what percentage squander away that money?


As far as farmers from Haryana are concerned, I think most of them go and purchase land in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh. When I go to Chhattisgarh, there are lots of farmers whose land has been acquired, purchased. So I think more than 90 per cent people...


Buy other land?


Buy a car also and that is right. They also have the right to own a car.


So he gets the money and, say, a multi-storied apartment complex comes up on his land. This farmer, meanwhile, has moved to the hinterland of the same area. They feel like social outcasts. Two worlds come up within the same environment.


That is right but with that, if they get a good price and a good rehabilitation programme, they'll raise their living standards.


But you are not looking at the possibility to bring them into this development so that they also get an apartment there.


That's also there because we are allotting plots to them. The plot is given to the farmer according to the size of his land acquired. Small shops are also being allotted to them.


All your developers are naming colonies after UK, Switzerland or France.


That is their marketing strategy.


So Belvedere Park and Mirchipur stand cheek by jowl—that causes a little dissonance.


There are flats in Gurgaon for Rs 5 crore, Rs 10 crore. A farmer cannot afford that but if he gets a better rehabilitation programme, he is happy because as you said, why should he be condemned to a lifetime of farming?


And why must he be condemned to earning Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000 per acre?


He should also be given opportunities, better prospects in life.


But you have some trouble over your acquisition for the nuclear power plant.


It is different, it is politically motivated. Otherwise, landowners are willing and as I have said, I'm also

reviewing this policy to make it better in the interest of farmers.


What's your advice to Mayawati? You have been to Aligarh, Tappal and those areas, spoken to those farmers. So what is it that she has done wrong there?


The farmers have not been adequately compensated. That is the problem. In one project when Mr Om Prakash Chautala was the chief minister—I've got proof—he offered land at the rate of about Rs 3 lakh per acre to the farmer. The total compensationcost assessed for this expressway was Rs 160 crore.


And you paid Rs 650 crore?

Along with the annuity.

So what annuity does is that it provides stability.

Yes, it provides stability for at least one generation.

Why is this annuity for 33 years?


Because I think that is one generation. Because an old man who has land in his name and his land is acquired, what happens if the money goes to his children? He is left with nothing and so he depends on his children. Suppose there is annuity, then his children will also look after him. He will have confidence in himself.


At least during Holi, Diwali, Rakhsha Bandhan, he can give little gifts to his grandchildren.


At least for one generation. Thirty-three years constitute one generation.


So what's your advice to Mayawati now?


She should adequately compensate farmers and bring out some policy like Haryana.


A transparent policy.


A transparent policy that is in the interest of farmers.


So, did you find the way UP handled this insensitive?


Yes, they should have been more careful and they should have taken care of the farmers.


Well, Mr Hooda, I think you are enjoying a sort of moment rare in Indian politics...a moment of satisfaction over widespread acknowledgment of something that you have done, success of something you have done. I only hope that other states pick up your idea and at least Congress states should implement this right away.


Everybody should implement it—maybe a better policy than ours. I'm also trying to improve it because farmers need a better rehabilitation programme. Because land has to be acquired for industries, for roads, for urbanisation, for educational institutions. After all, we have to develop.


We have to create opportunities for employment and we have to create educational institutions to make people employable in those industries. So these all are inter-linked. Development should be inclusive.


To have inclusive development, a better deal should be given to the farmers.


This is one of the most crucial issues facing India right now. You have made a very interesting move there, at least one positive move.


Transcribed by Priyanka Sengupta








If you don't fix it yourself, someone else will do it for you. That's the lesson to be drawn from the latest Sebi-inspired Press Council of India (PCI) advisory to media companies to declare their stakes in the companies they report on, not just as a link on their Web site, giving the names of the companies and their stake in each one, but at the end of each story as well—a story on Kishore Biyani would, for instance, say that the newspaper owns a 3.3% stake in Pantaloon. Given how the 'private treaties' have spread, it is obvious the problem is a serious one. In a private treaty, a newspaper/TV channel takes up equity in a firm in return for some free advertising space. This is not illegal, but it clearly becomes problematic since there is always the possibility the newspaper/TV channel can do puff pieces on the group, which will, in turn, lead to the value of its shares in these firms rising. Since some private treaties are done with listed or about-to-be-listed firms, the matter comes under Sebi's jurisdiction—to play it safe, Sebi never issued any directives, but got the PCI to issue an advisory. Sebi chief CB Bhave is too shrewd a man to take on the all-powerful media directly!


As a newspaper group that has no private treaties, we welcome disclosure. But would advise caution since the move can well degenerate into the government seeing this as a legitimate reason to start censoring the media. Some suggestions are that media houses be rated on this parameter and the government give ads only to those getting a rating above a certain threshold. While government advertising is so low-priced that few would worry about not getting it, rating on private treaties can well be extended to rating on some criterion of what is socially responsible news and so on. This is the last thing the media, or Indian democracy needs—on the odd occasion, we have seen corporates withdrawing advertising from unfriendly publications; we don't need the state to do the same thing. The onus for preventing this lies with the media. Sebi first talked about paid news/private treaties more than a decade ago, but was prevented from doing anything as editors/owners said they had a code of conduct to prevent this. The paid news scandal in the Maharashtra elections showed just how little had been done. The media can ignore the new advisory. Keep in mind that while Sebi's press release says that the PCI has 'mandated' the disclosure norms, the PCI's press release is different—it says the PCI has accepted Sebi's suggestions on disclosure and concludes by saying "the above suggestions may be kept in mind by the media." Physician, heal thyself, or whatever the media equivalent of that is.







The Bank of Japan, in an unscheduled monetary policy meeting yesterday, took further measures to enhance easy monetary conditions, right on the heels of the US Fed chairman Ben Bernanke stating that the Fed would be prepared to use additional unconventional measures "especially if the outlook were to deteriorate significantly." Quite clearly, central banks are prepared to continue to use their balance sheets as well as other quantitative easing measures to deal with the "unusual uncertainty" amidst increasing worry about the effectiveness of the hitherto untried arsenal of monetary policy tools in an increasingly uncertain and potentially deflationary environment. We will probably see central banks extend the period of accommodation, increase the tenor of the instruments of support and an increased range of eligible collateral. Although the ECB is bravely trying to resist pressures to fall in line, the situation under their watch is equally fragile. The improvements in Europe's growth have largely come from Germany, owing to a strong export show, and a strengthening euro will put paid to this.


These uncertainties are likely to wash up on Indian shores. Although domestic demand still looks robust, there are enough signals now that momentum might be flagging. The latest data on the six core sectors shows that cement and steel output in July had contracted. Cement manufacturers, after tentative trials of small increases in cement prices in select geographies, look ready to roll back in the face of anaemic demand. Some of this is a seasonal weakness in construction activity, and likely to return to some normalcy in the coming months, but the risk of a slowdown is real, given India's increasing trade, services and capital links to the external world. Street estimates of WPI inflation by the end of this fiscal year suggest a moderation, but at 7-8%, will still remain uncomfortably high. However, increased liquidity is probably not a prime contributor. Broad money supply growth remained below 15% at mid-August, even this low rate driven primarily by banks' purchases of government securities.


The two most worrying aspects of India's current economic environment are a persistent liquidity tightness and sluggish credit offtake, the former more so since the latter should have contributed to a liquidity easing. The behaviour of the rupee suggests that net fund inflows remain weak, at best. Bank deposits are stubbornly refusing to pick up pace, with the annualised growth rate stuck near 14%. A continued low deposit accretion will result in increasing cost of funds for borrowers, should credit demand increase in the future. An additional risk is that there might be a reversal of portfolio inflows, which have remained strong thus far—Indian equity markets are richly valued relative to both emerging and developed markets, and there might be some rebalancing of portfolios, resulting in a further tightening of liquidity. How, then, should policy in India respond? As the RBI governor recently remarked, "festina lente—make haste slowly". Even as fiscal policy support remains more or less intact, there is a strengthening case for a pause in the tightening trajectory, "calibrated to the evolving growth-inflation dynamics."








Rahul Gandhi's promise to the tribals of Niyamgiri hill region in Orissa that he would work as their sepoy in Delhi is now being widely interpreted as a decisive Leftward shift in the Congress's politics going forward. This is also being seen as a replay, although in a more subtle form, of a bitter ideological battle that preceded Indira Gandhi's rise as the undisputed leader of the Congress in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indira Gandhi engineered a major Leftward shift (new industrial controls, bank nationalisation, etc) to marginalise other senior Congress leaders (described as the Syndicate) who had tried to rein in young Indira who had first joined the government as information and broadcasting minister.


Indeed, there are some interesting parallels between then and now, even though the contexts are completely different. Historian Ramachandra Guha captures the nation's mood during the late 1960s in a chapter called 'The Leftward Shift' in his book titled India after Gandhi. The general election of 1967 was the first since Nehru's death and the Western media saw India being struck by a bizarre range of seething problems—religious fanaticism, regional feuds, food shortages and hyper-inflation. Regionalist sentiment in politics was also on the rise during this period and it reflected in the assertiveness of some regional leaders within the Congress whom young Indira Gandhi was pitted against. Even a seasoned British journalist like Neville Maxwell wrote that India's democracy was disintegrating and states were acting already like sub-nations.


The Congress's national vote share had declined from 45% in 1952 to 40% in 1967. It is against this backdrop that Indira Gandhi had engineered a Leftward shift. Hemmed in by the 'Syndicate' and threatened by Morarji Desai who wanted to be the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi decided to create her own personal brand as a socialist. Her close advisor PN Haksar helped her create a new Congress with a strong leftist content.


So is Rahul Gandhi trying to do an Indira, is what everyone is asking. Rahul surely is trying to build his own identity within the Congress. But it cannot be based on a big ideological shift Leftward. India of 2010 is not the same as India of 1967. Besides, he does not seem to have the same ideological conviction as Indira Gandhi did in 1967. Simply because the long-term consensus on many issues has decisively shifted, both globally as well as in India. Globalisation has generally ensured that all societies, whether on the extreme Right or Left in the past, have now moved towards the centre. Rahul, like many of his generation, is a product of globalisation and a centrist by conviction. He would, therefore, make a serious mistake if he tries to be what he is not. His Niyamgiri speech has created a perception that he may be somewhat biased against industrialism.


We are told he draws immense inspiration from Nehru's writings. Nehru, by all accounts, was far more of a centrist relative to Indira Gandhi of the early 1970s. In fact, in a recent Oxford edition of Nehru's letters, he wrote to Mahatma Gandhi on January 11, 1928, after the Madras Congress session, disagreeing with Gandhi's bias against industrial civilisation. Nehru said, "I think western or rather industrial civilisation is bound to conquer India, maybe with many changes and adaptations, but nonetheless in the main based on industrialism. You have criticised the many obvious defects of industrialism and hardly paid any attention to its merits. Everybody knows these defects and all the utopias and social theories are meant to remove them… You have advocated very eloquently and forcefully the claims of daridranarayana—the poor in India. I do believe that the remedy you have suggested is very helpful and if adopted in large numbers will relieve them of some misery. But I doubt very much if fundamental causes of poverty are touched by it." Unfortunately, 70 years later, the same debate rages on about industrialism and its role in erasing poverty in India.


Rahul Gandhi has every right to do his everyday politics by embarrassing the Mayawati government over the massive land acquisition programme in Uttar Pradesh for building roads. Uttar Pradesh is the most populous state and has close to 40% of the people living below the poverty line. In an innovative scheme, Mayawati has given a private construction company the task of building the longest expressway, from Noida to Balia in eastern UP, which would require acquisition of about 74,000 acres of land alongside the road.


Since the UP government is cash-strapped, Mayawati's basic strategy is to let the construction company acquire land from farmers on either side of the road by paying market rates and use the future earnings from the real estate to compensate for cost of building the expressway. In effect, real estate development pays for the road and the state government remains hands off. If this strategy works, UP will have 1,047 km of road and commensurate growth and employment. Remember, Bihar got some 11% growth between 2003 and 2008 largely because of new roads built by the Nitish Kumar government.


UP could replicate the Bihar experiment. Rahul must be cautious while opposing such land acquisition for road development. Politically, it can cut both ways. Concern for tribals and farmers must be accompanied by a larger development vision.







Philanthropy around the world is changing. Today's leading philanthropists—from Pierre Omidyar to the Liechtenstein royal family—are approaching their philanthropy with an investment mindset. But instead of merely financial returns, they are evaluating overall societal returns associated with their activities. India can benefit from this next generation philanthropy as it transforms itself from a developing country into one of the world's largest economies. Philanthropic investing can provide capital and expertise to the social entrepreneurs that will help drive this historic transformation.


Next-gen philanthropies strive to support innovative enterprises that will achieve large-scale societal impact. Because this goal can be achieved by both businesses and NGOs, investments in for-profit and non-profit enterprises make equal sense.


Philanthropic investors tend to follow three principles: 1) they want to support enterprises that deliver crystal-clear societal benefits; 2) they want to make catalytic investments in sustainable enterprises; and 3) they are patient investors who are prepared to wait for long-term impact.


First, crystal-clear societal impact can only be achieved if an enterprise is able to tangibly improve the lives of millions. People should be able to do things differently because they now have access to new products or services that they could not afford or access earlier. For example, widely distributed solar lanterns from D.light Design could have significant societal impact because they will replace kerosene lanterns. Replacing kerosene lanterns will save money in terms of total cost of ownership, reduce the carbon footprint, reduce the government's fuel subsidies and improve health by reducing indoor smoke and particulates.


Large-scale positive impact can also be achieved by connecting millions of people together on convenient technology platforms that permit the exchange of information and goods/services. Well-being is improved when people can connect with one another over shared interests. Cancer patients can post information and connect with each other about how to cope with various treatments. Citizens can connect with each other to keep a government accountable. Experts can provide information on various topics to share with the public, e.g., Wikipedia.


Societal impact can also be achieved by helping millions of people become owners and take control of their lives. For instance, small farmers and slum dwellers around the world can get secure and transferable property rights to their land. A commodities exchange can enable farmers to discover the price for their crops efficiently and get more value from their hard work.


The second principle followed by philanthropic investors is to focus their support on sustainable enterprises—for-profit companies and/or NGOs—which require financial support only for a few years and then become self-sufficient. Sustainable financial returns for a for-profit company imply that it is able to earn at least its risk-adjusted cost of capital. Sustainable financial returns are essential for such companies to attract high-quality human talent and to raise sufficient growth capital. The SKS Microfinance IPO has demonstrated that companies that can profitably serve the poor and can attract massive investor interest. For NGOs, the economic sustainability test applies differently. NGOs have to create sufficient, demonstrable societal value to attract a diversified base of donors or generate multiple revenue streams.


Philanthropic investors can have a catalytic effect with their investments. This implies a focus on investments or grants at organisational inflection points, when resources have the maximum impact in helping an enterprise scale up. This tends to preclude early stage companies that have not yet proved their business model. Similarly, next-gen philanthropies may not invest in mature companies that are simply looking for expansion capital.


Philanthropic investing represents more patient capital than typical VC/PE funds or public sector donors. Success is judged by building large-scale, sustainable enterprises. Accordingly, incentives are more closely aligned with talented entrepreneurs.


Omidyar Network's experience with more than 100 enterprises (for-profit companies and NGOs) has demonstrated that there is no trade-off required between financial and social return. The best enterprises achieve both. They focus laser-like on satisfying their customers, running disciplined enterprises, controlling costs efficiently and being responsible stewards of their resources. In doing so, they create dramatic value for society and excellent financial returns for their stakeholders. Next-gen philanthropies can play an important role in India's development by supporting innovative organisations that foster economic, political and social advancement for the base of India's income pyramid. Their efforts can inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs, investors and leaders.


The author is MD, Omidyar Network Advisors India. These are his personal views







Andhra Pradesh is all set to be the pilot state for one of the most ambitious projects in recent times—the distribution of unique identification numbers—slated to begin in the first week of September. The UIDAI aims to stagger enrolment by implementing the exercise in phases, adding 10 million people in the first phase (2010-11), 100 million each in 2011-12 and 2012-13, and 300 million each year thereafter until 2017, when the exercise is projected to be completed. This project is comparable to the introduction of EVMs in India that revolutionised voting practices through technology-enabled systems. UIDAI representatives, armed with hi-tech electronic equipment are set to bring sweeping changes to public welfare scheme such as NREGA, PDS, pensions, etc.


This is the Nandan Nilekani test. The UIDAI is a unique number that identifies a Nikhila Gill, say, with a set of biometrics, nothing more, nothing less. But, if the government then links the UIDAI number and says the money due to a person working on an NREGA project would go only to a post office account—the fingerprint record on both the NREGA project and the post office account will be matched to ensure they are the same—the amount of leakages can be reduced dramatically. Nilekani has steered clear of this political minefield by leaving it to the government to decide on using his number. But unless the government uses this number for what it was meant, there's little point having the UIDAI. Here's the irony. If there is a lot of protest against the UIDAI, it means it's working; a great deal of protest, however, can also kill the project.


Apart from the politicians and bureaucrats who could get hurt once the project takes off, what's curious is the role of activists who are protesting against the project. Some cite the UK government's decision not to have a centralised database of biometrics on privacy grounds, others raise the fear of governments using this for wrong reasons, targeting Muslims for instance. Nilekani's defence is that he is not collecting any data apart from fingerprints, and that he will produce a very secure database. The onus of proving this lies on Nilekani. Getting tough privacy laws will be a good start. Nilekani will have a lot of people baying for his blood. The last thing he needs is to give them a good reason.







If the Manmohan Singh government has its way, India will soon adopt a law against torture that will make a mockery of our obligations as a democracy, a civilised society, and a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). India signed CAT in 1997 and is meant to pass standalone domestic legislation outlawing this barbaric crime. Unfortunately, the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 falls far, far short in this regard. Indeed the draft law, if passed unchanged by the Rajya Sabha, will make the elimination of torture and the punishment of its practitioners more difficult than it is under existing law. To begin with, the Bill's definition of torture makes two unwarranted departures from international norms. Where CAT speaks of torture and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" and builds its definition around the inflicting of severe pain or suffering, the proposed law raises the bar of what constitutes unacceptable treatment much higher. Only acts that cause grievous hurt — defined in the Indian Penal Code in relation to damage to limbs and organs — or which endanger the life, limb, or health of a person will be considered torture. Excluded thus are torture techniques that cause intense pain and suffering but no permanent damage to the victim. Secondly, only torture inflicted in the course of an interrogation will attract the sanctions of the new law — but not torture inflicted to punish, coerce, or intimidate an individual, which CAT covers.


A bizarre aspect of the draft is the implication that a public servant can be punished for torture he or she inflicts in the course of investigating a crime only when the victim is being targeted on account of his or her religion, caste, language, and so on. Such linkage only raises the bar for prosecution. The law also does not specify minimum punishment for a person convicted of torture; and the maximum it prescribes (10 years in prison) is too low for a case in which torture leads to death. There is also no justification for giving the victim of torture just six months to file a complaint. What happens if the victim is still in custody? Finally, when Article 2(1) of CAT clearly says that "no exceptional circumstances … whatsoever may be invoked as a justification of torture," the requirement of prior government sanction smacks of bad faith. It is unfortunate that the Lok Sabha passed such a poorly drafted Bill without making amendments. Several Rajya Sabha MPs cutting across party lines have issued notice for the Bill to be referred to a select committee. The government, and all those parties which allowed the Bill to pass in the lower house, should not worry about the loss of face a last-minute rethink might entail. If the law is passed as it is, it is India that stands to lose face.







Bahrain is one of two countries in the Gulf region — Kuwait being the other — that can boast some of the trappings of a democracy, including a directly elected parliament, universal suffrage, and a constitutional monarchy. But recent developments raise concern that this could be short-lived. King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa hoped that the limited political reforms he introduced in 2002 would help to appease his restive people. Uniquely for a region of Sunni kingdoms, two-thirds of Bahrain's million-plus population is Shia. The sectarian divide between the rulers and the ruled has been the source of much tension in the country. This was one reason why the ruling family decided its interests would be better served by opening up the political system. But eight years and two elections later, Bahrain's Shi'ite population believes that the reforms, while allowing the Sunni elite to show a democratic face, have brought no real changes. The 40-member elected Council of Representatives is offset by an upper chamber called the Shura council, appointed by the King. The royal family effectively runs the government by holding on to a majority of Cabinet positions. Shia groups allege demographics have been manipulated to favour Sunni political forces at the polls. Reflecting the extremes of the divide, elections have tended to favour Shia and Sunni religious groups that are not as interested in democratic governance as in their narrow sectarian interests. Not surprisingly, the unrest has come to the fore again as the country approaches its third election in October 2010.


The regime in Bahrain has responded in a manner that indicates a fear of even a half-democracy and its limited freedoms. It sees the country's Shia population as closely linked to Iran. In 2003, Bahrain was designated by the United States as a "major non-NATO ally"; it is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. The Sunni ruling class is worried that the U.S.-Iran standoff could feed into local discontent, adversely affecting its own grip on the country. Over the last two weeks, several Shia political and civil rights activists have been detained in a wide crackdown. Newspapers have been barred from reporting these arrests as the investigations proceed. The unrest has evidently strengthened sections of the ruling Al Khalifa family that are against democratic reform. But as Bahrain deals with the challenges of the situation, it may want to consider that rolling back the reforms will only worsen the unrest.










The passage of the Nalanda University Bill by Parliament is a firm indication that India is moving in the direction of unleashing its soft power on Asia and the world. This is reinforced by the efficient completion of the South Asian University project under SAARC and India's decision to open up its higher education sector to global inputs and competition. Initially, Nalanda University was to be launched in 2009, but the question of funding and the defining of its basic structure took more time than expected. The idea of reviving it as a centre of excellence in the creation and dissemination of knowledge in Asia was first mooted by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in February 2006 during his official visit to Singapore. He then elaborated on it while addressing the Bihar Assembly.


Both Bihar and Singapore got motivated to translate the idea into a concrete project. The Assembly passed a bill in 2007 to establish Nalanda University, acquired land for it but handed over the project to the government of India in view of its emerging international character. Singapore pursued the idea more vigorously than even India did in some respects and to propagate it in East Asia organised a "Nalanda Symposium" in November 2006. As a result, it succeeded in enlisting the support of East Asian countries, especially China, Japan and Korea, for the project. Singapore has also joined hands with Japan in mobilising funds for giving shape to the project and executing it.


As a result of all these efforts, the East Asia Summit (a grouping of ASEAN plus six countries — China, Japan, India, Korea, Australia and New Zealand) not only spontaneously endorsed the project in 2007 but in 2009, at its fourth summit, called upon all its members to make "appropriate funding arrangements on a voluntary basis from government and other sources including public-private partnership" for this "non-state, non-profit, secular and self-governing international institution."


Nalanda University is destined to emerge as a strong instrument of soft power at two levels; for the rising Asia in relation to the West and for India in relation to Asia. As the project recaptures its past glory and élan, it will boost Asia's confidence in its intellectual and academic capacities and dent the heavy reliance that exists today on the western universities like Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard for Asian scholars' professional credibility and recognition. This is underlined by Amartya Sen, chairman of the Nalanda Mentor Group (NMG), in his pointer that "Oxford was rising when Nalanda was declining" and now the new Nalanda should reflect Asia's re-emergence. Defining the link between the Nalanda project and Asia's rise, Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, who is also an NMG member, described the project as the "icon of Asian Renaissance" adding, "as Asia re-emerges on the world stage this century, its civilisational origins will become a subject of intense study and debate. Asians will look back to their own past and derive inspiration from it for the future."


A senior Indian official after the New York meeting of the NMG in May 2008 said the objective of Nalanda was "to emphasise the importance of eastern intellectual endeavour and ensure that human aspiration is not being dominated by the western imprint." Nalanda will build itself in the course of time as a vehicle for propagating the constructive and creative dimensions of oriental thought and knowledge systems based on Asian philosophies, experiences and practices that seldom find adequate place in contemporary western curricula.


India has, till recently, been rather casual about and indifferent to its strength in the use of soft power in its foreign policy and diplomacy. The goodwill and admiration clustered around India's cultural footprints in Asia ranging from Angkor Wat to Garuda and Ganesha; from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the roots of South East Asian languages in Sanskrit and Pali, from the dance forms of Bharatanatyam and Kathak to the traditional systems of Yoga and Ayurveda, have not been harnessed systematically. Many of the innovative proposals and initiatives have died under the burden of bureaucratic ineptitude and lethargy. It is only now that India is waking up to the use of this asset.


The CEO of the South Asian University, Professor G.K. Chaddha, has repeatedly underlined the efficacy of educational linkages in reinforcing regional cooperation and development. Of course, India's Bollywood and television channels have carried India's profile to the diverse corners of Asia and the world, but that has happened as a commercial enterprise seldom backed by a conscious and systematic policy initiative.


The revival of Nalanda University is a multinational project, in partnership with Asian countries. The NMG member, Professor Wang Bangwei of Peking University, emphasised that "Nalanda belonged to not only India but all Asian Buddhists." It will spurt activities and processes towards building an Asian community and cannot be used as an instrument of competitive diplomacy in the region. While participating in the 2006 symposium in Singapore, Professor Wang Dehua of the Shanghai Centre for International Studies referred to India-China relations in the context of Nalanda saying: "Let us forget about the 1962 incident. This project will symbolise the rebuilding of our old friendship and understanding. In the future, we will be able to reach the dream of an Asian community with a project like this."


Other scholars at the symposium like Professor Tan Chung from India also elaborated on this theme, recalling that when the Han dynasty was on the verge of collapse in the sixth century, the spread of Buddhism from Nalanda helped China revive. The message is loud and clear — Nalanda should bring India and China, as also other Asian countries, closer.


Without invoking any competitive drive with its Asian neighbours, Nalanda would help India consolidate its position in the region. Since the university is based in India, scholars and students going out of Nalanda would become India's goodwill ambassadors in their countries, generally at the critical levels of decision-making. Through the Nalanda alumni, India will also be able to showcase its cultural richness, democratic commitments, secular ethos and innovative strength in the frontier areas of knowledge. The boost in tourism and marketing of knowledge and cultural products in Asia would be a bonus for India, as also for other countries.


The completion and further expansion of the Nalanda project will not be without challenges. It will have to be insulated from the strong undercurrents of competitive strategic moves among its Asian stakeholders. India will also have to ensure that its bureaucratic processes do not intervene and erode the efficiency of this all-Asian project.


Funding the project would indeed be a formidable challenge, even as a public-private enterprise. The present target is to create an endowment of $1 billion. Harvard University's endowment is $35 billion. The funding constraint restrained the NMG from opening faculties in hard sciences and frontier areas of knowledge. This will handicap Nalanda in becoming a real centre of excellence in knowledge creation and thus in competing with the well endowed western Universities. The stakeholders of the project seem to be acutely aware of these challenges. It is hoped that they will be overcome as the project unfolds.


(S.D. Muni is Visiting Research Professor, Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore.)









If ruling coalition constituent and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain's call to patriotic generals to take "martial-law type action against corrupt politicians and feudal lords" was a "litmus test" — as is widely believed — then it did set alarm bells ringing. The political class, media and civil society were quick to condemn the statement but the debate rages on as does the Indus river which has flooded a fifth of the country and washed ashore questions about governance – rather the lack of it.


