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Thursday, September 30, 2010

EDITORIAL 30.09.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month september 30, edition 000639, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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












  1. BUDGET 101

































  3. U.S. WON'T SHUT DOWN, BUT ...


























With US President Barack Obama's visit to India drawing near, an 'out-of-the-box' approach like accepting the Line of Control as the international border between India and Pakistan to resolve the Jammu & Kashmir issue is being talked of as a possible solution to be mooted by Washington, DC, even if informally. As solutions go, the idea of converting the LoC into an international border between the two countries to settle the festering dispute for good may be a tempting one, but it makes little sense because the rechristening of the LoC, even if agreed to by India, will not stop Pakistan from persisting with its hostile policy and India baiting. If Pakistan-based terrorist organisations, aided and abetted by the ISI, can train and infiltrate their cadre across the LoC, they can do the same even with an international border in place. Separatists in the Kashmir Valley will still cry azadi and run their insidious campaign by arousing passions with the assistance of their Pakistani benefactors. In fact, the situation could worsen: There could be a demand then for easier movement of Kashmiris from both the sides in the name of enhancing 'people-to-people contact', thus creating a porous border and providing even easier access to infiltrators. So, the issue is not one of nomenclature but that which involves the role of Pakistan in fomenting divisive activities in Jammu & Kashmir as well as other parts of India. In any case, converting the LoC into the international border is not a new idea; it was said to have been informally discussed between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan's then President Gen Pervez Musharraf. Its impracticality in the current situation is evident from the fact that there has been no forward movement since then. But that should surprise no one, since the matter is not something an Indian leader can simply sit across the table and resolve with a friendly handshake. By accepting the LoC as an international border, India will also lose claim over those parts of Jammu & Kashmir that are under Pakistan's illegal occupation since the ceasefire of 1948.

Most important, there is an all-party resolution adopted by the Parliament that prohibits any settlement which harms the unity and integrity of the Union of India. Americans who believe they can push the Government of India into toeing their line tend to forget that Parliament matters in this country. No Government, irrespective of the party or alliance in power, will ever be able to negotiate peace with Pakistan by bartering Indian territory or sacrificing India's national interest. Strangely, this simple fact is often glossed over by the US which attaches little or no importance to Parliament in India. Perhaps that's because it is used to dealing with dictators, tyrants and puppets who are only to happy to do America's bidding for a fistful of dollars. India, the US must remember, is not a banana republic or a client state where Americans can decide for the people what is best for them. The convert-LoC-into-border suggestion deserves to be ignored. If that upsets Mr Obama, he can stay home.







With the dates for polling in the 1,227 panchayat, municipal and corporation council elections in Kerala fast approaching, the two main political fronts led by the CPI(M) and the Congress are adopting hypocritical methods to win this round of voting. Both the fronts have begun striking deals with the fundamentalist elements in the Muslim community, a time-tested method for ensuring electoral gains. Victory in majority of the local bodies is extremely important to both the CPI(M)-led ruling LDF and the Congress-headed Opposition UDF because the October civic polls are the full dress rehearsal for the Assembly elections in April-May next year. The Marxists are apprehensive of a replication of the West Bengal municipal polls experience in Kerala, while for the Congress, it is a now-or-never situation. Compelled by the urgency of the situation, the Marxists and the Congress have gone back to their traditionally trusted associates among Islamists. The CPI(M)'s association is with its Lok Sabha poll ally PDP of Abdul Nasser Madani. The Congress-led UDF has solicited the support of Popular Front of India, whose goons had cut off the right hand of a college professor in a Taliban-like attack. The other Islamist outfit, Jamaat-e-Islami, is yet to establish formal ties with any party, but that will happen soon. The hypocrisy is that both the sides are still continuing with their hollow declarations of being committed to fighting Islamists and upholding secularism! It would appear, though not for the first time, that the definition and values of secularism miraculously undergo a metamorphosis and turn into those associated with rank communalism whenever 'secular' parties like the CPI(M) and the Congress find themselves contesting an election. 

The Kerala Police, controlled by Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, has already frozen the probe into the Popular Front's terror attack on the college professor. Several of those arrested in this case are said to have connections with the Marxist outfit, DYFI. Leaders of Madani's PDP in Muslim-majority Malappuram district have admitted that they are in talks with the Left. The Congress has even had the audacity to ditch its trusted ally, the Muslim League, to strike a deal with the Popular Front in Idukki district where Islamism is most pronounced. While the whole goal of the power-crazy Marxists and Congress is electoral victory, the Islamists, who work under different organisational identities for their common aim, are making sure that their interests are safeguarded irrespective of which front emerges victorious. This is all the more dangerous in a State like Kerala where power decentralisation through the Panchyati Raj system is more effective than in any other State. The net result will be that a large majority of the new civic councils will function according to the Islamists' will. That will be like handing over Kerala's villages to clones of the Taliban. The CPI(M) and the Congress shall be equally to blame for this disastrous shift in Kerala's society and politics. And they would be guilty of launching a new brand of competitive communalism. 







If a Pakistani player partnering an Indian player could bridge the trust deficit between India and Pakistan then life would have been a lot simpler

India's television channels went gaga on September 9, when news came that the India-Pakistan duo of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureishi staged an upset victory to enter the finals of the US Open. Sports buffs and professional bleeding hearts across the country were ecstatic, proclaiming that the young tennis stars were ushering in a new era of eternal friendship between India and Pakistan. Not to be outdone, our very own Sports Minister MS Gill, who is unlikely to get a Bharat Ratna for his Ministry's stewardship of the Commonwealth Games, jumped in to proclaim: "I have one question for everyone. If Bopanna and Qureishi can play together, why not India and Pakistan?" The Minister was obviously ignorant of the fact that over the past decade the cricket boards of South Asian countries had got together and, using Indian financial clout, had effectively shifted the centre of cricketing power from the Anglo-Saxon world to the sub-continent. The headquarters of the ICC moved from the hallowed precincts at Lords to a centre of sub-continental cricket, the Emirate of Dubai, in 2005.

While Mr Gill was waxing eloquent on how sportsmen had set an example for others to follow came the chilling news that three Indian soldiers had been killed by jihadisfrom across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir. Those talking about a "new era in India-Pakistan relations" seem to forget the realities of the present era, when terrorism sponsored by state agencies from across the border are taking lives across the country, from Kashmir to Kerala. One wonders if the families of the three soldiers or their compatriots would have been very pleased by the media hype over the US Open. This is not to suggest that we should underestimate the contributions that sportsmen, civil society groups, business houses and academic contacts play in promoting a better understanding between countries. And there are millions of people of goodwill in both India and Pakistan who yearn for a better future in the relationship. What we need to avoid, is hyping individual events to an unwarranted extent.

I was asked by then chairman of the BCCI NKP Salve in 1982, when I was India's Consul General in Karachi, to assist and look after the Indian cricket team visiting Pakistan. It was the series in which Imran Khan devastated the Indian batting line-up, with only Sunil Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath performing creditably and consistently. Indians were then still learning the art of dealing with reverse swing — an art perfected by the Pakistanis, though some in our team quietly noted that Imran seemed to swing the ball prodigiously only after the tea intervals. I then asked a Pakistani commentator what he thought of Imran's bowling. He replied that Imran had told him that when he played against India he thought of Kashmir and treated the encounter not as a cricket match, but as jihad. It is not surprising that when he took to politics and formed the Tehriq-e-Insaf party, Imran was joined by worthies like former ISI chief Lt-Gen Hamid Gul and the viscerally anti-Indian former Foreign Minister and High Commissioner to India, Mr Abdul Sattar.

The Pakistan Cricket Board, like its hockey and squash administrations, was run by its former Air Force Chief Air Marshal Nur Khan, a formidable individual, who even Gen Zia-ul Haq would not dare to take on. Air Chief Marshal Nur Khan did a remarkable job in changing the sociological composition of sport in Pakistan. He looked away from the traditional Karachi and Lahore elite and encouraged interest in sports in poorer neighbourhoods, apart from small towns and rural Pakistan. It was this approach that has led to Pakistan turning out a regular stream of world class fast bowlers and unorthodox, but gutsy batsmen.

It was Imran Khan who moulded this motley crowd into a formidable team, performing brilliantly, but erratically. But, it was impossible to ignore the underlying tensions that gripped any match Pakistan played against India. I asked the founder and first Editor of the Jang group of newspapers (of 'Aman ki Asha' fame), Mir Khalilur Rahman, why his countrymen were so fired up when playing cricket against India. He wryly responded: "Our problem is that we treat the cricket field as a battlefield and think the battlefield is a cricket field!" Sadly, Pakistan's hero of the 1965 conflict Air Chief Marshal Nur Khan is today a voice in the wilderness, championing the cause of India-Pakistan reconciliation.

Unlike the days when Air Chief Marshal Nur Khan was a towering figure in Pakistani cricket, standards of financial propriety and fair play have fallen in Pakistan, like in India. Cricket, as a former chairman of the BCCI is said to have remarked, is today, primarily a source of entertainment for fans and of personal enrichment for others. The Indian media adopted a moralistic posture in lampooning Pakistani cricketers for their involvement in 'spot fixing' in England, conveniently forgetting that four of our own erstwhile heroes, including a former captain, were banned for alleged involvement in 'match fixing'.

Neither India nor Pakistan can honestly claim today that their sports institutions observe high standards of financial propriety. But it is ridiculous to claim that sports can be totally divorced from international politics. The Moscow Olympics were boycotted by the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union returned the favour by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics. South Africa was banned from international sport when apartheid prevailed and the Anglo-Saxon bloc refuses to play against Zimbabwe because they dislike its ruler, President Robert Mugabe. No Government could have defied outraged public opinion and invited Pakistani cricketers when wounds of the 26/11 terrorist attack were still raw. 

Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi is an exceptional Pakistani sportsman. At a time when the Pakistani cricket team is afflicted with excessive religiosity — a legacy of its former captain Inzamam ul Haq — Aisam has challenged conventional thinking in Pakistan by partnering an Israeli player in the international circuit. He won his first international tournament in 2008 partnering Prakash Amritraj, winning the South African Open with Rohan Bopanna earlier this year. Rather than expending energy on the complexities of the India-Pakistan relationship, Mr Gill would do well to ask his Cabinet colleague, the Home Minster, to ease some of the draconian rules now imposed on visas for Pakistani nationals, including their distinguished sportsmen, like the young Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi.







The genesis and growth of the tourism industry is reflective of a shift in the world order where the West triumphed over Islam. The institution might become the first casualty of the forces trying to turn the clock back. Events like the 2008 Mumbai attacks and the 2000 Bali bombings are warning signs

The World Tourism Day was marked on September 27, the 31st in the series since the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (established 1974) instituted it in 1980. The changing annual themes of WTD — from "Tourism and Quality of Life" in 1981 and "Tourism, a Vital Force for World Peace" in 1986 to "Tourism and Biodiversity" in 2010 — are reflective of changing of global concerns from the days of Cold War to those of global warming. In 2008, the theme was actually 'Responding to Climate Change and Global Warming'.

The history of tourism has not been a regular subject with the historians. A comprehensive study about its genesis and growth would reflect changing dynamics of the world order. What, for instance, did the establishment of Cox & Kings in 1758, imply? The world's oldest extant travel company based in London with initial operations in India refers to a changed political topography in the aftermath of the War of Plassey. It marked the ascendancy of British power and gradual unfolding of modern concepts of life which included leisure tourism. What could we infer about history from the establishment of the International Congress of Official Tourist Traffic Associations in The Hague in 1925? It implied an inter-war attempt to forge a peaceful global diplomatic order the most recognisable icon of which was the League of Nations. 

Tourism had come a long way from its antiquarian origins in the institution of pilgrimage. The industry has moved beyond pleasure and business travels into the realms of medical and health tourism and that of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions. Yet the overwhelming influence of religious tourism was acknowledged when the first international conference on religious tourism was held at Nicosia, Cyprus, in October 2006. It was an admission that hype over modernity notwithstanding, religion continues to be a profound emotion. No wonder, we are also rediscovering religion as a potent force in global affairs.

A subtext of this was discernible in the movement that made tourism possible as an industry. The rise of Islam in the seventh century had eventually cast its long shadow on the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea stonewalling Europe from India. The lucrative spice trade on the Indian Ocean was entirely in the hands of Muslims, Arabs and Gujaratis. The Hindu response was one of withdrawal into a shell by prohibiting sea voyages. Suvarnabhoomi or South East Asia, the longstanding bastion of Hindu-Buddhist culture, fell off the Indian mindscape. It could be revived in the 19th century after the British founded Singapore and annexed Malaya and Burma, while the Dutch conquered the East Indies (Indonesia). Today the region is a favourite destination for tourists from India. 

The steep ascendancy of Iberian maritime power in the late 15th century saw the Portuguese overrunning the Indian Ocean by 1510. The sea battle of Diu fought on February 3, 1509, between Portuguese, on one hand, and the Muslim confederacy of the Sultan of Gujarat, Mamluk Sultan of Egypt and Zamorin of Khozikhode with support of the Ottoman Empire, on the other, ended in victory for the European power. The great age of tourism was prefigured in this freeing of the sea routes.

The liberation of Greece from Turkish thralldom (1829), French annexation of Algeria (1830) and protectorate status for Tunisia (1881), cessation of Cyprus (1874) to Britain and the British 'occupation' of Egypt (1883) reconstructed a Roman empire in the European mind. Published travelogues as well as available 'Orientalist' paintings prove that more Europeans began visiting those regions. Trends were similar for India and South East Asia. 

The other two underpinnings of tourism were spin-offs from European innovations. First was the growth and application of archaeology which, in addition to boosting historiography, propped up monumental destinations on the world map. Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign to Egypt (1798) occasioned the rediscovery of the Pharaonic and Greco-Roman epoch forgotten under Arab and Turkish rules. Almost everybody who visits Egypt from Alexandria to Aswan come to see its pre-Arabic past. This highlighting of Egypt's idolatrous antiquity is abhorrent to Islamic fundamentalists. Incidents like massacre of tourists at ancient temple of Queen Hatsheput in Luxor on November 17, 1997 resulted from this malaise. 

Austen Henry Layard's visit to Syria, Asia Minor and Assyria in 1840 first brought to light the Assyro-Babylonian antiquity of Mesopotamia. Layard authored the book Discoveries at Nineveh. Layard's exact contemporary Alexander Cunningham (1814-1893), founder of Archaeological Survey of India, unearthed a string of archeological remains, upon which our 'Buddhist circuit tourism' stands. But actually these developments were part of larger movement to restore the classical heritage.

Fuel-intensive modes of transport like the steam ship and the locomotive, distinctly British achievements, made inter-continental journeys rapid and commodious. Until 1960 (when The Beatles embarked on its famous world tour by airplanes), ships were most reliable modes of overseas travel. Not to be missed out was the Western concept of exhibitions. London hosted the first international exhibition in 1851. Thomas Cook, who set up his travel company in the same year, brought 1,65,000 people to London for the exhibition. 

Tourism is a corollary of an organic change in lifestyle and modes of production brought about by Western political and intellectual dominance. Even the Muslim countries adopted tourism as a natural fact of life. But the industry might become the first casualty of Islamic fundamentalism that is trying to reverse the world order. Acts like 26/11 Mumbai, Bali bombings (2000) are warning signs. 

In 2001, 'Tourism: A Toll for Peace and Dialogue amongst Civilisations' was the UNWTO theme. Hosted in Iran, it was part of a public relation exercise that the Khatami regime had embarked upon in 1998. But it was ironical that barely a fortnight before the conference, 9/11 happened. The global interest in the 'clash of civilisations', which ironically began in the UN-designated Year of Dialogue amongst Civilisations (2001) has not waned since then. 







A warm, widely-read, generous man with an exceptional mind, Arjun Sengupta's career trajectory took him to governance, economic planning and diplomacy. Last Sunday, he left for the hereafter

It was the morning of July 16, 1955. A feeling of thrill welled up inside as I walked through the gate of one of India's fabled educational institutions as a student. "Welcome to Presidency College" a voice boomed. A somewhat generously endowed person, bespectacled, slightly older than me, and wearing a pajama and a kurta (punjabi as we call it in Kolkata), came up, smiled broadly and said in Bengali what would read in rough English translation as, "I am Arjun Sengupta. I welcome you on behalf of the Students' Federation. As you know, it is an organisation of progressive students." He continued after a short pause, "Presidency College has been at the forefront of all revolutionary movements in India and we have a responsibility to perpetuate the tradition."

Being from a family with a political background, I knew that All-India Students' Federation, commonly referred to as SF, was a front organisation of the Communist Party of India, then undivided. Besides, I had cut my teeth in student politics while still in high school. I was wondering how to respond when Arjun was called away by one of his followers. He said before leaving, "We will keep in touch. We hope to see you active in the SF."

That hope was belied. I contested the college union election as an independent candidate and won, though the SF swept the polls. Gradually, the tide began to turn. The next year saw a hung union and our side, labelled 'Anti-SF', won a couple of key positions among the office-bearers. Other victories followed. The 'Anti-SF' became Presidency College Students' Organisation in 1959 and controlled the union until 1966 when the Naxalite tide began to surge.

Arjun and I, however, remained friends, not very close friends because he was three years' senior to me and belonged to a different political milieu, but friends nevertheless. In the 1950s, political opponents frequently remained personal friends. My most vociferous supporter on the cricket field was my class friend and a college SF stalwart, Pallab Sengupta. Ties with Samik Banerjee, who later became one of India's most scholarly theatre gurus, have remained warm though he was seldom present on the cricket field.

What explained it? Perhaps our long sessions at the College Street Coffee House across the road, where we often shared the same table, was a factor, as was perhaps our common interests. All of us read Marx, Engels, Lenin, Camus, Sartre, Kafka, listened to Tagore songs, debated the relevance of Gandhi and the contributions of the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions. We talked about the freedom struggle, of Nehru's socialism, of the convulsions shaking the international Communist movement in the wake of the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party and de-Stalinisation. We condemned, while SFites supported, Soviet interventions in Hungary and Poland in 1956. We all condemned the Anglo-French invasion of Suez in the same year. We recited poems of Tagore, Jibanananda Das, Bishnu De and Sudhin Datta. We saw the same kind of films — those by directors like Satyajit Ray, Akira Kurosawa, Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, et al. 

Somewhere deep inside, all of us felt we belonged to a very special group, which included a whole galaxy of people from Henry Louis Vivian Derozio to Subhas Chandra Bose, who shaped the destiny of West Bengal and, to some extent, India. There was mutual respect and the shared belief that we lived for causes beyond ourselves. Long after our college days, we were happy to run into one another and share memories that made us decades younger. It was the same with Arjun, a warm, widely-read, generous man with an exceptional mind. My career trajectory took me to journalism, his to governance, economic planning and diplomacy. From Marxism, he moved to Nehruvian socialism. 

Whenever we met, I teasingly greeted him by saying, "Comrade Arjun Sengupta ke Lal Salam" (Red salute to Comrade Arjun Sengupta). He used to smile indulgently and say, "Jao, jao! Ja ichha bole jao," (Go, go on! Say whatever you want to). I won't be able to greet him any more. He left for the hereafter on Sunday. I can only say with sadness welling up inside, "Comrade Arjun Sengupta ke shesh salam" (Last salute to Comrade Arjun Sengupta).






The Palestinian Authority President knew that the freeze on settlements would end this month. So why is he threatening to abruptly end negotiations with Netanyahu?

It never ceases to amaze me how hysteria and mystification so clouds people's minds over the Arab-Israeli (or Israeli-Palestinian) conflict. Consider this simple point of logic which you may not see explained anywhere else. And see the point at the end about US President Barack Obama.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas claims that he can't negotiate with Israel if Israel once again begins to construct buildings on existing settlements after a nine-month freeze on construction. 

Let's evaluate this statement. 

First, Mr Abbas knew that the freeze would last nine months and might not be renewed when it ended in September. If he wanted to give Israel an incentive to continue it — by showing that this Israeli concession, brought progress towards peace and some advantage for Israel — Mr Abbas could have acted. Instead, he stalled until the very last moment. For weeks, the US begged and pressed him to return to talks.

Second, if the Palestinians negotiate a two-state solution they will get — worst-case analysis — almost all of the West Bank. There will be no Jewish settlements in that territory. The settlements will be gone. All the roads and buildings Israel built (unless dismantled in the days before the agreement's implementation) will go to the Palestinians.

So if Mr Abbas and the Palestinians are horrified by Israeli construction, wouldn't it have made sense for them to negotiate real fast? But, on the contrary, they stretch out the process year after year after year, continually finding excuses for doing so.

Remember that the PA refused to negotiate for well over a year after January 2009. All that time Israel was building on settlements. Then for the last nine months when Israel wasn't building in the West Bank, the PA still refused to negotiate. 

Let's now provide a full timeline: 

Phase One: From 1992 until late in 2000, the PLO, and later the PA negotiated with Israel at a time when there were no limits on construction within settlements. They were, however, in no hurry to make a deal and, in fact, killed the talks in 2000. Incidentally, Israel made a huge concession from its previous positions to begin the process in 1993: No new settlements or territorial expansion of existing ones. It kept that commitment. The PLO and PA also made some "concessions": They would fight against terrorism. They didn't. They never raised as a bargaining point the idea of a freeze on construction in existing settlements.

Phase Two: Then from 2000 to 2009 — a decade — the PA refused direct any sustained peace negotiations at a time when there were no limits on construction within settlements. They never raised as a bargaining point the idea that they would end the violence (2000-2005) or that they would negotiate in exchange for a freeze on construction in existing settlements. That was President Obama's idea in mid-2009 and they rejected it.

Phase Three: After Israel did freeze construction, the PA wasted nine months — knowing the clock was ticking on the temporary freeze — without making any move to accelerate, or even hold, negotiations.

Thus, the PA has wasted almost 20 years, during which thousands of buildings have been added to Israeli settlements. 

Here is a fundamental flaw in the assumption that the Palestinians are desperately eager to get a state and end their suffering. They don't seem so eager at all. Why? Because the Palestinian leadership has long argued that it is more important to conquer all of Israel — or reach an agreement that didn't get in the way of pursuing that goal — than to make compromises and get a two-state solution.

What does the PA want? An independent Palestinian state given as a gift by the world rather than requiring mutual compromise with Israel. That doesn't require negotiations, it requires a lack of negotiations. 

If Mr Abbas walks away from talks he will not be crying that creation of a Palestinian state has been delayed. On the contrary, he will be smiling that he escaped from what most PA leaders — though not Prime Minister Salam Fayad — view as the peace trap.

Incidentally, note that when President Obama made his upbeat interpretation of the "peace process" one of the main themes in his September 23 UN speech, he was totally aware that the negotiations were probably on the verge of collapse due to the termination of the freeze. It could be argued that by playing up the issue he was trying to encourage everyone to keep going, but how can you stake your diplomatic reputation on a card that is about to bring down a house of cards? That's somewhere between being irresponsible and suicidal.

But perhaps Mr Obama has reason to think he can get away with such things. After all, people have forgotten what happened with his speech to the UN last year! He predicted high-level, intensive Israel-Palestinian talks within three months and it took him a year to get low-level, fragile, limited talks. His policy was a total failure yet try to find anyone in the mass media reporting that point.

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








ANDHRA Pradesh seems to be a blind spot in the Centre's policy on land acquisition and the environment. MAIL TODAY ' S story on the plan to make the port city of Krishnapatnam in Nellore district a ' power hub' shows the duplicity of the government's approach.


As many as 21 thermal power projects with a combined capacity of 21,284 MW are coming up in and around Krishnapatnam, which could turn it into an ecological time bomb. With 17,540 acres of land required for these projects, it is no surprise that farmers are up in arms.


It is difficult to believe that this is the same government which displayed sensitivity to environmental concerns and the interests of the local community by scrapping the Vedanta project in Niyamgiri. Clearly, it is under pressure from powerful elements in Andhra Pradesh's political class. This is evident from the selectively pro- active approach of Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who is a Rajya Sabha MP from the state.


The Andhra government's record on land acquisition has been particularly dubious with the power projects at Polavaram and Sompeta also coming under attack.


The argument that the projects in Krishnapatnam are central to the development of the state rings hollow as all of them except the AP Genco project, are merchant power plants which can sell their power anywhere. Interestingly, even the AP Genco project was initially scrapped by the then Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, allegedly to favour a project promoted by a Congress MP. Sadly, no lessons seem to have been learnt from Bhopal as vested interests rather than concern for people and the ecology continue to shape government policy.







IN investigative journalist Bob Woodward's latest book Obama's Wars , US President Obama is quoted as telling his top administration aides that, " We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan". Though this may not come as a big surprise to India, it underlines how the world views Islamabad in its role as an active supporter of international terrorism.


The revelations in the book should finally reveal America's true feelings towards Pakistan, and hopefully help in gathering international momentum to pressure the elected government in Islamabad to dismantle the terror havens that operate there.


When Obama assumed office, one of his first foreign policy initiatives was to redraft the Af- Pak policy, with specific emphasis on strengthening the Afghan democracy, and therefore pressure Pakistan to partially shift its army from its Indian front to the Afghanistan side. This never happened.


Now that the White House's Pakistan skeletons are out of the closet, it could be an opportune time to get the real power centre in Pakistan — Gen Ashfaq Kayani — to demolish the terror infrastructure once and for all.







AUSTRALIAN Channel 7' s ' expose' that apparently lay bare the poor security infrastructure in place for the Commonwealth Games by filming how its reporter went past the security checks at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium with a suitcase with explosives inside has been shown to be a tissue of lies.


The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Media Watch programme has now done a sensational story which exposes that the entire operation was an elaborate frame- up.


It should leave no one in doubt that the Channel 7 ' expose' was a dastardly stunt to gain cheap publicity and malign India's image internationally.


When the Delhi Police had punched holes in the Channel 7 story, the world thought it was just an attempt by a bumbling host to save face. But anyone who has seen the Media Watch video on YouTube ( http:// bit. ly/ bsK5jR) can clearly make out that neither was there a detonator or bomb in the suitcase nor did the reporter go past any security check. He just walked past a road block meant to control traffic wheeling an empty suitcase.


This is reason enough for the Games authorities and for the Delhi Police to take legal action against the reporter and the TV channel.








INDIA stands once again at a watershed moment. By clearing the way for the High Court to deliver the judgment on the Babri Masjid title case, the Supreme Court has brought the issue — which has caused riots and mayhem and cost thousands of lives— to its penultimate stage.


The High Court bench will now deliver its verdict and the case is then likely to be kicked upstairs to the Supreme Court itself. But the substantive part of the verdict, which could be delivered as soon as this week, is not likely to change, considering the time and attention that the High Court has already given to the case. For most of the country, politicians, those party to the suit, indeed, the average citizen of the country, the overwhelming desire is for a closure to a terrible period in our history and to move on.


What the tensions, some of them mediadriven, have done in the past month or so as the verdict was anticipated, are to have compelled the country to confront the demons of the past. And some of those demons have indeed been terrible.


Beginning with the holocaust of the Partition, there was an almost continuous string of what were euphemistically called " communal riots" in the country.


The historian Paul R Brass has noted that between 1954 and 1982, there were 7,000 in which five hundred Hindus were killed and nearly three times as many Muslims. You do not have to be a mathematician to realise that disproportionate violence was visited on the minority Muslim community.




Since then, the intensity of riots became, if anything, worse. There were riots in Moradabad ( 1980), Biharsharif ( 1981), Nellie ( 1983), Bhiwandi and Hyderabad ( 1984), Ahmedabad ( 1985), Nawada and Allahabad ( 1986), Meerut- Maliana ( 1987), Bombay ( 1988), Bhagalpur ( 1989).


Beginning with Mr L. K. Advani's Rath Yatra in support of building a Ram Mandir in place of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1990, a new cycle of violence began— Kanpur ( April- May 1990), Lucknow ( October 1990), Agra ( November 1990), Benares ( May and November 1991) which culminated in another holocaust period in the wake of the mosque's destruction in December 1992 when riots rocked Bombay, Ahmedabad, Surat, Calcutta, Kanpur, Malegaon, Bhopal and Delhi. In the ensuing decade, there were some 150 smaller riots, in addition to some bigger ones at Coimbatore, Kanpur and Malegaon. The Gujarat massacre of 2002 must be included in this list because its ostensible cause was the burning to death in a train of 59 Hindu kar sevaks who were returning from Ayodhya.


The communal climate has since improved in incendiary places like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, but there are states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh where politics continues to fuel communal violence.


So are there still parties and individuals who would like to use the issue to stoke tension and provoke violence? We need to understand that by and large communal violence is an organised activity and it is only the apathy or active connivance of the administration and the police that makes it virulent.


The high- tide of emotions in support of a Ram Mandir that brought the Bharatiya Janata Party's Kalyan Singh to power in Uttar Pradesh in 1991 began to ebb almost immediately thereafter.


Though the party used the Mandir movement to enhance its position in Parliament, reaching the point where it was able to finally form a government there in 1998, it was never able to establish itself in the strategic state of UP. Though there may still be individuals in it who seek to use the verdict to further their own cause, most of the party now understands that the issue is unlikely to have much traction with the electorate and has, indeed, become a mill- stone around their necks.


The party almost certainly lost its chance to continue its rule at the Centre in 2004 because of the Gujarat killings.


There is a new generation of leadership in the party which finds that good governance is likely to deliver better long- term returns, than the short- term spikes that emotive issues like the Ram Mandir can provide— the comparison between Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his one- time predecessor, Uma Bharti could not be starker.




The other set of people who could want to disturb the current flow of events are the radicals in the Muslim community.


For the Islamists, be they in outfits like the Popular Front, or the so- called Indian Mujahideen and the Students Islamic Movement of India, any step that leads to a cooling of communal tempers in the country goes against their game plan.


Fortunately, such people are in an extreme minority. The bulk of the Indian Muslims have realised that their numbers give them sufficient clout to influence the outcome of elections in the highly fractured Indian polity of today. Many observers claim that tactical voting to ensure the defeat of the BJP has become a feature of Muslim electoral behaviour.


History never repeats itself, either as a tragedy or a farce. That is the reason why the outcome of the Babri Masjid case is unlikely to cause the kind of mayhem that the destruction of the mosque did.


That event occurred when the country was already at an edge. The years 1989- 1991 were perhaps the worst in contemporary Indian history. There were four changes of government in a period of 18 months. Two states of the union— Punjab and Kashmir— were in a state of rebellion, India was insolvent to the extent that its gold reserves were transported to London because our creditors wanted iron- clad guarantees for further loans, and, tragically, in 1991, a former and possible future prime minister of the country was assassinated. The country itself was in turmoil as two political mountebanks sought to trump each other— one by announcing reservations for the Other Backward Classes and the other by declaring indirect war on the minority Muslims by demanding the destruction of the Babri Masjid.




The country of 2010— is comprised of some 40 or so percent people who were born after the Babri Masjid demolition and its immediate aftermath— is decidedly different. It has had reasonably stable central governments since 1999, led by pragmatic and centrist prime ministers.


High economic growth for the past decade has dramatically improved the mood of the country. There is more money in people's pockets, there are expectations for the future. There is little purchase for ideas that seek to either transform the world, or, for that matter the Indian political landscape. Poverty and misery may still abound in the land, but there is also, after a long time, opportunity to move ahead, and people sense this and would not like anything to destabilise this period in their history.


There are bound to be rowdy elements who may seek to use the verdict to provoke violence, but they will find that it is not easy to gain traction today. It goes without saying that vigilance against such elements is a must. The lessons of the past decades are such that no party, be it the VHP- Bajrang Dal or the Islamist radicals, can take the response of the people of the country for granted. Indeed, any attempt to opportunistically use the verdict to aggravate the situation could well backfire on them.


That in itself is the best insurance for communal peace in the coming period which could well be a prelude to an era, foreseen by our founding fathers, when the people of the country begin to keep their religious beliefs in the private sphere.


manoj. joshi@ mailtoday. in








THE genetically modified brinjal has brought shame to Indian science. Top six science academies, which unanimously recommended lifting of the moratorium on Bt brinjal imposed by environment minister Jairam Ramesh in February, are in the dock for the worst crime a scientist can commit — intellectual cheating or plaigiarism. Individual scientists being accused of it is nothing new , but for the first time ever, all academies as a collective have been found guilty of plaigiarism.


The Indian National Science Academy ( INSA) President Dr M Vijayan has admitted to committing, what he calls, a ' slip'. But he is not willing to take the next logical step — withdrawal of the report. In any case withdrawal is irrelevant now because the man who commissioned it — Ramesh — has already consigned the report to its rightful place – the dustbin.


The slur on these prominent academies is a grave issue. The question is not merely about lack of attribution or citation of the copied material — as academies are trying to present it — but ' bad science' ( some critics have dubbed it ' gutter science') that the report epitomises.


Scientists who drafted the report did not care to examine data submitted by developers of Bt brinjal to the regulator based on which clearance was given.


Instead, they relied on the ' views' of an individual scientist — P Anand Kumar — expressed in a newsletter. Interestingly, it is a double whammy because Kumar in his article published in Biotech News drew liberally from report of a Monsanto and Mahyco- funded outfit — International Service for the Acquisition of Agri- biotech Applications ( ISAAA). So, in effect, the academies based their socalled recommendations on industry data.


And why shouldn't they do so ( copy or quote ISAAA data) when science and technology minister Prithivraj Chavan did the same in an official letter as did the Minister of State for Agriculture KV Thomas while replying to questions in the Parliament? On the same day when the disgraced report of academies was being circulated, another report on Bt brinjal — the Scope and Adequacy of the GEAC Environment Risk Assessment ( ERA) — by Dr David A Andow of the University of Minnesota was released.


Andow was contacted by the US National Academy of Sciences for a scientific evaluation of the Expert Committee – II ( EC- II) report, based on which Genetic Engineering Approval Committee ( GEAC) cleared Bt brinjal.


This was done at the request of Ramesh.


Compared to the stink raised by the Indian academies, Andow's report comes like a breath of fresh air. It dissects the ERA data on Bt brinjal with the precision of a surgeon, with several pages of references.


Andow unequivocally concludes that the scope of ERA set by GEAC was too narrow and that EC- II did not perform an adequate ERA. Because of resistance, he predicts, Bt brinjal is projected to fail in 4 to 12 years.


Irrespective of the findings, the Andow report is a shining example of good science and I would strongly recommend Presidents of all six Indian academies to read did as for while the the academies another the the Risk Dr University released.



INDIAN science academies may be satisfied with biosafety of Bt brijal, but latest research on GM corn in the US has shown that foreign genes inserted in it can escape into the environment.


A study in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that streams throughout the GM corn belt in Midwestern America are contaminated with insecticidal proteins that originate from adjacent genetically modified crops. The study supports one of the major criticisms against GM crops — the genetic pollution they cause.


An assessment of 217 stream sites in Indiana revealed that dissolved Cry1Ab proteins from Bt corn was present in stream water at nearly a quarter of the sites. Nearly 86 percent sites contained corn leaves, husks, stalks in their channels and in 13 percent of the sites corn byproducts contained detectable Cry1Ab proteins.


The study was conducted six months after the harvest, indicating that the insecticidal proteins in crop byproducts can persist in the environment. All of the sites with detectable Cry1Ab proteins were located within 500 meters of a corn field. Cry1Ab is the same gene that is used in Bt brinjal in India.



WE HAVE not yet heard the last word on Bt brinjal. The Supreme Court — currently hearing a case filed by Aruna Rodrigues seeking a moratorium on open field trials of untested genetically modified organisms ( GMOs) — has directed setting up of a panel of scientists to advise it on risk assessment protocols for GM crops such as Bt brinjal.


This panel will examine the dossier provided by the developers. It will also look at " the sequencing of risk assessment protocols to determine when they can be tested under field conditions" so as to ensure safe release into the environment of tested GMOs.


They will suggest a protocol for testing of GM plants for contamination at internationally certified labs that can test to a minimum ' level of detection' of at least 0.01 percent



THE way the inter- academy report has been prepared is giving rise to doubts on the intentions behind it.


Of the six academies involved, at least one — The Indian National Academy of Engineering — has nothing to do with genetically engineered crops, unless they say that the definition of ' engineering' is so wide that it covers genetic engineering as well.


Presidents of at least two other academies — The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences ( India) — had a direct conflict of interest with the issue at stake.


Both of them have been vocal supporters and recipients of funds for development of GM crops.


Dr Mangala Rai, who heads the agricultural academy, has co- chaired a multi- million dollar funding mechanism called Indo- US Agriculture Knowledge Initiative set up to promote GM crops in India. Board members of AKI include representatives of Monsanto, Walmart and ITC. Dr Asis Datta, President of the National Academy of Sciences, has developed GM potato and tomato with liberal grants from the Department of Biotechnology during the past two decades.


Like the citations and references, our top scientists perhaps also forgot that they need to declare ' conflict of interest' as well, particularly when decisions relating to billions of dollars of investments hinge on their report. Was this also a slip, Dr Vijayan?

dineshc. sharma@ mailtoday. in








Quotas as an instrument of social justice necessarily have to be self-limiting, but that is not so in the imagination of quota proponents who relentlessly want to push it into newer domains. There is no clearly discernible rationale in the government proposal to push a 5 per cent job quota for SCs and STs in the private sector. Ficci, CII and Assocham have rightly argued that merit would be the biggest casualty once reservation schemes for politically favoured categories become the norm in the private sector. Given that the latter has emerged as the engine of India's economic growth, any measure that hampers the competitiveness and viability of firms must be thwarted. 

As things stand, Indian labour laws in the country are inflexible, standing in the way of creation of large-scale formal sector employment. With a growing youth bulge, the country will face massive social unrest if it cannot create jobs for young people. If one looks at Kashmir or the Maoist problem, some would say such unrest has already begun. In that context, imposing additional burdens that straightjacket the private sector operating within a ferociously competitive global economy would be truly unfortunate. Far from achieving the socio-economic equality that it had envisaged, the reservation policy has only managed to create a creamy layer who continue to game the system and corner its benefits, while politicians use it as a convenient tool to nurture vote-banks. 

We need to break away from the quota mentality and employ means that ensure inclusive growth. A CII survey published earlier this year revealed that despite the absence of reservations, SCs/STs (16.2 per cent) and OBCs (51.8 per cent) are well represented in private firms in the southern states. This has been possible because of voluntary private sector initiatives to increase employability, education and entrepreneurship among disadvantaged groups. It has also been proved that corporate social responsibility (CSR) has far greater impact in terms of effecting qualitative changes at the grassroots than reservations. The government would do well to enact comprehensive tax benefits and similar instruments to incentivise 
CSR initiatives. 

Besides, government itself needs to step up to the plate and provide opportunities for all. The demand for quotas is driven by the lack of adequate infrastructure. Widening the scope of reservations will not solve this fundamental problem. The answer lies in focussing on growth to increase the opportunities available so that no group gets left behind. Jobs in the private sector shouldn't be politicised, instead the culture of meritocracy needs to be promoted.







The debate over national security versus an individual or organisation's right to privacy is set to heat up in the US over the coming months, with law enforcement officials pushing for new regulation that would enable them to tap electronic communication. Given the Indian government's ongoing tussle with R.I.M. the makers of BlackBerry phones over access to encrypted data transferred via its services, it is an issue that has resonance here. The importance of intercepting and tracking communications both as an element of dealing with situations such as 26/11 and as a preventive mechanism is self-evident. With the evolution of communication modes to encompass online service providers such as Google and Skype, it was only a matter of time before such concerns were raised. However, New Delhi has to be aware that it is walking a very fine line. 

One aspect that has to be taken into account is not compromising the Indian business environment, particularly given the IT sector's high profile. Back-end services cannot be marketed when no assurance can be given that the data being processed is secure. Providing the government with the means to decrypt communication via Google, Skype, Facebook or any of a dozen other services and that might not even always be possible means the sort of government oversight, active or not, of confidential information that companies will naturally be wary of. Another issue is that building a backdoor into these systems for the government's benefit creates a weak point that can then be exploited by third parties whether individual hackers or sponsored by other governments. These are issues that require careful examination. New Delhi must refrain from using a blunt instrument approach that causes enormous collateral damage.









A sense of humour can be a funny thing handy when it comes to dissipating fear, less useful when trying to counter collective distaste of filth. Sections of the Indian diaspora know this to be unwinkingly true right now, when the world is wrinkling its collective nose at 21st century India's apparent "filthiness". 

Humour cannot mitigate the situation. This is not five years ago, right after the London bombings, which were perpetrated mainly by Anglo-Pakistanis. All brown people on London's public transport suddenly seemed fearfully suspect. A few dozen Indians in London understood the power of humour and had T-shirts printed with the words "Don't freak, I'm a Sikh". It didn't change a great deal; no one was rolling with mirth in the aisles, but it did melt the edges of a very palpable tension on the trains they rode. 

Could people of Indian origin around the world do something similar now? Yes, goes the joke, they could say they were Sri Lankan and deny all connection with the country that gave an "unlivable" Games Village to Commonwealth athletes. 

That is unlikely. In the 1950s, V S Naipaul won no plaudits and much condemnation in 
India for his clear-eyed view of defecating Indians. "Indians defecate everywhere...they never look for is well that Indians are unable to look at their country directly, for the distress they would see would drive them mad," he observed in 'An Area of Darkness'. 

So it continues, 60 years on. Today, as before, much of the 22 million strong diaspora - barring possibly the South African and West Indian - is stuck with the dividend and the downside of being identifiably Indian and overseas. Till yesterday, it could enjoy the 'new India' narrative, assume the moral high ground over Pakistan and weld itself to mighty China sans hyphens (Chindia). Today, it must accept the ignominy of knowing that press and public opinion right the way round the world is frankly appalled by Indian standards and horrified by its hubris. Indians in Britain, the US and parts ofEurope are privately confessing to friends and family back 'home' that they walk with their heads down and avoid eye contact on public transport. To some others, it is humiliating to be considered on a par now with the "Pakis", i.e. those who seem prone to serial match-fixing and dishonesty. One man says it reminds him of the axiom his Indian-bred grandmother was taught here fully 90 years ago: "Teach a man in India to read, and he will not teach the other illiterates to read, rather he will charge them to read their letters." Another, profoundly embarrassed young woman said she felt "violated" by the photographs of filthy loos on front pages all over the world, "like it was my bathroom, even though it wasn't". 

If this sounds overwrought and over the top, it isn't. Sociologist James Clifford famously described "the empowering paradox of diaspora", namely that "dwelling here (overseas) assumes solidarity and connection there." It can be convenient when the going is good, but a curse when the 'ancestral homeland' is in the international doghouse. Time was when every Manish who went to the US became "Max" as fast as he could and cultivated a lifestyle and affectations as far removed from India as possible. Then came the 'India Rising' phase and the percussive drumbeat of global success balti food, Bollywood, bright graduates for call centres. Suddenly, it was cool to confess to being "very Indian at heart". Will that outlive the world's distaste at something the The Times, London, uncompromisingly calls "not the inevitable failings of messy democracy...(but) of bad democracy"? 

'National pride' is arguably easiest to entertain if living within the borders of a country. For the diaspora, any diaspora, it is doubly hard justifiably to cultivate patriotism, the emotion that W Somerset Maugham memorably called "prejudice". Being too manifestly an Englishman in New York, in the words of the Sting song, made him a "legal alien". As also being too obviously Indian in the international village square. It is all very well to theorise that diasporas are "travelling cultures" with individuals physically dwelling in one country and existing in an astral or spiritual 'elsewhere'. But it can compound the world's perception problem with the motherland as when British Indian billionaire Gopichand Hinduja repeated Union sports minister M S Gill's "monsoon wedding analogy" to the British media as a perfectly reasonable, if exotic, explanation for execrable Games preparations. "It's only in Europe and America where weddings are planned three or four months ahead, the bride's dress is ready and the guest list finalised," he said. 

It can also elicit, say, the following affronted outpouring from a British Indian journalist: "And yet, long before an abiding fealty to the land of my birth kicks in, I detect something a little distasteful in the ceremonial wringing of hands that has accompanied its travails, as well as ignorance of the Indian sensibility. The interpretation of this crisis as a metaphor for the irrepressibility of the old India corrupt, dirty, poor, with dodgy infrastructure and unable to match China is wilfully myopic about the new India, home to extraordinary economic growth and social development, albeit too exclusively so." In those caveats lie that terrible diasporic space the gap between physical reality and a visual or imagined one from far away.




                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




The Indian Premier League (IPL) is unjustifiably facing opposition from players and team owners over its decision to re-auction players in the ensuing edition in 2011. Players like Sachin Tendulkar and M S Dhoni have expressed their disappointment with the auction rule that allows the franchises to retain only four of their current players, including three Indian players. They argue that it takes time and hard work to put together a winning combination. Such reasoning ignores the fact that cricket has now transformed. 

Today, players display the highest degree of professionalism to perform better in a competitive environment. There is no better example than Dhoni himself. The Indian captain has shown the adaptability to lead by example in different formats of the game. In the case of IPL, it is also difficult to ascertain which factor overwhelmingly affects or ensures team loyalty. Irrespective of their teams, players like Sachin, Ganguly, Dhoni, Sehwag and Yuvraj enjoy fans' support across the country. In any case, if keeping players together is important for a team, that can be factored into the re-bids. 

A re-auctioning of players is desirable to establish fair practices in the scam-tainted IPL. With the entry of two new teams - Pune and Kochi - a fresh level playing field to ensure better competition in the fourth edition is imperative. They must be given an equal opportunity to bid for the best players to build a team. Moreover, the auction will be akin to a performance appraisal of all players based on the previous three editions. It would be natural and fair that the better performing players get better contracts. That will enhance the incentives and push players to give their best. And the ultimate beneficiary will be the fans of the game. 







Seasoned cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and M S Dhoni have a point when they argue against fresh auction of IPL players. IPL has been around only for the last three years. It's been a novel experiment in the history of cricket where franchises were invited to build teams around cities and iconic players. At the start of the first IPL season, player auctions were held and teams bid for them, following their priorities. A fresh auction would mean going through the process again and rebuilding teams all over. That's best avoided. 

Cricket is a team game. A well-knit team has a better chance of playing to potential than a bunch of randomly assembled stars. It takes time to build a team, especially when players are drawn from different regional, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. After his team won the recently held Champions League, Dhoni said he wished to keep his flock together. Dhoni knows that his team, Chennai Super Kings, is a winner only because the players clicked as a team. 

