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Monday, September 6, 2010

EDITORIAL 06.09.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month september 06, edition 000618, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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














  5. 3G services and third-generation tariff wars - Anandita Singh Mankotia
































  6. 1938 IN 2010 - BY PAUL KRUGMAN






  4. AID = AIDS



















Red terror stares us in the face, yet there is reluctance on part of Government to hit back with full force. Soon, it will be too late

The perils of inaction are greater than those of action. Yet whether it is with respect to the rise of separatism in the Kashmir Valley or the Maoist insurgency, we — as a nation — have come to rely upon a comfortable time lag of 20 to 30 years or even half-a-century between our perception of a crisis and a serious effort on our part to resolve it.

It is customary never to attempt a solution to a problem until it threatens to overwhelm us. History has it that the Mughal empire was city-based. Its rulers left the people living in villages alone to fend for themselves. This is exactly what is happening today. Maoists are ruling the roast in the rural areas of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. 

Public memory is short and professional rabble-rousers — fortunately, they are few in number — get more publicity for condemning police than damning these mass murderers. Readers would recollect that in the second week of April this year, Maoists wiped off an entire company of 76 CRPF jawans in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada followed by another group of 26 securitymen shortly after that incident. 

The brazenness with which the Maoists carried out one of their largest offensives, killing at least 36 policemen, including a Superintendent of Police, in Chhattisgarh in the second week of July 2009 should have jolted the Union Government to its senses, but unfortunately it did not. Despite the Prime Minister expressing deep concern about a "virtual collapse of law and order in view of extortion demands, display of arms, encroachments on public property and the militant rhetoric of Maoist leaders at rallies and meetings", the ground situation remains unchanged.

The Maoists, meanwhile mince no words about their long-term objectives. The general secretary of the banned CPI (Maoist) has not only justified the killing of Sunil Mahto, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Member of Parliament, but also endorsed Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah's infamous thesis that the Left should join the Islamists in fighting globalisation. Their latest offence, which they have got away with so far, is the abduction of four personnel of the Bihar Military Police. They have murdered one of them in order to force the Government to release eight of their men.

It is a bizarre spectacle and one in which so-called far Left 'sympathisers' are even justifying murders by these terrorists going by the name of Maoists. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, who had once vowed to end the Maoist violence, is strangely silent. In all fairness to him, he had tried his best to enlist the use of the Air Force and the Army in the Government's operations against Maoists but was clearly overruled or given a "limited mandate", to use his words. 

Admitting the enormity of the problem, the Minister had said in February, "The Naxal menace is far worse than we expected. As long as we didn't engage them, they were happy, but they kept on expanding their base. They will continue to expand unless we challenge them… Maoists will try every trick in the book to gain the support of the people. They will seduce the media, unleash false charges and widen their circle of influence. Most people think there is (the possibility of) a compromise or a mid-way approach. That is most naive. The most difficult challenge is finding well-trained and well-equipped police personnel... For doing all this, one needs a strong head, a stronger heart and staying power. It is a difficult period on many issues. We have been in a state of denial. This makes my task all the more difficult… There are 3,00,000 vacancies in the constabulary, vacancies in the IPS. The police suffer from poor equipment, poor training and their average age is touching 40. This has been the cumulative effect of the past 20 years and the situation cannot be changed in two years."

The Union Government seems to have washed its hands of the problem under the specious plea of law and order being a State subject. It knows full well that the States have neither the resources nor the expertise to deal with an issue that spans over half-a-dozen States.

The Prime Minister and the Home Minister can find time to review the preparations for the Commonwealth Games and pass instructions to appropriate authorities but have no time to go to the families of the policemen, either kidnapped or killed, in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. Maoists have tasted blood and they are confident that they can force the Government to capitulate before them.

In 2008, in order to secure the release of a Station House Officer, the West Bengal Government facilitated the release of some persons at the behest of Maoists. The Maoists beheaded a police inspector in Jharkhand after kidnapping him in 2009. For securing the freedom of a kidnapped Block Development Officer in Jharkhand, the then Chief Minister abjectly surrendered to a deal involving the release of 14 Maoists. Emboldened, the Maoists now insist on setting the terms of authority's surrender.

They have found support in the ranks of some so-called political activists who obviously do not attach much value to the lives of policemen and civilians. For them, the milk of human kindness seems to flow only in one direction — that of killers and seditionists. If the Government bends its principles to accommodate their demands, it is going to be very demoralising for the police and other security agencies to keep up the fight against Maoists.

The Maoist insurgency is a national problem and not that of a particular State ruled by parties other than those comprising the ruling coalition, the UPA. The time for dialogue and deliberation is long past and if the malaise is left unattended, it will spread to other States. Not only the State Governments but also the mighty Union Government, with the help of Air Force and the Army, must strike back now. 

Additionally, lawmakers must frame specific legislation required to deal with the problem. Drafted in 1863, the present laws have loopholes that allow Maoists to go unpunished for lack of evidence which local residents are reluctant to provide for fear of reprisal attacks. Hence the burden of proof should lie on defence and not on prosecution. As Edward Tryon once said, where duty is plain, delay is both foolish and hazardous; where it is not, it may provide both wisdom and safety. 

(The picture shows joint forces jawans escorting Maoist-backed PCPA secretary Manoj Mahato after taking him into their custody in West Midnapore district of West Bengal on Saturday.)







If there is ever a global contest for which country excels in the 'Art of Denial', Pakistan will win it hands down. Faced with glaring proof of at least three of its cricketers' involvement in match-fixing and spot-fixing, Islamabad has not only trashed the evidence that has emerged but has also gone ahead to virtually accuse India of conspiring to fix the "innocent players". And what is the proof for that? The fact that the International Cricket Council, which has suspended the accused players, is headed by an Indian — Mr Sharad Pawar! Pakistan is upset that the ICC should have used its dreaded anti-corruption code against its players after they had 'voluntarily' opted out of the remaining matches of the England tour, and has alleged that Mr Pawar's hand is evident in persuading the world cricket body to act tough. Such is Pakistan's phobia of anything Indian, it is willing to ignore the maze of corruption that exists in its cricketing ranks and the urgent need to cleanse the country's cricket team of tainted elements. Instead of taking a moral position and initiating stern action against those who have fetched Pakistan disrepute — not that there's much reputation left to be tarred — that country has gone on an overdrive to discredit efforts at unravelling the scandal. It is not that Mr Pawar summarily suspended the players; the ICC anti-corruption cell chief found enough reason to come to the conclusion, after an inquiry over five days, that the disgraced players had a "case to answer". That Pakistan wants to play politics and not cricket as it is supposed to be played is clear from the fact that it chose to field its High Commissioner to Britain to defend the tainted players and hurl abuse at India: This is the same man who had claimed that the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba/ISI-sponsored fidayeenattack on Mumbai was planned on a ship on high sea and hence Pakistan could not be held accountable! If only the Pakistanis would accept that corruption in its cricket team is neither about India 'plotting' to malign its neighbour nor about the world conspiring against a pitiable, failing state, perhaps some good might have come out of the latest scandal to hit cricket.

Pakistan is not the first country to be hit by betting scandals; the Indian cricketing establishment has suffered similar ignominy. For that matter, cricketers from several countries have been disgraced in the past by match-fixing scams. Therefore, there is no reason for Pakistan to take the issue as an affront to its collective pride, though it remains a mystery as to how a country virtually begging and badgering others for aid to deal with a natural calamity can afford to be proud. Nor should we ignore the fact that its political establishment is thoroughly corrupt, as is its military-jihadi complex, which together rule Pakistan with the sole purpose of self-aggrandisement of politicians and generals. A country that is repeatedly described as the most dangerous place in the world, a country that is torn by strife and Islamist violence, a country that is at war with itself, a country that unabashedly provides protection to the Taliban and Al Qaeda leadership and considers terrorist organisations like the LeT as 'strategic assets', and a country which promotes cross-border terrorism, needs to look within.







Indians can pay for real estate that rivals the most luxurious anywhere in the world; but India cannot pay to house its poorest. Indians can pay to travel to the most exotic destinations in the world; but India cannot prevent ticket-less travelling on trains because people cannot afford to pay. These and other maddening differences between what some Indians can do and what India cannot have been explained away with shrugs as paradoxes by various sets of public opinion. Pundits explain the difference as that between shining India and sufferingBharat. But that is not what this is all about; the tolerance of shining India to the poverty of suffering Bharat and vice versa is why the intolerable contradictions fail to create a people's alliance that can demand and ensure some consistency on certain issues like hunger, shelter, education, healthcare. The proposed countrywide strike by the seven Central trade unions, including the Indian National Trade Union Congress, is an indication that patience is wearing thin in some places. Some six crore unionised workers with divergent political affiliations are expected to join forces to raise a variety of demands that effectively boils down to just that one fundamental issue — dignity. As a big-ticket event on the trade union calendar, the nationwide strike will be the lever that various local trade union chapters hope will work to release large sums of money as bonus or production incentives. 

With economic recovery still shaky after the global financial meltdown, trade unions are under pressure to work harder at extracting payouts. Having remained dormant when the economy's graph was headed consistently north, the revival of the trade unions is an indication of how truly difficult economic conditions have become in the past 24 months, compounded by the callousness of a Government that cannot figure out how prices of food and other essential commodities are going to behave in the short and medium term. For the Congress-led UPA Government is clearly operating on the premise that in the long term India's suffering masses do not matter. The Government should not be blamed, however, for its all-round failure because tolerance has taught Indians to overlook, forget and forgive every trespass, betrayal and dishonour. Food can rot in the godowns while people starve. Retired babus and their families can enjoy privileges in perpetuity while most Indians cannot afford to retire and those who are compelled to do so eke out an existence without dignity. The gaps, the paradoxes and the contradictions are pathetic for a nation that aspires to emerge as a global power with a powerful economy, a country that boasts of high growth but has low equity, a society that is dominated by the uncaring middle-classes which can only think of themselves and not India — or Bharat, for that matter.






The cancelling of Vedanta's $ 1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri has spiked the Naveen Patnaik-led Odisha Government's development-through-mining programme and could mean political advantage for the Congress. The next target could be Vedanta's Lanjigarh refinery against which protest is mounting by the day

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's mega industry plank has come a cropper. London-listed aluminium czar Vedanta Resources, which enjoys the patronage of the BJD Government has received a strong blow with the Ministry of Environment and Forest nixing a $ 1.7 billion proposed bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri.

The decision came following the NC Saxena Committee terming the proposed mining project illegal and recommending that the project should not be allowed to go ahead. The Forest Advisory Committee under the Environment Ministry reviewed the NC Saxena Committee report and made further recommendations on which the Ministry took a final call.

The findings of the four-member experts panel, headed by Naresh C Saxena, member of the National Advisory Council came as a no-holds-barred indictment on Vedanta and the functioning of the BJD Government in Odisha. In its 119-page report, the committee constituted jointly by the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Ministry of Tribal Affairs on June 29 has cited violation of a series of laws by Vedanta in active collusion of the State Government.

"Vedanta Company has consistently violated the Forest Conservation Act, Forest Rights Act, Environment (Protection) Act and the Orissa Forest Act in active collusion with the state officials," the report said.

It was in 2003 that Vedanta Resources had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Odisha Government for construction of an alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district to process aluminium for export. The Lanjigarh refinery commenced full operations in 2007. The refinery sources minerals from the indigenous mines of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. To make the aluminium processing cost effective the company proposed to mine Niyamgiri Hills of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, situated adjoining the refinery and estimated to have approximately 73 million tonnes of mineable ore. The Ministry of Environment had given in-principle approval to Orissa Mining Corporation to mine for Vedanta's refinery in December 2008 following a Supreme Court order. The Lanjigarh refinery was awaiting green signal from the Environment Ministry for mining the Niyamgiri hills. The proposed mining project involves the diversion of 660.740 hectares of forest land which would lead to axing of 1,21,337 trees.

The proposed Niyamgiri project was likely to affect 5,148 people living in 28 Kondh villages. It includes two of the most endangered primitive tribal groups — the Dongria Kondh and the Kutia Kondh — who are heavily dependent on forest produce for their livelihood. Landless Dalits who live in these villages and are dependent upon the Kondh would also be similarly affected.

"Allowing mining in the proposed mining lease area by depriving two Primitive Tribal Groups of their rights over the proposed mining site in order to benefit a private company would shake the faith of tribal people in the laws of the land which may have serious consequences for the security and well being of the entire country," the NC Saxena Committee report observed.

The report cited that in the mining project there had been flagrant violation of Forest Conservation Act, Forest Rights Act and Orissa Forest Act while diverting forest land for non-forest purposes. In Niyamgiri — which is protected under Schedule V of Indian Constitution — as per Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, the gram sabhas (hamlets in a Scheduled Area) should be consulted for diversion of forest land under the Forest (Conservation) Act. The rights of the forest dweller over their traditional habitat needs to be recognised first under the Forest Rights Act and then under the Orissa Forest Act. The gram sabhas are the statutory bodies for implementation of the Forest Rights Act. No forest land can be diverted for non-forest purpose unless gram sabhas certify that implementation of the Forest Rights Act is complete.

"… the process of recognition of rights under the Forest Rights Act has not been completed; the consent of the concerned community has neither been sought nor obtained; and the gram sabhas of the area concerned have not certified on both these points as required," the report said.

As brought out by the report, it is interesting to note that the local authorities had even gone to the extent of providing false certificates to show that the Forest Rights Act has been implemented in the proposed mine areas.

Stating further violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, the report noted that a 3.5 km long road to the proposed mining site was constructed through the forest area, parallel to Vedanta's conveyor corridor which also formed part of the village forest lands.

The report observed that mining Niyamgiri hills would have severely degraded the ecosystem of the rich wildlife habitat. The panel has also found serious faults with Vedanta's Lanjigarh refinery project as well. In a severe violation of conditions of operation, Vedanta Resources had expanded the existing annual production capacity of its refinery six-fold — from one million tonnes per annum to six million tonnes per annum — without obtaining environmental clearance. "This expansion, its extensive scale and advanced nature, is in complete violation of the Environment (Protection) Act and is an expression of the contempt with which this company treats the laws of the land," the report said highlighting the violation of the Environment (Protection) Act by Vedanta refinery.

Stating that Vedanta flagrantly violated the Forest Conservation Act in its refinery project, the report said, "The company is in illegal occupation of 26.123 hectares of village forest lands enclosed within the refinery premises." "This… shows an appalling degree of collusion on the part of the concerned officials," it added.

The report further stated that the refinery has been accorded clearance under the Environmental Protection Act by falsifying and concealing information about the nature/designation of land acquired. "From the beginning, the State Administration and Vedanta Alumina both knew that large tracts of forest land were required for the refinery as well as for mining. However, they deliberately misled the MoEF on this point," the report said.

The NC Saxena Committee report did not spare the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs either for turning a blind eye to the project. Even when the proposal for diversion of forestlands for setting up the refinery was pending before the MoEF; how Vedanta was accorded environmental clearance on the same basis has been questioned. The committee also slammed the Ministry of Tribal Affairs saying it is so weak to the extent that it cannot implement its own laws related to displacement and tribal welfare.

The expert panel in its report shows in both Niyamgiri and Lanjigarh projects, Vedanta have thrown existing laws out of the window and hence recommended to set aside both the projects. But the MoEF has rejected environment clearance to the Niyamgiri mining project only, which would automatically seal the fate of Lanjigarh refinery project. It remains to be seen what actions to be taken against the culprits. But, for the tribals of Niyamgiri, only half the battle is won. As long as the Lanjigarh refinery exists, threat looms large over Niyamgiri.

Meanwhile, the once-neglected Niyamgiri has been witness to some never-seen-before games of political oneupmanship. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has become the new patron of the Niyamgiri movement. "I am your soldier in Delhi," Mr Gandhi told a tribal rally claiming his stake as the new 'tribal messiah'. A shamed BJD termed the NC Saxena Committee report as politically motivated and drew inferences connecting it to the visit of the Gandhi scion. The BJP demanded the resignation of the Chief Minister on moral grounds.

"Naveen Patnaik's blueprint of corruption is out in the open. The State Government was caught red-handed selling Odisha's riches to private firms at the cost of the rights of the poor. Naveen Patnaik is anti-tribal and anti-poor. He has no right to continue in the office," Odisha BJP president and former Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Jual Oram said.







The Home Minister is being less than fair when he spots the armed cadre of one party and fails to notice those of another party. This will do nobody, least of all the Congress, any good

It is embarrassing that Mr P Chidambaram is required for political compulsions to issue statements on the 'armed cadre' of the Communist Party of India (Marxists) in West Bengal that sound awfully naïve, for the Union Home Minister of India cannot afford the luxury of hamming it for effect. 

In doing so, Mr Chidambaram is fulfilling his duty as a party man assiduous in promoting the interests of the Congress, but failing to conduct himself with the circumspection required of the Home Minister. The capacity to see the armed cadre of only one political party is an instance of revealing that the Union Home Minister has a conveniently blind eye that can be turned away from the political reality — every party in West Bengal and in India can mobilise armed cadre. 

The muffled traders captured on television at the illegal gun making "factories" in Munger, Bihar are as famous as those of Koddaikkal in Vellore, Tamil Nadu and in Chittor, Andhra Pradesh. The clientele exist in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Haryana and Punjab. The routine haul of arms, ammunition and explosives before every single election in India from every single State in the Union is something that the Union Home Minister is well aware of. 

Bollywood has specialised in a genre of films that romanticise the gun totting brigades and the villainous political patrons. 

The nexus between politics and muscle power is exemplified in a slogan raised by Laloo Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Barh constituency of Bihar, "Bahubali ko crore, dal badloo ko lakh, janata ko mila khaak, yehi hai sukhad ahsas" (Crore to the muscle-man, lakh to defector, nothing for people, this is the happy ending). 

It should be the concern of all political parties and not just Mr Chidambaram pushed out in front of the audience to talk about and deal with the role of muscle power in Indian politics and its consequences for democratic politics. This is not to argue that the CPI(M) in West Bengal can be absolved of the crime of harbouring armed cadres that are deployed for political purposes. This is not to argue that other anti-Left Front parliamentary political parties in West Bengal have not done exactly the same. 

The point that needs to be argued is what are the political parties that have raised the alarm doing about it? The game of the pot calling the kettle black and so expecting the voter to grant absolution on that count has been going on for far too long, including in West Bengal. Since the days of the national movement, the use of force as the scourge of the oppressor has been romanticised. The locally made bomb — the pato, explosives augmented with splinters wrapped in jute string — is a cult object in West Bengal. The origins of this improvised explosive device are obscure, but there are references to it in pre-Independence conspiracy cases, or so historians claim. The number of memoirs that detail how "establishment" families harboured gun-totting political crusaders points to the elite support for violent politics. What were romantic, brave and patriotic acts, then, by educated young people from elite families has in a more democratic age become the legitimate occupation of the upwardly mobile. 

In the 1960s when Kolkata reverberated with the slogan — power comes from the barrel of a gun — it produced frissons of pleasure among those happiest raising revolution in a cup of tea. The second phase of those turbulent times was the evolution of the romantic anti-establishment into the dreaded "Cong-shal," a combination of Congress thugs and Naxalites, who operated from behind the legitimising shield thrown up by a Congress headed administration. It is fact that when the Congress, the Naxalites and the CPI(M) were waging war against each other in the turbulent 1970s, it was a war fought with arms and explosives. The role of the police as complicit in the violence was established then. 

It is absurd to promise that the role of former Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray in the 1970s violence would be investigated post 2011 and to argue that if the CPI(M) headed Left Front Government failed to find fault with the Ray Government it was because the Congress, the Naxalites and the police were not part of the violence that was everyday occurrence. It is equally absurd to claim that the CPI(M) in the 1970s was the sole perpetrator of political crimes. That contradicts too much that is part of living memory in West Bengal and of its contemporary political leadership. Too many political leaders cutting across party lines have talked to too many people about their exploits to now whitewash what happened. 

It, therefore, does not behove Mr Chidambaram to help in falsification of evidence because that is a breach of responsibility that is best avoided. 







The Second World War formally ended on September 2, 1945 with Japan's surrender. There is a popular saying that a war is over when the last soldiers killed are buried. With WWII, however, things aren't so simple.

The Second World War was a beast born of WWI, known in Europe as the Great War. Some alternative historians see them as two phases in the same war, separated by a fragile truce. This seems logical: For 30 years, the world tried to destroy itself in trenches and gas chambers, at logging sites and in slums blighted by misery and unemployment. It measured the shapes of skulls and class distinctions, and meticulously calculated the percentage of Jewish or Japanese blood in people destined for death camps or internment camps.

By 1945, after tens of millions had died, the world finally came to its senses and began to deal with the aftermath. Nuremberg and Tokyo, a policy of zero tolerance for Nazi and fascist ideologies, criminal responsibility for soldiers who were "just following orders", the concept of crimes against humanity, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and a manhunt for war criminals that continues to this day. This horrific period in human history culminated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the cornerstone of modern humanity's atomic myth, which furthered pacifist attitudes around the world.

It must have been the living memory of WWII that pulled the world back from the brink of a new "hot" war in the 1950s and 60s. The 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 was a dangerous balancing act. Humanity pulled back from the brink of the abyss thanks only to the fact that the Second World War has never ended. All nations engaged in hostilities in the 1940s continue fighting to this day on an invisible front, in a varying degree, either against each other or themselves.

Japan's Prime Minister is berated by the liberal press for visiting the Yasukuni Shrine every year to pay tribute to Japanese soldiers killed in WWII. German historians unvaryingly estimate the number of civilians killed during the Allied bombings of Dresden at 18,000-25,000 — this despite 60 years of related studies and numerous alternative estimates that put the number of civilian casualties as high as 60,000-1,00,000 and even more.

But there is little hypocrisy in all this: It's just that the winners have made the losers adapt their minds and behaviour to a different reality. The nations that unleashed WWII, Germany and Japan, have now had a guilt complex built into their collective consciousness.

When you are taught to be ashamed of a period in your country's history for decades, at some point you will turn your attention to plans for the future instead of searching for answers in the past.

Paradoxically, the allies are facing far greater problems with their national identities. The United States is the least affected, because it won the subsequent battle against the Eastern bloc.

WWII remains one of the most painful subjects in Russia's history. The nation's fresh memories of that war and its grief for the victims (around 14 per cent of the population, according to some estimates) were transformed by the Soviet regime into a jingoistic ideology, devoid of any living emotion. This ideology was used to hold the country together in the final decades of the Soviet Union, after Communist ideals had already lost their universal appeal.

Little has changed since then. Moscow is still trying hard to uphold the image of Russia as a victorious nation. It has now declared war on those who try to falsify the history of WWII, and it ferociously battles against "misrepresentations" made by ex-Soviet republics and countries of the former Eastern bloc.

The Communist idealism of the 1920s-60s may seem naive to new generations of Russians, who came out of the anarchy of the early post-Soviet years with a cynical outlook. But the philosophy built around those ideals probably had more substance and more capacity to unite the nation than the new WWII jingoism. Perhaps most significantly, it was a future-oriented philosophy.

A famous WWII photo, taken on board USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945 shows the one-legged Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu of Japan bent over a low table to sign the Instrument of Surrender. Looking on from across the table is Lieutenant-General Richard Sutherland, the Chief of Staff to General Douglas MacArthur, Commander of the Allied Force in the Pacific. It looks as if Shigemitsu is bowing ceremoniously to the victors. An apologetic smile on his face would have made that impression complete. But looking at this photo, it is hard to imagine the US conservatives of the 1970s, who saw Japanese cars pushing Fords and Chevrolets off American roads and asked, "For this we fought on Okinawa and Guadalcanal?"

The nations defeated in WWII have been deprived of a large chunk of their history, and they have made up for it by creating a new future for themselves and giving other nations no choice but to accept it. The winners, meanwhile, content themselves with proudly looking back on their glorious past.

Winners always have something to lose, and they often get stuck in the past as a result. Losers, on the other hand, have no choice but to look forward.

Perhaps it is time for Russia, the loser in the Cold War, to stop building bronze monuments to itself and to start looking for ways to build a new future, as its WWII adversaries have.

(The writer is Moscow based columnist.) 








THE heart- rending story coming out of Prayas, an NGO run juvenile observation home in Delhi, is a comment on the functioning of such homes in this country. When a 13- year- old boy recently broke down before a magistrate narrating his ordeal of being beaten up by the superintendent of this home, he may have been only highlighting what is a routine affair at such places.


As if what he had undergone was not bad enough, the boy was again beaten up by the official in question for daring to open his mouth. This man apparently runs the place like his fiefdom and flaunts the hold he has over the juvenile offenders.


This is not the first such instance involving the said home that has provoked a complaint — ironically, Prayas claims to be ' the best observation home in Asia'. In June, two cases were brought to the attention of the authorities who chose to do nothing about them.


Why this was so is easily explained. The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights is headed by Amod Kanth who also happens to run Prayas, the juvenile home in question. That there was a clear conflict of interest in Kanth ordering a probe into one such incident, when the institution under the scanner was his own, is something the government has not bothered to consider.


The state of government run juvenile homes in the country is as pathetic. Juveniles booked for criminal offences frequently get into fights and escape from Sewa Kutir, the government run observation home in Delhi, every few weeks. And mind you, this is Delhi, the national capital.


Child rights activists say such institutions are in desperate need of monitoring where standards are laid down for how they are run and accountability ensured. Several commissions have made recommendations to this effect over the years which have been gathering dust. For instance, there is a need to segregate undertrials from convicted criminals at such homes but this is yet to happen. This is even stranger when one considers that these institutions are not overcrowded, with most juvenile offenders getting bail.


The quality of child care facilities in India in general is appalling. It is highly convenient for our governments to neglect them because orphans and other children who have nowhere to go don't comprise vote banks even if they may be citizens of this country.







CONGRESS General Secretary Rahul Gandhi's intervention on the Niyamgiri issue has brought the issue of the rights of local communities to the forefront of the political discourse.


Rahul's influence is clearly reflected in the draft Bill that is being drawn up by the government to ensure a fair deal for those affected by mining operations and also in the sense of urgency with which the government seems to be operating on the matter. That the draft Bill recognises the local community as a genuine stakeholder on the mining question is in itself revolutionary.


The proposal that the mining firms should share at least 25 per cent of the profit with the local people marks a break from the past when the firms paid royalty to the government alone.


If indeed the government includes the existing projects also within the ambit of the Bill, it would mean that controversial projects such as that of Tata Steel in Kalinganagar are also brought into the arrangement of profit sharing with the local population.


The proposal to invite foreign direct investment into mining can help clean up the rampant malpractices that take place in the grant of mining leases. Exploration and mining rights are granted by state governments to individual players with dubious credentials, that too for a pittance.


If enacted, the Bill can help the government counter the Maoists, who have often cashed in on the anger of those displaced by mining activities. It can also help break the nexus that the Maoists have with certain dubious mining entities in a state like Chhattisgarh.


Mining is crucial for economic development and the issue has always been of respectable compensation to those displaced rather than opposition to mining altogether. The draft Bill should serve as the basis for a more equitable and comprehensive land acquisition policy.








THE INDIAN Parliament's most popular method of passing legislation is with sparse, or no, discussion.

Democratic voices have to be media shrill and strong to register. In the case of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill ( CNL Bill), the voices were strong. The basic objection of the protesters was that having surrendered sovereignty to America under the Nuclear Deal, the Nuclear Bill played to the interests of foreign suppliers and Indian operators and others to cheat the people of India of just recompense.


Remember Hiroshima. Remember Chernobyl. Remember Bhopal.


The hue and cry led to referring the Bill to the Dr. Subbarami Reddy Committee on 13 May 2010 whom Vice- President Hamid Ansari accused of interpolation. It reported on 18 August 2010 with a dissent from Dr. Barun Mukherjee who pointed out that " many countries are not members of any liability convention and only 4 out of 30 members have ratified the 1997 convention". He found the suggested changes to the present provisions " absurdly low". Salman Pathak's other dissenting view was that the Committee had failed to " keep the interests of the Indian people … as its core concern" and " unduly favour( ed) foreign suppliers". The Committee heard the government departments, visited nuclear plants — was satisfied with the safety measures — and heard some NGOs, trade unions, business associations and the insurance industry.




Passing this Bill was critical to show India's good faith to America and other supplier nations. Compromises were worked out with the BJP, when they could not be forced on the Left. The CNL Bill broadly contains ( i) liability and ( ii) machinery provisions. Some 18 amendments were tabled, seven were accepted mostly over the liability provisions.


After the amendment, the Bill fails to exude a complete and comprehensive responsibility for accidents, victims, loss and livelihood. In the Bichri case ( 1995), following Oleum Gas ( 1986), the Supreme Court has laid down absolute liability ( whether negligent or intentional or otherwise) for any and all damage due to escape from a hazardous unit. This is still a good law; and woe- betide a parliament that destroys this umbrella protection.


The Bill continues to shortchange liability and therefore responsibility. Some provisions are unoriginally salutary; some inadequate. ( i) By making the Bill applicable to government owned or controlled by government enterprises ( new Section 3A), private operators are excluded from the operation of the Act. It is an improvement only because present operators are government controlled and owned. But, with this and also the changed meaning of " operator", the Bill vitally excludes future private operators from the Act.


One problem is solved; another imbedded.


( ii) Changes were made by the Committee in the definition clauses. The Health Secretary had wisely recommended that nuclear damage should include loss of life, injury and " immediate and long term health impact" ( Clause 2( f)( i)). Likewise ' environment' was to be given a wider meaning ( iii) The big change is in Clause 6 of the Bill empowering the government to increase the liability from 300 Special Drawing Rights ( SDR) equal to about ` 2,100 crore if it wants. Then a graded and lesser responsibility is now introduced for different kinds of reactors and plants. Why this mumbo- jumbo? The Committee had suggested tripling the liability. Why not an absolute liability clause which simply says that the maximum liability shall be the actual damage caused. Why should the taxpayer pay the amount in excess beyond the maximum? Further, the new change requires that, if necessary, the government will assume the liability of the private operator, if in the public interest.


Clearly, issues have been fudged. ( iv) Suppliers liability was, and remains guarded. The Committee wanted the Indian operator ( mind you, not the victim) to have the " right to recourse" against the supplier for any connected damage, but left the operator with the defence that if the damage was not intentional, the supplier would not be liable.




The BJP wanted this ' intent' defence dropped. However, the Lok Sabha passed the Bill with the ' intent' clause intact! What is not clear is what a " right to recourse" means? 10 years of litigation? Arbitration? In other words, the liability amendments shortchange people's concerns, make a farce of the operators' liability, deny absolute liability and let off the supplier for connected but not intentional loss.


Some changes were also made in the machinery provisions ( i) Most cases would go to a Claims Commissioner unless the government wants to send it to a Claims Commission. Good grief! Why? ( ii) As far as the composition of the Claims Commission is concerned, only the composition of the selection committee to appoint Commissioners is now stated ( clause 20). But we are still left with the possibility of either a sitting judge being appointed or an advocate of 10 years standing ( including a party hack!) as chairperson. For the other members, with the minimum age at 55 years, the posts are ripe for retired bureaucrats. These are cosmetic changes. ( iii) The Lok Sabha rightly accepted a possible extension in the limitation ( time to claim) to 20 years. But, it should have been left to the Commission or Commissioners to go beyond the twenty years if necessary ( clause 18). ( iv) There is nothing grand in the changes allowing compensation cases going to the writ or special jurisdiction of the High Courts or Supreme Court ( clause 35).


The reason is simple. These jurisdictions cannot be ousted by Parliament even through a constitutional amendment! ( L. Chandra's case ( 1999)). These provisions are part of the unalterable basic structure of the Constitution. So, no big deal! The parliamentary process is besieged with compromise. That is understandable.


But to what extent? The government's major concerns are those of the suppliers and insurers to the extent they impact on the supply of technology- fuel and so on. It fears that stringent provisions will dry out supply; and it must conform to international conventions even though these have been written by supplier nations, without attracting requisite signatures.




We do live in a global world. Even with India advancing economically, it needs technology. To some extent, principles will be compromised. But that is not the issue. A sovereign parliament has sovereign responsibilities to its own people.


The question is whether this Bill meets the measure of responsibility due to Indian victims? Or have these responsibilities been shortchanged? In this, Parliament has failed in achieving the right balance and sold its sovereignty for a song.


The liability provisions have been increased overall, but do not encompass recompense for the total effect. The graded changes for some nuclear operations mean that the limit has gone down in some cases rather than up. The residuary responsibility ( which can be huge) is left to the government and the taxpayer.


The machinery provisions are unchanged. Dual optional machinery is created. The adjudicating incumbents could be anybody. The provisions are tailored for favoured lawyers and administrators.


The judicial review to the High Courts and Supreme Court already exists. The hype is meaningless.


The Nuclear Liability Bill is a bad compromise.


All of the Committee's suggestions have not been accepted. Parliament has been mesmerised by cosmetic changes. Even though the supplier, operators and insurers have won, the American suppliers are not happy with this statutory mess. God forbid catastrophe; but should it come, we are as legally unprepared as we were for Bhopal.


comment@ mailtoday. in








POLITICS is about the unpredictable. Except when it involves an election in the Congress party where a member of the dynasty is in the fray. In which case, it becomes a no- contest.


Last Friday's election for the Congress president's post falls in this category. Sonia Gandhi won the election for the fourth consecutive term, making her the longest serving party chief in its 125 year history. It's a moment worth noting, because neither her husband, nor her mother- in- law or her husband's grandfather, all prime ministers, stayed at the helm for as long.


It's all the more creditable because, unlike them, she was not born into politics. Yet she has shown that she alone is the party's saviour.


The BJP showed a total lack of grace by terming her election as proof of the family's " monopoly" over the party. A Congress spokesman's retort was that Sonia could be party chief " not for four terms but even 40". However, the possibility of that happening can be safely ruled out for two reasons: Sonia is 63 and may not want to go on and on.


More importantly, though young Rahul shows no signs of being in a hurry, his coronation cannot be that far away.


When Rahul finally takes over, he will find himself in charge of a party that is much healthier and more robust than when his mother took over. The party has had 71 presidents in the last 125 years, only five of them women. Annie Besant, Sarojini Naidu and Nellie Sengupta headed the Congress when it was at the forefront of the freedom struggle. Indira Gandhi took charge when the party was beset with internal strife, while Sonia became chief when it was virtually struggling for survival.


Both women adopted different strategies but the goal was the same: to take it back to its glory days. With the entire North slipping out of the Congress's grasp in the 1967 assembly elections and prospects loomed large of the Congress ceding power in Delhi, Indira took bold steps like bank nationalisation and abolition of privy purses, fought the powerful " Syndicate" comprising the entrenched old leaders, split the party and then split Pakistan, all of which contributed to her huge majority in the 1972 elections. After she was ousted from power in 1977, it took her just two years to come to power with a two- thirds majority.


Sonia became Congress president under somewhat similar conditions. Her husband had come to office with over 400 MPs but was forced out five years later as the Congress won under 200 seats. When Sonia became the party chief in 1998, the figure had shrunk to 112.


She did not, like Indira, indulge Sonia Gandhi in theatrics like sitting on a dharna in Connaught Place or riding an elephant to Belchi.


Yet in her 12 years as Congress chief, she has done enough to rout and eclipse her rivals both within and outside her party. When Sharad Pawar broke ranks in 1999, a powerful block was believed to have been lost, but she played her cards right and just five years later, the Grand Maratha was back in the fold.


What's astonishing is that she manages to do all this even as she keeps her cards close to her chest. Even most top flight Congress leaders do not know her mind because she seldom says anything. In the Lok Sabha, she occupies the seat next to the prime minister but is never known to participate or even intervene in debates.


On inflation, the Maoist menace, terrorism and so many issues of concern, Sonia can rarely be accused of over speak.


Yet, Congress leaders acknowledge she is the best thing to have happened to the party.


No leader can be so enigmatic and enduring at the same time unless she represents some deep national feelings. After six years in power, the alliance may be facing the anti- incumbency wind but Sonia's rating have never been higher. Just two years ago, the Congress was at the mercy of its many allies in the UPA. Today, she has the allies eating out her hands.


I don't expect Sonia to be as ruthless as her mother- in- law and discard her friends once she realises she has no further use for them. But having taken the Congress from the 112 seats when she inherited it in 1998 to 206 in 2009, she is clearly working to a plan that sees the Congress crossing the parliamentary halfway mark by the time Rahul is ready to take on the mantle. If she succeeds, it will be further proof that, in the Congress party at least, women are better at fixing problems.


It's all about the money for politicos


THE political class, across party lines, know how to look after themselves. Recently, our honourable MP's voted a massive hike in salaries and perks for themselves. There is more glad news for our politicos.


A parliamentary standing committee has recommended raising the limit of donations that a company can make to political parties in any given year from the existing five per cent to 7.5 per cent of the company's average net profits in the three preceding financial years.


The committee headed by Yashwant Sinha justified the increase on the grounds that " the number of political parties in the country have increased and such donations are not made every financial year". This suggestion has come in a report submitted to Parliament on the last day of its monsoon session.


Some years back, the government had enacted laws that made it mandatory that all contributions be made by cheque and parties maintain a list of donors who give in excess of ` 20,000 and submit the list to the Election Commission.


It is a moot point how many parties would have complied. Last year, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had announced a 100 per cent tax deduction for companies and individuals contributing to electoral trusts.

Many big corporate houses have already floated trusts to make donations to parties on the basis of their strength in the Lok Sabha or state assemblies.


Most politicians I know feel even the hiked rates aren't good enough. There's a point there. Today, upto ` 5 crore is spent on each Lok Sabha seat.


Take all assembly seats in India and you will realise that the election industry is worth at least ` 20,000 crore.


Where does the money come from? So far, business houses privately passed on money to their favourites

without any fear of retribution. Though the government believes the new move will bring in transparency, my own belief is that it will have exactly the opposite effect.



THE government and the opposition have had right royal tussles on several issues. The most recent happened last Friday during informal discussions at a meeting held to select the new Central Vigilance Commissioner. The present incumbent Pratyush Sinha's four year term ends on Tuesday, so a successor has to be in place by Monday.


The CVC is selected by a panel comprising the prime minister, the leader of the opposition and the Home Minister. Seven names had been shortlisted, which after vetting was pruned down to four after preliminary round of discussions between Prithviraj Chavan, the Minister of State in the PMO who is also Minister ( Personnel), and opposition leader, Sushma Swaraj.


The list was down to Finance Secretary Ashok Chawla, Telecom Secretary PJ Thomas, Nand Kumar, ex- Agriculture secretary and Shantanu Consul, Secretary DoPT. Who becomes the next CVC is as crucial to the government as it is to the main opposition party since the Chief Commissioner along with the Secretary ( Personnel) and the Union Home Secretary play a decisive role in the selection of the new CBI director. At the Friday meeting, the government added two fresh names to the panel, while dropping two existing ones, which took Sushma by surprise.


The BJP leadership had already raised some technical objections over two names. One, on grounds that he was involved, though finally absolved, in controversial cases.


The party was also miffed that one of the shortlisted candidates belonged to the Gujarat cadre where the CBI is doing its best to crucify Narendra Modi and says it may even be compelled to consult the Gujarat Chief Minister if the government pressed his candidature.


The opposition backed Consul, an officer from Karnataka, which is BJP ruled. Finally, when the government zeroed in on Thomas, the opposition objected saying an officer whose name had figured in controversy could not be made the CVC. But the government stuck to its guns and rammed the decision through.


With officers from Kerala taking over as Director General of the National Security Guard and Joint Secretary, Capital Markets in the last two weeks, it is clear that the Mallu Brigade marches on.








The Maoists killed a policeman, Lukas Tete, in cold blood in the Lakhisarai hostage crisis. They have offered to release three other policemen held hostage, under unspecified conditions. If these conditions include the release of eight of their leaders, as demanded by the Maoists, then this would be reminiscent of the 1999 Kandahar hijacking, when the government agreed to release three dreaded militants following a similar hostage crisis. 

It's just as well that the all-party state-level meeting that Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar convened in Patna following the crisis was well-attended, with opposition outfits showing up as well. The situation requires the highest degree of consensus and concerted action. Talks with Maoists are welcome, provided they are willing to come overground and shed violence. Let's hope that political parties in the state will not let their ideological differences colour their stand on the issue. And let's hope that Nitish himself will shape up. He had been stressing development over security, when the two need to go together. Taking a soft stance, he had been holding out against the Centre's anti-Maoist strategy of an interstate coordinated counteroffensive when other states have agreed to it. 

While no one doubts the efficacy of the development approach, the Maoists have hardly left any space for political manoeuvring. Maoist violence cannot be justified, even if the proffered reason is the alienation of tribals and the poor. Besides, it precludes any hope of development in Maoist-controlled areas. The state governments including Bihar must shed their indecisiveness and re-establish their writ. Without recovering those areas, it is practically impossible to implement any development scheme. 

There has been internecine sniping within the ruling dispensation at the Centre as well. Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh's potshots at home minister P Chidambaram are a case in point. Shadow-boxing within the Congress, which sends out mixed messages, should not be condoned in the name of 'inner-party democracy'. Given the complexity of the problem, the Centre too has an important role to play in any anti-Maoist drive. More especially in the case of Bihar, which after years of neglect is growing at a rapid pace. The Centre must assist the Bihar government with substantial allocation of funds and paramilitary forces.



                                                                                                                                                            C OMMENT



The recent unveiling of Apple's new device for streaming video content television shows and movies either directly from the internet or from devices such as computers and the iPhone to television screens, although not particularly path-breaking in itself, highlights a growing trend in media evolution. If these trends gather pace which is extremely likely the experience of watching television will be transformed as we move from broadcasting to narrowcasting. Recent studies in the US have shown that the number of traditional television viewers is decreasing steadily. Statistically this is still a small percentage, but even among the remaining viewers, the quantum of television consumption is decreasing. And similar studies in Europe indicate that almost half of all 15-24-year-olds prefer browsing the Web to watching television. 

The economic logic is not hard to understand. Whereas tradition television locks the consumer into paying for a content package of which he might actually consume only a small portion, internet television along the lines of the now widespread online music distribution model allows the consumer far greater control. Factor in the negligible cost of the latter with many distribution networks offering episodes of prime-time shows online for free, and the appeal becomes obvious. From the content generation point of view as well, the potential for content creators to reach the consumer directly, bypassing traditional distribution networks, opens up a range of possibilities. It is not a linear process, of course. The evolution of traditional television in the form of direct broadcast satellite services as well as the problem of getting internet television to pay for itself are both important factors. And inIndia, where the widespread broadband access required to make internet TV a player is still missing, the problems are multiplied manifold. But none of that takes away from the fact that the possibilities of internet television are wide-ranging, enabling an explosion of choice for the viewer.








More than anyone else, it is the Chinese who fear the dragon that is supposed to symbolise their gargantuan, swallow-you-whole economy, which has just overtaken Japan to become the world's second largest. China wants to be seen as the loong, which is a softer, entirely auspicious dragon-like being that is loathe to, in fact incapable of, breathing fire. 

These radically different perspectives were described by celebrated philosopher Lin Yutang in the 1930s. "Where there is a national mind so racially different and historically isolated from the Western cultural world [as the Chinese], we have the right to expect new answers to the problems of life," Lin wrote in The Importance of Living, which contrasted the Taoist cult of the "loafer" with that of the American "hustler". 

Might the loong be part of Lin's "new" answer to China's 21st century problem, namely, a profound sense of ill-usage at the way a fearful world portrays it? Perhaps, but only if the Chinese could find it in themselves to execute an effective rebranding operation. This would expand the world's vocabulary even as it softened the dragon with all its hard, unyielding consonants into the lazy sighing syllables of the loong. 

It would be a new word for the dictionaries, with all its inflexions of a New Age exorcism. It would expel the old fear of Chinese aggression in the here and now and embrace a new, calmer possibility that the expansionism may be more calibrated, gradual, in fact loong-like. 

But it is not quite as simple as that. Rebranding a country and its people is a monumental task. It goes beyond a new vocabulary. Even " Enter the Loong" is a discernibly less snappy name for the popular Bruce Lee film that made kung fu all the rage back in the 1970s. 

Lin recognised the inherent possibilities of branding countries when he pithily commended macaroni as having "done more for our appreciation of Italy than Mussolini". It is true that to many, the hollow noodle tube, so beloved of children everywhere and so supremely accepting of almost any sauce as partner, spells the comforts of home and hearth and thereby the domestic delights offered by Italy. 

A brand is famously said to be more than a word, a slogan or an easily remembered picture; it is a studiously crafted personality profile of an individual or institution. The crafting takes decades, often centuries. This is why the English are still seen as fair, the French as fashionable, the Swiss as precise, the Germans as serious, Americans as hearty and the Chinese as ruthless and inscrutable. The universe of cultural images begets the brand and it is this cultural 'value' that allows French companies to sell haute couture without too much fuss about price or provenance and for the Swiss to sell Longines, Tissot, Piaget, Rolex, Patek Philippe and other watches that the aspirational hope to pass on to their great grandchildren. 

The Chinese have a discernible brand image and have done well out of it. The world poured money down the dragon's maw believing it was ruthless and inscrutable enough to be a safe investment. Four-fifths of the Chinese economy is made up of investments and exports and this is because the world expected it ruthlessly to deliver cheap labour and cheap land for factories that would flood the planet with big brands at small prices. It

did. Unsurprisingly then, the world simply doesn't believe the Chinese are more loong than dragon. 

Neither does it buy into Nigeria's 16-month ballyhoo about being a "Good People, Great Country". Its information minister launched the slogan even as scam e-mails issued from there in a steady stream and its commercial capital Lagos topped polls of the world's most dangerous place to work. The campaign merely replaced a previous, failed rebranding exercise called the "Heart of Africa". A cliche is generally a poor tool with which to airbrush history. 

So too Serbia, whose tourism ministry promised to spend a mere 1,35,000 euros to rebrand the landlocked country in the war-ravaged heart of south-eastern Europe. But a year on, it is painfully obvious that Serbia is not known for being militarily neutral, a credible EU applicant and having a highHuman Development Index and the IMF's stamp of emerging economy. Instead, its brand image remains unhappily bound up with that of its former leader, Slobodan Milosevic, his Slav nationalism and attempts to "purify" Bosnia of its Muslims. 

Even so, sometimes, a bad image may be better than none at all because a nullity cannot be built on. The lack of an image or what Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas calls Europe's "iconographic deficit" has long exercised EU officials. Koolhaas diagnosed the problem as a still-uniting continent strewn with symbols that look like a nation-building project blue flags, anthems and passports but which do not add up to one subtly solid message about the EU's brand identity and its remarkable range and reach. 

So what of China's desire to be loong not dragon in the world's eyes? Across the world, its diplomats and diaspora still live by Deng Xiaoping's injunction "conceal brilliance, cultivate obscurity", making it difficult to build the image they want. This despite the Chinese president's exhortation last year about the need to "build a more congenial image...more morally inspiring". But the " loong march" is yet to begin. Is this at least partly because as one leading branding agency advises, in the final analysis, it is not slickness, polish or cleverness that makes a brand a brand. It is truth.




                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




On August 30, India's second unmanned scientific mission to the moon, the Rs 425-crore Chandrayaan-2, slated for launch in 2013, a joint Indo-Russian flight, from Sriharikota, took a definite shape with the seven scientific instruments or payloads five on the India-built orbiter and two on the indigenous rover being announced by ISRO. A high-level committee headed by U R Rao , chairman, Advisory Committee on Space Sciences, made the choice of instruments . Srinivas Laxman talks to Rao, who was also chairman of ISRO between 1984 and 1994: 

India's first lunar mission Chandrayaan-1 had accomplished nearly 95 per cent of its scientific objectives and is considered a success internationally. Why is India returning to the moon? 

There are still a lot of outstanding issues about the moon, which have to be resolved in greater depth. Some of the experiments of Chandrayaan-1, moreover, achieved only 50 per cent to 70 per cent of their objectives. Again, due to power limitations, the Terrain Mapping Camera of Chandrayaan-1 could map only 45 per cent of the moon. We are launching Chandrayaan-2 because we need a total coverage of the moon, employ improved and new technology and obtain better quality photo imageries. The orbiter with the five payloads will be flying at an altitude of 200 km above the lunar surface and we estimate that its lifespan would be for two years depending on the use of the propellant. 

A significant aspect of Chandrayaan-2 is that the orbiter, unlike in Chandrayaan-1, does not have any foreign payloads even though NASA and the European Space Agency showed interest. Is there any reason why foreign payloads have been removed? 

As per the present plan we do not have any weight in the orbiter for foreign payloads. We were keen on giving an opportunity to our scientists. This is why we decided not to invite international participation this time. Keeping this in view we, unlike in Chandrayaan-1, did not issue a formal Announcement of Opportunity calling for international participation. Even at the last moment if we decide to have foreign payloads on Chandrayaan-2 after making weight allowances, we have to issue an Announcement of Opportunity, an elaborate exercise, which can delay the flight. The total mass of the five payloads on the orbiter is about 40 kg at the moment and we are trying to reduce it, which may be difficult. 

In Chandrayaan-1 many Indian scientists regretted that their achievements were sidelined especially with regard to the discovery of water and NASA took away the credit. Is this a reason why the committee eliminated foreign instruments on board Chandrayaan-2?

[ Laughs ] The instruments were chosen based purely on their scientific merit. The weight of Indian rover was earlier stipulated as 15 kg. Has this been finalised and what will be its lifespan? 

It will be more than that. It will function only for a few days on the surface of the moon because of power limitations. It will carry its own power. The design and development of the rover is a new technology for us. For the orbiter we have selected the right altitude of 200 km above the moon's surface for it to fly because too many corrections are not needed at this altitude. (The flight plan envisages the lander with the rover detaching from the orbiter at a certain point near the moon and soft landing on the lunar surface, the place has yet to be finalised. Thereafter, the rover will move out of the lander.)







Like the old Chinese saying goes, "Sometimes, a beaver is just a squirrel with big teeth." Don't ask me which Chinese person actually said that because there are a lot of them and i can't be bothered to provide every single detail. The event that reminded me of this popular Chinese rodent-canine maxim was a seemingly innocuous outing to the movie theatre. I saw a flick that had advertised itself as a comedy thriller but turned out to be one that belongs to a niche genre that i often refer to as 'equestrian excreta'. 

On one Tuesday that felt a lot like a Thursday, i stumbled upon the answer to one of life's biggest philosophical conundrums. No, not the 'Is Bruce Lee still alive?' question but the other one which is, 'What's going on with the movie world?' And the answer to that is that every movie, despite its nationality and language, is actually the same. I'm well accustomed to three movie industries: Hollywood, Bollywood and Zollywood (that's the collective name i've given for south Indian movies) and i'm going to try and explain here what the differences and similarities of these three 'woods' are. 

When it comes to the Hollywood hero, he has impeccable looks; is self-made and well-to-do but not super-rich; finds the time to come up with hilarious one-liners even in the middle of dangerous crises; is often the only man in the world who can save the world. The Bollywood hero is fair-skinned; has a rich father who doesn't hug him enough; craves true love and has no interest in the dozens of super-hot ladies throwing themselves at him; has no problem crying uncontrollably when delivering moving dialogues; is capable of fighting off at least 8-10 villains single-handedly. The Zollywood hero is above retirement age but still in his 30s; a misunderstood thug with a heart of gold; has a secret tragic family background (revealed only to the heroine) with one bed-ridden father, one paraplegic brother, two nubile sisters and one mother who cries at the drop of a coin; can jump over buildings; can punch police officers right in the mouth and get away with it; is capable of fighting at least 45-48 villains single-handedly. 

As for heroines, the Hollywood variety is drop-dead gorgeous but still can't find a guy or a job; has totally unattractive best friends; keeps picking fights with the hero throughout the movie but realises she loves him 10 minutes before the movie ends; has impromptu make-out sessions with the hero mostly after arguments. The Bollywood heroine is drop-dead gorgeous and as kind as Mother Teresa; has an abusive fiance who makes her realise how great the hero is; is extremely innocent but does at least one steamy song where she tries to seduce the hero but he keeps walking away. And the Zollywood heroine is portrayed by an actress barely out of school; doesn't seem to mind that her grandfather is a few years younger to the hero; is rich and posh but falls for the thug; has a demonic power-hungry father; is extremely innocent but has at least three songs where she tries to explicitly seduce the hero but he keeps walking away. 

The Hollywood villain is scorned by society, turned evil for a reason but has a brilliant mind and is just as good-looking as the hero while the Bollywood villain wears a tuxedo, has terribly bad aim when it comes to shooting and has the hots for the heroine. And the Zollywood type has a thick beard, is a rival thug or a high-profile politician and is often played by an unsuccessful Bollywood actor. 

The Hollywood story? The girl and the world are in danger. The Bollywood story is that the girl is in danger, and as for Zollywood, the girl and south Indian commoners are in danger. 








The question of who is in charge of Pakistan -the civil administration or the army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) -is one that has infuriated most Pakistani leaders and officials. But it is a valid one, given that the Interior Minister Rehman Malik's assurance to Home Minister P. Chidambaram, on voice samples of those accused in the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai has been reversed for flimsy reasons. Pakistani law, apparently, requires consent for such recordings, something the lawyers of the accused, that include Lashkar-e-Tayyeba's Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, have refused. It is fairly clear from evidence gathered by India and handed over to Pakistan that those whose voice samples have been sought are complicit in the attacks.


Pakistan has too long been caught up in some sort of abused spouse syndrome in which the very same people it seeks to shield have visited trauma and devastation on it. The same elements and their followers whom India is seeking to bring to task are never far from the scene when terrifying suicide bombings of the sort that have killed so many people within the country have taken place. In the latest outrage, at least 25 people have been killed in three bomb explosions during a Shia religious procession. The same people that some parts of the Pakistani ruling structure seeks to protect have caused such mayhem that many in the world have written off the country even when it is going through such an ordeal as the ruinous floods, in which countless have died and millions rendered homeless. No one believes that a State held hostage by non-State actors can do much to either alleviate the sufferings of its people or try and further the peace process with India.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an extraordinary concession when he said that he'd seek to pursue peace regardless of reciprocity. This is the kind of olive branch that hostile neighbours can only dream of. Sadly, Pakistan and whoever is in charge has not been able to respond in any manner to this rare show of statesmanship. Anyone who wants Pakistan to count among the comity of nations must move to sideline the people who seem to decide on life and death issues at will. It makes eminent sense to cooperate with India to bring the likes of Lakhvi to book. Those hell-bent on jihad quite easily turn on their benefactors as Pakistan has discovered all too painfully. It is still not too late for Pakistan to stop its slide into complete isolation and irrelevance. But first it must understand that abused spouses, by silence and cover-ups, will only invite more violent retribution upon themselves.







Stephen Hawking finally agrees that god did not create the universe. What's to say he will come to its rescue?


When Stephen Hawking speaks, the gods listen. If they really exist, or care, that is. Now, after almost two decades of an agnostic capitulation to the idea that god might have had something to do with the creation of the universe, Mr Hawking, in a new book to be out later this week, has firmly switched sides. And it's definitely not the one where an act of divinity was responsible for the immaculate conception of the world we live in, and quite unlike the views he had earlier espoused in his 1998 tour de force A Brief History of Time.


Apparently, if Mr Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, coauthors of the book The Grand Design are to be believed, the universe created itself in a do-it-yourself stroke of brilliance, without requiring god to hold a match to the blue torch paper.


Despite using the existence of gravity as proof that this was possible, we're sure Isaac Newton must surely be turning in his grave for this latest assault on his belief in the hand of god.
But this does come as sweet vindication for all those who have been shouting themselves hoarse about the Big Bang that mothered earth many billions of years ago.


As for us, we should be able to believe when he says that the universe can create itself from nothing. After all, we Indians are masters of the universe when it comes to creating a lot out of naught, even a cutting edge, First World nation out of, well, almost nothing. And if we are to take this along with Mr Hawking's statements earlier this year -on the existence of the plundering hordes in galaxies other than our own, gunning for us after having exhausted their own resources a la Avatar -then we could really be in trouble. If god didn't create the world we live in, who's to say he'll come to our rescue when it all goes downhill?



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES




A leader has emerged from the chaos that has engulfed Kashmir these past two months. And contrary to expectations, it isn't a young man from among the mobs of twenty-somethings that have confronted security forces these past ten weeks, but the octogenarian hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani.


His rise to the centrestage of separatist politics, where he has elbowed out not only the pro-India parties but also the 'moderate separatists' is not — as some would love to believe — because of Pakistan's machinations, but New Delhi's repeated blunderings over decades.


Much before the controlled rise of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in Punjab, a dress rehearsal was attempted in Kashmir. In 1972, in an attempt to marginalise Sheikh Abdullah, Indira Gandhi's Congress engineered the fraudulent election of five Jamaat-e-Islami candidates, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani.


By the time the secessionist guerrilla movement erupted in Kashmir in 1989 and the Jamaat firebrand resigned as a Muslim United Front MLA, he had represented his constituency of Sopore for three terms and contested more elections than any of the state's chief ministers and their family members.


Notwithstanding his influence among the militants, because of the phenomenal rise of the Jamaat's guerrilla arm — the Hizbul Mujahideen — Geelani was never considered the 'sole spokesman' of Kashmiri separatism. In 1995, six years after militancy erupted, the nameplate on his gate still described him as 'Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Ex-MLA'. But all that changed when democracy returned to Kashmir in 1996.


The pioneer counter-insurgent group, the Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon, that eliminated most of the Hizbul Mujahideen's commanders and their Jamaati patrons, found a quiet supporter in the National Conference (NC). Farooq Abdullah not only conceded one of his safest seats — Sonawari — to the Army-sponsored Ikhwan chief, Kukka Parray, but also inducted his deputy, Javed Shah, as a member of the Legislative Council. As a counterweight, the Jamaat e-Islami made its first investment in mainstream politics by covertly supporting the then Congress candidate, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, in the Lok Sabha elections in 1998.