Bringing the omnipresent Pakistan Army back into the discourse, according to political analyst Harris Khalique, was probably the purpose of Mr. Hussain's statement; seen as bordering on adventurism. "No one was talking about the Army as a governance option. They have been re-introduced into the discourse and that is where I see a design of sorts," says Mr. Khalique; quickly adding that it was unlikely the Army would take the bait at this juncture.


Primarily because the Army has its hands full and as the beleaguered President Asif Ali Zardari is reported to have told a group of Western journalists: "I don't think anybody in his right mind will be wanting to take this responsibility [governing Pakistan]." The military is over-stretched, is the general refrain, and an attempt to impose military rule would demolish the Army's image studiously cultivated by Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani after the Musharraf era left the institution frayed to the extent that officers were apparently reluctant to step out of cantonment areas in uniform.


The priorities


Right now the priority of the Army would be to balance the unfinished fight against extremist groups along the border with Afghanistan while maintaining a large presence in flood areas; not just in the rescue and relief stage but also in reconstruction. Also, as most see it: "General Kayani is in a comfortable position; his term secure for another three years. The Army wields influence over its two pet projects: India and Afghan policies. After initial abortive attempts, the Government no longer challenges the Army's authority and both sides have found an equation for mutual co-existence. There is no particular reason for the Army to upset the apple cart right now." Be that as it may and conceding that the anger against the political system may not necessarily be misdirected, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan chairperson Mehdi Hasan insists a return to military rule is certainly not the answer. "Experience has demonstrated beyond any doubt that army takeovers were rationalised on the pretext of eliminating corruption but they only aggravated the state of affairs.


"As for the need to demolish the bastions of federalism, the feudals survived long periods of military-backed dictatorships and a fresh dose of this medicine is unlikely to affect their health. Pakistan will be able to rid the curse of feudalism only when the people's genuine representatives can democratically come into power … Pakistan simply cannot afford another hiatus in the democratic process."


Undoubtedly, outside the MQM stables, few have openly supported the call but frustration with the leadership has evoked some apologist arguments like using military power to reform political leadership and Pakistan desperately needs a change — no matter if it comes from the ballot or bullet.


The disenchantment with the political class runs wide and deep as its shoddy response to the flood situation is in sharp contrast to the coordinated response of the Army. What is ignored in this comparison — led by the media — is that this is true in most countries. It is the armed forces which have the training and the wherewithal to respond to crises on short notice; borne out by the fact that government level intervention in the rescue effort from other countries like the U.S. and Japan is also being manned by their men in battle fatigues.


Weak response?


While many an analyst has sought to correct the media narrative — which makes the Army's efforts look independent of the Government — the ruling dispensation itself has not tried to set the record straight. The Army's publicity arm — Inter Services Public Relations — has done its own media management through the floods and the Government its own. "Where is the Ministry of Defence? It should take control of the publicity so that this harmful perception of the Army being a force unto its own is countered," said a member of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP); admittedly disgruntled with the current leadership and open to the idea of a national government of technocrats being put together.


While the Bangladesh experiment with an interim government of technocrats is being suggested by some as an alternative to the present ruling arrangement, former Foreign Secretary Tanvir Ahmad Khan maintains that it cannot be replicated in Pakistan as the country is much too diverse with a wider political spectrum. "It would be difficult for technocrats to mediate these differences here unlike in Bangladesh which is more homogeneous and has a bi-polar polity," he says of the alternative that has been in circulation before the floods as disenchantment with the ruling arrangement gained currency.


Returning to the MQM agenda, if Mr. Hussain's statements set the cat among the pigeons, the party's spin doctors have painted an even more dangerous scenario while justifying what their boss said from London. "Our leader has asked people to start a revolution and wants the Army to support such a movement," explained party man Mustafa Kamal on various television channels. Mr. Hussain reportedly suggested a French Revolution-like uprising of the poor against feudal politicians but his detractors — calling him an urban feudal — maintain that this was tantamount to inviting anarchy in a nation already stressed out at various levels across the socio-economic spectrum.


Accepting that Pakistan is more of a plutocracy than a democracy, Mr. Khalique argues that it is still better than dictatorship. "What is required is institutionalisation of democratic processes, far greater room for negotiation between different stakeholders like the provinces and interest groups, and increased space for a new, alternative politics at various levels of ideology, policies and public action."


But creating stakeholders in democracy and not just in governance is a long haul, and democracy in Pakistan has never got the time to go through that woefully slow process.


Adding to the frustration is the fact that most of the political parties — including the MQM — are in governance either at the federal level or in the provinces; leaving people with what is called the TINA (there is no alternative) factor in India.


Here, this gets translated as the Doctrine of Necessity and that is what makes Mr. Hussain's statement alarming. The script is almost similar to past circumstances when the Army's 111 Brigade moved in. Then too politicians were among the cheerleaders; orchestrating the discourse and ensuring a place for themselves at the high table.







Everyone dreams of becoming a martial artist, even if he or she is in a wheelchair. "I am the first in the world to do Aikido in the wheelchair," says Lydia laRiviere Zijdel, ambassador of Aikido at the SportAccord Combat Games in Beijing. "In 1982, while in hospital after a car accident, somebody gave me a book on martial arts. I read a story about the founder of Aikido. What amazed me was that it was not about martial power, but inner power. It was then that I decide to pursue Aikido. Finally I found a teacher."


Zijdel is not alone. There are almost two million followers of Aikido. For her outstanding contribution to the development of the sport, she was crowned the ambassador of Aikido at the Games.


Aikido stands out among the 13 forms of SportAccord combat martial arts for its non-violence and non-athletic philosophy.


As a result, it is suited for people who may not be able to take part in regular forms of sport, enabling them to exercise their body. The SportAccord Games is organised by the SportAccord and is another major international sporting event after the Beijing Olympic Games. It features 13 disciplines of sport. — Xinhua








The game of cricket faces its gravest crisis in terms of its credibility. The latest allegations of match-fixing and "spot" fixing are so believable on the strength of circumstantial evidence that the integrity of the sport has been eroded like never before and the game is at serious risk of alienating fans and sponsors alike. The smug assumption that match-fixing had been eradicated after the pre-2000 episodes and the consequent tightening of the inner ring around players and teams at the venues and in hotels has been blown to bits.

As modern cricket history suggests, the Pakistanis appear to be past masters at the art of fixing events. In the 16 years since the first match-fixing allegations emerged, not much seems to have changed except that an anti-corruption and security unit of the International Cricket Council is in place and is supposed to have guaranteed that players are isolated from the insidious influences of the world of gambling filled with high rollers and bookmakers of the legal and illegal variety.

Professional sport has been grappling for long with the spectre of gambling-induced corruption. Not cricket alone, but also tennis, baseball and horse racing have been trying to close the door on gamblers attempting to use inside information to their benefit or to fix games outright. What cricket has been unable to do despite all the warning signs is to secure its players from the avarice of people like Mazhar Majeed who prey on the susceptibilities of young players and corrupt them so much that they stay hooked to this for life.

Ironically, the latest episode generated by a tabloid sting operation might act as a trigger for more stringent action because it took place in England, whose investigative agencies, including the Metropolitan Police and specialist units on economic crimes, can be expected to conduct a thorough, non-partisan investigation and nail those who have been playing games with the fair name of cricket. The laws in the UK were changed five years ago when Section 42 of the Gaming Act got teeth to address the problem of cheating in sport for gaming purposes. But the nexus between sportsmen and organised crime associated with illegal gambling has never been fully broken, as the latest incidents clearly bear out. Unfortunately, cricket continues to believe that the problem lies outside in the form of those who conspire to defraud bookmakers and that its players are pristine.
It stands to reason that any act against the principles of fair sport, whether it be a team game or that of individuals, should be penalised in order to ensure that the rogue elements are isolated. But again, the enforcing authorities have never attempted to have players jailed for their part in crimes that are proved. It is clear that even life bans such as the ones imposed on Salim Malik, Hansie Cronje and Mohammed Azharuddin meant very little because the players are still prepared to risk everything in order to earn all that they can in their short careers.

The monitoring of the Pakistan cricket team has been shoddy, to say the least, as the connection between a large section of the entire national team and a gambler or bookmaker or players' agent has been exposed in the Mazhar Majeed case. Unless the players are actually given jail sentences if collusion is established, it is futile to expect that things are going to change. Exemplary cleansing action at this point alone can save the game from what could well be its worst nightmare — of proven match-fixing and "spot" fixing. Will cricket have the courage to act at least now to clean the Augean stables?








Why is India nurturing dengue?

Patralekha Chatterjee

Mahatma Gandhi's dismissal of Katherine Mayo's book, Mother India, as a "report of a drain inspector" reflected the squeamishness most Indians feel when it comes to drains. We don't discuss drains at the dinner table, nor, unfortunately, in political or policy circles unless a crisis erupts. The price of that disdain is now being felt across much of urban India.

With the monsoon in full swing in many parts of the country, choked drains have become headline-grabbers. Delhi, as it undergoes a makeover for the Commonwealth Games (CWG), is the Aedes Aegypti mosquito's dream site — puddles all around, uncollected garbage, bits and pieces from construction sites piling up along roadsides, waterlogged streets, clogged stormwater drains, and the unsightly spectacle of various local government agencies blaming each other for the mess. At the time of writing, Delhi has already had two dengue deaths, more than 750 dengue cases and a warning from public health experts — the city could be facing its worst dengue attack ever. The poor and the posh are equally at risk since overflowing drains and debris are now all-pervasive.

Dengue, as we know, is a viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes which like breeding inside stagnant pools of water, typically in small spaces. The Delhi of today provides the best conditions for the Aedes mosquito to thrive. Though the debris from the construction work is indeed choking Delhi's main stormwater drains, which carry excess rainwater into the Yamuna river, the problem is not entirely new. The haphazardly timed activities in preparation for the CWG merely made it worse. Nor is Delhi alone in neglecting its drainage system. Mumbai, Bengaluru and most other Indian cities have pretty much the same story with some variations.
"There has been an increase in the number of dengue outbreaks in recent years in cities and towns due to mosquitogenic conditions, resulting from rapid urbanisation, development activities and lifestyle changes. The disease is now spreading to peri-urban areas also and lately, there has also been some spread to rural areas. Sewage drains do not play much of a role in fuelling dengue. However, stormwater drains do, when they get choked and overflow, leading to pools of water which create a fertile breeding ground for many species of mosquitoes, including the Aedes", a spokesperson of the World Health Organisation pointed out.
Constantly changing climate brought about by global warming is also said to be one of the reasons in the increase in the number of dengue cases worldwide. But while climate change is now an acceptable topic of conversation among policy wonks and in polite society, malfunctioning drains get the royal ignore till a disaster strikes.

But the sheer magnitude of the problem is triggering action.

"Stormwater drains is among the most neglected municipal issues. There is a lot of interest in widening roads, building parks, beautification drives and so on. But drains, no... But why blame politicians alone... Citizens and citizens' bodies are equally callous — throwing plastic bags and refuse into drains..." says Dr Marri Shashidhar Reddy, Congress legislator from Sanathnagar (a residential and industrial suburb of Hyderabad) and a member of the high-powered National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Dr Reddy is among the few people who have been stressing the importance of paying attention to drains for some 20 years.
Why drains get such short shrift is obvious — the visibility quotient of parks, roads, the big-ticket beautification drive is higher than a good drainage system. But all it takes is a good rain storm to lift the veil of pretence, as we have seen in Delhi in recent days.

Absence of a properly designed and maintained stormwater drainage system is one of the causes for urban flooding but till recently this link did not get the policy attention it deserved. Now with increasing urban floods, the issue is coming under the scanner of policymakers.

"Our drains were designed on the basis of rainfall in places like London. They did not factor in the intensity of rainfall in many Indian cities like Mumbai. Because of encroachment and other factors, we are not able to maintain even the original capacity of the drains... Indian cities are not fully covered by a sewerage system. Parts of the city where the poor live are often not connected to the drainage system. But this has to change", says Dr Reddy who is leading NDMA's efforts to deal with urban flooding and upgradation of storm water drains in the country.

"All these years, there was no manual at national level for stormwater drains. Now, the Government of India, through NDMA, is preparing a manual for stormwater drains. I do not think any political leader will have the courage to stop remodelling of drains", Dr Reddy adds. In the pipeline is the National Guidelines for Management of Urban Flooding which will address critical issues like the optimal design of stormwater drainage systems, adaptation strategies, management of water bodies, regulation and enforcement, guidelines for new developments, public awareness and preparedness, medical preparedness and epidemic control and several other things.

An exciting development is the raingauge station which will tell us exactly how much it has rained and where. Another recommendation is to ensure that the annual desilting of drains is completed by March 31, well before the monsoon sets in, so that there is no excuse for delay or incomplete work.

Taiwanese essayist and cultural critic Lung Ying-tai, once proposed a simple test to determine whether a country is a developed or a developing one: "When there is a rainstorm that lasts for three hours or so, take a walk. If you find the legs of your trousers are wet but not muddy, the traffic is slow but not jammed, the streets are slippery but not waterlogged, this is probably a developed country; on the other hand if you find that standing water is everywhere, that children are net fishing over the crossroad, you are probably looking at a developing country." When will India pass the test?


Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached [2]








So you thought countries signed treaties with each other. But wait! There is another variety of "treaties" that are not just "private" but detrimental to the independence of the mass media in India. Such so-called treaties constitute clear conflicts of interest and result in the public at large, and investors in particular, being misled. Thankfully and rather belatedly, this pernicious practice — that was started by one of the country's biggest media companies and soon followed by others — may be coming to an end.

The August 27 guidelines issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) making it mandatory for companies publishing newspapers or magazines or broadcasting television programmes to disclose their shareholding interests in other companies which feature in their media offerings, has come not a day too soon. This unsavoury practice — of media companies receiving shares and other financial instruments from advertisers in lieu of cash for space or air-time — has been in vogue for at least the last five years.

Unsuspecting readers of publications or viewers of television channels are unaware why a particular company is being praised or why negative news about the company has been suppressed. As Sebi pointed out on Friday, such "agreements" end up compromising "the nature, quality and content of the news/editorials relating to such companies". It added that "biased and motivated dissemination of information, guided by commercial considerations can potentially mislead investors in the securities market".

One particular media bigwig devised such an "innovative" marketing and public relations strategy in 2005 when 10 companies allotted unknown amounts of equity shares to the media company as part of a deal to enable these firms to receive advertising space. The runaway "success" of the scheme turned this media company into one of the largest private equity in vestors in India and by the end of 2007, the company boasted of investments in 140 companies in aviation, media, retail and entertainment, among other sectors, valued at an estimated `1,500 crores. By July 2008, the company had between 175 and 200 private treaty clients with an average deal size of between `15 crores and `20 crores, implying an aggregate investment that could vary between `2,600 crores and `4,000 crores.
Even as the private treaties scheme was apparently aimed at undermining competition to the particular media company, a number of its competitors started similar schemes. This company published the names of its private treaty clients on its website, besides glowing endorsements from representatives of companies who had "benefited" greatly from such schemes. What Sebi has now stated is that this disclosure is insufficient — each article/feature or story aired should carry a disclaimer.

It seemed the private treaties party would last forever, or well, almost, until something unexpected happened. The markets collapsed. This led to private treaties schemes losing much of their "sheen". This was because the "success" of such private financial agreements was considerably contingent on share prices rising continuously.


It may be recalled that the benchmark sensitive index of the stock exchange at Mumbai had peaked at 21,000 in January 2008 and has not exceeded that mark thereafter.

Besides the fall in share prices, there was another problem that cropped up. While the value of the media company's holdings in partner companies came down, the former had to nevertheless meet its commitments to provide advertising space at old "inflated" valuations. That's not all. The income-tax department of the ministry of finance decided to use the "old" prices at which the original share transaction had taken place for the purposes of computation of assessable taxable income of the concerned media companies on which corporation taxes are levied.

While media companies that indulged in such practices predictably denied that they provided favourable editorial coverage to "private treaty" clients and/or blacked out adverse comment against such corporate entities, the truth was difficult to verify simply because the exact content of the financial agreements that were struck were not open to public scrutiny. One advertisement that was published on December 4, 2009, in the Mumbai edition of a newspaper was titled: How to perform the Great Indian Rope Trick and cited the case of a retail chain.

What was being referred to was how this company's strategic partnership with the media group had paid off. The advertisement read: "…with the added advantage of being a media house, (the private treaties arrangement)… went beyond the usual role of an investor by not straining the partner's cash flows. It was because of the unparalleled advertising muscle of India's leading media conglomerate. As (the company) furiously expanded, (it was)… ensured that (the company) was never short on demand… a better phrase for it — business sense".

In many media organisations, news is sought to be distinguished from material that is paid for, called advertisements or "advertorials", by using different or distinctive fonts, font sizes, boundaries and/or disclaimers such as "sponsored feature" or even the letters "advt" printed in a miniscule font size in a corner of the advertisement — which may or may not escape the attention of the reader. However, in certain instances, even a fig-leaf of a disclaimer was done away with.

On July 15, 2009, S. Ramann, officer on special duty, Integrated Surveillance Department of Sebi, wrote to the chairman, Press Council of India, Justice G.N. Ray, on this malpractice. It was only on February 22 this year that the council accepted Sebi's suggestions to make mandatory disclosures of stakes held and the percentage of stake held. As is often said, better late than never — only time will now tell whether the practice of media companies striking private treaties with advertisers will subside in the future.


n Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator










Pakistan's players find themselves accused once again of being part of a betting syndicate and cricket finds itself in another mess. The revelation by the British tabloid, The News of the World, that some Pakistani players took money to bowl no-balls during the just concluded test match against England at Lords has shaken the cricket world.


The newspaper recorded a "fixer' explaining just when and in which overs the no-balls would be bowled and by whom. He also talked of the money paid for doing this and further visual evidence was provided of a jacket filled with money being passed on by him to some cricketers.


But the problem is not just about the trouble Pakistani cricket finds itself in. The larger question is whether cricket's credibility itself is under threat, now that the problem has been around for a decade since it first surfaced around 2000. Some action was taken then but, in hindsight, it seems that sticking plaster was used where surgery was needed. Pakistan may find that it is gradually being isolated as its players seem most vulnerable to betting syndicates, but to limit the action to players from that country would be both short-sighted and naïve.


The cricket establishment needs to take this threat seriously because it attacks the very credibility of the game.

Many other sports have been through similar crises and all of them have been forced to clean up their acts. The various bodies which administer cricket at the local, country and international levels need to figure out how they are going to monitor players and betting syndicates simultaneously.


Once they do that, they also need to make punishments truly deterrent. The ad-hoc, country-specific approach has failed — as we can clearly see. India, for instance, banned players for life while some South Africans and Pakistanis are back in the game and Australia took the "our boys are naïve country bumpkins discussing the weather" approach. It took cricket a few years to recover from the debacle of 2000. Does the sport want to go through that and worse again? If not, cogent thought and fast action are imperative.







When it comes to addressing the concerns of the common man, the higher courts generally come off smelling of roses. But not when it comes to the Right to Information Act (RTI). For one, the Supreme Court itself is fighting shy of disclosures and has appealed against a Delhi high court verdict in this regard despite warnings from former chief justices not to do so.


For another, courts are now proving to be drag on swift information disclosures under the Act, according to chief information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi.


The RTI Act is one of the best pieces of pro-citizen legislation we have seen. It empowers the individual against the politician-bureaucrat nexus. It allows the small man to question the actions of the big, whether it is about how money is spent on projects, or why they take inordinately long to complete. At the micro level, it enables the citizen to check the progress on things that matter to him: what's happening to my ration card or passport application?


In the initial years, the Act had had a salutary effect. Fearing


exposure of their mistakes or incompetence, many officials made an effort to make sure that RTI submissions didn't show them up short. Fear of the RTI also pressured many bureaucrats to do their jobs diligently. But now the empire has begun to strike back.


Some bureaucrats have now chosen to go to court to avoid having to disclose information. This has had the net effect of scuttling the intent of the RTI Act.


Given that India has some three crore pending cases in courts, the easiest option for a bureaucrat seeking to avoid a particular RTI application is to get a stay order. There is always a good chance that his case will disappear under the haystack of pending cases. Once the matter ends up in court, it falls upon the applicant to get a favourable order to send the RTI application back to the official for the information sought. This only increases the applicant's burden.


There is no doubt that some RTI applications need to be examined by the courts on whether the information sought is within the jurisdiction of the Act. But they need to fast-track such applications, and, when necessary, come down heavily on bureaucrats whose intent was to delay things. Only by doing so will our judiciary be seen as being on the side of the ordinary citizen.








It is fashionable for bleeding heart liberals (BHL) to offer unsubstantiated arguments on behalf of the militants of Kashmir Valley. Lumpen liberals like that one book wonder Arundhati Roy (who proudly proclaimed in the US two years ago that she had seceded from India since India was not a democracy) need not bother us here. But when other BHLs talk about hurt aspirations of the people of Kashmir, we need to sit back and wonder what is happening.


Why are Kashmiris hurt? According to the BHLs, the first reason is that polls were often rigged in J&K (not just in K). This argument is specious because in that case the first candidate to secede from India should be Bihar where polls have been rigged from time immemorial. Or Bengal, for that matter. Jyoti Basu could not have lost his Baranagar seat but for rigging by Siddhartha Shankar Ray's Juba Congress boys. Now, in every poll, the CPM repays that compliment.


The Dalits of western UP can tell horror stories of rigging by Jats till the arrival of AN Seshan and the BSP in that order. But none of these states want to secede from India. The stone-throwers of Kashmir should realise that even though some polls may have been rigged, our general elections are different from those in Pakistan where the generals get always "elected".


The second grievance is the socio-economic condition of Kashmiris. The government of India has recently constituted yet another committee to suggest ways to improve the state's economy and employment. However, J&K is near the top in almost all economic parameters. Consider:


The per capita net state domestic product at factor cost (at 1999-2000 prices) was Rs17,590 for J&K in 2007-08, which is higher than that of the Bimaru states (Bihar, UP, MP, etc). It also figures in the top quarter of Indian states (CSO figures). The state received more money from the Centre than anyone else.


In 2008-09, out of a total revenue of Rs19,362 crore, more than 70% came as grant from the Centre. All the Central assistance came as grant, and not loan (state budget documents & RBI), unlike other states.


On the other hand, the urban property tax generated by the state in 2008-2009 was — hold your breath — a measly Rs1 lakh (state budget documents). Despite such poor tax collections, the state is not at the bottom in terms of development indicators.


Among the 1.6 million households in the state, 37% are covered by banking services, 65% have radios or transistors and 41 % possess TV sets — one of the highest in the country. Per capita consumption of electricity, at 759 kwh (2006-2007), is much higher than in UP, MP, Rajasthan, Bihar and West Bengal (Rajya Sabha Question No 2908, April 21, 2008). Some 81% of households get electricity (rural 75 % and urban 98%) and only 15% are dependent on kerosene. This level of electricity usage is highest among states.


Kashmir's per capita availability of milk (2005-2006), at 353gm per day, is much higher than most of the states with an all-India average of 241gm a day. The per capita spending on health (at Rs363) is much higher than most states, with Tamil Nadu at Rs170, Andhra at Rs146, UP at Rs83 and West Bengal at Rs206 and a national average of Rs167.


The percentage of children under age three who are undernourished on Anthropometric Indices (stunted, wasted or underweight) is lower for J&K than many other states: 28 for stunted (too short for age), 15 for wasted (too thin for height) and 29.4 for underweight (too thin for age) against the national averages of 38, 19 and 46 respectively.


It goes on. Any socio-economic indicator one looks at one finds that the state is in the top quartile or among the top 10 percentile. If Jammu feels neglected, it could only be because the people there don't know how to blackmail the country. They are foolish enough to carry the national flag in their agitations!


The Valley is imitating Pakistan on two counts. Pakistan begs globally by threatening to self-destruct even while the elites of Pakistan send their children to study abroad and the poor Abduls and Kasabs are made to die for the cause. The same hypocrisy is practiced in the Valley by its leaders.


The stone-throwing youngsters shouting azadi on the streets of Kashmir should ask themselves whether they would like to be a part of India that is democratic and becoming a world power or want to be ruled by the ISI of Pakistan. If it is the later, the road to Muzzafarabad can be opened for those willing to leave their land of honey and milk! As far as India is concerned, it should hold an all-India referendum about the timing to scrap Article 370. That is the only referendum we should think of.








You can understand immediately why the BJP would object so vehemently to the Union home minister referring to the recent rise of terrorism by persons known and unknown in the name of Hinduism to "saffron" terror.


The colour saffron itself is certainly innocent of terrorism. And yes, it has long been a colour associated with Hinduism (as well as some other religions which have developed in this region). It's there on our national flag as well — pride of place, at the top because that particular shade of orangey-yellow denotes a certain kind of peaceful spiritualism associated with a certain kind of Hinduism.


It's also such a perfect colour for India — suits the landscape and our skin colour (those of us who don't swear by fairness creams that is) — rich, vibrant, dynamic and calming at the same time.


Yes, saffron, we can certainly declare, is innocent of terrorism.


The same thing however cannot be said of its so-called champions in the current context. And how clever of them to try and deflect attention from the topic of Hindu terrorism itself while having hysterics about the colour. I would agree that it's a bit distressing to hear terrorism described with a tag of 'Hindu' before it. This is for a variety of reasons. One is that us Hindus are far more sensitive than people of other religious persuasions.


There is little reason for Muslims to object to Islamic terrorism or Christians, Jewish, Buddhists and so on. Even Communists, I have heard people argue, since that's a form of secular religion (poor Karl Marx eh? What a comeuppance!), should have no objection to being called terrorists now and then. But what has poor Hinduism done to deserve being lumped with terrorists?


That is true, undoubtedly, but seemingly the same argument cannot be applied to Christianity, Judaism, Islam,

Buddhism and the rest. I am not getting into the Commie argument here. There's even a theory which goes that the Semetic religions with their origins in the Levant are better suited to terrorism than Hinduism.


Staggering and sanctimonious arrogance of course. But let's leave that argument aside for now as well.


The bigger problem seems to have originated from the larger Hindutva family to which the BJP belongs, which is loosely called the Sangh Parivar and by some journalists the Saffron Brigade. So you can see where P Chidambaram got his tag of saffron terrorism from.


Several organisations under that loose collection known as the Sangh Parivar have long advocated Hindu militancy to deal with the apparent violent streak in other religions and therefore people of other religions. Weak, almost emasculated Hindus needed to become tough and learn some military arts. Stick practice for some and as it turned out, some years later, bombs for others.


And yes, there was a gun which we'll get to soon.


BJP president Nitin Gadkari has pointed out very rightly that terrorism is terrorism, why call it saffron, Hindu and so on. How could one not agree? Presumably, the members of the Sangh Parivar will extend the same courtesy to other religions?