Similarly, building a fan base for the team takes time, especially when the format itself is new. Teams have been co-branded with cities. But fans identify more with the players, especially the core players, and not with the brand name of the team or the franchise. This poses a tricky problem. Except for a handful, most of the team is drawn from various parts of the world. It takes time for fans to identify these players as part of the city team and bond with them. 

Any juggling of teams at this juncture is likely to upset efforts that has helped build team loyalty and fan following. That's bound to impact the fortunes of the IPL itself. A middle path could be thought of. As in international football leagues, teams could be allowed to transfer a limited number of players though auctions every year. That would help teams to make changes in their line-ups and drop non-performers. It'll also give players options. 







'It's the slanging that's important, not the taking part.' This must be the revised motto of the Commonwealth Games. Each day brings a fresh lashing and clashing, with the resultant slashing of India's newly-minted image. But, instead of the smug rush to pull down the CWG like a trans-Yamuna tenement, we should award a gold medal to the run-up to the Games. It is one more proof of India's ability to infuse everything with its own distinctive aura. We did it to the British colonials (and their language). We did it with the McAloo Tiki. And now the Dilli tamasha is a uniquely Dilli tamasha. Our hosted CWG are like us only. Mind them. 


Sorry, Mani, Chetan, and your growing league of followers, i don't think the Games are an unmitigated disaster. In fact, rather than your whine-whine, i see them as a win-win. They have shown that we aren't some hopeless, hygiene-less, humble acceptor of standards thrust upon us by the supercilious first world; we have the self-confidence to do it our way. The message has gone out as loud as a crashing overbridge, as clear as a paan-stain in a wash basin. 


In fact, i am surprised and disappointed that the capital's NDMC and PWD did not promptly do to the foreign CWG bosses and TV channels what every Dilliwalla does when confronted with anyone who tries to throw authority at him. They should have stuck their chest out and snarled menacingly, 'Don't you know who my aunty-ji is?' and proceeded to pull out four cellphones to call Madam No. 2. 


So many times we are telling-shelling, and still they are not listening that in all Indian show-sha, the last touches continue even as the first guests show up with their recycled wedding presents. We are laying on the full Monty, and they are only grumbling like Montoo Mama who never finds anything right with the arrangements, however much money has been spent on the murg do pyaza or the ghoos do zyada. 


We keep showing-showing and still they are not seeing that we are giving them the entire Indian experience not just some hurdles and unsynchronised events. Everyone from Great Britain to no-such-delusions Botswana has turned up its nose at the accommodation in the Games Village. Can't these bandas understand that instead of some cold five-star, they are getting all the warmth of an authentic village stay, from crappy loos to Pintoo and his pack of pie dogs? Why, like perfect hosts, we also pandered to their land-of-snake-charmers stereotype, and provided a cobra appearance at a tennis stadium. 


Far from hitting back, we have even turned the other cheque. We have even graciously given that CW-ji Hooper some crucial lessons in politically useful behaviour. Must say he learnt phataphat, and showed he can now deflect, deride and deny as swiftly as native netas. Accused of failing in his own duty to keep the arrangements on track, the CEO of the CWG federation brought in the totally irrelevant point about Delhi's huge population; then he promptly ate his words without the slightest evidence of swallowing his pride. He even coopted Fennel, his fellow Mike, to shout down the desi bosses. 


And speaking of whom, why did this Fed head feel the need to deny having said that he wanted 24-hr dedicated traffic lanes for the CWG? Doesn't he know that a 'VIP-route'-immune Delhi would be completely unfazed by such an inconvenience? 








Good schemes, like technology, are never future-proof. They need to be tweaked as and when required so that they stay effective. Unfortunately, many feel, this tweaking of the UPA's flagship scheme, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), is not happening and slowly but surely we are losing the advances that had been made till now. At a press meet recently, rights activists Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Annie Raja and Reetika Khera, people who helped the government design the scheme, listed the points of discord: first, the government had declared that the Minimum Wage Act will not be linked to the MGNREGS wages and has also frozen the minimum wage paid under MGNREGS at Rs 100; second, a 2008 order that said that only gram sabhas — not outsiders — can conduct social audits of the MGNREGS; and, third, the activists felt that the rural development ministry doesn't listen to the National Employment Guarantee Council that is meant to be a scheme watchdog.


Recently, former Congress MP from Gujarat, Madhusudan Mistry, commented that some activists think the scheme is their "fiefdom" and that "they are the architects of the Act". This unfortunate war of words is unwarranted and will only delay or stop the improvements that the Act needs. Having said that, there's definitely a case for independent social audits. From the time the MGNREGS came into force, there have been many instances of corruption. The cases have come from all parts of the country, more from states where the delivery mechanism is faulty. The scheme, as a report of the Lal Bahadur Institute of Management, said is individual-driven — if officials are committed enough, only then would it move forward. Yet, there is no lack of penalty in case public officials fail to deliver to the people what is due to them. In such a scenario, a civil society audit, will not only ensure that corruption is tackled but also help understand the shortcomings of the job plan.


The effectiveness of the scheme has also been apparent in many areas, curbing distress migration and also drought-proofing the country. The question is now whether we want to build on these positives and fix the shortcomings. If the squabbling over its merits and demerits continues, there really is no guarantee that the scheme will deliver on its initial life-changing potential for millions in this country.







What North Korea does today, the world may not necessarily do tomorrow. And more's the pity. The country's leader Kim Jong Il has just given his elusive son Kim Jong Un a promotion to four-star general. That's the way to go. Many may ask what the young lad has done to deserve this. This would be to split hairs. What is wrong with all these people who feel that even the children of powerful and rich people should earn their keep?


Look at our info-tsar Narayana Murthy. The dear man keeps harping on about how the iconic company is not for his children unless they work their way up. We go with Kim on this. If Infosys belonged to people who share our thoughts, the children would have been born in special retrofitted boardrooms and, before you could say Jack Robinson, would be cracking the whip around the corridors so that the faithful know just how much deference to show. Kim senior's father set the trend. When his portly little son was born, he put it out that a star hovered over a log cabin in the mountain portending the divine qualities the child would come to have. And was he wrong? Not at all. Kim Jong Il showed a remarkable affinity for cigars, cognac and nubile lasses at an early age.


We ourselves are not averse to sudden promotions though they have been few and far between. But how rewarding it would be if one could loll around on some beach and on returning find the management on its knees begging us to take on the post of editor-in-chief. Of course, in keeping with our ingrained sense of ethics, we would refuse. But Kim has shown us that these qualms are totally misplaced. It is not that we are work shirkers, perish the thought. But like Kim, we feel that we are to the manner born. Well, we are off to get our new calling cards complete with new and improvised titles, just in case.



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES




Excuse me. Why are you detaining this gentleman here? Is there something wrong with his papers?


No sir, but he needs to be stopped and questioned. I have orders from the top.


So who is this gentleman? A terrorist? A smuggler? Former Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson?


No, sir. He is the US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. The Government of India is stopping and questioning him at this airport to maintain reciprocity after Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was detained on Monday at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.


Was Patel carrying a shoe-bomb or perhaps a top secret document for Boeing CEO Jim McNarney?


No. It turns out that the Americans stopped him because another guy called Praful Patel is on their watchlist.


So what do you intend to do with LaHood?


We were going to let him go after a few silly questions. But now it turns out that his father was of Lebanese origin, so...


Lebanese? My god! Pass him on to R&AW and he'll sing like a canary. Don't let him go until Praful Patel gets a full apology and a load of frequent flyer miles.




Do say: Too many Patels, too few flights.


Don't say: We have an 'al-Qaeda operative' Obama on our watchlist. The guy insists it's a typo. Well?



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





In the Indian national football team, they call 26-year-old Mehrajuddin Wadoo 'The Truck' for his strength. When he plays, his parents in Srinagar are proud. So too are his friends, many part of the Kashmiri 'intifada'. His team-mates — from Bengal, Kerala, Manipur, Sikkim — do not dwell on his religion, his origins or his inner conflict. As a Kashmiri Muslim with obvious sympathies for the anger on his home streets, Wadoo is certainly conflicted. But when he takes the field for the Commonwealth Games, his brothers in arms will spur him to rise above that conflict.


Geeta, 21, and Babita Kumari, 20, have lived through another, far older, Indian conflict. Burly yet elegant, the sisters faced jibes and open hostility when their father, Mahabir, trained them as wrestlers in a corner of India where oppression of women is as common as breathing. Their grandfather called their passion for wrestling shameful, the villagers of Ballali, their Haryana hometown, said no man would want them and their muscles. Today, Geeta is an Indian champion; Babita a junior world champion runner-up.


With his Harvard degree, hard body and steely nerves, 25-year-old Siddarth Suchde is India's second highest-ranking player in squash, a game that puts immense strain on the joints and mind. Suchde grew up in Mumbai, lives and trains in England, has friends across the globe, and he plays for India. He could have been an economist but he would rather hone the art of smashing a ball against a wall.


With less than 72 hours to go for the inauguration of the 19th Commonwealth Games, it really is time to get to know India's new athletes; to explain how a sporting meet first held in 1930 as the British Empire Games to celebrate a now-lost dominion is relevant to the rise of new India; to explain why you must cheer the men and women who will make it so.


We know thousands of irate, frustrated Commonwealth Games volunteers still don't know what's expected of them, that sundry members of the Games' organising committee signed on their own relatives, that many dubious contracts need to be investigated, not forgotten, after October 14.


We also know most of the Games' venues are world class — even if they lost a few tiles now and then. We also know that after much last-minute stumbling and shouting, the Games village is not as disastrous as we and everyone around the world thought it might be.


So, focus now on the glories of sport. This is particularly important to India. We are not a sporting nation, but in the stories of the emerging generation of Indian sportsmen and women you will find a common thread: a previously un-Indian determination, which defines today their individual character and that of their emerging nation.


Since the splendour of the Spartans, the arrogance of Nazism and the triumphalism of the modern Confucians, sport has always been a test and reflection of national character.


The Indian sports fan has always revealed that character through cricket, an obsession that mirrors our larger, lopsided approach to progress and passion. We celebrate our IT, Bollywood, business and cricket prowess. We revere a handful of icons, celebrating who they are, not how they got there. For most of us, that's good enough. It shouldn't be.


Cricket itself has revealed the epochal change upon us. Once India idolised its Pataudis and Gavaskars, from elite and middle-class India. Now, as India changes, it is learning to celebrate its Dhonis and Pathans, from lower-middle-class India. And so, it is time to learn and appreciate how, beyond cricket, the Wadoos, the Kumaris and Suchdes reflect their rise from conflict zones, repressive societies or globalised elite — the diverse realities and possibilities of emerging India.


Indian sport, like everything else, isn't even strictly a national enterprise. A crusty Briton coaches Wadoo and his football team. Geeta and Babita are coached by a Georgian, who knows no English or Hindi but speaks to them in sign language and old Raj Kapoor songs. A Spaniard coaches the national hockey team. An Egyptian coaches squash hope Dipika Pallikal. The list goes on.


Do not expect India to sweep these Games. In the swimming trials, for example, only three swimmers qualified. The benchmark: the eighth place finish at the last Games. The qualifying norms were relaxed to accommodate 11 more swimmers. Old failings will persist for many years.


But pay attention to the stories, and you will discern another quality that propels the new generation of athletes, and India, forward: fearlessness.


That is how an assembly line of boxers and wrestlers — mostly small towners or village boys and girls who stumble over English, even Hindi — strides today over walls of adversity and boldly faces up to world champions. They know they may lose, but they do not think of it.


A boxer explains how he often saw fear in the eyes of his compatriots when they faced international opponents. He hasn't seen that fear in a while. When I was a boy, I watched a lot of wrestling. I remember often seeing hesitancy in the eyes of our national champion, Satpal Singh. Today, he's the coach of Sushil Kumar, the cauliflower-eared, tree-trunk-like Olympic bronze medallist. Like his mentor, Kumar learnt his craft in North India's mud-wrestling pits. Like his mentor, he worships the same ancient deity of Indian wrestlers, Hanuman. Unlike his mentor, Kumar successfully made the transition from mud to mat, from fear to fearlessness, from the old India to the new.








It took Judge Susanne Lehr 11 hours in Vienna's 'Landesgericht' — the most important court in Central Europe — to decide that the 36-year-old Jaspal S. will spend the rest of his life behind bars. Four of his assistants have been imprisoned for 17-18 years for killing the head of a Sikh sect, Dera Sach Khand, Sant Rama Nand in the capital of Austria in May 2009. Though, for over 100 years, Vienna has been a melting pot for people from east, south, north and west Europe, there is still a strong resistance to outside influences. As soon as the Habsburger dynasty's influence and power diminished, Austria was reduced to a small country. Today it's even difficult to find a typical Austrian name in a telephone directory. And since it's a 'diplomatic city', it doubles as a paradise for spies too.


Coming back to the murder of the religious head, 12 days of questioning too failed to get answers. Nobody was willing to find out — or be seen finding out — the reasons that led up to his murder. For both sides, it was a matter of shame to have presented Sikh culture in a bad light. No Guru Nanak, no Golden Temple; only deaf ears and dead-ends in Landesgericht. Worse, even the will to get to the root of the case was lacking. Not to forget that many children and women were present at the site when Sant Dass was murdered.


Most of the original Viennese inhabitants of a small street called Pelzgasse didn't even know that a Sikh temple existed in their quiet part of town. It's hard to imagine but it's true. It's located in a 'quarter' close to the West Station (there are only two railway stations in Vienna) and on the other side of the 'Ring', a long road to the centre of the city in the middle of Central Europe.


Most newspapers tried to blame the Asylanten — the so-called questionable political refugees — for Sant Nand's murder. It is not very complicated for them to analyse the 'fight between the castes'. The main reason is that most Austrians find it tough to accept 'outsiders'. Some intellectuals even wonder if Indians are following in the footsteps of their former colonists, the English, and stirring up trouble, like this one, in other nations. Today, Austria, most of Europe, in fact, has been neglecting its own extreme right wing and neo-Nazi influences. The government, artistes and teachers are clueless on what to do with them. It's once again coming too close to repeating the faults that led up to World War II.


Vienna is also the capital of classical music and a big attraction for the rest of the world, to which it has given some of the most famous European composers, who, according to Christian principles, form 'the crown of creation'. But a majority of people fail to understand the reason for others to level off their caste differences in their world-class city.


Ruud van Weerdenburg is a journalist based in Vienna, Austria. The views expressed by the author are personal








The domain of economic policy-making is more often than not unintelligible to the lay person. It should, of course, not be that way given that most economic policies have an impact on the average person's daily life. At the very least, an effort must be made by the government to reach out to the interested lay person. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has taken one step towards that end by releasing a "Budget Manual" that outlines and explains the various components of the government's singlemost important, annual, economic policy exercise. Interestingly, it is the annual budget that is shrouded in more mystery than most policy exercises of the government, something the finance minister admitted while releasing the manual.


The mystery that shrouds the budget exercise is peculiar because the budget isn't a matter of national security, the usual motive for keeping things behind wraps in government. Two decades after trade liberalisation and industrial deregulation, it isn't even about revealing the government's decisions on quotas and tariffs which could potentially benefit some parties more than others. Even the tax regime is now stable and less prone to sudden change. Still, the budget is important because it is a statement of the government's revenues and expenditures and ordinary citizens have a right to intelligible interpretation, something the newly released manual should facilitate.


This is important because it will only increase transparency in policy-making. In recent times, finance ministers have held wide-ranging pre-budget consultations with different stakeholders: industry and economists for example. Perhaps it is time to also arrange open consultations with interested aam citizens, who will now be better versed with the budget exercise after reading the Budget Manual.







On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi handed out unique identity numbers to 10 tribals in Tembhli village, Maharashtra. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) hopes to eventually give a unique 12-digit ID number to as many of India's 1.2 billion people that want it: so far, signing up is voluntary. Understandably, much of the political rhetoric has been about how it will revolutionise life for India's poorest who have few, if any, means to prove their identity, a most basic requirement for even accessing state-funded entitlements.


But the UID is about much more than enabling the poor to access government programmes and more even than cutting corruption and waste in government. The UID can be leveraged for use in a number of other applications, something UIDAI boss, Nandan Nilekani, is well aware of. The agenda for financial inclusion, for example. Along with a 12-digit number, people signing up for the programme can also opt to get a bank account number. Banks may not have the incentive to reach out to people with only limited financial resources on an individual basis: the transactions costs would be too high. But the UIDAI can cut costs by offering banks multiple potential customers with proven IDs and account numbers in a single window. The next step would be to combine the UID's database with the outreach of mobile service providers to enable secure mobile banking that will act as substitute for the costly process of setting up more bank branches. Channelling the savings of the unbanked into the financial system can yield enormous gains for GDP.


There's much in it for the educated urban classes as well. Consider the time, effort and transactions costs involved in getting a passport, a driving licence or even a new bank account. Most of the documentation needed, and processing time, is simply about establishing whether who you say is really who you are. The UID number could eliminate these cumbersome processes and delays: no long wait for a police verification on a passport application, for example. Just one 12-digit number can make the life of every Indian more efficient.







Looking at the Ayodhya dispute as just another dry legal matter, if one with possibly explosive real-world consequence, might come across to some as a limited perspective. After all, you might say, there are questions of faith involved, of political mobilisation and of community identity; how can legal processes solve everything? There is, of course, a certain grain of truth in this. And yet the legal process due to reach a culmination today at 3.30 pm is crucial, even if you think that "talks" or "reconciliation" are the only answer to this long-festering dispute. The simple fact is this: in the absence of any finding of fact, any initial assignation of rights, the give-and-take of negotiation is impossible — and similarly small is the possibility of satisfaction or of closure. Throughout the '80s and '90s — and even as recently as a few years ago — several attempts have been made to get "disputants" talking. But, with so little facts to grasp, so small the overlap of assumptions, such attempts were naturally doomed to failure.


A glance at the number of questions under litigation reveals the degree to which there is nothing on which to construct the framework of a widely acceptable agreement. Courts are being asked to decide whether the Babri Masjid was where a temple had been; how precisely the idols associated with the site appeared in December 1949; the exact extent of the Babri Masjid's property; and whether the lack of namaz for some years meant the mosque was legally "abandoned". Each one of these is a point of disagreement; and with so many conflicting assumptions to deal with, it appears difficult to imagine that any reasoned discussion will not be at cross-purposes. And, so, even if you believe this dispute goes beyond the legalities of site ownership, you must nevertheless also accept how essential is the legal process if this conduit for resentment is to be turned into a soluble problem.


Here is what the legal process could conceivably provide. All parties — as citizens of India — are required to accept the court's rulings, whether or not they think them actually correct; and, suddenly, we have ground beneath our feet, a point of agreement. This fundamentally changes the earlier dynamic: that nobody knew what was "theirs" in any discussion. Earlier political and community-based processes had no findings of fact and law to work with — just resentments, expectations, and anger.









The longest-running legal battle in India is a dispute over the 60 ft by 40 ft land in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid stood till December 6, 1992. Since 1950, five title suits have been in the Allahabad High Court, staking claim to the title of the plot of land of the Babri Masjid. Of these, four are to be decided by the Lucknow bench of the high court.


I feel that leaders of all communities, political parties and social groups should start planning to meet the situation because the matter requires the involvement of people at the grassroots level and it does not brook any delay.


The high court verdict will not necessarily settle the issue. Either side could go to the Supreme Court. It is only the first step in the judicial process. Even otherwise, matters of faith are not legally determined.


We have heard in loud voices words like lawful, constitutional and democratic. Analysts agree that the idiom and the paradigm used by either section of the leadership in the late '80s and early '90s to spread their victimhood can no longer serve them. The issue is no longer as inflammable for the youth, from all sections, who say preventing fresh unrest is more important.


Aspirations and hopes of the new generation have changed dramatically from the '90s to 2010. The youth of today are concerned more with bread-and-butter issues than rabble-rousing rhetoric. In these circumstances, the broad-based hope for a mature reaction to the Babri verdict is expedited.


We live in and by the law. In taking rights seriously we offer arguments against legal positivism that judges characteristically feel an obligation to give what we call "gravitational force" to past decisions, and that this felt obligation contradicts the positivists' doctrine of judicial discretion. We insisted that in most cases of hatred there are right answers to be hunted by reason and imagination.


From the Koran: Verses 12: And when it is said to them: Create not disorder on the earth, they say:


We are only promoters of peace. Verses 13: Beware! It is surely they who create disorder, but they do not perceive it. Hence, the sacred Koran believes in universal peace and there is no space for violence.


Law exists as a plain fact. In other words, the law in no way depends on what it should be. Why then do lawyers and judges sometimes appear to be having a theoretical disagreement about the law? Because when they appear to be disagreeing in the theoretical way about what the law is, they are really disagreeing about what it should be. Their disagreement is really over issues of morality and fidelity, not law.


In this way, the empire of the law is defined by attitude, not territory or power or process. Law's attitude is constructive: it aims, in the interpretive spirit, to lay principle over practice to show the best route to a better future. It is a fraternal attitude, an expression of how we are united in community though divided in project, interest, and conviction. Finally, it is a reflection of the kind of people we want to be and the community we aim to have.


Our society has been characterised by the quest for this inner truth, for a better future and of the triumph of the community over the individual.


Despite being the ruler of a huge kingdom, Ravana couldn't rule over his inner world. As opposed to him, in the beginning, Rama couldn't become the king of even a small province like Ayodhya; but he was able to rule over his inner self. Unravelling the different phases of dharma, voluntarily retreating into the forest in order to obey his father's word, subduing the demons in order to protect the sages, killing Vali and Ravana — all these constitute the triumph of dharma. This is what the Ramayana is about; it is a chronicle of the triumph of dharma. In an individual-centred age, scores of ideals come into being and disappear after some time without leaving any trace behind. But the Ramayana is characterised not by individualistic qualities but the ones of a community, of a whole culture.


Rama, Buddha, Gandhi and such others do not belong to any race, religion or region; they are eternal symbols of those principles that guide us in the evolutionary path. We approach the concept of law as follows: where there is law, human conduct is made in some sense non-optional or obligatory. Thus, the idea of obligation is at the core of a rule. The reason is one has an obligation only by virtue of rule.


Professor G.L. Williams pointed it out very clearly: "The word 'law' stimulates in us the attitude of obedience to authoritative rules that we have come through our upbringing to associate with the ideas of municipal law. Change the word for some other and the magic evaporated. Accordingly these writers felt obliged to embark upon the unprofitable discussion as to the proper meaning of the term 'law'. Where laws do not rule, there is no constitution."


An early — and famous — formulation of the dictates of Natural Law was offered by Cicero. True law is right reason in agreement with Nature, it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting, it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrong-doing by its prohibitions. And it does not lay its commands or prohibitions upon good men in vain, though neither have any effect on the wicked. It is a sin to try to alter this law, nor is it allowable to attempt to repeal any part of it, and it is impossible to abolish it entirely. We cannot be freed from its obligations, and we need not look outside ourselves for an expounder or interpreter of it. And there will not be different laws in different places, countries or different men.


Lord Donaldson stated: "The efficacy and maintenance of the rule of law, which is the foundation of any parliamentary democracy, has at least two pre-requisites. First, people must understand that it is in their interests, as well as in that of the community as a whole, that they should live their lives in accordance with rules and all the rules. Second, they must know what those rules are."


Absence of clarity is destructive of the rule of law and is unfair to those who wish to preserve the rule of law. It encourages those who wish to undermine it. The Majesty of the Law beacons us to the righteous path of Indian minds.


My six-year-old grandson, Kabir Adkoli, sent me an e-mail depicting a children's park in the middle with sand pits, seesaw, ladder, etc, and a mosque and temple on both sides. It was a response to the present conflict. This is a message of peace from the young mind. This is the mind of the nation which binds us together.


The writer is Union law minister








While watching news reports of the Commonwealth Games debacle with friends a few days ago, I was shocked when one of them dismissed the critical comments by the "two Mikes" (Fennell and Hooper) as "jealousy of India". That personifies our delusional, and often jingoistic assessment of our place in the world economic order.


At the same time, many of us dismiss the considerable developmental progress of China as a totalitarian blip where the underlying rural-urban divide will lead to unmanageable social problems, civil strife and partition of that country.


The unfolding CWG saga has served a timely reminder: perhaps we were getting a little ahead of ourselves. In reality we might still be a relatively poor nation, with huge contradictions, disparities and challenges, even if growing strongly from a low economic base.


Many lessons will hopefully be learned from this sordid mess. There will be investigations, accusations of cover-ups, proposals for new legislation, promises of a new dawn for Indian sports with enhanced funding and possibly an era of sports being run by sportspersons and not politicians and bureaucrats.


The likelihood though is that things may not change much.


Timely preparation of the CWG facilities would have earned India plaudits, greater international respect as an emerging market, and would have lead to the inevitable chant to "bring on the Olympics!"


Instead, we are now more uncertain of when we shall be credibly able to bid for the Olympics.


Few Indians understand how our country is viewed abroad. Far too readily we fall for political rhetoric that claims that we are returning full compliments with interest to former colonial powers. Few of us are prepared to accept that much of our supposed economic might arises from the simple fact that we are a populous country.


As Indians we know that China is racing ahead, but we remain optimistic that we can catch up and one day overtake China. Yet we must accept that at the current juncture in our economic progress we are behind, although many of us somehow think that we are within touching distance of China's achievement. So, how far behind are we?


China lost its 1993 bid for the 2000 Olympics to Sydney and had to wait till 2001 for the successful Beijing bid. After London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the 2020 Olympics rightly belong to either Africa or Asia. South Africa's stunningly successful hosting of the football World Cup would make it a strong candidate.


Recent events make it more likely that India will not bid in 2013, with 2017 the likely time of our first bid. Assuming that, like China, we are successful with our second bid possibly in 2025, India may host the Olympics in 2032, 24 years after China, a "sporting" assessment of how far behind China we are.


Maybe a 24-year lag is too harsh an indictment on India. So, let's look at per capita GDP data. On a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis, China's per capita GDP was about 50 per cent that of India's in 1978, rising to about 200 per cent by 2008. Growing at 8.5 per cent, it will take India just under nine years to reach where the Chinese are today in per capita GDP terms.


So in terms of the development lag we have two measures, one fiscal, the other based on sport, that give us assessments of nine and 24 years respectively. The truth may lie somewhere in between.


Today, India can match the $33 billion or so that China is estimated to have spent on its own Olympics. But money is not the problem; the ability to deliver is.


Delhi, with its confusing administrative set-up, was always going to be challenged to get things right. Our private sector and perhaps some of our more capable chief ministers (in their own states) would have produced better, on-time, infrastructure with quality support services to match.


India does have its success stories: the Delhi Metro and our gleaming new airports among them. The government now needs to extend private public partnership (PPP) initiatives to the sports infrastructure sector.


To ensure that the lessons of the CWG fiasco are actually learned immediately after these Games, the government needs to appoint a commission of inquiry, review and recommendation to report in no more than six months, followed by the creation of a statutory authority that would become responsible for India's future Olympic bid. And thereafter for creating the facilities and managing the event itself.


India needs to host the Olympics sooner rather than later. It is a test for the political leadership.


The writer is the Congress MLA from Qila Raipur, Punjab








There are actually two Tea Party movements in America today: one you've read about that is not that important and one you've not read about that could become really important if the right politician understood how to tap into it.


The Tea Party that has gotten all the attention, the amorphous, self-generated protest against the growth in government and the deficit, is what I'd actually call the "Tea Kettle movement" — because all it's doing is letting off steam.


That is not to say that the energy behind it is not authentic (it clearly is) or that it won't be electorally impactful (it clearly might be). But affecting elections and affecting America's future are two different things. Based on all I've heard from this movement, it feels to me like it's all steam and no engine. It has no plan to restore America to greatness.


The Tea Kettle movement can't have a positive impact on the country because it has both misdiagnosed America's main problem and hasn't even offered a credible solution for the problem it has identified. How can you take a movement seriously that says it wants to cut government spending by billions of dollars but won't identify the specific defence programmes, Social Security, Medicare or other services it's ready to cut — let alone explain how this will make us more competitive and grow the economy?


And how can you take seriously a movement that sat largely silent while the Bush administration launched two wars and a new entitlement, Medicare prescription drugs — while cutting taxes — but is now, suddenly, mad as hell about the deficit and won't take it anymore — from President Obama? Say what? Where were you folks for eight years?


The issues that upset the Tea Kettle movement — debt and bloated government — are actually symptoms of our real problem, not causes. They are symptoms of a country in a state of incremental decline and losing its competitive edge, because our politics has become just another form of sports entertainment, our Congress a forum for legalised bribery and our main lawmaking institutions divided by toxic partisanship to the point of paralysis.


The important Tea Party movement, which stretches from centrist Republicans to independents right through to centrist Democrats, understands this at a gut level and is looking for a leader with three characteristics. First, a patriot: a leader who is more interested in fighting for his country than his party. Second, a leader who persuades Americans that he or she actually has a plan not just to cut taxes or pump stimulus, but to do something much larger — to make America successful, thriving and respected again. And third, someone with the ability to lead in the face of uncertainty and not simply whine about how tough things are — a leader who believes his job is not to read the polls but to change the polls.


Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg told me that when he does focus groups today this is what he hears: "People think the country is in trouble and that countries like China have a strategy for success and we don't. They will follow someone who convinces them that they have a plan to make America great again. That is what they want to hear. It cuts across Republicans and Democrats."


To me, that is a plan that starts by asking: what is America's core competency and strategic advantage, and how do we nurture it? Answer: It is our ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent. That means men and women who invent, build and sell more goods and services that make people's lives more productive, healthy, comfortable, secure and entertained than any other country.


Leadership today is about how the US government attracts and educates more of that talent and then enacts the laws, regulations and budgets that empower that talent to take its products and services to scale, sell them around the world — and create good jobs here in the process. Without that, we can't afford the health care or defence we need.


This is the plan the real Tea Party wants from its president. To implement it would require us to actually raise some taxes — on, say, petrol — and cut others — like payroll taxes and corporate taxes. It would require us to overhaul our immigration laws so we can better control our borders, let in more knowledge workers and retain those skilled foreigners going to college here. And it would require us to reduce some services — like Social Security — while expanding others, like education and research for a 21st-century economy.


In other words, it will require a very smart, subtle and focused plan to use our now diminishing resources in the most efficient way possible to get back to our core competency. That is the only long-term solution to our problem — to grow our way out of debt with American workers who are more empowered and educated to compete.


Any Tea Party that says the simple answer is just shrinking government and slashing taxes might be able to tip the midterm elections in its direction. But it can't tip America in the right direction. There is a Tea Party for that, but it's still waiting for a leader. THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN








Until last week, the talk about China's power was rather abstract. After it compelled Tokyo to release, unconditionally, the captain of a Chinese fishing trawler that collided with a Japanese coast guard vessel earlier this month, the consequences of Beijing's rise have been palpable.


Power is about persuading other nations to do one's bidding. Big nations, with their expansive economic and military clout, do it all the time. Beijing's successful application of pressure against Tokyo will be long remembered as a classic case of coercive diplomacy from a great power. When Beijing began to protest through diplomatic channels against Japan's detention of the boat, its crew and captain, Tokyo released the boat and crew, while declaring that the captain would be held while he was tried for obstructing the activities of its coast guard.


If Japan's decision was uncharacteristically bold, Beijing came down like a ton of bricks. When Tokyo refused and insisted that the law would take its course, Beijing called off the talks on energy development in disputed waters and cancelled the invitation for 1000 Japanese high school students who were to visit the Shanghai Expo. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao then stepped in demanding that Japan release the captain "immediately and unconditionally." Global Times made a chilling case for hitting Japan where it hurts: "The pain has to be piercing. Japanese politicians need to understand the consequences — votes will be lost. Japanese companies have to be made aware of the loss of business involved. Japanese citizens will feel the burden due to the downturn in their economy... China's domestic law, business regulations and consumers can all be manoeuvred."


Tokyo's soft spots were soon exposed, when Beijing slowed down the export of rare earth materials critical for so many modern industries, and arrested three Japanese citizens working in China. As pressure mounted from business houses in Japan to call truce with China, Tokyo stepped back by releasing the captain in the name of preserving a good neighbourly relationship. Once the captain was back in China, Beijing demanded an apology. Both Tokyo and Beijing now say the ball is in the other's court to take the first step towards restoring status quo ante. The story is far from over.


India's Lessons


India is not a stranger to China's exercise of power. After all the 1962 war was about Beijing administering a political lesson to Jawaharlal Nehru. Unlike in the 1960s when Beijing was isolated in Asia and the world, China is now a great power, with levers that were unimaginable four decades ago. The small rocky and uninhabited islands in dispute between China and Japan are nothing compared to the size of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, contested by Delhi and Beijing. About 130,000 sq km of territory is under dispute.


The defence ministry would be well-advised to study the manner in which Beijing put Tokyo down, and learn the appropriate lessons from it. Defence Minister A. K. Antony might want to assess what humiliation at the hands of China, of the type suffered by Tokyo last week, could mean for the Congress party and the UPA government. Antony should know that weakness invites bullying and strength is the only basis for a mutually beneficial engagement with China.


Asian defence

Besides building one's own strength, our defence establishment must pay more attention to the unfolding dynamic in the western Pacific, and deepen India's military cooperation with leading East Asian nations. For the rise of China breaks down the distinctions between East and South Asia.


While the frequency and intensity of Indian contacts with Japan, South Korea, ASEAN and Australia have steadily grown in recent years, the defence ministry is a long way from thinking strategically about the link between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The IAS mandarins at the defence ministry tend to sneer at military diplomacy and have been quite cavalier about responding to the many calls from our Asian neighbours for defence cooperation. They have also avoided building institutional capacity to deal with the rapidly evolving Asian power balance. The longer the ministry's learning curve, the greater is the possibility that India will be caught on the wrong military foot with China.








George W. Bush may no longer occupy the White House, but that has not stemmed veteran journalist Bob Woodward's remarkable ability to document the wartime travails of a serving US president. After his quartet of books on the Bush administration's prosecution of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama's Wars, released on Monday, provides a layer of detail to the inner deliberations concerning the key decision last year to sanction a troop surge in Afghanistan. Woodward's account provides little good news. The false allure and single-minded pursuit of domestic political popularity, it appears, has contributed to setbacks in Afghanistan, an increasingly unstable South Asia, a resentful US military, and growing dissatisfaction at home with the president.


The issue likely to receive the most attention in Washington is Obama's relations with his senior military advisors and their backers within the civilian leadership, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta. Although two lengthy reviews were conducted on what was required for the United States to win in Afghanistan — resulting in an interagency white paper released in March 2009 and an assessment overseen by US and NATO commander in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal last summer — it appears that the president was dissatisfied with their results, seeking more options than the 40,000-strong troop deployment most of his top military aides were recommending.


His praetorian guard of close political advisors — Vice President Joe Biden, Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, and Senior Advisor David Axelrod, among others — repeatedly counselled the president against an open-ended war, earning the ire of McChrystal, then-head of Central Command General David Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and National Security Advisor James Jones. But the military was also not entirely forthright in the way it went about convincing Obama, staging, in Woodward's account, a rigged war game last October code-named Poignant Vision to demonstrate that a smaller force would be inadequate.


Woodward's narrative does the international community good service by clarifying many details about the administration's deliberations. But for several reasons, their implications are damning.


First, administration infighting, even now it has spilled into the public domain, is not likely to abate. Some of the harsh words said by senior officials about colleagues suggest deep personal rifts, even between individuals who are allied on policy specifics. Second, Obama's relationship with the military can be expected to sour even further. While he was acting perfectly within his rights as commander-in-chief to reject the military's proposals, the implications of this decision are profound. As Panetta warns, "No Democratic president can go against military advice, especially if he asked for it." Third, the political consequences of Obama's decision on Afghanistan will not work in his favour domestically, despite US politics being his overriding concern. He will not have a success to show an already dissatisfied electorate; and in the event of a withdrawal, he will be associated permanently with a major foreign policy failure.


Finally, the sense of an imminent US exit from Afghanistan, made explicit in Woodward's narrative, sends all the wrong signals to the region's capitals from Kabul and Islamabad to Tehran and New Delhi. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, faced with the prospect of weakened US military support, has already sought to engage elements of the Taliban independent of Washington. The Pakistani state security apparatus has stepped up its support for cross-border militants in an effort to fill the expected power vacuum in Afghanistan, despite high-level warnings by US officials. Iran and India, meanwhile, are considering renewing their cooperation in support of the erstwhile Northern Alliance in an effort to prevent Taliban dominance in Afghanistan. The very scenario the United States had been hoping to avoid in Afghanistan — a return to the chaos of the 1990s in which al-Qaeda and other like-minded groups were allowed to incubate — has instead become a distinct probability.


If there is one lesson to draw, it is perhaps a precautionary one: against the unhealthy priority given narrow domestic political considerations in the conduct of foreign policy. The spectre of another Vietnam War, it appears, led to important national security decisions taken with midterm and presidential elections in mind. But this gamble has backfired. Splitting the difference between the larger US presence in Afghanistan advocated by the military and the smaller presence that Obama would have ideally liked has produced the worst of both worlds: mounting US casualties and costs but few, if any, palpable improvements to Afghan stability and security. A middle path, it appears, is no way to exit.


The writer is programme officer for Asia at the German Marshall Fund of the United States







With the Ayodhya verdict now due, the RSS' journals are full of reports arguing that Hindus are the rightful claimants to the site. Organiser carried an article by a former director-general of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), B.B. Lal, on archaeological evidence that "proves" that the site was the birthplace of Lord Ram. It even reproduces a statement made by one K.K. Mohammad, an ASI official who participated in the Ayodhya excavations in the late 1970s, that Ayodhya is as holy to the Hindus as Mecca is to the Muslims, and so Muslims should respect the sentiments of their Hindu brethren and voluntarily hand over the site.


The edition also carries articles tracing the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the six-decade legal battle. Panchjanya claims it was time to reverse the "injustice" done to the "Indian nation" by the "destruction" of the Janmabhoomi temple by a "foreign invader." The lead editorial argues that the Hindu community is eager to carry out the much-needed course correction. Another article dwells on the history of the site and, citing the reconstruction of the temple at Somnath, argues that legislation should be enacted for a Ram temple at Ayodhya.


Another article sees a Congress conspiracy in the attempt by R.C. Tripathi to defer the judicial verdict.


Atal speaks


BJP patriarch A.B. Vajpayee has been out of the public eye for a long time because of ill-health. The latest issue of party fortnightly Kamal Sandesh carries an article in his name that marks the birth anniversary of Jan Sangh stalwart Deendayal Upadhyaya. Vajpayee says Upadhyaya never hankered for office either; politics was the means and not an end in itself. Vajpayee recalls that he wanted to inject spiritualism in politics.


Behind Munda


There is a strong perception that many in the BJP top brass were not really aware, or were informed at the last minute, of the party's moves to form a government in Jharkhand with the JMM led by Arjun Munda. An editorial in Kamal Sandesh says that by becoming CM, Munda has proved that he is not only a natural tribal leader but also a political leader of the entire state. Perhaps reflecting factional feuding in the state unit, it says that the state leadership will have to stand united behind the CM.


Churches and AFSPA


Panchjanya sees Christian-backed conspiracies in Manipur, where it claims that nationalist forces were being restrained from carrying out their work in the name of protection of human rights. It says more than 30 insurgent groups are operating in the state and they selectively kill only the Hindi-speaking population. Claiming that human rights outfits or church-sponsored groups never criticise insurgents, but target only the armed forces, the article says if AFSPA is fully withdrawn from the state, then only the terrorist groups could rule there, and the entire country's security would be jeopardised.


Compiled by Manoj C.G.








There seems a major communication gap between law minister Veerappa Moily and his ministry, for they are speaking at complete cross-purposes on the scandal involving communications minister A Raja. The question is whether Moily is being kept in the dark or whether he is aware of the double talk. A little over a month ago, officials from Raja's ministry moved a note asking the law ministry whether bodies like the CAG and the CVC had the right to probe into decisions taken by the ministry. Why they moved the note is obvious since, though the CBI's investigations into the 2G licence allocations had cooled off (that's why the Supreme Court asked the CBI, a few weeks ago, to explain why it was taking so long with the investigation), the CVC and the CAG were asking uncomfortable questions. Indeed, it was the CAG's questions that really went to the heart of the scam since the CAG even detailed the time at which various press releases were loaded on the ministry's Web sites, asked why decisions taken so long ago were not made public for months, and so on—basically, they alleged information had been leaked out to select firms. A note was prepared by a telecom ministry babu (who had, ironically, advised Raja on the telecom licences) and submitted to the law secretary, saying that while the CAG could look into government accounts, the CAG Act "nowhere provides that he has any duty or power to question the wisdom of the policy/lawmakers as policy decisions may involve trial and error theory". In case of the CVC, the note said, "as per Section 8 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, CVC has not been assigned any functions or powers to issue directives relating to any policy matters." That is, CAG/CVC does not have the right to question the government, provided the decision is wrapped up in the garb of policy.


This note, the new telecom secretary R Chandrashekhar has now disclosed, was cleared by the law secretary on the 7th of this month. Chandrashekhar was replying to the CAG, saying the law ministry had "opined that the CAG had no duty or power to challenge policy decisions taken by the Government." This is shocking since it essentially takes away the very rationale for having a CVC/CAG. Less than a week after his ministry's opinion, Moily blasted the CAG for failing to make timely interventions, to prevent crimes from taking place before they happened ("postmortems are good but they can be conducted only when a patient is dead"). So Moily wants the CAG to not just investigate old scandals, he wants it to prevent new ones. His ministry wants the exact opposite. Who's in charge?







The RBI decision to permit banks to engage companies registered under the Indian Companies Act, 1956, as business correspondents (BC) or retail agents, is a major step that has the potential to bring banking services to a vast majority of the people. Though non-banking financial companies remain currently excluded from the move, probably on account of the conflict of interests, it still opens up the doors to a large number of companies in the telecom, retail and other sectors to take deposits and provide loans on behalf of the banks. The concept of extending banking services through BCs have been mooted since the middle of the decade. But the initial progress of the scheme was tardy as the choice of the BCs was initially restricted to NGOs, mutual funds, trusts, cooperative societies, post offices and the non-profit Section 25 companies. And to prevent big businesses from entering the BC network, RBI even issued a notification two years later in 2008 excluding those Section 25 companies where NBFCs, banks and telecom companies had more than a 10% holdings from the BC network.


To make matters worse, the emphasis then shifted to extending the BC network through smaller entities like retired bank employees, teachers, ex-service men, government employees, PCO operators, shopowners and insurance agents. But the gains were negligible. The numbers released last year showed that only 26 of the 50 major public and private sector banks had adopted the BC concept. And even here the gains were very uneven. While the 22 public sector banks appointed 85 BCs to open 80 lakh accounts, the 4 private sector banks could open only 8 lakh accounts through 44 BCs. And the evidence clearly showed that the biggest gains were made by banks that engaged BCs with the maximum reach. For instance, Axis Bank, which engaged just one BC, accounted for more than 80% of the bank accounts opened under the scheme in the private sector. In the public sector, Union Bank of India could open more than 16 lakh accounts with just 3 BCs. So, finally, RBI seems to have learnt the right lessons from the experience of the last 4 years and has now decided to utilise the services of the large corporate groups to extend the BC network and ensure the maximum possible gains.








There is currently a sort of "low level equilibrium" in the relations between the Centre and some key regulators in the country. The term "low level equilibrium" was recently used by the government to describe the choppy relationship between India and China, marked as it is by frequent disruptions. Relations between finance minister and some important financial markets regulators are also similarly strained and possibly at the lowest equilibrium seen in recent years. This even prompted finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to remark recently that regulators did not come from heaven. The sub-text of this statement, of course, is that regulators must subordinate themselves to North Block's wisdom. After all it is the finance ministry that is "finally answerable to Parliament."


The problem began with the totally avoidable battle between Sebi and Irda over who should regulate Unit Linked Insurance Plans (Ulips), which left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. It was this episode which gave Pranab Mukherjee enough reason to assert himself in a manner that is now hurting every regulator, including RBI, which had nothing much to do with the Ulip fracas.


The real low point for Sebi and Irda came when the finance minister told Parliament that he had no option but to resort to an Ordinance when key regulators fought like petulant children, thereby disrupting the markets. Both Sebi and Irda were squarely responsible for giving the finance minister the handle to intervene, and how! It created a chain of events that strained relations between the finance ministry and RBI also. RBI spoke against the need for an Ordinance and a special Committee to resolve inter-regulatory disputes. Earlier, RBI also criticised the budget proposal for setting up a Financial Stability Development Council (FSDC) to oversee stability in the financial markets. Both RBI and Sebi saw this as impinging on their autonomy. Pranab Mukherjee is an old school politician, and much like a benevolent patriarch he doesn't like to be questioned by regulators. Of course, he chose to address some of RBI's concerns by amending the Ordinance in Parliament that gave the central bank the status of vice-Chair on the Committee. This was only a minor victory for RBI.


The ministers' antipathy towards the key regulators is now seen in the way North Block not giving extensions to deputy governors at RBI who are close to retirement. In the past, at least one extension would be given if only to recognise their lasting contribution to RBI. Thankfully, on other critical issues of monetary policy management, the RBI governor is on the same page as the finance minister. In fact, Pranab Mukherjee and Subbarao have coordinated well on macro-economic management of the economy.


Sebi chairman Bhave is also due to retire by February and the search for a new candidate has already begun.


The finance minister is not happy with Sebi's conduct on many issues, starting with the way Bhave passed the Ulip ban order, setting a chain reaction. Bhave's move to reduce the agent's commission to near zero on the sale of mutual funds was also seen as a move that was tantamount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And now he wants to control the pricing of public issues by merchant bankers so that enough is left on the table for the small investor! Suddenly, Bhave seems to be seized by a desire to play the white knight for the small investor. Is he trying to blaze a trail of glory as he exits?


Pranab Mukherjee does not appear to have taken kindly to the latest public spat between Sebi and MCX, which is seeking a licence to set up a stock exchange in competition with the NSE. Sebi has rejected MCX's application, and MCX will appeal against Sebi's order.