This marriage of convenience was further strengthened when Mufti floated his own People's Democratic Party (PDP) and its much-publicised 'healing touch' campaign, evidently with the blessings of New Delhi.


It was the first time a 'mainstream' political party openly dared to sympathise with Pakistan, militants and the families of militants killed by Indian security forces. Armed with a fresh discourse Mufti managed to marginalise the NC, the Kashmir Valley's most formidable pro-India outfit, within two years and, when elected chief minister, presided over the elimination of almost all of the Valley's counterinsurgent icons, Parray and Shah included, by the Hizbul Mujahideen. Even Hizb commanders who had initiated a dialogue with India in July 2000 were not spared.


Mufti went on to engineer a split in the Hurriyat in 2003 and occupy the 'moderate Hurriyat' space by hijacking their position on the Kashmir dispute. In a recent television interview, his colleague, Pir Hussain, proudly revealed that the Centre sent substantial amounts of money (to neutralise militancy) but Mufti sent it in sealed envelopes to the families of the militants fighting Indian troops. Mufti and his government publicly glorified militants and nurtured the anti-India and pro-Pakistan sentiment. From politicians and media to the Bar and bureaucracy, it became the norm to abuse 'occupier India' and worship 'azadi'.


Nobody in New Delhi raised questions about how marginalised radicals were regenerating their roots and branches under the smokescreen of the 'healing touch' and the 'battle for hearts and minds'. Even disclosures that the perpetrators of the Akshardham fidayeen attack had stayed at a Cabinet minister's house in south Kashmir for about 20 days en route to Ahmedabad raised few eyebrows.


Squeezed by their inability to deliver on 'azadi', the failure of sustained talks with New Delhi, and their rhetoric hijacked by the PDP, the 'moderate separatists,' found themselves getting increasingly irrelevant. Their wane marked the rise of Geelani who, during the ten years of the undivided Hurriyat, had no special status. None of the seven constituents of the executive council took his side when Hurriyat split into 'moderates' and 'hardliners' in 2003. Just a couple of over two dozen outfits in the general council went with him. Both returned to Mirwaiz within months. But after his expulsion from the Jamaat and an infamous reprimand from the Pakistani President, General Musharraf for his inflexibility, Geelani was seen as the only unwavering flame in an increasingly confusing political landscape.


Though Mufti Mohammad's successors did not encourage his legacy they did little to challenge the extremists politically. The police was demoralised, the pro-peace constituency sidelined and the silent majority of Kashmir disempowered, paving the way for Syed Ali Shah Geelani. He launched his own, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, and projected an umbrella of nondescript right-wing outfits as the 'real' Hurriyat.


This group worked quietly over the years in universities, mosques, madrassas, media and among Kashmiri youth. This paid off during the turbulence of 2008 and 2010 when Geelani and his radical supporters occupied every inch of the political, as well as physical, space — from the Valley's urban streets to social networking domains on the internet — reversing New Delhi's carefully crafted achievements.


Though Geelani is well into his 80s, this is not the autumn of the patriarch. Thanks to the paralysis of mainstream political parties for the last eight years, a whole new generation of Kashmiri youth have a radical old Islamist icon for inspiration.


Ahmed Ali Fayyaz is a political commentator and Srinagar Bureau Chief with the Early Times The views expressed by the author are personal








With Sonia Gandhi being formally elected as the Congress president for the fourth consecutive term last week, the focus is likely to shift soon to Andhra Pradesh where former Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's son, Jaganmohan Reddy, appears to be in a defiant mood. Much against the advice of the senior Congress leaders, Reddy is going ahead with the third phase of his 'Odarpu Yatra' in a big way, and if the crowds at his previous rallies are any indication, he is emerging as a leader with a huge mass base in the state.


YSR's first death anniversary was observed on September 2 and there seems to be no leader within the state Congress who looks well equipped to deal with the crisis that is looming large in the state particularly after the arbitrary declaration on December 9 last year that a separate Telangana would be created.


The Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) is gaining ground in Telangana and the way things stand, the Congress is bound to weaken itself in its strongest state, which returned it to power in 2004 and 2009. Chief Minister K Rosaiah lacks YSR's charisma and is not in good health. Moreover, he is too busy trying to counter Jagan's growing influence and many positive things initiated by his predecessor have run into rough weather.


The Congress leadership needs to heed to proper advice if it wants to contain the damage already caused by the announcement of a separate state and the CM's inability to consolidate the party's position. So far as Jagan goes, he is trying to ensure that his father's legacy as a mass leader is preserved and his own existence is not lost in the power play within his party. Soon after YSR's death, 152 out of 155 MLAs were willing to back him but the number has now dwindled to about 45 to 50.


Both the Congress leadership and Jagan's supporters are faced with a strange dilemma: the Congress cannot afford to decimate YSR's son since he enjoys considerable popularity in the state and in the event of a poll or a strength test (after his possible expulsion), the party may have to face the consequences. So far as Jagan is concerned, if he goes out of the Congress, his stock will fall and it will take a Herculean effort to revive his chances. Therefore, it is to be seen what kind of a compromise is made to prevent any further damage.


A strange phenomenon — very particular to the Congress culture — is also being witnessed in the state. On one hand, a number of MPs and state leaders are pledging loyalty to the central leadership, but at the same time some of them are encouraging their close relatives to join Jagan's roadshow so that in case he does emerge on top, they will have some sort of a connection with him.


There is no doubt that after YSR's death the Andhra Pradesh issue has been badly handled. YSR was loyal to Sonia Gandhi and this strong allegiance would have continued even after him, had some Congress managers been more patient and deft in taking care of matters. Though Rosaiah was made the CM after YSR's death, everyone views this as an interim arrangement. Therefore, despite all his experience, the CM has not been able to meet the expectations of the people. In addition, he is neither a Reddy nor a Kamma, the two dominant castes and, therefore, cannot be projected for the next round of polls.


The Congress needs to win Andhra (including Telangana) decisively, if it has to look towards the future where Rahul Gandhi may get projected as the new leader. There is no alternative but to make peace with Jagan if that objective has to be achieved. Even if YSR's son does not get elected as the state leader himself, he can always spoil the Congress's chances. Jagan also has the support of some MPs who could also rock the boat during a crucial trust vote in Parliament. The Congress leadership must realise that there is no need to pick a quarrel with Jagan when it can easily have him by its side. That is the best solution. Between us.








India's urbanisation is unstoppable. And yet, as these columns have pointed out more than once, it remains frighteningly haphazard, completely unplanned-for. New figures have hammered home the fact that people are moving to our cities faster than was ever expected: a committee dedicated to enumerating people living in urban slums has revised upward the best estimate we have of what their numbers will be in 2011, from 75 million to a shockingly high 93 million. These numbers do not, of course, overlap precisely with the number of urban poor. Many who live in areas without urban facilities — classical slums — are not destitute, and many who do live on the brink of poverty do so in areas fortunate enough to be connected to, for example, drinking water. And these areas are not necessarily enervated and depressed; more often they are a reservoir of aspirational energy. Yet the new numbers remind us once again that our urban governance has not, so far, been able to rise to the challenge that urbanisation represents.


This failure is made worse by the fact that a broad understanding of how to approach the problem exists. The Centre has pushed through a plan to map out and verify slum clusters, on the principle that their occupants can then be assigned property rights, and their communities provided with basic facilities and such essentials as concrete roofs. Yet the implementation of these foundational principles has in the past foundered on the twin rocks of government confusion and misguided activism. 1990s Mumbai alone, for example, saw the Slum Redevelopment Scheme of 1991; the Slum Rehabilitation Scheme of 1995; and the Shivshahi Punarvasan Prakalp of 1998, all of which seemed to act in different policy directions. Meanwhile even the approaches that worked across the country, some enticed into being by the draft National Slum Policy of 2001, tend to slam into a wall of NGO resistance, motivated by a mindset which believes that anything that involves the private sector — as anything on this scale necessarily must — is tainted, and must not be allowed to move forward.


This startling upward revision is a reminder, therefore, of ideas that have been accepted worldwide as the basis for successful redevelopment: the mobilisation of private resources; the assignation of property rights; and the preservation of an organically-evolving community's links to itself and to informal employment, and that these ideas cannot be held up either by state paralysis or well-meaning mistrust. The Rajiv Awas Yojana — which claims a "slum-free India" in five years — at least thinks big. Translating its ambitions into practice will require the burgeoning of a will to do so, at all levels of our politics.







The National Museum is home to over 2,00,000 works of art and archaeological booty spanning 5,000 years. Created with hope and pride in the afterglow of Independence, it is the flagship museum of this country. For three years, it has been missing a director-general and about 140-150 out of a total 207 posts lie empty, waiting for the right person to come along.  The culture ministry and the HRD ministry have tried and failed to fill these jobs, despite relaxing their demands considerably. It's not just the fact that there aren't any promising contenders — it is also the absurdity of the way they are recruited and the constraints imposed by the Union Public Service Commission. The unwillingness to experiment with new forms of cultural governance and staff structure means that India falls far behind the rest of the world, which is radically reconceptualising the museum.


From being musty mausoleums mainly responsible for their collections, museums are increasingly seen as public-spirited institutions that owe something vital to their visitors and an educational function for their communities.  They are outgrowing their traditional ambit of collection, conservation, exhibition and research. Now the nature of museum employment has to accommodate the increasingly complex, differentiated demands placed on the institution. Many governments have divested themselves of the actual running of them. France went through rigorous museum reform in the '90s, lifting restrictions on the number of professional staff.  Even the UK, heavily conscious of the museum's public mandate, has been contracting out many services in museums, and finding creative new ways to mesh their mission with the market. In the more entrepreneurial US model, those who head museums typically pour their energies into fundraising and outreach.


Meanwhile, in India, we struggle even with fulfilling the primary dharma of a museum. It is a terrible pity that a country that rarely passes up an opportunity to talk up its many-splendoured culture and heritage can fail so miserably at engaging with it, or persuading its people to care enough about it.







When past masters speak, the inheritors listen attentively. But their attention is laced with concern, lestin place of inspiration they find rebuke. That David Miliband, a confirmed Blairite who perhaps surprised himself by his last-minute refusal to lead the coup against Gordon Brown he himself had organised, felt it best to not endorse Tony Blair's memoir, A Journey, speaks volumes about how the father of New Labour has found fault with those meant to uphold his legacy. Yet Blair has positioned the book not so much as a chastisement of Labour, post-Blair, as a history of New Labour's beginnings, forged in the old partnership and subsequent rivalry of Blair and Brown.


So while eggs and shoes are hurled at Blair by Dubliners, some would see it as his version of how the past was secured and the future thrown away — in the write of the man who led Labour to three consecutive electoral victories, and thinks his successor threw away a fourth. The details and perspectives will be contested. However, as with political autobiographies, right or wrong, petty or magnanimous, one expects to delight in the anecdotes. Blair hasn't said sorry for the Iraq war, but claims to have shed his tears. He charges Chancellor Brown with blocking everything he wanted to do or sabotaging almost everything he did, down to the "Keynesian" economy PM Brown unleashed to tackle the recession.


Read as Blair's mea culpa or post-bellum revenge, a Labour electing a new leader, will be paying heed. As will Messrs Cameron-Clegg, who, some might say, are walking closer to the Blair line. After all, fallible Blair still had the right insight into post-Cold War politics : beyond ideology, class and tribal loyalties, building grand social coalitions, where "state" and "public interest" weren't necessarily the same.








 The U.K. Sinha commission has recommended cleaning up of India'a capital control regime, bringing in principles of transparency and rule of law to an opaque system of regulations that have become a maze over the years. Proposed changes include a single window for portfolio investment, an appellate body for decisions made under FEMA (the Foreign Exchange Management Act) and changes in regulations that smart lawyers help investors find ways around.


Under British rule, India had full capital account convertibility. After Independence, comprehensive capital controls were brought in, and the dreaded Foreign Exchange Regulation Act criminalised violations of capital controls. In the crisis environment of the early '90s, the Foreign Institutional Investor (FII) framework was invented. This was a difficult time for policy-makers, given that there was a crisis and a lack of knowledge about how an open economy functions.


When the FII framework was set up in the early '90s, at first tiny sums of money came in. The framework had flaws and, more importantly, the domestic capital markets were not ready. It took 10 years to set up SEBI and the NSE, to have dematerialisation, to launch derivatives trading and close down "badla". By the early 2000s India was ready to accept foreign investment, and then the numbers galloped ahead. Through this entire period, numerous small changes were made to the framework of capital controls. These incremental changes were well-intentioned in that they aimed to solve specific problems.


By March 2009, listed companies had foreign capital of Rs 3.6 lakh crore — an enormous sum of money by any standard. Foreigners are bearing both business risk and currency risk in investing in Indian companies. This risk capital has enabled factories to be built, jobs to be created and growth in India's GDP. Today, roughly a fifth of the stock of equity capital in listed companies is from foreigners. While this lags behind what other emerging markets have achieved, it is a respectable achievement.


Events like the nuclear tests (1998), the Gujarat riots (2002), the election of a Left-supported government at the Centre (2004) and the Satyam scam (2009) caused turmoil in the stock markets but foreign investors had divergent views. While some sold shares to leave India, others treated this as a chance to buy cheap. On the whole, foreign investors have not been fair weather friends — the exits from India under stressed conditions have been modest. Foreign investors have not acted as a herd — on most days foreign buying and foreign selling, put together, is more than 20 times bigger than the net foreign buy. Foreigners are just like locals in that they have divergent opinions about what to buy and what to sell.


Today, we have 20 years of experience with how foreign investors behave. We also have 20 years of

accumulated incremental changes to the law, which has yielded a mess. A variety of transactions require complicated gymnastics in order to navigate the complexity of the law. This benefits lawyers, but hurts everyone else.


In the last 20 years, we have also learned modern principles of financial regulation, about the rule of law. The rule of law requires clarity in drafting subordinated legislation, a requirement that government produce reasoned orders for every action, a requirement that orders be placed on websites for transparency and to ensure equal treatment, and an appeals procedure. Many of these features are now everyday reality with SEBI, but are mostly absent with capital controls.


Another important change that has occurred in recent years is that after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the world has become much more concerned about being able to track terror finance. The FII framework involved a registration at SEBI, but this registration process is inadequate when compared with present thinking, and given India's new membership of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Regulation needs to change in the new environment.


The report by U.K. Sinha at the request of the finance ministry addresses these issues. First, the report calls for bringing about high quality rule of law in the field of capital controls. It asks that SEBI and RBI come up to high standards on the problems of well-drafted subordinated legislation, acting only in writing, producing reasoned orders, placing reasoned orders on a website, and giving aggrieved parties the option to appeal at SAT, or a similar appellate body.


The second big idea of the report is to replace the existing multiple frameworks (FII, FVCI, etc) for financial flows into India by a single framework which is termed QFI. Under the QFI the foreign investor would have to perform one KYC with an Indian bank and another KYC with an Indian depository participant. After this, he would be able to transact on the Indian securities markets and engage in other kinds of financial flows. The QFI framework simultaneously brings India up to the post-9/11 world in terms of safety, and removes the considerable legal complexity and overhead which has crept up in recent years.


A key feature of the QFI framework is that the capital controls regime would no longer distinguish between the kinds of vehicles through which capital comes into India. Under the QFI framework, the Indian capital controls would treat identically a pension fund or an insurance company or a venture capital fund that buys shares in an Indian company. The present attempts at distinguishing between vehicles increases costs for foreigners. In addition, they are futile: the foreign investor who is prohibited from doing work under one garb has to merely repackage his money in a different garb and then come into the country.


Much more is needed to be done in terms of moving India towards greater capital account openness. The Sinha report is valuable in that it replicates the present realities — the facts on the ground — by a cleaner legal framework. It upholds the rule of law, is a part of building India into a modern market economy, reduces legal risk, clarifies the picture in the eyes of foreigners, and reduces payments to lawyers.


The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public


Finance and Policy, Delhi. She was a permanent invitee to the U.K. Sinha panel








One of the innovative recommendations of the recently submitted report of the Elephant Task Force (ETF), backed by the environment ministry, is to declare it India's national heritage animal. The elephant is possibly the most appropriate species to be awarded this recognition. Elephants have a wide distribution across the country, living in diverse habitats ranging from the tall grasslands of the alluvial flood plains of the terai to montane grasslands, evergreen forests, and moist and dry deciduous forests of the Western Ghats. They are also a much-loved species, with very strong cultural and religious links with vast sections of our population. The elephant is one of the most recognised symbols of India, and unique in being among the few widely domesticated wild large mammals. They play very important roles in religious and cultural ceremonies across India. Three thousand and five hundred elephants are estimated to be in captivity in India, largely in temples and under private ownership.


India is home to more than 60 per cent of the remaining wild elephants in Asia, with an estimated population of around 26,000. So, as a country we have a crucial role to play for their long-term survival in the wild. While these numbers may seem high and indicate that the elephants are well conserved and secure, the field reality is actually very different.


Elephant habitats have been undergoing rapid change in the last couple of decades in India due to conversion to

agriculture, development of infrastructure and other development projects including tourism resorts. Much of this change has had negative impacts on elephant populations due to fragmentation and degradation of their habitats. In many instances, elephant habitats have been totally brought under human use, resulting in the complete loss of the habitat. Poaching of elephants for their tusks has also been a problem in certain parts of India. In Asian elephants, only the males possess tusks and so poaching tends to be focused on males with disastrous consequences for the sex-ratio of the remaining elephant populations. Human-elephant conflicts (HEC) are widespread and according to the ETF, about one million hectares of crop lands are damaged by elephants annually. Every year in India, about 400 people are killed by elephants and in retaliation about 100 elephants are killed. This indicates how widespread and serious this conflict is in India today. The task force has recommended multiple approaches, some of which are very innovative and practical, in order to mitigate and manage this problem. The focus is on preventing human actions which will create fresh conflicts and to prevent and minimise existing levels of conflict. This includes integrated land use planning in and around elephant habitats, enhanced guarding of crops, higher levels of local community participation in these efforts and more efficient and just payment of compensation.


Another major and avoidable cause of elephant mortality is death on railway tracks due to collision with trains and electrocution from low-hanging high-tension wire. These problems have also been recognised in the ETF. It has identified 10 elephant landscapes where conservation would be prioritised. These landscapes include all 32 of the existing and proposed elephant reserves. Elephants are extremely mobile and social mega-herbivores and so they can only be conserved at the landscape level. These elephant landscapes contain several types of lands including protected areas, reserved forests and revenue land. Many of the protected areas are connected by vital corridors, which enable elephants to move from one part of their home range to the other and also ensure the genetic connectivity and integrity of the populations, which is vital for their long-term survival. The task force places emphasis on securing the corridors and elephant habitats beyond the protected areas for their long-term conservation.


The report supports a strong role for science in assessing and monitoring elephant populations and also in undertaking ecological and veterinary studies which will help us understand elephant populations and their behaviour in a better and more holistic manner. A clear role for civil society organisations and public participation in the conservation and management of elephants has also been outlined, with Rs 600 crore recommended as the financial outlay to implement the recommendations during the Twelfth Plan period.


Wildlife conservation in India is beginning to take a broader approach, after many decades of tightly focusing on tigers alone. Last year, the river dolphin was declared the national aquatic animal, Project Snow Leopard has been functional, there is a move to bring back the cheetah, and the latest heartening development is the spotlight on elephants. This indicates an increasingly mature approach to wildlife conservation, one which values nature in its myriad forms.


The writer is country director, Wildlife Conservation Society-India Programme








After the manifestly unfair and unconstitutional dismissal of Kerala's first communist ministry, headed by E.M.S. Namboodiripad, in 1959 ('Jawaharlal's EMS dilemma', IE, July 26), events there took a series of turns and twists worth recalling and recording. The Joint Front that had launched the virulent agitation to bring down the state government had fought principally against its land reform and education bills. But it realised that to scrap these measures was not feasible, because of their widespread popularity with the people, especially the poor. It, therefore, wanted the two bills watered down — but shrewdly left the job to the governor's caretaker regime, busying itself instead with preparations for fresh elections, scheduled for mid-1960.


Needless to say, from the word go, the election campaign was relentlessly bitter. Nehru, engrossed at that time with the China problem following the revolt in Tibet, the Dalai Lama's flight to India, and the Kongka-la border clash, suddenly remembered that the Joint Front in Kerala included the Muslim League. In a heated discussion with his daughter before the EMS ministry was sent packing, he had called the front "communal". But he knew that it was impossible to dissolve the front when electioneering was in full blast. Yet, he abhorred the prospect of the Muslim League sharing power with the Congress. So he made it a condition that the Muslim League leader in the state assembly, Mohammed Koya, could be the assembly's speaker — but not a minister. Koya and his colleagues in the League were furious and frustrated but realised that they could not take on the towering prime minister.


Consequently, after predictably winning the elections, the Joint Front ministry began its innings not in the best of spirits. Other problems were to aggravate this situation. In the first place, the Congress was the largest party in the ruling coalition, but it had to accept the claim to the CM's office of Socialist leader Pattom Thanu Pillai, because of his stature and his leadership role during the anti-Communist agitation. Aspirants in the Congress party, even more faction-ridden in Kerala than in other states, remained sullen.


It did not take very long for that discontent to burst into the open. That the state must have a Congress chief minister was only one of the party's two demands. The other, driven by the all-powerful caste factor, was that the backward Ezhavas, though in a majority, were denied their due while Nairs or Brahmins ruled the roost. Came a stage when Nehru found it necessary to dispatch his chief troubleshooter, Lal Bahadur Shastri, to Trivandrum.


As usual, Shastri heard everyone most patiently, but the next thing the country heard of his mission was that, during the night, he had flown back — not to Delhi, but to Chandigarh, and with Thanu Pillai as his sole travelling companion. There the Kerala chief minister was sworn in as governor of Punjab, which then included both Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. At Trivandrum, R. Sankar, an Ezhava, was elected chief minister, and somehow kept the fractious coalition together until it was time for fresh assembly elections in 1965. Nowhere else were any elections due for another two years.


However, by then there had been radical changes in the political milieu in the country, and even more so in Kerala. Jawaharlal Nehru had, of course, passed into history. Shastri was prime minister. The trauma of the 1962 war with China in the high Himalayas still gripped the country, and war clouds were gathering on the India-Pakistan horizon. No less significantly, the Communist Party had broken into two — the CPI and the CPI(M), the letter in parenthesis standing for Marxist. In Kerala, as in West Bengal, the other Communist stronghold, such prominent party leaders as Namboodiripad and A. K. Gopalan had joined the Marxist camp. For electoral purposes, the CPI continued to be the CPM's junior partner in the Left combine in both the Marxist bastions.


Where Kerala was concerned, all this paled into insignificance compared with a sea change in the Muslim League's attitude, as dramatic as it was startling. Having always denounced Communists of all hues as "irremediably evil", the League now became an ardent admirer and ally of the CPM, especially of EMS. When I asked Koya for his reasons, his terse reply was: "we were betrayed." And then he proceeded to say that betrayal was the Congress' "second nature." What he did not add was that during their years in the wilderness the CPM leaders had assiduously wooed the Muslim masses. A senior Church leader I saw next remarked: "I don't like this but the reality is that if Bafaqi Thangal (the League's supreme leader who never took part in elections) says one thing and Namboodiripad another, the Muslims would follow Namboodiripad."


Under the circumstances, it was no surprise that the Marxist-led United Left Front (ULF) won, but to no avail.

For its victory was overtaken by another dramatic development. While election results were still coming in the Shastri government, reportedly at the initiative of then Union Home Minister G.L. Nanda, banned the CPM. In a countrywide crackdown, thousands of Marxists, including MLAs, were rounded up. Kerala went under President's rule once again.


In the 1967 general election, the ULF, headed by EMS, won yet again. But over two years later, it collapsed largely because of unbridgeable differences between the two communist parties. Indira Gandhi, who, after the Congress split of 1969, was heading a minority government in New Delhi, seized the opportunity, forged an alliance with the CPI, and won the September 1970 assembly poll in Kerala hands down. Graciously, she conceded the office of chief minister to CPI leader Achutha Menon, who became the first chief minister of the troubled state to complete his full term.  


This was a prelude to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in December and parliamentary elections in 1971, and Indira's spectacular and sweeping victory. Those within the CPI, and the Congress Left, who were hoping for a replication in New Delhi of the "Kerala pattern" were deeply disappointed.


The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator








 We seem to have come a long way: from being a nation proud of its strengths to a country which is struggling hard to reconcile with its own people. Worrisomely, it seems like the state is pitched against its own farmers and its tribal population. Even Independence Day a fortnight ago was marred by shoe-throwing at a chief minister, and the killing of farmers in western Uttar Pradesh. Are we going the right way?


Not just politicians, but everyone who influences the decision-making process, including the media, have their bit to answer. Has anyone wondered why it took the killings of three farmers and a policemen before we read reports — while farmers where on a dharna for almost three weeks? Did anyone ask my political colleagues why it took so long for them to travel 100 km from the national capital, while the issue was being fought by farmers for more than a year?


My first reaction once I heard was to look up the official website of the Yamuna Expressway Authority, the nodal project agency, to run through the facts, and have a look at the list of villages notified under the project. The imprints of an arrogant government machinery was evident even here: any link to this important information had been severed. The government has its way.


The worst seems yet to come: after the killings and loss of several hours of Parliament's time this past session, the state government — and the Centre too — is talking in terms of increasing the land value for compensation disbursal. Perhaps a judicial probe, some half-a-dozen transfers, some departmental enquiries — and the Yamuna Expressway project will go on unhindered. It is now being sold as if the poor farmers were up in arms for big money and not to save their ancestral land from the hands of the big corporates. Sadly.


The people in power who need to answer for the mess have an interesting take on the recent developments: good cut and paste delivery, with scriptwriters seemingly out of ideas. The food minister can comfortably state that the Supreme Court observation to distribute foodgrain to the poor, to save it from rotting away, was merely a "suggestion." It took a second consecutive categoric order to get the idea to sink in with the United Progressive Alliance.


The UPA has one other shrewd strategy to ensure that attention is diverted from core issues. It has a brigade led by its general secretary, Rahul Gandhi, and the likes of general secretaries Digvijaya Singh and Janardhan Dwivedi, who always have a public correction statement handy for every blunder which the government commits. This is not a "disconnect" between the government and party — but a ploy.


It was not surprising to watch Rahul Gandhi mixing it up with the farmers and trying to play Robin Hood in western Uttar Pradesh after the police firings. Gandhi, whose first declared ambition was to win over the state of Uttar Pradesh, may have been doing this to outshine his own virtual ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) and its leadership.


We in the opposition can only hope that the farmers are given justice — and we may not mind if the government wishes to give the credit to its young MP, as in the case of Vedanta. Indeed, we hope the UPA tries to put its own house in order before the next Independence Day — and not wait for the situation in our rural hinterlands to worsen. After all, there are many other better ways to create a space in which your young leadership can come to the front.


A rough macro-analysis of the performance of a government led by an economist prime minister in the last year-plus boils down to: a deteriorating price rise situation; his faux pas on issues of foreign policy like the virtual admission of "fomenting trouble" in Balochistan; the vulnerability of political parties under CBI pressure and thus their abstaining and giving of a free hand to the government in Parliament; and an incoherent ministerial group, where alliance ministers chose to defy principles of collective responsibility. Should they not stop and think?


The writer is a BJP MP and spokesman







In recent years, I have often said to European friends: So, you didn't like a world of too much American power? See how you like a world of too little American power — because it is coming to a geopolitical theatre near you. Yes, America has gone from being the supreme victor of World War II, with guns and butter for all, to one of two superpowers during the cold war, to the indispensable nation after winning the cold war, to "The Frugal Superpower" of today. Get used to it. That's our new nickname. American pacifists need not worry any more about "wars of choice." We're not doing that again. We can't afford to invade Grenada today.


Ever since the onset of the Great Recession, it has been clear that the nature of being a leader — political or corporate — was changing in America. During most of the post-World War II era, being a leader meant, on balance, giving things away to people. Today, and for the next decade at least, being a leader in America will mean, on balance, taking things away from people. And there is simply no way that America's leaders, as they have to take more things away from their own voters, are not going to look to save money on foreign policy and foreign wars. And a frugal American superpower is sure to have ripple effects around the globe.


The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era is actually the title of a very timely new book by my tutor and friend Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert. He argues that at present rates, and with the baby boomers soon starting to draw on Social Security and Medicare, by 2050 "they will account for a full 18 per cent of everything the United States produces." This — on top of all the costs of bailing ourselves out of this recession — "will fundamentally transform the public life of the United States and therefore the country's foreign policy... The defining fact of foreign policy in the second decade of the 21st century and beyond will be 'less.' "


When the world's only superpower gets weighed down with this much debt — to itself and other nations — everyone will feel it. How? Hard to predict. But all I know is that the most unique and important feature of US foreign policy over the last century has been the degree to which America's diplomats and naval, air and ground forces provided global public goods — from open seas to open trade and from containment to counterterrorism — that benefited many others besides us. US power has been the key force maintaining global stability, and providing global governance, for the last 70 years. That role will not disappear, but it will almost certainly shrink.


Great powers have retrenched before: Britain for instance. But, as Mandelbaum notes, "When Britain could no longer provide global governance, the United States stepped in to replace it. No country now stands ready to replace the United States, so the loss to international peace and prosperity has the potential to be greater as America pulls back than when Britain did."


After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. "Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place," Mandelbaum predicts.


How to mitigate this trend? Mandelbaum argues for three things: First, we need to get ourselves back on a sustainable path to economic growth and reindustrialisation, with whatever sacrifices, hard work and political consensus that requires. Second, we need to set priorities. We have enjoyed a century in which we could have, in foreign policy terms, both what is vital and what is desirable. For instance, I presume that with infinite men and money we can succeed in Afghanistan. But is it vital? I am sure it is desirable, but vital? Finally, we need to shore up our balance sheet and weaken that of our enemies, and the best way to do that in one move is with a much higher petrol tax.


America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.


An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.







Even in the thick of a historical tragedy, Tony Blair never seemed like a Shakespearean character. He's too rabbity brisk, too doggedly modern. The most proficient spinner since Rumpelstiltskin lacks introspection. The self-described "manipulator" is still in denial about being manipulated.


The Economist's review of A Journey, the new autobiography of the former British prime minister, says it sounds less like Disraeli and Churchill and more like "the memoirs of a transatlantic business tycoon." Yet in the section on Iraq, Blair loses his CEO fluency and engages in tortured arguments, including one on how many people really died in the war, and does a Shylock lament.


He says he does not regret serving as the voice for W.'s gut when the inexperienced American princeling galloped into war with Iraq. As for "the nightmare that unfolded" — giving the lie to all their faux rationales and glib promises — Tony wants everyone to know he has feelings. "Do they really suppose I don't care, don't feel, don't regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died?" he asks of his critics.


In Iraq, marking the transition to the "post-combat mission" for American troops, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was eloquent with an economy of words. Asked by a reporter if Iraq would have to be a democratic state for the war to benefit U.S. national security, Gates cut to core: "The problem with this war for, I think, many Americans is that the premise on which we justified going to war proved not to be valid — that is, Saddam having weapons of mass destruction." He added, candidly: "It will always be clouded by how it began." Iraq will be "a work in progress for a long time," Gates said, and, "how it all weighs in the balance over time, I think remains to be seen."


Blair writes that he thought he was right and that he and W. rid the world of a tyrant. But he winds up with a bitter anecdote: "I still keep in my desk a letter from an Iraqi woman who came to see me before the war began. She told me of the appalling torture and death her family had experienced having fallen foul of Saddam's son. She begged me to act. After the fall of Saddam she returned to Iraq. She was murdered by sectarians a few months later. What would she say to me now?"


There is no apology, but Blair sounds like a man with a guilty conscience.


He concedes that the invasion of Iraq was more about symbols than immediate security, about sending "a message of total clarity to the world," after 9/11, that defying the will of the international community would no longer be tolerated. In other words, Osama bin Laden had emasculated America, and America had to hit back, and did so against a country that had nothing to do with him or 9/11.


Blair did not want to be W.'s peripheral poodle. He wanted to "stand tall internationally" with Britain's main ally and not "wet our knickers," to use a Blair phrase, when the going got tough (or delusional). Blair fantasised that Saddam might someday give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. This, even though the dictator didn't like terrorists because they were impossible to control, and even though, as Blair admits, (the secular) Saddam and (the fundamentalist) Osama were on opposite sides. (When Saudi Arabia felt threatened by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, Osama offered to fight the Iraqi dictator.)


It is criminally naïve, given the billions spent on intelligence, that Blair and W. muffed the postwar planning because they never perceived what Blair now acknowledges as "the true threat": outside interference by al-Qaeda and Iran. So the reasoning of the man known in England as Phony Tony or Bliar amounts to this: They had to invade Iraq because Saddam could hypothetically hook up with al-Qaeda. But they didn't properly prepare for the insurgency because they knew that Saddam had no link to al-Qaeda.


He knew Dick Cheney had a grandiose plan to remake the world and no patience for "namby-pamby peacenikery."


"He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran," as well as "Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.," Blair writes of Cheney, adding: "He was for hard, hard power. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. We're coming after you, so change or be changed." The religious Blair fancied himself a conviction politician who had intervened for good in Kosovo and Sierra Leone and would do so again in Iraq. So he did not, as he said others did, "reach for the garlic and crucifixes" when Dick hatched his sulphurous schemes.


If he had challenged W. and Cheney instead of enabling them, Blair might have stopped the farcical rush to war. Instead, he became the midwife for a weaker Iraq that is no longer a counterweight to Iran — which actually is a nuclear threat — and that seems doomed to be run one day by another brutal strongman.


Maybe Blair should have realised the destructive Oedipal path W. was on. At their first meeting at Camp David, W. screened Meet the Parents.








When 24-year-old Shravin Mittal joins Bharti Airtel International Netherlands BV, which oversees the group's overseas operations like the Zain acquisition, most newspapers put it on the front page; in the excitement some even got his salary (Rs 30 lakh per annum) wrong many times over. A day earlier, the front pages were dominated by the 33-year-old Rishad Premji getting appointed as Wipro's chief strategy officer. In recent times, other groups that have seen GenNext coming in are Shiv Nadar's HCL Technologies, Kishore Biyani's Pantaloon, Venu Srinivasan's TVS Group. While Harsh Goenka's 29-year-old son is already part of Ceat, younger brother Sanjiv's son is also expected to join the family business in another year or two. At the other end of the spectrum, Rahul Gandhi is already being put through his paces, to inherit India's ruling party.


It's almost natural to point fingers, to make fun of the babalog brigade (there are a fair number of women, but babalog has a better ring to it than babylog!), but how wrong is it for them to join the family business, and does it spell bad news for shareholders? It's difficult to say since there's no unequivocal answer. There are enough instances—the Modis come to mind immediately—of families that have been hurt badly by each member being part of the industrial group. There are examples, long before the Ambani brothers, of family splits helping grow the business—RP Goenka and his brother GP Goenka are one such example. But, the argument goes, businesses can be split just so many times. After all, families grow in geometric progression, businesses grow in arithmetic progression—you could call it the Malthusian law of businesses. Which is why groups like the Burmans of Dabur have come up with family councils—each member owns shares but their role in the business is kept to a minimum. Some chambers of commerce even have a family business unit for precisely this purpose.


A few things, however, are clear. With family-owned businesses accounting for over four-fifths of India Inc's wealth, it's unrealistic to expect the families to stay away. While the western model of divorcing ownership from management has positives, this may not work in a developing economy where the rules of the game aren't as well-defined. Can a professional-CEO run firm, where the owners are not in control, bid for a telecom licence when the licensing regime is not certain and the revenue-share payments also unclear? Probably not. But the firms that bid have won handsomely. It's like the western model of sticking to one's knitting needles. A good dictum in mature markets, but when, like the wild west, large swathes of markets are waiting to be captured, it is not necessarily a great idea. It means, in the Indian context, Reliance should not have got into the oil business and ITC into hotels or FMCG. There's no surety that shareholders will benefit from Shravin or Rishad, or even Rahul, joining the family firm, but it's not certain the family firms will do better in the hands of only professional managers.







Now that the Cabinet is readying to clear a census of different caste groups, at a cost of Rs 2,000 crore we're told, what are we to expect? Given it will be self-certification that will be used, and the benefits to be got from being SC, ST or OBC, there is an incentive for misreporting. Between the NSS round in 1999-2000 and 2004-05, the proportion of those reporting themselves as OBCs rose from 36% of the population to 41%—since it is physically impossible for such a growth to have taken place through natural means, the obvious conclusion is many found it worth their while to become OBCs.


Given their relative exclusion on various parameters, once the Census numbers are in, another round of agitations does look likely—why else are the likes of Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav pushing for the Census? In the case of SC/STs, to cite one figure from an analysis based on an NCAER survey of incomes, while they comprise 25% of the population, they account for only 12% of jobs in the 'administrative, executive and managerial' cadre. Assume such data came out of the Census numbers—the Census would report only the caste categories but there are other data, from the NSS, for instance, which give you some details on employment categories. Naturally, there would be a clamour for more affirmative action—industry association CII has already got around 600 members to give data on their employment of SC/STs and the data available so far suggests around 15% of those employed in these firms are SC/STs. But keep in mind, the same analysis of NCAER data tells us that SC/STs also comprise just 14% of all graduates in the country, a pre-requisite for jobs in the 'administrative, executive and managerial' cadre. Before making a clamour for reservations in colleges, similarly, it is important to keep in mind the proportions who've passed school. The short point is that, once the Census and other data come in, it is important to interpret them carefully.








The report of the working group on foreign investment (UK Sinha Committee Report) is yet another step in the process of rationalising India's capital markets, the lens focused this time on foreign portfolio flows. Over a longer time frame, this process will help India gain greater access to the global capital pool, critical to funding the investment required for sustaining a high growth trajectory. The discussion should segue in nicely with the larger discussion on capital flow controls that have acquired a new lease of life with the volatility in the aftermath of the financial crisis.


In the short term, we have recently been reminded of the need of foreign capital to provide systemic liquidity. We had become used to a largesse of foreign capital, which had overflowed into munificent foreign currency reserves, giving us an aura of impregnability to volatility in capital flows and a boost to our national confidence in our economic prowess. The recent inability of capital flows to compensate for the presumed high current account deficit comes as a bit of reality check. It would be belabouring the obvious to emphasise that all avenues to make India an attractive destination for sustained capital flows need to be explored and implemented.


While it is always useful to rationalise and simplify the financial, regulatory and tax incentive distortions, compounded by often inconsistent legal structures that govern the investment ecosystem, there will invariably be wider underlying economic dynamics that will be the predominant driver of flows, damn the tax icebergs. Money being fungible, if the underlying economic profit drivers are attractive, the smartest folk on earth will find a way of getting around these impediments. Whether India, Chile, Brazil or Russia is 'overweight' will depend, for instance, on the relative attractiveness of consumption, aluminium, industrial commodities or oil. Making these economic drivers the centrepiece will ensure a more sustained inflow of stable foreign capital.


This pace of deepening of capital flows, as has been pointed out by the present and earlier groups, should have set off warning signals on the need for getting a more accurate grasp of the implications of a large and sudden shift in financing channels. For instance, a scan of FDI and portfolio flows in India over the past 5 years shows that the latter have been far more volatile, as indeed would have been our a priori expectation. Although the debate on the volatility of portfolio capital during the Asian crisis still surfaces periodically, certain aspects of capital flows have become more crystallised over the past couple of years and these are as follows.


First, the experience of the past couple of years has led to a dramatic turnaround in thinking on managing capital flows, even at that redoubt of free market thinking, the IMF. Volatility is considered to be the bane of excessive dependence on foreign capital. There are economic and fiscal costs in controlling these, sure, but there are ancillary benefits as well, in development of domestic financial markets. For instance, the benefits of implementing an appropriate architecture to mitigate currency and interest rate risks by developing futures and options markets will offset multiple fold these costs. In addition, various debt and equity instruments have become linked. There have to be limits on the extent of external indebtedness considered prudent and these will inevitably have an effect on equity flows.


Second, as the emerging creative accounting practices of global financial firms have emphasised over the past years only what had been increasingly evident, fungible funds are impervious to administrative segmentation. Transfer pricing, just one of the repertoire of tools in the absence of rigorous accounting standards and end-use monitoring procedures, will facilitate the diversion of funds almost at will. The work of Guy Pfefferman, at the International Finance Corporation, and others had brought into public consciousness the matter of classification of FDI, which resulted in a significant overhaul of classification of flows. Similarly, there remain wide grey areas, in which definitions of direct and portfolio flows overlap. Stringent adherence to global accounting standards is one safeguard.


Third, the focus needs to shift to the more tractable components of what is loosely described as 'absorptive capacity'. RBI's latest Annual Policy Statement had emphasised that freeing up logistics bottlenecks was the single most important component of capital flow management. The least capital intensive but most politically difficult, this aspect of encouraging and sustaining stable capital flows will be the force multiplier.


The report is a wonderful treatise on methodological, procedural and discursive aspects of portfolio flows, in line with the remit of the Group's Terms of Reference. But a strong analytical case articulating a broader, integrated economic perspective on capital flows is still awaited.


The author is senior VP, business & economic research, Axis Bank. Views are personal








The abduction of 4 policemen in Bihar, and the confirmed execution of one of them, by Maoists in Bihar is an outrage. That the Maoists continue to use tactics—in this case abduction followed by a demand for a prisoner exchange—that befit a gang out of ruthless outlaws or indeed terrorists, and not a serious political movement, is unlikely to change the minds of those who believe in tackling the 'root causes' of Maoist activity (read under-development) eschewing a more aggressive, armed, approach to quelling the menace.


Let us for a moment ignore the view taken by many, including your columnist, that no development activity can take place in Maoist-infested areas until they are first brought under the complete control of state authorities (and that will obviously require police/paramilitary action). Let us go straight to what the 'root causers' would like to do: presumably build physical infrastructure like roads and power plants, and social infrastructure like schools and hospitals and bring 'development' to these backward areas.


And then, one rather obvious question pops up. How do you bring development to these most backward regions, many of them populated largely by tribals, when you take policy positions like the one on the mining controversy in Niyamgiri? Sure, the decision to ban mining activity in Niyamgiri may have been taken purely on legal grounds—there was, of course, more than a little evidence of skirting the rules on the part of both the private sector Vedanta Group and the government of Orissa. But the circumvention of certain rules simply provided the fig leaf to what was essentially a political decision to 'leave the tribals alone'.


Just sift through the many pages of the NC Saxena report on which the ministry of environment based its final decision on Niyamgiri and you will find, apart from the bits listing the legal circumventions, plenty of text devoted to preventing any disruption of the tribal way of life, even if that life essentially boils down to picking nature's produce for subsistence. It would be a fair assumption to argue that those sympathetic to the Saxena report would also fall into the category of the root causers on the Maoist issue.


But there is a contradiction. Where tribals have been left alone to their own devices and ways of life, they have apparently turned sympathetic to the Maoist cause, precisely because they have been left out of the fruits of development. Yet, in Niyamgiri, that is precisely what the tribals are being condemned to, by the very people who believe that bringing development is the only way to reintegrate the Maoist-infested areas into the mainstream.


Sure, they may have been political points to score against one particular corporate-government nexus that was cutting corners and not delivering what was needed to uplift the local communities as the mining began. But scoring that short-term political point risks creating a dangerous vacuum in Niyamgiri, and potentially in other 'Niyamgiris', that would leave them ripe for Maoist takeover. We don't need more evidence of the dangers of tribal isolation than we already have across the approximately 200 Maoist-infested districts.


The root causers have therefore scored a spectacular self-goal in Niyamgiri if only they viewed it, not as a few thousand votes gained somewhere in Orissa, but from the broader political prism of finding genuine solutions to the genuine problems faced by India's most isolated and ignored communities.


It is also a matter of great concern that the root causers heap all the blame for the problems of the most deprived sections of the population on private capital, which has been largely absent from most of the troubled areas. Again, that is nothing but a fig leaf to cover the State's own embarrassing failure in governing India's most backward regions. In Orissa, it may have been the BJD that was at the receiving end from the Congress. But elsewhere, it could as well be the BJP to blame or indeed the Congress itself. It is difficult for any section of the political class to absolve itself from blame. There has been little attempt to actually persuade the tribals that industrialisation is the best option to a better life. Politics is about providing leadership and ideas and carrying people along. Naveen Patnaik, for all his strengths and popularity, failed to display it in Niyamgiri.


But there is little point in blaming Patnaik alone. At the moment, at least on the issue of how to deal with India's most backward areas, politics seems to be caught between moving towards development by cutting corners (and often promoting unacceptable crony capitalism) or by insisting on leaving the isolated areas to their own devices. Either way, the only group that will be pleased to bits with the cross-connected (and working at cross purposes) political class are the Maoists.


That is bad news for the country's most backward areas, the people who inhabit them and indeed for the country itself.






 3G services and third-generation tariff wars

Anandita Singh Mankotia


Finally the country is set to see the rollout of 3G services with the government allocating spectrum to the winning operators. By the time we bid adieu to 2010, hopefully the first beginnings of such services providing high data download and video streaming would have begun. The high bid prices have somewhat spoiled the party for the operators as none of them could bag the spectrum in all the 22 circles of the country. Therefore, there's apprehension that 3G services would come at a premium, meaning the tariffs would be high and so it would be subscribed by a minuscule section of the society.


On the face of it, the logic seems fine as some operators have also made a case for high tariffs. However, if one analyses the dynamics of our telecom market the case for high tariffs for 3G services does not hold water. The Indian telecom market has undergone change in such a manner that purely cost-based tariffs don't work any more. Look at the 2G market: Vodafone acquired Hutch's stake in 2007 at over $11 billion, so ideally tariffs for its services should have been high, but that's not the case!


If tariffs are determined by competition in the market then there's going to be enough. Seven private operators have bagged the spectrum and would be starting the services around the same time. Add to this the two state-run players, MTNL and BSNL, which already have services although subscription remains low, and the stage is set for a competitive market that would be no different from the current 2G services.


Another reason for the tariffs to be competitive could be that since a bunch of operators would begin services around the same time, they would offer enough freebies to attract subscribers. Further, there's just not the possibility of voice tariffs to be higher than the 2G one or else subscribers would not migrate to 3G, which the operators want in metro cities to decongest their 2G networks. What is likely to happen is that data download services could be priced slightly higher than voice services. Here some initial, one-time costs could be involved which the subscribers would have to pay. In fact, a cursory glance at the tariffs offered by MTNL and BSNL does not show any major tariff difference between 2G and 3G services. It, certainly, would be interesting to see how the latest, coming round of 3G tariff war pans out in the industry.









In his much-hyped recent address, President Barack Obama solemnly declared that U.S. combat operations in Iraq had ended, and the countdown to a full assertion of Iraqi sovereignty had begun. 'Operation Enduring Freedom' had given way to 'Operation New Dawn,' a phase of transition that would wind up at the end of 2011. All American troops would then head home from Iraq, which would be free to run its affairs in accordance with the wishes of its people. The home of the world's most ancient civilisations, crushed under the weight of its tyrants but now liberated by the good Americans, would have a chance to regain its lost glory. This was political theatre and it was lapped up by the gullible round the world. Through his televised address, President Obama attempted to obscure the ugly truth with his trademark eloquence. But for the less gullible, it was clear that under the cover of Iraq's liberation, the U.S. President had unrolled a road map for entrapping for the foreseeable future oil-rich Iraq as America's prized new satellite state. The mechanics of cloning Iraq into a twenty-first century banana republic are in place. Fifty thousand American troops, including Special Forces teams, remain deployed in Iraq to undertake "stability operations." Thousands of "security contractors" with a mercenary core, increasingly outsourced from the developing world, are being pumped in to push the privatisation of the occupation to a new level.


All key Iraqi institutions are being packed with civilian "advisors," many of whom will be stationed across the Tigris in the gigantic U.S, embassy, whose 21 buildings are spread across 104 acres. Mr. Obama himself acknowledged that "our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisers — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world." As the Americans gear up for post-war stabilisation and consolidation in Iraq, positioning a suitably pliable government in Baghdad remains the next major undertaking. Here again, they have a head start. The Iraqi constitution, drafted under U.S. tutelage, is a deeply flawed document. It has inbuilt provisions to prevent the emergence of a strong central executive capable of reinforcing Iraq's national sovereignty. The Iraqis now have a hard choice: either surrender to Washington's diktat and witness the emergence of their country as a full-blown American satellite state in the heart of West Asia, or revive at all levels a sophisticated anti-occupation resistance that steers clear of al-Qaeda terrorism and Iraq's sectarian fault lines.







For over a decade now, conditional cash transfers (CCT) have become an important part of the toolkit of economic policymakers to reduce poverty in the developing world. The core principle of this strategy, linking cash to verifiable behavioural attributes, has two advantages: short-term monetary benefits and long-term investments in human capital. That this policy intervention has started paying dividends is evident from Latin American experiences. In those countries, important socioeconomic indicators such as education, health, and nutrition showed improvements after the introduction of CCT schemes. For India, which has pursued the goal of redistributive justice through a mix of policies since Independence, the post-liberalisation period has seen a recalibration of its approach to equity. If the 'Food for Work' programme evolved into the rights-based Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the National Maternity Benefit Scheme was modified and the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) was put in place. Both are instances of cash transfers based on conditions to improve the lot of the needy. While work was the eligibility condition for benefits in the employment guarantee programme, maternal health check-ups and institutional deliveries were the conditions for the JSY.


Five years on, an evaluation of the JSY — one of the world's largest conditional cash transfer programmes in terms of the number of beneficiaries — has pointed to the beneficial effect as well as the lags in India's latest effort to provide for safer motherhood. A paper published in The Lancet in June reported a substantial increase in the number of beneficiaries between 2005-06 and 2008-09 (up from 0.74 million to 8.43 million) and other positive outcomes such as reduction in perinatal and antenatal deaths. Although these point to the advantage of linking cash to welfare, there are inter-State disparities to be corrected. In addition, better staffing and infrastructure for public sector health facilities is an imperative for cash transfer schemes to be truly beneficial. Another constraint identified by the paper which needs to be remedied urgently is improper targeting. The finding that "the poorest and the least educated women do not consistently have the highest odds" of becoming the beneficiaries is a critical pointer to the manner in which cash transfer schemes are implemented in India. The solution to such lags lies in proactive governance that reaches out to the needy, including through greater publicity and greater transparency, and filling the gaps in the provision of public health facilities.










The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has come in for widespread criticism in Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and other parts of the northeast because of the human rights abuses that have come to be associated with its operation. So strong is the sentiment against AFSPA in Kashmir that in recent months Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah have all spoken of the need to re-examine the law. The Army, on the other hand, says this is unnecessary.


The Army Chief, General V.K. Singh, has gone so far as to say that the demand for the dilution of AFSPA is being made for "narrow political gains." On his part, Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal, GOC-in-C, Northern Command, has compared the Act to scripture. "I would like to say that the provisions of AFSPA are very pious to me and I think to the entire Indian Army. We have religious books, there are certain guidelines which are given there, but all the members of the religion do not follow it, they break it also … does it imply that you remove the religious book …?"


On paper, AFSPA is a deceptively simple law. First passed in 1958, it comes into play when the government declares a particular part of the northeast (or Jammu and Kashmir under a parallel 1990 law) a "disturbed area." Within that area, an officer of the armed forces has the power to "fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances."


Even though activists have made this the focus of their criticism, giving soldiers the "right to kill" is not, in my opinion, AFSPA's principal flaw. After all, if a 'law and order' situation has arisen which compels the government to deploy the Army, soldiers have to be allowed to use deadly force. Even a private citizen has the right to kill someone in self-defence, though the final word on the legality of her or his action belongs to the courts. Similarly, a civilised society expects that the use of deadly force by the Army must at all times be lawful, necessary and proportionate. Here, the Act suffers from two infirmities: the requirement of prior sanction for prosecution contained in Section 6 often comes in the way when questions arise about the lawfulness of particular actions. Second, AFSPA does not distinguish between a peaceful gathering of five or more persons (even if held in contravention of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code) and a violent mob. Firing upon the latter may sometimes be justified by necessity; shooting into a peaceful assembly would surely fail any test of reasonableness.


Leaving this issue aside, however, it is important to recognise that AFSPA does not give an officer the unqualified right to fire upon and cause the death of any person in a Disturbed Area. At a minimum, that person should have been carrying weapons or explosives. The shooting of an unarmed individual, and the killing of a person in custody, are not acts that are permissible under AFSPA. Force is allowed in order to arrest a suspect but the fact that the Act authorises the use of "necessary" rather than "deadly" force in such a circumstance means the tests of necessity and proportionality must be met.


Over the years that AFSPA has been in operation, the Army has opened fire countless times and killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Whenever those killed have been armed insurgents or terrorists, there has been little or no public clamour against the Act. It is only when the armed forces violate the provisions of the law and indulge in the unlawful killing of persons — especially unarmed civilians — that voices get raised against AFSPA. The protests in Manipur in 2004 reached a crescendo because of the death in custody of Th. Manorama and scores of others like her. In Kashmir, sentiments against the Armed Forces Act got inflamed because of fake encounter incidents like Pathribal and Macchhil.


If today people are questioning General Jaswal's "religious book," it is not so much because of its provisions as because of the failure of its custodians to act when the law is flouted. The Lord's Word threatens sinners with fire and brimstone, eternal damnation or the endless cycle of births and deaths. But AFSPA holds out no such horrors for the soldiers who violate its provisions. Section 6 says "no prosecution … shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act." This requirement confers de facto impunity on all transgressors. Thus the CBI may have indicted army officers for the murder of innocent civilians at Pathribal in 2000 but their trial cannot take place because the Central government refuses to give sanction. What is worse, the Minister concerned does not even have to give any reasons.


The ostensible logic behind this Section, a variant of which can be found in Section 197 of the CrPC and in

many Indian laws, is to protect public servants from frivolous or vexatious law suits. But though it has not ruled on the ambit of AFSPA's Section 6, the Supreme Court has often declared that the object of Section 197-type protection is not to set an official above the common law. "If he commits an offence not connected with his official duty he has no privilege."


In the Pathribal case, the CBI took the view that abducting and killing unarmed civilians in cold blood could not

be considered part of "official duty." Not only did the MoD reject this logic, it moved the Supreme Court for quashing of the case on the ground that it has not granted sanction to prosecute. At no time has it been asked to furnish reasons for denying sanction.


A government which has faith in the actions of its officers and the robustness of its judicial system ought never to shy away from allowing the courts to step in when doubts arise. And yet, in case after case, legal proceedings get stymied by the denial of official sanction.


In a democracy, this requirement of previous sanction should have no place. But given the balance of political and institutional forces in India today, it is utopian to believe it can simply be done away with. What I am proposing, therefore, is a modest remedy. Let us not tamper with the government's ability to protect officers from criminal proceedings. But instead of the default setting being 'no prosecution without official sanction,' let the blocking of a prosecution require official action.


Section 6 could thus be amended to read: "No prosecution … shall be instituted against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act where the Central government provides reasons in writing and the competent court upholds the legal validity of these reasons."


Such a provision would prevent good officers from being prosecuted for killings which result from acts of good faith while allowing the bad apples to be prosecuted for their crimes. The government would still have the right to intervene on behalf of a soldier who has committed an illegal act. But this would require a Minister to take personal responsibility for a decision that would, after all, be tantamount to denying justice to the victim's family. In the Pathribal case, for example, Defence Minister A.K. Antony would be compelled to inform the trial court of his reasons for opposing the prosecution of soldiers indicted by the CBI for murder. And the court would get to rule on whether Mr. Antony's reasons were valid or not.


There is no reason why this inversion of the "previous sanction" provision cannot be replicated across the board in all Indian laws to cover situations where human rights abuses are alleged. Such a provision would not disturb the basic provisions of AFSPA. But it would bring that "religious book" in closer conformity with an even holier tome, the Constitution of India.










recent decision by Mr. Jairam Ramesh, [Union] Minister [of State] for Environment and Forests banning the mining of Bauxite in the Niyamgiri hill of Kalahandi district in Orissa (which is home to Tribal communities) by Vedanta Resources is a matter of immense relief to the people of the region and their supporters in this country and across the globe.


Another recent decision by the minister to scrap completely the Loharinag Pala dam under construction on the Bhagirathi river which is ecologically damaging the region, has also been welcomed by spontaneous people's movements in Uttarakhand resisting the construction of this dam and others at various stages of planning and construction.


These decisions have given concerned citizens like us hope that the greed of mining and construction companies will not override human and environment interests under the false pretext of 'development'.


Nevertheless, is this a turning point? We sincerely hope and urge the government, especially the Minister for Environment and Forests to take up for review clearances already given. Glaring cases abound like the Polavaram dam and irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh and the Lower Subansiri Hydro Power project in Assam, in addition to those in Arunachal Pradesh which are far from public view, but no less serious. Let this mark the beginning of a genuine democratic development in India. We must say NO to development that serves corporations but overrides all other interests through degradation of the environment, massive displacement and destruction of livelihood of the poor without any viable alternative.


We further hope that the logic of the decision will lead to investigating the violations of agreements and/or of the law by such companies or government agencies and where required punitive action will be taken.