As for the Union home minister, he might like to consider that the first instance of terrorism inspired by a militant form of Hinduism — or was it Hindutva? — was evident soon after Independence on January 30, 1948 when Nathuram Godse and his associates assassinated Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Strange that it's been a problem for so long, whatever colour you'd like to call it.








We often take ourselves for granted. We accept everything our mind thinks. But our minds think what we feed it. So, it is important to figure out what messages we are sending to our minds about ourselves.


What are the affirmations that we send to our minds? Are you sending negative thoughts about yourself? Check it out.


Affirmations are actually suggestions that you send to yourself. The more you send the message, the better as it gets reinforced. Affirmations are extremely important as they help in transforming your thinking patterns.


We often need to do this consciously. Affirmations have to be skillfully phrased and should be repeated so that the subconscious mind will believe it and weave it into your mindset.


Send positive messages like: I love life. I find life so beautiful and enthralling.I am open to change. You will notice that in none of the affirmations a negative word has been used. You can even write down the message and pin it up on your notice board at your workstation or at home.


Sometimes, when you express such affirmations, a noise may come from within saying that this is far from reality. If this happens, tell yourself that it is only your feeble negative self and today you are a different person with a new attitude that is going to take you far.


Repeat your affirmations before you sleep. It works wonders on your mind as you sleep. Try the first one today.








If there has been an example of the use of a most appropriate expression it is that of "angel tree" in the case of a tree coming in the way of a major road accident in Nowshera tehsil in Rajouri district. It stopped a bus from rolling down into a gorge. At least 52 children had a miraculous escape as a result. That they were injured --- five of them seriously --- is no doubt a matter of concern. Yet, one would say, it is some relief considering the worst that could have happened. The facts of the incident are self-explanatory. The children were in their school bus. From the available details it appears that the vehicle was jam-packed and was being driven rather fast to cover a distance of about nine kilometres in 20 minutes on a hilly road. As it reached the Narian Army camp the driver lost his control while negotiating a sharp curve. The bus headed towards a nearly 300-feet deep ravine. Lo and behold! It suddenly came to a halt 40 feet of its frightening descent. It was held back by a mighty pine tree which firmly held its ground bearing its full impact. It is a sight the very thought of which is enough to send a chill down one's spine: shrieking children in a bus virtually hanging in the air. Normally one encounters such spectacles only in our Hindi movies. It is a pity that the driver fled from the spot; he was arrested later. It is strange that human beings tend to develop cold feet when they are required to be at their best. Fortunately, some of us are made of different and stronger metal. The proximity of the spot of mishap to an Army site turned out to be the next best thing to have taken place after the tree.


The jawans rushed to evacuate the children and shift them to the Nowshera hospital in the Army vehicles. They have earned our eternal gratitude especially of the parents of the children. It is because of these saviours that we can look forward to celebrating the coming festive season with usual gusto. At the same time we should be obliged to the nature which has come to our rescue and concurrently reminded us of the necessity to save its precious assets for our own safety. The angel tree is actually a reminder to us of the angels on Christmas trees to herald the birth of the Messiah. It is said the fairy at the top of the Christmas tree was originally a little figure of the baby Jesus which in the late 17th century Germany became a shining angel. For us the Nowshera tree represents the virtual rebirth of more than 50 children.


Once again we are face to face with the issue of making sure that there is discipline on our roads. Prime facie it is reckless driving that nearly plunged all of us into grief in the present occurrence. When will we learn to be more careful? When do we realise the worth of our lives? Of course, there is another lesson to be learnt for us now. We should plant more trees on the slopes of our hills. These are good not only for our sight. These are good not only for our natural environment and splendour. These also act as buffer to save our lives at critical junctures.









Any mention of a palace in Leh immediately draws attention to the nine-storeyed imposing structure on a hill overlooking the Leh town. It was built by Ladakh's illustrious ruler Sengge Namgyal in the 17th century. For long it has been in ruins but has been considerably retrieved now by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) which has taken over it. Undoubtedly it is the most prominent showpiece of the district headquarters of Leh district which has the Stok Palace as well about 20 kilometres away across the mighty Indus. Between the two palaces one can study the history of the Ladakh region --- an idyllic land of brave and hard-working people many of whom are at present endeavouring to strike a balance between modernity and traditionalism. In between the two palaces there is on one side the Zorawar Fort built by Gen Zorawar Singh, the legendary army commander of Maharaja Gulab Singh, the founder of our unique but controversial state. An article in a recent Sunday magazine of this newspaper has rekindled the memories about the Zorawar fort. It is presently under the control of the Army and we are now told that the ASI is keen to occupy and maintain it. From all accounts it is a rare piece of history --- a heritage site. There is a difference between a palace and a fort. A palace is the home of royalty. A fort on the other hand is a fortified place or position occupied only by troops and bordered with a ditch, rampart or a parapet. The Zorawar Fort, it is stated, had housed 300 soldiers and 30 Artillery men to crush any challenge to Maharaja Gulab Singh's authority in the region. It is made of local material including mud bricks and has a moat around it. It is only too well known that after Ladakh Zorawar Singh had turned his attention towards Tibet --- a bold expedition during which he was killed. His exploits are thrilling.


It is relevant to recall an agreement signed between the Dogra rulers and Tibet and China after Zorawar Singh's forces put up a determined fight and avenged his death. Known as the Treaty of Chushul it says: "On this auspicious occasion, the second day of the month Asuj in the year 1899 we -- the officers of Lhasa, viz. firstly, Kalon Sukanwala, and secondly Bakshi Sapju, commander of the forces of the Empire of China, on the one hand, and Dewan Hari Chand and Wazir Ratnu, on behalf of Raja Gulab Singh, on the other -- agree together and swear before God that the friendship between Raja Gulab Singh and the Emperor of China and Lama Guru Sahib Lassawala will be kept and observed till eternity; for the traffic in shawl, pasham, and tea. We will observe our pledge to God, Gayatri, and Pasi. Wazir Mian Khusal Chu is witness." What has happened in Ladakh later especially in 1962 and in recent years has been witnessed by one and all. There is nothing permanent except change. But even to learn this we have to have some evidence around. Who will overlook the significance of the Zorawar Fort in this context?








Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh delivered a balanced appraisal of where the nation stands after 63 years of independence, the most significant part of his address on August 15 being that, "we do need to implement schemes we have started" effectively, minimising " corruption and misuse of public money". Would it be too much to expect that it (implementation) would be the core of the agenda of his Government if UPA-2 is to scrape through the rest of its five-year term, with semblance of credible governance? 

Pointers are not promising. Even in one of his earlier utterances on such a day, PM said he would not promise new programmes but would focus on implementing what had been promised. That is the promise we keep looking up to all the time to see some telling results. But the visions of a "New India" he often talks are ever receding. We are back to the vagaries of agriculture and its deleterious consequences for rural incomes, productive employment and food prices affordable prices for the vast majority of India's poor and low-income humanity, rural and urban.

It is these classes - some 700-800 millions - who have borne the brunt of food price inflation, conveniently overlooked by the UPA Government right from mid-2008. It is in this milieu that the 2009 electoral promise of food security net is being held up as an earnest of Government concern and that necessitates a relook at agriculture. Apart from any likely reinvigorated thrust in agriculture, some hope may also lie with the proposed Borlaug Institute of South Asia to be established in India to make available new and improved seeds and technology to farmers. We are prone to draw comfort from such extras. 

Prime Minister took justifiable pride of India becoming the "fastest growing economy" earning the respect of the world and how Government remains committed to the vision of New India in which every citizen will have a stake. No doubt enactment of "rights" to information or education and the rural employment guarantee programme extended countrywide, were cited by him without minimising "serious challenges", including the large deficit in infrastructure building. The access to education for every child in theory has to be translated into reality, though it clearly falls within the sphere of states which, by and large, have become more assertive of their autonomy and making new demands on the Centre. 

The Government certainly needs wider public support for tackling problems, whether in dealing with Naxalite violence or ensuring respect for law and order in several areas, notably in Jammu and Kashmir where unfortunately, it has not consistently pursued the parallel path of political consultations leading to a greater measure of autonomy, given the special circumstances of a state drawn into the vortex of international politics. We are treading the same ground after spells of inaction and relative neglect in many areas, not just J and K but also rights to livelihood as in land acquisition and other natural resources for the down-trodden.

Economic and Social development must, therefore, get closely integrated in the 12th plan, drawing lessons from the sad experiences so far, but this need not delay earlier actions such as on development plan for the tribal areas the Planning Commission is working on. Inflation will be an irksome drag on inclusive growth over the short term. No one complains of higher minimum support for farmers, cited by official sources as one of the factors, but that cannot cause an almost doubling of cereal prices. The Prime Minister was clearly on the defensive on inflation in his Independence Day address and expressed confidence of succeeding in the effort to bring down inflation. 

The levies in the budget and post-budget rise-cum-deregulation in petrol/diesel prices have also contributed to surge in the wholesale price index. The Centre has blamed States for inaction, and we are yet to see what the committee of Chief Ministers, set up with a fanfare in January last at the height of food price inflation, produced by way of remedial measures. RBI has been calibrating monetary policy to lower inflationary expectations though it cannot be effective where supply-side deficiencies are concerned. With double-digit WPI inflation, RBI must continue to act as it deems appropriate, when it comes out with the first of its six-weekly reviews of global and domestic trends to strengthen its hold over monetary and credit policy in these extraordinary times.
Politically, the Government is coming under severe pressures, partly due to its own failings, and largely from a multi-faceted opposition with enough ammunition in their hands, as has been witnessed in Parliament from day to day. If BJP has risen from the electoral debris and is putting on muscle, Government has no comfort from the regional secular parties, with their own narrow sectional interests, and whose continued support from outside has become unpredictable. More frustrating for the UPA Government must be the internal differences even among Congress Ministers on major policy issues on the one hand and the open dissent of its two power-sharing regional allies, TMC and DMK. 

The survival strategy for UPA-2 has involved a series of policy adjustments and compromises. Unobtrusively, issues of strength and stability for Government to make and implement policies have begun to arise in the murky political atmosphere. The Prime Minister has long delayed a reconstitution of the Cabinet, such as would give it a better image and engender a greater sense of confidence that Government would deliver on what it says. Public expectations from UPA-2 stand lowered and as of now, the political outlook is far from sanguine for the Government to address its own electoral promises and push through long-delayed reforms. 
Adding to its difficulties would be the uncertainties surrounding the outcome of state elections, first in Bihar, then in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, before May 2011, and later UP in 2012. Questions have already come to the fore about the durability of the present DMK-Congress alliance in Tamil Nadu even though the Centre has so far put up with the nostrums of DMK Supremo Mr M. Karunanidhi. He is pitching his demands high and resisting GST in the context of forthcoming elections and his declared goal of consolidating Dravidian rule in Tamil Nadu. TMC leader Ms. Mamata Banerjee, who wants to oust Left in West Bengal, dictates her own terms for the Congress in the state and in going along with Centre in economic decision-making. 
Two areas where Government wants to earn credit - growth and fiscal consolidation - should not be grudged. The Finance Minister was fighting a desperate battle to get on with the Goods and Services Act without alienating the states, along with the proposed Direct Taxes Code, for ushering in major tax reforms in fiscal year beginning April 2011. Even after the Finance Minister giving up a veto power, states are dragging their feet raising uncertainty of its introduction from April next. Equally. (IPA)









What was meant to be landmark legislation for this country-and for the most part it still is -- has been marred by the inclusion of certain clauses that are clearly at odds with the overall philosophy behind the bill. 
For the first time in independent India, a contemporary liability framework for nuclear damages has been put in place that eliminates the need for the victim to prove who is responsible for causing a nuclear incident, whether there is fault, negligence or intent, or whether there are any legal defences that might be raised. This has been accomplished by instituting 'strict' liability for the operator who, according to Clause 6 (1) of the act, has to cough up damages of up to a maximum of Rs. 1500 crore. 

This is a major move forward, since both the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Public Insurance Act, 1991 are silent on the issue of nuclear damages. And in the absence of a separate liability framework for nuclear damages, compensation in the event of an incident would have been ad hoc and, at best, rather similar to the way in which victims of railway accidents find redressal or, at worst, would have resulted in a legal circus as in the aftermath of Bhopal.

However, all that is now in the past and a liability law that is broadly in consonance with the Paris Convention (1961), Vienna Convention (1963) and the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (1997) is now in place, which not only employs a broad definition of nuclear damages but seeks to incorporate cross-border effects.
The operator liability cap of Rs. 1500 crore or roughly $ 322 million is fairly decent by international standards. France, a country which has a nuclear setup similar to India's, albeit much larger, calls for the operator to have a financial security amount of only 91 million Euros. The bad news for consumers, of course, is that the insurance premium will certainly be reflected in the cost of power. 

Additionally, under clause 7(a), the Act enjoins upon the government to make good on losses over and above the limited liability of the operator, in the event of a nuclear incident. It also makes the Government liable in the case of an accident at a nuclear installation owned by it. The Act also calls for the setting up of a Nuclear Damages Claims Commission which can become an example for regulatory methods in other industrial segments as well.

From what we have seen above, it would seem that the Civil Liability Bill has managed to confer adequate protection to citizens while putting in place a liability framework that would allow India to engage in international nuclear trade to foster nuclear power development in the country as the best option to generate clean form of power.

Unfortunately, in reality it is not so simple. After initially drafting what, by international standards, is a very sound piece of legislation, political pressure has forced the government to incorporate a rather debilitating poison pill in this Act as represented by Clauses 17(a), (b) and (c) that allow the operator a 'right of recourse' vis-a-vis a supplier. The new wording of clauses 17(b) and (c) in particular will certainly act as deterrent for many suppliers.

Earlier, 17(b) had the words 'wilful act and gross negligence,' but these were deemed as vague by the parliamentary standing committee on the bill, and have been dropped. As a result clause 17(b) now reads: "the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services." This means that 'strict' and 'no fault' liability have been extended to suppliers and this is at odds with standard international practice wherein liability is legally channelised only to the operator and the supplier is exonerated.

As a result, suppliers will now have to seek insurance for their supplied components in the country, which will naturally lead to an increase in the price of the same. This, in turn, would get reflected in the capital cost of nuclear power thereby putting it at further disadvantage vis-a-vis other sources of generation like coal that do not internalise the social cost of their pollution, which nuclear does.

Given that the bill has no provision for how the liability amount will be apportioned in the event that the right of recourse is exercised, industry will definitely be scared to participate in the nuclear sector, since not many may be willing pay $ 300 million for a fault in some minor piece of equipment! 

Clause17(b) particularly disincentivises hundreds of small suppliers contributing to the existing three-stage nuclear programme, who are definitely not in a position to obtain insurance cover for potential liability that may be several hundred times their turnover. Small suppliers like Kaybouvet Satara now say that they are anxiously watching tender documents that will be issued by NPCIL in the coming months to see how these reflect clause 17(b) before they make a quotation. 

The liability bill began as an exercise to bring nuclear governance structures in India to match with international standards and attract the global nuclear industry to participate in India. However, far from giving foreign suppliers what they seek, exoneration from liability, this bill has now managed to not only worry global majors, including the Russians, but also present a challenge to the domestic programme by scaring away existing suppliers. This will certainly have long term consequences for the pace of nuclear power development in India. (INAV)







Kashmir valley, the paradise on earth, has suffered hellish conditions for the last two decades. Year after year it has turned into a dangerous region particularly at the peak of tourist's season. This year the situation worsened when record number of tourists was in the Valley. Within a few days the scared tourists left the state. In the violent agitation that followed 63 persons died and over two thousand were injured within two and a half months. Yet there is no sign of an end to this unfortunate imbroglio. Obviously this all is planned by none other than (ISI) the well known enemy of people of J&K. One of its strategies is to create greater and greater discontent among the people. What has happened in the Valley is extremely saddening. Only a stone hearted person would not be touched by the loss of life and injuries to such an extent. However, violence can be ended and normal conditions restored if everyone, particularly the separatists, dispassionately ponder over the following irrefutable facts.

Fact one: - All Ministers including the Chief Ministers take office under an oath that they will uphold the Constitution of India. 

Fact two: - Cessation of any state or Union Territory is not allowed in the Constitution. Therefore every one who takes office under oath of upholding it is duty bound to fight any attempt to break away from the territory of India. It has to be thwarted, even by force if the dialogue process fails. There can not be any compromise over the issue of sovereignty and integrity of the country.

Fact three: - Violence begets violence and love begets love.

Fact four: - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are integral part of the State and they must remain so in the interest of trade commerce and industrial development which are interdependent. 

Fact five: - It is imperative that all the three regions of the state should remain united to maintain the secular character of not only the state but also that of the entire country. 

Fact six: - Despite the call for a non-violent agitation given by Hard Line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani the violence has continued and more lives have been lost.Fact seven: - Majority of the people of the Valley is not in favour of joining Pakistan as they are fully aware of the pathetic conditions there. Just recollect how large a number of men and women took part in the last Assembly elections in Kashmir. 

Every one knows that there has never been a true democracy in Pakistan. Presently that country is torn by opposing forces like weakened ISI and the terrorist organizations such as Jaish-e-Mohamed, Al-Qaida, Jamait-U Dawa , and Pakistani Taliban etc. Bomb blasts have become a routine. Even Mosques have not been spared. The elements inimical to Democracy and peace are trying to capture power in there. The country is a pawn in the hands of USA. It has depended upon America for not only its arms supply but even for the salaries of its establishment.

Why is it not perceived by the separatists that people of Ladakh and Jammu are totally against separation from India? Most of them would like greater integration with the country. If the agitators that are clamoring for Azadi (independence) are aware of this truth then they should also ponder as to in what geographic and strategic position the Valley will be placed as an independent region. It will be a land locked region that is bound to become vulnerable to annexation by the expansionist countries. An independent Valley, devoid of any resources, will become a hot bed of international intrigues and conflict.

China has already grabbed part of Ladakh in Aksai Chin. It has swallowed Tibet the water store house in the Himalayan region from where major rivers like Brahmaputra, Sutlej and many others flow down the Indian sub-Continent. It is reported that China is planning to divert river Brahmaputra at the northern most tip of Assam to supply water to its adjacent parched lands. If it can do all that it should not be difficult for the separatists to realize that for China it will be a child's play to march through Ladakh towards the so called "independent Valley" of their dreams. 

Another scenario as to what could happen to the "independent Valley" is that as soon as the Indian security forces withdraw from it LoC will become redundant and the dream land of the separatists will be overwhelmed by the Taliban of all hues turning it into another Afghanistan. Perhaps, the separatists and their followers' may be hoping that the tottering Pakistan will come to their rescue in that case! 

Recall what happened in October-November of 1947. Several thousand 'Kabalis' (Tribals from North East Of Pakistan) with the support of Pakistan attacked the Valley plundering and even desecrating the religious places. They took away a number of women who were openly auctioned in Peshawar and other places in Pakistan. Those who forget the lessons of history are bound to suffer again. 

It is for the people of the Valley to consider all the foregoing facts free from emotions and make concerted efforts to restore peace and normalcy keeping in mind the future of all the people of Jammu & Kashmir state.









IT is unfortunate that the decades-old Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute is threatening to escalate again with the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court due to deliver its judgment in the crucial title suit shortly. Ever since the demolition of the disputed structure by a bunch of misguided zealots in 1992, tension has been palpable between Hindus and Muslims. That the issue has got entwined with vote bank politics has led to extreme positions being taken by protagonists from both sides. The latest stand taken by the RSS, ruling out an out-of-court settlement being suggested by BJP kingpin L.K. Advani, and some Muslim leaders like Jawed Habib, former convenor of the Babri Masjid Action Committee, is indeed regrettable. Any effort to resolve the longstanding dispute must be supported wholeheartedly in the interests of peace and communal amity. By turning its face away from a compromise, the RSS is signalling a hard line which could lead to avoidable bloodshed. The same can be said of some hardline groups among the minority community.


While an out-of-court settlement may be a good way out of the impasse, such a settlement is easier said than done. There have, in the past, been several proposals for resolving the tangled issue but a consensus has eluded the two sides. It is quite on the cards that the impending judgment would not find favour with one party to the dispute or the other. The matter would predictably be referred to the Supreme Court which would take a final call unless a consensus is evolved outside.


People at large have suffered a great deal by pandering to forces that divide on the basis of caste, creed and religion. Political parties and other groups would be well advised not to inflame passions. The common man, be he Hindu or Muslim, must not be fed on emotive issues when his crying need is for a square meal for him and his family. Ultimately, the Centre may be forced to take a more proactive stand. Proposals like the Central Government taking over the disputed land and making a monument to communal amity and brotherhood at the site in which symbols of all religions may co-exist deserve a closer look.









THIS is perhaps the darkest day for Pakistani cricket – in fact, all cricket. There are fairly credible allegations that at least seven members of the Pakistani team were charging money to throw matches. Among them is Pakistani captain Salman Butt. Match-fixer Mazhar Majeed has even alleged that he "manages" 10 Pakistani players. That he was the agent of some of these players was well-known. It meant that he looked after their affairs like contracts, sponsorship and marketing etc. But the news that he was an "agent" for shady activities also has caused shock and consternation everywhere. At the bidding of the News of the World undercover team that conducted the sting operation, Majeed made Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Aamer bowl no-balls at the precise moments as promised. The revelation has taken some sheen off England's innings victory over Pakistan at the hallowed Lord's.


Match-fixing allegations have tainted Pakistan for long. Yet, no serious attempt was ever made to set things in order. Former captain Rashid Latif had warned of "spot-fixing" (fixing small events or portions of a game rather than the match itself) in Pakistani cricket seven years ago in a letter to the ICC but instead of taking any action, the Pakistan Cricket Board admonished him for writing directly to the governing body. That gives credence to Majeed's boast before the newsmen conducting the sting operation that he worked closely with the PCB.


Bill Akass, Managing Editor of the NOTW, has told a television channel that the scandal could be "the tip of the iceberg". What the whole world would like to know is whether the iceberg is confined to Pakistan or is spread everywhere. Majeed's remark that he deals with an Indian party, presumably a bookie or a gambler, gives an ominous ring to the whole scandal. Not only Pakistani players but also Australians (Shane Warne, Mark Waugh), South African captain Hansie Cronje and Indians (Md Azharuddin, Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar and Ajay Sharma) have sullied their reputations through such illegal activities.









ON the face of it, the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, shows the Manmohan Singh government's resolve to deter torture and punish public servants perpetrating it on citizens. While the Lok Sabha passed it on May 6, 2010, the Rajya Sabha is yet to take it up for discussion. The main intention behind the Bill is to enable India to ratify the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Though 146 countries have already ratified it, India is yet to do so. Against this background, the Centre's decision is in order. True, there are provisions relating to the matter in the Indian Penal Code. However, these neither defined torture nor made it a criminal offence. Consequently, it was decided that the domestic laws were brought in conformity with the UN Convention in a standalone law so that the UN Convention could be ratified.


There are reasonable apprehensions among many sections about the Bill's efficacy in checking torture. It is said that the Bill is flawed in its narrow definition of torture even though the UN Convention speaks of "severe pain or suffering" rather than "grievous hurt" or "danger to life, limb or health". There is need for a broader definition of torture in the Bill as otherwise, torture inflicted by the police or a public servant as a form of punishment, intimidation or coercion will not be considered torture under the new law. Fears have also been expressed over the punitive measures for torturing a person, the limited time-period for a victim to file a complaint and the in-built protection it provides to a torturer.


Not surprisingly, 10 Opposition MPs of the Rajya Sabha have given notice for an amendment motion on the Bill to refer it to a Select Committee of the House. If the amendment is agreed to by the government or is carried through voting, the Bill would be referred to the Select Committee. In the light of the fears voiced by many sections, the Rajya Sabha would do well to debate the provisions in the Bill threadbare so that the "flaws" could be rectified and the new piece of legislation could really be harmonised with the UN Convention Against Torture.

















ARE the Maoists running out of steam? Will Arundhati Roy have to look for another lost cause? It is too early to say, but there have been a few positive signs lately. The repeated murderous attacks by the Maoists on the police have stopped. It is possible that the latter have become more careful. There is little doubt that they were extremely casual earlier, presumably because they were unaware of the ruthless nature of the threat which the insurgents posed.


Unlike the street demonstrations which the police customarily faced, the Maoists were a determined, ideologically motivated group, armed with sophisticated weapons rather than with stones or, at most, home-made bombs which the urban protesters used. The Maoists were also larger in numbers than the infiltrators in Kashmir or the rebels in the north-east.


It is these factors which the security forces seem to have learnt from bitter experience. Had they been better trained in guerrilla warfare and properly briefed before being sent out, they might have avoided the unfortunate casualties. Now, however, the forces are apparently no longer making the mistake of violating the so-called standard operating procedures, which made them appear like sitting ducks when the Maoists attacked. The Maoists may have also regrouped and even withdrawn from certain areas. Whatever the reasons for the decline in the casualties, the psychological edge which the insurgents had earlier acquired with their frequent attacks on the CRPF, the Eastern Frontier Rifles and other forces has been blunted.


Arguably, the rebels themselves have reworked their tactics. They seem to have realised that the killing of policemen could have an adverse impact on their Robin Hood image, and also on their sympathisers among the Left-leaning intelligentsia, since the dead belonged to poor families and were often their only bread-winners. What was more, the deaths could stiffen the government's resolve to confront the Maoists with greater determination. This may have already happened, for no government can allow the impression to gain ground that it is at a loss to deal with the insurrectionists.


The report that helicopter-borne forces can return fire while looking for the Maoists underlines a reversal of the earlier decision not to launch military-style attacks, which can cause considerable collateral damage. Apart from emphasising a virtual no-holds-barred approach to the anti-Maoist offensive, the decision shows that the hardliners in the government have won the day, ignoring the dissenting voices of social activists like Aruna Roy, a member of the National Advisory Council, who is quoted in a Maoist pamphlet as saying that the "state will fail if the army and air force are used against the Maoists".


As for the Maoists themselves, the belief that their leader, Cherukuri Rajkumar aka Azad, who was apparently killed in a fake encounter, had emerged from his hiding place for peace negotiations points to the presence of moderates in their ranks. This is not surprising because every political formation has similar divisions between hawks and softies.


However, what is noteworthy is that the moderates have come to the fore at so early a stage in their armed struggle against the Indian state. Considering that the CPI (Maoists) was formed only in 2004 with the merger of the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) and the People's War Group (PWG), the movement in its present form can still be considered to be in its early days. Six years, after all, is not long enough for overthrowing the state.


Besides, it is only in the last two or three years that their depredations have become noticeable. A Maoist site on the Internet lists their activities only from 2005. Therefore, if a moderate group has already taken shape in the party and acquired enough internal support to send an important leader like Azad to talk to the "bourgeoisie", it means that misgivings have arisen about their ability to carry the "revolution" to a successful conclusion. The latest offer of talks from Koteshwar Rao aka Kishanji suggests a similar mellowing of their revolutionary ardour.


Such a turn of events is not surprising. For instance, before the MCC and the PWG merged, there were clashes between the two groups and a third one called Party Unity throughout the 1990s, which resulted in the deaths of "hundreds of cadres and sympathisers", according to the party's publicity material posted on the Internet. The clashes ended in a cease-fire in 2000. But ideological differences remained with the MCC favouring Maoism and the PWG Marxism-Leninism. The solution was for the new party to accept Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as its doctrine, although its meaning must be clearer to the acolytes than to outside observers.