Overall, there is a strong perception, even at the finance minister's office, that the stock market regulator is biased against MCX and its actions are willy-nilly perpetuating the monopoly of the NSE, a private entity. In fact, MCX has directly accused Sebi of "conflict of interest" as some of its members have worked with the NSE in the past.


Unfortunately, the financial markets regulatory environment may have got further vitiated by a recent discovery that the capital markets division of the finance ministry had mooted a formal proposal towards the end of UPA-1's tenure to "help NSE recover its dramatic loss of market share in commodities trading against MCX". Recently, the agriculture minister Sharad Pawar wrote to Pranab Mukherjee questioning the capital market division's desire to help one private entity, i.e. NSE, against another, which is MCX! This, indeed, is unprecedented. Pranab Mukherjee himself is a bit puzzled by this episode.


In a way, Sharad Pawar was also protesting against the attempt by the Capital Markets division of finance ministry to interfere in the affairs of the Forward Markets Commission (FMC), which regulates commodities trading. The FMC is generally very suspicious of Sebi as there had been talk in the past of bringing the regulation of derivative trading in commodities under Sebi. In principle, this makes sense but, given Sebi's perceived bias towards NSE, any such move now will be seen with even greater suspicion. The chairman of FMC, PC Khatua, has also publicly spoken against the idea of merging FMC with Sebi. Incidentally, he is the only regulator to have got a one year extension recently!


Overall, the lack of harmony among regulators gets compounded when the relationship between the government and some regulators is marked by acrimony. There is a need to bring back the goodwill and the subtle balance of power exercised by the government and regulators in the larger interests of governance.








One of the most striking features of policy coordination in the post-financial crisis period was the manner in which most major countries desisted from engaging in serious forms of trade protectionism, even when faced with rising unemployment domestically. That consensus which staved off a potential race to the bottom, however, seems now to be fading rapidly as the world descends into what Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega has quite rightly termed "international currency wars." A series of major and relatively minor economies, including the US, Japan, Thailand and Colombia, have taken deliberate steps to weaken their currencies in order to boost growth. The question, of course, is why now?


For one, the recovery of economic growth in a number of countries, including the US and Japan and also certain emerging economies, has been far from robust. That sort of scenario worries politicians and policymakers and deliberately undervaluing the currency is an old-fashioned way to boost growth via exports. The problem, of course, is that growth engineered in this fashion comes at another country's expense (beggar-thy-neighbour). And sooner, rather than later, other countries will engage in competitive devaluations that will wipe out the gains, and inflict a cost, significantly in terms of inflation.


Needless to say policymakers in the US, Japan, Thailand, etc, are perfectly aware of this. But they would argue that their response is being forced by China's continued insistence on keeping the yuan undervalued. Of course, the undervaluation of the yuan preceded the global crisis, and is therefore not something that the Chinese have resorted to as a crisis strategy. However, a policy that other countries could tolerate in the time of global boom has become intolerable in the bust—there is a strong feeling that China cannot be allowed to take all the gains from exports at the cost of others. The estimates of how much of the yuan is undervalued vary but in real exchange rate terms, it could be anything between 25% and 40%.


The curious thing is why the US and other countries are not willing and able to force China into revaluing its exchange rate. After all, Japan was "persuaded" to let the yen appreciate in the 1980s when its current account surplus peaked at between 4-5% (compared to China's peak of 10% in 2008) and when growth was around just 5% (China's is almost in double digits). Surjit Bhalla's forthcoming book Devaluing to Prosperity has a brilliant chapter explaining this irony. Bhalla makes the argument that it just may be in the interest of


US business (particularly I-banks) to let China continue its distorted policies because they do not directly compete with Chinese firms in the way they did with Japanese firms two decades ago. On the contrary, they prosper when China does.


There may also be another reason why some countries would rather devalue themselves than force China to revalue. The US and Japan, in particular, may be using devaluation (through lower interest rates and printing money) as a method to engineer some inflation. A carefully engineered inflation (if that's indeed possible) would help cut both private and public debt rapidly in these highly indebted countries. Of course, that involves a massive transfer away from savers to borrowers, and risks creating an inflationary spiral that may be difficult to control.


Amidst these misguided policy interventions by some countries, other economies are facing adverse consequences. Ironically, these are the countries that have recovered smartly from the crisis. Brazil is a prime example. One of the consequences of the low interest rate-easy cash regime in the US and other advanced economies is that capital is pouring into countries like Brazil (and indeed India) because of the higher interest rates (and better returns offered in high growth economies) which is putting upward pressure on the exchange rate of these countries. That is rendering their exports uncompetitive. Countries like Brazil may, therefore, be forced into making their own interventions, including restrictions on capital flows, which aren't necessarily good for them.


The currency wars are set to be a serious test for the much celebrated G-20 when it meets in South Korea in November. Coordinating stimulus was the easy bit, but can coordination work when interests conflict?








While releasing the Budget Manual, a document explaining the entire budget-making process, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said the 2010-11 Budget had a size of over Rs 10 lakh crore while the first Budget, presented in 1947 by RK Shanmukham Chetty, had gross receipts of just Rs 231 crore. The 1947 Budget, he said, had only two tax heads: income tax and customs duty, and the expenditure comprised only civil and military expenditure. The deficit in 1947 was only Rs 26 crore, Mukherjee added, saying many senior officers in the government today issue exemptions of more than Rs 26 crore in a day.



We've all heard of the e-mail prize scams that try to get users to divulge personal details like bank account numbers. Given that more people use phones than those who use e-mail, it was only a matter of time before the scam migrated to phones. One such victim was promised a great reward and given a number to call in case he wished to get any clarifications. The number was a mobile based in Pakistan but in his enthusiasm the person didn't notice. What was surprising was the SMS that followed, from his telephone operator, Airtel. It read, "You have made a call to ISD CODE 0092. We urge you to exercise caution while calling unknown number and sharing personal details as it can be misused." Big Brother is hearing? Or was it because the call was to Pakistan?



So far, you've heard just bad news on the Goods and Services Tax, on how various state finance ministers were opposing it, how they were not happy with the single rate, and so on. There's good news now. The finance ministry has decided the next meeting of state finance ministers will now be held in Goa. Hopefully, the feni and the beaches will put the state finance ministers in a better frame of mind. And possibly the journalists covering it may not be that keen to look for a story either.






Boris Yeltsin, Viktor Chernomyrdin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev now (not to mention six Parliaments and 10 PMs)—that's how the Russian presidency transformed while Yuri Luzhkov held on to the Moscow fief as its mayor. Before taking on this job in 1992, he was chairman of the state committee responsible for Moscow's state supply. One of the world's safest cities had transformed into a crime capital; everything from cheese to detergent was running short, with even the black market larders becoming bare. As McDonald's trundled in, Luzhkov rebranded the Russian capital. It generates a fifth of the country's income and conduits 80% of its transactions today. It's swimming in Mercs. Also corruption. Luzhkov's wife is Russia's richest woman. He has just got fired from his job.


In his complicated career, the man has entertained visions of replacing Yeltsin, then Putin. That he survived all that perhaps made him complacent. With a newspaper article this time around, he tried to get between Putin and Medvedev, questioning the latter's authority and suggesting a return to presidency for Putin. While Luzhkov's chequered career doesn't lend itself to romanticisation, the brusque way in which he was fired confirms how Kremlin authoritarianism still runs the roost in Russia.











It is often said about Britain's Labour Party that it is at its best when it is bold and adventurous. In electing Ed Miliband to replace Gordon Brown as its leader, it has certainly shown an extraordinary streak of boldness. The choice of a young, left-of-centre leader in the face of a strong challenge from right-of-centre Blairites represents a decisive break with the past as the party begins the long march back to power. It also signals the arrival of a younger generation of leadership not tainted by the excesses and fatal blunders of the 'New Labour' era. Using his maiden speech intelligently to distance himself from the "old" ways of doing things, Mr. Miliband proclaimed: "I lead a new generation not bound by old thinking." Part of his diagnosis was that New Labour had "lost its way" and stopped listening to people. He courageously denounced the Iraq invasion, saying it was "wrong, wrong, and wrong." In a sign that the party is desperate to move on, every time he mentioned the word "young" and called for a new direction, he was loudly cheered. At 40, Mr. Miliband — non-Marxist son of a noted Marxist theorist Ralph Miliband — is the youngest leader in the party's modern history, overtaking Tony Blair by a few months. He was elected an MP only in 2005 but quickly rose to ministerial ranks and became a Cabinet Minister in 2008.


Ed Miliband, a surprise late entrant to the leadership contest, was widely regarded as an underdog against David Miliband, his more experienced and high-profile brother. There were three other contenders: Ed Balls, Andy Burnham, and Diane Abbott. But from the moment the younger Miliband entered the fray, it effectively turned into a two-horse race, with the elder Miliband seen as the favourite. As the contest tightened, it took on aspects of a psychodrama. While David appears to have taken his victory for granted and readied a Blairite speech that would have been totally out of sync with the mood within the party, Ed approached the contest with the relaxed air of someone who had nothing to lose. What tilted the balance in his favour was the solid backing of Labour-affiliated union members who were impressed by his passionate defence of the role of the unions and his attacks on the savage cuts in public spending. Mr. Miliband has contemptuously rejected the 'Red Ed' tag sought to be foisted by the Tories and the right-wing media. To the unions, his message was that while he sympathised with their cause, he would not support "irresponsible" actions. He is seen to have made a good start with a speech that, as The Guardian noted editorially, Labour "needed, a pointed break with the worst of the recent past but a strong reaffirmation of its best."







The UNCTAD's analysis of the relevance of export-led growth strategies in the post-crisis global economy, in its Trade Development Report (2010), provides valuable lessons for countries like India. These strategies have served many countries well, and China, South Korea and Japan, among others, have relied heavily on external demand to achieve spectacular growth. However, there is a flip side. Going by the experience over a 30-year period, the TDR says economic growth, however strong, does not by itself generate decent jobs to absorb the labour surpluses typical of developing countries. This became apparent recently when the global financial and economic crisis was seen to push unemployment to unprecedented levels in many countries. Of special concern is the situation in the United States, where there is no sign of improvement on the job front. The U.S. may no longer remain so huge a market for exports. Since other major economies are unlikely to take its place as a dominant market in the near future, the size of the global export market may shrink.


There is something inherently wrong with the agenda of boosting exports pursued by countries that depend almost entirely on keeping domestic wages low so as to gain a competitive edge in global markets. Persistently high unemployment is attributable to labour market rigidities that kept wages from falling to levels low enough to increase the demand for labour. UNCTAD points out that such reasoning ignores the important role of wage increases in spurring domestic demand, and boosting employment to meet that demand. Moreover, it is the expectation of rising demand and favourable financing conditions rather than a reduction in unit labour costs that drives investment in productive capacities. More employment can be generated if the productivity gains from investments are distributed equitably between labour and capital in a way that lifts domestic demand. Secondly, macroeconomic policies should aim at ensuring that real incomes of the people keep pace with productivity growth. Thirdly, countercyclical fiscal policies that proved a great success during the crisis in stabilising demand will be useful even in normal times. Fourthly, adjusting wages with productivity gains will check both production costs and demand growth from rising above supply potential. It will also pave the way for an employment friendly monetary policy. Institutional arrangements such as collective bargaining will help in framing a suitable incomes policy. Finally, in many developing countries, public employment schemes are found to have had cascading effects on the rest of the economy.










Russia has thrown its defence ties with Iran on the altar of its "reset" with the United States. President Dmitry Medvedev last week imposed a sweeping ban on defence sales that goes beyond even the international sanctions on Iran and is likely to have a long-term negative impact on Moscow-Tehran relations.


The decree "On Measures to Implement the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 of June 9, 2010" Mr. Medvedev signed bans supplies of Russian tanks, fighter jets, helicopters, ships, heavy artillery systems and missiles, including the S-300 air defence systems, to Iran. Russia will also stop supplying spares and components for the weapons sold earlier, and ban the transit of arms bound for Iran through its territory. The decree contains a list of Iranian officials involved in the country's nuclear programme, who will henceforth be prohibited from entering Russia.


By and large, the Russian sanctions are in line with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929, which Moscow backed, except for one crucial point: the S-300 missiles do not fall under the category of offensive weapons banned by the U.N. resolution. The move added another puzzling zigzag to Moscow's back-and-forth policy on Iran.


Resolution 1929 states: "All states shall prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to Iran […] of any […] missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms." Meanwhile, the Register clearly states that its definition of missiles or missile systems " does not include ground-to-air missiles" (emphasis added.)


In justifying Mr. Medvedev's cancellation of the S-300 deal, Russian officials refer to the U.N. resolution's call on all states "to exercise vigilance and restraint over the supply, sale, transfer, provision, manufacture and use of all other arms and related materiel."


That said, Resolution 1929 contained no explicit ban on air defence systems and Mr. Medvedev's decree went a step too far. Ironically, defending Moscow's ban on S-300, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in the same breath, lambasted unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran as being "ethically and morally wrong" and a "violation" of the U.N. resolution.


The $800-million contract for supply of five batteries of S-300 air-defence complexes to Iran was signed in 2007. (A typical S-300 battery contains 48 missiles on 12 mobile launchers.) If delivered to Iran, the S-300 would change the rules of the game in the region. In combination with Tor-M1 short-range air-defence missiles Russia supplied to Iran in 2008, the long-range S-300s would have deterred any aerial attack on Iran.


In December 2008, the Russian government news agency, RIA-Novosti, quoting defence sources, reported that Moscow had begun "implementing" the S-300 contract. The report was later denied but Moscow continued to affirm its commitment to supply S-300 missile systems to Iran. "We have a contract to deliver these systems and we will honour it. Delays have been caused by technical problems in tuning up the systems," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated as recently as February. Even after Resolution 1929 was approved, Russian lawmakers and arms exporters maintained that the new sanctions would not affect the delivery of S-300.


"The S-300 systems are not covered by the sanctions and work on the contract is going forward," Mikhail Dmitriyev, Director, Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said in June. U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley also conceded at the time that Washington had failed to secure a clear-cut ban on the supply of S-300.


However, Russian diplomats' valiant efforts to save the S-300 deal from being axed under the U.N. resolution were in vain. The Kremlin used it as a bargaining chip with the White House. The fate of the S-300 contract was apparently sealed when Mr. Medvedev paid an official visit to the U.S. in June and secured President Obama's promise to help Russia modernise its economy. On his return, Mr. Medvedev called for allying Russia with the West. "We need to build modernisation alliances with our main foreign partners … above all with Germany, Italy, the European Union and the United States of America," he said in a keynote speech to Russian diplomats in July.


The formal ban on Russian arms exports to Iran came three months later, timed for the U.S. Congress debate on the New START, a Russian-American nuclear arms pact Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Obama signed in April.


Moscow attaches paramount importance to START ratification, seeing it as a turning point in its relations with Washington that would pave the way for other deals — U.S. endorsement of a long-pending civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries and Washington's support for Moscow's bid to join the World Trade Organisation.


The S-300 ban was designed to facilitate the START's passage through the U.S. Senate. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee in mid-September approved the U.S.-Russian treaty and sent it to the Senate floor, but its ratification is still hanging in the balance. The administration would like the Senate to vote on the treaty before it breaks for the November elections on October 8 because the Democrats may see their majority reduced in the new Senate. Mr. Medvedev clearly sought to impress the American public opinion and sway hesitant U.S. Senators in favour of backing the START.


The White House "strongly" welcomed the "faithful and robust implementation" by Moscow of the U.N. sanctions resolution. "We believe President Medvedev has demonstrated leadership on holding Iran accountable to its international obligations from start to finish," said National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer.


Mr. Medvedev's Iran arms ban is a big gift to the embattled Obama, who can now argue that his policy of "reset" with Russia is bringing tangible dividends. Moscow hopes a grateful Obama will lift the ban on high technology transfers to Russia. Time will tell whether these hopes are justified.


Sceptics point out that Russia halted its defence ties with Iran once in the past also, in the vain hope of getting U.S. aid and investments. Under a secret agreement brokered in 1995 by the then Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and U.S. Vice-President Albert Gore, Russia agreed to stop selling weapons to Iran. The deal dealt a hard blow to Russia's struggling defence industry, depriving it of what was emerging as the third largest market for Russian arms after India and China. The U.S. "thanked" Russia by pushing NATO to its doorstep and bombing out its traditional ally, Yugoslavia. In 2000, Russia pulled out of the Gore-Chernomyrdin deal and resumed arms supplies to Iran.


The new ban on weapon sales to Iran will have dire consequences for Russia, critics say. Direct financial losses from the scrapping of the S-300 contract could exceed $1 billion. According to the Russian Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade, Russia will lose at least $11 billion in weapon supplies to Iran through 2025. "Iran will never forgive Russia for this second sell-out in the past 15 years," says defence expert Konstantin Makienko of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST). "Russia may lose forever the Iranian market of not only defence but also civilian technologies."


Aviation industry sources said Iran had already stopped negotiations to acquire Russia's Tu-204SM passenger aircraft. Russia's refusal to supply S-300 systems has put a big question mark on a wide-ranging energy cooperation road map Moscow signed with Tehran just a couple of months ago.


Geopolitical costs for Russia could be even higher. "The cancellation of the S-300 contract undermines its reputation as a reliable defence partner among its current and potential customers," Mr. Makienko said. "China will only be too happy to fill the vacuum left by Russia."


Tehran's recent announcement that it had begun work on its own missile system, analogue of the Russian S-300, Russian experts said, was an indication that the Chinese came to Iranians' help, offering expertise gained in cloning the S-300 Russia had earlier sold to China.


As for rewards from Washington, U.S. officials warn Moscow not to expect too many. "The objective is not actually to develop a good relationship with Russia. The goal here is to advance our national security and economic interests and to promote universal values," a senior White House official said commenting on the Russian arms ban to Iran. In fact, the Russian concession has encouraged U.S. strategists to put higher demands on Moscow. "Some Russia sceptics aren't so sure that Moscow has yet made the strategic decision to turn away from Iran and towards the United States," Josh Rogin wrote in his blog on The Foreign Policy website.


To convince these sceptics, Russia should stop cooperation with Iran on the Bushehr nuclear reactor, tear up energy deals and support tougher economic sanctions on Tehran. To quote a relevant Russian saying: "Put a finger in his mouth and he will bite your arm off."









The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today is troubled by the possibility of Ayodhya once again taking centre-stage after tomorrow's verdict by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court. Its commitment to the issue is in doubt after it publicly abandoned it during the six years it was in power at the Centre. This discredited it with the people it had mobilised for the Ram temple agitation as also with members of the sangh parivar within the "family" of organisations headed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).


Unlike in the 1980s and 1990s, it is wary of repeating the intimidating " mandir wahin banayenge" slogan that gave the party its political identity 20 years ago. It is equally shy of taking the constitutional position it should — that a court verdict is binding on all and it will humbly accept the court's Ayodhya pronouncement no matter which way it goes.


The dilemma that it faces is this: the older face of the BJP and the face of its Ram temple movement L.K. Advani stands discredited on this issue; others like Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti are out of its fold. As for the new generation of leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, they are conscious of their "constitutional positions" as leaders of opposition and have not been associated with the Ayodhya agitation earlier. They may not have the taste or the stomach for sharing a platform with an assorted group of 'sants' and the extremist fringe in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal.


Then there are other notables — BJP president Nitin Gadkari and former presidents Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi — who continue to flaunt their "commitment" to building a Ram temple at the disputed site but are unsure how the issue will now play out at the ground level. Moreover, the RSS has already issued a virtual gag order on the BJP asking it to keep mum on the subject and not let it be politicised once again. In keeping with this order, BJP statements on what was once its pet subject are few and far between and surprisingly restrained.


'Some gain cannot be ruled out'


Yet, it would be wrong to say the BJP is not looking at the verdict as a possible opportunity that may help it once again rebuild the base it once had in the country's most populous State Uttar Pradesh. As of today the ground situation does not favour the BJP resurrecting its image on the basis of the Ram temple card, but we will wait and watch to see how the situation develops. Some gain for the BJP in U.P. as a result of the Ayodhya verdict cannot be ruled out, was the opinion of a member of the party's national executive committee.


In 1992 when top party leaders descended on Ayodhya to lead a crowd that brought down the 16th Century Babri Mosque, the party did not think it would ever occupy the seat of power in Delhi. In 2010, having been in power for six years from 1998 to 2004 (not counting 13 days in 1996), the BJP sees itself as a party of governance that could be voted back to power. It can ill afford to be seen acting totally unconstitutionally or making the claim it did earlier, that the Ayodhya issue is just a matter of faith, not a subject for the courts to decide. If it were to once again adopt that stance, new India would surely see it as taking an illegal, unconstitutional and thoroughly irresponsible position.


The cleverly worded resolution adopted by the party's core committee on September 24 throws some light on its dilemma: "The BJP is of the considered opinion that judicial delays over the last 61 years have contributed to the failure of the resolution of the issue of construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya. We hope that the resolution of this issue is not delayed any further." It did not say it will or it will not accept the verdict, but pointed to a resolution of the issue that would end with the building of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. It glossed over the fact that the conflict arose because the demand was for building a temple at the disputed site where the Babri Masjid was brought down, and not anywhere in Ayodhya. Finally, it quite directly blamed judicial delays as "contributing" to the "failure" to build a Ram temple, as if it was the business of the judiciary to ensure that a temple comes up at a disputed site and the claims of the other party do not matter at all.







  1. The move comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of U.S. casualties before
  2. the Obama administration's comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy.


The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, U.S. officials said, strikes that are part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.


As part of its covert war in the region, the CIA has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of U.S. casualties before the Obama administration's comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December.


American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.


The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the United States that Pakistan's government has not been aggressive enough in dislodging militants from their bases in the country's western mountains. In particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks against troops in Afghanistan.


Other attacks


Beyond the CIA drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other ways. In recent days, U.S. military helicopters have launched three air strikes into Pakistan that military officials estimate killed more than 50 people suspected of being members of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, which is responsible for a spate of deadly attacks against U.S. troops.


Such air raids by the military remain rare, and officials in Kabul said on September 27 that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and acted in self-defence after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan. At the same time, the strikes point to a new willingness by military officials to expand the boundaries of the campaign against the Taliban and the Haqqani network — and to an acute concern in military and intelligence circles about the limited time to attack Taliban strongholds while U.S. "surge" forces are in Afghanistan.


Pakistani officials have criticised the helicopter attacks, saying that the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) mandate in Afghanistan does not extend across the border in Pakistan.


As evidence of the growing frustration of U.S. officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to U.S. officials.


"Petraeus wants to turn up the heat on the safe havens," said one senior administration official, explaining the sharp increase in drone strikes. "He has pointed out to the Pakistanis that they could do more."


STRONG CAMPAIGN: Beyond the drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other ways. (Top) A 'Predator' drone over Kandahar, and smoke from the impact of mortar shells during an operation in Surobi district.


European terror plot


Special Operations commanders have also been updating plans for cross-border raids, which would require approval from President Barack Obama. For now, officials said, it remains unlikely that the United States would make good on such threats to send U.S. troops over the border, given the potential blowback inside Pakistan, an ally.


But that could change, they said, if Pakistan-based militants were successful in carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil. U.S. and European intelligence officials in recent days have spoken publicly about growing evidence that militants may be planning a large-scale attack in Europe, and they have bolstered security at a number of European airports and railway stations.


"We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said before a Senate panel last week.


The senior administration official said the strikes were intended not only to attack Taliban and Haqqani fighters but also to disrupt any plots directed from or supported by extremists in Pakistan's tribal areas that were aimed at targets in Europe.


"The goal is to suppress or disrupt that activity," the official said.


The 20 CIA drone attacks in September represent the most intense bombardment by the spy agency since January, when the CIA carried out 11 strikes after a suicide bomber killed seven agency operatives at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan.


'Taliban leaders have fled'


According to one Pakistani intelligence official, the recent drone attacks have not killed any senior Taliban or al-Qaeda leaders. Many senior operatives have already fled North Waziristan, he said, to escape the CIA drone campaign.


Overall, the spy agency has carried out 74 drone attacks this year, according to the website "The Long War Journal", which tracks the strikes. A vast majority of the attacks — which usually involve several drones firing multiple missiles or bombs — have taken place in North Waziristan.


The Obama administration has enthusiastically embraced the CIA's drone programme, an ambitious and historically unusual war campaign by U.S. spies. According to "The Long War Journal", the spy agency in 2009 and 2010 has launched nearly four times as many attacks as it did during the final year of the Bush administration.


One U.S. official said that the recent strikes had been aimed at several groups, including the Haqqani network, al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The United States, he said, hopes to "keep the pressure on as long as we can."


But the CIA's campaign has also raised concerns that the drone strikes are fuelling anger in the Muslim world.


The man who attempted to detonate a truck filled with explosives in New York's Times Square told a judge that the CIA drone campaign was one of the factors that led him to attack the United States.


In a meeting with reporters on September 27, Petraeus indicated that it was new intelligence gathering technology that helped NATO forces locate the militants killed by the helicopter raids against militants in Pakistan.


In particular, he said, the military has expanded its fleet of reconnaissance blimps that can hover over hideouts thought to belong to the Taliban in eastern and southern Afghanistan.


The intelligence technology, Petraeus said, has also enabled the expanded campaign of raids by Special Operations commandos against Taliban operatives in those areas. — © New York Times News Service









The Guadalupe fur seal was feared extinct, gone the way of the dodo after being slaughtered by Russian and American hunters for their skins. None could be found at breeding grounds and as sightings elsewhere tailed off the species was consigned to history.


So why are there thousands of Guadalupe fur seals swimming off the coast of Mexico now? As naturalists gladly admit, reports of the species' demise at the end of the 19th Century were premature. Small numbers of the animals clung on in island caves and were rediscovered only decades later. The population is now thriving, with the latest estimate putting their number at 15,000 or more.


But the case of the Guadalupe fur seal is far from unique — and more animals feared extinct could be waiting to be rediscovered. A survey of the world's mammals published on September 29 reveals that more than a third of species once feared extinct have since been spotted in the wild, in one case 180 years after the last confirmed sighting. Rare mammals that were considered dead but later rediscovered were typically missing for 52 years.


The Guadalupe seal was hunted to apparent extinction by 1892, but a tiny colony was spotted on the island by two fishermen in 1926. After a failed attempt to sell two of the animals to San Diego zoo, one of the fishermen went back to slaughter the colony out of spite. He later turned up in Panama to sell the skins, but was killed in a bar brawl. The seals were only rediscovered and protected when a zoologist tracked down the second fisherman, who revealed their location on his deathbed in 1950.


One rodent, the Bahian tree rat, which lives in forests on the Brazilian coast, went missing in 1824. Despite efforts by conservationists, the animal was not rediscovered until 2004. The bridled nailtail wallaby was once common in eastern Australia but seemed to die out in the 1930s. It was spotted in 1973 by a contractor who was preparing to clear an area of land. After he raised the alarm, the habitat was bought by the local parks service to save the animal. Another creature, a small marsupial called Gilbert's potoroo, was missing for 115 years before it was rediscovered in the south of Western Australia in 1994.


Diana Fisher, who led the survey at the University of Queensland, said the number of mammals going extinct was still accelerating despite large numbers of lost animals being found.


'In the grip of sixth extinction'


Conservation experts have already warned that the world is in the grip of the "sixth great extinction", as imported species and diseases, hunting and the destruction of natural habitats deal a fatal blow to plants and animals.


Writing in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Fisher lists 180 mammals reported as extinct, feared extinct, or missing since the year 1500. Of these, 67 were later found to be alive and well. Animals that were picked off by new predators were rarely rediscovered, while those threatened by a loss of habitat or hunting by humans were more likely to be holding on in small colonies, she found.


The survey highlights the uncertainties in lists of extinct species, but Fisher said it should help conservationists target their searches for missing species by focusing on those most likely to be alive.


More than 25 large-scale searches have failed to find thylacines, the carnivorous, dog-like marsupials that have not been seen in Australia for nearly 80 years.


Fisher said her analysis puts the chance of the species surviving at "virtually zero". Mammals that were hunted to extinction before the 20th Century, such as the Steller's sea cow, the Falkland Islands wolf, the sea mink and the large Palau flying fox are also unlikely to be found now, Fisher said.


"Conservation resources are wasted searching for species that have no chance of rediscovery, while most missing species receive no attention," Fisher said. "Rather than searching ever more for charismatic missing species, such as thylacines in Australia, it would be a better use of resources to look for species that are most likely to be alive, find out where they are, and protect their habitats," she added.


According to Fisher's survey, the most likely missing mammals to be found alive are the Montane monkey-faced bat in the Solomon Islands, the Alcorn's pocket gopher, which was last seen in the high forests of Mexico, and the lesser stick-nest rat, a large, soft-furred desert animal from Australia.


 © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010







A soldier of the Pakistani Army set a Guinness world record on September 29 by planting the most number of tress in a single day, the Pakistan media has reported.


According to reports, Muhammad Yousuf Jamil, Lance Naik in the Pakistani Army, successfully planted 20,101 saplings in 24 hours breaking the previous world record which was set by Ken Chaplin, a Canadian citizen in 2001. Chaplin planted 15,170 red pine seedlings in a day near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada on June 30, 2001.


Jamil broke the record in the time span of 18 hours and 40 minutes. He had a rest time of four hours.


He started planting the saplings on Tuesday at 2 p.m. local time after an inauguration ceremony in the presence of a representative of the Guinness Book of World Records in the Pakistani eastern city of Gujranwala.


Jamil travelled 35 kilometres to the spot before beginning work over 12 acres, the area of his project. Representatives of Guinness did not count 400 saplings that were "poorly planted".


Lieutenant General Muhammad Mustafa Khan, Core-Commander, Mangla cantonment awarded him a prize of Rs. 6,00,000 ($6,976). Jamil had also been promoted. In July 2009, Pakistan already received a certificate from the Guinness Book acknowledging the planting of as many as 5,41,176 mangrove tree saplings by a team of some 300 volunteers in a day on 800 acres of land at Keti Bunder, Thatta district, in Pakistan's southern province of Sindh.










If you thought that the Indian government was being unnecessarily paranoid about insisting that BlackBerry and some others provide it with a master key to read encrypted emails and messages that they carried, now the United States government is also speaking in similar language. Indeed, the sweeping new regulations that US law enforcement and national security officials are asking Congress to enact go much, much further: these have the potential of bringing about a sea change in the way that the Internet has functioned till now. But the news of American officialdom seeking new regulations to "tap" Skype, BlackBerry and social networking sites such as Facebook still comes as a bit of a surprise considering the tremendous prowess in cryptography that its National Security Agency possesses — unmatched in the rest of the world. The NSA employs the largest number of cryptographers in the world and most encryption techniques are evolved in America, which only allows the rest of the world access to it after it has mastered the decryption techniques. Indeed, commercial production or availability of any encryption technology is permitted only after it has been decrypted by the NSA's experts. Much of the world functions on US encryption standards, and there are "haves" and "have nots" in this sphere. The Echelon project — the largest collaborative surveillance effort worldwide — has 18 member-countries; while the Wassenaar project includes 33 countries who exchange data on cryptography technical knowhow, dual-use export controls etc. India is not part of either. India has an Information Technology Act which requires any Internet service provider to supply the decryption in the event that any authorised security agency needs to read or unscramble any communication. The law is not the problem here, but India simply does not possess the technical capability or knowhow to decipher most encrypted messages or mails — which is why is keeps asking BlackBerry and others to provide it with the "keys" to enable this.

In the US, an NGO called Centre for Democracy and Technology has expressed fears that the proposed new American legislation might challenge the fundamental elements of the Internet revolution. It claims such a law will turn the clock back and eventually make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to in an earlier age. But given the NSA's tremendous capabilities in this area, the need for the US to have such legislation is truly puzzling. The NGO has claimed the proposed law will invade the individual's privacy — but the relevant point here is that such privacy was being invaded all along anyway, through programmes such as Magic Lantern and Carnivore. These are two major surveillance techniques used and perfected by the US, which have been around for some time, and against which cases have been filed in the US federal courts by privacy activists. The UK too had such a law allowing monitoring of emails, and so does India. One wonders what the fuss is all about!

But if America, which is so far advanced in this area, is worried about the threat of cyber warfare — possibly from China, also from countries like Iran and North Korea, then India should be truly petrified. Most of this country adheres to US encryption standards — our banks and financial services sector largely work with US products. The Data Security Council of India was established to promote security standards in the country, and IIT Kanpur has developed its own encryption standards — used only in defence for now. We should work harder to develop our own decryption techniques so that we don't become totally dependent on others in this sector — and aim for the day when we can enforce our laws with our own capabilities.








The second fortnight of September has provided, by strange coincidence, three different platforms to introspect whether India really is a superpower waiting in the wings, the foremost being Commonwealth Games 2010.
Our handling of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), marked by greed, indifference and callousness of those in power, has made this nation's credibility wilt. A full six years, the back-up of the entire government machinery and a flexible kitty accommodating inflation and cost over-runs were simply not enough for us to host the international event in a way that would impress the sporting youth and reinforce our calibre. At every step we fell into the Western stereotype of the "Third World" — deep, large craters in the middle of busy roads in the capital, snakes in allegedly sterilised rooms of the Games Village, an over-bridge collapsing, leaking roofs and, of course, the infamous toilets. No, this was not a scene out of the television series Fawlty Towers. This was all happening in the national capital, with the media playing its role as the fourth pillar of this vibrant democracy.
Who is Aamir Khan pooh-poohing in the "Incredible India" advertisement? The poor boy is only sullying the road on a bridge because he just could not hold it any longer. The CWG organisers have sullied Mother India because they could not hold on to their greed or just couldn't care any less. Multi-layered corruption and compromises in the quality of work for the CWG are astonishing, even by our standards. "At one extreme, in India, it would seem we are beginning to take corruption in our stride. We no longer squirm at being ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world. We have come to accept corruption as our national character and hence we do not view it as a serious and alarming social malaise, as is evident from the popular support enjoyed by some of our scamsters in public life", writes V. Raghunathan in his book The Corruption Conundrum.

AFTER NEARLY 60 years, the hearing on a bunch of petitions related to ownership, issues of worship and praying rights of Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya came to an end. All documentary, archaeological and historical evidence had been submitted and scrutinised and the Allahabad high court was ready to deliver its verdict. Speculation was rife on whether the country can hear the judgment with equanimity. Central and state governments responded differently — one appealed for calm and peace through advertisements while another accumulated paramilitary and police forces to prevent trouble. The intent here is not to doubt the bonafides of their actions. But a petition in the same court asking for the verdict to be deferred, under the guise of attempting an alternate route for dispute resolution, betrayed a certain degree of hypocrisy and insincerity. Let us hail the Supreme Court for clearing the way for the high court to deliver its verdict.

Fear of disturbance is for the governments to tackle. The judiciary cannot be made a prisoner of the consequences of its decisions; in this case of a verdict it was ready to deliver. After all, even after 60 years, the verdict now expected is not really the final word. The option of an appeal in the Supreme Court is still available to any aggrieved party. As a vibrant democracy and as a superpower in the making, we will be put to test this week again.


IN THE year 2000, the United Nations discussed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a year later 192 member states and 23 international organisations agreed to achieve these goals by 2015. With only five years to go, a review conference was held in New York on September 20-22, 2010. There are eight MDGs for India (and for other countries as well) to achieve, through 21 quantifiable targets. These include eradicating extreme poverty, promoting gender equality and empowering women, improving maternal health and combating HIV, malaria and other diseases.

Based on the World Bank's definition of extreme poverty, the "UNDP India estimates, using the trend of reduction in poverty of 1.9 per cent, which is the rate of reduction between 1990 and 2005, for the years 2005-2015 indicate that population in extreme poverty is likely to decline to 34.31 per cent by 2015, which is higher than the target rate of 25.65 per cent in 2015. This means that India will not be on track to meet the MDG goal on poverty reduction" (K. Seeta Prabhu, UNDP, India).

One of the targets specified to be achieved for meeting the goal of empowering women is to increase the "proportion of seats held by women in the national Parliament". Since 1991, the number of women parliamentarians has declined from 9.7 per cent to 9.1 per cent of the total strength of Parliament. However, in the present House, after the 2009 election, their numbers have gone up slightly, taking their strength to 10.3 per cent.

The MDG relating to the maternal mortality rate (MMR) expects us to reduce MMR to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015. The government, in its 2009 Mid-Term Statistical Appraisal, admitted, "At the historical pace of decrease, India tends to reach MMR of 135 per 100,000 live births by 2015, falling short by 26 points".
Malaria and tuberculosis account for the highest number of deaths in India. About 30 per cent of the world's TB patients are in India — the disease kills two persons every three minutes, that's nearly one thousand Indians every day.

While each of the eight MDGs is important, only a few have been flagged here as these relate to some very fundamental and elementary rights of citizens. Today, as MDGs are target-based, governments over-enthusiastically pour money into schemes to show their political will and commitment. But many of these schemes bypass the existing infrastructure, hitting at the very root of the welfare state, and most funds go unaudited. Our primary health indicators are shaming us. Is the road to achieving MDG targets going the CWG way?

Can we confront corruption and greed? Can we only appease but not face issues of faith? Will we allow our institutions to dry and decay because we want their resources? September seems a suitable to make sense.


Nirmala Sitharaman is spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The views expressed in this column are her own.








By refusing to give in to demands to make virginity tests mandatory for teenage girls, the Indonesian government has taken the country that much closer toboth modernity and a better understanding of human rights.


Fearing that the Internet and the changing world were leading to a rise in teenage pregnancies, or at least encouraging


premarital sex, conservative forces had asked that girls be submitted to virginity tests before they were allowed to enter state-funded high schools. Interestingly, the government feels that parents must play a greater role in managing their children's moral compasses than place such a burden on young girls.


That is in fact the answer for many areas of our private lives. Those frightened by change in all societies ask for government intervention when they cannot relate to shifting moral positions and the apparently threatening


values of young people. Indonesia — itself grappling with the challenges of modernisation in a conservative Muslim society — has decided to look forward and to use common sense to deal with a problem which is an


integral part of the human condition. It provides an example for all societies in similar predicaments.







There is much significant symbolism, and on the flip side tokenism, in the launch of the unique identification cards andnumbers to 10 people in the tribal hamlet of Tembhil in Maharashtra on Wednesday by prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.


It is not surprising then that Singh wanted to take credit for his government's effort to use technology as a means to achieve growth goals.


Of course, for Singh development means giving people, especially the poor, access to technology which they then can use to access government's many welfare schemes, but also to take society as a whole on the path of technology-driven progress.


This is very different from the socialist and populist goals of development that the Congress party has in mind. Gandhi harped exactly on this aspect. She spoke of how the UID or 'Aadhaar', its official soubriquet, will ensure 'inclusive growth'.


She did not lose the opportunity to remind the people of the party's Nehru-Gandhi legacy. She said that this measure was indeed the fulfillment of Rajiv Gandhi's dream of taking India into the 21st century.

Governments and political parties are justified in claiming credit for the little good they manage to accomplish and which is far outweighed by the innumerable blunders they make in implementing policies and programmes.







Over the past five years, the amount of time that children spend online has increased by 63%. As internet connectivity has now included mobile phones in its reach, it is possible to stay connected to the cyber world 24/7.


While the Internet has its benefits, it also poses increasing danger to the innocent; the ease of connectivity has made monitoring by parents and guardians extremely difficult.


Predators like paedophiles are a constant worry.


Cyber bullying has become a menace and schools, parents and the law are all at a loss of how to deal with it. Bullying using non-conventional methods is easy and harder to detect than real-life bullying. This is leading to high levels of teen depression, even in India, especially in the big cities. Ethics and morality are also taking a beating here, feel psychologists.


The sharing of information is also changing the way we connect with the world and there are concerns that children and teenagers share too much. This again makes them and their families vulnerable to fraud, bullying and a number of potential crimes. It is hard enough with adults — who still fall for well-documented and publicised internet scams — but providing


protection for the young is another ball game.


The biggest problem perhaps is that children are better at being wired in than adults. This means that in the average family, it is they who are the experts. How then, does a parent keep track? The only answer is for adults to supervise their children's time and engage on as many social networking sites as possible.


A recent study suggests that as the Internet evolves, so will its protocols and laws and with that will come a better chance for monitoring.


This may well be true but it also makes it sound easier than it is. The lure of


constant connectivity afflicts us all.


The additional challenge is to get children away from the screens and out into the real world. Perhaps it comes down to re-introducing that old chant which parents have long used —try and force their children to go out and play!








The only certainty amid life's vicissitudes is uncertainty. As someone who escaped death by a whisker aboard the Gwalior Intercity Express that met with an accident in Badarwaas, Madhya Pradesh, on September 20, leaving 24 dead, no one would know that better.


4.45am: Asleep in one of the two-tier compartments, my head suddenly banged against the interiors of the train. I awoke as the train jolted to a halt. As I got down with a Gwalior-based real estate businessman, Babali Singh, I saw a horrific sight — a compartment had fallen off the track, while two others had telescoped into each other. Hands, limbs and mounds of flesh were strewn all around.


That's when I witnessed what they call 'people power'. The station master was missing and no official help was at hand. Almost all commuters got off to pitch in with rescue operations.


I tried to pull out an injured kid, but realised his left foot was stuck under the debris. A doctor among us attended to some of the grievously hurt. The relief train arrived only 90 minutes later. If not for the passengers, many more would have perished.


If there's anything that defies death it's the human spirit, which SwamiVivekananda said attains immortality in rising above the self. Life is ephemeral and the human spirit can deal with its evanescence with support from others.


To quote artist, Flora Edwards: "In helping others, we help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us."








By the end of today, India will face one of its toughest tests as a nation. The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court will deliver its verdict in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid case, and whichever way it goes — pro-Hindu, pro-Muslim or a politically-correct middle path — the maturity of India's politicians, religious leaders and ordinary citizens will be on trial.


A few things can be surmised about what will follow. One, the mainline political parties,


including the BJP, will probably adopt a cautious stance. Two, the main parties to the


dispute may move their battle to the Supreme Court. Three, fringe elements in both the Sangh Parivar and the Muslim groups will be gearing up for trouble. Four, the tone and tenor of card-carrying secularists will determine the negativity of the Hindu response.


First, let's understand what the courts can never resolve: historical baggage. They can


decide on the Ayodhya title suit, but not on the partly flawed narratives Hindus and Muslims have chosen to believe about themselves.


The fundamental reality is that both Hindus and Muslims have different narratives about their past interaction. While Left historians want to gloss over this past and claim that


coexistence was the norm rather than strife, this is not what vocal Hindu leaders want to believe. Muslims have been less vocal about what they believe, but it is clear what they don't want to believe: that Muslims rulers went about destroying temples out of sheer iconoclasm.


This is where the Ram Janmabhoomi issue sits squarely in the midst of divergent communal memories. It is also why the courts cannot solve the dispute. Hindu zealots would like to pretend that a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is a matter of faith, but that is not really true. While every Hindu believes that Ram was born in Ayodhya, it does not follow that he was born in one specific place.


Moreover, even if that were true, most Hindus would probably be willing to adjust their faith to modern reality provided there were sincere efforts to build a broader understanding with Muslims.


This is where our secularists have not only failed, but actually done damage. In the false


belief that Muslims are a helpless minority and need to be protected from any recollection of the past, they have tried to create a rose-tinted


version of Muslim rule, driving some moderate Hindus towards hard line positions.


A genuine secularist should be neutral on historical memories and the past. He or she


cannot wish away the truth by creating a false narrative of past amity — when the truth was somewhere in-between — occasional trust and distrust. They believe that they are serving the cause of secularism by shielding Muslims from the truth of Islamic iconoclasm and pretending all of it is Hindu communal narrative.


A modern example of this is the phony


secularist's approach to Gujarat and Kashmir. For him, Gujarat is the big communal event of independent India, not Kashmir's ethnic cleansing. So much so that moderate Hindus hesitate to mention the injustice meted out to the Pandits by Muslim separatists for fear of being branded communal. Result: the plight of the Pandits has been erased from the nation's conscience to protect Muslims from having to face this truth. The Congress will be allowed to forget its massacre of Sikhs in 1984, but Hindus will never be allowed to forget Gujarat by the secularists.


A new, stronger relationship cannot be built between Hindus and Muslims by working your way around the truth. But this is exactly what our secularists have been doing.


If the two communities have to work towards a new future, they have to start aligning their narratives by a genuine acknowledgement of the past.


This is not to say that present-day Muslims have feel guilty about an Aurangzeb or a Babur, but how can they move on without


acknowledging it? Can Hindus move on by


refusing to acknowledge the damage done by caste prejudices? Hindus are also in complete denial that Muslims are among the very poor, and that they have to be brought to the mainstream with policies of inclusive growth.


The failure of our secularists is staggering: by presuming that Muslims need to be shielded from history, they have helped create an


impression among Hindus that Muslims are a favoured lot.


While the Sangh Parivar talks of Muslim appeasement, ordinary Hindus are


unhappy about why secularists are always on the side of Muslims.


The crux of the matter is this: mature


Muslims need no protection from secularist


contortions of the truth and mature Hindus need no lectures from them on how Muslims are poor and need help today. The way to communal amity lies here: Muslims must not be in denial about the past and Hindus about the present (plight of Muslims).