Professor Romila Thapar, Academic, Delhi; Professor Amit Bhaduri, Academic, Delhi; Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Madhya Pradesh; Aruna Roy, MKSS, Rajasthan, Member – NAC; Rajendra Singh, Tarun Bharat Sangh, Rajasthan; Professor Nandini Sundar, Academic, Delhi; Arvind Kejrival, Parivartan, Delhi; Sandeep Pandey, Social Activist, U.P.; Aundhati Dhuru, Social Activist, U.P.; Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court, Delhi; Shailesh Gandhi,Central Information Commissioner, Delhi; Harsh Mandar, ex-IAS, Member – NAC, Delhi; Professor Yogendra Yadav, Delhi; Professor Amit Jyoti Sen, IIM Kolkata; Kalyani Chaudhuri, IAS retired, Kolkata; Madhu Bhaduri, retired diplomat, Delhi; K.P. Fabian, retired diplomat, Delhi; I.P. Khosla, retired diplomat, Delhi; T.S. Ananthu, former Director, Gandhi Peace Foundation, Tamil Nadu; Monoj Misra, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan Delhi; Mondira Sen, Publisher, Kolkata; Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad, Delhi; Geetha Hariharan, Writer, Bangalore; Professor Rajiv Bhargav, Delhi; Professor Manoranjan Mohanti, Delhi; Suhas Borkar, Film maker, Delhi; Geeta Jhambh, Social Activist, Bangalore; Madhumita Dutta, Social Activist, Chennai; Nityanand Jayaraman Social Activist, Chennai; Ubrat Kumar Sahu, Social Activist, Orissa; Achyut Das, Social Activist, Orissa; Daljit Ami, Academic, Chandigarh; Professor Manjeet Singh, Academic, Chandigarh; Lallan Baghal, Academic, Chandigarh; Maria Aurora Couto, Writer, Goa; Dr. Kunda Srinivasan, Opthalmologist, Mumbai; Professor K.N. Panikkar, Academic, Thiruvanathapuram; Professor Mohan Rao, Academic, Delhi; Vineeta Bal, Delhi; Professor Deepak Nayyar, Academic, Delhi; Naman Ahuja, Delhi; Anna George, Delhi; Gautam Patel, Mumbai; Professor Achin Vinaik, Academic, Delhi; Shakti Maira, Artist, Delhi; Veenu Shah, Artist, Delhi; Professor Shalini Randeria, Academic, Zurich; Professor Nivedita Menon, Academic, Delhi; Professor Aditya Nigam, Academic, Delhi; Indu Nath, Social Activist, Dehradun; Preeti Kirbat, Social Activist, Dehradun; Deepa, Social Activist, Dehradun; Arunima Kulavi, Social Activist, Dehradun; Minakshi Sharma, Social Activist, Dehradun; Vrinda Grover, Lawyer, Delhi; Ashok Nehru, Gurgaon; Amit Sengupta, Writer-Journalist; Meher Engineer, Academic, Kolkata; Praful Bidwai, Journalist, Delhi; Malti Nehru, Gurgaon; Venkatesh Nayak, Social Activist, Delhi; Manish Sisodia Kabir, Delhi; Commodore Lokesh Batra, Delhi; Professor Chaman Lal, JNU, Delhi; Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar, Lawyer, Delhi; Vidhya Das, Social Activist, Orissa.









The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that the Taliban often uses, is proving to be deadly and and challenging for the NATO in Afghanistan as over 490 soldiers of the alliance have been killed this year. According to iCasualties, a website tracking NATO-led forces' casualties in Afghanistan, 80 soldiers of the alliance had been killed in August this year as against 77 in August 2009.


The increase in troop fatalities has forced many NATO-member states to review their military mission in Afghanistan and begin advocating a pull-out.


Holland has already begun withdrawing troops from the militancy-plagued country. Canada would not extend its military mission beyond 2011. Since launching the war on the Taliban regime in October 2001, according to iCasualties, 2,061 soldiers, 1,273 of them American, have been killed.


A survey conducted in the U.S. recently, according to media reports, indicates that 52 per cent of Americans are against the war in Afghanistan. In Canada, 80 per cent of Canadians want the military mission to end in 2011.


The IED is proving to be a simple weapon used in a modern military hardware era. Although the militants use anti-tank mines from unknown sources, they often use the IED against well-equipped modern NATO troops.


The militants place explosive devices, mostly ammonium nitrate in a jar, a tin can and a pressure cooker and plant them by the roadside to target the security forces. Interestingly, the equipment used by NATO forces does not have a success rate that can be talked about when it comes to spotting and defusing the lethal IEDs during search operations. The suicide vest and a modified container of explosives are also Taliban inventions. In a bid to reduce casualties, the government had banned the sale of ammonium nitrate, the chemical fertilizer used by farmers, in bulk. — Xinhua









The Belgian government has come up with a radical way to deal with the burgeoning cat population — to sterilise all but a select few of the animals within five years.


If it is passed into law, the country will embark on a phased neutering of all cats except exotic pedigrees at the start of next year, and there will be a ban on using corner shops, noticeboards and small ads to get rid of unwanted litters of kittens.


The feline population in Belgium, a country of 11 million people, has increased to an estimated 1.7 million, and the culling of cats has become a daily routine. According to the health ministry, more than 13,000 were killed in animal refuges last year, more than one in three of the country's 37,000 strays.


"We are confronted with a dramatic situation," said Jan Eyckmans of the Belgian health ministry. "So our minister asked the animal welfare council to come up with ideas." The result is the Multi-annual Cat Plan 2011-2016, which says sterilisation is necessary "to halt the increase in the numbers of strays and cats collected in shelters".


Initially, all cats in shelters will be sterilised. The next phase imposes neutering on cats from breeders and sellers. Finally, all cat owners will be obliged to have their pets sterilised and registered, costing about €130 for a female cat and €50 for a tom. Breeders and owners of Siamese, Abyssinian and other special pedigrees will be exempted from the new regime.


"If you buy a very expensive cat for €600 and want to have kittens, you can't sterilise them all," said Eyckmans. "We need to find the right balance." Many are sceptical about the proposal. "Not a good idea. It won't be easy. They'll never be able to sterilise all the cats," said Alan, who helps to run the Nos Amis Fideles (Our Faithful Friends) kennels in Waterloo, south of Brussels.


"Pet owners will rebel and refuse to do it," agreed Marleen Meersseman, who helps to run a rescue service for stricken wild animals in the Flemish village of Nieuwkerke. "And this wouldn't be Belgium if people did not find a back door." But the animal welfare lobby is strongly supportive of the scheme.


"We don't want the cat to vanish from the earth," said Ann De Greef, director of Gaia, which is taking the campaign to the town squares of Belgium and reports "enormous support".


First national programme


While dozens of Belgian local authorities practise cat-neutering programmes, the new project is the first to propose compulsory sterilisation nationally. It will be watched closely in other countries wrestling with ballooning cat populations.Cat culls have a long history in Belgium. In Ypres, in western Flanders, they have hurled the animals from the belfry of the 12th-century Cloth Hall for hundreds of years in an annual ritual to ward off the devil. But nowadays the cats are fluffy, velveteen toys. The cat cull is considered a tourist attraction and an excuse for a fancy-dress party.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010






About 15 years after the statutory panchayati raj institutions based on the amended Central Act and the consequential State legislation were put in place, most of the office-bearers of these bodies elected under the scheme of one-third reservation for women and Dalits radiate confidence and even exuberance. Thanks to several rounds of training conducted by experts from governmental and non-governmental organisations and progressive political parties, they have equipped themselves with the needed tools and skills and got over many a hurdle placed in their path by adversaries.

The new generation panchayats have clearly come of age. They have left behind them the bitter memories of the initial resistance, often violent, they had to face from caste-based and gender-based elements in the villages.


A glimpse of this could be seen at a national convention of panchayat heads from Andhra Pradesh at Tirupati recently. The participants included panchayat leaders from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Gujarat, and Delhi. The theme of the convention, organised by the Academy of Grassroots Studies and Research of India, was "Fifty per cent reservation for women in rural and urban bodies: A way forward for inclusive growth." The speakers, many of them with rich work experience in the field, told the panchayat representatives, most of them women, that now that they had been adequately trained and empowered, they should shed their fears and misgivings and concentrate more on development activities in their panchayats with the experiences they have accumulated.


In a special address to the convention, Manju Sharma, plant scientist and former Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, made a strong plea to enhance the presence and role of women in science and technology. She regretted that "the intellectual capital of half of the human resources" had not been fully tapped for the creation of a knowledge-based society and for the promotion of sustainable development across the country.


The theme is by no means new. The First World Conference on Women convened by the United Nations Organisation was held in Mexico City in 1975 and its main theme was overcoming discrimination against women. It came out with the Declaration of Mexico on the Equality of Women and their contribution to development and peace. The Beijing Declaration that came out of the Fourth World Conference that was held two decades later described gender equality as "an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms." A decade later came three international reports on related issues.


The reports revealed a positive trend of increasing numbers of women entering the field of science and technology over the previous two decades. This applied to India as well but the gender gap is still huge and the facts speak for themselves. Of the 443 Indian scientists who received the prestigious Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Award in the last half-century, only 10 were women. Only one woman has won this award so far in the Medicine category. As for the emerging future, the proportion of women students in India's top S&T educational institutions, the Indian Institutes of Technology is abysmally low.


One major reason for the underrepresentation of women in science in India, apart from their dual roles in society as "homemaker and child-bearer," is the discrimination practised against them by men at home and in offices and labs as well. The studies found that not only male colleagues but even senior women scientists in some cases were not friendly to female entrants into the field.


Against this backdrop, it is heartening to observe influential sections of the news media playing an active role in encouraging women achievers in science. India Today, for example, has been giving awards to outstanding women achievers in 11 fields that include science, apart from business, arts, sport, and story-telling. The award for 2010 in the category "women in Science" went to Geeta Varadan, Director of the Advanced Data Research Institute in Hyderabad. Many daily newspapers and magazines, including The Hindu, Business Line, and Frontline, have been encouraging women in science and technology and women achievers in this vital field.


"No matter what obstacles arise, if you are determined to fulfil your dream, all you need is dedication and hard work," writes Manju Sharma in a note of confidence to the up and coming scientists. She strongly believes that "a cadre of women scientists and technologists [will] accelerate the pace of socio-economic progress in this country." That's the spirit that needs to be inculcated in newspaper readers and the tens of millions reached by television and radio – women and men, girls and boys. That's the progressive message that needs to go out to every part of India.









While the Lok Sabha passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, on August 25, the Rajya Sabha passed it five days later. In this context, Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), spoke to T.S. Subramanian on September 2 in Chennai. Dr. Banerjee answered questions about the Bill, India's nuclear-powered submarine programme, the uranium enrichment capability and so on. Excerpts.


It is a year since India's nuclear-powered submarine, Arihant, was launched. Has the Light Water Reactor (LWR), using enriched uranium as fuel, on board the submarine been started up?


Our nuclear steam supply system is ready 100 per cent. From our (DAE) side, everything is ready. We are only waiting for other systems to become operational so that we can start the commissioning activity of the reactor. I really do not know when the harbour trials will be done.


The Navy will need three or four nuclear-powered submarines for this arm to be a viable force. Will you build more LWRs for these submarines?


We are already doing that. I will not be able to tell you the number, but it is a fact that we are in that game. The next nuclear steam generating plants are getting ready for future applications.


Where will the enriched uranium for these boats come from? There is only one Rare Materials Plant at Ratnahalli, near Mysore, to produce enriched uranium. Will the proposed Special Material Enrichment Facility in Chitradurga district in Karnataka be helpful?


Chitradurga will come a little later, not immediately. Our Ratnahalli plant capacity has been enhanced. But more than that, there is significant improvement in our technology. Usually, a term called Separating Work Units (SWUs) defines the technology level that we have achieved in this, and I can assure you that there has been considerable improvement in SWUs of our next generation caskets of centrifuges. The separating capacity of our centrifuges has improved. So total capacity enhancement at Ratnahalli has been done. We are confident of supplying the entire fuel for the set of….


You cannot say anymore that India does not have enrichment technology. India has its own technology and we can produce [enriched uranium]. We have not started doing it for large-scale commercial nuclear power stations, which require a much larger quantity of enriched uranium. We will be able to do that once we go to Chitradurga.


There is an impression that the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of the Indian Industry (CII) were scaremongering that the American companies would not give India nuclear reactors and that the Indian companies would not provide components and equipment to them if clause 17(b) of the Civil Liability for the Nuclear Damage Bill, 2010, remained in the legislation. (Clause 17 says that "The operator of the nuclear installation, after paying the compensation for nuclear damage in accordance with section 6, shall have a right of recourse where – (a) such right is expressly provided for in a contract in writing; (b) the nuclear incident has resulted as a consequence of an act of supplier or his employee, which includes supply of equipment or material with patent or latent defects or sub-standard services; (c) the nuclear incident has resulted from the act of commission or omission of an individual done with the intent to cause nuclear damage"). Top officials of the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) went on record that clause 17(b) would deter the suppliers from engaging in nuclear commerce with India. Why are the DAE/the NPCIL batting for the American suppliers?


No. Before discussing the right of recourse of the operator, let me tell you about the basic purpose behind the introduction of the nuclear liability Bill. In the very unlikely event of a nuclear incident, we do not want the victims to go for an extended process of litigation to claim compensation. The victims must get prompt and no-fault compensation. Prompt in terms of time, and no-fault meaning that you don't have to prove the fault of the operator or anyone to get the compensation.


The Bill identifies clearly who takes the liability. It is clear that the liability is taken by the operator.


There are many undue apprehensions that all this is being done for the private sector's entry into the Indian nuclear business. Private participation even today is very high. If you look at the nuclear industry in India, all the major manufacturers of equipment and components are in the private sector. However, for this Bill, there is a specific requirement that the nuclear power plant operator will be either the Government itself or a Government company, as defined in the Atomic Energy Act. So this apprehension that this is only a precursor to allowing the private sector to come in as operators of nuclear power plants is totally dispelled.


The second point is the suppliers' liability. What is the meaning of the phrase, "the right of recourse" of the operator? It means the operator first takes his own liability to compensate the victims and after the compensations are paid, he has the right of recourse to sue the suppliers, provided he has definite proof of faulty supply [in the equipment] which has been the primary cause of the incident. The Bill establishes prompt compensation from the operator to the victim.


This whole Bill is between the victims and the operators. It creates a new legal authority called the Claims Commission or the Claims Commissioner. That authority will determine, depending on the scale of the event, how much compensation should be given. The Bill also mentions that the Indian laws, whatever is available today, are in no way affected by the introduction of this new Act. The right of recourse in this case is available to the operator through other Acts [also].


Tort law?


Tort is there. Defect liability is there…. Only in this Act, it has been mentioned that they have the right of recourse. We [the DAE] are not taking sides. We just want to make a victim-friendly legislation and make the operator liable. One of the points is that you are inculcating safety-consciousness in the operator because you are introducing a heavy liability in case any incident occurs which affects the people. We sincerely believe that no situation will arise where it will be necessary to invoke this law.


There was an attempt in June to delete clause 17(b). There was a DAE internal note to that effect.


It was not an attempt.


The perception is that there was pressure on the DAE from the Prime Minister's Office to delete the clause.


No. Let me explain. There are two contradictory requirements. On the one side, you have to look at the international practice, what are the laws available in several countries. In most of these legislations, there is no mention of the right of recourse…. In some way, there is a mention and statements are similar to what is indicated in 17(a) and (c).


On the other side, when you are getting equipment and components from several suppliers, in case a fault in any of them leads to a nuclear accident, there should be some suppliers' responsibility. This is the contradiction.


That is why this point was discussed in detail during several discussions of the Parliamentary Standing Committee. Based on its recommendations and a broad political consensus, the present language in clause 17 was evolved.


Was there no pressure at all from the American suppliers to remove 17(b)?


It is a legislation made in India. So we have to ensure that it is India-centric. It cannot be based on what you are calling pressures from other countries. In any case, there will be many things published in the press, many viewpoints being expressed. But you cannot say that an Indian lobby is being created by pressure from other countries.








All eyes will be on US President Barack Obama this week as he promised to unfold a stimulus package that would give a fillip to employment after the US labour department released figures that showed that 54,000 people lost their jobs in August. The unemployment figures for August were 14.9 million jobless compared to 14.6 million in July. There was some comfort that the figures of those who lost their jobs was less than what was predicted by Wall Street (1,20,000), and that the private sector had created 67,000 jobs. The small and medium industries, it is reported, could? be the focus of Mr Obama's new package. There is some scepticism about whether Mr Obama can really print more money to help the economy or the banks to support the SMEs that can create the jobs. He is also planning to do it through tax breaks and has pleaded with the Republicans not to block tax cuts for this sector. However, the bottom line is that the swathe of economic data emanating from the US and across the Western world shows that their economies are decisively weak. The implications are not good news for India. The effect on India usually comes with a lag of a couple of months so by September-October inflows from foreign institutional investors (FIIs) could slow down and negatively impact the stock markets. This means it could be a dicey time for initial public offers waiting to come to the capital market. Many of them are public sector companies. Exporters, too, will struggle, at least till Christmas, as Indian exporters are still heavily dependent on the US and the West for their export markets. The other way of interpreting the economic data coming out of the US, which still remains the largest consumer market in the world, and the most dynamic as Mr Obama says, is that fear of double-digit recession has been overdone and that this fear is receding. So, while the road to recovery could be long and painful, the positive is that there will be no further decline.

In the context of President Obama's move, it is a coincidence that in India the Union labour ministry has circulated a paper, according to our sister publication? Financial Chronicle, proposing that the government link bank credit to employment creation. It has proposed the creation of 58 million jobs in two years to meet the aspirations of 10 million educated youth that hit the employment market annually. Among the measures suggested are linking tax holidays, exemptions and duty rates to jobs, easy credit for job-intensive sectors with interest subvention, and facilitating finance to small and medium enterprises. This is a heartening development. But we have heard many of these suggestions routinely, particularly regarding finance for small and medium enterprises. Seminar after seminar is held to discuss how funds can be transferred from banks to the SMEs, but till date it remains a Herculean task for SMEs to get funds from the banks. The ones who need it most are considered high risk. Bank credit to SMEs has come down to eight per cent from 12 per cent. Interest subvention seems to be the only concrete suggestion that can be implemented. The government has tried it with the farmers and it has worked. If banks that give credit to SMEs can be given an interest subsidy, they can pass on some benefits to the sector and for the demographic dividend that everyone loves to talk about. To that extent it will be interesting to see what stimulus package President Obama provides for American SMEs because the governments of both countries are facing tremendous resistance to government subsidy for SMEs. While the US faces resistance from the Republicans, in India it is the banks that are resisting assistance to the SMEs, who are the backbone of exports and employment creation.








Kabul is struggling to set the record straight now that an influential lobby in Washington is trying to pass the blame of the faltering US war in Afghanistan on to the Karzai regime. Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen, a member of the influential Congressional Armed Services Committee, was the latest in a row of Washington bigwigs to blame the Karzai regime for everything that was going wrong in Afghanistan.
Mr Larsen declaimed last week that the war on terror is failing because the Karzai adm inistration is thoroughly corrupt and cannot deliver the basics to the common Afghan people. Aid money is allegedly being pilfered by Hamid Karzai, his family and coterie leaving nothing for the country's impoverished masses. A population without basic services that ought to be provided by the state is progressively turning to the Taliban. This, Congressman Larsen and others in his camp aver, is at the root of the US failure to combat the Taliban. "I think the patience of the American people is almost done", the Congressman declared after visiting Kabul last week.
A number of Americans in high positions have been angered by reports of bagfuls of money being physically carried out of Kabul airport and invested in Dubai. The founder and chairman of the Kabul Bank, Sherkhan Farnood, stepped down recently ostensibly because he was believed to be running a hawala racket to launder political money. The latest refrain in Washington, as US secretary of defence Robert Gates reiterated, is that the US is "committed to enforcing a hard line against the corruption that exploits the Afghan people and saps their support for their elected government — and that includes making sure American tax dollars and other assistance are not being misused".

Persuasive stuff but not entirely true according to the Afghans, who remain in charge of a teetering regime in Kabul. If anything, it is their patience with the United States that seems to be at an end. "We have lost the focus in the war", lamented Rangin Dafdar Spanta, national security adviser to President Karzai. A bitter critic of the latest US litany, Mr Spanta does not deny the existence of corruption in the Afghan government or the need to fight it. He argues, however, that it is absurd to suggest that corruption is the cause of the continued conflict in the country.

In a hard hitting op-ed piece carried by the Washington Post last month, Mr Spanta argued that the biggest mistake of the United States was to embrace as a strategic partner the very nation that has, in fact, been nurturing terrorism. "Britain, Spain, Turkey, China, Germany and India have all been victims not of Afghan corruption but of international terrorism — emanating from the region", he wrote, repeating that the real issue that needs to be addressed is the support the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies provide to the jihadi fighters.
Bringing the same message to New Delhi, Mr Spanta said that instead of rewarding Pakistan's military establishment with billions of dollars of aid, the world must impose sanctions on that country. That Mr Spanta is speaking for the entire Karzai administration is evident. For, President Karzai, in a meeting with the new US Centcom chief, Gen. James Matis, gave Mr Spanta's line — that fighting terrorism would fail as long as its sanctuaries remain outside Afghanistan's borders. He repeated the same to a team of visiting US Congressmen.
The cumulative Afghan war cost since 2001 for the United States alone is touching $336 billion. The total cumulative US economic assistance to Afghanistan, on the other hand, adds up to $52 billion of which economic aid is about $14 billion. The bulk of US money is spent by US agencies like the department of defence, United States Agency for International Development and the Drug Enforcement Agency. It is estimated that of the total non-military aid pledged by donor countries, less than a third passes through the hands of the Afghan government.

Corruption moreover is not limited to Afghans. In the Soviet days, Kabul's main bazaar was full of cheap caviar, vodka and bullets. Today, Kabul boasts of an Obama bazaar where US made rations, chocolates and a lot else are openly traded. A major outlet for American goods has sprouted right outside Bagram, the main US base in the country.

The really big scam is in the reconstruction aid flowing into the country. "An estimated 40 per cent of the [aid] money sp ent has returned to rich donor countries such as the US thro u gh corporate profits, consultant salaries and other costs, vastly pushing up expenditure", a re port prepared by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief revealed. In a book titled War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, au thor Linda Polman writes: "The majority of western NGOs ne v er venture outside Kabul. Inst ead, they subcontract local and other NGOs to implement their projects, which in turn engage further subcontractors. A total of four intermediate organisations, each creaming off a portion, is common. Steadily seeping away, project finance passes from hand to hand until finally someone gets down to bricklaying, carpentry or ploughing".
Mr Spanta is understandably an angry man. He is watching helplessly as the jihadi hordes batter away at his country's gates. From his watch tower, the enemy is laughing, literally all the way to the bank.

Indranil Banerjie is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi








In the past few months media has been carrying seemingly good news that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet — two of the wealthiest Americans who have now also become two of the biggest philanthropists — have written to other American billionaires to pledge part or half of their property to charity. It is reported that the two have succeeded in getting around 40 of those billionaires to pledge half of their wealth to charities. It is heard that now they plan to come to India to try and persuade Indian billionaires to do the same. While we wait for the results in India with our fingers crossed it would be good to reflect a little on the concept of giving away in charity.
St. Francis of Assisi, a 12th century saint from Italy was the son of a rich cloth merchant. One day after getting tired of his father's nagging who expected him to take interest in his business, St. Francis decided to give up everything and to embrace a life of poverty to serve Jesus. He experienced a close communion with God and as a consequence composed a prayer titled, Make me a channel of your peace. The second part of the prayer reads, "…O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understa nd; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pard oned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life". It is noteworthy that the Missionaries of Charity recite the whole prayer daily in all centres. While everything said in the prayer is important, the part most relevant to our topic today is, "…For it is in giving that we receive", which in itself sounds quite contradictory. How could one receive if s/he is giving away? For, what is given is gone from our possession and it does not come back to us.
Among the five pillars on which Islam is built, one of them is, "to give a specific amount of income in charity" and especially when the Muslim community observes the month of Ramzan, it is said that helping the needy with charitable acts is even more meritorious. According to one interpretation, the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is meant "to distribute" the zakat (tax for charity) accumulated during the month of Ramzan.

Charity in Hinduism is also an important virtue as described by V. Balakrishnan. He holds, "According to Indian scriptures, daanam (giving in charity) is of four kinds: Nityad aanam is rendered da ily for the contentment of the donor, Kaanmy ad a a nam is done in expectation of rewards, Vima ladaa nam is offered to please God and Nimithikadaanam brings redemption from one's sins."

The Jain religion is too well known for its teachings on charity, particularly the one on aparigrah. It basically asks its followers never to hoard things more than what is necessary for one's needs. The rest should be given away in charity. In Sikhism, we have the wonderful practice of langar, according to which, everyone, regardless of one's religion, caste, gender or social status, can go to the gurdwara and have a stomach full of food for free which is provided for by the donations of the devotees.

The Bible is full of teachings on giving and Jesus often spoke about giving and giving generously. "Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For, with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:38)". For Jesus it was not important how much one gave but that one decided to give. For instance, when he saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on" (Luke 21:1-4). This is reflected also in the prayer of St. Francis. Following the inspiration from Jesus, Mother Teresa — the icon of charity whose birth centenary we celebrated last month and who almost institutionalised works of charity used to say, "Give till it hurts".

Thus giving in charity is enjoined by all religions and one also finds authentic examples of rich people making genuine donations, often wishing to remain anonymous to the public, among people of all religions. Once we remember that we cannot carry our wealth to the grave with us, it will surely become much easier to give though meritorious giving is not giving out of one's riches but "Giving till it hurts".


— Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India. He can be contacted at











Israel's ambassador in India, Mark Sofer, visited the shrine of renowned Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer last Friday. Israel's move to reach out to Muslims in India and Muslims in general is both shrewd and right.


That India should be the place for the conciliatory move is hugely significant. Sofer acknowledged the common heritage of Jews and Muslims as children of Abraham, and made a significant political statement that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a religious one. It is a political issue.


The senior caretaker of the shrine, Syed Sarwar Chishty, apparently told Sofer about the Sufi shrine being the real face of Islam, and Sofer responded by saying that Osama bin Laden is not Islam.


This is indeed the encounter of religions in the classical Indian sense where faiths jostle with each other and flourish. Representatives of the other Abrahamic tradition — various church leaders — also reached out to Muslims in Mumbai the other day to prevent any communal fallout if a lunatic pastor in America carries out his threat to burn the Koran on 9/11.


There is, of course, a need to understand this meeting of minds as one of limited impact. Sofer and Sarwar cannot hope to resolve long-standing disputes just by reference to Sufi and Indian traditions.


The talks between Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in Washington will not be affected by the encounters in Ajmer or Mumbai. It is not going to restrain the fanatical Jewish settlers on West Bank from building new settlements or zealots in Hamas from attacking civilians.


India is perhaps best placed for every one to recognise that the coexistence of people with different beliefs need not spell irreconcilable differences or unending strife. India is not, to be sure, a paragon of virtue in this matter. It does, however, show more willingness than any other country in the world to accept that pluralism and diversity are facts of life and not merely constitutional credos. This is India's unheralded soft power. Our multi-cultural society stands out as a beacon in a troubled world.







Trust our bureaucrats to find a way to avoid openness and honesty of purpose. Fearing that their notings on various government files will now be open to public scrutiny through the Right to Information Act, bureaucrats in Andhra are making their notings on Post-It pads and using coloured ink to send coded messages.


The great advantage is that a Post-It can be easily removed without leaving behind any trace should the same file be summoned for public scrutiny. An RTI applicant may thus find it hard to nail a minister or bureaucrat as the latter can always claim the Post-It was meant for some other file.


Another method adopted by bureaucrats is to use different-coloured inks to send across not-so-subtle hints over

and above the largely innocuous notings. Thus, a noting in black contains a message that is different from the same words in blue or green or, for that matter, magenta. Next time you see vivid ink colours on government files, do remember the message is in the colour! Alas, that message won't be known to anyone outside the circle of conspiracy, RTI information commissioners, please note.








Mumbaikars will be grateful to the state transport department for cracking down on illegal kali-peeli (back-and-yellow) taxis, which are being run with fake documents and fabricated engine numbers. But the fact that the department has, for this reason, transferred as many as 29,000 of the total of 55,000 permits to private services like Meru is disconcerting.

To be sure, illegal cabs in any city — leave alone Mumbai — can't be condoned. But the permits ought to be sold to new applicants for what in the jargon is called "intermediate public transport". These drivers and their vehicles must meet standards, not least of honesty and courtesy. The kali-peelis should be retained and their number ought not dwindle any further. There are surely sufficient takers among drivers who can qualify, and banks to fund the purchase of new, environment-friendly vehicles.


It is hardly a secret that the main reason the department hasn't cracked down on these offenders all these decades is that the Regional Transport Offices and traffic police have their palms permanently greased by cabbies.


Private taxis are a service for the few who can afford to take them. They are more expensive, even if far more reliable, and will seldom agree to taking passengers for short trips. Women feel safe in them because both the passenger's and driver's identities are known. Meru is now said to have 5,000 taxis in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi, with 700 employees. It is expecting to make a profit from 2011, with a revenue of Rs180 crore. The MD complains that he is unable to keep up with the demand for such services. But he got his first break in 2006, when the department invited tenders for 10,000 cabs to replace the outdated black and yellows.


However, "public" and private taxis serve two entirely different sets of clients. The former is the first option of millions of metro dwellers in any emergency or special circumstances, including rushing to hospitals or to railway termini. Women have delivered babies in them! Since the former's fleet has been more than halved, it is certain that these citizens have been sorely inconvenienced. Perhaps their lack has not been felt as acutely in the suburbs — where two-thirds of all Mumbaikars live, as against the island city — because they have access to autorickshaws, also "intermediate public transport".


There is an exact parallel in such discrimination against poorer residents when it comes to cinemas. For some

inexplicable reason, the state government provides huge tax and other concessions to multiplexes, some of which would set you back by more than Rs1,000 if a family of four ventures in.


They are definitely more posh (though often fire hazards), but Bollywood has been the first option for entertainment for the masses, and cinema houses are making way for malls or multiplexes, which price them out of reach. Is it any coincidence that Bollywood itself has erased poverty from the screen for the classes? Films pan from make-believe lifestyles of the super-rich to sets abroad, without batting an eyelid.


All this must be viewed in the context of a city which has the highest proportion of commuters taking public transport — trains and buses — in the world. Once in the central business districts of south Mumbai (or 'Worli East'), office-goers depend on taxis to make it to meetings. If you rid the city of cheap cabs, they will be the first to be hit.








So, it's all clear now. Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir are pure and innocent. The tape showing Majhar Majeed has been doctored; the cricket match/spot fixing is an international conspiracy against Pakistan concocted by India.


Sounds like one of those jokey e-mails that idle people send to each other? It does, but isn't. In fact it is what the Pakistani government, its cricket establishment and even its media are saying now. Soon the crowds burning effigies of disgraced cricketers and officials will begin to set fire to effigies of Indian cricket.


We may be flabbergasted by this turn of events, but in retrospect, should we be? Pakistan, by every yardstick of governance, is a failed state and failed states need a bogeyman: India has always been Pakistan's, to be invoked whenever there is a problem. Now that the cricket establishment there has been caught with its pants down, their backs to the wall and face full frontal exposure, what option do they have?


Actually, there is one. Which is to face up to the truth and begin a vast clean up of their thoroughly corrupted system. We don't even have to add the safety word 'allegedly' here for the simple reason that Pakistani cricketers involvement with 'fixing' of some kind or the other goes back quite a bit and includes many players and as many as six captains.


But is such a clean up likely? The answer is a ringing 'No'. It is 'no' for the same reason that no clean-up has been done for so many years, and if any cricketer has been punished at all, it has been so lightly that the punishment has been no deterrent at all. The reason for that is obvious: everyone, or almost everyone in the Pakistan cricket establishment, has some dirty little secret to hide, so how would they dare to punish others for the acts they themselves are guilty of?


The rot doesn't stop there. It moves upwards. Up and up to the very top. Who doesn't know the history of Asif Ali Zardari, now known as Pakistan's president, but hitherto known as Mr Ten Percent, a man convicted of corruption by Pakistan's judiciary, and someone who has actually spent time in jail for these offences? If corruption is rampant at the very highest level and is also public knowledge, what are the odds that corrupt behaviour soon becomes generally acceptable? It has certainly become acceptable to Pakistani generals. If any corrective action has to be taken, therefore, it will have to come under ICC pressure.


It is possible that in the face of irrefutable evidence, Pakistan's cricket establishment might admit to the lesser charge of spot fixing, while denying the much more heinous charge of match-fixing. The former can include all kinds of things. It can include the no-balls bowled in specific order as was done in the last Lords Test. It can include a surprisingly-timed declaration (Asif Iqbal once declared Pakistan's first innings closed a dozen runs short of India with many wickets intact. It was a tactic that made no sense at all, till it was revealed that huge bets had been placed on Pakistan scoring less than India in the first innings!)


The South African captain, the late Hansie Cronje who confessed to corrupt behaviour, indulged in spot fixing of many kinds: changing the batting order, opening the bowling with Klusener instead of Pollock, ordering one of his younger players to score less than a specified number of runs, etc. Potentially, none of these single acts could change the course of the match, so none of them could be called match fixing, but they were no less dishonourable in the overall scheme of things.


That's because even a minor act like changing the batting order establishes a nexus between cricketers and the betting mafia, a nexus which ultimately only one side can win. Secondly, it's a well known aspect of human nature that the first transgression of an established moral code is always the most difficult. Once that has occurred, the next one is easier.


An objective assessment will tell us that it is difficult for a whole test to be fixed. Too many people have to cooperate with the fixing, possibly the whole team. You may have bribed the top five batsmen to fail, but your Number 9 batsman can unexpectedly score a century (as Stuart Broad did recently). Or you might bribe the top four bowlers to underperform but an occasional bowler can suddenly develop a golden arm (Remember those wickets Michael Clark took against India for an Australian victory?)


Ultimately, though, that is beside the point. Even spot fixing is lethal to cricket because it destroys the very credibility of cricket and cricketers. A fielder may drop a catch and everyone will say he was bribed to do it. A batsman's duck will be viewed with suspicion.


That is why the current episode of spot fixing has to be dealt with severely in spite of the Pakistan Cricket Board's state of denial. There can be no half-measures.








Betraying his insensitivity to any criticism of his conduct, policies and actions, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has reacted sharply to the PDP leaders leveling serious but unsubstantiated charges of corruption and misuse of office against him by serving legal notice to his accusers with a threat to take legal recourse against them and even institute criminal case if they did not tender an apology. The PDP leaders on their part have refused to oblige the chief minister by tendering apology and are prepared face the consequences. The public life in the country in general and in Jammu and Kashmir in particularly has been vitiated by the scandals worth billions erupting time and again involving both the publicmen holding high offices and senior bureaucrats. With the exception of selected few most of these scandals have not gone through any judicial scrutiny. These have remained permanent stains on the records of successive regimes.Though in some of the cases the charges of kickbacks, corruption and misuse of their official position were backed by well documented evidence, no credible inquiry was conducted and no follow-up action was taken against those found guilty. The only case of the charges of corruption and misuse of office, probed by an independent commission in J&K, pertained to Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, Prime Minister of the State for 11 years at a stretch. The Aiyangar Commission set up by G.M. Sadiq government to probe charges of corruption against the Bakshi was more as a matter of political vendetta than an exercise to make publicmen accountable for their actions. Though the Commission indicted the former Prime Minister in some cases of the alleged misuse of his official position to favour some political supporters and kith and kin (and not for receiving any kickbacks) no follow up action was taken. Subsequently even more serious charges of corruption against the ministers in the Sadiq government were arbitrarily ignored. Nothing has been done since then to make public men accountable for their acts of omission and commission.Even the tallest of Kashmiri leader, Sheikh Abdullah was accused of grave charges of corruption, acquiring assets for himself and his family quite disproportionate to their known sources of income and misuse of his official position when he returned to power on New Delhi's terms in 1975. The publication and circulation of what was described as "The Red Book" carrying such documented allegations was contemptuously ignored without any independent inquiry. Several scandals erupted during most of the subsequent regimes, particularly when Farooq Abdullah was at the helm of affairs. Those in office did not think it prudent to face any independent probe to salvage their distorted image.

Tragically, no institutional mechanism has been evolved to make those occupying political offices transparent in their functioning and accountable for their acts and performance. The half-hearted move by the PDP-Congress government headed by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed to set up the State Accountability Commission was later subverted when serious cases of corruption and misuse of their offices against the ministers and sernior bureaucrats came up before it. The SAC was made to die its premature death and Omar government has failed during its 20-month rule even to appoint the chairman and members of the Commission. Another important measures to make the governance accountable was the enactment of the Right to Information Act. But during the past two years the State government has not been able to appoint the chief information commissioners and information commissioners,with the result that the law is not being strictly enforced. On the contrary the RTI activists are being victimized and harassed by the state and the corrupt politicians-businessmen-bureaucrats nexus. The State government has even failed to evolve a rational policy for postings, transfers and promotions as also for government purchases, supplies and contracts etc, which remain the major sources of corruption. In the absence of any comprehensive and credible institutional mechanism for making those at the helm transparent in their functioning and accountable for their deeds wild and even unsubstantiated allegations are bound to be leveled against them. Instead of fuming and fretting over such charges those in authority should take steps to evolve mechanism to fight corruption and offer themselves for any independent probe.







The manner in which the shabby treatment has been meted out to sportspersons in Jammu and Kashmir, it appears that the government has turned totally a blind eye towards the facilities also which are important for any society in the world. The status of sports activities is in itself a sad tale in the state where sportspersons are unwanted and their activities untouchable for the authorities. If one goes by the history of these activities and the facilities created for this purpose, it is a sordid display of apathy by the successive governments. This is the main reason why sportspersons from J&K have totally disappeared from the national scene after some meritorious players made their mark on the national and international level two or three decades back. Despite some increase in the facilities the number of serious sportspersons has been declining over the years. It was only on 1980s that the education department came to know of the fact that this is a separate subject in seeking allocation of funds from the centre. Before this period, sports has been treated as a part of the education department but never a serious effort was made to patronize the players involved in rigorous training for competitions at the national level. Major facilities in Kashmir valley have either been occupied by the para-military forces or converted into fortified camps over the past two decades. Most of them have become areas out of bounds for the sportspersons. The case in Jammu region is no different and most of the facilities created in Jammu city or elsewhere are under the guard of the forces camps. The indoor facilities are insufficient and no effort has been made even to improve or upgrade the infra-structure over the years. The indoor complex in Jammu is bereft of basic amenities for the sportspersons. The demand for creating better and upgradation of the facilities in some of the discipline has been treated with utter disregard by the authorities. Moreover, infighting and control of politicians of all hues over different sports bodies has been serving a severe blow to the activities instead of promoting them. One or the other sports organization is headed by politicians and funds allocated to them are either spent on administrative and tour programmes of the politicians instead of expanding the sphere of activities in J&K. Even if some sportspersons have made a mark on the national level, it has been their own hard work and there is hardly any contribution of the sports bodies.









It's impossible not to be moved by the human suffering and devastation caused by the floods in Pakistan for more than a month, which has made life hell for millions of people, a majority of them poor. One-fifth of Pakistan, an area the size of England, is under water. Twenty million people have been affected-even more than those affected in Asia by the 2004 tsunami. Millions have become homeless. Cattle have perished by the lakh.
The economic damage from the floods is staggering: more than 5 million homes destroyed, 7,000 schools washed away, 8,000 kilometres of roads and railways ripped up, hundreds of thousands of bridges, culverts and electric pylons uprooted, millions of hectares with standing crops inundated, thousands of factories rendered non-functional. Among the worst-affected areas are the normally desert-like or semi-arid parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (formerly the Northwest Frontier Province), Sindh and Balochistan, besides Punjab, which have very little natural drainage.

It will take Pakistan many years to recover from this disaster and rebuild its infrastructure. Only half of the $460 million needed in immediate relief has arrived. There's a strong case for cancelling Pakistan's international debt.
Even worse than the economic devastation is the human tragedy that continues to unfold relentlessly. Its greatest victims are the poor and underprivileged. This is true of most natural disasters everywhere, whose social impact is always unevenly distributed. Not only do the poor live in vulnerable and insecure areas. The infrastructure of their habitats is inferior. Above all, their reach to relief administrations and the bureaucracy is far poorer than that of the middle class.

It's heart-rending to see Pakistan's already battered people being attacked by water-borne germs amidst horrendously unhygienic conditions. Equally distressing is the plight of children, who account for two-fifths of the victims, and are especially vulnerable to dysentery, cholera and malaria. The paucity of safe drinking water is making things worse.

The world must respond to Pakistan's crisis with urgency, sincere concern and generosity-as it did to the Asian tsunami. Elementary ethical considerations and an affirmation of our common human bonds, call for nothing less.

This also applies to India. This disaster could well have occurred here. India and Pakistan belong to the same geographical region, agro-climatic zones and ecosystem, and share the waters of six rivers of a single river system, the Indus. Both are more vulnerable to long-term climate change and short-term erratic weather patterns than much of the world-which too has witnessed extreme weather conditions this year, including a harsh winter in the Western hemisphere, followed by one of the hottest summers in living memory. Indian and Pakistani administrative structures are inherited from the same colonial bureaucracy, notorious for its hostility to people and reluctance to treat them as citizens, not subjects.

These are all strong reasons why India's government and citizens must reach out to Pakistanis in a spirit of solidarity and shared grief. But there are other reasons too-social, political and strategic, as well as regional and international.
What happens to Pakistan's society and state as a result of the present calamity will heavily influence the way South Asia evolves and India-Pakistan relations are shaped for many years. Pakistan is absolutely critical to the fate of Afghanistan, which is itself part of the crucible in which world history is being made. The United States cannot prosecute (or even securely end) its nightmarishly fraught war against al-Qaeda without Islamabad's cooperation. Afghanistan will be pivotal to relations between the West and Islam, with obvious consequences for global security and terrorism.

The floods will aggravate and intensify all the factors that have contributed to making Pakistan an extremely strife-torn and fragile country, which meets many standard Western criteria of a failing (if not failed) state. Its failure is in nobody's interest, least of all India's. A Pakistan that explodes and disintegrates will disgorge a flood of extremely serious problems (and their carriers), including religion-based extremism, on India's borders, with consequences that are too horrifying even to contemplate.

We must all hope and work for an outcome where Pakistan succeeds in stabilising its democracy, quelling jehadi extremism, constraining its Army to its legitimate role under civilian supremacy, and achieving balance in the distribution of power across different ethnic groups and provinces.

The present crisis will probably lead to greater social distress and discontent, weaken Pakistan's unity, and possibly change the civil-military balance. The floods have destroyed numerous physical links that bind Pakistan, including roads, electricity and telecommunications. Large-scale flight of people from inundated areas to distant cities is creating new tensions. If Pakistan doesn't receive enough aid, there could be food riots.
How Pakistan's feeble civilian government copes with relief provision and rehabilitation will decide if its credibility survives or not. Already, there are strong protests against corruption in the distribution of relief. If the civilian leadership cannot control this through resolute action, the gainers will be the Army and, worse, Islamic extremists.

Like the RSS in India, the extremists have mobilised themselves in full strength to give shelter and reach aid to people. Jehadi groups, from Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammed to Harkatul Mujahideen and Sipah-e-Sahaba, are exploiting the crisis to build their bases.

The Pakistan Army's rescue and relief operation has been relatively efficient, like in most countries. But this couldn't have endeared it so much to the people that they would respond enthusiastically to the call for martial law by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement's Altaf Hussain. The public wasn't impressed with the Army's record in displacing 2 million people from the northwest in its major offensive against militants since 2009. Their resettlement has been agonisingly slow and produced anger.

Mr Hussain's startling demand for martial law is probably attributable more to his wanting to curry favour with the Army than a shrewd political calculation to broaden his appeal, which is confined to Urdu-speaking migrants (mohajirs) from India.

Preoccupation with relief and rehabilitation will considerably increase the burden on the Army, limiting its role as the principal fighting ally in the US-led war in Afghanistan. This could enormously complicate matters for the US. Pakistan remains a central pillar of its plans to fight al-Qaeda-Taliban. The US's options in Afghanistan and North Waziristan are extremely limited.

Washington has no strategy to deal with the emerging situation, but reckons that it's best to donate aid to Pakistan to prevent it from collapsing and to earn some goodwill for itself. This won't be easy. According to opinion polls, a clear majority of Pakistanis regard the US as an "enemy country"-in some cases, a far higher percentage than those who describe India similarly.

Domestically, Pakistani commentators like Ahmed Rashid fear that "an unparalleled national security challenge" has emerged: "Large parts of the country that are now cut off will be taken over by the Pakistani Taliban, and affiliated extremist groups, and governance will collapse. The risk is that Pakistan will become what many have long predicted-a failed state with nuclear weapons .."

Adds Rashid: "All this will dramatically loosen the state's control over outlying areas, in particular those bordering Afghanistan, which could be captured quickly by local Taliban." This may not have happened yet. But the plausibility, even likelihood, of the Taliban growing in influence cannot be denied.

It goes without saying that the international community must do its utmost to help Pakistan prevent this. It should offer generous material and logistical assistance and personnel support and reach some understanding with Pakistan's rulers that the aid won't be routed through Islamic radicals and that one of its functions is to provide a moderate secular alternative to extremist-run relief operations.

Besides a humanitarian obligation, India has a high stake in such a programme. India is uniquely placed to quickly deliver foodgrains, vegetables, clothes, tents, rubber dinghies and other material to Pakistan. Yet, India has only offered a miserly US$5 million (since raised to a paltry $25 million). And Pakistan hesitated for weeks before accepting it under US pressure. It says it will take the aid if it's routed through the United Nations.
Neither government has shown moral clarity, dignity, maturity or grace here. India, which is incomparably better off than Pakistan-which is marked by sputtering growth-and has Superpower ambitions, diminished itself with its paltry offer. Pakistan's rulers have no moral right to refuse aid for their citizens whom they can't look after. The people come first. Narrow political considerations of "sovereignty", which detach it from the people, are irrelevant.

India must redeem itself by raising its offer to the hundreds-of-millions level. India can afford it. It's India's neighbourly duty to help the Pakistani people. In the process, India could earn their goodwill, or at least temper hostility towards itself.

Even if that doesn't happen, India must show generosity and genuine solidarity with the Pakistani people-regardless of the state of bilateral relations, Islamabad's covert support to extremists in Afghanistan, its own northwestern tribal areas and elsewhere, and the recent breakdown of Foreign Minister-level talks. Solidarity with people is never wasted.






On a visit to Portugal recently I found people weren't as friendly as they were before 9/11. Men and women at bus stops and railway stations kept a distance, especially as they looked at my slightly unkempt beard. "Could you tell me the way to Vasco De Gama?" I asked and was greeted by silence and not because they didn't know English.

I stared at the unfamiliar map in the bus shelter written in Portuguese and couldn't figure out where I was let alone where I was supposed to go.

"May I help you?" asked a young voice by my side. I wondered whether it was an angel who'd been sent to rescue me; she looked as sweet as one. "This is where you are, you've got to take the metro till the station, then hop onto a train to reach the place! By the way my name's Patricia!"

We got talking and she even came part of the way with me, "How come you talk to strangers?" I asked, "Aren't you afraid?"

"You're no more a stranger now," she laughed, "not after we've become friends!"

Simple words I'm sure that could solve half the world's problems! 

Said a father: "When my son Rob was eleven years old he came home from school in tears one day. A couple of the older kids had beat him up at the bus stop. We called the school and found great support. "We'll be happy to call the boys' parents," we were told. "And you should call the police."


The next day was Saturday. Rob happened to look out the window and said in alarm, "There are the boys who beat me up!" Two older boys were standing in front of our house, as if they were waiting for Rob to step outside.

I immediately began to think of what I wanted to say to them, but my wife, acted first. She opened the door and said with a smile, "Hi guys. Would you like some ice cream?"

They looked at each other in puzzlement. But they were teenagers,
after all, so they shrugged their shoulders and one of them said, "Sure. Why not?"

They followed her indoors. Her idea was to help them see that Rob was a person, not a target. He had a family; he lived in a neighborhood and even owned a friendly dog.

My wife drew the boys into conversation while we ate ice cream. After a few minutes, she said, "I know there's been some trouble at the bus stop. I think there may be a misunderstanding. " They nodded sheepishly and admitted there had indeed been trouble at the bus stop, then apologized and said there would be no more trouble. And there wasn't.

The vice-principal of the school called back the following week and asked about the fighting. "Did you call the police?" he asked.

"No, but we've taken care of it," my wife said.

"What did you do?" he asked.

"We fed them ice cream.!" she said into the phone.

I love this story and like to think that the young mother who fed her son's enemies that day was the kind of lady Patricia will grow up to be, because her 'hi' to me that day in Portugal was a scoop of ice cream..!







Who says that silence is a friend who will never betray? He has apparently not cared to visit our State. The reality is that we have chosen to let down ourselves by observing criminal silence. Even the humblest will strike back if harassed or imposed upon too far. In sharp contrast we refuse to act despite being inflicted with wounds and then having salt rubbed into them. Does it make any sense, therefore, that we should be complaining about the losses worth crores in the prevailing atmosphere in the Valley? What right do we have to shed tears given our own gross inactivity? It is not easy to assess the actual extent of financial setback that we have encountered and continue to face because of bandhs and curfews during the last more than two months in the Kashmir Valley. According to one estimate our economy has been dented by a huge Rs 21000 crore in about 80 tense days so far. The business community is said to have accumulated losses to the tune of Rs 8000 crore. Its assumption is based on the calculation that every day a sum of Rs 100 crore is going down the drain. The State Government, on the other hand, is losing Rs 161 crore per day in terms of sales tax, income tax and other levies. An official of the Finance Department has worked out the total in this regard to be more than Rs 13000 crore. It is an anti-climax after a booming season in the first half of the year. A leading hotelier has correctly summed up the scenario: "Most of hotels were running up to 80-90 per cent occupancy during the early days of the season but that came crashing to 30 per cent by the end of June and now we are without business for two months exactly." 

Tourism and hospitality trades are the first casualties of violence. These are heavily dependent upon visitors from outside the State who understandably lose charm in staying back or extending their sojourn with their safety in danger. They go back regretting that they have made a bad bargain. There is no formal study yet but it can be anyone's guess that a sizable chunk of sightseers must have already been fed up with risky situation one year after the other and altogether dropped our State especially the highly picturesque Valley from their annual holiday itinerary. It is a permanent blow to us. Hotels and houseboats are without occupants leaving them with no alternative but to lay off their staff. As a consequence there is an increase in unemployment. The matters have worsened with some masked youth indulging in vandalism of some units in Rangreth Industrial Estate in Srinagar city and Lassipora Industrial Estate in Pulwama district. 

These threatening incidents are meant to scare away industrial labour. There are thus no hotels, no industry, no schools and no colleges --- all of them are virtually closed. What is our response as citizens? Lakhs of us undergo agony each day. We are also getting poorer. Yet, not even a fraction is prepared to stand up and say enough is enough. It is high time that the civil society in the Valley asserted itself against those disturbing its normal life and adding to its trauma. 










The murder of a young taxi driver by a group of unidentified criminals on the Nagrota-Manda road on Thursday night adds yet another dimension to the developing crime scenario in this region. From the available details it seems to have been a Bollywood-style macabre drama. The alleged assailants hired the car being driven by 23-year old Gurpreet Sigh of Nanak Nagar in this city from Katra for journey to Jammu. On the Nagrota-Manda road they tied the hands of the driver, inflicted injuries on his face with a weapon and then also strangulated him throwing his body on the road before driving away with the vehicle. Preliminary inquiries have revealed that they may have been three in number. They wore kurta pajama and spoke Punjabi which implied that they possibly belonged to the neighbouring State. The time between the execution of the dastardly crime and the recovery of the body on Friday was enough to make good escape from this State via Lakhanpur; it is presumed that they might have taken this route. Prima facie the motive of the alleged killers appears to have been to snatch the car. How does one interpret the incident except that it is one more in line with new crimes overwhelming this city and its vicinity? In the process it also exposes the vulnerability of the isolated Nagrota-Manda stretch. It calls for better policing. Whether we like it or not it is also a sad comment on our law-enforcing machinery in another sense too. Would it be an exaggeration to point at its failure to evoke any fear or respect even so close to a Capital city? There have been killings, including of a teenage boy, right under its nose in this city itself. What should one say when at stage a district police boss himself is exposed to the charge of complicity in a murder and is arrested? As ordinary citizens we too ought to share blame to some extent. We develop cold feet in the face of mischief-makers and black sheep among us. Instead, we must know that our united resistance can call the bluff of the wickedest of the bullies. Our collective silence amounts to acquiescence in a wrong-doing. The worse is that it goes on to encourage criminals to step up their evil activities. Why should we give them any room for destroying our lives? 

This does not in any way mean that we have to take the job of police in our hands. We have to simply act as guardians of our own welfare. This is necessitated by the worsening crime scenario in our region especially in this city and its vicinity. The ever-increasing rush of pilgrims to this region, a busy airport and the railway station are bringing fresh challenges to our lifestyles. Added to it are the all-pervasive corruption and the menace of terrorism. Some of these factors combined together are a recipe for our disaster. Once the murders are not merely the outcome of hot tempers but also prior planning, as in the above instance, then we have to doubly worry. The engagement of hired killers has been alleged in another happening in Trikuta Nagar not very long ago. Somewhere we should make a beginning to stop this trend.









Three developments in Sialkot, London and Lahore, during the last couple of weeks, have shaken the conscience and confidence of an average Pakistani; one could see the despair and despondency in a plethora of writings in their own blogs, editorials and opinion articles. How did they end up in this mess? Where are they heading towards? What can we learn from the developments in our neighborhood?
In Sialkot, a mob, primarily belonging to the middle class, publicly attacked two brothers, for a minor issue over playing cricket. The vitims were thoroughly beaten up and lynched by the mob; worse, their bodies were hung in the posts, after being mutilated. Viewed by thousands and filmed by many, the incident brought to the focus, of how few people took law into their own hands. The rest, unfortunately were not the silent spectators; they were active participants. Sialkot, is not some Taliban land, or in the tribal region; considered to be a Sports town, and hardly few kms away from RS Pura. Why do people believe, they can take law into their hands, and execute people in public? 

Far away from Sialkot, in London, a week ago, the News of the World, a British news paper in a damning story, brought out, how a group of players in Pakistan's cricket team, including its captain, Salman Butt, was a part of match fixing. The bookie, who was filmed taking the money, was boasting about his reach into the Pakistani cricket team, and ever referred to certain players in a derogatory manner. Mohammad Asif, who was one of the accused, later received the player of the series award. Asif is not the first one; from Salim Malik to Wasim Akram, there is a list, who has been accused by their own team and nation. Why should players, who otherwise are famous for their exploits in the cricketing field should do something horrendous like this?
Few days ago, in Lahore, there was a series of suicide and bomb attacks on a Shia procession, killing more than 35 persons; this was followed by another suicide attack on another Shia procession in Quetta, killing more than 50 people. Between these two towns, during the same period, there was another attack in Mardan, on a Ahmedi mosque. More than 90 people were killed in these three sectarian attacks, during the same period. Again, these three towns (in fact, Lahore is a city, and considered to be the cultural capital of Pakistan; like Sialkot, it is also a stone throw from the border) are not in Taliban land; they are urban towns/cities, with schools, colleges and universities. How did sectarian violence and Taliban influence come into the cities of Pakistan?

The above three questions, needs to be researched into. Answers may serve as lessons for India, in terms of how we should (or rather, how we should not) pursue the process of nation building and governance. Instead of looking into the happenings inside Pakistan from a parochial perspective and draw a sadistic pleasure, it would be useful, to learn from their mistakes, in not doing something. Lahore and Sialkot are not far from Jammu and Amritsar.

The recent happenings in Sialkot, Lahore and London represent three major failures for Pakistan. First, the failure of legal process and the institutions of governance. Why do people take law into their hands? One could understand, if the same thing has happened in Miranshah in Waziristan; one could blame it on the tribal laws and customs. But, how do we justify, when it happens in urban towns?

Despite the recent actions taken by Pakistan's judiciary led by its Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the legal institutions of Pakistan are weak, even today. One of the primary reason for the popular support to the Taliban ascendancy in Swat, has been the utter failure of mainstream legal institutions. Justice is both denied and delayed. What do people do, if they lose their faith in mainstream legal institutions?

The mob justice should not be blamed only on public frenzy; the failure of legal institutions needs to take the primary blame. Primitive institutions like tribal panchayats with archaic rulings under the hands of few feudal lords, and neo-religious movements like the Taliban, attempt to fill the void, created by mainstream legal institutions, by providing cheap and quick justice. Where there is no doctor, the quack is bound to have his say!
Second major failure, is related to accountability (or the lack of it). From the President to a common man on the road, there is a "Chalta-Hai" attitude in Pakistan; one could do whatever he wants to do, and still, he can certainly get away with it. This did not take place on a single day, but over a period. From the Parliament to the police booth in the local chowki, people in power discharge their duties with utter disdain. Millions get siphoned by political leaders; military rulers impose martial regimes; bureaucrats care a damn for rules and regulations; and commissions are more used for the omissions. From the assassination of Ayub Khan to that of Benazir Bhutto (both were ironically killed in the same park!) has there been any accountability?Within Pakistan cricket, there have been numerous claims and accusations; the most significant has been that on Salim Malik and Wasim Akram. From throwing away matches to doping and ball tampering, Pakistan team has been continuously courting controversies since the early 1990s, when Shane Warne and Steve Waugh complained against Salim Malik. The government instituted a commission headed by Justice Qayyum, which submitted its report in 1999, detailing what is happening within Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the team. What happened to the report and its findings. Ironically, Justice Qayyum was quoted during the last few weeks, had the government and the PCB took action on his report, this ugly incident in London would not have happened.
The third major failure is related to crisis of governments/regimes and their search for legitimacy. The frequent changes in regimes (military and democratic) resulted in each of them trying to search for legitimacy; in the process, they created both by default and design, certain groups/organizations. Taliban and Sectarain organizations are a deliberate creation of successive regimes; if one regime created it, others perpetuated, for narrow political objectives. National interests became secondary, to regime and party interests. Sectarian violence and Taliban expansion are a part of this undermining of national interests.

Failure of governance process, especially the legal institutions in providing justice; complete mockery of accountability; and the undermining of national interests for narrow political and regime interests, have been three primary reasons for what has happened in these three cities during the last two weeks. Sectarian killings, mob violence and match fixing are expressions of a deeper problem; they are merely an expression of a chronic disease.