Considering that the Naxalite/Maoist movement has been riven by intense factionalism ever since the formation of the CPI (ML) in 1969, divisions in their ranks are probably the norm rather than an exception. Such rifts can also widen at times of trouble, of which the present period may be one. The Maoists are not only facing continuous pressure from the security forces, their life in the forested areas can hardly be as romantic as their intellectual supporters in the cities believe. Except for the Adivasis, the middle class component of the leadership cannot find it easy to spend month after month as fugitives in jungle hideouts.


They are also more isolated than ever before. During the Naxalite uprising, they received constant encouragement from Beijing radio about the "prairie fire" which they had supposedly lit. Their visiting delegations to China also received words of advice and caution from Mao Zedong himself and also from Zhou Enlai. Their practice of killing policemen was criticised as the acts of anarchists by their Chinese mentors while the slogan — China's chairman is our chairman — was denounced for being insulting to national pride.


The Maoists, however, have no one to turn to for counsel and guidance. Even their counterparts in Nepal are not as close to them as before since they have renounced the revolutionary path and accepted constitutionalism. Throughout the history of communism, the concept of proletarian internationalism enabled the various communist parties to keep in touch with one another for material and moral support. Such camaraderie can help at times of stress. But the Maoists today are seemingly leading a lonely existence.


Their sense of seclusion is probably enhanced by the fact that their ideology cannot be as inspiring as it was at the time of the Soviet and Chinese revolutions and the Vietnam war when to be young was to be a communist. It isn't only the collapse of the Soviet Union and the transformation of China into a market economy which must tell the Maoists how the times have changed. The same message is conveyed by the rejection of the doctrine by the Maoists of Nepal. The latter now believe that a multi-party system is possible under socialism and that the "experiment", which they are carrying out, is "not only for Nepal, not only for South Asia, but for the people of the world", according to their leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda. He has also said that "we communists are flexible and dynamic. We try to develop our ideology according to the new conditions".


In his book, Naxalbari: Before and After, Suniti Ghosh, a Naxalite leader, said that when Mao met Kanu Sanyal, Jangal Santhal and others before their departure for India, he told them to forget everything that Zhou Enlai and Kang Sheng might have said and apply their minds to the concrete conditions in India. Perhaps the Indian Maoists should recall the chairman's advice and blend it with Prachanda's experience.








MAN has always evolved to natural surroundings around him and not otherwise. Nature does not adapt itself to man. It only tolerates, but to a certain point.


So, people in plains can survive in extreme hot conditions but can find difficulty in acclimatising in the cold desert of Ladakh, where the natives run and jump around easily.


But when man starts tampering with nature too much, it reacts, often, in fury, as happened recently in Ladakh — the land of high passes, barren mountains, little vegetation and oxygen, cruel cold desert but home to learned lamas.


Seven years ago when I had first visited the place to cover the Indo-US joint mountain warfare exercise, I had asked a group of tourists what brought them there in such large numbers.


"We come here to enjoy the silence," was the reply, "and learn from it." they added. The words echoed all these years.


Last fortnight when I landed there amidst death and destruction, people, both locals and foreigners, mostly discussed why it happened.


People talked about evil spirits and global warming in the same breath. They cursed the increasing population, vehicles and upcoming permanent settlements.


Many think atonement of their sins (both real and imaginary) as well as of society as a whole would prevent such occurrences.


Met experts seem to suggest that the clouds that came to deliver snowfall on higher peaks around Leh had some "chemical locha" when they could not find friendly temperatures to suit their job. They burst open and caused misery.


"It had to happen. People have interfered with the work of nature. They had to suffer. Buddhism teaches not to throw litter and garbage in rivers and rivulets as people, besides livestock, may be drinking it downstream. Yet, this pollution is rampant here," said my taxi driver when I asked him.


He grumbled about greed and cheating: "Poor are being exploited more and paid less. There is general greed for material pursuits."


Greed may be rampant everywhere in the world but lamas believe God has given them the message to warn the world about global warming. Senior lamas have already started a purification drive in and around the city to cleanse the sins.


Tourists come for spiritual solace as well to this land. They come to seek answers. But I was leaving without knowing why it happened.


As I was about to leave Leh along with a swarm of panic-stricken tourists running away from the place they had made their second home over the years, I met Erica, a tourist from Switzerland, who was visiting Leh for a decade now and had started bringing groups of trekkers and meditators.


She was living in the same guest house as ours but was mostly quiet.


"So, will you come back next year," I asked her stressing, "with the tourists?"


"Yes, only if the Silence is preserved," she said.









I WISH I had never visited Japan. A favourite pastime of Indians, be they from any background - linguistic, educational, professional, class and so on - has been to discuss why India has not shown the sort of development one had hoped it would. Why, despite having the most qualified human resource repository, we still cannot be counted among the developed nations? Why nations with meagre natural resources are major players in the global market while we lag behind? Why countries with populations smaller than a state in India manage to get more medals in a single sport than all Indian athletes put together in the various international sporting events?


A large number of reasons are offered to account for the slow, sometimes non-existent progress in the country, varying from poverty and overpopulation, to the laid back chalta hai attitude of the average Indian to the absence of killer instinct in us, the all-pervasive corruption in the nation, to the 'system hi aisa hai' or 'you can't fight the system' explanation, to the 'foreign hand'. The disillusionment with our country becomes even more pronounced when scams like the one tainting the forthcoming Commonwealth Games are unearthed.


Like many of my fellow Indians I, too, engage in such armchair deliberations. And, whether we admit it or not, like many of my fellow Indians despite this disenchantment, there has always been a glimmer of hope in my mind, that one day hum honge kamyaab, that with the new technology and a more rational, scientific temper, we too, will be regarded as a nation that matters. But that was before I visited Japan.


As a fairly well-travelled person I was aware that countries considered as 'developed' are in many ways different from ours and that would apply to Japan as well. However, nothing had prepared me for what I witnessed and experienced there. Admittedly, two weeks is too short a duration to understand or analyse a society but having spent most of my time in trains (both local and intercity), buses, shopping centres and railway stations, interacting with a cross-section of the people in seven cities and observing their day-to-day behaviour did give me a peek into their life and ways of thinking and behaving.


Sadly, it also made it clear why India will continue to be a 'wannabe' without really scaling those heights. There are so many traits that demonstrate the Japanese way. However, let me mention those which struck me the most - discipline, commitment, civility - all of which are by and large absent in the average Indian.


Let me demonstrate by providing contrasting pictures from the two societies. We are already aware that in all developed countries the cities are clean, the trains and buses run on time, there is no jumping of queues and no corruption, at least not one that is easily visible. Japanese, however, take discipline to a new high.


Take the example of traffic rules. In India, while waiting for the walk sign (if at all it exists) to turn green, our instinct is to look around and see (a) if there is any vehicle coming our way and, more importantly, (b) if there is a traffic policeman in the vicinity. Once we establish the absence of both, we walk across and there is not a single disapproving glance from anyone around. In fact, there is a whole crowd joining the rule breaker, celebrating the non-appearance of a cop.


Now consider this picture. In Kobe city I, with my Japanese friend and at least hundred other persons, mostly Japanese teenagers, are waiting for the walk sign to turn green, which is taking a while. There is no police personnel in sight. The Japanese stand there quietly while some American and European tourists are getting fidgety. Finally, the latter decide to cross the road while the sign still says 'Don't Walk' (have we 'Indianised' the west?). There is a gasp of horror from the Japanese, who I gather from their expressions and from my friend's explanation, cannot ever dream of such behaviour, even if they are in their teens, the so-called rebellious age.


The Japanese are known for their job commitment. I saw an illustration of it almost every day. My favourite memory is that of watching an elderly janitor in a mall going about his work with the ubiquitous I-Pod earphones in his ears. From where I was observing, I could not see anything on the floor that he was sweeping clean, and yet he seemed to be concentrating on a particular spot. I walked past him and to my amazement realised that he was trying to pick up a small, almost unnoticeable piece of thread from the floor.


When I said to my Japanese companion: "Why is he going to the trouble of picking up a nearly invisible thread", she said in a matter of fact tone, "but that is his job". Leave aside the janitors in India, how many of us would go to these lengths to keep even our homes clean and thread-free!


It is civility, however, where the Japanese score over every other culture. Their custom of bowing is well known and even ridiculed in some films and television programmes. But to see it in practice is an experience in itself. I had the Japanese bowing to me everywhere - the person selling the ticket to me at the railway ticket counters, the ticket checker and the ladies serving refreshments in the trains, the salespersons in shops, the waiters in the restaurants, the teachers and students in the universities where I lectured, and even the fellow travellers on the trains or buses whom I had smiled at and at times even jostled! They truly are the politest and most courteous people that I have encountered in all my travels.


Contrast this with the immigration officers at the New Delhi airport who scowled at me while departing and on return, both time asking me to 'prove' that I had gone to Japan for academic purposes. And from what I have seen their behaviour is not much better with the visitors to our country.


But my most memorable experience is one that made me realise the difference between them and us. By the tenth day of my trip it suddenly occurred to me that although every Japanese I encountered, from pre-teens to those in late eighties, carried mobile phones, I had not heard a single phone ring. On inquiry I was told that it was a practice among them to keep the mobile phones on the vibration mode. When asked why, the simplicity of the answer "as a courtesy to the others", dumbfounded me.


When I recounted this to an Indian friend, he said: "Then what is the use of spending money to download caller tunes agar logon ko sunana hi nahin".


Whenever I share my experiences with friends and acquaintances I get reactions varying from 'really?' and 'amazing' to 'how boring' and 'they must be like machines'. Maybe they are. But this boring mechanical lot has risen from the ashes of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and gone on to become one of the leading countries in the world, without losing their culture, their character, their civility. And when I look at the mayhem, the chaos around me in India - I wonder, no I am almost sure that we have miles to go…. Yes, I wish I had never gone to Japan.


The writer is Professor of Sociology, Panjab University








MANY studies have proved what commonsense told us all along that the risk of accidents increases manifold if drivers - or even pedestrians - use mobiles. But it seems we never learn. Such accidents, often fatal, continue to occur and drivers using mobiles have become as commonplace on Punjab's streets as hawkers. Car drivers, two wheelers, truck drivers, bus drivers, auto drivers and even rickshaw pullers are using mobiles at will endangering everyone's life.


You may not even hear a train hurtling towards you when you are busy on the phone. Seems unbelievable? Here is a real story. A Tollywood makeup artist, Prabir De, died in June 2006 because of talking on the phone. De was at a film shoot near railway tracks when he took a call on his cell phone. Deep in conversation, he wandered on the tracks, but failed to hear the coming train and his colleagues trying to warn him.


It is illegal to drive or ride a vehicle while using a hand-held mobile phone. This means that talking, sending or receiving text messages, playing games or taking photos are illegal when using a hand-held phone. It is also illegal to perform these activities when your vehicle is stopped but not parked, for example when you are waiting at traffic lights.


]A hands-free device can reduce the physical effort to make and receive calls but it doesn't necessarily make it safe to use a phone while driving.


Penal provisions available with enforcement agencies are too mild to be a real deterrent. According to Section 177 of the Motor Vehicles Act 218(2), 1988, the use of mobile phones while driving attracts a fine of Rs 100. But if it causes further inconvenience a fine of Rs 1000 can be levied for negligent driving and a compounding fee of Rs 500.


Statistics do not always reflect the gravity of the menace. In many fatal cases where cell phones were responsible, we don't find the phone on the spot. Either the phone is first thing stolen from the accident site or they are flung away from the spot. But later on during the probe it is found that the mobile phone was responsible for causing the accident.


]It is easy enough to see why using phones can be dangerous. The divided attention of the driver talking over the phone, even if he is using hands-free kit, often triggers accidents. The situation is even worse in case of two wheelers, though the bikers have taken the trick of wedging the phone between shoulders and the ears to the level of fine art. We must book such motorcyclists, but in most of the cases they use hands-free gadgets. At times the mouthpiece is hidden.


]According to a study from the Highway Loss Data Institute USA published in February, driver inattention is estimated to be a factor in 20 to 50 per cent of all police-reported crashes. Driver distraction, a sub-category of inattention, has been estimated to be a contributing factor in 8 to 13 per cent of all crashes. Of distraction-related accidents, cell phone use may be the culprit in 20-25 per cent cases.


]Studies show that when young motorists use mobile phones while driving their reaction time increases manifold. In fact, a 20-year-old driver talking on the mobile phone will behave like a person of 65 years of age. Driving is all about alertness but reflexes go down that drastically.


]Studies also show that drivers talking on the mobile phones are about 20 per cent slower in pressing the brakes. The reason is attention blindness where motorists gaze at the conditions on the road ahead, but don't really see them because they are distracted.


The writer is Member, Punjab State Road Safety Council









Awhile ago, an Indian-origin script writer from California called on me as part of his research for a story about match-fixing in cricket. We had a good, long chat – me telling him the whole thing was now passé, and that he should instead make a movie on cricket's new corporate corruption; him saying that while he found my conspiracy theories about the IPL fascinating, fixing was a more exciting subject for a commercial film. 


On Sunday, a few months after that conversation and more than 10 years after the original match-fixing, a problem that was dead and buried returned to say hello, thanks to our friends at News of the World and an ever-engaging bunch of cricketers from across the border. 


Videos of bookie/agent Mazhar Majeed and pictures of deliberate noballs by the opening pair of Asif and Amir, led to quick tirades about the weak moral fibre of the Pakistan team, and about the sharks who lure players with the promise of easy money. 


But that's just a small part of the problem. Far more important than understanding what happened at Lord's is asking how, only a decade after the match-fixing scandal, did the cricket establishment allow itself to be sucker-punched again. If another global racket blows up in our faces, are the people who run cricket equipped to deal with it? Are they as helpless as they were 10 years ago? Or have they set up a system to keep the dangerous player-agent nexus in check? Are there proper background checks or auditing of accounts? 


If you ask the International Cricket Council these questions, it will bring up its ambitiously named Anti-Corruption Unit and talk about the strict monitoring of dressing-rooms. In practical terms, however, the ICC remains no more than an advisory body that raises 'concerns' for others to address – as powerless as it was in 2000, when match-fixing had come as a surprise. 


If anything, the national cricket boards, especially those in the subcontinent, have only become worse over the years. Caught between trying to prevent government agencies from having a say in their affairs and attempting to portray cricket as a clean sport in order to woo sponsors, they're either closely linked with agents themselves or simply look the other way. 


In an environment where no one has the inclination or the power to punish, the risk of getting exposed is well worth it – especially for a player from Pakistan, who neither plays any international cricket at home nor gets any IPL riches. 


And if he does get caught, what's the worst that can happen? The only four players publicly found guilty by the Indian board, for example, don't seem overtly inconvenienced. Mohammad Azharuddin is now a Member of Parliament, Ajay Jadeja has been exonerated by court and is a TV commentator, Manoj Prabhakar is coaching fast bowlers, and Ajay Sharma is running a business. Each one is doing as well, or better, than he would've hoped to do post-retirement had his name not come up. 


To be fair, the BCCI at least handed out bans. Most other countries didn't even bother, pretending that the global scandal had left them untouched, and burying the names of their top stars in secret files we'll never be able to access. 


It's a law of nature that where there is money, there will be corruption. People find a way to beat the system no matter how watertight it is. The big worry is that this latest incident may not necessarily be a Pakistan-centric problem. World cricket is an intricately linked organism, and once match-fixing enters the system, it's been known to spread quickly. 


In the absence of any real regulatory body, in an environment where administrators are themselves in the dock for a variety of misdealings, who is going to stop the next global scandal?



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





The Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India can look back to the 50 years whose completion it has just celebrated with a good degree of satisfaction, and project with some authority its vision for the future. It has emerged as the bronze medalist among the country's most globally competitive sectors, after software and pharmaceuticals, and projected an ambitious trajectory for the next 10 years to 2020. Its turnover should reach $110 billion by then from the current (2009-10) $22 billion. As this implies a compound annual growth rate of 17.5 per cent, compared to the 21 per cent achieved in the last five years (2005-10), the goal is well within reach. The aim also is to take exports to $29 billion from the current $3.8 billion, which assumes a compound annual growth rate of 22.5 per cent — about the same as achieved in the past five years. In the process, the sector expects its share of GDP to go up from the current 2.1 per cent to 3.6 per cent, making it an engine of growth for the economy.


But more than these numbers, it is the quality of growth that is important. Most of it will be domestic demand driven and with a far lower reliance on North America for exports than in the case of software. Europe and Asia currently account for two-thirds of exports with North America just over a fifth. So, the risks to growth posed by global upheavals, of the sort seen in the last two years (component export growth was zero in 2009-10), will be lower. What is more, the sector expects to add a million skilled jobs in the next 10 years, which stands up well to the three million currently employed by software and BPO. If the attack on poverty is best delivered through the creation of skilled, blue-collar jobs, then auto and auto components are its key engine. Above all, the sector has broken the old jinx of India being a loser in manufacturing. In the five years to 2008, auto component firms accounted for a majority of the Indian winners of the coveted Demming prize of Japan which is a hallmark of excellence in manufacturing. In the process, the sector has laid the foundations for India to emerge as the global manufacturing hub for small cars.


 What is perhaps most exciting is that the sector is asking the government for very little to deliver the vision that it has set for itself. Its primary concern is to fund the big-ticket investments that will enable it to meet burgeoning demand and reap the benefits of cost and quality that come with scale. Its biggest concern is the cyclical nature of the demand scenario that it has to live with, but here also the fluctuations in India will be less than in the rest of the world as both India and China are expected to grow more consistently than any other geography. It is asking the government for only the very basics like better roads and power, and it is safe to assume that it will deliver on its vision if on roads and power the situation remains no worse than what it is now.






From the novelty point of view, the latest match-fixing scandal involving some Pakistani cricketers should surprise no one. For one, it merely confirms what everybody's been suspecting for years. For another, Pakistani cricketers have been indicted before — Shoaib Malik and Saleem Malik are two names that come to mind. Let's face it, cricket stopped being the "gentleman's game" at least two decades ago and the money that now pours into the sport has inevitably created the kind of cycle of corruption that has afflicted other, more popular sports worldwide (basketball and Formula 1 being two prominent recent examples). The sub-continent in general and India in particular now dominate the administration of the sport globally. It is also this region that has proved the hub of betting scandals in the past — l'affaire Cronje, the incident that first exposed the shadowy world of betting to public view, had its epicentre in India. As the Indian Premier League (IPL) has shown, the big money is here.

One solution would be to legalise betting, especially on the subcontinent where cricketers tend to be poorly paid and, therefore, vulnerable to other inducements. Every other significant global sport allows it and it goes a long way in forcefully minimising players' proclivity to influence the outcome of matches. That's because legalised betting makes things transparent — everyone and not just one bookie can bet on, say, Mohammad Amir bowling a no-ball on the first ball of the third over, and the odds of him doing so can be measured. Indeed, the argument for legalising betting in cricket is even more urgent. The nature of the sport is such that it allows players to fix matches by deliberately bowling no balls (though this admittedly requires some talent and both Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif undoubtedly are extremely talented), throwing their wickets or dropping catches. It is difficult for a footballer, basketballer or a hockey player to deliberately muff a goal or a pass as these sports are fluid and fast-moving.

 Cricket is also uniquely positioned for maximum corruption because of the historically nationalistic lines on which it is organised. Unlike other sports where private capital has come to matter for more, the main buyer for cricketing talent is still the state. That it is a poor professional choice can be judged from the number of young West Indian men who are opting for the NBA as a career choice instead of cricket. In a sense, the IPL was considered revolutionary for the history of the sport because it created a healthy alternative and competitive market for cricketers. It is a pity that the IPL is mired in all manner of financial scandal because the notion of cricket teams bankrolled by private capital would have done wonders for a game that has been steadily losing viewership in the busy developed world. If the ICC promoted similar leagues in other cricketing nations like Australia and the UK and organised inter-nation club tournaments the way Fifa does, cricketers will automatically find a more viable way to make a living than their state boards can provide. And the proclivity to illegally make money from the sport will be overtaken by the natural sportsman's visceral urge to perform well.








The household saving rate in the United States has tripled in the past three years. Why? And what does it mean for the US economy and the rest of the world?


The rapid rise in saving has reduced consumer spending, slowing the pace of GDP growth in 2009 and in early 2010. If the saving rate continues to rise rapidly, it could push America's fragile economy into another downturn. That would mean lower imports, creating a potential problem for countries that depend for their employment on exporting to the US.


 Higher household saving depresses consumption because it is the difference between households' after-tax income and what they spend. The saving may be deposited in bank accounts or used to buy mutual funds or corporate stock. Saving may also take the form of individual contributions to retirement accounts or employer contributions to corporate saving plans. Paying down debt on credit cards or mortgages also counts as saving — but increases in the value of existing assets like stocks or real estate do not, even though they increase the value of household wealth.


In any year, some households are savers and others, especially retirees, are dissavers who use past savings to finance current consumption. A nation's net household saving rate is the difference between the saving of the savers and the dissaving of the dissavers.


The recent rise in the US household saving rate reversed a long-term decline that began 25 years ago. Before that, between 1960 and 1985, American households saved an average of 9 per cent of their after-tax incomes. The saving rate in each of those 25 years was between 7 per cent and 11 per cent.


But, after 1985, a variety of changes caused saving to decline until it reached less than 2 per cent in 2007. One reason was that rising stock markets and higher house prices made individuals wealthier, reducing their need to save for retirement and allowing retirees to dissave more. The general shift from defined-benefit pension plans to defined-contribution plans meant that employees felt the effect of rising share prices directly in their personal accounts.


Moreover, the increased availability of credit cards gave Americans a greater ability to dissave, buying goods and services now and paying for them later. Mortgages became more widely available. Rising house prices also allowed homeowners to refinance their mortgages, obtaining additional cash to spend on other things. Credit lines secured by home equity provided another new way to finance spending.


All of this changed abruptly when the American economy fell into a deep recession at the end of 2007. The stock market dropped sharply. Home prices fell 40 per cent, completely wiping out the equity of one-third of all homeowners with mortgages. Household wealth is now $10 trillion less than it was before the recession began.


That fall in wealth means that households must save more to prepare for retirement, and that retirees are not able to dissave as much as they did before. Banks and credit-card companies have become much more cautious about extending credit. And, with unemployment stubbornly high, many households are saving in order to have additional cash if they should lose their job or be put on shorter hours.

There is no way to predict what the saving rate will do next. Households' need to rebuild wealth — and the lack of access to credit — implies that the saving rate could continue to rise from the 6.4 per cent recorded in June (the most recent month for which data are available) to the 9 per cent rate that America averaged in the decades before 1985. If that were to happen quickly, total spending could decline, pushing the economy into a double-dip recession. But if households instead become optimistic about the pace of recovery, they might choose to cut back on their saving in order to maintain consumption, despite weak earnings. Only time will tell.


Household saving is only one part of net national saving. Since after-tax personal income accounts for about 75 per cent of GDP, a household saving rate of 6 per cent translates into just 4.5 per cent of GDP. Corporate-retained earnings have averaged about 3 per cent of GDP after allowing for depreciation of existing plant and equipment. The combination of household and corporate saving brings total private saving to 7.5 per cent of GDP. Unfortunately, government borrowing to finance its deficit over the rest of this decade is projected to absorb about 5 per cent of GDP. That would leave a net national saving rate of just 2.5 per cent of GDP.


Such a low national saving rate would not be sufficient to finance the level of new investment in plant, equipment, and housing that the country needs. So, despite the rise in the household saving rate, unless federal government policies change to shrink America's future budget deficits, the US will continue to be dependent on capital inflows from the rest of the world. If that happens, global imbalances will continue to add risk to the global economy.


© Project Syndicate, 










Does the good news for radio set a bad precedent? The Copyright Board's order last week, stipulating that radio operators need pay only 2 per cent of the net advertising revenues as royalty to music companies is great news for radio operators. Till the order came, radio operators were forced to pay a fixed fee per hour, irrespective of the station or the revenues. If the same songs are played in Dhanbad and Mumbai, both with starkly contrasting ad revenues, the royalty amount for each station so far was the same.


 As a result, on average radio firms in India were paying about 15-20 per cent of their revenues as royalty compared to anywhere between 0.25 per cent and 5 per cent in mature markets. Operators have long lobbied for a revenue-share-based royalty structure. Naturally, the music industry had been lobbying against it. Finally, the Supreme Court directed the Board to take a decision, which it did last week.


The radio industry's reluctance to bid for stations in phase three of radio privatisation, hanging fire since last year, is what forced things through. This phase is expected to see about 800 stations, most of them in C- and D-class towns, being auctioned. If royalty rates had remained what they were, then each of these stations would be paying over 40 per cent as content costs, making them unviable.


After the order, the stocks of most radio companies rose on the hopes of better margins while those of the two listed music companies fell. The good thing about the order is that it puts to rest more than seven years of wrangling between music companies and radio operators.


However, the worrying part is the precedent it sets. It gives the government another reason to justify meddling in tariffs. This columnist has long argued that there should be no price regulation — in TV, films, radio or any segment of the media and entertainment (M&E) business. (See Mediascope, August 17, 2010). But in this case, the industry itself asked for government intervention. Was that right?


Across the $17-billion M&E business, content costs have gone up, but most segments haven't lobbied to push the costs down. They have just dealt with the issue in the course of running the business. For instance, film production costs have gone through the roof, but there has been no lobbying for subsidies so far. Ditto for news-gathering costs, which TV stations dealt with by putting expansion plans on hold and newspapers by firing staff. Why then does the radio industry need government intervention to sort out an industry issue?


"T-Series and PPL are a sort of duopoly and in most situations like these, there has to be intervention, anywhere in the world," explains Rahul Gupta, director, Shri Puran Multimedia. PPL is Phonographic Performance Limited, that along with the Indian Performing Rights Society (IPRS) gives out licences and collects royalties on behalf of almost all music companies in India. T-Series, Yashraj Films or the South Indian Music Companies Association, however, license their own music.


"The Copyright Board is a forum for price fixation, it spent a lot of time studying the data from India and across the world before deciding on this," adds Gupta. "After practically seven-to-eight years of litigation not going anywhere and the music guys having gone to the HRD ministry first, the industry felt that government intervention may help," adds Apurva Purohit, CEO, Radiocity.

Radio operators were just fighting for what they think is right. But think about it — telcos pay just about 10-15 per cent to content creators, largely music companies, keeping a lion's share of 70 per cent of the (subscription) revenues earned from ringtones et al. In most mature markets, content owners get 60-70 per cent of the revenues that telcos make from songs, so there is already an anomaly at work here.


Could telcos use this order to further squeeze content owners? Can it be twisted out of context? That is the worrying part, not the happy implications for the radio industry.










The big change that has taken place on New Delhi's Raisina Hill in the last two decades is the manner in which North Block, headquarters of the finance ministry, and Udyog Bhavan, which houses the ministry of commerce and industry, have ceased to be the centres of controversy over economic policies.