The Ayodhya verdict will do little to drive home this message. But how we handle the post-Ayodhya fallout will change us forever. We can't move on by being in denial.









the demolition of BabriMasjid at Ayodhya, judicialverdict on its basic title suitis awaited today with bated
breath across the country.Thanks to the Sangh Parivar,the issue has vitiated the atmosphereto such an extent that
Allahabad high court verdict isbeing feared as some kind ofnational calamity about to befallthis country, no matter in whosefavour the judiciary pronouncesits judgement. It was not fornothing, that LK Advani made
it a point to visit Somnath templeearlier this week to revivememories of his destructiveRathyatra in the 1990s that culminatedin wanton destructionof a place of worship belongingto India's last minority community.
Bloodshed that followedthe demolition of the centuriesold mosque has left permanentscars on India's body politic.Narendra Modi's Gujarat is justan example. With assembly electionsin the key state of Biharunderway and with the BJPlicking its wounds from theNDA's second successive electoraldefeat in 2009 Lok Sabha
elections, Advani's Somnathvisit is nothing but a carefullycalculated precursor to eventsthat could follow the September30 verdict, if the Sangh Parivarhas its way one more time. Fromthat angle, there is real danger
of the resurrection of the monsterof communalism. BJP'spolitical trajectory has shownthat the party in its presentavatar has no future in pursuingnon-communal politics. That theBJP's political fortunes had
pole-vaulted in the 1990s afterAdvani's Rathyatra explainswhy there is hunger for revivingthe dead ghosts.
Ideally such a contentiousissue eluding any settlementought to have been settled amicablybetween the contendingparties. But Sangh Parivar'sobstinate refusal to abide by anysettlement or comply with any
court verdict that goes againstits stated position on the RamJanambhoomi controversy doesnot leave any room for an easysolution. BJP has found it politicallyconvenient to hide itselfbehind rabid elements within
the Parivar who openly defy theconstitution and law of the countryby whose loyalty they swear.If this diabolic game has notsucceeded in fragmenting thecountry it is not for want ofeffort on the part of the BJP or
the Sangh Parivar but thesagacity of the people of thiscountry. BJP's marginalisationfrom the national-

mainstreampolitics is a testimony of the factthat neither the party nor itsparent Parivar represent the
true spirit of 'Bharat Mata' thatis India. However, the fearsabout attempts at reviving thefouling atmosphere cannot bewished away. It is in fitness ofthings that, unlike in 1992, theCongress-led government at the
centre is taking credible precautionarymeasures to cope withpossible adverse fallout of theSeptember 30 verdict.Looking back at the eventsleading to the demolition of theBabri Masjid in 1992 it is now
clear beyond doubt that therewas method in the madness ofthe then central governmentheaded by PV Narasimha Rao.The central government's inactionin the face of obvious threatto the authority of the Indian
state and its established institutionsretrospectively turns out tobe a deliberate 'failure'. WhetherRao's clandestine support to theSangh Parivar was an outcomeof the Congress party's internalfeud or the former prime minister'sown choice is immaterial atthis point in time. Records of thecrucial meeting of the union cabinetheld soon after the demolitionof the mosque on December6, 1992 show that there wasinexplicable inaction which Raowas unable to explain whenquestioned by some ministers,notably Makhan Lal Fotedar
who was punished and dismissedfrom the ministry for hisaudacity. These facts point tothe probability of the presentleadership of the Congress partyas well as the ruling UPA beingconfronted with Rao-type internal
sabotage. There is need totake care of this eventuality asmuch as the challenge posed byavowed communal forces.Irrespective of who wins andwho loses in the verdict to bepronounced today, the country
has come a long way from 1992and its aftermath. Today thereare powerful voices on both sidesfavouring amicable settlementthrough negotiations. Thiscourse has so far been allowed tobe hijacked by extremist fringe
on both sides. It is time tostrengthen voices of sanity andgetting rid of this pernicious dispute
without further loss. Thegovernment might like to adopta neutral position but there is
nothing to stop it from facilitatingnegotiations after the highcourt verdict is out. Best coursewould be to not let the issuehang fire by taking the case tothe apex court. Those fanningcommunal embers in the hope
of reaping its political dividendswill certainly not let thevolatile issue go away so soon.They must be confronted headon. The atmosphere in thecountry has never been moreconducive to resolve the issue
once and for all. However, onlytime can tell whether the UPA2has the moral courage and convictionto rid the nation of a festeringsore.







FORGET about the morepolitically orientedprotests, the state governmentis visibly unmoved evenby the agitating students ofJammu Dental College becauseof its recent de-recognition. Theagitation has entered fiftieth
day with its present phase of'fast unto death' and the onlyeffort of ministers trying to givethem assurances has not beenable to convince them enoughabout their future. The studentsdo have a genuinegrouse and question that thegovernment simply waited forthe de-recognition to comeeven though there were warningsand indications of thesame for years preceding this.The warning signals were firstsounded when Ghulam NabiAzad was heading Jammu andKashmir. The former chiefminister is now a union ministerin charge of the healthdepartment. Why is it that hedid not use his good offices tomake amends and arm thesagging Dental College ofJammu with the requisiteinfrastructure, staff and specialists?Even more importantly,why is it that the collegehas to wait for de-recognition,and agitation by studentsimpacted by this act, alone tomake people at the helm ofaffairs to finally sit up andponder about what to do andhow to go about mendingthings? Why is it that standardsof education at the higherlevel, that too in the field ofmedicine, where qualified professionalswould get thelicense to play with the lives ofpatients, are compromised dueto callousness or the oft quotedexcuse of paucity of funds?Unfortunately, the realizationof the impact of this derecognitionhasn't even dawned uponthe powers that be. Otherwise,
they wouldn't have waited forfifty long days to begin takingup the issue with the Centre.Brisk efforts are lacking andso are the steps to abide by theguidelines prescribed forrecognition of such colleges.Fifty days is enough time for thegovernment to take concretesteps. But apparently, it isn'tjust the hartals and curfews of
the Valley that have pushed itinto a limbo. It's basically anattitude of complacency andnon-performance.







"Education is the passportto the future, fortomorrow belongs to thosewho prepare for it today""I have often reflectedupon the new vistas thatreading opened to me. Iknew right there in prisonthat reading had changed
forever the course of mylife. As I see it today, theability to read awoke in mesome long dormant craving
to be mentally alive." MALCOLM Xquotes (Americanblack militantleader who articulatedconcepts of race pride andblack nationalism in theearly 1960s)Education must producea vast populationthat is able to read and is
able to distinguish whatis worth reading; educationstretches the mindwith new ideas; educatedpeople cannot be
enslaved or lead like cattle;education makes itpossible to questionstructural inequities andto demand redressal.
Expression of concernabout backwardness,poverty, illiteracy; rise ofpeople's politics in thepolitical zeitgeist of
equality, liberty, anddemocracy; necessity ofaffirmative action to pullout the majority of thepeople; protesting
against state oppressionand police brutality;questioning the impunityenjoyed by paramilitarytroops in "disturbedareas"; holding an electedgovernment responsiblefor its unrepresentativecharacter; voicing legitimate
dissent within politicaldiscourses availableto the populace; questioningpolitical partisanship;highlighting people's narrativeswhich are marginalizedin official historiography;recognition ofthe infringement of people's
civil rights; recognitionof the attempt todemonize Kashmiris indominant political discourse;intelligence to
lead a people's movement---these abilities arecultivated through education.It was a long and hardstruggle for Kashmiris tocome out of the quagmireof illiteracy, politicalmarginalization, culturalsterility, and social
decrepitude into theenlightening institutionsof education, spaces ofdemocratic debate, politicalenfranchisement, culturalrevitalization, andsocial progressivism. Fora long time Kashmirremained a source ofcasual unskilled labour toPunjab, where they weretreated as beasts of burden.Kashmiris weregiven the derogatoryappellation of "hattoo,"close to "dirty nigger."When the first fewKashmiri Muslims tohave obtained degreesat institutions of highereducation, like theAligarh MuslimUniversity in BritishIndia, returned to thestate in the 1920s, they
were imbued with 'newfangled'ideas of nationalism,liberty anddemocracy.We, as a people, cannotafford to ignore theempowerment that criticalintelligence gives us;the credibility that articulateexpressions of our
discontent give us; theinternational forums thatare made available to usbecause of the intelligencethat we have
employed to create anational identity. Wehave witnessed the militarizationof the socio-culturalfabric of Kashmir;we watch with remorsethe clamping down ofintellectual freedoms inKashmir and the growing
influence of fanatical elementsin that polity; weare saddened by the shuttingdown of dissentingvoices; we mourn the erosionof women's activismin Kashmir by the reductionof their identities togrieving mother, martyr'smother, or rape victim;we grieve the relegationof sane voices in civil societyto the background; we
are pained by the scathedpsyches of women sufferingpsychosomatic illnessin conflict zones.W e l l - e d u c a t e dKashmiris can give theclarion call for a muchneeded social consciousness;for a socialism thatrecognizes the diseasedand crumbling edifices ofstagnant political andbureaucratic infrastructures;for a democracy
that would them to fullyparticipate in institutionsand the rule of law thatspecifies the limits ofjurisdiction and allocatespower between differentinstitutions. We, as a people,have recognized andavailed ourselves of the
myriad political, sociocultural,and economicforums that education,historically, has createdfor us. The assertion ofself-determination inKashmir and politicalself-awareness can bekept alive by a peoplewho have availed themselvesof the opportunitiesoffered by highereducation.In order to questioninequities---the alteration
of the political andcultural milieu by theforces of rampant corruption;state supportedinstitutions where young
boys are indoctrinated inreligious fundamentalismsof various hues;Pakistan's shift in strategythat revolution cannotbe exported but has to bebuilt in target areas byvarious means, includingindoctrination andinducements; the complacenceof the Indian governmentif the batons ofpolice and the guns of theCentral Reserve Police
Force make the politicalmilieu in J & K look calmon the surface ---werequire an education tobe able to counter theinstances of injustice andunfairness created bysuch institutions/ ideologies/doctrines. How canwe, as a people, developthe ability to organizeand mobilize for socialchange, which requiresthe creation of awareness
not just at the individuallevel but at the collectivelevel as well? How can wedevelop self-esteem forwhich some form of financialautonomy is a basis?How can we make strategiclife choices that arecritical for people to lead
the sort of lives they wantto lead? We require educationfor these mammothtasks.This is where we need
to bridge the dividebetween the civil societyof Kashmir and the civilsociety of Jammu in orderto pave the way for theeducation of our youngergeneration. Civil societynd political institutionsare closely interconnected.
In order to substantiatedemocracy, theremust be a minimum ofparticipation and adequatepluralism in a society.
A consolidateddemocracy has to be opento diverse opinions; dissentand conflict on specific
policies is an importantelement of everydemocratic system. Theremust, however, be someshared consent on fundamentalprinciples. One ofthe things that the civilsociety of Kashmir andthe civil society of Jammu
can agree upon is theindispensability of education.Democratic, social/educational institutionscannot function in
Kashmir without participationby citizens.Nurturing a civil societythat bridges regional andcommunal divides is aprerequisite for the effectiveand legitimate functioningof education institutions.(The author is
Visiting Professor,Department ofEnglish, University ofOklahoma)







Two recent incidents drive home the grim reality about increasing gravity of the crime situation in this city. A girl is led into a trap in the local bus stand and her modesty is allegedly outraged. The venue of the heinous offence and the identity of its perpetrators would leave one and all further bewildered about the direction in which we are heading. It has been reported that two brothers, who happen to be students and sons of a police sub-inspector, spotted the 19-year old girl looking lost at the bus stand. Their inquiries revealed that she was all alone and had exhausted her money; she had fled from her house in the neighbouring Chandigarh following a tiff in the family and arrived here for darshan of Vaishno Devi. They managed to convince her that they were working for a travel agency. They held out the assurance of sending her back home the following morning. In the intervening night, they promised to lodge her in a gurdwara. Instead, they took her to their uninhabited quarter at the police colony at the Gulshan Ground and raped her. They put their victim in the bus for Chandigarh the next day. On reaching home she narrated her shocking experience to her father, who is a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official. The latter arrived in this city along with the daughter and lodged a complaint with the Gandhi Nagar police. The accused duo has since been arrested. Indeed, it is courageous of the girl and her father to approach the police for justice. There is no reason at all why the sufferers in such ghastly events should not be fighting for their honour. There can't be any ground either for looking down upon them. They can't be made to suffer twice; first as the prey of lust and then in the name of a ridiculous imaginary social sanction.


It is absolutely essential that they get justice. Any thought that the girl had left the safety of her house and could not have escaped her turmoil outside is silly. In any circumstances it is not at all relevant. What happened inside among family members is strictly their internal matter. On the other hand, a wicked happening in a public place concerns us all. It raises anxiety about our own safety. In the other episode, an attempt has been made to break upon three ATMs (automated teller machines) --- two in Sainik Colony and the one in the Gole Market in Gandhi Nagar. Three young persons --- each of them riding a motor cycle --- are said to have been involved in this operation. They did manage to break the glass component of the apparatus. However, they could not succeed in looting the cash. Does this in any way make their endeavour less audacious? The Gole Market is one of the busiest areas of our city. By now Sainik Colony is also fairly well populated. That anyone could think of striking terror in these localities shows us --- especially our law and order-enforcing agencies --- in a poor light.


Why could the CCTVs (close-circuit television) not record their photographs was not clear. It is not the first such instance in our city. There have been bids in the past as well to plunder the ATMs including on the national highway opposite a hotel near a police colony. Yet these point out that the criminals are becoming more aggressive in our milieu. If we want to ensure that the above two episodes don't cause us to lose our sleep we would have to get our act together. It is for us as the people to offer resistance. It would be worth considering to form crime watch groups in every street and colony. This does not mean that we have to take law into our hands. The idea should be to rally behind the police which on the current reckoning is not able to make its presence effectively felt, to say the least.







Only the naïve will be surprised by a report about the sharp ideological differences between Tehreek-i-Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front (JK LF) chief Yasin Malik. It is already only too well known that they advocate different ideologies. In his latest utterance as well Mr Geelani has made it known that the State can't survive as a sovereign independent country. He has said that it "would have to" accede to either India or Pakistan. His own preference is for its merger with Pakistan. On the other hand, the JKLF is craving for a status that its name reflects. In a rejoinder to Mr Geelani, although without naming him, the JKLF has said that there are many countries smaller than the State in terms of resources, area and population and they do endure. Mr Malik himself has not spoken on the issue but fielded his senior associates including Mr Bashir Ahmad Bhat, to issue a statement. Possibly this statement is the only development which can be said to be new. Of late the JKLF has not been asserting itself strongly enough on the separatist spectrum in the Valley in particular. It had in fact played a second fiddle to Mr Geelani during the radical anti-land allotment stir in 2008. Most recently it has gone along with Mirwaiz Moulvi Umar Farooq of the moderate Hurriyat Conference in addressing an Eid congregation in the Summer Capital which deteriorated into virtually a free-for-all leading to large-scale arson and violence. Broadly, there is a consensus among them that the final choice should be allowed to be made by the people by paving the way for them to exercise their right to self-determination. Even Mr Geelani is for adopting this course regardless of his personal preference.


The strength of the Yasin Malik-led JKLF is that it has given up its adherence to violence as a tool of achieving its goal. It is still considered to be the dominant voice of the JKLF which has often been rocked by splits. There is little common ground not only between it and Mr Geelani but also between it and other separatist bodies. Whatever that may be the challenge now for all political organisations and individual leaders is to prove that they represent the ordinary citizens in the Valley. The people at large find themselves in a hopeless situation because of the killings in police firing in protest demonstrations on the one hand. On the other hand, they feel the pinch because largely their income has dried up and their children's education is a casualty.











An agency of the U.S, National Intelligence Council (NIC), released a study report, a few days back, which said that India has become world's third most powerful nation after U.S. and China. If we look at it in terms of blocks, India has become the world's fourth most powerful block after USA, China and the European Community. The agency also says that India's clout would grow even more by 2025. NIC says that currently 22 percent of the world power comes from the United States, China and the European Community each has 16 percent and India's share is 8 percent, while Japan, Russia and Brazil share 8 percent each.


Agency estimates that the scenario would change by 2025 and USA's share would be down to 18 per cent and that of European Community to 14 per cent. India and China will strengthen their respective positions. India's strength will be increased to 10 percent. While the ordering may remain the same but power balance would certainly change drastically.


As per the latest data provided by the World Bank, developed countries have been facing a worst ever set back in recent years and their incomes are going down by 2 percent per annum. India, China and other emerging economies have shown a consistently rising incomes by 7 to 9 percent per annum. Due to continued growth experience of the developing economies, international power equations have also changed. A backward nation twenty years back has registered an important position in the world. Strategic success in the building of Agni Missile, PSLV in the field of space technology, the growing medical tourism, software, telecommunications etc. speaks out the all round advances made by the country. India's growing clout in these areas is making even President of USA uncomfortable, who is exploring all options, to somehow curb India, ranging from putting sanctions on outsourcing and also the visa restrictions.


But this is only one side of the story. Nearly a month back the World Economic Forum released ranking of different countries based on Global Competitive Index for the year 2009-10. Based on that report, India is ranked 49 in the list of 133 nations. Though India has improved its position slightly and a moved a rank up from 50th to 49th, we find a dismal picture for India on various fronts of competitiveness.


The third most powerful, but ranked 49th in competitiveness looks paradoxical. Solution to this paradox is provided by the report of WEF itself. Global Competitiveness Index comprises of 12 sub-indices. There are some basic indices- such as institutions, infrastructure, Education and Health. Some other complex, but the key indices are the technological readiness, business sophistication, innovation etc.


For India which still is in the initial stage of development, basic indicators assume more importance to the extent of 60 percent in determining competitiveness. But dismal performance on basic factors has deteriorated India's competitive position internationally. World Economic Forum reports that India is ranked 101st in terms of health in 133 countries. Our sanitary system is very deplorable and is worse than even very backward sub- African countries. Our rank was 96th in terms of education. Even in case of energy and transport infrastructure, our rank was 76th. We come at 54th position in terms of Institutions.


Had we not ranked 16th in the world in terms of soundness of our financial system and 25th in terms of soundness of our banking system, our ranking in terms of Global Competitive Index would have been even worst. In terms of the size of our market we are in fourth place. We ranked 83rd in terms of labor market and again 83rd in terms of technical preparedness. Our rank in higher education is still better (66th). But the report expresses concern over the fact that higher education is limited to only a few rich people.


According to a study recently released in India, income tax assesses have been fast rising in urban India, so has been the situation with regard to wealth which has also been concentrating in Urban areas. Wealth is obviously getting concentrated in metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad etc. But big cities of even so called Bimaru states are also not behind in this trend. This implies benefits of growth are being cornered by few rich. Villages could not be included in the growth process. According to the Economic Survey 2009-10, contribution of agriculture sector was only 14.6 percent of GDP in 2009-10. This clearly implies non inclusive character of our growth, which though increases our GDP, but the fruits are cornered by urban rich. Farmers, workers and small scale entrepreneurs remain untouched to a great extent.


Because of this non-inclusive character of the growth, poor is unable to meet basic needs like education and health. Rich and upper middle class people enjoy all the facilities stemming from this lopsided development, as they only have the capacity to pay for the same. Though in terms of GDP on purchasing power parity basis, our country may be third most powerful country of the world, but the same is not getting translated into provision for basic necessities like education, health, drinking water supply, electricity and sanitation. Recent after the report of the Planning Commission's Expert Group headed by Prof. Tendulkar, the Government was forced to acknowledge that 41.8 percent population in country's rural areas and 25.7 percent in urban areas is living below poverty line. This means that in our country 2 out of 5 persons fail to fulfill their basic needs even today.


On the one hand production of expensive cars, air conditioners and other luxuries is on rise, while poor man is confronted with ever rising prices of essential commodities due to ever declining per capita availability of food grains.


When the news was flashed that India has become the world's third most powerful country, there was hardly any happiness or feelings of pride on the faces of the people. When the common man has been struggling for his existence; the farmers have been committing suicide, drowned under the debt burden; poverty stricken people in the country are being given guns in the name of naxalism; can there be any happiness or a feeling of pride?









The draft mission document states the main objective as doubling the area for afforestation in next 10 years. This mission has a budgetary proposal of Rs 40,000 crore. As a novel initiative, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has sought comments from the public on the mission document.

While the main objective of the mission looks very noble, the ground realities prevailing in the country indicate that the mission's chances of bringing commensurate benefits to the society do not appear to be great. As has been happening since independence, large tracts of thick natural forests of very high ecological value all over the country are continuing to be diverted for non-forest purposes.


Even if the GIM succeeds in doubling the area for afforestation in next 10 years, the practice of diverting the existing natural forests for non-forestry applications will definitely negate the meagre benefits that may accrue from such additional afforestation. Unless this diversionary trend is discontinued or drastically reduced, the proposed expenditure will be of little use.


While the society has considered it essential to build large number of roads, railways, dams, airports, power plants, mining infrastructure, industries, resorts, townships etc at the expense of forest/green cover, the necessity to retain the natural forest cover is being ignored.


Whereas the National Forest Policy recommends that 33 per cent of the land mass should be covered by forests and trees for a healthy environment, our practice of continuing to divert forest lands for various 'developmental activities' will bring this percentage much below even the present low level of about 23 per cent in the country.


While there are many illegal activities which are resulting in depletion of forest cover, many legal activities such as monoculture of acacia, rubber plantations etc, forest resorts/jungle lodges, expansion of nearby human habitats into forest areas are hastening the depletion of forests.


Without effectively controlling such activities of forest destruction, GIM cannot have a meaningful role in protecting our environment.


A recent statement by MoEF has indicated that about 33 per cent of the coal reserve belts in the country are in 'no go' areas because they are below thick natural forests. But there are also reports of massive lobbying to permit coal mining in such areas too, in order to cater to a large number of additional coal power plants. Bending the relevant rules to permit coal mining in such areas will reduce the thick forest cover of highest ecological value, which can never be compensated by GIM.


World Charter for Nature was adopted by consensus by UN General Assembly in 1982, which has provided some guiding principles for protecting biodiversity. Some key principles so enunciated are: (i) Activities which are likely to cause irreversible damage to nature should be avoided; (ii) Activities which are likely to pose significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination; their proponents shall demonstrate that the expected benefits far outweigh potential damage to nature; (iii) Environmental Impact Assessment should be thorough and be carried out in an open and transparent fashion. The international community under UNFCC also has considered 'Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)' as critical to contain the global warming.


Large size conventional power projects such as coal based or dam based or nuclear based power plants need large tracts of forest area to set up coal/nuclear mines, power plants, reservoirs, transmission lines, staff colonies etc. Pollutants, emissions and wastes from the power plants also have huge deleterious impacts on quality and size of the total forest area in the country. Strong opposition to the proposed Gundia hydel project in Western Ghats should be seen in this context.


It is also deplorable that the Integrated Energy Policy (IEP) without even discussing the impact on our forests and bio-diversity wealth has projected an increase of about 500 per cent in the total installed power capacity in the country by 2031-32.


While the huge impact on our natural resources because of the increase in installed power capacity from a level of about 1,500 mw in 1948 to about 160,000 mw in 2010 is clearly visible, further increase by 5 times in next 20 years is more than likely to devastate the fragile nature of our forests and bio-diversity.


A large number of dam based hydel power projects, which are being planned in many parts of the country will

also lead to massive destruction of forests, unacceptable levels of interference in the natural flow of rivers, and will also threaten critical bio-diversity, while also impacting the quality of life because of many social issues.


It is deplorable that IEP has not objectively considered the much benign alternatives available in order to meet the legitimate demand for electricity. In order to protect our forests, green cover and general environment, our society needs a different paradigm of 'development,' and the civil society has to take active participation in decision making processes.


If the estimated budgetary provision of Rs 40,000 Crore on GIM is to be well spent, the ministry of environment and forests will have to take effective steps in conjunction with other concerned ministries and state governments to minimise the destruction of the existing natural forests. (INAV)








India has become a leading producer of several farm commodities in the world including food grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, fish, egg, meat, cotton, and jute, medicinal and aromatic plants. However, we need not to be satisfied about these statistics. There are many problems faced by agriculture sector that need to be solved on urgency, these include low productivity, high order of drudgery, heavy post harvest losses, non remunerative price structure and unfavorable terms of trade for farmers resulting in heavy debt burden on majority of the producers


Indian agriculture has made a rapid stride in achieving self sufficiency in food recording. Five times increase in production from the base line of 1950-1951, through green revolution. The efforts have resulted in achieving eight times increase in horticulture products. six times in milk and nine times in fish production. This has been possible due to technical interventions as evident from this fact that area has remained static to 142 million hectare for the last 40 years but production has remained manifold. Pressure on cultivatable land for agriculture continues to be high, looking into population growth, decline land and water coupled with challenges of climate change has become a threat to feed the growing population.


The challenges before us are much greater than before, and are to be addressed with strategic approaches utilizing innovations in science and technology


Climate change a cause of concern globally will have impact on horticultural crops, due to erratic rainfall, more demand for water and enhanced biotic and a biotic stresses. However the changes will not only be harmful as enhanced co2 concentration may enhance photosynthesis and increased temperature will have more effect on reproductive biology and reduced water may affect the productivity but adaptive mechanism like time adjustment and productive use of water shall reduce the negative impact and these challenges could be addressed through identification of the gene tolerant to high temperature, flooding and drought, development of nutrient rich cultivars and production system for efficient use of nutrients and water. Strategies have to address the enhanced water efficiency, cultural practices that conserve water and promote crop development of climate resistant crops tolerant to high temperature, moisture stress, salinity and climate proofing through genomics and biotechnology would be essentially required


India is the second largest producer of fruits (68.5 mt.) from 6.10M ha area and contributes 11.2 percent share in global fruit production. Vegetable crops which occupy 8.0Mha has the production of 129.3mt. Cucurbits like pointed guard, spine guard are gaining importance of commerce which has much more value for export for its medicinal and therapeutic uses.


Commercial floriculture sector has recorded fast pace of growth during the last decade and the export has grown manifold and area has expanded to 1, 67,000 ha with production of 9, 87,000MT of loose flower and 4.8 million cut flowers. Floriculture provides ample opportunity both for domestic market and export which includes cut flowers, loose flowers, potted plants, bedding plants, foliage and dry flowers.


Challenges to produce more from less land and water


There has been an impressive growth in horticulture and production has jumped to manifold since independence. But there is need to increase the productivity for meeting the ever increasing demand of nutritious food for increasing population, challenges to feed growing population from receding land and water resources.


The big challenge to attain the food and nutritional security for the increasing population can be met by the improvement in the productivity through genetic enhancement. Our country has germplasm of wide range of horticultural crops. India is endowed with large germplasm pool (72,000 germplasm accessions of cultivated, wild and related texa) with about6000 accession of fruits. 25,400 in vegetables, 15,700 in spices and 10,100 in plantation and tuber crops


Varietal improvement


Many high yielding varieties and hybrids of different horticulture crops have been developed for different regions. Till date 1600 improved high yielding, high quality disease and pest resistant varaties and hybrids have been released for cultivation in diverse agro climatic conditions of the country. Till date197 varieties in fruits; 520 varieties in vegetables: 200 varaties in


Floriculture; 158 in tuberose; 390 in spices and plantation crops: 126 varieties in medicinal and aromatic plants and 5 in mushrooms have been released.


Varieties are being bred for processing qualities such as Khufri Chipsona in potato for chips making, high TSS white onion in NRCOG W 448, grape varieties suitable for wine making, papaya variety for table and papin production are some of the successful research attempts.


The hybrid technology is in the progress of its utilization in several vegetable crops. Presently 0.5 million hectare is under hybrid vegetable cultivation. Keeping in view the dynamic needs, the research efforts in various institutes has focus on development of hybrids and in this direction Biotechnological tools have provided ample scope for the breeder to improve diverse traits, including yield, disease resistance, and a biotic stress tolerance and in this direction protoplast fusion in producing somatic hybrids for developing good root stock is in citrus use of Meristem culture and micro grafting is very successful in citrus for elimination of viruses. Androgenesis is being successfully used in Brinjal, pepper, cabbage, cauliflower, potato, asparagus and carrot and gynogenesis has been successful in onion.


Efforts are in progress at various institutions in India to tackle the issues of managing disease resistance, resistance to insect pest, nutritional quality improvement and to extend shelf life of fruits and vegetables through development of transgenics. Nutritionally improved transgenic potatoes have been obtained by transferring the amaranth seed albumin gene (AmA1) from Amaranathus hypochondriacus in to potato and also succeeded in reversing the sweeting process in potato by using invertase inhibitor gene from tobacco.


Hi-tech. Horticulture


Hi- tech horticulture is deployment of modern technology which is capital intensive, less environment dependent having capacity to improve the productivity and quality of produce. Hi- tech horticulture encompasses a variety of interventions such as micro irrigation, fertigation, protected\ |green house cultivation mulching for in-situ moisture conservation, micro propagation, genetically modified crops, use of vermiculture, high density planting and soil less culture.


Despite achievements in horticulture sector the challenges confronting are still many.








THE visit of US President Barack Obama to India scheduled this November must be seen as an opportunity to cement ties between the two countries and to iron out some irritants that are dampening the spirit of the relationship. To necessarily expect any dramatic announcements to be made during the visit would be unrealistic. That President Obama has chosen to come in his first term in office is itself an index of the importance he attaches to the bilateral relationship. Significantly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the first world leader to be received in White House after Obama assumed charge as President. However, there have been straws in the wind and be it the Pakistan factor or Obama's views on blocking outsourcing of jobs by American firms or apprehensions over the civil nuclear liability bill as passed by India's Parliament or the move to hike H1B and L1 visa fees, Indian and US views have not converged.


India would understandably be looking for a forthright American statement calling upon Pakistan to eschew cross-border terrorism. With the Obama administration continuing to play a balancing game, it is a moot point whether President Obama will go far out on this. On outsourcing, with the Republicans having blocked a bill in the Senate seeking to ban government contractors from moving jobs offshore, the point of contention has narrowed down. Any concession by the US on the hiked visa fees would earn the Manmohan Singh government some kudos. Failing that, the negotiation of a possible bilateral investment treaty that could be signed during Obama's trip, could be a damp squib. India would watch keenly whether the US extends unambiguous and unequivocal support for India's bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Recent reports that Obama may link the offer of strong support to India on a Security Council seat to finding a solution to the Kashmir issue are hardly reassuring.


All in all, the US President's visit is a welcome development. Even if no dramatic breakthroughs are achieved, such bilateral exchanges are important for the two countries to appreciate each other's viewpoints and move forward in their relationship.








WITH Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi releasing the first set of unique identification numbers ("Aadhar") in Tembhli village of Nandurbar district of Maharashtra on Wednesday, the most ambitious project of the UPA so far has finally started rolling. The site of the launch is significant. Nandurbar is a largely tribal, poor district inhabited mostly by the kind of marginalised people that the project strives to empower the most. It will give them a unique identity proof which will come in handy in everything from getting rations to utilising the rural employment schemes. At the same time, the 12-digit number will be useful in avoiding rigging in elections and embezzlement of government funds meant for the people.


Providing such biometric-based cards to 1.2 billion people will be a gigantic task. The Nandan Nilekani-led UID Authority of India, which has now been renamed "Aadhar", has not only to make sure that none of those for whom the card is meant is deprived of it, but also that no unauthorised person manages to procure one. The card has multiple uses and for that very reason, the chances of misuse are also greater. So, there is need for having a foolproof system in place before going full steam ahead.


The project can transform health, education, public distribution and employment sectors by plugging leakages which are legion. Since the project is novel, it has many critics also who fear that it will allow the government to play Big Brother. Their objections are mainly two-fold: that it infringes on an individual's right to privacy and that it is a national security project in the garb of a social policy initiative. With strict restrictions to eliminate the possibility of the profiling of minorities and Dalits and the misuse of UID data in place, the benefits that this radical change can bring about far outweigh the projected negative fallouts. 









POVERTY, a global reality, is no stranger to India. Thus, a decade ago, it was in the fitness of things that India was one of the nearly 190 member states of the UN that had set eight ambitious Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to tackle poverty around the world. As the world leaders met again recently in New York, the UN's admission that most of the MDGs are likely to be missed in most regions is disheartening, in context of India too. With five years left to meet the ambitious goals, India's track record on most of the targets, be it health, gender equality, poverty, hunger or environment sustainability, is far from satisfactory.


It is indeed a sad state of affairs that a country with a robust growth rate is home to 50 per cent of the world's hungry people. Worse still, 46 per cent of its children remain undernourished. On other development indicators like infant mortality rate, what with over 1.5 million children dying before their first birthday too, it has a long way to go. India where the growth has at best been uneven must pay more attention to states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, where the proportion of poor is not only more but likely to increase as well by 2015.


India cannot take refuge under the convoluted argument as propounded by some experts that First World standards can't be applied to it. Instead, it must bear in mind Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general's assertion that the achievement of the goals is not optional bur an essential investment in a fairer, safer and more prosperous world. If the nation has to emerge as a global power the government's commitment to meeting the MDGs must translate into more concerted action. Indeed. MDGs that vow to reduce extreme poverty by half, maternal mortality by three quarters and child mortality by two thirds are not an end in itself. Yet these provide a well-illumined road map to social and economic development.

















THE continuing need for industrialisation and foreign investment was emphasised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently for rapid poverty reduction. While it is true that export growth with the help of foreign investment has helped reduce poverty quickly in many countries, its role in India has been ambiguous. While India's domestic rate of investment is rather high at 33 per cent of the GDP at $430 billion, the importance of FDI has been stressed by our leaders and many changes in the FDI policy have been introduced in recent years to make India an attractive foreign investment destination. The idea of establishing special economic zones (SEZs) for attracting FDI has also gained in importance, especially since the SEZ Act of 2005, which guarantees exemption from the payment of tax on book profit and exemption from the dividend distribution tax for developers.


As pointed out by Sonia Gandhi, SEZs should not be established on prime fertile agricultural land. Alongside industrialisation, a nation of over a billion people needs a robust domestic agricultural production. Enhancing agricultural growth through technology, water management, better land use, land reforms as well as building rural roads is going to remain important for any strategy aimed at rural poverty reduction.


In the SEZs FDI plays an important role as it brings not only foreign exchange but also technical knowhow, intellectual property rights and efficient organisational and managerial practices. In a span of a few years China's poverty was reduced to 2 per cent (ours is 37 per cent) in which FDI played an important role as it went to exporting industries that were mainly labour intensive.


All big American companies opened their subsidiaries in China since its opening up in 1979. This created jobs and boosted exports. But unlike China, in India FDI has not gone into the labour-intensive export sector. It has remained in capital-intensive sectors like cars, consumer durables and electronics — catering mostly to domestic demand. FDI has not been able to absorb a big proportion of India's labour force. Most workers ( 92 per cent of the 523.5 million workforce) still remain in the unorganised sector. They are semi-skilled and semi-literate.


Foreign investors have always sought out prosperous states in which there is a good supply of skilled labour, which is educated and this preference for FDI to go to some states and not to others has not helped in poverty reduction much.


Yet India's policy-makers have been in an overdrive to facilitate the opening up of various sectors for FDI. The result so far has been encouraging and more foreign investors have come in the last few years than before but FDI has not increased the number of jobs. In fact, India has been witnessing jobless growth. The invested FDI was 12.9 per cent of the GDP in India and 10.1 per cent in China last year. India gets around $34.6 billion a year and China gets $108 billion a year.


The government has been trying to open up multi-brand retail and defence to FDI. Already India allows 51 per cent in single-brand retail and 100 per cent in multi-brand retail but only in 'cash-and-carry' outlets. By opening up the muti-brand retail sector fully, the government hopes to attract bigger amounts of FDI.


The prospects of India being an attractive FDI destination seem good because of the high rate of economic growth that India has been experiencing lately. A recent UNCTAD survey reveals that India will be the sixth most-favoured FDI destination and China will be the second most attractive destination after the US in 2010-2012.


However, if the government wants to reduce poverty through FDI then some fine-tuning in policies will have to be undertaken. FDI will have to be directed to sectors using workers from the unorganised sector. To make labour-intensive industries attractive, the government will have to improve infrastructure and invest in training labour. In Bangladesh much of the FDI has gone to the garment sector which has enriched workers and reduced poverty.


But in opening up the multi-brand retail sector there is the issue of rendering jobless people engaged in petty trading. It is a serious matter as there are 10 crore small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and traders in the retail sector whose growth has been 15 per cent. If retail is opened up fully then Walmart and European retail giants like Metro and Macro would walk in and capture a sizeable market of $450 billion because the Indian middle class would shop for everything available under one roof.


Of course, many of the poor would not go to Walmart-type stores because they could feel intimidated by the grand façade etc. and would probably still buy from small "kiryana shops". The main argument in favour of opening up retail is that big multinational firms would source their products from small producers within the country and hence help in creating jobs. But what guarantee is there that they would not outsource their products from cheaper producers like China, Thailand and the Philippines?


Similarly, defence is a capital-intensive sector which would not be inclined to employ a semi-literate and semi-skilled workforce. The government is contemplating tripling the cap on FDI going into that sector to 74 per cent.


Making FDI more hassle-free and giving approvals quickly would also help attract more FDI but the main reason why India is not able to attract a big quantum today is also the general recession in the countries from where FDI originates. There has been a decline in the FDI flows in 2010 as compared to 2009.


India is also emerging as an important country from which FDI originates. While the outward flow of FDI from India is 6.1 per cent of the GDP, it is 4.9 per cent of the GDP in the case of China. India and China can be important global investors in future and not just recipients of FDI. It will strengthen their role as global powers and India can assist industrialisation in Africa like China is doing. Why not emphasise on that role more and leave industrialisation of the country to well-planned domestic investment strategies instead of reliance on FDI? Moreover, domestic investment in local industries that are labour intensive could be assisted with poverty-alleviation programmes in the poorest regions.








I look at the golden shower cassia tree in my garden and I am reminded of two such cassias growing in far-off Gah village in Pakistan,  that I had presented to the late Raja Mohammed Ali, a childhood classmate of Prime Minister  Manmohan Singh.


"Meinu mere Mohne nal milva do! Meinu Hindustan da visa mil gaya hai!" was one call I received in May of 2008 from Rajaji alias Babaji. I was aghast! 'Mohna' was the nickname he used for the Prime Minister. In March that year I had met Babaji the second time in Katasraj (Pakistan) and carried copies of an article by me in The Tribune about him and his friend 'Mohna'. I gave a copy to a senior officer of the Indian High Commission at the Katasraj shrine, urging him to issue Babaji a visa.


After four rejections, three months later, Babaji was ready to come to India and elated in anticipation of a meeting with his illustrious classmate – albeit without any appointment!


I looked for ways to fix that seemingly 'elusive' appointment, on the Net. I wrote on the PM's website, even found an IAS officer, seemingly by divine intervention, who helped script a letter and fax to the Prime Minister, but to no avail.


Meantime, a thrilled Babaji, unaware of the 'trials and tribulations', called everyday and we agreed on 'priceless gifts' for the Prime Minister comprising 'soil and water' of the PM's school and ancestral home in Gah besides 'tilley wali chakwali juttis' and a 150-year old 'resham ka lachcha' made by Babaji's grandparents.


A week left, and still no reply! Finally, media had to become my 'sole-mate'. There were renewed media contacts in Lahore, Amritsar and Delhi. A foreign news agency in Lahore filmed the story about preparations to meet the Prime Minister, and ended it with a question –'Whether the Pak friend would meet the Indian PM?' It was featured on BBC just prior to Babaji's arrival in India. Still no reply!


On Babaji's arrival a local school gave him a thumping welcome with bhangra by kids at the Wagah Indo-Pak border. The press grabbed bytes of the dancing children, gifts of soil, water and juttis!


The same night an official of the PMO called!  More relieved than elated, I requested for accommodation and conveyance in Delhi for them, besides security during travel to Delhi, the following day.  


Babaji reached Delhi and was whisked off to a five-star guest house and given a chauffeur-driven car. Two days before the meeting , Babaji urged me to accompany him but my refrain was "this is the time for only friends, not me". 


It turned out to be a most poignant moment between India and Pakistan. Later, a tearful Babaji left India carrying the cassia saplings, a booklet with publications of his visit, a large photo with the Prime Minister and him wearing the chakwali juttis, gifts by the PM of a pair of watches, suits, shawl, dry fruit and Assam tea and even  a doctor's prescription, as live proofs for his village-mates.

Even though Babaji is no more, the entire village safeguards these prized possessions and has even framed the Indian doctor's prescription — as a historical memory of Gah's priceless connection with India.








OXYTOCIN produced in all mammals is responsible for stimulation of nerves. It is produced at the time of milking in the milch animals. It is the hormone used during the late stage of pregnancy to induce labour. This drug may also be used during pregnancy to test the heartbeat of the fetus and control bleeding of the womb after childbirth. Thus, it is a naturally occurring hormone and is secreted endogenously in all mammals for induction and maintenance of labour as well as for initiation of milk let-down in the female.


Since it is a peptide hormone, it disappears rapidly within two to six minutes from the blood stream due to the action of various enzymes. Synthetic oxytocin is, therefore, used quite commonly in human as well as veterinary medicine. The reports on the harmful effect of milk produced by oxytocin-treated dairy cattle are quite misleading and not based on scientific facts.


Whether secreted endogenously in response to natural stimuli or administered exogenously, oxytocin produces the desired effect within minutes and gets metabolised rapidly leading to inactive products. Till date, there is not a single report which demonstrates the presence of this hormone in the milk. Those who imagine that it may escape the action of degrading enzymes and seep into milk in traces should also realise that in such a situation, all the breast-fed infants and newly born calves must be constantly exposed to these traces of oxytocin in mother's milk all the time without facing any health hazards whatsoever.


The reason is that if at all ingested orally along with milk, oxytocin is bound to be digested like other proteins and peptides due to action of gut enzymes and gastric acids and cannot be absorbed from the intestines to reach the blood circulation again.


Keeping in view the press reports and news on the various TV channels against indiscriminate use of oxytocin in cucurbitaceous crops such as bottle gourd, pumpkin, cucumber etc, a research was conducted in Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana during rainy season 2009. The study was conducted on two varieties of bottlegourd, namely Punjab Komal and Punjab Long. The result are depicted in the table. The oxytocin was injected into different parts of the plants.


It was concluded from the study conducted on the effect of oxytocin on yield and quality of bottle gourd that oxytocin has no effect in influencing the yield and quality of bottle gourd.


It seems that application of oxytocin to improve the yield of vegetable crops is misconceived if this practice is being followed. On the contrary, the survey conducted in the previous year in three districts of the state also revealed the fact that farmers of the Punjab do not follow such practice as advertised by different TV channels and newspapers.


The writers are Professors in the department of vegetable crops, PAU, Ludhiana








RIPENING is a dramatic event in the life of a fruit, in which structure and composition of unripe fruit is so altered that it becomes acceptable to eat. Ripening marks the completion of development of a fruit and the commencement of senescence and it is normally an irreversible event.


Ethylene, a gas at physiological temperature, is a natural hormone involved in fruit ripening. The autocatalytic production of endogenous ethylene is considered to immediately trigger off the ripening process in fruits like banana, mango and papaya etc. These fruits produce large amount of ethylene once ripening is underway.


Need for artificial ripening: No doubt that the natural ripened fruits are good in taste and flavour, but these fruits take longer time to ripe and at the same time ripening is not uniform and the chances of spoilage are also more. In order to regulate the supply chain in the markets, the artificial ripening of fruits is a necessity during their commercial handling and this is a standard practice all over the world.


Methods of ripening: The various traditional as well as modern safe methods used for commercial ripening are discussed below.


1. Traditional method— Ripening with Calcium carbide: Bananas, mango, papaya, chiku etc are commercially ripened by traders with calcium carbide popularly known as Masala. Calcium carbide is usually kept in a small paper packet in the piles of bananas, papaya or inside the boxes or crates of mango fruits. The chemical, when hydrolyzed, produces heat and acetylene gas along with traces of ethylene which hastens the ripening process.


In the case of banana the ripening starts within 24-48 hours, depending on ambient temperature and when fruits yield to slight finger pressure, they are kept under ice slabs for lowering the temperature and to develop colour.


However, the fruits ripened with calcium carbide are overly soft with a short shelf life. In addition, it is very dangerous to handle calcium carbide because of its explosive properties. The chemical is so reactive that it causes blisters if touched unknowingly with wet hands. The low price of carbide results in its indiscriminate use in artificial ripening of banana. This practice is banned U/S 44-AA of Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act, 1954 with PFA rules, 1955, due to health reasons.


2. Safe methods:


i)                    Ripening with Ethephon/Ethrel: Ethephon (2-chloroethyl-phosphonic acid) is commercially available and is registered for pre-harvest use on a variety of crops for controlling developmental processes or inducing ripening. This chemical is approved for post-harvest use on fruits crops for enhancing ripening. For post-harvest treatments, 1.25 ml of ethephon is diluted in one litre of water and fruits are either dipped in the solution for 2-3 minutes or the solution can also be sprayed on the produce. The treated fruits are air dried, packed in boxes or plastic crates and kept at optimum temperature which varies from 16-25 OC and 90-95% RH. This temperature range is considered to be optimum for ripening of most fruits.


This substance ensures uniform ripening of fruits and fruits retain their flavour. This technique provides a safe and effective method of ripening of fruits compared to normal technique of using calcium carbide. The fruits ripened with this technique can be stored for couple of days at their specific storage temperature for enhancing their sweet juiciness and crisp crunchy texture.


ii) Ripening with ethylene gas (internationally acceptable technique): Ethylene is a plant hormone which acts physiologically and stimulate ripening of fruits. Although fruits contain natural ethylene, but its concentration is not enough to regulate the ripening. Therefore, fruits are required to expose to desired level of ethylene for developing uniform ripening and acceptable quality. This technique is very useful during commercial handling of fruits in pack house.


In this technique, the fruits are exposed to low level of ethylene gas (100-150 ppm) in a air-tight ripening chamber for 24 hours to induce the fruits to ripen. The most important thing in this technique is temperature and relative humidity control inside the ripening chamber, which should range between 16 -25OC and 90-95% RH, depending upon the fruit type.


This process facilitates adequate ripening of banana and other fruits which can be utilised for systematic marketing strategies. This technology can meet the increased consumer demand for properly ripened fruits and also enable the high volume retailers, especially supermarkets to better supply their customers and control the postharvest losses. It guarantees uniform ripening with development of good flavour and colour.


Although, initially, the cost of infrastructure is high, but it will compensate with quality of fruits. The technology can be used at wholesale markets prior to distribution to retailers. It is important to recognize that though ethylene gas can promote the ripening and colour changes, the quality of such artificially ripened fruits depends mostly on the maturity level of the fruit at the time of harvest.


One such ripening chamber of one ton capacity with controlled temperature and relative humidity range and portable ethylene generator has been installed at Punjab Horticultural Postharvest Technology Centre (PHPTC), Punjab Agricultural University Ludhiana. This facility has been used to standardise the techniques for the ripening of banana with ethylene gas and to recommend for commercial use. In the past, series of experiments were conducted in the ripening of bananas and it was observed that banana harvested at green mature stage can be successfully ripened in four days by exposing to ethylene gas 100 ppm for 24 hours in a ripening chamber maintained at 16-18°C and 90-95% RH. The fruits attained uniform colour excellent quality during shelf life.