(The author is Deputy Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi)









The National Mining Policy, 2008 committed to exploit natural resources in keeping with long term interests of the nation. It was necessary to ensure mineral security during periods of international strife, it was said. But the export policy of iron ore is contrary to this commitment. 

The superior iron ore is hematite. We have reserves of about 12 billion tons of this which is sufficient for 30 years. The inferior ore is magnetite of which we have 11 billion tons. Indian steel mills use little magnetite. Thus our reserves will last only about 30 years. This is equal to a few minutes of a day considering 5000 years' history of our civilization. Therefore, exports of iron ore should be immediately banned for ensuring mineral security of the nation. That is what the United States has done. It has iron ore reserves of 50 tons per capita. It has banned iron ore exports. Our reserves are only 21 tons per capita yet more than one-half of our ore production is exported. Reportedly there has been an increase of 20 percent in ore exports. Surely, our consumption of steel per capita is less than that of the United States. But we aim to become 'developed' soon, do we not? Therefore, we have to plan for the future demand and not hide behind low demand of the present.
Ores are received by us as a gift from nature. They cannot be produced like milk or software. Supply of milk increases if there is an increase in price. But supply of iron ore cannot increase because availability is limited by nature. Therefore, we cannot leave the exports to market forces. It may not be wise to export even if global prices are high just as one does not sell the family jewelry when gold prices soar.

The landed price of iron ore in the Chinese market today is about Rs 5,000 per ton. The cost of production is Rs 300, taxes Rs 300, sea transport to China Rs 600 and, say, profits of the mining company are Rs 100. The total cost is Rs 1,300 per ton. Question is who is the rightful owner of the remainder Rs 3,700? This is actually the value of nature's gift. It belongs to all citizens of the country. Therefore, this money should be collected by the government as the custodian of common rights of the people. But this huge amount of money is being collected by the mining companies in the present dispensation. Appropriation of this common wealth by individuals is at the root of development of mining mafias across the world. Therefore, a royalty equal to the nature's gift of Rs 3,700 per ton should be collected from all mining companies-domestic users as well as exporters. Mining companies should get only normal profits on the expenditures incurred in production.

Further, we should try to secure an increase in the global price of iron ore. An increase in global price will tantamount to increase in the value of nature's gift. Main exporters of iron ore are Australia, Brazil and India. In 2008, the main Brazilian exporter Vale had sought an increase in price from Chinese importers. Chinese importers did not agree to this. Instead they imported more from India in the spot markets. That might explain the increase in exports from India in recent years. In consequence, India prevented an increase in global price. Just as a section of the trade union joins with the mill owners and breaks the strike for its petty personal gains, so also India broke the Brazilian effort for petty gains. It was wiser for India to cooperate with Brazil and jointly seek an increase in price from Chinese importers.

Three points emerge from the above discussion. One, a huge increase in royalty on ores should be made to collect nature's gift and to use it for the collective good of the people. This money may be distributed to all citizens in cash. This will lead to reduction in mining and help preserve our mineral security. Two, rates of royalty on inferior magnetite ore may be kept less. This will encourage domestic producers to use this and extend the life of our reserves. Three, India should make an export cartel with Australia and Brazil and jointly impose a hefty export tax in addition to the royalty. Joint action will prevent Chinese importers to play one exporter against the other and keep prices low. 

Counterargument is that we must make exports the engine of economic growth. Theoretically, this is correct. Every country should export those items which it can produce cheap. But this applies only to countries that have large reserves of ore and whose domestic requirements are much less than the available quantities. For example, Australia has iron ore reserves of 2,000 tons per capita. India has only 21 tons per capita. The export-led growth argument holds for both countries but the items to be exported would be different. Australia may surely export iron ore, but India would do well to export labour-which is available aplenty. The farmer first stores grains for his domestic requirement and then sells the excess quantity. We should do the same for iron ore.

Counterargument is that banning exports will hit at the large employment in mining companies because domestic steel mills do not have the capacity to consume the entire domestic production. This argument is valid, but only in the short run. About 30 years ago export of raw hides from the country was banned. Soon a vibrant industry of finished leather products got developed. Similarly, domestic steel industry will grow as fast as soon as exports are banned and jobs will regenerate. In any event jobs in mining are limited by the availability of iron ore. Question is whether we generate these jobs now or leave some to be generated in future. The farmer does not sell all the earth of his fields for brick making at one go. Similarly we should not sell all the ore and try to grab all jobs immediately. 

Counterargument is that the petty interests of mining versus steel companies are involved in the debate. Mining companies want taxes to be kept low so that exports are buoyant. Steel companies, on the other hand, want export taxes to be jacked up so that domestic availability increases and prices move southwards. These petty interests are certainly at play. But the government should rise both above mining mafias and steel barons and make a policy in national interest. And, ensuring mineral security as well as maximizing export incomes both requires increase in royalties and export taxes.

Last counterargument is that we should increase exports of manufactured steel instead of iron ore. The logic is correct insofar as promotion of value added exports is concerned. But mineral security is a much bigger issue. It as much affected by steel exports as by ore exports. The government must rise above petty interests of various contending groups and impose a huge royalty as well as export tax on all mining and exports of iron ore.








There is a growing opinion in India that Pakistan may be an irritant and an immediate threat posed by Jihadi groups based in that country, but China is a real problem in the long run. Its policy of encirclement as witnessed by its growing presence in our neighbourhood, its open support to Pakistan on Kashmir issue and raking up questions about the status of Arunachal Pradesh should leave no one in doubt that China is flexing its muscles as a big power and posing a challenge to us if not open hostility. 

Indian's response to these provocative acts has been muted and there has been a tendency to play it down. To start with let us have a look at its changing stance on Kashmir issue. In the past China had maintained that it was a dispute between India and Pakistan and should be resolved through bilateral talks. It has now virtually endorsed the Pakistan stand by showing the same as part of Pakistan in maps by issuing stapled visas to people belonging to Kashmir and by refusing to grant visa to GOC Northern Command on the plea that he held charge of Kashmir. 

These provocations were serious enough, but a new one was added by sending large contingent of Chinese troops to Gilgit, a part of Jammu and Kashmir to help Pakistan army which is fighting local rebels there. China has also gained lot of logistic advantage in Tibet by building a network of roads in areas close to Indo-Chinese border. India had declared few years ago its resolve to improve road network on border with China but has little to show on the ground. The only visible action has been upgrading of some airfields in forward areas, move to raise new mountain battalions and stationing of a squadron of fighter planes in the border region. 

According to defence experts the advantage has shifted in favour of China in the border region between the two countries. In addition China has built a support base in Nepal in terms of rise of Maoists who support pro-China line, In Myanmar and Sri Lanka it is building port facilities to increase its presence in Indian Ocean. In Balochistan it is building a port which will give it an access to strategic region. All these steps clearly indicate that China has started making its presence felt in the region as a major power. 

This will be on display in a much bigger way as US faces series of setbacks in Afghanistan. Its influence in Pakistan is also on decline as the Chinese have come up in a big way in that country by being declared as the most reliable ally. The US has poured in billions of dollars to support Pakistan army and also helped in providing relief for flood victims, but their popularity rating remains low in that country with Jihadi groups holding a sway over a large section of population. 

Under the circumstances, India has no option but to consider various steps to bolster its position in comparison to China. It is ironic that the volume of trade between India and China continues to grow but the Chinese hostility towards India is also on rise instead of changing. China would like India to open its markets for Chinese products but is not prepared to treat it as a friend. The cooperation witnessed between the two countries during Climate summit and WTO talks has become a part of history and Chinese establishment is continuing to make hostile noises. Agreed given the present state of economy of two countries India is not in a position to match China in Arms build up, but within the limited means a lot can be done. 

For instance there is no reason why the program to build roads in border region with China should face endless delays when the Defence Ministry continues to surrender large part of its budget unutilised at the end of the of the financial year. Our defence procurement also suffers from bureaucratic and political delays. Items like new artillery pieces urgently needed have not been procured. It is time that process of selection is shortened in terms of months instead of taking years. 

Our policy of self-sufficiency in defence items remain's a distant dream as public sector units and research organisations continue to underperform and private sector is kept out. A time has come when the economic reforms process should be started in defence related industries. India is not as badly prepared for hostilities if they break out as in 1962 but the gap between us and China remains large as they have grown much faster. 

Recently some sense of urgency has been witnessed in corridors of power, but it is yet to be translated into action on the ground. There is need for our senior leaders including Prime Minister to take note of developments in this sensitive area involving our security as any shortcomings in this sector will have far reaching consequences as compared to other items engaging their attention. We need a task force which should take up the job of plugging the gaps in national security. 

India also needs to build up on its links with countries like South Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia. They also are apprehensive about growing Chinese power. In the years to come India will have to build its ties with countries of Asia and Africa in search for markets and raw materials. It will involve competition with China for which we should be prepared. (NPA)










Following the instructions from the government, the two-member commission led by Justice (Retd) Syed Bashir-ud-Din has started inquiry into the 17 killings which took place between June 11 and July 19. The commission was constituted by Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah on July 27; however, it couldn't start investigation immediately as the situation in Kashmir deteriorated considerably.


This is the first commission which has been constituted by the National Conference-led coalition government ever since the unrest erupted in the valley this year. Nevertheless there are already apprehensions raised as to why only 17 killings are to be probed when the toll has reached 65. Although, the unrest in Kashmir has entered third month, why has the government ordered to investigate only 17 killings? The head of the commission sounded optimistic so far about the support and assistance from the state government, however, the reality would emerge once the commission actually starts its work. In the past on numerous occasions, we have seen the commissions formed to probe various human right violations in the state expressing their helplessness on account of lack of cooperation from the relevant government quarters particularly from the police. The commission constituted this time around has to be empowered to summon any person from civil or security administration. Although, the state government has asked the commission to conclude the inquiry in 105 days, however, time will only tell whether the commission will be able to meet the deadline or not. There is one more aspect that needs to be looked into the whole phenomenon of 'commissions' and 'inquiries': most of the time these inquiries have remained inconclusive and have failed to identity the culprits. However, there are few high profile cases where the commissions have come up with conclusive evidences and have identified the culprits, but failed to prosecute them. The cases in point are the Pathribal fake encounter where five innocent Kashmiris were killed and later on dubbed as foreign militants, who were involved in the killing of 35 Sikhs at Chattisinghpora; the Handwara rape case, where mother-daughter duo were raped by army; Jalil Andrabi murder case, a human right activist killed in custody by army; Wandhama massacre, where 26 innocent Kashmiris were brutally killed and many others. In all of these cases, the culprits have been identified by inquiry commissions but no action has been taken against the culprits. The Patribal fake encounter was the most high profile case which made international headlines. It is time to move beyond the probe and inquires, it is time to fix the responsibility for the wrongs that have committed and get hold of those who are involved in gross human rights violations no matter how big the person is. Otherwise, in Kashmir, probes sans sanctity.       








The call by Hurriyat Conference (G) that the people of Kashmir Valley should march toward UN office at Sonawar on September 13 is significant and merits examination. A non-violent and an all accommodative mechanism for the resolution of Kashmir dispute is contained in the jurisprudence of UN resolutions on Kashmir.


There may be questions in regard to interpretations and any interpretation that would mean a prejudice to the right of self determination could be easily reconciled in accordance with the principle of self determination as defined in the UN Charter. More so the people of Kashmir were not duly part and present at the UN discussions, therefore, they retain the right to rebut any part of argument that does not represent their best interest as 'equal people' in any determination. Kashmiri people will also seek to benefit from the progress in international law that has taken place since 1948.

A common Kashmiri is faced with a serious dilemma that the political discipline of Hurriyat is not the same as it stood on July 31, 1993 under a common political charter (constitution). It is fractured and as a consequence has been hit by incursions from India and Pakistan. The incursions from Pakistan have been self serving and destructive according to the mind set in power. As against Indian position the government of Pakistan continues to claim that it is offering political, diplomatic and moral support to the people of Kashmir and would continue to do so. If that were the case Hurriyat would not have closed down its first embassy (Awareness Bureau) in Delhi. It (all constituents) would not have been trapped into competing with each other to gain the favour from Delhi or Islamabad for sending its members (at times irrelevant) to be a part of various delegations at the UN Human Rights Commission and Sub Commission (now Human Rights Council) in Geneva, to other UN meetings in New York and contact group meetings of OIC. There came a point when the Kashmiri phrase at these international forums became visible as sponsored, trivial and suspect. It started losing the sympathy constituency and interest of the various countries and NGOs present at these forums. And ultimately Islamabad could not keep its nerve and cope with the ever increasing demands of individual representations of Hurriyat in the delegations at UN.

Today there is hardly any appearance from Hurriyat at these forums and those who are being chosen from PaK to give it a Kashmiri semblance or to wink at India to say that we can still cause you (India) a heartache are far remote from understanding the suffering of the people and harm caused to the habitat. These replacements have human desires to see Geneva and be known to have been at the UN. The man who holds the purse and others who hold the authority (NGOs with Consultative Status) to accredit them to appear at the UN forums and speak call the shots. The loyalty of Kashmiri delegate remains divided between the purse and the NGO. And there is always a non-Kashmiri who has been authoring the speeches of these 'seemingly Kashmiris' who come to represent Kashmir at the UN in Geneva, New York, OIC or any other forum.

The OIC Contact Group on Kashmir after its December 1994 Casablanca, Summit has turned into a non-serious routine where a clerk in a 'department' in Islamabad decides who would be the Hurriyat chair this time for the purposes of an invitation and who are the other names to be listed for invitation. It does not remain any honour to be invited by OIC Contact Group nor does it stand as a stigma if one section of Hurriyat or any other genuine Kashmir does not seem to have received an invitation from OIC. Member countries represented on the Kashmir Contact Group know about these mechanics and it is part of diplomacy that if Kashmiris don't seem to have a grievance, why a diplomat should wear his heart on his sleeve for them.

One would wish all luck and safe sojourn to all protesters to the UN office in Sonawar on September 13. It is once again important to point out that the members of UNMOGIP stationed at Sonwar or in Islamabad have a different and restrictive mandate than to address the situation in Kashmir. Under the circumstances UNMOGIP would receive a memorandum from our leaders (protesters) and it would be far less effective than the meetings that the JKCHR leadership arranges with the Chief of UNMOGIP during their visits to Srinagar and Islamabad. JKCHR leadership had an hour long meeting with Major-General Kim Moon Hwa (Republic of Korea) Chief of UNMOGIP in Islamabad in October last year. He had flown from Srinagar the same morning for this meeting.
The UN march raises one fundamental question in regard to the understanding and judgment of Hurriyat leadership and all others outside Hurriyat. Why is it that Kashmiri leaders remained silent and failed to discharge their trust towards their people when they joined Pakistan for 30 years and 11 months from November 1965 to August 1996 when Kashmir was never agitated at the UN for about three decades? There is no harm in seeking all manner of support from Pakistan or any other member nation of UN for self determination. Even the Governments of Jammu and Kashmir and PaK have a duty to support the cause of self determination. What is, however, wrong and the world has sadly started smelling it, needs to be urgently addressed. The world has started to believe that all activities of the Kashmiri leadership (Muslim) have a domineering influence of sponsorship. Once they revert to a correct 'wisdom compass' there would be many Gandhis in India who would line up for their rights movement. The world under UN resolutions and UN Charter is already pledged to their right of self determination.

I join Syed Ali Shah Geelani in his call that we should 'celebrate Eid with austerity' and help the flood affectees in Pakistan. Unfortunately there is no genuine connect between the people of Kashmir and the people of Pakistan. Kashmiri leaders have been reaching out to the people of Pakistan through Government channels. This time there is a serious trust deficit between the people and the Government of Pakistan. International community has expressed a similar trust deficit in the present Government. JKCHR offers to help the Kashmiri leadership if they wish to connect with the people of Pakistan.

Author is London based Secretary General of JKCHR – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations. He can be mailed at










Gone are the days when Kashmir was famous for "holidaying" by outsiders.  Even till late June thousands of people would come to spend "holidays" in this beautiful now battered valley. Inflow has remained high to the extent of making everybody to believe that Tourism was the mainstay of Kashmir economy. From 1990 to 1998, it was at the lowest ebb.


In 1999 it picked up but saw an abrupt slump with Kargil war. Successive years heralded a hope but only to prove a short-lived impression as 2008 Amarnath land row gave it a big blow. In 2009 it was Shopian case to disappoint the tourists and 2010 we all know what is happening.

But the present crisis reversed the trend and made Kashmir a "holiday home" for its inhabitants. Thanks to frequent hartals during past 20 years, the holidays became part of our lifestyle. Even non-government people have been accusing government employees of encouraging strikes as their salaries are ensured in any situation. Whether a call by Hurriyat or by Employees Union, no government can dare to cut their salaries. I was always wondering why every unemployed in Kashmir whether educated, semi educated or illiterate wants a government job. But in this phase of agitation one can easily understand why this mindset is not changing. With nearly a lakh laid offs in private sector the attraction towards government sector well understood.
Government has been crying hoarse over the loss of economy, official business days, education etc. But it also falls in the trap sometimes. The one-day "deal" in a week, courtesy Geelani Sahib is something towards which people look like "Eid Ka Chand" and all plans are made to go government offices, banks and other places to try to get the jobs done. Last week government spoiled that deal by announcing a holiday after the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that September 3 would be observed as Jumat-ul-Vida. The government holiday as per previous plan would fall on September 10. Fine enough. People had no issues but the government still announced a holiday. Otherwise also those attending government offices would take time out to pray. There was no point in declaring Friday as holiday when people had suffered so much and had been "holidaying" for long time. Jammu and Kashmir Bank too fell in line. It behaved like a department being run by government. Apparently ruffled with the way its former chairman was dealt with on the issue of keeping the branches open on Sundays, its management also closed the banks on Friday. By all accounts the Bank is run by its clients and they could not have been deprived of the services after a long strike just to prove that those at the helm are not "anti-national". It did dis-service to the people by closing its branches, which will only open after ten days break on Thursday, which will probably be arfa. Is it possible for people to transact on that day and shop for Eid keeping in view mad rush.

Jammu and Kashmir is otherwise ahead of all states in having more holidays. And the strikes have broken all records of closure of offices and banks. This place can easily top the world for having highest number of holidays for its people rather than being a "holiday spot" for outsiders. So enjoy as long as you can.
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Evenings are sometimes very comfortable without her but her sweet memories are nostalgic. Although the doors of wit are closed but windows of heart are open and dear heart conceives her kaleidoscopic moments flickering in the open cosmos that are more beautiful than the entire universe.


Or it seems to a lover only that his love is prettiest. Why brains are tense? May be because of her? Her image haunts despite its dwindling from mental frame but leaving its harshest impact on the cardiac pump.

So my friends mocked me: "You too?" I said, "O, I am not." But this 'Not' more pretentious than even an 'Eating Crow' who pretends to eat but a miserably-good fellow is hungry. But the moment lasts only a fraction of time to pretend and the truth unveils itself.

So many times the size of a moment shortens albeit you longed to linger a bit more. But what an irony of fate, time seems to lose its viscosity that thickens only when you don't want to wait. But you are only puppets in the hands of time. Time always plays its cards well for the benefit of good. So it played for the great men of ordinary race of freedom like Martin, Mohandas and Mandela. Point to be considered is to see the real race of freedom in which there is no bias, prejudice, and racial discrimination. There exists only love of a country, its soil and soul. The great men no longer pretended, but who knows? Yes, but the truth is as obvious as the light of day from the fact they died for the just cause and not for the pretentious love of freedom.

For a man of an ordinary intellect whose love is fooled by time is in love of pretence. He seeks to love by reason and troubles himself by saying, "God is only mine" and she is too. Good God! Who will help him to redeem himself from the prison of pretence?

It is harmful in every respect to pretend, in freedom or in love. It leads to losses even in business. So, well said: "No window dressing."

Pretension is really pestilent. Perhaps many people would have been inspired by Robert Browning poem 'The Lost Leader' for William Wordsworth. It was a poem for leader of a political movement who left his old association and joined the Queen's Regal Palace. The thought of the elderly poet squeezing into these ill-fitting garments seems to have epitomized for Browning the indignities to which Wordsworth was willing to subject himself in his pursuit of social status and financial gain. He had become the "lost leader" of an entire generation, someone who had abandoned the cause of freedom for "a handful of silver" and a "riband to stick in his coat." But why! The same trauma is present with your leaders who pretend to talk but words evaporate before that; they even double talk. They have even double-standards. They can double cross as they did in the past. They may even auction our motherland. Generalising, our leaders lack sincerity and clarity of vision.  They will offer long speeches and renounce in a high pitched though cunning voice that "we won't give an inch of land in Kashmir" and befool the fool of first waters and will shroud the truth in the black and make our hearts go pitch-black. They would even leave us in the midst of struggle and say let freedom come some other day because they want to fill their own aspirations and pockets.

And what you and I get? We have to mournfully-relish with sweet nostalgias and nightmares of dreadful blood-shed, unemployment and poverty.  Apparently we end up at the same point where we start.  It is, thus, better to be leaderless than being led wrong.

So someone, a real lover of hers says, "I will wait though moments short-live." Isn't he a fool for he waits for her coming?

For you and I, it seems better to marry dreams and tears, and carry on lives with the best companion of all known as compromise.

Invariably, compromise lingers; pretension breaks.

Author is a student of Chartered Accountancy- Final, ICAI-New Delhi and can be reached







Violence in Kashmir has led to a different kind of crisis — tourism has been hit hard, many hotels have shut and local businesses are floundering.


It's 4 am and Ghulam Hassan — nattily dressed in a double-breasted white jacket and grey trousers — is ready to start his day. The waiter at Mascot-I — a super-deluxe houseboat on Nigeen Lake in Srinagar — vacuums the plush sofas in the drawing room. He gently wipes the delicate wood carvings on the beds with a soft cloth. Then he arranges a silver tea set on a table so that when guests come in, he'd be ready with kehwa, the traditional Kashmiri tea.

Except that there are no guests coming in. "In fact, not a single guest has turned up in the past two and half months. You are the only outsider I have seen," says Hassan, 23.

Five kilometres away, in the heart of Srinagar city in Residency Road, Bashir Ahmad Mogre, a waiter at Ahdoo's Hotel, is equally despondent. "We are ruined," he says. "Tourists don't come here anymore."

Indeed, Srinagar is like a ghost town. Boulevard Road — otherwise known as Srinagar's tourist hub — is deserted. Shikaras are parked along the Dal Lake and the boatmen look lost. "We have been sitting idle," says Mohammad Sharifa, a boatman who claims he's not earned a paisa since mid-June, when violence flared up in the Valley. But he has to keep paying the owner of the shikara a monthly rent of Rs 3,000 to retain his boat for future use.

Right now, future use seems like a pipedream. For almost three months, Kashmir has been on fire. And people whose daily bread comes from tourism-related activities watch in despair as deaths and protests shroud the peak tourist season. The turmoil that started with the killing of a 17-year-old boy by the police on June 11 shows no signs of abating. Around 65 civilians, mostly young men, have allegedly been killed this summer by security forces.

Shakeel Qalander, president, Federation of Chambers of Industries, Kashmir, says the region has suffered a loss of Rs 100 crore a day. "Around 1.2 million people work in four lakh enterprises in the Valley. Everyone feels the pinch," he says.

To a large extent, business in Kashmir is connected to tourism. The Rs 1,500-crore tourism industry feeds more than 6 lakh people in the Valley — and a single tourist acts as a source of livelihood for at least 100 people, says the former president of the houseboat owners' association, Azim Tuman.

The violent incidents — along with protests and curfew — have affected everybody from houseboat and hotel owners to boatmen and handicraft workers. And ironically, the people of Kashmir point out, they had no inkling earlier this year that a crisis was round the corner.

The tourist season started in March and saw an inflow of half a million tourists till mid-June, says the president of the travel agents' association of Kashmir, Rauf Tramboo. "We expected a similar inflow for the rest of the year. But all bookings have been cancelled," he says.

Many of the cancellations have come from West Bengal. The Puja season was meant to have been a busy one in Kashmir. Tramboo points out that 1,500 people made on-the-spot bookings at a tourism fair in Calcutta last month. "But looking at this never-ending crisis, they've cancelled their bookings," he says.

The crisis snowballed just when people thought the worst was behind them. "Tourism started picking up from 2005 after almost two decades," says Tuman. "The year started off exceptionally well with almost 100 per cent occupancy. But fate had something else in store for us," he says. Houseboat owners have suffered a cumulative loss of Rs 36.45 crore in the past 85 days of closure, he says.

This has been the worst year — in terms of public protests and closures — in recent times. The situation was not this dire even in 2008, when there was a 45-day shutdown during the Amarnath land row affair, when widespread protests followed a government transfer of forest land for shelters for Hindu pilgrims. Qalander says the total loss in 2008 was Rs 4,500 crore. This year, it has crossed Rs 8,000 crore.

"We survived then. But things are unexpectedly bad this time," says hotelier Siraj Ahmad. Every day, the hotel industry suffers a loss of Rs 8-10 crore.

Many of the 1,000 hotels in Srinagar have shut down temporarily. "We may have to lay off our employees. And that would be unfortunate because it would add to the 6 lakh unemployed youth already there in the Valley," says Ahmad.

Tourism minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, however, is confident that tourism will pick up. "We will resume promotional campaigns in different parts of India. We are hopeful that we will be able to attract tourists as usual," he says.

Bashir Ahmad Akhoon doesn't quite believe that. Akhoon, who sells flowers worth Rs 3,000 to hotels and tourists during the season every day, now barely earns Rs 100. The horticulture industry is believed to have lost Rs 100 crore in the last two months. "There is no one here to buy my flowers," says Akhoon, pointing to the bright bouquets of gladioli, carnations and lilacs bursting from their clay pots on his shikara at the floating market on the Dal. "Will the Indian government compensate for the losses I have incurred," he asks angrily.

Like Akhoon, the man on the street is angry. And while most people vent their anger at the Centre, some have no faith in the strikes called by the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference (G), Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

Mehboob Ali, whose papier mache business survives on tourists, is among them, "If there is no curfew, there is a strike. Why would outsiders visit this place? Our leaders should understand that our families need to have at least one square meal a day."

Trade, some stress, is not just affected by the missing tourist. Even local businesses are floundering because of the ongoing crisis. Mohammad Ameen, who runs a furniture shop, says he has lost orders worth Rs 40 lakh placed for the wedding season and subsequently cancelled after most weddings were postponed.

"I have no expectations from the government since it has done nothing for us in the past 63 years. But our leaders should give us some relief from the strikes so that we do not die of starvation before Eid," Ameen says.

Geelani brushes off the complaints as rhetoric. "Our villagers are sending rice and vegetables to people in the city. We are taking care of the needs of the people," Geelani says. "But our strikes," he adds, "will continue till the Kashmir issue is resolved."

The hard-line leader has the support of some local traders. "I will continue to protest till we getazaadi. If that means my shop will have to be closed for some more months, so be it," says carpet seller Shakil Dar.

But Qalander warns of a bigger crisis. "Residents have taken bank loans worth Rs 21,000 crore. Plus, this state has had a trade deficit of Rs 28,000 crore a year. In the past 20 years, the state's economy has suffered a loss of Rs 1,88,000 crore. Our economy is on the verge of collapse," he says.

Few, however, pay heed to the warning. Iqbal Trumbo, who heads the Kashmir Economic Forum, a new umbrella body for trade and business, says the strikes will continue. "The loss of lives has overshadowed the loss of money." Many agree with him. But some look wistfully at the place known as heaven on earth and shake their heads.








 "We (revealed it (the Quran) on the night of power. Would that you knew what the night of power is like. Better is the night of power than a thousand months. On that night the angels and spirit descend by their lord's permission, will all His decrees. That night is peace, till the break of Dawn" (97:1-5).


This verse speaks about the promised great night which the whole universe marked with joy and prayers. The night of power (Lailat-Ul-Qadr) is full of blessings and it is great because Allah has chosen it for the revelation of the holy Quran, so that its light may spread throughout the universe and divine peace may spread in human life and conscience. This night is great because of what the Quran includes-an ideology, a basis of values and standards and a comprehensive code of moral and social behavior, all of which promote peace within the human soul and in the world at large. It is great because of the descent of the angels and Hazrat Jibril (AS) in particular by Allah's permission carrying the Quran that was first sent down on this night. Their nearness to earth gives a spiritual luster to the hearts and souls of the believer. It is great because every matter of significance was made plain and distinct; new vales and standards were established; the fortunes of nations were determined; and values and standards were sifted. The night of power is also the night of spiritual bliss. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "Verily this month has come to you; and there in is a night which is better than a thousand months. Who so ever is deprived of it, is deprived of all good; and none is deprived of its good except a totally unfortunate person" (IBN MAJAH). "Who so ever stands up (in prayer) at the night of power out of faith and hopeful of reward, all his past sins will be forgiven" (Targhib).


Lailat-Ul-Qadr is a feast for the spirit, a feast of worship and prayers. When our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was asked how a man could enjoy the favors and good grace of proximity and mercy of  Allah (SWT) he quoted Hadrat Musa (A S) supplication:  "Oh My Allah, I seek proximity to you; He said: proximity to me is for him who stays awake on Lailat-Ul-Qadr. "Oh My Allah, I am in need of your mercy; He said: My Mercy is for him who shows mercy to the poor on Lailat-Ul-Qadr. "Oh My Allah, I am in need of the passport to cross the bridge (pull sirat); He said: that is for him who give alms on Lailat-Ul-Qadr. "Oh My Allah, I am in need of the trees in paradise and their fruits; He said: that is for him who seeks forgiveness on Lailat-Ul-Qadr. "Oh My Allah, I seek deliverance from fire; He said: that is for him who remembers Allah on Lailat-Ul-Qadr. "Oh My Allah, I seek your good pleasure; He said: that is for him who says a two Rakat prayer (NAWAFIL) on Lailat-Ul-Qadr.

Lailat-Ul-Qadr is a night of honor and prestige which a faithful servant is awarded with. All his or her good deeds will be multiplied through the mercy of Allah. The night of power (Lailat-Ul-Qadr) is described as being greater in blessedness and spiritual value than a thousand months. Therefore fortunate is that person who attains the full of blessings of this night by spending it in the worship of Allah. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: "Seek Lailat-Ul-Qadr in the last ten nights. If one among you shows slackness and weakness in the earlier part of Ramadan, it should not be allowed to prevail upon him in last week" (Sahih Muslim). Allah has concealed the exact date of the night of power and it is recommended to seek the night and spend it diligently in devotion, including night Sunnah prayers (Tahjud) and recitation of Quran. This recitation indicates that regardless of whether a person knows the night or not Allah will grant forgiveness for previous shortcomings. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used to exert himself in devotion during the last ten nights to a greater extent than at any other time. During this time, he limited his contact with people and intensified his supplications and prayers to Allah (SWT). The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did this in order to attune his heart even more with Allah (SWT) and to free his mind from the concerns of the world.


Let's hope we seek and get the blessings on this night. Ameen








Alpha was a name which was respected and popular than any other name in 1965. A college student from Sopore was leading a student's agitation. He was elusive, yet omnipresent. There was romanticism and heroism attached with him. The youngsters believed Alpha would lead them to their destination.


Alas, he went into oblivion. He could not achieve the goals he had set for himself, and died in a hospital after a brief illness leaving behind his wife three daughters and a son.

Syed Mohamad Ilyas belonged to Sopore's respected Peerzada family, the Bukharis. His father Syed Ammanullah Bukhari was well respected person of Sopore.

I came into contact with Mohammad Ilyas in 1971 at Aligarh Muslim University. Both of us were pursuing the study of Law. We were classmates and soon became roommates though his room was in Sir Syed Hall but after we became friends Ilyas would seldom goes there, instead he would stay with us in Sulaiman Hall.
Ilyas must have died a satisfied man, not that he achieved everything in life, but for the fact that he never compromised on his convictions. Though I seldom agreed with him yet I respected him because he was not a hypocrite.

Ali Mohammad Jinnah was his hero, Pakistan his dream. This was the bottom line in any discussions with him.
Ilyas was a man of letters. He had interest in diverse fields of knowledge: Science, Law, Literature, Sports and of course, politics.

While pursuing his education he was arrested so many, however, after his release he took a job in health department but he left it after getting appointment as a teacher. He once told me he was posted at Nadim Memorial Higher Secondary School at Bandipora.

He was intelligent and sharp. I end this note with the following words of Neale Donald Walsh from his book Home with God, 'no matter which way you go, you can not fail to get home.

Author is retired Chief Justice of Orissa High Court.









THE killing of an unarmed and helpless hostage by the Maoists in Bihar, by no means the first such dastardly murder committed by the rebels, should spur the formulation of a clear policy to deal with all such situations in future. No government can afford to be blackmailed and the Bihar government would do well to resist the temptation to negotiate with the murderers. The government assessed correctly that it would be suicidal to succumb to Maoist pressure and it would set a bad precedent if the rebels' conditions were met. While the Maoists claimed to have carried out the operation in retaliation to the alleged fake encounter in Andhra Pradesh in which one of their top-ranking leaders , Azad, was killed, under no circumstances can the cold-blooded killing of the Assistant Sub Inspector, ironically a tribal, by them be justified. Any act of capitulation by the government can only make matters worse with Maoists and terrorists getting further emboldened to repeat the act. Targeting unarmed employees and taking them hostage would be easy for these armed gangs on the prowl and that is why the response of the state must be both forceful and unambiguous.


The government needs to make it clear, once and for all, that there will be no dialogue or negotiation under duress. An unequivocal policy declaration needs to be made, and if necessary a law requires to be enacted, to deter all future governments, which find themselves in similar situations, from playing ball with criminal elements. There are of course two glaring cases when the Government of India gave in to pressure and exchanged prisoners for hostages. First, when the then Union Home Minister's daughter was abducted in Jammu & Kashmir and again when terrorists managed to hijack an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar. The two instances were cited by Swami Agnivesh, one of the mediators between Maoists and the government, to argue that the Bihar Chief Minister too should open a dialogue and secure the release of the hostages by freeing the eight prisoners as demanded by the underground group.


But the burden of those two occasions cannot, and should not, determine the course of action in all such situations. The hostage crisis has also exposed chinks in policing that the state government must plug even as it acts firmly and pursues the murderers and brings them to book.









THE signing of two landmark defence deals between India and South Korea in Seoul on Friday marks the fruition of New Delhi's efforts to enhance the level of relations with South-East and North Asian countries. India needs to learn a lot from South Korea in improving the efficiency of its armed forces in view of the changing Asian scenario with China emerging fast as a major global power. The first deal relates to joint exercises by the armed forces of the two countries and exchange of visits by their defence personnel. The second deal involves joint production of high-technology items required by our defence forces. South Korea can provide cutting-edge technologies to India and that too at a price much lower than that demanded by other countries.


India intensified its efforts to upgrade its relations with South Korea, an economic power-house, by inviting its President, Mr Lee Myung-bak, as the chief guest for this year's Republic Day celebrations. Seoul has also been showing its desire to develop a closer relationship with New Delhi for some time. South Korea, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), supported India in getting a waiver from the NSG during the process of clinching the Indo-US nuclear deal. Now South Korea wants to enter into a nuclear deal with India as it intends to supply not only nuclear reactors to India but also the latest nuclear technology of dual use. This suits both countries. While a nuclear deal with Seoul will help New Delhi in increasing nuclear energy production, it will enable South Korean companies in nuclear trade to find business in India's emerging nuclear industry.


Besides all this, closer relations with South Korea will strengthen India's efforts to meet the challenge posed by the rising economic and military profile of China. In view of the emerging reality in the region, India has to lay greater stress on forging meaningful ties with other countries in South-East Asia and North Asia. We need a more focused approach for upgrading our relations with Asian nations.









THE UP farmers' agitation has at least achieved one major gain for the state landowners: It has forced the government to formulate a progressive land acquisition policy modelled largely on the Haryana pattern. A key feature of the policy is that the government will not forcibly take over any piece of land. This means the proposed townships along the Yamuna Expressway, including the one at Tappal in Aligarh district which had set off an agitation, might not materialise if the protesting farmers fail to reach a settlement. The farmers of the Tappal area are protesting to demand land compensation equivalent to what was given in Noida. The agitation got politicised as opposition parties rallied behind the farmers to extract political mileage.


In a clever move, however, the Mayawati government has threatened to drop the townships if the farmers do not want to part with their land. This may force the farmers to either accept the terms as laid down under the new policy, which are quite reasonable, or keep their land. In one stroke the Mayawati government has deflated the opposition attempts to fish in troubled waters. It is not clear whether the new guidelines would apply to farmers whose land has already been acquired. Anyway, the Aligarh farmers' agitation is set to lose steam.


Many development projects in the country, including special economic zones, have got stuck in the absence of acceptable land policy at the national and state levels. Haryana's land acquisition policy, which has been widely acclaimed, offers a lump-sum payment at the market rate, 33-year annuity, inflation-linked annual hikes, plots in case of a real estate project, jobs in case an industrial project comes up on the acquired land and skill development opportunities for eligible members of displaced families. The UP government has followed the Haryana policy with some modifications. The new policy is likely to help Ms Mayawati do damage control.

















THE reaction to the Prime Minister's recent statement on the question of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir has been on the expected lines — cynics say it is not enough but do not conveniently spell out the details. Concerned with human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir, teams of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, including this writer, have been visiting J & K since 1990 and giving reports critical of the government. I again went in 1993. It was a sad experience, and on my return I said publicly, "I do not know how and in what manner the Kashmir question will be solved with its nuances of 'azadi', plebiscite and greater autonomy. But one thing is certain — India will remain a loser unless the face that it presents to the people of the Kashmir valley is humane, compassionate and understanding. At present, that face is ugly and insensitive".


One never thought it could ever become worse. But unfortunately it has. Even in common idiom, "if you hit me with stones, I will return it with bricks". But the security forces have turned this on head by returning with bullets. There are limits which no civilised government can cross; unfortunately, the J and K and Central governments let the security forces do that. The killing of three security guards at Sopore shows a dangerous situation.


It is a sad reflection on the working of the political parties in J & K that they refuse to sit together to find an acceptable solution, notwithstanding that all of them have been part of the government of J & K at some point of time.


But equally the strategy of the Central government is fudgy. Home Minister P. Chidambaram comes out with what he thought was a brilliant coup by agreeing to hold talks, and especially mentions hardliner Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the pivotal point. Those who advised him seem to be totally impervious to the openly reiterated position of Mr Geelani (that he is asking for plebiscite in the hope that J & K will opt for Pakistan).


It has to be recognised that youths throwing stones are expressing their sickness with all the parties in the valley and demand a permanent answer to the future of Kashmir. The Prime Minister's statement on autonomy has given an opening. But it must be appreciated that this step would necessarily involve all political parties of India and including those of J & K. This requires immediate release of Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah, and no restrictions on Maulvi Omar Farooque and even Mr Geelani (under house arrest). All these leaders must be asked to come out clean with their concrete solutions instead of taking cover of asking India to sort out the Kashmir question with Pakistan. No doubt, the Indian and Pakistan governments will have to continue talks to arrive at a mutual agreement, but prior to that if the government and parties in India arrive at an agreed solution, it is only then that a permanent solution can be worked out.



The puerile argument of the Mirwaiz and Mr Geelani that a solution must be found for the "whole of J & K, which existed before 1947 as one unit, with the option to join Pakistan" is a non-starter. In that context it is well to repeat the opinion of Jurist Alstair Lamb (obtained by Pakistan) that "it can fairly be said that in deciding to accede to India, the Maharaja of Kashmir was well within his rights according to the 1947 Act which had nothing to say about communal issues in this respect". Will these gentlemen now ask Pakistan to vacate the portion of J & K under its occupation?


And when they talk of the whole of Kashmir, will they also spell out what their plans are to retrieve thousands of square miles in Aksai Chin (J & K) having been permanently ceded to China by Pakistan. And while at this they may also explain to their constituents as to how to undo the Baltistan-Gilgit package (area of J & K in Pakistan), which has now, by legislation, been incorporated in its territory. So, who is befooling whom with the so-called nostalgic mention of J & K being continued as a practical solution.


One cannot believe that Pakistan or leaders like Mr Geelani are so ill advised as not to recognise that the part of J & K on the Indian side is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. Nor can one believe that all the parties in India can be so dense as not to accept the ground reality that considering the price that J&K has paid in terms of human misery during these two decades of militancy and alienation, now it would be illogical for the Indian leadership to hope that talks can take place within the parameters of the normal Centre-State relations.


In order to give such reassurance, the Central goverment should concede that apart from the subjects acceded to in 1947 — namely defence, foreign affairs, communications and currency to the Central government — the rest of the subjects will vest in the J&K government. To further reassure the people of J&K, the Central government should agree unilaterally to withdraw all Central laws which have been extended to J&K. It will then be up to the J&K legislature to pass new laws or apply those laws with suitable modifications as it feels necessary. Some well-meaning people react adversely to this suggestion on the ground that this would be creating a special category unlike the other parts of the states. But why should it surprise anyone because J&K is a special case and is so recognised in our Constitution by Article 370. This suggestion of mine is only putting life into the original content of Article 370.


But that does not mean watertight separation of the two parts of J & K. In fact, all efforts have to be made to continue the underlying oneness of the state. Thus, so far as the borders between the two parts of J&K are concerned, they can be made as porous and as free as between the US and Canada or even like that at present existing in the European Union. People belonging to each side should have no problem not only in travelling, but even in having trade with each other freely.


Of course, ordering a judicial enquiry into all the killings is needed immediately. As an immediate gesture, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act must be withdrawn straightway. An appropriate force can be used if necessary — of course, subject to judicial scrutiny. So, why should we keep this legislation alive when it is admittedly an impediment in peace returning to the valley?


I feel a high-powered all-party delegation of members of Parliament should immediately go to Srinagar and express their regret to the members of the families of those who died or were injured in the recent incidents. They should also meet members of the youth community. This will give assurance to the public that the rest of India cares for its compatriots in Jammu and Kashmir.n


The writer is a retired Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi.







I was at the College of Combat, Mhow, when the India-China war of 1962 started. The course was terminated and all were instructed to forthwith rejoin their units. Army Headquarters required me to stay put at Mhow and await my posting order. Two days later my posting order to J and K was received which required of me to immediately join duty.

I had taken my car to Mhow and had to drive back to Punjab, leave the car there and proceed to J and K. Since I did not have much time I decided to drive non-stop from Mhow to Delhi. This involved driving through the Chambal ravines: better known for its dacoits. In early sixties, taking this journey alone was not without great risk.


Disregarding the perils of this journey, I drove on non-stop. It was around midnight that on approaching a defile I found the road blocked by a felled tree. I realised that I had run into an ambush.


As I stopped near the felled tree, a number of men with guns and bandoliers strung across their chests appeared. I was told to come out of the car, which I dutifully did. They searched me for cash and removed my watch and wallet. Then they got down to searching my baggage and the car.


While they were busy rifling through my baggage, someone announced that Sardar had come. Every one pulled back a little and there appeared a sturdy young man. As he drew near, he suddenly sprung to attention and gave me a smart salute and said: "Sahib Ji, tussee ethay ki kar rahey ho?"(Sir, what are you doing here?)


I recognised him. He was my tank gunner and had been discharged after his seven-year tenure of engagement. Those days soldiers were discharged after seven years and given no pension.


I responded to his query and asked him: "Nahar Singh, toon aye ki kam pharya hai?" (Nahar Singh what is this work you have taken on?). He said, "Sahib Ji, admi nu kush na kush taan karna chahida hai, vehle baith kay vi ki kara hai?" (Sir, one must do some or the other work. There is no point sitting idle!).


Then he addressed his gang and said. "Dekheya sadhi regiment de officer kiney dalair hun, ekelay he rat nu is sarak tay chal rahey hun."(do you see how brave are the officers of our regiment. They move alone at night on this road). This bit was perhaps to establish his own pedigree before his gang!


He told his men not to just stand watching but make tea for the sahib. All my stuff was put back in the car, my watch and wallet returned. After a cup of tea and much bonhomie and hand shaking I took leave of Nahar Singh and his gang.









BLACKBERRY blinked first, and the government gave it a 60-day reprieve to find a way to meet India's internal security concerns. It also lifted the impending ban on some BlackBerry services in India. Soon thereafter, the government announced that it would also ask other service providers to ensure that they comply with laws that require them to provide access to security agencies in India.


The genesis of the present showdown goes back to the horrific Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 26, 2008, in which cell phones, satellite phones and other electronic devices were used by the terrorists and their handlers. The government then decided to act in a decisive manner such that it would have access to all forms of electronic data that goes out of India.


Unlike other service providers like Google Inc, Nokia and Microsoft Corp, BlackBerry uses its own servers and security software, as well as centralised data centres for its customers. It thus became the primary target of security forces, even though none of the terrorists had actually used a BlackBerry device. Other service providers use encryption software made by specialised companies like Symantec Corp and McAfee Inc, more familiar to Indian users as the main providers of anti-virus software.


BlackBerry also provides its corporate customers a server called the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) which encrypts mail according to special software "key" that is set up by the customers. It is because of this feature that BlackBerry says that it can't provide any "open-all" access key, because there is simply no such key.


On the other hand, the government maintains that it must have the ability to monitor the data sent across the servers because of national security concerns and to prevent criminals from using BlackBerry phones to transact business. One way out is that BlackBerry could install an "eavesdropping box" on each BSE, and give the agencies access to that box.


By far, India is not the only country that has issues regarding BlackBerry. France, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Kuwait are among the nations that had had security concerns regarding BlackBerry services.


The government has also asked other service providers to install servers in India. Nokia has announced that it will do so soon, and now the Gmail and Skype are also being specifically targeted. Once the servers are in India, their operators have to comply with Indian laws, and thus cooperation will become more proactive.


While the security concerns have been addressed, the larger question of providing privacy to the users remains. Indian citizens are well within their right to demand that a proper, transparent and effective system be set up to ensure that the security agencies do not misuse the access granted to them.


The Intelligence Bureau and the National Technical Research Organisation are the two organisations that will primarily deal with electronic surveillance. They will thus be empowered tremendously. With power comes responsibility. The government should have transparent and universal norms, proper procedures and oversight to prevent abuse of power that such access would give.


A system of adequate judicial supervision should be chalked out to ensure that only those specific phones or e-

mail IDs are tapped which are justified and necessary. Sometime ago, illegal tapping of mobile phones was exposed by the media. It raised a storm, even in Parliament, but there is no information on what is being done to prevent such incidents in future. The government must ensure accountability among the security agencies.


Individual privacy should be inviolable, unless it is breached for specific legal reasons. Data integrity is crucial

to all kinds of transactions, including business transactions which have made BlackBerry phones a preferred choice of the corporate world. The independent BEE servers provided a lifeline to the survivors of the 9/11 New York tragedy, and it became the only network that continued to work even in that trying time.


But then, as BlackBerry, Google and Skype must also realise, while at one level, the world is increasingly

borderless, at another, it is not so —all have to conform to the law of the nations they operate in. They must demonstrate their commitment to the security concerns of these nations and work out ways in which they can continue to provide the best service possible to law-abiding users there.








COME September and our favourite BlackBerry would have been reduced to just another mobile, sans its two features of the BlackBerry Messenger Service and BlackBerry Enterprise mail. This crackdown on the BlackBerry services by the government came in the wake of the ever-looming threat of terrorism.


The Indian government had threatened to shut down the core features of the BlackBerry by August 31 if they did not provide access to their heavily encrypted email and messenger services. The Canadian Company RIM (Research in Motion), makers of BlackBerry, and have now been given a reprieve.


The main issue that RIM seems to be facing in complying with the Indian government's request is that it maintains that it does not have a master key for decoding the encrypted information. Do the RIM have a backdoor to access their encrypting system? Ethically no company would do such a thing as to make a loophole in its own system as it would make it very vulnerable to hackers.


India has more than a million BlackBerry users and the number is ever increasing. RIM cannot afford to ignore this potential market and it will have to provide the codes for accessing its services to the government and to try and come out with a feasible solution like it has done in the case of other countries.


In fact this move against the BlackBerry could have a snowball effect all over the world if other nations start following suit.


The RIM claim that they cannot give any details regarding their decrypting procedure as they have none. They are unwilling to bring down their 256 bit encrypting to 40 bit which is the acceptable Indian standard. They also say that since the BlackBerry servers are located in Canada, these exigencies could kill e-commerce..


The BlackBerry has become a lifestyle, a fashion statement, an indispensable business and personal accessory and even a necessary evil at social gatherings. To have all your contacts, emails, Facebook and Twitter accounts, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger, the ability to send voice notes, pictures and videos instantly—all this in the palm of your hand anywhere you go, anytime — is a heady proposition indeed.


Added to this feature is the ability to set a password on the device so it stealthily shuts itself down. This kind of secrecy is a boon to many a clandestine office affair. Why, you can even keep the boredom of a boardroom meeting at bay by typing away to your loved ones secretly on your BlackBerry.


I see people on the streets 'BlackBerry walking' in slow motion like zombies while messaging away, their faces illuminated by the eerie light of their BlackBerries, giving a whole new angle to the popular mobile add 'walk while you talk'. Now its 'type as you walk'. There is even the careless driver who can't resist a peek into his BlackBerry to check his email or messages every time it goes ping! There is a law against driving and talking on the mobile but no law against peeking at your messages which is an even more dangerous habit.


The iPhone has already found a partial solution to this in the form of an application that displays a transparent view of what's directly in front of you. But that still won't guarantee your safety. So you see there are other ways the messaging can kill you and its not just the terrorists!


It is a Catch-22 situation we find ourselves in — we want the government to ensure our protection without giving away any of our freedom. The reality of our times is such that the threat of terrorism is so interwoven into our social fabric these days that it has become virtually impossible to isolate it. So is it a terrorist you pass on the street everyday who holds that fancy BlackBerry Pearl, Curve or Storm or just another citizen in the real world lost in his BlackBerry? Guess we will never know.






The provocation

The 26/11 terrorist attacks in 2008 in Mumbai led to a review of information security since the attack was coordinated with cell phones, satellite phones and Internet calls.



The Ministry of Home Affairs says "any communication through the telecom networks should be accessible to the law enforcement agencies and all telecom service providers, including third parties, have to comply with this."



BlackBerry is based in Canada.

Google has unit in India, but Gmail is run by Google Inc., an American company.

MSN Hotmail is an American company.

Skype is based in Luxembourg. It has no operations in India.


What is Skype?


Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while other calls can be made for a fee using a debit-based user account system. Skype has also become popular for its additional features which include instant messaging, file transfer, and video conferencing. The network is operated by a company called Skype Limited, headquartered in Luxembourg and partly owned by eBay.  











There is a curious phenomenon that has taken shape in sections of the Pakistani press in the past 3-4 days. At least two TV networks, Express TV and Aaj, reportedly went big with the news that the match-fixing scandal engulfing the Pakistani team was a conspiracy hatched by RAW, the Indian intelligence agency. According to this version, the bookie Mazhar Majeed was a paid RAW agent; RAW introduced him to cricket circles to humiliate Pakistan and that Indian officials went around convincing British journalists to do a "fake sting operation". 


It's the kind of madcap theory that always does the rounds when disaster strikes a nation – remember the loony theories about how 9/11 was an Israeli operation and that all Jews in the World Trade Centre had advance warning to leave. The revealing thing about this Pakistani story though is how much traction it got in parts of the mainstream press. 


The story first appeared in a local paper called the Daily Mail, described by one Pakistani blogger as a "rag". It had no sources or proof but then acquired a life of its own. According to a good round-up by the Pakistani blogspot, Café Pyala, it then surfaced in The Nation; in the Urdu press; and on television. 


At the risk of generalising too much, the willingness to give this kind of story any kind of play – without following any of the usual rules of attribution and proof – reveals a mindset that refuses to believe reality, falling back into the comfortable, knee-jerk reaction of blaming the Old Enemy. 


Just look at how the Pakistani High Commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, has been all over radio and TV, blaming an "Indian hand". Judging from reactions in the British press, the High Commissioner is in serious danger of becoming the laughing stock of London. Ironically, Mr Hasan has actually been far more circumspect than sections of his own media, blaming Sharad Pawar and Indian influence in the ICC. The larger mindset though is similar: when in doubt, blame India. 


Of course, there are enough sane sections within the Pakistani press and larger civil society. Of course, not everyone is in denial mode – some media groups have ignored the RAW story altogether – and not everyone believes that even the floods were an Indian conspiracy. Divergences of opinion exist in every society. The problem in Pakistan right now, as virtually every institution of the state crumbles, is that the space for reasoned and rational argumentation is continually shrinking. And it is being filled up by the loony brigade. 


The story of the RAW hand would ordinarily have been a good laugh, if it did not reveal a deeper trend of denial. Over the weekend, Pakistani bloggers have been talking of how it seems to have originated from the Pakistani intelligence establishment, and then regurgitated verbatim. If this is true, then it would make some kind of intuitive sense in a macabre psycho-ops kind of way. Though heaven knows what good the spooks thought would come of it. 


With the flood waters still swirling, Pakistan is now facing the most serious existential crisis in its history. Only the Army has conducted itself with dignity in the face of this disaster. Indeed it is the only functioning institution with the tools to deal with it. And the Army's raison d'etre is India. With the Army regaining credibility as the only bulwark of the nation, and readying for a post-American world in Afghanistan, its hardline anti-India stance is back in vogue. 


Sample the cussedness in accepting Indian money for flood relief and the increasing embrace of China in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Even before the Indus inundated Pakistan, the biggest new issue in Indo-Pak relations this year – keeping aside S M Krishna's press conference disaster in Islamabad – was the growing Pakistani murmur of India allegedly creating new dams to breach the Indus Water Treaty, and to rob Pakistan of its waters. The Pakistani press has been flush with dark whispers about the floods just being another example of Indian perfidy, with accusations of India deliberately diverting waters from Kashmir to the Pakistani heartland. With the Army in charge for all practical purposes, the Indian obsession is back as the default position. 

Pakistani cricket has always been a central marker of Pakistani identity. Pakistan did not get automatic membership of the then Imperial Cricket Council after independence and its victory over the MCC in an unofficial Test in 1951 was regarded by many in the country as a coming of age for the new nation. As the Pakistani legend, Fazal Mahmood, who was the hero of that game, wrote later, "After this victory [the English], they learnt that Pakistan was an independent and sovereign state." The question is what will Pakistan learn from its English test of 2010? 



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




In the aftermath of the trans-Atlantic financial crisis of 2008-09, two schools of thought had emerged in India on the likely impact of the Great Recession on the Indian economy. One school drew attention to India's as yet limited exposure to global trade and capital flows and, therefore, suggested that India would be relatively insulated. A second school of thought rubbished such optimism and suggested that the Indian economy too would grind to a halt. Upholders of the first school of thought forecast a growth rate of upwards of 7 per cent for 2008-09, while proponents of the opposite view saw India's growth rate declining to less than 5 per cent, perhaps even 4 per cent in that year. In the event, the Indian economy did slow down but not by as much as feared. More than the slowdown of growth and exports, India saw reduced capital inflows, higher cost of external borrowing, and such like. In one of his early speeches of great value, Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao warned, in December 2008, that despite the attractions of the "decoupling hypothesis", the fact remained that an increasingly open and globalised Indian economy is exposed to all the vagaries of the global economy. It is useful to recall and remember those words of wisdom once again.

Last week, the media reported two sets of contrasting reports. On the one hand, the worrying reports from the United States about the likelihood of a "double dip recession", with the head of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, worrying about deflation and persistently high unemployment in the US. The same week, there were reports about renewed fears of an economic slowdown even in fast-rising China. The good news from Germany was overshadowed by renewed concerns about the health of other European economies and Japan. In the same week, on the other hand, India reported a robust 8.8 per cent rate of growth in its gross domestic product in the first quarter of the current financial year. Can India return to the pre-crisis trajectory of close to 9 per cent growth rate even if the world economy slows down and posts a little over 1 per cent GDP growth? The decoupling debate has been opened up again.

 India's domestic market has the capacity to sustain fairly high rates of growth and it is entirely possible that India will continue to be among the world's fastest-growing economies. Perhaps even the fastest-growing economy, if China's growth rate slips to below 7 per cent, as many believe it would, if it has not already done so. However, a higher current account deficit could act as a constraint on growth. The one upside of the global slowdown for India, especially China's growth deceleration, would be the abatement of commodity price inflation globally. Lower petroleum and commodity prices will have a positive impact on inflation at home. However, if lower inflation comes with lower growth, the net outcome would only be a mixed blessing for the government and the economy. India's macroeconomic authorities must, therefore, remain alive to the challenge posed by external economic factors, even as policy at home seeks to sustain the growth revival.







The delay in the National Advisory Council (NAC) finalising its proposals for food security legislation seems to stem from the realisation that legislation is easy, execution is difficult. Once a right to food law is in place, the governments at the Centre and in the states will be expected to deliver, failing which there could be serious political backlash. Identifying the beneficiary is one problem, delivering food to the beneficiary is the second and bigger problem. It is now clear that the unique identity card developed by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) would form the basis for choosing the beneficiaries of the right to food law. The main objective of doing so, evidently, is to distinguish between genuine and bogus beneficiaries of both the public distribution system (PDS) and the food security law. The number of fake ration cards in existence today is shockingly large. Going by official reckoning, while the total number of households falling in the below poverty line (BPL) category is reckoned at 65.2 million, as many as 110.8 million ration cards had been issued by the state governments till March 2009. This is despite leaving a sizeable proportion of deserving households out of the PDS network. These fake cards, coupled with corruption at the ration shop level, constitute the major source of leakage of highly subsidised foodgrain. Such swindling ought not to be allowed to go on.