The first decade after the P V Narasimha Rao government introduced economic reforms in 1991 saw the finance ministry and the ministry of commerce and industry engaged in a variety of heated battles with different industry groups and political formations. Should the government free most industries from all licensing controls? Will the reduction in import tariffs flood the country with cheap imports resulting in the closure of industries and job losses? Can the government make foreign trade policy simpler, transparent and non-discretionary? Will government coffers empty if direct and indirect tax rates were slashed to prevailing international averages.


Each question raised a controversy of its own. Within the government and outside, a few reformist ministers and civil servants fought a long and arduous battle with large sections of powerful political groups opposed to what came to be loosely defined as economic reforms. The Left parties opposed every move to liberalise the Indian industry. Large sections of industry were initially afraid of the competition the new policies would usher in — though they realised that reforms made them more efficient and improved productivity and profits. The Indian economy benefitted from reforms, but nobody should have missed the larger point. The battles that preceded the acceptance of reforms were largely fought in the corridors of North Block and Udyog Bhavan.


The second decade of reforms saw a quiet transformation. Although few battles remained over the merit of economic reforms, fresh changes in fiscal, trade and industrial policies were of an incremental nature and triggered little opposition. The excitement over these changes also dwindled as industry, trade and the various political formations grew bored — they were seeing more of the same, after all, and there was little in these reforms that they needed to oppose.


The remarkable feature of this period was that though new and different political groups formed the government at the Centre, the broad thrust and direction of reforms remained the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh model enunciated in 1991. Thus, the annual export and import policies became less important and relevant but there was no going back on the path charted out by the early reformers. For instance, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma's foreign trade policy document, released last week, had about just 96 pages, compared to over 200 pages before the reforms era.


Similarly, the direct taxes code, which will bring down direct tax rates, simplify them and eliminate most exemptions, faced some problems, but now the new code is all set to take effect from next April. The goods and services tax regime, too, is delayed but there are no major hurdles to the idea of what would perhaps be the most ambitious and far-reaching reform in the country's indirect taxes regime. The finance ministry may be facing resistance from some financial sector regulators to its attempt to widen its ambit of power but that battle is hardly comparable to the ones it fought in the first decade after reforms.


So, clear signs of a shift in the battleground over economic policy changes are now evident as North Block and Udyog Bhavan settle down to a more relaxed and sure environment in which they can implement the remaining reform agenda. The scene of battles for the next round of reforms or policy action has shifted to other Bhavans around Raisina Hill.


Take a look at Transport Bhavan, where the ministry for roads and surface transport is headquartered. Kamal Nath, who is in charge of the ministry, is battling the Planning Commission to get some more freedom over the manner in which he can accelerate the construction of national highways with private sector participation. Across the road, there is Shastri Bhavan, where the coal ministry is headquartered. That ministry is now busy putting in place new regulatory architecture to allow auctions of coal mining blocks in a transparent manner so that political patronage or ministerial discretion in the award of such contracts becomes a thing of the past.


Paryavaran Bhavan, which houses the ministry of environment and forests, is another emerging battleground over economic policy. An intense debate over pursuing industrial development without adversely affecting the environment or tribal people is now raging across the nation, thanks to a series of measures initiated by the ministry of environment and forest.


The department of education in the ministry of human resources development is also busy finalising a new policy framework allowing private industry and foreign universities to set up educational institutions in the country, a proposal that is a subject of debate.


The list of such ministries can be much longer, but the evidence is unmistakable. North Block and Udyog Bhavan are no longer facing the heat of reforms. Action has shifted to other ministries.








Think for a moment of reading as akin to faith — the faith of the scientist, not the unconditional faith of the unthinkingly devout. To sustain that faith requires a constant renewal of one's belief in the value of reading, or the continuing value of the novel three centuries after the term was first invented. The true reader, like the scientist, struggles with doubt and bouts of occasional apostasy, fuelled by the tyranny and bestselling pervasiveness of mediocre writing.


To have two books coming out in the same month that reaffirm one's faith is a kind of benediction — especially when these two novels couldn't be more different. Writing in his 70s, Milan Kundera said that the work of the novelist was to build "a castle of the unforgettable": "Against our real world, which, by its very nature, is fleeting and worthy of forgetting, works of art stand as a different world, a world that is ideal, solid, where every detail has its importance, its meaning, where everything in it — every word, every phrase — deserves to be unforgettable and was conceived to be such."


 This is the way the American novelist Jonathan Franzen writes. Freedom is one of the most anticipated novels of 2010, and Freedom frenzy has swept the US in the weeks before the release. Part of the reason for this is Franzen's low productivity: his last book, The Corrections, came out in 2001. That long gap reflects the kind of care and fierce focus that has gone into the writing ofFreedom, perhaps one of the most ironic book titles ever.


Freedom follows the fortunes of the Berglunds, the "young pioneers of Ramsey Hill", where the collective task before them and others of their kind was to "relearn certain life skills that your parents had fled to the suburbs specifically to unlearn". From this deceptively simple premise, Franzen moves through decades and generations to cast a chilling light on the pursuit and demise of the American dream. "The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage," he observes of one of his characters, and this stands as an analysis of contemporary America as much as of the middle-class life of the Berglunds.


If every sentence in Freedom is crafted, honed and precise, this is not a claim that can be made for David Grossman's equally ambitious, equally compelling and far more flawed To The End of the Land. Grossman's own life reflects the complexities and tragedies of the larger Israeli-Palestinian conflict; he has lived within "the Situation", criticising the policies of the state while remaining loyal to his country. His son, Uri, died in 2006, a casualty of the conflict on the Israel-Lebanon border. Four months after he sat shiva for his son, Grossman made a speech, stressing that it did not come out of anger or the need for vengeance.


"The state of Israel has, for many years now, criminally wasted not only the lives of its sons and daughters, but also wasted the miracle that occurred here — the great and rare opportunity that history granted it, the opportunity to create an enlightened, properly functioning democratic state that would act in accordance with Jewish and universal values." Grossman had gone back to writing To The End of the Land the day after the last rites for his son were performed; the book was published in 2008, and its long-awaited, if badly flawed, translation is finally out.


To The End of the Land follows the life, and epic flight, of Ora, a middle-aged woman whose son, Ofer, has voluntarily gone back to war. Ora goes to Galilee, hiking across her land, reasoning that if she is not at home when the notifiers from the army come to tell her that her son is dead, he will not die. To say that To The End of the Land is flawed is true, but the force and power, and complexity, of Ora's story make this an unforgettable read. Jonathan Franzen's rules of writing includes this dictum: "Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money."


In completely different ways, he and Grossman have written the masterpieces of 2010. Franzen's Freedom is true to Kundera's vision of perfection and craft — the novel as a more finished, more articulate version of life. And Grossman's To The End of the Land is the embodiment of Franzen's understanding of the novel — as a way of pushing the boundaries of life as far as they can go. To have both of these works coming out in the same month is to have one's faith in the power and astounding variety of fiction renewed and replenished.









ACLEVER confidence trick is to repeat an errant act in the name of undoing an earlier one. Telecom could witness such a con, if the reported proposals go through to let some of the new licensees be bought over by others or to allow them to return the spectrum they had been allotted while refunding the licence fees they had paid. Before the recent auction of 3G spectrum, the government's policy had been to allot any mobile licensee a chunk of 4.4 MHz of spectrum and to add to that allocation if and when its subscriber base expanded beyond a number that could be serviced with the start-up spectrum. So, in return for paying an upfront entry fee of . 1,651crore, an operator could get the licence to operate in all 22 telecom circles and 4.4 MHz of spectrum in each circle. Since spectrum is scarce, a licensee company would command a fat valuation, far in excess of the entry fee paid, when it was sold, in whole or in part. To prevent such profiteering, a ban was imposed, on sale of a licensee company within three years of obtaining the licence. Several licensees have not rolled out operations, on some ground or the other, and are lobbying to be allowed to sell their companies to other operators or for the government to take back the spectrum and refund the entry fees. Neither demand is valid. 


By squatting on scarce spectrum that an active operator would have used to spread the telecom user base and generate new income for itself, users, investors and the government, the non-performing licensees have imposed a huge cost on the economy. They should be penalised, rather than rewarded. It is imperative that the spectrum they sit on be deployed in service. The least messy way is for the government to take the spectrum back from the non-performing licensees and then permit them to sell their business minus the spectrum. This would migrate whatever little customer base they have built up to a viable operator and prevent profiteering on the basis of a scarce national asset allocated to them in dubious circumstances. The reclaimed spectrum would end the current spectrum crunch of serious operators.








IT IS welcome that the Direct Taxes Code (DTC) Bill seeks to harmonise the tax treatment of the New Pension System with that of other provident funds. However, the raising of the tax exempt saving limit to . 1,50,000 from the . 1,20,000 now (including a . 20,000 window for infrastructure bonds that will close after the current fiscal) is less than substantive. Saving in the form of housing has been incentivised, in addition, by exempting up to . 150,000 of interest payment on housing loans from tax. Debt servicing of education loans, too, retains its tax-exempt status without limit, which is welcome. The DTC Bill has abandoned the rational and innovative treatment of savings contained in the original version. The NPS, as originally notified, would have been exempt from taxation at the time of contribution, exempt, again, from taxation during accumulation and growth of the contributed corpus and taxed at the time of withdrawal. This system, called Exempt-Exempt-Taxed, recommended by several expert committees, would have departed from the treatment of a saving scheme like the Employee Provident Fund or the Public Provident Fund, which are exempt from tax at all three stages (EEE). The original DTC draft had opted for EET on all savings. However, it also proposed, while doing away with the distinction between long-term and short-term savings, that no saving asset would be taxed, only the income from that asset would be subjected to tax. If the accumulated savings on maturity were to be ploughed back into another saving instrument, the corpus would be exempt from tax. 


This is a rational way of taxation. But it obviously takes more courage and political capital than the government thinks it fit to deploy to make such a significant change in the tax treatment of savings. Thus, we are back with another version of the government reserving the right to decide which saving instrument would be taxed, and which exempt, including within the class of equity-linked savings.








THERE is no doubt that the fermentation of the humble grape has given rise to a very enduring industry; but can the same be true for every fruit? The effort to take the word wine out of the ambit of the grape has met with limited success, with rice, elderberry, plums and even dandelions gathering their cognoscenti. So it may not be surprising that Indian scientists are now trying to press mango into that genre too. Whether scientists can 'formulate' wine is a point that can be debated both philosophically and metaphorically — since some of the greatest wines have been the result of serendipitous happenstance rather than by deliberate endeavour — but there is the more basic question of whether there should be a mango wine at all. With the UPA government fixated on the aam aadmi, it was only a matter of time before the eponymous fruit received viniferous attention. Indeed if the scientists of the Central Institute of Subtropical Horticultural Research in Lucknow succeed in making 'wine' out of viscous mango pulp, they can provide a brand new option in the low alcohol range in these health-conscious times. The technical matter of taste and terroir has to be dealt with. New World wines list grape varietals along with the name on the label, not only so that the buyer has an idea of what to expect — spicy or mellow, dry or sweet — but also from where. So pioneering tasting notes will have to be made to deconstruct the three debuting varieties from 'Domaine Uttar Pradesh', Langra, Dussehri and Chausa. 
    Of course, the fact that this entirely swadeshi wine would be in no danger from foreign producers clamouring for duty reductions — a cacophony that has long marked the imported versus local wine and spirits discourse here — should be welcome. And if made well, Indian mango wine may just be able to go abroad and capture new markets in nations that also love the fruit, as far afield as Brazil and the Philippines.








WHEN Sir Gordon Wu, chairman of Hopewell Highway Infrastructure, was a student at Princeton in the 1950s, he dreamt of Chinese superhighways, when China was a poor, closed economy. A few decades later, Wu won the contract to build China's first superhighway between Shenzhen and Guangzhou. While he had no financial support, Wu was offered an incentive by the Chinese government — the faster he could complete the highway, the higher his profits would be. Cutting through the bureaucracy, bringing in the best of global technology and finance, Wu deputed 30,000 labourers who took only 26 months to finish a 72-mile superhighway that today zips across the fastest growing region in the world. By doing so, China set in motion a positive precedence of regional economic development of the scale and size, the world had never seen before. Indeed, incentivised growth, supported by proactive tax regimes, can do wonders for a country and its people. Similarly, today, India is in dire need of a new wave of entrepreneurship that will breathe fresh life into our businesses, and breed immense wealth creation for its start-ups and their investors. 


There is no dearth of ideas in India, and we have potential entrepreneurs in the form of experienced middle management, serial entrepreneurs and first-generation 'jugaadu'entrepreneurs. Globally, home-grown family-owned conglomerates and companies like Infosys have kept the Indian flag flying high. However, how many Infosys' has India been able to create in the last decade? How many Microsofts, Apples and Googles will India create in the next decade? Who makes the real capital gains from the growth of such companies? Barring a handful of Infosys', most examples of global-scale first-generation businesses are from an era long gone. Also, I have yet to come across a mass of middle-class Indians who have participated in the entire upside of these superstar stocks, from inception.


First, to kick-start this next wave of entrepreneurship, we need to put our own capital to work — money should be a means to improving our lives and not be an end in itself. Most Indians have believed in capital preservation and hence, have had to forsake a multiplier in the form of capital growth. Among high net worth Indians, wealth is passed down generationally. This creates a disparity between the rich and the poor, which only gets wider, while simultaneously curbing our overall risk-taking appetite. 


This is unlike the US, where by way of estate taxes, the rich are encouraged to take risk with their capital or to contribute to charity, instead of trying to preserve it for the next generation. In spite of this tax, for several decades our sharpest minds went to the US, worked on innovations that would change the world, built immense first-generation wealth, but unfortunately, never returned to their homeland. This paradox exists because Indians have had scant opportunities for taking ideas, building mammoth global corporations here in India, other than those that were afforded to second generation entrepreneurs. 


Second, we should encourage the marriage of private companies with the public sector via public private partnerships (PPP). This ecosystem can harbour fresh ideas and provide navigational skills around regulations, and encourage people to take risks, while offering fair returns. One such example is the US Small Business Investment Company. These SBICs are privately-owned and managed investment firms. 


WITH their own capital and with funds borrowed at favourable rates through the federal government based upon track records, SBICs provide venture capital to small businesses, a percentage of which are also minority and women-owned. Such SBICs can attract better returns on their capital with a favourable borrowing rate, start-ups benefit with access to capital, long-term loans, and expert mentoring, and the nation benefits as these businesses grow and produce thousands of jobs. Tax revenues generated each year from these investments more than makes up for the cost of the programme. Moreover, this form of financial inclusion affords opportunities to all those who have ideas, and yet, would receive funding purely on merit. 


Third, we should reengineer our legal system so that it is conducive to speedy reconciliation of pending disputes and within a time limit. A Paperwork Reduction Act that does away with the red tape that we see today in the public sector is also needed. This will make investments easier, bureaucracy accountable, decision-making speedier, and profits higher, both for, private and public sectors. 


Fourth, domestic venture capital (VC) funds are subject to a cap on the amount they can invest in foreign start-ups at 10% of their total funds raised. Doing away with this cap will mean access to a multitude of technologies from the heavy R&D capital-invested West, which can be provided access to the huge markets in India through Indian entrepreneurs. The Indian VC firms have a fair shot at attracting higher returns for its Indian Limited Partners and to choose from Indian and foreign ideas — why should we curb their scope by erecting make-believe one-way economic barriers? 


Fifth, private companies are armed with a collective experience and war chest that is more than capable of creating Indian intrapreneurs'. These inhouse entrepreneurs can be incentivised to create small businesses out of divisions that enjoy management control from both the internal team and the mother ship. As the business grows, it can then be hived off into a separate entity, thereby creating a larger ecosystem of fresh talent, capital infusion, market opportunity and job availability. Incentivising our existing private companies to take on the challenge of spotting and nurturing intrapreneurs to generate newer streams of shareholder value is something that will have far reaching consequences. 


Indeed, we need more Gordon Wus — but we will need to spot them, incentivise their growth, pool in our existing resources, both private and public, to create an environment where risk-taking breeds and flourishes. This would set the right foundation for the next wave of entrepreneurship in India. 


(The author is CEO, Reliance Venture     Asset Management )









THE 2005 Jackson Hole Conference was to be the last for the Federal Reserve Board chairman, Alan Greenspan and the theme, therefore, was the legacy of the Greenspan era… I was asked to present a paper on how the financial sector had evolved during Greenspan's term. 


The typical paper on the financial sector at that time described in breathless prose the dramatic expansion of financial markets around the world. It emphasised the wonders of securitisation, which allowed a bank to package its risky housing or credit card loans together and sell claims on the package in the financial market... In theory, with the risk better spread across sturdier shoulders, investors would demand a lower return for holding the risk, allowing the bank to charge lower loan rates and expand borrowers' access to finance. 


In preparation for writing the paper, I had asked my staff to prepare graphs and tables. As we looked through them, I noted a few that seemed curious. They were plots of different measures of the riskiness of large US banks, and they suggested that banks had become, if anything, more exposed to risk over the past decade. This was surprising, for if banks were getting risky loans off their balance sheets by selling them, they should have become safer. I eventually realised that I was committing the economist's cardinal sin of assuming ceteris paribus, that is, assuming that everything else by the phenomenon being studied, in this case securitisation, remained the same. Typically, everything does not remain the same.







THE rare Congress-BJP 'constructive cooperation' to clear the nuclear liability Bill in the Lok Sabha led to a few casualties. If Mayawati, Mulayam Singh and Lalu Yadav had to see their deal-making plans going up in smoke, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav found himself in suspended animation. Sharad Yadav loves his post — NDA convener — and projects himself as the chief coordinator of the opposition's strategy. But when top BJP leaders unilaterally carried out their nuclear-negotiations with government managers, Yadav found himself out of the loop and worse, with no option but to sign on the dotted line. At least the Left has had the consolation of putting forth some valid rejoinders, but poor Sharadji could not even have that given the limits of his political coordination and the burden of his 'understanding' of 'non-socialist' issues like the nuclear-deal! 


AS PARLIAMENT'S monsoon session ends, some Congress leaders are pushing for a course correction vis-à-vis Lalu Yadav. No, they are not seeking any Congress-RJD tactical pact for the Bihar polls. These Congressmen, in fact, want the leadership to roll back the 'magnanimous act' of allotting Lalu one of Congress' front row seats in the Lok Sabha. Since the RJD has just five members, Lalu was facing the prospect of being humiliatingly shunted to the fifth row in the 15th Lok Sabha when he pleaded with the Congress to loan him a front-row seat to help provide him some notional importance. Since the Congress had rejected his main plea for a cabinet berth in UPA-II, party managers granted him his second wish more as a pension for his services to UPA-1. But now these Congress leaders argue that Lalu "is misusing his undeserved seat" to create a ruckus in the House along with Mulayam Yadav. So, they want Lalu to be shown his 'rightful place' . 



DESPERATION can drive people reckless, but this one has hit the Gandhian path. K Muralidharan, former Kerala PCC chief and son of K Karunakaran, is now threatening to stage a fast-unto-death in front of the Congress HQ in Kerala if the high command continues to reject his attempts to 'return home'. He has fixed March 8, the date on which he completes his six-year suspension from the Congress, for action. He has, after all, done everything possible — 'selflessly' quit as NCP state president, pleaded with all AICC leaders, apologised to all PCC leaders and even extended unconditional support to the Congress in the coming local body polls — to win Congress hearts. But Murali's move has, at least, made some Congress leaders in Delhi ponder what sort of methods another wannabe entrant, the muchprojected 'strategist' called Amar Singh, might come up with if the green signal from 24, Akbar Road continues to be elusive. 



 AS VEDANTA has helped the Congress find, finally, a credible issue to peddle in Orissa, a search is now on for a dynamic state leader who could help the PCC take off from the Rahul Gandhi push. Though incumbent PCC chief K P Singh Deo continues to be liked by 10, Janpath, he is proving to be too laid-back to lead from the front. Another aspirant Srikant Jena has shot himself in the foot by trying his 'Third Front-like bargaining tricks' for a cabinet post. Many AICC leaders say the man to watch is Lok Sabha member Bhakta Charan Das, a former socialist and Dalit leader, who has impressed some influential Congress leaders with his political perspective on the roadmap for the party in the state.







TO SPEND or save, what is the need of the hour, is the question doing the round of economics and other journals, print and online. 'The austerity debate', is followed by 'the deficit debate', which in turn is followed by the Economist inviting experts to discuss the same issue. The views are as multifarious as the debates, but the issue being discussed is perhaps the most significant policy issue facing the world economy today, as Nobel laureate, Paul Krugman, an avid and outspoken participant in the debate wrote recently. 


Received wisdom, in the form of economic theory, has relatively little to offer. There is the brilliant Keynes advocating deficit spending to boost sagging demand and depressed business expectations. But there is also the no less brilliant Nobel Laureate, Friedrich von Hayek pointing out that while the main deficiency during recessions is investment, the world's troubles are because of imprudent borrowing and lending by public authorities, who mortgage budgets of the future and tend to drive up the rate of interest. According to Hayek, the right way to help revival is to abolish old habits of lavish expenditure, and abolish the restrictions on free trade and free movement of capital. 


Economic theory has two apparently diametrically opposite views, responsible perhaps for the present day policy conundrum. 


How does one proceed? 


One needs to start with asking several questions, answers to which will automatically begin to untangle the apparently entangled issue. 


Firstly, there is a set of questions related to the context. 


What is the nature of the particular economy in respect of which prescriptions are being made? Is it an open economy or a closed economy? Is it a free-market economy or a planned economy, and if so to what extent? Is the nature of the economy likely to change with the answers to the basic question being debated, and how will that impact the fundamental impulse to progress, which has been the bedrock of progress in that economy? What is the current level and nature of unemployment in the economy? How will this be affected by the decision to spend or save? 


A second set of questions pertains to the specific fiscal parameters of the particular economy. What has been the level and nature of past deficits and government and private debt, which determines the present scope for incurring deficits? What has been the level of past economic growth? Does this limit the prospects for future economic growth? What are the likely fiscal multipliers? If positive in overall terms, which are the specific sectors where they are highest? How will the impact of fiscal deficits be shared as between the domestic and external economy in a flat, and yet not quite flat world? 


There is a similar set of questions with respect to the potential for monetary policy effectiveness. What is the level of interest rates? Of inflation? Other possibilities of quantitative easing? Are there ways of making credit move to deserving sectors, without leading to irresponsible lending, as seemed to have happened when crisis first struck? 


In addition to this not quite brief list of questions related to overall context and fiscal and monetary health, questions related to confidence parameters, of both business and consumer, need evaluation. These core indicators in respect of economic fundamentals are inevitability linked to credibility of governance and other institutional structures. In the case of the US economy, credibility of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, SEC and other regulators would be the relevant gauge. 


For UK, it would be the corresponding economic and financial institutions and regulatory agencies. Credibility of these institutions has got eroded over a period of time, and needs to be rebuilt laboriously and patiently, in order to enable economic policy to succeed. Public spending will enable digging out of the economic hole, provided the concerned agencies spend on programmes, which lead to construction of worthwhile assets, and create jobs in fields where unemployment exists. But if such public spending only leads to throwing greenbacks or other bills into bottomless pits, no private sector or other agency will be able to dig them out, and generate confidence to rebuild the economy out of its present recessionary stance. 


The critical issue facing the developed and developing world alike is the need to restore and rebuild institutional credibility and trust. This is the magic wand, the Midas touch, or the missing element in the puzzle, which when in place, will ensure automatically that the right answer is found in each individual context — to spend, to save, or just wait for natural impulses of progress to find their way. Keynes and Hayek, would then be not on different streets, nor would Wall Street and Main Street or Fleet Street for that matter! Truly a utopian vision, but one worth working towards. 

(The author is a civil servant.     Views are personal.)








A LETTER in a recent issue of Time magazine thanked the editors for having the courage to print the cover image and story about the mutilation of a young girl's face by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The unfortunate girl who was caught fleeing the home of her abusive in-laws had her nose and ears sliced off by her husband while the brother-in-law held her down. She was left bleeding and unconscious on a mountainside. The reader ended by saying: "We get so wrapped up in today's water cooler gossip in our celebrity-centric society (Mel Gibson's rants, Heidi Montag's surgeries, Chelsea Clinton's wedding dress) that we forget about the real issues affecting this world." 


Now, while a perverted vision of some abusive fourth century frontier justice that horrifically mutilates and degrades women for attempting to assert their dignity is in no way conscionable, it's interesting to note the comment made vis-à-vis 'real issues'. Because the irony is that our perception of such things usually refers to front page stuff, not something that's buried inside or never mentioned at all. 


So what actually makes water cooler gossip a not-so-real or unreal issue? A celebrity undergoing a liposuction procedure is news for a great deal of people. But the way we teach ourselves to deal with this phenomenon is by according it lesser importance in some cosmic scale of things. As if God who tracks the fall of each sparrow somehow relegates the event to a lower pedestal than the fall of the Roman Empire. Also, by this token, the absolute obliteration of a mosquito by squashing its entire body parts to a smear of pulp on our skin can somehow never be equated with a poacher carving a living rhino's horn out of its head and leaving it to die a bloody death. In fact even the idea of such a heinous comparison is insane, laughable and absurd. Enormity, visibility and in-your-face action apparently matters; not the loss of a life. 


The young novice, new in the monastery, was in a hurry for personal illumination. On the second day he mustered the courage to go up to the Master who was deep in meditation and waited at his lotus feet till he opened his eyes before asking what he needed to do in order to gain enlightenment. He was told to sweep the yard and wash the utensils in the kitchen. Fourteen years later the man was still doing the same thing. And no, he was not the new Master in the monastery now.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The game of cricket faces its gravest crisis in terms of its credibility. The latest allegations of match-fixing and "spot" fixing are so believable on the strength of circumstantial evidence that the integrity of the sport has been eroded like never before and the game is at serious risk of alienating fans and sponsors alike. The smug assumption that match-fixing had been eradicated after the pre-2000 episodes and the consequent tightening of the inner ring around players and teams at the venues and in hotels has been blown to bits. As modern cricket history suggests, the Pakistanis appear to be past masters at the art of fixing events. In the 16 years since the first match-fixing allegations emerged, not much seems to have changed except that an anti-corruption and security unit of the International Cricket Council is in place and is supposed to have guaranteed that players are isolated from the insidious influences of the world of gambling filled with high rollers and bookmakers of the legal and illegal variety. Professional sport has been grappling for long with the spectre of gambling-induced corruption. Not cricket alone, but also tennis, baseball and horse racing have been trying to close the door on gamblers attempting to use inside information to their benefit or to fix games outright. What cricket has been unable to do despite all the warning signs is to secure its players from the avarice of people like Mazhar Majeed who prey on the susceptibilities of young players and corrupt them so much that they stay hooked to this for life. Ironically, the latest episode generated by a tabloid sting operation might act as a trigger for more stringent action because it took place in England, whose investigative agencies, including the Metropolitan Police and specialist units on economic crimes, can be expected to conduct a thorough, non-partisan investigation and nail those who have been playing games with the fair name of cricket. The laws in the UK were changed five years ago when Section 42 of the Gaming Act got teeth to address the problem of cheating in sport for gaming purposes. But the nexus between sportsmen and organised crime associated with illegal gambling has never been fully broken, as the latest incidents clearly bear out. Unfortunately, cricket continues to believe that the problem lies outside in the form of those who conspire to defraud bookmakers and that its players are pristine. It stands to reason that any act against the principles of fair sport, whether it be a team game or that of individuals, should be penalised in order to ensure that the rogue elements are isolated. But again, the enforcing authorities have never attempted to have players jailed for their part in crimes that are proved. It is clear that even life bans such as the ones imposed on Salim Malik, Hansie Cronje and Mohammed Azharuddin meant very little because the players are still prepared to risk everything in order to earn all that they can in their short careers. The monitoring of the Pakistan cricket team has been shoddy, to say the least, as the connection between a large section of the entire national team and a gambler or bookmaker or players' agent has been exposed in the Mazhar Majeed case. Unless the players are actually given jail sentences, the things are not going to change.