Based on the studies conducted at PHPTC an up-scaled pilot facility with six ripening chambers each having

capacity 10 MT has been established by Punjab Mandi Board at new fruit and vegetable market, Ludhiana. During the trials recently conducted by PHPTC scientists on the ripening of banana at the new pilot scale facility at fruit and vegetable market Ludhiana about 6 companies (corporates as well as banana commission agents) such as Bharti Field Fresh, Ladowal, Khet Se (Tata Enterprise) Malerkotla etc. participated. The technology suggested by PHPTC scientists has been fully adopted by these companies / stakeholders and they are satisfied with the results of this new technique of ripening of bananas. Such facilities for banana ripening have been set up by these corporates at Ladhowal, Malerkotla and Pathankot etc.


Similar facilities are also planned in 13 more fruit and vegetable markets of Punjab by Punjab Mandi Board. It is hoped that this new safe technique of banana ripening will eventually replace the harmful and banned method of ripening with calcium carbide thus providing the consumers with healthy and safe fruits.


The writers are working as Senior Horticulturist and Senior Research Engineer at PHPTC, PAU, Ludhiana









When I graduated with what was called an English Honours degree, the problem was what to do next. I don't know what I would have decided at the time, only because so many people felt they had to decide for me. On one count they were unanimous: I should do something "useful." 


My mother's brother took me to meet a business partner in Bombay. The lady suggested Advertising or Labour Relations. Somehow I blundered into something equally awful, an MA in Education in Los Angeles. So there I was at 19, sallying forth, almost completely clueless. I had never travelled anywhere alone. I was flummoxed by a tea bag on a TWA flight, and even more flummoxed when the air-hostess asked me if I wanted "Milk, Cream, or Pream", with it. I was flummoxed by an American professor who waved his hand and said "Hi!" 


Oddly enough, I was not flummoxed when the Dean of Arts suggested (with the most well-meaning intentions) I wear dresses instead of saris so that students would feel more at home with me. I said I had no money to buy dresses. She suggested that she fit me out with second-hand dresses students had left behind. I said no. In any case I wanted to move back into Eng Lit-that much was clear. No more Saturday morning seminars on the Ideal Syllabus. Eventually, I ended up with a grant to a Jesuit university in Wisconsin, studying Eng Lit of course. (I always seem to end up with Jesuits). And after that, a lifetime of happy uselessness. 


The compensation for the semester I had to spend in LA till I could move to Wisconsin was the life-long friends I made, and the extraordinary warmth and generosity of the people I met, the beautiful Spanish towns, and San Francisco which must be one of the most exciting cities in the world. Both in LA and in Wisconsin I had my first experience of various arts: experimental theatre, theatre-in-the-round, Japanese Noh theatre, Japanese painting and the humbler art of Origami, abstract painting, Satyajit Ray's Apu Trilogy, performance of Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring," recordings of Joan Baez in the student cafeteria, and Missa Luba, the Latin mass sung to Congo rhythms. I used to watch the news telecasts of the incomparable Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, the Nixon-Kennedy debates, shook hands with John F Kennedy when he was campaigning to be President, in Olvera Street in the Hispanic section (decided he wasn't really good-looking or particularly charismatic). 


I did go through a "socially relevant" phase when I returned, and bored some of my students with it. But, by and large, "Do something useful," is not the kind of advice I would give a student who wanted to opt for Eng Lit. If parents pressured them to choose one of the sciences, I suggested that the student do what made him or her happy. There are already too many unhappy people in the world! 


Perhaps Auden was right when he said, "Poetry makes nothing happen." The problem is, very little makes anything happen. As a student of international politics, now working in Public Health issues said the other day, she doesn't know why she rushes about on one project or another. Nothing happens. The rot has gone too deep. 

Oddly enough, when I returned to India I was asked why I hadn't stayed on in the US when I could have. And the first question I asked at the airport when I returned was in a local language, so happy was I to be back. I was fixed with a frosty look and an answer in English. 

  Oh well. Belated Teachers' Day greetings!



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





India's National Environment Appellate Authority, which hears cases challenging the rulings of the Ministry of Environment and Forests on the environmental sustainability of projects, is a skeleton without body and flesh. It has only one of its required five members in place for over a year now. The lone functioning member is its chairman, who himself is in office on extension and even that extended term ends next month! The consequences are not too far to seek. As in the case of civil or criminal courts, the number of pending cases with the Authority has been piling up. There are about 40 pending cases with the Authority, 15 of which pertain to environmental clearances for steel plants, thermal power projects, hydroelectric power plants and mining leases. Ten more pending cases pertain to construction of retail malls, five-star hotels and high-rise buildings. Industry's fervent hope, therefore, is that the current chairman gets more active in the remaining days of his tenure and clears as many of the pending cases as he can.


The harsh reality is that the chances of the appellate body filling up the vacancies are slim. For some months now, the government has been waiting for parliamentary approval to a new law that will facilitate the setting up of the National Green Tribunal, which will take over the functions of the existing National Environment Appellate Authority. The government, therefore, is paying little attention to keep the Authority fully functional. This is an unfortunate rerun of what happened to the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC). It took years for the government to complete the legislative formalities for setting up the Competition Commission of India, which was to have taken over the functions of the MRTPC in addition to assuming other responsibilities. During this long period of legislative stasis, the functioning of the MRTPC languished for want of adequate staff and members to hear cases of unfair and restrictive trade practices. The National Environment Appellate Authority suffers from a similar handicap.


 What has complicated the Authority's problems and given industry a fresh headache is the government's failure to prevent such regulatory and appellate bodies from being monopolised by senior bureaucrats. There is no reason to believe that only a retired official of the environment and forest ministry can be a member of the appellate body to decide on cases pertaining to environmental clearances. There is enough talent available outside the bureaucracy that the government can induct into such appellate bodies. Indeed, this can go a long way in ensuring their independent functioning, where the chairman or the member of an appellate body will not suffer from any legacy handicap. Such a move may also pave the way for a more fundamental reform in the functioning of the environment and forest ministry. There is no reason why the government should set up environment assessment committees to evaluate projects for environment clearances. Such tasks can be performed better by an independent regulator that has sufficient autonomy from the ministry that lays down the broad policy.








Most Indians took it for granted that the national Capital would be cleared temporarily of hawkers and small vendors, along with beggars and vagrants, ahead of the Commonwealth Games. This is standard operating procedure before a big global event. The moral argument for these periodical eviction drives can be endlessly debated. But the bigger issue is whether local governments should radically reconsider their approach to these people. There is no doubt that hawkers at the weekly flea markets, fruit and vegetable vendors, household helps and so on — who broadly fall under the category that economists call the "urban informal sector" — remain the most marginalised people in Indian urban environments. The tony glass and concrete offices and malls may stand as monuments to India's new-found entrepreneurial spirit, but it's the informal sector that still drives the country's urban economies. It plays a critical role that gets noticed only in its absence — witness the righteous outrage by wealthy residents of Gurgaon when their chauffeurs and cleaners were caught in last week's eviction drive.


To be sure, the urban informal sector isn't aesthetically pleasing. Its shops and establishments sprawl all over pavements and free spaces, making easy movement impossible for pedestrian and wheeled traffic alike. They draw power illegally from the grid. They litter. They inhabit festering slums of the kind so darkly portrayed in Slumdog Millionaire.But without them, India's expanding and increasingly prosperous middle class would be hard-pressed to get on with the business of growing wealthier. Yet, they remain the most vulnerable to the venality of local municipal and enforcement authorities. Take the case of Delhi alone. The city has over 500,000 vendors and one million rickshaw pullers. In her bookDeepening Democracy — Challenges of Governance and Globalisation in India, activist Madhu Kishwar pointed out that only 4,000 vendors actually hold licences and that only courtesy a reference from a bureaucrat or an MLA. The rest exist solely by virtue of paying extortion money — Ms Kishwar has calculated that Rs 40 crore is being extorted from Delhi's hawkers every month. This fact is unlikely to surprise too many city dwellers. The disappearance of local markets in formal clean-up drives and their reappearance days later is too regular an occurrence to merit comment — reformatory efforts do little more than up the bribery rates. As much to the point, the taxes that this sector should be legally paying city authorities and utility companies are being pocketed by public servants, creating a vicious circle of corruption and deterioration of municipal services.


 The solution is glaringly obvious. As is done the world over, including China, urban authorities "formalise" the informal sector by demarcating specific zones for them, providing basic facilities in return for a fee and raising the cost of non-compliance. These movements have not only cleaned up the cities and provided legitimate wealth-creating avenues for the "little people", they add an engaging dimension to the urban landscape without detracting from the virtues of cleanliness. Efforts in parts of Delhi have shown that the plan is workable. The trouble is that the change agents are always up against powerful vested interests that gain from keeping the informal sector informal.








Japan is heading towards a savings crisis. The potential future clash between larger fiscal deficits and a low household saving rate could have powerful negative effects on both Japan and the global economy.


First, some background. Japan was long famous for having the highest saving rate among the industrial countries. In the early 1980s, Japanese households were saving about 15 per cent of their after-tax incomes. Those were the days of sharply rising incomes, when Japanese households could increase their consumption rapidly while adding significant amounts to their savings. Although the saving rate came down gradually in the 1980s, it was still 10 per cent in 1990.


 But the 1990s was a decade of slow growth, and households devoted a rising share of their incomes to maintaining their level of consumer spending. Although they had experienced large declines in share prices and house values, they had such large amounts of liquid savings in postal savings accounts and in banks that they did not feel the need to increase saving in order to rebuild assets.


A variety of forces have contributed to a continuing decline in Japan's household saving rate. The country's demographic structure is changing, with an increasing number of retirees relative to the workers who are in their prime saving years. Surveys tell us that younger Japanese are more interested in current consumption and less concerned about the future than previous generations were. And the traditional notion of saving for bequests has waned.


The household saving rate, therefore, continued to fall until it was below 5 per cent at the end of the 1990s and reached just above 2 per cent in 2009. At the same time, the fiscal deficit is more than 7 per cent of GDP.


The combination of low household saving and substantial government dissaving would normally force a country to borrow from the rest of the world. But Japan maintains a current-account surplus and continues to send more than 3 per cent of its GDP abroad, providing more than $175 billion of funds this year for other countries to borrow. This apparent paradox is explained by a combination of high corporate saving and low levels of residential and non-residential fixed investment. In short, Japan's national savings still exceed its domestic investment, allowing Japan to be a net capital exporter.


The excess of national saving over investment not only permits Japan to be a capital exporter, but also contributes — along with the mild deflation that Japan continues to experience — to the low level of Japanese long-term interest rates. Indeed, despite the large government deficit and the enormous government debt — now close to 200 per cent of GDP — the interest rate on 10-year Japanese government bonds is just 1 per cent, the lowest such rate in the world.


But what of the future? While the current situation could continue for a number of years, there is a risk that rising interest rates and reductions in net business saving will bring Japan's current-account surplus to an end.


One reason for a rise in the interest rate would be a shift from low deflation to low inflation. Prices in Japan have been falling at about 1 per cent a year. If that swung by two percentage points — as the government and the central bank want — to a positive 1 per cent inflation rate, the interest rate would also increase by about two percentage points. With a debt-to-GDP ratio of 200 per cent, the higher interest rate would eventually raise the government's interest bill by about 4 per cent of GDP. And that would push a 7 per cent-of-GDP fiscal deficit to 11 per cent.


Higher deficits, moreover, would cause the ratio of debt to GDP to rise from its already high level, which implies greater debt-service costs and, therefore, even larger deficits. This vicious spiral of rising deficits and debt would be likely to push interest rates even higher, causing the spiral to accelerate.


The larger deficits would also eliminate all of the excess saving that now underpins the current-account surplus. The same negative effect on the current account could occur if the corporate sector increases its rate of investment in plant and equipment or reduces corporate saving by paying higher wages or dividends. The excess saving could also decline if housing construction picks up.


Japan's ability to sustain high fiscal deficits, low interest rates and net capital exports has been possible because of its high private saving rate, which has kept national saving positive. But, with the current low rate of household saving, the cycle of rising deficits and debt will soon make national saving negative. A shift from deflation to low inflation would accelerate this process.


The result in Japan would then be rising real interest rates as the low private saving rate runs head-on into large fiscal deficits. That would weaken the stock market, lower business investment and impede economic growth.


And if Japan's domestic net saving surplus vanishes, the current $175 billion of capital outflow would no longer be available to other countries, while Japan might itself become a net drain on global savings.


© Project Syndicate,  











Foreigners visiting China tend to return with amusing stories of the Middle Kingdom's idiosyncratic grasp, or lack thereof, of the English language. India by contrast is considered "fortunate"; as descendant of Macaulay's Children, educated Indians have a passable working knowledge of English.


 Thanks to Britain's globe-girdling colonial rule — of which the Commonwealth remains a rag-tag reminder — and the USA's domination of global business after that, English as the world's lingua franca became received wisdom from the nineteenth century onwards. The implication that flowed from this, especially in India, is that knowing English is somehow a passport to economic success. Today, academics and policy wonks plugged into the global conferencing networks may find this easy to believe. But the examples of India and China suggest that it is a fallacious notion.


True, the Chinese, with their ingrained sense of realism, have trained their sights on learning English. But the

country's rise to world domination was established long before its people started educating themselves in the so-called language of global business. It is also worth reiterating the obvious point that the language barrier did not dissuade US multinationals from directing their employment-expanding manufacturing investment to China, a circumstance that powered it up the rankings to become the world's second-largest economy.


If you run an eye down the world's 20 largest economies, 13 of them are non-English-speaking countries. Of the top ten, there are just two English-speaking countries (the US and Canada, where French is also a dominant language). Narrow the list to the top five and only the US remains.


Japan, now the world's third-largest economy, remained a solidly Japanese-speaking nation despite being under American post-war occupation for seven years. By the seventies, it was Japanese shop-floor management concepts that stormed the world. This was, as Sony's iconic co-founder Akio Morita wrote in his readable memoir Made in Japan, largely the outcome of the country's collective sense of humiliation after its defeat in World War II. There was a time when US consumers bought more Japanese-made cars than American-made ones (as General Motors discovered to its dismay), just as they buy more Chinese- than US-made products.


Ditto for Germany; it remains the world's hub for high-end engineering technology despite a long-standing and historical aversion to the English language. Working there is truly a struggle for non-German speakers, as businessmen attest. Surinder Kapur, chairman of auto-component group Sona, has resolved to direct his other overseas buys to English-speaking countries after reviving a highly-regarded Munich-based manufacturer because of his struggles with the language. During his stint in Germany, Karl Slym, the current British head of General Motors India, recalled how the head of operations of GM there agreed to hold meetings in English only for two weeks as a concession to him before reverting to German.


First-time Indian visitors to South-east Asian countries tend to return with a lingering sense of irritation at the obviously superior human development indicators in those small "tiger" economies where the staff of even five-star hotels struggle to understand basic English. South Korea, ranked 26 in the UN's Human Development Indicators, is similarly linguistically opaque to foreigners — and proud of it.


The tenuous link between economic progress and knowledge of English does not, however, mean that Indians shouldn't focus on learning it. The Official Languages Act mandated to continue using English for official purposes and in Parliament. In a country with no less than 22 languages recognised in the Indian Constitution, several with different roots, this is probably a practical option. It is worth remembering that the dialects of America's polyglot European- and Asian-origin immigrant population were gradually stamped out in favour of the homogeneity of English in the early years of the twentieth century.


All the same, knowledge of English is probably an over-rated virtue. As the crisis over the Commonwealth Games has demonstrated, it cannot act as a guarantor of execution ability, efficiency or even honesty. Increasingly, it is becoming an alibi for the lack of enablers within the Indian system for talent to rise, irrespective of linguistic provenance and patronage. India makes much of the fact that its English-speaking population base has been turned to profitable use in the vast information technology (IT) and back office industry. In many ways, IT defines the dynamic new India. But surely independent India's genius must go beyond leveraging a colonial heritage.









Two recent submissions by Costa Rica and Ukraine in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the use of special safeguard measures (SSMs) by developing countries against an import surge of sensitive agricultural products bring to the fore the complexities of concluding the Doha Round at the earliest. These proposals point to three viewpoints among the developing countries with regard to the use of SSMs to safeguard farm interests.


Costa Rica, a member of the Cairns Group of agricultural exporters, has argued that an easy use of SSMs would hurt export prospects of developing countries and, therefore, hurt South-South trade. The other developing countries that have espoused the cause of restricting the use of SSMs are Paraguay, Uruguay and Malaysia.


 Ukraine, on the other hand, has argued that since it is a recently acceded member in the WTO, it must be allowed additional flexibility in imposing SSMs since it needs to protect the "livelihood concerns" of millions of poor farmers who may be hit hard by a surge in imports as also volatile global prices of agricultural products. China has put forward a similar view.


Countries like India that are part of the G33 group have been in the forefront in seeking strict SSMs to protect small farmers with livelihood concerns.


Apart from these three developing country dimensions on SSMs are the different viewpoints of developed country members like Australia, the US, the European Union, Japan, etc. While aggressively exporting nations would support the Costa Rican viewpoint, others like the EU and Japan may be willing to concede a little ground on SSMs as long as their defensive interests in agriculture are protected.


The new submissions on the SSM issue show that this specific area of negotiations, which has been an unfinished agenda for long, may take longer now with some new dimensions introduced into the discussion. It is important to look at some of the possible areas that need to be addressed to move this important aspect of negotiations forward.


The first issue is that the WTO is not a platform for furthering South-South trade but a forum for building multilateral trade flows. Therefore, the Costa Rican submission needs to be reviewed in that perspective. The submission states that out of 223 cases analysed, in 98 per cent of the cases a simple volume-based safeguard trigger could have been used on Costa Rican exports.


Though the data provided by Costa Rica may be right, the WTO cannot be the right forum for sorting trade issues among developing countries. There are enough platforms that help build South-South trade and these need to be used. If developing countries that are part of the G33 agree to dilute their proposal on SSM, the benefit would not just flow to developing countries but also other large developed countries like Australia or Canada. A simulation exercise by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva in April this year showed there is a need to have a strong agenda on SSMs.


For the talks to move ahead, it is important that such issues when raised as a South issue do not dilute the developmental objective and steer the negotiations away from more important issues that will provide developing countries greater access to the developed country markets.

Interestingly, only recently India, China and Argentina circulated an unofficial paper that listed several issues (about three dozen of them) that need clarification.


The next six months are crucial if the Doha Round can progress. With every passing year, the target is moving and it is getting difficult to seek a balanced outcome that will also deliver on the developmental objective.


Member countries should not just focus on bringing new topics to the table but resolve differences on the pending issues. The Doha Round has been dragging its feet under the weight of several unresolved issues. Introducing new issues and dimensions will only delay the process of a conclusion.


What developing countries like Costa Rica may need to consider is the rise of non-tariff barriers like the Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS) that can trip exports to other markets. There has certainly been an increase in the use of SPS measures in the last few years that hit exports of products of interest to developing countries.


It may be worthwhile to build a large developing country grouping to submit a paper on agricultural non-tariff barriers, especially in the developed world. India, even with its largely defensive position on agriculture negotiations in the Doha Round, should be an important proponent of this paper.


The author is principal advisor APJ-SLG Law Offices








Despite a decade of work on rural road connectivity, India's track record is uneven


Connectivity is the most basic infrastructure need for development. Studies have shown that government expenditure on roads has the largest impact on reducing rural poverty in India; it has a significant impact on productivity growth and a rupee invested in rural roads has the potential to generate more than Rs 5 in returns from agricultural production. Rural road development is the state governments' responsibility and the importance of connectivity has been well understood in the past, with village connectivity as one of the goals of successive five-year plans.


 Yet, when the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) was launched in 2000, it was estimated that 330,000 habitations out of a total of 825,000 habitations remained without any all-weather road access. The task at hand was huge since more than 50 per cent of the habitations were unconnected in 11 states — Assam, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Uttarakand and Jharkhand. Though the southern and western states were already fairly well connected a decade ago, the problem was severe in the northern and eastern states, especially in hilly and forested areas. (See chart)


The PMGSY is a centrally-sponsored scheme with some differences from earlier programmes: it takes up habitations, as against villages, as the unit for connectivity, and for the first time a dedicated fund for rural roads was put in, using a special cess on high-speed diesel. The main aim is to ensure connectivity to eligible unconnected habitations in the rural areas through an all-weather road, along with the necessary culverts and cross-drainage structures that ensure access throughout the year. Almost a decade after the scheme was launched, 30 per cent of the eligible habitations remain unconnected. Over the period 2000-2010, the states that have shown maximum progress in expanding connectivity under the PMGSY are Rajasthan, down 26 percentage points with 22 per cent of the habitations left to be connected, Chhattisgarh, down 23 percentage points with 49 per cent of the habitations still to be connected and Tripura, down 20 percentage points with 27 per cent of the habitations left to be connected.


According to the Planning Commission, the reasons for slow progress in many states are difficult terrain, seasonal limitations on work schedules, need for statutory clearances from the forest department, limitations of qualified manpower and contractors, and non-availability of dedicated personnel with streamlined institutional arrangements. States that have done well are those that got their act together on institutional mechanisms, ensuring the funds allotted were utilised as effectively as possible. Rajasthan is one of the star performers here.


In 2010, more than 55 per cent of the habitations remain unconnected in five states — Bihar, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. However, the state that stands out with the highest share of unconnected habitations is Bihar. It has managed to work its way very slowly from around 69 per cent unconnected habitations to around 66 per cent over the decade — clearly, despite the dramatic change in governance, lacunae in implementation are not being filled fast enough.


Indian States Development Scorecard is a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics that focuses on the progress in India and the states across various socio-economic parameters.

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THE Reserve Bank's go-ahead to for-profit companies with large sales networks to act as business correspondents (BCs), read retail agents of banks, is a step forward for financial inclusion — over half the population lack access to banking services. The move would make it possible to scale up the reach of financial services for the unbanked, particularly in tandem with a provision for charging fees for the BCs' services. The BC model is an improvement on the brick-and-mortar bank branch model, but falls far short of permitting full deployment of the new technologies that wait to be harnessed into a robust, viable and supervised system of inclusive banking. Mobile phones are well suited for originating, executing and settling financial transactions. Mobile phones, in combination with the unique identity project and the entirely scalable work of the Credit Information Bureau of India Ltd (Cibil), which tracks individual credit histories, make it possible to extend the reach of formal finance to every Indian. One simple way to achieve this is to give a banking licence, graded, to begin with, to a joint venture between a telecom service provider and an established commercial bank. Such a joint venture would marry professional banking expertise with the technological and transactional capability of telecom service providers to generate good business from millions of individually small transactions. 

Such a move would also leverage India's large mobile network — 500 million plus subscribers and set to reach the billion mark soon — to achieve financial inclusion fast. Once Cibil's inputs become crucial to getting a loan cheap or not at all, borrowers would have a powerful incentive to repay loans, just as in the case of microfinance loans, where the default rate is next to nil. Biometricsbacked unique identity numbers would be of great use to meet know-your-customer norms and avoid duplication/impersonation problems. The key is to have proactive policy so that banks and mobile players can join hands to change the paradigm and rev up financial access. The absence of a precedent elsewhere in the world should not deter the government and the regulator.







IT NOT only pays for politicians to have a posse of children to choose from, to run in the dynasty derby but also to have a couple of try-outs before picking the final successor. Eeny-meeny-miney-moh may not be a very scientific way to decide on who should carry on the family business at the hustings, but it is a darn sight better than having only a couple of them to choose from, especially if the parent is canny about the exercise. Especially when there is the salutary case of Britain staring them in the face. There, the Miliband brothers David and Ed have had the unfortunate fate of being pitted against each other for the post of party leader — for lack of proper parental guidance, obviously. Ideally, the brothers should have done a Blair-Brown type deal to obviate an early fizzling-out of the Miliband rocket. They could have at least remembered the seminal role that Joseph Kennedy played in the US, carefully calibrating the political debuts of his charismatic sons, and perpetuating the family's pre-eminence. 


 It all boils down to having a canny parent, who has the smarts to see who is the best son/daughter for the job; and it helps if there is a possibility of multiple choice. The efficacy of this method is even more apparent now that, in quick succession, two leaders from two very different Asian countries with widely divergent political systems, have decided to take the eeny-meeny route. The shadowy North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has elevated his youngest son to four-star general status, and the flamboyant Bihar leader Lalu Prasad has anointed his cricketing younger son Tejaswi as heir, somewhat unfairly skipping all his seven daughters. Considering both supremos had reportedly banked on older progeny before, they have evidently realised that primogeniture may not be the answer in this era of multiple choice.







AT A recent conference on banking, I was asked what the three priorities for public sector banks (PSBs) should be. My impulse was to say that they should simply focus on HRD. But, then, I happen to be at a business school. I had to sound like to a management guru. I found myself saying with a flourish, "Public sector banks should have three priorities: HRD, HRD, HRD." 


I wasn't being facetious at all. The HRD challenges at PSBs are daunting. A combination of favourable factors — rapid economic growth, sound regulation and supervision, the inherent strengths of the old guard at the banks, the absence of fullblooded foreign competition — has masked their weaknesses and sustained them thus far. But banks must not count on a continuous run of good luck. They need people of good quality at all levels to be able to cope with challenging times. 


 Last October, the government constituted a committee to go into the HR issues at PSBs. It was headed by A K Khandelwal, former chairman of Bank of Baroda. The committee submitted its report in June this year. I received a copy last week. 


The report has some very good ideas but also some flawed ones. The good ideas are about the nuts and bolts of HRD — recruitment, training, career planning, etc. The flawed ideas are about incentives. Let me focus on the latter because these have the potential to cause harm, if accepted. 


The committee wants PSBs to introduce performance-linked incentives. Total incentives should not exceed 2% of average net profit over the past two years and it should be limited to the 25% top performers. The incentive amounts would vary from 30% of annual basic pay at the junior level to 70% at the top executive level. The chairman of SBI should be given an incentive payment of . 35 lakh. CMDs of other PSBs would get incentives in the range of . 18-25 lakh; executive directors . 10-15 lakh. Stock options should be given to the top 15% performers. 


The committee's focus on variable pay is dead wrong. Pay in the public sector certainly needs to be improved. But the way to do this is not to introduce variable pay. It is to improve the basic pay. 


PSBs are unable to do this because the basic pay of CMDs cannot exceed that of the highest official in government. They are unwilling to do it because they think it would mean a substantial increase in pay across the board, which could be unaffordable. So, today we have a modest 'incentive' system for CMDs and EDs (of up to . 10 lakh or so), which is just a covert means of improving their pay. 


Variable pay is not the answer to this problem. The problem must be tackled head-on. The government must relax its insistence on parity in fixed pay between government and public sector companies. Salaries of CMDs can be pegged in the range of, say, . 30-50 lakh. An improvement in wages at the non-executive levels can also be negotiated subject to the officer-to-clerk ratio going up. But the unions must accept a higher disparity in wages between the executive and non-executive levels. Executive pay at PSBs is out of sync with the market whereas non-executive pay is not. 


Why would a higher fixed pay be better than a variable pay scheme? Because the measurement of performance, difficult even in the private sector, can be a nightmare in the public sector. Banks operate across widely differing geographies, executives often have to pursue non-commercial objectives. PSBs do not have in place systems that can accurately capture all costs at the branch or product level. They cannot track a manager's contribution to return on risk-adjusted capital, which is the only meaningful measure on which incentives can be based. 


PERFORMANCE in a bank can be measured only over a long period. Hence, the best way to reward performance is not through annual cash incentives but through periodic promotion. How, then, do PSBs distinguish between performers and non-performers? There are a number of carrots other than performance-linked pay that can be deployed — accelerated promotion, foreign postings, deputation to subsidiaries (for which period the higher pay at subsidiaries can be made applicable), assignment to a high-quality training programme, a paid holiday with family, etc. 


There is one thing the public sector must never do in its bid to attract and retain talent and that is ape the private sector. Performance-linked pay will destroy the ethos of the public sector. Limiting cash incentives every year to a select few will create demoralisation in the work force. Top management will be swamped with complaints and petitions. It is a prescription for paralysis. 


The public sector must compete by offering a different model, a different lifestyle, one that combines job security, dignity, challenge and pension. PSBs can also introduce generous post-retirement medical benefits as a tool for retaining talent, as some public enterprises already do. 


Will these suffice? Can PSBs attract talent? Well, the question has already been answered in a way over nearly two decades of deregulation. PSBs have hugely improved performance. Attrition is lower than in the private sector. If pay were such a big factor, the PSBs should have been wrecks by now. 


HRD is more than just pay. PSBs are what they are because of the tradition of hiring probationary officers and creating career paths for them. This tradition, which was interrupted by a freeze on recruitment through the 1990s, must be restored. The report highlights several other areas that cry out for improvement. Focusing on these can make a bigger difference than variable pay. 


PSBs badly need succession planning at the top. The game of musical chairs for the chairman's post must end. Today, executive directors bide their time in the hope of vaulting on to a CMD's job in another bank. CMDs hop from a small bank to a bigger bank. Loyalty, continuity in management and an understanding of culture are all disregarded. There must be scope for people within a bank to rise to the top. 


It is easy to overemphasise pay in HRD. That is an affliction of the private sector. The public sector must not fall prey to it. In this respect as in others, the public sector must compete by being itself, not by becoming a pathetic clone of the private sector.








AFRIEND who attended a workshop of Overeaters Anonymous says it is possible for any ravenous soul to eat much less than he or she usually does. "Even for you," he said, "and the break really helps." 


Well, in this world, there are rehab clinics and therapy centres with both ordinary and fancy names to wean you or anyone away from anything and everything irrespective of age and addiction. They are for everybody, from sweettoothed 75-plus-year-olds to 40-ish alcoholics to teenaged brownsugar addicts to Facebook-crazy primary schoolchildren. 


The idea of such we-help-you-livebetter entities is to help you take a recess amid excesses in the hope that it helps you stay in control of your work and life in the long run. It is true that all this rehab business has been on for a long time now, but it never goes out of fashion for obvious reasons. 


One expression that is in sync with changing realities and times is the immensely likeable "going cold turkey". Which means if you are addicted to heroin, instead of confessing you want to go to a rehab unit, you could say, "I want to go heroin cold turkey". School kids could proudly declare, "We plan to go social media cold turkey" if they wish to keep off keyboard or mouse or smart phones for three-four days or even a week. 


The fact is cold turkey is no longer associated with food, drinks, drugs, sex and related things alone. You could go "work cold turkey", and detoxify your officeclouded mind, unwind, recharge your live-positive batteries, stabilise blood pressure and return, cleansed! In fact, companies and governments must insist that their employees go work cold turkey once in a while, especially immediately after intense bouts of hard work. 


Going cold turkey for religious reasons is as old as religions or maybe, older. In fact, religious prohibitions may have helped people preserve their faith, identity and health. Research shows that any religious ban or temporary refrain on consumption and action has practical considerations as well. Our prophets seemed to have taken into account everything from weather to hygiene to welfare of their people before writing edicts on dos and don'ts. Since the time we started recording history, physicians across faiths have advised fasting as a therapy to feel better and look better. 


Another friend who attended a Vipassana course near Delhi rightly pointed out that going cold turkey is possible without even realising it. Of course, thereare myriad ways to distract oneself and go cold turkey. Politicians contesting elections do that. A hard day's night gets a new meaning in poll campaigning which, ironically, is one of the many ways our politicians keep fit. 


To be sure, going cold turkey or being forced to do that is as old as the human race. Later when kingdoms emerged, brothers asked brothers to go kingdom cold turkey. The list of examples is endless even in regimes that had no emperors. Comrade Mao Zedong himself had forced Deng Xiaoping to go politics cold turkey and banished him to China's hinterland. 


To cut a long story short, one should not feel that going cold turkey, of one's own volition or by force, is always bad. When people in democracies vote unpopular governments out of power, what they do is to push their governments to go government cold turkey. It is good to go cold turkey despite the risk of delirium tremens and irrespective of whether the case is of overwork or drug addiction or political one-upmanship or inefficiency. 


One constantly feels that some people must go profession cold turkey. A few names that crop up are of V S Naipaul who should be told to go writing cold turkey; Nicholas Sarkozy who should be asked to go politics cold turkey and Malayalam film stars Mohan Lal and Mammooty who should go acting cold turkey. Oh! How could one miss him? Will someone advise Suresh Kalmadi to go sports management cold turkey, please?







THE cost of rebuilding Pakistan after its devastating floods could exceed an estimated $10 to $15 billion. But what caused this catastrophic event which has resulted in about 2,000 deaths, made two million homeless and badly affected the lives of as many as 20 million people? And how can such catastrophes be prevented in the future? 


It looks as if too much rain in Pakistan would have nothing to do with too little rain (drought) in Russia, but in fact the two are connected, and much has already been written on that. In the present closely interconnected world, local problems do have regional and global implications. Interestingly, such global disasters sometimes can very well be prevented if we place the required local-level system in a proper order. This is why Dr Peter McCawley, a development economist and disaster specialist at the Australian National University, asserts that a ''paradigm shift'' is required to avoid such large-scale disasters. 


The new paradigm calls for building up informal institutions and effectively communicating risks to local communities. This essentially means moving from international and national response after the disaster to local action before the catastrophe. In this context, it should be noted that according to recent media reports Pakistan severely lacks in localised flood warning systems. It is believed to be a crucial factor that could have prevented the loss of life and of property on a large scale during the current floods. 


But the question arises, how to do that, especially in countries without functional democracy, where the local people do not have appropriate agencies to address such issues? If we think deeply, we find that the situation is not so gloomy in the present electronic age intertwined with a powerful media and communication systems that surpass territorial boundaries. Given the absence of formal institutions, we need to explore the scope and strength of communication technology for its constructive utilisation to inform people in advance of a possible disaster. 


If responsible media groups, prudent citizens and NGOs come forward to develop and put in place in a system to prevent and reduce the adverse impact of natural catastrophes, they can use these channels of communication to work as part of early warning systems. In fact, the beauty of such informal communication networks is that their end-components such as radios and mobile phones are reliable and effective because economies of scale have made them accessible to lower income groups and these work even when commercial power is down, thus ensuring communication and dissemination of information in cases of emergency. 


Interestingly, such a system has successfully been used in the Philippines where "people-centered" communitybased early warning systems that have empowered individuals and communities threatened by natural hazards to act in sufficient time and in an appropriate manner. 


Except highly localised and short-term flash floods, regional-scale flood disasters, like that of Pakistan, have intercontinental meteorological and hydrological linkages, which can easily be monitored and shared among territories of more democratic and technologically enabled countries like India. India has an honourable history of its government not disrupting the flow of common rivers even during times of war. One can expect that India can take a lead to initiate such measures that can help not only its own citizens but also people at large in the Indian subcontinent. 


Besides the multidimensional benefits, such initiatives will be more cost-effective than the total cost of a disaster in terms of losses and the funds required for post-disaster rescue and rehabilitation programmes. Given that, even international donor agencies would like support such an initiative. 


Concerned NGOs and the electronic media in India need to come out with innovative solutions to network with meteorological and hydrological organisations and disseminate the information through all possible ways within and outside the territory of India to alert people in vulnerable areas where disasters are expected to strike. Only then can the desired paradigm shift emerge and succeed at the local level. In a business-as-usual scenario, natural disasters will continue to create a variety of problems that have serious regional and global-scale socioeconomic and geopolitical implications. 


(The author is associate professor at IIT     Roorkee and views are personal)







KURT Vonnegut was a prisoner of war in an underground slaughterhouse during World War II. Later, he wrote a fable to make sense of his own memories of the strategically unnecessary Allied air raid on Dresden that killed 135,000 people. 


The narrator of the fantasy, like Vonnegut, has lived through the raid as a prisoner in a subterranean abattoir. Like Vonnegut, he too has spent more than two decades trying to chart the limits of metaphoric understanding in a book. 


For all that, Vonnegut's novel is cri de coeur against the horrors of war. As a reviewer in Time wrote, "Few modern writers have borne witness against inhumanity with more humanity or humour as Vonnegut has. Indeed, he sometimes sounds eerily like the 16th century mystic Sebastian Franck. Appalled by the cruelties men worked upon one another in the name of religion during the Reformation, Franck wrote: 'whoever looks at mankind seriously may break his heart with weeping.' Then he added: 'We are all laughingstocks, fables and carnival farces before God.'" 


Vonnegut's atheistic philosophy is equally caustic: He suggests, for instance, that the story of the Crucifixion might have been more appealing had Jesus not been the son of God but a faceless nobody! In this regard, Indian tradition seems as pragmatic: Manu justifies the general philosophy of violence and carnivorousness as follows: 


"The Lord of Creatures fashioned all this universe to feed the breath of life, and everything moving and stationary is the food for the breath of life. Those that do not move are food for those that move, and those that have no fangs are the food for those with fangs; those that have no hands are food for those with hands; and cowards are the food of the brave..." 


Manu also transforms five of the earlier animal sacrifices into vegetarian ones to avoid violence! The lawgi ver goes on to argue that these five sacrifices themselves are expiations for the inadvertent slaughter of small creatures committed by normal householders. 


The five slaughterhouses of the householder are the fireplace, the grindstone, the broom, the mortar and pestle and the water jar. That might explain why the Dharmaranya Purana says, "How is food to be got without violence? Is there anyone on earth without tendency towards violence?" It even talks about the 'violence' of thinking badly about others! Can Vonnegut beat that record?






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




If you thought that the Indian government was being unnecessarily paranoid about insisting that BlackBerry and some others provide it with a master key to read encrypted emails and messages that they carried, now the United States government is also speaking in similar language. Indeed, the sweeping new regulations that US law enforcement and national security officials are asking Congress to enact go much, much further: these have the potential of bringing about a sea change in the way that the Internet has functioned till now. But the news of American officialdom seeking new regulations to "tap" Skype, BlackBerry and social networking sites such as Facebook still comes as a bit of a surprise considering the tremendous prowess in cryptography that its National Security Agency possesses — unmatched in the rest of the world. The NSA employs the largest number of cryptographers in the world and most encryption techniques are evolved in America, which only allows the rest of the world access to it after it has mastered the decryption techniques. Indeed, commercial production or availability of any encryption technology is permitted only after it has been decrypted by the NSA's experts. Much of the world functions on US encryption standards, and there are "haves" and "have nots" in this sphere. The Echelon project — the largest collaborative surveillance effort worldwide — has 18 member-countries; while the Wassenaar project includes 33 countries who exchange data on cryptography technical knowhow, dual-use export controls etc. India is not part of either. India has an Information Technology Act which requires any Internet service provider to supply the decryption in the event that any authorised security agency needs to read or unscramble any communication. The law is not the problem here, but India simply does not possess the technical capability or knowhow to decipher most encrypted messages or mails — which is why is keeps asking BlackBerry and others to provide it with the "keys" to enable this.

In the US, an NGO called Centre for Democracy and Technology has expressed fears that the proposed new American legislation might challenge the fundamental elements of the Internet revolution. It claims such a law will turn the clock back and eventually make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to in an earlier age. But given the NSA's tremendous capabilities in this area, the need for the US to have such legislation is truly puzzling.

The NGO has claimed the proposed law will invade the individual's privacy — but the relevant point here is that such privacy was being invaded all along anyway, through programmes such as Magic Lantern and Carnivore. These are two major surveillance techniques used and perfected by the US, which have been around for some time, and against which cases have been filed in the US federal courts by privacy activists. The UK too had such a law allowing monitoring of emails, and so does India. One wonders what the fuss is all about!







The second fortnight of September has provided, by strange coincidence, three different platforms to introspect whether India really is a superpower waiting in the wings, the foremost being Commonwealth Games 2010.


Our handling of the Commonwealth Games (CWG), marked by greed, indifference and callousness of those in power, has made this nation's credibility wilt. A full six years, the back-up of the entire government machinery and a flexible kitty accommodating inflation and cost over-runs were simply not enough for us to host the international event in a way that would impress the sporting youth and reinforce our calibre. At every step we fell into the Western stereotype of the "Third World" — deep, large craters in the middle of busy roads in the capital, snakes in allegedly sterilised rooms of the Games Village, an over-bridge collapsing, leaking roofs and, of course, the infamous toilets. No, this was not a scene out of the television series Fawlty Towers. This was all happening in the national capital, with the media playing its role as the fourth pillar of this vibrant democracy.


Who is Aamir Khan pooh-poohing in the "Incredible India" advertisement? The poor boy is only sullying the road on a bridge because he just could not hold it any longer. The CWG organisers have sullied Mother India because they could not hold on to their greed or just couldn't care any less. Multi-layered corruption and compromises in the quality of work for the CWG are astonishing, even by our standards. "At one extreme, in India, it would seem we are beginning to take corruption in our stride. We no longer squirm at being ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world. We have come to accept corruption as our national character and hence we do not view it as a serious and alarming social malaise, as is evident from the popular support enjoyed by some of our scamsters in public life", writes V. Raghunathan in his book The Corruption Conundrum.


AFTER NEARLY 60 years, the hearing on a bunch of petitions related to ownership, issues of worship and praying rights of Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya came to an end. All documentary, archaeological and historical evidence had been submitted and scrutinised and the Allahabad high court was ready to deliver its verdict. Speculation was rife on whether the country can hear the judgment with equanimity. Central and state governments responded differently — one appealed for calm and peace through advertisements while another accumulated paramilitary and police forces to prevent trouble. The intent here is not to doubt the bonafides of their actions. But a petition in the same court asking for the verdict to be deferred, under the guise of attempting an alternate route for dispute resolution, betrayed a certain degree of hypocrisy and insincerity. Let us hail the Supreme Court for clearing the way for the high court to deliver its verdict.


Fear of disturbance is for the governments to tackle. The judiciary cannot be made a prisoner of the consequences of its decisions; in this case of a verdict it was ready to deliver. After all, even after 60 years, the verdict now expected is not really the final word. The option of an appeal in the Supreme Court is still available to any aggrieved party. As a vibrant democracy and as a superpower in the making, we will be put to test this week again.


IN THE year 2000, the United Nations discussed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a year later 192 member states and 23 international organisations agreed to achieve these goals by 2015. With only five years to go, a review conference was held in New York on September 20-22, 2010.


There are eight MDGs for India(and for other countries as well) to achieve, through 21 quantifiable targets. These include eradicating extreme poverty, promoting gender equality and empowering women, improving maternal health and combating HIV, malaria and other diseases.


Based on the World Bank's definition of extreme poverty, the "UNDP India estimates, using the trend of reduction in poverty of 1.9 per cent, which is the rate of reduction between 1990 and 2005, for the years 2005-2015 indicate that population in extreme poverty is likely to decline to 34.31 per cent by 2015, which is higher than the target rate of 25.65 per cent in 2015. This means that India will not be on track to meet the MDG goal on poverty reduction" (K. Seeta Prabhu, UNDP, India).


One of the targets specified to be achieved for meeting the goal of empowering women is to increase the "proportion of seats held by women in the national Parliament". Since 1991, the number of women parliamentarians has declined from 9.7 per cent to 9.1 per cent of the total strength of Parliament. However, in the present House, after the 2009 election, their numbers have gone up slightly, taking their strength to 10.3 per cent.


The MDG relating to the maternal mortality rate (MMR) expects us to reduce MMR to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015. The government, in its 2009 Mid-Term Statistical Appraisal, admitted, "At the historical pace of decrease, India tends to reach MMR of 135 per 100,000 live births by 2015, falling short by 26 points".


Malaria and tuberculosis account for the highest number of deaths in India. About 30 per cent of the world's TB patients are in India — the disease kills two persons every three minutes, that's nearly one thousand Indians every day.


While each of the eight MDGs is important, only a few have been flagged here as these relate to some very fundamental and elementary rights of citizens. Today, as MDGs are target-based, governments pour money into schemes to show their political will and commitment. But many of these schemes bypass the existing infrastructure, hitting at the very root of the welfare state. Our primary health indicators are shaming us. Is the road to achieving MDG targets going the CWG way?


Can we confront corruption and greed? Can we only appease but not face issues of faith? Will we allow our institutions to dry and decay because we want their resources? September seems a suitable to make sense.


* Nirmala Sitharaman is spokesperson of theBharatiya Janata Party.The views expressed in this column are her own.








There are actually two Tea Party movements in America today: one you've read about that is not that important and one you've not read about that could become really important if the right politician understood how to tap into it.


The Tea Party that has gotten all the attention, the amorphous, self-generated protest against the growth in government and the deficit, is what I'd actually call the "Tea Kettle movement" — because all it's doing is letting off steam.


That is not to say that the energy behind it is not authentic (it clearly is) or that it won't be electorally impactful (it clearly might be). But affecting elections and affecting America's future are two different things. Based on all I've heard from this movement, it feels to me like it's all steam and no engine. It has no plan to restore America to greatness.


The Tea Kettle movement can't have a positive impact on the country because it has both misdiagnosed America's main problem and hasn't even offered a credible solution for the problem it has identified. How can you take a movement seriously that says it wants to cut government spending by billions of dollars but won't identify the specific defence programs, Social Security, Medicare or other services it's ready to cut — let alone explain how this will make us more competitive and grow the economy?


And how can you take seriously a movement that sat largely silent while the Bush administration launched two wars and a new entitlement, Medicare prescription drugs — while cutting taxes — but is now, suddenly, mad as hell about the deficit and won't take it anymore from US President Barack Obama? Where were you folks for eight years?


The issues that upset the Tea Kettle movement — debt and bloated government — are actually symptoms of our real problem, not causes. They are symptoms of a country in a state of incremental decline and losing its competitive edge, because our politics has become just another form of sports entertainment, our Congress a forum for legalised bribery and our main lawmaking institutions divided by toxic partisanship to the point of paralysis.


The important Tea Party movement, which stretches from centrist Republicans to independents right through to centrist Democrats, understands this at a gut level and is looking for a leader with three characteristics.