Issuing of UID-linked smart cards and computerisation of PDS operations are generally viewed as effective means of eliminating bogus cards and preventing diversion of subsidised foodgrain. It was chiefly with this end in view that pilot projects were launched in Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh to try out the effectiveness of smart cards. Interestingly, while definitive conclusions from these pilot projects are still awaited, the Madhya Pradesh government has come out with the claim that it has, on its own, conducted such trials and has found the smart-card model unsuccessful. It has, therefore, improved upon this system by conceiving another model involving UID-linked biometric cards for identification of beneficiaries and separate food coupons for disbursement of grains. The problem with the use of smart cards as virtual ration cards is that it requires ration shop owners to use machines for deciphering biometric cards which they are generally reluctant to do. Besides, and perhaps more importantly, the lack of written and easily readable information on the smart card about the precise entitlement of the customer for different commodities leaves the scope for cheating by the shopkeepers. Thus, this system served only a limited purpose of keeping the fake beneficiaries at bay, without effectively plugging other malpractices. Under the Madhya Pradesh model, on the other hand, food coupons will have the entitlement clearly spelt out on them and biometric verification will be done only once a year at the time of distributing the coupons to the beneficiaries. Prima facie, this system seems simpler and consumer-friendly, as consumers would be aware of the ration due to them. A shopkeeper would only have to take the coupons and deliver the goods mentioned therein. There is merit in adopting this model nationwide, for a targeted PDS, extending it later to grain delivery for food security.








It is probably a first of its kind. A press release issued by an Indian embassy abroad in support of an Indian company and a very Indian brand. Last week, the Indian embassy in Nepal was constrained to issue a press release alleging that sections of the media in the neighbouring country were seeking to malign an Indian company and suggesting that such a malicious campaign against an Indian brand could hurt bilateral relations.


 The company in question is Dabur Nepal, a subsidiary of India's famous Dabur India Limited. The provocation for the embassy press release was a muted campaign against Dabur Nepal's "Real" fruit juices, suggesting that the company was selling inedible goods. What provoked the embassy to intervene was a desperate plea from the company.


Dabur Nepal had received a blackmail threat from a leading media group in Nepal stating that a major campaign would be unleashed against its products if the company did not resume advertising with the group's print and television media. The company also suspected the active involvement of anti-Indian politicians, especially Maoists, in the campaign. This was not the first time Indian companies felt threatened by such smear attacks and so Dabur Nepal felt compelled to approach the embassy for support.


Convinced of its case and taking the view that it is the duty of Indian diplomats to protect the interests of Indian brands and companies, the Indian embassy in Kathmandu issued the press release that sought to alert the general public to the threat of anti-Indianism masquerading as consumer protection. Nepal's media and its political class are engaged in an animated discussion on the rights and wrongs of such diplomatic intervention in a purely commercial matter.


Should diplomats only walk the high road of high diplomacy (strategic policy, bilateral relations and regional cooperation) or should they also walk the low road of low diplomacy (commercial and business diplomacy), promoting the cause of business and commerce? This is an old debate and has played itself out in other countries too. There are equally compelling arguments on both sides of the divide. However, the fact is that diplomats are increasingly being asked to not just defend their countries' business interests but to, in fact, promote such interests.


When Christina Rocca, a former US assistant secretary of state, once used the platform offered by the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi to say that there were just five letters that could make a difference to US-India relations and then went on to spell them out, "E-N-R-O-N", to a stunned audience, many in India criticised her for promoting the interests of Enron and making Enron's business interests the test case for bilateral friendship. For its part, Enron would have thanked her profusely for doing what she did.


Should diplomats restrict themselves to policy issues and only help create a framework for improved economic and commercial relations between countries, or should they dirty their hands, wet their feet, sweat it out and earn their spurs selling brands and promoting businesses? This is by no means a settled debate, but on balance most governments, and certainly companies, would increasingly expect diplomats to do precisely what the Indian embassy in Nepal did or what Ms Rocca did in Delhi.


Trade has for long followed the flag, but in recent years the flag has followed trade with companies opening doors in difficult lands to their countries' diplomats. Indian companies have helped open many doors around the world for Indian diplomats. In turn, Indian diplomats help open doors in foreign lands to Indian companies.


Every now and then this incestuous relationship between diplomats and businesses does irritate someone or the other. When US diplomats bat in India for American companies, many in India get shirty and upset. Just as the Nepalese media is criticising the Indian embassy for getting involved in the Dabur controversy, Indian media and politicians often criticise American diplomats and officials for openly espousing the cause of their companies.


But none of this dissuades anyone from doing what must be done. In an increasingly competitive, inter-dependent, integrated global economy, governments are expected to be more proactive in promoting the business interests of their respective companies. The Indian embassy in Nepal should, therefore, be complimented for its proactive stance. More so, because there is still an element of diffidence among Indian diplomats when it comes to batting for Indian business, even though successive prime ministers have continued the practice, first started by Rajiv Gandhi, of asking business leaders to join official events abroad.


Consider the trivial example of protocol. When Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen of Finland hosted an official banquet for visiting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in Helsinki in 2006, he had the President and CEO of Nokia Corporation, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, seated immediately next to him so that, over the meal, Mr Kallasvuo could engage in a conversation with Dr Singh about Nokia's plans and interests in India.


Such intimacy between politicians and businessmen on such occasions is still unthinkable in India. Seating at the Indian prime minister's official banquets is still strictly by archaic protocol — first come the Cabinet-rank ministers, then ministers of state, then come the secretaries to the government and only then a business leader!


Many politicians, officials and diplomats are actually quite comfortable with this hypocrisy of not being seen to be close, friendly and helpful to businesses in public but willing to more than bat in private. But a new generation of proactive diplomats, in embassies around the world, are willing to be more supportive of Indian business, without having to compromise on professional ethics and personal integrity. This ought to be welcomed.










It's been a rough six months in East Asia, as tensions ratchet up in Korea, navies drill, and governments, from China to Vietnam, trade barbs, claims and counterclaims to the South China Sea.


But even as anxieties grow, it is economics, not security, that still defines the essential strategic reality of Asia today: China is fast becoming the central player in a new economic regionalism. And as economic integration tightens, the US and India risk being left out.


 For its part, the US has endured decades of loose talk about American "decline" in Asia. But in the months since North Korea torpedoed a South Korean naval corvette in March, America's security role has been strongly reinforced.


Yet, ironically, that's part of the problem: Even as America's security role remains the backbone of strategic stability, the economic pillars of US credibility are eroding across Asia.


In the postwar period, US leadership in Asia depended not just on alliances, bases and carrier battle groups. It flowed, too, from a sustained commitment to three economic pillars: market openness, faith in America's own competitiveness and strong US leadership on international trade agreements and regimes.


But all three pillars are now under fierce attack in the US. And this both compounds and further contributes to a rapid erosion of American economic influence, as China becomes the central player in a growing web of trade and financial connections.


Take Southeast Asia. From 2000 to 2009, China's share of Asean's total trade increased threefold, surpassing that of the US, whose share declined by a third in the same period. Meanwhile, when the dust settles from the current financial crisis, the character of economic globalisation may be significantly changed with respect to capital flows, production chains and trade patterns. Asian countries are moving forward together in various ways — on trade, financial arrangements, technical standards and investment rules. And increasingly, they are moving forward on a pan-Asian basis and without Washington.


This is precisely why American strategy in Asia is simply not sustainable with the kind of trade policy Washington has presently.


For generations, deep trade and investment relationships have been the tangible representation of US economic weight in Asia, reflecting a widespread faith in the future economic and strategic strength of the US. This was true in the 19th century, when fast-sailing clipper ships first vaulted America into a role that spanned China, India and the waters betwixt and between. It remains true today.


The good news is that US President Barack Obama's November visit to Seoul has given Washington strong incentives to complete the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement this fall. But there is virtually no prospect that the US will keep pace with Beijing's burgeoning trade and investment initiatives. And across Asia, anxieties persist about America's own economic prospects: the scope and nature of its recovery from the financial crisis; its commitment to stave off protectionist sentiment; and whether it can muster a bipartisan political consensus to manage its debts.


This offers a cautionary tale for India.


Strategically, India has been bottled up in the subcontinent for generations, but it wasn't always so: Southeast Asia bears the hallmarks of a bygone era in names like "Indonesia" and "Indochina", and Indian sailors once plied the trade routes from the Indian Ocean to the Strait of Malacca.


But as it again "looks East", India risks being left out in Asia because of the significant mismatch between its lofty strategic goals and more earthbound economic realities.


Make no mistake, India's strategic connections to East Asia are being restored. Yet, this is happening, in large part, because India is widely viewed as a potential — if still very modest — counterbalance to Chinese power. Diplomacy and politics remain the central drivers, not least, for example, in the invitation to India to become a more active player in East Asian regional groups.


But, at the end of the day, strategic intentions alone cannot sustain a larger role for India in Asia writ large. As America is rediscovering, economic content is essential. Greater economic content to India's relations with East Asia will be required. And, investment-related reforms will surely be essential, too, to enhance the flow of goods, capital and opportunity.


Trade plays a growing role in the Indian economy, and India has signed preferential trade agreements with

Asean and South Korea. Yet, scale remains a handicap: 11.6 per cent of Asean's trade is with China, just 2.5 per

cent with India. Meanwhile, the backbone of East Asian economies remains integrated supply and production chains to which India is largely irrelevant.


More manufacturing in India's southern states could mean greater integration into East Asian supply and production chains, or not. Likewise with outbound investment from corporate India: it could, perhaps, transform India's interactions with Southeast Asia; but, here too, scale remains a handicap.


The business of Asia is still business. And India and East Asia have some distance yet to travel.


The author is head, Asia Group at Eurasia Group and is adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington DC










Continuing the last week's argument ("The reality beyond the numbers", September 1), can the environmental agenda as implemented by our young and energetic minister take precedence over every other objective of the democratic government of a still poor country? Consider the number of major industrial/infrastructural projects/developments blocked on environmental grounds, some for years — Posco Steel (Orissa), Jindal Power (Chhattisgarh), East Coast Energy, Nagarjuna Construction, Polavaram Dam and JSW Aluminium (Andhra), Navi Mumbai Airport, different projects in Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts (Maharashtra), genetically modified seeds, various highways under NHAI, the Ganga Expressway (UP) and so on. Depending on your definition, some (or all of them) would have some adverse impact on the environment and displace some residents. The big question is: should projects be blocked because of such issues on the recommendations of committees with an ideological agenda? In the Posco case, the Orissa government has alleged that the committee collected "manufactured" evidence only from "anti-Posco agitators" (The Indian Express, August 19). Can we afford environmental fundamentalism?


The common strands running through the attitude of the so-called activists and the ministry seems to be their self-righteous claims to virtue; their belief in the benignity of the status quo; their suspicions of investors' profit motives and the need to justify any change to their own satisfaction. They seem to consider environment a holy cause, as unquestionable in its virtue as motherhood and patriotism. In the process, little weight is given to the possibility that what is acceptable to them is increasingly becoming an enemy of any improvement in the status quo.


 We seem to forget that any improvement in the existing state of the economy, of the poor, of the adivasis, will mean change; that any change will not be of equal benefit to everybody. But is that reason enough to reject it? One is happy that environmental lobbies did not exist when man invented agriculture and discovered how to light fires, etc. — both these developments destroyed forests and the living of those occupying them at the time. Is there wisdom in romanticising tribal ways and in arguing that the adivasis' standards of living need to be left unchanged?


This is not to say that environmental issues have no relevance, but a balance needs to be struck between the adverse impact and the positives. Efforts must be made to mitigate the former without blocking investment, growth and jobs. Yet, such issues seem to have become irrelevant to the environmental activists and the ministry due to the backing of a social agenda advocated by the National Advisory Council (NAC), a body not democratically elected, and responsible only to the Congress president. This makes all others powerless to oppose the way the environmental agenda is being implemented.


The provocation for those thoughts is the rejection of the approval to Vedanta Group for its bauxite project in Orissa.Vedanta did breach some laws (the company spokesman claims otherwise). But then, we have so many laws, rules and regulations dating to the 19th century, and we rarely repeal anything. I am sure I contravene some law when I cross a road in India.


Another ministry seems to be making every effort to block Vedanta's acquiring controlling interest in the Indian subsidiary of Cairn. After reading dozens of reports and articles, the nature of the objections is still not clear. Sometime back, the Vedanta group was not allowed to exercise its call option on the government-held equity of Hindustan Zinc, a company privatised by the National Democratic Alliance. One wonders whether the root of the problems is not really the legalities or technical issues involved, but something else. Sudeshna Sen in her "Letters from London" (The Economic Times, August 23) reported that, as far as the Cairn issue is concerned "GoI egos are seriously injured, because Bill Gammell and Anil Agarwal didn't spend days schmoozing in Delhi to tell them of their plans". Perhaps both should have learnt from India's most successful post-independent entrepreneur, the late Dhirubhai Ambani, who was never hesitant, as he himself said, of bowing before even the chaprasis in the ministries if that would get his work done. Are we going back to those days?


Last week, India reported GDP growth in Q1 of 2010-11 at 8.8 per cent annualised. If this is to continue, governance will need to improve in many, many areas.  







THE SENSITIVE INDEX (Sensex) and Nifty are at their 30-month highs and look expensive at the price-to-earnings (P/E) multiple of 22 time for 12 months earnings till June 30, 2010. At current prices, the indices are trading around 17 times FY11 forward earnings. Automobile, banking, technology and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies drove the benchmark indices to this level at a time when oil and gas, telecom and realty were struggling to return to the black.


The Sensex's ride to current levels has been backed by the foreign institutional investors (FIIs), who have been net buyers of equity worth over $13 billion in the current calendar year so far. By contrast, they pulled out over $20 billion in just five months after the January 2008 collapse. A relatively stable United Progressive Alliance government in its second stint lifted sagging market confidence.


 The market is certainly more stable than it was two and a half years ago. In January 2008, stock futures open interest was at an all-time high —nearly four times the open interest on index options — implying high leverage. Now the market is being driven by options, which are less risky because they are fully funded when they are bought or sold – unlike stocks futures for which investors pay a percentage of the value of the contract (known as margin money). Margins can fluctuate widely so any sharp losses can create considerable market panic.


A question mark, however, hovers over corporate performance. The sharp rise in interest costs in the last two years, on the back of heavy borrowing by India Inc, is one major concern. The Sensex Earnings Per Share (EPS) estimate was lowered for FY11 and the overall earnings revisions has turned negative for the first time since May 2009. Mega IPOs, such as Coal India, are expected to hit the market around October and that could be the real test.


Leading world markets are still languishing 10 to 20 per cent off their 52-week highs, but 20 to 40 per cent above the 52-week lows. The developed world may see a slowdown in the second half. The US Federal Reserve has hinted that it may take further action such as announcing another stimulus if growth does not pick up. Most leading indicators globally are hinting at tapering growth.










THE governments of Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh have been supplying grain to the poor almost free. The food security law on the anvil would replicate this on a national scale, spending as much as . 80,000-90,000 crore annually on procuring and distributing foodgrain to the poor. There is a real danger of the daily supply of fish curtailing the recipients' ability to catch fish on their own — for reasons that go beyond any weakening of the moral urge to earn their own livelihood. Chhattisgarh, for instance, spends about 6% of its annual expenditure budget, and a much larger share of its discretionary expenditure, to provide more than four-fifths of its households with 35 kg of highly-subsidised rice a month. Apart from insulating the poor from hunger, the good part of the scheme is that local procurement sustains it, increasing farm incomes, raising wages, accelerating the transition of wages from kind to cash and even inducing crop diversification on smaller farms. The unhealthy part is the paucity of funds for other heads of development that would enhance the populace's entitlements to food, and much more. Since man doesn't live by food alone, it would be a bad idea to spend excessively on food distribution to the detriment of the government's ability to spend on overall development of the physical and social infrastructure that enable growth and development. While no one will quibble about any initiative that will ensure no one dies of hunger, the government will do better service to the poor if it focuses on creating employment opportunities for them and making the distribution system more efficient and leakproof. 


Ideally, the government should spend on projects that will result in creation of assets and activities that will provide jobs for the masses on a sustainable basis rather than on programmes that are purely consumption-oriented. Enhancing skills and ensuring the distribution of foodgrain across the country and throughout the year would be valid projects as well. But extravagant fish dispensing expeditions harm the beneficiaries, however pious the motivation behind them. Food security, ultimately, is not achieved by distribution of food. It is achieved by creative sustainable livelihoods.







IT IS welcome the Direct Taxes Code (DTC) Bill has rationalised tax incentives for infrastructure projects, so as to boost efficiency and transparency. What is envisaged is change-over to investment-linked tax benefits, and the phasing out of blanket tax holidays including for profits. In the Income-Tax Act, the tax exemptions on offer for infrastructure investments have largely been profit-linked. And such incentives are inherently tax inefficient and liable to misuse. Which is why the norm globally is to provide one-time investment-linked tax benefits for lumpy, capital-intensive infrastructure projects rather than make the deductions open-ended and profit-linked. Under investment-linked method, all capital expenditure, other than expenditure on land, goodwill and financial instruments would be fully allowable as tax deduction. But that would render profits liable for taxation, and so would reduce the scope for window dressing and 'creative accounting'. There is relatively less scope to inflate investment numbers. Last year, the Union Budget did begin the change-over by extending investment-linked tax incentives for the setting up of cold chains, warehousing facilities for agri-produce and the laying and operation of crosscountry natural gas or petroleum pipelines. 


The DTC Bill has now proposed to extended the investment-linked tax incentive criteria for the 'business of developing, or operating and maintaining any (emphasis added) infrastructure facility'. Specific infrastructure sectors have also been mentioned in the Thirteenth Schedule, including power projects, hotels, hospitals and housing projects for slum redevelopment. We need to standardise the tax benefits and build in predictability, given the huge investment backlog. Meanwhile, it is notable that 50% of infrastructure capacity now in the pipeline is via private sector participation, indicating huge non-governmental capital expenditure going forward, and huge potential for revving up fund flows. Revenue leakage remains horrendous, particularly in the distribution phase of the state power sector. We need proactive policy and the levy of reasonable user charges to incentivise infrastructure, rather than questionable tax props.







 THE perils of being a nosy-parker have been well documented, and it is not always the inquisitive felines who realise to their detriment that it can be a dangerous game. When it comes to schnozzles, though, it doesn't get any bigger than an elephant's, as everyone knows. While the pendulous proboscis gives an appearance of stout robustness, it is obviously the most delicate part of the pachyderm otherwise known for its tough exterior. So, the revelation that the elephant's most-feared jungle adversary is not the mouse — as contended for decades by Disney cartoons — but the ant, should not come as a surprise. Cocking a snook — or even turning up a nose — at the destructive potential of those infinitesimal creatures can prove quite dear as mighty legions of these insects are not averse to executing a do-or-die charge up unwary invading nostrils. Given that the considerably more compact human nose can react to the tiniest of pollen particles with a resounding and involuntary explosion of air otherwise known as a sneeze, the repercussions of thousands of rampaging angry ants venting their ire on the sensitive membranes inside an elephant's trunk are almost too dreadful to contemplate. 


So, it has been observed that elephants tend to keep a keen nose out for those insects when they pick a tree to munch for lunch, which opens up possibilities for isolating that smell. Scientists can then devise a novel way to ward off wild elephants from precious crops instead of easily-trampled barbed wire fences and ineffective trenches. An ineffable but effective eau d'ant perfume spray could be the answer; or, given that the antsy elephants in question live in the sultry African savannah, perhaps even a de-odour-ant will do?






THE appointment of a deputy governor (DG) in the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is usually a humdrum, routine affair. An extension in the term of a serving deputy governor is even more so. Consequently, when the term of Shyamala Gopinath, one of the two deputy governors appointed from within the RBI was extended in September 2009, it got no more than a brief mention in the business dailies. 

Understandably! It is not unusual for deputy governors to get reappointed — former governor Y V Reddy's term as DG was extended, as was Jagdish Capoor's, Vepa Kamesam's and Rakesh Mohan's to mention just a few of the more recent instances. So Gopinath's reappointment was seen as par for the course, a fairly routine development that merited no more than a brief mention. 

In contrast, almost all business papers played up a report of the government setting up a search committee to identify a successor to Usha Thorat, the other DG from the ranks of the RBI. Why? 


For one it marked a break from the past. According to well-established precedent of the four RBI deputy governors, one is normally from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS); another, a commercial banker, the third an economist and the fourth, a central banker. When the governor himself/herself (though we are yet to see a woman governor!) was from the IAS, the RBI got an additional post. 


The idea was to have the right mix of experience and knowledge of central banking, commercial banking and economics at the top with the governor, usually an experienced bureaucrat from the finance ministry, completing the team. So in the present scenario where governor is from the IAS, the fourth DG should, going by time-tested precedent, be appointed from within the central bank when Thorat's term ends in November. 


In which case where is the need for the government to set up a search committee? Logically the governor should be the best judge of the quality and competence of the DGs/executive directors working under him? After all if the governor is expected to deliver on his mandate he should be allowed the freedom to choose his team. 


However, that is not the only reason the report made news. The fact is unlike in September 2009 when Gopinath was given a fresh term, matters have increasingly come to a head between the finance ministry and the RBI. Reporters, with their nose for news, know a news story when they see one! They know, instinctively, what qualifies as 'news'. And in the instant case they are dot on. 


The decision not to give Thorat an extension is part of the ongoing struggle between the finance ministry and the RBI; an attempt to bring to heel a spunky regulator that does not hesitate to speak its mind (even if it is in the teeth of opposition from the finance ministry). 


Whether on capital account convertibility or sovereign borrowing (both of which have investment banks salivating at the prospect of commissions and fees, never mind that it is not in the long-term interests of the country), the bank has successfully resisted pressure from vested interests. The fact that the crisis ultimately proved it right and left the ministry with egg on its face should have humbled the latter. Instead it seems to have riled it. 

 CONSEQUENTLY, over the past few months, the ministry has taken every opportunity to clip the bank's wings. Starting with the decision to set up an FSDC (Financial Stability and Development Council), to setting up a working group on foreign investment without a single member from the RBI, to the ordinance, now enacted as The Securities and Insurance Laws (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010, that downgrades the RBI governor from his earlier position as first among equals to officially playing second fiddle to the finance minister and most recently, to the decision to appoint a search committee to find a successor to Thorat, one of its most competent officers, the ministry has steadily chipped away at RBI's powers. Thorat was, perhaps, seen as a thorn in the flesh for her principled stand on a host of issues, most notably nailing the Tayals of Bank of Rajasthan. 


The most glaring attack on the bank's autonomy, of course, is the decision to set up an FSDC under the chairmanship of the finance minister. At a time when most countries are giving more powers to their central banks — the UK government went so far as to scrap the Financial Services Authority — the government's decision to reverse gear is incomprehensible. 


'I know of no other parliamentary democracy with separation of powers among decision-making authorities on fiscal and monetary issues where there is a formal committee like the FSDC with the finance minister as chairman and the central bank governor as vice-chairman,' says Bimal Jalan. He should know, having worked as RBI governor and as finance secretary to the government of India. He adds, 'the potential danger of setting up a committee of this type is that it confers powers on the government to formally intervene in financial regulatory issues, including monetary policy.' 


Why is this dangerous? Because governments, particularly elected governments have a short-term perspective. Governments don't think beyond the next election. Strong central banks are necessary to protect us from the worst excesses of government. Today when central banks all over the world are busy buying government debt, central bank independence might seem a bit of a myth and the government's latest attempts to cut the ground from under its feet a matter of trifling detail. But it is not! It is only the thin edge of the wedge; another attempt to chip away at the hard-won operational autonomy the bank has gained over the years. 


As Adam Posen, an external member of the Bank of England monetary policy committee put it, what matters for (central bank) independence is (the) ability to say 'no' (to political pressure) and mean it, while still holding the right to buy bonds when the economy needs it. 


With the government snipping away at the RBI's de-facto (though not de-jure independence) the fear is that the RBI will lose its ability to say no. That will be a sad day for both the RBI and for India. Strong institutions are the only guardians of democracy, especially in a fledgling democracy.








RETAIL finance was among the prominent sectors that faced the brunt of the economic slowdown after the sub-prime mess in the US. Most industry experts are still sceptical about the growth prospects in retail finance. However, Ruben de la Mora, president & CEO of Fullerton India, a part of the Singapore-based S$46.8-billion Fullerton Financial Holdings, holds a contrary view on the road ahead. The company plans to design more innovative products and expand its distribution network to boost profits this fiscal year. 


"The retail finance sector hit a rough patch between October 2008 and July 2009. Most banks and big retail finance players were forced to exit the segment of small ticket personal loans due to shrinking markets and higher credit losses. Even the two-wheeler finance market saw the exit of many big players", he said.
    Fullerton India, however, claims to be one of the few finance companies that continued to operate in the retail finance segment during the crisis. "Also, we were probably the only NBFC in India that continued financing two-wheelers through this period without a break. Demand has shown an uptick since October last year and several NBFCs and banks have returned cautiously to the market", he said. 


 According to him, innovative product offerings and service models helped the company tide over the financial crisis. "Although we deal in all types of loans, our focus area has been urban micro credit. Urban poverty, in fact, is as much a reality as rural poverty. In India, however, the urban poor are still a neglected lot, with limited access to organised credit. Fullerton India was set up to tap the underserved urban mass market, a segment that many other finance companies did not focus on. But what was initially an opportunity for us, also helped us survive the crisis," said Mr Mora. 


The company took other initiatives as well to steer through the crisis. Besides modifying its risk model, Fullerton also tightened its lending norms to adapt to the situation. It also exited some markets where demand shrunk, making its operations there unviable. "So we consolidated our operations to fewer locations which helped us save on costs and prune losses. But even now, our operations are spread across more than 320 towns and cities, with 425 branches and an employee strength of over 8,200", said Mr Mora. 


In the personal loans segment, the downturn impacted self-employed much more than the salaried ones. The company, therefore, reduced its exposure particularly towards self-employed unsecured loans. "At the beginning of 2009, such loans constituted 46% of our portfolio, while in July 2010 they were down to only 22%. Overall self-employed portfolio shrunk by a third, while the portfolio of salaried grew by over 50% in the same period. The total growth in the self-employed segment was low due to unfavourable credit environment. But we already see an improvement in the market and believe that future credit take off even in the self-employed segment will be significant," said Mr Mora. 


Fullerton has also forayed into microfinance recently. "The entry into microfinance in July last year helped us extend our presence in the lower mass market. With microcredit products targeted at micro enterprises in rural areas and some urban markets, we feel that we can tap the full potential of the Indian market, said Mr Mora. Within the next two years, Fullerton also hopes to have nearly one million microfinance customers as against over 150,000 customers currently. 


The company will continue to focus on retail finance products. These include not just personal loans, but also a range of secured products such as two-wheeler loans, mortgages, commercial vehicles finance and assetbased finance. "We are working on some new products that we plan to launch towards the end of this financial year or early next year. They will be targeted towards the needs of small companies and HNIs. We are also exploring various ideas of better utilisation of our broad distribution network. As our volumes are growing, our top-line is improving too and this will drive profits in the second half of the financial year," says Mr Mora. 
    Since 2007, Fullerton India has disbursed over Rs 6,500 crore in small business and small ticket personal loans in the urban mass market segment, having a customer base of over 650,000. It is targeting 20-25% growth in volumes this year against the sector's expected growth rate of 10-15%.







NO OTHER country can match the uncanny knack of the US in pushing its agenda for trade negotiations. Recent inclusion of issue like remanufacturing into current WTO negotiations is a case in point. Though the issue didn't gain any prominence during the recently concluded Geneva meet, it can figure in its priority list. 

Remanufacturing is an issue, which has or can have tremendous impact on India as it will affect severely its burgeoning industry and large-based consumers. Before India makes any binding commitments in the WTO, the issue needs to be debated across the country. 


The issue of remanufacturing has gained prominence only in the recent past. It essentially means a used product, which has served its required amount of use and whose core is in a perfectly usable condition can be utilised for commercial use by transforming it through cleaning, testing and other industrial processes to convert it into a new product with most sophisticated packaging available to the industries. The new product is certified to meet all technical, environmental and safety norms along with a warranty similar to that of a new product. Industry in developed countries has been in a significant way successful to entice other countries and consumers about the reliability and performance of such products. 


Today a broad range of industries like Caterpillar, GE and others are engaged in remanufacturing of products. Earthmoving, automotive parts, electronics, medical devices and IT are major industries in this sector which have made a mark globally. The process has experienced so much trading that global trade has already crossed $100 billion in remanufacturing, and have established production facilities in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa, in addition to the biggest market, the US. 


Keeping such prospects in view, the US argues, the process of remanufacturing offers great opportunities to all in terms of maximising their gains. Trade in these goods has potentiality to contribute significantly to the economies of both developed and developing countries. In a period of global climate change, when all countries have a moral duty to contribute towards green environment such products can reduce carbon emission and provide better environmental safety. 


It further insists that such a process would offer consumers and businesses worldwide greater access to low-cost, high quality products; facilitate less consumption of energy and materials during production, and reduce waste. The US claims remanufacturing would help create jobs and further economic growth among the members by expanding opportunities to purchase advanced products at reduced prices and encourage the transfer of technology and skills. 


All these noises by industrialised countries are made to open up the markets especially in developing countries like India, as its consumer base is far more wide compared to their own markets. While pushing this agenda to the ongoing negotiations, the US observed that market access on trade in remanufactured goods on a global scale is considerably hampered due to the presence of various non-tariff barriers (NTBs) such as import bans, higher tariffs and fees, or stringent regulation, certification and inspection requirements. Such barriers merit immediate attention as liberalisation of trade in remanufactured goods would result in protection of environment and substantial trade gains for developing countries. 


To facilitate this objective, the US argues that each member's trade regime should evolve in a manner that enhances market access opportunities for remanufactured goods. Members should review their non-tariff measures with a view to ensuring that they do not impose prohibitions or restrictions on the importation of remanufactured goods that are proscribed by the multilateral agreements on trade in goods. Developing countries argue that trade in remanufacturing means trade in used products which would only promote trans-boundary movement of waste from the industrialised countries to developing countries, or in other words it is one way of shifting the environmental and safety burden from developed to developing countries. 

Whatever may be the game plan of the US, since the issue suggests serious implications for various sections of Indian society such as consumers and industry, India needs to take a well considered position on whether it should make binding commitments under the WTO for allowing barrier-free import of remanufactured and refurbished products. 


 Besides, in a negotiation of this nature, it is essential that Indian industry participation is secured as they could be a sole loser in this trade. Because a sinister move seems to be in the offing for the simple reason that at a time when Indian industry is looking up, robust and taking on a global challenge, such kind of a design could make it unproductive and a marginal player. Companies like BEML, L&T and major auto industry better show their concerns. As is always, the American industry which has the last word in any US government trade negotiations, time for Indian industry to lobby all around. 


 (The author is with Indian Institute of     Foreign Trade, New Delhi)








THROUGH analysis and synthesis of related issues concerning his own personality, the intelligent seeker would have, well and truly, commenced his progress to the ultimate, which is "victory over oneself", self knowledge (atmagnanam) or call what you will. A right beginning is more than half the work accomplished. This commencement is just the forerunner, in this virtuous cycle, to refinement and progress in other aspects too, which too are necessary for true spiritual fulfilment. 


'Victory over oneself' would appear to imply that because it concerns one's reactions and impulses, the entire process would centre on and would thus have to commence with the mind. Because actions follow thought, it would also appear that one should first bring about the needed refinement in his thinking process, whereby other aspects would naturally follow. Various techniques including CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) base their approach on this concept. 


Lending support to the view as above are also live examples in the form of persons, who, through observation and analysis, have actually been able to bring about tangible healthful changes in their thinking and thus all aspects of their personality. 


Nevertheless, for the vast majority of aspirants, the idea of beginning with the mind would just not seem to work. This is because the mind, like the wind, is so hard to regulate and stabilise, in the manner conceived of by Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita (6,34). Pleasant convictions or changes would, with much analysis andtutoring, appear to establish, with the world and persons appearing nice and likeable, only for these feelings to disappear soon. One has to wait, all over, for these to come back again! 


To such persons, for whom advices finally prove to be more easily talked of than actually practised, what is the solution? The answer, it would appear, lies in the age-old visualisation of 'a healthy mind in a healthy body'. This concept also bases itself on the fact that the body, as also one's physical actions, are more directly under one's control and can hence be regulated, simply with greater awareness and observation. Fulfilment in this regard would naturally lead to greater clarity in the mind too and thus the entire psychosomatic system. 


With this success, others too would follow, because nothing succeeds like success!



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




All eyes will be on US President Barack Obama this week as he promised to unfold a stimulus package that would give a fillip to employment after the US labour department released figures that showed that 54,000 people lost their jobs in August. The unemployment figures for August were 14.9 million jobless compared to 14.6 million in July. There was some comfort that the figures of those who lost their jobs was less than what was predicted by Wall Street (1,20,000), and that the private sector had created 67,000 jobs. The small and medium industries, it is reported, could  be the focus of Mr Obama's new package. There is some scepticism about whether Mr Obama can really print more money to help the economy or the banks to support the SMEs that can create the jobs. He is also planning to do it through tax breaks and has pleaded with the Republicans not to block tax cuts for this sector. However, the bottom line is that the swathe of economic data emanating from the US and across the Western world shows that their economies are decisively weak. The implications are not good news for India. The effect on India usually comes with a lag of a couple of months so by September-October inflows from foreign institutional investors (FIIs) could slow down and negatively impact the stock markets. This means it could be a dicey time for initial public offers waiting to come to the capital market. Many of them are public sector companies. Exporters, too, will struggle, at least till Christmas, as Indian exporters are still heavily dependent on the US and the West for their export markets. The other way of interpreting the economic data coming out of the US, which still remains the largest consumer market in the world, and the most dynamic as Mr Obama says, is that fear of double-digit recession has been overdone and that this fear is receding. So, while the road to recovery could be long and painful, the positive is that there will be no further decline. In the context of President Obama's move, it is a coincidence that in India the Union labour ministry has circulated a paper, according to our sister publication Financial Chronicle, proposing that the government link bank credit to employment creation. It has proposed the creation of 58 million jobs in two years to meet the aspirations of 10 million educated youth that hit the employment market annually. Among the measures suggested are linking tax holidays, exemptions and duty rates to jobs, easy credit for job-intensive sectors with interest subvention, and facilitating finance to small and medium enterprises. This is a heartening development. But we have heard many of these suggestions routinely, particularly regarding finance for small and medium enterprises. Seminar after seminar is held to discuss how funds can be transferred from banks to the SMEs, but till date it remains a Herculean task for SMEs to get funds from the banks. The ones who need it most are considered high risk. Bank credit to SMEs has come down to eight per cent from 12 per cent. Interest subvention seems to be the only concrete suggestion that can be implemented.








Kabul is struggling to set the record straight now that an influential lobby in Washington is trying to pass the blame of the faltering US war in Afghanistan on to the Karzai regime. Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen, a member of the influential Congressional Armed Services Committee, was the latest in a row of Washington bigwigs to blame the Karzai regime for everything that was going wrong in Afghanistan.


Mr Larsen declaimed last week that the war on terror is failing because the Karzai administration is thoroughly corrupt and cannot deliver the basics to the common Afghan people. Aid money is allegedly being pilfered by Hamid Karzai, his family and coterie leaving nothing for the country's impoverished masses. A population without basic services that ought to be provided by the state is progressively turning to the Taliban. This, Congressman Larsen and others in his camp aver, is at the root of the US failure to combat the Taliban. "I think the patience of the American people is almost done", the Congressman declared after visiting Kabul last week.


A number of Americans in high positions have been angered by reports of bagfuls of money being physically carried out of Kabul airport and invested in Dubai. The founder and chairman of the Kabul Bank, Sherkhan Farnood, stepped down recently ostensibly because he was believed to be running a hawala racket to launder political money. The latest refrain in Washington, as US secretary of defence Robert Gates reiterated, is that the US is "committed to enforcing a hard line against the corruption that exploits the Afghan people and saps their support for their elected government — and that includes making sure American tax dollars and other assistance are not being misused".


Persuasive stuff but not entirely true according to the Afghans, who remain in charge of a teetering regime in Kabul. If anything, it is their patience with the United States that seems to be at an end. "We have lost the focus in the war", lamented Rangin Dafdar Spanta, national security adviser to President Karzai. A bitter critic of the latest US litany, Mr Spanta does not deny the existence of corruption in the Afghan government or the need to fight it. He argues, however, that it is absurd to suggest that corruption is the cause of the continued conflict in the country.


In a hard hitting op-ed piece carried by the Washington Post last month, Mr Spanta argued that the biggest mistake of the United States was to embrace as a strategic partner the very nation that has, in fact, been nurturing terrorism. "Britain, Spain, Turkey, China, Germany and India have all been victims not of Afghan corruption but of international terrorism — emanating from the region", he wrote, repeating that the real issue that needs to be addressed is the support the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies provide to the jihadi fighters.


Bringing the same message to New Delhi, Mr Spanta said that instead of rewarding Pakistan's military establishment with billions of dollars of aid, the world must impose sanctions on that country. That Mr Spanta is speaking for the entire Karzai administration is evident. For, President Karzai, in a meeting with the new US Centcom chief, Gen. James Matis, gave Mr Spanta's line — that fighting terrorism would fail as long as its sanctuaries remain outside Afghanistan's borders. He repeated the same to a team of visiting US Congressmen.


The cumulative Afghan war cost since 2001 for the United States alone is touching $336 billion. The total cumulative US economic assistance to Afghanistan, on the other hand, adds up to $52 billion of which economic aid is about $14 billion. The bulk of US money is spent by US agencies like the department of defence, United States Agency for International Development and the Drug Enforcement Agency. It is estimated that of the total non-military aid pledged by donor countries, less than a third passes through the hands of the Afghan government.


Corruption moreover is not limited to Afghans. In the Soviet days, Kabul's main bazaar was full of cheap

caviar, vodka and bullets. Today, Kabul boasts of an Obama bazaar where US made rations, chocolates and a lot else are openly traded. A major outlet for American goods has sprouted right outside Bagram, the main US base in the country.


The really big scam is in the reconstruction aid flowing into the country. "An estimated 40 per cent of the [aid] money spent has returned to rich donor countries such as the US through corporate profits, consultant salaries and other costs, vastly pushing up expenditure", a report prepared by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief revealed. In a book titled War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, author Linda Polman writes: "The majority of western NGOs never venture outside Kabul. Instead, they subcontract local and other NGOs to implement their projects, which in turn engage further subcontractors. A total of four intermediate organisations, each creaming off a portion, is common. Steadily seeping away, project finance passes from hand to hand until finally someone gets down to bricklaying, carpentry or ploughing".


Mr Spanta is understandably an angry man. He is watching helplessly as the jihadi hordes batter away at his country's gates. From his watch tower, the enemy is laughing, literally all the way to the bank.


- Indranil Banerjie is a defence and security analyst based in New Delhi








In recent years, I have often said to European friends: So, you didn't like a world of too much American power? See how you like a world of too little American power — because it is coming to a geopolitical theatre near you. Yes, America has gone from being the supreme victor of World War II, with guns and butter for all, to one of two superpowers during the cold war, to the indispensable nation after winning the cold war, to "The Frugal Superpower" of today. Get used to it. That's US new nickname. American pacifists need not worry any more about "wars of choice". We're not doing that again. We can't afford to invade Grenada today.


Ever since the onset of the Great Recession of 2008, it has been clear that the nature of being a leader — political or corporate — was changing in America. During most of the post-World War II era, being a leader meant, on balance, giving things away to people. Today, and for the next decade at least, being a leader in America will mean, on balance, taking things away from people.


And there is simply no way that America's leaders, as they have to take more things away from their own voters, are not going to look to save money on foreign policy and foreign wars. Foreign and defence policy is a lagging indicator. A lot of other things get cut first. But the cuts are coming — you can already hear the warnings from US secretary of defence Robert Gates. And a frugal American superpower is sure to have ripple effects around the globe.


The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era is actually the title of a very timely new book by my tutor and friend Michael Mandelbaum, the Johns Hopkins University foreign policy expert. "In 2008", Mandelbaum notes, "all forms of government-supplied pensions and health care (including Medicaid) constituted about four per cent of total American output". At present rates, and with the baby boomers soon starting to draw on Social Security and Medicare, by 2050 "they will account for a full 18 per cent of everything the United States produces".


This — on top of all the costs of bailing ourselves out of this recession — "will fundamentally transform the public life of the United States and therefore the country's foreign policy". For the past seven decades, in both foreign affairs and domestic policy, our defining watchword was "more", argues Mandelbaum. "The defining fact of foreign policy in the second decade of the 21st century and beyond will be 'less'".


When the world's only superpower gets weighed down with this much debt — to itself and other nations — everyone will feel it. How? Hard to predict. But all I know is that the most unique and important feature of US foreign policy over the last century has been the degree to which America's diplomats and naval, air and ground forces provided global public goods — from open seas to open trade and from containment to counterterrorism — that benefited many others besides us. US power has been the key force maintaining global stability, and providing global governance, for the last 70 years. That role will not disappear, but it will almost certainly shrink.


Great powers have retrenched before: Britain for instance. But, as Mandelbaum notes, "When Britain could no longer provide global governance, the United States stepped in to replace it. No country now stands ready to replace the United States, so the loss to international peace and prosperity has the potential to be greater as America pulls back than when Britain did".


After all, Europe is rich but wimpy. China is rich nationally but still dirt poor on a per capita basis and, therefore, will be compelled to remain focused inwardly and regionally. Russia, drunk on oil, can cause trouble but not project power. "Therefore, the world will be a more disorderly and dangerous place", Mandelbaum predicts.


How to mitigate this trend? Mandelbaum argues for three things: First, we need to get ourselves back on a sustainable path to economic growth and reindustrialisation, with whatever sacrifices, hard work and political consensus that requires. Second, we need to set priorities. We have enjoyed a century in which we could have, in foreign policy terms, both what is vital and what is desirable. For instance, I presume that with infinite men and money we can succeed in Afghanistan. But is it vital? I am sure it is desirable, but vital? Finally, we need to shore up our balance sheet and weaken that of our enemies, and the best way to do that in one move is with a much higher gasoline tax.


America is about to learn a very hard lesson: You can borrow your way to prosperity over the short run but not to geopolitical power over the long run. That requires a real and growing economic engine. And, for us, the short run is now over. There was a time when thinking seriously about American foreign policy did not require thinking seriously about economic policy. That time is also over.


An America in hock will have no hawks — or at least none that anyone will take seriously.








It is usually the Congress that is ridiculed for looking up to the powerful high command for taking every decision whether it is to choose a chief minister, appoint a Pradesh Congress Committee chief or even a lowly functionary.


But this time around, in Rajasthan at least, it was the turn of the BJP to face similar embarrassment. The saffron leaders could only smile sheepishly when chief minister Ashok Gehlot took a dig at them for failing to choose a leader for the party in the state Assembly. The post has been lying vacant for a year since the BJP high command asked former chief minister Vasundhara Raje to step down.


Mr Gehlot used this to taunt the BJP when the deputy leader of the Opposition, Ghanshyam Tiwari, announced that his party will corner the government during the Monsoon Session.


"They are unable to even elect a leader in Assembly", said Mr Gehlot. "How can they corner the government?"


A senior Congress leader also quipped: "We advised BJP leaders to follow our style of passing a resolution leaving all to the Central leadership". Will the Opposition take heed?


Ruling from a hospital bed


Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has proved that you can rule a state by remote control if you have loyal bureaucrats.


The principal secretaries — Himanshu Shekhar Das and T.Y. Das — have been flying back and forth carrying key files to Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai where Mr Gogoi is admitted.


If insiders are to be believed, the entire move is aimed at sending a strong message to the in charge chief minister Bhumidhar Barman that the "real chief minister" is well and will soon return.


It is also meant to counter rumours of Mr Gogoi's imminent retirement from politics. Thus, the two powerful bureaucrats have, in one stroke, reaffirmed their loyalty to Mr Gogoi and have sent the signal that important decisions are obviously going to be taken in the Asian heart Institute, and that too in their presence.


Saints and cops


The Madhya Pradesh cops are a harried lot. Petty crimes are shooting up in the state and recently hundreds of tonnes of explosives that entered the state have gone missing.


Critics have cited the missing cargo of explosives as a stark example of the inefficiency of the police force and its lack of preparedness in a state that is grappling with Maoism.


The cops have neither the wherewithal nor the verve to swoop down on highly-motivated terror groups or Maoists who have the know-how to wreak havoc using small quantities of explosives and detonators.


But to be fair to them, cops are not supermen. They are ordinary mortals like the rest of us. And when in trouble they seek divine help, also like most of us.


Against this backdrop, it is understandable that the police chief S.K. Raut went to the abode of the Jain saint Tarun Muni Sagar last Wednesday to seek his blessings.


In fact, the DGP asked the saint, who has renounced all material comfort, including clothing, to motivate the

police officers in uniform.


When CPI(M) turned red


Although The recent attack on journalists in Jangalmahal, allegedly by CPI(M) cadres, was unfortunate, it could not have come at a better time for Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. Only last week she met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and drew his attention to the presence of camps of armed CPI(M) cadre in various parts of Bengal.


A delegation of her party MPs also called on Dr Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee with the same complaint. They held a dharna at Parliament on the last day of the Monsoon Session. Ms Banerjee's persistent pressure paid off. Union home minister P. Chidambaram made a statement acknowledging the existence of such camps and asking the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government to take action.


Clearly embarrassed, the CPI(M) went red in the face denying the charge. "It is clear that the CPI(M) is trying to hide something in Jangalmahal. Why else were reporters and lensmen stopped from doing their jobs?" an angry Ms Banerjee asked after the attack on the media.


A homoeo cure for Maoism


The Chhattisgarh director-general of police (DGP), Vishwa Ranjan, is known to be a tough cop. But he has a tender heart too.


A poet of repute, the 1973 batch IPS officer unleashes his literary genius by penning soulful poetry whenever he gets leisure from his hectic job of planning how to end the growing Maoist menace in the state.


His deep feelings for the neglected and the poor have also led him to learn homeopathy — a cheap way to treat minor ailments.


The DGP has immense faith in homeopathic treatment and relies on his own diagnostic ability when he is ill. He even prescribes homeopathy medicines when his colleagues and subordinates fall sick.


He has also come up with the idea of training policemen appointed to remote tribal villages in basic homeopathy to treat local people and thus wean them away from the leftwing extremists. "He wants to tackle Naxals with pills and not bullets", said a colleague.








In the past few months media has been carrying seemingly good news that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet — two of the wealthiest Americans who have now also become two of the biggest philanthropists — have written to other American billionaires to pledge part or half of their property to charity. It is reported that the two have succeeded in getting around 40 of those billionaires to pledge half of their wealth to charities. It is heard that now they plan to come to India to try and persuade Indian billionaires to do the same. While we wait for the results in India it would be good to reflect a little on the concept of giving away in charity.


St. Francis of Assisi, a 12th century saint from Italy was the son of a rich cloth merchant. One day after getting tired of his father's nagging who expected him to take interest in his business, St. Francis decided to give up everything and to embrace a life of poverty to serve Jesus. He experienced a close communion with God and as a consequence composed a prayer titled, Make me a channel of your peace. The second part of the prayer reads, "…O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life".


Among the five pillars on which Islam is built, one of them is, "to give a specific amount of income in charity" and especially when the Muslim community observes the month of Ramzan, it is said that helping the needy with charitable acts is even more meritorious.


Charity in Hinduism is also an important virtue as described by V. Balakrishnan. He holds, "According to Indian scriptures, daanam (giving in charity) is of four kinds: Nityadaanam is rendered daily for the contentment of the donor, Kaanmyadaanam is done in expectation of rewards, Vimaladaanam is offered to please God and Nimithikadaanam brings redemption from one's sins."


The Jain religion is too well known for its teachings on charity, particularly the one on aparigrah. It basically asks its followers never to hoard things more than what is necessary for one's needs. The rest should be given away in charity. In Sikhism, we have the wonderful practice of langar, according to which, everyone, regardless of one's religion, caste, gender or social status, can go to the gurdwara and have a stomach full of food for free which is provided for by the donations of the devotees.


The Bible is full of teachings on giving and Jesus often spoke about giving and giving generously. "Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For, with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:38)".


- Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India. He can be contacted at [1]








Even in the thick of a historical tragedy, Tony Blair never seemed like a Shakespearean character.


He's too rabbity brisk, too doggedly modern. The most proficient spinner since Rumpelstiltskin lacks introspection. The self-described "manipulator" is still in denial about being manipulated.


The Economist's review of A Journey, the new autobiography of the former British Prime Minister, says it sounds less like Disraeli and Churchill and more like "the memoirs of a transatlantic business tycoon".


Yet in the section on Iraq, Blair loses his CEO fluency and engages in tortured arguments, including one on how many people really died in the war, and does a Shylock lament.


He says he does not regret serving as the voice for W.'s gut when the inexperienced American princeling galloped into war with Iraq. As for "the nightmare that unfolded" — giving the lie to all their faux rationales and glib promises — Tony wants everyone to know he has feelings.


"Do they really suppose I don't care, don't feel, don't regret with every fibre of my being the loss of those who died?" he asks of his critics.


In Iraq, marking the transition to the "post-combat mission" for American troops, US defence secretary Robert Gates was eloquent with an economy of words.


Asked by a reporter if Iraq would have to be a democratic state for the war to benefit US national security, Gates cut to core: "The problem with this war for, I think, many Americans is that the premise on which we justified going to war proved not to be valid — that is, Saddam having weapons of mass destruction". He added, candidly: "It will always be clouded by how it began".


Iraq will be "a work in progress for a long time", Gates said, and, "how it all weighs in the balance over time, I think remains to be seen".


Blair writes that he thought he was right and that he and W. rid the world of a tyrant. But he winds up with a bitter anecdote: "I still keep in my desk a letter from an Iraqi woman who came to see me before the war began. She told me of the appalling torture and death her family had experienced having fallen foul of Saddam's son. She begged me to act. After the fall of Saddam she returned to Iraq. She was murdered by sectarians a few months later. What would she say to me now?"


There is no apology, but Blair sounds like a man with a guilty conscience.


He concedes that the invasion of Iraq was more about symbols than immediate security, about sending "a message of total clarity to the world", after 9/11, that defying the will of the international community would no longer be tolerated.


In other words, Osama bin Laden had emasculated America, and America had to hit back, and did so against a country that had nothing to do with him or 9/11.


Blair did not want to be W.'s peripheral poodle. He wanted to "stand tall internationally" with Britain's main ally and not "wet our knickers", to use a Blair phrase, when the going got tough (or delusional).


Blair fantasised that Saddam might someday give WMD to terrorists. This, even though the dictator didn't like terrorists because they were impossible to control, and even though, as Blair admits, (the secular) Saddam and (the fundamentalist) Osama were on opposite sides. (When Saudi Arabia felt threatened by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, Osama offered to fight the Iraqi dictator.)


It is criminally naïve, given the billions spent on intelligence, that Blair and W. muffed the post-war planning because they never perceived what Blair now acknowledges as "the true threat": outside interference by Al Qaeda and Iran. So the reasoning of the man known in England as Phoney Tony or Bliar amounts to this: They had to invade Iraq because Saddam could hypothetically hook up with Al Qaeda. But they didn't properly prepare for the insurgency because they knew that Saddam had no link to Al Qaeda.


He knew Dick Cheney had a grandiose plan to remake the world and no patience for "namby-pamby peacenikery".


"He would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran", as well as "Hezbollah, Hamas, etc.", Blair writes of Cheney, adding: "He was for hard, hard power. No ifs, no buts, no maybes. We're coming after you, so change or be changed".


The religious Blair fancied himself a conviction politician who had intervened for good in Kosovo and Sierra Leone and would do so again in Iraq. So he did not, as he said others did, "reach for the garlic and crucifixes" when Dick hatched his sulphurous schemes.


If he had challenged W. and Cheney instead of enabling them, Blair might have stopped the farcical rush to war. Instead, he became the midwife for a weaker Iraq that is no longer a counterweight to Iran — which actually is a nuclear threat — and that seems doomed to be run one day by another brutal strongman.


Maybe Blair should have realised the destructive Oedipal path W. was on. At their first meeting at Camp David, W. screened Meet the Parents.









THE orchestrated Washington conference on the Middle East, with Barack Obama playing the honest broker, has achieved nothing. The perceived forward movement, in that Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu, have agreed to meet again in mid-September shan't deceive the world. The crisis persists and the outcome of what has been called a "high-octane"  two-day summit remains fogbound. In retrospect, the background, set in July, has been rather puzzling. President Obama was reportedly convinced by Prime Minister Netanyahu that pressure needed to be exerted on President Abbas to enter direct negotiations with Israel in order to conclude a peace deal within a year. The Palestinian leader relented; hence the US President's urgency to convene the Washington summit.  In the event, the first round was reduced to a fizzle after the fanfare. Beyond an exchange of diplomatic pleasantries and trilateral bonhomie geared to the camera, there was little or nothing of substance.

  The meeting was choreographed  neither to succeed nor fail.  Not that the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian President agreed to disagree. They have emerged, after all, as willing negotiators. Netanyahu is reported to have spoken in positive terms; equally did Abbas shed some of his reservations. And the US President ~ the patient listener for two days ~ once again agreed to play the good host a fortnight from now. Did the meeting break the ice? One can't be too sure considering the tension that has been building up over the past few months, most particularly after the Israeli strike on a humanitarian flotilla bound for the Hamas. 
The points at issue remain as contentious as ever.  An end to the partial settlement freeze on 26 September, which President Abbas wants to be renewed if he is to participate in the talks, remains ever so thorny. There is yet no indication whether  America will be able to devise a compromise formula before the next round on 14-15 September. There are many red herrings on the trail as well, chiefly that Hamas, which has been excluded from the peace talks, has the lethal ability to wreck the process. No less critical are the future of Gaza, the divisions within the Israeli government on a division of the land and Abbas' ability to sell a peace deal, should it materialise, to the Arab world. The conundrum persists. Altogether, a test for President Obama. 



THERE is an element of perverse satisfaction in Gurudas Dasgupta's claim that the industrial strike scheduled for 7 September is the 13th in the series since the 1990s when liberalisation was ushered in despite the Left's resistance. The Aituc leader doesn't spell out whether the Left has now adjusted to a market economy after massive efforts towards industrialisation in Bengal where information technology has been offered pride of place by the chief minister if not by Citu. Nor does he confirm that the strike has the support of all central trade unions. Left unions still intend to bring industrial activity to a halt ~ with a spiralling effect on the social sector and other services ~ on the demand that price hikes must be rolled back. It doesn't worry them that the issue has been beaten to death not only in public forums but in two shutdowns organised in the last few months. If there is still evidence of the masses expressing their agony on account of the price rise, there is also the overwhelming impression that unions have suffered significant erosion in their support base and that the strike serves tactical causes more than a concrete plan to bring relief. 

The cracks within the Left make it worse. While Biman Bose offered a stirring endorsement of the shutdown on behalf of Alimuddin Street, he could not have been sure if Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who was listening, has gone back on his confession at a chamber meeting that he and his party have different perceptions on industrial strikes. This divergence may compel the chief minister to seek protection in silence while the proposal to exempt air services has thrown up more differences with Citu firmly opposed to special gestures. That this backstage tussle and the strike as a whole will cost daily wage earners to the tune of Rs 500 crore is not something that can put Left unions on the road to recovery. They must perform the ritual all the same in order to protect themselves on slippery ground. The silver lining is the disillusionment that is candidly expressed even at the grassroots which has often prompted the unions to take recourse to strong-arm methods particularly in Bengal. That weakens their cause even further. 








There is reportedly a close nexus between  terrorists and a section of the leadership in Pakistan. This has made the situation in Afghanistan murkier still, and the prospect of an improvement in India-Pakistan relations is dim.  A study by Matt Walman and published by the London School of Economics noted that ISI representatives attend the meetings of the Taliban Supreme Leadership Council, known as the Quetta Shura, and of the Haqqani Command Council, as participants or observers, and thus take part in planning the attacks. on targets. Walman even claimed, after talking to a number of insurgent commanders, that whatever the ISI does has the sanction of the highest level in Pakistan. President Zardari had secretly visited some imprisoned Taliban leaders and reportedly told them: "You are our people, we are friends, and after your release we will of course support you to do your operations."

The Pakistan government has dismissed these findings as false and baseless propaganda to discredit the country. Indian intelligence agencies argue that Pakistan is  the principal exporter of terror. This perception was iterated by the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, during his recent visit to India. It is affecting India as well as Afghanistan, which Pakistan seeks to control after the withdrawal of the US and allied forces. The abortive attempt to explode a bomb in New York's Times Square was another manifestation of this terror export.
The Taliban, after all, is the creation of Pakistan. In the 1980s they were used, with US support, to fight the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. After the withdrawal of  the Soviet forces, Pakistan sought to control Afghanistan through the installation of the Taliban regime. The scenario changed in the aftermath of 9/11; the Taliban was dislodged from power by the military operations launched by the US and its allies to destroy the Al Qaida and its principal protector, the Taliban.

America's hope that the Hamid Karzai government would be able to tackle terrorism and establish a broad-based government in Afghanistan was belied. What went wrong? In his study, In the Graveyard of Empire: America's War in Afghanistan, published in 2009, Seth G Jones, has blamed the US for adopting a 'too little, too late' approach. This enabled the Taliban to regroup and restart the war. He has also blamed Pakistan and the ineffective Afghan forces and their international backers. 

Pakistan funded the Taliban to weaken the Afghan government and destabilise India. Islamabad was clearly playing a double game as an ally of the US in its fight against terror, for which it received substantial economic and military largesse. Pakistan is providing financial and logistical support to the militants. It is training them for operations in Afghanistan, with the sole purpose of re-establishing its control over Kabul. The withdrawal of US forces is scheduled to begin in July 2011.

Pakistan's support to the militants is not confined to the Taliban alone. The Lashkar-e-Taiyaba (LeT) has recently expanded its base in Afghanistan. According to senior NATO intelligence officials, as quoted by the New York Times, and subsequently reported in The Statesman on 17 June, LeT hardly had any presence in Afghanistan five years ago, but is now active in six to eight provinces. It is believed to have planned and executed at least three major attacks against Indians in recent months. The NYT reported that LeT was suspected to be behind the 8 October attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2009 and the 15 December attack in front of the Heetal Hotel. It is also suspected to have masterminded the 26 February car bombing and suicide attacks on two guest houses in Kabul, frequented by Indians.  These outrages were in parallel with Pakistan's pledge to punish those involved in the 26/11 mayhem in Mumbai.