It would be facile to see cricket's newest fixing scandal as merely a repeat of the Mohammed Azharuddin-Hansie Cronje tragedy of April 2000. The sting operation that nailed an illegal bookmaker/agent in London, and had him accept bribes allegedly on behalf of cricketers as well as commit to specific deliveries that Pakistani bowlers would bowl, constitutes evidence in real time. All previous fixing investigations have functioned on the basis of third-party suggestions, post facto "confessions" and conjecture.


The framing of the Pakistani cricket team's corruption in the Lord's Test is beyond doubt and dispute. It is extremely damaging for world cricket and particularly for the International Cricket Council (ICC), which had set up its Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) after the 2000 match-fixing mess and had made robust efforts to clean up the game.


The ACU has worked hard in the past decade. In most countries, the easy access bookies and would-be fixers had to cricketers is impossible now. Players and officials are sequestered and allowed limited use of, say, mobile phones during games. If match-fixing is to prevail despite all this, it will likely require the connivance of an influential section of the team XI as well as key officials. As such, not just Pakistani cricketers but the team management and administrators of the Pakistan Cricket Board too could be brought within the purview of suspicion.


The methodology of fixing — or attempted fixing, since very few matches have been proven to have been fixed — has evolved since 2000. A Test match lasts five days. To pre-determine its result, a large number of players, including at least one of the captains, may need to be compromised.


As such, today the focus is on individual episodes within a match. The introduction of online betting sites with market-determined odds, and the ability of some websites to allow the punter to — within reasonable limits — set his odds or to "buy" or "sell" his wager on a team or on a possible mid-match occurrence at differential odds (and so make a profit), have made such a business all the more lucrative.


"It's a bit like the stock market", a punter once explained, "you agree to sell a scrip at `20 at 2 pm. But you don't actually have the stock. You know there's a big announcement coming that will cause the stock to drop to `18 at 4 pm, and you plan to buy then. So you agree to sell at `20 but wait to buy at `18". Similarly, if you know that a batsman who is 93 not out at stumps will be dismissed in the first over the following day, and before he reaches his century, you can manoeuvre the odds to your advantage.


Such parameters create conditions for what is called "spot-fixing": asking a single player to do something —whether get out or bowl three successive loose balls that concede boundaries — that significantly alters the immediate odds but may not necessarily decide the final result.


The bookie arrested by Scotland Yard has claimed he was responsible for many instances of "spot-fixing" but relatively few cases of "result fixing". However, he has not altogether denied pre-determining the final result of cricket matches. All of the matches he has spoken of feature Pakistan. If this is true, it would imply Pakistan is potentially looking at not just five or so corrupt cricketers but an entire cricket system that is compromised.


Sport is inherently unpredictable. Yet, even by normal standards, Pakistan's performance has been marked by extraordinary volatility during its current tour of England. It has swung wildly in the just-concluded four-Test series — dominating one session, crumbling in the next; picking up seven wickets for 102, and then allowing the eighth-wicket stand to add 300. If it is now established that this volatility was by design and an act of tanking matches (or days or sessions of matches), it would bring a lot of Pakistan's recent cricket under scrutiny.


In the 60 years it has played Test cricket, Pakistan has been bowled out for less than 100 13 times. Three of those 13 innings came in this summer's series against England. Four of those 13 have come since July 2009. For all it matters, seven of those 13 have come since 9/11.


What does one attribute this to? Is it symptomatic of a nation's overall collapse of confidence in the period since the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan began? Is it the consequence of a cricket culture, of cricket players and administrators, losing out on legitimate business opportunities due to terrorism and related conditions and becoming vulnerable to the fixing mafia for incremental earnings? After the Lord's imbroglio, such questions will need to be interrogated.


For all its failings, Indian cricket is a structured enterprise. Many leading cricketers come from urban, educated backgrounds and are astute with their savings. Cricketers from humble origins learn as they go along. They make a good deal of money through endorsements and the like, learn to survive one-sided agent contracts — Mahendra Singh Dhoni had such an experience — and realise there is much to be made by following the straight path.


Continuity in terms of the core of the team and examples of the success of rectitude — Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman among others — also mean the moral compass of the team is never entirely askew. There may be a few bad apples now and then, but there is rarely if ever a complete ethical failure. Pakistan has not been as fortunate, not since the days of Imran Khan.


The fixing virus is believed to have afflicted Pakistan in the early 1990s. Salim Malik, it is said, was employed in a non-executive capacity by a leading financial services firm in Pakistan. Young cricketers in the national team, seeking counsel from a senior, were urged by Malik to invest in the firm. As it happened, the company went bankrupt — the promoters were charged with embezzlement — and some young cricketers lost all their money. They blamed Malik


and asked him for compensation. Under pressure (and threat), Malik led them to a fixing syndicate. The rest is notoriety.


- Ashok Malik can be contacted at [1]








The last time a Democrat sat in the White House, he faced a non-stop witch-hunt by his political opponents. Prominent figures on the Right accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of everything from drug smuggling to murder. And once Republicans took control of Congress, they subjected the Clinton administration to unrelenting harassment — at one point taking 140 hours of sworn testimony over accusations that the White House had misused its Christmas card list.


Now it's happening again — except that this time it's even worse. Let's turn the floor over to Rush Limbaugh: "Imam Hussein Obama", he recently declared, is "probably the best anti-American President we've ever had".


To get a sense of how much it matters when people like Mr Limbaugh talk like this, bear in mind that he's an utterly mainstream figure within the Republican Party; bear in mind, too, that unless something changes the political dynamics, Republicans will soon control at least one House of Congress. This is going to be very, very ugly.


So where is this rage coming from? Why is it flourishing? What will it do to America?


Anyone who remembered the 1990s could have predicted something like the current political craziness. What we learned from the Clinton years is that a significant number of Americans just don't consider government by liberals — even very moderate liberals — legitimate. Mr Obama's election would have enraged those people even if he were white. Of course, the fact that he isn't, and has an alien-sounding name, adds to the rage.


By the way, I'm not talking about the rage of the excluded and the dispossessed: Tea Partiers are relatively affluent, and nobody is angrier these days than the very, very rich. Wall Street has turned on Mr Obama with a vengeance: last month Steve Schwarzman, the billionaire chairman of the Blackstone Group, the private equity giant, compared proposals to end tax loopholes for hedge-fund managers with the Nazi invasion of Poland.


And powerful forces are promoting and exploiting this rage. Jane Mayer's new article in the New Yorker about the super-rich Koch brothers and their war against Mr Obama has generated much-justified attention, but as Ms Mayer herself points out, only the scale of their effort is new: billionaires like Richard Mellon Scaife waged a similar war against Mr Bill Clinton.


Meanwhile, the Right-wing media are replaying their greatest hits. In the 1990s, Mr Limbaugh used innuendo to feed anti-Clinton mythology, notably the insinuation that Ms Hillary Clinton was complicit in the death of Vince Foster. Now, as we've just seen, he's doing his best to insinuate that Mr Obama is a Muslim. Again, though, there's an extra level of craziness this time around: Mr Limbaugh is the same as he always was, but now seems tame compared with Glenn Beck.


And where, in all of this, are the responsible Republicans, leaders who will stand up and say that some partisans are going too far? Nowhere to be found.


To take a prime example: the hysteria over the proposed Islamic centre in lower Manhattan almost makes one long for the days when former President George W. Bush tried to soothe religious hatred, declaring Islam a religion of peace. There were good reasons for his position: there are a billion Muslims in the world, and America can't afford to make all of them its enemies.

But here's the thing: Mr Bush is still around, as are many of his former officials. Where are the statements, from the former President or those in his inner circle, preaching tolerance and denouncing anti-Islam hysteria? On this issue, as on many others, the Grand Old Party (GOP) establishment is offering a nearly uniform profile in cowardice.


So what will happen if, as expected, Republicans win control of the House? We already know part of the answer: Politico reports that they're gearing up for a repeat performance of the 1990s, with a "wave of committee investigations" — several of them over supposed scandals that we already know are completely phoney. We can expect the GOP to play chicken over the federal budget, too; I'd put even odds on a 1995-type government shutdown sometime over the next couple of years.


It will be an ugly scene, and it will be dangerous, too. The 1990s were a time of peace and prosperity; this is a time of neither. In particular, we're still suffering the after-effects of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, and we can't afford to have a federal government paralysed by an Opposition with no interest in helping the President govern. But that's what we're likely to get.


If I were President Obama, I'd be doing all I could to head off this prospect, offering some major new initiatives on the economic front in particular, if only to shake up the political dynamic.


But my guess is that the President will continue to play it safe, all the way into catastrophe.








Mahatma Gandhi's dismissal of Katherine Mayo's book, Mother India, as a "report of a drain inspector" reflected the squeamishness most Indians feel when it comes to drains. We don't discuss drains at the dinner table, nor, unfortunately, in political or policy circles unless a crisis erupts. The price of that disdain is now being felt across much of urban India.


With the monsoon in full swing in many parts of the country, choked drains have become headline-grabbers. Delhi, as it undergoes a makeover for the Commonwealth Games (CWG), is the Aedes Aegypti mosquito's dream site — puddles all around, uncollected garbage, bits and pieces from construction sites piling up along roadsides, waterlogged streets, clogged stormwater drains, and the unsightly spectacle of various local government agencies blaming each other for the mess. At the time of writing, Delhi has already had two dengue deaths, more than 750 dengue cases and a warning from public health experts — the city could be facing its worst dengue attack ever. The poor and the posh are equally at risk since overflowing drains and debris are now all-pervasive.


Dengue, as we know, is a viral disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes which like breeding inside stagnant pools of water, typically in small spaces. The Delhi of today provides the best conditions for the Aedes mosquito to thrive. Though the debris from the construction work is indeed choking Delhi's main stormwater drains, which carry excess rainwater into the Yamuna river, the problem is not entirely new. The haphazardly timed activities in preparation for the CWG merely made it worse. Nor is Delhi alone in neglecting its drainage system. Mumbai, Bengaluru and most other Indian cities have pretty much the same story with some variations.


"There has been an increase in the number of dengue outbreaks in recent years in cities and towns due to mosquitogenic conditions, resulting from rapid urbanisation, development activities and lifestyle changes. The disease is now spreading to peri-urban areas also and lately, there has also been some spread to rural areas. Sewage drains do not play much of a role in fuelling dengue. However, stormwater drains do, when they get choked and overflow, leading to pools of water which create a fertile breeding ground for many species of mosquitoes, including the Aedes", a spokesperson of the World Health Organisation pointed out.


Constantly changing climate brought about by global warming is also said to be one of the reasons in the increase in the number of dengue cases worldwide. But while climate change is now an acceptable topic of conversation among policy wonks and in polite society, malfunctioning drains get the royal ignore till a disaster strikes.


But the sheer magnitude of the problem is triggering action.


"Stormwater drains is among the most neglected municipal issues. There is a lot of interest in widening roads, building parks, beautification drives and so on. But drains, no... But why blame politicians alone... Citizens and citizens' bodies are equally callous — throwing plastic bags and refuse into drains..." says Dr Marri Shashidhar Reddy, Congress legislator from Sanathnagar (a residential and industrial suburb of Hyderabad) and a member of the high-powered National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Dr Reddy is among the few people who have been stressing the importance of paying attention to drains for some 20 years.


Why drains get such short shrift is obvious — the visibility quotient of parks, roads, the big-ticket beautification drive is higher than a good drainage system. But all it takes is a good rain storm to lift the veil of pretence, as we have seen in Delhi in recent days.


]Absence of a properly designed and maintained stormwater drainage system is one of the causes for urban flooding but till recently this link did not get the policy attention it deserved. Now with increasing urban floods, the issue is coming under the scanner of policymakers.


"Our drains were designed on the basis of rainfall in places like London. They did not factor in the intensity of rainfall in many Indian cities like Mumbai. Because of encroachment and other factors, we are not able to maintain even the original capacity of the drains... Indian cities are not fully covered by a sewerage system. Parts of the city where the poor live are often not connected to the drainage system. But this has to change", says Dr Reddy who is leading NDMA's efforts to deal with urban flooding and upgradation of storm water drains in the country.


]"All these years, there was no manual at national level for stormwater drains. Now, the Government of India, through NDMA, is preparing a manual for stormwater drains. I do not think any political leader will have the courage to stop remodelling of drains", Dr Reddy adds. In the pipeline is the National Guidelines for Management of Urban Flooding which will address critical issues like the optimal design of stormwater drainage systems, adaptation strategies, management of water bodies, regulation and enforcement, guidelines for new developments, public awareness and preparedness, medical preparedness and epidemic control and several other things.


An exciting development is the raingauge station which will tell us exactly how much it has rained and where. Another recommendation is to ensure that the annual desilting of drains is completed by March 31, well before the monsoon sets in, so that there is no excuse for delay or incomplete work.


Taiwanese essayist and cultural critic Lung Ying-tai, once proposed a simple test to determine whether a country is a developed or a developing one: "When there is a rainstorm that lasts for three hours or so, take a walk. If you find the legs of your trousers are wet but not muddy, the traffic is slow but not jammed, the streets are slippery but not waterlogged, this is probably a developed country; on the other hand if you find that standing water is everywhere, that children are net fishing over the crossroad, you are probably looking at a developing country." When will India pass the test?


- Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at [1]








So you thought countries signed treaties with each other. But wait! There is another variety of "treaties" that are not just "private" but detrimental to the independence of the mass media in India. Such so-called treaties constitute clear conflicts of interest and result in the public at large, and investors in particular, being misled. Thankfully and rather belatedly, this pernicious practice — that was started by one of the country's biggest media companies and soon followed by others — may be coming to an end.


The August 27 guidelines issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) making it mandatory for companies publishing newspapers or magazines or broadcasting television programmes to disclose their shareholding interests in other companies which feature in their media offerings, has come not a day too soon. This unsavoury practice — of media companies receiving shares and other financial instruments from advertisers in lieu of cash for space or air-time — has been in vogue for at least the last five years.


Unsuspecting readers of publications or viewers of television channels are unaware why a particular company is being praised or why negative news about the company has been suppressed. As Sebi pointed out on Friday, such "agreements" end up compromising "the nature, quality and content of the news/editorials relating to such companies". It added that "biased and motivated dissemination of information, guided by commercial considerations can potentially mislead investors in the securities market".


One particular media bigwig devised such an "innovative" marketing and public relations strategy in 2005 when 10 companies allotted unknown amounts of equity shares to the media company as part of a deal to enable these firms to receive advertising space. The runaway "success" of the scheme turned this media company into one of the largest private equity investors in India and by the end of 2007, the company boasted of investments in 140 companies in aviation, media, retail and entertainment, among other sectors, valued at an estimated `1,500 crores. By July 2008, the company had between 175 and 200 private treaty clients with an average deal size of between `15 crores and `20 crores, implying an aggregate investment that could vary between `2,600 crores and `4,000 crores.


Even as the private treaties scheme was apparently aimed at undermining competition to the particular media company, a number of its competitors started similar schemes. This company published the names of its private treaty clients on its website, besides glowing endorsements from representatives of companies who had "benefited" greatly from such schemes. What Sebi has now stated is that this disclosure is insufficient — each article/feature or story aired should carry a disclaimer.


It seemed the private treaties party would last forever, or well, almost, until something unexpected happened. The markets collapsed. This led to private treaties schemes losing much of their "sheen". This was because the "success" of such private financial agreements was considerably contingent on share prices rising continuously. It may be recalled that the benchmark sensitive index of the stock exchange at Mumbai had peaked at 21,000 in January 2008 and has not exceeded that mark thereafter.


Besides the fall in share prices, there was another problem that cropped up. While the value of the media company's holdings in partner companies came down, the former had to nevertheless meet its commitments to provide advertising space at old "inflated" valuations. That's not all. The income-tax department of the ministry of finance decided to use the "old" prices at which the original share transaction had taken place for the purposes of computation of assessable taxable income of the concerned media companies on which corporation taxes are levied.


While media companies that indulged in such practices predictably denied that they provided favourable editorial coverage to "private treaty" clients and/or blacked out adverse comment against such corporate entities, the truth was difficult to verify simply because the exact content of the financial agreements that were struck were not open to public scrutiny. One advertisement that was published on December 4, 2009, in the Mumbai edition of a newspaper was titled: How to perform the Great Indian Rope Trick and cited the case of a retail chain.


What was being referred to was how this company's strategic partnership with the media group had paid off. The advertisement read: "…with the added advantage of being a media house, (the private treaties arrangement)… went beyond the usual role of an investor by not straining the partner's cash flows. It was because of the unparalleled advertising muscle of India's leading media conglomerate. As (the company) furiously expanded, (it was)… ensured that (the company) was never short on demand… a better phrase for it — business sense".


In many media organisations, news is sought to be distinguished from material that is paid for, called advertisements or "advertorials", by using different or distinctive fonts, font sizes, boundaries and/or disclaimers such as "sponsored feature" or even the letters "advt" printed in a miniscule font size in a corner of the advertisement — which may or may not escape the attention of the reader. However, in certain instances, even a fig-leaf of a disclaimer was done away with.


On July 15, 2009, S. Ramann, officer on special duty, Integrated Surveillance Department of Sebi, wrote to the chairman, Press Council of India, Justice G.N. Ray, on this malpractice. It was only on February 22 this year that the council accepted Sebi's suggestions to make mandatory disclosures of stakes held and the percentage of stake held. As is often said, better late than never — only time will now tell whether the practice of media companies striking private treaties with advertisers will subside in the future.


- Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator







Ancient Indians exceeded in understanding the energies and instruments which run this creation more than any other race in the world at a time when the world was supposed to be inhabited by barbarians and nomads. One of the manifestations of those energies is represented by the mace, popularly known in India as "gada".


The mace existed since Vedic times and finds mention in ancient literatures signifying concentration of immense power and is associated with certain very powerful energies like Lord Hanuman, Bheemsen and many more who were carriers of the extremely powerful pranic force. It is more popularly associated with Hindu religion, but actually it has existed from a time where no religion existed, the vedic times. An eminent personality and a popular wrestler Gama Pahalwan was a Muslim and a practitioner of gada, which busts the myth of its association with Hindu religion.


The mace represents concentrated prana. Like earth moves around sun and gathers life force from it and stores it, similarly mace also moves around the body to gather life force to be used by its practitioner.


It has a shape similar to earth, and in the fashion that earth revolves around sun and rotates on its axis, mace movements are also practiced in double rotations to produce phenomenal power. It is not to be understood like an exercise routine, as it requires invocation of certain energies to awaken the hidden potential in the practitioner. Technical mastery of the ancients is revealed in gada's architecture — the shape of the ball is like that of the earth, with the weight of the ball equivalent to that of the handle. In the beginning when a practitioner has just started to learn the basic movements, the weight recommended is 4 kgs:4 kgs, that of the ball and the handle. At this stage only a glimpse of the energy world are given to the beginner. As the sadhana progresses, invocations and mantras are introduced, the weight increases to 6:6, then 8:8 and 10:10.


Accomplished masters practice with 15:15 kilos (total of 30 kilos) of weight, after gaining mastery over the physical and etheric manifestations of the gada.


A very important pre-requisite for the practice of mace is a strong back and clean flow of prana in pranamaya kosha, specially sushumna nadi which can be achieved with the practice of Sanatan Kriya, and specific yogic techniques.


The spine should be in excellent condition as it is the primary support in carrying the body's weight and aiding specific movements. It should be strong enough to hold 80-100 kilos of weight without any strain. Some specific mantras are chanted before and during the practice which harness the energy produced during the circular movements. The channels (nadis) in the etheric body need to be cleansed regularly to be able to allow the energy produced to flow through them and then to be stored in the manipoorak chakra, the centre of power in the etheric body.


The sadhana also requires one to practice samyam kriya where one chooses an energy force like sun, moon or fire, as prescribed by the guru and calls for their force to be channelised in the physical and subtle body.


A practitioner of mace is endowed with immense physical strength, virility and radiance like the sun and the physical body becomes a reflection of the form of one's guru.


The movement of energy in subtle channels increases sukra (the vital fluid and potency in the body) and provides unsurpassed strength visible in the radiance and beautiful shape the body of the practitioner exhibits. An immediate state of balance in pranamaya (subtle body) and annamaya koshas (physical body) is achieved in the initial stages which gets more and more enhanced as the practice progresses. The ultimate state is the reflection of the energy focused on the self, as what yoga teaches, what you follow, so as you become. No yogic practice is complete or accomplished without guru's grace and any doubt on the guru results in failure of the practice, which then simply becomes a physical exercise.


— Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting.
Contact him at [1]









A protest by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena was only to be expected. Still more crucially, P Chidambaram's off-the-cuff assertion on "saffron terror" has caused a flutter in the Congress roost. To the extent that the party is now engaged in a damage-control exercise. It doesn't behove the country's Home Minister to display such symptoms of foot-in-the-mouth ailment. In a sense, he has reinforced the tactlessness of the ministry's secretary. GK Pillai was, of course, not off the mark in his perception of 26/11; not so his minister who has spoken of  a spurt in "saffron terror" without a shred of evidence since the Malegaon outrage a couple of years ago. Small wonder that the Congress clarification mirrors the party's embarrassment over the Home Minister's unsubstantiated barb against the Hindutva brigade. Was it a case of subjective reflection? Is it possible that he was driven by the Intelligence Bureau's unwarranted conclusion? Was it a calculated attempt to make the waters murky weeks before the Allahabad High Court pronounces its verdict in the 60-year-old Ram Janambhoomi-Babari Masjid case? One didn't expect answers to these questions in the prompt response of the Congress in the face of the strident BJP/Shiv Sena protest in the Lok Sabha. The ruling party has tried to be wise after the event. "Terrorism has no colour; if any, it is black. Saffron has its historical importance. In politics, people should be careful about the use of expressions."  

Effectively has the Congress distanced itself from its Home Minister's perception. Terror can be devastating irrespective of the religious impetus. The Congress has been stumped with Murli Manohar Joshi's statement of fact that "saffron is part of the national flag". His fear of repercussion should the colour be linked with terrorism is not wholly unfounded. Mr Chidambaram has engaged in a bizarre version of secular fundamentalism. Just as the Shiv Sena's reaction reeks of injured innocence ~ "How can a Hindu be a terrorist in Hindustan?" Yes, he can if the outrages in Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, Ajmer and Malegaon are cited as instances. Mercifully, the country has for some time been free of Hindutva mayhem.  Unwittingly or otherwise, the Home Minister has played into the hands of the saffronites. Just as his ministry had played into the hands of the anti-India hawks in Pakistan. The ruling party's exercise in trouble-shooting in August follows that of the MEA in July. And the common strand is the Ministry of Home Affairs.




IT isn't exactly clear what provoked the students of Presidency University to indulge in a bout of campus indiscipline as they did on Saturday. Was it because Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia had uttered home-truths on the West Bengal government's failures in course of his presentation at the Centre for Economic Studies? Or, as seems equally possible, was it because the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission had airbrushed the ineptitude of the Centre in tackling issues no less serious. Notably, food inflation, Maoism, Islamist terrorism and the Kashmir violence. Whatever the provocation, the students reacted with greater indignation than they were entitled to. Dr Ahluwalia was the target of eggs and tomatoes. And breathtaking in its understatement was the authorities' reaction that "there was a small melee". Maybe in comparison to the Seventies when Left radical students would hurl Molotov cocktails at public transport on College Street it was. Clearly, the incident was an outcome of malice aforethought. Dr Ahluwalia's address was not disrupted; he was the target of the missiles as he stepped out of Derozio Hall. And one must give it to him that he has been remarkably forgiving in his response: "They are students and they have every right to protest."

On a parity of reasoning, Dr Ahluwalia ought to have diagnosed the Centre's failures as well. Not least because of the controversy generated by Yojana Bhavan's projections on BPL figures and crucially, the quantity the poor are entitled to eat. The figures have not been accepted by the National Advisory Council. Not that the radical school, pre-eminently Jean Dreze and Aruna Roy, has had its way. Though the entitlements have been increased at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, the NAC chairperson, there is no indication when the Food Security Bill will materialise. The students perhaps expected a statement on food inflation from Dr Ahluwalia; the Planning Commission has a pivotal role in drafting the food security legislation. Not wholly unrelated are suicides by farmers in Vidarbha and more recently in West Bengal and the entry of corporates into tribal areas. The broad theme of the seminar was on the current perspectives of the Indian economy.  Alas, the one-hour presentation was focused almost entirely on the woes of Bengal.  Dr Ahluwalia would seem to have skirted the failures of the Centre; the ranting was targeted against the state. Hence the robust expression of students' dissent. Truth to tell, both UPA-II and the Left Front have been equally ineffective. Should one expect better from the Trinamul Congress?




WHENEVER the NSCN(IM) name crops up in the aftermath of any incident the organisation is very prompt in denying its involvement. Last month, Assam accused the outfit's armed cadres of entering some villages in Sivasagar district along the border with Arunachal Pradesh and dismantling some huts, even of setting fire to a tea garden factory. The NSCN(IM) denied its involvement, calling it "ridiculous". Recently, Assam Rifles personnel killed an NSCM(IM) cadre at Namsa in Nagaland and arrested five others with arms and ammunition. According to an Assam Rifles press note, the killing was not premeditated and explained that while its patrol team was on routine duty it was fired upon by NSCN(IM) cadres and it retaliated in self-defence. The outfit accused the Assam Rifles of violating the Nagaland ceasefire ground rules and said that if other camp inmates fled, as the Assam Rifles claimed, it was not because of timidity but because they did not want to violate the ceasefire ground rules. While condemning the paramilitary force's action the NSCN(I) press note let it be known that if its cadres were to fight, five or six of its men could effectively tackle 30 or 40 of the Assam Rifles. Blaming Assam Rifles for the incident, NSCN(IM) ceasefire monitoring cell chief "Brigadier" Phunthing said theirs' was a designated camp that had been there for more than three years. It was unthinkable that Assam Rifles was unaware of the existence of such a camp all these years.