First, a patriot: a leader who is more interested in fighting for his country than his party. Second, a leader who persuades Americans that he or she actually has a plan not just to cut taxes or pump stimulus, but to do something much larger — to make America successful, thriving and respected again. And third, someone with the ability to lead in the face of uncertainty and not simply whine about how tough things are. Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg told me that when he does focus groups today this is what he hears: "People think the country is in trouble and that countries like China have a strategy for success and we don't. They will follow someone who convinces them that they have a plan to make America great again. That is what they want to hear. It cuts across Republicans and Democrats."


To me, that is a plan that starts by asking: what is America's core competency and strategic advantage, and how do we nurture it? Answer: It is our ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent. That means men and women who invent, build and sell more goods and services that make people's lives more productive, healthy, comfortable, secure and entertained than any other country.


Leadership today is about how the US government attracts and educates more of that talent and then enacts the laws, regulations and budgets that empower that talent to take its products and services to scale, sell them around the world — and create good jobs here in the process. Without that, we can't afford the health care or defence we need.


This is the plan the real Tea Party wants from its President. To implement it would require us to actually raise some taxes — on, say, gasoline — and cut others — like payroll taxes and corporate taxes. It would require us to overhaul our immigration laws, let in more knowledge workers and retain those skilled foreigners going to college here. And it would require us to reduce some services — like Social Security — while expanding others, like education and research for a 21st-century economy.


In other words, it will require a very smart, subtle and focused plan to use our now diminishing resources in the most efficient way possible to get back to our core competency. That is the only long-term solution to our problem — to grow our way out of debt with American workers who are more empowered and educated to compete.


Any Tea Party that says the simple answer is just shrinking government and slashing taxes might be able to tip the mid-term elections in its direction. But it can't tip America in the right direction. There is a Tea Party for that, but it's still waiting for a leader.








Sri Ram is not just worshipped as an incarnation, but is widely regarded as the singular identity of Indian culture, an ideal to follow. The Ram Janmabhoomi dispute started in 1528 when invader Babar's governor Mir Baqi demolished the existing temple there and built the structure named after his master. This act was meant to humiliate the invaded. Since then, for the last 482 years, Hindus have repeatedly tried to liberate the holy land and the struggle continues.


Whatever be the verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit, the matter will not be settled till the collective desire of the Hindus to rebuild the Ram temple is fulfilled.


The fact that the fight for the liberation of the janmasthan has continued for nearly 500 years clearly shows that the issue has a life beyond politics. This issue was not the creation of either the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Sangh affiliates entered the fray only after 1984.


Two archaeological excavations on the site by the Archaeological Survey of India have proved the demolition of the temple to build the Babri structure. Since 1949, the place was under the occupation of Rambhakts and no Muslim prayer was offered there. There is, in fact, no Muslim habitation around the area. The site has no religious or sentimental value for Muslims. In the Islamic tradition, a mosque is not built in the name of an individual and since this was a Shia place of worship, the Sunni Waqf Board's claim is not justifiable because the two communities do not worship at each other's mosques.


Faith, history, archaeology and logic support the rebuilding of the temple. Ram Janmabhoomi issue will agitate the Hindu devotees till a grand temple is built in Ayodhya where Sri Ram was born. It was the depth of the public sentiment and popular support that forced the Congress government to open the lock in 1984 and later allow the Shilanyas for the temple. We are still discussing the issue because it is relevant and will continue to haunt the mass psyche as long as the idol of Sri Ram remains in a makeshift temple.


The massive security mobilisation and excessive media attention on the court verdict in spite of the contending parties keeping a low profile only demonstrate that the issue is relevant today.


Ayodhya is not a religious, sectarian issue. It is an issue of national pride and conscience.


R. Balashankar is editor, Organiser Weekly


Mandir-masjid won't get votesBy Abani Roy


The Ram Janmabhoomi movement was never a mass movement as is being claimed by the Sangh Parivar. Even during its peak in the '90s, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could not come to power on its own in Uttar Pradesh. The mandir-masjid issue, however, did create some turmoil in the country. Now that the high court has decided to pronounce its verdict, one hopes that it would be accepted by one and all.


In today's politics, issues like Ayodhya have little or no relevance. People's mindsets have changed. Electorally it's a bankrupt issue.


In the feudal system, temples and religion had relevance. But now, due to education, technological innovation and increased scientific temperament, the world has become a small place. Democracy is spreading far and wide and in this context religion and temples should not be a part of the political discourse. Political parties have a penchant for encashing the vulnerabilities of the people. Therefore, it should be made mandatory for political parties not to exploit religion for electoral gains. Today, man is thinking of progress, he is attempting to even live on the moon. This kind of mandir-masjid controversy retards us.


In Ayodhya, people are craving communal harmony and peace. Thankfully, there are no frenzied slogans and war cries. People are cautious, and clerics and leaders of both communities are appealing for peace. No one seems to be willing to reopen old wounds. Irrespective of the verdict, the affected party will definitely move the Supreme Court. Even for the BJP, the Ayodhya issue no longer offers any political returns. It has become a liability. The Ayodhya dispute will not impact votes as it is no longer as emotive as it used to be.


People today yearn for bread and butter. They want education, healthcare, sanitation, security, better infrastructure. They don't want to get distracted by mandir-masjid anymore. Communists have always been against religion playing any role in politics. But some political parties have achieved power merely on the basis of religion and by dividing communities. How can be an issue like this take the country forward?


India has witnessed communal violence and loss of thousands of innocent lives in the name of religion. All fundamentalist elements must be cautioned — there is no point in trying to disturb the peace of the country for an issue that no longer has any political significance.


 Abani Roy is Rajya Sabha MP, RSP








One has to fulfil several conditions to be the priest of a temple. One has to study the Vedas as per the Tantric system and the necessary chants to win the grace of the deity.


A priest is supposed to maintain the life force of the idol in a peaceful air, having settled its wrath by chanting mantras, performing pujas and by systematically observing other duties and dictates.


A good priest must also be able to liberate devotees from the worries and fears that emerge from material life. Various mantras or chants provide the application of sounds to influence the deity. The scriptures say, "mananaat thraanaat cha manthra" (since it implies inference and as it yields safety, thereof it is a mantra). It can be said that mantra is that which safeguards the mind and Tantra is that which safeguards the body.


Tantra Shastra or the science of Tantra has four organs: Manthropaasanavidhi (the way in which an observer pleases the deity with chants), Purascharanavidhi (the way in which pujas are performed effectively), Yanthralekhanavidhi (the way in which yantras are prepared properly) and Prayogavidhi (the way in which chants are applied).


Performance of homas, pujas, reciting of sookthas (hymns), use of holy ash, certain ghees, and holy water for escaping from ailments, evil spirits or other worries call for appropriate application of mantras.


Each mantra has its deity. When one pleases the deity with respective mantras and homas, the desired end can be achieved.


Tantric rites are classified as Brahmanam and Abrahmanam (Brahmin and non-Brahmin). Performance wise they are classified into three — Satwika, Raajasa and Thaamasa. The deities of these three gunaas (features) should be pleased with the respective mantras. The rites can be used for protection from ailments, fear, poverty, evil spirits and redemption from sin. These rites come under Santhi.


Enticement is another kind of rite in which it is believed that even enemies are persuaded to change their mind.


The third kind of rite can bring to a standstill the evil activities of one's enemies. The belief in ancient India was that these rites can even help control cruel animals and poisonous snakes. Sorcery is also used to turn one enemy against another.


Utchchadanom is another kind of rite by which someone can be ousted from power. It is usually used to drive away evildoers from a land.


The most powerful rite is Maaranam, which literally means killing. In black magic this kind of karma is performed to cause the death of the enemy Each mantra has its own rishi (the one who espied it or to whom it was revealed first), tchandas (the style of chanting), devata (deity), shakti (life-force), keelakom (that which supports and empowers it and acts as a link between Aatman and Paramatman), kavachom (the power that protects the observer), shadanganyasam (system that prescribes touching of six parts of body while chanting), dhyanam (posture of sitting and gestures) and form.


It is believed that rites performed strictly as per the Tantric rules can work miracles.

— Dr Venganoor Balakrishnan is the authorof Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals.He has also written books on the Vedasand Upanishads. The author can be reachedat [1]








Considering the magnitude of a problem that dates back to the late seventies, the five-day meeting of the Border Security Force and the Bangladesh Rifles didn't really take off above the customary level of a jaw-jaw. The exchange of lists across the table is an expression of diplomatic tokenism ~ be it a list of terrorists for Pakistan's edification or a list of Indian insurgents and training camps in Bangladesh. The BDR's promise to "do something" is neither here nor there. It is at best a diplomatic courtesy; at worst an attempt to fend off a thorny issue that continues to bedevil equations despite a perceived secular and friendly regime in Dhaka. The nub of the matter is that for all the bonhomie over recent agreements, Prime Minister Hasina has stopped short of inking an extradition treaty. Nor for that matter has she imposed a ban on Islamist parties despite the incorporation of the word "secular" in the Constitution. And till such time as an extradition treaty is concluded, there is little or no possibility of moving out the Indian/Bangladeshi "insurgents and criminals" from either country. 

For the first time, India has advanced to the BDR aerial photographs of insurgent camps within Bangladesh. The initiative, alas, comes after the problem of cross-border movement of insurgents had assumed almost intractable proportions. Through the BSF, Delhi now appears to be mildly assertive after a weak-kneed approach during the pro-fundamentalist BNP dispensation, a phase that witnessed a spurt in insurgent movement. It may be some time before the effectiveness of the Joint Boundary Working Group can be assessed; as with the aerial photographs, the plan to conduct an annual verification of border pillars ought long ago to have been in place. 

The meeting recorded no forward movement on matters closer to the bone, notably trafficking of women and children and fake currency, the economic destabiliser. Yet the five days offered time enough to engage in a bout of semantic quibbling over such terms as "killings" (BDR's spin) and "deaths" (BSF's perception)  as  the  result  of  firing.  The  thorny  issues  are likely to remain ever so contentious. Core problems have been skirted in India's bilateral agreements with the Awami League government. A paramilitary commanders' conference can at best be a sidebar.



"THE era of the New Labour has passed". Ed Miliband's celebratory statement after a wafer-thin victory over brother David signals a new phase in Britain's Labour party. If the outcome of the election in May was fairly predictable, the leadership of Labour was a matter of conjecture till the result was announced over the weekend. A 49.35 per cent margin ~ the narrowest indeed ~ is scarcely convincing, but in the immediate aftermath of his victory he has dropped a broad hint that he intends to jettison the Blair-Brown inheritance, as the voter did before him. By that token, Miliband's stewardship is set to mark the beginning of  one chapter in the history of the Labour party and the conclusion of another.


There is little doubt that he is the leader of the post-New Labour age. This is the second momentous change that Britain has witnessed in a span of four months. The Con-LibDem dispensation, that replaced Labour after 13 years, marked the end of an era. Britain is in a state of flux. And it may be some time before the contours are clear.
Miliband's victory is primarily embedded in the support of the trade unions, a fact that could lead to occasional sniper attacks from the Conservatives. Aside from his commitment to nurturing his constituency to which he is beholden, his primary task will be to unite Labour. He has a delicate role before him, one that will almost certainly entail a balancing act. Specifically, to address the issues the TUs may raise and still more crucially to insulate himself from union pressure. Even if he adopts a relatively pronounced Left-of-Centre approach, he can't afford to be dictated by the unions.  His statement of intent does suggest that he will strive for a balance of power. And there is a pregnant message to both the party and the unions in the formulation that he will be his own man and that Labour will be on the side of the "squeezed middle and everyone who has worked hard and wants to get on." On the face of it, he is set to steer Labour on a different course.



ZOOS have long ceased to be mere "showcases" for what are perhaps unfairly called wild animals. As natural wilderness areas have shrunk, and animals have lost out in the man-beast conflict of interests, zoos have become sanctuaries, often playing host to breeding and allied welfare projects. In a national context, the Delhi Zoo was something of a pioneer in that it featured large enclosures rather than cages, and attempts were made to re-create conditions that approximated with the natural habitat of its residents. Which makes it all the more tragic that 10 blackbuck have died (unofficial estimates suggest a higher toll) after picking up intestinal infections drinking a lethal mix of sewage and water ~ said to be the result of a back-flow when the flood in the Yamuna (in some proximity to the park) prevented the sewers from discharging their unhealthy waste. The blackbuck is not a particularly threatened species ~ in many places increasing numbers are proving a problem ~ but that is no reason to take the matter lightly. This is not the first flood in the river that for the better part of the year has been reduced to a toxic drain, and nor is it the first time that a back-flow has created difficulties. Yet it would appear that the zoo management and staff were either ignorant of the risk posed by sewage getting mixed in the ponds, or were indifferent/ineffective about trying to protect the bucks. Their laxity gets even more pronounced by the revelation that blocked sewers are not an overnight development, and if repairs to one channel caused a strain on the other(s) some sort of contingency plan ought to have been in place. To echo the alibi for the mess in the CWG Village ~ heavy rains and flood ~ just does not wash. Incidentally, the zoo was among the facilities in the city that were expected to get a Games-boost. The contrary has happened.
For the past few years there has been little positive to emerge from the park and it is imperative that a comprehensive revamp is undertaken. It is more than a matter of unblocking sewers or raising water levels in the ponds that attract migratory birds in the winter. It calls for the will to revive the legacy bequeathed by Sankhala, Peter, Ninan…








Talks between the Palestinians and Israelis are now on a knife edge. The two sides have been talking to each other for some weeks but have hit a road block. Until now, it has been a peripatetic exercise, starting off in Washington, shifting to the Middle East, and then back to New York where the leaders had gone for the UN session. To emphasise the significance of this effort, many prominent leaders from the region and outside have been drawn into a circle of consultation and support. There have been a few upbeat statements, especially from US spokespersons, though it is not clear how much real advance has been recorded. And now the process itself is at risk of a breakdown. 

The reason for this setback is the threatened resumption of Israeli settlement activity on occupied Palestinian territory, an issue that had been hanging over the talks from the start. An Israeli moratorium on new settlements was due to end on 26 September  and the Palestinian side had warned that there could be no further talks if the activity were resumed. Now the deadline has passed, and though the talks have not been called off, it is not clear whether they can be reconvened as scheduled next month.

This rocky path of the talks should not come as too much of a surprise, for there is no more tangled international problem than this one. The issues on the table have been fought over, talked over, face-to-face and indirectly, in different forums on innumerable occasions, over an extended period of time. To an outsider, the issues appear complex but not wholly intractable ~ some give and take, a measure of goodwill, and progress should be possible: consider that in the equally long-lived matter of Kashmir the recent back-channel effort gave a glimpse of a possible solution. 

But in the Middle East, so many well-meaning efforts have yielded barely a chink of light. If, even so, the combatants have yet again returned to the negotiating table, it shows recognition that the impasse as it currently exists can only lead to more trouble.

The role of the USA in promoting the latest round hardly needs underlining. Over the years, the USA has been both Israel's unwavering protector and its constant goad. Israel commands great influence among US policy-makers and is adept in persuading Washington to back it when it really counts. Indeed, for some Israeli analysts, so long as the USA is on board it really does not much matter where anyone else stands. Given the umbilical linkages between them, those with a different viewpoint may tend to consider that the USA has been unduly acquiescent in ever tougher Israeli demands and actions on issues such as occupation of Palestinian lands, severe security rules, and fresh settlements on occupied lands, among many others. The fear is that with the support it can obtain from the super power, there is no overwhelming incentive for Israel to moderate its actions and offer any concessions in negotiations.

The strategic dimension to the US-Israel relationship merits attention. Israel has been seen as a reliable US ally, a powerful gendarme in the region, a stabilizing factor and a democratic counter to political extremism. Its military prowess is regarded as an offset to the potentially disruptive aspirations of unpredictable neighbours like Iran. Yet to some observers Israel's strategic value has been significantly reduced by recent intemperate actions that have created problems for its friends and allies. The harsh security regime it has maintained in Gaza, with damaging impact on the civil population, has shocked many who are normally well disposed. To add to it, the attack mounted on the high seas by Israeli naval forces against a Gaza-bound relief flotilla from Turkey has had serious consequences and attracted strong criticism. Hence there is all the more reason to do something about the underlying problems of the region, which is no doubt a spur to the USA in its current mediatory effort.
What has happened in the latest talks is not known. However, in previous negotiations, Israel has been hard to budge. The issues are well identified, and the earlier 'road map' sets out the problems and the aspirations of the peacemakers. The two-state solution whereby Israel and Palestine emerge as mutually recognized sovereign states is the shared goal. To get there requires Israel to take a number of steps like returning or compensating for occupied land, restoring East Jerusalem to Palestine, permitting refugees to return, putting a halt to new settlements on occupied territory, and other such elements, as part of a process that would guarantee its own security and peace: 'land for peace' as it has been described. Each of these substantive issues is highly contentious, and for further complication, there are divisions on both sides about what is acceptable under each item. Israel is ruled by a shaky coalition where the extreme Right, whose support is necessary for the continuance of the government, can be very demanding. The Palestinians are also beset with internal problems: President Mahmoud Abbas has no hold on Gaza, and within his own Palestine Administration there are strong dissenting voices to complicate his task. Thus there is very little room for manoeuvre on either side.
Knowledgeable people place the chances of the talks going ahead at no more than fifty-fifty. Even though Israel has not been able to extend the moratorium, perhaps because the internal demands are too strong, Mr Netanyahu has asked Mr Mahmoud Abbas to continue, for there is much to talk about. It can be supposed that efforts will be made by the Israeli authorities to dissuade developers from resuming settlement construction even though formal injunctions to that effect may not be possible. For added pungency, one of the settlements where builders seem most ready to get going again lies in East Jerusalem, the putative capital of Palestine in a two-state solution. With all these factors to take into account, there is uncertainty about the talks, and concerns about a negative backlash if they are called off.

India has been accused of unwarranted passivity in Middle Eastern affairs. Whereas it was once more closely engaged and tried to contribute to a just solution, it is now sitting on the sidelines, say the critics. Some believe this is the result of its closer ties with the USA and with Israel. However, there is nothing to suggest any basic change in India's approach to the issue. In the current international configuration, organizations like NAM where India has been so active do not resonate with their former intensity. Be that as it may, a fair solution to the problem is desired by the entire region, and whatever India can do to bring it about must be assiduously pursued.

The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary







Recently CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat and his non-card carrying comrade Mani Shankar Aiyer participated in a seminar in Delhi. Both lashed out at the Indian government for accepting arms aid from Israel and thereby ignoring the plight of the Palestinians. 

During the last decade, India has replaced China as the largest recipient of arms from Israel. For over a decade, Israel was the biggest arms supplier to China. Until American Neo-Conservatives, particularly Douglas Feith who was deputy to Donald Rumsfeld in the US Defence establishment, leaned heavily on Israel to curtail aid to China. Is China uncomfortable over being replaced by India as the largest recipient of Israeli arms? Possibly. 
On 28 September, China's ambassador to Israel, Zhao Jun, gave a gushing press interview praising Israel in unusually extravagant terms. "I am China's ambassador in Israel. I love Israel … The friendship between Israel and the Chinese people has been going on for over 1,000 years, including during the Holocaust when Jewish refugees were given shelter in China although China was in dire straits, under a Japanese attack." 

The Ambassador evaded all uncomfortable questions related to Beijing wooing the Islamic powers. When questioned why China did not share Israel's concerns regarding the Iranian threat he replied: "That's not true. We are against the development of a nuclear weapon by the Iranians, but Iran has the right to use nuclear energy for civilian purposes. We agree with Washington's stand on this matter. We believe that the nuclear problem must be solved through a dialogue between the sides, and China definitely takes part in these discussions." 
When asked for China's stance on President Ahmadinejad's threat to destroy Israel he said: "We have made it clear, to the Iranians as well, that we are against countries using such threats." 

When it was pointed out that China was aiding the Palestinian Authority, he replied: "We help them build schools, roads and infrastructure. We have completed a number of economic projects and continue to help through our office in Ramallah." Asked about peace prospects between Israel and PA he said: "China has always supported the peace process. This is China's consistent stand, that all sides involved in the Middle Eastern issue will solve the differences between them properly through negotiations based on the relevant UN resolutions." 

The Ambassador could afford to take Beijing's traditional hard line on Tibet and Taiwan because these did not directly affect Israel. He ended up with prospects of enhanced economic gains for Israel from China. He concluded: "We believe in and support integrating the Israeli mind in the Chinese market in order to generate those same miracles you have created in this small country. History has taught us that we are true friends." 

One should not read too much into one interview. But the need for an ambassador who has served in Israel for the last three years to suddenly come up with unstinted love for Israel and evasion on all issues uncomfortable to Israel does raise eyebrows. This interview was given during his visit to China. Obviously its timing and content was inspired by Beijing. Is the timing of our Indian card carrying and non-card carrying comrades criticising Israeli arms sales to India almost simultaneous with this gushing interview entirely a coincidence?
President Obama visits India in November. Pakistan is increasingly being seen as a nation torn by internal dissensions. Many actions of its army are creating distrust in the US administration. The future of its President appears uncertain. South Asia is in great flux before the Obama visit. Could India play its cards right and help make the visit a game changing success? New Delhi rarely thinks ahead. But Beijing does. 

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist






"You are late by an hour, Sir. I asked you to reach by seven in the morning. By this time they might have retreated to their dens. However, let us try our luck."

We were at the gate of Gir Lion Sanctuary and this was how we were greeted by the guide as we arrived. I mumbled some apologies and asked him to get going. We jumped into the Maruti Gypsy van licensed to go inside and crossed the barriers in a minute. 

Gir forest is the only natural abode of the Asiatic lion in India. The animal king has royal habits. He comes out of his den very late in the night looking for his meal. After hunting his prey and devouring it, he rests at the same place for some hours (may be taking a siesta after a heavy meal which should ideally consist of about 40 kg of raw meat). He enjoys the sunrise with a smile and half-closed eyes. He moves to the shade only when the harsh rays of sun disturb his leisure.

We travelled through the length and breadth of the jungle straining our eyes for the coveted sight. No luck. Even waiting on top of a cliff overlooking a stream where the beasts come to quench their thirst did not bear any positive result. We met a good number of other species like the monkey, deer, rabbit, wild goat and colourful wild fowl, but not the presiding deity. Apparently, all the lions had decided to avoid meeting us and gone back to respective dens in a hurry.

Disappointed, we drove to the Lions' Safari inside Gir National Park a few km away. We boarded the bus and were driven inside the high fencing. First to greet us were a herd of Nil-gais. They stopped grazing and gazed at us questioningly. Cruising on, we crossed another gate and were confronted by a large number of lionesses lazing on the roadside in the mild afternoon sun. They looked like a pack of huge dogs from the distance. There were a couple of lions sitting in the shade some distance away. This provoked a shriek from children inside the bus. Some of the older ladies raised their heads and looked at us in a philosophical way. We moved on, saw more lions and then returned. We did not feel any thrill. This was, at best, better than a zoo.

On our way back, the guide suggested that we try our luck inside the sanctuary. He checked with the forest guard and informed that a pair was spotted moving around some time back. We were driving inside the forest for a few minutes when there was a deafening roar from, what I thought, was inside the jeep. We all jumped up. We clutched one another's hands. I cannot explain the roar as I have never heard any such sound, but it resembled thunder. The driver and guide were unperturbed and explained that the king is somewhere ahead calling his partner. In a few minutes, we reached a bend where many forest guards were huddled and whispering animatedly. The guide got down, said something to the guards and signalled to us to get down from the jeep and follow him. As we crossed the guards, they told us not to go deep and return quickly.

With trembling limbs we entered the forest. The vegetation is sparse in Gir forest. One can view quite some distance through the trees. As we came to a small clearing and looked forward, my heart stood still. There, just over 100m away a huge lion was standing regally and glancing impatiently on both sides. It was a spectacular sight and my feeling was a mixture of exhilaration and fear. Here he was, the Emperor, in his full majesty, his fiercely handsome face covered by a thick curl of mane, part of which was made golden by a beam of evening sunlight stealing through the foliage. Here I was, a mere mortal, no match if he decides to engage me in a dual, but secure in the knowledge that in the unlikely event of his deciding to advance, we could sprint to the safety of our jeep and that the forest guards had enough ammunition and guns to scare the king to his domain.
As we boarded the jeep, there was another terrible roar, apparently less threatening than the previous one. This was to welcome the empress.







Pyongyang's streets offer few hints of the momentous events in the city's Mansudae Assembly Hall, where Workers' Party cadres from across the country are convening for a rare meeting to discuss who will succeed the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il. 

There are no election posters or party-political broadcasts. However, the official media made its first mention of the most likely successor, Kim Jong-un, youngest son of the Leader, who himself inherited power from his father Kim il-Sung. The Swiss-educated heir-apparent has been given the rank of general, the state news agency announced. But the notice intriguingly added that Kim Jong-il's sister Kyong Hui had also been appointed a general, a move which analysts said was a possible indication she could become caretaker successor upon the dictator's death.

Television and newspapers continue to extol the bounteous virtues of Kim Jong-il in ornate language befitting a deity. On the city's outskirts, lush rice paddies just before harvest time give little hint of the 1990s famine that may have wiped out up to a tenth of this country's population. A clue to the madness – and reason – behind North Korea's scowling, belligerent mask is in the cavernous Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, which documents North Korea's crucible years – the 1950-53 Korean war in the typically florid propaganda that embellishes all official narratives. 

Wide-eyed rural schoolchildren in military uniform listen as guides explain atrocities by the "US aggressors" during the conflict. A futile war fought to a standstill ending in perhaps three million dead and, the museum recalls, the first US armistice in history signed without a victory. Out of the wreckage of that conflict – unresolved to this day – founder Kim il-Sung built his isolated state.


Instead of nursery rhymes, schoolchildren were taught songs about the "American imperialist bastards".


Paranoia about Washington's motives and its "lackeys" in Tokyo and Seoul set in, heightened by incursions by US spy ships and planes.

By the time Kim died in 1994, the North had been rebuilt into a modern, industrial state. But the rot was already setting in. The centralised economy was grinding to a halt, and aid slowed as Pyongyang's Stalinist allies switched to capitalism. Then, in the mid-1990s, famine struck.

Only the messianic cult built around Kim stopped the regime from collapsing. His son deepened the cult, ordering hundreds of murals, giant statues and monuments built and his body entombed in a glass coffin in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. His portrait hangs in every office and home. 

On a visit to the palace last week, workers wearing their Sunday best – ill-fitting suits for the men, traditional jeogori for the women – bowed and filed past his sarcophagus in the Great Hall of Lamentation. A piped dirge played throughout the palace and a taped commentator indicated the proper response: "awestruck silence". 

Children spend a sixth of their day in rooms dedicated to study of each of the Kims. Anecdotes from Kim Jong-il's life recall the biblical tales of Jesus Christ as he walked among the people: a typical story ends with Kim offering a sprig of priceless advice and a suitably awed response: "Only someone who loved people boundlessly could have made such a remark," says one. 

Even swathed in this elaborate cloak of official cant, however, another orderly transition of power will not be easy. "This is not the same era as when Kim's father died, says Youngkwan Yoon, professor of international relations at Seoul National University. "We are entering a period of great instability." 
How unstable remains to be seen. Up to 300,000 have defected across the Chinese border. Another 20,000 have found new lives in South Korea. The South's citizens say they want reunification but fret about the consequences – if they consider them at all. The nightmare scenario is the sudden collapse of the Kim regime, sending millions of refugees spilling into Seoul.

the independent









If it is not factories, banks or government offices, it can be hospitals and even the high court. Strikes and shutdowns can hit any workplace in West Bengal any time. For four days, junior doctors in all the major state-run hospitals in Calcutta stopped work. What their action did to patients already in the hospitals or waiting outside for treatment were of no concern to them. Locked out from their work for an even longer period were judges and lawyers of the Calcutta High Court by the employees' strike. Together, the two strikes held large sections of ordinary people hostage to the sectional interests of the strikers. These agitators were no blue-collar workers demanding basic rights. They enjoy wages and privileges that are much better than those available to factory workers or farm labourers. But their economic or social status did not stop them from behaving in a most irresponsible manner. The junior doctors' demands, especially for adequate security during work, are not without merit. But none of these demands, like those of the court employees for higher wages, justified the work stoppages. The sufferings that the strikes caused to patients admitted in the hospitals and to others denied treatment showed yet again how ugly the culture of strikes in Bengal can be.


However, the state government's response to the strikes seemed even more sickening. The doctors' strike was withdrawn after the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, had warned of stern action. He should have shown the same firmness right at the beginning of the strike. If doctors acted so irresponsibly, they could do so because of a near-total collapse of administration in the hospitals. And everyone knows that this anarchy in hospitals or other workplaces is the result of blatant political interference in the administration's work. Both in the hospitals and in the high court, the chief minister thus faced a situation that his own comrades have created over the years. The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) has used its cadre in all institutions in order to subvert the system. Activists of other political parties occasionally try to beat the CPI(M) in its own game. The result is an alarming erosion of administrative authority in Bengal. So deep-rooted is this culture of political blackmail that society has come to accept this as unchangeable. But such cynicism can only make things worse.








Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow who was unceremoniously sacked by the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, is a study in contrasts. A relic from the Soviet past, Mr Luzhkov spent close to two decades running the capital of his nation in a spirit of absolute authority. With the funds earmarked for civic development, he refurbished the many grand palaces and statues that dot the Moscow skyline. Sadly, his aesthetic sense fell hopelessly short of the task. So, under Mr Luzhkov, Moscow turned into an embarrassingly disneyfied megalopolis, crowded with ugly structures. The rich got richer, the poor poorer. One of the key founders of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, Mr Luzhkov probably believed that he was immune from State censure. He came down on gay-rights activists like a ton of bricks, turned away from orphaned children living on the streets, and denied helping his wife secure a billion-dollar fortune. At the height of the devastating forest fire that rendered thousands homeless, he fled Moscow and spent more time tending to his bees than thinking about the common people, getting choked by the smoke and ash. But he had no qualms identifying himself as one of the 'progressives' responsible for modernizing Russia.


So it is no surprise that Mr Medvedev decided to do away with the imperious Mr Luzhkov — a move that was almost certainly endorsed by Vladimir Putin, the prime minister. It is difficult, however, to applaud the Kremlin's decision just yet. Days before his dismissal, the mayor of Moscow had not only complained to the president in an open letter about the media campaign to expose his 'misdeeds' but also questioned Mr Medvedev's commitment to democracy. Mr Luzhkov even invoked the unmentionable ghost of a Stalinist fear while expressing his disaffection for the present regime. True, Mr Putin's vision of a new Russia may be based on his revaluation of the geopolitical situation post-2001, but his working methods often hark back to an earlier era of Soviet supremacy. Russia's desire to be the political taskmaster in Central Asia, especially its explosive relationship with its Muslim-majority fringe States, has posed a threat to its own internal harmony. The recent blast on the Moscow metro by Islamic insurgents is a case in point. Merely shaking off Mr Luzhkov will be of small use, if Mr Putin continues to cling to the legacy of a sordid past.








Urban poverty can be tackled by improving the lives of construction workers


While the world remains in awe of India for its unfailing GDP growth rate of 8-9 per cent, readers of local and foreign reports on the economy scratch their heads at the fact that almost half of India's population continues to wallow in poverty. It is just not the number of persons with a daily income below $1.25, but the quality of life they lead in terms of basic requirements that comes into reckoning. New, internationally comparable data put together by researchers at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative have created what is known as the Multidimensional Poverty Index, which will be used in the forthcoming issue of UNDP's Human Development Report. India's poor, reportedly, will comprise nearly 55 per cent of its population, ahead of Pakistan and comparable to Nigeria and Cambodia.


In July, the Supreme Court used strong language to question the basis of India's claim of being a successful nation economically. Delivering their judgment on the case concerning the acquisition of tribal land by Mahanadi Coalfields Limited in Orissa, in which the displaced had not received any compensation for 23 years, the learned judges wondered how, as the second fastest growing economy in the world, India is placed 134th among 182 countries in the Human Development Report of 2009.


National figures are pulled down by the poverty stalking India's rural areas. Useful programmes have been developed — like the Mahatma Gandhi rural employment guarantee scheme — to take corrective measures. What surprises me, however, is the lack of any matching programme for boosting the earnings of the urban poor.


I would like to highlight here only one section —poor people who have high visibility but lag far behind in every aspect of development. I am referring to construction workers: migrant labourers who come with their families and live in wretched conditions at construction sites.


During my frequent visits to Delhi, I often pass construction sites near the venues for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games. There is hardly ever a mention of the living conditions of workers who stay in jhupris, whose children crawl around in the slush in neighbourhoods that lack education or healthcare facilities. The same situation prevails in Gurgaon, Rajarhat or any major urban area where large numbers of luxury apartments and posh offices are under construction.


If the lot of construction workers could be improved, that would be the most significant step to tackle urban poverty. Since these workers are largely migrants, most of the additional money that would reach their hands would find its way to their homes in villages. What would be the impact on the economy if building licences were given to contractors on condition that they provide decent living conditions, healthcare and adequate wages to the labourers? Will real estate prices shoot up considerably? Will contractors' profits be diminished to levels unacceptable to them?


Whatever may be the consequences, civil society must bring changes to the abysmal lives of construction workers. If we are worried about the skewed distribution of wealth, this could be a significant area to explore without creating disincentives in the path to true industrialization.









Per capita income, once regarded as the best index of the welfare of a society, has long since been dethroned from this status. People have argued persuasively that it is a measure that ignores not only income distribution but also the quality of life. Alternative approaches have been designed to explore these nuances of measurement and alternative indices constructed. Amartya Sen has developed a 'capabilities approach' to the question of relative levels of well-being that focuses on the capacity of people to function effectively in various spheres of life. The human development index, inspired largely by Sen's work, highlights three aspects of life: longevity, education and the standard of living. More subtle criteria of capability have also been designed. All such measures however emphasize, in addition to life, liberty and per capita income, various components of health, education and gender equality.


When the relative performance of the different Indian states is gauged by these yardsticks, one state, Kerala, emerges as the clear winner on all counts except that of per capita income. It has the highest life expectancy, the lowest infant and maternal mortality, the best public health facilities, the highest literacy, the best performance in almost all educational indices, the best gender ratio, the best record in female education, health and empowerment and the lowest total fertility. With such a record of performance in areas regarded by outstanding thinkers as crucial to the quality of life, Keralites must surely enjoy the most satisfying lives among all Indians. Right?


Wrong. Kerala also has the highest rate of suicide among all states, no less than three times the national average. It has the highest rate of alcoholism and possibly the highest rate of drug addiction. Instead of living in idyllic happiness (diminished just a bit by a not-so-high per capita income) relative to all other states, the population of Kerala brims over with a seething discontent with their lives that far exceeds the levels of dissatisfaction reached in any other state of the country. No doubt the authors of the capabilities approach and the HDI were only summing up the factors that, according to their values (and those of many others), seemed highly desirable ethically. They were not creating a prescription for happiness. But should a highly successful application of their prescription (whatever its aims) have been associated with unhappiness of this intensity?


The Kerala conundrum raises two troublesome questions for economists and policymakers. First, what accounts for the coexistence in Kerala of indicators of high and inclusive capabilities and human development with signals of the profoundest misery? Second, what light does this paradox shed on a policy debate that has not yet entirely died out — a debate on whether policy should concentrate initially on income growth or focus primarily on the development of human capabilities.


Perhaps a clue to a solution of these puzzles can be found in yet another feature of Kerala society. The Keralites are a population of would-be émigrés. The Malayali exodus abroad, or even indeed to other states, far exceeds, in per capita terms, the outflow of other linguistic groups from their respective homes. The people of Kerala are in desperate flight from their homeland, that paradise of inclusiveness, good medical care, excellent educational facilities and gender equality, not only abroad but also to other states where similar facilities do not exist.


There is of course no mystery in this at all. What the emigrants are looking for in alien environments is employment and higher income, things that their state with all its human development has signally failed to generate. The high existing rural density of population limits the absorptive capacity of agriculture. And industry is hamstrung not only by a poor endowment of industrial natural resources but, more importantly, by the militancy of labour unions and the indulgence of the government and the judiciary towards the latter. The consequence, of course, has been that investors avoid Kerala if that is at all possible. Anyone entering the state by the land route will have been struck by the cluster of industries on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, just outside the reach of Kerala unions and Kerala courts. The major industry of Kerala of course is construction, fuelled primarily by remittances or by the home-building investments of returning retirees.


In the very long run, this stagnation of employment opportunity could perhaps have been taken care of by the contraction of Kerala's population resulting from a total fertility rate below the replacement level. In the immediate present, however, with employment opportunities at home severely restricted, the Keralite has little option but to explore wider horizons elsewhere. In this, his superior education is an asset, enabling him to invade and capture segments of the medium-skilled labour market in India and abroad. Indeed, the Kerala education system, beyond the basic primary level, is driven by the hope that higher education would create the possibility of an escape from the narrow confines of the Kerala job market. It is inevitably a system of education for export.


But what of those who cannot accomplish this transition to a broader labour market, who swell the ranks of the educated unemployed or are forced into jobs which, because of their education, they regard as beneath themselves? For them, Kerala promises nothing but frustration, a diminished sense of self-esteem, drowned occasionally in alcohol or narcotic bliss, leading possibly to suicidal depression.


The Kerala story is a cautionary tale for the policymaker. There have long been two schools of thought regarding development priorities. One advocates a strong focus on output and income growth. It suggests that rapid growth trickles down rapidly to the lagging segments of the population and that free choice, through the market or the political process, of an increasingly prosperous population generates a demand for better education, health and a cleaner environment that the market or the government finds worthwhile to fulfil. The other school questions the effectiveness of trickle-down or demand-linkage: it proposes instead direct investment in human capability, implying, if not openly asserting, that for an empowered and capable population, income growth is inevitable.


In the Indian case (unlike African or Latin American examples), a distinctive twist is added by the fact that our contemporary growth is part of a massive global shift of manufacturing and labour-intensive services from the advanced world to labour-abundant East and South Asia. A major feature of such growth is increasing demand for labour, both unskilled and skilled — implying increasing participation of the low-wage poor and a rising demand for better education and health facilities. Unless we insulate ourselves from this global trend, therefore, rapid growth in India is likely to be both inclusive and oriented to the development of human capabilities.


The Kerala experiment seems to suggest that the alternative strategy might not be quite so successful. Right from the days of the rajas of Travancore, successive governments of Kerala have followed a policy based on the development of human capability. Unfortunately, this has not been matched by, nor has it induced, a similar expansion of Kerala's industrial structure. Therein lie the seeds of Kerala's tragedy.


The author is professor at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University








You can tail them, terrorize them and finally, arrest them; you can also humour them. In a country as vast as China, there are a myriad ways of dealing with discontented citizens. Contrary to the general opinion, the Communist Party doesn't rule like a monolith. Local governments find their own ways.


One such unique experiment is the website of Xindu, a district in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. The government website has won the approval not only of China's super active netizens, but also that of the official China Daily. It responds to online complaints promptly, efficiently, and perhaps most importantly, without sounding bossy or patronizing. It even manages to inject a sense of humour in its replies. To a netizen complaining that officials of a particular district were "all fat and ugly, how could they not be corrupt?", the reply was that the Party Discipline Committee had investigated and found no evidence of corruption among the "cadres". Advising the complainant to present specific evidence to the PDC, the reply added: "We remind you: You should not judge if a person embezzles or not based on his or her being fat or thin."


Xindu's online complaints system started in 2008. But some departments to which the complaints were forwarded by the central team that received the mails, simply passed the buck. When this was reported to the district party secretary, he pulled them up in open meetings. Now, departments sending mails back must give a reason for doing so. They are given a week, or at the most a fortnight, to answer the mails.


But the actual writing of the replies is done by the central team which forwards the mails. In an interview to a local newspaper, the man who writes the mails said he tried not to use fancy words, and liked to put his own personality into the replies.


New outlook


The uniqueness of the website, however, and also the secret of its success, lie in its openness. It censors nothing, neither rudeness, nor embarrassing exposés. Rudeness is handled with a line at the end of the reply: "Please use civilized language when you report a problem." Exposés are checked out, then either confirmed or denied. For example, to a question about how many years a former village mayor was sentenced to for taking bribes, the reply gave the exact sentence: 10 years and six months.


This approach has worked wonders. The number of complaints by post and in person has dropped steadily since the online forum was set up — from 4,668 petitions in 2008, when the website started functioning, to 3,890 last year, and just over 1,000 this year.


Normally, action is taken on complaints — one about massage parlours resulted in three of them being shut down. However, if an allegation is found untrue, the complainant usually gets a dose of advice. One such reply is worth quoting.


A netizen asked petulantly, "Why is no one acting against the corrupt officials in (a certain) town? They are greedy and blatant. Our mayor and our commune leader have cars worth 100,000 yuan, and his (sic) home interior decoration is awesome." The reply directed the complainant to present specific evidence to the PDC. Then followed a little speech, revealing the Chinese Communist Party's new, post-Mao ideology. "As for the matter of the mayor and the commune leader having cars worth 100,000 yuan, you should regard it in terms of whether their incomes/expenses come from proper sources and protected under the law. You (and the broad masses) should understand that even village cadres have the right to prosper... if they become rich through proper methods, they ought to become fine examples for people. You cannot say that a cadre must be corrupt if he owns a 100,000 yuan car. If we obtain concrete evidence of corruption, we will spare no effort.''










A midnight filing by the Obama administration on Friday, asking a federal judge to throw out a lawsuit because of the so-called state secrets doctrine, again raises a troubling question. Why do the White House and Justice Department continue to invoke this severe legal tool essentially as prior administrations have used it, in the face of a considerable body of opinion that it has been abused and should be significantly reformed?


Everyone recognizes that there are secrets that must be protected, but the doctrine has been used to cover up illegal and embarrassing acts or to avoid needed public discussion of policies. Federal trial judges sometimes fail to make the government justify its use of the privilege.


Despite President Obama's promises of reform in this area, the public still cannot reliably distinguish between legitimate and self-serving uses of the national security claims. Worse, some of the administration's claims clearly have fallen on the darker side of that line.


The lawsuit was filed by the father of Anwar al-Awlaki to stop the government from killing his son, who is believed to be planning attacks for the branch of Al Qaeda in Yemen, where he is said to be in hiding. Charlie Savage reported in The Times that there is wide agreement in the administration "that it is lawful to target Mr. Awlaki," but disagreement about the basis for requesting dismissal of the lawsuit. In the end, "a more expansive approach" won out.


Given the cloud of doubt hanging over the doctrine — for 57 years, really, since the Supreme Court established it and for the past decade, especially, because the Bush administration abused it to conceal torture — it's time for the Obama administration to air these differences and explain the full extent of its thinking.


The court established the secrets privilege in 1953, in United States v. Reynolds. It said the government could withhold evidence if revealing it would jeopardize national security. In that case, the government suppressed a 51-page report about the crash of an Air Force plane on which electronic equipment was being tested.


The privilege turned out to be conceived in sin: the now-declassified report contains no secrets. Instead, it recounts how the engine failure that led to the crash might have been avoided. A lawyer involved said the report "expressly finds negligence" by the Air Force.


In the past 20 years, use of the privilege has increased considerably. It is now used to dismiss lawsuits outright, as in the Awlaki case, even where plaintiffs could prove their case without protected information.


Last September, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said the administration would follow new procedures "to strengthen public confidence that the U.S. Government will invoke the privilege in court only when genuine and significant harm to national defense or foreign relations is at stake and only to the extent necessary to safeguard those interests." He said that it wouldn't be used to cover up illegal or embarrassing actions.


Those commitments distinguish the Obama approach from that of his predecessor, but they came after Mr. Holder rushed to uphold Bush administration claims in two major cases involving illegal detention and torture. In one case, it had long been shown conclusively in public that the United States abducted an innocent man and sent him to Syria, where he was tortured.


Mr. Holder's assurances haven't strengthened public confidence because they can't. That will not happen until there is an independent and trusted mechanism for scrutinizing efforts to use the secrecy claim, and to address judges' deference to a secrecy-oriented executive.







A federal appeals court made the right choice on Tuesday when it allowed the Obama administration to keep financing embryonic stem cell research while legal arguments continue over whether to uphold or reject a temporary ban imposed by a lower court judge. Even a brief ban on financing would have disrupted research that scientists hope will lead to cures for devastating ailments like Parkinson's disease and spinal cord injuries.


The plaintiffs in the case are two scientists who contend that federal support for embryonic stem cell research is illegal because embryos must be destroyed. They also claim, absurdly, that their ability to get government grants for their adult stem cell research would be diminished if the administration expands support for embryonic stem cell studies.


Any personal harm to their chances for a grant seems unlikely because the two kinds of research don't compete head to head and there is no set limit on how much can be spent on either. On the more fundamental issue, we agree with longstanding legal interpretations that the Department of Health and Human Services can support embryonic stem cell research provided the stem cells are first derived (in a process that destroys the embryos) with private money.


Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia concluded last month that the two scientists would suffer imminent and irreparable harm unless he granted a preliminary injunction against the financing while he presides over a trial on the legality of the program. He got it exactly wrong.


The two plaintiff scientists, one of whom has never even applied for a grant from the National Institutes of Health, would likely be unscathed if the financing goes ahead. If the federal money is blocked, some two dozen research projects would be abruptly terminated unless $54 million in private funds could be found. Eight intramural research projects at the N.I.H., with a combined budget of $9.5 million and a staff of 45 scientists and support personnel, would also have to shut down. And 20 new research projects that were about to receive financing would be stalled in their tracks.


The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit gave no reasons for staying the temporary injunction while it considers whether the ban should take effect. And no one can predict how the courts will ultimately rule. That is why Congress needs to pass legislation to ensure that federal financing for this important research can proceed.








Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has made a national name for himself by slashing spending on education and other vital services. New Jersey's children and other vulnerable residents are paying the price. Now he wants to stall — and perhaps cancel — one of the most important transportation projects in the country: a new railway tunnel under the Hudson River linking New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan.


If Mr. Christie pulls out, billions of dollars pledged by the federal government and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will go elsewhere, thousands of new construction jobs will be lost and the region's economic future could be hobbled. That makes no sense at all, especially for a governor who talks so passionately about the need for economic growth.