The LeT operatives, who had launched the attacks were trained, financed and guided by ISI officials. This has been revealed by Headley, a LeT operative, who had conducted several reconnaissance trips to Mumbai before the attacks and is now in a Chicago jail.

There could not be a better example of Pakistan's duplicity in dealing with terrorism.  The strategy is rooted in the country's domestic politics, the role of the Army, notably the ISI, and its close links with the Islamic jihadi groups, nurtured, financed and used to further its own interests. Since its creation, the army has played a pivotal role. President Zardari's popularity ratings are low, compared to that of Nawaz Sharif.  He is regarded as a weak Head of State while his Prime Minister is believed to be close to the military and the Islamic fundamentalists.
To maintain its stranglehold over the government, the army has often exaggerated the threat posed by India. General Kayani, who has recently been given a three-year extension, has emerged as the most powerful man in the government and is trusted by the US.  He was the head of ISI and is viewed as a hardcore fundamentalist and in favour of a larger Pakistani role in shaping the future of Afghanistan, to the total exclusion of India.
Against this background, can Pakistan be trusted as a partner in serious negotiations? The question assumes significance in the context of the failure of the talks at the level of Foreign Ministers in July. It might be tempting to rule out further bilateral meetings, but that may not be desirable for the long-term interests of either India or Pakistan.

Pakistan has still not done enough to punish the perpetrators of 26/11, an outrage that was allegedly financed, guided and monitored by the ISI. Throughout the 1990s, India had to deal with jihadi terrorist activities, sponsored by Pakistan in  the Kashmir Valley and the districts bordering POK. By the end of the century, jihadi terror struck India's heartland ~ the attack on Parliament, the Akshardham Temple in Gujarat and the series of attacks in Mumbai (2003, 2006 and 2008), Delhi (2005 and 2008), Hyderabad (May and August 2007), Ajmer (2007), Jaipur, the CRPF camp at Kanpur, Bangalore and other places ~ all in 2008. True, Indian nationals were involved in many of these attacks; but there is enough evidence to suggest that they were indoctrinated, trained and even financed by the jihadi groups in Pakistan, with the connivance of the ISI. This followed  a change in Pakistan's strategy as a sponsor of cross-border terrorism to bleed India and destabilise its policy and economy. To avoid the tag of a 'rogue state' it started cultivating a section of the disaffected Muslims in India who were indoctrinated with the jihadi doctrine. Islamic outfits such as SIMI and the Deccan Mujahidden were set up with Pakistan's help. Along with LeT and other jihadi organisations based in Pakistan, they have carried out their destructive operations in India.

(To be concluded)







Over a year ago, the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex asserted that India was an economic powerhouse and a nutritional weakling. As was only proper, it considered the combination improper, and suggested ways of improving nutrition. It accepted the approach of the government, which has concentrated on children, and proposed some improvements in the Integrated Child Development Scheme — basically, handing over its management to local communities, and a focus on outcomes rather than inputs. That this scheme calls for some change is obvious. Few realize that the scheme was inaugurated on October 2, 1975; that it has not been able to bring Indian children's weight up to normal in 35 years is damning enough evidence. But the scheme is already locally managed. It is in the hands of anganwadi workers, who are under local authorities. They are supposed to get fixed amounts of money per child and per lactating mother in their neighbourhood, buy food with it and distribute it. And a focus on outcomes was first suggested by P. Chidambaram when he became finance minister six years ago; he had even tried to make ministries report on outcomes. His initiative died before long.


This leads to the question: how is outcome to be measured, and if it falls short of target, what should come next? An anganwadi worker can justifiably argue that while she controls inputs, she cannot ensure that children grow faster or mothers become healthier. If it is found that her inputs have no impact, should she be dismissed, given more food to distribute, or should the approach be changed? It should be recognized, after so many decades of failure, that improving health and nutrition is not like building an airport. The only evidence of health or nutrition comprises statistics and judgments. They are difficult to collect, difficult to audit, and take long to assemble. An easier path to better nutrition should be looked for: food should be made cheaper for the common man. One way of doing it is to subsidize food. The government does it on a large scale. But subsidies inevitably lead to rationing, rationing to dual prices, and dual prices to corruption. The government has no way of ensuring that the subsidies go to deserving persons, any more than that food supplements go to the right children.


That leaves one more alternative: to create incentives to reduce the cost of the production of food. It obviously implies that incentives to increase its cost of production, such as cost-based price support programmes, must be given up. But more important, a vibrantly competitive market in every kind of food must be created. Every farmer should be able to sell whatever he produces anywhere in the country, without any interstate barrier, and with minimum transport costs. That may sound radical, but since everything else has failed, it might as well be tried out.








Simple barbarism has become routine in India. There is a thickheaded ruthlessness in creating issues, as is once again painfully evident in the case of the lecturer, T.J. Joseph, in Newman College in Kottayam, Kerala. In July, Mr Joseph was attacked by thugs who cut off his palm. His offence was an allegedly derogatory religious reference in a question paper, for which he had already been suspended by the college authorities. What is intriguing is that the attack came three months later, as if his presumed insult had taken all that time to sink in. The perpetrators are reportedly part of a fairly new group called the Popular Front of India, which is alleged to have close links with a banned fundamentalist outfit. But it is the sequence of events that is fascinating.


The gap in time between apparent offence and barbaric revenge suggests that someone needed an issue to work up. Then, just as Mr Joseph was beginning to recover and hoping to rejoin college, he was sacked. Barbarism is routine, but it is also being encouraged, and the fierce unreason it represents is being given precedence over even the rudimentary appearance of justice. Here one minority religious group, represented by the management of Mr Joseph's college, seems anxious to be on the right side of the other. There is no harm in the harmony of many religions, but truckling to violent, lawless thugs should not be mistaken for harmony. Now that the issue has been created, however, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government of the state is hinting that it would support Mr Joseph in a fight for justice. The official view is that he has been punished disproportionately. The CPI(M) may be trying to win back its Christian voters, but would that be at the cost of the Muslim vote? Newman College is on the side of the offended community anyway. And is the PFI pleased to have seized attention?








The professor, Bibek Debroy, asked me how an innovative young man, Sandip Chatterjee, a relatively unknown inventor with no connections or influence, could be helped to market his invention. He claims to have developed a technique that could be useful in many fields: science and technology for transferring 2D to 3D in the most realistic manner; film and television for using this cheap technology to convert a blockbuster movie into 3D so it becomes more profitable; space technology for the conversion of a satellite picture into 3D; medical applications like converting a 2D x-ray plate into 3D; archives and other items of historical interest for conversion of archival footage; art, for which this technology can be a boon for researchers and forensics for strengthening justice. But he does not know how to put his invention to work.


That reminded me of Joseph Schumpeter, Peter Drucker and Anil Gupta. Schumpeter showed how innovations were important for development. Drucker showed how management could make large organizations effective. The professor, Anil Gupta, of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad has enabled thousands of small innovators in remote locations and with little education to put their innovations to work and earn from them.


Schumpeter led Drucker to identify the central role of management in propagating innovation. For Drucker, the essential purpose of a business was to satisfy customers and to innovate. Schumpeter termed innovation 'creative destruction' because it brought in new ideas, processes and products in place of the old, and led to improvement in living, efficiency and quality. Business did new things and did them more efficiently, thus providing employment, income, economic growth and consequently human development. He saw the entrepreneur as the creator and implementer of innovation.


Drucker recognized that this would require organizational structures that could mobilize large numbers of men, materials and a lot of money to achieve the purpose. His study of General Motors under Alfred Sloan was the basis of his conviction that major outcomes that required mobilizing many people and resources to complete a large number of activities in a coordinated and timely way could be organized effectively with good management.


Anil Gupta embraces innovation at the neglected levels of society. He does not propagate greed as the best motivator for effective management. He would like students and managers to improve society and its overall environment. He wants to mobilize and propagate the millions of big and small innovations that people develop in their daily life and work to make their tasks easier to perform, more productive and of better quality. He wants this huge bank of innovations to benefit many as well as reward the innovator. It is in this context that his padayatras around India with many of his students have resulted in discovering innovators (so far over 10,000 of them), in the small towns and villages ofmofussil India. He has used his management skills to establish ways in which these innovations could be propagated and earn the innovators some money while bringing the innovations to market and achieving a better living for people, with greater efficiency in whatever they are doing.


His three organizations, Sristi or the Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions, GIAN or Grassroots Innovation Augmentation Network and the National Innovation Fund open opportunities for 'barefoot' inventors in remote parts of India to own, market and propagate the innovations that they have developed. Gupta is the champion of thousands of faceless creative individuals all over India, far removed from the modern organized world of business. They are unaware of their own worth, rights and the opportunities that await them.


Many among the English-educated urban folk working in industry do not realize the potential of the rural and small-town inhabitant, educated, if at all, in a local language. Even the unlettered Indian is not the simpleton that the urban resident thinks he is seeing. Many like him are innovators who tackle the daily problems they encounter, with imagination and with practical improvisation. They find ways to improve the tools or methods that everybody uses. They use what they have and innovate to improve the method or the tool so that it can produce a better output or higher quality. The small innovator freely shares his inventions. In many cases, the innovator is only modifying or rediscovering existing knowledge. He is a shrewd observer and down to earth in his practicality. Gupta helps such people claim ownership and finds ways to market the innovation.


At the time of Independence, the emphasis of our planners was on urban and industrial development, and not on rural India and agriculture. Indeed, the pricing of agricultural products was for the benefit of the urban worker and not in the interests of the rural farmer.


During the 1960s and 1970s, India was in a protectionist phase when many essential articles of daily living and industrial work were not available from abroad. The small town mechanic used 'reverse engineering' as substitute for the import. Industries and individuals could not get sewing machines, diesel engines, farm pumps, bicycles, small machine tools, good locks, and handles for doors, hinges, light suitcases, razor blades, and so on. New industrial clusters developed where small-scale producers made what was needed. These innovators — "copiers" was their derogatory epithet — were self-taught mechanics and entrepreneurs.


Government policies helped the small-scale industrialist to some extent by creating the markets that would otherwise have been served by imports. The development of industrial estates around the country — an stroke of genius from the late R. Venkataraman — gave small-scale industries opportunities to start small factories in easily accessible locations where the land was developed and electricity and water were available. Many industries developed through this small-scale route of innovation, imitation and reverse engineering — that is, refrigeration, air conditioning execution, making plastic buckets and other plastic mouldings, chemicals of many kinds, tissue culture, auto spares and so on.


Politicians and bureaucrats almost destroyed the innovative ability of these entrepreneurs with thoughtless policies like reservation of sectors for small-scale enterprises, easily tradable import licences and so on, and made them complacent. As they exploited their monopolistic positions, quality deteriorated and innovation took a backseat. The opening up of the economy destroyed those that had thrived on shortages and controls. Those that changed are thriving and have a symbiotic relationship with large organized industry.


Gupta's Honey Bee network gathers the scattered innovations. Its database has already 12,000 entries, including some from Mongolia, Vietnam, Uganda, Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador and North America. It contains heirloom knowledge, folklore, ideas, techniques and product innovations.


GIAN brings notable inventions to the attention of venture capitalists and financiers. The National Innovation Foundation, with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, evaluates and prioritizes worthwhile ideas; Sristi coordinates all these activities.


Gupta has held countrywide competitions for awards by the NIF. The first, in 2000, brought nearly a thousand entries from Gujarat, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Karnataka. There were five categories and prizes ranged from Rs 25,000 to Rs 100,000 in each.


One example among many innovations: Mansukhbhai Jagani has rebuilt the Bullet motorcycle, to develop a complete machine system for a small holding at Rs 20,000, with attachments for tilling, weeding and sowing, and a trailer that hooks on to the bike. Gupta has also helped patent and market some of these innovations through the organizations he created. Arvindbhai Patel's watercooler has a licensee who paid Rs 3,50,000 for the idea.


India is strewn with such gifted innovators. Sandip Chatterjee needs Anil Gupta to patent and market his invention.


The author is former director-general, National Council for Applied Economic Research







The war in Afghanistan seems to be reaching an endgame. To all appearances, General Stanley McChrystal's famous surge appears to be petering out. The operations of the Western forces in Mazra and Kandahar have come to a halt. The offensive in Helmand, designed to clear the area of Taliban fighters and hand it over to the Afghan army and police, has not been successful. The latter, trained at considerable expense by Nato troops, have proved inadequate for the task. There is public disenchantment in the West with the war. Canada is all set to pull out its troops. Britain is also focused on a strategy that would allow a face-saving pull-out. In the United States of America, some Democratic senators have shown impatience with the continuing presence and rising casualties of US troops in Afghanistan. The anti-war wing of the Democratic Party fears that Barack Obama's policy risks pushing the US deeper into the bog of Afghanistan.


It was assumed that better governance will persuade Afghans to reject the Taliban and help the government of Hamid Karzai to turn the tide against Mullah Omar and other extremist leaders. This goal has not been achieved. Karzai presides over a thoroughly corrupt administration, and by hanging on to power after rigged elections, he has alienated people who are not willing to risk their lives to support him.


However, a precipitate US withdrawal from Afghanistan will open a Pandora's box. It would weaken governments in many countries with significant Islamic minorities and provide an additional momentum to jihadi Islam. It would raise questions about the US's ability to execute its proclaimed goals. The US is depending on Pakistan army to find an honourable exit. The latter believes that the balance of power in the region is tilting towards Pakistan for the first time since 9/11. Regardless of calls from some members of Congress for a get-tough approach to Islamabad, there is no alternative to a strong US alliance with Pakistan. The overwhelming majority of supplies vital to the US-led effort in Afghanistan flow through Pakistan. Although the US is now negotiating with Russia and other central Asian republics for new supply routes, these would come at great logistical costs.


Old fears


Pakistan's goal is to gain "strategic depth by installing a government in Afghanistan in which the Taliban will be an important component". Pakistan is keen to push India out of Afghanistan, as an alliance between the two is against its interest. Pakistan has used terrorist groups to carry out operations against Indian targets in Afghanistan. So there are problems with any Pakistan-sponsored solution. Pakistan can deal with the Pashtuns and the Taliban, but there are Taziks and Uzbeks who mistrust Islamabad and will fight a government in Kabul which they view as a tool of Pakistan. Other nations with an interest in Afghanistan — like India, Russia and Iran — will not accept agreements sponsored by Pakistan.


There is evidence that Pakistan is playing a double game in Afghanistan. Smug in the belief that it knows what is good for the country, the army has continued to run a secretive rogue policy that contravenes international law as well as Pakistan's national interest. China, India and Russia would be more threatened than the US by an Afghanistan hospitable to terrorism.

Chances of an organized withdrawal are possible only if a settlement is worked out with the consent of the regional powers. For the reconciliation to succeed, it has to overcome opposition from the non-Pashtuns. Compromises may have to be made. Direct elections of provincial governors may be introduced, by which the south is to be handed over to the Taliban and the north to Uzbek, Hazara and Tazik warlords. It will indeed be a strategy of "divide and go".


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





The news of eight Indian sportspersons failing dope tests ahead of the Commonwealth Games is hardly surprising, given the grip the malaise enjoys on our system. Indeed, doping in all its forms is rampant in Indian sport, with competitors willing to go to any length to bask in that one moment of glory. The real reason to pursue sport is often sidelined in that quest and even the fear of getting caught has had no effect on the cheats, going by the latest list of the shamed. The build-up to the Delhi Commonwealth Games has been marred by a series of corruption scandals and the positive dope tests have added to the negativity. That five from the list —four wrestlers and an athlete — form a part of the Commonwealth Games squad is disquieting, raising suspicions that Indian sportspersons could be out to use home advantage to the hilt.

Dope cheats have shamed India many a time in international competitions in the recent past. In the Commonwealth arena, weightlifters embarrassed the nation in two previous editions in Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006 even as they scooped up a handful of medals. Weightlifting, in fact, has acquired a tainted image thanks to the frequency with which its purveyors violate the rules despite threats, bans and fines from the sport's world governing body. But for a directive from the sports ministry — asking the CWG organising committee to pay the fine imposed by the International Weightlifting Federation — India could have even missed out on a shot at medals.

In the past, there were suggestions that some national federations were hand-in-glove with sportspersons in their shady pursuits, training trips to countries like Ukraine reinforcing the suspicion. At one point in time, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had its eyes trained on India but its endeavours have not fetched the desired results with athletes devising ways to evade testers. The establishment of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) and the WADA accreditation gained by the Sports Authority of India laboratory, however, have been positive developments in the race to nab the cheats. 

NADA's efforts seem to be bearing fruit, at least to some extent, going by the positive cases in the last few days. Still, the feeling remains that it has only managed to scratch the surface. Plenty more needs to be done if Indians are to regain their clean image — one without the false sheen of medals won through drugs.








Sectarian violence has raised its ugly head again in Pakistan. Barely four months after violent attacks on the Ahmadiyyas, suicide attacks on Shia processions in Lahore and Quetta have killed around a hundred people. The Pakistan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attacks and has said these are in retaliation for the killing of Maulana Ali Shair Haidree, leader of the Sunni extremist Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) in Sindh in August last year. Although that killing was believed to have been prompted by personal rivalry, the SSP had blamed Shia extremist groups. The pattern of violence is familiar. Terror outfits justify their own attacks by drawing attention to violence by others. However, nothing justifies the ongoing attacks and counter-attacks in Pakistan. Those who died in Lahore and Quetta were innocent people. At a time when millions of Pakistanis are reeling under the impact of one of the worst ever floods the country has suffered, terrorists have dealt the people another deadly blow.

Even as Pakistan and the world focuses on the violence in the tribal regions and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Lahore's quiet emergence as a centre of terrorism is going ignored. This city, known as Pakistan's cultural capital, is becoming associated with sectarian intolerance. This year alone it has witnessed five major terrorist attacks, which have left over 230 people dead. In May, there were blasts in Ahmadiyya places of worship. In July, Sufi shrines came under attack. It is well known that Pakistan's Punjab province is a nursery for terrorist groups, sectarian and those that are mainly anti-India. It was here that groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba were born and nurtured.

Decades ago, the Pakistan government set up Sunni extremist outfits like the SSP. In recent years, however, it has been cracking down on these groups. The target of its ongoing military operations is also outfits like the Taliban, groups that directly challenge the writ of the Pakistani state. However, if the capacities of these groups remain unweakened, this is because of the government's selective approach — cracking down on sectarian outfits even as it nurtures groups like Lashkar. The government is refusing to read the writing on the wall. These groups help each other and draw on support from a common source — the ISI. The ISI-created infrastructure of terrorism must be dismantled. Else, sectarian violence like those in Lahore will tear the country apart.






'Blair's story appeared the same day when the US declared the end of combat operations in Iraq.'


The most reassuring aspect of Tony Blair's just-released memoirs was evident in the Reuters photograph of a bookstore shelf stacked with copies on opening day. A red sticker on the hardback cover bore the legend: 'Half Price'. This is poetic justice. A man who sold lies to his nation has been peremptorily discounted by its public. All the oily self-pity that has stained the book's pages tears for the dead, alcohol for the living author was placed in perspective by the cold reception that this unapologetic misleader has got from a people disgusted by his malodorous past and continuing hypocrisy.

Blair's problem is not that he was mistaken when, in March 2003, he became a poodle-partner in George Bush's gratuitous war against Iraq. Anyone in office during a time of turmoil will make mistakes that could easily blemish an otherwise favourable record. Blair's problem was and is that he is an unrepentant liar who ordered the fabrication of excuses to launch a war and destroy a nation that had never threatened Britain militarily or shielded al-Qaeda. His foreign minister knew that Blair's thesis for war was a lie, and resigned, but the rest of the Labour Party mortgaged its conscience for power.

It was a coincidence that Blair's story (in the circumstances, an appropriate word) appeared on the day that America officially declared the end of combat operations in Iraq. The formal cessation of hostilities seems to have released many American commentators and officials from pretence. While some analysts struggled hard to justify the war with contorted definitions of victory, America's defence secretary Robert Gates admitted, at Camp Ramadi, near Baghdad, that he has no answer to a fundamental question: The problem with this war for any American is that the premise on which we justified going to war proved not to be valid. Even if the outcome is a good one from the standpoint of the US, it will always be clouded by how it began.

Blair knows how it began in 2003: Bush ordered his secretary of state Colin Powell to lie before the United Nations. Powell compromised his personal credibility by arguing that America had discovered incontrovertible evidence that proved Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Blair, never to be outshone in the deception stakes, told his parliament that they were only 45 minutes away from mass destruction itself.
The natural growth trajectory of a serial liar is to become fantastically self-delusional. And so when Blair is forced, in his book, to admit that he lied, he compares himself with Nelson Mandela! After all, Mandela could spin a fast one along with the best of them, he writes with a smirk. It requires a temerity beyond the reach of mere mortals for a smug middle class lawyer with sharp wits and enormous luck to compare himself with a man who challenged apartheid and a barbaric, murderous regime; spent decades in solitary confinement and then, when he finally came to power, ushered in an age of harmony between the once-enslaved and their tormentors. But hallucinating Blair is not content with comparing himself to a mere Mandela. I bet Gandhi was the same, he squeaks.

He cannot get off this lunatic pinnacle even when he has to concede that he has been a manipulator. Princess Diana was another one, wasn't she, he giggles. So that's all right, then; if you are as good as Diana you can safely destroy the world.

Blair is unable to come to terms with the 'great mystery': why didn't the Iraqis roll over before advancing Anglo-American armies, and welcome the Bush-Blair Viceroy who would lead them towards civilisation and McDonalds, whichever came first? Why, after Saddam had been vanquished, did the people resist the onward march of such impregnable armies and air forces? Since his porous intellect cannot find an answer from the behaviour patterns of the world, the reason must lie in heaven: Islam. He writes he misunderstood the hold that extremism had on Islam. Only extremists could fight the toy soldiers sent by Pentagon and Whitehall, carrying chocolates and democracy; moderates would have welcome the liberators while they looted the museum, took over the oil ministry and extended their march to the capitals of other nations on their axis of evil, like Syria and Iran. There are laws of libel; why are there no laws against hypocrisy? Or would that mean the end of bombastic memoirs? One records, with relief, that no Iraqi Arab memoir has, to my knowledge, called warmongers like Blair and Bush examples of extremist Roman Catholicism or American Puritanism.

Bush-Blair had a bizarre sense of humour: they contrived to name Blair a special peace envoy to West Asia after he lost his job as prime minister. When Barack Obama hosted Israel and Palestine for talks last Thursday, along with Egypt and Jordan, he should have explored the potential benefits of amnesia. Alas, he forgot to forget.

An European cartoon shows a puzzled London bookstore employee asking her manager whether she should place Blair's memoirs in the fiction or non-fiction category. It should really be among the horror stories.








Compared to yester-years, very few police-men are dismissed or removed from service nowadays.


The news of three police constables assaulting their own SP in BareiIly in Uttar Pradesh has caused nation wise consternation. On Sept 2, Kalpana Saxena, a young IPS officer, who is the additional superintendent of police, in charge of traffic, learnt that three of her constables were collecting bribes from lorry drivers.

Ever since assuming charge Kalpana had declared a war on corrupt traffic policemen. When she got the news that her subordinates were standing at an intersection and demanding bribes, Kalpana who was in civil dress, reportedly went to the spot along with her gunman and a constable in a private car to the spot.

She caught the three constables red-handed. One of the constables recognised her as his new boss and immediately all the three ran towards a private car which they had parked nearby. As they sat in the car and were driving away, Kalpana caught hold of the collar of the driver. At this juncture the driver is said to have started the car and moved the car forward rolling up the windowpane. Kalpana's hand was stuck in the car window and she was dragged by the speeding car for almost one kilometre.


Kalpana's gunman who was shocked by the incident raised a hue and cry and subsequently Kalpana was rescued. The three policemen, who have now absconded, have been placed under suspension and a hunt is on to trace them.

This incident has once again brought to focus the topic of police corruption. What is co-incidental is that on the day Kalpana's incident occurred, Karnataka police released a report by the Public Affairs Committee of Bangalore which stated that 38 per cent of the policemen believe that corruption is part of the system and that honesty does not pay all the time.

Karnataka has the best recruitment system in the entire country. This ISO-9001 certified system has become a model for other police forces in the country as one of the most transparent police recruitment system. Despite such a system being in place if 38 per cent of the policemen believe that corruption is a necessity, it is incumbent to ascertain why such an attitude has evolved.

Though many people believe that low salaries are a cause of corruption, it is not a valid reason. Every policeman in our state gets a salary for 13 months. He gets free uniform, free rations and 40 per cent of them get free housing. If the above perks are taken into account, a policeman's salary is commensurate with the knowledge, skills, and responsibilities that are required for the post. If despite this, a need is felt for corruption, one can only term it as greedy as has been agreed by 64 per cent of policemen who took part in the Public Affairs Committee study.

Corruption is also a cause for indiscipline. If quick and deterrent punishment is not meted out to the corrupt personnel by their superior officers discipline will be a casualty as the corrupt will feel that nothing would happen to them and start misbehaving with not only their colleagues but also their superiors. Their increasing monetary gains may also cause such a behaviour. Of late we are also seeing a tendency among senior officers to overlook infringements by their subordinates. 

Compared to yesteryears, very few policemen are dismissed or removed from service nowadays. Even in serious cases of indiscipline, the punishment is not proportional to the gravity of misconduct. Hence, there is no fear of punishment and fear of superior officers has also vanished among the subordinate staff which comprises of 75 per cent of the force.

If indiscipline in the police force is not immediately curbed and if superior officers tend to ignore the misdeeds of their juniors and if the society does not sit up and demand deterrent action against errant policemen, many more cases such as Kalpana Saxena's will happen.

(The author is DGP, CID, Karnataka, and the views expressed are personal)







The van was truly our creative space to be and become.

We were a motley group of middle class women, in our late 20s and early 30s with a healthy disregard for propriety, status or position as we sat huddled cheek-by-jowl in the close confines of a Matador van. As teachers we rode the same 14 km to and from college, five days a week for almost five years. Drivers drooled, drove and dumped us. Kumar, Aziz and Anbu were the Amar, Akbar and Anthony of our automotive escapades. The carriages we rode in, graduated from a barely-held-together contraption on four wheels to a plush and roomy mini van. The change reflected our growing needs and desire for creature comforts.

The first few months were spent in familiarising ourselves with the landscape and the route. Once we figured who got in where and when, we shifted our focus to the internal landscape of trust and shared confidence. As the comfort levels grew so did the noise levels. Like a Mexican wave, there would be a cheery 'Hi' and 'Bye' with every entrance and exit. An entrance into the hallowed forum would be punctuated by personal comments — "Is that a new sari?", "What perfect accessories!", "I love that shade of lipstick!" There was never a hint of malice or a shade of jealousy in those exclamations. It was just pure, unadulterated 'girl' time.

Cholis, necklines and what lay behind them were topics that were dealt with casually. There was neither embarrassment nor reserve. Our naughty asides and innuendoes would have made Victoria with her little secrets blush! In fact, a certain van regular would engage in an adorning and unveiling ritual everyday. As soon as she had perched her delectable seat on the edge of the row, she would dig into her bag, a magical treasure chest, from which jewellery flew out and found their mark on fingers, wrists, ears and neck. ''Saves time,'' she would say. We understood perfectly but that didn't stop us from knighting her with several immodest titles.

'The van gang,' as we christened ourselves, soon became synonymous with joint ventures. We had parties to celebrate events and milestones and went to the movies, weddings, funerals and sales! In time, the van became a space for transformation and renewal. It was fascinating to see how we shed our prim and proper garbs as respectable mothers, wives, daughters-in-law and became high-spirited girls who giggled, guffawed, grimaced and groaned. When we reached our destination we swiftly arranged our professorial airs about us and readied ourselves for business.

Most of us are in the driver's seat now; our vehicles, symbols of our upwardly mobile careers. When we see each other at events, we slip into gear and take a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Each meeting ends in a flashback of our journeys of simple pleasures, pure joy and sheer delight. The van was truly our creative space to be and become. There hangs a fairy tale with no prince, just women with magic in their hearts and a pumpkin coach.







Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman's decision not to make a recommendation to President Shimon Peres on the request to lighten the punishment of former Shas minister Shlomo Benizri is puzzling and unacceptable.


The justice minister is supposed to embody, in his person and conduct, allegiance to the values of the rule of law. It is doubtful whether Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman is up to the task. It seems his loyalty is not to the supremacy of the law, its institutions and customs, but to the strengthening of the governing coalition, Shas in particular.


This was blatantly evident when Neeman avoided making a recommendation to President Shimon Peres on the request to lighten the punishment of a former minister from Shas, Shlomo Benizri, who was convicted of bribery and whose prison sentence the Supreme Court extended to four years.


The Basic Law on The President of the State authorizes the president to pardon offenders and ease punishments. There is also a long-standing custom, not codified in law, under which the president considers the justice minister's recommendation before making a decision. To be implemented, the law requires the minister's signature after the president's ruling.


Neeman's decision not to make a recommendation is puzzling and unacceptable. His lack of support for the director of the Justice Ministry's pardons department, attorney Emmy Palmor, who opposed lightening Benizri's sentence, appears unreasonable and faulty. Palmor opposed easing the punishment partly because of the short time since Benizri entered jail, as has been reported by Haaretz's Tomer Zarchin.


Neeman's position on the matter comes after his sharp and unnecessary criticism last week of the Supreme Court ruling that required the addition of a woman to the Turkel Committee on the Gaza-bound flotilla. Neeman said the court should not have applied the Women's Equal Rights Law and intervened in the commission's makeup since its members were appointed because of their background and qualifications, not because of the law. This unfounded criticism did not consider the court's reasoning on the constitutional weight of the right to equality and the authorities' ongoing disregard of this right. In his remarks, Neeman betrayed the essence of his post. The justice minister is supposed to protect the judicial system and its rulings, not subject them to criticism welcomed by institutions for whom the rule of law is not a guiding principle.








The right way to cope with the Iranian threat is by boosting regional peace, in combination with an American assurance of a nuclear umbrella and an improvement in Israeli deterrence.


By Akiva EldarTags: Israel news Middle East peace Iran


On September 13, 1993, my throat was choked with tears at the sight of Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, as Bill Clinton's optimistic look encompassed both of them. When the children who were in Tel Aviv day care centers at the time are standing at roadblocks degrading 17-year-old Palestinians with no firsthand experience of the Oslo Accords, it's no wonder that such ceremonies have no chance of getting anywhere near the viewer ratings of "Kochav Nolad," Israel's version of "American Idol."


We have learned that itchy trigger fingers can easily succeed handshakes and that new declarations of peace do not necessarily mean new worldviews.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must move a great deal closer to the Palestinian position to reach the point that his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, did with Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian Authority president will have to take off the gloves in dealing with his Palestinian rivals in order to wean the Israeli public from its addiction to the idea that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian side. President Barack Obama must spend his remaining political capital so that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can submit to Netanyahu and Abbas a document resembling the one her husband presented to Arafat and Ehud Barak a decade ago.


It appears we'll have to wait until after our fall holidays, and probably until after the Americans recover from their year-end holiday season, to judge whether the latest initiative has brought the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict any closer. It's clear already that the renewal of negotiations has intensified the conflict between Iran and centrist Arab leaders. The verbal blows that Tehran and its allies in Beirut and Gaza are trading with Cairo and Ramallah emphasize the link between the peace process and the Iranian front.


Hamas' latest terror attacks illustrate the panic that has gripped the rejectionists in light of the "danger" that Netanyahu isn't who they thought he was. This is his chance to bring Iran into his equation: land for security. Netanyahu constantly declares that it is Iran that poses an existential threat to Israel. If he is willing to concede part of the homeland at the risk of his father's reproach, why not go for broke? Why settle for security arrangements with a nascent demilitarized Palestinian state when you could wrest concessions to protect Israel from Iran?


Despite the arrogant comments of diplomats and the harsh ones of military figures, Israel can't really stop Iran's nuclear program on its own. An attack on Iran (if it is even possible from the operational standpoint) is expected to cost thousands of Israeli lives, as well as cause a regional conflict in the shadow of a crisis of confidence with the United States. The right way to cope with the Iranian threat is by boosting regional peace, in combination with an American assurance of a nuclear umbrella and an improvement in Israeli deterrence.


The idea of a mutual defense treaty that would grant Israel security guarantees vis-a-vis Iran was first raised by Barak, in a conversation with president Clinton at the 2000 Camp David summit. Bruce Riedel, then a U.S. National Security Council official, wrote recently in the foreign policy journal The National Interest that although Clinton responded favorably to the nuclear umbrella idea, it went nowhere once the peace process hit a dead end. At the summit, Barak also proposed that the United States supply Israel with F-22 jet fighters in order to improve Israel's second-strike capability. That idea, too, died with the peace talks.


Riedel recommends that the Obama administration reexamine these ideas and consider providing Israel with cruise missile and nuclear submarine technology. For that to happen, there must be real progress toward an agreement with the Palestinians, preferably accompanied by progress toward regional peace in accordance with the principles of the Arab League peace initiative.


The man in the White House today is desperate for an accomplishment. In order to succeed where Bill Clinton didn't Obama is prepared to give generously, but even he doesn't hand out umbrellas for free. Land or a nuclear umbrella - that's the choice Israel has to make.










The signature reflects steadfast, determined honesty: all of one line, without any diversions, with the "kuf" at the end serving both Yitzhak and Brik. If it is necessary to examine an injustice of discrimination or abuse, there is no better candidate that Maj. Gen. (res.) Brik, commissioner for soldiers' complaints at the Defense Ministry.


Brik is a rare military combination of discipline and compassion, along with personal experience as a tank fighter and a division commander. In the Israel Defense Forces he is taken seriously, and not only because of his battle hardened experience which he passes on to the generation that does not know large scale wars.


Three out of five complaints that make it to him are found to be justified; Brik demands accountability also from the boss of the commander involved.


But Brik is not Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Brik works for Barak. He is his appointment, approved by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. The committee did not authorize Barak to assign additional duties to Brik, certainly not to charge him with the task of serving as the arbitrator on behalf of one side in the dispute between the defense minister and the chief of staff, both exempt by law from the probes of the IDF ombudsman.


One of Barak's final moves as chief of staff was making Brik a major general, bringing him back to the Defense Ministry as ombudsman, following a decade as a civilian.


Barak is to Brik what Moshe Dayan was to the first ombudsman he appointed, Haim Laskov. Laskov was known for his honesty, and the at the time Dayan too, as chief of staff, was not interested in him because of his honesty, but for his appointment in the Agranat Commission, which did not hold Dayan, then a defense minister, responsible in the Yom Kippur War fiasco.


The fact that Laskov was a subordinate of Dayan at the time, and the responsibility was passed on to then-chief of staff David Elazar, was improper and undermined the semblance of justice.


During his last annual report Brik praised his late predecessor, Brig. Gen. (res.) Avner Barazani. If Brik dives into the forged document affair on Barak's orders, he will run into the puzzling involvement of Barazani, who as ombudsman served as arbitrator in the clash between Lt. Col. (res.) Boaz Harpaz and the IDF, which threw Harpaz out of the army without pension. Barazani recommended bringing Harpaz back to the army symbolically, and to count the years since his dismissal as leave without pay. What will Brik say about Barazani now?


The deterioration in the relations between Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi during the past year, initiated by Barak, was the fertile ground on which Harpaz's document grew. From a professional point of view, Barak was right last year in wanting to dictate who the deputy chief of staff - the third for Ashkenazi - would be, and was wrong to give in. From that point on Ashkenazi became the victim in a war that Barak declared on him in order to display his superiority and harm his future political rival.


Thus Barak gained a bitter rival, like the rival that chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak became to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


The claim of Lt. Gen. (res.) Barak of a conspiracy by active and reservist officers against him is a ridiculous joke. His cerebral image hides irrationality and of late also hysteria, which surrounds the probe of his private business affairs by the State Comptroller's Office. The concerned wait for its results could explain the applause that Barak had for the comptroller's report, which had reservations about his behavior in the appointment of generals (including the granting of the rank of major general for the military secretary of the prime minister and the year of failing to appoint a coordinator of government activities in the territories).


Indeed, it is necessary to examine the continuing deterioration in relations between Barak and Ashkenazi. The Harpaz document was only a symptom of the disease. The discovery of the forger, according to the announcement of the investigators and intelligence, did not heal the rift, and continues to rot the body of the army.


The investigation can be carried out in different ways, by the State Comptroller or an external committee. The State Attorney's Office, which received the case with a recommendation for an indictment against Harpaz alone, is still open to sending it back and completing the investigation.


The worst option possible is to subordinate the investigator to one of the two rivals. The Military Attorney General and the president of the appeals court, generals in active service, would have refused if Ashkenazi appointed them; this is what Brik should do as well with Barak's appointment.







I am not disillusioned. I think the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was foolish and that an interim agreement is also undesirable. If it were up to me, I would undoubtedly prefer to reach a full peace agreement now.

By Yossi BeilinTags: Middle East peace


Ari Shavit believes that the root of all evil in the negotiations with the Palestinians is the notion that only a full peace deal is acceptable, and has noted "to my credit" that even I have abandoned this approach. (Haaretz, September 2). He is wrong.


Since its establishment, Israel has sought full peace agreements with all its neighbors. That was the path of mainstream Zionism, with the intention of ensuring that the Jewish state would not be a foreign body in the region. That was the aim of the Camp David Accords in 1978, which referred to an agreement with the Palestinians after five years of self-rule.


When I started the Oslo process, my aim was to overcome obstacles in the talks in Washington between Israel and the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, and to agree on the parameters of an interim agreement leading to a permanent settlement within five years. I proposed to the late Yitzhak Rabin that we seize the opportunity and try to begin negotiations on a permanent settlement, but he rejected this, saying that if such negotiations failed, it would not be possible to talk about an interim agreement and we would lose out both ways.


Immediately after the signing of the Oslo Accords, I began talks with Mahmoud Abbas on a statement of principles for a peace agreement. The work was completed after two years. Then-prime minister Shimon Peres rejected the document. Benjamin Netanyahu, as prime minister, did everything in his power to avoid reaching the moment of truth of a permanent settlement.


Ehud Barak, who was elected in 1999, wanted to reach a permanent settlement, but refused an American proposal to put what was then called the Beilin-Abu Mazen Document (though it was not a signed document) on the negotiating table at Camp David. The talks with the Palestinians failed because both sides did not try hard enough to reach a permanent agreement.


After the talks on a permanent settlement did not succeed, I proposed to Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian minister of information, to maintain an informal channel to prepare a detailed proposal for a permanent settlement, and prove to the two peoples that every issue could be resolved. That is the Geneva Initiative, signed seven years ago by a group of Israeli and Palestinian notables; it became the only detailed document acceptable to a large constituency of Israelis and Palestinians.


The prime minister at the time, Ariel Sharon, decided on a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. This withdrawal completely contradicted the spirit of the Geneva Initiative, but I supported it nonetheless because I understood that this was what Sharon was prepared to do, and that it was preferable to leave Gaza with Sharon than wait for another prime minister. Had Sharon's successor, Ehud Olmert, continued down the unilateral path, I would have supported him. Happily, for me, he attempted the bigger move, but it too was a far cry from the agreements we reached in the Geneva Initiative, and the Palestinians were not enthusiastic about it.


Netanyahu was elected a second time, unfortunately. He is miles away from a peace agreement along the lines of the Clinton parameters or the Geneva Initiative. Im not sure he's prepared for an interim agreement, but to me it seems more practical than futile talks about security, the environment, water and the Jewish character of the State of Israel. That's why I propose trying the partial move.


I am not disillusioned. I think the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza was foolish and that an interim agreement is also undesirable. If it were up to me, I would undoubtedly prefer to reach a full peace agreement now.


The question is whether it is preferable to wait for a prime minister who is prepared to pay the price of peace, or do the most that is possible right now. I prefer not to wait.









Recently, the Tel Aviv weekly Ha'ir published the transcript of the trial in which Sabbar Kashur, an Arab, was convicted of rape by deceit, duping a woman by posing as a Jew named Dudu. As it turns out according to the report by Lital Grossman, the sex was not consensual, but was actually rape, of the clear-cut, cruel "simple" kind.


"He told me that if I were quiet and did not resist, then it would be, like, it would be over more quickly and it would not be, like, he would not use force. But I did resist and it was by force" - with blood and scratches and scars, which are documented at the hospital to which she was taken.


Indeed, the original indictment was for forcible rape and the accused was the one to initiate the plea bargain, in which he confessed "only" to rape by deception.


And all this time I, too, thought that the court was racist and what would be natural with a Jewish guy was considered rape when with an Arab. I, too, did not stop to think that it is unlikely that a woman would jump on a guy named Dudu, drag him off for wild consensual sex and when she found out his name was Sabbar, would complain that he had raped her.


How terrible. Because of the fact that in this case the target of the public's ire was more the court, which "harms the real victims," and less the victim herself, as often happens, even I, who for 15 years have been speaking up for rape crisis centers and victims of sexual assault, I felt guilty that a sister had caused such serious racial injustice.


It is clear why. We women are educated from the beginning not to listen to ourselves, not to believe ourselves and certainly not to believe women who say they have been raped.


The men, as is almost usual, stood up and with one voice protected the man accused of rape. In this case, an Arab man is suddenly accorded a higher place because he symbolizes the right of a man to unlimited sex without consequences; because the complaint against him symbolizes the worsening conditions of men due to the laws against sexual harassment and rape.


Suddenly they would risk their heads for the Arab man who on any other day they would easily consider a traitor.


Israel is really a racist state, and we must protest its racism. But we capitulated in the face of the accusation of racism - and also got into the same boat as the righteous men who are fighting racism - and we repressed the first part of the story.


Yes, the media is responsible in choosing not to check the details. Yes, the prosecution made a mistake in not realizing that the plea bargain took the sting out of the rape conviction. Yes, there was carelessness in the way the conviction was written so that it sounds like it was because of the complainant's testimony that the indictment was changed from forcible rape to rape by deception.


But we should know better. After all, every woman knows on the deepest level that there is no such thing as going up on the roof of a construction site in the middle of the day with a man you just met for wild sex and then lodging a complaint against him.


We must no longer fall into these places. Our only way to protect ourselves from men closing ranks in cases of sexual assault and harassment by accusing the victim of "consent" and vindictiveness is to believe in each other. Always to believe in each other. For each of us to remember the reality of our lives and to know that we are all real victims.


We must have faith in each other that is beyond the shadow of a doubt. That is the true meaning of believing in ourselves.






******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES




In less than two weeks, Afghanistan will elect a new parliament — a chance to show that the country is making progress. Unfortunately, the odds of success may not be much better than they were last year, when a presidential election, marred by violence and widespread fraud, left Afghans and the international community questioning the legitimacy of Hamid Karzai's victory.


Millions of Afghans courageously voted in past elections and may do so again. There are 2,447 candidates on ballots in 34 provinces, including about 400 women (up from 328 in 2005) despite severe constraints on their political participation in this male-dominated society.


Still, there are many reasons to worry.


Security is the biggest obstacle given the worsening insurgency. Four candidates have been killed in attacks by suspected Taliban fighters even with a buildup in American forces and an escalation in allied military operations. Armed men also killed five campaign workers for a female candidate. Many candidates running for 249 parliamentary seats are too fearful to campaign, and some have told reporters that the violence, especially suicide attacks, is much worse than last time. Election officials say it is too dangerous to even open at least 938 of 6,835 polling centers — most in the south and the east.


The threat of another fraud comes close behind. When Mr. Karzai ran last year, his allies stuffed so many ballot boxes that the Electoral Complaints Commission ended up throwing out one-third of his votes. Mr. Karzai won by default after his opponent dropped out.


That disaster prompted calls for major electoral reforms. There have been some — but not nearly enough. The most significant may be Mr. Karzai's appointment of a new chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, which oversees election logistics. His predecessor failed to adequately prevent or punish fraud.


The new chairman, Fazel Ahmad Manawi, an Islamic scholar and former I.E.C. commissioner, is generally viewed as doing a better job. He barred 6,000 people who worked on the fraudulent November poll from administering this one, improved ballot security, and publicized polling sites weeks — rather than days — in advance.


The United Nations-backed Electoral Complaints Commission — the election's ultimate arbiter — is reconstituted, although experts are concerned about the competence of the new members. Their big test will be whether they have the courage of their predecessors to expose fraud if found. It will be hard to pull off credible balloting. The election is hampered by a flawed voter registry, a vetting process that left far too many corrupt warlords on the ballots, and fewer independent observers. Reports of vote buying, bribery and intimidation are rife; Mr. Karzai shows no sign of discouraging this.


It would be better to postpone the election. But American and allied officials say Kabul wants to proceed, and they must respect that decision. While the allies pressed the Karzai government on reforms, they seem curiously resigned to whatever may happen.


In the remaining weeks, the allies should press Mr. Karzai and other major political leaders to urge all Afghans to vote, to speak out against fraud and corruption and to pledge that violators will be punished. No one expects Afghanistan to install a perfect system overnight. But cynical and disenchanted Afghans need to see there is a way for their voices to count.







Labor Day has been around for a surprisingly long time, longer than Mother's Day, longer than Father's Day, and almost as long as the official celebration of Washington's Birthday.


What's changed since the first local Labor Day parade, in New York in 1882, is the very nature of labor. Go searching for Labor Day history — on the Department of Labor Web site, for instance — and you invariably come across a quotation from one of the founders of the American Federation of Labor, Peter McGuire.


Labor Day, he said, was meant to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."


There is not so much delving and carving these days, and nature doesn't seem quite as rude as it once did. Labor Day has expanded well beyond the realms of organized labor, and what was once a "workingmen's" holiday is now a respite for nearly everyone with a Monday job.


In 1882, this country was still a dozen states short of the full union. It was, like every year, a time that seems anachronistic from a certain distance, the year that Jesse James was killed and Ralph Waldo Emerson died and Franklin Roosevelt was born and the first commercial electric plant lit Lower Manhattan.


This was a country of about 51 million people, and New York a city of about two million.


That is perhaps quite enough to think about on this Labor Day, this line in the beach sand between summer and whatever comes after summer but before true autumn. If Labor Day feels like a comma in the year and not a semicolon — like Thanksgiving or Christmas — it's probably all to the good. We need a holiday that needs no preparation, which is a true holiday indeed.







Three House members got word the other day that investigators have recommended that the ethics committee delve into their fund-raising from Wall Street donors — lucrative labors that happened to coincide precisely with some big votes on reforming Wall Street. Five other members were cleared in the same inquiry, raising the question of exactly what it might take to violate the Capitol's notoriously porous rules about political fund-raising.


The track history of the full ethics committee suggests nothing much will come of the inquiry. But at least the new House watchdog — the semi-independent Office of Congressional Ethics — has dared to focus on the meat and potatoes of Capitol culture.


Members don't twitter about it to the folks back home, but the heart of the workday often involves writing laws with one hand, then ducking out of the people's House to beg for money with the other. It's not that inconvenient. The smarter special-interest check writers are right in the neighborhood.


In the same fashion, lawmakers of both houses must go out of the Capitol to nearby political party offices where colorless cubicles are maintained for them to "dial for dollars" — beg for more money — from donor lists. Privately, members admit loathing such politicking, but they follow this proven, cash-rich way to protect incumbency.


Many from both parties have taken care to sign on to a worthy alternative proposal, the Fair Elections Now Act, which would allow qualified candidates public subsidies to compete free from lobbyist-designed bundles from influential donors. Proponents like Common Cause are hoping the House might take committee action soon, but no one is predicting swift passage. President Obama already has outstanding his pledge to reform the presidential subsidy system that he chose to skirt in his campaign. The president could and should ignite the movement for public alternatives.


Taxpayers may wonder why the existing deep-pocket system came to be licit, why their elected public servants can (must?) routinely behave as crass mendicants. It remains incumbents' standard model. The Republican minority leader, John Boehner, is busy promising ethics reforms better than what the Democrats have imposed. But, like so many others on both sides of the aisle, Mr. Boehner is identified with the rich status quo. He is remembered for smoothly surviving the apology he had to make some years back when he was seen on the House floor passing out checks from the tobacco industry to his colleagues.








In December 2008, a gigantic storage pond belonging to the Tennessee Valley Authority near Kingston, Tenn., effectively burst at the seams, spilling a billion gallons of mainly toxic coal ash from a T.V.A. power plant into surrounding lands and rivers.


It was the perfect moment to right a long-festering environmental wrong. The Environmental Protection Agency promised tough new regulations governing the disposal of coal ash. Industry complained. The White House hesitated. Nothing happened.


The administration can redeem itself in the weeks ahead. Last Monday, the E.P.A. held the first in a series of regional hearings on two quite different proposals governing how coal-fired power plants dispose of waste.


One proposal, favored by public-interest groups and by agency scientists, would replace a patchwork of uneven — and in many cases weak — state regulations with new national standards. It would formally designate coal ash as a hazardous waste under federal law, require industry to phase out porous sludge ponds, replace them with sturdy, leak-proof facilities, and take other protective steps.


The competing proposal would establish federal guidelines for disposal but leave enforcement to the states. It would also preserve coal ash's status as a nonhazardous substance. Though the proposal barely improves on the status quo, the Office of Management and Budget — after heavy lobbying by the coal industry — agreed to give it equal billing in the public hearings.


The tougher proposal is obviously better. Coal ash, the byproduct of coal combustion, is a huge problem. Its toxins — which can include arsenic, lead and other heavy metals — can poison local water supplies. America's power plants produce 130 million tons of the stuff every year, enough to fill a train of boxcars stretching from the District of Columbia to Australia.


Some of this is usefully, safely and profitably recycled to make concrete and other construction materials. Designating coal ash as hazardous would not diminish these uses, despite industry claims. What new rules would do is greatly reduce the dangers from the 60 percent or so of the coal ash that now winds up in lightly regulated landfills.


Just in time for the start of the hearings, three public-interest groups — Earthjustice, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Integrity Project — identified 39 coal ash disposal sites in 21 states where leaking waste has raised water pollution levels beyond those permitted by federal laws. These sites can now be added to the E.P.A.'s own list of 67 dangerous sites.


By any measure, coal ash is a national problem demanding a national response.











Last Wednesday, a man named James Lee entered the headquarters of the Discovery Channel with explosives strapped to his body, took three hostages at gunpoint, and waited for his demands to be met.


A foe of population growth, Lee had apparently decided that shows like "Kate Plus Eight" and "19 Kids and Counting" were pushing the planet toward destruction. "All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants," he decreed, before moving on to demand solutions for "global warming, automotive pollution, international trade ... and the whole blasted human economy."


By the end of the day, the hostages were safe, Lee had been killed by police, and TLC's fall lineup was preserved. But the debate about the hostage-taker's politics was just beginning.


Conservatives and libertarians dubbed Lee a "liberal eco-terrorist" inspired by a "green climate of hate." They pointed out that he traced his political "awakening" to Al Gore's apocalyptic rhetoric. They cited an F.B.I. statement calling eco-vigilantes America's "No. 1 domestic terrorism threat."


This was all a little ridiculous. But of course it was really an attempt to turn the tables on liberals, who have spent the last two years linking conservative rhetoric to hate crimes and antigovernment maniacs. (It's a hard habit to break: the liberal site quickly suggested that James Lee was actually a right-wing extremist, because his hostility to "parasitic human infants" extended to the children of illegal immigrants.)


To some extent, partisans persist in these arguments — "your side encourages extremists!"; "no, your side encourages extremists!" — because America really is rife with wild and crazy sentiments. The belief that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim (apparently held by nearly20 percent of the country) gets the headlines. But as the George Mason law professor Ilya Somin has noted, national opinion polls reveal support for numerous far-out or noxious-seeming notions.


There's the 32 percent of Democrats who blame "the Jews" for the financial crisis. There's the 25 percent of African-Americans who believe the AIDS virus was created in a government lab. There's support for state secession, which may have been higher among liberals in the Bush era than among Republicans in the age of Obama. And there's the theory that the Bush White House knew about 9/11 in advance, which a third of Democrats endorsed as recently as 2007.


So are we a nation of potential James Lees, teetering on the brink of paranoid violence? Not necessarily. As the libertarian writer Julian Sanchez has pointed out, it's worth taking all these polling responses with a substantial grain of salt. For all but the hardest-core conspiracy theorizers, they may express what Sanchez calls "symbolic beliefs." These are "propositions you profess publicly" but would never follow through on, because they're adopted as a kind of political and cultural statement rather than out of deep conviction.


Consider the apparently widespread notion that George W. Bush knew about 9/11 in advance. If true, it would suggest that Bush was not merely a bad man or a bad president, but an evil genius on a shocking scale. But as Sanchez notes, "you did not really see a lot of behavior consistent with millions upon millions of people being seriously convinced that their president was a treasonous mass murderer." Nobody planned an insurrection; few people fled to Canada. Instead, liberals organized for Democratic candidates, as though Bush were an ordinary opponent rather than a stone-cold killer.


The same is true of conservative conspiracy theorists today. Tuning in to Glenn Beck or joining your local Tea Party seems like a woefully insufficient response to the possibility that Barack Obama is a Manchurian candidate groomed from birth to undermine democracy and impose Shariah law. But if we understand those paranoias to be symbolic beliefs, rather than real convictions — an attention-grabbing way of saying, "I consider Obama phony, dishonest and un-American" — then conservative behavior makes a lot more sense.


Such beliefs can still be dangerous. The line between what's symbolic and what's real isn't always clear, and a determined demagogue can exploit symbolic beliefs as well as real ones.


But obsessing about the paranoia of the masses is often a way for American elites to gloss over their own, entirely nonsymbolic failures. In the Bush era attacking the conspiracy theories of the "angry left" made it easier for conservatives to avert their eyes from the disaster the Iraq war had become. Today, establishment liberals would much rather fret about the insanity of the Republican base than reckon with the unpopularity of Barack Obama's domestic program.


Some fretting is justified. (Just ask the Discovery Channel.) But over all, Americans still have more to fear from the folly of establishments than from the paranoia such follies summon up.






1938 IN 2010



Here's the situation: The U.S. economy has been crippled by a financial crisis. The president's policies have limited the damage, but they were too cautious, and unemployment remains disastrously high. More action is clearly needed. Yet the public has soured on government activism, and seems poised to deal Democrats a severe defeat in the midterm elections.


The president in question is Franklin Delano Roosevelt; the year is 1938. Within a few years, of course, the Great Depression was over. But it's both instructive and discouraging to look at the state of America circa 1938 — instructive because the nature of the recovery that followed refutes the arguments dominating today's public debate, discouraging because it's hard to see anything like the miracle of the 1940s happening again.


Now, we weren't supposed to find ourselves replaying the late 1930s. President Obama's economists promised not to repeat the mistakes of 1937, when F.D.R. pulled back fiscal stimulus too soon. But by making his program too small and too short-lived, Mr. Obama did just that: the stimulus raised growth while it lasted, but it made only a small dent in unemployment — and now it's fading out.


And just as some of us feared, the inadequacy of the administration's initial economic plan has landed it — and the nation — in a political trap. More stimulus is desperately needed, but in the public's eyes the failure of the initial program to deliver a convincing recovery has discredited government action to create jobs.


In short, welcome to 1938.


The story of 1937, of F.D.R.'s disastrous decision to heed those who said that it was time to slash the deficit, is well known. What's less well known is the extent to which the public drew the wrong conclusions from the recession that followed: far from calling for a resumption of New Deal programs, voters lost faith in fiscal expansion.


Consider Gallup polling from March 1938. Asked whether government spending should be increased to fight the slump, 63 percent of those polled said no. Asked whether it would be better to increase spending or to cut business taxes, only 15 percent favored spending; 63 percent favored tax cuts. And the 1938 election was a disaster for the Democrats, who lost 70 seats in the House and seven in the Senate.


Then came the war.


From an economic point of view World War II was, above all, a burst of deficit-financed government spending, on a scale that would never have been approved otherwise. Over the course of the war the federal government borrowed an amount equal to roughly twice the value of G.D.P. in 1940 — the equivalent of roughly $30 trillion today.


Had anyone proposed spending even a fraction that much before the war, people would have said the same things they're saying today. They would have warned about crushing debt and runaway inflation. They would also have said, rightly, that the Depression was in large part caused by excess debt — and then have declared that it was impossible to fix this problem by issuing even more debt.


But guess what? Deficit spending created an economic boom — and the boom laid the foundation for long-run prosperity. Overall debt in the economy — public plus private — actually fell as a percentage of G.D.P., thanks to economic growth and, yes, some inflation, which reduced the real value of outstanding debts. And after the war, thanks to the improved financial position of the private sector, the economy was able to thrive without continuing deficits.


The economic moral is clear: when the economy is deeply depressed, the usual rules don't apply. Austerity is self-defeating: when everyone tries to pay down debt at the same time, the result is depression and deflation, and debt problems grow even worse. And conversely, it is possible — indeed, necessary — for the nation as a whole to spend its way out of debt: a temporary surge of deficit spending, on a sufficient scale, can cure problems brought on by past excesses.


But the story of 1938 also shows how hard it is to apply these insights. Even under F.D.R., there was never the political will to do what was needed to end the Great Depression; its eventual resolution came essentially by accident.


I had hoped that we would do better this time. But it turns out that politicians and economists alike have spent decades unlearning the lessons of the 1930s, and are determined to repeat all the old mistakes. And it's slightly sickening to realize that the big winners in the midterm elections are likely to be the very people who first got us into this mess, then did everything in their power to block action to get us out.


But always remember: this slump can be cured. All it will take is a little bit of intellectual clarity, and a lot of political will. Here's hoping we find those virtues in the not too distant future.








Charlottesville, Va.