Which brings to mind the Sheroy village incident in Manipur's Ukhrul district in 2008. When Assam Rifles located an NSCN(IM) camp there, it gave the inmates a 72-hour deadline to vacate but they stayed put saying that unless the government allowed them a designated camp in place of Sheroy there was no place else for them to go. After much persuasion they left and it is said that the Assam Rifles even helped them while shifting. The fact remains that the Nagaland ceasefire does not apply in Manipur!









THE Naxalite leader, Charu Majumdar, had overlooked the significance of mass movements and mass organisations in 1969. He imagined that a revolutionary situation did exist at that time, and it called for guerrilla war. But guerrilla warfare cannot be waged through mass organisations. It presupposes a secret party organisation. Mass organisations are revisionist by nature,

The Maoists are trying to base their movement on the support of the masses. But how can mass support be obtained without relying on mass organisations? If the Maoists avoid mass movements and mass organisations, they will be alienated from the people. In the absence of mass support, the efforts of the party will come to nought.

The Maoists have from time to time tried to establish mass organisations. Yet they have relied more on guerrilla squads and less on these organisations. This has led to a rift between the party outfits and the mass organisations. The Srikakulam Girijan Sangham was formed in 1958 under the leadership of the Communist Party of India. 

The Girijans are an oppressed tribal community in Andhra Pradesh and they had formed a democratic mass organisation under the leadership of the CPI. In the late 60s, in the wake of Charu Majumdar's deviation from the conventional Left line, the organisation was virtually disbanded. Though the People's War Group rectified the Charu Majumdar line by forming mass organisations like the Rythu Coolie Sangham and the Radical Students Union, they continued with the annihilation of class enemies.  Retaliation against police torture has no relation with the actual movement.

Mass organisations like the Andhra Pradesh Radical Students Union or the Rythu Coolie Sangham can hardly carry out open activities or agitations. Nor for that matter can the Mazdoor Kisan Sangrami Parishad in Bihar. Nowhere in Andhra Pradesh, Dandakaranya or Bihar has any struggle, even half as strong as the one in Telengana, been undertaken.

The extremists have been active for almost four decades, but they do not yet control a large area that is comparable to the liberated zone that the Chinese Communists could establish in Yenan within a decade ~ between 1930 and 1940. They have not been able to reach out to the masses of the peasantry,  and have extended their influence only to a few areas, inhabited by the tribals and the landless poor.
Historically there is a difference between revolutionary base areas and guerrilla zones. The Maoists are often confused. Within their zones, they retaliate and defend their areas through guerrilla squad actions. But they do not have sufficient support of the masses. They are yet to organise a mass agrarian struggle, still less build up a mass organisation for a revolutionary movement.

Charu Majumdar had argued that the peasantry as a whole does not participate in guerrilla warfare. That war is initiated by the advanced class-conscious section of the peasantry. This is why a guerrilla war often turns out to be a struggle of only a handful of people. In his reckoning, the guerrilla fighters must have the backing of the peasantry as a whole. In order to achieve this objective, he entrusted upon the CPI-ML the task of organising the peasantry.

In May 1969, the police took recourse to a policy of encirclement and suppression in Srikakulam. In response, the Maoists stepped up their annihilation campaign. They also stressed the importance of underground activities over open mass action. The pattern of attacks changed. While in the past a guerrilla squad used to be accompanied by hundreds of peasants from different villages, secret raids were now undertaken. At Mushahari in Bihar, the stress shifted from mass attacks to guerrilla action by September 1969. On the issue of building up of guerrilla squads based on mass support, the Maoists in Debra were engaged in a debate with the Border Regional Committee in 1969. During this period, the government sought the help of the Eastern Frontier Rifles to suppress the movement. While the cadres in Debra favoured mass movements, the Border Regional Committee believed in the annihilation of class enemies to the exclusion of other forms of movement.  On 1 November 1969, at a meeting of the Border Regional Committee the cadres of Debra put forward the proposal to form Peasants' Committees. But the suggestion was not accepted and they were criticised for organising mass meetings and favouring mass movements.

Soon after this, Charu Majumdar visited Debra and Gopiballavpur, and advised his followers to expand their activities to neighbouring areas. Expansion was necessary to escape the police encirclement, and also to surround the enemy encirclement with newer bases from outside. The willingness of the people to provide shelter and protection to the guerrillas and later to join them presupposes a degree of political training. There was no widespread response from the masses of the peasantry as in Gopiballavpur and Debra.
From the time of Charu Majumdar till today, the Maoists are conscious that the success of guerrilla activities depends on the formation of a mass base. Only the politically conscious peasantry can act as the support-structure of the guerrilla squads and ensure their victory. But although the Maoists have been carrying on guerrilla activities since the Sixties, they have generally failed to build up a foundation. If the base areas are not built up, it is impossible for guerrilla activities to succeed.

At the present juncture, the Maoists are confronted with a dilemma ~ how to conduct guerrilla warfare and at the same time spread the  political ideology among the peasantry. If they decide to annihilate class enemies, they are bound to face state repression. In order to meet the challenge, the Maoists will have to build up base areas. 
And this will call for the involvement of the masses. Indeed, the Maoists are hobbled by the division in their ranks over building up mass movements and mass organisations.

The writer is former Reader, Department of Political Science, Asutosh College, Kolkata







Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa's decision to ban iron ore exports from the state's minor ports has thrown up more questions than answers. Ostensibly, the move is aimed at curbing illegal exports of iron ore considering the series of allegations that his government has been facing, including charges of encouraging such activities. Alongside, he has banned the transport of the ore except for supply to domestic steel mills in the state.
On the face of it, the measures are aimed at curbing, even stopping, iron ore exports. However, the chief minister, however, may well be playing a deeper game. It may be aimed at demonstrating some firmness in bringing about change, seemingly to take on the powerful mine barons and ministers in his cabinet, namely, Janardan and Karunakar Reddy..

The ban on iron ore exports in itself , however, has not satisfied the opposition Congress and the JD-S. Nor, for that matter, has it pleased scores of miners in the state. The Congress sees it as a knee-jerk reaction to neutralize the impact of the party's "Bellary chalo'' padayatra against illegal mining and export of iron ore and the government's failure to order a CBI probe. Miners, small and big, see it as a death-knell for their business. Consequently , they propose to approach the apex court.

The miners argue that in its hurry to punish those involved in illegal mining and export of iron ore, the government is penalizing genuine businessmen too. It's like cutting one's nose to spite one's face. The ban, as per their refrain, would cripple their business not to speak of the problems they would face with foreign buyers if their export commitments are not fulfilled. In addition, the state and national exchequer would lose several thousand crores by way of revenue. On a conservative estimate, the state exports almost 45 million tonnes of iron ore annually with another 18 million tonnes accounted for by domestic consumers. 

The Congress and JD-S believe that the ban is nothing but an eyewash. If the objective is to curb illegal mining and export, they feel the government should institute a CBI inquiry.

This is a sensitive issue for the chief minister, who also holds the finance portfolio, as all the departments connected with iron ore exports including its movement to ports, transportation by road, VAT, sales tax and revenue, come under him. Significantly, prior to becoming CM, he was controlling the same departments as deputy chief minister in the 20-month-old JD-S- BJP coalition government in 2006.

It would, therefore, be naïve to assume that he had no idea of the extent of illegal mining, transportation and export of iron ore all these years. Was he turning a blind eye to these activities or was it just dereliction of duty? Or, is there more to it than meets the eye? These are queries which are being raised by the public and the opposition and not without substance. For the record, the Lokayukta in his report on illegal mining, has already said that between 2004 and 2008, illegal mining, transportion and export of iron ore was rampant in Karnataka with the state exchequer losing over Rs 80,000 crore by way of revenue .

Mr Yeddyurappa, however, finds it difficult to answer these queries, choosing to refer only to his tenure as finance minister in the JD-S- BJP coalition government. All he had to say in defence is : "you know the constraints under which I was working. My hands were tied as deputy chief minister. Which is why I resigned and came out of the coalition. Now as the CM, I have banned export of iron ore from the state's ports." He conveniently forgets the fact that it took the BJP 20 months to pull out of the coalition. What was he doing till then?
That is why the Congress wants the the apex investigating agency to probe charges of illegal mining in the state particularly against the controversial Reddy brothers and their confidante, Mr Sriramulu. In the process, it would like Mr Yeddyurappa to be exposed as well.

The Reddy brothers, on their part, have been facing charges of illegal mining, an activity which is said to have gained prominence during Mr Yeddyurappa's regime. As the government has repeatedly rejected the demand for a CBI probe, the opposition Congress has launched a padayatra to highlight the issue. It is also seeking to use the opportunity to build up pressure against the BJP government for allegedly encouraging rampant corruption..

On the face of it, the government's move to ban iron ore exports appears unconvincing . Largely because if the aim is to show that it wants to check or curb the Reddy brothers, then the move falls flat as they do not have any mines in the state.Their only recognized mining company, the Obalapuram Mining Corporation, is in Andhra Pradesh, on the borders of Bellary-Hospet in Karnataka. Consequently, the controversial brothers do not need to move their ore from the ports in Karnataka.

It is another matter that the ban and transport of ore for export purposes within Karnataka may affect them indirectly. This is because, as per the opposition's allegation, the majority of the miners in the state are required to give at least 30 per cent of their ore to the Reddy brothers, as part of a trading arrangement with them, forcibly or otherwise. 

Be that as it may, Mr Yeddyurappa is going to town telling everybody who will listen that he is serious about checking illegal mining. Which explains his plea to Dr Manmohan Singh. In a detailed memorandum,the chief minister underlined the importance of preserving the environment by stopping mining and export of iron ore — at the state and national level. 

The chief minister, however, conveniently forgets that the Reddy brothers have been allowed by his government to exploit their position to take maximum advantage. While the charges against them have not been proved, the fact remains that the Lokayukta's report submitted last year details the extent to which illegal mining has been going on in the state for the last seven to eight years .

He has not named the Reddy brothers but he does talk about the manner in which some officials of the government, including those in transport, road, revenue and sales tax, were abetting the illegal activity. 
Even though the Lokayukta's report was submitted last year , the government did not act on the recommendations. Not surprisingly, even Congress and JD-S members have not made any determined effort to ensure the report is made public. This, for the simple reason that most of their members themselves are involved in the mining industry and their activities are not above board. To that extent, the Reddy brothers alone cannot be charged with being involved in illegal mining.

Admittedly, the opposition is now making noises demanding a CBI inquiry with the chief minister predictably rejecting it. Instead, he favours a probe by the Lokayukta knowing fully well that the ombudsman's powers are limited as he cannot investigate public representatives, including the chief minister, ministers and the MLAs. At the same time, Mr Yeddyurappa cannot be faulted for not showing any trust in the CBI considering its past record. He fears a CBI probe may take several years, going beyond the remaining tenure of the BJP in the state.


This argument cannot be brushed aside.

It would be naïve to underestimate Mr Yeddyurappa. He may well be happy with the Congress's decision to launch a padayatra as it helps him in cornering, if not in reining in, the powerful Reddy brothers. Witness, therefore, his assertion that his decision to ban iron ore exports to check illegal mining had the backing of the BJP's central command. Accordingly, wittingly or otherwise, the Congress may be helping the chief minister with its padayatra while focusing on the Reddy brothers.

That the chief minister is beginning to flex his muscles as far as the Reddy brothers are concerned, is also becoming obvious. Notice, therefore, the way he ticked off the brothers for seeking to hold a padayatra to counter the Congress.

Equally interesting, the BJP's state unit chief, Eashwarappa, has been giving hints that in the event the Reddy brothers do pull out from the government, the party would not be averse to seeking JD-S help to continue in power. The Reddy brothers are said to control at least 30 of the 110-odd BJP MLAs though that number seems to be dwindling. Already, some of their trusted ministers and MLAs, including Mr Renukacharya, have started a "Reddys hatao" campaign, much to the chagrin of their erstwhile mentors. These are not isolated developments but planned carefully.

Already, speculation is rife that feelers have been sent by the BJP to Mr Revanna, son of former Prime minister and JD-S leader, Deve Gowda, as part of its move to be ready for any eventuality. The two parties are said to be looking at the prospect of joining hands if only to help the Yeddyurappa government in completing its remaining term of three years. The catch ~ save the sagging image of the ruling party by ejecting the Reddy brothers and their confidante, Mr  Sriramulu. In return, create a post of deputy chief minister for Mr Revanna.


The same could apply in the event the Reddys pull out with their supporters. Mr Revanna, incidentally, would do anything to become deputy CM.

Mr Yeddyurappa may well be playing a very calculated game to kill two birds with one stone, as it were. First to neutralize the Congress padayatra. Secondly, to marginalize and check the Reddy brothers. Therefore, even if the ban does not affect them directly, it could be enough to send the right message. The next few months could indeed turn out to be extremely interesting.

The writer is The Statesman's special representative, based in Bangalore








Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed a group of eminent persons as advisers to help the world's poorest nations achieve their development targets, ahead of a major international conference on the least developed countries set for next year, according to a statement issued by his spokesman in New York. 

He said the group consists of 10 members chosen for their "high international stature, expertise and strong commitment to global development." The team will be co-chaired by Alpha Oumar Konaré, former president of Mali, and Jacques Delors, former president of the European Commission. It will raise public awareness and help build a strong political commitment in key areas such as trade, investment, technology transfer, official development assistance and adaptation to the effects of climate change. 

The fourth UN Conference on the least developed countries will take place in Istanbul from 30 May to 3 June 2011. It will assess the implementation of the Brussels programme of action for the LDCs. The 10-year Brussels programme had outlined measures to be taken by both industrialized nations and the LDCs to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development.

It includes specific commitments on good governance, enhancing the role of trade in development, reducing vulnerability to natural disasters, protecting the environment, mobilizing financial resources and speedy implementation of steps to reduce the debt burden on poor countries. 

Congo gang-rape: The Secretary-General has expressed outrage on the incident of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He told the Security Council that it was a brutal reminder of the challenges of keeping the peace and protecting civilians in conflict zones.  

He requested that the council members seriously consider what more could be done in the DRC and elsewhere to ensure the protection of civilians in the context of peace-keeping operations. He decided to dispatch Athul Kare, assistant secretary-general for peace-keeping operations, to the DRC and instructed his special representative for sexual violence in conflict, Margot Wallström, to take charge of the UN's response. 

Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said in a statement that Unicef supports this response. He added that this incident must serve as an urgent call to stop the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war. He noted the rape and assault of 154 Congolese civilians during an attack by armed elements of the Mai-Mai and the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Mogadishu hotel: The president of the Security Council, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin, condemned the armed militant attack on a hotel in Somalia "in the strongest terms" and called for the perpetrators to be brought swiftly to justice, in a statement read to the press by Ambassador Churkin of Russia, in New York. The council stressed the need to continue strengthening Somali security institutions and the importance of an inclusive dialogue in the peace process, the statement said. 

The envoy for Somalia, Augustine P Mahiga has strongly condemned attack on a hotel in Mogadishu, which killed 30 civilians, including members of Parliament. 

According to media reports, the attack involved Somali insurgents dressed as police officers who stormed the hotel and opened fire, and later blew up, it added. 

"These callous, brutal acts, which were clearly aimed at causing maximum bloodshed to innocent people, defy rational comprehension," said Augustine P Mahiga, special representative for Somalia. "Those who are responsible for these murders are only interested in causing destruction and misery to the Somali people. "They will not, however, succeed in their violent campaign. The Somali people are yearning for peace which they deserve and they will be heard. The peace process will continue in Somalia despite the attempts by a violent minority to disrupt it." 

Copters for Pakistan: The under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, John Holmes, has appealed to the international community for 40 helicopters to deliver relief aid to those stranded in areas inaccessible by land as 800,000 people affected by the floods in Pakistan can only be reached by helicopter. "These unprecedented floods pose unprecedented logistical challenges, and this requires an extraordinary effort by the international community," he said.

UN agencies reported that flood waters have washed away roads and bridges, cutting off some of the flooded areas from the rest of the country. The agencies have expressed concern over access problems in the Swat Valley of the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and in the areas of Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistani-administered Kashmir in the east. 

Mr Holmes noted that in parts of the central and southern provinces of Punjab and Sindh, where the Indus has breached its banks, several locations have been surrounded by water and are currently unreachable by road. "In northern areas that are cut off, markets are short of vital supplies, and prices are rising sharply," said Marcus Prior, spokesperson for the WFP. "People are in need of food staples to survive (and) there is currently no other way to reach these flood victims, other than by helicopter," he added. 

The floods have affected over 17 million people, according to recent estimate. Some eight million affected are believed to be in need of humanitarian assistance. Over 1.2 million homes have been damaged or destroyed. The floods have inflicted severe damage to agriculture with three million hectares of crops destroyed and thousands of livestock killed. The damage could pose a major threat to food security in the South Asian nation, the UN has warned. 

Displaced Georgians: The world refugee agency has expressed concern about the eviction of hundreds of internally displaced persons from State-owned buildings in Tbilisi by the Georgian police. The eviction process has been criticized by Georgia's public defender and has also triggered a series of protest rallies in Tbilisi by a group of IDPs, according to a press release. 

The office of the UNHCR said in a statement that of particular concern is the fact that "recent evictions of internally displaced people, living in collective centres and shelters in Tbilisi, have not been undertaken with the necessary transparency or circulation of information." According to Georgia's ministry for internally displaced persons, displaced families are offered either financial compensation of $10,000 or alternative housing. The IDPs said that they were offered accommodation only in rural areas that lacked job opportunities. 









Congested Districts To Be Cleared 

Scheme To Cost 822 Lakhs 

There was a full attendance of members at the meeting of the Bengal Legislative Council on Tuesday morning. His Honor Sir Edward Baker presided. 

After the ceremony of presenting sanads, reported in another part of the issue, the Hon Mr Levinge, the Hon Mr Stephenson, the Hon Mr Dundas and the Hon Mr Oldham took the oath of allegiance to the Crown. 
The Hon Mr Stephenson, in moving for leave to introduce a Bill to provide for the improvement and expansion of Calcutta, said it was intended that the Bill should be published for information, and should not be referred to a Select Committee until the Cold Weather Session. He then went on to give a history of the Improvement Scheme. He said:- 

The starting point of the Improvement Scheme was the Report of the Calcutta Building Commission in 1897. In the Resolution appointing this Commission it was stated that the Sanitary Officers deputed by the Medical Board to enquire into the condition of Calcutta had shown to what an extent overcrowding prevailed in Calcutta and how the construction of buildings in the older part of the town impeded or rendered impossible any effective conservancy, and the Commission was directed to enquire into the history and operation of the existing law and by-laws on buildings and ascertain in what respects these had proved defective. They are further desired to enquire into the desirability of opening out the congested tracts of Calcutta and the most feasible plan of effecting this.The suggestions of the Commission as regards building operations were dealt with in connection with the amendment of the Calcutta Municipal Act, but these suggestions could only be of effect in the future, and could do nothing to remedy the neglect in the past. On this point their recommendations were necessarily vague, and they could only insist on the desirability of opening out a number of fairly wide streets, and, where possible, creating open spaces as lungs to the locality.










There are doubts if cricket ever was the noblest game. But what is beyond question is that cricket today has become synonymous with corruption. The recent revelations about the involvement of Pakistani cricketers with bookies and the bowling of deliberate no balls only highlight this. The latter is being seen as evidence of attempts to fix specific aspects of the game. The incidence of corruption in cricket is highest in South Asia, especially in Pakistan. It is no coincidence that cricket is most popular in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; it is in these countries that it means big money. Bookmakers have taken advantage of the popularity of cricket to introduce unscrupulous practices. The ready acceptance of such practices can be linked to certain sociological trends that have affected the game. It is no longer possible that in the subcontinent only those belonging to the upper echelons of society and those exposed to the English way of life get drawn into playing cricket. The popularity of cricket and the fact that the game offers a lucrative opening have widened the catchment area of cricketers. Many of the new entrants are not aware of the values and lore associated with cricket. This results in practices that those who have an exalted view of the game find despicable.


The fault-lines of South Asian cricket probably run deeper. Cricketers linked to nefarious activities are often not punished. Society tends to overlook their transgressions. Mohammad Azharuddin, more than whom very few cricketers have been implicated in match-fixing and betting, is now a member of Parliament belonging to the Congress. Obviously, neither the Congress nor the voters took his offences seriously. This is not surprising in both India and Pakistan, where some of the leading figures in public life — the so-called exemplars of society — are known to be thoroughly corrupt. Persons of dubious integrity are allowed to run state-level and national cricket associations. The scandals regarding the Indian Premier League have only underlined this tendency and its consequences. A cleansing operation in cricket may be easier spoken about than done since it might involve throwing out the baby with the bath-water. Also, it needs to be remembered that, in the global context, cricket is a minor game. Only South Asians go mad about it and then refuse to play the game.








If party politics does the tribal people some real good, that should be hailed as a welcome change. The practice in Indian politics has been to either completely ignore the interests of these people or see them only as the so-called vote bank. Rahul Gandhi's support to the tribal people's cause in Orissa may or may not help the Congress in the state. It is fair game in competitive politics for Naveen Patnaik to show that he cares for these people just as much or even more. In a democracy, it is for the people to decide whom they trust. But to see a "political conspiracy" in the Union environment and forests ministry's decision to veto the clearance for the Vedanta group's bauxite mining project is to deliberately confuse the issues. Mr Patnaik's party, the Biju Janata Dal, has complained that the Centre's veto on the Vedanta and the Posco projects reflects its allegedly discriminatory attitude to development projects in states ruled by Opposition parties. It has cried foul that the Centre did no such thing to the Polavaram dam project in Andhra Pradesh because the state is ruled by the Congress. It is a bad argument that does not explain why the Orissa government failed to obey the laws relating to environment and the tribal people's right to forest land.


The issues that the Centre's directives on the two Orissa projects raise go far beyond party politics. All these years, laws on environment and the protection of tribal people's rights were merrily flouted both by the private and the public sector projects. An antiquated land-acquisition law allowed the government to take over any land in the 'public interest'. The affected people's opinion did not matter either in the acquisition of their land or in the compensation the government unilaterally decided on. What the Union ministry of environment and forests have done in the case of the two Orissa projects is not only true to the spirit of the new laws but also reflects a new concern for social justice. Whether a party gains by it or a state loses a large source of revenue is secondary to the larger legal and moral issues. Forest rights activists have raised questions over the Polavaram project too. The Centre should look into them, irrespective of the BJD's charges. The issues are too important to be left to games of political one-upmanship. The two projects happen to be in Orissa, but the issues involve governments and entrepreneurs everywhere.








The embarrassment over Viswanathan Anand's honorary degree has raised the question of academic autonomy in a dramatic, if peripheral, way. The human resource development minister has intervened; Anand has conducted himself with dignity; the matter has receded from the headlines. That is a relief and a pity. We have missed a chance to examine some deeper issues of academic functioning.


But first, the incident itself. Without holding any particular brief for Hyderabad University, we should accept that they were not guilty of any special sycophancy: they were simply following procedures that apply to all Central universities. The fact that some universities flout this stipulation is immaterial. Strictly speaking, Hyderabad was sending its proposal to honour Anand not to 'the government' but to Pratibha Patil in her capacity as University Visitor, not head of State. Academic autonomy was not technically infringed.


The problem is, the president qua Visitor to all Central universities relies on the Union ministry to help her execute this function. One may ask what help was called for. Need the president's secretariat have turned to the ministry? They must have heard of Anand. If they had doubts about his nationality, surely for a person so eminent, those doubts could have been discreetly resolved. Instead, the issue was fed into the bureaucratic machine — 'naturally', as Hyderabad's vice-chancellor accepted. The ministry, as naturally, proceeded to exercise the prerogative of babudom. The contretemps was brewed as much in Delhi as in Hyderabad.


But why should Anand's nationality be a point at issue? Because it appears (though as often in the breach as in observance) that foreign recipients of honorary degrees need government clearance. This truly militates against the principle of academic freedom.


Let us remove a red herring from the trail before we proceed. In such a situation, we habitually contrast the practice of the liberal West. The press has duly noted how many Indians have received honorary degrees from Western universities. This ideal picture is somewhat marred by the long history of respectable, even eminent Indian academics (not to mention students) who have been denied visas for legitimate academic trips, or obtained them after delay, harassment and humiliation. The United States of America might keep an application pending for weeks and months while it conducts a 'background check'. Erstwhile Soviet Bloc countries can insist that a letter from a university be backed up by a 'state invitation' — obtainable for a hefty fee paid in dollars. For Indian academics, professional visits abroad can be so fraught that they may have little sympathy to spare for those travelling the other way.


But that is an unworthy sentiment no academic community should publicly profess. It also overlooks a crucial point of difference. Those other countries carry out the probing and monitoring through their homeland or consular authorities. India, unusually and mortifyingly, involves the universities in the process, tarnishing the image of our academic community. Till a couple of years ago, any conference visitor from abroad needed advance clearance from Delhi, sometimes from more than one ministry. The host institute had to gather the information, which included parents' birthplace and the visitor's CV: a university might consider a scholar fit to invite, but a section officer might demur. And needless to say, the clearance never arrived without prodding and lobbying, faxes and phone calls.


That rule has been rescinded, but the mindset survives and flourishes. Indian institutions work under a burden of official constraints that Western academics would find intolerable and virtually inconceivable. I am talking of not only financial but also academic control. Some years ago, the heads of UGC curriculum development committees (including this writer) were deeply embarrassed at a warning from the then UGC chairman that 'unpleasant consequences may follow' for universities that did not heed their recommendations. Such crudeness is rare; but we still insist that scholars seeking travel grants submit the papers they will read on their trip (who assesses them?); that leave records of college teachers be sent to the government before salaries are paid; and that applicants for promotion meet a painfully mechanical set of criteria. A colleague of mine had her promotion in jeopardy because of her five mandatory 'journal articles', two had actually appeared in stand-alone volumes — prestigious, internationally recognized ones, but what of that?


So far, the only substantive response of the HRD ministry to this state of things is the celebrated proposal (now somewhat modified) for a handful of universities whose staff need have no recognized qualifications, whose curriculum need match no framework, and whose accounts are exempt even from CAG scrutiny. The rest of the system, however, would remain unaltered. In fact, the official appetite for reports, checks and reviews grows more insatiable by the day. In many states, it is generally acceptable for a vice-chancellor to be a retired member of the IAS, IPS or other government cadre.


Now for a sad admission. The academic community has so discredited itself that the public may often welcome such checks and controls. A depressing number of institutions have been formally charged with misrule and flagrant corruption, and who knows how many lie outside the net. But no less depressing is the number of committed, productive institutions steamrolled by the system into stagnation and frustration. We have a choice: to risk some degree of malfeasance, with deterrent penalties for abuse; or to deny our institutions the minimal freedom of operation that alone can revive them. Our decision may be helped if we recognize that the current academic regimen, like all restrictive ones, breeds its own corruption and power politics — often, indeed, leaves room for little else.


Another proviso needs making. To scrap the educational license-permit raj is not to allow free scope to the exploitative and intellectually paltry construct of the private university system as so far developed in India. To be fair to its members, their catchword is never freedom, rather 'discipline' and a parodic corporate efficiency. They keep their teachers on a tight leash. Incredibly, they sometimes dress their students in uniform. Their collective research output to date is virtually zero. Even the private school system prefers to direct its best products to the chaotic campuses of the state system. This is not to defend that chaos, usually caused these days not by lack of funds but by an incompetence in routine functions that goes hand in hand with babudom.


Let me end on a personal note. My teaching life was divided equally between two leading institutions in West Bengal, Presidency College and Jadavpur University. Fifty years ago, virtually all ambitious students in the arts and sciences would aim for the former; today, the scene has changed.


I am convinced that the single biggest factor behind the shift is the restrictive and bureaucratic atmosphere in which Presidency has functioned throughout its history, as against the abundant freedom enjoyed by the Jadavpur faculty. This is crucial in view of the wider spectrum of activities and commitments that, for better or worse, today's academics must take upon themselves. It involves a vastly greater quantum of infrastructure and amenities, and greater funds from an unprecedented range of sources. Jadavpur fosters secure and confident functionaries to meet these challenges, environmentally supported in taking the initiative and working things out their own way. This individualism might sometimes result in an untidiness of approach, the need for a little discreet ordering. Every friend of higher education in Bengal must pray that the exercise does not bureaucratize its function.


Academic freedom can compensate, at least in part, for the growing disparity in funds and privilege between Central and state-run universities, leave alone the untrammelled right to income without commitment enjoyed by private operators. It also helps to balance the political control of education in our own as in most other states. On recurrent visits to the Central University of Hyderabad (picture), I have been sneakingly envious of its lush sparsely-peopled campus, its imposing buildings, its super-abundant resources. I have consoled myself by recalling Aesop's fable of the starving wolf and the well-fed watchdog. But all said and done, that is the consolation of the deprived. (Think of the other fable of the fox and the grapes.) The wolf, as it were, is the underdog. Even its growls sound rather like a whimper.


The author is Professor Emeritus, Jadavpur University







It is totally inexplicable why the 'dressing up' of Delhi was not done over the past one year, well in advance of the Commonwealth Games. The job, then, could have been done with some sense of quality than in the slipshod manner it is being executed now. The dressing up will last only a few months, having been executed at exorbitant rates with everyone involved indulging in large-scale loot. Corruption has become a polite word for making illegal money when juxtaposed with what we are witnessing. The free-run of the corrupt authority has, over the years, given citizens the tacit license to do the same, which is why India is wallowing in the mire of self-destruction. Mosquitoes are breeding like never before, spreading dreaded illnesses. Drinking water is polluted. Roads are caving in wherever contractors have made money and shared the loot with those who commissioned them. Ostensibly better street lights are shedding less light than their predecessors.


India was known for its fine skills, techniques of building and embellishments. Edwin Lutyens used many such elements when he was building New Delhi. Unfortunately, Independent India's builders, like the Delhi Development Authority, and careless restorers, such as the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the New Delhi Municipal Council, are run by babus who neither have expertise nor aesthetic sensibility needed for these jobs. None of them is an architect or conservation architect. This is the sad truth. If various governments and their statutory bodies had not been in complete denial, intervention by professionals from civil society would have forged a great partnership and produced celebratory results. The insecure, disconnected babu spends his time working out convoluted means to keep such experts out to protect his ineptitude from being exposed. Is there no political leader, with a profound commitment to India's sensibilities and past heritage, who would want to change this fast-deteriorating situation?


Remove the hurdles


We do not have a single museum we can be proud of and send our children to visit. Our national archives are in abysmal condition with good people working there but without excitement or desire for excellence and accessibility because of a lack of leadership. The issue of access is knotted up in archaic procedures that drive away ordinary people. You have to be a 'very important person' to wade through the pigeon droppings and unbearable stench and be welcomed by the presiding babus. Ministers have done nothing to set a mandate for the babus to remove such hurdles. Criticism is taken to be an assault. The babu closes his door. A public space becomes more private than the private sector.


In the fortress of government, transparency is a foul word. This attitude towards sectors that should encourage a constant connection with the citizens spells the 'end of empire' in most history books. Municipalities, cultural and academic institutions and suchlike need proactive leadership, which is open to ideas that come from outside the portals of a closed-door government machinery. People know best about civilization and all its elements — which is why insular governments need to learn from their subjects.


Where is the excitement for change? Why are our institutions in a condition that embarrasses us? Why have we permitted the lowest tender everywhere? Why does a civilization such as ours not have a university comparable to Bologna, Oxford, Heidelberg or Harvard? We were innovators. We produced the most impressive philosophers, chroniclers, mathematicians, astronomers; then lost our strength through the later half of the last century into the new millennium.







What happens to single-sex worlds, be they colleges or terrorist organizations, when the opposite sex walks in, and what happens when it keeps away?


Some of the happiest years of my adult life were spent in an institution where I had no right to be. St Hilda's was the last women's college in Oxford when I went to teach there in the mid-Nineties. The four other women's colleges in the university had all turned "bisexual" (as a mischievous don had put it once) by the mid-Eighties. But St Hilda's was holding out against that inevitability, although male college lecturers like me had begun to trickle in. A few years later, when my post was advertised as a fellowship, I couldn't apply because of my sex. This was sad. But changing my life was easier and more exciting than changing my sex. So, I half-burnt my academic boats and came back to live in Calcutta. My sadness was keener, though, when I read in the papers, in 2006, that the college had voted finally (but not unanimously) to turn co-ed.


Something was lost, I felt, something that was important, valuable, and difficult to pin down and therefore to defend without sounding silly and impractical. A special kind of freedom and eccentricity of intellect and spirit was losing out to the practical, the sensible and the 'modern' in these last bastions of battiness, and the worldly life of the mind is going to be less remarkable for it. In the old St Hilda's, young women, whatever their nationality, background or class, coming to live away from home for the first time, would suddenly find themselves in a community of older women who robustly went about their ordinary lives but somehow also held together another way of life whose relations with the 'real world' were always a little askew and strange. What could be a better place for the young than this curious mix of the odd, the protective and the rigorous for trying out different ways of being oneself before braving out into the light of common day? And, for me as a man, to be let into this peculiar community of living and learning, and to be left to myself to adjust to its batty logic, felt like a rare and endlessly amusing privilege.


I remember Dr Mapstone, tutor for undergraduate studies in English, taking me into hall on my first day and whispering into my ears, throughout lunch, delicious little introductions while delicately stabbing at her inadequate-looking kippers without quite eating them: "That, Mr Sen, is Barbara Levick. She looks like, works on, and thinks she is, a Roman emperor." Hanging above us, in splendid gilt, was Dorothea Beale, the founder of the college. She and Frances Buss, both formidable suffragists, became the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of women's education in England, their names joined forever in an immortal limerick: "Miss Buss and Miss Beale,/ Cupid's darts do not feel.// How different from us, Miss Beale and Miss Buss."


St Hilda's food — we called it Women's Food — was never adequate for me, especially at its most exquisite. Every time I went into formal hall, I would have to stop at a doner-kebab van afterwards and wolf down a burger and chips. But about Cupid's dart, the limerick was wrong. As an undergraduate, I went out and then lived with a Hildabeast, as students of the college call themselves, and never have I seen more men cohabiting amorously with the women in grim-looking graduate houses. As we tiptoed out of our loved ones' rooms at night to pee, we would sometimes run into, and smile sheepishly at, one another on the stairs or landing before joining the queue outside the loo; our New Manhood always made us put the seat back down after we finished. Throughout my association with this particular Hildabeast, we both felt cannily but unobtrusively observed (if not exactly watched over), perhaps even subtly indulged, and never unduly judged by the late-20th-century descendants of Miss Beale and Miss Buss.


By the time I came back to St Hilda's as a tutor, my inclinations had clarified themselves in the other direction. But here too, the askewness, and the mix of rigour and freedom, proved naturally accommodating. And during the long and intense Shakespeare term, I discovered the joys of teaching the sonnets to a series of devilishly intelligent young women without Life necessarily following Art. Sometimes, while walking back home in the evening after a long working day with the poet's master-mistress, I would feel something fall away from me. It was a feeling, at once light and sharp and strange, of being suddenly genderless. But the feeling would slip out of my grasp if I tried to make sense of it. Is this what Mrs Woolf had felt too, so that she famously asked the ladies of Newnham and Girton, several decades ago, "whether there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness?"








A woman battles more with herself than with the world outside. She is defined by a profound identity crisis even in a 'post feminist' world. Her dilemma — and, as a matter of fact, her identity — are shaped by how she thinks she is being perceived and judged by others. She feels 'watched' all the time, which is why she needs a room of her own — a space free from society's gaze and the constant pressure of being judged.


Sometimes, exclusive spaces are created for women in certain nooks and corners of society. These spaces are 'forbidden territory' for men. Such spaces are created as much by a desire for gendered ordering as by a distinct urge in a woman to free herself from the regimentation of a man's world. The extinct andarmahal was one such space. Today the andarmahal cannot possibly exist in a home without its inhabitants being branded regressive. So the kitchen or the thakurghar has adopted its essence. In the public domain, institutions of education often create such spaces.


Schools and colleges exclusively for girls have been essential to the origin and development of women's education in India. I studied in one such institution — Lady Brabourne College. The college had been founded in 1939 by the then Bengal government to promote education among Muslim women. Eventually it opened its gates to women from other communities, but not to men. At the time of its inception in the 19th century, the college could not have admitted male students if it wanted Muslim, or high-caste Hindu, women to enter its premises. The rules of purdah were rigid and unbreakable at that time; even progressive people who sent their girls to study in a college would not dream of letting them interact with men. As a result, Lady Brabourne College internalized the characteristics of the andarmahal. And the legacy of seclusion continued for years, even after social mindsets had become much more liberal.


Spaces created exclusively for women may seem to free them from male supervision, but that is just an illusion.

The rules guiding these spaces are mostly conditioned by a patriarchal logic: that which seeks to 'protect' women by confining them within a closed space. The logic essentially denies women any agency over their own bodies and minds. This is ironic, given that women imagine such spaces to be a source of 'freedom' while the spaces serve to shackle them further. This is as true of theandarmahal as of colleges such as the Lady Brabourne. The college still carried the essence of that quaint regimentation when I joined it in 2003. Men seen waiting near the college entrance would be eyed suspiciously by teachers. During the annual fest, there would be police guarding the gates for 'security reasons' (the implied threat being male students from other colleges visiting the fest). Some of my fellow students, and their parents, almost preferred this aura of 'protection'. They felt safe and relieved.


Recently I read Sultana's Dream, an unsettling narrative by Begum Rokeya. Her wistful craving for a woman's world, where men are kept locked indoors and women rule the roost as they are the 'better race', is a strange reversal of the andarmahal. This may at first appear to be a radically empowering vision, but is really a manifestation of that identity crisis every woman experiences — one which makes her want to banish men from her world so that she can be at peace with herself. Is she not banishing herself from reality in the process?










There is something distinctly male in the aura around violence, mass bloodshed, guerrilla warfare and the long-drawn-out struggle for political ends. Perhaps they comprise an imaginary 'informal sector' in traditional male bastions. The emotions and values these phenomena evoke — cruelty, aggression, rage, vengefulness, doggedness, physical endurance, skill with weapons, hardihood, tight discipline, cool thinking, nerveless courage — have usually been considered marks solely of masculinity. Associated with the rough outdoors and constant danger, these are as far from 'womanliness' as anything can get.


The terrible success of the female terrorist has turned all this inside out. No domain of violence, hatred, despair or self-destructive rage is exclusive to men. Women, ironically, have an advantage here, simply because traditional associations tend to leave them out of the reckoning till the last minute. Strategists admit that women get easier access to their targets, for security personnel notice them less. Female suicide squads were activated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the 1980s, and the first female suicide bomber in the West killed 12 Israeli soldiers in South Lebanon in March, 1985. The Black Widows of Chechnya became famous after their attack on the Russian military headquarters close to Grozny in 2001.


The woman terrorist tears to shreds the softer sentiments her womanhood invokes. In Santosh Sivan's unsettling film, The Terrorist, the girl preparing to blow herself up at the feet of a Rajiv Gandhi-like leader seems to feel a shade of hesitation when she discovers she is carrying her dead lover's child. But in real life, the woman armed to kill by blowing herself up is startlingly different. In Israel, for example, women who are mothers, or even in an advanced stage of pregnancy, have been repeatedly caught or killed in suicide attacks they have led. Pregnancy can be very useful. Women strapped with explosives can get away by looking pregnant. But the most searing inversion of Sivan's film comes from the land where it all began — Sri Lanka. A pregnant woman came regularly for routine check-ups to a military clinic. She learnt everything within: rules, routes and schedules. In April, 2006, she tried to blow up the Sri Lankan army chief. She died, as did a number of soldiers. Had she got herself pregnant just to carry out this assignment? And could a man have managed this degree of devotion to a cause?





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





Cricket as an international game faces its worst ever crisis with several Pakistani players being charged with 'spot-fixing' during the recently concluded Test match against England at the Lord's. Unlike the previous allegations of match-fixing, which were mostly based on circumstantial evidence, damning evidence through a sting operation conducted by a British newspaper is available this time, directly implicating seven Pakistanis playing in that particular match. The cricket fraternity, administrators and fans around the world who have seen those video clips, have been completely benumbed with shock, turning into rage and disgust. The video showing the sequence of events on and off the field leading to the 1,50,000 pounds bribery scandal are so compelling and vivid that even Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has been forced to admit that the allegations against its cricketers had made his countrymen "bow their heads in shame."

If Pakistan, at least in words, has reacted strongly, the International Cricket Council (ICC), the supreme body of cricket, not surprisingly given its past record, wants the allegations to be corroborated and probed further before any action is initiated. When half the Pakistan team now touring England has come under a cloud and their integrity called into question, the ICC president Sharad Pawar has allowed the remaining part of the itinerary to go on, obviously because the cricket boards and the ICC are loathe to lose the revenue. A thick-skinned politician like Pawar possibly does not understand the gravity of the situation and the least he could have done was to issue a direction to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to keep the tainted players out until their names were cleared.

In fact, the ICC has been guilty of brushing under the carpet serious incidents of match-fixing ever since the Hansie Cronje-gate rocked the cricketing world just over a decade ago. The ICC has set up an Anti-Corruption Unit to sniff out erring players and investigate into allegations that surface from time to time, but it has utterly failed in its duty. The PCB has contributed more than its share to bring disrepute to the game through its kid-glove treatment of serious offenders, who have been allowed to mock at the so-called life bans. A time has come for the ICC to quickly establish the truth behind the latest scam and if it is proved, to impose a ban on the entire Pakistan's team at least for two years








It is debatable whether Union home minister P Chidambaram should have used the words saffron terrorism, at a meeting of top police officials in New Delhi, to refer to the threat posed to national security by Hindu militancy. The BJP and the Shiv Sena have objected to the phrase and held up parliament's proceedings in protest, claiming that the minister was identifying Hindus with terrorism and demeaning a colour that is traditionally associated with the religion. The government has usually avoided putting religious tags to terrorism and therefore could well have refrained from using the words saffron terrorism. But there is a problem of nomenclature; how are these terrorist actions to be described and differentiated? It is true that terrorism has no colour, creed or religion, but descriptions are important for understanding.

No one thinks there is an insult to or derogation of Islam or Sikhism when reference is made to Islamic or Sikh terrorism. Therefore the fuss made over the expression is political and the BJP should go beyond the preoccupation with words to recognise the problem. There is no doubt that a violent streak of Hindu militancy exists and the home minister was pointing to the problem. A number of incidents have taken place in the past months which show the involvement of groups like Abhinav Bharat,  Rashtriya Sansthan Manch and Sanathan Santha in acts of terror directed against Muslims or their religious places. The bomb blasts in Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, the Ajmer Sharif darga and at Malegaon in Maharashtra are some of them. The latest was the charging of 11 persons belonging to the Manch for the blasts in Goa last year. Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad has found evidence of conspiracy and violence on the part of these organisations which profess a militant Hindutva creed. 

The BJP should not be seen as defending these organisations and their actions. When the Malegaon conspiracy came to light the party had sought to blame the investigative agencies and even defended the accused. But later it distanced itself from them and even the RSS had declared that it would not support any individuals mixed up with them. There is no reason to change this position. Hindu militancy should be fought like any other form of militancy.








Throughout the 90 minute conversation, what came across was Abdus Zaeef's total distrust of Pakistan and its role in Afghanistan.


The unspeakable tragedy of the floods in Pakistan, on a scale unknown to man, has dwarfed much else in the region: 100 shot dead in three days of political, ethnic and sectarian violence in Karachi, the cloudburst in Leh, the Koochi (Pushotoon shepherds) and Hazara clashes, ironically, in Kabul's Darul Aman or haven of peace.

Before I meander, let me focus on just one image, here in Kabul, which may provide a clue (among other such clues) to the Afghan jigsaw.

Through a maze of contacts, I am invited to meet Mullah Abdus Salaam Zaeef who, at 42, is a veteran of dramatic experiences of a variety that makes fiction riveting. An orphan, he joined the ranks of the Mujahideen fighting the Soviets. He was then 15, fresh from a Madrasa in Pakistan where his relatives had fled to escape the 'Soviets.'

Mullah Omar, whom he even today refers to as Amirul Momineen, or the chief of the faithful, became his mentor and friend. Obviously, he left such an impression on Mullah Omar and others in the al-Qaeda-Taliban leadership that when the Taliban came to power in Kabul in 1996, he was posted as the Taliban ambassador to Islamabad. There were similar Taliban representations in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, but not Washington, leaving the US with suitable deniability of any affiliations with the 'fundamentalists.' It is another matter that 'fundamentalist' delegations made routine beelines to George Bush and his affiliates in Texas.

Fast forward to 9/11 and pictures of Donald Rumsfeld at Tora-Bora mountains pointing at the caves, flames leaping out: "Do you think they are cooking cookies in there?" He meant Osama bin Laden was hatching plots in those caves. He probably was.

Zaeef dutifully addressed press conferences outside his embassy in Islamabad. Then, in December, President Musharraf made a U-turn, joined the war on terror and remained George W Bush's 'most trusted ally' to the very end.

As a prelude to the Bush- Musharraf romance, the ISI promptly handed Mullah Zaeef to the US forces who ferried him to Guantanamo Bay.  His four year stint at this facility is now a book — in Guantanamo. He then wrote another book on his years with Taliban.

So, here I am at his two storey house protected by armed guards in an officially provided cabin outside the door. I am escorted to the terrace, lined with flower pots, a green synthetic carpet spread wall to wall.

Mullah Zaeef is a tall, burly man with a thick, bushy beard, blending with his black turban. There are no chairs. Taliban austerity, I suppose. We recline against colourful, rectangular cushions, bloated with extra stuffing of cotton.

As an opening gambit, I settle for the topic most current: negotiations with the Taliban. Who will you negotiate with: I ask.

"When Nato generals and ambassadors ask me that question I say: "Americans should negotiate with the people they are fighting — Taliban", he replies.

Negotiations only with Americans

What about President Hamid Karzai? I continue. "He is only an instrument of the Americans". But Gen David Petraeus, the US force commander, Pakistan's Gen Ashfaq Kayani and President Karzai have been meeting to work out the modalities of negotiations. "Negotiations are possible but only with the Americans" he persists.

Surely, Gen Kayani and the ISI will insist on a role. After all, the ISI has invested so much in Afghanistan over the past 30 years. "The CIA has invested; the ISI has spent a fraction of that investment", he does not even pause to think.

Are you saying that Pakistan has no role in negotiating peace in Afghanistan? "None whatsoever," he continues. "Afghan Taliban are fighting the Americans; Pakistan Taliban are fighting the Pakistan government... Pakistan Taliban or Afghan Taliban have no quarrel with the Pakistan nation, the people. The fight is with their intelligence agency, with their government."

I come to the point directly. The Pakistan army has been talking to the Haqqani group which is extending its influence in Afghanistan. "There are no talks with Haqqani". Who knows, Gen Petraeus may be right that there is no monolithic Taliban group, just a syndicate of groups. For Mullah Zaeef, the ultimate Taliban leader is Mullah Omar. Can I meet Mullah Omar? I ask him. "Extremely dangerous these days" he says.

Throughout the 90 minute conversation, what comes across is his total distrust of Pakistan. If you wish to see this cool man lose his composure, draw him out on Pakistan's control on Taliban in Afghanistan.

"They cannot be trusted. It was from their air bases, that the Americans first struck Afghanistan. They facilitated the US troop movements. And do you think they will let the US leave? Do you know that Balochistan is the critical supply route for US Afghan operations? Will Pakistan ever give up this source of income and, above all, control on the Americans". By now he is virtually frothing in the mouth.

"Even Israelis are not as harsh with their prisoners as the Pakistanis are. The torture our people have suffered….". Remarkably, he said all this on TV. "First they entertained me as Ambassador, then handed me over to the Americans like an ordinary criminal. Why?" he explodes. The next government in Afghanistan will be neutral between Indian and Pakistan.

For perspective, let me explain where Mullah Zaeef stands in the Taliban hierarchy. Quite as important as Mullah Zaeef were Taliban foreign minister and representative to the UN, Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil and Abdel Hakim Mujahid respectively.

After the September elections, we may hear these names as possible interlocutors, if there are to be negotiations, that is.








There is a scope for drastically reducing the wastages on street lighting in urban areas.


The state has begun with yet another year of power crisis. The difference is that power cuts have started even before the rainy season ended. As a matter of fact the power cuts are a continuation of the phenomenon of the last few years. No section of the consumers has remained unaffected with strong protests being reported from all over the state.

Everyone should be thinking of the way out of this decades' long mess, which is affecting all aspects of our life. There are no quick-fix solutions to the problems besetting the power sector. The crisis we are in is not the making of any single government or of the omissions and commissions of one year. It is the result of the continuous failure of the concerned authorities for decades to read the writing on the wall.

There can only be some measures to reduce the severity of the crises. However, the state should not leave any stone unturned in finding suitable solutions, even if it looks difficult to achieve or costly.

No response

People have been advocating many of the following measures for almost 25 years. Late prof A K N Reddy of IISc had provided many of these measures officially to the state government way back in mid 80s. Most of these measures may need concurrence of the state regulator, and is advisable to obtain it urgently.

Negotiate with the owners of captive power plants in the state so as to make use of their idle capacity, if any, at least during the peak demand hours. For various technical reasons the cost of such power may not be much higher than the imported power.

Escoms should procure good quality CFL lamps and supply them to consumers to replace the incandescent lamps at reasonable rates. We may be able to reduce the peak demand by about 200-250 mw, and save energy requirement of about 50 to 60 million units per month.

Start a massive public awareness campaign on energy conservation and energy usage efficiency through the media and with the help of NGOs. Appeal to the domestic consumers to save 5-10 per cent of energy every month as compared to the consumption during corresponding months of last year.

Appeal to the public to avoid using electrical appliances other than essential lighting accessories between 6 am and 8 am and between 6 pm and 8 pm.

The energy conservation and energy usage efficiency measures will provide maximum benefits, if they are undertaken on a war footing in those geographical areas of the state which are far away from main generating sources such as Bidar, Gulbarga, Belgaum, Hubli, Bijapur, Bagalkot, Chitradurga, Chamarajanagar, Mysore, etc.

Ask all commercial installations above a certain connected load, say 2 kw, to reduce their energy consumption by 10 per cent as compared to corresponding month of the previous year until further notice. 

Ban the illuminated hoardings /advertisement boards until further notice.

Consider banning the operation of shopping malls and other non-essential commercial establishments with connected load of, say, above 5 kw from 7 pm till 10 am next morning.

Ban all night time sports until further notice. Ban all decorative lighting applications until further notice.

There is a scope for drastically reducing the wastages on street lights. In most of the urban areas there is unnecessarily high illumination of the streets. Consider asking all local bodies to disconnect power supply to every alternate street light pole in highly illuminated areas.

Consult industry bodies such as Fkcci and Kassia to reduce monthly energy consumption in industrial units by 5-10 per cent. Consider the option of two weekly holidays and/or one or two shifts only for industries.

Take strict measures to keep street lights off during the day and make clearly identified individuals in local bodies responsible for the violations. Install light sensitive auto switches to street lights on a priority basis.

Ask all government offices not to use air conditioning where alternatives are available. Mandate them to reduce energy consumption by 10 per cent. Mandate reduction by 25 per cent the energy consumption of the lifts in non-essential locations.

Industry experts are of the opinion that the electricity shortages in the state as experienced in the recent past and as projected for the foreseeable future are clearly avoidable. The government may also consider convening a meeting of the Escoms, consumer groups, industry observers, and other interested parties early to find suitable ways to tide over the situation.

(The writer is a power policy analyst)







Strangely, even after having got the shoes, I was still having the blues!


Kitta — endearingly addressed by this moniker by my paternal relatives, he happens to be my pretty elderly cousin. He is full of beans and brio, with a convivial persona. Besides being an aficionado of watching educational shows on telly, he punctiliously goes through all news items dished out by the dailies. Apparently he can hold scintillating confab with people regarding miscellaneous topics, and is pretty extravagant too in showering encomiums on any person, who has accomplished something in life.

Being a fitness fanatic, come hell or high water, Kitta never misses his long strolls in the boulevards of his residential area. (No wonder he doesn't have that protruding pot-belly, a concomitant feature of growing age!) Even while being at home, he'd keep himself wrapped up with umpteen sundry chores. Being a tad pernickety person, he washes and presses his own clothes, seldom allowing others to do these for him. Naturally, he is always impeccably attired, ever sporting that dapper look. To encapsulate the entire thing, Kitta leads an uber disciplined life.

Years back, during a medical check-up, when Kitta's blood tests indicated that he was diabetic, he never got ruffled. For, he felt he could combat it without any hassles, as he always adhered to good food habits and structured heath regimen. And of course, Kitta did manage to keep himself in fine fettle.

But on that fateful day, Kitta was rummaging his house for a nail-clipper, to trim his toe-nails. Since he couldn't spot one, and being a person not believing in procrastinating things, he tried using a shaving blade in lieu of a nail-cutter, to clip his nails. As he was trimming the nails, the blade caused a small nick on one of his toes, which Kitta ignored presuming it was a piffling thing to panic about. Little had Kitta comprehended the magnitude of his condition, as gangrene was fiercely spreading in that wounded region. Just within days, the teeny cut had exacerbated into festering wound, radiating pain all around.

Indeed it was pretty late when Kitta had his leg examined by a medical specialist. He was given a ruthless option of having to lose his life or his leg. Kitta had little to choose and had his infected leg amputated till the knee. When I last saw him, he was hobbling around with an artificial limb. But still he looked supremely sanguine, having taken unsavoury things in his stride. Shielding his sufferings, he even bubbled with a surfeit of positive energy.

On seeing him, feeling a lurch in my heart, as I pondered on vagaries of life, the lines I had read somewhere struck me — "I had the blues, 'coz I didn't have the shoes. Until upon the street, I met a man with no feet!" Ironically just the previous day, I had bought myself a pair of pretty shoes by paying a prodigious amount. Strangely, even after having got the shoes, I was still having the blues!




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