For decades, planners have called for another tunnel to relieve railroad congestion between New Jersey and New York. Two years ago, construction finally began with $600 million, so far, spent in tunneling and other work in New Jersey. To continue the project, Washington has promised $3 billion. The Port Authority is coming up with another $3 billion, about half of which is money normally dedicated to New York State, and New Jersey is supposed to commit at least $2.7 billion in stimulus and turnpike funds.


New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains using the old tunnel carry 170,000 passengers a day, and there is no room for more trains, especially during peak hours. Planners predict that over the next 20 years, ridership on New Jersey Transit will double, if there is a way for the trains to move. The current plan for the tunnel would more than double the rail capacity.


The Port Authority estimates the project would create 6,000 construction jobs now — a boon for a region and an industry mired in recession. Eventually it would remove 22,000 vehicles from the road. The authority also projects the added mobility will bring $4 billion in personal income to the area, higher real estate values in New Jersey and more good jobs in Manhattan.


Mr. Christie says he is worried about cost overruns, a legitimate concern for any big public effort. There are reports that he wants to use $1.25 billion of New Jersey's planned contribution for patching roads and highways. There will always be repair work that needs doing. There will not always be a chance to vastly improve the transit system — or get the federal government to kick in $3 billion. Gov. Christie should support this project, not undermine it.








The ancient convention for naming newly discovered geographical features is fairly simple: royalty, sponsors, loved ones and crewmates come first, possibly followed by the explorer. That is how most of the landmarks around Antarctica got their names. But now a new set of names is being added — not to geographical spots, which are mostly taken, but to navigation waypoints along the main air routes between New Zealand and McMurdo Station in Antarctica.


They will bear the names of the dogs and ponies used by Robert Falcon Scott and by Roald Amundsen during their great race to the South Pole in the winter of 1911-1912, names like Bones and Nobby, Helge and Uroa. Everyone responsible for the waypoints — civil air authorities, scientific bodies — yielded to a two-year campaign by Ronald Smith, an American Air Force colonel, to honor those animals.


It is apt and lovely. Neither explorer would have succeeded without the aid of their animals. Amundsen, who reached the pole before Scott, relied solely on dogs. Scott chose small, stout Manchurian and Siberian ponies, who found the going hard and, in the end, hampered his expedition. But those ponies were also reminders of home and the object of much care from the men. On the Web site of the Scott Polar Research Institute, you can see photographs of the ponies — four in their stalls above decks, 15 under the forecastle.


"Poor patient beasts," they were called by Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a crew member and author of the best account of Scott's expedition. He wondered what they would remember of sailing through Antarctic waters. "It would seem strangely merciful," he wrote, "if nature should blot out these weeks of slow but inevitable torture." Most of us will never fly over those newly named waypoints. But we can call up the photos of the ponies aboard the Terra Nova and marvel at their beauty and acceptance.








Let's talk for a minute about education.

Already, I can see readers racing for the doors. This is one of the hardest subjects in the world to write about. Many, many people would rather discuss ... anything else. Sports. Crazy Tea Party candidates. Crop reports.


So kudos to the new documentary "Waiting for Superman" for ratcheting up the interest level. It follows the fortunes of five achingly adorable children and their hopeful, dedicated, worried parents in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., as they try to gain entrance to high-performing charter schools. Not everybody gets in, and by the time you leave the theater you are so sad and angry you just want to find something to burn down.


My own particular, narrow wrath was focused on the ritual at the heart of the movie, where parents and kids sit nervously in an auditorium, holding their lottery numbers while somebody pulls out balls and announces the lucky winners of seats in next fall's charter school class. The lucky families jump up and down and scream with joy while the losing parents and kids cry. In some of the lotteries, there are 20 heartbroken children for every happy one.


Charter schools, please, stop. I had no idea you selected your kids with a piece of performance art that makes the losers go home feeling like they're on a Train to Failure at age 6. You can do better. Use the postal system.


On a more sweeping level, the film has sparked a great debate about American education. The United States now ranks near the bottom of the industrialized countries when it comes to reading and math. It's not so much that schools here have gotten worse. It's just that for the last several decades, almost everybody else has gotten better. Finland, what's your secret?


The director of "Waiting for Superman," Davis Guggenheim, says he's not offering an answer: "It's not 'pro' anything or 'anti' anything. It's really: 'Why can't we have enough great schools?' "


But plot-wise, the movie seems to suggest that what's needed is more charter schools, which get taxpayer dollars but are run outside the regular system, unencumbered by central bureaucracy or, in most cases, unions. However, about halfway through, the narrator casually mentions that only about a fifth of American charter schools "produce amazing results."


In fact, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes found that only 17 percent did a better job than the comparable local public school, while more than a third did "significantly worse." I'm still haunted by a debate I stumbled across in the Texas Legislature a decade ago in which conservatives repelled any attempt to impose accountability standards on the state's charter schools, even after only 37 percent of the charter students passed state academic achievement tests, compared with 80 percent of the public schoolchildren. There's something about an unfettered school that lifts the hearts of the Born Free crowd.


Then there's the matter of teachers' unions. Guggenheim is the man who got us worried about global warming in "An Inconvenient Truth." In his new film, the American Federation of Teachers, a union, and its president, Randi Weingarten, seem to be playing the role of carbon emissions. The movie's heroes are people like the union-fighting District of Columbia schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, and Geoffrey Canada, the chief of the much-praised, union-free Harlem Children's Zone.


"I want to be able to get rid of teachers that we know aren't able to teach kids," says Canada.


That's unarguable, and the Obama administration's Race to the Top program has turned out to be a terrific engine for forcing politicians and unions and education experts to create better ways to get rid of inept or lazy teachers. But there's no evidence that teachers' unions are holding our schools back. Finland, which is currently cleaning our clock in education scores, has teachers who are almost totally unionized. The states with the best student performance on standardized tests tend to be the ones with the strongest teachers' unions.


Older teachers tend to respond to calls for education reform with cynicism because they've been down this road so many times before. In 1955, a best seller, "Why Johnny Can't Read," stunned the country with its description of a 12-year-old who suffered from being "exposed to an ordinary American school." Since then, the calls for reform have come as regularly as the locusts. Social promotion has been eliminated repeatedly, schools have been made bigger, then smaller.


But dwelling on that won't get us anywhere. Right now, the public is engaged. The best charter schools are laboratories for new ideas. But the regular public schools are where American education has to be saved. We can do better. Superman hasn't arrived. But we may be ready to fly.








The global refrain about genocide is "Never Again," but we may be watching how that slips into "One More Time."


The place is southern Sudan, and the timetable is the next few months. The South, which holds more than 75 percent of Sudan's oil, is scheduled to hold a referendum on Jan. 9 on seceding from the rest of Sudan. Here's how one more time might unfold:


DEC. 10, 2010 Word trickles out of massacres and widespread rapes by tribal militias from the North in the boiling borderlands between North and South. The North denies responsibility.


DEC. 15 The chairman of the referendum commission (from the North) calls on the South to postpone the vote for "just one month," pointing to insecurity and to inadequate preparations for voting. The South insists that the referendum will go on as scheduled. The North angrily responds that the vote would then be illegal.


JAN. 9, 2011 The referendum is held in secure areas of South Sudan. But it is poorly planned, and there are widespread irregularities. There is no voting in Abyei, an oil-rich area at the border of North and South, partly because the North has moved in 80,000 Misseriya Arabs who must be allowed to vote, it says, swamping the permanent residents.


JAN. 18 The South declares that 91 percent of voters have chosen secession. The North denounces the vote, saying it was illegal, tainted by violence and fraud, and invalid because the turnout fell below the 60 percent threshold required.


JAN. 20 The South issues a unilateral declaration of independence.


JAN. 25 Tribal militias from the North sweep through South Sudan villages, killing and raping inhabitants and driving them south. The governor of a border state in the North, Ahmad Haroun, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and organizing the janjaweed militia in Darfur, denies that he is now doing the same thing in the South.


JAN. 28 Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, dispatches armed forces to seize oil wells in the South. "The breakdown of security impels us to take this action to protect the nation's natural resources," Mr. Bashir says. "We will continue to share revenue with the South while seeking peaceful solution of our disagreements."


FEB. 10 With hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the attacks, South Sudan collapses into chaos. "How can those people think that they can run a country?" asks Mr. Bashir. He calls for "peaceful negotiation with our brothers to resolve these problems and restore unity."


FEB. 15 Warfare ripples through the Nuba Mountains and then Darfur as well. Militias now cover up massacres by hiding bodies in wells to reduce the risk of war crimes prosecutions.


O.K., my one prediction is that events won't unfold precisely like that. But President Bashir seems emboldened, and I fear we're on a track toward Sudan being the world's bloodiest war in 2011.


The Obama administration is, belatedly, now heavily engaged in Sudan. I met Mr. Obama and his aides last week to talk about Sudan, and the White House seems as focused on Sudan as on any international issue, with daily meetings on how to avoid war. That's terrific.


The carrots being offered to Khartoum by Mr. Obama are juicy and smart. The White House has lined up other countries to apply pressure on North and South, and it now is twisting arms for a deal on Abyei. All this is a huge step forward.


But there's a fatal flaw: I see no evidence of serious sticks. Put yourself in President Bashir's shoes. It may still be in his interest to plan a genocidal strategy in the coming months if that will enable him to keep the oil. Even privately, we haven't laid out strong enough disincentives.


In contrast, the Bush administration mapped out exactly what would happen to Sudan if it did not share intelligence on Osama bin Laden. C.I.A. officers met in a London hotel with two top Sudanese leaders. An excellent new book from Yale University Press, "Sudan," reports that the C.I.A. officers explained that America would use bombers or cruise missiles to destroy the oil refinery at Port Sudan, the port itself and the pipeline carrying oil to the port.


Sudan decided to cooperate.


Likewise, a former special envoy for Sudan, Ambassador Richard Williamson, suggested in memos to the Bush White House a series of other tough sticks to gain leverage. The Obama administration still hasn't picked them up.


Why shouldn't we privately make it clear to Mr. Bashir that if he initiates genocide, his oil pipeline will be destroyed and he will not be exporting any oil?


Yes, that would be a dangerous and uncertain game. But the present strategy appears to be failing, and the result may be yet another preventable genocide that we did not prevent.









TODAY'S populist moment, with a growing anger directed at the elites who manipulate the system to their advantage, is an opportune time to examine higher education's biggest affirmative action program — for the children of alumni.


At our top universities, so-called legacy preferences affect larger numbers of students than traditional affirmative action programs for minority students, yet they have received a small fraction of the attention. Unlike the issue of racial preferences, advantages for alumni children — who are overwhelmingly white and wealthy — have been the subject of little scholarship, no state voter initiatives and no Supreme Court decisions.


Among selective research universities, public and private, almost three-quarters employ legacy preferences, as do the vast majority of selective liberal arts colleges. Some admissions departments insist they are used only as tie-breakers among deserving applicants. But studies have shown that being the child of an alumnus adds the equivalent of 160 SAT points to one's application (using the traditional 400-to-1600-point scale, and not factoring in the new writing section of the test) and increases one's chances of admission by almost 20 percentage points.


At many selective schools, legacies make up 10 percent to 25 percent of the student population. By contrast, at the California Institute of Technology, which has no legacy preferences, only 1.5 percent of students are the children of alumni.


Legacy preferences are often justified as a way of building loyalty among alumni, sustaining tradition and increasing donations. But there is no hard evidence to prove this. A study by Winnemac Consulting for the Century Foundation found that from 1998 to 2007, at the nation's top 100 national universities, if one controls for the wealth of alumni, "there is no statistically significant evidence of a causal relationship between legacy preference policies and total alumni giving." Moreover, the study found that at the seven universities that dropped legacy preferences during the time of the study, alumni giving didn't decline.


Legacy preferences are "virtually unknown in the rest of the world," according to Daniel Golden, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal. The paradox is that while they are an American contrivance, they are also un-American, standing in direct contradiction to Thomas Jefferson's famous call to promote a "natural aristocracy" based on "virtue and talent." The Old World nature of hereditary preferences may explain why, in a 2004 poll by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Americans opposed such preferences by 75 percent to 23 percent.


Legacy preferences may also be illegal. Although in 1976 a federal court ruled in a passing mention that legacy preferences are constitutional, the issue has never been properly litigated. Today, new legal arguments have been advanced questioning legacy preferences at both public and private universities.


Steve Shadowen and Sozi Tulante, two lawyers in private practice in Pennsylvania, have argued forcefully that preferences violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. While the amendment was primarily aimed at prohibiting discrimination against blacks, it also extends to what Justice Potter Stewart called "preferences based on lineage." In the past, the Supreme Court has read the amendment to prohibit laws that judge individuals on their parents' actions or behaviors, such as those that punish children born out of wedlock.


Legacy preferences at private institutions may also violate the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of "ancestry" as well as race.


Affirmative action policies are controversial because they pit two fundamental principles against each other — the anti-discrimination principle, which says we should not classify people by ancestry, and the anti-subordination principle, which says we must address a brutal history of discrimination. Legacy preferences, by contrast, advance neither principle — they simply classify individuals by bloodline.


Congress should outlaw alumni preferences at all universities and colleges receiving federal financing, just as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws racial discrimination at them. Or lawmakers could limit the tax deductibility of alumni donations at institutions that favor legacy children on the principle that tax-deductible donations are not supposed to enrich the giver. If legislators don't act, it will fall to lawyers to bring suit to enforce the 14th Amendment and the 1866 Civil Rights Act and put an end to this form of discrimination in higher education.


Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, is the editor of "Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions."








ON Primary Day this month, New York voters faced numerous delays and equipment malfunctions at the polls. In some cases residents stood in line for hours, leading state politicians to make accusations of disenfranchisement and resulting in three government investigations.


But New York's leaders have ignored the larger issues that drive down the state's voter participation rates, in particular the electoral calendar: New York holds its primary at the worst possible time of the electoral season, and it remains among the shrinking minority of states that still don't allow early voting.


This year's low turnout — just 13 percent among Democrats and 16 percent among Republicans — was nothing new. In 2009 there was near record-low voting in New York City's mayoral election. And while low turnout is a concern nationwide, New York consistently ranks near the bottom.


One reason for such poor participation is that New York's primary falls on the second Tuesday of September. This year, during the 10 days leading up to it, candidates vied for voter attention against Labor Day travel, the first days of school, the beginning of the Jewish New Year, the end of Ramadan and the solemn 9/11 remembrances.


Things weren't always this way. The primary used to be held in June, but in 1974 Albany Republicans moved it to September. Their reason? To help the campaign of Malcolm Wilson, who had taken over as governor after the 1973 resignation of Nelson Rockefeller.


Wilson was running for the nomination unopposed, but the Democrats were split, and the Republicans figured that a shorter general campaign would leave little time for the Democrats to rally around their eventual candidate.


While the Republicans' strategy failed to win the election, it did succeed in creating a frustratingly short general election season: this year's primary came just seven weeks before Election Day, little time for candidates who survive a contentious nomination battle to unite their parties and raise money.


In 2002, after Carl McCall and Andrew Cuomo duked it out for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, the brief season made it impossible for Mr. McCall, the winner, to build a strong enough campaign to defeat the incumbent, George Pataki — indeed, Mr. McCall won only a third of the votes that fall.


This is not only unfair to the candidates. The lopsided results also reduce voter interest and participation in the general election. Who will bother to vote when the outcome appears predetermined?


New York further deters participation in elections by refusing to allow early voting. "Being too busy" is the No. 1 reason nonvoters say they sit elections out; in response, about two-thirds of the states now permit some form of early voting (as distinct from absentee voting, which typically requires that voters give an acceptable reason for not going to the polls on Election Day).


In Texas, for example, people can vote 17 to 4 days before an election; they simply visit an official voting station, typically situated in malls, libraries, schools and state offices. Some states have gone even further: in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana and Washington, residents can become permanent absentee voters and automatically receive a ballot in the mail for every election.


Such efforts have met with great success. In the 2008 presidential race, about 40 million people nationwide, or about 30 percent of all voters, cast their ballots before Election Day; in some states the proportion was as high as half.


These reforms not only make voting easier, they also reduce congestion at polling places on Election Day and diminish the effectiveness of last-minute negative political attacks.


Moving up New York's primary and allowing early voting are easy ways to increase democratic participation. True, they wouldn't get every New Yorker to the polls. But they would take away a number of well-worn excuses.


Richard Fife is a political consultant.









As Congress finishes work this week and heads home to campaign, warring Republicans and Democrats finally


found a shared goal: Collecting as many contributions as possible from Washington's special interests.


No fewer than 400 fundraisers were scheduled during Congress' final month in the capital, according to a Sunlight Foundation tally. Lobbyists could eat breakfast with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have cocktails at the Capitol Hill home of House Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., or dine with Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz. — for anywhere from $500 to $5,000 a pop. Scores of lawmakers were also "honored" at fundraisers hosted by labor unions and the banking, coal mining, pharmaceutical and health care industries.


All of which leads to the question: Don't these much-honored lawmakers have any work to do? The answer is: Plenty, but they are often more interested in keeping their jobs than doing them.


While the 111th Congress has three major accomplishments — the economic stimulus that helped avert a Depression, and landmark health care and financial reforms — lawmakers moved to adjourn late Wednesday after failing to address just about every other pressing problem the nation faces.


The reason is news to no one. Each party has backed so far into its ideological corner that compromise is next to impossible. But it's worth taking a moment to tally the high human cost of their failure.


Let's start with what should be the easy things — issues of public health and safety.


In the past few years, thousands of people have been made ill by contaminated spinach, hamburger, peanuts and, most recently, salmonella-tainted eggs. Some have died. In July 2009, the House voted to give the Food and Drug Administration more resources, staff and authority. But a bipartisan measure that even has the backing of much of the industry has been stalled by one senatorTom Coburn, R-Okla., who insists that sponsors find a way to pay for the $1.4 billion the measure will cost over five years. Coburn is right about the principle but wrong about the method. Were it not for a paralytic Senate rule that let's a single senator block the will of the other 99, the bill could be passed and paid for. Instead, more people will die.


Keeping miners from getting blown up in unsafe workplaces should also be a slam-dunk, but it isn't. Last April, after an explosion at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 miners, it became clear that regulations that are supposed to keep miners safe are instead working to the benefit of the least responsible operators. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., pushed legislation to rein in the rogues, but was unable to even get a safety measure rolling. Republicans objected, saying more negotiations are needed. So lawmakers are returning home, where the biggest danger they face is not getting re-elected. Miners, meanwhile, continue to risk their lives in places that are less safe than they could be if Congress had done its job.


Beyond these comparatively simple regulatory matters are the tough, ideologically divisive issues on which another two years passed with little progress.


Immigration remains so conflict-ridden that comprehensive reform remained out of reach.


Although Congress was confronted with mounting scientific evidence of the consequences of global warming, efforts to do something about it stalled in the Senate.


As for the federal budget deficit, the picture only grew bleaker. Gridlock allowed the estate tax to expire in 2010, providing a windfall for wealthy heirs and raising the deficit by an estimated $15 billion. Meanwhile, the rest of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire at the end of this year — and Congress is leaving town without acting. In this case, doing nothing is preferable to extending all the tax cuts, which a debt-ridden nation can no longer afford. But the debate in Congress has been over whether tax cuts should be renewed for everyone (the GOP solution), or only the 96% of taxpayers making less than $200,000 a year (PresidentObama's choice). Failure to resolve the issue just leaves more uncertainty hanging over an already shaky economy.


The overarching story of this Congress is that if Democratic majorities couldn't push something through by themselves, the job didn't get done. With neither party likely to gain a dominant majority anytime soon, current practices invite perpetual gridlock.


This stands in contrast to earlier eras of great achievement. A Democrat-controlled Congress passed the Clean Air Act under Richard Nixon in 1970. The House, controlled by Democrats, helped pass Ronald Reagan's 1986 tax simplification. And, in 1996, President Bill Clinton signed a welfare reform package approved by a Republican-controlled Congress.


These types of accomplishments are nearly impossible to replicate today, when filibusters are routine and a single senator often puts a "hold" on a nomination or piece of legislation. There are proposals to alter those practices, but — you guessed it — the changes, too, are on hold.


The next Congress will inherit a full plate of unfinished business — and, unless reason suddenly prevails, the pile is only going to get bigger.








Sesame Street exercised great responsibility in deciding not to air the video of Katy Perry in pursuit of Elmo, and it demonstrated a lapse in judgment by filming it in the first place. Many commentators have wondered why parents are so disturbed by cleavage. Let me be very clear. My objection to the video is not to décolletage. I nursed both my kids and have no concern about them seeing breasts. I believe that this video has no place in children's programming because exposing children to the oversexualization of women will have disastrous effects on the future of our girls and boys.


Perry first came across my ken this summer, when my daughter came home from an otherwise spectacular camp program with camp song lyrics that were to be sung to Perry'sCalifornia Gurlz. After I realized that the words were not compatible with the Beach Boys' song, an iTunes download revealed to me that apparently my 5-year-old was expected to be familiar with a song that refers not only to "sex on the beach," and "sipping gin juice," but also to "daisy dukes, bikinis on top" and "sun-kissed skin so hot we'll melt your popsicle."


Negative impact on girls


The 2007 report of the American Psychological AssociationTask Force on The Sexualization of Girls concluded that "girls exposed to sexualizing and objectifying media are more likely to experience body dissatisfaction, depression, and lower self-esteem" and that "self-objectification has been shown to diminish cognitive ability and to cause shame. This cognitive diminishment, as well as the belief that physical appearance rather than academic or extracurricular achievement is the best path to power and acceptance, may influence girls' achievement levels and opportunities later in life."


But I don't object only to my daughter watching Perry romp with Elmo while wearing a dolled-up burlesque of a wedding gown and veil. I object, perhaps even more, to my son watching this video. Such sexualizing, trivializing, and minimalizing images of women will shape boys' understandings of women's roles and the relationships between men and women. The APA report on sexualization notes: "Girls' relationships with boys and men are affected in that exposure to sexualizing and objectifying media has been shown to relate to girls' and boys' views on dating, boys' sexual harassment of girls, and attitudes toward sexual violence." In perpetuating such images, particularly in children's media, we are raising a generation of chauvinists or worse.


The grotesque stereotypes of Sambo or of Charlie Chan would be reviled by the public, yet the journalists who have jumped in to defend Perry's place on Sesame Street have no qualms about images of women that reduce them to wasp-waisted, large-chested, well-coifed ingénues. Granted, Sesame Street is not alone here, nor is this a recent development. I fight to maintain a Barbie-free home, despite the blonde's decades-old popularity, and most Disney heroines appear to be shaped, literally, from the same mold.


Conventional gender roles


I am surprised at how easily the gains of my mother's generation and the freedoms of my own childhood have been lost. When I was a child, there was a widespread cultural emphasis on gender neutrality in children's products. In contrast, I have found myself defending my daughter for wearing a dinosaur T-shirt and bolstering her choice of a water bottle with trucks when other kids have voiced their beliefs that these were for boys. When we picked out her big-girl bed in stained wood — her choice — I could not comprehend why furniture catalogues picture girls' bedrooms almost exclusively with white-painted furniture. It is impossible to buy a gender-neutral kids' bicycle: one must choose between flowers or butterflies scattered on pink or purple bodies, or neon colors emblazoned with edgy spider or racing themes. And if you want to enroll your son in a dance class, the options are few and far between, with dance studios often decked out as pink fairy bowers and class rosters that are entirely female.


I don't want to raise my daughter and son to believe that their choices are limited by conventional gender roles. I avoid media representations that employ harmful gender stereotypes, and I try to encourage my kids to pursue their passions. I want my kids to see characters like Gina the veterinarian and Wendy the builder, but I also want them to see male nurses and dads who are primary caregivers. I want my daughter to play with trucks and my son to play with dolls. And I want them both to dance.


Renata Kobetts Miller is an associate professor of English at the City College of the City University of New York.








This past weekend, Israel's 10-month moratorium on West Bank settlement construction ended, jeopardizing the recently resumed peace talks with the Palestinians.Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren discussed the progress of the talks, the nuclear threat from Iran and other issues on Tuesday with USA TODAY's Editorial Board. The following Q&A is adapted from that session and edited for length and clarity.

Question: With the end of the settlement moratorium, and the threat by Palestinians to walk away from the negotiating table, where do the peace talks stand?


Answer: Everyone's interested in where we go from here and whether the talks will be resumed next week. It's a very easy answer: "I don't know."


Q: What steps are you taking to try to keep the talks going?


A: We are in close contact with the (Obama) administration, exploring ways in which we could devise things that could keep the Palestinians at the table, through various confidence-building measures. ... I personally am optimistic, but I can't say that my optimism is shared by everybody. I just feel like the process has gained some sort of inexorable momentum and that if we can get over this hurdle, I think we can move swiftly.


AUDIO: Listen to Ambassador Oren's answers to reader questions


AUDIO: For the entire meeting, click here for USA TODAY's Opinion podcast on Podbean, or search for Opinion on iTunes.


Q: If you can get by the dispute over the settlements, then what would happen?


A: The obvious issue would be the border issue (regarding boundaries in a two-state solution). But the border issue is almost a subcategory of the security issue. Our security issues are for the demilitarization of the Palestinian state, that it won't have missiles that it can fire into our cities. Also, we're concerned about the ability of the Palestinian state to sign treaties with Iran, treaties with hostile enemies. We want defensible borders, but we also understand the need for a viable Palestinian state.


Q: Do you want that for the West Bank or for Gaza as well?


A: We are proceeding under the assumption that some day Gaza will be part of this deal. Right now, it's not part of this deal because it's under Hamas. So when President Obama talks about a contiguous Palestinian state, that has two meanings. One, it means there being no settlement blocks dividing the Palestinian state, but also that there be some kind of connection between West Bank and Gaza.


Q: That's been the strategy for a while. Do you see any sign that it would cause people in Gaza to dispose of the Hamas government?


A: No, not yet. Hamas has now been reinforced politically by Turkey, it continues to receive immense support from Iran, and Iran is perceived in the region as the country that's standing up to the West, standing up to Israel. They had a lot of popularity in the Arab street.


Q: The optics of the moment seem difficult. The settlers Monday celebrating the end of the moratorium. The earlier flotilla confrontation produced an embarrassment.


A: Let me focus on Gaza and the flotilla issue. In the half year after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, they fired 1,000 rockets at us. And after the overthrow of the Fatah government by Hamas in July 2007, the rocket fire increased greatly and we imposed a naval blockade and a ground blockade. It was also meant to deny Hamas the ability to import missiles via the sea. They were importing missiles through the tunnels under the Egyptian/Gaza border. But to smuggle in a missile was difficult. We saw it happen with Hezbollah. Now they have missiles they can shoot into downtown Tel Aviv from Gaza. We didn't want to make it easy.


Q: Let's shift to the issue of Iran. How far is Iran from building a nuclear weapon?


A: The head of the CIA said within a year. The Iranian nuclear program has had delays, but it is progressing. We have seen that the sanctions have had some bite. The Iranian regime has begun to squirm, but we have not seen that the sanctions have brought about a change in their nuclear program.


Q: Some say there is a better than 50% chance that Israel will launch a military strike on Iran by next July. Is that an accurate assessment?


A: Israel again has signed onto the sanctions regime. But at some point we are going to have to reassess. That doesn't mean that you go immediately to military measures. There are other ways of ratcheting up pressure on Iran. But at the end of the day, our policy and the Obama administration policy is that all options remain on the table. There is no question that a nuclear Iran poses a monumental threat to Israel and a monumental threat to the entire Middle East and, frankly, to the world. And Israel has the right and duty to defend itself.


Q: Can a nuclear Iran be contained through the mutually assured destruction strategy?


A: No. For numerous reasons. The Cold War model of mutually assured destruction was based on an assumption of cost-and-benefit rational calculations. We were pretty sure back then that the Soviets knew that if they took Washington, the United States would take Moscow. We don't know if any of those calculations hold in Iran.


The second reason is the threat that Iran will create a nuclear device and put it atop one of the missiles it already has that can reach any city in the Middle East and now some cities in Western Europe within a decade, that's just the beginning of the threat. The more immediate threat is that Iran, once it acquires military nuclear capabilities, will pass on those nuclear capabilities to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups. So mutually assured destruction has nothing to do with that.


Thirdly, once Iran acquires nuclear military capabilities, the entire balance of power of the Middle East shifts toward Tehran. Moderate governments will be overthrown. The ability of anybody to deal with a terrorist threat will be immensely reduced. It will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. And you think the Cold War was rough with a bipolar nuclear world? Imagine a multipolar Middle Eastern nuclear world.


Q: Are you saying there is no way Israel is prepared to live with a nuclear Iran?


A: In no way should anybody be prepared to live (with a nuclear Iran). Israel's not alone in it.


Q: What are the consequences if Iran is attacked?


A: I don't want to go into all the possible fallouts of any type of military engagement with Iran. It's an option that nobody certainly would want. One thing is certain, we do not know what would happen in the aftermath of an engagement with Iran of that nature. But we have a very finite picture of what the Middle East and the world is going to look like the day after Iran gets nuclear weapons.


Q: At this moment in the peace talks, what is going to make all of these issues suddenly resolvable, despite all of the previous problems?


A: The Israeli government is very stable, very strong. Secondly, you have the Obama administration putting an immense amount of energy into the process. The situation in the region because of Iran and the situation on the ground in the West Bank. We have a Palestinian leadership that is committed to the two-state solution.


Q: Can the Obama administration provide any assurances regarding a possible extension on the moratorium on settlements?


A: Extension is not on the table right now. We have made these commitments to be restrained, responsible and limited in whatever construction there is. The settlements account for between 1.7% and 1.9% of the territory of the West Bank. The settler population is 17% of the population. It is a very small area that is not going to expand.


Q: Israel and the Palestinians have been through many rounds of negotiations over many years. What will it take to make a deal?


A: The only way the conflict ends is for Israel to recognize the Palestinian state as a legitimate, indigenous state of a people deserving of self-determination in this land. And the only way this works is if the Palestinians recognize us in the same way. The best example I can give you is of two families who are sharing a house. They have to somehow share it because they can't each have it all. One family recognizes the right of the other family to live in half the house. But the other family doesn't recognize the right of the first family to even live in a part of the house. And the conflict is just going to go on.








A number of readers of my new book have noted parallels between today's frustrated and even angry mood and a similar mood in the mid-1970s. Indeed, in some ways my successful campaign for the presidency in 1976 resembled the Tea Party movement of today. We capitalized on deep dissatisfaction with the policies and practices of government officials, especially those who served in Washington.


Thirty-five years ago, the American people were eager for fundamental changes after the embarrassment and lies of Watergate and the Vietnam War, the assassinations ofMartin Luther King Jr. and the Kennedy brothers, and revelations that the CIA and top leaders had been involved in criminal acts, including murder. As a Georgia farmer, I was considered by many to have no association with these stains on our national character, while most of my opponents were stigmatized, although unjustly, because they were incumbent politicians.


My basic campaign themes were simple: to tell the truth and to guarantee that our government would be as good, honest and competent as the American people.


Big donors carry clout


Other factors are very different now. Much of the financial support for the "grassroots" Tea Party movement has come from extremely wealthy owners of petroleum and energy companies whose profits depend on preventing strict environmental standards and regulations that promote safety and competition. Another is that a powerful news organization has provided the requisite publicity and promotion for the Tea Party movement.


As president, I had the advantage of strong bipartisan support in the Congress, which made substantial legislative success possible. Now, unfortunately, political polarization throughout the nation and especially in Washington has reached an extraordinary level, making it almost impossible for PresidentObama to secure even a few token votes from Republican members of the House or Senate — even when his proposals match those previously espoused by those same legislators.


What has caused this quagmire? For one thing, the political center has disappeared: Almost all of the relatively large number of moderate Democrats and Republicans have been defeated at the polls or resigned in despair.


For another, huge amounts of money now flood into election campaigns, and the need for these contributions makes candidates amenable to supporting the policies of the special interests who fill their coffers. In fact, these "legal bribes" will now play an even greater role because of the Supreme Court ruling in January that permits unlimited campaign contributions from corporations and labor unions. Much of this campaign funding, unfortunately, is spent on negative advertising, which is designed to destroy the reputation of political opponents. Although almost everyone deplores this practice, it works — and as a result, even final victors are seen by many constituents as unfit for office.


This partisan alienation carries over to governing, where unofficial and friendly contacts between Democrats and Republicans are infrequent. Legislative decisions — once made after substantive public debate — are now made in closed party caucuses. A bare majority becomes a party's uniform position, and those who dare deviate from a bloc vote can lose both choice committee assignments and support for attractive projects in their state or district.


Frozen government


The Senate has become particularly dysfunctional. The previously rare use of filibusters has become routine, and now 60 votes are required even to bring a controversial proposal to the floor for debate. With just 41 members out of 100, a cohesive minority party can block almost any legislation; meanwhile, the majority party needs virtual unanimity to pass a bill. This gives enormous power to those who cast or control swing votes, and powerful lobbyists are quick to exploit this opportunity for influence.


Another polarizing factor is the increasing tendency by state legislatures to gerrymander congressional districts to create safe seats for members who parrot and support the most extreme partisan positions.


The genius of our democratic system is that it is self-correcting, which is why extreme and ill-advised political trends have never prevailed. We face enormous budgetary and social challenges, and I believe it is all but inevitable that constructive governance will ultimately emerge. Surely our government will, once again, be as good, honest and competent as the American people.


Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter (1977-81) is the author of the new book White House Diary.








The Tennessee-American Water Co.'s latest rate increase proposal, a whopping 28 percent, is shocking. It is unimaginable that the company's overhead, or the improvements it says it is planning to make, could justify a rate increase of this magnitude. City and county officials and the Chattanooga Manufacturer's Association should promptly put TAWC and the Tennessee Regulatory Authority on notice that they will join in the objection already filed by the State Attorney General's consumer advocate's office.


City officials discussed on Tuesday the possibility of contesting the water company's rate proposal, but the City Council, overriding the willingness of councilmen Jack Benson and Peter Murphy to move immediately against the proposal, postponed a decision until next week. The council need not talk long. The company's rate petition is obviously a bargaining ploy; it is also unthinkingly brazen, insulting and extraordinarily ill-timed in the current economy.


TAWC's track record for requesting high rate increases, and its consistent failure to get them approved at the requested levels by the TRA, should encourage local officials to file an objection. The company has not won approval from the TRA for its full rate requests in years.


Its September 2008 request for a 21.7 percent hike was whacked by the TRA to 4.37 percent, barely a fifth of the request. Its 2006 request for 19.67 percent was cut to 12.3 percent. It got just 0.91 percent on its 5.98 percent request in 2004, just a sixth of what it sought.


The string of TRA decisions to slash TAWC's rate requests goes back at least to 1996, when the company got 4.96 percent on a 8.67 percent rate request.


Contesting the water company's request, of course, can be expensive. Given its experience in 2008, the city could expect to pay more than $200,000 for accounting and legal fees if it joins with several partners to contest the rate hike. TAWC customers here, moreover, would likely be forced to pay at least part of the water company's cost for its defense of its rate request. In 2008, the company spent more than $1 million trying to push through its rate increase. In that case, the TRA, which had traditionally allowed the company to roll the costs of it rate hike application into rates, authorized the company to recover just half of its rate-case costs from customers.


Regardless of the costs, city and county governments cannot afford to let the current proposal go uncontested, for reasons of both principle and precedent. TAWC must be made to justify such an exorbitant rate-increase request. The company's record shows that its rate requests are always bigger — often much bigger — than the company can justify before the state regulatory authority. That's all the more reason for local governments and customer groups to show public interest in opposition.


The TAWC's egregious rate requests, this year and over past years, should also prompt Chattanoogans to restart the eminent domain takeover of the company that former mayor Jon Kinsey began, and then dropped when the council split over the takeover. Chattanooga remains the largest city in the state that does not own its water utility. Instead, we let the company ship out the corporate profits it takes from customers here to send to its American and foreign corporate owners.


John Watson, TAWC's vice president and general manager, said in announcing the proposed rate increase that the company is earning only a fraction of its allowable rate return (read: profit). That sentence is key to the local giveaway to TAWC's parent company, American Water Co., and its foreign owner.


Utilities are allowed a fair return, or profit, on their operations, at a generous margin above their operating costs. Local ratepayers could save that outflowing profit by assuming ownership of the utility, like the vast majority of American cities. Even if the city then chose not to use city employees to run the company, it could pay a contractor a management fee that would be far less than the "allowable" profit TAWC now gets and ships out.


Every time the TAWC proposes another outrageous rate increase, the idea of gaining local control of our water utility should gain ground.







No one in or out of international diplomatic circles can ever say with certainty what is taking place in North Korea. There is some agreement, though, that Kim Jong II's decision this week to name Kim Jong Un, his youngest son, to positions of prominence might be a sign that the youngster is now the presumptive heir of the current head of state. Whether that is true or not is hard to verify, as is speculation that a change in rulers — when and if it occurs — will alter the reclusive nation's internal and external policies.


What is known is intriguing. Kim Jong Un, heretofore relatively unknown, was appointed this week to a top position in North Korea's ruling communist party, He was also promoted to four-star general in the military. Those certainly are signs that Kim Jong Un is in favor and likely would succeed Kim Jong II, who reportedly has been ill, if the latter is unable to govern or dies. So little is known about the heir apparent, though, that experts around the world now are scrambling to assemble dossiers on him and his possible political motivations. It will be a difficult task.


There are only a couple of photos of Kim Jong Un extant and about the only things widely known about him are that he likely is still in his 20s, that he is reported to have been educated, at least partially, in Switzerland, and that he is a fan of NBA basketball. That's hardly the usual resume for someone who could become the sole leader of a country that has expressed a frightening willingness to use its nuclear capability to promote its interests.


Indeed, North Korea is likely to remain much as it is now even if there is a change in political leadership. Whoever is in charge likely will continue to employ nuclear brinksmanship to retain power and to coerce other nations to meet its demands. North Korean intransigence likely will continue to roil the world of international diplomacy.


That won't please the coalition of nations — the United States, Japan, China, Russia and South Korea — working to get North Korea to join nuclear disarmament talks. Without satisfactory resolution of that issue, continued international sanctions and ostracism will make it impossible for North Korea to obtain the assistance and materiel it needs to rebuild its economy and improve the lot of its people. A new leader, however, might choose a different path.


Given the secrecy in North Korea, it is impossible to predict, much less know, if that will be the case. The week's announcements in Pyongyang indicate there is change afoot in the rogue nation, but not what it might mean. There's always hope that a new leader, whenever he or she assumes power, might bend just enough to engage more positively with other nations. But this is North Korea, so don't bet a lot on it happening.








Congress hasn't done its duty to complete responsible action for necessary federal spending legislation by the end of the current fiscal year Friday. So the federal government is threatened with a "shutdown." But, of course, a shutdown will not occur.


Congress is rushing a "stopgap" bill to keep the government running.


But that a government shutdown will be averted does not mean Congress is doing its duty. Congress is not doing its job well. Despite taxes that are too high, it has voted to spend too much, generating close to $1.4 trillion more red ink this year, adding to the national debt of more than $13.3 trillion.


If Congress were responsible, as it should be, it would have voted for less spending, eliminated clearly unconstitutional programs, and perhaps even cut taxes. But a majority of members of Congress simply do not perform their financial duty responsibly.


So before the Friday fiscal year-end deadline, Congress will pass a last-minute bill to keep government running — and spending too much, adding to the debt.







President Barack Obama has not come to grips with the fact that his liberal agenda does not square with what most of the American people want from Washington.


In a defensive article in Rolling Stone magazine, he sounded almost offended that ordinary Democrats around the country are not very enthusiastic about getting out and voting for Democrat candidates in the upcoming congressional elections.


Democrats "need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up," he told the magazine. He called it "irresponsible" and even "inexcusable" that some of the people who eagerly supported his 2008 presidential campaign just cannot get excited about the Democrats running this year.


Actually, their lack of enthusiasm is entirely understandable.


Many independent voters and more moderate Democrats "rolled the dice" on Obama in the 2008 election and also voted to give Democrats even bigger majorities in Congress than they already had. But have Democrats governed responsibly with all that power?


Unfortunately not. They enacted, with almost no Republican support, a costly "stimulus" bill that will make our awful national debt even worse — and has not reduced unemployment. Then, with zero GOP support, they imposed a vast, complicated, expensive, government health care "reform" on the country.


Polls show strong public opposition to such legislation. Yet the president says those "accomplishments" should have his party fired up and eager to keep Democrats in power after November elections.


What the president cannot understand is that most Americans do not see his and congressional Democrats' push for ever-bigger government as "accomplishments."


He may be disappointed in Democrat voters and others who do not share his philosophy, but the country is even more disappointed in the liberal policies he and his fellow Democrats have pursued in Washington.







If lots of money were the key to educational success, then Washington, D.C., would surely have some of the best public schools in America. Washington spends more per student per year — about $16,400 — than any of the 50 states except New Jersey and New York. Yet its schools are a teachers union-controlled disaster. Academic performance is near the bottom of the barrel in our nation's capital.


Clearly, big spending is no guarantee of academic success.


So it was strange when President Barack Obama addressed the subject of education recently. He said schools around the nation need more money. Yet he admitted that public schools even in very high-spending Washington could not give his daughters the education they are getting at a private school in the city.


Ah, but the president said there should be "reform" to accompany all the new spending he wants. Well, reform is a fine idea. But aren't most increases in education spending — in Washington and elsewhere — accompanied by pledges of "reform"? And doesn't it seem that often, the spending grows but academic performance doesn't?


Unfortunately, the president's own record on support for really effective education reform is weak. He opposed a successful private school voucher program that had allowed some low-income children in Washington to escape their disastrous public schools and have a shot at a decent education. Congress ultimately killed the program, even though it had been popular with parents and even though it spent less than half what was spent on every pupil in the district's public school system.


Education really is not federal business. But if the president wants better academic outcomes — and cost savings rather than more spending — he should promote vouchers for students rather than oppose them.







Since it is evident that our country is suffering economic recession, you may not have noticed that Chattanooga's outstanding tourist attractions have not been suffering recession.


In fact, visitors at the Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City Gardens, Ruby Falls and other attractions have made for a good "tourist season," meaning good local restaurant, hotel-motel and other business.


Chattanooga depends heavily upon industry and commerce, but tourism also is very important.


So we should give thanks that many visitors are eager to come to enjoy our mountains, Chickamauga Lake, the Tennessee River, history and various other attractions — happily boosting our economy.







The U.N. has an unfortunately accurate reputation for being bureaucratic and sometimes corrupt. But now it has added "silly" to its list of bad qualities.


News has come that the U.N. is appointing an astrophysicist from Malaysia as Earth's official greeter if our planet should ever be visited by aliens from space.


Mazlan Othman "is set to be tasked with co-ordinating humanity's response if and when extraterrestrials make contact," London's Telegraph newspaper reported.


"Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a 'take me to your leader' person," a professor at a British space agency told the Telegraph.


In fact, she is already the head of an agency known as UNOOSA — which stands for United Nations Office for

Outer Space Affairs.


You read that correctly. There really is such an office. It's no joke.


The "joke" — and it's not a very funny one — is that the United States is the biggest financial contributor to the U.N. That means your taxes are paying for the obscure Malaysian scientist to be hired as a greeter for space aliens, and your taxes are underwriting the "U.N. Office for Outer Space Affairs."


A bigger — and even less amusing — "joke" is that an organization as wasteful and counterproductive as the U.N. is also the organization that is supposed to be making sure Iran does not build nuclear weapons.


Is there any reason at all why the nations of the world should put any serious faith in the U.N.'s ability to solve real-world problems — much less those from outer space?










In the late early 1980s, Massachusetts Institute of Technology guru Nicholas Negroponte made a predication about the future of communications. It came to be known as the "Negroponte Switch."


The "switch" he foresaw was that everything that had once been communicated by wire, telephone conversations for example, would soon be over airwaves. Everything that once went over airwaves, TV broadcasts for example, would soon be exclusively wired. Lo and behold, he was right.


The much-debated proposal by TV journalist Yiğit Bulut, the "Greater Media Regulation Project" as dubbed by a wag in our newsroom, is what prompts our reflection on Negroponte's insight. Bulut has triggered the wrath of most journalists in Turkey, and ours as well, for his inexplicable appeal last Saturday to the prime minister that basically went: If a state regulator to monitor TV and radio is a good idea (Turkey's is known as RTÜK), then a super regulator to monitor newspapers, magazines and websites is an even better idea.


That Bulut hosts a TV show named "Uncensored" on the Habertürk channel is just one of the ironies of this exchange at a press breakfast. That Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan quickly dismissed the idea is perhaps another. But the latter irony is certainly one for which we are thankful.


Which is not to say that Bulut does not have one interesting point. Let's take this column. If you are reading it in the conventional newspaper, then it is print. If you are reading it at home on the Internet, then it likely arrived by coaxial cable. If you have figured out to download the column to your iPhone despite the fact we lack an "iPhone app" on our website (difficult but possible), then it arrived via the spectrum of radio-telemetry.


Which is why Bulut asked: If the logic of regulation is electronic media's use of the publicly owned broadcast spectrum, then how valid is this logic in the digital age? Let's call this the "Bulut Switch."


The flaw in this logic is that the entire case for regulating media consumption of scarce public airwaves turns on the concept of scarcity. If some media use a finite public resource to sell their wares, this makes them different than those such as newspapers that do not. Enter the justification for regulation – and in fact censorship.


But there is no scarcity in cyberspace. The creation of bandwidths is theoretically infinite. Simultaneously, digital compression technologies are making the spectrum that does exist endlessly expandable.


We see no argument in this to overlay the analogue world's antiquated system of regulation atop the digital age. Rather, we see an argument that all media are now the equivalent of the print media of yesteryear, a private domain with no need of government oversight. The courts still exist in the case of libel or slander. That's enough. Thank you, Mr. Bulut.







Five years ago, as an MA candidate, I worked on the transition from an oil-based economy to a hydrogen-based one at the University of Maastricht. Naturally oil companies and car manufacturers were at the center of the research. After reading a friend's article at about the hype created around the electric cars I thought that it could be a good time to write about the subject.


Knowledge about history is a must to understand how technology evolves. Because unlike what you might believe, the best technology doesn't always win. The products that we are currently using aren't the pinnacles of science and technology. If only the best answer won then we would really be going around in flying cars by now. Technology research and technological products production are very dependent on each other. And believe or not, a market economy is not the best way to award the best developed technology.