I WASN'T always a lawyer or a novelist, and I've had my share of hard, dead-end jobs. I earned my first steady paycheck watering rose bushes at a nursery for a dollar an hour. I was in my early teens, but the man who owned the nursery saw potential, and he promoted me to his fence crew. For $1.50 an hour, I labored like a grown man as we laid mile after mile of chain-link fence. There was no future in this, and I shall never mention it again in writing.


Then, during the summer of my 16th year, I found a job with a plumbing contractor. I crawled under houses, into the cramped darkness, with a shovel, to somehow find the buried pipes, to dig until I found the problem, then crawl back out and report what I had found. I vowed to get a desk job. I've never drawn inspiration from that miserable work, and I shall never mention it again in writing, either.


But a desk wasn't in my immediate future. My father worked with heavy construction equipment, and through a friend of a friend of his, I got a job the next summer on a highway asphalt crew. This was July, when Mississippi is like a sauna. Add another 100 degrees for the fresh asphalt. I got a break when the operator of a Caterpillar bulldozer was fired; shown the finer points of handling this rather large machine, I contemplated a future in the cab, tons of growling machinery at my command, with the power to plow over anything. Then the operator was back, sober, repentant. I returned to the asphalt crew.


I was 17 years old that summer, and I learned a lot, most of which cannot be repeated in polite company. One Friday night I accompanied my new friends on the asphalt crew to a honky-tonk to celebrate the end of a hard week. When a fight broke out and I heard gunfire, I ran to the restroom, locked the door and crawled out a window. I stayed in the woods for an hour while the police hauled away rednecks. As I hitchhiked home, I realized I was not cut out for construction and got serious about college.


My career sputtered along until retail caught my attention; it was indoors, clean and air-conditioned. I applied for a job at a Sears store in a mall. The only opening was in men's underwear. It was humiliating. I tried to quit, but I was given a raise. Evidently, the position was difficult to fill. I asked to be transferred to toys, then to appliances. My bosses said no and gave me another raise.


I became abrupt with customers. Sears has the nicest customers in the world, but I didn't care. I was rude and surly and I was occasionally watched by spies hired by the company to pose as shoppers. One asked to try on a pair of boxers. I said no, that it was obvious they were much too small for his rather ample rear end. I handed him an extra-large pair. I got written up. I asked for lawn care. They said no, but this time they didn't offer me a raise. I finally quit.


Halfway through college, and still drifting, I decided to become a high-powered tax lawyer. The plan was sailing along until I took my first course in tax law. I was stunned by its complexity and lunacy, and I barely passed the course.


Around the same time, I was involved in mock-trial classes. I enjoyed the courtroom. A new plan was hatched. I would return to my hometown, hang out my shingle and become a hotshot trial lawyer. Tax law was discarded overnight.


This was 1981; at the time there was no public-defender system in my county. I volunteered for all the indigent work I could get. It was the fastest way to trial, and I learned quickly.


When my law office started to struggle for lack of well-paying work — indigent cases are far from lucrative — I decided to go into yet another low-paying career: in 1983, I was elected to a House seat in the Mississippi State Legislature. The salary was $8,000, which was more than I made during my first year as a lawyer. Each year from January through March I was at the State Capitol in Jackson, wasting serious time, but also listening to great storytellers. I took a lot of notes, not knowing why but feeling that, someday, those tales would come in handy.


Like most small-town lawyers, I dreamed of the big case, and in 1984 it finally arrived. But this time, the case wasn't mine. As usual, I was loitering around the courtroom, pretending to be busy. But what I was really doing was watching a trial involving a young girl who had been beaten and raped. Her testimony was gut-wrenching, graphic, heartbreaking and riveting. Every juror was crying. I remember staring at the defendant and wishing I had a gun. And like that, a story was born.


Writing was not a childhood dream of mine. I do not recall longing to write as a student. I wasn't sure how to start. Over the following weeks I refined my plot outline and fleshed out my characters. One night I wrote "Chapter One" at the top of the first page of a legal pad; the novel, "A Time to Kill," was finished three years later.


The book didn't sell, and I stuck with my day job, defending criminals, preparing wills and deeds and contracts.

Still, something about writing made me spend large hours of my free time at my desk.


I had never worked so hard in my life, nor imagined that writing could be such an effort. It was more difficult than laying asphalt, and at times more frustrating than selling underwear. But it paid off. Eventually, I was able to leave the law and quit politics. Writing's still the most difficult job I've ever had — but it's worth it.


John Grisham is the author of the forthcoming novel "The Confession" and a contributor to the forthcoming collection "Don't Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit."








Ithaca, N.Y


TODAY we celebrate the American labor force, but this year's working-class celebrity hero made his debut almost a month ago. Steven Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue, ended his career by cursing at his passengers over the intercom and grabbing a couple of beers before sliding down the emergency-evacuation chute — and into popular history.


The press immediately drew parallels between Mr. Slater's outburst and two iconic moments of 1970s popular culture: Howard Beale's "I'm mad as hell" rant from the 1976 film "Network" and Johnny Paycheck's 1977 anthem of alienation, "Take This Job and Shove It."


But these are more than just parallels: those late '70s events are part of the cultural foundation of our own time. Less expressions of rebellion than frustration, they mark the final days of a time when the working class actually mattered.


The '70s began on a remarkably hopeful — and militant — note. Working-class discontent was epidemic: 2.4 million people engaged in major strikes in 1970 alone, all struggling with what Fortune magazine called an "angry, aggressive and acquisitive" mood in the shops.


Most workers weren't angry over wages, though, but rather the quality of their jobs. Pundits often called it "Lordstown syndrome," after the General Motors plant in Ohio where a young, hip and interracial group of workers held a three-week strike in 1972. The workers weren't concerned about better pay; instead, they wanted more control over what was then the fastest assembly line in the world.


Newsweek called the strike an "industrial Woodstock," an upheaval in employment relations akin to the cultural upheavals of the 1960s. The "blue-collar blues" were so widespread that the Senate opened an investigation into worker "alienation."


But what felt to some like radical change in the heartland was really the beginning of the end — not just of organized labor's influence, but of the very presence of workers in national civic life.


When the economy soured in 1974, business executives dismissed workers' complaints about the quality of their occupational life — and then went gunning for their paychecks and their unions as well, abetted by a conservative political climate and the offshoring of the nation's industrial core. Inflation, not unemployment, became Public Enemy No. 1, and workers bore the political costs of the fight against it.


Though direct workplace confrontations quickly dropped off, the feelings that had fueled them did not. Analysts began talking of an "inner class war" — more psychological than material, more anxious than angry, more about self-worth than occupational justice.


"Something's happening to people like me," Dewey Burton, an assembly-line worker for Ford, told The Times in 1974. "More and more of us are sort of leaving our hopes outside in the rain and coming into the house and just locking the door — you know, just turning the key and 'click,' that's it for what we always thought we could be."


Johnny Paycheck, a country singer, understood. Throngs of working-class people may have gathered around jukeboxes to raise a glass and chant the famous chorus to his most famous song, but they knew that his urge to rebellion was really just a fantasy: "I'd give the shirt right off of my back / If I had the nerve to say / Take this job and shove it!"


Similarly, in "Network," Howard Beale, a TV news anchor played by Peter Finch, became famous as "the mad prophet of the airwaves." But while he and his audiences may have been yelling, "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" the tag line was more a psychological release than a call to arms. After all, at the end of the film, Beale, already in suicidal despair, is murdered by his employer for meddling with the system.


The overt class conflict of the late '70s ended a while ago. Workers have learned to internalize and mask powerlessness, but the internal frustration and struggle remain. Any questions about quality of work life, the animating issue of 1970s unrest, have long since disappeared — despite the flat-lining of wages in the decades since. Today the concerns of the working class have less space in our civic imagination than at any time since the Industrial Revolution.


Occasionally a rebel shatters the silence. Like Steven Slater, though, they get more publicity than political traction. Many things about America have changed since the late '70s, but the soundtrack of working-class life, sadly, remains the same.


Jefferson Cowie, an associate professor of labor history at Cornell, is the author of "Stayin' Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class."











The conceit of an "open letter" is one we generally eschew at the Hürriyet Daily News. But on the odd chance we might have been slipped under the door of your hotel room this morning, today is an exception.


Certainly you are well aware of how appreciated your visit is by both fans and by many Turks who probably are not deeply familiar with U2. We share both in the admiration of your music as well as in the social activism with which you have been associated over the past quarter century. We too welcome you to Turkey.


Certainly you are also well aware that many in Turkey's media yesterday were focused on your pending walk with European Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış and conversation with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It is this dimension of your visit that prompts this brief note.


For we have no doubt that both focused on Turkey's recent strides in human rights, minority rights, the expansion of cultural rights for our Kurdish citizens, the growth of democracy and the retreat of militarism from the political sphere. Both Bağış and Erdoğan deserve a solid degree of credit. But we also have no doubt that both left a few things out of their recitations of virtue.


The ministers may have left out the fact that more than 1,000 Kurdish politicians are now imprisoned without indictment. They may have skipped over the details of the 90 journalists currently in jail or on trial and threatened with jail. The disgrace that has become the trial of the confessed killer of our colleague Hrant Dink, which has languished for nearly four years, may have come up in your conversation. We suspect not.


Given your efforts to focus worldwide attention on the humanitarian disaster that is Sudan's Darfur, perhaps Erdoğan repeated his often-made and spirited defense of the indicted Omar al-Bashir. But we doubt this too.


Elsewhere on this page, our columnist Joost Langendijk notes the irony that just last week Erdoğan's environment minister lashed out at a Turkish singer who has sought to emulate your style of activism, declaring that the singer should stick to music and "keep his nose out of politics."


We could list many other concerns with a leader who, while wrapping himself in the banner of democracy, also reflexively shows an authoritarian bent toward those who challenge his definitions.


This is not to diminish the real progress Turkey has made in recent years, through the valiant efforts of tens of thousands. Nor do we fail to acknowledge the fact that much of this has indeed occurred on Erdoğan's watch.


But continuing abuses of individual rights, continuing assaults on press freedom and a recurring intolerance of dissent remain ugly fixtures on our political and social landscape. We just thought we would mention this.


And if we can make a request, we hope that tonight you will again remember Fehmi Tosun.







With less than a week to go, Turkish political analysts are fixated on the referendum, but for economists, Sept. 13 is at least as important as Sept. 12.


I have been flooded with questions from like-minded readers in the last few days, who are wondering whether a "no" in the referendum would adversely affect Turkish assets. The answer to this question, at least in the short run, depends on what is being priced in, and it is impossible to be 100 percent certain on that. We can only make some assumptions and guesstimates.


Let's start with the obvious. A "no" victory is definitely not priced in. Almost all the polls are pointing to a "yes" win, although the ayes and nayes are very close in some. Moreover, most of the analyst reports I have received recently see a "yes" victory as in the bag.


Hot money flows confirm the confidence in Turkish assets. Although weekly Central Bank data show some sell-off in bonds and equities by foreigners in the last week of August, monthly inflows actually increased in the former and managed to stay the same in the latter. Even when normalized with data from EPFR Global, a company that tracks fund flows, inflows into Turkish assets look healthy.


All this means that the short-term adverse impact of a "no" win on markets would be rather bad, especially because a "no" victory would question not only the legitimacy of the market-friendly AKP government, but also the sustainability of the single-party rule, a rarity in Turkish politics. Do not count a black Monday in Turkish assets out in this scenario.


A similar argument could be made for a narrow "yes" triumph, especially if voter turnout is low, giving the opposition the chance to question the legitimacy of the AKP. By the same token, a very strong "yes" win would affect markets positively in the short term. I would define market-neutral, i.e. priced-in, territory in the 54 to 58 percent range.


In any case, the relative expensiveness of Turkish assets means that there is limited upwards potential even in the case of a strong "yes" victory. The recent flattening of the yield curve would, however, mean that its long end could be hit the most in case of a market-unfriendly outcome. And regardless of your view on the outcome of the referendum, the low implied volatilities in euro and dollar options, near pre-Lehman levels, means that it is easy to hedge referendum risk in the foreign currency market.


But more interesting is the long-term consequences of the referendum, as it will be business as usual in Turkish assets after a couple of days. And that depends on the reaction function of the AKP. In layman's terms, in case of a narrow "yes" or "no" victory, will the AKP throw off fiscal prudence (what is left of it) completely aside and open the coffers for all-out pork barrel spending?


Here, I beg to differ from the mainstream opinion, as I think that the AKP will go on a pre-election spending binge even in a strong "yes" victory. The longer-term consequences of such a policy would be disastrous, not only for the country's fiscal stance but also for inflation and monetary policy, as the new government is sure to lean on taxes and administered good price hikes. Such knockoff measures are the most common temporary patches to the budget in Turkey.

Whatever happens on Sept. 12, markets will correct after the initial reaction in the first couple of days. Some people will make money at the expense of others; c'est la vie, as the French say. Given there is not too much political noise in the aftermath of the referendum, quite an assumption in itself, markets will revert back to normal soon.


But messing up the country's fiscal stance will leave longer-lasting scars.










U2 is in town. On Monday night, one of the most successful rock bands in the world will be on stage at Atatürk Olympic Stadium. And what a stage it will be! It is the highest and largest set ever build in rock history, allowing fans to see the stage from every angle of the stadium, as the title of the tour, 360º, suggests.


I will be there. It is for the first time in many years that I even considered buying tickets for such a mega event. In the end, I decided to spend quite a lot of liras to see a band that I admired when they started out 30 years ago. I vividly remember their first LPs, "Boy," "October" and especially "War."


That album included the song "Sunday Bloody Sunday," a strongly politicized memory of the dramatic events of Jan. 30, 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland, in which 13 unarmed civil rights protesters were killed by the British Army. It was one of the absolute lows during the Troubles in Northern Ireland between Protestants, Catholics and the British authorities. This year, an official report found that the killings were both "unjustified and unjustifiable." British Prime Minister David Cameron, finally, made a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom.


"Sunday Bloody Sunday" was the song that most clearly showed the social and political engagement of U2 that made the band so popular among activists in those early days. From the mid-1980s, I started losing track. The music of U2 changed and became, in my opinion, sterile and bombastic. It was only in 2000, with the release of "All That You Can't Leave Behind" which features the classic song "Beautiful Day," that I rediscovered the band. In the mean time, U2 and especially its lead singer Bono had become global celebrities, known for their compelling music, their memorable performances and, in the case of Bono, for his geopolitical activism.


Ten years ago, the singer with the eternal sunglasses got involved in campaigning for third-world debt relief and raising awareness of the plight of Africa. Bono can still be seen on stage of course, touring the world with U2, but most people probably know him better from his highly publicized meetings with U.S. president George W. Bush or Brazilian president Lula da Silva. He was dubbed "the face of fusion philanthropy" by the New York Times for his efforts to enlist powerful allies and set up new networks in the fight against hunger and AIDS in Africa.


Back to Turkey. Combining his art with activism, Tarkan could be called the Turkish Bono. His impact on trends and fashion in music in this country is huge, his personality in the media sometimes larger than life and Tarkan has gone activist as well, especially on environmental issues. Recently, he made it known that he thinks that Allianoi, one of the oldest known spa settlements, should be protected. Allianoi is at risk of being submerged underwater with the creation of a nearby dam. Tarkan's stance on the highly controversial dam project earned him the wrath of the minister for the environment, Veysel Eroğlu. He harshly criticized Tarkan, saying, "The singer should deal with his art, and he shouldn't poke his nose into issues he doesn't understand. (…) His comments on the construction of a dam, or the protection of a historical artifact, are extremely wrong."


I have some questions for the minister. Dear Minister Eroğlu, can you explain to me why the rest of the world is happy when singers and other artists get involved in social and political issues while you seem to be immensely upset when the world of culture is linked with the rest of society? Why can't Tarkan do for Allianoi what Bono is doing for Africa?


On top of that, if Tarkan should be silent on the dam project, why is your party so happy to enlist singer Sezen

Aksu in the campaign for a "yes" vote on Sept. 12? Is she more knowledgeable about the Constitution than Tarkan is about the dam? Or is your reaction to Tarkan an example of your party's dangerous tendency to cherish people and organizations that agree with them and to make life difficult on those that are of a different opinion, whether they are called TÜSİAD or Tarkan?








The first time I went to Israel was in 1998. I was working on a project for the Foreign Ministry's Center for Strategic Research and stayed there for more than a month. I am sure every person who visits Israel leaves the country with unforgettable memories and mine were related to my chats of many hours with refined Israeli intellectuals. What I also have never forgotten were the Soviet Jewish immigrants, the number of which is estimated to have reached almost a million.


As an expert in former Soviet geography, I chose to spend my time in Israel in close contact with these people. I ate in their restaurants, walked in their neighborhoods, and read their dailies, mostly in Russian. To my surprise, I soon discovered that these people have not at all been able to be integrate into Israeli society. More importantly, they seemed more aggressive and radical than the average Israeli who was born on Israeli soil.


The history of Russian/Soviet Jewry is a very tragic one. The persecution of Jews in Czarist Russia goes back to the times of Ivan The Terrible and had a strong religious zeal. The Russian Orthodox Church, blaming the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ, frequently resorted to anti-Semitic appeals. They were forced to live under abnormal economic and social conditions in a strictly defined area called the Pale of Settlement.


However, it was it was the turmoil of the 19th and 20th centuries' revolutionary movements when the Russian Jews suffered the most. Pogroms were a part of their daily life. The prominent expert on Russia Richard Pipes, in his monumental work titled "The Russian Revolution," says that during the early 20th century, "the Jews had not experienced such fear since the Middle Ages."


The oppression by the Czarist regime contributed to the large number of Jews found in radical movements. One such group was the Bolsheviks and outspoken members of the Bolshevik cadres were of Jewish origin. Yet the discrimination against the Jews did not stop during the Soviet period, with the most notable example being the allegations made against them during the Stalin-era "Doctors' plot" of 1953. Some historians believe that had Stalin not died the same year this plot would have resulted in the mass deportation of Soviet Jews.


It is the descendants of these people who, under Israel's law of return, emigrated in the 1990s to Israel. Yet many of them were not coming from practicing Jewish households and were not Jewish in terms of Halacha, or religious law. More importantly, their arrival created a kind of unrest among Israelis. While the subsidies the immigrants received caused resentment among ordinary Israelis, subsequent failures by governments with regard to housing as well as employment opportunities strongly disappointed the newcomers.


Soon this disappointment turned into radicalization. The famous Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, himself of Jewish origin, hated to be reminded that he was a Jew and liked rather to be called an "internationalist." The same psychology came to be prevalent among the youth of these people. Some of them wanted to acquaint Russian Israelis with Russian national culture and prevent "Russian people" from converting to Judaism. They became inclined to anti-Semitism. As a result, the number of incidents with a neo-Nazi or fascist streak has increased dramatically over the past 15 years in Israel.


Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beiteinu, has been specifically formed to represent these immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Among its 15 Knesset members, eight, including Lieberman, were born there. The party is well known for its radical views and strong anti-Palestinian stance in Israeli foreign policy.

A couple of days ago it came to light that it was they who blocked a necessary attempt to normalize relations between Israel and Turkey, which have badly deteriorated since an Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara in which nine Turkish citizens had lost their lives. According to a story by Ynetnews, an English-language Israeli online news portal, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Israeli Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer drafted a preliminary apology letter during a secret meeting in Brussels in June, but the effort was reportedly thwarted by Lieberman. This comes as no surprise given that it was Lieberman and his deputy Danny Ayalon who had summoned the country's former ambassador, Oğuz Çelikkol, and forced him to sit on a lower chair as a rebuke.


I now humbly pose a question to my Israeli friends, in particular those intellectuals I mentioned in my opening who are sure that the positive experiences of the Israeli people that I have here related are heartfelt: If it had been that case that Turkey was responsible for the deaths of Israeli citizens, no matter under what pretexts, what would be your reaction? More importantly, how would the Israeli people react to such a scandal?








Thirty in June, 15 in July and seven in August: 52 members of the Turkish security forces have been added to thousands killed in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, over the last three months.

Today, a more informed society wants to know why the Turkish military suffers heavy losses in the fight against the PKK – a terrorist organization the country has now been fighting for more than 25 years. More importantly, an increasing number of people hold the Turkish General Staff responsible for the deaths. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has also received considerable criticism. For many, it's the AKP policies such as the "Kurdish Opening" that led to the recent surge of PKK activity and increased military casualties.


After several mind-boggling statements such as introducing a "private army" to fight the PKK, the government announced that it was working with the military to create all-professional army units for combat missions in eastern Turkey. However, this plan can neither provide better security, nor can it address the problems the armed forces face.


Security forces created with specific tasks, such as border protection or counterinsurgency, often evolve into self-governing groups and tend to operate out of their defined roles. Disbanding or integrating such groups is also a difficult process. Once given a specific role in the conflict, they resist removal of their special status. So, creating another group of soldiers and giving them an important responsibility in a decades-old conflict may have little effect.


Instead of quick-fixes and temporary solutions, a long-term modernization process should be the focus. The military needs substantial reforms on various levels: from organization to education and training to procurement and organizational management. Over the last couple of decades, most Western nations adjusted their armed forces to the changing nature of security by downgrading and adopting organizational reforms as new threats required smaller, faster and more sophisticated military organizations. Yet, the Turkish military resisted change and kept its Cold War-era security understanding and organizational structure.


Even today, the Defense Ministry and the General Staff have limited experience in objective and scientific

analysis, accountability and budgeting. Due to this lack of expertise, national security policy, perceived threats and the procurement of military equipment – are all decided with limited to no analytical and scientific feed from experts. For instance, the country often faces difficulty in procuring the right equipment when needed or keeping up with the fast-changing threats to national security. That is why, while billions of dollars are spent on early warning aircraft (which has no use against the PKK) and submarines (that the country literally buys for virtual threats), urgent operational requirements such as mine- and ambush-resistant vehicles or attack helicopters (one of the most critical weapons in irregular warfare) take almost a decade to purchase.


Conscripts receive poor training and lack critical equipment required in the field. While thousands are sent to fight against the PKK or defend military posts, many more are used for services such as cleaning, driving anmd base maintenance – all of which can be provided by contractors. Yet, the military leadership promotes conscription which puts people's lives at risk and misuses the country's human capital. Problems also persist in commissioned and non-commissioned personnel management. Pre-determined paths set early in officers' careers limit the potential each individual could bring to the system. And, unlike modern forces that depend on highly professional noncommissioned officers, the Turkish military has only recently begun investing in its NCOs.

Moreover, customary practices and interests created an organizational structure that is resistant to change and innovation. Often, talented young officers face difficulty in exploiting their potential and find it better to quit the service. This translates into a command structure that has a smaller number of the "best" officers available for promotion to high ranks. In modern military organizations, only the best officers are expected to make it to senior leadership and regulations are enforced for this end. For example, according to the United States Department of Defense Instruction 1320.13, 80 percent of the "best qualified" O-4 level officers (Major) and only 70 percent of the "best qualified" O-5 level officers (Lieutenant Colonel) have the opportunity to be promoted to a higher rank. In Turkey, however, almost 100 percent of the O-5 level officers are promoted to the rank of Colonel. This irregularity causes accumulation of colonels occupying positions that do not benefit the organization.


Today, the success in irregular war depends heavily on the ability to secure the local population's support. However, the military can no longer reach out to the Turkish public. This is due to the failure of not keeping up with the changing nature of communications. The military needs to adopt a new public affairs strategy to establish better communication channels with society, particularly with the local population in eastern Turkey. This approach should put professionalism and strategic communications, not cliché press releases and amateur advertising techniques, at its center. Today, most organizations use social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter for public affairs. But, the military remains suspicious about social networking and the Internet. It's communication with the world via the Internet is carried out through a very poorly designed official website. Establishing a Public Affairs Directorate tasked with developing communication strategies and Facebook and Twitter can help the Turkish army to spread its message around the web.


In the words of Sun Tzu "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is simply the noise before defeat." Turkey's biggest national security concern has been the PKK for the last decades. Yet, the country has a significant "strategy" gap. The AKP government often holds national interests hostage for politics. Thus, it fails to fill foreign and domestic policy gaps that are essential in implementing a long-term strategy. The military, on the other hand, is not a learning organization. Controlling mountaintops, building military outposts and depending on mass conscription no longer provide security and tactical advantage. Today's conflict environment requires an intelligent organization which is open to reform and innovation and that can learn from its mistakes.


* Murat Onur is a master's candidate at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs








Thirty in June, 15 in July and seven in August: 52 members of the Turkish security forces have been added to thousands killed in the fight against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, over the last three months.


Today, a more informed society wants to know why the Turkish military suffers heavy losses in the fight against the PKK – a terrorist organization the country has now been fighting for more than 25 years. More importantly, an increasing number of people hold the Turkish General Staff responsible for the deaths. The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has also received considerable criticism. For many, it's the AKP policies such as the "Kurdish Opening" that led to the recent surge of PKK activity and increased military casualties.


After several mind-boggling statements such as introducing a "private army" to fight the PKK, the government announced that it was working with the military to create all-professional army units for combat missions in eastern Turkey. However, this plan can neither provide better security, nor can it address the problems the armed forces face.


Security forces created with specific tasks, such as border protection or counterinsurgency, often evolve into self-governing groups and tend to operate out of their defined roles. Disbanding or integrating such groups is also a difficult process. Once given a specific role in the conflict, they resist removal of their special status. So, creating another group of soldiers and giving them an important responsibility in a decades-old conflict may have little effect.


Instead of quick-fixes and temporary solutions, a long-term modernization process should be the focus. The military needs substantial reforms on various levels: from organization to education and training to procurement and organizational management. Over the last couple of decades, most Western nations adjusted their armed forces to the changing nature of security by downgrading and adopting organizational reforms as new threats required smaller, faster and more sophisticated military organizations. Yet, the Turkish military resisted change and kept its Cold War-era security understanding and organizational structure.


Even today, the Defense Ministry and the General Staff have limited experience in objective and scientific analysis, accountability and budgeting. Due to this lack of expertise, national security policy, perceived threats and the procurement of military equipment – are all decided with limited to no analytical and scientific feed from experts. For instance, the country often faces difficulty in procuring the right equipment when needed or keeping up with the fast-changing threats to national security. That is why, while billions of dollars are spent on early warning aircraft (which has no use against the PKK) and submarines (that the country literally buys for virtual threats), urgent operational requirements such as mine- and ambush-resistant vehicles or attack helicopters (one of the most critical weapons in irregular warfare) take almost a decade to purchase.


Conscripts receive poor training and lack critical equipment required in the field. While thousands are sent to fight against the PKK or defend military posts, many more are used for services such as cleaning, driving anmd base maintenance – all of which can be provided by contractors. Yet, the military leadership promotes conscription which puts people's lives at risk and misuses the country's human capital. Problems also persist in commissioned and non-commissioned personnel management. Pre-determined paths set early in officers' careers limit the potential each individual could bring to the system. And, unlike modern forces that depend on highly professional noncommissioned officers, the Turkish military has only recently begun investing in its NCOs.


Moreover, customary practices and interests created an organizational structure that is resistant to change and innovation. Often, talented young officers face difficulty in exploiting their potential and find it better to quit the service. This translates into a command structure that has a smaller number of the "best" officers available for promotion to high ranks. In modern military organizations, only the best officers are expected to make it to senior leadership and regulations are enforced for this end. For example, according to the United States Department of Defense Instruction 1320.13, 80 percent of the "best qualified" O-4 level officers (Major) and only 70 percent of the "best qualified" O-5 level officers (Lieutenant Colonel) have the opportunity to be promoted to a higher rank. In Turkey, however, almost 100 percent of the O-5 level officers are promoted to the rank of Colonel. This irregularity causes accumulation of colonels occupying positions that do not benefit the organization.


Today, the success in irregular war depends heavily on the ability to secure the local population's support. However, the military can no longer reach out to the Turkish public. This is due to the failure of not keeping up with the changing nature of communications. The military needs to adopt a new public affairs strategy to establish better communication channels with society, particularly with the local population in eastern Turkey. This approach should put professionalism and strategic communications, not cliché press releases and amateur advertising techniques, at its center. Today, most organizations use social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter for public affairs. But, the military remains suspicious about social networking and the Internet. It's communication with the world via the Internet is carried out through a very poorly designed official website. Establishing a Public Affairs Directorate tasked with developing communication strategies and Facebook and Twitter can help the Turkish army to spread its message around the web.


In the words of Sun Tzu "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is simply the noise before defeat." Turkey's biggest national security concern has been the PKK for the last decades. Yet, the country has a significant "strategy" gap. The AKP government often holds national interests hostage for politics. Thus, it fails to fill foreign and domestic policy gaps that are essential in implementing a long-term strategy. The military, on the other hand, is not a learning organization. Controlling mountaintops, building military outposts and depending on mass conscription no longer provide security and tactical advantage. Today's conflict environment requires an intelligent organization which is open to reform and innovation and that can learn from its mistakes.


* Murat Onur is a master's candidate at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs








Years ago, during a private discussion with one of the most senior figures of center-right politics in Turkey, I was shocked to hear him say that perhaps there would not have been a coup in 1960 if Turkey had a constitutional court at the time.


It was, and still is, very difficult for center-right and even conservative politicians in Turkey to publicly criticize the former Democrat Party, or DP, that ruled this country from 1950 to 1960 until it was overthrown from government with a coup. On the contrary, it has become some sort of a tradition to ignore all the anti-democratic practices of the power-obsessed and truly majoritarian DP governance.


A center-right politician saying perhaps there would not be a coup in 1960 if Turkey had a constitutional court at that time was indeed a confession that he agreed the DP was violating the constitution. Furthermore, that statement was some sort of an approval for the 1960 coup as he was conceding that the coup came because there was not a high court to control autocratic and anti-democratic moves and designs of the DP. Confident that he would never ever try to legitimize a coup, I was shocked.


While for the left, the 1960 coup brought an end to the DP governance and prepared the best-ever constitution of this country, conservative politics were never ever happy with the 1960 constitution and eventually after the 1971 coup the rights and liberties enshrined in that constitution were all butchered up. How would a center-right politician talk so positively about the 1960 coup or criticize the DP government?


As it was a private discussion, I did not write anything about that conversation but noted it down – I long gave up this requirement of journalism fearing to find myself in a prison cell at the Silivri prison together with some other journalists wondering for the past more than two years why they were sent there – and at another get together with that senior politician I asked him what he indeed wanted to tell me.


The answer was rather striking. He conceded that he could not publicly criticize the DP period but it was the replacement of norms of democracy and particularly the principle of protecting the rights of the opponents with a majoritarian understanding based on the "Nation voted us in with an overwhelming majority. We represent the national will. Since the will of the nation is above everything else and since we decide for the nation, we are above everything else" obsession.



The DP government was on the way out and perhaps should it call for an early election in 1960 rather than introducing that notorious parliamentary "Inquiry Commission" with the power of a high court to judge and thus silence the opposition [not only opponent politicians but some non-political critics, including journalists, were questioned by that commission] perhaps there would not be a May 1960 coup and the coup tradition that seriously impaired the progress of Turkish democracy would not be established in this country.


The parliamentary Inquiry Commission was indeed nothing less than empowering a group of ruling party deputies to act like a "coup council" which was equipped with the powers of judging opponents, restricting press freedom, without obtaining a court warrant ordering raid on homes, offices of opponents to gather evidence and such. Furthermore, there could be no appeal against the decisions of the commission and objecting decisions or rendering work of the commission difficult was criminalized by up to three years imprisonment. Besides, reporting on commission activities was prohibited and reporters would risk up to three years imprisonment.


That commission, establishment of it of course was a civilian coup, was created on April 18, 1960 and its first decision as to prohibit all political activities throughout the country. That decision itself testifies what the commission as indeed was. Through it the Adnan Menderes government was aimed at converting the country into a dictatorship of the DP.


Those who still dispute the possibility of civilian coup must examine that period more carefully.

The institutions targeted by the government in the Sept. 12 referendum, that is the Constitutional Court, as well

as the Judges and Prosecutors High Board, are institutions created by the 1960 coup against the autocratic designs demonstrated by the DP government to serve as a "control mechanism" against possible similar designs


These and similar institutions, which were made vulnerable to government interference, or control, with the 1971 amendments, must of course be made more independent from political influence but now they are facing an even bigger challenge from a power-obsessed majoritarian mentality.


The decision is yours, can you still say "Yes"?








Only 15 months after his historic Cairo speech there are alarming signs that U.S. President Barack Obama's new engagement policy with the Middle East may soon find its place in history's dustbin.


The Obama administration's withdrawal announcement of U.S. "combat" troops from Iraq by the end of August is nothing more than a PR campaign to rename the occupation. Similarly, the newly announced direct peace talks between the Netanyahu government and the Palestinian Authority doesn't seem more than a tactical move for political gains in the current conjuncture, aimed to secure the Jewish vote in the mid-term elections in November and to ease the Netanyahu government's unprecedented isolation before the international community. To make matters worse, the beating war drums in the region between Israel and both Hezbollah and Iran raise fears that the region may plunge into a larger scale chaos, which would mean a disaster for all actors involved, including the United States.


Obama's election victory inspired unprecedented hope around the world but especially to the people of the Middle East, where eight years of George W. Bush's unilateral policies virtually destroyed the U.S' reputation. When he decided to make his first overseas trip to Turkey in April 2009, Turks embraced Obama. During his trip, an opinion poll conducted by Infakto Polling Company showed that 52 percent of Turks trusted Obama, a huge improvement compared to their two percent confidence in President George W. Bush in 2008.


The Turkish public hoped that Obama's strong message of change would translate into a significant change in the U.S. Middle East policy. But, this hasn't been the case.


Iraq remains unstable and we are still far from the end of the war. Despite the media hype about the withdrawal of the U.S. "combat" troops, this move doesn't signify the end of combat mission in Iraq. There are still remaining 50,000 U.S. troops in 94 U.S. bases with significant combat abilities and moreover, private contractors will simply be taking over the responsibilities of the withdrawn U.S. troops. In other words, this is nothing more than renaming the occupation for political purposes. It is not hard to see the symbolic nature of this withdrawal just by looking at the size of the U.S. bases and diplomatic facilities and the huge number of private contractors in Iraq. In terms of security, July was the deadliest month for civilians for more than two years and the political stalemate still continues, even more than five months after the March elections, with no hopes of any solution in the near future. What is even more worrisome for Turkey is the increase in the deadly attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, with the current political chaos and the lack of federal authority in Iraq.


On the Afghanistan front, the war doesn't seem to end in the near future either and, on the contrary, has had signs of spreading into Pakistan, further destabilizing the region. The Obama administration's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan was another important factor that questioned Obama's credibility in the region.


Meanwhile, the Armenian Genocide resolution, which passed the House Foreign Relations Committee in March 2010, created an uproar in the Turkish public. As a consequence, Turks' confidence in Obama dropped to 23 percent in May 2010, down more than half from only a year before.


In June, the Obama administration attempted to water down the UN Security Council condemnation of Israel's deadly assault on the Turkish humanitarian aid ship in international waters of the Mediterranean. Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, offered unconditional U.S. support for Israel after the flotilla incident. This deadly attack and its aftermath had two important consequences. It put Turkey right at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and inevitably further tarnished the U.S' image in Turkey. Consequently, if the current UN Panel of inquiry put together by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon fails to come up with tangible results such as an Israeli apology and compensation, which seems unlikely, a break in Israeli-Turkish relations and further deterioration in U.S.-Turkish relations should come as no surprise.


In the Arab World


The situation hasn't been any different in the Obama administration's relations with the Arab Middle East. The blurry picture both in Iraq and Afghanistan raises fears that the U.S. will not leave the region any time soon. In addition, U.S. military attacks in Yemen and Pakistan, and Obama's failure to build bridges with Syria, further tarnished his image in the region. In his attempt to restore ties with Syria, the U.S' demand for Syria to distance itself from Iran and Hezbollah in return was viewed illusory by many. And Obama's renewal of economic sanctions, first imposed by Bush in 2004, ended hopes of U.S.-Syrian rapprochement – even before they matured.


On the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, rated the most important factor in the Arab public's disappointment with Obama policies according to a recent Arab opinion poll, Obama's failure to pressure the Netanyahu government into stopping new Jewish settlements in occupied territories, lifting the Gaza blockade, and starting peace talks with Palestinians, played an important role in the dramatic decline in the hopes for the Obama administration's Middle East policy. Only 16 percent of the Arab respondents said they were hopeful in 2010, down from 51 percent a year ago, according to the survey. In addition, Obama's efforts to kiss and make up with Netanyahu during the July 6 summit in Washington did little to raise the peacemaking profile of the administration among Arabs. After all this, the newly announced direct peace talks are not seen as anything more than a political maneuver in the current conjuncture and do not excite anyone in the region.


As a result, Arabs in the Middle East have increasingly come to the same conclusion. Obama has good intentions, but he is unable to make any changes in U.S. policies and has to defer to Congress and the Washington lobbies. Accordingly, 38 percent of the people surveyed in the same Arab opinion poll said that "they have favorable views of Obama, but don't think the American system will allow him to have a successful foreign policy." Obama is not simply handcuffed by dynamics in the region. He must also face the financial reality that pro-Israeli sentiments play a major role in the Democratic Party and among party contributors. In a political system, where as much as 40 percent of all contributions to Democratic candidates are donated by Jewish Americans, any pressure by the Obama administration on the Netanyahu government before November doesn't seem very likely.


There are also legitimate fears that the region may plunge into a larger scale chaos. In a recently released Contingency Planning Memorandum from the Council on Foreign Relations, retired U.S. Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer argues that a third Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah is imminent. According to the report's scenarios, Israel might attack Hezbollah or lure it into a war. Or it might use a conflict with Hezbollah as a cover for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. If Israel attacks Hezbollah or Iran, or in the case of a joint U.S.-Israeli attack on Iran, the conflict is likely to spread throughout the region and have irreversibly devastating effects.


Is Obama the Last Hope?








 There is understandable confusion as to just how much–or how little–aid Pakistan is getting from foreign donors to help us cope with the effects of the Great Flood. Conflicting figures and statements are made almost every day. The latest announcement of financial aid has been made by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which at first glance appear generous. The IMF board has been asked to approve the payment of an extra $450 million in emergency assistance to be made available in September. The World Bank announced a further $100 million, bringing to $1 billion the amount committed to us, to be paid in the current fiscal year. The money will be coming from the World Bank's fund for the world's poorest countries–the International Development Organisation–meaning that it does not attract interest. What the man in the street may not realise is that not only is this money not a gift, we have to pay it back at some point. It is not new money either, as it was already committed to us via other World Bank programmes and is simply being diverted to meet emergency needs.

There being no such thing as a free lunch, the money comes with strings. Not new strings, but old strings retied. Specifically, the World Bank is not prepared to reposition itself regarding financial reforms which include the implementation of the tax and energy sector reform, which includes GST and VAT, a reduction in inflation, a curbing of the budget deficit and full autonomy for the State Bank. Given that GDP targets are predicted to be missed by at least 1.5 per cent and that inflation is likely to rise from nine to 13 per cent in the coming months, these targets may be difficult to meet. Robert Zoellick of the World Bank also said that the Great Flood underscored our "fiscal vulnerability and dependence on foreign aid"–of which there can be no doubt. We are to remain indebted for the foreseeable future and there are concerns among our donor bodies and nations as to our capacity to effectively spend the aid that is coming our way. Zoellick said that ongoing donor response is going to depend on "the government's ability to deliver." Realistically, the Great Flood is going to lower domestic growth and affect the current budget because of the need to spend more–on top of which the government will be able to raise less revenue via taxation in the short-to-medium term. Reconstruction costs are going to run into the many billions of dollars. We are never likely to see more than $10 billion dollars of aid in cash or kind to help us through this–and this in a month where the Congressional Research Service in the US estimated the cost of the Iraq War thus far to have been $2 billion per week. Which makes the Great Flood worth about five weeks of wasted warfare.





 The welcome sight of Indian fishermen released from our jails crossing the border into their homeland was long overdue. Equally overdue is the release of Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails. Both sides have used these fisherfolk, none of whom has ever been convicted of anything other than not knowing precisely which bit of the sea they were sailing on, as pawns in the countries' ongoing struggle with one another. The fisherfolk have not set out to land themselves in jail in the other country, to see their boats confiscated and then to rot by the quayside, and to be worried about the anguish of their families who know little of the fate that has befallen them. All they have been trying to do, as they have for centuries, is eke a living from the sea. Their small craft are not equipped with sophisticated navigation aids, they steer by the stars–or a compass if they are really lucky. Finding themselves on the wrong end of a Pakistani or Indian coastal patrol boat was not what they had in mind when they cast off earlier in the day.

It is to the credit of the government that it has finally expedited the release of 442 Indians who have completed their sentences. After the release of another batch of 101, the last batch of 141 was released on Saturday —leaving 108 still in custody either pending trial or having uncompleted sentences. There are 155 Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails, 80 of whom have completed their sentences. A number of prominent Indians sent a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Aug 30, asking that there be a reciprocal release. Neither side has anything to gain by the detention of these men. Both sides might do well to consider a development programme for their fishermen that would equip them all with a GPS, deliver the training on how to use it and thus keep all out of harm's way. Meantime, both sides need to take a long, hard look at the value of detaining straying fishermen. It is time to move on to bigger things and leave behind petty territorialities that have little significance in the wider picture.





 Pakistan is still reeling from the massive floods. Millions are living under open skies by the roadside and their homes, villages and towns have been destroyed. The world is confused about how to effectively help the displaced, not trusting the government of Pakistan with their relief aid, fearing that disreputable politicians and officials will find ways to channel the funds to their own bank accounts. But the response of civil society to this tragedy has exceeded all expectations. They have really opened their hearts. People in small villages and towns have emptied their homes to accommodate the flood victims and shared with them their grain supplies, which were barely enough to feed their own families. Many people from the urban centers have travelled to flood-affected areas with truckloads of food, water, medicines and other essential goods to distribute in relief camps. Doctors have brought medical supplies and set up makeshift hospitals at various sites at their own expense. Various charities and non-governmental organizations are doing their best to cope in the absence of a visible, effective government.

We have not had a lot to hold our heads up high about and be proud of who we are in recent years. But as much as the floods shattered lives and caused pain and suffering, the prompt and generous response of civil society raised our spirits and gave us reason to be proud to be Pakistani, knowing that there is a common heartbeat, a sense of unity and purpose that are the fundamental building blocks of what it means to be human.
But just as we were giving ourselves a pat on the back, the national psyche suffered a debilitating body-blow in the form of the murder of the two young boys in Sialkot. In another earlier incident in Gujranwala, alleged criminals were killed by vigilantes and their mutilated bodies paraded through the streets in police vehicles, followed by a huge mob. About a year ago, looters were caught in Karachi, locked up in a room and burned to death by angry mobs. It has now surfaced that such barbaric acts of vigilantism on the part of the citizens have been encouraged by the police, who themselves stand totally impotent before the rising tide of crime. The Sialkot incident generated the highest uproar since it received the most vivid media coverage, the scenes of the murder and hanging of dead bodies being shown on television.

Since this was a crime in which civil society, in the form of the passive onlookers, must be regarded no less culpable than the murderers, the shocking incident called into question our moral fibre as a nation. Doubts and suspicions surfaced and anger arose, aimed not just at the spectators or the police for not intervening to prevent the atrocity, but also at ourselves. Who are we? What are we? Do these monsters and their monstrous actions identify us as a nation? Omar Khayam wrote 'I sent my soul through the invisible, some letter of that afterlife to spell. And by and by my soul returned to me and said "I myself am heaven and hell." ' We chose to go on with the flood relief effort, focusing on the positives, hoping there was a little bit more heaven in us than hell.
And now this. If the Sialkot incident was a body-blow, the cricket team corruption scandal is a vicious hook to the jaw that has all but put us on our backs. In all fairness, the allegations have yet to be substantiated as I write this and the accused players have to be given a chance to present their side of the story. But even if these particular allegations prove to be false, much smoke has been blowing for quite some time. Our cricket team has hardly enjoyed a squeaky clean reputation since the last few decades, having been plagued by charges of match-fixing, ball-tampering, etc. Have we forgotten images of Shahid Afridi on television, merrily munching on the ball during a match? The problem is that no severe, exemplary action has ever been taken against players found guilty of past misconduct that may serve as a deterrent. 

Token bans or fines are imposed but are often rescinded as a gesture of patronage by higher authorities. Shahid Afridi was made captain as a reward for ball-munching. If the present allegations are proven to be true, this will be too much for a beleaguered nation to absorb. Selling out national pride and honour for a fistful of pounds at a time when children are dying by the roadsides of hunger and diseases will be the ultimate betrayal, the ultimate disgrace. It will be beyond tolerance.

Sweeping changes are needed, beginning with the PCB, which has become dysfunctional as a sports-governing body and has, instead, become a den of corruption, intrigue and politics. New, clean and responsible people must be brought in. Then sweeping changes must also be made on the team. Players even marginally tainted by the faintest stigma of corruption in any form and at any time must not only be banned for life, but also be subjected to criminal prosecution. New, young talented players must be given a chance to represent their nation. The West Indies were unbeatable not so long ago. But they have been going through a rebuilding phase for the last several years. We need to do the same and should accept that we will lose some matches in the process until the team comes of age and experience.

All this is symptomatic of a larger malady. It is reflective of a total administrative collapse in the hands of an incompetent and corrupt government and the institutionalisation of corruption, which successive governments over the last few decades have openly indulged in, instead of attempting to root it out. The situation has now come to a head since notorious people with corruption and even criminal cases against them have been voted into power on a sympathy vote, who routinely defy laws and court rulings as if nothing matters but their own will. What message can pardoning jail terms of criminal convict friends send to the nation, but that crime pays and you will never see the inside of a prison if you have the right connections? With the government promoting an unrestrained free-for-all, why should the cricketers not try to get away with whatever they can when everyone else is doing the same? Why should people not take the law into their own hands when they expect no justice from a dysfunctional system and those who run it? The rot is permeating from the top downwards and needs to be quashed at the source.

We have already been branded terrorists by the world and now this cricket corruption scandal has all but cemented our position as one of the most, if not the most, corrupt country in the world, in case the infamous shenanigans of our present rulers was not proof enough. It is no wonder that some are inviting military intervention, because change has become a very desperate necessity. The floods, the Sialkot incident, the cricket corruption scandal and all the sleazy mess that has transpired since this government came to power, have drained the nation's morale and capacity for tolerance. Things simply cannot go on like this. This country needs to be rescued. The nation must rise and say 'Enough! No more!' Things appear to be moving in that direction. The floods could be the much needed catalyst. This nation no longer has the will to take the pounding it is subjected to by wave upon wave of national disgrace and shame.

The writer is vice-chairman of Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.







 As a nation we like democracy, it suits our psyche. We like variety because we get bored easily; we love yapping, and the opportunity democracy provides for this is endless, and we excel in criticism, which is also what democracy jealousy guards. 

However, there are attributes of democracy that do not gibe with our outlook. For example, there is the notion in democracy that all men are created equal, which is manifestly untrue. Take a look around any room and you will see that it is not so, and attempts to fly in the face of this fact have led to all sorts of absurdities. And, anyway, even if they are born equal, quite a few eventually get over it. 

Then again, in a democracy the people are supposed to be the repository of wisdom. In the last century literate electorates have chosen to lead them the biggest mass murderer in modern history, Adolf Hitler, and so too the founder of Fascism, Mussolini. Indeed, had Stalin stood for election in 1945, one is confident that he too would have been returned to office, by a worshipping electorate. Even Churchill, who presided over the British Empire during the great Bengal famine of 1942 and was responsible for several million Bengalis starving to death on account of neglect, was re-elected in 1951. 

Pakistan too is reverberating from the consequences of the people's choice of leaders. Proponents of democracy today were rewarded for the faith reposed in the wisdom of the people by their selection of Mr Zardari. Of course, that is not to say that the dictators were any better, but at least no proponent of dictatorship has ever claimed that it is the best system of government, barring none.

Some feel that we must give democracy a chance and that a few more elections will wash away the slime, and thereafter democracy will emerge in its full lustre. They, therefore, counsel patience and hope. They say hope is a good thing and that it "springs eternal." But Benjamin Franklin said that "he that lives upon hope will die fasting." For in the end hope must be satisfied, otherwise hope is worthless. "In fact, it already is," said a friend the other day, announcing for all to hear: "Since I gave up hope I feel much better."

What the people want of any system, democracy, autocracy, or what have you, is that it should "deliver." And delivery is basically a question of management. It is a skill that can be found in an unexpected source, and in an elected as much as an unelected leader. Nor does one need to be a boffin. Lenin, for example, felt that "any cook should be able to run the country." Presumably, the cook Lenin had in mind had a lot of practical abilities that he could bring to bear on the business of government. Politicians, on the other hand, are less versed in the practical skills of management and administration; drama and dramatics are their forte, hence they prefer masquerading as over-promoted managers with a delusional view of their own effectiveness.

Bureaucrats, mostly products of an abysmal public educational system, are no better. Their purpose in office is to find a problem for every solution. Their talent for creativity and innovation is confined to evolving measures to enrich themselves. They can count schools which do not exist and claim maintenance costs for bridges that were never built. They keep "minutes" and waste hours; "defend the status quo long past the time that the status quo has lost its status"; write memos not of what was said but what should have been said and generally are excellent in communicating how not to do things. Of course, democracy is not responsible for their malfeasance, not by any means; but that they flourish in democracy understandably gives democracy a bad name. 
So glaringly obvious has been the lack of delivery of a democratic government in almost every sphere of life that we have reached a pass today where the public will willingly forego all their democratic rights in return for someone, anyone and any system, that will deliver.

One had thought that the flood would be the game changer, given the enormity of the challenge and, what will certainly be, the matching inability of the government to meet it. Alas, that does not seem likely anymore, and the reason is not that the anticipated failure of the government does not warrant a convulsive change of the system and the way things are done, but because those mostly affected happen to be the poorest of the poor.
One can see it on the screens, millions of the hitherto invisible and unwashed emerging from the waters bedraggled, bereft and lost. It is that segment of the population, referred to as our "brothers" and "sisters" in the speeches of politicians, who are rarely seen, seldom heard and who never count. These millions of unwanted exist only in statistics. Moreover, to be poor and influential in Pakistan is impossible; to be simple and politically savvy even more so; hence, their pitiable condition won't be addressed. They will return, in due course, to their hovels, still unwanted, still unheard, a confused, miscellaneous rabble still clutching little more than their soiled vestments and half-worthless notes given by the state, if they are lucky. Their crime is to be poor. 

Without equality of opportunity, an acceptable standard of living and work for those who can work, and, above all, without a modicum of security and justice-all missing in today's Pakistan-no system is safe, democracy most of all.The writer is a former ambassador.






The recent devastating floods have shaken the whole country. Together with the loss of human lives and crops, destruction of property and death of livestock, millions of people have been left homeless, with no food to eat and no clean water to drink. On top of that come the apathy and slow reaction of the authorities, and pictures of police mercilessly beating hungry, starving women with staves. It is a shame the people can stoop to such beastly behaviour-and that too during the holy month of Ramazan.

The flood-affected people are waiting and hoping that foreign aid will alleviate some of their miseries. But there is very little hope of that aid trickling down to the people who need it most. Not for nothing are foreign agencies and countries hesitant to give us funds. Many of us still remember the devastating earthquake of the mid-seventies. Hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid poured in, of which there are no transparent records. However, we do know that a lot of it was sent into foreign accounts abroad. Then we have the recent example of the devastating earthquake of 2005. Six hundred million dollars in foreign aid was received, but even today thousands of poor Kashmiris are living under the open sky, yet to receive any assistance. This callous attitude of the rulers has resulted in total loss of credibility with foreign donors who are now openly talking of our leaders in "percentages" and are demanding total control and transparency in the use of aid. 

In the Holy Quran Allah has ordained that people not despair or lose faith in His benevolence. In Surah Hijr (15:55-56) it is written: "We give you the glad tidings in truth; be not, then, in despair." It is for this reason that religiously learned people always emphasise that there does not exist a problem that is not surmountable and that human beings should never despair or give up. The point to be made here is that, while despair is human, it should not lead to loss of faith. At the same time, it is a cardinal sin for those who are in a position to help not doing so.

In our school days we were given a story to read that depicted courage and hope in achieving a goal. A king had been defeated by his adversary eight times and lost his kingdom. He took shelter in a cave with a few of his loyal comrades. He was devastated and had decided to go somewhere far away. Then he saw a spider trying to climb over an obstacle, but repeatedly falling down. After a number of attempts, the spider finally managed to climb to where it wanted to be. The king took heed and felt ashamed of his thought of giving up when such a small creature as a spider did not give up, even after many failures. There and then he decided to fight on. He planned well and eventually succeeded in defeating his enemy in the 9th attempt and was able to reclaim his kingdom. 

We have another example in Shahabaddin Ghauri. He had come all the way from Ghaur to alleviate the sufferings of the Muslims under Prithivi Raj. He was defeated, lost a large number of his men and many officers fled the battlefield. A young soldier saved the wounded king and took him back to Ghaur. Ghauri was ashamed and furious and dealt severely with the deserters. It is said that he then saw Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in his dreams, who advised him to forgive his officers, prepare his army again and attack Prithivi Raj once more. The next year, with hardly twelve thousand horsemen, he defeated an army of 125,000. Prithivi Raj and a number of other rulers were killed in the battle. This led to the founding of Muslim rule in India. Again, it was hope of winning, not despair over the possibility of losing, that gave Ghauri the determination to fight again. 
If we look at history, we find many such examples. The victory of Caesar against the Gauls, the victory of the Russians after the Germans laid siege to Leningrad for three years and, most of all, the determination and hope of the British against the Nazis after tremendous initial setbacks. The case of Humayun who came back from Iran after 12 or 13 years to reclaim the Delhi throne, is also worth mentioning.

If we look at our nuclear programme, we see that, other than Mr Bhutto, Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Mr A G N Kazi, Mr Agha Shahi, Gen Imtiaz, my wife and myself, very few believed that there was any hope of success. Our determination and hope made it possible to overcome all hurdles, and not only succeed but achieve the success in record time. Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan once admitted that, had it been anyone other than me, he would have given up hope and departed. 

Similarly, many dangerous expeditions, like the climbing of Mount Everest and K-2, solo sailings and solo flights around the globe, have been undertaken by people who not only had courage and determination but, above all, also hope of success.

In our own country we have the shining example of the restoration of the judiciary. Gen Musharraf, and later the so-called democratic government, never tired of telling us to forget Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry and other discharged judges and think of them as part of history. They even advised them to have "mercy" on the country by voluntarily resigning from their jobs. However, the judges, the lawyers and the general public never gave up hope and their efforts led to the fulfilment of this hope. 

There is a saying in Urdu that the world lives on hope. In our religion, to lose faith and hope is a cardinal sin. The Prophet Yaqub (AS), while advising his sons to go in search of his son Yusuf (AS), told them that they should not lose faith in the benevolence of Allah as only kafirs do that.

The country is facing a most serious situation due to the deaths of thousands of people, destruction of houses, bridges, canals, dams and houses caused by the devastating floods. But people must face the situation with courage and hope and, Inshallah, Allah, the most compassionate, the most benevolent, will alleviate their sufferings. Allah has promised: "So, verily, with every difficulty there is relief. Verily with every difficulty there is relief." (94:5-6.) That is not to say that we should simply sit back and do nothing. There will be severe chastisement for those who callously neglect to help the needy or who baton-charge them during the holy month of Ramazan.





In 1960, Israeli agents kidnapped former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires and tried him for his role in the Holocaust. The New Yorker sent philosopher Hannah Arendt to what was then West Jerusalem to report on his trial. Eichmann was hanged on May 31, 1962. Arendt published a series of articles about the trial in the newspaper and later published the book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The book, particularly "banality of evil" in the sub-title, enraged leading intellectuals of the day, as well as Jewish leaders. What she meant by the phrase was that evil deeds committed during the Holocaust on a gigantic scale were not committed by demonic Nazis but by average (banal) persons, like Eichmann. 

The lynching of the two brothers by a mob in Sialkot on Aug 15 shows that violence has become banal for the average Pakistani. The way the two young men were brutally beaten, and from the treatment meted out to their dead bodies strung upside-down from a pole, people thronging to see the brutality and recording it on mobile sets reveals that callousness has become mundane in Pakistani society and does not shock our sensibilities. Factors contributing to this phenomenon have emerged in different times and contexts, but their intersection these days is what makes violence banal. 

The 1980s witnessed the emergence of Jihadi ideology, Kalashnikov culture and ethnic violence in Pakistan. The 1990s saw the rise of the sectarian monster, and more ethnic violence. With the advent of the 21st century Pakistan faced the scourge of terrorism. The post-9/11 period coincided with the phenomenal growth of the electronic media in Pakistan, and its extensive focus on the issues of terrorism, insurgency, invasions, bombings and atrocities around the world. Since then we have been consistently bombarded with violent images, and our language has been imbued with vocabulary drawn from violent events. 

Another factor contributing to the deadening of our sensitivities and sensibilities is the moral collapse of our society. One's feeling hurt or getting offended by uncivilised and brutal acts is a faculty that is socially cultivated. Our society has become sadistic, masochistic, vandalistic and jingoistic, none of which traits is conducive to the fostering of civilised behaviour. When these multiple factors intersect in such an ambience, then violence becomes banal and civilised behaviour turns into anomaly in the overall social fabric.


Consequently, human beings become impervious to brutality and fundamental structure of experience changes.
Lynching in Sialkot connotes changes in the fundamental structure of the experience and psyche of Pakistani society during the last three decades. The mob in the Sialkot incident consisted of common people who were unable to think and feel that they were committing brutal and inhuman acts. The yawning abyss between brutal deeds and the ability to think things through is symptomatic of a deeper malaise in our society, which is being devoured by nihilistic tendencies. As a result, our society has lost its sense of direction and sensibility and turns gory scenes into spectacles for entertainment. This is a sign of the retrogressive movement of our society in which we let loose our primal instincts at the cost of rationality.

Many people in Pakistan, including some of our leaders, still believe that public executions of culprits or criminals can easily uplift the moral standards of our society. Such a mentality is typical of traditional and feudal society. With the onset of modernity in Europe, strategies of power shifted from control over body through torture towards making it docile by controlling the soul. The imperceptible way of controlling bodies was made possible by human sciences that have become an organised, more technically- thought-out knowledge. In other words, they developed organised political technology of the body. In a nutshell, the modern punishment system, in the words of Michel Foucault, struck "the soul rather than the body."
The societies of today have transformed themselves into developed and progressive ones by changing the fundamental social conditions by bringing about shifts in institutional purpose and focus, not by merely subjugating the populace through display of raw violence but by moulding the mind in a rational frame. Take the example of school, hospital, prison and an asylum for the mentally ill. Traditionally, these institutions tried to produce a disciplined populace by sheer physical control. In modern times a shift occurred, with the institutions employing indirect techniques of control by influencing the mind, which in turn made the body docile.

The current state of our society needs radical changes at the structural level for a better social conditioning. This can only be done if we align our institutional roles and our approach with modern times. The difference between institutional aims and existing requirements makes our institutions dysfunctional at worst and anachronistic at best. Under the influence of an obscurantist mindset, Pakistan experienced the reduction of the aesthetic domain and entertainment spaces. The absence of such spaces produced a gap which is being filled either by pornography, drugs or watching of violent scenes with relish.

To eradicate violence from everyday life we direly need to redefine the role of institutions, engage with arts and aesthetics and provide entertainment spaces. Otherwise, we are doomed to live in a sadistic ambience, which will ultimately rob us of the last vestiges of humanity and turn our country into a place where disorder dictates the order of things.

The writer is associated with a rights-based organisation in Islamabad.








The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.

Shortly after reports first appeared in April this year of an agreement between Pakistan and China on financing the construction of two nuclear reactors, Chashma-3 and Chashma-4, to be built in Pakistan by Chinese firms, the Indian Government went into high gear trying to scuttle the project with Washington's support. In a statement in the upper house of the Indian Parliament on 26th August, Indian Foreign Minister Krishna declared that "Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear reactors is of serious concern to us and we are keeping a close watch on this." India, he said, would take appropriate steps to ensure that its national security is not jeopardised. The Times of India reported the next day that India would intensify lobbying the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) to prevent China from building the reactors in Pakistan.

Krishna did not explain in his statement why the acquisition of two Chinese nuclear reactors by Pakistan, which will be under IAEA safeguards, should be a cause for such concern to Delhi and how it would pose a danger to India's national security. Since India is not a member of the NSG, it hardly has any basis to complain, as Washington has done, that the supply of the reactors would violate the Group's guidelines on nuclear trade. 
Yet, India has good reason to be upset. For one thing, it will poke a hole in the global embargo on nuclear trade with Pakistan which the NSG maintained when it lifted the ban on India two years ago. Pakistan's nuclear ostracisation is a major Indian policy goal and the supply of Chinese reactors to Pakistan would be a major setback to this policy.

But a bigger worry for India is the possible implications for its regional and global ambitions which have had Washington's unqualified encouragement and support since the two countries concluded their nuclear deal in 2006. That deal, it is now clear, was part of a two-track US policy of strategic engineering in Asia. 
The first track, in the memorable words of the then Secretary of State Rice, was to "make India a global power" as a potential counterweight to a newly resurgent and assertive China. 

The second track, not so openly stated, but hardly less central to Washington's plans, was the strategic downsizing of Pakistan. It goes under the code word "de-hyphenation" of Pakistan and India and is meant to serve the aim of enhancing India's capacity to contain China, because a weaker Pakistan would mean that less of Indian "military force and strategic attention" - to borrow words from a recent article by Lisa Curtis, South Asian expert of the Heritage Foundation - would have to be diverted to the old archrival.

The Bush administration's policy of making India a global power and downsizing Pakistan has been continued under his successor. At the India-US strategic dialogue last June, Secretary of State Clinton stressed Washington's desire to raise India, a regional power, to the level of a global power and the Under Secretary Burns urged India to guard against re-hyphenating itself but instead to play its full role in Asia and the world. 

The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has ignored warnings that the nuclear deal would enable India to enhance its nuclear arsenal. On 1st August, the two countries signed an agreement that gives India the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel of US origin but does not contain adequate safeguards against the diversion of plutonium that would be extracted for India's weapons' programme.

Although the Obama administration has been speaking of overcoming the "trust deficit" with Pakistan and building an enhanced strategic partnership, it has continued the policy of maintaining the embargo on nuclear trade with Pakistan. When Pakistan raised this matter at the upgraded Pakistan-US strategic dialogue last March, Washington's reply was a polite but categorical "No." 

There were some indications early this year that Washington might acquiesce in the sale of Chinese reactors to Pakistan in return for Beijing's support on the imposition of tougher sanctions against Iran and on other issues. The Deputy Secretary of State Steinberg said in mid-May that the US was carefully reviewing Beijing's plans to help Pakistan build two civilian nuclear reactors and had not "reached a final conclusion."

Washington's position has hardened since then. At the last meeting of the NSG held in New Zealand in June, US officials said that Washington would object if Beijing claimed that the supply of the reactors to Pakistan was "grandfathered," (i.e. covered under China's declaration of ongoing projects made at the time it joined the NSG) and that China should seek an exemption from the Group's guidelines. On 22nd July, Van Diepen, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-proliferation, went further and told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the US would not support any exemption to China for selling the nuclear reactors to Pakistan. 

Indian officials claim that Washington hardened its stance after India told the US at their strategic dialogue last June that Delhi had serious objections to the proposed China-Pakistan nuclear deal. The Obama administration also seems to have come under pressure from Capitol Hill, especially in the India caucus, to oppose any sale of reactors to Pakistan. 

But other factors might also have been at play. The toughening of the U.S. stance could be a reflection of what the Economist has called a more "muscular" strategy of containment adopted recently by the US towards China. This was signalled by Hillary Clinton at the ASEAN Regional Forum last July where she declared, much to the annoyance of China, that an American role in enforcing the peace in the South China Sea was in her country's "national interest." 

There are also reports that to dissuade China from going ahead with the supply of reactors to Pakistan, Washington might make use of the leverage enjoyed by foreign companies that cooperate with China in designing reactors. 

The Obama administration has recently showed willingness to conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement with Vietnam without insisting, as it has done in recent negotiations with other countries, that Hanoi forswear uranium enrichment. In the backdrop of China-Vietnam tensions over Paracel Islands and the growing military ties between US and Vietnam, this has been denounced by China's state-run media as an example of US double standards. But it would be a little far-fetched to conclude, as some commentators have suggested, that Washington was also conveying a not-so-subtle message to Beijing not to go ahead with the supply of reactors to Pakistan.

The question of the supply of Chinese nuclear reactors to Pakistan will be coming up at the next meeting of the NSG in Vienna in November. India has been lobbying intensively in the capitals of the major members of the group (US, Russia, France and Britain) who supported the waiver in its favour, and China and the smaller countries (like New Zealand, Austria and Ireland), which initially opposed it. The outcome of the NSG meeting is however likely to depend not so much on India's diplomatic clout or its lobbying effort but on whether Beijing and Washington can work out a mutually acceptable solution. 

At a town-hall meeting in Pakistan on her visit to Pakistan in July, Hillary Clinton once again spoke of a trust deficit between Pakistan and the US. Rebuilding trust, she said, was difficult work that demanded patience and persistence. But she omitted to say that it also demands truthfulness, something which has been sadly lacking. The trust deficit will only go away if the truth deficit is first addressed. 

Unfortunately, Clinton did not use the opportunity she had of doing so in her town-hall meeting. Like other US officials before her, she asserted that Pakistan was being denied nuclear technology mainly because of the proliferation activities of the A.Q. Khan network. This is hardly convincing. The A.Q. Khan network has served as a convenient and plausible pretext but the reasons lie elsewhere and are to be found in Washington's strategic engineering plans for Asia, which are focused on "making India a great power."






Booting the computers on a quiet Sunday morning to find that the News of the World had broken a cricket match-fixing story was a bad way to start the day. And it just carried on getting worse. I had been brought up to have nothing but contempt for the News of the World. My parents were very clear about what they did and did not like in their newspapers on a Sunday. They had no objections to investigative reporting, but were very definitely of the opinion that sleazy tales of divorce and adultery (big news in 1950's Britain) were inappropriate Sunday fare. So they read the Sunday Express and the Sunday Telegraph as good Tories still do and looked very suspiciously at me when, at around fourteen, I started reading The Times.

Be that as it may, the NoW is still the UK's biggest-selling Sunday paper (2,987,730, January 2009) and the great British public is as much in love with a little light pulchritude with their Sunday bacon-and-eggs as they ever were. But I digress. I read the NoW story, watched the video of money being counted out on the coffee table, and was certain that by lunchtime Pakistan would be consumed by a scandal like no other for a very long time. Not since the last cricketing scandal, probably. And so it was, with the glum melodrama being played out on a bumpy pitch between teams that developed an increasingly corrosive relationship as the days went by.
By last Friday it was clear if you read the back-story carefully that whatever we were seeing was the tip of an iceberg, that players, bookies and fixers had all been at this game for a long time, that there was some Very Big Money involved and no, it is not a wicked conspiracy by the Indians to defame us yet again. There are Indians involved, true, but not at the level of an attempt to bowl googlies at ourselves by their secret agencies. Are our ambassador to the UK or any other person involved from our side going to buy that? Of course not. By the morning of Tuesday last there was a collective falling of all concerned into the safety net of conspiracy theories; the default position when accused of breaking Auntie Alice's favourite china dog. Three of Our Lads were suspended pending further investigations, the British police have charged nobody with anything yet (this is not unusual in cases where there are newspaper exposés, which generally result in a civil not a criminal, prosecution) and Our Lads are, naturally, innocent as babes. The NoW is promising 'further revelations' so the whole sorry mess might have got worse by the time this is read.

Why bother writing about it? Because if I, as a man with a lifelong aversion to games with leather balls and willow bats and terms like 'silly-mid-off' feel a powerful sense of despair – then what must all those millions of people in Pakistan who are avid fans of cricket be feeling? We cannot take refuge in the 'it's only a game' argument because that is one thing it isn't. Not here. Cricket is a part of the national psyche, an item of emotional luggage that nobody leaves home without. Had the fixer been exposed here somebody would have fixed it that he either disappeared or brought in a platoon of sweepers and got him and others swiftly under the nearest carpet. All neat and tidy and the Pakistan solution. But it happened there, not here. And there is very different. 'Expect more revelations'. Oh dear, not again!

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:








PRIME Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani has announced to immediately convene an All Parties Conference (APC) in order to develop a consensus strategy for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction in the flood affected areas. A unified national response could not be witnessed so far to deal with the severity of the floods that devastated one-fifth of the country but now that a crucial stage is ahead the government needs backing of all the political forces to carry out the daunting task.

The decision by the Prime Minister to call the APC is timely as all the pros and cons for reconstruction and rehabilitation would be taken into consideration. The World Bank and the Asian Development Banks are to complete the Damage Need Assessment by the end of this month and their report would carry lot of weight about the actual losses caused by floods. According to initial reports, about 20 million people have been affected by the floods, tens of thousands of houses destroyed or damaged and standing crops either washed away or badly affected. The losses would be beyond the capacity of Pakistan to cope with. In this situation, international community would have to be appealed for generous assistance as it is helping in rescue and relief operations. Billions of dollars would be needed to provide succor to the affected people for a short period as they have lost all the means, for reconstruction of houses and infrastructure and provision of seeds and fertilizer to the farmers in the affected areas. Though the Prime Minister has not given a date for the APC yet it is expected to be held after the CCI meeting today (Monday). However during his address in the National Assembly on Saturday the Prime Minister gave his vision as how to handle the post flood situation which we think would serve as food for thought for the CCI and APC to come up with more ideas for the good of the affected people. There have been persistent demands from the Provinces and some political leaders urging the Federal Government to release international aid to the provinces. We think that has to be done after the WB-ADB report is received. However it was a welcome announcement by Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani that the relief process would continue for eight months as this would give a sense of satisfaction to the people who have lost every thing and were worried about their future. We hope that in view of the national and people's interests the political parties would respond positively to the PM's call and extend a helping hand to the Government in carrying out this gigantic task to the satisfaction of every one.








THOUGH hitherto unannounced and indirect talks were going on between Afghan government and Taliban representatives to find out ways and means to bring peace to the war torn country, yet both sides were reluctant to admit it in the open. But now the circumstances have compelled President Hamid Karzai to hold formal dialogue with Taliban and other resistance groups who have been involved in a bloody struggle to oust the occupation forces from their country. 

The Afghan President on Saturday announced the setting up of a High Peace Council to pursue peace talks with the Taliban which is being described by analysts as most significant step. Though the names of the members of the Council have not been announced, yet it is expected that they would include influential tribal figures including some former Mujahideen commanders who enjoy respect and have understanding both with the Government, Taliban and other groups. President Karzai has been under pressure from the United States and NATO countries that Afghan army and police should take over the security responsibilities from July 2011 to enable their forces to start pulling back. This would be a very difficult task for him unless and until he reaches out some sort of compromise with the Taliban. Taliban have proved that they are a force to be reckoned with as despite presence of all the military might and use of brute power by the Western Alliance, their influence has increased with the passage of time in the last about nine years. Karzai knows that Afghan Army and Police would not be able to standup to Taliban and some experts have suggested that they would crumble down once the Western troops hand over them complete security duties. We think it is time that Pakistan too should hold some sorts of talks with the Taliban on its side of the border to persuade them to join the national mainstream. At the same time the Government must start implementing the development package in the terror affected areas that would not only bring socio-economic development but also provide jobs to the people who give up the path of militancy.






THE journalist community was shocked to know and watch the details about the abduction and torture of a senior Correspondent of daily The News on Saturday. Mr Umar Cheema, according to details was whisked away to a secret safe house, subjected to severe physical torture and humiliation by the abductors. 

Mr Cheema has earned a position of respect in the journalist community and the readers in due course of time for his investigative stories which exposed many scandals. He was abducted early in the morning when he was going to his home for Sehri after attending a gathering of friends. That means the abductors waited for him all night, intercepted him and then forced him to get into their land cruiser where he was handcuffed, blindfolded and told that he was being taken to a police station. Instead Mr Cheema was taken to a safe house where he was brutally tortured, humiliated and his head and moustaches shaved off which we condemn. What is more shocking and disturbing is that the kidnappers conveyed their threats to journalist Mr Ansar Abbasi. It is indeed a very serious development and some serious measures are needed to avoid repetition of such most condemnable acts. It appears that the Government which has shown and promoted tolerance is now fast loosing patience. The incident will no doubt further sour and strain Government-Press relations. We would impress upon the Government to ensure strict security for Ansar Abbasi, Umer Cheema and others who are receiving regular threats and order a thorough inquiry into the incident so that the culprits are apprehended and given exemplary punishment.









I am against Aid because I witnessed it becoming uglier and agiler over my long years in the Foreign Service. In the 1950s I dealt with Colombo Plan aid in Canada and much later sat in negotiation with the Japanese on Yen credits, The Canadians dealt with us in the 50s like between two friends, the Japanese then like between two business parties, but the Paris Consortium had an aura of negotiations with a Mahajan, or a money lender. I knew what transpired inside "Paris Consortium". There were unseemly attitudes of donors even in early days. I was Secretary of Pak Delegation at Colombo Plan Finance Ministers Conference, at Ottawa, in 1953, when our delegation was led by Finance Minister Chaudhry Mohammed Ali. The insolent manner in which the Australian member, spoke to Secretary Economic Affairs Saeed Hassan disgusted me. This repulsion against aid stuck in my mind. When I was posted at Tokyo I had a long argument with Finance Minister Shoaib on our dinner for him. I said we are mortgaging the future generations of Pakistan to donors. We would be unable to bear the burden of loans and interests on them. Finance Minister. Shoaib concluded saying "kaun laita haiy or kaun deta haiy" Time has proved falsity of this hope. 

In 1950s I could not understand how Aid could be an instrument of their foreign policy, when the American Government defended it in its Senate. In time as we grew weaker we learnt that aid is the best instrument to make a country subservient to the donor. It facilitated the powerful donor to nominate rulers of the indebted country and even to pull the rug from under their feet and nominate their successors. Aid is a misnomer. Seemingly it is a means of making loaning country's people friend but its real purpose is to buy the ruling elite of the indebt country..

Aid started as a program to train personnel of newly independent countries in technologies for development activities like Colombo Plan. That was not a loan but helping newly independent countries to get technical training. Then Aid was like a credit card for shopping machinery and technical experts for it from within the lending countries themselves. This condition was beneficial to the lending countries as they normally sold their goods at about 20 to 30 per cent higher than if bought through international tenders. These were "project aid" for specific projects on which thorough technical discussions took place before agreeing to give aid, like Mangla Dam, Tarbella Dam, Sindh River Aerial Survey for oil deposits, construction of Warsak Dam, etc. 

We misused the facility by not paying back the loan However, in those days too, aid was used as an instrument to pressure us to obey their demands like on asking us, to open our atomic energy project to inspection etc. But from the 80s the aid was sought given not for a specific project but for "budgetary support". In this way the Lending country started having a direct voice in our economic policies. Aid as "budgetary support" brought America individually to acquire control over the government, and when we became economically and politically weak, US even started meddling with nomination of the rulers. Western powers joined hands with US to virtually form a consortium of economic powers to keep borrowing country under control. Two subsidiary partners in this economic/financial control over the borrowing countries are the I M F and the World Bank. The heads of these two institutions are from the Western world, and nominees of US. This accounts for these countries who took to the royal road of living on borrowed money in time becoming subservient to the US and economic giants. Such economic holds were used long ago on China, Ottoman Empire and Egypt of pro-Nasser days, Aid is the sweet slow poison to losing independence.

There are, however, examples of two borrowing countries who did not get hooked on to the aid poison Brazil and South Korea. Of course the rise of Asian tigers is also a case of adoption of a different attitude to dependence syndrome. If soundness of the currency of a country's international standing then in those days Pakistan had reasonably sound economy Today Pakistan with $ 54 billion aid ( when dollar is equal to Rs 85.70) Pak currency is the weakest in Asia, If one would look at the international press, Economist, Wall Street Journal, Japanese Press, of the Sixties one would discover that Pakistan reached a high position in all developing countries under Ayub regime, if the international press knew its facts. No one knows the true standing of his country in international community than an Ambassador or diplomat. In those days I was Deputy Ambassador in Tokyo and I recall how Pakistan was wooed by the Japanese Government and business circles. Pakistanis came to Tokyo to buy cargo ships on cash payment on the spot and sailed off to Karachi. We used to register them as Pak ships under Consular conventions. This never happened again. 

South Korea, got rid of its aid , and is today an Asia tiger, the other way to develop and manage country's affairs is through Self Reliance Begging or being a Madame Bovary of international community is not self reliant . Let me remove one fallacy in this context. Self reliance is not being confrontationist in diplomacy. Self reliance is self respect, coexistence but keeping national honor. The immediate problem of helping the Displaced Persons is considerably eased by the outstanding performance of the Armed Forces, Army, Navy and Air Forces. Without them the Displaced Persons would have perished in large numbers. The Civil society came next in providing food, shelter, medical help, doctors which was a laudable patriotic act, despite our limited resources. These helps were very timely and crucial in saving lives and providing food shelter and medical help whatever was its magnitude. It proved that patriotism and human feelings are strong among Pakistanis. 

But next the Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, on their own came forward to share the burden as part of the great brotherhood to which we belong. Saudi Arabia played the role of Ansars of Madina towards the Makkan muhajirs in the earliest days of Islam. But this only means that every Muslim country sent volunteers and tangible most needed help. This fraternal help is without any strings attached This is pure and simple the help of brothers to another brother. No country outside the circle of Muslim brother countries could match the Saudi or Turkish or any other Muslim country's help. It was just help nothing else. . 

It may be questioned whether we should seek "aid" from Western countries when we are already indebted to the tune of $ 54 billion .For two to three years the effects of the destruction of flood on our economy would be very serious. We should avoid making appeals for aid. It would signals that for long time Pakistan is a case of charity basket, down and out. Self Reliance is still unknown idea to our rulers The power of the awam is still anathema to our fancy suits wearing politicians.








Devastating flood water is lost in to Arabian Sea, leaving behind ugly scars of socio-economic disruptions which would take years to heal. Now is the time for rehabilitation and reconstruction, which is a painfully long process. Affectees need a healing touch to reconcile with the losses which can not be made up.However, at the same time, there is a need to reevaluate our initial response to the catastrophic floods. Apart from the quick and timely action by the armed forces, most of our national agencies and institutions were almost in a state of paralysis in the context of initial response. Adequate preparations could have reduced the losses to a great extent. 

Failures were many. Starting from the forecasting or strategic warning perspective, complacency resulted in sloppy preparation to generate requisite effort to mobilize appropriate flood fighting mechanism. Advances in metrological forecasting make it possible to make fairly accurate predictions about such impending disasters. Ample data is available from open sources; hence there is no plausible reason for such a lapse. Understandably, all alerting actions are dependent on accurate assessment of the meteorological data. We need to review our forecasting system and procedures; and plug in knowledge and technical gaps so that our assessments are accurate. 

Unlike earthquakes, floods come with ample warning to enable preparatory damage reduction and damage prevention actions. Moreover, as flood water moves North to South, the preparatory actions in the southern part of the country should be much better than the Northern areas, for which there is minimum warning. Nevertheless, during the recent spate of floods, flood fighting was equally sloppy in the southern parts of the country.

At policy level, we need to strengthen institutional monitoring and direction. It would be appropriate to set up a Cabinet level Committee to oversee national flood fighting effort. This committee could carryout its first review of the year say in March each year to evaluate meteorological forecasts. Subsequent reviews could be scheduled keeping in view the gravity of the matter. 

There is need to review the mandate of all existing agencies responsible for flood fighting. National Flood Commission, National Disaster Management Authority, Indus River System Authority, Water Department, Irrigation Departments are just few of these organizations. Their mission statements, and assigned roles and tasks need a re-look, in unison, for enhancing coherence and interoperability in a synergic way, while minimizing duplication of effort. Similarly, panic could have been reduced to a great extent if the breaching policy was well tabulated and articulated.

Handling an emergency like massive floods needs organizational reorientation of departments and agencies. Therefore, it is necessary that a 'Flood Fighting Order' may be proclaimed at such occasions, which should lay down various organizational changes needed to achieve optimum efficiency to combat floods. This order should specify an elaborate operating procedure giving guidelines for each department and agency. This order should be available with all action entities. Proclamation of this order by the federal government should trigger applicable actions by all departments. NGOs and Charities are known for playing important part is rescue and relief operations. Therefore, it would be appropriate to integrate their effort into overall national plan. This would help in reducing duplication of effort and even distribution of relief services and aid.

Our experience in disaster management indicates that International search rescue and relief operations take about a week to get into a concrete shape. Therefore, it would be appropriate to harness all available national resources to bear the full brunt for about a week till international aid starts flowing in. This period is critical in terms of ability to reach out to the effectees. Immediate requirement is of food and medicines as well as the ability to reach out to the stranded people. 

Therefore, it is essential that on first indication of floods, logistic chain be activated for arranging adequate stocks of 'ready to eat' food packed in floatable packages alongside preventive medicines for water borne diseases. These stocks should be held at decentralized locations to reduce the time consumed in transporting the goods to affectees. Similarly adequate teenage and prefabricated shelters need to be arranged in advance.

As rail road infrastructure is generally damaged by the floods, aircraft becomes the only way of distributing essential commodities; hence there is a need to enhance our airlift capability especially in terms of rotary aircraft. These helicopters should be a part of our national civil aviation outfits for routine commercial usage, which could be acquired for rescue and relief operations, on as required basis. Moreover, there is a need to be self sufficient in speedily setting up temporary bridges and availability of appropriate boats to execute effective initial response. 

Principle of centralized control and decentralized execution is best suited for these operations. As the flood water moves from north to south so should the rescue and relief assets. Implementation of rescue and relief operations is overseen by the provinces; therefore, it is appropriate to review the procedures and practices at provinces' levels as well, to make the initial response quick and matching to the situation. Some of the actions needing attention are:- Preparation of elaborate plan of action down to locality level, involving comprehensive community participation. Dissemination of flood warning to the public, and mentally preparing them for a timely and orderly evacuation. Arranging preventive medication against waterborne diseases. Earmarking of camp locations and medical facilities for each locality likely to be evacuated. Timely setting up of camps with basic facilities would reduce the panic and bring soothing effect to the affectees. Stocking of ready to eat food, drinking water and medicines.

Implementing security measures to safeguard the personal safety and security of property. Requisition of suitable transports for facilitating expeditious evacuation and implementation of relief operations. Arranging alternative means of reaching out to affectees in case of disruption of access by land. Orderly return of affectees to their places once the flood recedes. 

With political prudence, societal pressure and community participation, adequate measures can be instituted to handle the floods in an orderly manner, with minimum loss of life and property. Ability to put up an efficient initial response would enhance our credibility and prompt early and adequate response from international community. Climate pundits predict frequent recurrence of this type of floods in our region. It's time to prepare well to combat the floods in future; Monsoon 2011 may not be far away. 

The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.








Lailat ul-Qadr or 'Night of Power' is a very important occasion in the history of Islam and in our personnel lives. During Ramazan falls the night of al-Qadr on which day the Prophet received his call and First verses of the Holy Quran were revealed at Mt. Hira. "Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. (97.1). It is on this night that God's decree for the year is brought down on the earthly plane. "And Angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees". (97.4).

"The Night of Power is better than a thousand months." Yusuf Ali interprets this verse as, "A thousand Nights must be taken in a very indefinite sense as denoting a very long period of time. One moment of enlightment under God's light is better than thousand of months/years of animal life and such a moment of enlightenment translates into a period of spiritual glory". The Holy Prophet (Pbuh) said about al-Qadr whosoever rises up for vigil and prayers during the night of al-Qadr with faith, and in hope of recompense, will have all his previous sins forgiven.

Maulana Mohammad Ali Johar in his eloquent discourse the religion of Islam comments, 'the injunction laid down in the Holy Quran runs as follows: the month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed….(2:185). It will be seen from the words of the injunction that the choice of this particular month is not without a reason. It is well known that the Holy Quran was revealed piecemeal during a period of 23 years and this verse states that the Quran's revelation began in the month of Ramadan, which is historically true. The first revelation came to the holy prophet (PBUH) during Ramadan when he was in the cave of Hira. The month which witnessed the greatest spiritual experience of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was thus considered to be the most suitable month for the spiritual discipline of the Muslim community which was to be affected through fasting.

Allah says in the Qur'an in Surah Al-Qadr: "We have indeed revealed this (message) in the Night of Power. And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. Therein come down the angels and the spirit by God's permission, on every errand: Peace! This until the rise of Morning." (97:1-5) 

Allah also says about this powerful night in Surah Dukhan: "By the book that makes things clear. We sent it down during a blessed night. For We (ever) wish to warn (against evil). In that (night) is made distinct every affair of wisdom, by command, from Our Presence. For We (ever) send (revelations), as a mercy from Thy Lord: for He hears and knows (all things)". (44:1-6) Allah said in the Qur'an in Surah A 1-Baqarah: "Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong)."(2:185) Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said about Lailatul-Qadr: It as narrated by Abu Hurayra that Prophet said, "Anyone who stays awake for the Night Of Power with belief and for the pleasure of Allah, all his previous sins will be forgiven." (Bukhari and Muslim) 

It has also been reported by Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (pbuh) who said: "I asked the Messenger of Allah if I knew which night was the Night of Power and what Prayer I should say during that night? He said to me: Say: "O Allah! You are forgiving and you love forgiveness, so you too forgive me. The Revelation of the Qur'an started in the month of Ramadan and specifically on the Night of Power. The Revelation of the Qur'an; a sign of Mercy, a guide and a blessing of Allah to mankind. The Night of Power is a night of blessings Allah has blessed this Night. Therefore whosoever is interested in receiving the blessings of Allah may look forward to the Night of Power. Anyone who seeks the Night of Power and lives it, all his/her sin will be erased. This is, as if, he/she is, born again now free of all sin and mistakes. 

It is believed that the Night of Power falls during one of the odd numbered nights of the last ten days of Ramadan, i.e. 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or 29th. It has been emphasized that it is most likely to be the 27th night. The signs of Lailatul-Qadr could be either that the sun rises early in the morning without rays, Rain may fall either during the night or during the day of that night, During night the sky will be slightly foggy, The sky will be slightly lighted without reflections and without rays and undeniably the angels and Gabriel all descend down onto earth for many purposes. 

If one wants to be blessed enough to observe the night of power, then it is advisable to find it in the last ten days of Ramadan through fasting, recitation of the Holy Book, Zikr of Allah, offering Nawafil and Taraweeh, Charity to the needy, Supplication or Dua for others and yourself and offering prayers in congregation. Fasting is the best way to search for the Night of Power for it is only through fasting that it sanctifies the human personality; it cuts the carnal self to its size: brightens and heightens human virtues; reactivates pious resolves, infuses order, obedience, and responsibility, enriches the soul and purifies the body thereby influencing the personality of a Muslim.

Fasting, must lead a true believer to exemplary standards of behavior, which must necessarily be symbolic of the traits and lofty character of the Holy Prophet. We can hope to establish a righteous society only if we imbibe into our daily lives on a 365 days basis, the many virtues that attend to the various formats of Islamic worship as elaborated in the Holy Quran. It is only through the study of the Holy book and following it in letter and spirit that it leads to reformation of 'self' through a conscious management of the 'self'. It is this process, which is to receive our utmost attention, whilst we engage in fasting. If this objective is to make our behavior symbolic of the virtues attending to fasting such as mercy, generosity, truthfulness, endurance, patience and fortitude. We should not defeat and outrage the primary teaching underlying this fundamental injunction of Islam, because in the final analysis fasting erases from the believing soul every evil, it perfects and liberates the human spirit and directs it towards common welfare thus helping in the establishment of a righteous and stable society.








In the world of sports, match fixing has a history, originating from the ancient city-states. During the primitive Olympics, athletes used to accept bribes for losing the matches in spite of the fact that they used to be under the oath to protect the integrity of that specific sports event, the respect of team itself, and their countries. The players and other people associated with the act punished at times for their doings. In the same way, match fixing has hardly been a secret in the in the world of cricket too. Over the last, few decades almost all famous cricket teams of the world found involved in it either, directly or indirectly and at individual or collective level.

The world-renowned players who fell-prey to this dissipated act include; the former South African Captain Hansie Cronje, Mohammad Azharudin, the former Indian cricket star and captain and a number of other Asian, European and African players besides, Indian and Pakistani players. The current episode of the match fixing, where three Pakistani cricketers are suspected to be involved, is indeed, a continuation of what has been happening in the world of cricket since last so many years. Nevertheless, amazingly, this event has been given unprecedented media coverage and so much importance, as if something new has happened on the planet earth. 

Without a thorough investigation and a fair trial, a number of the team players were declared guilty of having received huge amounts for losing the match to England, even when the match was underway. No doubt, the act if it has taken place is worth condemning even if a single player found involved in it. The player(s) or the team as a whole must be punished for that as per the rule of the country or under the set rules of international cricket. Even after the passage of over ten days, the controversy is not coming to its end. From the pattern of British media exploitation and incessant debates, one could find that it is a deliberate effort to defame Pakistani cricket team and the country at a time once its people are suffering from the flood; the worst natural disasters of the history. 

The reality of the matter is that the central charter of the event, Mr. Mazhar Majeed, has contacts with some Pakistani players since long. A UK media man, who showed his pictures while getting 150,000-pounds sterling from an agent in a local hotel, in turn trapped Mazhar Majeed. Mazhar Majeed is a UK national. The only linkage of Mazhar Majeed with the Pakistani team was perhaps established because of his ancestral linkage with Pakistan. Born in the Croydon, Mazhar Majeed and his brother Azhar Majeed, are sons of Abdul Majeed, a highly respected British national of Pakistan origin. Mr. Abdul Majeed, originally a resident of Moonishi Mohallah Faisalabad, settled in Britain in 1960s. Mazhar Majeed completed his basic education from Coulsdon High School and later joined Middlesex University in North London as a business student. 

In 1999, Mazhar Majeed along with one of his friend, Faisal Hameed, formed a property development company with the name of 'Blue Sky Development.' Currently, Mazhar claims the directorship of twenty-eight companies. He also owns the Croydon Athletic Football Club. Upon investigation and arrest, Mazhar Majeed told police that he has links with some Pakistan cricketers. This was not the first contact between this broker and the Pakistani team. Rather, he remained in contact with the team during its visit to Australia. He also admitted that these cricketers he manipulated the match in the favour of England. As per recent investigation by Scotland Yard, three to four players have been found involved in getting the money from Mazhar Majeed. The players who accepted the money, declared that this was the sponsorship money rather a bribes for the match fixing. The legal formalities are still underway; however, this was not a unique incident that could have become the focus of international media. Unfortunately, the western media and especially, "The News of the World," did not point out the relationship between the bookie Mazhar Majeed and his roots in India. Indeed, Mazhar Majeed is maintaining his strong links in India. He himself admitted with 'The News of the World' that, "I deal with an Indian party. They pay me for information." Otherwise, over ninety percent match fixers are in either India or Indian living elsewhere in the world, including a vast number in England and Dubai UAE. Through betting, billions of dollars are being earned by the bookies and their agents like Mazhar Majeed. In 2000, Indian police and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have investigated the match fixing scandal, which ended the career of two "celebrated captains, South Africa's Hansie Cronje and India's Mohammad Azharuddin." 

On the insistence of the Indian bookies, Mazhar Majeed has been persuading Pakistani players since long. Indian bookies otherwise work in concurrence with the RAW, which effectively monitor the activities of these bookies. Besides, Mazhar Majeed and some of his family members are consider to be maintaining strong links with the Indian spying network. The recent wave of the deliberate defaming campaign against Pakistan appears to be part of the same. In this regards, the British media together with the Indian media have orchestrated a well thought out campaign for involving Pakistani cricket team in this match fixing scandal. Because of his Pakistani origin, Mazhar Majeed has been used to ensnare Pakistani cricket players. 

Otherwise, the practice of defaming Pakistan has been going on since last few months. Apart from the media of these two friendly countries, the officials too are involved in this defaming campaign. So much so, the incumbent British Premier Mr. David Cameron has accused Pakistan for the perpetrating the terrorism. During his visit to India, Mr Cameron had a big mouth to say that, Pakistan is "exporting terror." His statement has created a huge controversy and seriously dented the bi-lateral relationship between Pakistan and Britain. Whereas, everyone know that all Sub-nationalists and anti-Pakistan elements from various parts of the Pakistan have been given refuge in Britain and they are treated as political victims and asylum seekers, as if there is some wave of political victimization is going on in Pakistan.

This is worth mentioning that currently, there is not a single political prisoner in Pakistani jails. The people who are given refuge or political asylum in England, through the help of various intelligence networks operate in Pakistan and support the secessionists' movements. The host and the intelligence network, operative in Pakistan, also arrange funding to these anti-state elements. Azad Baloch and such like others are part of this incentive package. Indeed, if we trace the history, right from the inception of Pakistan in 1947, the role of British media and at time its top hierarchy has never been encouraging for Pakistan. The UK governments together with the India, has hardly missed a chance to target Pakistan and Pakistani interests. 

There is a need to end the controversy over the match fixing and the deliberate defaming campaign against Pakistan. The practice has indeed, debarred the world from assisting Pakistan at the crucial moments once over 23 million people have been worst affected by the flood. Owing to the unprecedented damages to crops, properties, houses, civic facilities and communication infrastructures in over 79 districts of Pakistan, the losses have been estimated as over 100 billion rupees. The world should have been forthcoming to assist Pakistan, but the British and Indian media trial over match fixing has diverted the attention from the real issue. For the good cause of humanity, let us end the media trial to this match fixing controversy both globally as well as domestically and pay attention to the real cause. Had the same media campaigned for the global donations and assistance for the flood affected people in Pakistan, it would have earned lot of respect and good will. Indeed, addressing the human miseries is too big a cause and cricket is too small an event, to be given preference over the former. 

The writer is International Relations analyst.









As the waters start to recede, a fifth of Pakistan submerged by the worst floods in the region since the late 1920s, aid agencies are tallying up the potential cost of the crisis, now estimated to be several billion dollars. International donors have so far responded with aid pledges of $800m. Receding, too, are expectations of what Pakistan can achieve as a linchpin State in south Asia. The country is the object of US-led international diplomatic engagement, focused on increasing its role in the push to counter war on terror. A role that will only increase in importance as the Americans and their Nato allies work on plans to pull out of neighbouring Afghanistan in the coming months. The latest in a string of natural, political and economic crises in the past five years puts this goal further out of reach. "The worst case scenario of Pakistan imploding is an extremely dangerous [one]," says one Washington-based western diplomat. "You could potentially see spill-over effects in areas surrounding Pakistan, notably Afghanistan. Without stability in Pakistan, stability in the surrounding region gets thrown into question."

The floods have affected more than 17m people – killing more than 1,600 – besides severely damaging the farm sector central to the country's economy and the already weak infrastructure. They have also set back by months, possibly years, government plans to bring prosperity and peace to the nuclear-armed country. But most of all, they have upset a finely balanced equilibrium. For the past three years, leaders of the civilian government and the powerful military have struggled to balance a combination of demands – each in its own right considerable – made by their own people and the outside world. The first is to repel a growing Taliban insurgency that spilt out of the border region with Afghanistan, and play a helping hand in stabilising its wartorn neighbour. The second is to rebalance a collapsed economy, whose inability to serve the country's largely poor and young population of 180m is contributing to deepening poverty and militancy. The third, in the wake of the 2007 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, is to sustain democratic government despite the history of military rule.

Its leaders consider today's crisis to be the gravest since the mass migration between India and newly created Pakistan during partition at the time of independence from Britain in 1947. They insist the emergency effort has not disrupted military deployments in the border areas with Afghanistan. But they rule out any expansion of operations against militants in the months ahead. On the economy, too, whatever progress was being made to impose stability and discipline is sliding away. Even before the floods, it was widely believed that Islamabad was failing to implement the necessary fiscal reforms. The disaster has made agreed targets on curbing inflation and reducing the budget deficit so far out of reach as to be entirely obsolete.

Some see a country already facing enormous challenges edging towards the apocalyptic, especially for the fearful city-dwelling middle classes. "Pakistan is on the brink of economic collapse," warns Hafeez Pasha, a former commerce minister and head of the Lahore-based Institute of Public Policy. "Unless there are radical measures to deal with the [current] situation, you will have 20m people attacking cities when they start [getting desperate]." "What is required is a fundamental restructuring of the way Pakistan is being run." That is a common demand but probably too much to expect in the midst of a humanitarian emergency. Mr Pasha, in common with other economists, predicts that economic indicators will "significantly deteriorate" in the coming months, leading to a "nightmare for Pakistan". Growth could sink from about 4 per cent this year to zero or a little above next year. Inflation, spurred by food shortages, could shoot over the government's target of 9.5 per cent to 18-20 per cent. The fiscal deficit could reach almost double the target of 4 per cent of GDP as public spending rises.

The largely agrarian and textile-producing economy has deteriorated considerably over the past two decades. Despite the liberalisation that helped it outperform its bigger southern neighbour India with average growth rates of 5.5 per cent between 1947 and 1990, Pakistan today trails badly. "The danger is that if these people are not quickly resettled back, their long-term presence in the cities will cause great stress," says Islamuddin Shaikh, a senator from the ruling secular Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) and former mayor of Sukkur. The southern city's population has swelled by a third to more than 800,000 in the past three weeks. 

The floods have triggered recurrent anxiety that the always fragile civilian government is about to fall. Asif Ali Zardari, the president and Bhutto's widower, has not helped its cause. He invited strong criticism at home for embarking on an international tour as the heavens opened. His trip to visit leaders in London and Paris, which also included dropping into a French chateau with his children, was considered ill judged by domestic opponents and international allies alike. For their part, western diplomats are worried that the disaster could fire up popular discontent and militant extremism. They fear that prolonged trauma in the countryside and mass migration to cities could undermine the civilian government in Islamabad. Some analysts believe these fears are overdone, however. "The government is exaggerating the risk of regime instability and the spread of extremist influence in order to capture the international community's attention and mobilise aid," says Maria Kuusisto of the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy. — The Financial Times








Filing general diaries (GDs) with the police stations, says a report, is no guarantee of security of the complainants' lives. The report has mentioned specific cases where people facing repeated threats from extortionist gangs sought police protection without success. In most such cases, the targeted people have to pay with their lives for their refusal to give the money demanded by the extortionists. So entering GDs has virtually turned out to be a futile exercise for the victims. This shows that the purpose of entertaining such complaints by police stations has been more than defeated. A retired inspector general of police (IGP) is on record saying that the police 'always try to help out the affected parties', but they sometimes fail because there are only 1.20 lakh police personnel for 14 crore people. 

As for the strength of the police force, there is no argument that its ratio compared to the population is one of the lowest in the world. But one cannot be sure if the members of the law enforcement agencies are as keen as they should be to provide people in dire need of protection with timely help. We would be happy to commend their performance when it matters most for the protection of the weak in society. In fact, their reputation is better known mostly for wrong causes. This is exactly why GDs are not receiving the importance they should have. Clearly, the murders of the complainants in the cases mentioned in the report could perhaps be avoided if only the police acted on time. No less deplorable is the fact that the investigation following such killings hardly makes any headway, leading to the arrest of the culprits. The gangsters ruling the underworld are much too powerful. From where their power comes is no mystery. Had the law enforcers taken their job seriously and remained true to their professional integrity, criminals would have no chance of ruling the roost. A simple GD entry would have been treated as an SOS for a citizen and the force would have done everything in its power to protect the would-be victim. This happens in a civilised society which is governed by values and principles and likewise built on an abiding trust between state organs and the people.







It has been a harrowing experience, year after year, for millions making the arduous journey home on the occasion of the two Eids. This year is no exception as human masses converge on rail stations, ferry ghats and bus terminals with the hope of procuring precious tickets. A picture carried on the front page of this newspaper recently shows how intractable the queues for tickets are. Not everyone is going to manage tickets in the normal process. But most will make the journey home. But how? This indeed explains why the journeys are fraught with travails, mishaps and even tragedies. Transport operators find ways to dismiss all rules and regulations with the sole intention of maximizing profit, putting at risk the lives of passengers. Thus bus accidents, sinking of launches and rail carriage derailments make screaming headlines only to diminish the joy of the festivals.
It is unbelievable that the numerous agencies including the BIWTA, BRTC, various terminal authorities and the police responsible for overseeing mass transit, particularly from the capital city are powerless to do anything about the chaos that reigns supreme during such times. That the situation can be better managed was demonstrated when the caretaker government posted a particular law enforcement agency at ticket counters and terminals or railway stations. Extra trains, in addition to the scheduled inter-city trains were put into service to cater to the heavy rush of passengers. The measures taken to stop free-for-all overloading worked for the most part. Passengers departed and reached their destinations without major incidents. This type of active enforcement was never tried again. Presumably, it was detrimental to the interests of a few as opposed to those of the mass.









"Hello this is a call from the detectives of Scotland Yard! Are we talking to the three tainted Pakistani cricketers?"

"Yes," they whisper, "We are together in this interrogation room."

"Good, now you will be questioned thoroughly by administrative members of the cricket board of a neighbouring country!" "Why are we being questioned by them?"

"Because they feel they know the right questions, for you to reveal all!"

And the Pak players wait uneasily while the administrators of the neighbouring country, one of them being a minister enter. "What currency did you accept the bribe in?" asks the minister.

"Pounds, dollars and euros!"

"Would they be willing to pay in rupees?"

"We could talk to them!"

"How were you planning to take the money back?"

"In plastic bags!"

"Would there be a problem in using cloth bags?"


"Because plastic bags are banned in our country!"

"We can find out for you."

"Do you have the phone numbers of all the bookies who are willing to fix each match?"


"How much for the list?"

"Will you pay here?"

"Thank you!"

"Would these bookies transfer the cash to our Swiss accounts?"

"We could ask them!"

"You were paid a fixed amount to bowl a no ball at a prescribed over right?"

"Could we work out a rate where each ball of the match can be fixed?"

"I am sure that can be worked out!"

"Why did you do this deal in a hotel bedroom?"

"Why not?"

"Would they be willing to do it our way; sitting across a table and passing the money under the table, which is how everything is done in our country?"

"We could talk to them!"

"Thank you!"

And the cricket administrators from the neighbouring country, one of whom is a minister leave the Pak players and go outside, "Have they revealed all?" ask the members of the Scotland Yard.
"Yes, absolutely!" say the administrators from the neighbouring country one of whom is a minister, "We are appalled and shaken that cricket has reached such a low…!"









We celebrate Lailat-ul-Qadr on the auspicious night of the 27th Ramzan. But nobody on this earth knows definitely on which particular night in the holy month of Ramzan did the Great Revelation come down to the benighted world through the agency of the angelic host, representing the spiritual powers of the Mercy of Allah. Literalists sometimes refer to some particular night in the calendar but there is no agreement as to which it is. The Night has been variously fixed as the 12th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, 27th or the 29th Night of Ramzan or more probably one of the latter three. Ibn Hambal reported that Ibn Omar had narrated a hadith in which the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "Whoever seeks the Night, let him seek it on the 27th". 
But Imam Bukhari (RA) transmits that Ibn Abbas reported the holy Prophet (pbuh) as saying: "Seek Lailat-ul-Qadr in the last ten nights of Ramzan, on the twenty-first, twenty-third and twenty-fifth." 
Abu Sa'id al-Khudri said: "God's Messenger spent the first ten nights of Razman in devotion, and spent the middle ten nights in devotion in a round Turkish tent, after which he raised his head and said, "I have spent the first ten nights in seeking this Night, then I spent the middle ten nights in devotion and after that I had a heavenly visitant and was told that it is in the last ten: so he who was engaged in devotion along with me should do so during the last ten nights, for I was shown this Night, then was caused to forget it. But I have seen myself prostrating in water and clay on the morning following, so seek it among the last ten and seek it in every night with an odd number". He said, "Rain fell that night, the mosque which was a thatched building dripped, and my eyes saw God's Messenger with traces of water and clay on his forehead on the morning after the twenty-first night." Bukhari and Muslim agree on the subject matter, the wording being Muslim's up to "and was told it is in the last ten" the remainder being Bukhari's.

It was on the auspicious Lailat-ul-Qadr, the Night of Power or Honour of Majesty that the Holy Quran, the most blessed and perfect of all revelations, was vouchsafed to the benighted world. By revelation, of course, is meant the first revelation because the Holy Quran was revealed in portions during twenty-three years. The real merit of this blessed Night has been expounded in the Holy Quran. Allah has emphatically and very clearly declared in Sura Qadr: "We have indeed revealed this (Message) in the Night of Power". Allah further corroborates in the same Sura:

"And what will explain to thee what the Night of Power is? The Night of Power is better than a thousand months".
Lailat-ul-Qadr occupies a unique position in the Islamic Calendar. It was this blessed Night of Majesty which first witnessed the shining of the divine light which was destined to illumine the whole world.
This night of grandeur or greatness, better than a thousand months, is indeed a night of great wonders and divine blessings, wherein, as the Holy Quran declares: "Come down the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission on every errand."

It is not perhaps necessary to pinpoint this particular night by the Calendar. The night on which a Message descends from Allah is indeed a blessed night, like a day of rain for a parched land. It is for this that the 'I'tikaf', the adhering to the mosques or retiring for contemplation during Ramzan as a form of devotion is fixed for the last ten days of the month of Ramzan. The holy Prophet (pbuh) himself used to spend the last ten days of Ramzan in complete retirement in the mosque. He even had his bed placed in the mosque behind a pillar during the I'tikaf.

"A thousand months" may be taken in an indefinite or mystic sense as denoting a very long period of time. This does not necessarily refer to ordinary human conception of Time, but may, on the contrary, refer to the "Timeless Time". In the words of Maulana Yusuf Ali, "One moment of enlightenment under God's light is better than thousands of years of animal life, and such a moment converts the night of darkness into a period of spiritual glory".

The descent of the angels and the Spirit by Allah's permission also testifies to deeper significance and religious sanctity of the auspicious Night, for though a particular Night in the month of Ramzan may be characterised by great Divine blessings, it is more especially in connection with the mission of one appointed by Allah for the regeneration of the world that "the angels and the Spirit' come down from heaven, such being the Divine support of his cause".

Sura Qadr, testifying so eloquently to the divine grandeur and unique greatness of the majestic Lailat-ul-Qadr, ends with the beautiful expression: "Peace...This until the rise of morn".

"Peace" indeed is the chief distinction of Laila-ul-Qadr. This "Peace" comes to the hearts of the devotees in the form of a tranquillity of mind which makes them fit to receive Divine Blessings. When the Night of spiritual darkness is dissipated by the Glory of Benign Providence, a wonderful peace and a sense of security arise in the soul. All jars are stilled in the reign supreme of peace. "And this lasts on", in the words of Maulana Yusuf Ali, "until this life closes, and the glorious Day of the new spiritual world dawns, when everything will be on a different plane, and the chequered nights and days of the world will be even less than a dream". The continuance of the blessed Night till "the rise of Morn" is quite clear and evident when the Night is taken literally: the work of morning signifying, "the approaching end of the reforms, when truth, like the light of the day, has made itself fully manifest". In the words of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, "The mortal night gives place to the glorious day of an immortal world".

Lailat-ul-Qadr, the blessed Night in the Great Revelation of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful Allah "Broke through the darkness of the human soul" and the Holy Quran, the perfect code of human life, reached mankind as message of "Mercy from the Lord" carries another significance of Divine Excellence. As Moulvi Mohammed Ali states: "The time during which a prophet appears is usually a time of darkness and as such is of ten compared to night in the Holy Quran. But as in this darkness comes a blessing from on high in the person of a Divine Messenger, the Night is a blessed and majestic Night. Hence the period of the advent of Divine Messenger may also be metaphorically called Lailat-ul-Qadr. Its designation as the Blessed Night in Sura Ad-Dukhan followed as it is by the statement that in it 'every wise affair is made distinct' shows clearly that the other significance of the world is based on the holy Quran itself, because it is during the time of a prophet's advent that true wisdom is distinctly established".

Blessed indeed is this Night of Power. The divine importance of this Night of Grandeur is so great that the holy Prophet (peace be upon him) himself declared, "He who spends the Lailat-ul-Qadr through prayers, in full faith, shall have all his previous sins and guilt forgiven".

It is not, however, the worldly pleasures and physical comforts that one should ask for on this holy Night. What a man should pray for in this blessed Night is forgiveness and Allah's forgiveness alone. Nothing can be more pleasant, nothing can be more beneficial, nothing can be sweeter than the glorious Mercy of the Most Gracious and the Most Merciful Allah.

Hazrat Ayesha Siddiqua (RA) said, "I asked the holy Prophet (pbuh) what to say during the Night on the assumption that I knew it was the Night".

The holy Prophet (pbuh) replied, "One should say: "Lord! You love forgiveness, so forgive me".


(The writer is Former Director General, Islamic Foundation Bangladesh)








The death of yet another woman garment worker raises once again all the old questions about the safety of women working in such a vital sector as the readymade garments sector. Through her mysterious death, the 19-year-old Beauty Akhter makes us pause once more to ask if those engaged in the garments business are fully qualified or trained in the job of ensuring that those who work for them feel secure in their jobs. No one is yet sure how the young woman died, though there is huge suspicion that dark play was involved in her death. She was allegedly pushed from the top of the building housing the factory she worked for, after an altercation with another worker followed by a visit to the production manager's office.

Briefly, it is young women like her, driven as they are by grinding poverty, who make their way to the garments factories in search of rather low-paid jobs that are somehow a means for their survival as well as for their poverty-stricken families. In a very large number of instances, these women are self-sustaining and, beyond that, happen to be sole earning members for their families. 

And so when they are subjected to bad or exploitative treatment and when some of them are even pushed to their deaths, entire families are once more threatened with a return to poverty. The bigger issue here is why such realities as the death of garment workers in their workplaces take place at all, especially when it is understood and expected that the rules pertaining to employment will be followed by the management of industries. In the past many years, for all our happiness at the development and expansion of the garments sector, we have repeatedly had to deal with such vexing matters as the workplace treatment of workers, especially female ones, the sexual and other forms of harassment they often fall prey to and the like. Questions have abounded about such trivial matters as provisions of emergency exits in case of accidents.

We believe it is time for everyone, the government in particular, to take a serious look into the conditions of garments workers, especially women, in the light of the tragic death of Beauty Akhter. The allegations that have arisen about her death must be thoroughly inquired into and everyone involved must face the law. The authorities must see to it that attempts are not made to pass off the death as a suicide. In the long term, but not too long, proper and well-meaning steps must be in place to ensure that at least minimally congenial working conditions are there for garments workers. That also entails a management that must be educated and trained in the task of guaranteeing workers' welfare.

Meanwhile, we will expect that law and order will be maintained in the garments industry and that nothing will be done to damage a sector that has already taken a number of bad blows.

The things that have been happening in the name of discontentment of workers of garments industries for the last couple of days can be termed as only 'anarchic'. The higher minimum wage and upward adjustments of compensation packages of garments workers in different grades were declared recently. 

The announcement was not an arbitrary one; it was the outcome of painstaking negotiations from tripartite consultations between industry owners, the government and workers' representatives. But no sooner the announcement was made the rejectionists' expressed their disappointment over it and vowed to press for realisation of their earlier demand.

The subsequent developments would otherwise suggest that the law enforcement bodies had no idea about the likelihood of violent troubles being staged by some disgruntled sections of garments workers. Thus, bands of agitators created a virtual reign of terror at Tejgaon, Mahakhali, Gulshan, Mohammadpur, Adabar and Banani areas of the city. They barricaded roads put commuters in great distress; many cars were smashed by the "protestors"; shopping malls, banks and shops were vandalised; private homes were also reportedly attacked. Police arrived on the scene only after the incidents but no effective action, even at those hours, could be taken by them to bring the situation under control. The following day similar incidents in the Ashulia-Narayanganj garments industries belt led further to a great deal of damage to 50 garments industries. Some shopping malls were also attacked and looted and bank branches were reportedly assaulted. Thus, establishments, not related in any way to garment workers' grievances about wages, have come under senseless and indiscriminate attacks. A government anywhere, worth its name, has a supreme responsibility to protect the properties and business of people. It must not be failing to discharge properly its basic duties to people.

Unfortunately, the government has been reactive to the situation and that too belatedly. But its proactive actions have been long dictated by the circumstances. The metropolitan police chief was reported to have blamed "some external interest groups and their local agents" as the instigators of the violence. These allegations are nothing new. For the last couple of years, some media reports suggested that various law enforcement and investigating agencies have had in their possession the identities of all those who have been patronising violence in the garments industries. 

But no effective law enforcement actions have so far been noted against them. This is an important aspect that begs an explanation from the government. The association of the garments industries reiterated too many times how actions against the instigators were so badly needed to achieve normalcy in the sector. But such pleadings have largely been in vain. The Prime Minister herself supported the proposal to commission the Industrial Police to be specially able to deal with troubles in the garments sector and other industries. But hardly any tangible progress is yet noted about the formation of this special police force.

The government should retain the initiative to keep all sides in a continuing dialogue to work out further wage gains for the workers if possible. Talks may also continue whether the accepted higher wages would be paid by owners earlier than November. But, in the meanwhile, the government should be very firm to absolutely check moves that would otherwise bring ruin to the garments sector. Anarchic conditions must not be allowed to continue any longer.

(The writer is Director, PMO, Bangladesh)








Professor Mohammad Noman was my beloved teacher, one of my dearest faces. Professor Noman remains a glowing star of the stars - the noble teachers of all the tiers of my academic life from the primary school to the university - whose towering personality had left a lasting influence on my life and helped me become what I have become today. He is no more amongst us, yet I have a strong feeling that till today, he remains an ideal, a role model, influencing all my professional pursuits. It is my firm belief that Professor Noman had successfully left a lasting imprint in the life of thousands of his students like me. It is his singular achievement, the greatest achievement an idealistic teacher could ever aspire for. 

It was in the year 1961 when I arrived in Dhaka from Comilla and got enrolled in Dhaka College. This city was not as crowded in those days as it is today. Palatial buildings were very few and traffic in the streets was very thin. 

In such a modest background of the city, the newly built Dhaka College building presented to us a very gorgeous bearing. And the presence in the college of the scholars of a very high stature had left a hypnotic spell on me. They were renowned teachers like Prof Noman, Prof Abu Rushd, the Principals Prof Jalaluddin Ahmad and Prof Mofassal Uddin Ahmad, eminent writer Shawkat Osman, Poet Ashraf Siddiqy, Prof Mafizul lslam and Prof Awlad Hossain. All these luminaries had indeed turned this college at the then provincial capital into a unique centre of excellence. 

We had been lucky to have Prof Noman to teach our class in the very first year of us in the college. He had a reputation for entering the classroom at the first strike of the clock. He taught us English poetry and his lectures were faultless. Before dwelling on the poems covered in our syllabus Prof Noman gave us a comprehensive picture of what poetry is. His lectures on the distinctive features of poetry, the evolution of English literature and the Shakespearean sonnets were so adorned with classic traits that we took these lectures as the vehicles of transporting us to ever newer environs. So spellbinding were his lectures that, even today, many of his words illuminate the horizons of my memory. 

He was a purist and never have we found him using any Bangla word in an English lecture. It was Prof Noman who told us that Shakespeare was the 'Sweet Swan of Avon' and I consider Prof Noman himself as the 'Sweet Swan of Dhaka College.' He had a lovely voice and his style of speech delivery was direct and clear. He had a near-magical power of coining his words. Prof Noman was, without any doubt, a teacher to take inspirations from. 

Many of us, students of Dhaka College, had been involved with the students' movement of 1962 and had often abstained from attending our classes, but Prof Noman did never rebuke us for that. This, however, does not mean