History is filled with superior technologies cast away at the expense of inferior but cheaper, easier-to-use and better marketed products. In the market economy the user decides on the fate of technologies that touch our lives. Once, a head of a multi-billion-dollar R&D facility told me a story about a product that they spent millions of dollars to develop. They wanted to make a vacuum cleaner that didn't produce any sounds or vibration at all. After years of hard work and many failures they finally came up with the solution. However they couldn't market the product because during the testing period 90 percent of the users told that they wouldn't buy the vacuum cleaner because they didn't feel that it was working. The users assumed that the cleaner didn't clean the carpets as at all because they couldn't see or feel that it was working. The company had to put the project on hold until a time when the customers were ready to accept such a product.


The history of car production is similar. The first electric car was produced in 1828 and the first car with a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine was produced in 1870 – its name was Marcus. Today we see electric cars as our saviors, but why didn't they dominate the market initially with their 42-year head start? The reasons electric cars failed to dominate can be applied to any technological product that we use today.


The electric car lost the battle only because the creators of the car couldn't establish an environment, an eco-system that would support the vehicle, even though it was faster, safer, easier to use and easier to manufacture. The problems were manifold: Where would the electric batteries recharge, who would fix the cars if they broke for any reason, what was the acceptable range for a car to go if people would buy it for long distances, etc.


The first manufacturers of electric cars couldn't solve any of these issues. However the combustion engine manufacturers were much more successful at forming alliances and pressing their ecosystem. The October 1923 issue of National Geographic magazine started with these remarks:


"In 1898 there was one car in operation for every 18,000 people, each of them a hybrid creation secured by crossing a bicycle with a buggy, and installing in the product a noise-sputtering little engine that startled the people in the streets and sent the horses on the high-ways into panic.


"To-day there is one motor vehicle to every eight people, and the worst of them is a marvel of silence and service as compared with the best of its early predecessors.


"Thirteen million motor cars! Who can visualize them! Five for every freight and passenger car on all the railroads of the United States! Enough to carry half the people of America in a single caravan!"


There was a full public and governmental support behind the combustion engine that electric motors never enjoyed. With this support the car manufacturers and oil companies created a network of gas stations and roads. They could easily persuade the U.S. government to pour tons of money into making decent roads for cars. This support for the combustion engine lasted until we began to see the harm done by carbon emissions, oil spills and oil wars. There is still a great resistance, because the system is very strong and very expensive to change.


However, we are living in fortunate days as the invisible hand of the market works in favor of better and cleaner technology. Next week I will elaborate on the technology behind the electric cars and under which circumstances it is logical to pay for the change.








A few years back a study by Professor Binnaz Toprak on neighborhood pressure grabbed public attention. Most people fiercely criticizing her claimed that conservatives were ready for radical revolutions, but the Kemalist status quo fomented development by producing many different excuses. The blind denial of the Kemalist status quo and pro-Kemalists was, and still is, seen with liberals, too. We are of course far away from the new world announced by liberals who have lost themselves on the way to democracy together with conservative revolutions. The debates over promiscuity scenes on television series lately have started to take place just in time!


First, we have scrutinized the rape scene in "What's Fatma Gül's fault?" Since its primetime broadcast conservatives have been furious. Some interpreted the interest shown to the rape scene as the fall of family and of moral values while others focused on the commoditizing of women.


People particularly argue the rape scene may set a bad example for society. Rape, which is common, bothers deniers. Deniers have nothing to say against bulls' efforts to bring the world into order. The rape scenes by ordinary actors who under normal circumstances would take leading roles and who are "good family boys" is of course a fact that this society would be scared to face.


What drove supporters of auto-censorship is that two bad men appeared "half naked" in a macho TV series. Even the most democrat conservative writers lost control against such "promiscuity"!


Producer-director Osman Sınav said similar perversions are a fact and they should be exposed.


However, many objected and said such scenes will seriously harm children.


According to them, children will be more harmed by a peaceful bedroom scene than by bad men using shotguns and torturing each other.


I am not here to speak about the fatwas by censor-defenders on how promiscuity will damage Turkish morals. What bothers me is that leftists and liberals under the local pressure of traditional hypocrisy cannot stand against such pressure.


For instance, a gentleman on a TV debate was talking about morals not being voiced enough and giving a list of unwanted, improper, negative examples of life. Homosexuality was on the list. Violence, brutality and rape were as well. Even more so, the gentleman warned that we could be served scenes of pedophilia and bestiality.


I was wrong to believe and hope that someone would answer this gentleman, since I knew that the other panelist was well-equipped.


No one raised objections to the gentleman. All complied with remaining in the playground of the conservative Turkish mindset. No one asked the gentleman, "Mr.! What are you talking about?"


We are dealing with a terrible culture of debate, which was introduced by anchorman Ali Kırca, and it continues to terrorize prestigious news channels. Almost all debate programs are occupied by conservatives, self-confident panelists who don't question the heterosexuality or piousness of others!


In every debate program, decent men speaking properly are being pushed aside. Conservatives are so sure that the audience is with them. How about liberal leftists? That, they agree with conservatives, but remain silent in order not to cause any trouble. However, leftist liberals are aware of the fact that they've already lost the audience. So they don't want to produce more hatred.


The vandals who assaulted people in front of the art galleries in the Tophane district, Istanbul, rely on such silence. Conservatism, once again, declares that it is rooted in this land. Everyone seems to agree that acting carefully toward the sensitivities of people is necessary.


We are jauntily being slapped in the face with the suggestion of a world in which all are required to be heroic Muslim males.


The demands of freedom and truth are being swept under the rug.


But the bitter thing is that we all quailed before this arrogant and aggressive conservative language. Once again, what a pity if you are not a Muslim heterosexual male in this country!








War will break out in Sudan by early spring 2011, producing the country's bloodiest strife yet. Alongside it, Darfur will seem a sideshow. The fuse will be a January 2011 independence referendum, which is certain to lead to secession by the Christian south. The fight will be over oil.


Both sides, the south and the northern Arab government led by Omar al-Bashir, have been arming themselves since standing down from civil war in 2005. Darfur has shown the violence the north can unleash. The south looks ready to stand its ground.


Which ground is hard to tell. The 2005 ceasefire, brokered by the Americans, left the dividing line unmarked and uncertain. Military teams from the two sides now patrol it. What is certain is that the richest oil fields straddle the border area.


The split will rob Sudan of its place as Africa's largest country. It will also typify the kind of racial-tribal-religious breakup that has plagued the continent since colonial times.


War around the oil fields will be a blow to China and India. Sudan is one of their main petroleum suppliers. China could fall back on its number one African supplier, Angola, but Luanda is a lot farther away from Chinese factories than Port Sudan. Costs will escalate.


So will death and destruction. The civil war that sputtered and flared in Sudan for some 30 years took a million and half lives. This conflict could do worse. Both sides are critically dependent on oil revenues. They make up 98 percent of the south's income. The north is almost as dependent. Neither the northern government in Khartoum or its counterpart in Juba seem ready to budge on the margins of territory they claim. Instead there are martial speeches and army parades in both capitals.


No larger power is likely to step in this time. While Washington will not wish to see the collapse of the bridges it built five years ago, it has external distractions far bigger than Sudan. In any case, there are conflicting schools of thought in the Obama administration on how Khartoum would best be held to the referendum timetable. The African Union is too feeble and divided. Outside Africa, assorted global crises and the hope that war could bring down President Bashir will keep others from any forceful interference. Recently Bashir's ruling clique has begun to stall preparations for the vote, blind to the fact that any putting off of the referendum will only stiffen the south's resolve to fight. (It will be remembered that Bashir, the war crimes arrest warrantee, was invited to Ankara in an unguarded moment a few years ago.)


The war will be a headache not only for China. It will put the country's southern neighbors, Ethiopia and Uganda, on the spot. Both are predominantly Christian. They will be destabilized and at the same time tempted to send aid to the south, as they've done when fighting erupted in the past.


Sudan was destined to come apart from the time the colonial map was drawn. It was a throwing together of opposites. This war may not be the end of the splitting; there are other fracture lines. In the new South Sudan, ancient tribal enmities mixed with visions of oil wealth may cause the fledgling state itself to come apart. The Dinka and the Nuer have raided and massacred each other for generations. Minus the common northern enemy, who's to say that independence will unite them?


Acquaintance with Omar al-Bashir


This writer's acquaintance with Bashir had a less than auspicious beginning. It started when the armed guard at the door of my Khartoum hotel room burst in to tell me that my house arrest was over. A jeep was waiting for me downstairs, he said. I picked up my bag and he marched me to the lobby. Already in the jeep outside, between a couple of soldiers, was my boss, the head of UNICEF. In our confinement each of us had picked up signals making it clear that Bashir, a prominent general, had overthrown the government of Prime Minister Sadiq el-Mahdi and proclaimed himself president.


It turned out that the two of us were the first foreigners to meet the new head of state. Bashir was gruff but polite, getting quickly down to business and asking whether all the fuss of our Operation Lifeline Sudan was really worth anything for the country. We knew that he and the most of the northern military had been opposed to our ceasefire and relief efforts from the start. Now he was in a position to shut us down.


But he didn't. It may have been because we asked him how many children he had. When he answered with the number we said, "No, Mr. President, you have several hundred thousand now; you've become the father of all the children in Sudan." He shifted in his chair as we said that.


Operation Lifeline Sudan managed to bring about a three-month ceasefire in the government's war with the Sudan People's Liberation Army in the south. To transport the 110,000 tons of food grains brought in to stave off hunger and disease, the multi-agency operation reopened a derelict north-south railway and cleared the Nile River for barge shipment. I had to stop my negotiation shuttle flights between Khartoum and the SPLA rear base in Ethiopia, but the main job was already done. An estimated 250,000 deaths were averted.


A year later, when heads of state and government from 73 countries gathered at the United Nations in New York for the World Summit for Children, I was asked to escort President Bashir into General Assembly hall. We chatted easily as I took him to his seat.


That was 21 years ago. He has ruled Sudan since then, and was returned to power in an election earlier this year. The bloody record of Darfur, however, means he won't soon again choose to board a flight to the U.N. in New York, or expect to find Sudan's seat in the General Assembly waiting for him.








If there is a silver lining in the ongoing uproar over the treatment of Roma in France and elsewhere, it is that this long-standing issue of egregious discrimination is now on everybody's radar in Europe and beyond. When the current sound and fury die down, the appalling conditions of this marginalized minority must remain in sharp focus. They must be addressed in their proper context – that is, by using human rights as guiding principles for public policy and remedial action. 


To date, despite efforts undertaken by some European states and international and regional organizations, anti-Roma sentiments in Europe continue to be strong. They may even be escalating as a result of the economic recession that has forced many Roma to leave their communities of origin in their quest for better work opportunities. As a result, discriminatory practices and violence have also been on the rise.


For example, there have been reports of fatal attacks against Roma in Hungary and Slovakia. Documentation of targeted discrimination abounds, including the recently leaked circular of the French interior minister ordering the evacuation of Roma camps as a matter of priority. Moreover, the U.N. committee that oversees the implementation of the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, or CERD, has noted that, albeit in different degrees, forced evictions as well as obstacles to adequate housing and segregation of Roma are known to occur in a number of other countries, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia. 


In some countries Roma have limited access to health care and other services because they lack identity documents. According to CERD, problems in the area of education for Roma children are widespread, such as their segregation in separate classes or their over-representation in schools for children with learning difficulties. In the past few years, the European Court of Human Rights has found European governments, including two EU countries, namely the Czech Republic and Greece, in breach of their legal obligations regarding treatment of Roma children in schools. Implementation of these judgments remains patchy at best.


Moreover, the continuing returns of Roma to Kosovo from Germany have had devastating effects on the rights of children, including their right to education. As a recent UNICEF study showed, the Roma children who were reasonably well integrated in German schools are being thrust into an Albanian-speaking environment which is totally foreign to them and where they have little or no chance of going to school at all.


Against this background, it is not surprising that the EU Fundamental Rights Agency estimated that Roma face the highest levels of discrimination in the European Union.


Their marginalization and stigmatization are often fueled by inflammatory rhetoric on the part of forces that seek political gain by stoking the fires of mistrust. This is one of the points I raised during my visit to both legal and unauthorized Roma settlements in Italy. There, as elsewhere, I repeatedly advocated the need to better integrate the Roma into mainstream society both in their countries of origin and in their countries of destination. A first step toward integration entails granting access to education and other basic services, such as health care, adequate housing and sanitation, as well as to employment opportunities. These are all entitlements under human rights law. The Roma children I met, their parents and other community representatives made this crystal clear in our conversations.


I am aware that some Roma traditions may be at odds with mainstream society and may themselves amount to violations of human rights, such as forced marriages and child labor. I am also aware that, living at the margins of societies, some Roma have resorted to crime — usually petty — which creates understandable friction. But such issues warrant case-by-case scrutiny, not indiscriminate condemnation; they require the very same responses that are applied to all abusers and offenders, not exemplary or draconian measures that smack of stigmatization and collective punishment of a minority.


Serious efforts to address these problems have already been made both at the national level and by European Union institutions. For example, the European Commission has clearly tried to bolster integration policies through the EU Platform for Roma Inclusion and the adoption of the Common Basic Principles of Roma Inclusion in 2009. And at the U.N. April 2009 review conference against racism, 182 U.N. Member States pledged to take concrete measures to eradicate discrimination against Roma and other minorities and to provide them with remedies, as well as special protection.


Much more must be done. With the active support of the European Commission and Parliament, as well as the

U.N., the EU and its 27 member states now have a chance to change their posture vis-à-vis the Roma issue from reactive to proactive. They must poll best practices and human rights standards and implement them throughout the union to ensure that all Roma people live dignified lives in one of the world's most affluent regions, a region that is their homeland, too.


*Navi Pillay is United Nations high commissioner for human rights.








The provinces of Van, Bitlis, Muş and Hakkari are located in the southeastern Anatolia region. Hakkari is an exception here.


In the other three provinces government mellowing and investment policies have begun to bear fruit. However, all of these cities are still ranked in the last seven on the social-economic development list. Van, Bitlis and Muş are recovering fast though.


New energetic and passionate governors are ironing out relations between the state and people. Infrastructure investments continue in high gear. Double-lane highways, schools, hotels and hospitals are being built. Investments are increasing. You don't see any of these in Hakkari, however. I explained the other day why and said that businessman Halit Yalçın names Hakkari the "mouth of the wound." The wound can heal, though, because people in this city want to change their lives, have more freedom and get rich. This is their demand from the government.


It may sound strange, but the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is more popular than the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the region.


"People cannot easily say 'no' to the AKP," says a mother. "The government gave us the 'green card' [for social insurance], provided children aid, distributed coal. There is serious progress. People here have nothing. They are looking forward to hearing what the prime minister will say."


Businessmen have similar expectations: "The AKP has reached 58 percent support. They should take responsibility." The government made a critical move and appointed an energetic, popular governor, Muammer Türker, in Hakkari, just as they did in Van, Bitlis and Muş.


First class personnel


"The former governor couldn't go out without a dozen security guards," said a resident. "But the current one is different." It is not enough, however, to have a good governor. Since violence continues in Hakkari, security forces dominate local administration.


"The king is different here. It is the military," says a native of Hakkari. "The military has the final say here." And that makes 't difficult to end tension between the people and the state. This is perhaps the most serious obstacle that needs to be overcome. Not only the government but also other civilian, military and state personnel need to be first class.


"A very special order should be established here. Everyone sent should be special," says another man from Hakkari.


People expect understanding from Ankara.


"As a state they should say: 'I couldn't protect your children. I apologize for that. What should I do?'" says yet another mother. "These children are the citizens of this country, too. They didn't go up to the mountain just for fun. The state should have responsibilities in this area as well."


Border trade


The most important thing to do in Hakkari, other than regaining people's confidence, is to provide a new source of butter-and-bread, which has been lost due to terror in the city. Hakkari lost both its source of income and its hinterland that had reached to Mosul in the past.


"There are two things to protect our people," says a businessman. "Border trade and animal breeding; you either have it or move away." What locals want is tailoring the Iranian border gate to have border trade and clearing the landmines from the meadows. Hakkari should be saved from being a desolated, remote corner of Turkey. The construction of two-lane highways connecting Hakkari to Van should be completed as soon as possible.


As the construction of Yüksekova Airport is completed, Turkish Airlines, or THY, should connect the region to

Hakkari via a helicopter bridge. Roads should be renewed as the municipality is provided sources to spread services, without considering political tendencies.


The region should be saved from the source of unearned money for some civilians. Almost everything was done incorrectly in the last decade here. Development has failed. Ankara acted unwisely. But my impression is that the AKP has begun to change the course in Hakkari. And they are doing the right thing. Despite everything, it is necessary to approach the region with love and tenderness. If Hakkari doesn't feel comfortable, Turkey will not either.


*Metin Münir is a columnist for daily Milliyet, in which this piece first appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.








Imagine a country that would intentionally withhold the term of a person that is appointed by the state to assume the most popular predominant position. A country that would intentionally prolong the debate "five year or seven year term" and provide for obscurity. It seems we are playing with the political world.


It is a subject that turns into a political gossip when no other subject is found by the media.


Didn't you get sick of it too?


You receive a different answer each time you ask someone.


The prime minister says, "The president's term will be set by the Supreme Election Board."


The next day the same Supreme Election Board says something different. It states that the solution is not part of their responsibility.


Speculations start immediately.


Everybody makes calculations in the lines of, "If it ends 2012 this will happen… if it ends 2014 this result will be obtained."


In view of a period in which the prime minister will for the last time participate in general election this coming year, in which he plans to introduce a presidential system and in which he plans to take his place at Çankaya, Abdullah Gül's presidential term becomes a very important issue.


Future steps which the prime minister plans to take, makes everybody pay attention to Gül's presidential term.


Let's have empathy!


Let's put ourselves in the place of the president.


Imagine having eliminated many obstacles, having gone beyond the "367" slat and having arrived at Çankaya.


For a period of seven years.


Then a referendum takes place; and it is accepted that "presidential terms last five years."


So what's to happen next?


What would you do?


Wouldn't you be confused?


Wouldn't you evaluate everything within the five-year/seven-year seesaw?


Wouldn't you be suspicious?


"My friends with whom I build the party do not shed any light on my situation they leave my term in the dark. It seems they will determine a new strategy after general elections and within the frame of this strategy they will decide whether or not I'll be staying in Çankaya."


Wouldn't you be concerned?


Wouldn't you feel "abused"?


It is obvious Gül feels this way.


He also feels burdened because he is unable to tell his case-mate, his closed buddy in politics the prime minister "clarify my situation ASAP."


Even if Gül is unable to tell, the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should do the necessary.


To say, "This subject is out of our range" does not close the presidential file.


He needs to give his party directives and get this obscurity out of the way.


But if he really wants to leave this subject in the dark for the sake of his Çankaya plans then he just remains

silent not digging into it further.


But this will not slip the public's eye.


The Avcı case hurts the judiciary and security forces


Hanefi Avcı is not someone you could easily blame. It is hard to comprehend how he was shoved into a plane and arrested.


Especially the fact that his personal life was torn apart and that he was arrested due to being associated with a terror organization after writing a book which blames the Islamist Gülen community, created big question marks in the mind of the public.


The double standard of judges was being criticized for a long time and now the same double standard having reached police and the intelligence chief created more confusion.


I will not get into details of the case, for, each allegation and claim is very confusing. It is not clearly understood where does it start and what is linked to what?


No matter what judges and prosecutors decide, real judgment is made by the public.


And the public perceives Hanefi Avcı very positively. To change this image prosecutors need to be very convincing or they won't get anywhere with trying to wear down someone who has devoted his life to struggle with terror.


Until the opposite is proven Avcı is a very serious, esteemed and sophisticated chief of police and intelligence officer.


This impulsiveness of the judiciary will only hurt itself.


Tuba's Hrant


Some of you may know Tuba Çandar as Cengiz Çandar's wife whereas she is a very skilled researcher. She proved this with her latest book entitled "Hrant" which talks about Hrant Dink, slain editor-in-chief for the daily Agos. This piece is truly a documentary published by Everest Publishing. This book is based on interviews with 125 people within three years and talks "only about Hrant Dink", a Turkish Armenian. "Hrant" consists of two books. The first talks about "Khent Hrant" (khent-an Armenian word for crazy) comprising his life from birth to the time he established Agos. The second book talks about "Baron Hrant", a name which was given to him by his employees at Agos. It comprises his life after Agos and after changing his name from Fırat to Hrant. Çandar listened to "people that Hrant touched on" like his family, relatives and friends, and talks about Hrant Dink based on what people said that knew him, not from the top down. This piece of work is very important and valuable. I'd recommend it.









Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has apparently decided to make best use of the opportunity provided by main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and is in efforts to rehash the old headscarf game which proved to be a success in the past many elections.


Indeed, it should be none of the business of the state to decide whether or not women should have anything on their heads or if they want to have something on their heads what should be the shape, color or fabric of that thing they have on their heads. But, largely because of a ban imposed after the 1980 coup and the political Islam turning turban, headscarf or whatever it might be called some women prefer to cover their head with either in an attempt to conform with what they consider a requirement of Islam or simply a centuries-old tradition, the turban has become a religious symbol.


Sure, no one should be deprived of the right of education just because of a piece of cloth on her head, but the problem is further than that. The problem is is that headscarf has become a symbol, a flag of political Islam. This problem has become intractable not because of the secularist but because of the parties of political Islam, including the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which has been considering the religious high schools or Imam Hatips as their backyard and the headgear of girl university students as the "flag of Islam."


A resolution of this problem, therefore, requires first of all achieving normalization and diffusing the perception that turban is a symbol of political Islam engaged in a revanchist fight with the secular state. Will the AKP of Prime Minister Erdoğan ever want to resolve the turban problem, stop agitating the turban issue and lose one of its "We would have resolved the turban issue, even risked closure because of it but the still secular establishment and the secularist opposition did not allow doing it. Bring us back to power even stronger and God willing this time we will resolve it" or such predominant arguments?


AKP will never ever solve the turban issue as it will never ever solve the Kurdish issue. It will just pretend as if it aims at their resolution but prevented by the "others." The "others" however are being deprived from their fundamental freedoms one after the other and placed behind bars thanks to creative efforts of the police intelligence alleged to have been overtaken by an Islamist brotherhood. The latest victim was Hanefi Avcı, the former Eskişehir police chief who was ousted from office after he wrote a book on the alleged takeover of the key institutions of the country by the Fethullah Gülen Islamist brotherhood.


Yet, with elections looming in the horizon the AKP has apparently started to rehash its election platform rhetoric and capitulating on the "We shall solve the turban problem" declaration of Kılıçdaroğlu has started to challenge the CHP leader to act on the issue immediately. Will the problem be resolved if Kılıçdaroğlu accepts the offer and collaborates with the government for a solution of it? Most probably not. At some stage Erdoğan and his people will undertake some provocation, force the CHP out of the process and declare that they could not solve the problem because of some unacceptable demands of the main opposition party. Over the past many years they have developed well their skill in finding excuses anyhow…


Will the CHP accept this invitation from Erdoğan and as if the main problem of Turkey today is a piece of cloth on the head of some girl students having difficulty or barred from attending university courses? This is yet again a political trap of the AKP that the CHP and other political parties who must have experienced enough on such ploys of the AKP should stay away.


Turkey's prominent problem today, particularly after the "Yes" result in the referendum on constitutional amendments is to write a new civilian and democratic constitution which would enhance rights and liberties but provide sufficient security valves that would help prevent the country being derailed from democracy towards an authoritarian regime. The prominent problem of today is to find a way out within national and territorial integrity of Turkey a resolution of the separatist terrorist violence, and of course a viable resolution to the Kurdish problem. The prominent problem of Turkey is to make amendments in the election and political party laws, pull down electoral threshold and allow justice in representation which would help Turkey overcome many democracy-related problems.


Will the CHP accept the turban ploy of AKP? Hopefully not this time…










Three convergent reports about money, its use, abuse and availability come together to illustrate our extreme financial fragility. The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the authority and jurisdiction of the State Bank of Pakistan to write off loans worth Rs256 billion over the thirty-nine years between 1971 and 2009. This has been going on for over half the life of the nation and spreads across military and civilian regimes alike. It appears that the write-off of a loan depends on the interpretation of section 33B of the Banking Companies Ordinance which sets out the pre-requisites for write-offs. The chief justice noted that SBP policy appeared 'open-ended' and that the relevant regulations were variably interpreted by successive managements of the SBP. The write-offs by state-sector banking were not alone, as the private sector has been merrily tearing up wads of money as well, with Rs50 billion written off in the last two years. It was further noted that the private banks are not paying their taxes on the massive profits that they are making. 

The second area of convergence is around the remarks made by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the US Global Leadership Coalition Conference. Speaking bluntly, she said that either Pakistan started to tax its elites -- hitherto untaxed or minimally taxed -- or the US would review its aid commitments to us. This position had already been laid out a week ago, with aid now conditional upon a range of compliances, and unless the rich are finally brought into the tax net we are going to find ourselves in the ranks of the undeserving poor -- and a lot poorer as a result. The third fiscal convergence concerns the reality coming down the tracks like a runaway train -- after making payments for defence, subsidies, interest on loans and pensions there is nothing left in the bank to run the federal government. It is not the overheated imagination of financial correspondents and hyped-up anchors telling us this, the word is coming from the Asian Development Bank in its Outlook 2010 report of Tuesday. The combined outlays for these sectors were gobbling up the taxes collected by the Federal Board of Revenue, which means that the operating costs of the federal government at 2.9 per cent of GDP were only sustainable via foreign aid and loans. Taking the three together -- fiscal irresponsibility by the banks, a tightening of aid conditionality linked to revision of the tax system, and the imminent bankruptcy of the federal government -- our financial crisis acquires a new depth. Sadly, most of the population never learned to swim.






 The 86-year sentence meted out to Dr Aafia has aroused acute concern with human rights groups questioning the justification behind so long a term. The issue of her repatriation meanwhile echoes loudly through the country, with protesters taking to the streets and MQM Chief Altaf Hussain joining the chorus of voices condemning the US for its treatment of the young neuroscientist. The interior minister has said that Washington has agreed to repatriate her but, given the lack of credibility around Mr Rehman Malik, it is impossible to know if there is any truth in what he says. The issue has become one with a potentially big impact on Pak-US relations. Any goodwill Washington may have succeeded in building up among the people here has been nearly shattered by the case -- and also by the manner in which it has been played on by local groups giving it an anti-US twist. 

For these reasons it may be worth some while for the US to consider extraditing Dr Aafia. A number of legal provisions need to go into place to make this possible, but these can of course be expedited with cooperation between Islamabad and Washington. Such a move may do more to combat the growth of terror than the incarceration of a woman who has quite obviously suffered a great deal already and seems to be in a mentally distressed state, judging by her appearances at the Manhattan Court. Islamabad needs to persuade the US that, to a very large extent, militancy is driven on by fierce anti-US feelings. The repatriation of Dr Aafia would help ease these. If Dr Aafia cannot be allowed to walk away free and if there is evidence she that is not entirely innocent, then 'justice' might demand that she be penalised under the law. But humanity does demand that this penalty should not be excessively harsh. As a person in need of both physical and psychological support Dr Aafia may fare better at home -- close to her family. Efforts must also be made to reunite her with her children whose fate is still a mystery. The return of Dr Aafia could also offer a valuable opportunity to explore the many mysteries in the case -- including how she was taken away from Karachi.







 When the 18th Amendment was signed into law on April 19, there were many who declared optimistically that it would usher in a truly parliamentary system of government. Five months later, that remains an unfulfilled hope. Not much has changed since then in the way the country is being governed. As in Musharraf's days, the power centre remains in the Presidency, with the prime minister functioning as the titular head of government and parliament little better than a noisy and often unruly debating society. Also, the promise of provincial autonomy has remained largely illusory because the abolition of the concurrent list, then touted as a panacea, has only curtailed the powers of the federation without giving any fresh authority to the provinces that they did not possess already. 

While the 18th Amendment did well to sweep away many of the deformities introduced in the constitution by Musharraf and the previous military usurpers, it inserted some new ones to benefit the present set of rulers. The two most conspicuous examples are the amendment to Article 17 deleting the requirement of intra-party elections and the new Article 63-A on the defection of members of parliament which virtually empowers the head of the majority party or coalition of parties, who himself need not be either an elected member of the legislature or an elected party leader, to dictate who the prime minister will be. In addition, Article 175-A introduced a new procedure for appointments to the superior judiciary that makes it easier for the executive to pack the judiciary with those more amenable to its wishes. 

Not surprisingly, the constitutionality of all these articles was immediately challenged in the Supreme Court. What makes this case extraordinarily important is that for the first time the Court will be pronouncing itself on the question whether a constitutional amendment, like ordinary legislation, is also open to review by the judiciary and if so, on the basis of what higher principles. Several remarks from the bench during the Court proceedings -- such as the chief justice's observation on August 16 that the parliament did not enjoy unfettered power to introduce any amendment to the Constitution - have been interpreted as indicating that the Court would overturn some of the provisions of the 18th Amendment. The judges have also made comments indicating that in their view the new procedure for judicial appointments is not compatible with the independence of the judiciary and that the procedure for election to seats reserved for women and minorities is flawed. 

There is no precedent in Pakistan's judicial history or in that of countries with a longer democratic tradition of a constitutional amendment having been overturned by the courts. There is only one country, India, where the judiciary has set aside a constitutional amendment duly adopted by the legislature. The Indian Supreme Court has given the ruling that the "basic structure of the Constitution could not be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment." This doctrine is now being heavily relied upon in the arguments against the constitutionality of parts of the 18th Amendment. However, even in India, it does not have the universal support of the legal community. 

The government is not only contesting the challenge to the 18th Amendment in the court but also politically. It has even thrown hints that it might defy an adverse verdict. Gilani himself said in the National Assembly that the government would respect the judiciary's decisions which were in accordance with the constitution but would not allow "any other institution" to encroach on the government's space. A meeting of the federal cabinet held on September 18 and co-chaired by Zardari and Gilani resolved that the "unanimous constitutional amendments adopted by parliament will be defended and protected at all costs." 

It is not clear what the government would do if the Supreme Court's ruling is not to its liking. One proposal is to hold a referendum. But the 18th Amendment is hardly the topmost concern on the minds of the people and participation in a popular vote over the issue will be extremely low. In any case, a referendum is not likely to settle the matter because there is no provision in the constitution for amending it through a popular vote. 
In making the case for the 18th Amendment, the government has laid great store by the fact that it was passed unanimously by both houses of parliament. That may have political significance but it is irrelevant to the question whether the amendment is in conformity with the constitution. One thing is however beyond dispute. It is the prerogative of parliament to make amendments to the constitution. The judiciary can only rule whether a particular legal provision is valid or not. 

Whichever way the Supreme Court decides on the 18th Amendment will have far-reaching consequences on the constitutional and political future of the country. A decision by the Court that constitutional amendments are open to judicial review, without strict and well-defined criteria, could open the door to a plethora of legal challenges to different constitutional provisions, now and in the future. Conversely, a ruling that parliament has absolute freedom to amend the constitution as it sees fit would be taken by our legislators as a license to mould the basic law of the country to the political whims of the rulers. 

The optimal course would be one between these two paths. The important condition is that the principles for the judicial review of constitutional amendments should be well-defined, that they should be derived from specific provisions of the constitution itself. The bar to be crossed for a successful challenge is so high that only those constitutional amendments can be set aside which are in patent breach of some fundamental principle on which a clear consensus exists. 

From the arguments presented in the hearings on the 18th Amendment, it seems that there are two broad choices before the court. It could either base its decision on the "basic structure" doctrine or on the principles of the Objectives Resolution. The difficulty with the former is that the court would have to go further and also attempt to determine what is so "basic" in the constitutional structure that it may not be touched and what is not so "basic" and may be changed by parliament. The judgments of the Indian Supreme Court show how difficult it is to reach a consensus on what constitutes "basic structure". 

The principles of the Objectives Resolution, conversely, are known and they emerge clearly from a reading of its 324-word long text: a democratic federal system of government with the provinces enjoying autonomy; the independence of the judiciary; respect for fundamental human rights; safeguards for the minorities; and promotion of the teachings of Islam. 

The Objectives Resolution formed the preamble of the 1956 and 1962 constitutions before being incorporated into the present constitution. It can therefore be said to embody the national consensus on the founding state principles on which the constitutional structure is based. Under Article 2A, the principles and provisions set out in the resolution have been made a substantive part of the Constitution and are to "have effect accordingly". In other words, they are not just the guiding principles of the constitution but are also in the nature of a directive to the legislators. This article and the Objectives Resolution can thus provide the only reasonable basis for setting aside a constitutional amendment. They are certainly to be preferred to something as nebulous and ill-defined as the "basic structure" doctrine. 

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email:







 Swat-Kohistan usually refers to the narrow valley beyond Madyan in the district of Swat. It stretches over a mountainous area about 60 kilometres in length. In the good old days before terrorism arrived, the beautiful gorge-like valley was the main attraction for tourists from abroad and from the rest of Pakistan. The valley has two main towns, Bahrain and Kalam. The inhabitants of this area are not Pakhtun, and speak the Dardic languages of Torwali and Gawri. Torwali is spoken in Bahrain and nearby villages and Gawri in Kalam and Utror. 

The recent floods in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa first entered this mountainous region. The Swat River and its tributaries, which devastated this already underdeveloped valley, seem to have taken the area two centuries into the past. What is happening in the area now is frightening, especially with winter imminent. 
A flash flood had hit the Swat Valley back in 1929, but old-timers who remember the disaster say the scale of the recent floods dwarfed that calamity. Further into the past, in the 4th century, AD, the Swat Valley had experienced a flood of similar magnitude. The flood washed away a number of Buddhist stupas and monasteries, and obliterated famous gardens. The Buddhist monuments that still exist survived because they were situated on higher ground. 

Aside from history, there are local legends and myths about Swat's past. Such as this one (and it was mentioned as fact in Swat's old history books): that the Swat River used to burst its banks every 12 years. According to another, a ruler of upper Swat turned into a dragon after he was killed, and it is that beast that somehow causes the floods. 

But the real dragon is the steady deforestation of the area. The reasons for that are many: population increase; the arrival of tourists, which, while it became a source of earning for the local people, caused environmental degradation in the absence of measures to prevent it; and erection of the large structures close to the river, at the expense of the trees along the banks. Together with indiscriminate logging in what used to be a thickly forested area only a few decades ago. 

So when the unprecedented floods struck in July, there was little tree cover to absorb their force. Nature extracted its revenge by wiping out the very structures that had been built at its expense, as well as the infrastructure, ravaging hundreds of thousands of lives in the process. 

For two months after the floods the area was almost entirely cut off from the rest of Pakistan. At the same time, the towns Madyan and Kalam were isolated from each other until a track for 4x4 vehicles was built to link them. 

The dozens of helicopters flights made every day between Guli Bagh and Kalam have improved the situation. By flying out farm produce from Kalam, the helicopters aid the economy of an area where people are otherwise forced to carry foodstuff and goods on their backs from one place to another on the track. Even an unburdened traveller must walk for days merely to return to his home village.

But the track is going to be rendered useless for four months when winter arrives in November. On average, the Swat-Kohistan valley receives five feet of snow, not to mention the frost. In case of heavy snowfalls there are frequent avalanches (again, a result of deforestation). Meanwhile, the weather is going to make helicopter flights all but impossible.

With no effective arrangement in place for delivery of food to the stricken area, people in the Swat-Kohistan valley generally expect starvation in winter. Therefore, unless those arrangements are made, the most likely prospect is mass migration from here, particularly from the villages of Gurnai, Kedam, Mankiyal, Pishmal, Kalam and Utror. 

But in the desperate situation, even migration is not an entirely feasible option, or many people would have started leaving now, if they had the means to do so, before winter strikes. 

Will the state of Pakistan be kind enough to help the people of this area? Apparently, there is little hope of that. "I don't have a solution," to quote some wag, "because I am part of the problem."

The writer is based in Bahrain Swat and heads IBT, a local NGO. Email: ztorwali @ 







 Very recently a security firm in Belarus discovered a "malware" which they called Stuxnet, a worm that spies on and reprograms industrial systems, the very first to successfully target critical industrial infrastructure. Specifically meant to attack "Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition" (SCADA) systems used to control and monitor industrial processes, Stuxnet specifically targets Siemens computers in the network by using infected USB flash drives. A major computer virus attack was made on the Windows computers at Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, however it does not seem to have damaged the major systems at the plant.
Designed as a kind of guided missile to target facilities, this virus is not the work of some odd hacker sitting at a computer. Only a government or a government-level group, with a well-financed highly organised team of programmers with access to plenty of specialised resources could have created it, a prime example of clandestine warfare. The educated speculation is that the virus was designed by Israel to target Iran. A virus of this type can effectively destroy an entire factory or power plant causing them to fail in ways virtually undetectable, the results could be as spectacular as the detonation of a bomb. There would be no trace of the bomber, or any way to find out who it is. The complexity of the software is very unusual for "malware", if Pakistan is using Siemens centrifuges, we are in deep trouble. Dangerous proliferation is a distinct possibility, if the problem is not fixed in the near future, independent hackers may soon start using it. Melissa Hathaway, a former US National Secretary Coordinator, has warned against proliferation "as a real problem, no country is prepared to deal with it." 


Addressing EWI's First Worldwide Cybersecurity Summit on May 4 and 5, 2010 in Dallas, Texas, EWI's President Edwin John Mroz said, "differing perceptions, concerns and suggested solutions availing from different points of the globe must be understood as a vital first step to find common ground for joint actions that are so desperately needed. We cannot allow the technological advances to continue outpacing common-sense-cybersecurity measures. It is time for the world to confront the challenges of our digital age," unquote. Paraphrasing this in the context of Pakistan, "it is time to understand and confront the imminent national security challenges we face because of our pathetic lack of knowledge of cybersecurity". Cyber warfare is rapidly developing into the "fifth domain", following the four domains of land, sea, air and space. 

The Summit recommended, viz (1) focusing on problems of common interest (technical issues, spam etc.) to find consensus and build trust (2) create an umbrella organisation integrating the 12 regional organisations round the world dealing with cybersecurity (3) Begin private-public dialogue in finding solutions, i.e. voluntary rating system of best practices, rewards for institutions that implement standards that reduce risk (4) Pay attention to critical international infrastructure (eg underwater sea cables) whose oversight and vital dependencies go beyond that of an individual nation-state or existing inter-governmental organisations (5) Establish a coordination centre between information response teams of different countries to act in case of a cyber catastrophe (6) Use Cyber technology in other ways, applications for humanitarian efforts and to find victims under debris to create a "safety blanket" when a disaster happens, etc and (7) countries experiencing a proliferation of spyware, especially in Asia, need to be more sensitised to the lack of a legal framework to regulate cyberspace and to combat cyber crimes.

Three levels of information warfare need to be understood (and regulated); political, military-strategic and military-tactical. Lastly, electronic warfare oriented to single-enemy targets or groupings in a localised vicinity is often overlooked. If there were an ability to demonstrate a specific entity's or a foreign government's complicity in an attack, what are the options for response? A physical attack on any nation is an act of war that would certainly be met with retaliation, should the same principle apply in the context of Internet attacks in cyberspace? Should cyber policies hold a hosting state responsible for attacks launched by its agents, sanctioned or not? Is the response to a cyber attack limited to the cyber world or are physical responses on the table? If Iran discovers Israel was the source of the Stuxnet attack on Bushehr, what next?

According to renowned cybersecurity expert, Lt Gen (USAF Retd) Harry D Raduege Jr, the US built a "strategic triad" of land, sea and airborne nuclear weapons during the cold war that deterred a nuclear attack. The US now needs a "cyber triad" that will similarly deter cyber attacks. The first is "resilience", the enemy knowing that a nuclear first strike was futile, the second part of the triad will be "attribution", to determine where and how the cyber attack emanated. The final leg of the triad, "offensive capabilities", is the only way to deter any attackers from taking the ultimate risk of overwhelming retaliation. The US National Security Council (NSC) says, "an overwhelming military response is a vital option to a massive cybersecurity attack."
A cyber physical attack may well herald something far more dangerous, this difference is important for Pakistan. India's "COLD START" plan is Pakistan-specific, an all-out physical attack across our frontiers against vital Pakistani targets by pre-designated forces without any mobilisation and without any warning. Viewed in conjunction with and preceded by a cyber attack, this becomes ominous. Both in 2002 and 2008, India reacted to terrorist excesses by non-state actors by blaming Pakistan, that brought us very close to total war. India's capacity and vast lead over us in cyber issues is something which we cannot be complacent about conceding to. To forestall an all-out war that may happen because of the machinations of third forces it is necessary to put into place pragmatic confidence-building measures leading to a fail-safe mechanism in place. Worse, in upending over present nuclear détente India may over-estimate the effectiveness of its cyber attack aimed at crippling our nuclear machine. Our self-defence measures will trigger massive nuclear retaliation, Armageddon anyone?

Pakistan's domestic preventive measures must be a part of civil defence in the overall concept of national security viz (1) educating awareness, capacity and trust building, as well as systematic training of key policy makers and the overall population (2) not take for granted the Internet being "on" forever, being down would "rain disaster" on online businesses as well as transport, industry and government surveillance systems". It makes strategic sense to use cyber potential as a weapon of war. Other than education, the basic elements required for security are governance and technology. Moving forward, security must be designed into new software and hardware products from the earliest planning stages and (3) Interconnectedness mandates multilateral coordination. A cohesive and coordinated approach that reflects existing political structures have remained elusive at the regional -- much less global -- level. 

After 1971 Pakistan should have no illusion about our "friends" coming to our help in time of our dire need to defend us, given the uneven conventional balance we built up with our nuclear deterrent. Similarly our cyber defences must be built both at the strategic and tactical level. The problem is that the speed of the possible attack limits our response with respect to time, we do not have the luxury of second-guessing a cyber first-strike. Our strategic planners must put in place (and soon) a potent and credible defence mechanism against a cyber "COLD START" from malware of the Stuxnet-kind.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email:








 There is no dearth of demagogues in Pakistan -- torch-bearers of democracy, harbingers of better times, whom we elevate to the highest offices, hoping against hope that after a couple of decades of systematic corruption, once their coffers have swollen to the point of explosion, a messiah will somehow rise from amongst them to deliver us from their tyranny and steer the country onto the path of glory. 

Oh please wake up! Our demagogues, and some of the cleverest people living, like the US President Obama -- he must be clever; he is the most influential man on earth, as was George of the Jungle (Bush) before him, whose tales of wisdom will never fade -- would have us believe that democracy is the antidote to all the disease and madness that afflicts Pakistan.

People insist that bearing the tyranny of the present government and the likes thereof is necessary if we are to bear the ripe fruit of democracy. This is almost certainly as untrue as it would be to say that you can only enjoy a trip abroad if you take a sea voyage; any other means of getting there would not be as effective. Paradoxically, that logic is senseless. In almost every discipline of life, there are few constants and many variables, which make uniformity practically impossible. So, too, in governance, a model (in this case, democracy) that has worked well for one nation may not be deemed appropriate for another. From another perspective, perhaps it might bring desirable changes, but some other form of governance might have accelerated effects on a country's economy. 

Democratic USA may well be the sole super power, but it took them a protracted bloody civil war and hundreds of years to get there, as it did for the European nations. Kudos to those nations who capitalised on the system and have ever since endeavoured to perfect and mould it according to their needs. There are other nations, however, who chose to experiment and think out-of-the-box to suit the requirements of their own resources, material or human. 

Malaysia is a case in point. When Mahathir Mohammad became the Prime Minister of Malaysia, he evolved the system popularly known as Guided Democracy. This hybrid of democracy and autocracy, which kept Mahatir Mohammad in place for 22 years, gave him the opportunity to roll the wheels for Malaysia, which saw a great surge of economic activity, and the infrastructure of the country improved dramatically. 

China is another exception. Its unique 'one country, two systems' approach has led China to become a nation to reckon with -- with its double-digit growth in recent years, as well as its power to protect itself and rescue others from the recent global financial crisis, it is no wonder that even the United States feels threatened by it. It may not be the perfect system, and China's economic growth may well be attributed to a whole array of other factors, but the same holds true for any system in any country. 

Take India, for example. India is a democratic country, but its parliamentarians are known to be some of the most corrupt the world has ever known. Would you have me believe that India has a higher GDP growth, and is faring better in the world arena than Pakistan, because we had military interventions while they did not? I would rather give the credit to capitalism and the shrinking of the globe, which made India a mouth-watering investment venue for the big sharks (read MNCs). Rich in resources, and with a population of over a billion people and a relatively high literacy rate even at the time of partition, India has managed to venture into space, have its say in world politics, and make significant contributions to medicine and other fields. In short, India was able to capitalise on its material and human resources, and was thus able to strengthen its institutions. 
In Pakistan, on the other hand, the feudal lords (the chaudrys and sardars etc) who imminently became our leaders and politicians, never encouraged education in Pakistan. Even now, the adult literacy rate (though the figure of 54 per cent is greatly exaggerated) remains amongst the lowest in the world. Again, I reiterate that since the overwhelming majority of voters in our country are illiterate, democracy is ill-suited to Pakistan. What we need is a system unique to our country's needs. 

I propose Technocracy -- a large group of technocrats as heads of their fields of expertise in Pakistan, appointed by the Supreme Court (the very same that the people of Pakistan and especially the media worked so frantically to restore, and on which all and sundry had pinned high hopes to provide respite from blatant injustice and to deliver them from the hypocrisy and empty words of tyrannical rulers). Since they will not be elected, fake degrees won't do. They should serve for five years, after which, based on their performances, their contracts should be extendable every year. When our institutions have been strengthened, greater literacy achieved, and resources exploited, that is when we can safely venture to brace democracy, if we really must. 
Let's call a spade, a spade. Let's see our demagogues for what they are: broken wind instruments that no-one wants to hear. And let us also acknowledge that as far as Pakistan is concerned, democracy is not the road to perdition; on the contrary, it leads to certain doom, to the abysmal hell this life is becoming for the people of Pakistan. 

The writer is a teacher based in Islamabad. Email: