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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

EDITORIAL 07.09.10

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

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month september 07, edition 000619, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. ISLAMISTS UNLEASH TERROR
  2. CONFUSION TO CHAOS
  3. OVERPAID AND UNDERWORKED - A SURYA PRAKASH
  4. DEALING WITH A CHANGING WORLD - RAJIV BHATIA
  5. NO NOOSE MAY SOON BE GOOD NEWS IN CHINA - DMITRY KOSYREV
  6. PLAYING THE MESSIAH OF THE DISPOSSESSED - CP BHAMBHRI

MAILTODAY

  1. NITISH COMES OUT STRONGER AT THE END OF HOSTAGE CRISIS
  2. MORE DOPING MUCK
  3. DUSU VERDICT AN AUGURY
  4. NUCLEAR LIABILITYBILL IS AN ASSET - BY KANWAL SIBAL
  5. TOUGHEST MOMENT OF NITISH'S CAREER - GIRIDHAR JHA
  6. IFTAR POLITICS SETS THE STAGE FOR ELECTIONS
  7. DON'T MESS WITH THESE WOMEN
  8. STRONGMAN USES HORSE POWER TO WELCOME GOWDA

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. PLAY IT STRAIGHT
  2. URBAN LEGIONS
  3. WORST FOOT FORWARD - RONOJOY SEN
  4. A GOOD STRATEGY
  5. THIS ISN'T INCLUSIVE - AJAY VAISHNAV
  6. WHAT'S THE MOTIVE? - C V SUKUMARAN

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THEIRS TO GIVE & TAKE AWAY?
  2. YESTERDAY ONCE MORE
  3. WAITING FOR GODARD - PARAMITA GHOSH
  4. AFTER THE FLOOD - FAREED ZAKARIA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. IN BASQUE COUNTRY
  2. PENSION TENSION
  3. TAKING THE LEAD
  4. AFTER NIYAMGIRI - BIBEK DEBROY 
  5. A NUCLEAR INTERACTION - K. SUBRAHMANYAM 
  6. THREE SIDES TO EVERY STORY - SANTOSH SINGH 
  7. THE CIVIL WAR OF BANGALORE - SARITHA RAI 
  8. BOXERS, BRIEFS AND BOOKS - THE '38 DOUBLE DIP

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. PENSION PLANS
  2. NO CAPS, PLEASE
  3. CHURN IN THE MUTUAL FUND INDUSTRY - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE
  4. WHAT INDIA, CHINA OWE THEIR YOUNG - NIRVIKAR SINGH
  5. END THESE QUOTAS - SANJEEB MUKHERJEE

THE HINDU

  1. DIM SUMMIT OUTLOOK
  2. IDEOLOGY RUINS SCIENCE
  3. GROWING COMPLEXITY OF AFGHAN RIDDLE - M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
  4. A TRIUMVIRATE OF ILLS - RAJ GANDHI
  5. THE HUMAN FACE OF PAKISTAN'S DEADLY FLOOD - RANIA ABOUZEID
  6. CHINESE HOSPITAL TO GROW NEW SKIN FOR AIR CRASH SURVIVORS

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. CEO SALARY CAPS A DICEY GAME
  2. ANATOMY OF TURMOIL - JAGMOHAN
  3. THE NEW MERCANTILISTS - JAYATI GHOSH

DNA

  1. UPA SHOULD RETHINK NOMINEE FOR CIVIL VIGILANCE COMMISSIONER
  2. RAPID SLUM GROWTH IS OUR NEW NIGHTMARE
  3. CURBING CEO PAY IS NOT THE ANSWER
  4. WE NEED PUBLIC SOUP KITCHENS TO FEED THE HUNGRY - PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR
  5. ELECTION COMMISSION FLUNKS THE OPENNESS TEST ON EVMS - RAJEEV SRINIVASAN

THE KASHMIR TIMES

  1. MISLEADING SIGNALS 
  2. DELAY SCHOOL EXAMS
  3. THE AMBIGUOUS IDENTITY OF A KASHMIRI - DR. NYLA ALI KHAN

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. FAROOQ VS GEELANI
  2. PEOPLE'S ANGER
  3. THE FLYING COFFINS - BY ANIRUDH PRAKASH
  4. MADRASAS AS SCHOOLS - BY DHEERAJ JANDIAL
  5. FOOD SECURITY BILL - BY KALYANI SHANKAR

THE DAILY RISING KASHMIR

  1. DIPLOMATIC RESISTANCE
  2. LETHAL WOUNDS OF 'NON-LETHAL' WEAPON – DR JAVID IQBAL
  3. A BURNING PARADISE - NASEER A KHAN
  4. KASHMIRI MARGINALITIES: THE CONSTRUCTION, NATURE AND RESPONSE - GOWHAR FAZILI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. DOPING MESS
  2. NEPAL WITHOUT PM
  3. SHIMLA CRIES FOR CARE
  4. STONE-PELTING BY KASHMIRI YOUTH - BY KULDIP NAYAR
  5. KEBABS, KHEER AND MANGOES - BY RAM VARMA
  6. WEAKEST LINK IN THE GOVERNMENT - RAJAN KASHYAP
  7. DEVOLUTION OF POWERS HOLDS THE KEY - RANBIR SINGH

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. TWO FACES OF CRICKET ADMINISTRATION

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. LEADERSHIP AT INFOSYS
  2. SPIN IN COTTON EXPORTS
  3. BILL ON DTC - BABY STEPS IN TAX REFORM - M GOVINDA RAO
  4. THE SHADOW OF XINJIANG - AJAI SHUKLA
  5. FARMING WITHOUT FEAR - SURINDER SUD
  6. THE DEBUTANTES' BALL - THE SHAKTI BHATT PRIZE – NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. PHASE OUT CAPTIVE MINING
  2. JUST MERGE IT WITH NPS
  3. NOT A STATE OF DENIAL
  4. INDIA INC IS DEAD, LONG LIVE INDIA INC - KIRAN KARNIK
  5. WHERE'S THE DOC? 
  6. CONGRESS' MOMENT OF RECKONING - C L MANOJ 
  7. THE TRANCE OF UNWORTHINESS - VITHALC NADKARNI 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. CEO SALARY CAPS A DICEY GAME
  2. ANATOMY OF A TURMOIL - BY JAGMOHAN
  3. OBAMA'S AMERICA TRAPPED IN FDR'S '38 - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. THE NEW MERCANTILISTS - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  5. THE SPIRIT OF CLEANLINESS - BY V. BALAKRISHNAN
  6. THE ART OF CRISIS MANAGEMENT

THE STATESMAN

  1. TACTICS ON TERROR 
  2. 'MBBS INDIA' ?
  3. HAVE GARAGE, BUT… 
  4. OF EXPORT QUALITY~II - ARUN KUMAR BANERJI
  5. HOSTAGE SCRIPT GOES WRONG? - RAJINDER PURI 
  6. MEET RUSSIA'S THATCHER - MARY DEJEVSKY 
  7. BAN CONDEMNS BOMBINGS IN PAKISTAN

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. FOE OF FREEDOM
  2. UNDER A CLOUD
  3. THE GREAT DEPRESSION - ASHOK V. DESAI
  4. FROM DENIAL TO DECAY - MALVIKA SINGH
  5. USE AND ABUSE OF SUFFERING
  6. REASON NOT THE NEED
  7. TRUE OR FALSE?

DECCAN HERALD

  1. NEED FOR STRATEGY
  2. GROWING SLUMS
  3. DELUSIVE AGENDA - BY B G VERGHESE
  4. COMPULSORY DEDICATION FOR FINANCIAL INCLUSION - BY PRABHAKAR KULKARNI
  5. PROF JAI-HO! - BY CHANCHAL UBEROI

HAARETZ

  1. EXCELLENT FUEL FOR OUR GROWTH ENGINE - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  2. TO WHOM DOES THE IDF CHIEF ANSWER?
  3. IGNORANCE AT THE TOP - BY SHULAMIT ALONI
  4. I AM LIKUD - BY YOEL MARCUS
  5. A CONDITION FOR PEACE - BY SHAUL ARIELI

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. WHO SHOULD PROVIDE ANESTHESIA CARE?
  2. A NECESSARY MORATORIUM
  3. JAPAN'S LEADERSHIP MERRY-GO-ROUND
  4. ONE NATION, TWO DEFICITS - BY PETER ORSZAG
  5. NOT-SO-CHARMING BILLY - BY HAMPTON SIDES
  6. RISING TO THE OCCASION - BY BOB HERBERT
  7. THE GOSPEL OF WEALTH - BY DAVID BROOKS

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - BABACAN AND THE POLITICS OF DISINGENUITY
  2. IRAQ MISSION HARDLY OVER - SEMİH İDİZ
  3. GOVERNMENT AND THE JUDICIARY (I) - CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER
  4. UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY, HUMAN RIGHTS - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  5. DEEP DIVISIONS AMONG SECULARISTS - ORAL ÇALIŞLAR
  6. KILIÇDAROĞLU FAMILIARIZES THE CHP WITH THE EU - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. ERDOĞAN ABSENT AT MIDDLE EAST SUMMIT - TUFAN TÜRENÇ
  8. A WAKE UP CALL - YUSUF KANLI

THE NEWS

  1. TOO MANY COOKS
  2. FALSE RELIEF
  3. STATUS-QUO REVOLUTION
  4. DEBT, DEBT AND MORE DEBT
  5. REBELLION IN THE FACT-FREE ZONE
  6. THANK YOU, MR STEINER
  7. FAULT LINES IN FOCUS
  8. NEW MIDEAST TALKS

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. FEAR OF COMPLETE ECONOMIC BREAKDOWN
  2. NEED FOR SOUL-SEARCHING ON DEFENCE DAY
  3. PAK CRICKET GETS ANOTHER JOLT
  4. A HERO FADES AWAY - AIR MARSHAL AYAZ A KHAN (R)
  5. ANOTHER INDIAN DOSSIER - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  6. BROTHERHOOD IN ISLAM — 27 - SIRAJUDDIN AZIZ
  7. CHINA'S PRINCIPLED STAND OVER KASHMIR - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  8. PAK FLOOD RELIEF MUST START WITH FIGHTING CORRUPTION - AHMED RASHID

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. DISTRICT BUDGET
  2. ANTHRAX AND AFTERMATH
  3. RED ALERT ON ANTHRAX:NO REASON TO PANIC - ERSHAD'S PREDICAMENT
  4. CATHOLICISM–THREATENED BY SECULARIZATION OF EUROPE
  5. APPROPRIATE CURRICULUM FOR PRE-PRIMARY EDUCATION - SARDAR M ANWARUDDIN
  6. COMPASSION FOR PAKISTAN - MICHAEL NAZIR-ALI

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. A QUESTION FOR THOSE THREE MPS: WHAT PRICE STABILITY?
  2. SPINNING THE SCHOOLS PROGRAM.

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. A BANK RUN ON KARZAI'S CLOUT
  2. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT'S UP AHEAD
  3. VOTERS IN THE DARK ON PLANNING LAWS
  4. SENTENCING ISN'T ALWAYS A SIMPLE MATTER

THE GUARDIAN

  1. ELECTORAL REFORM: THE CASE FOR ALTERNATIVE VOTE
  2. IN PRAISE OF … RECLAIMING CITIES
  3. NETHERLANDS AND BELGIUM: LOW COUNTRY BLUES

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. GUARDING AGAINST LIVESTOCK DISEASE
  2. PREPARING FOR 'DEEP LANDSLIDES'
  3. RISE OF CHINA PRODS INDIA-SOUTH KOREA TIES - BY HARSH V. PANT

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. A MESSY PLAYING FIELD FOR UNITED RUSSIA - BY NIKOLAI PETROV
  2. THE REASONS THE WORLD LOVES TO HATE BANKERS - BY HOWARD DAVIES
  3. EUROPEAN STANDARD FOR RUSSIA'S MODERNIZATION - BY VLADISLAV INOZEMTSEV

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ISLAMISTS UNLEASH TERROR

KERALA COLLEGE SURRENDERS TO FANATICS


The Church-run Newman College in Kerala has fetched itself abiding disrepute and shame by giving in to the demand of Muslim fanatics and capitulating before Islamists by sacking Prof TJ Joseph, whose right hand was chopped off two months ago by activists of the so-called 'Popular Front of India' for having allegedly insulted Mohammed. Through its pusillanimity, the college has legitimised the brutal attack on the teacher when it should have stood rock solid behind him. After all, no one in the college management has accused Prof Thomas of having deliberately made derogatory references to Mohammed. The controversial reference in the question paper he had prepared was based on an existing book that has been in circulation for some time without raising the hackles of the self-appointed defenders of the faith. If certain individuals who are bent upon imposing a Taliban-like code on secular India were offended by the question paper, it is entirely their problem; they, and not the professor, deserve to be condemned. Yet, not only have Kerala's Islamists meted out punishment that would make the likes of Mullah Omar proud and find a resonance among those who find nothing obnoxious about such brutality in the name of Islam, the college where the professor was employed has sacked him, obviously fearful of reprisal attacks by the PFI. The college says that it will consider his reinstatement if Muslim organisations plead the victim's case, which is laughable: Why would the perpetrators of this ghastly criminal act now want to pardon the man whom they hold guilty of insulting Mohammed? Had they been merciful and forgiving, they would not have maimed him in so horrific a manner in the first place. Hence, it is absurd to expect fanatics to come to the aid of Prof Joseph. 


The college is run by the Catholic Church, so why is it bending over backwards to appease Islamists? Should we assume that Newman College operates on the diktats of Muslim bodies, not all of them above board in their activities? Considering the devious manner in which the college management has conducted itself so far, it is not a surprise that its response has drawn swift condemnation from across society, including the All-Kerala Private Teachers Association that has threatened a State-wide agitation against Prof Joseph's sacking. We are told there is a division within the Church on the issue, with one section holding the dismissal as unjustified and disproportionate to the alleged 'crime'. There is another aspect to this entire sordid affair: That of the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front Government's abysmal failure to uphold the core values of secularism and keep the barbarians at bay. While Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan has been unequivocal in his condemnation of the PFI and warned the people against the grave threat posed by Islamists, his comrades have been rather indulgent towards the fanatics. Mr Achuthanandan, in a sense, is in a minority of one in a party that is now indistinguishable from those which unabashedly pander to mullahs and fanatics in the hope of getting Muslim votes. In a strange way, Kerala is witnessing the birth of radical Islam on Indian soil; it is also seeing the emergence of a perverse alliance between Marxists and Islamists. 

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CONFUSION TO CHAOS

NEPAL'S MAOISTS HOLD DEMOCRACY TO RANSOM


What began as a political crisis in Nepal is fast turning into a farce, although the consequences are far-reaching and could cause enormous, if not lasting, damage to the image of politicians in that nascent democracy. After the sixth round of voting in the Constituent Assembly to elect a Prime Minister to head the coalition Government, Nepal still remains without a head of Government. The present regime, headed by caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, is at best doing a holding operation in managing the affairs of state; meanwhile, the main task of the Constituent Assembly — to draft a Constitution prior to parliamentary polls — remains paralysed. The Constituent Assembly is already running on borrowed time, its tenure extended by a year last May. It would have appeared that given the grim economic situation in Nepal and the need to have a functioning Government in place would propel all parties to arrive at a consensus instead of trying to spike each other's claim to the Prime Minister's post. Tragically, this is not the case and a large share of the blame must be apportioned to the Maoists who are playing spoilsport with no other purpose than to discredit the parliamentary system and hold the Constituent Assembly to ridicule. This serves their agenda well: Nothing would delight the Maoists more than popular disgust peaking to a point where their alternative of a single-party dictatorship would begin to find acceptance among the masses. 


Yet, given the fractured nature of the Constituent Assembly, unless the two other main political parties, the Nepali Congress and the CNP(UML), come together along with the Madhesi groups, the Maoists cannot be prevented from stalling the election of a Prime Minister. The only other option is for the President to step in and take charge of the Government, but he can do this only if the draft Constitution is amended suitably. Needless to add, the Maoists would fight tooth and nail to prevent such an amendment. India can, and should, step in at this moment to counsel all parties to sink their differences and get on with the task of drafting the Constitution without which fresh elections cannot be held. This is not to suggest interference in Nepal's internal affairs, but giving a helping hand to those struggling to come to grips with the problems of democracy in a country without a strong tradition of democratic politics. If New Delhi opts to stay out, it would be paving the way for Beijing to step in. Already there are reports that the Maoists have sought financial assistance from China to try and manipulate the voting pattern in the Constituent Assembly. This is not entirely unbelievable. China's puppet regime in Nepal cannot be in the interest of India — or, for that matter, the entire region. 

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

OVERPAID AND UNDERWORKED

WHILE THERE IS A CASE FOR INCREASING MPS' EMOLUMENTS, THERE IS AN EVEN STRONGER CASE FOR THEM TO BE MORE SINCERE IN THEIR WORK

A SURYA PRAKASH


One does not know whether our MPs are aware of it, but there is widespread public resentment over the humongous salary hike that they have merrily given themselves during the recent Monsoon Session of Parliament. Public anger over this issue is occasioned not only by the unabashed manner in which our representatives have raised their emoluments but also because it was done without even a semblance of consultation with the people who voted them into office. There are also other reasons why people have taken umbrage at this development, which was orchestrated in the two Houses of Parliament by some of the richest politicians in the country. Two of these are the complete absence of any corresponding guarantees in regard to the functioning of Parliament and the ethical conduct of members. 


With the latest revision, the monthly emoluments of an MP stand revised as follows: Salary — from `16,000 a month to `50,000; Constituency Allowance — from `20,000 to `45,000; Office Allowance — from `20,000 to `45,000; all adding up to `1,40,000 a month as against `56,000 which they earned prior to the hike. This constitutes a whopping 150 per cent hike, the biggest that our MPs have got since the two Houses were constituted in 1952.


The Daily Allowance for marking attendance (signing the register and not necessarily for presence in the House) has been raised 100 per cent from `1,000 to `2,000. In addition, every MP is entitled to a slew of perks which include a rent-free apartment or bungalow apart from one-and-a-half lakh free telephone calls, 50,000 units of electricity and 4,000 kilolitres of water, 34 'J Class' air tickets per year, plus Travelling Allowance to cover cost of travel from airport to residence.


Our MPs are also entitled to a railway air-conditioned First Class pass and a Second Class pass which can be used any time on any journey and a provision to defray the cost of journeys undertaken by road. Eight air tickets per year and a free air-conditioned First Class railway pass is given for the spouse. In addition, every MP is entitled to Furniture Allowance of `75,000 per term. While there is no change in these perks, the interest free loan provided to an MP to buy a car has been increased from `1 lakh to `4 lakh. 


This package of cash and perks appears to be rather vulgar in comparison to the frugal allowance of `45 a day paid to members of the Constituent Assembly over 60 years ago. Members of that Assembly felt that it was against the dharma of public life to accept a wage. Biswanath Das spoke for many members when he told the Assembly on May 20, 1949 that there should be no fixed salary for members because they ought to be satisfied with the allowances they receive while serving the country.

 

hereafter, the Salary, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act entered the statute books in 1954. Since some MPs were allergic to the idea of taking a 'salary', the Act said that those who did not want a salary (fixed at Rs 300 a month) were entitled to an allowance of `40 a day — double that received by other members. These contradictory trends persisted till a few years ago and MPs felt guilty while revising their salaries and allowances. So much so that even as late as 1993, the salary of an MP was just `1,500 and his total emoluments were `5,500 a month.


There can be no doubt that MPs were paid a pittance in the first 40 years after independence. It now appears as if MPs have come back with a vengeance to claim all that their predecessors had voluntarily foregone with compound interest. However, while there is certainly a case for upward revision of MPs' emoluments, there is an even stronger case for slashing some of their perks and a commitment from their side that they will ensure a more purposeful and efficient Parliament. 


The opposition to the recent pay hike is also occasioned by the disappointment over the manner in which Parliament functions these days. Absenteeism is a recurring problem because MPs sign the register to collect their Daily Allowance and spend more time outside the two chambers than inside. If the presiding officers were to allow television cameras to pan the Treasury and Opposition benches when the two Houses are 'at work' and making law for 1.2 billion people in the second half of the day, voters would be shocked to note that the average attendance is less than 30 in the Lok Sabha (total strength 545) and 20 in the Rajya Sabha (total strength 245 members). This is after they create a ruckus and shut down proceedings in the pre-lunch session.


The two Houses lose hundreds of hours of work every year due to disruptions and the total sittings per year has crashed from around 130 to less than 70. The attendance level in parliamentary committees is pathetic (a 50 per cent turnout is considered excellent). Therefore, this is a classic case of working less and earning more. Does this happen is any other profession? There are other reasons for the prevailing bitterness on this issue and these include the brazenness with which MPs give themselves a hike without consulting their real masters and the contempt many of them display for the code of conduct that was written many years ago. 


Though the hefty raise has created much resentment across the country, MPs can ensure that the pill is far less bitter for their voters and tax-payers if they agree to the following: Henceforth they will ask an independent pay commission to determine their salaries and allowances and abide by its recommendations; they will accept a cut in their salaries and allowances corresponding to the time lost to disruptions in the two Houses; they will abide by the letter and spirit of Article 100 (3) and 100(4) of the Constitution which stipulate that no business shall be transacted in the two Houses without quorum and assure the people that no law will be passed without quorum; and, finally, that the Ethics Committees of the two Houses will work in a credible and transparent manner and punish members for unethical conduct. Are our MPs ready to pick up the gauntlet or will they continue to work less and earn more? 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DEALING WITH A CHANGING WORLD

RAJIV BHATIA


With the rapidly shifting realities of geopolitics and geostrategy in India's immediate neighbourhood and the world at large, the Ministry of External Affairs has to constantly think of new strategies to engage friends and deal with less-than-friendly countries. For this, it must think of innovative ideas and harness new technology


When sometime in 1840s the first telegraphic message landed on the desk of British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston, he exclaimed: "My god, this is the end of diplomacy!"


In July 2010, the Ministry of External Affairs sent its first 'tweet' through its official Twitter account, thus pulling India into the age of digital diplomacy. Despite being an information technology powerhouse, India is a late entrant in using tools of e-diplomacy. 


As the third conference of India's heads of mission concluded in New Delhi recently, it is an apt moment to reflect on changes affecting the country's diplomatic representation abroad. The basic change relates to the backdrop of India's rising stock in the world. Looking inwards, our countrymen may be worried about the situation in Jammu & Kashmir, Maoist challenge to the Indian state, constant threat of terrorism, problems with Pakistan and scandals concerning the Commonwealth Games, but the world looks at us differently and much more positively today than ever before. India's democracy, development model, economic strength, IT, nuclear and space capabilities and expanding global profile evoke much admiration. Our ambassadors have been picking up these signals which increase the burden of expectations and responsibilities on their shoulders in a fast changing world.


From the first generation of diplomats, the Indian Foreign Service has come a long way. In those early years, our diplomats travelled by ship to take up their assignments, spending weeks, if not months, travelling up or down to join duty, proceed on transfer or home leave. Air travel changed that leisurely existence, enabling us to begin work within a day or two of our departure from Delhi.


During much of our time, we depended largely on the weekly or fortnightly 'diplomatic bag' as the chief instrument of communication. Telephone, telex and later fax were in use, but they were not always dependable. That was changed by the revolution in Information and Communication Technology. In my last decade and half in the service, Internet and email transformed the way in which we worked. Embassies became an extension of Ministry of External Affairs which could ask and receive reports, briefs, and talking points instantaneously. Missions felt to be participating in 'live' action rather than being a mere observer as major happenings unfolded. Ambassadors may thus have lost some of their autonomy, but they have increased their ability to influence thinking and decision-making in Delhi. 


Through innovative tools of 'social media', ICT continues to change diplomatic communication. The US State Department, for example, has been a leader, employing an array of new methods such as YouTube channel, official Dipnote blog, Facebook page, Flicker account, Second Life hub, Diplomedia and the Secretary's Sounding Board. South Block is now gearing up to emulate, in order to ensure better understanding of foreign policy issues among people. Emerging communication culture entails shifting the emphasis from traditional secrecy and 'need to know' approach to 'need to share' and 'need to disseminate' mindset. It is a welcome change, but digital diplomacy is more about the medium than substance.


In essence, diplomacy is still about communication and relations between Governments. Political diplomacy, therefore, retains its relevance and significance, except that its scope seems to have expanded considerably. Diplomats now have to deal with a wide range of matters like trade negotiations, international economy, climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and regional and global integration. 


How the content too has changed needs to be factored in. Economic diplomacy is a relatively new phenomenon. In India's case, it probably originated with the first oil crisis of mid-1970s, began establishing itself in 1980s but gathered steam during the economic reform period. The previous generation of Indian Foreign Service officers, with a few exceptions, preferred to do traditional 'political' work, but progressively in recent years economic work involving multilateral and regional trade negotiations as well as bilateral trade, investment promotion, joint ventures and technology transfers has become the bread and butter of diplomacy. In my first two ambassadorships, I communicated more with the Ministry of External Affairs and a few economic Ministries, but in the last two stations as Ambassador/High Commissioner, I was more frequently in communication with India Inc than the Government of India. 


'Public diplomacy' is the new buzzword, although much of what passes under its rubric has been practiced by our diplomats for long. Cultivating media; promoting art, music and culture; and projecting India's 'soft power' have been the forte of our Ambassadors. The idea that a diplomat does not merely represent his Government but also his people has gained ground. He, therefore, has to be pro-active in presenting and promoting India's culture, values and ethos. The Ministry of External Affairs has displayed remarkable ingenuity in utilising the pool of retired Ambassadors to sensitise youth at our universities about India's external relations. It should impress on our serving Ambassadors to reach out more to the youth and others in their host countries in order to convey the story of modern India in its entire splendour.


The Indian diaspora, too, has compelled our Government and its representatives to change the way in which they used to look at and relate to it earlier. Many of our distinguished diplomats rendered yeoman's service to Indian communities abroad, but this did not prevent a strong sense of discontent against our authorities on a myriad of issues. National consensus on a policy approach of cultivating People of Indian Origin and Non-Resident Indians in an institutionalised manner has brought about noticeable improvement, but the mission is far from accomplished. More creativity and vigour are required — both at the headquarters and in our missions abroad. 

The role of Ambassadors has thus been changing even as many elements of continuity impart stability. Decades ahead might accelerate the pace of change. Ability to overcome the fear of change and to adapt to a new environment constructively will be a valuable asset. Besides, a proven talisman relating to the three Cs — Curiosity, Credibility, and Commitment — will lead our diplomats on the right path in the service of the country.

The author served as India's Ambassador/High Commissioner in several countries. 

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

NO NOOSE MAY SOON BE GOOD NEWS IN CHINA

BEIJING IS LOOKING AT ALTERNATIVE PUNISHMENTS TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF CLAUSES THAT ATTRACT THE DEATH PENALTY, WRITES DMITRY KOSYREV


Unfortunately, this is not something that can be done quickly. The Chinese Parliament's website still says nothing about when they will pass a Bill stipulating a reduced number of legal grounds requiring the death penalty. The Bill was submitted to the members of Parliament for consideration on August 23, and specific results were expected this week. Subsequent comments implied that such a serious motion required at least three readings. The Chinese Parliament frequently witnesses serious clashes, and so anything is possible.


At the same time, we already know what the Chinese public thinks about the death penalty issue, and where the Chinese stand on the current global discussion about it. China backs the United States, rather than the European Union, when it comes to the death penalty. It is common knowledge that criminals are executed in the US, and that this situation will continue for a long time to come. In the past, criminals were publicly executed on the scaffold or guillotined in European cities. However, Europeans no longer like the death penalty. Although the residents of China, the world's most populous state, say they would feel unsafe without it, their mood is changing. Moreover, the subject of a possible future abolition of the death penalty does arise in public debate. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao has also addressed the issue, noting that the country is not yet prepared to abolish it.

While the parliamentary discussion is in progress, Renmin Ribao (People's Daily), the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, cites sociologists from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as saying that up to 90 per cent of the population supported the death penalty several years ago. A recent opinion poll of Internet users in China shows that 67 per cent of respondents back the death penalty. Eleven per cent of those polled would like the Government to abolish capital punishment in line with an EU-style scenario. Another 22 per cent believe that convicted criminals should be executed, although with the caveat that the grounds for applying the punishment should be reduced from the current 68 clauses warranting capital punishment.


Chinese society is ruled by consensus, rather than the majority, and prefers compromise to confrontation. In effect, local political debates prioritise consensus over the victory of one sector of society over the other. The Chinese Government has applied this principle since time immemorial. The shift in Chinese public opinion on the death penalty means that, rather than abolishing the punishment, the Government will start moving in that direction.

It is worth recalling Chinese traditions in relation to this. In China's lengthy history, there have been periods when executions and sadistic but effective torture methods were banned. According to Buddhist beliefs, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) criminals could only be beaten with sticks. Nevertheless, China has had a long-standing tradition of executions dating back to the Shang Dynasty (circa 1700-1046 BC). Later, in the 19th and 20th centuries, executions were a festive occasion for entire towns and cities. Then, condemned criminals had to shout bravely at the crowd, behave proudly and wear a sign listing all their crimes. The most notorious criminals, including drug traders, were reportedly executed by firing squad in Chinese stadiums not so very long ago.

In June 2010, the Chinese Supreme Court ruled that evidence obtained through threats and torture could not be used during trials. Since 2007, the Supreme Court has been reviewing all death penalty verdicts by lower courts. Before 1996, all convicted criminals were executed by firing squad. Lethal injections which are gradually becoming an alternative death penalty option cannot be administered at stadiums.

There are now plans to revise 13 out of 68 Chinese Criminal Code's death penalty clauses. Large-scale corruption, so disliked by the Chinese, is still punishable by death. The Parliament is reportedly debating this clause, taking due account of the fact that Chinese society has not yet developed alternative punishments, such as life-time imprisonment. Those found guilty of smuggling religious artifacts or forging VAT-payment slips will no longer be executed but will have to serve time in prison.


As a rule, specific penalties are first abolished, and this law-enforcement practice is subsequently formalised in criminal codes. China is gradually renouncing the death penalty for crimes such as forged documents and religious artifacts contraband.


The reduction in the number of clauses warranting the death penalty is part of extremely complicated processes, namely, the creation of a new Chinese society. There could be no other alternative after the smooth but steady market reforms of the past 30 years. China has changed: It now requires new courts and different kinds of punishment.This old-fashioned judicial system has no future in a large and important country. It's domestic social changes are not entirely an internal affair. The number of Chinese tourists visiting Japan and South Korea will reach 1 million and 1.2 million, respectively, by late 2010. Consequently, the permanent presence of members of China's rapidly changing and increasingly more affluent society in neighbouring countries is an inevitable fact.

 

writer is a senior commentator on international affairs based in Moscow. 


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THE PIONEER

OPED

PLAYING THE MESSIAH OF THE DISPOSSESSED

MAMATA'S PERCEIVED PROXIMITY TO MAOISTS AND HER FAILURE TO OFFER AN IDEOLOGICAL ALTERNATIVE ARE ALARMING, WRITES CP BHAMBHRI


Obituaries have been written in the mass media about Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's Left Front Government in West Bengal. The mass media has not only prematurely predicted the electoral demise of the Left Front Government but has also decided that Ms Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress would emerge winner. The turning point in this anti-Left political and intellectual tirade took place with the police firing in Singur where land had been acquired for the Tata small car project. Singur and later Nandigram became a symbol of the 'anti-farmer' policies of the Left Front Government and without going into the mental and political make-up of Ms Banerjee, she was declared by all anti-Left forces in the State and the country as their 'saviour' from Communist misrule. It is ironical that Ratan Tata made a public statement that his business competitors and opponents were supporting Ms Banerjee's agitation against the proposed small car project. That her supporters did not react adversely to such a grave allegation by Mr Tata whom the mass media has always projected as a model Indian industrialist is also significant.


The worst was yet to come. In a rally in Lalgarh on August 9 Ms Banerjee publicly acknowledged the support of Maoists in her campaign to dislodge the Left Front Government. Ms Banerjee's open affection towards the Maoists in West Bengal was further substantiated when she announced that Maoist leader Azad had been 'murdered' by security forces. Ms Banerjee was not asked a simple question about her favourable pronouncements even though the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, and Home Minister P Chidambaram have been shouting down from the rooftops that the Maoists comprise the greatest security threat to India. It is clear that Mr Singh and Ms Banerjee are not sailing in the same boat on the issue of the Maoist threat to the nation's security. Mr Chidambaram has described Azad's death as the result of a genuine encounter with security forces while Ms Banerjee described it as murder and both cannot be right. Evidently, a coalition partner of the Union Government is openly dissociating itself from its views and policies. The Parliament wanted an explanation from Ms Banerjee about her positive statements on the Maoists especially in the context of her being Union Minister for Railways. She decided to stay put in Kolkata and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee came out in defence of her statement. Mr Mukherjee went to the extent of saying that the Government knew about her views on Naxalism.


The Naxalite movement began from Naxalbari in West Bengal and the Congress Government led by Chief Minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray suppressed it brutally. The land reform policies initiated by the Left Front Government that succeeded Mr Ray's Government in 1977 helped pacify the disgruntled peasantry to a large extent. Of late, Naxalism has again emerged in West Bengal and Lalgarh is the headquarters of this armed struggle. Is Ms Banerjee consciously or unconsciously not helping in the revival of the Naxal movement in West Bengal by accepting their support against the Left Front Government?


A brief political profile of Ms Banerjee deserves to be mentioned here. Critics of the Left Front Government and the Communist movement in West Bengal have repeatedly alleged that the CPI(M) cadre consists of lumpen elements, criminals and extortionists. Such an allegation can be also leveled against Ms Banerjee's supporters. Many young deideologised street fighters are moving towards her as they see her as the rising star of Bengal politics. Should the country not be worried about a future Chief Minister who is providing shelter to young street fighters? It is a well-known fact that Ms Banerjee's politics is completely non-ideological and opportunistic. She had no hesitation in joining the Ministry of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA Government and because of her temperamental behaviour had to quit her portfolio. She has shown her ideological bankruptcy by joining the UPA2 Government. It can be legitimately asked what kind of political and ideological alternative Ms Banerjee is capable of offering the people of West Bengal. 


Public memory is proverbially short but her performance as Railway Minister for the year 2009-10 is before the enquiring public. Her only interest now is to dislodge the Left Front Government in West Bengal and occupy the Chief Minister's chair. But West Bengal deserves a better leader than the temperamental, immature, unprincipled and opportunistic Ms Banerjee. She has no alternative programme to offer to the people of the State. 

It is nobody's case that, in a parliamentary democracy, a single party or coalition of parties permanently rule a country or a State. Hence a change of power in West Bengal is most acceptable. The real worrisome issue is the model of politics which will be pursued by Ms Banerjee if she wins the forthcoming State Assembly elections. Ms Banerjee exhibits all tendencies of a populist leader and is given to unpredictable moves and political gimmicks. The people of West Bengal have a right to know the role which the gun-wielding Maoists will play under her patronage. The whole country is worried about Ms Banerjee and her politics at the Centre and the State. Although she is being projected as a messiah by her supporters, her leadership may plunge West Bengal into anarchy. 

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

NITISH COMES OUT STRONGER AT THE END OF HOSTAGE CRISIS

 

THE end of the hostage crisis in Bihar is as much a relief for civil society as it is for the families of the abducted police personnel and the Bihar government.

 

The Bihar government's stand that the policemen were released unconditionally is credible. There does not appear to have been any deal; possibly the renewed police operations forced the Maoists' hand, or, perhaps, it was the fact that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar refused to make a deal with them and that the killing of the policemen still held hostage would have boomeranged on the Maoists.

 

As for the drama on Sunday when the wife of an abducted cop tied rakhi to a ' Maoist' who promised the release of her husband, either the man was an impostor or the rebels were playing to the gallery. Certainly they don't expect us to believe they are vulnerable to such sensibilities when they brutally murdered Lucas Tete just a couple of days ago.

 

The one individual who comes out shining of this episode is Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. He showed commendable firmness in ruling out the release of jailed Maoists in exchange for the abducted cops. It is not easy for politicians to not submit to blackmail on such occasions despite the knowledge that doing so will only encourage enactment of similar dramas in the future.

 

More so when the media refuses to learn the lessons of the Kandahar crisis, beaming images of the wailing family members of the hostages and creating public sentiment in favour of a surrender.

 

Perhaps the crisis will compel Mr Kumar to balance his softer policy on the Maoists to counter their aggressive ways in his state.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

MORE DOPING MUCK

 

INDIAN sport has nowhere to hide. For the second week running, Indian athletes have been caught doping using a stimulant called methylhexanamine. Indian swimmers who had not been associated with any kind of performance enhancing drugs so far are the latest on the failed- the- dope- test list.

 

This does not augur well for Indian sport, coming as it does in the wake of the mess related to Commonwealth Games. It will take a long time for Indian athletes to regain the trust that they had built up over the years. Even though international medals had been few and far between, at least our athletes did not cheat. That refrain sounds hollow now.

 

More than anybody else, the Sports Authority of India and the respective sporting federations must take equal, if not greater, responsibility for these disgraceful episodes. Athletes are not prescribed a diet or medical treatment without the consent or supervision of coaches. If nothing else, it was their job to educate the athletes on the hazards of using unsupervised medication.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

DUSU VERDICT AN AUGURY

 

THE defeat of the Congress affiliated National Students Union of India ( NSUI) in the Delhi University Students Union ( DUSU) elections is an outcome of the interplay between state and campus politics.

 

At one level it is a setback to Rahul Gandhi's attempts at democratising the NSUI, but more significantly it is an indictment of the Sheila Dikshit government.

 

There is widespread disenchantment with the corruption and mismanagement that has characterised the Delhi government's handling of the Commonwealth Games related construction works.

 

Students at the Delhi University's North Campus, particularly, were subjected to great inconvenience with the campus being dotted with potholes, as of course, their city roads are. This has clearly had a bearing on the DUSU verdict handing the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad victory after eight years.

 

In terms of intra- university matters, the ABVP had taken a much more combative stand against the administration, as well as the teaching community, for stalling classes over the semester system row.

 

The NSUI must realise that after the implementation of the Lyngdoh panel report, it cannot continue to dominate elections purely on the basis of money power as it had been doing for all these years. Rather than a setback, this highlights the need for much more thorough democratisation on the campus.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COLUMN

NUCLEAR LIABILITYBILL IS AN ASSET

BY KANWAL SIBAL

 

THE CIVIL Nuclear Liability Bill passed by Parliament needs a dispassionate appraisal as controversy has surrounded it. Its passage has not been greeted with any particular enthusiasm, as the government did not get exactly what it wanted and the opposition had no reason left to object because its amendments were accepted. Criticism of the Bill, on the other hand, has been loud — from the business lobbies and some analysts who bemoan it for ending India's prospects of becoming a major producer of nuclear power.

 

Foreign suppliers, and even local, they say, would spurn the Indian market because the Bill provides the operator the right, in case of a nuclear accident, to legally proceed against the supplier for providing equipment with latent or patent defects or sub-standard services. They are right in saying that this provision is against the norms laid down in existing international liability conventions.

 

These place the entire liability for damage caused by accidents on nuclear power plant operators, with no right of recourse against suppliers. This might explain the ham-handed way in which Article 17(b) of the Bill providing for this right was either sought to be eliminated or qualified in a manner that would negate its purpose, in a bid to make the legislation compatible with international practice.

 

Issue

 

The pressure for this can be sourced to the US nuclear suppliers lobby which wants acceptable legal conditions for entering the highly promising Indian market.

 

Their effort produced the Letter of Intent of September 2008 to the US government in which India committed itself to earmark two sites for US sourced nuclear power plants producing 10,000 MWs of electricity, as well as adhere to the 1997 Convention on Supplementary Convention ( CSC) that protects suppliers from any liability and bars claimants of nuclear damages from moving US courts.

 

Although the Department of Atomic Energy ( DAE) initiated internal work on a civil nuclear liability legislation after the agreement with Russia for setting up the two nuclear power reactors at Kudankulam, with potential trans- boundary impact of a nuclear mishap on Sri Lanka in mind, this work was halted in 2003. In the perspective of an expanded Indian nuclear power programme with international cooperation, the case for enacting a liability legislation is strong.

 

The issue is whether such legislation has to fully conform to existing " norms" developed by the powerful US supplier lobby at a time when it was a suppliers market and the US companies were the most powerful players in the game, backed by enormous US political clout, or India can independently examine what is right and equitable in apportioning liability between operators and suppliers and draft its own legislation accordingly.

 

The debate in India, with Bhopal and the $ 20 billion penalty imposed on BP for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in mind, could not have but been acrimonious in terms of compensation amounts and the legal immunity for US suppliers. By demanding a CSC compliant Indian legislation, the US companies have been seen as the driving force behind attempts to eviscerate section 17( b), with the hurry to enact the law connected to President Obama's November visit to India. This perception has got reinforced by the stark interventions of the US- India Business Council, FICCI and CII against the right to recourse proviso in the Bill, as well as the grossly ill- advised statement by a senior NPCIL representative warning against it.

Both the Russians and the French would no doubt prefer exempting the suppliers from all liability, and would have questions about the enacted legislation. But they have been discreet in their tactics, leaving it to the Americans to tweak the Indian legislative process, and, in case of success, share the positive outcome, and in case of failure, let the US bear the odium of interference.

 

Acceptability

The Russians would want to seek refuge from the new legislation by citing the existing intergovernmental agreement on setting up additional nuclear reactors at Kudankulam that places all liability on the operator, viz. the Nuclear Power Corporation of India ( NPCIL).

 

While Russia could challenge the retro- active application of the new legislation to already finalised contracts, it would be on thin ground to seek exemption for additional power plants for which negotiations have not even begun. It will then have to choose between clinging to a sterile legal position and cornering more business opportunities in India from a well disposed government. The French too would need to act pragmatically, and as their nuclear industry is state- owned they may have more flexibility in adjusting to the Indian legislation.

Problems can be expected in getting our international partners to accept the game changing Indian legislation, but then the so- called norms governing nuclear trade merely reflect market conditions which are evolutionary in character. It is not chest- thumping to say that foreign suppliers will find it very difficult to ignore India's large nuclear market, and ways to adapt to the Indian legislation will eventually be found.

 

To say that suppliers will be exposing themselves to liability for 80 years under the Indian law is sophistry. The law nowhere mentions any such figure. It is practically inconceivable that a patent or latent defect will lie dormant for 59 years, but when the plant is to be mothballed in the 60th year of its life, an accident will occur and expose the supplier to another 20 years of liability. In asset these long decades the plant will have undergone maintenance, overhaul, replacement of parts, stringent safety audits etc.

 

Moreover, the supplier's liability is not automatic; it will have to be established in a court of law. The cost of insurance for suppliers may not increase as much as touted, as the right to recourse is limited to the total liability of the operator capped at 300 million SDRs, which is a tiny percentage of the total cost of a nuclear power plant.

 

And why should the US companies want to escape the jurisdiction of their own courts if the victims can get better justice there? Incidentally, the CSC that the US wants India to sign has not entered into force as it has been ratified only by four countries— US, Morocco, Romania and Argentina.

 

Power

The government should be gratified that those who vehemently opposed the Indo- US nuclear deal in Parliament have joined hands with it to pass the civil nuclear liability legislation. The consensus that government could not achieve on conditions for opening up India's nuclear sector to foreign participation, has been achieved in a follow- up legislation.

 

This, in effect, amounts to an endorsement of the government's original initiative and buries the acrimony of the past. Contrary to some views expressed, the government's willingness to compromise does not expose its weakness; it shows the positive things achievable in national interest through a collaborative parliamentary process.

 

When India is asked to accept more international responsibility as a rising power, the question always is whether it is expected to subscribe to existing international arrangements and regimes that need modernisation and reform, or is supposed to also contribute constructively to the re- writing of rules. In the case of its civil nuclear liability legislation India is doing the latter.

 

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary ( comment@ mailtoday. in)

 

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MAIL TODAY

PATNA DURBAR

TOUGHEST MOMENT OF NITISH'S CAREER

GIRIDHAR JHA

 

TThe hostage crisis triggered by the abduction of four policemen by the Maoists in Bihar, which ended on Monday, was the biggest test for chief minister Nitish Kumar in his tenure so far.

 

The state had remained relatively free from major incidents of Naxal violence during his 57- month- long rule.

 

Barring stray attacks on government installations, Bihar has not witnessed any major Maoist operation with a large number of casualties.

 

The sporadic encounters in the Naxal- infested districts continued but none was big enough to unnerve the government.

 

Since the Jehanabad jailbreak which took place shortly before Nitish took over, the number of Naxal- related incidents in the state remained far less than states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, or West Bengal. This was in spite of the fact that 32 of the 38 districts in Bihar have been declared Naxal- hit.

 

Much of the credit for this goes to Nitish who chose to opt for different policies. While he handled the cases of routine criminal activities with an iron hand that resulted in the conviction of around 50,000 criminals, he refrained from launching an all- out police offen- sive on the Maoists. Instead, he sought to lay emphasis on development projects in the areas of Naxal influence. He started off by launching the " Aapki Sarkar Aapke Dwar" ( Your government at your doorstep) programme in villages which had been the hotbed of Naxalism for many years.

 

Nitish has always insisted that Naxalism cannot be contained through police or military action alone. This often put him in confrontation with the Centre. He spoke his mind even at a meeting of the chief ministers convened by Prime minister Manmohan Singh two months ago.

 

This did not endear him to those who wanted him to crush Maoists by force. They accused Nitish of being ' soft' towards the rebels. No wonder, when four policemen were abducted and one of them was killed, he was at the receiving end of his opponents' salvos. He was accused of being insensitive to the families of the hostages, responding late to the crisis, and not doing enough. Even social activist Swami Agnivesh, who was all praise for Nitish for his different approach towards the Maoists until a few days ago, attacked him.

 

Nitish, however, held his ground.

 

He refused to release the eight Maoists in exchange for the freedom of the cops. He gave orders for intensifying the combing operations after seeking more security personnel and choppers from the Centre. He also involved all the opposition parties in making a unanimous appeal to the Maoists to unconditionally set the cops free. He reminded the Maoists about how his government had protected human rights when anyone of them was arrested. He told them that it was unethical to take policemen as hostages to press for their demands.

 

But at no time did he give even a faint hint that his government was willing to concede the demand for releasing the jailed Maoists. His unwavering stand was one of the major factors that eventually led to the release of the three policemen — without having to swap prisoners for them.

 

Lucas Tete's killing was a tragedy but it was the Maoists, and not the government, who had to explain to the people why they killed a poor tribal policeman like him. At the height of the crisis, Nitish went to the extent of saying that the government would assume that altogether 11, not seven, policemen had been killed in the encounter. This was certainly not the stand of a ' soft' chief minister.

 

IFTAR POLITICS SETS THE STAGE FOR ELECTIONS

 

BIHAR'S politicians are back to hosting Iftar parties during the ongoing holy month of Ramzan after a gap of two years. With an eye on the upcoming assembly elections, most of them out to woo the minorities.

 

First, RJD president Lalu Prasad organised a lavish Iftar recently, throwing open the gates of his bungalow for everybody. He personally oversaw the arrangements and made sure that all the those on fast had their food.

 

This was followed by deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi. Not to be left behind, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan organised a grand get together at his place on Sunday. The tradition of Iftar parties hosted by the politicians is quite old.

 

But they hadn't organised Iftars in the past two years because of the Kosi floods of 2008 and the 2009 drought.

 

Interestingly, Bihar is in the grip of a severe drought this year again with the state government declaring all the 38 districts as drought- hit.

 

But the politicians have apparently decided to overlook the fact this year because of the upcoming polls which are due to be held in two months.

 

Chief minister Nitish Kumar hasn't hosted an Iftar party so far but others have poll priorities on their mind. Natural calamities can occour every year but assembly elections are only once in five years. Isn't it?

 

DON'T MESS WITH THESE WOMEN

WOMEN harassed by their in- laws or others have someone to turn to other than the law enforcement agencies. Bihar Pradesh Durga Dasta of the Rashtriya Mahila Brigade has taken it upon itself to champion their cause.

 

The Dasta has helped several women get justice.

 

Holding swords, batons and spears, a bevy of belligerent woman activists barge into the house of the accused, ransack the premises and teach him a lesson he'll never forget.

 

Last Sunday, they targeted a lawyer accused of deserting his wife and living with another woman.

 

On a complaint by a woman, they entered his house, assaulted him and blackened his face before handing him over to the police in Patna. Six days earlier they broke open the door of another house to help a woman and her child stay in the house of her husband who had driven them out. In recent months, the Dasta has organised such " halla bol" campaigns on behalf of many hapless women.

 

They say that their methods may be aggressive but it helps these women get justice. They warn that if women continued to be tormented by their in- laws, a day would come when all of them would brandish swords on the streets to get justice.

 

STRONGMAN USES HORSE POWER TO WELCOME GOWDA

FORMER prime minister HD Deve Gowda may have not much following in Bihar but he was accorded a reception which would make politicians from outside the state envious.

 

Scores of horses were lined up on the streets as he arrived in the state capital to address a rally. The residents of Patna were taken aback when they saw about 100 horse riders ' capturing' the city's main thoroughfare, giving the Pajeros and Honda City's a tough time. The commuters at first thought that a film shooting was going on but the blaring siren of a police escort vehicle made them realise that the ' cavalry' was accompanying a VVIP. The organiser was independent legislator Dadan Pehalwan who is known for such ostentatious tamashas . The maverick wrestler- turnedpolitician, who is trying to form a third front to challenge the likes of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad in the coming polls, has been in the news for hiring a chopper for six months for campaigning in the polls. He says that he has done so because helicopter companies hike their rates during the elections. Given his track record, hiring horses for the Deve Gowda show was not a difficult task for him.

 

Impressed with his organising abilities, Deve Gowda made him the state president of the Janata Dal- Secular ( JD- S). Quite a knockout performance by Pehalwan!

 

CITY'S DATE WITH A LEGEND

THE presence of the living legend of Kathak— Pandit Birju Maharaj — in town after a long gap pleased his fans.

 

The dancing maestro said that the Bihar capital was like a second home to him. " Artists are hungry for love and appreciation," he said. And he gets plenty of that here.

 

But he was not here to perform.

 

He had undergone a cataract operation five days ago and was in no position to do so. He said that he had come here to bless his disciple Setika Singh, a teen- aged girl from Bihar, who was performing for the first time. He said that nothing could be better for a good guru than to get a good disciple like her.

 

Setika did not disappoint the legend as she danced for two hours in a packed auditorium.

 

Setika — who has been learning kathak since the age of 7 and has done her Plus II from Delhi Public School, RK Puram in New Delhi— won over the classical dance aficionados of Patna who saw in her the making of a future dancing star from Bihar.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

PLAY IT STRAIGHT

 

A week after a British tabloid reported the alleged collusion of some Pakistani cricketers with a London-based bookie in spot-fixing, there's more proof in the public domain regarding betting, which should make cricket lovers worried. Yasir Hameed, a colleague of the three tainted Pakistani cricketers, reportedly said the players have been doing it in every match. Hameed has since clarified that he didn't quite say so. Meanwhile, there's talk of the ICC investigating a fourth Pakistani player. A senior Sri Lankan cricketer and a board official are also under the ICC scanner. 


Clearly, the rot has spread far and wide. It is not just Pakistan that's got to watch out. Other cricket boards too can't be complacent. The trouble with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is it even refuses to admit to the problem. The response in that country to allegations of spot-fixing has been to blame the rest of the world, especially India, for conspiring against its national team. Senior cricket board officials to diplomats toed the conspiracy line until the ICC suspended the tainted players. Sane voices in Pakistan that argued against irrational defence of tainted players were ignored. The PCB needs to admit the gravity of the situation and clean up the system. It's going to be a complicated task since some people have accused PCB officials of involvement in betting rackets. If Pakistan wants to set its cricket in order, it must begin with the board. A fresh set of board officials and selectors may be able to win back the trust of players and fans. Misguided nationalism would lead to a blinkered view of the issue. 


That two Sri Lankans have come under the needle of suspicion should serve as a wake-up call for other cricket boards in the subcontinent. Indian authorities have a different problem at hand. Indian bookies have been accused of running betting rackets in cricket. Since betting is banned in India, those involved in the activity must be booked under the law. IPL authorities should also take steps to ensure that a tournament with enormous commercial potential does not get tainted. 


Simultaneously, betting ought to be made legal so that it doesn't become a site to lodge sleaze money. Sure, legalising betting may not weed out corruption in cricket entirely but such a step could help decriminalise the activity besides bringing in revenue. A more transparent system will enable institutional checks and balances, which could be an effective deterrent against corruption in cricket.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                            C OMMENT

URBAN LEGIONS

 

A UN report sometime ago said India had lifted around 59.7 million people out of slum conditions since 2000. But, going by latest figures released by an expert committee, the UPA government has hard work to do if it wants to make India slum-free in five years. The panel estimates that around 93 million Indians will live in city slums by 2011. Concerns naturally arise over tardy progress in streamlining slum development and rehabilitation policies across the country as well as in implementing them to reduce migration-related pressure on creaking, overstretched urban infrastructure. Case-specific regularisation, as in the case of old slums, or relocation is desired, but housing construction as envisaged under the Rajiv Awas Yojana hasn't quite taken off. Authorities need to free up land so that artificial scarcity doesn't push up land costs, disincentivising the private sector from partnering the effort to build low-cost housing. Town planning and development, as also municipal laws, must factor in land needs for the purpose. 


All states need to see that inclusive city development means legalising the urban poor's informally held assets, so that the economic energies of slums can be harnessed. Property rights are an instrument of poverty alleviation, as economist Hernando de Soto rightly said. In cases of relocation, it isn't enough to re-house squatters in government dwellings in city outskirts and to give them title-deeds. If re-housed people employed in city centres can't commute affordably, they'll be tempted to sell off housing colony units and return to being slum-dwellers. So, apart from providing them services like sanitation, water and power, cheap public transport is a must. Finally, skills development, financially inclusive microcredit and, last but not least, effective employment generation policies geared to stemming casualisation of labour would be part of any holistic approach to empowering the urban poor.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

WORST FOOT FORWARD

RONOJOY SEN

 

The muckraking over the Commonwealth Games (CWG) just doesn't stop. Corruption scandals, ineptitude at all levels and brazen passing of the buck we have seen it all. Whatever hopes some people had of the Games doing what the Beijing Olympics did for China or the 2010 World Cup for South Africa has long been discarded. 


But is it too late to ask whether such mega sporting events are really worth it? Actually not. With India planning to bid for the 2019 Asiad and harbouring ambitions admittedly improbable of bidding for the 2020 Olympic Games, this is something that needs to be straightened out as soon as possible. 


In the furious debate over the CWG, two broad arguments have been made. The first has been most forcefully articulated by former sports minister Mani Shankar Aiyar who believes good money is being wasted on the Games, which could have gone in training children in sports or providing other things that India desperately needs. 

The second view is a quasi-nationalistic one that the Games are vital to India's standing and its great power ambitions. This is tied to the argument that the Games are not just a sporting event but also about upgrading the country's, or more specifically Delhi's, infrastructure. According to this argument, of the total budget of roughly Rs 40,000 crore, only around Rs 2,400 crore has gone into the 
Suresh Kalmadi-led Organising Committee, about which allegations of corruption and malfeasance have repeatedly been raised. But the rest of the money, it is argued, has gone towards perfectly legitimate things like extension of the Metro, building flyovers and dressing up the airport. 


Both views have a grain of truth but are ultimately flawed. The first argument is a zero-sum one where development is pitted against an ambitious programme or event, such as the CWG or India's space mission, which might not be essential for a country. But this view entirely ignores the long-run benefits and spin-offs from such mega events. The second view elides over the necessity of holding sporting spectacles for developing the infrastructure which should anyway have been taken up of Indian cities. 


So what then should be the yardstick for evaluating the necessity of holding sporting events in a poor country such as India? The prime criteria should be a cost-benefit analysis. The past Olympic Games are possibly the best signposts for this. Until the Los Angeles Games, the Olympics had usually been a loss-making venture for the host country. It was only in 1984 that the Games turned the corner producing a surplus of $232.5 million. This was a stunning turnaround considering the 1976 Montreal Games had incurred a debt of $1.5 billion. Some of the hallmarks of the LA Olympics were running the Olympics as one would run a commercial venture, as well as using as much as possible existing infrastructure. The next Games at Seoul also made money but successive Olympics have turned in lower profits with Athens in 2004 ending in the red. The picture for the Beijing Olympics, which saw massive government investment in infrastructure, is still unclear. 


The LA model doesn't apply to India or the CWG for obvious reasons. One, the government and its various agencies are the prime movers of the Games and the entire process is riddled with lack of accountability and corruption. Two, the CWG doesn't hold a candle to the Olympics both in terms of visibility and commercial scope. A successor to the British Empire Games, the CWG is an idea that is fast losing its shine. Though it is the third largest multidiscipline sporting event after the Olympics and Asian Games, it just doesn't have adequate oomph. To make matters worse, many of the star athletes of the Commonwealth are skipping the Delhi Games. It's not surprising therefore that there's been a complete lack of sponsor and popular interest in the Games. Even the PSUs, coerced into putting in money, are having second thoughts. 


That leaves us with two other purported benefits from the Games infrastructure and sporting legacy. The first is a real one with a major chunk of the CWG budget being spent on revamping Delhi's infrastructure. Just as with the 1982 Asiad, we are likely to see a transformed Delhi, if and when all the projects are completed. But the question is whether a Games-driven development of a city is the best way. As a series of Comptroller and Auditor General reports and media investigations have shown, in the rush to get Delhi ready for the Games, there has been little accountability of how and where the funds which have overshot the orginal budget several times over have been spent. 


As for a sporting legacy, the 1982 Asiad is a sobering example of how little mega events can go towards fostering and improving sports in any country. This is true not just for India. There have been many instances of Olympic host cities where stadiums lay vacant once the Games got over. 


With the CWG less than a month away, all we can hope for is that the venues and at least some of the essential infrastructure are ready before the first athletes step off the plane. But the lessons from the shambolic run-up to the Games must not be forgotten when talk of hosting another mega sporting event comes up. 

The writer is a visiting research fellow at 
ISASNational University of Singapore.

 

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                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

A GOOD STRATEGY

 

Given the fact that they serve millions of customers and manage crores of rupees worth of small savings, there is a tendency to look upon public sector banks ( PSB) in India as social institutions. But while PSBs do have social goals, banking is also a business venture and it is important that the sector is treated as such. The State Bank of India's (SBI) recent decision to open a branch in Hyderabad exclusively for crorepatis is in line with commercial principles, and there is nothing wrong with that. 


Over the years, PSBs have earned the unenviable reputation of being consumer-unfriendly. From the products they sell to customer care, many of these banks are less than efficient in their dealings. This in turn is reflected in lacklustre performance, so much so that customers often feel private banks give greater returns on investment. While public sector banking should serve as a tool for socio-economic uplift, it needs to shed its sleepy 'sarkari' image. This is what SBI seems to be doing with its 'crorepati only' branch. To provide customised services to high-end clients, it will have to be as competitive as private banks and adopt quality banking standards and practices. This will help energise work at all branches of the bank, benefiting small and medium-income account holders as well. 


Besides, it is by spreading their customer base across the social board that PSBs can garner the resources needed to expand their operations, particularly in rural areas. Small profit margins make rural banking an unattractive proposition. But by harnessing clients at the upper end of the scale, banks can subsidise rural operations and thereby widen the banking net. Commercial considerations can, therefore, not only promote efficiency but also serve the goal of financial inclusion. SBI's strategy of launching a branch that provides exclusive services to high-end clients is, therefore, sensible.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

THIS ISN'T INCLUSIVE

AJAY VAISHNAV

 

With a 'crorepati only' branch in Hyderabad's upmarket locality, the SBI too seems to have joined private sector banks in wooing high net worth individuals. However, greater sensitivity towards the needs of the less privileged was expected from India's largest PSB and financial services company. Its decision is baffling given that over 60 per cent of India's population still remains outside the ambit of the organised banking system. Given its clear social purpose, public sector banking should not discriminate between customers on the basis of status and money. 


Inarguably, banking is both a business and a public utility service. But India's PSBs must focus on the latter because a vast majority of the population needs affordable banking services. The SBI has a significant role to play here, more so when financial inclusion is both the government's and RBI's top priority. The bank should be more careful in fixing its priorities and allocating resources. As it is, its network of over 13,000 bank branches is less than adequate to cover the length and breadth of the country, and particularly the north-east. Instead of wasting money on building and decorating an opulent branch in Hyderabad, SBI should have utilised the substantial funds to increase its outreach and expand its customer base among the poor. 


Access to affordable credit and insurance can change India's rural landscape and enlarge livelihood opportunities for millions. It would be too much to expect private banks to perform this function, especially in poor and remote areas. If India's growth has to be inclusive, it is the duty of the state and its public sector arms to set better examples. The SBI has done so in the past, by introducing one-rupee bank accounts for the poor in Hyderabad.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

WHAT'S THE MOTIVE?

C V SUKUMARAN

 

Paying the price for being inept with someone's life is an unpleasant thing, right? But that is what many hapless if pathetic doctors had to do in tsarist Russia. According to folklore, on learning that people were falling ill in a province though it boasted a surfeit of medical practitioners, the emperor ordered all doctors to be shot dead! In contrast, dramatist George Bernard Shaw had a humane remedy. Stop paying doctors' fees when illness abounds and resume paying when it doesn't, he suggested. This, Shaw thought, would motivate doctors. Which means money is what moves them. 


As if to disprove the playwright, there are many doctors whose unselfish concern for their patients has been established indubitably. Nevertheless, it is a truism that many succumb to the lure of money, and altruism takes a backseat to greed. Is it not paradoxical that doctors who fight diseases tooth and nail secretly desire their persistence? No doctor, after having spent so much money and time for medical training, could bear the sight of a disease-free society. If the populace is free of illness, all the effort behind their becoming doctors would be in vain unless, of course, we accept Shaw's suggestion. So, while they doubtless want patients to get well soon, doctors don't want diseases to disappear for good. 


Apply Shaw's logic to policemen. Despite being unpleasant aspects of life, diseases and crime ironically have great employment potential. Policemen, lawyers and even judges would become all but redundant if a society were free of crime and disputes. Similarly, medics would become mendicants if, one fine morning, diseases said goodbye to us en masse. No wonder authorities meant to prevent crimes fight shy of doing so, wittingly or unwittingly. Who cherished Veerappan's freedom more than the brigand himself? None other than his prospective captors. It was rumoured that they stood to benefit more from his being a free bird than in fetters. Thus, for years, he had the run of the jungles while his pursuers sat on their hands. 


Or take municipal corporation men who raid street vendors who sell, say, fruits and vegetables. The raiders arrive with lightning speed and, like the Mongolian marauders of yore, carry away the traders' goods. Hawkers aren't allowed to conduct their business by usurping the pavements because sidewalks aren't ostensibly meant for that. Moreover, their vending usually spills onto the road. But do these raiders really want illegal vending to stop? Why, if vendors are banished for good, how can the conductors of raids collect 'penalty' money read hafta periodically? To be sure, the pavement vendors are back in business in no time, albeit poorer by a few hundred bucks. No doubt their tormentors whisper in their ears, "Don't you worry, you can come back. This is only a natak." 

Then, the way things are going today, it is uncertain if the aim of railway ticket checkers is to eliminate the menace of ticketless travel. Consider the fact that the black sheep among TCs often don't issue receipts for the fines they collect. Why, they are even game for smaller amounts paid if the offenders do not insist on payment receipts! Money so collected, instead of going into Indian Railways' coffers, lines the pockets of the TCs. So, you can correctly infer that ticketless travel is very rewarding precisely for the people meant to fight it. Who knows, perhaps venal higher-ups are also in this business of making a fast buck. Have no ticket, will travel. 

Everything seems to hinge on money. As they say, human relations have been "reduced to mere money relations". However, there is one activity that doesn't bank on money: writing for a national daily. One's contribution seeing the light of day is what motivates any writer. The compensation? A mere icing on the cake!

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

THEIRS TO GIVE & TAKE AWAY?

 

The release of three policemen who had been held captive for nine days by Maoists in Bihar's Lakhisarai district comes as a relief to their families and well-wishers. Without sounding like a damp squib, however, one should realise that providing such incremental relief could very well be a calibrated strategy of the Maoists.

 

If no long-term solution is sought and found by governments both in Maoist-affected states and at the Centre, what happened in Bihar can be the harbinger of many more such hostage situations.

 

It is important to take note of the relieved comments made by the released victims and their loved ones on Monday. One happy survivor of the ordeal explained that he was alive due to 'god's grace' and the 'blessings' of his parents and of his family. The wife of one of the policemen went as far as to thank her 'Maoist brothers' who released her husband.

 

In other words, the message that comes out of the mess is that it's in the sole power of the Maoists to 'giveth and taketh away'.

 

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is the latest uncomfortable symbol of the State's inability to take the battle to the Maoists. India is no Israel or Russia. A policy of 'no negotiations with anti-State hostage takers' doesn't apply because no government is bold enough to bite the bit and short-circuit the fundamental source of political hostage-taking.

 

What didn't apply in 1999 Kandahar still doesn't apply in the 2010 India. So we have the spectre of the proverbial monster seeking out a blood sacrifice from the village folks - translated into real terms, more kidnappings in exchange of demands whether it be the release of captured Maoists or even policy changes.

 

At some point, state and central governments have to take a call on whether they want the Maoists to be the arbiters of the life and death of people who work for the State. Fear, like love, can be a powerful ingredient for loyalties in a terrain that is still coming to terms with differentiating between Maoist 'sympathisers' and 'victims'.

 

In all the celebrations around the release of the policemen, we should have the time and energy to ask the question that the family members of Lucas Tete, who was slain four days ago by the same Maoists, are now asking: why was Tete not shown the same 'humanitarian concern' that his more fortunate comrades were shown on Monday?

 

The answer lies in strategy, not in a sudden show of Maoist benevolence. India and its people should bear that

in mind.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE PUNDIT

YESTERDAY ONCE MORE

 

It would appear that for years now, we have seriously underestimated the power of Indian intelligence agencies. Far from being the equivalent of the keystone cops, our spooks have been getting up to all sorts of skullduggery mainly in Nepal. Now that the political parties have failed for the sixth time to elect a prime minister, it turns out that India has stealthily masterminded the operations so as to prevent Maoist leader Prachanda from coming to power.

 

There is the little matter of him have got far less votes than required to bring him within striking distance of prime ministership but then admitting that would be no fun. But are our friends in Kathmandu giving us too much credit where none is due?

 

Long ago and far away, India was supposed to be in cahoots with the former monarch Gyanendra and his psychotic son Paras. But clearly, New Delhi fell down on its task of keeping the King in the palace as he was swept away by democratic forces.

 

Then along comes an even more fiendish ploy by India in which it actually got dear old Prachanda to quit office on some flimsy ground. Of course, several things like grinding poverty and fall in tourism have been engineered by India though we have not quite understood to what end.

 

It is clear to us, impartial media observers, that Nepal is getting along just fine without a government. So, we suggest that this 'elect a prime minister' could be billed as a unique tourist attraction complete with back-stabbing and horse-trading thrown in for colour.

 

Who knows this may set off a new trend of leaderless countries. In fact, if Nepal can perfect this new form of non-government a bit more, there may be other countries that might adopt this model. It would certainly be a lot easier on the exchequer and would afford some form of entertainment for people. Meanwhile, like the ditty '10 green bottles standing on the wall', now six green bottles have accidentally fallen.

 

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.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

WAITING FOR GODARD

PARAMITA GHOSH

 

If there are a few things I've understood about French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, he'll refuse the honorary Oscar the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is keen to give him this November. The Academy has been trying to reach the 79-year-old auteur since last fortnight without success.

 

Godard's anti-Hollywoodism is not a sentiment; he made it part of the structure of his films. The 'American producer' and 'American melodrama' — both symbols of the hold of big money over cinema — were on top of his list of things to destroy. And to destroy them, he had to diminish their image.

 

In Contempt (1963), a film made with American money, Godard lampoons the crass commercial side of the American studio system through the tale of a film crew based on an Alberto Moravia story. He pits the character of Jerry Prokosch, a Hollywood producer (Godard's hatchet job on Contempt producer Joe Levine) who reaches for his chequebook whenever he hears the word 'culture', with the director, played by master film noir  director Fritz Lang, suffering Prokosch's interference.

 

Contempt also starred Bridget Bardot and producer Levine was depending on her appearing nude in it. Godard's revenge is one of cinema's most tongue-in-cheek anti-pornography 'nude scenes': he makes Bardot count her body parts.

 

In In Praise of Love ( 2002), Godard continues his hit on the American culture industry. Through the figure of the director (the reference is to Steven Spielberg, Schindler's List and Hollywood's constant return to World War II stories), America is shown to go to Europe to steal other people's memories.

 

For America then to award an Oscar to a director who has put the 'European film' as an alternative to the 'Hollywood film' with its system of monopoly, its culture of fantasy, representation and psychological analysis, is surprising. For Godard, the director was everything. The critic's job was to improve the quality of cinema with his criticism and films were reality. Godard wouldn't put fiction in front of his camera.

 

Thus, the common experience in his movies to be aware that a film is a film. "We often went to the movies. The screen lit up and we trembled…" says one character to another in Masculine Feminine. "Marilyn Monroe had aged terribly. It made us sad, this wasn't the film we had dreamed of or wanted to live."

 

Unlike his friend Francois Truffaut, there were other reasons why Godard and Hollywood didn't get along. A Leftist who counted Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein and German playwright Bertolt Brecht as his major influences, Godard's idea of cinema was art that could only be developed in relation to politics. The Academy halted the screening of his film, Pierrot Le Fou (1965), a film not really about the Vietnam War, but, among other things, the French attitude to the war.

 

In a 1968 interview, Godard explained the purpose of his typical juxtaposition of text with image: "Take a photo and statement by Lenin or Ché, divide the sentence into ten parts, one word per image, then add the photo that corresponds to the meaning either with or against it."

 

The answer to the Oscar offering perhaps lies elsewhere. Perhaps the Academy has remembered what Godard did love about Hollywood: the thriller form, directors Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock. Truffaut in an angry letter to Godard added another name: Francis Ford Coppola. (He called Godard "a Coppola groupie".) The maker of Godfather also gets an honorary Oscar this year. Did he play a part in the handshake? Unthinkable. It must be Hollywood looking for recognition. Godard's recognition. Or, at least that is how I want to remember Jean-Luc Godard at 79.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COLUMN

AFTER THE FLOOD

FAREED ZAKARIA,

 

Ever since 9/11, liberals and conservatives have agreed that the lasting solution to the problem of Islamic terror is to prevail in the battle of ideas and to discredit radical Islam, the ideology that motivates young men to kill and be killed. Victory in the war on terror will be won when a moderate, mainstream version of Islam - one that is compatible with modernity - fully triumphs over the worldview of Osama bin Laden.

 

Nine years after 9/11, can anyone doubt that al-Qaeda is simply not that deadly a threat? Since that gruesome day in 2001, once governments everywhere began serious countermeasures, Osama bin Laden's terror network has been unable to launch a single major attack on high-value targets in the United States and Europe. While it has inspired a few much smaller attacks by local jihadis, it has been unable to execute a single one itself. Today, al-Qaeda's best hope is to find a troubled young man who has been radicalised over the internet, and teach him to stuff his underwear with explosives.

 

I do not minimise al-Qaeda's intentions, which are barbaric. I question its capabilities. In every recent conflict, the US has been right about the evil intentions of its adversaries but massively exaggerated their strength. In the 1980s, we thought the Soviet Union was expanding its power and influence when it was on the verge of economic and political bankruptcy. In the 1990s, we were certain that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear arsenal. In fact, his factories could barely make soap.

 

The error this time is more damaging. September 11 was a shock to the American psyche and the American system. As a result, we overreacted. In a crucially important Washington Post reporting project, Top Secret America, Dana Priest and William Arkin spent two years gathering information on how 9/11 has really changed America.

 

Here are some of the highlights. Since September 11, 2001, the US government has created or reconfigured at least 263 organisations to tackle some aspect of the war on terror. The amount of money spent on intelligence has risen by 250 percent, to $75 billion (and that's the public number, which is a gross underestimate). That's more than the rest of the world spends put together.

 

Thirty-three new building complexes have been built for intelligence bureaucracies alone, occupying 17 million square feet - the equivalent of 22 US Capitols or three Pentagons. Five miles southeast of the White House, the largest government site in 50 years is being built - at a cost of $3.4 billion - to house the largest bureaucracy after the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs: the Department of Homeland Security, which has a workforce of 230,000 people.

 

This new system produces 50,000 reports a year - 136 a day - which, of course, means few ever get read. Those senior officials who have read them describe most as banal; one tells me, "Many could be produced in an hour using Google." Fifty-one separate bureaucracies operating in 15 states track the flow of money to and from terrorist organisations, with little information-sharing.

 

Some 30,000 people are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications in the US. And yet no one in army intelligence noticed that Major Nidal Malik Hasan had been making a series of strange threats at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre, where he trained.

 

The father of the Nigerian 'Christmas bomber' reported his son's radicalism to the US embassy. But that

message never made its way to the right people in this vast security apparatus. The plot was foiled only by the bomber's own incompetence and some alert passengers.

 

Such mistakes might be excusable. But the rise of this national-security State has entailed a vast expansion in the government's powers that now touches every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism.

 

The most chilling aspect of Dave Eggers's heartbreaking book, Zeitoun, is that the federal government's fastest and most efficient response to Hurricane Katrina was the creation of a Guantánamo-like prison facility (in days!) in which 1,200 American citizens were summarily detained and denied any of their constitutional rights for months, a suspension of habeas corpus that reads like something out of a Kafka novel.

 

In the past, the US government has built up for wars, assumed emergency authority, and sometimes abused that power, yet always demobilised after the war. But this is a war without end. When do we declare victory? When do the emergency powers cease?

 

Conservatives are worried about the growing power of the state. Surely, this usurpation is more worrisome than a few federal stimulus programmes. When James Madison pondered this issue, he came to a simple conclusion: "Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germs of every other… In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

 

"No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual war," Madison concluded.

 

(Fareed Zakaria is a columnist with Newsweek and the author of The Post-American World. The views expressed by the author are personal)

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IN BASQUE COUNTRY

 

Euskadi Ta Askatasuna. There's nothing like it in the Spanish language. For nearly five decades the name has evoked secrecy, violence and fear — none of which, of course, has had anything to do with the fact that ETA spells itself in the Basque language, or that its name means Basque Homeland and Freedom. The Basque Country was always different, its language and culture having no historic links to the rest of Iberia. Under Franco, Basques were pulverised, their language forbidden, their culture under erasure. In fact, ETA's founding in 1959 and its violent campaign for Basque independence since the '60s is a legacy of El Generalissimo. ETA has a history of declaring ceasefires and violating them soon after, the last being in 2006. Thus the Basque regional government is sceptical about Sunday's ceasefire declaration, while the Spanish government will not negotiate till ETA disarms and renounces violence. ETA hasn't conceded so much, except its claim to work towards democratic means. Yet, this declaration was made to the BBC, not to any Spanish paper or channel. Could ETA, classified as terrorist by the US and EU, be at least wishing to draw international attention, if not look for an IRA-type solution?

 

The facts: effective policing by Spain and France (for long an ETA haven; some of the seven Basque regions claimed by ETA lie in southwest France) has landed most top ETA leaders in jail; Basque nationalist parties, including the banned Batasuna (ETA's political wing) have been pressuring the outfit; its popular support has steadily dwindled since the late '90s; after the March 2004 Madrid train bombings by Al Qaeda, ETA seemed to realise violence wouldn't pay. Perhaps a cornered ETA feels a change of government in Spain's next general election will queer its pitch altogether. In any case, for this ceasefire call to head anywhere, the onus lies wholly on the outfit.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PENSION TENSION

 

Planning for retirement is not easy. It's hard and frequently dispiriting, the calculation of exactly how much we need to save, year by year, in order to ensure we've got enough put by when the time comes. And it's even harder for those in the unorganised sector, many of whom have access to no safety net whatsoever, or are easy prey for pyramid schemes and other hucksters. Which is why, if we are looking at new institutions here, we have to get them right.

 

As The Financial Express reported on Monday, the Centre is working on a new "fixed-income" pension plan, which will be available to the 400 million workers in the unorganised sector. That's a big, big idea, and something that needs to be carefully planned — because it is both necessary, and will be massively impactful down the line. But, as reported, the trouble is that this will be a "defined benefit" plan, in which workers are promised a particular amount regardless of how matters change over their lifetimes. That moves us away from a "defined contribution" plan, in which what you get is linked to what you put in, and how that's managed over time. Any difference between what you put in, what it earns over time, and what you've been promised will have to be made up by government money. This was precisely what the New Pension Scheme, which was supposed to be the big gamechanging and accessible idea for pension planning, would have avoided; but this new plan, being pushed in coordination with states like Haryana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, both dilutes the NPS's attractiveness and drifts in the wrong direction.

 

It does that by ignoring the logic that drove the movement from a defined-benefit to a defined-contribution plan in the first place: simple fiscal prudence. At a recent conference in New Delhi, the Central provident fund commissionerrevealed that the Employees' Pension Scheme of 1996, where the government has put about one-third of all provident fund money, was recently examined by experts: and that examination turned out a shocking deficit, of Rs 54,000 crore. That's money that the government will have to make good at some point — depriving other crucial social-sector schemes of life support.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TAKING THE LEAD

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, we know, is not the gabbiest politician. When he does speak, though, he often manages to cut through opacity and confusion, something that is currently afflicting this government. At an wide-ranging inter-action with editors on Monday, the prime minister provided some of the answers that the nation has been casting about for.

 

Accused of drift and heedlessness, and of investing all its mental energies in the 2014 election, the UPA clearly needs to square with the people, even if it be something along the spirit of Gerald Ford's 1975 candour: "I must say to you that the state of the Union is not good." And at his exchange with the media, the prime minister responded to many of the looming, large questions, from the Kashmir turmoil to crony capitalism. He indicated to the Supreme Court that it could be getting into the realm of policy formulation over the recent order to distribute rotting foodgrain. He also took on delicate questions about the Congress's internal carping and his own grip on the party. He suggested the possibility of a cabinet reshuffle and his own desire to see younger faces there. He threw his weight behind colleagues who have faced serious criticism in recent weeks, praising the home minister and encouraging a beleaguered HRD minister for his handling of the "most important ministry". The prime minister's intervention was badly needed on all these matters of policy and politics — to start with, it is not even a matter of taking drastic action on these fronts as much as conveying a clear consciousness of his responsibility and sharing the government's rationale. It is a bit of essential theatre that so far the UPA has been particularly inept at providing.

 

And now, the prime minister will be tested against these assurances. For all his soothing words about the party's cohesion, there is little question that the Congress is largely culpable for this sense of purposelessness. There's so much internal disagreement and transparent jockeying for future power within the coalition that it does not seem to need a formal opposition, and it often coasts on the fact that responsibility is hard to locate. Erasing that ambiguity, as the prime minister has now attempted to do, is crucial if there is to be a mid-course correction for UPA-II.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

AFTER NIYAMGIRI

BIBEK DEBROY 

 

 What does it mean to say that tribal voices will be heard in Delhi only now? "Regular elections to panchayat bodies will be ensured and the amended act in respect of the Fifth and Sixth Schedule Areas will be implemented.... The UPA government will immediately review the overall strategy and programmes for the development of tribal areas to plug loopholes and to work out more viable livelihood strategies. In addition, more effective systems of relief and rehabilitation will be put in place for tribal and other groups displaced by development projects. Tribal people alienated from land will be rehabilitated." That quote is from National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP) of May 2004, and Fifth and Sixth Schedule areas refer to the Constitution.

 

The Fifth Schedule talks about a Tribes Advisory Council and confers comprehensive powers on the governor. For instance (and this is just one example): "Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution the governor may by public notification direct that any particular act of Parliament or of the legislature of the state shall not apply to a scheduled area or any part thereof in the state or shall apply to a scheduled area or any part thereof in the state." And: "In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power, such regulations may... prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled Tribes in such area." The Sixth Schedule is specific to tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

 

We cannot keep ducking the core issue indefinitely. Articles 244(1) and 244(2) of the Constitution provide separate governance and administration of tribal areas. There is an inherent conflict with Article 243 and the 73rd Amendment. Yes, after the Bhuria Committee, we have PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act) of 1996 and it provides for gram sabhas, but these need not be elected. While there are systems of community ownership and practice and, occasionally, tribal mechanisms of governance too, tribes aren't homogeneous. Even if they were, does the existence of such traditional systems warrant a completely different form of governance and administration? Principles of governance and administration ought to be the same, whether it is a scheduled area or not. It is one thing to argue there should be decentralised planning in the way one treats development, land, forestry and other natural resource issues. Literacy is only one indicator of development or deprivation. In the 2001 census, female literacy among STs was 15.54 per cent in Bihar. On the literacy indicator, the Northeast is different. But in bulk of the Fifth Schedule areas (Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, MP, Orissa, Rajasthan and even Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra), assorted government programmes haven't delivered much and this is starker if one uses non-literacy indicators.

 

We didn't need a Posco or a Vedanta to tell us this. Therefore, why wasn't a tribal voice heard in Delhi earlier? Even if one doesn't delve into history, there was an Eleventh Five Year Plan document, authored after UPA-I came into power. The first of its three volumes was titled "Social Justice" and it had an extensive section on STs. This first listed out constitutional safeguards and assorted government initiatives and then told us the following: "Since most of the tribal habitations are located in isolated villages and hamlets in undulating plateau lands coinciding with forest areas, they have limited access to critical infrastructure facilities such as roads, communication, health, education, electricity, drinking water, and so on. This widens the gap between the quality of their life and the people in the country."

 

There are 2,474 distant forest villages in the country, 893 in MP, 499 in Assam, 425 in Chhattisgarh, and the rest are scattered. The Plan document also tells us: "Though the majority of the tribals are settled cultivators, their farming activity is generally uneconomical and non-viable due to the lack of access to necessary agricultural inputs, specially assured irrigation." Hence, let us be clear. ST populations do not live in a tribal Arcadia, to which they will return, once Posco and Vedanta are out of the way. The subsistence-level standard of living isn't one worth returning to.

 

The core issue should be flagged differently. Why is the average condition of SCs superior to the average condition of STs? Because SCs are geographically integrated and STs aren't. Lack of integration means lack of connectivity, especially transport connectivity. Without roads and electricity, remaining elements of physical and social infrastructure don't follow either. Development comes through mainstreaming, not through segregation in enclaves. That's the lesson everywhere in the world and there is no reason why India should be different. In other words, if implemented properly, Article 243 can lead to decentralised planning and consultation of stake-holders and local communities.

 

(It is a separate matter that the government doesn't want to do this.) But Article 244 is a bad idea. With integration, some of those isolated villages and hamlets will also disappear as a result of development. That's inevitable and desirable. Providing social and physical infrastructure there is simply not viable, even if it is done by the public sector.

 

Since tribal regions are rich in minerals, one should also mention the Supreme Court's 1997 Samata judgment. The bullet points of that judgment are the following. A gram sabha has powers to prevent alienation of land in scheduled areas and restore unlawful alienation. Minerals must be exploited by tribals themselves (individually or collectively). Ideally, there should be prohibition on exploitation of minerals (through leases) by non-tribals. In the absence of complete prohibition, 20 per cent of net profits must be earmarked for developmental expenditure, reforestation and ecology. The Supreme Court, or any other court, interprets the law of the land. Whether that law furthers the cause of tribal development is a broader question, outside the purview of courts. Are these Supreme Court guidelines implementable? In scheduled areas, they will bar all private mining and tribals do not possess the wherewithal to exploit minerals individually or collectively. With Avatar analogy being used so much, that is Unobtanium.

But right at the end, the Supreme Court did add a further guideline: "Conference of all chief ministers, ministers holding the ministry concerned and prime minister, and Central ministers concerned should take a policy decision for a consistent scheme throughout the country in respect of tribal lands." What we need is more than a conference. We need to take stock of our entire attitude towards tribal development and principles of segregation, vis-a-vis mainstreaming. The answer won't be found in Lanjigarh or Niyamgiri. It has to be found in Delhi.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based economist express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

A NUCLEAR INTERACTION

K. SUBRAHMANYAM 

 

 When I think of Homi Sethna, my mind goes back 31 years to the day in early April 1979 when I flew down to Mumbai to hand over to him a sealed cover containing the handwritten minutes of the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) signed by the cabinet secretary, Nirmal Mukarji. It was in my handwriting and had one sentence: "The Cabinet, having considered the issue, gave appropriate directions to the Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission."

 

Two days earlier the CCPA under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Morarji Desai considered the report of the Joint Intelligence Committee, of which I was the chairman, setting out its assessment that Pakistan was on its way to produce a nuclear weapon with enriched uranium obtained through the centrifuge process. Though I was the additional secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat and the official minutes writer, I was not present in that highly hush-hush meeting. Apart from the five cabinet ministers, the prime minister, Foreign Minister Vajpayee, Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram, Home Minister H.M. Patel and the Finance Minister Charan Singh, only three officials were present. Mukarji, V. Shankar, secretary to the PM, and Sethna, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). After the meeting, Mukarji dictated the minutes to me to be put on file to get approved by the PM. Though Morarji Desai, according to Mukarji, was against initiating any action and he was supported by Vajpayee, the other three ministers wanted the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to commence research for a weapon. After Morarji Desai approved the minutes, Mukarji instructed me to deliver the handwritten minutes personally to Sethna in Mumbai.

 

My second major interaction with Sethna was when he proposed the appointment of Dr Fareeduddin as director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Because of the personal differences that developed between Sethna and Raja Ramanna after the Pokharan test, the latter (who was director, BARC) came away from the DAE and was appointed scientific advisor to the defence minister. Sethna wanted to fill up the vacancy. When the matter was considered by the cabinet's appointments committee, V. Shankar, the secretary to the PM, expressed his reservations and suggested that the department be reorganised. Prime Minister Morarji Desai then directed that the matter be examined by a committee chaired by Dr Atma Ram, then director-general of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and a close personal friend of the PM, the cabinet secretary and the AEC chairman. Since they were busy, the matter was remitted to be considered and reported by a representative each of the cabinet secretary and the AEC chairman. The cabinet secretary nominated me and Dr Sethna suggested Subramanyam Siva, who had long been secretary to Dr Bhabha and himself. When the report was to be finalised, I sought a separate interview with Sethna. Since the two of us were privy to the information that the department had been directed to commence research on the weapon, I asked Sethna whether it would not be more appropriate that he held the post of BARC director, to lead the programme himself instead of pushing Fareeduddin for the post, especially since he was not a physicist. He accepted my point. The post of BARC director lay vacant when Indira Gandhi, on her return to office in 1980, transferred Ramanna back to the DAE.

 

My third major interaction with Sethna resulted in Morarji Desai having to reverse one of his stands. On one of my visits to his office, I asked Sethna whether he was happy with the PM's decision to discuss with the Americans their proposal on examining the feasibility of the full scope safeguards to the Indian nuclear programme. Sethna said he was totally opposed to the idea and it was not an American proposal but one initiated by the PM's secretary, V. Shankar. I pointed out that the PM had told Parliament that it was an American proposal and there was no harm in India discussing it with the US. Sethna pulled out of his file the fax message from the Americans, which referred to the full scope safeguards discussion as Shankar's proposal and proceeded to outline the US point of view. When I asked, Sethna readily gave me a photocopy of the document, which I then showed the cabinet secretary, Nirmal Mukarji. He took it to Morarji Desai and told him that he was in danger of being accused of misleading Parliament by presenting it as an American initiative. That put an end to further discussions on full scope safeguards with the Americans.

 

The writer is a senior defence analyst express@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THREE SIDES TO EVERY STORY

SANTOSH SINGH 

 

Soon after the Lakhisarai hostage crisis ended, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made it a point to thank all political parties for peace-offer talks to Maoists. Nitish went further by asking the CPI(Maoist) to shun violence and participate in elections. The Bihar CM also wanted the Election Commission to deploy Central forces to all booths for a free and fair election. This was all a tactical move against his political opponents: he was happy to make his political adversaries a party to solving the Maoist problem. By doing so, he is trying to downplay this latest embarrassment before the polls.

 

Nitish looks in a definite hurry to get back to his USP, sushasan (good governance): roads, improved law and order (over 45,000 convicted). That will pin down Lalu, and he will attack the Congress-led Centre over releasing funds to the state — seeking to end any resurgence under Rahul Gandhi, who plays to the young voters' gallery by calling him and Lalu "jaded leaders". Indeed, what these roads have allowed, besides good transport, of course, is timely newspapers in most villages. A media that writes good things about him has helped Nitish's cause a lot. Voters are not interested in knowing if the roads were built from Central or state funds. They are just happy to get good roads, and ask why Lalu could not use Central funds.

 

But is it all that easy? The Bihar CM privately knows that the "Nitish factor" has been diluted since the last Lok Sabha elections, in which the NDA won 32 of Bihar's 40 seats. Lalu and Paswan — both no longer Central ministers — will go all out, working their caste arithmetic with Muslims, Yadavs, Dalits and disenchanted upper castes. The Congress, with only 10 seats in a 243-member House currently, expects a bit of UP magic, led by AICC in-charge Mukul Wasnik, a Dalit, and state Congress president, Choudhary Mehboob Ali Qaisar. Fringe parties and some influential independents will bid for a hung Assembly, so that they can extract their pound of flesh. And why forget JD(U) rebel Lalan Singh, who has sided with the Congress even without resigning from his parent party? Or the Saran belt Rajput leader and former JD(U) MP Prabhunath Singh, now with Lalu's RJD?

 

So what is Nitish up to? He knows, in hindsight, that development alone cannot be a plank in caste-ridden Bihar society. Unlike Lalu or Paswan — who can recite 100 castes in a single breath — Nitish seldom mentions castes directly. But with his election strategists, he is as good at it as his principal opponents; "double-distilled Ramvilas and triple-refined Lalu", some here call him. After all, he's managed to become a pan-Bihar leader, now extending his popularity at the national level, despite belonging to a caste (Kurmis) that account for less than 3 per cent of the state's population. He'll bank on his new Mahadalit (21 scheduled castes) and "extremely backward classes" (34 per cent) constituencies; if he divides OBCs, upper castes and Muslims, he'll sail through. The biggest hitch is the 16 per cent that are upper-caste, whom Nitish is desperate to win over. Lalan Singh, a Bhumihar and Prabhunath, a Rajput, have been campaigning for a year now, warning of Nitish's intention to bring in laws that can give permanent land rights to tillers. But JD(U) state president Bijay Kumar Choudhary says: "We leave it to the discretion of well-educated voters (read upper castes) to judge Nitish's rule." As for Nitish, he prefers to not to discuss it, not wanting to give it legitimacy as a potential poll issue.

 

Meanwhile, the RJD definitely did not want to pit "rubber-stamp" Rabri Devi against the suave and eloquent Nitish. For a while, there was talk of Vaishali MP and former minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh being projected as a CM nominee, to wean away upper caste votes from the NDA. But eventually it came back to Lalu Prasad himself. A problem: "NDA can now raise 'Lalu rule' fear in a more pronounced way. RJD-LJP should not have projected anyone, confusing voters and political adversaries", said veteran columnist Surendra Kishore.

 

And Lalu's assurances that "past mistakes would not be repeated" have not done him any good. "Now that Laluji has decided not to repeat past mistakes, voters can decide the same way as well", replied Nitish. Lalu and Paswan, however, are trying hard to convince people otherwise. "There is corruption all around. Teachers are beaten, the poor are harassed by police and bureaucrats insult MLAs. Nitish's supreme arrogance will cause his doom," said Lalu Prasad, elaborating his election plans to "expose" the NDA government with facts and figures and not just his usual rustic jokes. Just as he effected Indian Railways' turnaround, he said, he would change Bihar.

 

Paswan, meanwhile, has focused on the Mahadalit issue, saying that Scheduled Caste people got no special benefits. "The Constitution has provided for better care of these castes on the social margin. Has he given any extra reservations to them?" asked Paswan. Paswan also claims upper caste support, calling them "bulldozers" whose disgruntlement could raze a government. If Paswan's LJP was reduced from 29 to 9 seats between the February 2005 and the November 2005 elections, it was mainly because of the upper castes venting their ire against him.

 

The Congress, meanwhile, is going it alone, wanting out of the shadow of long-time poll partner RJD. It contested the September 2009 Assembly by-poll alone, and improved its voting percentage from 4 to 14 per cent. With so many defectors like Sadhu Yadav and Ranjita Ranjan and Lovely Anand, besides its committed old horses like Ashok Ram, Awadesh Ram, Mahachandra Singh and Ramjatan Sinha, it is attempting to recover its old base. According to spokesperson Premchanda Mishra: "We are an old party and are at Centre, we are trying to offer people choice from one-man parties."

 

Finally, it will boil down to Nitish versus Lalu, Sushil Modi versus Pashupati Paras, Nitish' social engineering versus the Lalu-Paswan base vote — with the Congress trying to make it a triangle. The NDA looks ahead. The only question is: will its opponents succeed in making its majority hang by a thread? If they're 20 seats short, then the RJD-LJP, the Congress and parties of all hues and shapes will try to oust Nitish. But there are no clear signs of that yet.

 

santosh.singh@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE CIVIL WAR OF BANGALORE

SARITHA RAI 

 

It is not out in the open yet, nor is anybody even readily acknowledging it. But cracks are beginning to show in NASSCOM, the high profile trade group representing an industry that, in a short span of time, dramatically transformed India's image from a third-world backwater to a technology power at the cutting-edge of globalisation. The trade group's work has been so striking and effective that it has inspired copycat IT industry lobbying groups worldwide, such as a BRASSCOM in Brazil, a GASSCOM in Ghana and a SLASSCOM in Sri Lanka.

 

The New Delhi-headquartered NASSCOM was set up over two decades ago as a consortium to represent the united voice of India's domestic and multinational software and services companies. Now, it seems the interests of the home-grown and multinational outsourcing firms within the lobby group are beginning to diverge.

 

Take the recent controversial decision by the United States government to jack up visa fees, primarily targeting Indian IT companies. The newly-introduced (and subsequently passed) US Border Security Bill presented by Senator Charles Schumer aims to double visa fees for every tech professional brought in on H1-B and L1 visas. This exempts those US-based software companies where Americans account for more than half the total workforce.

 

Naturally, the hike will not affect multinational outsourcing firms such as Accenture and IBM. They have a majority of Americans in their workforce in the United States, even if they're ramping up their Indian workforce by the tens of thousands each year. So they can continue to dispatch Indians to the US at the same charges. But Indian companies like Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro will be affected.

 

While the impact of the fee hike, calculated at an estimated $200 million, should not dent the competitiveness of Indian software companies, it screams "protectionism." And NASSCOM was originally founded with a stated objective to "work actively with overseas governments to make visa and work permit rules Indian-industry friendly." You would, thus, expect that all of NASSCOM would unitedly cry hoarse over the issue — but the multinationals are a study in silence. At one prominent multinational, Accenture, insiders suggest that their American headquarters may even have lobbied for the visa fee hike. Significantly, NASSCOM's current chairman is the India head of Accenture.

 

While all this is happening, India's outsourcing companies are fighting to safeguard their branding in the United States, their main market. Schumer recently singled out Indian firms and labelled them "chop shops", slang for an illegal business that disassembles stolen cars to sell their parts.

 

With over 1,200 members that account for about 90 per cent of India's outsourcing revenue, NASSCOM has so far done a consummate job of representing all categories of firms: domestic software companies, multinational outsourcing firms and even multinational captives. Its evangelising with overseas think tanks, commerce groups and governments has largely led to the all-round propagation of the India model of outsourcing as low-cost value-add.

 

But that model is well-entrenched and accepted by customers worldwide. NASSCOM's agenda for all its constituents, large and small, domestic and multinational, can no longer be one and the same. Small and medium outsourcing firms have repeatedly aired the grievance that NASSCOM is dominated by and catering to the concerns of the largest outsourcing companies.

On issues such as labour laws and expansion into tier two cities, there is much consonance in the group. At the same time, group members who represent captive units of multinationals want the group to lobby on transfer pricing. Multinational service providers want the group to press the government on service tax-related issues. On the issue of human resources, too, there are hitches. Members that once had a no-poaching agreement among themselves are finding that new hiring pacts are no longer strictly followed. Recently, Indian companies such as Infosys and Wipro complained to NASSCOM that a rival multinational had broken a joint pact on hiring students only in their final semester of college.

 

NASSCOM's success comes from the fact that people who compete fiercely in the marketplace collaborate closely on industry issues, says Som Mittal, its president and former head of multinational Hewlett-Packard in India. It is a bonding that may surprise some but has worked well so far, says Mittal, adding that it will continue to work well.

 

The optimism is endearing but the fact is that while the business models of NASSCOM's Indian and multinational members may have converged, newer challenges are rounding the corner. It may be time to rethink the agenda.

 

saritha.rai@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BOXERS, BRIEFS AND BOOKS

 

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 salary 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 laboured 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, while celebrating the end of a hard week, 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 realised 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. 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. A spy hired by the company to pose as a shoppers 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 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. A new plan was hatched. I would return to my hometown and become a hotshot trial lawyer. Tax law was discarded overnight.

 

When my law office started to struggle for lack of well-paying work I decided to go into yet another low-paying career: in 1983, I was elected to 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, 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 really 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 hours 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.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE '38 DOUBLE DIP

 

Here's the situation: The US 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 FDR pulled back fiscal stimulus too soon. But by making his program too small and too short-lived, 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 FDR'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. 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 a burst of deficit-financed government spending, on a scale that would never have been approved otherwise, an amount equal to roughly twice GDP being borrowed, 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: warnings about crushing debt and runaway inflation.

 

But guess what? Deficit spending created an economic boom, and laid the foundation for long-run prosperity. Overall debt in the economy actually fell as a percentage of GDP, 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 FDR, 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 realise 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.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 PENSION PLANS

 

The government's likely move, reported in FE yesterday, to roll out a national retirement plan with a fixed income to 400 million workers in the unorganised sector will be a retrograde step and will take us back to an era where defined benefits rather than defined contributions drove pension schemes. Needless to say, it will also increase the pension bill in the government budget. The New Pension Scheme (NPS), a reformist step forward, which is based on defined contributions, has been 'unpopular' because of low awareness levels of the unorganised sector workforce on retirement income—the NPS was opened to the unorganised sector in May last year and had a well laid out architecture. The main reasons for the slow start are the minimal marketing effort, lack of investor awareness, and an element of uncertainty about the quantum of the retirement corpus and the quantum of pension. For NPS, the regulatory authority PFRDA adopted a direct selling model to keep the costs low and to avoid the urge to mis-sell due to the embedded commissions. With the lowest fund management charges in the world, this distributor-free and agent-free model was designed to protect the individual and to maximise the pension wealth.

 

So far, just about 10,000 people outside of state and central government employees have subscribed to the NPS and the PFRDA has now constituted a 5-member committee to review the implementation of this pension scheme under the chairmanship of GN Bajpai, the former chairman of Sebi. The committee will investigate the cause of the slow start and suggest remedial steps required to make NPS a viable pension system for all stakeholders. The committee will examine the total cost structure of NPS and suggest a viable economic incentive model along with a robust regulatory framework that will ensure that the interest of pensioners are protected. In such a context, it will be premature for the government to start a pension scheme with a defined benefit plan that will only enhance the fiduciary responsibility of the government. Instead, the government needs to work towards enlarging the membership base of NPS, which can become a significant socio-economic initiative and have a far-reaching impact (as India is going to be the most populous country by 2050 with 21% population aged 60 years and above and 15% aged 80 years and above). The Centre has already provided some incentive by way of a co-contribution of Rs 1,000 every year to subscribers of NPS till March 31, 2013, if one invests between Rs 1,000 to Rs 12,000 a year and the returns under NPS are likely to be higher than the traditional debt investments, such as post office schemes and bank deposits. It makes little sense to give up on NPS now.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 NO CAPS, PLEASE

 

In response to the recommendations of the parliamentary standing committee on the new Companies Bill that the government should fix an overall limit on CEO salaries, the corporate affairs ministry has agreed to put an upper limit for profit-making companies. As of now, Section 198 of the Companies Act, 1956, prescribes that managerial personnel's total remuneration cannot be more than 11% of a company's net profit and caps individual managers' compensation at 5% of net profit. The latest development is (a) in continuation with corporate affairs minister Salman Khurshid's assertion last year that CEO remuneration needed controlling. It is also (b) in the context of the global gaze getting focused on executive compensation, with certain well-publicised excesses drawing widespread public antipathy. Finally, (c) with maximum global opprobrium being drawn by certain bankers' pay, the committee's recommendations echo what RBI has been suggesting—for example, that the annual increase in the fixed pay of CEOs or wholetime directors of private banks should be limited to 10-15%. In all the above cases, we see government taking on the reigns of strategies that are critical to how business motivates managers. And, as we have been consistently arguing, this is rank bad regulation.

 

Asking for transparency in how CEOs get compensated or prescribing governance norms that would increase CEOs' accountability to their boards and shareholders is one thing, but how can government mandate compensation? There are so many variables at play here. In good times, star managers can generate enormous profits for investors. As The Economist has noted, the strategic decision in America to motivate managers as capitalists, using equity-based tong-term incentives, was right in principle and so has been widely copied across the world. CEO salaries are a reflection of the talent market and how can the government restrict rewards for the highest achievers? We also have to take note of the difference between Indian and western contexts. In India, thanks to RBI's regulation, the kind of systemic risk that wrecked western banks—and which triggered the debate on executive pay—doesn't exist and so there is little justification for moderating even bankers' pay. The committee did make a good suggestion when it said that shareholders should determine the exact amount of executive pay. In India, there is, of course, the problem of very large promoter shareholdings that may distort this process but regulatory efforts to decrease the current high levels of promoter shareholdings are a step in the right direction. At any rate, while waiting for such efforts to yield results, the government cannot slip back into practices well-abandoned alongside the Licence Raj.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CHURN IN THE MUTUAL FUND INDUSTRY

SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

 

Forecasts about the market are as bad as guaranteed returns. Both fail spectacularly. Yet on a particularly wet and gloomy September in Delhi, with the debris of CWG 2010 littered all round, just as one feels the event will finally compensate for all the present woes, the chop and change in the mutual fund industry, too, one feels, will be worth the pain.

 

The return of the domestic retail investor could possibly be the biggest story of the upcoming festival season. After the pain, as the retail investors come back into the mutual funds, they will face a far cleaner landscape to park their investments. With the spectre of being short-changed gone, the investors will now have a reason to believe in the vehicle they have been riding. While every country has its own pattern of investment preferences, one is sure that as soon as the turnaround happens in the world economy, the graph for investments made into the mutual fund industry will soar. Will this also benefit the insurance industry? One cannot be sanguine. The rules of the game are still being written and the insurance companies have yet to take a hair cut.

 

As of now, the current spectacle in the mutual fund business is messy. There is no doubt that the churn in the mutual fund industry has been the biggest gamechanger in the Indian financial market for a long time. This churn has been painfully cutting into the balance sheet of several fund houses. For sure, it has also cut into the interest level within the middle class for investing in the stock markets through mutual funds. The middle class, which feeds the retail investor category, is the bulwark of the Indian financial sector story and its absence has ensured there could be no extended rally in the stock markets for a long time.

 

That this has happened in the span of two years, which have been the worst periods for the financial sector globally, has not eased matters. Still, at a point when the financial sector is not throwing up news to gladden us, there are two straws in the wind that makes one believe things could pan out well. In terms of impact, while the introduction of dematerialised shares changed the technology of the Indian securities market, the clearing up of the mutual fund space is likely to alter the very dynamics of the Indian market as a means to build long-term wealth.

 

An early straw in the wind is the re-emergence of growth in financial sector investment by households in the latest national income numbers. Despite the global economic turmoil, financial assets as a percentage of domestic savings have risen to 11.9% in 2009-10 from 10.4% in 2008-09. Aggregate savings for this fiscal are also higher so far. The disaggregated numbers for the current year will, of course, not come in soon but matching the rise in the financial assets with the flat trajectory of bank deposits means that money is not chasing the banks.

 

In the current fiscal, instead, RBI data shows cash with the public has risen, disproportionately more than that channelled into bank deposits. Sure, in the same period, assets-under-management of the mutual funds have fallen for most months, except for August. Overall, this would imply that the interest in the financial sector is back with the public.

 

The second straw in the wind could be if—and this is a big if—retail investors lap up the Coal India public issue—India's largest ever. The issue is coming after a string of lemons. So, in October, a change in the investment pattern will unequivocally show that investors are here to stay.

 

As the Indian markets gathered steam post-2003, more and more retail investors began to find the virtues of investing through mutual funds. The funds also discovered them. The number of public offers soared accordingly and the types of investment vehicles also widened fast.

 

Predictably enough, as the numbers invested in the schemes rose, complaints about mis-selling and high costs also zoomed. It was at this point that Sebi intervened. The one thing that the market regulator could not factor in then was the simultaneous onset of the global meltdown. Just as it took away the fun from the market, the gloom of the financial crisis worsened the confidence of the investors.

 

From 2008, almost as soon as CB Bhave became the chairman of Sebi in February, the regulator has moved in for what some of company CEOs called a "demolition job". But while some of the companies complained privately about the strict regulations that Sebi rang in one after another, it appears the investors disappeared more due to the broader economic crisis.

 

Sebi had reason to wade into the fortunes of the mutual fund industry when it did. The Indian stock market rests on two major countervailing powers—the foreign institutional investors and the domestic ones. The latter basically included the mutual funds. The FIIs are a heterogenous set, and beyond setting the rules of what constituted a fund and the extent of market exposure, Sebi has little jurisdiction over them.

 

To set a timeline for a happy ending is dicey. But the makings of a good story are already in place. As one suspects, this could happen soon. The market regulator can then take pride in a job well done.

 

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@ expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT INDIA, CHINA OWE THEIR YOUNG

NIRVIKAR SINGH

 

Comparisons of India and China are inevitable, and will keep being made. They are both fast-growing population giants, but with many differences. Comparisons also tend to imply a degree of competition. Competition can be zero-sum, as when one supplier displaces another for a fixed market, or when one buyer locks in a given supply of a natural resource at the expense of another. India and China will both be subject to these kinds of competition. On top of this economic competition, there is political competition, for global power and prestige. This can also be couched in utilitarian terms, of risk reduction or providing a stronger base for access to resources and markets. But emotions and ideologies can also be a major factor in political competition. Territorial disputes are clearly zero-sum, although they become embedded in a larger arena of competition, with egos and image entering the mix.

 

For centuries, the European powers, followed by the US, carved up the rest of the world for its natural resources to fuel their industrial growth. They also fought with each other, often with horrible consequences. Yet they became, and still are, so much richer than either India or China. The lever of these riches (to use economic historian Joel Mokyr's metaphor) was innovation. In my last column, I made the case that entrepreneurship drives the harnessing of technological progress for economic betterment. This was Joseph Schumpeter's original insight. If innovation and entrepreneurship are key drivers of growth, how do India and China stack up?

 

On the fundamental measure of ease of doing business, China is not a world leader, ranking only 89th. Yet this is far better than India's rank of 133. Looking at the components of the overall ranking, China does much better on trading across borders, which is no surprise. China is also relatively more business-friendly in ease of closing a business. But it also outperforms India in registering property and enforcing contracts. If entrepreneurship is starting small businesses, but ones that have a formal legal status so that they can expand easily, India puts itself at a huge disadvantage. It will be critical for the current set of reforms on company law, land acquisition and related matters that affect entrepreneurship, to move forward, if India is to remove its handicaps.

 

India's poor governance is also a matter of concern. There are good reasons for improving governance that have nothing to do with business or material well-being, though ultimately, good governance should help citizens to lead better lives. Measures of governance along several dimensions also exist. Indians enjoy much more political freedom than Chinese. India also does better, or no worse, than China on corruption, rule of law and quality of regulation. While China is ahead of India in 'government effectiveness'. This dimension of governance is subjectively measured, but it includes of the quality of public services, the civil service, policy formulation and implementation, and of the credibility of the government's commitment to such policies. India is a messy democracy, but there is no reason it cannot do better on these criterion, especially for those of its citizens (businessmen or not) who are outside the elite. Better public infrastructure and services will also have an impact on the ease of doing business, complementing needed legal and regulatory reforms.

 

Not everything can be reduced to numbers and rankings. Other areas that are important for innovation include the efficiency of the tax system, specific incentives and legal protections for intellectual property, attitudes towards risk and failure, and capabilities. Capabilities depend on everything from childhood nutrition to higher education—India's failures here go back to poor government effectiveness. India also lags in the quality of its tax system, though this should quickly change for the good, with pending reforms. The reward system for innovation has not yet received enough explicit attention, but India has the potential to outstrip China on this front.

 

Perhaps the place where India has the greatest opportunity is in its youth. India's youth, beyond the elite, are beginning to have confidence to compete globally. And there will be many more of them than in China. In the US, the baby boomers created social upheaval in the 1960s, but also drove the great wave of innovation in the 1980s and 1990s. The Facebook and Twitter generation is piggybacking on the changes wrought by their parents. The young are naturally more innovative, but they need the environment and infrastructure in which to succeed. They need education, jobs and opportunities to be creative. In 1914, Europe's leaders sent millions of their youth to die needlessly in trenches, and solved nothing. Another World War then had to be fought. Surely, India and China will figure out how to do better. Their leaders owe it to their young people.

 

The author is professor of economics, University of California, Santa Cruz

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

 END THESE QUOTAS

SANJEEB MUKHERJEE

 

For the new cotton season beginning October 1, 2010, the government has fixed a export quota of 55 lakh bales alongside continuing with the practice of mandatory registration of all cotton exports by the textiles commissioner. The steps come after a high-level meeting of all senior officers from the concerned ministries and departments, and as per the official statement is meant to safeguard the interests of farmers and also of the exporting community.

 

If capping exports is meant to control domestic cotton prices, then it's a disservice to farmers who, year after year, have been giving us bumper harvest, making India one of the leading producers of medium to high quality cotton in the world. Even this year, India exported 83 lakh bales of cotton—the production was 295 lakh bales. So, capping exports at 55 lakh bales when production is expected to rise to 325 lakh bales seems slightly out of place.

 

Although the government has indicated that a through review of its decision would be done around November 15, when the entire picture on production and exportable surplus becomes clear, the fear is the country could loose valuable export market to competitors by then. The ban was imposed in April to check rising domestic prices that had moved up by almost 54% in the last one year. While both textile makers and farmers have their own argument for and against the banning or allowing cotton exports, one thing should be looked into detail: how much is domestic demand contributing to rising prices?

 

Estimates show that domestic demand is rising by 3-5% annually, putting an increasing pressure on prices, more so when production has hovered between 290 lakh to 320 lakh bales over the last few years. Albeit, unless production rises substantially, exportable surplus will continue to shrink, but that does not merit interrupting with normal market operations. When millers have the option of importing as much cotton as they want without any duty, capping exports or even imposing any prohibitive duty is misplaced. The ideal situation will be to allow market dynamics to function and whosoever pays more should get the commodity, be it textile markers or exporters. It should also be ensured that benefit of high prices should pass on to farmers and not get stuck with middlemen and unscrupulous traders.

 

sanjeeb.mukherjee@ expressindia.com

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

DIM SUMMIT OUTLOOK

 

The Obama administration initiative to bring together Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for face-to-face talks in Washington is notable for two reasons. It has set the tone for future negotiations. Instead of dealing with peripherals, Israelis and Palestinians will from now on focus on issues that are at the heart of their dispute — the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a future state of Palestine, and the right to return of millions of Palestinian refugees who were uprooted by the wars of 1948 and 1967. Secondly, the Washington summit has set a demanding one-year timeline to resolve all the outstanding issues. The whole world knows that, notwithstanding the positive spin imparted, nothing short of a miracle will fulfil the lofty aspirations spelt out for these talks. The reason is perfectly obvious: Israel's obsession with its security and its fixation with its Jewish majority status will continue to undermine the emergence of a viable Palestinian state. Citing security considerations, Israel's ruling elite has virtually dismissed the formation of a Palestinian state defined along 1967 frontiers.

 

Some influential Israeli think tanks, which are believed to reflect the Netanyahu administration's thinking, have advocated that Israel should exercise complete physical control over the entire Jordan valley, the eastern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as the airspace to the west of it. Such a hawkish stance on borders conflicts fundamentally with the Palestinian territorial aspirations — and is bound to be rejected. With its Jewish majority status being cited as central to its national identity, there is also not much hope that Israel will lower its hostility towards the right to return of millions of displaced Palestinians, most of whom are currently packed in impoverished refugee camps across West Asia. This unwillingness to contemplate a just solution to core final status issues implies that once again Palestinian negotiators will be left empty-handed. Without substantial gains, Mr. Abbas and his team will be powerless to carry the majority of Palestinians with them. Mr. Abbas's failure will also greatly embolden militant Hamas, which, in any case, has to be drawn into negotiations at some point. A serious shortcoming of the Washington summit has been its inability to address the relevance of Iran and Syria in the resolution of the Israel-Palestine dispute. Without the involvement of Tehran and Damascus — the core supporters of Hamas, which rules the coastal Gaza strip — there is little hope that a stable and independent Palestine, at peace with Israel, will emerge any time soon.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

IDEOLOGY RUINS SCIENCE

 

Human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research in the United States has hit a major roadblock once again. A temporary injunction by the Federal Court for the District of Columbia has turned the clock back and brought to a halt all federally funded research on hESC. The court's order comes a year and a half after President Barack Obama, through an executive order, broke the shackles on embryonic stem cell research, and provided the much-needed federal funding. However, this came with a rider. Money would be provided only after stem cells were harvested from the embryos, and could not be used for extracting embryonic stem cells, which would lead to the destruction of the embryos. This manoeuvre allowed the administration to sidestep the tricky Dickey-Wicker Amendment, a 1996 law that bars federal funding of any research that results in injury to or destruction of human embryos. Funding was also subject to certain conditions: that the embryos were no longer required for reproductive purposes, the donors provided informed consent, and no payments were offered for the embryos. But the judgment was based on a totally different reading of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment that federal support for the entire project should be denied even "if one step or 'piece of research'…results in the destruction of an embryo."

 

The consequences of the Federal Court judgment are dramatic: it can derail the entire field of hESC research. It is unclear if the court order would make ineligible even the 21 embryonic stem cell lines approved for federal funding by President George W. Bush in August 2001. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has approved 75 stem cells lines for funding, and invested nearly $400 million since 2005. About 125 projects worth $155 million are due for renewal within the next year. The retrogressive judgment asserts that it is only "speculative" and "not certain" that hESC research will eventually result in successful treatment for cell-based diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. While the main objection to the destruction of condemned embryos to facilitate research reeks of right-wing ideology, to challenge, without any basis, the potential of the research to treat certain kinds of diseases goes against the spirit of enquiry, the cornerstone of science. To bank solely on adult stem cells, which — unlike embryonic stem cells — are not pluripotent and hence cannot become any of the nearly 200 specialised cell types, is myopic and goes against the grain of scientific research. Finally, to close the door on hESC research as it competes with adult stem cell research for funding is nothing but reactionary fundamentalism.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

GROWING COMPLEXITY OF AFGHAN RIDDLE

THE MYRIAD HOPES HELD OUT AT THE CONFERENCE IN LONDON, THE LOYA JIRGA, AND THE FOREIGN MINISTERS' CONFERENCE IN KABUL ARE WITHERING AWAY.

M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

 

The recent visits to New Delhi by Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasul and National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta are of great significance from three perspectives. Primarily, these high-level exchanges can be viewed against the backdrop of the situation in Afghanistan. Second, emanating out of the above, the Afghan-Indian consultations at this juncture are most timely and useful. And, third, of course, sections of the Indian strategic community harboured a misperception regarding Hamid Karzai that he was in an unseemly hurry to patch up with the Taliban since the United States is raring to cut loose and get out of the Hindu Kush. The Afghan officials could explain what is really going on.

 

To say that the situation is fragile and uncertain may sound clichéd but that is unfortunately the only possible way to begin a narrative on the politico-military situation in Afghanistan. The myriad hopes held out at the conference in January in London, the Loya Jirga held in June in Kabul and the Foreign Ministers' conference in Kabul in July are withering away. These conclaves helped evolve a consensus international opinion that a process of "reintegration" of the reconcilable Taliban fighters must commence alongside the U.S-led military operations, which would pave the way for a political settlement. Besides, the international community agreed on the "Afghanisation" of the war. Furthermore, there was wide acceptance that it was the Afghan government led by Mr. Karzai that was best placed to pilot the national reconciliation processes and it should, therefore, be strengthened.

 

The Loya Jirga in Kabul proclaimed that a reconciliation with the Taliban was also the collective wish of the Afghan people. At the conferences in London and Kabul, the international community pledged the financial resources needed for the Afghan government to advance the "reintegration" process. In retrospect, the U.S. principally drew up the road map and largely got a sceptical international community to endorse it. Coinciding with the London conference, the United Nations Security Council removed from its terrorism "watchlist," for the first time, a handful of former Taliban officials, underscoring that the U.S.' AfPak officials were indeed the patron saints of the idea of the "reintegration" of the Taliban.

 

What since followed, therefore, is absolutely stunning and exposes the U.S. doublespeak. In the interregnum between the London conference and the Loya Jirga, the U.S. and Pakistan virtually sabotaged Mr. Karzai's "reintegration" plan when in a joint operation by the ISI and the CIA in Karachi, the number 2 in the Taliban's Quetta Shura, Mullah Baradar, was detained. The bizarre operation was undertaken despite the CIA and the ISI being aware that in Mr. Baradar (who is credited with moderate views), Mr. Karzai had a key interlocutor and the two were at an advanced stage of negotiations regarding the Taliban's participation in the upcoming Loya Jirga in April, which, of course, would have become a defining moment of the war. The ISI's detention of Mr. Baradar can only be seen as a move to ensure that Mr. Karzai did not have any top-level interlocutor among the Taliban leadership and to drive home the message that any dealings between the Taliban and Kabul should be conducted through the "proper channels," namely, Rawalpindi and Washington.

 

Effectively, Mr. Karzai has been left with the virtually impossible choice of negotiating with the Taliban through the Pakistani military leadership and under American watch. The Pakistani army chief, Pervez Kayani, swiftly got into the act and began plunging into a direct role by visiting Kabul twice and opening negotiations with Mr. Karzai. He lost no time proposing that a serious reconciliation process should involve the Haqqani group within the Taliban leadership, which the ISI regards as the one sure bet within the Quetta Shura insofar as its virulent hostility toward Indians precludes any scope of the Indian intelligence ever flirting with it. In short, Gen. Kayani's calculation was that India's influence in Kabul would be exorcised once and for all if only the Haqqanis (who are implicated in the ISI operations against the Indian embassy in Kabul) are inducted into the power structure.

 

The bottom line in the ISI strategy is that a settlement may lead to seemingly broad-based power structures coming up in Afghanistan but this will be a transitional stage and given that the Taliban is the best-organised group in Afghanistan and has the institutional backing of the Pakistani military, it is a matter of time before other elements in the power structures, including Mr. Karzai or the erstwhile Northern Alliance (NA) leaders, could be marginalised, overthrown or even physically eliminated. It believes the western powers, wearied of wars, would willy-nilly accept the fait accompli.

 

However, Mr. Karzai could anticipate the ISI game plan. At any rate, he began shoring up his own position during the past two years or so by weaving a complex political tapestry of alliances involving the Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns. His half-brother Wali Karzai who is ensconced in power in Kandahar has been actively networking with the Pashtuns (including Taliban leaders like Mr. Baradar).

 

Unsurprisingly, the U.S. has been sniping at Wali Karzai almost relentlessly for the last two years, judging that without him, the Afghan President will be a greatly weakened man. The hard reality is that the U.S. does not want a strong Afghan leader in Kabul with an independent power base. It seems to resent the "Afghan-ness" in Mr. Karzai's political personality — his sense of dignity and independence and his growing proclivity towards viewing the U.S.-led counterinsurgency operations through the prism of Afghan national interests. The U.S.' AfPak viceroys did all they could to replace him in the last presidential election in October but Mr. Karzai had the last laugh. He tenaciously outwitted the U.S.' famously-manipulative AfPak viceroys by forging an Afghan network of his own with NA stalwarts Mohammed Fahim, Karim Khalili and Rashid Dostum.

 

Clearly, the U.S. was on overdrive to tear apart Mr. Karzai's alliance with the NA groups what with the parliamentary elections due on September 18. The main sticking point at the moment is that a newly-elected parliament (unlike the previous one which was susceptible to the influence of the American embassy in Kabul) that works in harmony with the President will crystallise a national consensus regarding the conduct of the war and the imperatives of national reconciliation. Thus began the whispering campaign that Mr. Karzaying to "appease" the Taliban. It aimed at exploiting the visceral fears of the NA groups regarding a possible Taliban takeover in Kabul. A misperception grew even in India that Mr. Karzai was "appeasing" the Taliban and "cozying up" to Pakistan.

 

Whereas Mr.Karzai's approach has, in reality, been to work for a genuine reconciliation with the insurgents with a sense of fairness that accommodates the Taliban but within Afghanistan's democratic life and on the basis that the "reintegrated" Taliban will cohabitate with all elements of the plural Afghan society. His latest decision to form a high council to negotiate with the Taliban reflects his entire approach to a political settlement.

 

Meanwhile, the U.S. has also mounted a political campaign regarding "corruption," which is in actuality a proxy war against Mr. Karzai. One agenda behind the U.S.' "anti-corruption" campaign is to seek the removal of Wali Karzai, since no Afghan President can be lethally wounded as long as he controls Kandahar (which is also symbolic as the birthplace of the Taliban). The supreme irony is that it is the U.S. which spawned corruption and war profiteering in Afghanistan on an unprecedented scale. The Pentagon engaged war contractors and the Afghan private militia — a matter of Congressional investigation at the moment — and the CIA has been extensively bribing Afghan officials, politicians and civil society. According to the U.N.'s estimation, only around 20 per cent of foreign aid is actually routed through the Kabul government.

 

The U.S. strategy will be to keep up the pressure on Mr. Karzai in the coming period even as the mother of all questions concerning the U.S. military presence is yet to be addressed. The Afghans will oppose a permanent U.S. military presence, while the Pentagon is bent on getting a status of forces agreement with the powers that be in Kabul so as to retain long-term access, which is needed to effectively pursue the containment strategy toward China. The Pentagon is beefing up the massive military bases in Bagram and Kandahar and has notified to Congress its plans to build new military bases in Mazar-i-Sharif, Shindand and Camp Dwyer, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is once again lingering in the shade, lost in thoughts, pending the clarity that is lacking regarding the nature of the peace settlement that can follow. No doubt, Mr. Karzai is reaching out to the neighbouring capitals — Tehran, Moscow, New Delhi — for sustenance. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to accentuate the contradictions in the geopolitics of the region — Kashmir, Pakistan, India, China, etc. — so that a regional consensus doesn't emerge regarding the "neutralisation" of Afghanistan.

 

(The writer is a former diplomat.)

 

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THE HINDU

NEWS  ANALYSIS

A TRIUMVIRATE OF ILLS

AMONG THREE FACTORS THAT UNDERCUT INDIA'S PROGRESS AND DEVELOPMENT, CORRUPTION IN PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS EMERGES AS THE KINGPIN.

RAJ GANDHI

 

As the national flags are furled up after Independence Day until the next occasion for leaders to fill the air with patriotic speeches listing progress and achievements, a candid assessment of the state of the nation makes for grim reading. Kashmir is rocked by civilian unrest, with the gains of the inclusivity achieved by the last State elections practically nullified. The Maoist guerilla movement now spans the entire eastern flank of the country. Assam, Nagaland and Manipur face their own separatist fires. Complementing this violence and unrest at sickeningly regular intervals are fresh revelations of multi-crore-rupee scams resulting from the nexus among politicians, criminals and profit-hungry corporate entities. These are but reminders that as this country touts its cultural, religious and spiritual past and invites the world to visit "Incredible India," it remains one of the most poverty-stricken, strife-ridden and corrupt nations in the developing world.

 

Is this development?

 

As a people, many Indians feel proud of the undeniable economic progress the country has achieved over the past decade and the attention it now gets on the global stage. This is largely because it offers multinational companies a market comprising an affluent middle-class, which, in number terms exceeds the entire populations of many, if not most, countries.

 

As India aspires to sup at the high-table of nations, it will make sense to assess if the new-found development conforms to the true meaning of the word. And, concurrently, it should reflect on and understand the significant connection among the three factors that threaten to thwart these aspirations: deep-rooted corruption in government, mass-violence and unrest in an increasing number of States, and alarming levels of poverty and hunger in marginalised but numerically significant segments of the population that seem to have completely missed the progress train of which the rest of the people are proud passengers.

 

While governments in India proclaim the significant rise in per capita gross domestic product (GDP) as evidence that poverty levels are decreasing, this indicator of economic well-being is quite inadequate as a measure of the level of actual economic deprivation in a population. Being poor also means having low levels of education, being disproportionately vulnerable to loss of health or curtailment of income, natural disasters and crime. It includes being genuinely voiceless and powerless, feeling discriminated against and mistreated by state institutions, and lacking status under and recourse to the law. Additional indicators are low daily caloric intake and levels of female literacy.

 

Within this multi-dimensional context for viewing poverty, its correlation with corruption in government institutions becomes more transparent. Corruption erodes and cripples the capacity of the government to provide the public services that would mitigate the poverty-inducing factors listed above. Tax evasion by offering bribes lowers governmental revenue, and further reduces its capability to offer infrastructure support to the poor. Corrupt governments at the State and Central levels tend to focus spending of public money on high-tech capital goods and equipment purchases, since bribes and illicit gains are large in such transactions. Public spending on health, education and access to law and justice consequently becomes a lower priority, impacting the poor who need such services the most. Money from existing schemes is leaked and siphoned off all the way down the line until only a trickle reaches the intended beneficiaries.

 

Deep-rooted corruption in the public institutions thus perpetuates poverty. It seriously impacts the poor in the socially marginalised ethnic, religious and caste groups, alienating them further and strengthening their perception of being left out of the progress being made by the rest of the populace. It is this feeling of isolation and helplessness that triggers support for and participation in conflict. Discontent and exclusion thus act as catalysts for mass unrest and violence as witnessed in many parts of the country.

 

Corruption, poverty, violence

 

This connection between corruption and chronic poverty coupled with marginalisation and violent uprisings, is exemplified in the Maoist movement.

 

The fertile ground for support among the local people for the violence in Jharkhand, for instance, is in no small measure due to the two-year reign of a certain Chief Minister who allegedly looted the State of the equivalent of almost a billion dollars. Unchecked and massive expansion of mining operations without regard to tribal or environmental concerns was allowed, setting in motion a process that in the next five years will have tragically displaced half a million of the State's poorest and most deprived tribal people, who depend on the fast disappearing forest land for a livelihood.

 

The story is repeated, with minor variations, in some other eastern States. It is thus no coincidence that maps of India's richest mining territories (which have witnessed massive public corruption), chronically poor forest tribal populations and militant Maoist activity would all cover the same regions and look almost identical when superimposed on each other.

 

Low-level

 

One need not always look at multi-crore-rupee scams to see the lamentable consequences of corruption. There is a correlation between even low-level extortion and deep human tragedy. A newspaper ran the story of 14-year-old Aditya Dube of Allahabad, who, on his way to school at 6.30 a.m. was crushed to death by a speeding truck. A city ordinance forbids trucks from plying there after 6 a.m. because the road that connects to the highway at either end of the city also runs through the school district. But policemen routinely allow trucks to enter, and stop them to collect a bribe of Rs. 50 from each driver. It was business as usual that morning too — except that this one driver decided not to pay, and, in his haste to dodge the policemen, ran over the child.

 

In the same copy of the newspaper, on the page opposite to the one carrying that story, is a report of how several infants died within a short time after being administered a vaccine at the anganwadi of a village. Government health centres often stock medicines and vaccines supplied by fake drug dealers, which are ineffective at best, or, as perhaps in this case, deadly at worst.

 

Thus, in the triumvirate of ills that have undercut genuine progress and development of India, corruption in public institutions emerges as the kingpin. It exacerbates chronic poverty and increases the marginalisation of the most vulnerable in society. The resulting feelings of discontent, deprivation, lack of choice and helplessness then prepare the ground for those who would organise and mobilise these groups, inciting them to violence. Corruption in public institutions is India's own Osama. It does not hide in the mountains, but is out in the open and permeates the very core of daily government functioning. Its reach is phenomenal, and its consequences tragic. We can continue to ignore it only at great national peril.

 

( Raj Gandhi is Professor of Physics at the Harish Chandra Research Institute in Allahabad. He is at nubarnu@gmail.com)

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THE HINDU

   NEWS ANALYSIS 

THE HUMAN FACE OF PAKISTAN'S DEADLY FLOOD

AFGHAN FAMILY PLEADS FOR AID IN MAKESHIFT CAMP; GOVERNMENT OVERWHELMED BY SCALE OF DESTITUTION.

RANIA ABOUZEID

 

It was an image that conveyed the human cost of the Pakistan floods — and the failure to deliver aid to those affected — more powerfully than any statistic: four young children lying on a filthy patchwork quilt, one of them sucking on an empty yellow bottle, all of them covered by flies.

 

The photograph by Associated Press's Mohammad Sajjad went around the world and featured in the Guardian's

'Eyewitness' slot last week [September 1]. The Guardian identified the child with the bottle as two-year-old Reza Khan and tracked him down to a makeshift camp at a roadside in Azakhel, some 19 miles [30.59 km] from Peshawar, the capital of the insurgency-plagued province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bordering Afghanistan.

 

Displaced twice

 

The camp is a hotchpotch of about two dozen tents donated by various aid organisations, but it is run by none. Its residents must fend for themselves, and rely on the charity of passers-by. There are 19 families here, all of them Afghan refugees: people who were displaced once by conflict in their homeland have now been displaced again by the month-long deluge.

 

Reza's family is from Butkhak, near the Afghan capital, Kabul. His father fled the area as a young boy, some 30 years ago, to escape the cycle of foreign occupation and internecine battles plaguing his homeland.

 

When we found him, Reza was in a tent with his mother, Fatima, who, like most Afghans, has only one name, and six of his seven siblings, all huddled on a blue blanket extended over the muddy floor. He was still clutching the same bottle. It was still empty.

 

Fatima tried to calm the boy, who cries in a constant, low whimper, as well as his twin brother, Mahmoud. She covered three of her other children — she has eight, all under the age of nine — with a dirty mosquito net somebody in a passing car gave her, but it has several gaping holes. Her eldest child, a nine-year-old girl called Sayma, is mute and seems dissociated from her surroundings. Her green eyes stare blankly ahead, seemingly oblivious to her brothers' wails. Flies carpet the few blankets arranged on the floor, and swarm all over the children. There is precious little in the tent — one cooking pot, a few cushions and two or three items of children's clothing. The stench of human and animal waste is overwhelming in the hot, humid air. There is no sanitation, just shallow, open ditches of raw sewage that attract flies and mosquitoes. "They have had nothing to eat today. I have no food," Fatima says as she tries to swat the flies away from her children with a bamboo fan. "He's crying with hunger," she says, pointing to Reza. "It's been a month since he had any milk." On this day, Reza's father, Aslam, was in a nearby hospital with his seven-year-old daughter, who has a skin infection caused by the unsanitary living conditions. Reza and several of his siblings also bear red spots, and appear malnourished. Their thin hair is coming out in clumps, their mother says.

 

Family of 10

 

"We have been here for a month, a month!" Fatima says. "We are tired of these flies and of being without food. Before the waters came, my husband worked. We were poor before, but we had full stomachs." The family of 10 used to live among the 23,000 residents of the Azakhel Afghan refugee camp, about 20 minutes' walk from their current roadside location. Aslam sold chickens for a living, travelling from door to door on a rickety bicycle, one of the family's prized possessions. He made about $2 a day.

 

Their mud-brick home was small, Fatima says, but it was enough for her. They lived among her husband's clan, about six families in all. "I had a kitchen, and there was a water tap close by," she says as her youngest child, one-year-old Ayad, tugs on her lilac dupatta, the scarf Pakistani women drape over their heads, arms and chest, pulling it away from her hair. She quickly readjusts the worn, holed fabric. "These clothes are all that we have now," she says, almost apologetically.

 

The loose mud bricks of their home were no match for the raging waters of the nearby swollen Kabul river. The floodwaters gushed into the house in the morning. She and her husband snatched several of the children in their arms, while extended family members helped bundle the others out of the house.

 

The clan of some 60 people walked toward the main road linking the town of Nowshera to Peshawar. They spent five days out in an open field, eating whatever scraps they could forage.

 

'We are Afghans'

 

Aslam's older brother, Taykadar, set out on foot to find help, stopping at several of the dozen or so organised relief camps nearby. "They would ask us for our Pakistani identification cards in order to register us, but we are Afghans," he says. "And we are too many, that's the problem. We don't want to be split from each other. We've already lost our homes, we don't want to lose our families." The men managed to obtain several tents from various organisations. Fatima's, for example, was donated by the Saudi government while others bear the logos of UNHCR. The Afghans say they have nothing to return to. Taykadar says they haven't received any help from a government he knows is overwhelmed by the destitution of its own people. The busy road that they have camped alongside is now their lifeline. Men, women and children rush out towards any car that appears to slow down alongside them. Hundreds of hands stretch out, hoping for food, water or clothing.

 

"We have to run after the food, it isn't given by some organisation in the tents," Fatima says bitterly. Her

children eat once a day, usually in the evenings, thanks to charity organisations that provide iftar meals during Ramadan. But Ramadan ends this week. "I just want to say to the world, isn't there any way they can get us food?" she pleads. "Look," she says, pointing to the twins in her lap. "Please, our children are dying of hunger."

 

— © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

   NEWS ANALYSIS 

CHINESE HOSPITAL TO GROW NEW SKIN FOR AIR CRASH SURVIVORS

 

A Chinese hospital is seeking international medical help to artificially grow skin for two affected survivors of a plane crash in northeast China last month.

 

The Brazilian-made jet of Henan Airlines, with 96 passengers on board, crashed in Yichun, a remote, mountainous city in Heilongjiang province on August 24. Forty-two of them died. It was the deadliest aviation accident in China since 2004.

 

"Many of the injured suffered serious burns, and the traditional treatment of autotransplantation (skin grafting from a healthy unaffected part to an injured area) is not appropriate," said Prof. Wang Guosheng, deputy director of the burns department at the No.1 Hospital affiliated to the Harbin Medical University, Harbin. Wang said a woman survivor had suffered 99 per cent burns and a male survivor, 65 per cent burns.

 

Autotransplantation was impossible for the woman, and the man had undergone two autotransplant surgeries already, he said.

 

"We plan to use advanced stem cell transplantation (SCT) technology to grow skin. We have invited experts on SCT studies from the Harvard University, Australia's Monash University, China's Peking University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to give remote consultations."

 

Medical experts from Beijing and Hong Kong would come to Harbin to participate in the treatment, he said.

 

"If needed, the American and Australian experts will also come."

 

— Xinhua

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

CEO SALARY CAPS A DICEY GAME

 

The pitch for capping the salaries of chairmen and chief executive officers of companies is a highly emotive and controversial issue. Ever since one can remember, there has been a demand in the West, and in India, for this. It has grown louder after the 2008 financial meltdown. But nothing much ever happened on this score, specially in

the US where top CEOs are now called "layoff leaders". According to the latest study, 50 top CEOs gave themselves hefty pay packets of $12 million each while laying off a total of 3,000 workers between November 2008 and April 2010.


Those who argue for irrationally high salaries in India predicate their thinking on the issue of demand and supply and argue that given the scarcity of talent in a country like India, it would be even more difficult to cap CEO salaries, or even the salaries of top executives. Besides, most companies would not adhere to the cap and would find 20 other ways of circumventing these limits. Today there is a cap of 11 per cent of net profit on managerial remuneration and five per cent of net profit on an individual manager's compensation.
The parliamentary standing committee on finance, in its report on the new Companies Bill of 2009, has said that an overall outer ceiling on managerial remuneration should be prescribed and the corporate affairs ministry should evolve a rational formula to implement this. It has also suggested that remuneration should be decided by the remuneration committee of the board, or shareholders, as is proposed in the bill. This hardly works in practice as the board is usually appointed by the CEO, the promoters or the directors, who are in cosy collusion with each other. The shareholders, as is well known, have no voice in a company.


The Prime Minister had himself asked India Inc. in 2007 to resist excessive remuneration to promoters and senior executives in order to discourage conspicuous consumption. He said industry should temper its emoluments keeping in mind the extreme poverty in the country and that rising inequalities in wealth can only lead to social unrest. Of course, this flies in the face of the capitalist laissez faire system that he and the Congress government initiated in 1991, but even so it deserves a serious look. They had removed the cap that existed in the pre-liberalisation era. One of the definitions of self-governance is that it definitely leads to abuse of power. The criteria for laying down the remuneration of the chief executive, promoters and top management must be seriously adhered to and meticulously interpreted. The criteria includes motivation, incentivisation, retention, reward and fairness. Most important of all is the alternate employment at that price, namely whether the same promoter/CEO would command the same price if he was employed elsewhere. This element is usually missed out, particularly in family businesses. There is, for instance, one business family where the father and the son, who are chairman and managing director respectively, take home 11 per cent of the company's net profit as remuneration.


Of course, salaries in the case of CEOs and top management include commissions, which incidentally form the major part of the remuneration. The basic salary is not as sumptuous. In deciding commissions the issue of fairness is most important. For instance, should the CEO take most of the credit for the profit that the company makes? In family-controlled companies the commissions paid to executives are lower than what is paid to the promoter. Why this anomaly? And is it fair? This is one reason why the government needs to step in even though it may look like a pseudo-socialist move.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

ANATOMY OF TURMOIL

JAGMOHAN

 

If we continue to look at the current turmoil in Kashmir without the "spectacles of history", we would not be able to clearly see the multiple infections that have, over the years, invaded the body-politics of the state and the Union. Unless the nature of those infections is understood, the correct line of treatment cannot evolve or be pursued.


A dispassionate survey of the last 63 years of the Kashmir scene would show how, at every crucial moment, decision-makers were carried away by short-term and superficial considerations, ignoring the distant but disastrous fallouts of their acts.


First, driven by sentimental liberalism, the notion of plebiscite was introduced in the letter accepting accession (October 27, 1947) and, later on, the United Nations was approached (January 1, 1948). At the local level, all the eggs were placed in Sheikh Abdullah's basket. No lesson was learnt from the experience of the Plebiscite Front (1955-75), the Kashmir Conspiracy Case (1958-64), the Moi-Muqadas agitation (December 1963 to February 1964), or the underground subversive and terrorist activities of Al-Kashmir, Al-Jehad and Al-Fatah (1965-71). Nothing was done to prevent the use of mosques for whipping up mass hysteria, nor was any step taken to stop the setting up of madrasas which, aided by the resources that flowed into Kashmir during the oil boom of the Seventies, became the breeding grounds for the forces of fundamentalism.


A historic opportunity to settle the issue permanently was missed at the time of signing the Simla Agreement (1972). The Kashmir Accord (1975) was another manifestation of the habit of nursing illusions. These illusions, too, were soon shattered by such events as the Resettlement Act (1982), India-West Indies cricket match (1983) where Indian players were hooted and Pakistani flags waved, and the kidnapping and killing of Indian diplomat Ravinder Mahatre by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front in Birmingham (February 1984).


When the avenues to power, first of Mirza Afzal Beg and then of G.M. Shah, were blocked by Sheikh Abdullah through manipulation within the party and Dr Farooq Abdullah was declared successor, causing frustration and a split, my recommendations to the President on July 2, 1984, to impose Governor's Rule and to use the period for building a healthy institutional framework and for nipping subversion and terrorism in the bud, were ignored. When Governor's Rule came subsequently in 1986 and things started looking up, suddenly, without ensuring that the institutional framework created and other reform measures taken during the Governor's Rule were not dismantled, a disastrous coalition was brought into being.


In the six-month period preceding my appointment as J&K Governor for the second term, that is, from June 19, 1989, to January 19, 1990, there were 319 violent incidents in the Valley. During the Lok Sabha elections, held on November 22, 1989, it was the militants' diktat that was followed in the Valley. On the day of polling they declared a civil curfew and, in a tantalising gesture, placed TV sets near some polling booths with placards reading: "Anyone who will cast his vote can take this as a gift". The authority of the state and the Central government had been eroded to such an extent that it could be made fun of this manner. Everywhere, voter turn-out was dismal.


A few days later, on December 8, to demonstrate to the world their total hold over the Valley, the militants kidnapped Dr Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the Union home minister, and released her only after the state and Central governments capitulated before them and conceded their demand of freeing five top terrorists. This capitulation left the general public in no doubt about the ultimate victory of the militants. This resulted in further increase of incidents of terrorism and subversion. Under a sinister plan to throw out "infidels" and "agents" of the Union, the Kashmiri Pandits were targeted and prominent members of the community were picked up for slaughter, one by one.


Shockingly, at such a time, Dr Farooq Abdullah's government decided to further appease the militants. It released 70 hardcore militants whose detention had earlier been approved by an advisory board, headed by the Chief Justice of J&K high court. One of the released terrorists, Mohammad Daud Khan of Ganderbal, later became the deputy commander-in-chief of a terrorist outfit, Al Bakar.


By the time (January 19, 1990) I was hurriedly sent by V.P. Singh's government for the second term, Kashmir Valley had virtually reached a point of no return. Both the advisers to the governor reported: "By all accounts, it appears that the militants were prepared to declare independence from the Indian Union". But I frustrated all the designs of the conspirators and militants to gather at Srinagar Idgah on Friday, January 26, to declare independence and raise the flag of "Islamic Republic of Kashmir". The rulers of Pakistan, who were hoping that it was merely a matter of a week or so that Kashmir Valley would fall in their lap like a ripe apple, were exasperated. They, therefore, resorted to attacking me personally. Benazir Bhutto, then Pakistan's Prime Minister, came to Muzzaffarabad and incited the Kashmiris against me. Made during the course of a televised speech, her shocking chopping gesture — striking her right hand on the palm of her left hand and ranting "Jag-Jag-Mo-Mo-Han-Han" — is still remembered.


Here, it would be pertinent to draw attention to the impression that I was able to create on the Kashmiri mind during my first term (April 1984 to June 1989). When the Governor's Rule ended on November 7, 1986, and Dr Farooq Abdullah was sworn in as chief minister, he said: "...If today three ballot boxes are kept, one for the National Conference, one for the Congress and one for you, your ballot box would be full while the other two ballot boxes would be empty".


I have reproduced the above observation not to indulge in self-praise but to show what a grave harm was done to a great national cause by the negative forces operating in the country. They even egged on Dr Farooq Abdullah to issue virulent statements against me on the very first day of my second term. V.P. Singh's government, too, over-anxious to retain a particular votebank which, it thought, was slipping out of hand on account of the motivated propaganda that had been unleashed against my determined action in Kashmir, offered me membership of the Rajya Sabha as a nominated member. I understood. Soon, thereafter, I resigned.
The negativity of the Indian democracy and its disposition to sacrifice national interest at the altar of "votebank politics" could not have assumed a worst form.

 

This is the first part of a two-part seriesJagmohan is a former governor of J&K and a former Union minister

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

OPINION

THE NEW MERCANTILISTS

JAYATI GHOSH

 

Mercantilism used to be the dominant economic theory of trade policy until the early 19th century. This was the belief that an economy that ran a trade surplus would be wealthier and stronger because of the inflow of bullion, or assets. There were many flaws of mercantilist theories, most notably the confusion of bullion with realeconomic wealth, the lack of recognition of the various benefits of greater trade independent of the trade balance, and the failure to perceive that the purpose of increasing exports is to be able to import more and thus raise the level and variety of consumption in the society.


This is why such arguments have been discredited for a while. But recently, a new form of neo-mercantilism has emerged and has propelled the economic models of the two economies that are increasingly seen as the most successful and potentially powerful in the world: China and Germany.


Mercantilism — the obsession with net exports — is often seen as identical with export-led growth, but in fact the two are not the same. It is possible to have exports as the basic engine or driver of growth without necessarily running a trade surplus. Indeed, some of the classic examples of recent export-led growth, such as the East Asian "dragons" or the Southeast Asian economies, generally ran trade deficits during their period of high export-led growth. Even China had mostly small trade deficits till the late 1990s, and started having large trade surpluses only in the early part of the 2000s.


But since then both China and Germany have been focused on pushing out more and more net exports. This has required suppressing domestic wages and consumption. In China the consumption to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio fell from 46 per cent of GDP in 2000 to less than 36 per cent in 2007, while in Germany it fell from 60 per cent to 56.5 per cent in the same period.


Why would such a strategy be attractive at all? After all, no one really still believes that an inflow of bullion (or a net accumulation of financial assets, which amounts to the same thing) is of great intrinsic value for an economy. It could be argued that the current strategy is based on a different notion of the gain, one which recognises the absence of full employment and seeks to use trade as a means of maximising employment. Thus net exports are valued because they involve more productive jobs at home and less leakage of jobs through imports. To that extent, this is also a form of beggar-thy-neighbour economic strategy, since it involves creating or preserving jobs in your own country at the expense of jobs for your trade partners.


This argument too is essentially fallacious because it does not recognise that trade can affect the pattern of employment, but the aggregate level of employment is determined by macroeconomic policies. The possibility of employment in non-traded activities making up for employment losses through trade (which would have to be the results of active government intervention as well) is not considered.


Even more than export-led growth per se, such a strategy involves a fallacy of composition, in that all countries cannot pursue it. Indeed, the dependence of the surplus economies on the existence of other countries that are simultaneously running deficits is only too obvious. In the recent past, that has come from a combination of one large global player (the US economy, which has served as the engine of growth for much of the rest of the world) and a number of smaller economies running smaller deficits financed by capital flows.
This gives rise to a classic dilemma of mercantilist strategy, which is evident in exaggerated form today for the neo-mercantilist economies: they are forced to finance the deficits of those countries that would buy their products through capital flows that sustain the demand for their own exports. Thus it is no accident that China and Germany are both large investors in the US and purchasers of US Treasury Bills, or that German banks are heavily implicated in lending to the now-fragile deficit economies in the European Union (EU).
Despite these contradictions and dilemmas, such a strategy can certainly be successful for a while, and this can be true even over the economic cycle, as has been evident as Germany and China continue to power on through the global crisis and its aftermath. In Germany, the ability to impose wage restraint throughout the period of economic boom and rising labour productivity was remarkable in its scope, and critical to the enhanced competitiveness of the economy. During the crisis, employment levels fell relatively little, not only because of the existence of automatic stabilisers that provided a countercyclical cushion for the economy, but also the willingness of German workers in export industries to accept effective wage cuts rather than lose employment.
In any case in Germany, a significant part of the export surplus is generated from trade with other partners in the EU. This is at the heart of the economic problems faced by many deficit countries in the region today. There is a basic difference between price levels in Germany and most other EU members, resulting from the fact that Germany has been able to keep wages nearly stagnant even with rapid labour productivity increases, while other countries are not able to let the gap between wages and productivity widen to that extent.


So prices of many goods and services are significantly lower (sometimes by as much as one-third) in Germany compared to most other European economies. This means that the European Single Market has failed to equate prices of goods even though there are no trade barriers, and also failed to ensure wage equalisation even though labour is free to move.


But such mismatches cannot continue indefinitely. Already the deficit countries in Europe — not only those whose governments and bond markets are in difficulties but others as well — are being forced to cut down on imports through very severe austerity measures that are reducing both output and employment. Ironically, such moves are being strongly pushed by the German government inside the EU, even though this is likely to rebound adversely on the German capacity to generate export surpluses.


In the US, the external adjustment will also clearly occur, whether through exchange rate movements or increased protectionism, or in any other manner. In fact, this process is already underway.


So, while the neo-mercantilist strategy can be apparently successful for a while, it is likely to come up against both internal and external constraints. Internally, the potential for suppression of wage incomes and domestic consumption will meet with political resistance. Externally, deficit countries will either choose or be forced to reduce their deficits through various means. In either case, the pressures to find more sustainable sources of economic growth, particularly through domestic demand and wage-led alternatives, are likely to increase.

 

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DNA

            EDITORIAL

UPA SHOULD RETHINK NOMINEE FOR CIVIL VIGILANCE COMMISSIONER

 

Some sensitive posts — that of election commissioner, the chief vigilance commissioner, and the chief information commissioner — should be filled only through consensus.

 

For two reasons: one, this is the only way to build credibility into the system; and two, such posts should be free from partisan finger-pointing.

 

This is why the government needs to take the main Opposition, the BJP's objections to the appointment of PJ Thomas as the next central vigilance commissioner (CVC), seriously.

 

The CVC, in the role of general ombudsman, investigates acts of omission and commission within government.

Like the Election Commission, it must owe its loyalty to the Constitution rather than to the executive.

 

Given how endemic the corruption malaise is within our system, the CVC ought to be a persona cleaner than soap. The BJP wants a person of unblemished reputation and Thomas was once implicated in the Kerala palm oil import scam.

 

Although he was later exonerated, unfortunately such mud sticks. The CVC will be investigating, in the immediate future, the 2G spectrum scam, and possibly the whole Commonwealth Games mess. He or she has to be someone who has no connection with either of these two matters.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

RAPID SLUM GROWTH IS OUR NEW NIGHTMARE

 

The housing and urban poverty alleviation ministry, headed by Kumari Selja, has re-calibrated the method of measuring slums in India and the result is startling.

 

According to a new report, India's slum population has gone up by 1.78 crore in the past decade and by 2011 the total will touch 9.3 crore. The new method includes smaller cities and counts smaller clusters to get a more realistic figure.

 

Anyone who has lived in any Indian metro would not be surprised that the numbers finally tally with reality. Our urban growth story now has two sides to it: new middle classes that want the good things in life and growing pockets of relative poverty.

 

This poverty is not always seen in incomes (many slum families in Mumbai earn more than Rs10,000 a month), but in sub-human living conditions.

 

In cities like Mumbai — where slum dwellers are estimated to make up more than half the population — the problem is compounded by the lack of space. But the core issues are the same — a fleeing migrant rural population, lack of affordable housing for most income groups and civic infrastructure that's near collapse.

 

Urban planners have a thankless task on their hands since the ministry claims that slums have been under-reported in the past.

 

The effort in Maharashtra — which has a slum population of 20% — has been to share the housing shortage with the private sector. This has had limited success and has instead led to the usual problems of corruption and creation of shoddy infrastructure.

 

As India becomes more urbanised, this problem will get compounded. We must have greater focus on making our urban centres more liveable and try to provide people that that elusive intangible called "quality of life".

 

Housing, water, drainage, roads, access to schools, markets and public transport as well as open spaces are non-negotiable human needs.

 

Not paying heed to these needs will ensure that our slums become breeding grounds for extremism — just as our failures in rural and tribal areas have given rise to Maoism. Money, reforms and sensible urban governance are the need of the hour.

 

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DNA

COMMENT

CURBING CEO PAY IS NOT THE ANSWER

 

There is some irony in the fact that a Parliamentary panel wants to limit the salaries of CEOs when, only a few days ago, members voted to hike their own salaries three-fold!

 

The panel, headed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, wants each company to have a committee to decide the remuneration of its top management and said its decision was influenced by the obscene salaries paid to 'celebrity CEOs'.

 

Capping the salaries of top management has been talked about in the past, with the prime minister himself flagging off the issue some time back. But he didn't call for any legislative action because he knows it cannot work.

 

The big risk when one tries to legislate or regulate private sector salaries is that it will drive compensation packages underground.

 

Right now, what a CEO earns is in the public domain, and is taxed by the government. Placing a cap means that most companies will end up bumping up actual salaries by way of huge allowances, cheap housing, ESOPs (normally a popular tool with startups rather than established firms), etc. In this regard, Indian companies may actually take a leaf out of the allowances paid to our MPs, who will now get a salary of Rs50,000, but whose allowances runs into lakhs.

 

In the worst case scenario, Indian promoters are not beyond offering salaries in brown paper packets — something completely undesirable. Limiting top salaries will also freeze compensation down the line, which in turn will impact talent attraction. One reason why CEO salaries look high is the shortage of talent at the top; higher wages serve as a stimulant for increasing the supply of better quality top management.

 

Having said that, the government does have a point when it says some CEO salaries are 'obscenely high'. All too often, the effective CEO is a family member from the promoter group — and this salary is decided by the promoters. No wonder such CEOs earn crores regardless of the company's health. Any panel set up by the company is unlikely to take a decision that will hurt the promoters' interests. A better option might be to allow minority shareholders and independent directors to have the final say when it comes to deciding a CEO's salary.

 

It would be good if the private sector takes this initiative rather than wait for the government to come up with legislation, which can only be intrusive. It will also show private sector as better citizens than our MPs.

 

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DNA

COLUMN

WE NEED PUBLIC SOUP KITCHENS TO FEED THE HUNGRY

PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

 

In the heated debate over what should be done with the overflowing granaries, it is not surprising that no attention is paid to some of the simple issues.

 

The issue of not allowing people to starve or go hungry when you have plenty of foodgrains around.

 

The Supreme Court wanted the foodgrains to be distributed for free among the poor and hungry.

 

Of course, the court was giving its view based on the facts presented to it. If there was so much of foodgrains and they are rotting away, then it makes sense to distribute them for free because there are millions who need them desperately.

 

The court did not seem to understand the logistic problems in carrying out such an operation. It would have required identifying the poor and the hungry. They are all not in the same place. Of course, it is not the court's job to work out the details.

 

Food and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar's response was a pragmatic one. He said it will not be possible to give away the foodgrains, and what he meant was that it is a complicated process. He should have explained what the problems are because they are real ones.

 

Chief economic advisor in the finance ministry Kaushik Basu has given a partial explanation of the problem. He said that the free grain would be bought by merchants who would then sell it back to government.

 

As a result, government would be subsidising the middle-men and not the poor. It sounds sensible but not sufficiently so. He should have suggested ways of how to reach the grain to the poor.

 

Instead, he thinks that the excess grain should be sold on the Chicago grain market in the futures category, so that government can buy it back when it needs the grains. That is an economist's view and therefore not entirely practical or satisfactory given the issue of the hungry and starving.

 

The real issue is if a person is starving, then it does not make sense to give them the grains. What is needed is a public kitchen or a langar, the Indian equivalent of a soup kitchen, to feed them.

 

It is indeed a matter of shame if there is enough food in the country and people go hungry. It is true that government is just not capable of dealing with it. Many have cited the failure in administering the mid-day meal scheme in schools.

 

Can we trust the NGOs to implement the scheme? It seems like politicians, the NGOs are quite good at making a noise about it — which is good in itself — but not so good in finding or suggesting solutions. What we need then are groups and organisations with enough moral fervour to set up kitchens and serve the hungry.

 

They can even buy the foodgrains either in the market or from the government. Whatever the intricacies of policy and the difficulties of implementing them, the simple thing is that when a society has enough it should not allow starvation and hunger in its midst. What is missing is the moral commitment.

 

The Sikhs manage the langar successfully in the gurdwaras and this needs to be replicated in the public sphere. We need the people to do it because we have the means. Why is it not happening? Because there is a moral disconnect. We do not care. It is a damning state of affairs. If we have the means and we do not do anything about it, it means that our hearts are hardened.

 

It is much worse than facing hard times. Those who are shouting the loudest on behalf of the poor are no better than those who have turned their faces away from it all because they refuse to act.

 

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DNA

MAIN ARTICLE

ELECTION COMMISSION FLUNKS THE OPENNESS TEST ON EVMS

RAJEEV SRINIVASAN

 

I am doubtful about electronic voting machines (EVMs) based on a healthy engineering scepticism.

 

The touching faith we repose in computers is misplaced, because they are vulnerable to errors and tampering. It is a good idea to have a low-tech backup mechanisms for embedded systems, which run devices such as refrigerators, microwaves, ATMs, etc.

 

For instance, braking problems that led to Toyota's massive recalls are almost certainly due to software-based systems. This is the reason why critical systems like nuclear power plants often have electro-mechanical controls, not computer controls.

 

As embedded systems, EVMs are inherently risky. Admittedly, they have advantages: for one, it is not possible to do physical 'booth-capturing'. Besides, votes are converted into digital impulses so that counting can be lightning-fast; and statistical data collection, and analysis are much easier.

 

Unfortunately, that strength is also, ironically, the Achilles' heel of EVMs. Since there is no physical audit trail of the vote, once you have cast your vote, you cannot verify that it is honoured. It is a relatively minor task for a software-savvy criminal to fix an election. A paper trail — much like an ATM — is sorely needed to prevent this and provide validation.

 

There are two major aspects to making such systems more secure — human factors and processes. We have evolved fail-safe mechanisms that require cooperation of several individuals believed to be highly reliable. These people are vetted via security clearances. And processes need to be put in place that can prevent intentional or accidental errors.

 

The technical systems, human factors, and process issues need to work in perfect synchronicity for a complex system to work correctly. However, in several cases, EVMs have been found wanting, and this has led to bans in countries like the US, Germany, and the Netherlands. The Germans found that EVMs violated their constitution, because the system is obliged to prove to the voter that his vote is registered as per his intent, and EVMs cannot guarantee that.

 

It is in this context that we need to see the recent arrest of an Indian EVM researcher, Hari Prasad. The Election Commission of India (EC) has claimed that their EVMs are "foolproof", "perfect," etc. But Hari Prasad and fellow-researchers put together a proof-of-concept and demonstrated a hack on some other hardware. The EC pointed out, fairly, that this was not on one of the Indian EVMs. But when the researchers requested the EC to provide them with an actual EVM, it appears the EC refused access.

 

The EC has also emphasised how secure their processes are, how the machines are sealed in high-security currency-quality paper with wax and secured in warehouses in the custody of reliable officials. Alas, a system based on string and sealing wax sounds positively primitive.

 

Sure enough, the researchers acquired an EVM from one of the EC's warehouses, and demonstrated several ways of tampering with it, including the use of radio-aware chips that would enable a Bluetooth-based cellphone outside a booth to manipulate the machines. The vaunted process of the EC was, however, not even aware of the missing machine for several months!

 

Computer security experts are not convinced, either. I listened carefully to the podcast of a session at the recent Usenix conference wherein this was debated, with representatives from both sides making their case. I was disappointed to hear that the foolproof measures that the EC is so proud of boil down 'security by obscurity' — that is, a complex process that is expected to be hard to break into — and faith in a small number of software people at firms the EC did not identify.

 

Instead of lauding Hari Prasad as a well-intentioned white-hat researcher whose suggestions for improvement should have been welcomed, the EC sought to demonise him and terrorise him. This is counter-productive. Thus, on several counts, including constitutionality, the reaction to whistleblowers, and the implications for Indian democracy, this is a fascinating case, and the EC did not cover itself with glory.

 

Distressingly, another other pillar of society did not distinguish itself. It is the media. So far as I can tell, the entire English-language media chose to bury this story, although a few stray op-eds have been written. This is a dereliction of the media's duty as the watchdog of society. If an election is fixed, it is a bloodless constitutional coup. The fact that the media is not asking awkward questions and forcing the government to respond raises questions about its integrity and ethics.

 

Thus, two of the independent institutions in India that should impose checks and balances on the executive branch have abdicated their responsibility. This is a cause for extreme concern; this is a sign of a state whose machinery is breaking down. And that is the crux of the matter in l'affaire EVM.

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

MISLEADING SIGNALS 


Only a realistic, wholesome & objective 'package' can pave the way for redemption in Kashmir 
Whether there is any truth or not in bits and pieces of information leaking out of New Delhi, so-called 'package' of the central government for Jammu and Kashmir appears to have been talked out much before it actually unfolds. For the past few weeks, there have been conflicting reports about what was there in the pipeline. Because of that confusion it is not possible to formulate a coherent view on the likely impact, or otherwise, of any such action plan. Primarily, this belated move of the government of India is in response to the ongoing political crisis in the state, particularly in Kashmir Valley. For the last over three months, the machinery of the state government has been totally paralysed. The administration and its authority exist in name only.

 

Government's inability to act beyond resort to brutal retaliatory force against unarmed civilians has exposed its hollowness in the face of what virtually is a mass revolt. That none of the mainstream parties, including the two ruling coalition partners, who together constitute the alleged 'representative' segment of the Valley's public opinion, is able to exercise any kind of influence on the course of events on the ground speaks volumes about their impotence. Soon after the assembly elections in 2008 and the Lok Sabha polls last year, these very parties were gloating at what they believed to be their triumph. But here they are today, rendered numb and invisible.

 

This should provide a cue to New Delhi that if and when there is really something being planned to address the situation in Kashmir it is going to work only if it is objectively conceived, sincerely implemented and taken to its logical end. Past experience makes a sad history. To cite just instance, the Prime Minister's Round Table and its Working Groups were announced with fanfare. But the recommendations of these groups have been gathering dust. It seems that all that is being done now is to dust off these moth-eaten files and resurrect the scenario that has since lost relevance in the wake of the ongoing situation. That exercise was in response to what was the situation on the ground around that time. Much water has flowed down the Jhelum since then and old prescriptions are most likely to rebound rather than producing the desired result. Some of the burning issues can no longer be evaded without further annoying an already agitated public opinion in the Valley. For instance, it is no longer sufficient to partially lift AFSPA or release a handful of hundreds of political detenues. The draconian extra-constitutional provision that is being ruthlessly misused as licence to kill has to go lock, stock and barrel. Fake encounters coupled with brutal use of force to kill and maim peaceful protesters and wanton destruction of private property by hoodlums in uniform have created a situation which can only be rectified with total abrogation of the AFSPA from the entire state. Argument for retaining it, advanced by senior military officers, lacks conviction. On the one hand they claim credit for having eliminated militancy but on the other they insist upon being allowed to continue with their draconian powers. Culture of immunity from justice has degenerated into vested interest. Rule of law which is supposed to be among the basic planks of democratic order has been its worst casualty. Respect for judicial authority is unknown under the existing circumstances. Security and safety of human life as well as human dignity continue to be treated as expendable commodities. In which other state of the Democratic Republic of India can such a pathetic state of affairs be allowed to perpetuate and for so long? None, not even in the similarly placed north-eastern states. Response to the demand for abrogation of AFSPA made in Manipur finds a conciliatory response in New Delhi whereas the idea is frowned upon contemptuously whenever it emanates from the Valley. 


Both the state and central governments have been talking about release of detenues for several weeks but actually their number has been mounting sharply with each passing day. Innocent young boys, political opponents of the government and professionals including lawyers, teachers and doctors are being pushed behind bars. Nothing short of total reversal of this attitude and such a policy is going to have any impact on the ground. Any package coming from New Delhi can deliver only if it indicates ushering of a new culture of governance. Arbitrariness, injustice and contempt for rule of law are the salient features of governance in J&K. The ruling regime in the state has reduced itself to only the public face of its Big Brother. In the Valley nobody today talks of how this government is performing or what it is doing. Its being or not being there has since ceased to make any difference to them. To salvage at least nominal existence of its local surrogate New Delhi would have to act more realistically than hitherto while putting across its 'package'. Otherwise it would be yet another wasted effort.

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

EDITORIAL

DELAY SCHOOL EXAMS

THE CRISIS IN VALLEY MAKES THE EXAMINATION ANNOUNCEMENT A MOCKERY


No heavens would have fallen if the government had shown more compassion to the students in the Valley and put off the examinations by a few months. Keeping in view the ongoing crisis and the severely affected education of the students, it is practically impossible for them to even think of taking examinations, if this scenario prolongs, leave alone have difficulties in preparing for the same. With a continuum of shutdowns, curfew and violence likely to follow in the days following the Eid, it is unlikely that things may improve by the time the examinations will take place if the original schedule of October is adhered to. The tall claims of the government that much of the syllabus has been already taught prove hollow in the face of the fact that schools have been virtually shutdown for last three months. The first term of this ongoing academic session in the winter zone had barely got over when the present crisis began. It is humanly impossible for the government schools to have speedily taught half a year's syllabus in just a matter of two-three weeks. Though students of private schools have been a little better off with better avenues to be tutored at home or managing their assessments and lessons through classes on the internet, the poor children of the rural areas and those studying in government schools or small private academies are worst hit. Before waiting for announcing the examinations as per schedule and causing unnecessary anxiety and tension to the school children, already distressed by the ongoing violence and situation, the education department should wait for the crisis to be resolved, normalcy restored and then plan its calendar accordingly. There is no hurry in closing down the session without the students even having learnt anything.

 

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THE KASHMIR TIMES

COLUMN

THE AMBIGUOUS IDENTITY OF A KASHMIRI

DR. NYLA ALI KHAN

 

The ambiguous identity of a Kashmiri is one that some of us have had to live with for a while now. Indian nationalists are quick to claim their intractable hold on Kashmirirs; Pakistani nationalists are just as quick to claim to speak for Kashmiris. Kashmir, despite having a real internal history and a place in the world, is suppressed by its positioning in the Indo-Pak conflict. Mainstream Kashmiri politicians culpably reiterate that "Kashmir is an integral part of India," in the process negating the people's voices and real existence. Separatists are just as quick to scrap that assertion with their vociferous calls for hartal, in the process sidelining the educational and psychological needs of the younger generation. New Delhi in its signature style is straddling the fence by underlining the need for "dialogue" and "quiet diplomacy" but not taking any substantive measures to "talk" to Kashmiris. The profundity of memories and mourning of Kashmiris cannot be relegated to the background in official accounts of history. The aggressive statements, delusions of grandeur, melodramatic performances, and witty quips of Kashmiri mainstream politicians as well as separatist leaders have a short-lived glory and do nothing to alleviate the pain of anxious parents, destitute widows, bereaved mothers, vulnerable orphans, educated people unable to make a decent living.


Minority voices of Kashmiris that express dissension cannot be silenced for ever. Indian and Pakistani nationalisms have sought to mould collective subjectivities by the evocation of pan-national religious affinities resulting in the stifling of minority voices that express divergent political, social, and cultural opinions. The unitary concept of nationalism that the nation-states of India and Pakistan subscribe to challenges the basic principle that the nation was founded on, namely, democracy. In the enthusiasm to nurture this nationalist project, the political autonomy endowed on J & K by the constitutional provisions of India should not be eroded. In October 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India reinforced the stipulation that New Delhi's jurisdiction in the state would remain limited to the categories of defence, foreign affairs, and communications, as underlined in the Instrument of Accession. This stipulation was provisional and its final status would be decided upon the resolution of the Kashmir issue. Subsequent to India acquiring the status of a republic in 1950, this constitutional provision enabled the incorporation of Article 370 into the Indian Constitution, which ratified the autonomous status of J & K within the Indian Union. Article 370 stipulates that New Delhi can legislate on the subjects of defense, foreign affairs, and communications only in just and equitable consultation with the government of the state of J & K, and can intervene on other subjects only with the consent of the J & K State Assembly. In contravention of the autonomy of J & K, two highly federalist statutes of the Indian Constitution, Articles 356 and 357, were enacted in J & K in 1964. These draconian articles enabled the central government to autocratically dismiss democratically elected state governments if it perceived a dismantling of the law and order machinery. A constitutional order implementing these statutes was decreed by New Delhi. In the 1990s and the 2000s the military has carte blanche under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act of 1978 and the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities [Prevention] Act of 1987.


 "Official" accounts of the insurgency in Kashmir and state sponsored repression discount narratives that do not contribute to the deepening breach caused by the communalisation of the Kashmir issue and the zeal of Indian and Pakistani nationalism, according to which "Kashmir is unquestionably an integral part of India," or any people's movement in Kashmir is led by "anti-national militants," or "Pakistan is sincere in its attempts to resolve the Kashmir conundrum" leaves out the politics of the people as was done in official accounts of the Partition of India (Guha 1). Where are the genuine traumas and tribulations of the people in these accounts? Do we hear of the misery of a father who feels emasculated because he cannot fend for his family? Do we sense the anxiety of parents who are painfully aware that the productive years of their child are going by the wayside while the rest of the world is making strides? Do we hear the wailing of a tender hearted mother whose son was waiting to plunge into life but has now been silenced by militarisation? Do we see the apathy of a young educated person who thought the world was his/ her oyster but now has nothing to look forward to? Are we aware of the frustration of politically savvy people whose opinions are made short shrift of by the powers that be? Do we understand the isolation of cultural and educational institutions? Do we see the erosion of the identity of people whose votes count but whose needs and opinions are overlooked? Do we see the legitimacy of peaceful protests and the illegitimacy of firing at unarmed protestors?


The discourse of nationalism affects to make sense of the absurd loss of life that occurs. Human knowledge, however, is always tentative and arbitrary. We can learn to cross the frontiers of culture, nationality, language, and citizenship in order to make humanist responses to the belligerence of military powers and the ensuing human rights violations. Indian nationalism deploys the idea of citizenship and fraternity that unifies the entire community in the pursuit of a common goal. In order to assert itself a nation-state needs to draw clearly etched borders so it can define itself in opposition to other nations. But the entrenched border between India and Pakistan erases a shared past. Bloody manoeuvers to destabilise the British Raj were employed by the Muslims as well as the Hindus of colonial India in a joint effort to oust the oppressor. The composite culture constructed by the two communities was an inherent part of pre-colonial India as well, but is expunged by Indian nationalists and Pakistani nationalists in their attempts to disseminate the unitary discourse of nationalism. This militant nationalism does not evolve into critical consciousness: an awareness that unless national consciousness transforms into social consciousness, so-called "liberation" would merely be a continuation of imperialism (Said 323). The need of the day is for Indian civil society as well as the civil society in J & K to come forward and foreground rational and logical solutions to the political, psychological, cultural, economic, and educational paralysis in J & K without toeing the line of ultra right-wing nationalism. Repressive statutes, brutal acts, a corrupt political and bureaucratic infrastructure, pigeonholing Kashmiris as "ignorant insurgents," fomenting dissension within the ranks of the people can only undermine the human aspect of the Kashmir issue which no well-thinking, rational person, Indian or Pakistani nationalist should tolerate.
*(Grand-daughter of Sheikh Abdullah, Nyla Ali Khan is Assistant Professor, Department of English in University of Nebraska, Kearney, USA).

Bowling a doosra..!


ROBERT CLEMENTS

"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?"


"Why?"
"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?"


"Yes!"
"How much for the list?"


"Will you pay here?"


"Yes!" 
"Thank you!"


"Would these bookies transfer the cash to our Swiss accounts if they had to?"


"We could ask them!"


"You were paid a fixed amount to bowl a no ball at a prescribed over right?"


"Yes!"
"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…!"                                   
bobsbanter@gmail.com

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

FAROOQ VS GEELANI

 

Not very long ago the National Conference (NC) had fielded two of its senior leaders --- Mr Mohammad Shafi (Uri) and Mr Sharifuddin Shariq --- to take on Tehreek-e-Hurriyat founder Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The duo of party MPs had contended: "Mr Geelani's political theory has only brought misery and sufferings and caused huge economic and human loss to the people of the State and even today when the State is moving on the path of normalcy, Mr Geelani is using his divisive designs to create uncertainty and sabotaging the peace initiatives." They went on to challenge Mr Geelani to face an election and test his political support and "see for himself how many people support him and his ideology of bloodshed and killing." Such strong reaction was provoked by Mr Geelani's frontal verbal assault on the Sheikh family whom he accused of being in the "forefront of crushing the freedom struggle…the Sheikh dynasty has gone past the Dogra regime in brutalisation." It was followed by a peace march by the NC in the main thoroughfare of the Summer Capital. Now Dr Farooq Abdullah, of all NC leaders, has after a long time hit Mr Geelani rather hard. Talking to media persons on the sidelines of a function in this city, he has thundered: "Who is Geelani to challenge me? … I have never accepted Geelani. Who is he to challenge Farooq Abdullah? ... If he wants that Kashmir should go with Pakistan, I request him to go and live there but Kashmir will not go anywhere…Kashmir is not going anywhere and will stay with India." Once again he has denied reports about the possibility of his comeback as the Chief Minister. He has reiterated that Mr Omar Abdullah "is the Chief Minister and he has the backing of the entire country."


Evidently Dr Abdullah has given vent to his anger against Mr Geelani's criticism of his speech in the Lok Sabha. The Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy had told Parliament that most Kashmiris wanted to stay within India. He had pooh-poohed the demand for azadi and wanted India to "make it abundantly clear to Pakistan that enough is enough" and the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir "is our territory." It was following this speech that Mr Geelani had said: "If Dr Abdullah's claim that Kashmiris want to live with India carries weight, India should have no problems in holding a referendum in Kashmir…This is our basic demand that the people of Kashmir should be given the chance of a plebiscite to ascertain their ways. Implementing the United Nations resolutions is the easiest and the most democratic way of resolving the issue." The radical secessionist leader had gone on: "Dr Abdullah can have India written on his heart, but every inch of Kashmiri land, and every Kashmiri child is up in arms against India's occupation. India does not rule over Kashmiri hearts, but is saddled on their heads by the force of arms…He must understand the reality that while he may breathe Kashmiri air for a while, the Kashmiri land has already slipped from beneath his feet…If Dr Abdullah has a correct understanding of the aspirations and inner feelings of Kashmiris, let him stand in Lal Chowk for five minutes and then go and give speeches in Parliament…Dr Abdullah's ruler son finds it difficult to make way for himself from his Gupkar residence to the medical institute in his ancestral Soura. When his helicopter lands at the hospital, a handful of locals give him the true lay of the land." It is not unusual for Mr Geelani to criticise the members of the Sheikh family on various grounds including for forging matrimonial alliances with Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. 


However, it is rare --- at least in recent times --- for Dr Abdullah to have hit back. His present utterances should be music to many in view of the prevailing milieu in the Valley. Should one believe that Dr Abdullah has eventually decided that the NC and the party-led government would take headlong on the elements behind the ongoing trouble in the Kashmir region? It is precisely their inactivity on the ground ---- indeed, for that matter that of all mainstream political organisations --- for more than 80 days that has been a major cause of concern for the men at the helm in New Delhi. In an unusual move the Congress's Working Committee (CWC), which is the party's highest decision-making body, has invited and heard Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on the existing situation in the Valley. From all accounts, what the CWC has been told is far from flattering for the party heading the State's ruling coalition. A silver lining for the NC nevertheless is a general perception that Dr Abdullah is one politician who can favourably swing the scenario in the party's favour. Whatever Mr Geelani's opinion of him Dr Abdullah is believed to have the capacity to stay put in the Lal Chowk as long as he wants instead of standing there "for five minutes." On our both social and political spectrum Dr Abdullah and Mr Geelani stand for two different points of view. The latter is relentless in the pursuit of his goal. Time has come for Dr Abdullah to test his strength and rise to the occasion. It is up to him to make or break many a myth. What he says in Jammu or New Delhi is significant but not as significant as what he does on the other side of the Pir Panjal. 

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

PEOPLE'S ANGER

 

It is manifestation of people's anger following the murder of a young city driver on the Nagrota-Manda road that they have blocked the Tawi bridge for nearly two hours on Saturday. It turns out that the victim was the sole bread-winner of his family. The protesters have demanded compensation for his kith and kin and the arrest of the killers. Such was the intensity of their feelings that none of the officials was able to break through their cordon for quite some time for a dialogue. With the closure of one of its main arteries ---- Tawi bridge --- this city was plunged into chaos. Our consistent plea in these columns has been for the people to observe restraint and desist from obstructing vehicular movement because it poses problems for those in need of medical treatment or hurrying for job interviews. Admittedly, however, we have no easy answer to what they ought to do as sufferers in the face of a worsening crime situation. It is something for the concerned police and administrative apparatus to examine.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

THE FLYING COFFINS

BY ANIRUDH PRAKASH

 

On August 8, while the nation's political top brass and citizens in general were involved in an animated debate on the future of Commonwealth Games 2010, far away from the national capital in India's boondocks, a young pilot was on a routine sortie on his MiG-21 fighter jet. The exercise was designed to make him battle ready. But minutes after take-off, the Indian Air Force (IAF) jet, also known as Bahadur (Brave), met with an accident. The pilot lost control and the aircraft crashed on a paddy field, some 25 km from the town of Tezpur in Assam.
Had this accident taken place in any western country, it would have been a poignant Page One story. But in India, the Tezpur report was buried in the inner pages of the national dailies. The pilot was lucky to survive the accident. But there are many who have perished in such accidents. The September 2009 MiG-21 crash in Punjab's Muktsar district claimed pilot Lt. Manu Akhori who was unable to eject on time. The list of such accidents is getting longer with each passing day.


Some 39 fighter aircraft and choppers of the IAF and the Navy have crashed in the past three years. This comes up to almost a crash a month. The IAF lost 13 qualified pilots in air crashes from 2007 to 2010. Defence minister A. K. Antony told Parliament recently, "Thirty-nine aircraft including MiG series, Sukhoi aircraft and helicopters have been lost in air crashes during the last three financial years from 2007-08 to August 11 this year."


Over the past decade, some 290 non-combat accidents have taken place in which 120 rookie and trained pilots of the IAF have died. Most of the casualties have been involved with the Soviet MiG-21 series. That doesn't mean that the highly-rated Jaguars and Sukhoi aircraft are safe. They too have their own victims. The monetary loss from these accidents has been well over Rs. 12 billion. Besides, it creates a number of problem for the IAF as these expensive aircraft are not available off the shelf.


Antony said that of the fighters that went down, 13 were of the aging MiG-21 series, six of MiG-27 series and two aircraft of the MiG-29 series. The latest Sukhoi 30-MKI was also lost. Moreover, Mi-8 choppers and two of the Mi-17 series choppers have also crashed. The list includes one Jaguar, one Kiran and one MiG-23.


Each IAF aircraft accident is investigated through a court of inquiry and remedial measures are taken to check their recurrence, claimed Antony. Above all, assistance is taken from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), both indigenous and foreign, to overcome the technical defects of the aircraft.


This is not for the first time that such assurances have been delivered. Following frequent crashes in 2003, the then defence minister George Fernandes had held a meeting at the air headquarters in New Delhi and said the Government would "get to the root of the problem". But even after seven years, the problem continues to persist and these accidents continue to claim lives of young pilots. 


The Indian public and the families who lost their loved ones in the accidents know nothing about these accidents. Most of the time the defence officials are tight-lipped over this issue in the name of "classified security information". It would be erroneous to say that the Government has done nothing. Over the year, numerous meetings have been held and committees formed to looked into the causes of the crashes. Besides, some recommendations have also been made. The most famous of these was the Committee of Fighter Aircraft Accidents in 1997. Former president APJ Abdul Kalam, who was then scientific adviser to the defence minister, headed it.

The committee recommended modernisation of test equipment and better information networking between the ministry and the labs. Besides, it also wanted transfer of design information on critical fighter jet parts. Even after 13- years of the recommendations, the debate rages about how to minimise the number of IAF crashes.
Each new accident brings back attention on the IAF that is under intense pressure to address these accidents. It is faced with uncomfortable questions: Why are these crashes not stopping? What steps has the IAF taken to combat such catastrophes? Why are officers' lives being risked? Is the government serious about the lives of pilots? Till now, the IAF and the government have taken the stand that these accidents are results of human error, technical defects and bird hits. The La Fontaine Committee, that was set up for an in-depth study into the accident pattern and the entire training process, found out a significant correlation between training and accidents. Air Chief Marshal Dennis La Fontaine had found maintenance failure, bird hits and pilot error to be the main causes for these crashes.


Air Marshal A.K. Singh, who retired as Commander in-Chief of the Western Air Command and was also DG, Inspection and Safety, told that there was a great difference between military aviation and civil aviation and that things needed to be seen in the right perspective. He said: "We don't fly to travel and since the aircraft is a highly complex machine, everything cannot be just controlled. Of course the ideal would be no crashes but that can never happen."


The aging MiG series that constitute the bulk of India's combat fleet have, of course, suffered the most. Out of the 793 single-engined MiG-21s inducted into IAF since 1963, over 330 have been lost in accidents. The problem has been compounded by shoddy maintenance, poor quality control of spares and inadequate training. As for the possible steps to bring the accidents down, the former Air Chief Marshal S. P. Tyagi calls it a continuous process. He said: "It requires continuous and focused work for it involves not just keeping the air space clear of birds or maintenance of the aircraft. But it needs an investment into the machine and the man for the machine needs to be state-of-the-art and the man flying it should be in a high motivation. Hence, it is a continuous process." However, the families whose children have been killed in these accidents are worried and want the IAF and the Government to act on this issue soon. (INAV)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

MADRASAS AS SCHOOLS

BY DHEERAJ JANDIAL

 

The fears are unfounded, the apprehensions without logic and reason, concerns irrational- for the Government the madrasas do not qualify as schools and therefore, they are not within the ambit of the Right to Education. With even the Human Resource Development Ministry declaring that it has no intention of bringing madrasas under Right to Education (RTE), the bawl should end now.


Legally speaking, madrasas are not treated as schools therefore they do not come under the purview of Right to Education. Apprehensions that the RTE and its norms would be applicable to madrasas arise from the law's definition of schools, 'as any recognized school imparting elementary education'. This definition is not applicable for madrasas. Section 18 of RTE Act makes 'a certificate of recognition' mandatory for all schools and Section 19 of the Act prescribes stringent conditions for obtaining recognition- such as building and classroom specifications, teacher-student ratio, study hours, library and playground facilities. Most certainly the RTE is silent on madrasas because the ministry has a separate scheme for modernisation of madrasas, which encourages these units to offer their students 'modern secular' subjects along with deeni talim or religious instruction. 


For those, who are confusing and confounding the issue that madrasa is going to be governed as a recognized school for all purposes, should read into history which testifies that there were no madrasas in the early period of Islam. Their formation can probably be traced to the early Islamic custom of meeting in the mosques to discuss social and religious problems. It was in this early period that ordinary people used to gather around certain educated people who had knowledge and could guide them on religious matters. The religious scholars later came to be known as Shaykhs, and when they started giving regular religious sessions they were called majlis. As such, it becomes amply clear that the primary identity of madrasas is not that of an elementary school, but one that offers religious instructions.


The advent of madrasa education, particularly in Indian-continent, is difficult to trace out. Assumingly, it started with the spread of Islam and was fostered by the Sufi order of the Islamic faith. It was in these Sufi madrasas where grammar, poetry, literature, logic, mathematics and other disciplines of Islam were taught. Since the most of the knowledge about Islam was recorded in Arabic and Persian, Indian sub-continent prospered as a place for learning Arabic and Persian. Every student aspiring to reach the highest level of madrasa education had to learn these two languages. 


Madrasas, as such, focuses on a conservative form of theology and jurisprudence, which beyond any doubt makes it an institution of religious instruction, not in tune with the modern system of pedagogy. The madrasa curricula, in most cases, offers "Quran-i-Hafiz (memorization of Koran) Alim (to be a scholar in Islamic matters), Tafsir-ul-Quran (Quranic interpretation) Sharia (Islamic Law), Hadith (sayings and deeds of Prophet Mohammad), mantic (logic) and Islamic history. Madrasa, therefore, is a holy institution even today and not a school as it functions outside the purview of the formal set-up. 


The trepidation of Moslems over dilution of the madrasas by the ingress of any new system has been there even before independence. The introduction of new educational system by the English in early 18th century impacted Muslim society of the sub-continent then also on the issue, which was divided over the preference of education system, with the radical taking upon themselves the task of opposing the cultural and educational hegemony of the British Raj. The reactionary group, especially the poor, continued sticking to madrasa education because it was traditional and mostly free and survived on charity. However, the liberals and progressive and likes of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who established Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligrah, criticized the influence of traditional dogma and religious orthodoxy and appealed to Muslims to accept modern education.
Presently, there are around 30,000 operating madrasas. The majority of these schools follow the Hanafi school of thought. The religious establishment forms part of the mainly two large divisions within the country, namely the Deobandis, who dominate in numbers (of whom the Darul Uloom Deoband constitutes one of the biggest madrasas in the world) and the Barelvis, who also make up a sizeable portion (mostly Sufi orientated). Some notable establishments include, Jamia Ashrafia, Mubarakpur which is one the largest learning centres for the Barelvis. Darul Uloom Deoband which is the largest, and is considered by many to be the most renowned madrasa in Asia, is located at Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh. 


Post-Independence and so far, madrasas have enjoyed a fair amount of freedom with no specific obligation to seek recognition from Government. This leeway was granted under Article 30 of the Constitution, which allows minorities 'the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice'. Even the Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs Salman Khursheed has categorically dismissed the suggestion that the Right to Education Act posed a threat to madrasa education. However, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind Secretary Niaz Ahmed Farooqui has conveyed his apprehensions on the RTE's negative provisions saying that the Act was like a 'sweet poison'. 
Juxtaposing RTE provisions for madrasas would indubitably raise questions of the Act running afoul of Article 30 where emphasis is on 'choice'. It is high time to sort the legal conundrum under the aid of Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM). 

 

(The writer is a Relation Officer of NCERT, New Delhi)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FOOD SECURITY BILL

BY KALYANI SHANKAR

 

Consensus seems to be eluding the proposed Food Security Bill for various reasons. While Sonia Gandhi led National Advisory Council was able to push through two important legislations - the Right to Information and the NREGA, during the UPA 1 regime, the Food Security Bill is still in the making as the NAC and the government do not agree on some points. 


While the idea of providing Food Security to all is laudable, there are many ifs and buts. Look at the politics behind the bill. There is a tug of war between the NAC and the Government .The NAC, which is perceived as a super government is battling with issues like dual pricing -- Rs 3 a kg for BPL families, and a price close to the minimum support price for the rest. The other issues include the question of increasing the quantity of food grains to 35 kgs per family per month from 25 kgs as also the coverage. The universal food security would cost about Rs 90,000 crores, which is double of the government's budget of the prestigious NREGA programme. Perhaps Sonia Gandhi does not want to push the Government too much as she has asked the NAC to consult the ministry before finalising the draft appreciating the government's concern for fiscal deficit and the cost of the food subsidy. 


Secondly, it is the Congress Party versus the NCP rivalry. The Congress certainly wants to take full credit for the measure but it will be the NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who will pilot the bill and also get it passed. With elections to various states this year and next year, the Congress wants to fully take advantage of the populist measure. The Agriculture Minister too would like to share the limelight but he wants to be cautious. First of all, the Central bill has to be implemented by the states and they should be on board. Second is the quantum -- whether it should be 25 kgs or 35 kgs for each family. The third and most important is who will benefit. The ministry is not in favour of universalisation as the cost would be prohibitive. The fourth is identification of the beneficiaries. Though poverty estimates had been made by other committees such as Arjun Sengupta Committee, Saxena Committee and Tendulkar Committee, the requirement of food grains and subsidy is still decided on the basis of survey made by the Planning Commission, which is the lowest poverty estimate. To the government's dismay, all three officially constituted committees have turned up estimates of poverty higher than its own.


Thirdly, even within the Congress party, opinion is divided whether it should be universal or only for BPL families. 


At another level, other political parties also have a say when the bill is brought to Parliament. The left is insisting on universalisation of the PDS. While the NAC too was of the same view initially, now it is looking to other options. 


As far as major opposition the BJP, it has not opened its card so far. The BJP, if it wants to block the bill can always demand universalisation, which would create problems for the government.


The other parties like the BSP, SP and RJD would join the bandwagon of the universalisation of the act because of the electoral politics. They have to face the polls in 2012 in UP. 


If one goes by last year's UN World Food programme report more than 27 per cent of the worlds undernourished live in India. About 43 per cent of children in India are underweight, even higher than the Sub Sahara region. 

Presently, it is a bizarre scenario where the poor are denied food while huge amounts of food grains are rotting in some states. According to Supreme Court Commissioners, as much as 50,000 metric tonnes of food grains have already gone bad. In Haryana, 31,574 MT of grains have been lying in the open since 2008-09. No wonder the Apex Court has ordered that this should be distributed to the poor.


India's food security is worsening by the year. And the cost of food items is increasing rapidly. There is also short supply of pulses and edible oils, which are being imported now.


It is quire alarming that by 2050 the country's population is going to double and remain at more than two billion. While the population is on the increase, the food production is falling and the gap will become increasingly larger. Unless the population growth is contained, it will be a serious problem to feed so many mouths.


Secondly, the procurement is not the real problem but the distribution of food grains. While the Food security is

important, focus should also be on a successful delivery mechanism and a good Public Distribution System.


Thirdly, with declining productivity and growing population, the future looks bleak. Gone are the days of green revolution and there is need for a second green revolution.


Fourthly, preservation of the acquired food grains is yet another problem. The Government must ensure that the storage is adequate so that there will be no wastage. 


Fifthly, unless proper distribution of food grains is taken care of, passing any amount of laws are not going to help the poor. Corruption and leakage in the PDS are widespread. The efficiency of the PDS is good in the southern states while the Northern states have to do much.


The Empowered Group of Ministers cleared in March delinking food security from nutritional security. It recommended a blanket definition of BPL families and suggested a monthly quota of 25 kg of rice/wheat without fixing the price. It also introduced the concept of a food security allowance in cash if grains are unavailable. With rethinking on both sides, the NAC and the Government will have to go halfway to meet each other and the biggest worry would be how to find the finance for the food security. (IPA)

 

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THE DAILY RISING KASHMIR

EDITORIAL

DIPLOMATIC RESISTANCE

 

Both Geelani and Mirwaiz should agree upon a joint team of negotiators who will talk to Delhi, Islamabad
Syed Ali Geelani's willingness to negotiate, albeit on his own terms, has thrown open a window of opportunity.

Significantly, this positive posture is being endorsed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq as well as by Masarat Alam, the key voice in Hurriyat (G). From the pro-election camp, both the ruling National Conference and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party have grown louder in their demand to resolve Kashmir dispute as per the "wishes and aspirations of the people". NC has even gone to the extent of abandoning its autonomy demand in case some alternative solution emerges from the dialogue. What is more, both these pro-election parties have conceded the mandate of negotiation to the separatists. This leaves the job of negotiations to Geelani, Mirwaiz, Shabir Shah and Yasin Malik. It is, therefore, for these leaders to work out a diplomatic strategy to reengage New Delhi and achieve the goal. The proposal tossed up by Geelani has sought punishment to killers of sixty-five youth, withdrawal of troops, removal of tough laws, release of prisoners and the acknowledgement by New Delhi that Kashmir is a disputed territory. For once a doable demand has been made by someone who is still the number one opponent of India's military presence in Kashmir. Also, India's policy establishment has first time ever considered Geelani someone who is worth doing business with. And, Mirwaiz, to the surprise of saboteurs, has chosen to throw his weight behind Geelani. As for Yasin Malik, he has all along been a votary of democratic ways of resistance. Now that the people have displayed their unquestionable commitment to the cause, the leaders should not fail them on diplomatic front. While the people continue to carry forward the movement, separatist leadership should work overtime to strategize their forward movement. First of all a team of negotiators has to be identified. Hurriyat has had several setbacks in past but this time it needs to be more calibrated. Since NC and PDP have conceded their right of political representation, there is no harm if Hurriyat starts with an internal dialogue and informs itself about the relevant issues. So far, the separatists have been talking to each other either through newspapers or intermediaries. Let them set up active contact, form a team of negotiators and discuss how to put their best foot forward. This will happen only if these leaders remain aware of those flies on their walls; vested interests have penetrated deep into almost every separatist body.  Before they cobble up a team of negotiators the Hurriyat leaders must remember one basic fact: If the agenda is clear, it hardly matters who represents you on the table.

 

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THE DAILY RISING KASHMIR

OPINION

LETHAL WOUNDS OF 'NON-LETHAL' WEAPON

DR JAVID IQBAL


Pellet gun injury in Maisuma firing, which left four young boys maimed is a glaring example of how even supposedly non lethal weapon could wreck havoc in Kashmir. The propagation that it may cause multiple superficial injuries flies in the face of evidence.

 

To study the highly lethal effect of the much propagated least lethal  'Pellet Gun' foursome of team visited SMHS hospital and while other members tried to soothe and assuage the feelings of young victims and provided need based relief, I collected the medical details of pellet injured boys.


'Pellet Gun' as a firearm does have a damaging effect, though of a different denomination in medical terms. Distance does count in this type of firearm-a high velocity bullet may penetrate the human flesh and damage internal anatomical structures-sensitive ones even from a distance, while as pellets fired from a pellet gun from similar distance may cause relatively minor injury. The closer aim is however a different story- the penetrating power increases and proportionally the damaging effect. Maisuma is a test case, where as per the testimonies, the pellet gun was fired from a close range, the gun being aimed at some youngman playing carom. We may now get down to assessment of these cases on our 2nd September visit, as we got a measure of what they had suffered:


(1)    Yasir Rafiq Sheikh S/o Rafiq Sheikh aged 28 years, JKLF leader Yaseen Malik's cousin suffered as per the testimonies furnished, pallet gun abdominal injury at close range. He was operated immediately on being brought to SMHS hospital, for the next four to five hours doctors battled to save his life. The operative findings were intestinal perforation, for which a portion of intestines was removed and the healthy ends rejoined (anastamosis)-resection and anastamosis might not have posed a problem, but the deadly pellets had resulted in intra-abdominal vascular injuries. The bleeding major vessels had resulted in drop in blood pressure [hypotension] and in spite of getting 10-15 units of blood, which amounts to replacement of major part of total blood in the vascular system, his blood pressure before being operated [pre-operative phase] during the operation [per-operative phase] did not stablise, until the bleeding in the vessels was controlled by surgical measures.


Prolonged phase of low blood pressure [hypotension] results in shock-defined as a state of circulatory collapse, where along with hypotension there is increase in pulse rate resulting from increased heart rate [Tachycardia] as heart tries to accelerate its working to pump in more blood into a failing circulation, however due to lowered total blood volume [blood flowing in vascular system] the distribution of blood in various body systems suffers. The earliest sign of this failing distribution is cold, clammy skin due to less cuteneous blood supply [blood supply through the skin]


Following control of bleeding vessels, the state of shock was reversed in case of Yasir. Shock, depending on how prolonged it is results in organ damage-one by one-a state called 'Multiple Organ dysfunction system' [MODS] shock may become irreversible, with fatal results. In Yasir's case prolonged period of shock-collapsing circulation resulted in low respiratory status, so his respiration had to be supported-a measure undertaken when spontaneous respiration suffers and his kidney function suffered damage. The required blood has to flow through kidneys' [renal blood flow] for functional viability, with drop in circulatory blood volume, renal blood flow suffers. Main kidney function is to make urine-much needed excretion to drain out waste products. Accumulation of such products in blood leads to toxic effects with fatal results.

Kidney damage due to low renal blood flow resulted in low urinary output in Yasir's case [Oliguria] which eventually leads to no urinary output [anuria]. As Yasir started showing cumulative effect of accumulating toxins, he was dialysed on 2nd September, when we saw him first, as also on 4th-on our second visit, however his kidney function did show some improvement, as he passed 250-300 ml [normal 1500 ml/a litre and a half] of urine. Dialysis involves removal of toxic waste products by mechanical means, once the vital body function fails to perform.   Kidney function could improve in his case, as the organ regenerates, however urine output has to stabilise, until then dialysis has to continue, as frequently as required.


Yasir's treatment line faces other challenges; he is still on supported respiration and prolonged use of life support system [ventilator] that makes him breath has its own hazards, it may lead to a toxic lung-the infection would add to the risks, he is already facing. The ideal prognostic scenario could be Yasir's weaning away from ventilator, but then his clinical and para-clinical parameters should match up-which includes blood gas study, a normal mix of gases-inhaled (breathed in) oxygen and exhaled (breathed out) carbon dioxide.


Earlier Taufiq Ahmad Lone S/o Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, aged 17 years from Nowopora-Lone Mohalla injured on 13th August- Nowhatta Chowk firearm victim admitted in ward 17,  where Yasir is admitted-surgical ICU had multiple abdominal injuries-an operated case on life support system [ventilator] developed toxic lung, which was successfully combated. The teenager was off the support system [ventilator] and breathing spontaneously with a cheerful demeanour, when we re-visited him on 4th September. One would hope and pray for a similar outcome in Yasir's case, as a competent team of high grade medical professionals are battling to save his life!
We may now move to other Maisuma cases seen on 2nd September(2)    Sajid Mushtaq S/o Mushtaq Ahmad Dar aged 19 was admitted and operated on the same day as Yasir- 30th August. Sajid too sustained multiple pellet injuries on right side of chest and right arm. The pellet injury in the chest resulted in injuring the liver which is covered by thoracic bony cage [ribs] he had hemoperitoneum [blood in abdominal cavity] after repairing the liver, he had peritoneal toilet carried out [washing of abdominal cavity] post-operatively Sajid was stable, though a live witness of how lethal 'Pellet Gun' could be.


(3)    Ashfaq Jan S/o Mehraj-ud-Din, aged 17 nephew of Yasin Malik with multiple pellet injuries-back, left shoulder and left arm-he was stable as we visited him on 2nd September, some superficial pellets were removed in his case, the one in the chest was not touched. Surgical prudence demands not to touch a pellet or bullet in a sensitive location, which has not resulted in any damage; however the effort to remove it might induce an un-intended trauma to a sensitive structure. Otherwise left inside, these foreign bodies cause no harm  


(4)    Aaqib Dar S/o Gh. Mohd Dar aged 17 with multiple pellet injuries on left side-axilla, forearm and loin, he too was stable managed conservatively [without an operative procedure]


It stands amply demonstrated how lethal 'Pellet Gun' could be; it may not leave a gaping wound of entry like other firearm injuries, such as a high velocity bullet. At the point of entry, there may just be, what is labelled as 'Puncture Wound' once it enters it may penetrate vital structures like heart resulting in 'Cardiac Temponade' a condition where bleeding suppresses the activity of heart [cardiac activity] usually with fatal results, it may puncture the lung causing Pnumohemothorax [Pnumo for air, hemo for blood] a condition where air escapes from he punctured site of lung and mixes with blood-the bleeding could either be minor or major if a major blood vessel is ruptured. And as seen in Yasir's and Sajid's case, it may injure the inner vital organs and lead to numerous complications, as indeed Yasir is facing. Pellets may cause spinal injury, which may lead to wheel chair life. In limbs, they may result in piercing blood vessels and nerves, putting the survivability of limb in danger; to conclude it may affect the proverbial 'life and the limb'!


The purpose of the documentation is to record the gross human rights violations and to know the first hand truth about these brutal incidents. The truth needs to be laid bare by an impartial probe of all cases. Home Minister Chidambaram has already as per reports talked of 17 cases, what about others?  The probe must be widened, the truth acknowledged and justice done. There cannot be any reconciliation unless truth is acknowledged, that alone could pave way for a peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue.   

 

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THE DAILY RISING KASHMIR

VIEW POINT

A BURNING PARADISE

INDIA'S WAYS IN KASHMIR ARE JUSTIFIED. THE CONSCIENCE IS LOOTED AND LEADERSHIP INSTEAD OF ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSE KILLS THE JUSTICE

NASEER A KHAN


It is one and the same-our history has many stories of blood. Those who have eyes can see our landscape drenched in blood can feel the warmth of that blood. We have breathed in the age of democracy and respects public will? Allows peaceful protests?

 

Our stones invite their bullets because they are the guardians of democracy and we are the paid agents, the handful of men arresting the peace of all, the instigated youth mislead by ideology-ideology of what- Separatists, opponents, simply mislead kids…….What rhetoric? What an argument? Logical conclusion of this popular turmoil. We have sold our precious lives for few thousand Indian currency notes. Well money has the power to purchase; it is how our resentment is explained by the rulers at the helm of affairs. It is not a myopic judgment, for our rulers have proper lenses to rectify their sightedness.  They have huge violent eyes and they see the blood streaming. What they lack is conscience and passion to suffer with the community. It seems they don't participate with us and cry with us. Anyway they are political elites and under compulsion by habit. They never tasted the brunt of the burn, the graze of the bullet, the pain of the loss, the murder of the innocence, the slaughter of the hapless and hopeless, the distance of the near ones, the disappearance of the dear ones. At least they are not disturbed and enjoy the softness of the cosy couch. They have not to worry against flies because electric fans give them cold electric currents. And occasionally their sweet slumber breaks due to the yell of a dying Kashmiri. Their dream is interrupted and they fret and fume at this displeasure. "Cooperate us, parents and honourable citizens, the intellectuals and the elders co-operate us in imposing curfew and foiling the protests, State government extends its appeal to the people...


And in this way they have helped the Indians to go on unflinching with new executions. India's ways in Kashmir are justified. The conscience is looted and Indian leadership instead of addressing the root cause corrupts international judgment. Leaders both at centre and state are not blind, neither deaf to the basic issue but they are the audacious preventers of truth and shameful killers of reality, allowing themselves to be fooled by the theory of force and take refuge in PSA, AFSPA, teargas shelling, direct firing, curfew, restrictions and what not. This week added a dozen odd to near one lakh who already have offered their blood to Kashmir cause. And it is not a simple law and order problem. Plebiscite is our demand, acknowledged in UN and so long India does not accept this fact Kashmir's would continue to bleed. Yes we have bid ourselves, let it be known to India ……that our infants suck the passion for freedom and a sentiment against slavery. It would be better for the Indian leadership to admit this fact and devise a meaningful strategy to end up this political imbroglio for them. We are paid agents, paid and loaded with the passion for liberation. My appeal goes to all pro freedom Kashmir leadership and the people of Kashmir. Let's unite ourselves and not loss our way in a sensational moment, but broad base our movement and give it the final push that ensures our liberation. Chief Minister is mincing words. He is clever enough to admit that there should be enough restrain by law enforcing agencies, yet he is quick to add that imposition of curfew to be ensured. He is the elected head of the state and enjoys the privilege of youngest chief minister, yet he does not feel with the people, does not think with the people, and does not cry with the people because he is brief and not bound to explain anything. His interview on NDTV was good omen for India, because the young man is doing his job. Young Omar does not fail to occasionally admit the need for political dialogue and sent a strong signal to opposition that he can be young but don't consider him weak to fly off. I suppose his chair is safe. His father advocates his case at centre and he does satisfy them in state. Amidst their worries Kashmir continues to burn. Every new day adds to death toll and every column of wind violates the flame. A burning paradise –isn't it paradoxical


Feedback at maliknazir.a@gmail.com

 

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THE DAILY RISING KASHMIR

VIEW POINT

KASHMIRI MARGINALITIES: THE CONSTRUCTION, NATURE AND RESPONSE

GOWHAR FAZILI


To start the argument, we can club the dominant discourses around Kashmir into three broad categories, i.e., the Indian, the Pakistani and the Kashmiri discourses.  While the Indian and Pakistani discourses (as detailed below), accommodate Kashmiri people and the history of their collective struggles only if, and when, these buttress their respective positions, the Kashmiri discourse is quintessentially about these struggles.

 

In turn the dominant Kashmiri discourse simplifies the sub-struggles and fragmented politics that exists within, and the connections these have with the outside world.


These dominant discourses of political history are a quagmire of claims and counter claims.  For those who have not borne the immediate brunt of the conflict these generate excitement and passion, and the discourse is consumed through various media like an IPL cricket match.  The Indian state and the nationalists of various hues, including Hindutva, Leftist, Liberal, Secularists, unanimously deploy various moments of Kashmir's history, including the accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh, the elections held, the wars won, the leaders bought over, the subsidies given, the development achieved, investments made, etc., as indicators of Indian legitimacy and control in Kashmir.  Kashmiri alienation, and separatist movements figure in this narrative, if at all, variously, as consequences of external interference, uneven development, appeasement, result of one-off political mistakes made by previous leaders, etc., which are to be corrected in due course when the Indian democracy matures and so on. This discourse denies Kashmiris any intelligence or capability for autonomous political behaviour. It betrays amnesia around the rich history of struggles in Kashmir that preceded accession in 1947 that still continue to inspire Kashmir.


The Pakistani discourse emphasizes the 'Muslim connection' and dwells on the disputed nature of Jammu and Kashmir which should have been theirs by the logic of partition.  It focuses on the denial of self-determination to the people and disregard of the UN resolutions, calling for plebiscite in the region.  It recounts the valor with which Azad Kashmir was won, and in their view the continued support and affinity that the majority of Kashmiri Muslims feel towards Pakistan.   Though Pakistan lends moral and diplomatic support to the current separatist movement in Kashmir, it devalues the nuanced engagement and negotiation Kashmiris have had with the Indian state over the last sixty years, largely independent of Pakistan.


The dominant Kashmiri narrative which is at a marginalized position with respect to the other two discourses imagines itself to be at the centre of the current political struggle. It draws from a long history of marginalization that predates modernity, tracing back Kashmiri dislike and resistance against foreign occupation to the Mughal invasion in 1588 and the subsequent progressive emasculation and dispossession of Kashmiris by the Afghan, the Sikh, the Dogra, and in the same league, the Indian regime.  It leverages dates like 16th March 1846 (Amritsar Treaty), when Kashmir was sold by the British to Maharaja Gulab Singh for Seventy- five Lakh Nanakshahi rupees[2],  the excessive taxation to recover this money that followed, leading to the famine of 1977-79 in which a large number of  Kashmiris died; the systematic denial of basic rights and dignity and discrimination on the basis of religion and region under the Dogra regime; the 13th July 1931 Uprising against the Maharaja and the massacre that followed; the year 1953 when Sheikh Abdullah, the first democratically elected Prime-Minister of Kashmir was deposed and imprisoned by India on charges of conspiracy and sedition, arresting along with him the socio-economic revolution that was underway.  It presumes the subsequent elections while Sheikh was in custody for twenty years to have been rigged and the period to have been marked with extreme suppression, corruption and cooption.  It sees changes made over the years to extend provisions of Indian constitution in an attempt to bring Kashmir closer to the Indian union, as bulldozing of the residual safeguards against assimilation.  It cites failure of India to make progress on the various agreements and accords, calling for plebiscite, restoration of autonomy, etc., as illustrations of India's 'Chanakya Neeti' (deceitful policy.)


The significant moments in recent history, like the 1984 hanging of the JKLF leader, Maqbool Bhat, the rigging of 1987 elections, the mass uprising for Azadi, and the repression that began in 1989 when Kashmiri youth took to arms against the Indian state,  and such, form the key markers around which the narrative of victimhood and valor is woven.  Not surprisingly the Indian national days are designated as black days (including the day Indian army landed in Kashmir) and are marked with protest and blackout.  The narrative erases the moments of compromise and relative calm that Kashmiris have enjoyed in spurts in the intervening years giving rise to the educated, middle class which is spearheading the current separatist movement.


Much of the writing on Kashmir prior to the year 2000 concerns debates around these discourses emerging from respective camps.  Spokespersons, scholars, military think tanks and a significantly large number of literate and illiterate Kashmiris are socialized into the importance of each of these claims and possess ability to maneuver through controversies to establish their political claims.  The positions are entrenched and provide for little flexibility.  The dominant narratives have also found their way into the colloquial language and often, abuses, frustrations, humor, are expressed with reference to these moments.  To mention just one, 'ye nai Sattejihas yeeha balaay'  'Had not the forty-seven been accursed', refers to 1947, the year Indian Army landed in Kashmir and the Maharaja signed that accession. The expression is used to let out everyday frustration or to poke fun at someone's undue claims or some unworthy person's rise through corruption.


While the Kashmiri Self is torn between commitments to multiple, overlapping and contradictory identities and interests, like people anywhere else, the fact of being born in a territory, where the conflict around its disputed nature has raged to varying degrees for over the last sixty years, complicates and intensifies concern for some identities at the cost of others.  The political uncertainty impacts different members and groups differently as they choose different strategies to deal with the onslaught from within and without.  To grossly simplify, for example a large majority of Pandits have moved out of Kashmir and many have allied themselves with Indian right-wing parties.  Kashmiri Shia and Sunni Muslims largely identify with the broad contours of separatist politics, Pashtoons are invisible, Gujjars maintain an ambivalent position depending on where they are physically, located.  People in Gurez, Karnah, Uri, who are geographically isolated from the valley and live in close proximity with security garrisons do not manifest sympathy with separatism, or at least do not overtly do so for obvious reasons.  Within the state of Jammu and Kashmir, people of Doda, Punch and Rajori ally with Kashmir or Jammu depending on which of their interests and identities are threatened at a particular moment of time.  People of Kargil gravitate towards Kashmir if and when the Buddhist majority discriminates against them.  Hindu majority areas of Jammu, and Buddhist Leh, have consistently favored India and alleged discrimination by Kashmiri Muslims and their appeasement by the Indian state.


Kashmiri society is variegated along caste, class, community, gender, region, religion and political orientation. These identities contract within and extend beyond the geographical boundaries of Kashmir in different situations and along different questions. Yet it is the collective experience of a shared geography, history, language, culture and meanings that make Kashmiris conversant with each other in a special way, rendering others as outside. The identification with the dominant Kashmiri narrative presented above which at this moment has a favourable bias towards the masculine, Muslim majoritarian identity, depends on where one is located within the crosscutting mesh of identities and experiences and intellectual trajectories.


In India, Kashmiris are marked irrespective of their other identities, by race, religion and language. Physically, they do not look, sound or behave like stereotypical Indians and are often harassed and made to prove their nationality at the ticket counters or wherever nationality applies. Outside Kashmir, given the context of the twenty years of armed conflict, and the consequent stereotyping of Kashmiris as terrorists, they face  difficulty in finding accommodation, are forced to inhabit Muslim ghettos; receive snares and unwelcome comments while travelling; are easy prey for the security agencies seeking instant suspects for terror attacks; cannot stick their neck out too much in day-to-day struggles so as not to risk being falsely reported; cannot easily get visas to 'civilized' aka non-Muslim countries (for being a Muslim is bad enough, but being a Kashmiri Muslim, with the word 'Kashmir' on their passports, makes them doubly illegitimate.)


Since Social Sciences do not form part of military curriculum, for the majority of over six lakh armed forces dotting neighbourhoods in Kashmir, Kashmiris are potential Pakistani terrorists who deserve to be eliminated or incarcerated or insulted on the flimsiest excuse. Kashmiris are targets for ready retribution in wake of militant attacks. Homes can be searched, vehicles stopped, people disembarked and detained any moment and without explanation. The laws like AFSPA permit the security forces to shoot people as a preventive measure against possible future terror attacks. Public Safety Act provides for preventive custody without trial even before one engages in 'objectionable' activity. Men, women and children are susceptible to sexual assault and torture and other forms of humiliation. Since the above experiences do not vary significantly among different segments of the Kashmiri population, they reinforce the collective marginalized identity.


The militants against the security forces, and the consequent deaths of Kashmiris in the conflict caused by militants or in crossfire, or killing of assumed or real Indian agents, the damage to personal properties, cultural and religious places, though used as firewood for Indian propaganda against the separatists, enhances the collective sense of victim-hood. In some it has also resulted in abhorrence for all forms of violence emanating from anywhere. Others hold Pakistan or foreigners or religious fundamentalists responsible and hate them for this reason. Still others have turned overly apologetic, servile and defensive. But curiously it has not resulted in increased love for India among many.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DOPING MESS

SUBSTANCE ABUSE BRINGS SHAME

 

AS if the terrible delays and financial scams were not enough to taint the country's reputation in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games, now comes the news of widespread doping by Indian medal prospects. After wrestlers and athletes, three swimmers have also been tested positive. Among them are Richa Mishra, an eight-time national champion, and Olympian wrestler Rajiv Tomar, who was a gold medal hopeful for the Commonwealth Games and had received the Arjuna Award only a few days ago. With this, the number of Indian sportspersons who have flunked dope tests in the past one week has gone up to 18. That is an unacceptably large figure and has put a big question mark on the medal hopes of India. Not only that, even the performance of many Indian sportsmen will be watched with suspicion when the event takes place next month.

 

All the swimmers have tested positive for methylhexanimine, the substance that was also found in the tests of wrestlers and athletes. The substance taken as drops to relieve nasal congestion, is popular as a recreational drug at rave parties. It was added to the world anti-doping prohibited list only last year. As it always happens, those who have tested positive have pleaded innocent. But the entreaty that they took it unintentionally may not hold water because anybody taking part in an international event is supposed to know what drugs are on the banned list.

 

It is an unfortunate fact that drug use is fairly common in India. Many take it because of the belief that the chances of getting caught are remote. But with world bodies becoming extra vigilant, that scourge is hard to hide. The use of performance-enhancing drugs not only vitiates the records set by them but also puts their lives at risk. It is high time the Indian agencies also showed zero tolerance towards drug abuse. That will be a great favour to "clean" Indian sportsmen who feel dejected when those who cheat walk away with medals and laurels.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NEPAL WITHOUT PM

PEOPLE MAY LOSE FAITH IN DEMOCRACY

 

THOSE who have been closely watching the political scene in Nepal were not surprised when even the sixth attempt on Sunday to find a Prime Minister for the Himalayan country failed to bear fruit. Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) candidate Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda did all he could to divide regional parties like those belonging to the Madhes region to capture power but in vain. That he might not succeed was almost clear before the votes were cast by the members of Nepal's Interim Parliament. Whatever little chance he seemed to have had disappeared after the surfacing of an audio-tape, revealing that his party was trying to seek financial help from China to purchase at least 50 MPs. Mr Prachanda, whose party has the largest number of MPs — 236 in a House of 601 — could secure only four more votes. His score was 60 less than the required number to become the next Prime Minister of Nepal. He is now blaming India for having thrown a spanner in the works through RAW.

 

Blaming India or any other country or group will not do. The time has come for Mr Prachanda to make the "sacrifices" he promised last Wednesday. He had declared that in case the election result did not go in his favour during the sixth round, he would make some "sacrifices". He did not elaborate what exactly he had in his mind, but in the interest of stability and democracy in Nepal he should be prepared to step aside and support the case of a person who can emerge as a consensus candidate. There is no better sacrifice than this he can make.

 

Nepal's search for the head of government must end during the coming round of polls for the Prime Minister's post. How long can the caretaker government, headed by Mr Madhav Kumar Nepal, be allowed to last? He resigned as Prime Minister on June 30 under pressure from the Maoists to pave the way for someone else, to be acceptable to all political groups, to take up the reins of power. The failure to find Mr Nepal's replacement can shake the people's confidence in the democratic system, which is yet to take root in a country earlier ruled by a monarch.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SHIMLA CRIES FOR CARE

A DANGER SIGNAL FROM NATURE

 

THE sinking of a part of Shimla's Ridge is nature's way of flashing a danger signal. In 2008 too cracks had appeared in the Ridge. Obviously, no lessons have been learnt. After some hasty repair work again, it will be life as usual. No one, least of all the politician in power, wants to be reminded that a disaster is waiting to happen. And it is man made. This place of natural beauty is no longer a source of joy for anyone. Old-timers must be watching the decay and degradation helplessly.

 

The haphazard, furious growth that this once-admired hill town has witnessed defies all common sense, expert advice and ways of nature. Originally built by the British for a population of 30,000, the fragile hill town of Shimla carries the burden of 7.2 lakh residents, according to the 2001 census. The wild growth of concrete structures and vehicles has shrunk the green cover, polluted the air and disrupted the natural flow of rainwater. The pressure on civic amenities is acutely felt. The damage to the environment is all too visible. How could a hill area afford to have so many tall buildings? There is one 12-storey concrete monster, two 10-storey structures, 13 buildings eight to nine storey high and 170 others have five to six storeys.

 

Both the BJP and the Congress that have been in power since the state was carved out of Punjab have contributed to the present chaos. Over the years short-sighted politicians and self-serving bureaucrats have ignored public complaints, media campaigns and NGOs' cases in courts and allowed things to come to such a pass. Why should Shimla have so many government offices? Why is advanced health care available only in Shimla? Attempts to wean away tourists to lesser known destinations have been feeble. The problem is: the state did not have any visionary leader after Dr Y.S.Parmar. The present crop of politicians does not look beyond the next elections.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

STONE-PELTING BY KASHMIRI YOUTH

IT'S A REVOLT AGAINST THE SYSTEM

BY KULDIP NAYAR

 

KASHMIR is boiling, but it is a victim of wrong perception. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah fail to understand the ethos of the Kashmir stir. They do not realise that their intelligence agencies over the years have become part of the establishment and have little contact with those indulging in stone-pelting. The Prime Minister's willingness to talk to all sections or individuals in Kashmir, as he said in his recent speech, is a shot fired in the dark. His dependence on the same old apparatus and individuals will yield no results. They are not relevant in the present situation.

 

In the same manner, Omar Abdullah's offer to create 50,000 jobs to engage the youth is too late. He should have done it when he came to power after the elections in which 62 per cent of the people voted for him. The youth movement that Abdullah faces has no economic agenda. It is a revolt against the entire system. It is spontaneous and it started with the killing of 17-year-old Tufail Ahmed Matto on June 11. He was a Class XII student, not part of the procession which was throwing stones on the CRPF. Matto was killed by a tear gas shell. Everything else followed.

 

As Omar Abdullah has admitted that protests have led to the firing, and firing has led to more protests. One incident ignited the other and in no time the entire valley has been engulfed by young protesters. No separatist party led the agitation. They jumped into the arena after the event, not before. The youth is listening to them but they keep their own counsel.

 

Mehbooba Mufti's PDP is a supporter of the movement. She is a problem, not the solution. Her ambition is power. She wants to step in if and when the Congress parts company with Omar Abdullah's National Conference and picks up the PDP to run the state. Such machinations on the part of politicians have been the bane of the state. By and large, the politicians and their furtive ways are responsible for all that is happening in the state. Today all political formations, including the Hurriyat, are irrelevant because the angry youth does not have any faith in them or their methods. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has some influence because he is talking in terms of fundamentalism which has brainwashed the youth.

 

The vague, undefined leadership that has surfaced is radical, Islamist and ultra-fundamentalist. It is Naxalism of sorts, with a pronounced religious slant. Taliban elements have come into the picture now but they were not there when the movement got ignited. Yasin Malik, who is in jail, is respected but how far he can influence the movement is yet to be seen because he is against fundamentalism.

 

There is validity in the argument that the separatists are not allowing the situation to be settled down. But the fact remains that people in Kashmir have given Srinagar and New Delhi many chances to sort out the long-outstanding problem. But both have failed to do so. Where do things go wrong in Kashmir? My experience is that the more a political party or the administration in Srinagar goes nearer to India, the greater is the resentment of people who want to preserve their own identity. A state government which is seen challenging New Delhi is liked because it gives them a vicarious satisfaction of being independent.

 

Sheikh Abdullah, a popular Kashmiri leader, understood this. He did not question Kashmir's accession to India but placated the Kashmiris by criticising New Delhi for eroding the state's autonomy. For example, he would say that the Kashmiris would prefer to stay hungry if the atta from India was meant to trample upon their right to stay independent. It may have been a fiction but it worked.

 

Even Jawaharlal Nehru, the Sheikh's friend and supporter in political battles against the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, had to detain him without trial in South India for some 12 years. Nehru realised rather late that the violation of the accession terms -Srinagar giving only defence, foreign affairs and communications to India - had taken the shape of separation and a strong pro-Pakistan tilt. He released the Sheikh and sent him to Islamabad. Unfortunately Nehru died when the Sheikh was in the midst of talks with General Ayub Khan, Pakistan's Martial Law Administrator.

 

Kashmir remained a problem between India and Pakistan. They held talks and fought wars but reached nowhere. The Shimla Agreement in 1972 converted the ceasefire line into the Line of Control. But the two failed to go further because of their domestic compulsions. The Sheikh returned to power and entered into an accord with then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi that restored some autonomy which New Delhi had appropriated in his absence. But the Sheikh did not have a free hand because the bureaucracy and intelligence agencies, by then strong, wanted to guide him. They treated "me like a chaprasi (peon)," the Sheikh often told me.

 

His son, Farooq Abdullah, much less in stature, tried to retrieve the situation by asking New Delhi to go back to the terms of accession, the Centre retaining only three subjects — defence, foreign affairs and communications. The successive governments in New Delhi felt that they could not go back as they feared a backlash. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the only person who foresaw the danger in not reaching an early settlement. He set up a back channel which almost found a solution when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted by General Pervez Musharraf, head of the military's coup.

 

The situation changed in the eighties. The Kashmiris, too, claimed a place on the table for talks on Kashmir. Rigged state elections in 1987 drove the youth from the ballot to the bullet, which Pakistan was willing to provide. The following 10 years saw a running battle between the Kashmiris and the security forces. Thousands died on both sides. The result was a further hiatus between the Kashmiris and New Delhi.

 

The demand for independence may be genuine but it is not possible to accede. I wonder even if Pakistan would agree to an independent, sovereign state. I opposed the demand at the Kashmir Conference in Washington last month on two counts: first, India would not agree to another partition on the basis of religion. Second, borders could be made irrelevant but not changed. I also cautioned that Jammu and Ladakh would not go along with the valley to the point of secession. My feeling is that a solution within India is possible if not within the Constitution.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

KEBABS, KHEER AND MANGOES

BY RAM VARMA

 

WE keep time for others. Left to ourselves, we take liberties with it, stretch it to suit our mood, or openly flout it. No one likes his stern, reprimanding visage.

 

If you are employed, you keep time to save yourself from the fire from your employer; if married, from the ire of your better half; if a golfer, from the sardonic satire of the remaining three pals of your 'four ball'.

 

When I was working, there was the nerve-wrecking, mad, morning scramble to the Secretariat. As a result, many a time I reached the 'corridors of power' when they were still almost deserted, shrouded in ghostly silence. I sometimes even found my room locked, yet to be swept and dusted. What blissful relief it was to be free from the tyranny of Time at my retirement about 10 years ago!

 

Before my retirement, my wife Savitri respected my time – getting my clothes, shoes and breakfast ready, putting a smile on my coming late from office, adjusting dinner time, and all that. But it changed dramatically after my retirement.

 

As I reveled in the bliss of timelessness, I ignored her repeated calls that the dinner was laid by saying, 'What's the hurry, dear?' But she had begun to be a stickler for a time schedule at least on the dining table. The dinner was on the table at 8.30 p.m. during summer and 8 p.m. in winter. That was that. You might be on the tenterhooks of breaking news on TV, or on the brink of discovery of the real murderer in the thriller you were reading, or trying to catch the elusive word in the poem you were trying hard to compose, she didn't care. She was totally unrelenting.

 

I couldn't understand it at all and one day I asked her why all that hullabaloo? 'Can't you understand?' she gave me a stern look and brought her voice to a whisper, lest Deepak, our man Friday, would hear, 'he has been working from early morning; he has to go now to his wife after washing the plates.'

 

You see, before retirement we had other domestic help too from the government. Now Deepak was our sole servitor, nay, saviour. His wife worked at someone else's household in a nearby sector, where they had a room to live. I had to willy-nilly mend my ways.

 

But now she is not there and I employ a part-time maid who cooks two subzies and daal, rice and chapattis, and leaves them to cool in the fridge. I am lord and master, free from all shackles, and eat what I like and when I like.

 

Dark monsoon clouds come thundering in the evening, breaking the sultry spell of heat and dust, the pitter-patter of rains slaking the earth, and I am reminded of Faiz's lines, 'Aaye kuchh abra…', and open my little bar and toast the clouds. In that mood of celebration, I don't like the look of the subzies in the fridge and call the home delivery for some kebabs, which the Moguls had brought to India. I top it with kheer, which is our legacy straight from the hoary Vedic days (ksheer in Sanskrit), and long, delicious dashari mangoes, the fruit of India!

 

It's nearing eleven in the night, and I have to go for golf in the morning, but who cares?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

WEAKEST LINK IN THE GOVERNMENT

THE PANCHAYATI RAJ INSTITUTIONS HAVE BEEN PAID LIP-SERVICE IN THE COUNTRY. BEREFT OF FINANCIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE AUTHORITY, THEY ARE OFFERED CRUMBS BY WAY OF PETTY GRANTS IN PUNJAB AND HARYANA. A LOT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO STRENGTHEN THE GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY

RAJAN KASHYAP

 

DEMOCRACY rides on effective governance at three levels — at the Centre, in the states and by the local community. Nations such as the USA and the UK derive their strength from grassroots institutions, variously termed as counties, city councils or boroughs. These elected local bodies in towns and villages wield authority for taxation, development and regulation, police administration, and even adjudication in respect of local laws.

 

After the tragic events in the US on September 11, 2001, the world witnessed how Rudy Guiliani, Mayor of New York City, led the emergency relief work, even as President Bush stood meekly in the background. In India, by contrast, the organs of local self-government, municipal councils in towns, and panchayats in rural areas, are the weakest of the three tiers of government. The panchayat bodies have few financial or administrative powers.

 

Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's concept of the village as a republic, the Panchayati Raj has been given much lip-service in India. Most states set up a three-tier structure consisting of Zila Parishads in the districts, the Panchayat Samitis in development blocks, and village-level Gram Panchayats.

 

In states like Punjab and Haryana, these bodies are bereft of financial or administrative authority. At best they are offered crumbs by way of petty grants for inconsequential items. In Punjab, we witnessed the astonishing public spectacle of the MLAs distributing government grants in villages. The scene was symbolic, falsely projecting the MLAs as dispensers of charity. In actual fact, the MLAs were superfluous middlemen between the state and the panchayats.

 

Many states plead for autonomy in relation to the national government, but stoutly resist decentralisation from the state to the villages. The unwritten approach has been "state powers good, village powers bad". For years on end, some states did not conduct panchayat elections, as they were legally bound to do.

 

In Punjab, hundreds of elected panchayats are currently suspended, under government orders, on one ground or the other. Suspension of an elected local body, and placing it under a small government functionary, is akin to imposition of the President's Rule in a state.

 

The public perception is that the real authority lies at the state headquarters. Consequently, there is hardly a murmur of protest when hundreds of panchayat secretaries, who are technically employees of panchayats, are recruited, not by the panchayats, but by a Minister.

 

For decades, the Panchayati Raj remained merely a national slogan. The year 1992 saw the Rajiv Gandhi government legislate the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act to strengthen and empower the panchayat bodies, then numbering 496 Zila Parishads, 5905 Block Samitis and 230762 village panchayats. To effectuate empowerment, the states are to enact appropriate state laws and implement them.

 

However, the states have shown little alacrity. The reform measures have been mainly cosmetic. These include the reservation of leadership in the village institutions for women and members of the Scheduled Castes, the establishment of State Election Commissions to conduct panchayat elections, and the setting up of State Finance Commissions.

 

There is still no genuine devolution of financial and administrative powers to the local bodies. The villagers are concerned primarily with issues of schooling, healthcare, welfare and services for their day-to-day existence. The key functionaries that can help fulfill these basic needs such as school teachers, medical and veterinary staff, rural water supply officials, agriculture inspectors, and even engineers engaged in rural projects, continue to be answerable to their departmental superiors.

 

In the absence of control of elected bodies at the district and village level, absenteeism of government employees is rife. The local panchayat, for example, has no institutional link with the village school or with service departments. All cadres of departmental officials are centralised. In Punjab, the state cadre of school teachers numbering three lakh is jealously controlled by the Department of Education.

 

The teachers, who should be imparting quality education, spend considerable time and energy in seeking postings and transfers to stations of their choice. The employees of other departments as well seek greener pastures with the political support of local leaders. Instances are not uncommon where a post sanctioned for a particular village is shifted to a distant town, merely to accommodate a well connected employee. In this industry of postings and transfers, the panchayat institutions are helpless and hopeless bystanders.

 

The centralised authority at the state level is self-perpetuating. The departmental heads and lower staff prefer to report to bosses who are removed from the field. Their accountability would improve if their performance were to be appraised in the village by legally chosen democratic bodies.

 

A common argument against empowerment of panchayats is that the village leaders are unskilled and untrustworthy. It is wrong to doubt the competence and integrity of the local bodies without affording them an opportunity to perform. Graft is less likely when members of the community, who are in the immediate vicinity, are vigilant.

 

Several years prior to the 73rd amendment, Karnataka had completed considerable devolution of power to the panchayats. The Punjab government has recently made a slow, hesitant start. The panchayats will be entrusted with some limited financial and administrative powers in respect of just six departments.

 

At the national level, there is commitment to village empowerment. Resistance is at the second tier, the states, for fear of loss of patronage and authority. Tier three, the panchayat, demands not delegation of authority vested at the state level, but the transfer of power to where it rightfully belongs — the village. Stronger and abler governance at the grassroots will make for a stronger state, and a more powerful nation.

 

The writer is a former Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DEVOLUTION OF POWERS HOLDS THE KEY

THE SECOND ARC SOUGHT A CLEAR-CUT DEMARCATION OF FUNCTIONS FOR EACH LEVEL OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT. THIS SHOULD OT BE A ONE-TIME EXERCISE AND HAS TO BE DONE CONTINUOUSLY

RANBIR SINGH

 

THE Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992, has created a myth of paradigm shift in the devolution of powers to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). This illusion has to be ascribed to the insertion of the XI Schedule listing 29 subjects in the Constitution. These were to be devolved by the state legislatures for making them institutions of self-government to make and implement plans of economic development and social justice.

 

However, this myth could not become a reality even 16 years after the enactment of the Act after due ratification by all the states in 2004. This is amply evident from a perusal of The State of Panchayats — A Mid-Term Appraisal (Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India, 2006). It revealed that only Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Tripura had devolved all the 29 subjects on the PRIs through their respective Panchayati Raj Acts. While Goa and Punjab had devolved less then 29 subjects, Arunachal Pradesh did little.

 

Even in the document on Activity Mapping released by various states since 2006, only Assam and Karnataka have covered all the 29 subjects. It has been less then 10 subjects in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa and Uttarakhand. It is conspicuous by its absence in Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. This has been confirmed by a comparison of the Devolution Index of 15 major states by Sahib Singh Bhayana (2009) which he had designed by taking into account the average of percentage share of devolution in respect of functions, functionaries and funds in these states. It was found that the Devolution Index was cent per cent in Karnataka, 60 per cent in Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal, less than 40 per cent in Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Rajasthan and below 20 per cent in Punjab and Haryana. In Assam, Bihar and Gujarat, the scenario was far more depressing.

 

These variations in the degree of devolution in various states have to be ascribed to the differences in the levels of commitment to the ideal of democratic decentralisation among the political dispensations in the major states since 1994. The logical outcome has been the failure of governance and inefficient delivery mechanism at the grassroots level.

 

The implementation of the recommendations of the Second Administrative Reform Commission (Sixth Report, 2007) for functional and financial empowerment of the panchayats brooks no delay. It sought amendment of Article 243G to stipulate that "...the legislature of a state shall, by law, vest a panchayat at the appropriate level with such powers and authority as are necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government in respect of all functions which can be performed at the local level including the functions in respect of matters listed in the XI Schedule".

 

The ARC sought a clear-cut demarcation of functions for each level of local government. This should not be a one-time exercise and has to be done continuously. The provision for appropriate devolution to each tier must be done through legislation. The Centre should draft a model law for this purpose.

 

Panchayats can be assigned such functions as rural policing, enforcement of building byelaws, issuance of birth, death, caste and residence certificates, voter identity cards and enforcement of regulations pertaining to weights and measures. In terms of the XI Schedule, local level activities of elementary education, preventive and promotive health care, water supply, sanitation, environmental improvement and nutrition need to be transferred to the appropriate tiers of the PRIs. The ARC has sought the abolition of parallel bodies like the District Rural Development Agencies and their merger with the PRIs. The community level bodies should be made accountable to them. For the devolution of funds, it said that the state legislatures should consider the State Finance Commissions' recommendations within six months of their submission. The annual statement on the devolution of grants to the local bodies and on the implementation of other recommendations of the SFCs should also be made by them.

 

The revenue base of local governments must be broadened for their resource mobilisation. The potential for taxation, fixation of realistic tax rates, widening of tax base and improved collections, too, should be explored. The tax domain of panchayats should be expended through statutes. However, it should be made obligatory for them to levy taxes. They should be given a substantial share in the royalty from minerals collected by the state governments. The gram panchayat must have primary authority in the taxes assigned to the PRIs.

 

The major Centrally-sponsored schemes and special programmes of the states and all other allocations to panchayats should be untied. A separate panchayat sector should be provided in the state budget. The funds to the panchayats should be released in time for proper utilisation. They should be encouraged to borrow from banks/financial institutions for infrastructure building.

 

In addition, the PRIs should be given adequate secretarial, administrative and technical staff. The officers and functionaries of the line departments should be under the PRIs' administrative control. Otherwise, they will not be able to take full advantage of the functional and financial devolution. Besides, there is need for the capacity building of the representatives through regular training. In fine, the mindset of the bureaucracy, technocracy and political leadership should change. Otherwise, the entire exercise of devolution will be futile.

 

The writer is Consultant, Haryana Institute of Rural Development, Nilokheri (Karnal)

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

VIEW

TWO FACES OF CRICKET ADMINISTRATION

HOW OFFICIALS WHO RUN THE SPORT WITH AN IRON FIST PRETEND TO BE HUMBLE ONLOOKERS THE MOMENT A MATCH-FIXING CONTROVERSY BEGINS

 

Amid-level cricket official from Nagpur often tells this story with great pride: An Indian captain came to our city thinking he was a Maharaj. He didn't go meet our boss, didn't even bother to call and say hello. He realised his mistake when he saw the pitch the next day, but it was too late. A few months later, the next captain who came to our city, he goes on, wanted three passes for his in-laws. He met our saheb, requested him politely, and immediately six tickets to the president's box were handed to him. 

 

No names are ever taken, but the people and events are made clear by a cleverly thrown in nickname, and a casual reference to local relatives. 

 

The point of this story, of course, is not whether it's true or false. The official's idea is to tell you that no matter how big a player, the real kings of Indian cricket are the administrators, who'd chosen to remain faceless for the large part of the last century but have now started revelling in the attention showered on them. 

 

There are numerous other instances that illustrate the power that cricket's boardroom holds over the dressing room. Across the world, players are routinely gagged for talking out of turn, punished for tweeting, reprimanded for being insolent, and dropped for not being servile enough. It's a tightly run ship, and the officials who run it pride themselves on knowing exactly what's happening in their domain at all times. 

 

It's strange, however, that these same officials seem to transform the moment a match-fixing controversy begins. In 2000, for example, when the damning CBI report created a global stir, the administrators who until then were cricket's lords and masters suddenly assumed the role of poor, little rich men who had been caught unawares by a form of corruption they could never believe existed. 

 

They disassociated themselves from the goings on in the sport – powerless individuals who'd simply come together in honorary capacities, with no knowledge of murky deals being struck in the cricket world's dirty backalleys. They formed high-level anticorruption committees, held sombre press conferences proclaiming they'd been hurt, and vowed to work with the law to set things right. It was an international crisis, and given the big stage, they rose to the occasion, managing to look so humble, so righteous, and so surprised. 

 

 Now, with another global scandal starting to break out thanks to newspaper sting, cricket officials across nations have started going through the drill again: the regular news briefings, the helplessness, the shock, the dismay. Only this time, they really don't need to bother too much. 

 

The re-emergence of match-fixing in 2010 – in the garb of 'spot-fixing' or 'spread-betting' – is not accompanied by the disillusionment that had come with the 2000 revelations. Fans who had felt betrayed back then are not even all that surprised this time. Softened by the first scandal 10 years ago, the money being splurged over the last three years on the IPL, and the stories of financial irregularities in the league, match-fixing is now just another problem rather than the game-changer it once was. 

 

It's still making headlines, sure, but the big words on the front page of the newspaper have a hollow ring to them. Genuine concern about the future of the sport has been replaced by a salacious curiosity about who got how much, and how many will be punished. In fact there was more righteous indignation about Suraj Randiv's noball to Virender Sehwag in Dambulla than there's been about Mohammad Amir's giant leap at Lord's. 

This de-sensitisation to corruption of the average fan, especially in the sub-continent, is a bigger threat to cricket than match-fixing itself. Scripting what happens on the field of play in exchange for money has to be the ultimate insult to a sport, and to the fans who are its lifeblood. But if you reach a point where nobody cares, there'll be no point in fixing, or to take the argument forward, in the sport itself

 

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

COLUMN

LEADERSHIP AT INFOSYS

A MORE GLOBAL TOP MANAGEMENT IS A LIKELY OPTION

 

Infosys Technologies is a unique Indian success story in many ways, so its internal process of chalking out its future leadership scenario would naturally generate wide interest. The more immediate, if less important a challenge, is finding a new chairman to succeed N R Narayana Murthy who gives up his non-executive leadership of the company next year when he turns 65. The bigger task is outlining the leadership stakes in the medium to longer term, say in the next five to ten years by when the supply of founders will have run out. The two issues are foreigners versus Indians and insiders versus outsiders. Significantly, Infosys is effectively majority foreign-owned, if you add the 35.8 per cent holding of foreign institutional investors (FIIs) to the 18.6 per cent share of equity held in American depository receipts. Also, the FII holding is more than double the founders' or promoters' holding of 16 per cent.

 

To take up the issue of chairman, Mr Murthy has said that there is no problem in having a foreigner holding the position. He has also indicated that a member of the executive council should become the next CEO. We can, therefore, visualise a situation where the CEO is from the present crop of top leaders and a non-Indian is the non-executive chairman. However, there is a popular perception that the current chief operating officer, S D Shibulal, one of the founders, will also spend some time in the corner office. But as both the current CEO, S Gopalakrishnan, and Mr Shibulal are around 55-56, how both of them will serve out their remaining years remains open. There could be an interregnum with a CEO and an executive chairman. However, this is really not what matters. The bottom line is that no one is likely to come in from outside to take up executive leadership of the company in the foreseeable future. Continuity and stability at the top in Infosys are, in fact, delivered by its collegial form of leadership which both evolves a consensus and implements it. However, Infosys needs to change and this is likely to come, sooner or later, through the symbolic induction of a non-Indian as chairman. An Indian management, or one anchored in India where most of the employees will continue to be positioned, with a more global board led by a non-Indian chairman can turn out to be the right combination. In order to keep growing healthily, Infosys needs to become more global in terms of both its people and culture. The backlash in developed countries against jobs disappearing as a result of IT offshoring has highlighted the need for leading Indian software vendors to look less Indian and more global. Infosys needs to sharply raise the ratio of not just its non-Indian employees but also have very many more non-Indians among its top managers. This can take place through a rapid growth of delivery centres all round the world so that the offshore and offsite delivery model remains but not necessarily services are delivered out of India or by Indians alone. This will yield not just sufficient numbers of non-Indian employees but managers too.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SPIN IN COTTON EXPORTS

POLICY ADDRESSES NEEDS OF THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY AND COTTON FARMERS

 

While cotton growers are pleased at the increase in cotton prices, boosted by relaxation of export curbs, the textile industry, particularly apparel exporters, seem uneasy. Their main worry is that the sustained 18-month rally in cotton prices and the consequential spurt in the cost of cotton yarn would dent the competitiveness of India-made garments in the global bazaar. Indeed, apparel exports have slumped by 8 per cent in the first five months of this fiscal. But, the silver-lining is that the bad patch for the textile sector seems to have, more or less, ended. The global demand for garments, which had remained subdued since the beginning of the economic recession, has begun showing signs of recovery. Besides, some of India's formidable rivals, notably China and Bangladesh, appear set to lose the competitive edge due to anticipated rise in their production costs. In China, the outlook for domestic cotton production is none-too-inspiring, forcing the country to look for higher cotton imports to build stocks. Moreover, the appreciation of yuan has partially eroded the country's competitive edge. Bangladesh's garment industry, on the other hand, is facing sharp spurt in its overheads due to the wage hike agreement with workers.

 

It is also significant that the uptrend in cotton prices is not just confined to India but is global, with prices rising by 27 per cent in past one year in New York, one of the hubs of international cotton trade. More importantly, international prices are expected to stay put at the current historically high levels at least till the end of the year when fresh US harvest hits the markets. Moreover, the revival in garment demand in the US and Europe in the wake of signs of economic recovery will help sustain the price rally for the benefit of cotton farmers, besides paving the way for higher garment exports from India to these markets. Circumstances are, therefore, turning favourable for Indian apparel exports. This is reflected in some exporters' order books which have begun to swell despite local factors like rising costs, inflation-driven wage increases and frequent fluctuations in the rupee-euro-dollar exchange ratios. The apparel exporters' apex body expects the total exports this year to exceed last year's $10.7 billion, even if the goal of $12 billion remains elusive.

 

 This year's cotton production, on the other hand, is expected to touch a new high, thanks to over one million hectare larger cotton plantings, coverage of nearly 90 per cent of the acreage under the insect-protected transgenic Bt-cotton and good rains. This should take care of the raw material supplies for the textile industry despite opening up of exports. That apart, the gesture of cotton exporters committing themselves to exporting only surplus stocks, after meeting the domestic demand, should satisfy all stakeholders in the cotton sector. Export of extra stocks will help ensure better returns for cotton farmers which alone can sustain their interest in cotton cultivation. The export cap of 5.5 million bales fixed by the government, subject to its review in November after the demand-supply scenario becomes unambiguously clear, seems fairly reasonable as it would still leave a comfortable closing stock of over 5 million bales at the end of 2010-11 cotton year. The need, therefore, is to fully tap emerging opportunities rather than worry too much about domestic constraints.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

BILL ON DTC - BABY STEPS IN TAX REFORM

IT'S IMPORTANT TO MAKE THE PENALTY SYSTEM AN EFFECTIVE DETERRENT TO ENSURE GREATER EFFICIENCY IN THE TAX SYSTEM

M GOVINDA RAO

 

The Bill on the direct taxes code (DTC) placed in Parliament is very much on expected lines. The wide-ranging proposals to broaden the base in the first discussion paper have been diluted in the revised paper which is broadly reflected in the Bill. The only major difference is in the treatment of capital gains. The second discussion paper proposed to include short-term capital gains from all assets, including equity shares, in the total income and tax them at applicable rates. Income from long-term capital gains from equity or equity-oriented funds were to be computed after allowing specified deduction without any indexation, whereas capital gains from other investment assets were to be computed after indexing the cost of acquisition from the base of 2000 (instead of 1981). The Bill, in contrast, proposes to levy tax on short-term capital gains at half the rates of income tax (5 per cent, 10 per cent and 15 per cent) depending on the tax bracket. Long-term capital gains from equity and equity-linked funds are to be completely exempted. With the proposals to broaden the base given up, the government surely could not afford to reduce the marginal rates or expand the tax brackets.Interestingly, everyone wanted widening of tax brackets and lowering of rates, but not expansion in the base. The proposal to tax savings and their returns at the time of withdrawal was criticised as robbing superannuation savings and it was argued that in the absence of universal social security, the exemptions should continue. Of course, we all forget that an overwhelming majority of the population in the country cannot afford to save at all, nor does it have any social security. Why not provide benefits to those who can save?

 

Similarly, the plan to include the perquisites and notional income from owner-occupied housing has been given up. Indeed, why should we bother about the horizontal inequity between those who get the perquisites and those who do not? Exemptions to special economic zones (SEZs) have continued to be a bone of contention between the finance and commerce ministries. While the former underlines the large revenue losses on account of the exemptions, the latter continues to make exaggerated claims about the criticality of continuing exemptions to sustain export growth. The reality is that tax experts the world over have decried tax incentives and preferences not only because of revenue loss but also due to the distortions created by them, but they have continued to proliferate in every country!

 

Tax exemptions and preferences result from special interest group politics and once given, it is not easy to remove them. Therefore, any reform towards broadening the base can only be done in baby steps. The interesting part is that everyone wants the tax base to expand by removing exemptions and preferences from all other sectors except her own and, of course, who does not want lower rates of tax? Not surprisingly, after two rounds of consultations and receiving more than 1,600 comments, the Bill does not resemble the proposals mooted in the first discussion paper and just as the ambitious plan of expanding the base is given up, so is the liberal widening of the brackets and lowering of the rates.

 

All these point to the fact that DTC cannot be a game-changer. This does not mean that the reform is not important. The cleaning of the cobweb called the Income Tax Act, 1961 was important and greater clarity in the tax law will help reduce compliance cost and litigation. As the proposals to substantially widen the base are practically given up, it would be unrealistic to expect lower rates and increased revenue productivity. Improved revenue productivity will have to come only from creating an environment for better compliance of the tax.

 

Tax evasion is as old as the governments and this has been a matter of concern in every country. In fact, the theme of the International Institute of Public Finance Congress, held at Uppsala University in Sweden during August 23-26 this year, was "Tax Evasion, Tax Avoidance and Shadow Economy". Over 300 papers were presented in the conference spread over 80 sessions to intensively debate on the theme. There were several theoretical contributions, but a simple way for a policy-maker is to see tax compliance as a function of the rate of tax (interestingly, the theorists find it a positive function), probability of detection and penalty rate. Of course, in every society there are "good" people who will always pay what they owe, but over time, their numbers are bound to shrink. Perceptions about the fairness of the tax, goodness of the government, social values, public morality and legal environment could determine tax payments, but high probability of detection and effective penalties are critical.

 

Given that DTC cannot be a game-changer, increase in revenue productivity of direct taxes can come about only through constant efforts to improve the probability of detection and penalty rate. The tax information network (TIN) has been important and can continue to be so if the system is taken to the next stage of processing. Now that the information on TDS from all sources is only a click away, it is necessary to compile information on all large-value purchases, credit card transactions, third-party and other financial deals to identify cases of potential evasion for detailed audit. Indeed, when GST is implemented, information-sharing could make the system even more effective. In Thailand, for example, the introduction of GST in 1992 led to a sharp increase in the growth of income tax revenue and Singapore levied GST in 1993 mainly to obtain better information for income tax enforcement. There is much to learn from them.

 

Finally, even a high probability of detection, without effective penalties, cannot evoke better tax compliance. Unfortunately, effective penalties in Indian context are low and numerous cases are held up in prolonged litigation. It is important to pay attention to make the penalty system an effective deterrent to ensure both greater efficiency and equity in the tax system.

 

The author is director, NIPFP. The views expressed are personal. Comments at: mgr@nipfp.org.in

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE SHADOW OF XINJIANG

FOR THE INDIAN PUBLIC, A PRO-PAKISTAN TILT IN CHINA CAN ONLY BE A CONSPIRACY AGAINST INDIA

AJAI SHUKLA

 

The recent brouhaha over Beijing's refusal to issue a regular stamped visa for an official visit to China by Lt Gen B S Jaswal, India's top military commander in J&K, bore the familiar stamp of our public overreaction to Chinese provocation. But there was something remarkable this time. Alongside the "dragon is coming" rants on TV news, and from our predictable strategic community, both governments implemented a discrete but discernible damage-control effort to prevent this incident from spiralling into a public exchange. New Delhi and Beijing, clearly, have agreed to moderate disagreement and manage Indian public opinion.

 

 Look at how this played out. In July, India responded to the visa refusal with no more than a demarche — a pro forma letter — and a mild reproof to China's ambassador in India Zhang Yang. On August 27, when The Times of India broke the story, South Block — behaving as if the visa had been denied that morning — mollified public sentiment by calling in Ambassador Zhang to the MEA to convey India's "strong concern". But a report that India had suspended defence exchanges with China was immediately denied by Defence Minister A K Antony and, as emphatically, by Beijing. New Delhi's only retaliation was to cancel a one-day visit by two Chinese officers to India's National Defence College.

 

Beijing, having made its point, seemed eager to douse the embers. China's embassy in New Delhi feigned ignorance about the visa denial, saying it needed to check with Beijing.

 

At that point, inconveniently for Beijing and New Delhi, a new controversy boosted indignation amongst India's chatterati. A New York Times article by American scholar Selig Harrison reported that 7,000-11,000 Chinese soldiers from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) had set up shop in Gilgit-Baltistan, a part of PoK, which Islamabad calls the Northern Areas. The PLA, said Harrison, was building high-speed rail and road links over the (15,400 feet high) Khunjerab Pass, along the Karakoram Highway, a tenuous 1,300-kilometre mountain road linking Pakistani Punjab with Xinjiang. This would allow China to access Pakistan's Arabian Sea naval bases at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara in 48 hours instead of the current 16-25 days. But Harrison's bombshell was his assertion that Pakistan was "handing over de facto control of [Gilgit-Baltistan] to China".

 

Beijing quickly issued a statement calling this a motivated report aimed at damaging Sino-Indian (and Sino-Pakistan) relations. But that rebuttal, on September 1, sparked a fresh Indian firestorm. In stating, "The story that China has deployed its military in a northern part of Pakistan is totally groundless... ." Beijing had explicitly supported Pakistan's claim to the Northern Areas. Following a protest from India's ambassador in Beijing, China quietly removed the statement from official websites.

 

That Beijing is juggling conflicting interests on J&K — pandering to Pakistan without irretrievably alienating India — is evident from this one-step-forward-one-step-back tango. Islamabad has apparently coaxed Beijing away from its policy of equidistance on J&K — which famously began in 1996, when visiting President Jiang Zemin, in his "dog that didn't bark in the night" speech to Pakistan's Parliament, made no reference to J&K — with a quid pro quo that Beijing badly needs. But the Chinese establishment is in a cleft stick: a price demanded by Pakistan on the one hand, stable relations with India on the other.

 

Popular Indian perception can hardly be expected to sympathise with Beijing's dilemmas. For the Indian public, a pro-Pakistan tilt in China can only be a conspiracy against India. To see it as a price, extracted by a hard-bargaining Islamabad, and paid reluctantly by Beijing, would stretch the imagination of most Indians.

 

Nevertheless, presuming an anti-India rationale could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It would be strategically prudent to consider alternative Chinese motives, especially its obsession with the spread of radical Islam amongst the disaffected Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang, China's sprawling province that borders Central Asia and Gilgit-Baltistan. With the radical Sunni Sipah-e-Sahiba Pakistan (SSP) and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) spreading their influence in Gilgit-Baltistan, apparently with Pakistan Army and ISI connivance, Beijing fears that Pakistani-style radicalism could buttress the jehadi fervour that is already seeping into Xinjiang from Central Asia.

 

Within Gilgit-Baltistan, the Pakistani security establishment is hardly about to curb the SSP and the LeT, both of which serve to counter political resistance, and Shia sectarian groups. In fact, after giving its radical proxies a free hand for decades, it is doubtful whether the Pakistani establishment is even capable of reining them in. What better way of meeting China's concerns about the inflow of radicalism than allowing PLA units into Gilgit-Baltistan on a DIY (do it yourself) arrangement? Selig Harrison might be right about Pakistan handing over control (at least of the area adjoining the Xinjiang border) to China.

 

As important for Beijing — given its need to "develop" Xinjiang, and accelerate the demographic shift from Uighur to Han — is the building of a commercial corridor through Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. Allowing China to translate the rickety "Friendship Highway" into a high-speed transit link for hydrocarbons, raw materials and the outflow of Chinese goods, would give Islamabad further leverage to demand a price.

 

Hence, evidently, the quid pro quo: clear Chinese support for Pakistan on J&K. Islamabad's ceding, in 1963, of the 5,800 square kilometre Shaksgam valley to China, which is contingent on a final J&K settlement between India and Pakistan, has already given Beijing a status quo interest in Gilgit-Baltistan. Allowing China basing rights for the PLA and an economically important transit link through the area would solidify that position.

 

For Islamabad, engineering China's new tilt is about doing down India. For Beijing, however, this appears to be less about India than about reducing insecurity on a sensitive border. Does this matter to India, which loses either way? Clearly, it doesn't to an inflamed public; but the government is treating China with greater understanding.

 

ajaishukla.blogspot.com 

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

FARMING WITHOUT FEAR

WHY CAN'T INDIA DESIGN ERGONOMIC FARM EQUIPMENT?

SURINDER SUD

 

Consider these startling facts. Nearly 45,000 agricultural workers lose their lives every year working in the fields and 755,000 others suffer various kinds of injuries, many of which can be wholly or partially debilitating. The economic losses from such accidents are estimated at a whopping Rs 54,000 crore a year.

 The annual average rate of mishaps in the agriculture sector works out to 333 per 1 lakh workers, and the fatality rate is 18.3 per 1 lakh workers. About 64.7 per cent of these accidents are due to the use of farm machines and other contraptions and hand tools. The remaining 35.3 per cent of the tragedies are the result of miscellaneous accidents such as snake and animal bites, falling in wells, lightning, heat stroke and the like.

 

Moreover, in the case of deadly mishaps, 44 per cent are caused by tractors and tractor-operated implements while the rest are due to equipment like electric motors and pump sets (31 per cent), sprayers (13 per cent), power tillers (10 per cent) and grain threshers (2 per cent).

 

This appalling, though not surprising, state of affairs in Indian agriculture has come to light in a field survey conducted in nearly 1,600 villages in seven states between 2004 and 2007. This massive operation was carried out by an "all-India coordinated research project on ergonomics and safety in agriculture" under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The states involved were Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh and West Bengal.

 

Ergonomics, simply stated, is the science of the relationship between workers and their working environment — which includes the method of working, tools used and ambient conditions. The application of this science is vital in designing farm machinery, tools and other equipment to increase farm productivity and reduce the drudgery of labour and minimise the risk of accidents. However, the awareness of this scientific discipline is woefully lacking among farm equipment makers, many of whom are tiny or small-scale manufacturers, and also among farmers and farm workers.

 

This all-India research project is trying to address this deficiency by designing relatively safer and more user-friendly equipment and by conceiving strategies and farm systems for minimising accidents. It also conducts training and demonstrations to promote these designs and safety methods. Several state agricultural universities, farm research centres and even some Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are associated with this project whose coordinating unit is located at the Bhopal-based Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering.

 

Indeed, as the size of the Indian farm workforce swells, from the present huge 241 million, and the mechanisation of farm operations, especially the use of self-propelled devices, increases, the incidence of farm accidents may be exacerbated. This would enhance the importance of ergonomics in agriculture.

 

At present, Indian agriculture is not as mechanised as desired. Nor is the level of mechanisation even remotely comparable with that of the developed countries. The total number of farm machines in operation in the country is only about 150 million, which includes about 3.5 million tractors and other self-propelled contraptions. Much of the farm work is done by hand tools like spades, sickles, hand hoes and others which number roughly about 400 million. However, to achieve the much-needed precision in farm operations to obtain optimum yields, and to save time and costly labour, greater mechanisation of agricultural chores is imperative.

 

Self-propelled equipment is, for obvious reasons, more likely to cause serious injuries to the operators and

others. This is borne out by the findings of the survey as well. However, the other tools, too, are not wholly risk-free, if not used carefully. The risk of getting injured is far greater if the equipment is badly designed or lacks appropriate safety features, which is mostly the case with India-made farm machines and equipment. "Due attention needs to be paid to the capabilities and limitations of agricultural equipment while designing and operating them to achieve higher productivity and enhanced safety and comfort of workers," asserts L P Gite, project director.

 

This sane counsel merits to be heard but also acted upon. The government, on its part, can amend the outdated Dangerous Machines Regulation Act, 1983, to make it mandatory for equipment makers to incorporate ergonomic features in their products. There is need also for suitable compensation for victims of such mishaps.

 

surinder.sud@gmail.com 

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

COLUMN

THE DEBUTANTES' BALL - THE SHAKTI BHATT PRIZE

NILANJANA S ROY

 

It's not about competing or not competing with the greats," says Mridula Koshy, winner of the 2009 Shakti Bhatt Prize, about India's only book prize for debut writers. "When you're a new writer, it's not that you're necessarily an amateur — the need is for the newness of what you have to say to be recognised. It's about recognising how literature evolves. So, for writers on the shortlist of this sort of prize, what it does is to allow writers to engage with readers, and — just as important — with other writers." This year's Shakti Bhatt Prize shortlist spotlights six writers across a wide range of genres — three first novels, two of them from Pakistan, the biography of one of the subcontinent's most fiercely political families, a graphic novel set in the Delhi of the Emergency, and a mesmerising food-and-travel odyssey. With Mahesh Dattani, Kalpana Swaminathan and Ruchir Joshi as the judges, this promises to be closely fought. Shakti Bhatt, the talented and energetic editor who died tragically young, believed that good writing crosses genres and national boundaries — and this year's shortlist more than delivers the goods for readers.

 

Home Boy, H M Naqvi (Random House)

H M Naqvi's swaggering debut novel follows the (mis)fortunes of three young Pakistanis in the before-and-after world of 9/11 America. Their Wall Street jobs and comfortably cushioned lives fall apart in the wake of the terror attacks, and Naqvi chronicles all of this with flair and black humour. Perhaps the best thing about Home Boy is Naqvi's ear for New York and immigrant accents, and his ability to shuttle with ease between the rhythms of Lahore life and the fast-paced, fluctuating and often brutal demands of Manhattan in an age of siege. Though Home Boy falters in its second half, this still remains an intelligent and sharply comic look at the politics of race and culture in today's riven world. Following Fish, Samanth Subramanian (Penguin India)


From the hilsa to the perfect toddy shop meen curry, Samanth Subramanian tracks down all of India's greatest fish dishes. But it is much more than just a foodie memoir; it's also an excursion into history, as he dives headfirst into the politics of overfishing in Goa, or the reason for the drop in the quality of hilsa. As he crisscrosses the states, inspecting the famous fish treatment for asthma in Andhra Pradesh, which involves the swallowing of a murrel fish, scouring Mumbai for Gomantak and Malvani cooking classics, Subramanian proves that he's one of the best travel and food writers to come out of India in the last decade.

 

Songs of Blood and Sword, A Daughter's Memoir, by Fatima Bhutto (Penguin Viking)


Fatima Bhutto's chronicle of deaths foretold gains resonance from the turbulent circumstances of her life. Her father Murtaza and her aunt Benazir spent much of their political careers locked in a battle over the legacy of their father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Fatima believes that Benazir had "moral responsibility" for Murtaza's death in a gun battle outside his home in 1996, and her autobiography is marked by the accounts of bloodshed, rivalry and bitter feuds. Bhutto is an often naïve but always intense narrator.

 

The Wish Maker, Ali Sethi (Penguin India)

This three-generation novel set in contemporary Pakistan is a TV soap opera masquerading as fiction — one reason for Sethi's considerable popularity and high sales over the last year. The Wish Maker packs in the fever and fret of Partition, the Bangladesh War and weddings in contemporary Pakistan, all told with exuberance and gusto rather than craft and nuance. Despite its clichés, what makes Sethi's book work for many is the ease of the writing and the familiarity of the stories he has to tell. Look for entertainment rather than insight.

Delhi Calm, Vishwajyoti Ghosh (HarperCollins)


The Emergency years have been captured by Indian writers from Rushdie to Rohinton Mistry before, but Vishwajyoti Ghosh's attempt to set down those dark, turbulent times in graphic novel form is startlingly unusual. The graphic novel, with Ghosh's stark, telling illustrations, is perfectly suited to examining the years when India gave up its freedoms. Delhi Calm suffers slightly from the lack of a great story — this is more a chronicle of the times than a true fictionalisation — but it works well for readers, especially those in the generation that grew up without painful, haunting memories of the years when the trains ran on time for all the wrong reasons.

 

The House on Mall Road, Mohyna Srinivasan (Penguin India)

Mohyna Srinivasan's likeable debut novel follows the fortunes of an army brat, Parvati, as she attempts to unravel an old tragedy while discovering romance with a capital R. One of the charms of The House on Mall Road is its faithful excavation of army life, from the rituals of the Mess to the dangers and crippling inconveniences of life in the border areas of India, but this isn't always enough. This is an uneven first novel — a pleasant and rewarding, but not extraordinary, read.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PHASE OUT CAPTIVE MINING

IT DESTROYS VALUE


THE policy on mining of minerals requires overhaul and deep-seated reforms, as underlined by mines minister B K Handique. The pressing need is to end routine opacity in mining, remove glaring distortions in ore pricing, and boost efficiency in operations by eschewing captive mining by metal majors. Now captive mining of iron ore by steel producers may have made sense in the days of autarky, when there were a panoply of rigorous controls including administered pricing of steel. But for almost two decades now, domestic steel prices have been market-determined and linked to international prices. Which is why the continuing policy of captive mining of ferrous ore by SAIL, Tata Steel, etc, is both incongruous and anachronistic. Since there is little incentive to add value in captive mining, there's real scope for actual value destruction, including downstream in metals manufacture. Note that domestic steel majors have generally not ventured upmarket into value-added steel products. So instead of captive mining, we need a thriving domestic market for ore, and with prices clearly linked to international scarcity value. Such a policy would, rightfully, provide stepped up funds for social and physical infrastructure development in mining areas and beyond. 

 

Producers in Japan and Korea have long produced world-class steel without sweeteners like captive mines, and such arrangements do need to be phased out for domestic producers. There may be a case for, say, a threeyear time frame for steel majors to hive-off operations and call for arm's length ore prices. Also, for logistical reasons, it may make sense for new steel plants proposed in industrially-backward regions to have upfront mines linkage. But such a policy needs to be timebound, and done away with once the new steel producers have fully depreciated plant and machinery. Further, the rate of mineral royalty needs to be pegged at 10%, the norm globally, and benchmarked to the going international prices. The states must also impose cess, field development charges and other levies, and closely monitor mining activity to stamp out illegal operations.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUST MERGE IT WITH NPS

NO TURF WARS OVER EMPLOYEE SAVINGS


AN EXPERT panel to revive the fledgling employees pension scheme (EPS) has proposed switching to a provident fund-cum-pension-annuity scheme to better returns and enable workers to take control over their retirement savings. The recommendation makes sense, but there is no need to build a new scheme, as a functioning scheme on the lines recommended already exists in the shape of the New Pension System (NPS) that manages pension funds of civil servants who joined service in 2004 and later of voluntary individual members. The proposed defined contribution scheme envisages two accounts to be maintained for each member — a provident fund account and a pension account. Workers will have the freedom to invest more than the contribution rate, if they want a higher pension income. At retirement, the accumulated savings are to be used to buy an annuity that provides a monthly income for life. Sure, the scheme would be more sustainable than a definedbenefit scheme like the EPS. But multiple pension schemes, in the organised and the unorganised sector, do not make sense. The EPS should, instead, be merged with the NPS. The government should amend the EPF Act to give workers the choice to exit the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and take their provident fund account to the NPS along with the employers' contribution. This makes eminent sense as the NPS has the framework for professional asset managers to manage workers' retirement savings and generate higher returns. With life expectancy moving up, new mortality tables should be used to rework actuarial calculations on the payout. The NPS should manage retirement funds for the unorganised sector as well. 

The EPS, funded by the Centre that contributes 1.16% of the members' monthly wage and the employer who contributes 8.33%, offers an abysmally low pension income. It has run up a deficit of an estimated . 54,000 crore. More attempts to revive the scheme will be a futile exercise. The best way out is to merge it with the NPS. In parallel, the NPS should be marketed better, with incentives for its distributors.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT A STATE OF DENIAL

BUT A SPONSORED STATE!

 

THOSE who say that the Pakistani establishment is in a state of denial over match-fixing have got it wrong. And that rather juvenile gag that an ambassador is someone who lies abroad for his country hardly does justice to Pakistan's high commissioner in London Wajid Shamsul Hasan. If anything, His Excellency has been extremely diplomatic in his comment that Pakistan's cricketers are totally innocent and that the real villain of the piece is India's Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) which is behind the News of the World sting operation. Someone less diplomatic than Mr Hasan would have said that RAW acted in cahoots with its Israeli counterpart Mossad, with a little bit of local help from rogue elements in the British intelligence agency MI5. Surely, if Pakistan's much maligned Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) can have rogue elements, why not MI5? After all, even James Bond was not always known to follow orders, especially when he had a martini in one hand and a nubile something in the other! 

 

However, instead of drawing extraneous parallels, Mr Hasan has focused on the matter in hand like the large sums of money lying in cricket captain Salman Butt's hotel room and the fact that these notes had been marked by the News of the World undercover reporter before they were handed over to the self-acknowledged match-fixer Mazhar Majeed. Mr Hasan has stated with admirable logic that Mr Majeed had also acted as an agent for quite a few Pakistani cricketers and that the money lying around was for sponsorship deals. What Mr Hasan has not stated is that Mr Butt's main sponsor in this case was Bluesky Developments, Mr Majeed's property company, and that the sponsorship was for the three no-balls bowled by Messrs Aamer and Asif!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

COLUMN

INDIA INC IS DEAD, LONG LIVE INDIA INC

AS CIVIL SOCIETY EXPANDS ITS ROLE, AT THE EXPENSE OF THE STATE, WILL THE MOVE TOWARDS MORE INCLUSIVITY RESULT IN A TRANSITION FROM INDIA INCORPORATED TO INDIA INCLUSIVE, ASKS KIRAN KARNIK

 

 IS INDIA Inc dead? Is Niyamgiri the Trafalgar and Plassey of India Inc, the battlefield which marks its decisive defeat and signals the demise of the very concept of India Inc? 


The idea of close collaboration between corporations and the government was most famously put into practice by Japan, and epitomised by the epithet Japan Inc. The government worked closely with industry right from the stage of policy formulation, and ensured all possible support to help its growth. As Japan boomed (till the 1990s), recovering rapidly from its war-time devastation, the 'Japanese miracle' evoked awe and admiration. Korea and countries in Southeast Asia, in particular, considered what they could emulate, and many followed the Japan Inc model of government-industry collaboration. 

 

The close links with the private sector degenerated, in some cases, into crony capitalism. An example of this was the Philippines, under President Marcos. Another was Indonesia, in the era of President Suharto: probably — despite (or because of?) the high-profile US economic advisers — the most extreme example of crony capitalism. In the US, very strong links bind the private sector and the administration, and the influence of the former on governmental policies is well known. The government has no hesitation in unabashedly batting for its companies, and US ambassadors are known to quite directly pressurise local governments to favour American companies. 

 

India, in contrast, was decidedly coy — particularly till a few years ago — in pushing the interests of its companies for orders abroad. The ethos, certainly till 1991, was based on the traditional distrust of business. For almost five decades after independence, government and business sat — literally and figuratively — on opposite sides of the table. Business looked at government as being a hindrance, putting obstacles in its growth path; it saw bureaucrats as control freaks, and politicians as either corrupt or pompously righteous. 

On the other hand, government saw business (and businessmen) as being unethical, untrustworthy, greedy, and willing to bend — even break — the rules. As a result, no bureaucrat or minister was willing to be seen hobnobbing with industry folk. Their involvement with any event related to an individual company was rare, and publicly-known discussions between them on government policies was out of question. 

 

This public stance camouflaged dealings (in private, of course) with select individuals — often, it seems, for a consideration. Stringent government controls (the socalled 'permit-licence Raj') provided much scope for patronage and favours, and certain industrial groups exploited this to the hilt. There was, thus, a tight link between government and business — but limited only to a few select individuals on either side. The opening-up of the economy, through the 'big bang' liberalisation of 1991, began to change all this. Driven by sectors like information technology, where a new breed — middle-class techno-entrepreneurs with strong ethical values — stepped in, a new and positive image of businessmen evolved in the public perception. This metamorphosis was aided by the professionalisation of management in many companies and the largenumber of professionally managed MNCs. This made it completely acceptable for officials and political leaders to engage visibly and actively with the business world. 

 

THIS transformation has gained momentum over the last two decades. In fact, the pendulum had swung so far in the last few years that India Inc had practically become a reality. Major industry associations developed great clout, with easy access to top policymakers and a role in shaping policy. The concept of private-public partnership (PPP) has been widely adopted and is now a standard paradigm for projects in many sectors. 

The reversal of traditional antagonism, though welcome, has now been replaced by collaboration — collusion? — between government and business. Many wonder whether crony capitalism is beginning to take root and — despite liberalisation — are we once again beginning to see decisions aimed at benefiting one company or specific business house? Is the government interfering in inter-company disputes only to favour one side? These and similar questions are doing the rounds: many undoubtedly based on rumour, hypothesis and motivated ill-will, but some based on facts. 

 

 It is in this context that Niyamgiri marks a watershed. Permission to mine the land held sacred by the Dongria Kondh tribe was readily given by the state. Ineffectual presentation of the case led to a reaffirmation of this permission by the Supreme Court. The collusion by the state in granting approvals — or turning a blind eye — despite serious violations of forest and environmental laws by the same company (and others, in various states) reinforces the perception of callous governments, riding roughshod over the rights and sensitivities of local communities, and willing to acquiesce in violation of laws, only to favour business. Some leaders try to turn this into an either-or argument: development and jobs versus environment. Others — learning from Gujarat — wrap themselves in the flag and position opponents as being antistate or even anti-national. 

 

In the light of abdication by the state of its duty to look after the interests of the people, and its succumbing completely to the 'market', it was left to civil society to fight the battle against India Inc. They succeeded, in the case of Vedanta, in first getting some foreign ethical investors to divest their holdings and then continued to mount pressure locally. Due credit must go to the central ministry of environment — which, better late than never, finally stepped in — and to the Congress party leadership. Niyamgiri may be a single swallow and may not mark the onset of summer; yet, there are signs of a reorientation in approach, at least in the Congress party. This may, then, well be the beginning of the end for India Inc. 

 

As the move to more inclusivity takes place, implying a bigger role for civil society and a diminution in the power of both government and business, can one hope for a transition from one form of India Inc to another, from India Incorporated to India Inclusive? Is it time to say India Inc(orporated) is dead, long live India Inc(lusive)? 

(The author is an independent policy     and strategy analyst)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

TH RO U G H TH E TH I R D EYE


WHERE'S THE DOC? 

 

WHERE has RSS chief Dr Mohan Bhagwat vanished? The man had, if you remember, once defied the parivar rule — of the Sangh remaining a behind-the-scene handler of the BJP — when he hit the national stage as a 'quick-fixer' of cracks within the BJP and the de facto selector of the party president. Just as Nitin Gadkari, winner of Bhagwat's talent-hunt, has been somewhat derailed and as the L K Advani camp is back in action, Dr Bhagwat just can't be seen anywhere. Gone are the days when the doctor used to have the run of the nation, as it were, with high-profile live press conferences which had the BJP brass gripping the armrests of their chairs fearing televised marching orders from the boss. Is it a case of a doctor retiring hurt or just preferring some privacy as the nation debates the right word for a core parivar concern — terror in its ranks. Migratory birds 

CPI(M) leader Subodh Roy's poll-eve defection to the JD(U) is just the latest in a surprise series of pole-vaulting acts by the comrades. Traditionally, most CPI(M)/CPI rebels, purged on charges of being 'renegades/revisionists' or for 'developing parliamentary illusion', perish on the margins or, at best, float minuscule rebel outfits or move on to other left parties. But days before Roy found a 'revolutionary alternative' in Nitish Kumar and his JV with the BJP, Tamil Nadu CPI(M) state committee member C Govindasamy had air-dropped into the DMK just as ex-MP A P Abdullakutty found love in the Congress on the eve of the LS poll. While CPI(M) chose to complete the rituals of 'expelling' these deserters, the CPI is trying to camouflage a similar poll-eve act by its Bihar MLA Ram Vinod Paswan, who has also got hitched to the JD(U). But Ajoy Bhawan still maintains the party 'has decided to deny a ticket' to Paswan! The migratory trend perhaps calls for some dialectics. Thorny issues 

 

THE Congress-NCP pot-shot game in Maharashtra is becoming increasingly imaginative after Congress CM Ashok Chavan needled some influential ministers of the alliance partner. So if Ajit Pawar, senior NCP minister and Sharad Pawar's nephew, chose to dwell on the "uselessness of the Ashoka tree that neither provides shade nor bears fruit but just grows tall", Chavan has now responded with matching élan. He insisted that those who dislike the Ashoka tree should know it is much better than having a babhlee tree (known for itssharp thorns). Incidentally, babhlee trees grow in abundance in Bhabalgaon, the native place of Chavan's predecessor and Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the most lethal Maharashtra Congress rival of Sharad Pawar. In short, it is for the NCP brass to decide whether it will let a harmless Ashoka tree grow tall in Mumbai or have Deshmukh return as a babhlee thorn in Pawar's side.Strategic matters 

 

MOST BJP leaders chose to ignore Yashwant Sinha's lonely cry of anguish over his party enabling the passage of the nuclear liability Bill after having declared the Indo-US civil nuclear deal anti-national. But the BJP choosing the 'pro-US' Jaswant as its opening speaker during the liability Bill debate has left many of his colleagues speculating on the possible factors that might have enabled Mr Singh's return to the party by flaunting his 'Jinnah offensive' as a trophy. Some say the homecoming was an acknowledgement of Singh's specialisation in strategic affairs, while others aver it marks the BJP's tribute to his strategic connections in Washington. Mystery abounds.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

SEREN DI PITY

CONGRESS' MOMENT OF RECKONING

C L MANOJ 


THIS is that time of the political season when even the walls of the Congress headquarters and the lamp posts at Raisina Hill hear and pass on tales of plots and subplots. The Congress president's re-election has set the stage for revamping the All India Congress Committee that could be linked to a reshuffle of the Union Cabinet as well. Real and imaginary stakeholders as well as non-political pressure groups are working overtime to secure their own interests and to checkmate their rivals. 

 

Given the seeming durability of UPA 2, the faces and ideas that can get promoted or rejected in the shuffle can have long-term impact. Presumably, the upcoming changes will indicate the kind of team and political content the Sonia Gandhi-anchored and Rahul Gandhi-driven party would like to put in place in preparation for the 2014 elections and intervening assembly polls. This brings up another issue: the policy content/direction of the party-led central government. Whether the Congress organisation and the UPA regime should work as two independent arms pursuing different priorities or, should, strategically complement each other in following a common political goal? 

 

The government-party discourse on Maoist violence, inflation, the right to food Bill, the colours of terror and the general focus of economic policy has already occupied the policy debate space, leaving the major opposition party to gape or play second fiddle to some Congress player or the other. Specific instances include the Chidambarm-Digvijay Singh debate on Maoists, the home minister-AICC differences on how to describe Hindu extremism, the Murali Deora-Mani Shankar Aiyar divergence on gas-pricing, the seeming gap between the prime minister's office and Congress spokesmen on Indo-Pak policy, the unaligned governmentparty postures on inflation and the tug of war between the government and the National Advisory Council on the food Bill. 

 

The roots of such divergence lie in the assessment of a section of the Congress that the real test for the party has not ended with UPA's second consecutive victory, but lies in reinforcing the party on the ground, with the support of its government, for a defining verdict in the 2014 elections under Rahul Gandhi's leadership. 
 

Beneath the feel-good of the '09 victory — made possible largely due to the Congress and UPA-1 regime's credible performance and presentable leadership, the BJP's negative tactics and the Third Front's obliging selfgoal — lie some uneasy details that sensitise Congress managers on the fissures in its support base among crucial social segments. 

 

Though the Congress crossed the 200-mark in the Lok Sabha after almost two decades, the party still remains organisationally weak in many major states. In the entire North, the Congress is out of power in all states except Rajasthan, Delhi, Harayana and J&K. In the '09 polls, Congress won only 80 odd of the nearly 240 seats here. In the 249 seats in the big five states of UP, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, the Congress won just 54. In the once-trusted Southern belt, it rules just AP and owes its Lok Sabha show solely to the YSR magic and the DMK's grip on Tamil Nadu. Similarly, in states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Orissa, the Congress bagged just 35 of the total 104 seats. 

 

So, for Rahul Gandhi's drive to rebuild the organisation, the mission does not end with the partial revival in UP, rather, it merely begins, in larger areas. And key to that is getting its government to deliver what was promised — an inclusive agenda of growth and politics that would help the Congress regain its pan-India rainbow constituency of tribals, dalits, minorities and other subaltern groups. In the decline of Lalu and Mulayam Yadavs in their dens and of the BJP in UP, the Congress sees an opening to reach out to Muslims and upper castes, crucial to its cow-belt revival. Hence the party's demand on the government for nuance on minority welfare and terror branding. 

 

 Another Congress focus is tribal people. While the party and the government are united on the need to fight Maoist violence, the organisation wants simultaneous protribal policies to win this segment back. The Congress is aware of its dismal performance in the tribal dominated areas in 10 states that used to vote for it before tribals drifted to other parties, to protest Congress' use-and-neglect attitude. The Vedanta episode only signals the determination of the Congress for a course-correction. 

 

These Congress attempts to reach out to the neglected social sections do not, in any way, pose any threat to the need to persist with economic reforms. They only affect the gameplans of some interests which have made 'reforms' a dirty word for large sections of our society, by using it as camouflage for 'smash-and-grab' operations on the country's assets. The NDA had been done in by those who moved and shook vigorously to the 'India Shining' siren song. It is now for the Congress to choose its own score for its crucial future tryst with the people on ground zero.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE TRANCE OF UNWORTHINESS

VITHALC NADKARNI 

 

ONCE there was this man from New York who called his mother in Florida. "How are you doing, Mom?" he asked. "Not so good," replied the mother, "I'm feeling very weak". "And why is that?" the man asked in alarm. It turned out she hadn't eaten in five days! The anguished son sputtered, "But that's ridiculous Mom! Why on earth would you starve for five days?" "Because I didn't want my mouth to be filled with food if you should call," the mother answered with a big sigh. 

 

The standard take on this old joke would be: don't mess with your mother! Call her. Now. Or else face the consequences, like having to start a drip on the long-suffering woman who just does not sort her son out for not calling home. 

 

Instead she gives him a hard time like that Mom in the Jewish joke who sends her son a telegram: "Start worrying. Details will follow!" 

 

Incidentally, have you also heard the joke which asks why such mothers make such great parole officers? Because they never let anyone finish a sentence! Now with apologies to mothers around the planet, this column would like to emphasise that this adage could also be applied in equal measure to fathers as well! 

As for perils of starting worrying without any specific cause, Sufi Master Jalaluddin Rumi talks about a field that lies somewhere out there which is "beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing. When the soul lies down in that grass /the world is too full to talk about / ideas, language, even the phrase each other / doesn't make any sense." 


That's the field of felicitous action that the Blue-hued Lord talks about in his Divine Song: the only difference is that instead of lying down dreamily in the grass,thesoulhedescribes soars gently into space that spreads all around, beyond good and evil. There, having joined oneself to true reason one just does whatever that needs to be done, most skilfully (Yogah karmasu koushalam). 

 

"For so many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner," writes psychologist Tara Brach in Radical Acceptance. "It does not take much — just hearing someone else's accomplishments, being criticised, getting into argument, making a mistake at work — to make us feel that we are not okay. "When we experience our lives through this lens of personal insufficiency, we are imprisoned in what I call the trance of unworthiness. Trapped in this trance, we are unable to perceive the truth of who we really are."

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CEO SALARY CAPS A DICEY GAME

 

The pitch for capping the salaries of chairmen and chief executive officers of companies is a highly emotive and controversial issue. Ever since one can remember, there has been a demand in the West, and in India, for this. It has grown louder after the 2008 financial meltdown. But nothing much ever happened on this score, specially in the US where top CEOs are now called "layoff leaders". According to the latest study, 50 top CEOs gave themselves hefty pay packets of $12 million each while laying off a total of 3,000 workers between November 2008 and April 2010. Those who argue for irrationally high salaries in India predicate their thinking on the issue of demand and supply and argue that given the scarcity of talent in a country like India, it would be even more difficult to cap CEO salaries, or even the salaries of top executives. Besides, most companies would not adhere to the cap and would find 20 other ways of circumventing these limits. Today there is a cap of 11 per cent of net profit on managerial remuneration and five per cent of net profit on an individual manager's compensation. The parliamentary standing committee on finance, in its report on the new Companies Bill of 2009, has said that an overall outer ceiling on managerial remuneration should be prescribed and the corporate affairs ministry should evolve a rational formula to implement this. It has also suggested that remuneration should be decided by the remuneration committee of the board, or shareholders, as is proposed in the bill. This hardly works in practice as the board is usually appointed by the CEO, the promoters or the directors, who are in cosy collusion with each other. The shareholders, as is well known,have no voice in a company. The Prime Minister had himself asked India Inc. in 2007 to resist excessive remuneration to promoters and senior executives in order to discourage conspicuous consumption. He said industry should temper its emoluments keeping in mind the extreme poverty in the country and that rising inequalities in wealth can only lead to social unrest. Of course, this flies in the face of the capitalist laissez faire system that he and the Congress government initiated in 1991, but even so it deserves a serious look. They had removed the cap that existed in the pre-liberalisation era. One of the definitions of self-governance is that it definitely leads to abuse of power. The criteria for laying down the remuneration of the chief executive, promoters and top management must be seriously adhered to and meticulously interpreted. The criteria includes motivation, incentivisation, retention, reward and fairness. Most important of all is the alternate employment at that price, namely whether the same promoter/CEO would command the same price if he was employed elsewhere. This element is usually missed out, particularly in family businesses. There is, for instance, one business family where the father and the son, who are chairman and managing director respectively, take home 11 per cent of the company's net profit as remuneration.

 

Of course, salaries in the case of CEOs and top management include commissions, which incidentally form the major part of the remuneration. The basic salary is not as sumptuous. In deciding commissions the issue of fairness is most important. For instance, should the CEO take most of the credit for the profit that the company makes? In family-controlled companies the commissions paid to executives are lower than what is paid to the promoter. Why this anomaly? And is it fair? This is one reason why the government needs to step in even though it may look like a pseudo-socialist move.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ANATOMY OF A TURMOIL

BY JAGMOHAN

 

If we continue to look at the current turmoil in Kashmir without the "spectacles of history", we would not be able to clearly see the multiple infections that have, over the years, invaded the body-politics of the state and the Union. Unless the nature of those infections is understood, the correct line of treatment cannot evolve or be pursued.

 

A dispassionate survey of the last 63 years of the Kashmir scene would show how, at every crucial moment, decision-makers were carried away by short-term and superficial considerations, ignoring the distant but disastrous fallouts of their acts.

 

First, driven by sentimental liberalism, the notion of plebiscite was introduced in the letter accepting accession (October 27, 1947) and, later on, the United Nations was approached (January 1, 1948). At the local level, all the eggs were placed in Sheikh Abdullah's basket. No lesson was learnt from the experience of the Plebiscite Front (1955-75), the Kashmir Conspiracy Case (1958-64), the Moi-Muqadas agitation (December 1963 to February 1964), or the underground subversive and terrorist activities of Al-Kashmir, Al-Jehad and Al-Fatah (1965-71). Nothing was done to prevent the use of mosques for whipping up mass hysteria, nor was any step taken to stop the setting up of madrasas which, aided by the resources that flowed into Kashmir during the oil boom of the Seventies, became the breeding grounds for the forces of fundamentalism.

 

A historic opportunity to settle the issue permanently was missed at the time of signing the Simla Agreement (1972). The Kashmir Accord (1975) was another manifestation of the habit of nursing illusions. These illusions, too, were soon shattered by such events as the Resettlement Act (1982), India-West Indies cricket match (1983) where Indian players were hooted and Pakistani flags waved, and the kidnapping and killing of Indian diplomat Ravinder Mahatre by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front in Birmingham (February 1984).

 

When the avenues to power, first of Mirza Afzal Beg and then of G.M. Shah, were blocked by Sheikh Abdullah through manipulation within the party and Dr Farooq Abdullah was declared successor, causing frustration and a split, my recommendations to the President on July 2, 1984, to impose Governor's Rule and to use the period for building a healthy institutional framework and for nipping subversion and terrorism in the bud, were ignored. When Governor's Rule came subsequently in 1986 and things started looking up, suddenly, without ensuring that the institutional framework created and other reform measures taken during the Governor's Rule were not dismantled, a disastrous coalition was brought into being.

 

In the six-month period preceding my appointment as J&K Governor for the second term, that is, from June 19, 1989, to January 19, 1990, there were 319 violent incidents in the Valley. During the Lok Sabha elections, held on November 22, 1989, it was the militants' diktat that was followed in the Valley. On the day of polling they declared a civil curfew and, in a tantalising gesture, placed TV sets near some polling booths with placards reading: "Anyone who will cast his vote can take this as a gift". The authority of the state and the Central government had been eroded to such an extent that it could be made fun of this manner. Everywhere, voter turn-out was dismal.

 

A few days later, on December 8, to demonstrate to the world their total hold over the Valley, the militants kidnapped Dr Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the Union home minister, and released her only after the state and Central governments capitulated before them and conceded their demand of freeing five top terrorists. This capitulation left the general public in no doubt about the ultimate victory of the militants. This resulted in further increase of incidents of terrorism and subversion. Under a sinister plan to throw out "infidels" and "agents" of the Union, the Kashmiri Pandits were targeted and prominent members of the community were picked up for slaughter, one by one.

 

Shockingly, at such a time, Dr Farooq Abdullah's government decided to further appease the militants. It released 70 hardcore militants whose detention had earlier been approved by an advisory board, headed by the Chief Justice of J&K high court. One of the released terrorists, Mohammad Daud Khan of Ganderbal, later became the deputy commander-in-chief of a terrorist outfit, Al Bakar.

 

By the time (January 19, 1990) I was hurriedly sent by V.P. Singh's government for the second term, Kashmir Valley had virtually reached a point of no return. Both the advisers to the governor reported: "By all accounts, it appears that the militants were prepared to declare independence from the Indian Union". But I frustrated all the designs of the conspirators and militants to gather at Srinagar Idgah on Friday, January 26, to declare independence and raise the flag of "Islamic Republic of Kashmir". The rulers of Pakistan, who were hoping that it was merely a matter of a week or so that Kashmir Valley would fall in their lap like a ripe apple, were exasperated. They, therefore, resorted to attacking me personally. Benazir Bhutto, then Pakistan's Prime Minister, came to Muzzaffarabad and incited the Kashmiris against me. Made during the course of a televised speech, her shocking chopping gesture — striking her right hand on the palm of her left hand and ranting "Jag-Jag-Mo-Mo-Han-Han" — is still remembered.

 

Here, it would be pertinent to draw attention to the impression that I was able to create on the Kashmiri mind during my first term (April 1984 to June 1989). When the Governor's Rule ended on November 7, 1986, and Dr Farooq Abdullah was sworn in as chief minister, he said: "...If today three ballot boxes are kept, one for the National Conference, one for the Congress and one for you, your ballot box would be full while the other two ballot boxes would be empty".

 

I have reproduced the above observation not to indulge in self-praise but to show what a grave harm was done to a great national cause by the negative forces operating in the country. They even egged on Dr Farooq Abdullah to issue virulent statements against me on the very first day of my second term. V.P. Singh's government, too, over-anxious to retain a particular votebank which, it thought, was slipping out of hand on account of the motivated propaganda that had been unleashed against my determined action in Kashmir, offered me membership of the Rajya Sabha as a nominated member. I understood. Soon, thereafter, I resigned.

 

The negativity of the Indian democracy and its disposition to sacrifice national interest at the altar of "votebank politics" could not have assumed a worst form.

 

 This is the first part of a two-part series

 

- Jagmohan is a former governor of J&K and aformer Union minister

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

OBAMA'S AMERICA TRAPPED IN FDR'S '38

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

Here's the situation: The US 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 mid-term 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. US President Barack Obama's economists promised not to repeat the mistakes of 1937, when FDR pulled back fiscal stimulus too soon. But by making his programme 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 programme to deliver a convincing recovery has discredited government action to create jobs.

 

In short, welcome to 1938.

The story of 1937, of FDR'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 programmes, voters lost faith in fiscal expansion.

 

Consider Gallup polling from March 1938. Asked whether government spending should be increased to fight the slump, 63 per cent of those polled said no. Asked whether it would be better to increase spending or to cut business taxes, only 15 per cent favoured spending; 63 per cent favoured 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 gross domestic product (GDP) 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 GDP, 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 FDR, 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 realise that the big winners in the mid-term 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.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE NEW MERCANTILISTS

BY JAYATI GHOSH

 

Mercantilism used to be the dominant economic theory of trade policy until the early 19th century. This was the belief that an economy that ran a trade surplus would be wealthier and stronger because of the inflow of bullion, or assets. There were many flaws of mercantilist theories, most notably the confusion of bullion with real economic wealth, the lack of recognition of the various benefits of greater trade independent of the trade balance, and the failure to perceive that the purpose of increasing exports is to be able to import more and thus raise the level and variety of consumption in the society.

 

This is why such arguments have been discredited for a while. But recently, a new form of neo-mercantilism has emerged and has propelled the economic models of the two economies that are increasingly seen as the most successful and potentially powerful in the world: China and Germany.

 

Mercantilism — the obsession with net exports — is often seen as identical with export-led growth, but in fact the two are not the same. It is possible to have exports as the basic engine or driver of growth without necessarily running a trade surplus. Indeed, some of the classic examples of recent export-led growth, such as the East Asian "dragons" or the Southeast Asian economies, generally ran trade deficits during their period of high export-led growth. Even China had mostly small trade deficits till the late 1990s, and started having large trade surpluses only in the early part of the 2000s.

 

But since then both China and Germany have been focused on pushing out more and more net exports. This has required suppressing domestic wages and consumption. In China the consumption to gross domestic product (GDP) ratio fell from 46 per cent of GDP in 2000 to less than 36 per cent in 2007, while in Germany it fell from 60 per cent to 56.5 per cent in the same period.

 

Why would such a strategy be attractive at all? After all, no one really still believes that an inflow of bullion (or a net accumulation of financial assets, which amounts to the same thing) is of great intrinsic value for an economy. It could be argued that the current strategy is based on a different notion of the gain, one which recognises the absence of full employment and seeks to use trade as a means of maximising employment. Thus net exports are valued because they involve more productive jobs at home and less leakage of jobs through imports. To that extent, this is also a form of beggar-thy-neighbour economic strategy, since it involves creating or preserving jobs in your own country at the expense of jobs for your trade partners.

 

This argument too is essentially fallacious because it does not recognise that trade can affect the pattern of employment, but the aggregate level of employment is determined by macroeconomic policies. The possibility of employment in non-traded activities making up for employment losses through trade (which would have to be the results of active government intervention as well) is not considered.

 

Even more than export-led growth per se, such a strategy involves a fallacy of composition, in that all countries cannot pursue it. Indeed, the dependence of the surplus economies on the existence of other countries that are simultaneously running deficits is only too obvious. In the recent past, that has come from a combination of one large global player (the US economy, which has served as the engine of growth for much of the rest of the world) and a number of smaller economies running smaller deficits financed by capital flows.

 

This gives rise to a classic dilemma of mercantilist strategy, which is evident in exaggerated form today for the

neo-mercantilist economies: they are forced to finance the deficits of those countries that would buy their products through capital flows that sustain the demand for their own exports. Thus it is no accident that China and Germany are both large investors in the US and purchasers of US Treasury Bills, or that German banks are heavily implicated in lending to the now-fragile deficit economies in the European Union (EU).

 

Despite these contradictions and dilemmas, such a strategy can certainly be successful for a while, and this can

be true even over the economic cycle, as has been evident as Germany and China continue to power on through the global crisis and its aftermath. In Germany, the ability to impose wage restraint throughout the period of economic boom and rising labour productivity was remarkable in its scope, and critical to the enhanced competitiveness of the economy. During the crisis, employment levels fell relatively little, not only because of the existence of automatic stabilisers that provided a countercyclical cushion for the economy, but also the willingness of German workers in export industries to accept effective wage cuts rather than lose employment.

 

In any case in Germany, a significant part of the export surplus is generated from trade with other partners in the EU. This is at the heart of the economic problems faced by many deficit countries in the region today. There is a basic difference between price levels in Germany and most other EU members, resulting from the fact that Germany has been able to keep wages nearly stagnant even with rapid labour productivity increases, while other countries are not able to let the gap between wages and productivity widen to that extent.

 

So prices of many goods and services are significantly lower (sometimes by as much as one-third) in Germany compared to most other European economies. This means that the European Single Market has failed to equate prices of goods even though there are no trade barriers, and also failed to ensure wage equalisation even though labour is free to move.

 

But such mismatches cannot continue indefinitely. Already the deficit countries in Europe — not only those whose governments and bond markets are in difficulties but others as well — are being forced to cut down on imports through very severe austerity measures that are reducing both output and employment. Ironically, such moves are being strongly pushed by the German government inside the EU, even though this is likely to rebound adversely on the German capacity to generate export surpluses.

 

In the US, the external adjustment will also clearly occur, whether through exchange rate movements or increased protectionism, or in any other manner. In fact, this process is already underway.

 

So, while the neo-mercantilist strategy can be apparently successful for a while, it is likely to come up against both internal and external constraints. Internally, the potential for suppression of wage incomes and domestic consumption will meet with political resistance. Externally, deficit countries will either choose or be forced to reduce their deficits through various means. In either case, the pressures to find more sustainable sources of economic growth, particularly through domestic demand and wage-led alternatives, are likely to increase.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE SPIRIT OF CLEANLINESS

BY V. BALAKRISHNAN

 

Brushing our teeth is something we do every morning without sparing a second thought. But like each and every act of daily life, this too had come under the keen observation of the sages of the past. And like many other daily acts, they prescribed a routine for cleaning our teeth too.

 

Accordingly, before cleaning the teeth, one has to hold water in mouth, gargle well and spit it out. While doing this, bow your head to the left side, for there are rishis in front of us and devas on our right side. As per old beliefs, the left side alone is vacant.

 

Now start brushing. Take a small, green twig of neem, red mandaaram, fig or mango tree, beat its head with a stone and brush with this softened end. This prescription appears in Devi Bhagavatham also.

 

However, on certain days like Vavu, Prathama, Shashti, Navami, Ekadasi etc, this sort of brushing is not permitted. On these days, gargling 12 times with fresh water will do.

 

While brushing, mentally chant the prayer:


"Annadyaya vyoohadhwamse somorajayamagamatu Samemukham prakshalyate yasasa cha bhagena cha
Ayurbalam yasorvarcha: pasuvasooni cha brahmaprajnjancha medhancha twannodehi vanaspathe"

 

In Kerala, Sankarasmriti does not encourage people to brush using these twigs. According to the text, burnt chaff or leaves of the mango tree are preferable to twigs.

 

Householders should not brush their teeth on Sundays and Tuesdays. There is also a taboo on brushing one's teeth on birthdays, Prathipadam, Chaturdasi etc as well. However, no such restrictions are binding on Mondays. It is a must-day for brushing!

 

Likewise, the texts warn us not to brush our teeth facing southwards. You can face east or northeast while brushing your teeth.

 

One may wonder why there are specific instructions with regard to trifles like brushing one's teeth.

 

Traditional beliefs and observances have something remarkable in them and that is why they persisted so long. For one, these prescriptions urge us to do justice to great beings. And, more importantly, they indicate that no task is mundane.

 

In Yajnavalkya Smriti, for instance, bathing is mainly classified into Mukhyam and Gaunam, and these have six and seven sub-divisions respectively. All auspicious acts are supposed to be done after taking a bath. Otherwise they don't incur any results. Hence, one has to begin the day with bathing.

 

However, there is restriction on bathing on certain days like Ahashti, Ashtami, and newmoon. Likewise, one should not take bath immediately after food, while suffering from diseases and at midnight. Dip-bath in water bodies or bathing in medicinal water is recommended.

 

While bathing in a lake or river one has to imagine the presence of holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati and worship them uttering the shloka:

 

"Gangae cha Yamunae chaiva Godavari SaraswathiNarmada Sindhu Kaveri theertho asmin samidhin kuru"

 

After taking bath, one should stand in the water and undertake certain observances to please the deities. Then drying your hair and body, again as per specific prescriptions, you can return home.

 

These restrictions and prescriptions succeeded in ensuring personal and social wellness apart from imposing habits of hygiene on our ancestors.

 

— Dr Venganoor Balakrishnan is the author of Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals. He has also ritten books on the Vedas and Upanishads. The author can be reached at drvenganoor@yahoo.co.in [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE ART OF CRISIS MANAGEMENT

AS IN THE CONGRESS, SO IN THE BJP

 

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.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

TACTICS ON TERROR 

CONGRESS ONLY MUDDLES THE DEBATE 

 

IT isn't often that the Union Home Minister speaks out of turn. He seemed to have done so on Telengana some time ago, but the fact is his party left him stranded. Certainly, he was precise in warning Nitish Kumar about courting Maoists and when he told Bengal about armed camps of party cadres. To that extent, it is unlikely that his coinage of "saffron terror'' is simply a slip of the tongue or a matter of semantics. Faced with the expected outburst from the Hindu lobby, he stood by his choice of words as if to emphasise that he spoke from conviction. 

 

On the other hand, he would need to explain why he and his party ~ and perhaps all right-thinking people ~ have said on countless occasions that terror has no colour, caste or creed. The Congress may have chosen to let Mr Chidambaram use his position to equate fundamentalists on both sides and, in the process, please a minority vote-bank that is crucial in assembly elections due in several states. By suggesting, with its silence, that this is not the party line, the Congress may try to muddle the debate without diluting the purpose of releasing the genie. That hardly does the party any credit. 


Of course the home minister would be referring to the lunatic fringe that has done everything from hounding out an internationally reputed painter to threatening more disruptions should Pakistani cricketers be included in IPL. Musclemen in outfits like the Bajrang Dal have been roundly condemned even by saner sections of the Hindu lobby. The question is whether this can justify the use of a specific colour to identify terror that is viewed in a far wider context. It is worse when the colour doesn't identify only the UPA's principal adversary but is part of the National Flag and linked with national pride. If indeed Mr Chidambaram needed to go into specific identities to describe the perpetrators of terror, he had other options ~ and words ~ available to him. Party spokesmen may perform the ritual of damage control. This time it is perhaps serious enough for a palliative from higher quarters ~ if only to stress that a 126-year-old party doesn't have to rely on gimmicks for short-term gains. 


'MBBS INDIA' ?

AN OPPORTUNITY TO UPGRADE STANDARDS

There are two facets of the latest proposal advanced by the Board of Governors that has superseded the Medical Council of India. As the regulator of medical education, it has proposed a common "exit examination" for medical graduates across the country before they are awarded their degrees. On the face of it, an attempt to standardise the final examination is welcome because it can separate the grain from the chaff, indeed exert pressure on non-performing medical colleges ~ of which there are many ~ to raise their standards. The proposal would have raised no cavil if the standards of medical education were also uniform. They are not. "MBBS India" has the glibness of a trade-name, and the short point must be that medical education isn't a commodity that has to be embellished with a measure of shallow brand equity. Arguably, the proposal is concordant with the HRD ministry's  corporate spin on learning. There is a glaring disconnect between a single test and the widely variant quality of instruction imparted by medical colleges. Which precisely is the reason why a doctor from a certain medical college is rated higher than another who may have graduated from a different college within the same state.  Standards may vary still more erratically from one state to another.  If the proposal is to be effective, it presupposes a uniform standard of medical education. And the onus to raise the standard rests in equal measure on the Board of Governors and the medical colleges. 

  The ultimate objective is to ensure that doctors graduating from campuses across the country possess a fairly uniform professional ability. Of relatively lesser moment is the carping of the states that a common "exit exam" marks an infringement on their rights, though the certitudes of federalism ought not to be discounted. It bears recall that an earlier proposal to introduce a common entrance exam for admission to medical colleges was opposed by the medical fraternity and the states for two reasons. The varying standards of school-leaving exams and, no less crucially, that it would denude the authority of the states.


The governing body of medical education may professionally be concerned over the tendency to evaluate doctors on the basis of their college. Which itself is the giveaway on varying standards. "A doctor from one institution is often rated higher than a doctor from another. Why should this be so?" The point is taken. The fact remains that until the syllabi and the level of instruction are uniform, any attempt at standardisation will only reinforce the disconnect. Centralisation per se cannot resolve the problem of discrepancies. The opportunity to improve standards must be utilised. Both proposals call for reflection by the medical fraternity and the academic circuit as a whole.


HAVE GARAGE, BUT… 

THE PERILS OF NE CAR MANIA 

LIKE elsewhere in the country, car mania has also gripped the growing affluent middle class in the North-eastern states, never mind the ever increasing prices of petrol and diesel. Every day several new cars hit the road, adding to traffic problems and police ordeals. Finding parking space in state capitals in the plains ~ such as Guwahati (Assam), Imphal (Manipur), Agartala (Tripura) and Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh) to some extent ~ may not be as much of a problem. But in capital cities that are in the hills such as Gangtok (Sikkim), Kohima (Nagaland) and Aizwal (Mizoram) ~ where every square foot of urban land is occupied ~ it is a nightmare. Ostensibly to lessen the impact on space in Gangtok, two months ago the Sikkim government issued an order asking car dealers to sell vehicles only to those who possessed certificates proving they had garages. Intending buyers may well fume, but if no preventive measures are taken the time may come, and sooner than we think, when motorists may find it is quicker to reach their destinations on foot rather than dallying with the accelerator. The Mizoram government has gone the Gangtok way.  

 

Owning cars in hill capitals, barring Shillong, is no pleasure, except as a status symbol, because there are not many roads. Only in Shillong can one motor to any part of the sprawling city. A recent report said that some in Aizawl were thinking in terms of introducing two-wheeler taxis to beat the traffic. No more than two are allowed to ride pillion on a two-wheeler, but this is unlikely to be an answer to growing public demand because two-wheelers in hill states are prone to accidents. If there is a good public transport system ~ faster, cheaper and well-planned ~ perhaps this will help curb the craze for cars in the region.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

OF EXPORT QUALITY~II

BILATERAL TALKS MUST NOT BE SUSPENDED

ARUN KUMAR BANERJI

 

DESPITE the outrages, India and Pakistan have conducted negotiations at various levels. Some of the 'summits' were quite productive in that they marked a breakthrough in stalled negotiations. For example, the meetings between Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, leading to the decision to resume composite dialogue.  Notable also was the "bus diplomacy" in 1999 that yielded the Lahore Declaration. It seemed to signal the beginning of a new era of cooperation. The meeting agreed that both governments would "intensify their efforts to resolve all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir". This marked a slight change in Pakistan's position on the centrality of the Kashmir issue.


However, the Lahore spirit did not survive. There was no consensus in Pakistan about Sharif's India policy. It was not accepted within the domestic constituency. This was followed by the Kargil invasion, which was, in all probability, masterminded by Musharraf, as subsequently claimed by Sharif. The occupation of the strategic heights in Kargil was designed to put pressure on India, by threatening to cut off the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway. Had Pakistan succeeded in its designs, India would have been in serious trouble and would have lost its strategic advantages in the negotiations on Siachen.  As the army chief, Musharraf took a calculated risk. As Pakistan failed in its mission, the Nawaz Sharif government was humiliated; Sharif's attempts to sack Musharraf led to the coup and his ouster. Nevertheless, the 'usurper', who later declared himself the President of Pakistan, was invited by Prime Minister Vajpayee to visit India in a bid to resume the dialogue stalled after the Kargil invasion. Under pressure from the US, he offered to talk to India 'at any place, any time and at any level'.


The Agra Summit (2001) failed. Musharraf insisted that Kashmir be recognized as the core dispute, while refusing to accept any reference to India's contention that terrorism  was being sponsored by forces across the border. He was afraid of a backlash in Pakistan by the Islamic fundamentalists and militants. However, the possibility of resumption of dialogue was not closed, as India called it 'the beginning of a journey'. In the wake of 9/11, Musharraf made a fine distinction between the 'freedom fighters' in Kashmir and the 'terrorists' whom he pledged to fight, by joining the US war on terror. Under US pressure, there was a change in his Afghan policy; he even asked his army to check infiltration into Kashmir. But how effective was his control over the militants, or, the ISI for that matter?


The Agra summit was followed by attacks on Jammu and Kashmir Assembly in October, and the attack on Parliament in December 2001. Relations between the two states reached a new low and the possibility of a war loomed large with India mobilising its forces along the border. Realising the danger, Musharraf  banned LeT and the Jaish-i-Mohammad, sealed their offices and denounced their jihadi activities as terrorism. This did not signify an end to jihadi activities; they continued to operate under various names and with the tacit support of a section of the military establishment. In 2002, there were two abortive attacks on Musharraf  by Kashmiri militants operating from within Pakistan as he sought to pursue a conciliatory policy towards India.  There was a substantial improvement after Vajpayee's speech in April 2003, extending his hand of friendship to Pakistan. In June 2004, on the sidelines of the SAARC summit, Vajpayee and Musharraf signed a joint statement in Islamabad that in effect revived the Lahore spirit, putting emphasis on the composite dialogue in resolving all outstanding issues. During the last meeting of the present Prime Ministers in Kathmandu in April 2010, it was decided to put the dialogue back on the rails. Fresh uncertainties have emerged following the failure of the talks between SM Krishna and Shah Mohammad Qureshi.

What are the lessons to be derived from the series of meetings held over time? First, the issues that have soured relations over the past 63 years cannot be resolved overnight and will require patience and careful handling. Second, the negotiations should be isolated, as far as possible, from the vicissitudes of domestic politics. There is reason to believe that the Siachen issue might have been resolved as early as 1989 or 1992, had not domestic political considerations intervened; and if that happened, the Kargil invasion might not have taken place. The Agra summit failed partly because of the lack of  groundwork on both sides, but perhaps the main reason for the failure of the talks was the issue of cross-border terrorism. The fiasco over the Krishna-Qureshi meeting might have been averted, had India's Home Secretary not gone public over the Headley disclosures clearly implicating the ISI in the Mumbai attacks. No government could take such an allegation ~ aired publicly ~ lying low. The  foreign ministers were precisely involved in discussing these and other bilateral issues.


Serious negotiations should never be conducted in the glare of publicity. Nor should press briefings or customary statements at the end of these meetings be used to identify the differences that might be exploited by the media, to the detriment of the spirit of the talks. After the failure of the Agra summit, President Musharraf used his televised interview with some Indian journalists to talk passionately about Kashmir. This might have  endeared him to the Kashmiri militants, but  not to his Indian interlocutors. Contentious issues should be left to the devices of seasoned negotiators, who enjoy the trust of their respective governments. Significantly, the meeting between India's foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and her counterpart Salman Bashir held in Islamabad in June went off quite well, as also the meeting between home minister P. Chidambaram and his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik.


That surely is a positive signal. India stands to gain nothing by refusing to talk to Pakistan; on the contrary, both sides will benefit by resuming the composite dialogue, building on the substantial progress made in different spheres over the last few years. Cross-border terrorism is certainly an issue that can be taken up in course of the composite dialogue,  but it will be difficult to have a quick-fix solution, given Pakistan's domestic politics. The spurt in Taliban attacks on the US/allied forces in Afghanistan or the surge in the presence of LeT began when Musharraf was at the helm of affairs and was trying to befriend India, whether under US pressure or because of a genuine change of heart. Any Pakistani leader, if he is interested in containing terrorism, will have to proceed cautiously. 


India has to live with this existential reality. What options does the government have to deal with the problem?  The use of force to hit back at terrorist bases in Pakistan, as advocated by some after the Mumbai attacks, is not a viable option because of the inherent dangers of its escalation into a larger conflict. This will ultimately benefit Pakistan in its attempts to raise the Kashmir issue in  international fora. The public  disclosure of the information gained from interrogating Headley was bad diplomacy.


Cross-border terrorism is not the only issue affecting India-Pakistan relations. There are others that can be resolved, with a measure of  flexibility, in particular the dispute over Siachen and Sir Creek. The failure to determine the maritime boundary has caused untold suffering to the innocent fishermen of both countries. If these problems can be sorted out, it will take care of the trust deficit. Kashmir has defied solution for the past 63 years. For any meaningful dialogue on this issue with Pakistan, India must clear its own house first. The current upsurge in the Valley is of India's creation. Pakistan is fishing in troubled waters.  To gain the trust of the Kashmiris, it is imperative to start political negotiations. The ultimate solution of the Kashmir problem is not possible without  Pakistan's cooperation. The two sides must be prepared to consider out-of-box proposals. The India-Pakistan dialogue must continue to ensure mutual trust.

(Concluded)

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

HOSTAGE SCRIPT GOES WRONG?

RAJINDER PURI 


Up till now the hostage drama in Bihar has stuck faithfully to its prepared script as was expected. Two hard truths could help determine what was about to happen. The first truth is that there is close interaction under the table between the Maoists and political parties. The second truth is that the Bihar assembly elections are around the corner. Add the two and – ergo! – the script becomes clear. The following is the bald chronology of events. 
Four policemen were captured by the Maoists and held hostage. The Maoists demanded the release of their jailed compatriots as the price for releasing the policemen. The government dithered. To prove that the Maoist threat was serious, public opinion had to be convinced. Therefore, one policeman was killed. The Maoists released the name of a Yadav policeman as the victim. That suitably shocked the most powerful vote-bank in Bihar. 


But surprise, surprise! Of the four, one was a Yadav, one a Muslim, one a Kayastha, and one was a tribal Christian from neighbouring Jharkhand. Any guesses who was expendable? Yep! The tribal from Jharkhand was killed. So the OBC, the minority and the forward caste vote banks – the latter represented by the Kayastha – could breathe easy. 


Eventually, the remaining three policemen were released. But before that the Maoists, ever concerned about the downtrodden, bypassed the government and sent an emissary to convey the good news to the family. So at the end of it all, the Bihar government is happy because none of the powerful vote-banks was harmed. The Maoists are happy because none of their downtrodden rural supporters had the right to be unhappy after the generosity displayed by the self-proclaimed followers of the Great Helmsman of distant China. Only the grieving family of Lukas Tete, the tribal Christian killed by the Maoists, was unhappy. But Jharkhand is so far away from Bihar's electoral politics, isn't it? All was well that ended well. 


Unfortunately not! The Maoists are even stronger in Jharkhand and in Chhattisgarh than they are in Bihar. And the Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh comrades are not amused. So the drama script is taking an unexpected turn. There could develop a serious rift within the Maoist ranks. Only woolly-headed authors, foreign-funded NGOs and silly armchair critics who seriously believe that Maoist terrorism is motivated by ideology and not inspired from abroad by India's enemies to exploit the genuine grievances of a badly governed nation, have cause to be surprised. Hard-headed analysts with ears to the ground will know that a serious miscalculation may have occurred when the hoodlums on either side of the electoral line, the Maoists and the politicians, were negotiating. Alas! Ideologues of global revolution remain prisoners of caste! We must watch how this drama eventually unfolds. 


The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

MEET RUSSIA'S THATCHER

MARY DEJEVSKY 


Russia's next presidential election is not until 2012, but speculation is already rife about whether Dmitry Medvedev will try for a second term or whether his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, will want to reclaim his old job. The one thing almost everyone can agree on is that they will not stand against each other. But there might just be a third way, and that third way could give Russia its very own Margaret Thatcher or Angela Merkel.
Even to mention the possibility risks crushing Valentina Matviyenko's prospects well before nominations open. But if anyone can do it, the 61-year-old Governor of St Petersburg may be the one. In the past seven years, during which she has been essentially the city's chief executive, the city has changed conspicuously for the better.


Vast investment by the central government improved the city's dilapidated fabric in time for the 300th anniversary in 2003. But the bigger changes have happened since, with huge new housing and commercial building projects and, most conspicuously, a transformation of the public mood. For the first time in my more than 30 years of visiting, people on the streets of St Petersburg seem confident and content with themselves.
At a weekend question and answer session, the governor seemed more confident, less Soviet in style and generally more modern than she appeared in a similar setting five years ago: a new hairdo, new weight loss, new spontaneity, and above all a new commanding air. Significant, too, may be the way her whole career – from local Communist youth leader to member of Mikhail Gorbachev's first delegates' conference, to diplomat, to deputy minister, to elected governor of the city that styles itself Russia's second capital – is a near-ideal reflection of her country's experience. And the third striking aspect is how closely Ms Matviyenko's profile – as an outsider (born and brought up in Ukraine), a natural scientist (a chemist), and a phenomenal power of recall – resembles that of Europe's other two ground-breaking female leaders, Thatcher and Merkel.
Russia has never been keen on female politicians; even in Soviet days, when women drove tractors and the Communist Party boasted about equal rights, their presence in the leading institutions was more token than substantial. Ms Matviyenko acknowledges the problem, cheerfully relating how her opponents festooned the city's streets with banners proclaiming "Being governor is no job for a woman" before she was convincingly elected. But, she says, she opposes Scandinavian-style quotas and says women will have to learn to be more competitive.


Her detailed answers started with her support – or not – for the Norman Foster tower that the Russian gas giant, Gazprom, wants to build in her city. On balance, she seemed to support it, in the face of fierce ecological objections, but not in a dogmatic way that would prevent compromise with protest groups concerned about damage to St Petersburg's skyline.


She spoke at some length about demography – the city's birthrate has risen rapidly in the past two years after falling every year since 1990 – and families are moving to the city from many other parts of Russia, including Moscow, for the culture and quality of life. Tourism to St Petersburg has more than doubled to five million visitors a year – since she took over.


She also seemed to be one of very few Russian politicians to be actively tackling corruption. All council meetings are now shown live on the internet as are auctions for building land. The price of land, she gleefully recounted rose more than tenfold when auctions started to be held in public, showing just how much the public purse had lost to corrupt middlemen. There is a hotline for citizens to complain anonymously about bribe-takers and advertisements which make clear that bribe-givers, as well as bribe-takers, are breaking the law.
Aside from the administrative competence the Governor oozes when she speaks, and her boundless enthusiasm for her adopted city, Ms Matviyenko has something else going for her. She was spotted and promoted by none other than the former President and current PM, Vladimir Putin. It was he who gave her the big break: the transfer to St Petersburg. So if he is in two minds about returning to the Kremlin himself and hesitant to back Medvedev for a second term, Ms Matviyenko's might be the new face of Russia.


the independent

 

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THE STATESMAN

PERSPECTIVE

BAN CONDEMNS BOMBINGS IN PAKISTAN

 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the terrorist bombings in Lahore and Quetta which claimed the lives of dozens of civilians and wounded others. A statement issued by his spokesman said that 42 people had been killed and 80 wounded in the suicide bombing that took place on Friday at a Shiite Muslim rally in Quetta, in the south-western province of Balochistan. 


The bombing followed an attack on a Shiite procession in Lahore on Wednesday that killed dozens. "These attacks which deliberately targeted Shiite Muslims and killed or injured scores of civilians are unacceptable," the statement said. 


According to media reports, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility in revenge for the killing of a Sunni Muslim leader last year. Independent UN human rights experts issued a warning about the safety of religious minorities in Pakistan, which has seen deadly bombings and sectarian attacks this year and in May 
In July, over 40 people were killed and dozens injured at an attack on a shrine in Lahore which is holy to Sufi Muslims. 

Legal affairs: The Secretary-General has appointed D Stephen Mathias from the USA assistant secretary-general for legal affairs, according to a statement issued by acting deputy spokesman Farhan Haq in New York. He told reporters that Mr Mathias succeeds Peter Taksøe-Jensen of Denmark.
Mr Mathias will be, inter alia, head of the Office of Legal Counsel and will assist in the overall supervision of each of the units of the office.


Congo: The assistant secretary-general for peace-keeping operations, Mr Atul Khare, is travelling to eastern Congo to assess the recent gang-rape incident of civilians, according to acting deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.  Mr Haq told reporters in New York that Mr Khare spent the first days in Kinshasa where he met officials, including the minister for foreign affairs, the vice prime minister and the President's security advisor. He met with representatives of civil society and NGOs.


Fall-related fatalities: The world health agency has warned that falls are a major public health problem across the world with 424,000 fatalities occurring each year, making it the second leading cause of unintentional injury and death after road traffic accidents. WHO said in a fact-sheet issued that over 80 per cent of fall-related fatalities occur in low-and middle-income countries, with regions of the Western Pacific and South East Asia accounting for over two-thirds of these deaths.


Some 37.3 million falls, severe enough to require medical attention, occur each year. The largest number involve people aged 65 years or older, young adults aged between 15 and 29 years and children aged 15 years or younger, the agency said. 


Evidence from Canada has linked the implementation of effective fall prevention strategies with a subsequent 20 per cent reduction in the incidence of falls among children under the age of 10 and net savings of over $120 million each year. People who fall risk injury while the age, gender and health of the individual can affect the type and severity of injury. Older people have the highest risk of death or serious injury arising from a fall, it added. In the US, 20 to 30 per cent of older people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures or head traumas. 


Blue helmets: The Security Council has condemned the attack on the presidential palace in Mogadishu that  killed four Ugandan peace-keepers with the African Union mission in Somalia, according to a statement issued by Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin, president of the Council. The statement noted that mortar fire struck the palace in Mogadishu as Islamist militants continue to wage war against the Transitional Federal Government, which is backed by the AU force. 


Council members condemned all acts of violence and any incitement to violence against civilians, the AU mission or the TFG, and offered their condolences to the families of those killed. It also "condemned the recent increased fighting in Somalia, reiterated their full support for the Transitional Federal Government, its efforts to achieve peace, security and reconciliation..." 


Peace talks: The Secretary-General has said that he is "very much encouraged" that direct peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been launched and has called for all parties to tackle core issues to reach a lasting peace in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas began talks in Washington under the auspices of the Quartet, comprising the UN, the US, EU and Russia. 


Direct bilateral talks have not been held since late 2008 but indirect talks resumed in May this year on the initiative of former US Senator George Mitchell who met Netanyahu and Abbas. 


Mr Ban said Israelis should extend the freeze on settlements beyond 26 September and that Palestinians should not resort to violence. He will convene a meeting of Quartet in New York later this month on the sidelines of the UNGA. Representatives of the League of Arab States will be invited to the meeting. 
"This is just one part of our continuing efforts to work together with the other members of the Quartet as well as Arab partners," Mr Ban told reporters in Liechtenstein. "Peace and stability in the Middle East have wider implications for peace and security globally." He stressed that the talks should substantively address the core issues of the conflict.


Iraqi refugees: The world refugee agency has voiced concern over the deportations of Iraqis from western European countries back to Iraq and has stressed that they should continue to benefit from international protection. "We strongly urge European governments to provide Iraqis protection until the situation in their areas of origin in Iraq allows for safe and voluntary returns," Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for UNHCR told. 
"In this critical time of transition, we also encourage all efforts to develop conditions in Iraq that are conducive to sustainable and voluntary return," he added. The agency's guidelines for Iraq ask governments not to forcibly return people from the governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-din owing to the serious human rights violations in these areas. "Our position is that Iraqi asylum applicants originating from these five governorates should benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or an alternative form of protection," said Mr Edwards. 


The agency noted that on 1 September, a chartered flight with 61 people on board, all Iraqis who had been residing in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Britain landed at Baghdad airport. 


Afghan children: The world health agency and Unicef have announced plans to vaccinate 1.5 million children after a polio case was detected in north-eastern Afghanistan which had not seen the disease in a decade. The agencies said in a press release issued in New York that the polio case was identified in the Kunduz province. 


It assumed that the source of the virus was in neighbouring Tajikistan, which is in the midst of a large outbreak, but it appears that it may have been the result of cross-border population movement from Pakistan. WHO, Unicef and the Ministry of Public Health have launched a rapid response plan to prevent the spread of the polio disease. 


Some 1.5 million children under the age of five will be vaccinated in five adjacent provinces: Badakhshan, akhar, Kunduz, Baghlan and Balkh, they stated. 

 

anjali sharma

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THE TELEGRAPH

FOE OF FREEDOM

 

Communists are congenitally against freedom of the press and against the free flow of information. They believe that information should be monitored by the party and the State and the press should serve the cause upheld by those who are in power. When communists were in power in the erstwhile Soviet Union, the regime systematically suppressed reports of State-sponsored terror. Any form of dissent was quelled by death, torture and exile. Even today, freedom of speech and of the press do not exist in China. It should not, therefore, come as a surprise that goons and cadre owing allegiance to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) launched an assault on journalists and broke the arm of a reporter belonging to this newspaper. There is, however, an element of surprise and shock because the CPI(M), whatever be its secret dreams, does not operate in a totalitarian regime. It functions within a democracy and it is through the democratic process that the CPI(M) has come to power in West Bengal. Yet,in extremis the CPI(M) does not believe in democracy. The CPI(M) only pays lip service to democracy when it is convenient for it to do so.

 

This is by no means the first time that CPI(M) cadre have intimidated and beaten up journalists. It has happened before — in recent memory during the outbreak of violence in Nandigram. It is possible to detect a pattern when supporters and followers of the CPI(M) take up arms against journalists, with or without the explicit permission of the party leadership. Whenever members of the media have worked to expose the CPI(M)'s stockpiling of arms and the party's systematic use of terror against its rivals, the cadre have been let loose on reporters, photographers and television crew. Whenever the CPI(M) is shown up to be violating democratic norms and the laws of the country — two things it does quite often as the evidence from West Bengal shows — it turns against the media, thus compounding one transgression with another.

 

The CPI(M)'s fundamental lack of commitment to democracy is revealed by the fact that it builds up its own arsenal despite participating in the institutions of democracy and the rule of law. Its leadership is not averse to inciting violence — witness Brinda Karat's advising the party cadre to use Dum Dum dawai. In its faith in violence, the CPI(M) is perhaps no different from the Maoists. But the CPI(M)'s problem is that, unlike the Maoists, it has chosen the electoral path to power and thus has sworn allegiance to the Constitution. It can be rest assured that every time it wavers from the Constitution, every time it resorts to terror, the Indian media will expose it. The CPI(M)'s battle against freedom is doomed to fail.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPINION

UNDER A CLOUD

 

From cheering vuvuzelas to murderous violence, the scene in South Africa has radically changed in a few weeks' time. Whatever credibility the administration of Jacob Zuma had gained for itself after hosting a relatively uneventful Fifa World Cup has dissolved into sheer anarchy since August 18. For more than a fortnight, public-sector strikes have paralysed hospitals, schools and other essential services across South Africa. The dispute is over disproportionate demands for pay rise by the Congress of South African Trade Unions. An important ally of the African National Congress, the Cosatu is generally used to having its way. However, already reeling under a steep inflation, the government has refused this time to concede to the Cosatu's demand — for a wage hike that is double the rate of inflation. As the negotiations stretch on, a million workers are out on the streets — fighting off the police, and getting beaten up, stabbed or kidnapped. The attack on nurses yesterday was the last straw, leading to an outburst of public anger.

 

Mr Zuma's desperation for an economic recovery is understandable. It would be in the interest of the people if his administration were able to rein in the crisis through reasonable compromise. However, it could be imprudent, if not altogether suicidal, to assume a ham-handed approach in the matter. So far, Mr Zuma's policy of coming down heavily on the media has only sullied the spirit of South Africa's 1996 constitution, which had removed arbitrary restrictions on public access to government documents. By reviving the draconian laws that are inimical to a free press, Mr Zuma seems to be harking back to the dark days of the apartheid. In a bitter irony, the president of South Africa, once hailed as "the man of the people", appears to be unmaking his own popular image. In politics, such manoeuvrings often turn out to be fatal. Mr Zuma is unlikely to be forgiven in next year's local elections unless he undertakes some serious, and sensible, damage control.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

THE GREAT DEPRESSION

QUESTIONS RAISED IN THE THIRTIES HAVE COME ALIVE AGAIN

WRITING ON THE WALL - ASHOK V. DESAI

 

The world depression of 1929, which lingered on into the 1930s, is the last great depression of the sort that had been common in the 19th century. John Maynard Keynes devised a solution for depressions in hisGeneral Theory in 1936 — an increase in the excess of government expenditure over revenue, which is euphemistically called the stimulus today. The world hurtled into the World War in 1939. After it ended, no great depressions occurred; it was commonly believed that countries had learnt to apply Keynesian policies and avoid depressions. The belief was tested in the 2008 downturn. Since then, the United States of America and the European Union have returned to positive if unstable growth, but both have high levels of unemployment; the two indicators give conflicting signals. Confidence in future growth has been shaken; and shaky confidence can lead to further instability. So while there is no depression, there is no longer an unshaken faith in its irrelevance.

What was the 1929 depression like? How did it look then? What were seen to be its causes? And what remedies were being proposed? These questions have come alive again. Sir Halley Stewart Trust, a British charity, put these questions to six eminent British men and asked them to give lectures on the subject in 1932. Their answers make interesting reading today. The series was started off by Sir Arthur Salter, who looked after shipping in the British government during World War I when supplies coming in from the US were at the risk of being torpedoed by German U-boats and the limited transport capacity had to be rationed, and who later worked in the League of Nations.

 

In his view, the Western economies had changed radically in the previous years. Mechanization had reduced the marginal cost of production of industrial products, so their production did not shrink when their prices fell; it had become less responsive to price changes. As people grew rich, a high proportion of demand had become discretionary. It moved capriciously from one product to another, causing surplus capacity and unemployment in industries from which consumers turned away. The rise of the Soviet Union, with its centrally planned economy, had introduced a disparate element in what had been a broadly competitive world market before. And mechanization of agriculture had reduced its cost of production, but the demand for its products — principally foodgrains — was inelastic; so agriculture did not grow when agricultural prices fell, and agricultural workers were thrown out of employment.

 

These factors would have caused disruption even if there had been no World War; the war made things worse in three ways. Germany and its allies, Austria, Hungary and Bulgaria, lost the war and had to pay reparations. So they transferred £80 million to the US and France every year. The two countries did not buy anything in return. So they introduced a standing imbalance in world payments. Since they would not take goods or lend money, they had to be paid in gold. As they accumulated gold, its supply fell short of demand in the rest of the world, and its price rose. In other words, the prices of everything else fell. The deflation put debtors in trouble, especially the countries of Eastern Europe and Latin America, which borrowed heavily in the 1920s, and the producers of agricultural goods, whose prices fell by 50 per cent. The fall in prices set the stage for default by debtor countries.

 

Sir Henry Clay added another explanation of the post-war troubles. According to him, every war requires diversion of resources from peacetime to wartime activities; return of peace requires the reverse. Each diversion requires new investment in the industries to which demand has turned. But there is no way of reducing the capacity in industries from which demand has turned away. The resulting excess of capacity over demand was the basic cause of the depression. Countries with excess capacity obstructed imports of competing goods in an attempt to divert demand from imports to domestic industry. Such import substitution reduced the demand for goods in international trade, and worsened the balances of payments of exporting countries. They, in turn, took protective measures when their exports fell. There was thus cumulative shrinking of world trade.

 

Keynes feared that the cumulative downward spiral would end up in a financial crisis, in which countries and debtors would default, leading to a cycle of defaults. But he also saw cheering signs. Britain left the gold standard and let the pound float in 1931; Keynes thoroughly approved of the decision. For one thing, it stopped the decline of prices in the United Kingdom. For another, it led to a world exodus from the gold standard; first it was the British empire, and then other countries such as Japan, South America and Scandinavia.

 

India had started exporting gold. That was because farmers in distress were selling the jewellery of their wives, but Keynes, who thought hoarding gold was silly, thoroughly approved. He thought that India's gold would satisfy the demand for gold from the US and France and end the deflationary pressure that their hunger for gold was exerting. The currencies of countries that had gone off gold had depreciated, and the franc and the dollar had appreciated. That would worsen France's balance of payments; when reparation payments ended in a couple of years, France would be forced to go off gold. The US would follow with some delay. Once the gold transfers to the US and France ceased, gold shortage would ease, interest rates would come down, and cheap credit would become available for the next expansion.

 

Keynes's optimism proved wrong; after the reparations ceased, the US went into a prolonged slump, and so did the rest of the world. He revised his optimistic views, and went on to preach that to get countries out of depression, governments had to spend more even if they could not raise the money out of taxes; in other words, they had to run fiscal deficits. Neither the US nor the UK took his advice; both continued to be in a coma until the World War rescued them. The only major country that took his advice and ran deficits was Germany.

 

It was not because Hitler read Keynes, but because he wanted to prepare an army big enough to vanquish Britain and France and overrun the whole of Europe. Germany had no unemployment; on the contrary, it had such a labour shortage that Hitler, who would have loved to kill all the Jews in his empire, instead enslaved them and put them to work in factories — at least at the outset.

 

After the War, industrial economies had little unemployment for half a century, and Keynes was shelved. It was only after the recent crisis that governments began to follow his advice and adopted stimulus packages. But they still have to read Schumpeter, who said that in the long run, growth is driven by innovation. The surge given by innovation of information technology has come to an end; the industrial countries still have to find the next surge of innovation.

 

What might it be? No one knows, but every scientist can dream that he will be its leader.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

FROM DENIAL TO DECAY

MALVIKA SINGH

 

The after-effects of an over-regulated and stifling command economy that India had to operate within for 40-odd years, after its liberation from another form of 'command', have been most terrible. In the first decade of Independence, parameters were set and institutions created, which were led by the government and ruled by the babu, who replaced, first, the feudal lord, and later, the colonial lord. We have never been liberated from the stranglehold of the few who have kept civil society out of the loop when formulating policies for the majority. Our examples to choose from are three — the royals, the colonials and the babus.

 

The command economy professed that its mandate was to bring a basic level of equality into play — roti, kapda aur makan, as well as health, education and basic infrastructure of water, electricity, roads and law and order. It failed on all fronts because it only delivered for the few and not for India. Today, in an era of restructuring, the babuis more destructive than the worst of the colonials and feudals. Sadly, the elected representatives of the people — the politicians — have ceased to control the errantbabus. Whether they are in the municipalities or in the exalted offices of the Central and state governments or administering the far-flung districts of this exploited and neglected nation, the babus leave much to be desired.

 

We tend to hurl abuse at political leaders for ineptitude and corruption but spare the errant babu, who deftly twists the system from behind the scenes and with zero accountability. In sharp contrast, politicians have to return to the hustings to win again while all that the babus have to do is curry favour with the incoming bosses, do their bidding, and lead protected lives at the cost of the tax-payer. The babu and hisbabudom have become the single-largest scandal in the public domain.

 

A different low

 

From a hard-working labourer in the street, or one in rural India, to corporate honchos, wealthy citizens, and everyone in between, the consensus on the role of the babu is rooted in personal experiences of exploitation, corruption, sometimes extortion, stalling of development and change, class and caste discrimination, and more. Deviations from the code of conduct mandated to the babus happen 24X7, with no accountability, as they harass those they are meant to protect. They are not respected as they once were in the Fifties and Sixties. The nation is united in its disapproval of their tactics. Indians across the spectrum beat the system rather innovatively, not because they are corrupt, but because they want to avoid having anything to do with the fearsome, debilitating babu.

 

So, this edifice that was conceived as the staunch backbone of a young nation-state fast succumbed to corrupt practices, as the babu condoned deviations from the laws of the land in an effort to please rapacious political bosses. The spine of India has hunched over, and its many vertebrae are in denial as the marrow becomes poisoned and the bone disintegrates.

 

Who will stem the rot? Will the educated, cosmopolitan youth, from the towns and cities, who have grown up without the baggage of post- Independent India, aspire to join politics or the administrative services and embrace the challenge of building a great power? Will we pull ourselves out of the cutting-a-deal phenomena for every single thing that happens in this benighted country? The scale of illegalities has soared to unimaginable heights. Ordinary, intelligent mortals believe that corruption has been replaced by loot. 'Being in denial', the existing colonial anthem, needs to be changed to a democratic mantra, 'We shall not be denied, we shall, together, overcome.'

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

USE AND ABUSE OF SUFFERING

 

In a world made especially sensitive to varieties of victimhood, it is becoming difficult to distinguish victim from perpetrator in every case

 

In the last week of August, a court in Darmstadt, Germany, ordered Nadja Benaissa, a half-Moroccan, HIV-positive popstar, to 300 hours of community service. Nadja received a suspended sentence for wilfully concealing her condition from several men with whom she had had unprotected sex. At least one of the men is reported to have contracted the virus.

 

Eighteen years earlier, Cyril Collard acted in and directed Les Nuits fauves (Savage Nights). In the film, Jean, HIV-positive and bisexual, is shown hiding his condition from the men he sleeps with and initially from his girlfriend as well. The film, which was adapted from Collard's semi-autobiographical novel, won four César awards and despite Jean's hedonism and irresponsible sexual conduct, he was hailed as someone who had refused to allow his terminal state to become some sort "of an identity card".

 

It is instructive to examine the lives of Nadja and Jean — one real, the other fictional— for both raise a few distinctly uncomfortable ideas concerning victimhood. It appears that categories such as 'victim' and 'perpetrator' are malleable, and that the process of identifying who is or is not a victim is conditioned by extraneous factors that need not be predicated upon the principles of justice.

 

There can be no doubt about the gravity of Nadja's offence. The man she infected, as well as the others who may still be at risk, are the real victims, not Nadja, who, by knowingly exposing her partners to a deadly virus, should have been identified as the perpetrator. Moreover, the idea of bringing justice or compensation to her victims becomes complicated here by the irreversible nature of their medical status. Yet, the verdict, the support expressed by her fans and the sympathetic press coverage indicate that Nadja's transformation from perpetrator to victim is now complete. As is evident in Nadja's case, victimhood may at times be constructed to evade censure. But does the court's leniency have to do anything with the fact that Nadja is a woman, a celebrity and of mixed ethnicity? Unlikely. Perhaps, it is the nature of her affliction that prompted the court to judge her less harshly.

 

This opens up another possibility: that of victimhood being inherently unequal. Suffering is universal, but some sufferers — we are conditioned to believe by the silent connivance of the State, culture, knowledge and collective memory — are more important than others. We are justifiably outraged by the Holocaust, but why do we mitigate the intensity of the suffering of those who survived the Hamburg firebombing? It would have been interesting to note how the German court would have perceived Nadja's transgression had her condition been curable.

 

This is not to suggest that it is easy or lucrative always in being a victim. Nadja, like Collard, may die if she were to develop AIDS in the future, while the victims of Bhopal in India continue to wait for adequate compensation. And despite the spawning of a myriad networks of State and private agencies that dole out compensatory care to victims, especially in the West, demands of being recognized as such can at times be propelled by the desire to attain justice. Anti-war rallies in Britain by the families of those killed in action in Iraq are an example.

 

Unlike in the past, modern societies are willing to look at the condition of victimhood with far less scepticism. This transformation is of critical importance, as victims, and the stories they tell us, provide an opportunity to revisit, reinterpret and perhaps even correct past horrors. The increasing democratization of victimhood — all of us have suffered tyranny in some form or the other, political, social, religious, cultural and personal— has encouraged people to discuss their troubles publicly. It is thus all the more important to strengthen processes and institutions that perform the crucial functions of identifying victims and bringing justice to them in a manner that is morally edifying. Justice and its equal apportioning, without which a humane and unprejudiced society would be unattainable, are dependent on the capacity to correctly determine who is the real victim.

 

UDDALAK MUKHERJEE

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

REASON NOT THE NEED

 

Children who run away from home to make their own lives on the street are heady company. Toughened by poverty and violence, they see — and consciously project — their lives as the living out of hard-won adult freedoms outside the limits of respectability. They habitually speak in the active voice. You would think that terrible things must have happened to them. But talk to them, and you will find yourself being persuaded in no time that it is they who made things happen, they who chose to escape their homes and families, they who have taught themselves to make a living — and are the better for it. They give themselves, or one another, a new set of names, which are usually Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman. (I say 'children', but you realize I am speaking of boys here. The girls' stories are brutally different.)

 

Together with this flaunted independence, you will be faced with dollops of brilliantly manipulative charm. Taking you around their own terrain like a gallant host, be it a big-city railway station or a small-town red-light area, they will talk you through their lives, loves, trials and friendships, stopping to buy you a kulfi or some muri on credit, letting you see how familiar they are with the hawkers, goons, pimps, tramps, madams, whores and policemen, assuring you all the while that you have nothing to fear, for you are with Shah Rukh.

 

NGO-workers, funding-agency dadas, politicians, people from the missions, charities and schools — the boys know them all. But just as you find yourself giving in to this endlessly entertaining cocksureness, and feel vaguely crestfallen about the limitedness of your own existence, something unexpected happens in front of your eyes and you begin to hear their active voice as desperate bravado. You come upon a boy beaten up and weeping in an RPF lock-up, or being rushed to hospital after falling off a running train and losing a leg, or shivering blankly after a hard bout of glue-sniffing, or telling you with a trusting little smile that unsafe sex with his bhai in an abandoned wagon is more enjoyable than safer sex with the mashi in the brothel — and suddenly, watching and intervening in this performance becomes difficult. Everything you wanted to believe, but were afraid to question, about childhood, victimhood and 'development work', and about your own implicatedness in all this, is stood on its head.

 

As thinking, feeling, sexual beings, afraid of pain, loss of dignity, loneliness and death, desiring to be desired, needing to be needed, given to self-pity more frequently than we like to admit, and to measuring our unhappiness against the happiness of others, why do we come to these children and what do we want from them? We think we know why they come to us, but we resist confronting the fact that we also need them to come to us.

 

This need is not only social and economic, but also inscrutably personal, psychic. And our unwillingness to acknowledge and understand the many forms it might take within us, and in our work with children, has become institutionalized. There is less and less space within 'child work' to reflect on how and why the personal runs into the professional within such a vocation — necessarily, but often perversely, even dangerously.

 

Development work is caught between its origins in charity and moralistic reform on the one hand, and its current transformation into a corporatized profession on the other, with a branch shooting off towards academia. Yet, the habits and jargon of charity or reform are as unwilling or powerless as those of corporate accountability or academic analysis to look into the deep and disinterested heart of caritas and ponder what keeps it beating.

 

AVEEK SEN

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THE TELEGRAPH

OPED

TRUE OR FALSE?

 

'I do not want to think about it' is an oft-heard phrase. In societies where silence is accepted, and even encouraged, as a way of dealing with trying circumstances, attempting to 'forget' one's traumatic experiences in order to move on is the only path one can take.

 

In the wide and complex spectrum that is the field of sexual abuse, various forms of sexual assault are often 'forgotten' or blocked out — the survivor's way of coping with the distress. This is part of the phenomenon of repressed memory, in the language of Freudian theory.

 

The pain that a survivor of child sexual abuse (CSA) experiences is all too real; after decades of sweeping the reality of CSA under the carpet, the disclosures of survivors must be dealt with sensitively and responsibly. Having said that, thorough research demands that every possible side to the truth be examined. Some claims of CSA by children have turned out to be suspect, even untrue. Many of these disclosures occurred from being made to recall repressed memories. In 1982, Kern County residents, Debbie and Alvin McCuan and Brenda and Scott Kniffen, were imprisoned on charges of having sexually abused their children. While the McCuans' elder daughter initially alleged that her grandfather had touched her inappropriately, insistent police questioning pressured her testimony, together with her sister's, into becoming progressively elaborate. It is necessary to begin with believing children when they speak of abuse, but the possibility that they may not always be telling the truth must be considered, however hard that may be.

 

Children may lie about sexual abuse out of a sense of being in a powerful, important position where subsequent actions may be determined by what they say. It is not an uncommon or unjustified feeling, especially in societies where the word of the adult rules the child. The McCuan girls were praised for every incriminating statement, and may have enjoyed it and responded to the prompting. Coercive questioning, too, leads to suspect testimonies. While the girls spoke at the behest of their step-grandmother, Mary Ann Barbour, the Kniffen boys revealed that they made incriminating statements because they had been promised that they'd be allowed to go home. Ironically, feelings of both power and powerlessness can produce invented memories. The independent CSA researcher, Mirna Guha, says, "Many children may not fully comprehend the consequences of their invented disclosures. They are often dangerously manipulated by adults like Mary Ann. The hysteria surrounding sexual abuse often leads to pointing fingers without really searching for the truth. Thus, the child is harmed along with innocent people."

 

One might argue that children cannot possess the depths of knowledge about sex that they often display when disclosing abuse. However, it is presumptuous to think that there is only so much that a child can know. Who are we to assume the limits of a child's knowledge? While children's disclosures of sexual abuse are never to be treated lightly, it is necessary to want to know the truth, above everything else.

 

NAYANTARA MAZUMDER

 

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

EDITORIAL

NEED FOR STRATEGY

"THE LESSONS OF KIDNAP SHOULD BE LEARNT QUICKLY."

 

The release of three policemen who had been abducted by Maoists in Bihar has brought relief to everyone but it has also been clouded by the killing of an assistant sub-inspector, Lucas Tete, by the kidnappers. Though the nine-day hostage drama did not entirely turn tragic, it provides a warning and a lesson which the Centre and the state governments heed and learn from. The release is claimed to be unconditional, but it is possible that there could have been an unpublicised deal on the basis of the demands made by the Maoists. It is also likely that the Maoists were under pressure because of the wide publicity gained by the kidnapping incident and might have relented on their demands. But the issues thrown by the incident go beyond the particular situation created by its call for better and more effective responses by governments.


The Bihar government was taken unawares by the Maoists' action and was found groping in the dark. Chief minister Nitish Kumar had rejected the proposal for a central command for anti-Maoist activities and had emphasised the need to focus on development in order to fight the threat posed by the Maoists.  The development-oriented plan may have been a good strategy but tactically it was wrong on part of the state government to isolate itself from the national campaign. The Maoist problem is present in many other states, which have borders with Bihar and a common strategy is important. Nitish also underestimated the Maoist threat in his state and was not prepared to face it when it blew up in his face. 


At the Centre also there is confusion, with the government's declared policies being questioned by important leaders within the Congress and the UPA. Though there is talk of talks with the Maoists, there is no clear idea about how to proceed and what the parameters of the talks might be. Hostage-taking and demand for a price present a particularly difficult problem for all governments. In principle it is inadvisable to succumb to blackmail and accept any demand at the point of a gun but the emotional and political situation created by an abduction drama puts intense pressure on governments, as they will be damned either way. The Bihar drama has exposed the vulnerability and helplessness of governments in dealing with such situations. Unfortunately it can happen elsewhere also with worse consequences if the lessons are not learnt.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

GROWING SLUMS

"STATE'S SLUM POPULATION HAS RISEN BY 23 PER CENT."

 

For a state that has not had too many nice things happening to it of late, Karnataka has more worry lines on its policy forehead, if the latest revelations in a report by the Union ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation are considered. The report says that the state's slum population has risen by a significant 23 per cent over the last decade — the highest decadal growth among all states. By 2017, every ninth person in Karnataka would be living in an urban slum. That is something planners and politicians in Karnataka, currently obsessed with the 'development mantra' and dreaming investments of thousands of crores of rupees in state, need to quickly attend to.


There are a number of reasons for the rise of slum population in Karnataka, including greater urbanisation of the state and inability of the city planners to provide basic amenities to the newly urbanised pockets, as in the CMCs merged with Bangalore. Increased migration of the poor from the rural areas to cities and towns is yet another important factor. Such migration is going to pick up pace due to continuing impoverisation of the landless and subsistence farmers in rural areas due to inflation, lack of employment opportunities in the rural areas, increasing mechanisation of agricultural operations, the creation of SEZs, and a mixture of increasing aspiration and desperation. There is growing alienation of land with agriculture being perceived as a nonviable occupation. A Planning Commission study indicates that 40 per cent of the farming population would like to leave agriculture, given any other option.


The planners both at the Centre and in state capital do not seem to have understood the magnitude of the problem, considering their lethargic and paternalistic attitude to it. Witness the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY), the much-touted silver bullet to slums, which envisages a 25 sq ft housing unit. Can any family can live in such a glorified kennel? The denial of basic right to a decent and dignified life to a large part of our rural population, mainly the tribals has led to naxalism becoming the biggest internal security challenge. The misery in slums has already given rise to enormous increase in crime, and in the coming years, may even witness that challenge to move into urban area. None can say they were not forewarned

 

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

DELUSIVE AGENDA

BY B G VERGHESE


An internal dialogue could lead the way to a just resolution and make it difficult for external actors to fish in troubled waters.

 

The chorus is the same. Syed Ali Shah Geelani has outlined a pre-dialogue 'agenda' for Kashmir: India must acknowledge an 'international dispute,' commence demilitarisation under UN supervision, rein in the security forces, unconditionally release all youth and political prisoners, including Afzal Guru, and initiate proceedings against all those responsible for 'war crimes' in the State.


Umar Farooq challenges accession, asserts Kashmiris are not Indians and seeks demilitarisation, the repeal of 'black laws' and a referendum. Masrat Alam, the next-generation youth leader, adverts to Kashmir being the 'unfinished business of Partition' and demands 'complete azadi.' The delusive agenda items must be firmly put aside.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, crisply insists on a 'result-oriented dialogue.' He rewinds from Musharraf's promising 'out-of-the-box' solution, fine-tuned by Manmohan Singh, to hark back to the UN resolutions. None talks of the pathetic colonial situation in PoK and the Gilgit-Baltistan Area where Pakistan firmly determines who is the 'self' in question.


Some basic clarifications are in order if there is to be any progress. The problem is not about the fact but the nature of the dispute. India went to the UN on a question of aggression by Pakistan. Cutting through all the cant, this was upheld by the UN Representative, Owen Dixon, and endorsed by the UN Security Council in its defining Resolution of August 13, 1948.


This called for the immediate withdrawal of tribal raiders and Pakistani military personnel from J&K and the disbandment of all 'Azad' Kashmir forces as the first order of business prior to a plebiscite. Pakistan's deliberate default, subsequent invasions and cross-border terror through mercenaries and jihadis is what constitutes the current problem. The UN resolutions died a long time back.


Why not a plebiscite today? It is too late, with major demographic changes, natural and engineered across the LoC and ethnic cleansing in the Valley. There is a totally different political context three generations down the road and a wholly new international geo-strategic environment. Further, Pakistan, sections of the separatists and the jihadis would appeal to Islam thus reopening the still healing wounds of partition to revive the fatuity of the two-nation theory that Jinnah himself eloquently repudiated in his first address to the country's constituent assembly on August 11, 1947, only to find himself hopelessly isolated.


To sustain its sadly negative ideological identity as India's 'other,' Pakistan has projected Kashmir as unfinished business and sought 'strategic depth' to realise the warped dream of a Talibanised caliphate. This perverse goal feeds the self-aggrandising paranoia of the military-mullah cabal that holds the Pakistani people in thrall. India is simply not prepared to revive the madness of 1947 and self-destruct.


Irrational behavior

What then is the road ahead in J&K? The external aspect is not the most critical. We must talk to Pakistan but forward movement depends on Islamabad's willingness to end terror as an instrument of policy. Casting the blame on client 'non-state actors' will not wash. 

nd churlishly refusing direct $25 m Indian assistance for current flood relief except, belatedly, through UN agencies, reveals a warped mindset that explains its irrational behaviour based on a cultivated Indophobia that ordinary Pakistanis do not share.

 

We should be wary but not alarmist about Chinese PLA units reportedly aiding relief activity and safeguarding Chinese workers engaged in road, and other development projects along the damaged Karakoram Highway from jihadi attacks in Gilgit-Baltistan. The changing Chinese stance on J&K should be no surprise in view of Pakistan's strategic importance for gaining access to the Arabian Sea. We need to stay cool and continue to engage China on a host of common concerns.


An internal dialogue in and over J&K, could lead the way to a just resolution that addresses local, regional and Centre-state level grievances and aspirations and thereby makes it increasingly difficult for external actors to fish in troubled waters. An empowered panchayat raj would give real meaning to 'azadi', self-determination and inclusive growth.


The dialogue  could cover (a) Geelani's five-points, minus the rhetorical flourishes; (b) the autonomy; (c) repatriation of the pandits and those trapped in PoK — best done by creating a couple of new IT and food-processing hubs in the Valley where other internally displayed and unemployed youth can also be relocated with due training; (d) matching programmes for Jammu, Rajouri-Poonch, Doda, Ladakh and Kargil; (e) investments by corporate India with suitable, time-bound guarantees and tax incentives, and (e) activating Srinagar as an international airport, expediting rail and road connectivity.


The reports of the prime minister's five Task Forces could provide the basis for progress along multiple tracks and help build confidence and trust. The Constitution permits extraordinary flexibility in accommodating diversity to match regional and sectoral needs through such instruments of entrustment provided under Articles 258 and 258A. Simultaneously, there must be a parallel dialogue with national parties and stakeholders in Delhi so that there is a matching consensus about directions and content.


None need fear that greater 'autonomy' or 'self-rule' within the terms of the 1952 Delhi Agreement and restoration of nomenclatures like Wazir-e-Azam and Sadr-i-Riyasat spell secession. The J&K and Indian constitutions are joined by an umbilical cord. What is removed from one can be incorporated in the other so that common values and principles remain.


Too much time has been wasted by little men on little things. Opportunity beckons.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

COMPULSORY DEDICATION FOR FINANCIAL INCLUSION

BY PRABHAKAR KULKARNI


In some of the bank branches 'no-frills' accounts are opened, but no credit facilities are given.

 

Development of one sector and lack of any facility for other sectors creates socio-economic inequalities. India, which aspires to be a super power, has to face discontent due to the inequality. Both the planners and the government have so far failed to create a system which would ensure development of all sectors.


It is only after 62 of Independence and 41 years of banks' nationalisation that the reality in Indian life is realised and the concept of financial inclusion is considered as a priority.


'Financial inclusion' should be understood in broader perspective to mean the provision of the full range of affordable financial services namely access to payments and remittance facilities, saving, loans and insurance services by the formal financial system to those who are or tend to be excluded from these services. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been urging the banks in the country to review their existing practices to align them with the objective of achieving greater financial inclusion.


RBI directions

The RBI has already taken certain measures in this direction. All banks in the country are advised since November 2005 to make available a basic banking with 'no-frills' accounts either with nil or very low minimum balances as well as charges that would make such accounts accessible to vast sections of population.


With the objective of providing hassle-free credit to constituents in rural and semi-urban areas the banks were advised to consider of a General Credit Card (GCC) to such constituents. The card is expected to have credit limit of Rs 25,000 — based on the assessment of income and cash flows of the household without insistence on security, purpose or end-use of credit.


The credit facility should be in the nature of revolving credit entitling the holder to withdraw up to the limit sanctioned. The banks should charge appropriate and reasonable interest on the facility. Banks are also advised to make available all printed material used by retail customers in their respective languages.


What have the banks done during the past five years? Most of the banks' branches in rural and semi-urban areas are either not knowing about the 'no-frills' accounts system or they have not cared to see the relevant circulars and carry out the scheme. In most branches 'no-frills' accounts are opened but no credit facility is given. The branch managers concerned do not seem to be interested in such banking which they consider as 'social banking'.

But in a poor and developing country like India, social banking is a must because a vast bulk of the population has not yet realised as to what are the banking facilities. The Union government and the RBI have now realised after five years that 50 per cent of the population of this country is not getting any banking facility. This means that while 50 big rich and powerful families are having vast amount of wealth and getting most of the banking facilities with lenient approach, 50 crore people are neglected by the banking system and that too when they are struggling hard for their daily living. As banks have neglected them, they are depending on private money lenders who are widespread in rural and semi-urban areas so much so that they have created a private monetary system and have caught most of the poor and the needy under their clutches.

That is why seminars and meetings are currently organised only on the subject of financial inclusion in which RBI governor and deputy governors have been insisting that banks should implement the system so that the financial inclusion will be achieved as per expectation. However, the RBI is only advising banks without any strict warning.


It has been the RBI's policy to be relying only on communicative rather than enforcing approach — particularly regarding the schemes which are in the interest of common consumers or neglected sections of society. When asked about the lethargy of banks in regard to implementation of the instant credit system, the RBI informed that it has informed about it to the Indian Banks Association (IBA). IBA is so far known to be pleading banks' case before the RBI when the big corporate sector and the rich clients are in crisis and RBI's help is needed to be soft or lenient in the big loans which need restructuring instead of recovering the due amount. If the IBA pleads banks for big accounts, how can it ask banks to be equally or more lenient in cases of small accounts and for those who are so far neglected from the banking system.


The RBI should therefore be more firm in its approach to banks' negative approach in carrying out the system of financial inclusion.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

PROF JAI-HO!

BY CHANCHAL UBEROI


The reason flashed only when my eyes caught his ID card strung around his neck.

 

There's no problem with Nepal. Nepalese names are very similar to Sanskrit-derived north Indian names. Indonesia too offers little difficulty: names based on Bhashaa Indonesia reflect the poesy of the times when Indic influence held sway. Sri Lanka and Thailand, though coming under a similar influence, are different in that the names are Pali-derived, having undergone transformations from the original Sanskrit.


No, I don't want to talk about all that. What I want to share with you is a somewhat unexpected possibility of some names original to a country, having a different connotation in another country, leading to  situations hilarious or memorable. The particular example I came across is from South Korea.


I was a participant in an international technical conference organised by the Asian Oceanic Geophysical Society recently held at Hyderabad and attended by many reputed scientists from all over the world. Some of them were invited to deliver popular-level lectures at nearby schools and junior colleges (besides fulfiling the obligation of delivering more technical talks open to the general public at the conference venue itself).


What befell a professor from the department of environmental atmospheric sciences, Pukyong National University, Busan (formerly Pusan), South Korea was particularly interesting. A few of my scientist colleagues and I noted that the professor had a puzzled expression when we met him the day after his lecture at the breakfast. He asked me, "Yesterday during my lecture, even before I had uttered a word and I had not even cleared my throat, the whole hall, full of students, started applauding me in a big way, with great enthusiasm as soon as I was introduced. It would have been the usual kind of appreciation after my talk but why before I spoke? I did not understand."


For a moment, I was puzzled too. Even though I knew his name and his reputation in his field, the reason flashed only when my eyes caught his ID card strung around his neck, once again, boldly written was his name 'Professor Jai-ho Oh.' I managed to explain to him that his name mirrored a very popular line from a song in the famous Bollywood film, 'Slumdog Millionaire,' a song, popular all over South Asia, West Asia and Africa. It won an Oscar for its composer. Before I could explain what 'Jai Ho,' from Sanskrit, means, my colleagues and I could actually feel the professor becoming relaxed and joined us in our mirth at the way the puzzle was 'solved.' Professor Oh became a very famous man during the remaining days of the conference.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

EXCELLENT FUEL FOR OUR GROWTH ENGINE

NO ONE EXPECTED THE ISRAELI ECONOMY TO RECOVER SO QUICKLY FROM THE WORLD ECONOMIC CRISIS AND ATTAIN 4.1 PERCENT ANNUAL GROWTH AND UNEMPLOYMENT OF JUST 6.2 PERCENT.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

 

The Hebrew year just ending, 5770, was a good one from an economic perspective. It was also a surprising year. No one expected the Israeli economy to recover so quickly from the world economic crisis and attain 4.1 percent annual growth and unemployment of just 6.2 percent. Nor did anyone predict that, despite the strengthening shekel, Israeli exports would increase so nicely.

 

Clearly, if the economic data were weak, we would be blaming Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, so in all fairness, the two should be complimented. But why is complimenting them so hard? Why is there a sense of lost opportunities?

 

It's because we could have done even better. We could have achieved higher growth. We could have been building the economy for the long term, making changes and instituting reforms. This past year, however, has not been one of change but rather more of the same.

 

It's true that Steinitz and Netanyahu have not increased government spending at the mad pace cabinet members wanted, but they still increased it too much, and the increases were not geared toward investment in infrastructure and education, but rather toward placating Shas and Labor Party voters.

 

Steinitz and Netanyahu increased funding to yeshivas and made it a core budget allocation. They even agreed to expand child allowances, damaging Netanyahu's major achievement of 2003, which cut these allocations and encouraged people to enter the workforce. We also haven't forgotten the agreements the two made with the Labor Party and the veto power they gave Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini.

 

The result was that all important economic reforms were stalled. There has been no reform of the Israel Electric Corporation. There is no Wisconsin welfare-to-work program. Israel Military Industries has not been privatized, and neither have the ports or airports. Even the reforms of the Israel Lands Administration and the planning and building committees are stalled. Since it is known that such reforms grease the economy's wheels, it's no wonder that the economy is moving forward more slowly than it could.

 

And when spending is increased, taxes also have to be raised, and that's what happened over the past year. Marginal tax rates rose to a global record of 57 percent after ceilings on National Insurance Institute payments were raised. It's true that the damage caused by high taxes is not visible in the short term, but the harm will surface in the long run, when developers and high-tech business executives, as well as doctors and engineers opt to work and do business abroad and the pace of growth declines.

 

There are also external reasons for our nice growth rate - the whole world is growing. India and China enjoy high growth rates, as does South America. Even Europe has managed to recover from the debt crisis and make the transition to growth. Only in the United States do fears still lurk about the future. For an economy based on exports such as Israel's, an expanding world economy provides a real push forward.

 

It has also become clear that the Israeli business manager is flexible and knows how to seek out markets and develop products rather than give up when things get tough. The business sector has been streamlining and taking steps to cut costs, including salary cuts but few layoffs, and that's a real badge of honor for the Israeli business executive. Our economic growth is also thanks to him.

 

If so, where was Steinitz and Netanyahu's lost opportunity? They didn't deal with the Israeli economy's basic problems over the past year. They didn't encourage ultra-Orthodox men to join the workforce, nor did they do so with respect to Arab women, most of whom don't work. They didn't demand the introduction of the core curriculum in the separatist ultra-Orthodox education system, consigning 25 percent of first graders to a bleak future when it comes to employment. (On this subject, it is Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar who is largely to blame. )

 

They haven't dealt with the problem of the bureaucracy that has been strangling the economy and making it harder to do business in Israel. They didn't even touch the issue of our low level of service and the antiquated public sector. They haven't tried to address the exaggerated number of local authorities, but they have continued to increase the defense budget even though it must be cut and streamlined.

 

The past year has also been one of lost opportunities from a diplomatic standpoint, but suddenly, at the end of the year, opportunities have popped up. It is therefore appropriate to note that peace not only addresses the problem of security. It is also the best fuel for our growth engine.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

TO WHOM DOES THE IDF CHIEF ANSWER?

EHUD BARAK SEEKS TO WIELD SOLE CONTROL OVER THE DEFENSE ESTABLISHMENT WITHOUT TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY OF THE CONSEQUENCES.

 

Defense Minister Ehud Barak won a victory this week in the war that he began - the war to determine who the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff would be and when he would be appointed. The process of appointing Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant to this post, like the process of appointing then-Maj. Gen. Barak to the same job 20 years ago, was completed five months before the current chief of staff's tenure ends.

 

But Barak's victory was a Pyrrhic one, achieved at the heavy cost of clouding the atmosphere within the General Staff and between Barak and outgoing chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. While the defense minister argued that it was vital to dispel the uncertainty over the political/military chain of command, no such uncertainty ever existed, as no one in the IDF ever doubted the supremacy of elected politicians over officers in uniform.

 

Barak's expansive interpretation of the degree to which the chief of staff was subordinate to him specifically encountered opposition from his cabinet colleagues. They were unhappy that the defense minister - who is supposed to act on their behalf - acted as if his announcement that he had chosen Galant was sufficient to start moving him into the position; they then refused Barak the authority to determine whether the next chief of staff will be granted a fourth year in office, when that time comes.

 

Barak is well acquainted with the history of relations between the government and the army, and the background to the enactment of the Basic Law on the Army following the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The chief of staff at the time, Motta Gur, was worried by the fact that the Agranat Commission - which investigated the war - exonerated the wartime prime minister, Golda Meir, and the defense minister, Moshe Dayan (who claimed he was not a supreme chief of staff, but merely a politician who could only give advice ), yet compelled the wartime chief of staff, David Elazar, and other senior officers to resign.

 

A similar view was held by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, himself a former chief of staff. The goal of the law was thus to reinstate a shared fate: The government and the army would be partners in success and glory, but also in failure and resignations.

 

If Barak also shared this view back when he served as chief of staff, he has changed his mind since joining the government. His recent testimony before the Turkel Committee, which is investigating Israel's raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza, reflected an effort to evade his share of the responsibility; the same is true of his decision to have the IDF ombudsman, who is his subordinate, head an inquiry into the forgery of the so-called Galant document.

 

Barak seeks to wield sole control over the defense establishment without taking responsibility for any of the consequences. But this week his fellow ministers reminded him that the chief of staff, the army's top commander, answers to the cabinet as a whole.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

IGNORANCE AT THE TOP

HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT IN A LAW-ABIDING COUNTRY THAT PRESUMES TO BE DEMOCRATIC, A COUNTRY IN WHICH THE SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT AND LAW IS FAMILIAR TO THE PUBLIC, SOMEONE IN THE EDUCATION MINISTRY DECIDED TO DEAL A MORTAL BLOW TO CIVICS LESSONS.

BY SHULAMIT ALONI

 

The Zionist movement began in order to return the Jewish people to the land of its dreams, the land in which it was consolidated and became a nation, in which the prophets, the People of the Book and of ethics were active, in which the kingdoms of Israel and Judea rose and fell, and a heritage was shaped that was never forgotten and never abandoned even when the nation went into exile.

 

The Zionist movement arose out of enthusiasm and dedication, driven by the belief that we have the ability to establish a sovereign state in the land the yearnings of the Jewish people were directed to for thousands of years. And it was extremely successful. The State of Israel was established, and opened its gates to every Jew in the world, revived the Hebrew language and along with it the teaching of our people's culture throughout the generations. A sovereign, modern state was established with a proper system of government and law, a state among states, and we are entitled to boast about the achievement, in effect the revolution, that was brought about by leaders who had vision and a message, and by young Jews from all over the world.

 

And thus the Jewish nation is once again alive and well, active and building itself in its homeland, which is connected to its past with bonds of love; a country committed to the welfare and needs of its citizens, who in turn are committed to the welfare of their country and to obeying its laws.

 

It's true that the state is young, many people in it are not yet well versed in its language and its system of government and law, because after all, we absorbed waves of immigration from over 100 countries, cultures and languages. But everyone here is Israeli, and their language is Hebrew and their citizenship is "Israeli," and their connection to the country and its laws is total, as befits a well run country that is concerned with the welfare and security of its citizens.

 

And now, all of a sudden, jumps out the ignorance of an employee of the Education Ministry, the chairman of the Pedagogic Secretariat that deals with curricula, who decided to cut back on study hours in civics in favor of the study of Judaism. I don't know exactly to which Judaism he was referring, to that of the man who curses in public, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, or that of the ultra-Orthodox who maintain their customs from the Hungarian and Polish Diaspora and excel in demonstrations of racism toward Sephardi girls.

 

It is true that in the wake of the decision's publication and the public protest it aroused the Education Ministry quickly changed its mind and restored part of the cutback. But it's still surprising: How is it possible that in a law-abiding country that presumes to be democratic, a country in which the system of government and law is familiar to the public, in which the rights and obligations of citizens are enshrined in law, someone sitting in the government-run Education Ministry decided to deal a mortal blow to civics lessons.

 

Apparently, dealing with the study of the system of government and law and the nature of the mutual relations between citizen and country is too complicated for this man. He prefers "gefilte fish" Judaism, where there will also be kugel (a baked potato pudding ) and ptcha (calves' foot jelly ), and maybe even chopped liver. And of course, another series of curses by Ashkenazi rabbis, who teach their students how to murder Arab children.

 

To this day, and even more so from here on, it's not clear to me why Zvi Zameret is sitting at the pinnacle ["zameret" in Hebrew]. It seems to me that nothing in his professional record in the field of education justifies giving him such an exalted status and the right to exercise judgment whose consequences for education toward citizenship - with all that implies - are so important.

 

There is no question that this contribution to Judaism by Zameret, and perhaps by Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar as well, accords well with the fascist aspirations of the Im Tirtzu movement. The Fascist movement also demanded recognition of the overiding rights of the state, and its sons were required to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the renascent homeland without knowing exactly why and for what.

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

I AM LIKUD

IF BIBI RUNS INTO DIFFICULTIES IN LIKUD, HE HAS AN ALTERNATIVE PLAN - TO ADD KADIMA TO HIS GOVERNMENT AND IF NECESSARY GO TO ELECTIONS THAT WOULD FINALLY MAKE LIKUD THE RULING PARTY.

BY YOEL MARCUS

 

This is the first time the ministers left the cabinet meeting without knowing more than the journalists. They followed the Washington summit from afar, as we all did. They saw the warmth with which the summit stars treated each other. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's optimism, the warm handshakes between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

 

They noticed that this was the first time Bibi spoke of the "West Bank" instead of "Judea and Samaria" - that he called Abbas his partner in peace. The foursome that marched festively toward the journalists was reminiscent of the Beatles in that famous photo where they crossed Abbey Road.

 

The meeting with Abbas was amiable, as though the two were not torn by bitter controversy and a crisis in confidence. Bibi also gave U.S. President Barack Obama reasons to trust him. In the closed, one-on-one conversations in Washington, Bibi was more focused and open than in the cabinet meeting, where he announced we would have to consider "new creative solutions to complex problems."

 

Silvan Shalom asked in an annoyed voice when a debate would be held. "We don't know where we stand. Doing things without a debate is not right and unacceptable. I don't remember such situations," Shalom said. But he is wrong. The talks at Camp David were held without the cabinet knowing what was going on. It was so much in the dark that transportation minister Meir Amit quit three days before the agreement with Egypt was signed.

 

"Never show a fool half a job," someone scoffed in Menachem Begin's entourage. Amit was no fool. He simply

didn't believe that Begin was capable of signing a peace agreement.

 

The little Bibi said at the cabinet meeting sums up the issues he has not yet hammered out for himself. The next two meetings, one in about a week and the other around September 26 - the expiry date for the construction freeze in the settlements - will be significant regarding the first critical step. It is clear the construction freeze cannot be extended without the settlers rioting. But it is also clear the freeze cannot come to an end. This is one of those areas where we need "creative" thinking.

 

"There isn't an iota of arrogance in Bibi now, he's aware of the greatness of the hour and the magnitude of the problems," a confidant of the prime minister said.

 

Obama has not changed his attitude toward Bibi because of his low popularity in the polls, as commentators suggest, but because Bibi was open with him about the moves required to solve the conflict and gave him sufficient reason to trust him. He certainly didn't slap him on the shoulder and say "it will be okay."

 

But life doesn't begin and end with the settlements; we should also pay attention to the positive developments in the West Bank. The Palestinians are fighting the terror hubs. Thanks to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, denunciations of Israel are gradually being removed from the textbooks, and don't forget the creeping normalization of everyday life.

 

Asked if the prime minister would be ready to make compromises that would gain a majority in the cabinet, the confidant said most Likud ministers and Knesset members would stand behind Bibi. Not Silvan Shalom, Benny Begin, Tzipi Hotovely and Miri Regev, but most Likud ministers and MKs.

 

Likud today is the people's party, what the left-wing Mapai party was for decades. In its conduct and policy, the party reflects most of what the people desire. Many of those who voted for Likud, and even those who didn't, saw it expand from 12 to 27 Knesset seats and will want power to remain in the hands of a larger, stronger Likud, as long as the concessions to the Palestinians don't harm security.

 

Is Bibi showing signs of parting from the dream of a Greater Israel? Perhaps. If he is, it is both due to moderate pressure by Clinton, whom Obama charged with the task, and a feeling of a historic mission, a feeling that a crack has been opened for a move that has potential. If Bibi runs into difficulties in Likud, he has an alternative plan - to add Kadima to his government and if necessary go to elections that would finally make Likud the ruling party.

 

As for the question that will keep being asked - is Likud behind him - there may come a day, if he acts wisely and courageously, when Bibi will be able to say: I am Likud.

 

 

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HAARETZ

OPINION

A CONDITION FOR PEACE

IN LIGHT OF THE PALESTINIANS' ACCEPTANCE OF A LAND SWAP, THE BATTLE OVER THE CONSTRUCTION FREEZE IN THE SETTLEMENTS IS NOT A STRUGGLE FOR THEIR VERY EXISTENCE, SINCE MOST OF THEM AND THEIR RESIDENTS WILL BE ANNEXED TO ISRAEL IN ANY AGREEMENT.

BY SHAUL ARIELI

 

In light of the Palestinians' acceptance of a land swap, the battle over the construction freeze in the settlements is not a struggle for their very existence, since most of them and their residents will be annexed to Israel in any agreement. The battle over the construction freeze is a battle for perception in Israel and abroad - between Greater Israel on the one hand and two states for two peoples on the other. So this battle is important for the existence of the diplomatic process.

 

Those who favor a Greater Israel have discovered that the assessment by former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir that half a million Israelis in the territories are enough to create an irreversible reality is not coming true. They have discovered that international opinion does not consider the West Bank part of Israel.

 

In addition, Israel showed that in exchange for peace with Egypt it could evacuate settlements. Those who favor a Greater Israel also understand that another outpost and another neighborhood will not change the West Bank's demographic balance. But they are convinced that as long as the construction process continues, the situation on the ground reduces the chance of dividing the country.

 

The defense minister has refused to recognize that. He used to justify granting building permits in the territories by saying it makes no difference where and how much construction goes on because the moment the border is agreed on, everyone will know the law. But if Menachem Begin froze construction before the peace treaty with Egypt, the same should be done after negotiations have gone on for 17 years and the number of Israelis living outside the settlement blocs has grown from 20,000 to 120,000.

 

Another declaration by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about a freeze, if it comes, will be more meaningful than Yitzhak Rabin's declaration in 1992 about "drying up" the settlements. At the time the subject was a change in national priorities, without mentioning a Palestinian state. Last year, when the Americans proposed building only in the settlement blocs, Netanyahu refused. He included United Torah Judaism and Shas voters in Beitar Ilit and Modi'in Ilit in the freeze to guarantee that those parties would also apply pressure for a renewal of construction in the West Bank, counter-pressure to the American pressure.

 

But now the "blocs" compromise means Netanyahu will be forced to turn the settlement enterprise, whose goal is to create a reality and perception of one state, into one that serves the idea of two states by determining a de facto border for Israel between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

 

Is Netanyahu blind to the light that ministers Ehud Barak, Dan Meridor, Michael Eitan and others have been able to see: that the settlement enterprise, which has expanded by 200,000 people since the Oslo Accords, is leading to a situation where more Israelis prefer no negotiations for fear of a civil war? That ever more people prefer democracy for Jews only, even if the world calls it apartheid? That more people sanctify settlement everywhere in the country, even if the result is a state with an Arab majority? That more Palestinians believe that their willingness to make do with a state in only part of Palestine is not relevant because we are trying to "Judaicize" that part too? That more Palestinians are convinced that the diplomatic path has failed and that the idea of resistance will reunify the Palestinians? That more people in the world believe that Israel is a factor harming regional and world stability and are questioning its legitimacy?

Netanyahu must realize that declarations and deeds are intertwined, in an honest attempt to achieve a solution. There is no point in dreaming about peace without creating the conditions for achieving it.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHO SHOULD PROVIDE ANESTHESIA CARE?

 

Can a highly trained nurse deliver anesthetics as well as a physician who has specialized in anesthesiology, or does the nurse require close medical supervision? That issue emerges from two recent studies and from California's decision last year to join 14 other states in freeing the nurses from a federal requirement that they be supervised by a physician. Colorado seems poised to join the group.

 

The issue is potentially important to patients and to health care reformers seeking to restrain costs and reduce reliance on high-priced medical specialists.

 

The two studies — hotly disputed by the American Society of Anesthesiologists — essentially concluded that there is no significant difference in the quality of care when the anesthetic is delivered by a certified registered nurse anesthetist or by an anesthesiologist. The studies were paid for by the professional association for the nurses, a potential conflict of interest, but were conducted by researchers at respected organizations.

 

Analysts at the Research Triangle Institute found that there was no evidence of increased deaths or complications in 14 states that had opted out of requiring that a physician (usually an anesthesiologist or the operating surgeon) supervise the nurse anesthetists. The analysts recommended that nurse anesthetists be allowed to work without supervision in all states. Researchers at the Lewin Group judged nurse anesthetists acting without supervision as the most cost-effective way to deliver anesthesia care.

 

Anesthesia has gotten remarkably safe in recent decades, with roughly one death occurring in every 200,000 to 300,000 cases in which anesthetics are administered during surgery, childbirth or other procedures.

 

There is not much difference between the two professions in the amount of training they get in administering and monitoring anesthetics. Where the anesthesiologists have a big advantage is in their much longer and broader medical training that, many doctors say, may better equip them to handle complex cases and the rare emergencies that can develop from anesthesia.

 

From a patient's point of view, it would seem preferable to have a broadly trained anesthesiologist perform or supervise anesthesia services, but, in truth, the risk is minuscule either way.

 

Fifteen states have exempted the nurse anesthetists from a Medicare requirement that they be supervised by a physician. California's move is being challenged in court by physician groups on procedural technicalities. The state's reasoning, which appears sound, is that patients in areas short on anesthesiologists would lose access to surgery and childbirth services if no one else could deliver the anesthetic. The final decision ultimately rests with the hospitals on how best to serve their patients.In the long run, there also could be savings to the health care system if nurses delivered more of the care. It costs more than six times as much to train an anesthesiologist as a nurse anesthetist, and anesthesiologists earn twice as much a year, on average, as the nurses do ($150,000 for nurse anesthetists and $337,000 for anesthesiologists, according to a Rand Corporation analysis). Those costs are absorbed by various institutions and public programs within the health care system. As health reformers seek ways to curb medical spending, they need to consider whether this is a safe place to do it.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A NECESSARY MORATORIUM

 

Last Thursday's fire on a shallow-water oil production platform in the Gulf of Mexico claimed no lives and has caused no environmental damage. It was, however, a nerve-racking reminder that extracting fossil fuels is an inherently dangerous business. As such, it was a very good argument for maintaining the present moratorium on deep-water drilling in the gulf and removing it only when industry has met the standards the administration set forth in the spring.

 

President Obama imposed a six-month suspension on deep-water drilling in the gulf on May 27, one month after the BP oil spill. On the same day, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar published a set of detailed safety and engineering conditions that industry must satisfy before drilling could resume. These included specific requirements for state-of-the-art blowout preventers — the equipment that failed on the Deepwater Horizon rig — a host of other safeguards and a demonstrable capacity to respond to major accidents.

 

This was a high bar, and it was clear that it would take time to meet it. Even so, pressure to end the moratorium began almost immediately and has continued to build, from gulf state politicians and from industry, both warning of imminent economic disaster.

 

The administration has rightly resisted these entreaties. Two recent articles in The Times help make the case for patience. An article on Aug. 25 said that no economic meltdown occurred. The number of lost jobs can be measured in the hundreds, not thousands, oil production is down modestly and the widely feared exodus of drilling rigs has not materialized. All but two of the 33 deep-water rigs drilling in the gulf before the BP explosion are still there, many with standby crews.

 

The situation could obviously deteriorate, but at present there appears to be no persuasive economic reason for the administration to shift course.

 

The second article, on Aug. 30, reaffirmed a basic truth about the oil business. The really big discoveries, in the gulf and elsewhere in the world, will almost surely be made in deeper and deeper waters, in turn requiring ever more complicated rigs. And as the rigs get bigger and more remote, the risks will grow. This in turn argues for learning as much as we can from the BP spill about how to build in multiple safety barriers, making sure that the technology to prevent and contain spills is as sophisticated as the technology used to tap new fields.

 

One official who will have much to say about when and how to end the moratorium is Michael Bromwich, a former prosecutor called in to reform the Interior Department's agency that was supposed to conscientiously regulate offshore drilling but didn't. Mr. Bromwich is on a fact-finding tour to guide the administration's decision and will report to Mr. Salazar this month.

 

Before he does, he should try to resolve one important and largely unexplored question: When the administration lifts the moratorium, should it do so selectively or all at once? A month ago, Mr. Bromwich told reporters he did not feel comfortable with a rig-by-rig approach because it could open up charges of favoritism.

 

He might think again. An excellent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, argues that the moratorium was in a sense a blunt instrument because not all rigs were as carelessly managed as the Deepwater Horizon. Lifting the moratorium for everyone would be equally undiscriminating, the report suggests, since some rigs may quickly meet the standards while others may take months to comply.

 

The report — which strongly endorses the administration's standards while adding useful wrinkles of its own — suggests meticulous rig-by-rig inspections by government and third-party investigators. This strikes us as an essential condition of allowing drilling to resume, the only foolproof way of ensuring that industry has learned the lessons of the BP disaster.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

JAPAN'S LEADERSHIP MERRY-GO-ROUND

 

Japan's frequent leadership changes are dizzying and increasingly counterproductive. The country has had 14 prime ministers in the last two decades and could soon have another. That would make three in the last 12 months alone — hardly time enough to introduce new policies, much less effectively implement them.

 

This phenomenon would make successful governance difficult in any country. But Japan is the world's third largest economy and a technological and regional power. It needs a prime minister who can offer robust, principled leadership over a sustained period, win support for economic policies that would help pull the world out of recession and maintain a strong alliance with the United States.

 

The decision is expected on Sept. 14 when the ruling Democratic Party of Japan chooses a new party chief. As leader of the majority party, the winner would almost surely become prime minister. Ichiro Ozawa, a longtime power broker, said last week that he would face-off against Naoto Kan, who has been the prime minister for three months.

 

Mr. Kan has more popular support. Mr. Ozawa — who has largely operated in the political shadows — has more chits with the party members who will actually elect the party chief. Analysts say the contest is too close to call. Both men have their flaws but are preferable to the last few prime ministers under the Liberal Democratic Party, which governed for most of 50 years until the Democratic Party of Japan broke the hold in August last year.

 

Mr. Kan is being challenged because he lost control of the Upper House in a July election. Mr. Ozawa, who is known for his deal-making skills but has never held a governing position, is bedeviled by a political funding scandal and could yet be indicted.

 

Whoever wins, the first priority has to be the economy. Although constrained by a public debt approaching 100 percent of its gross domestic product and a fiscal deficit hovering around 10 percent of G.D.P., Japan needs to do more to stimulate domestic demand — to deal with the immediate emergency and diminish its dependence on exports as an economic engine. This requires maintaining fiscal stimulus. It also requires a longer-term strategy that encourages spending by households.

 

At a joint news conference last week, Mr. Ozawa was more aggressive about wanting to boost spending to lift growth, including increasing monthly allowances to families with children and to farmers. Mr. Kan focused more on reducing the public debt — a bad idea during a recession — and doubling the sales tax to 10 percent.

 

Reinforcing close relations with the United States is also important. Mr. Kan has promised to move forward with a long-debated plan to relocate an American Air Force base on Okinawa. Mr. Ozawa wants to reopen negotiations — yet again. He needs to reconsider that unrealistic position because he admits he has no alternative proposals and the Americans are certain to balk. For too long, the base controversy has strained bilateral security ties. His comment last month that Americans are simple "single-celled organisms" doesn't seem to be the best way to make new friends.

 

Once the choice is made, we hope the next prime minister is around long enough to enact coherent economic and diplomatic policies. Revolving-door leaders with constantly shifting agendas are not in Japan's interest — or the rest of the world's.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

ONE NATION, TWO DEFICITS

BY PETER ORSZAG

 

The nation faces a nasty dual deficit problem: a painful jobs deficit in the near term and an unsustainable budget deficit over the medium and long term. This month, the Senate will be debating an issue with significant implications for both — what to do about the Bush-era tax cuts scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

 

In the face of the dueling deficits, the best approach is a compromise: extend the tax cuts for two years and then end them altogether. Ideally only the middle-class tax cuts would be continued for now. Getting a deal in Congress, though, may require keeping the high-income tax cuts, too. And that would still be worth it.

 

Why does this combination make sense? The answer is that over the medium term, the tax cuts are simply not affordable. Yet no one wants to make an already stagnating jobs market worse over the next year or two, which is exactly what would happen if the cuts expire as planned.

 

Higher taxes now would crimp consumer spending, further depressing the already inadequate demand for what firms are capable of producing at full tilt. And since financial markets don't seem at the moment to view the budget deficit as a problem — take a look at the remarkably low 10-year Treasury bond yield — there is little reason not to extend the tax cuts temporarily.

 

A benign bond market, however, is a luxury we won't enjoy forever if we fail to tackle our long-term fiscal problem. What's more, losing the confidence of the bond market could prove painful, since it is widely known that our fiscal trajectory is unsustainable and market sentiment may therefore shift quickly and unpredictably. In any case, as the economy recovers, the dominant problem will move from depressed demand to excessive budget deficits.

 

Despite a dire fiscal outlook, many progressives want to make the tax cuts permanent for all but the very highest earners. Many conservatives are even worse: they'd make the tax cuts permanent for the likes of Warren Buffett, even though he'd prefer they didn't. Making all the tax cuts permanent would expand the deficit by more than $3 trillion over the next decade.

 

Both approaches lock us into a budget scenario out of which there are few politically plausible routes of escape. Although hardly anyone wants to admit it, we're not going to solve our budget problem over the next decade unless revenue is part of the equation.

 

Let's look at the facts. The projected deficit for 2015 is 4 percent to 5 percent of G.D.P., depending on whose assumptions you use. A sustainable level is more like 3 percent or lower. So we need deficit reduction of 1 percent to 2 percent of G.D.P., or about $200 billion to $400 billion a year by 2015. These figures are uncertain, but they're the best we have (and they may well turn out to be too optimistic).

 

How much savings is plausible on the spending side? Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will account for almost half of spending by 2015. Even if we reform Social Security, which we should, any plausible plan would phase in benefit changes to avoid harming current beneficiaries — and so would generate little savings over the next five years. The health reform act included substantial savings in Medicare and Medicaid, so there aren't further big reductions available there in our time frame.

 

The other half of the budget is mostly net interest (which is not negotiable unless we renege on our debt) and

discretionary spending. Discretionary spending is split roughly equally between defense and non-defense spending. The defense component already assumes a phase-down in both Iraq and Afghanistan; saving an additional 5 percent of the Pentagon's base budget would be a substantial accomplishment and would yield about 0.2 percent of G.D.P. Cutting 5 percent out of non-defense discretionary spending, a stretch politically, would save about as much.

 

It would be tough, then, to squeeze more than a half percent of G.D.P. from spending by 2015. Additional revenue — in the range of 0.5 to 1.5 percent of the economy — will therefore be necessary to reduce the deficit to sustainable levels.

 

How would we do this?

 

One possibility would be to establish a new source of revenue, perhaps through revenue-increasing tax reform, and possibly including a modest value-added tax (that is, a V.A.T. of 5 percent to 6 percent). This approach has many potential benefits, including the opportunity to improve our tax code by cutting back on loopholes and shifting toward a consumption-based tax system. It is also politically impossible, at least in the era of the 60-vote Senate. Those who fear a V.A.T. have little reason to worry — the votes aren't there.

 

The beauty of extending the tax cuts for only two years is that canceling them doesn't require an affirmative vote. It happens by default, so Congressional deadlock works in its favor. And it would essentially solve our medium-term deficit problem, reducing the deficit by $200 billion to $350 billion a year from 2015 to 2020.

 

Like all plans, this one isn't perfect. Some may complain that higher marginal tax rates, even if deferred until 2013, will cripple small businesses and economic activity. It's hard to believe, however, that effectively returning the tax code to its 1990s form would lead to economic catastrophe, especially when many leading Republican economists — including Alan Greenspan and Martin Feldstein — agree that we can't afford to continue the tax cuts forever. More troubling, middle-class and lower-class families would be saddled with higher taxes. That's a legitimate concern, but also a largely unavoidable one if we are to tackle the medium-term fiscal problem.

 

Finally, a key part of this deal is actually ending the tax cuts in 2013 — and that will surely require a presidential veto on any bills to extend them after that. (Failing to follow through would be particularly problematic if the high-income tax cuts are made permanent — at a 10-year cost of more than $700 billion.) Minimizing this risk requires as much upfront clarity and commitment as possible, including a strong and unambiguous veto threat from the president.

 

Senate Democrats and Republicans almost never come together anymore. This month, they should fight the dual deficits rather than each other. Let's continue the tax cuts for two years but end them for good in 2013.

 

Peter Orszag, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget from 2009 to 2010 and a distinguished visiting fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a contributing columnist for The Times. He will also be writing at nytimes.com/opinionator.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

NOT-SO-CHARMING BILLY

BY HAMPTON SIDES

 

Santa Fe, N.M.

 

BILL RICHARDSON, New Mexico's departing governor, is known for his studied sense of theater. But when he recently declared that he would hold a hearing to consider a posthumous pardon for the state's most notorious resident — William Bonney, a k a Henry McCarty, a k a Billy the Kid — a lot of us wondered if he had lost his mind.

 

What's to be gained by dredging up stories from a tired old shoot'em-up? Why should we care about a trigger-happy sociopath who's been moldering in his grave for almost 130 years? New Mexico has a rich history, but some episodes from the past are best left there.

 

At issue is a deal made in 1879 by one of Mr. Richardson's predecessors, Lew Wallace (later the author of "Ben-Hur"). Wallace promised to grant Billy the Kid amnesty for murders he committed during the so-called Lincoln County War if he would testify about a killing he had witnessed; the Kid testified, but Wallace's men reneged on the deal. Two years later Pat Garrett, the sheriff of Lincoln County, shot and killed the outlaw.

 

Billy the Kid is something of a phantom figure. There is only one known photograph of him. His real name and date of birth are disputed. As a result, people interpret him in their own ways. He's often portrayed as a folk hero, like Rob Roy or Robin Hood. It is said that more films have been made about him than any other figure in American history. He is our state's most bankable tourist commodity and his name is plastered on everything from casinos to no-tell motels.

 

But regardless of whether he got a raw deal, the Kid was a thug. He murdered one of Garrett's predecessors and as many as eight other people. He rustled horses and cattle. Far from heroic, the Lincoln County War was just a feud over beef contracts, and it marked one of the bleakest episodes in the history of the West.

 

True, for some the story evokes a certain romanticism of gun smoke and leather, and the governor is banking on Western buffs to bring new attention, and tourist dollars, to our state.

 

The pardon hearing, which will likely convene in November in the town of Lincoln, will be complete with period costumes and Wild West facial hair. Mr. Richardson himself will preside, playing a role somewhere between Judge Judy and Judge Roy Bean.

 

Mr. Richardson has a good sense of humor, but governors who play with history often get burned — witness Gov. Robert McDonnell of Virginia and his ill-advised Confederate History Month proclamation. Governor Richardson has already drawn public criticism: descendants of Pat Garrett and Lew Wallace have implored him not to follow through with his plans; Billy the Kid, they and others note, was a cop killer.

 

Under Governor Richardson, New Mexico has taken significant steps forward, with investments in solar and wind power, film production and light rail. He even got rid of cock-fighting. The state has begun to slowly pull away from the poverty, crime and backwardness that defined much of its past. Billy the Kid is a symbol of that era. Why does Mr. Richardson, as one of his last acts in office, want to revisit it?

 

Hampton Sides is the author, most recently, of "Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

RISING TO THE OCCASION

BY BOB HERBERT

 

On Labor Day afternoon in Milwaukee, President Obama finally began to vigorously push the kind of high-profile, rebuild-America infrastructure campaign that is absolutely essential if there is to be any real hope of putting Americans back to work and getting the economy back into reasonable shape over the next few years.

 

In a speech that was rousing, inspirational and, at times, quite funny, the president outlined a $50 billion proposal for a wide range of improvements to the nation's transportation infrastructure. The money would be used for the construction and rehabilitation of highways, bridges, railroads, airport runways and the air traffic control system.

 

Mr. Obama linked the nation's desperate need for jobs to the sorry state of the national infrastructure in a tone that conveyed both passion and empathy, and left me wondering, "Where has this guy been for the past year and a half?"

 

After noting that nearly one in five construction workers is unemployed, Mr. Obama told the crowd, "It doesn't do anybody any good when so many hard-working Americans have been idle for months, even years, at a time when there is so much of America that needs rebuilding."

 

The U.S. once had the finest infrastructure in the world, he said, "and we can have it again."

 

The president's plan would include the creation of an infrastructure bank that would use public dollars to leverage private capital for major projects. If properly conceived and executed, the bank could become a crucial factor in financing the nation's long-term infrastructure needs.

 

It should be kept in mind that Mr. Obama's proposal is only a first step. Despite the $50 billion price tag, it's not in any way commensurate with our overwhelming infrastructure needs or the gruesome scale of the nation's unemployment crisis. But it's an important step. It's a smarter approach to infrastructure investment than the wasteful, haphazard, earmark-laden practices that we've become accustomed to, and it will put some people to work in jobs that pay decent wages.

 

The details of the proposal are less important than whether the proposal itself is a sign that Mr. Obama and his party are ready, at long last, to engage this awful economy with the sense of urgency and bold initiatives it requires. The plan won't help Democrats in November. It's already too late for that. But a good faith commitment to rebuilding the infrastructure would show that the party has some idea of the scale of the effort that's needed to overcome the worst downturn since the Great Depression and, ultimately, to build an economy that offers the prospect of a decent living to the next couple of generations.

 

The president was eloquent on these matters in his speech. Speaking of his grandparents' experiences during the 1930s, he said: "They would tell me about seeing their fathers or uncles losing jobs during the Depression, how it wasn't just the loss of a paycheck that stung. It was the blow to their dignity, their sense of self-worth. I'll bet a lot of us have seen people changed after a long bout of unemployment, how it can wear down even the strongest spirits."

 

Leaning toward the microphone, with his shirt collar unbuttoned, Mr. Obama spoke in a way that belied his reputation for aloofness, for struggling to connect in a visceral way with ordinary working people. He was speaking to a pro-Obama labor gathering, so he didn't have to win over the audience. But if his goal was to demonstrate that he genuinely cared about the struggles of the people in the audience and those watching on television — and about the long-term prospects of their children and grandchildren — he largely succeeded.

 

The question that remains, however, is whether he and his party will fight with the skill and tenacity needed to guide his infrastructure proposal to fruition, and whether they will finally focus intensely, as they should have been doing all along, on the difficult but absolutely critical task of putting millions of unemployed Americans back to work.

 

Mr. Obama seemed to take a wicked, almost Truman-ish delight in going after the Republicans in his speech. It doesn't matter what actions are taken or proposed to help ordinary Americans or to rebuild the economy, he said, "almost every Republican in Congress says no."

 

In fact, he suggested, the Republican Party is committed to saying no to absolutely anything and everything, no matter what the topic: "If I said the sky was blue, they'd say no. If I said fish live in the sea, they'd say no."

 

As if on cue, Republican leaders denounced the president's infrastructure plan as more "out of control" Democratic spending.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

THE GOSPEL OF WEALTH

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

Maybe the first decade of the 21st century will come to be known as the great age of headroom. During those years, new houses had great rooms with 20-foot ceilings and entire new art forms had to be invented to fill the acres of empty overhead wall space.

 

People bought bulbous vehicles like Hummers and Suburbans. The rule was, The Smaller the Woman, the Bigger the Car — so you would see a 90-pound lady in tennis whites driving a 4-ton truck with enough headroom to allow her to drive with her doubles partner perched atop her shoulders.

 

When future archeologists dig up the remains of that epoch, they will likely conclude that sometime around 1996, the U.S. was afflicted by a plague of claustrophobia and drove itself bankrupt in search of relief.

 

But that economy went poof, and social norms have since changed. The oversized now looks slightly ridiculous. Values have changed as well.

 

Today, savings rates are climbing and smart advertisers emphasize small-town restraint and respectability. The Tea Party movement is militantly bourgeois. It uses Abbie Hoffman means to get back to Norman Rockwell ends.

 

In the coming years of slow growth, people are bound to establish new norms and seek noneconomic ways to find meaning. One of the interesting figures in this recalibration effort is David Platt.

 

Platt earned two master's degrees and a doctorate from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At age 26, he was hired to lead a 4,300-person suburban church in Birmingham, Ala., and became known as the youngest megachurch leader in America.

 

Platt grew uneasy with the role he had fallen into and wrote about it in a recent book called "Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream." It encapsulates many of the themes that have been floating around 20-something evangelical circles the past several years.

 

Platt's first target is the megachurch itself. Americans have built themselves multimillion-dollar worship palaces, he argues. These have become like corporations, competing for market share by offering social centers, child-care programs, first-class entertainment and comfortable, consumer Christianity.

 

Jesus, Platt notes, made it hard on his followers. He created a minichurch, not a mega one. Today, however, building budgets dwarf charitable budgets, and Jesus is portrayed as a genial suburban dude. "When we gather in our church building to sing and lift up our hands in worship, we may not actually be worshipping the Jesus of the Bible. Instead, we may be worshipping ourselves."

 

Next, Platt takes aim at the American dream. When Europeans first settled this continent, they saw the natural abundance and came to two conclusions: that God's plan for humanity could be realized here, and that they could get really rich while helping Him do it. This perception evolved into the notion that we have two interdependent callings: to build in this world and prepare for the next.

 

The tension between good and plenty, God and mammon, became the central tension in American life, propelling ferocious energies and explaining why the U.S. is at once so religious and so materialist. Americans are moral materialists, spiritualists working on matter.

 

Platt is in the tradition of those who don't believe these two spheres can be reconciled. The material world is too soul-destroying. "The American dream radically differs from the call of Jesus and the essence of the Gospel," he argues. The American dream emphasizes self-development and personal growth. Our own abilities are our greatest assets.

 

But the Gospel rejects the focus on self: "God actually delights in exalting our inability." The American dream emphasizes upward mobility, but "success in the kingdom of God involves moving down, not up."

 

Platt calls on readers to cap their lifestyle. Live as if you made $50,000 a year, he suggests, and give everything else away. Take a year to surrender yourself. Move to Africa or some poverty-stricken part of the world. Evangelize.

 

Platt's arguments are old, but they emerge at a postexcess moment, when attitudes toward material life are up for grabs. His book has struck a chord. His renunciation tome is selling like hotcakes. Reviews are warm. Leaders at places like the Southern Baptist Convention are calling on citizens to surrender the American dream.

 

I doubt that we're about to see a surge of iPod shakers. Americans will not renounce the moral materialism at the core of their national identity. But the country is clearly redefining what sort of lifestyle is socially and morally acceptable and what is not. People like Platt are central to that process.

 

The United States once had a Gospel of Wealth: a code of restraint shaped by everybody from Jonathan Edwards to Benjamin Franklin to Andrew Carnegie. The code was designed to help the nation cope with its own affluence. It eroded, and over the next few years, it will be redefined.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

 

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - BABACAN AND THE POLITICS OF DISINGENUITY

 

Economy Minister Ali Babacan may well be correct in his warning we reported yesterday that a "no" vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum could produce a "traumatic outcome" for Turkey's national economy.

 

After all, his colleague, former Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin certainly proved prophetic when he warned Antalya voters in 2009 that a vote for the opposition party in local elections would ruin local municipal finances. When the Antalya mayorality changed party hands, switching from the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to the opposition Peoples' Republican Party, or CHP, this is exactly what happened.

 

In the center-dependent patronage politics of Turkey, Antalya's metro expansion plans dried up, infrastructure plans were shelved and the city even lost its chance to host a world basketball championship when Ankara pulled back plans to fund construction of a new sports center. That's the way it works.

 

There was outrage at Şahin's remarks at the time, he broke a rule against speaking the obvious truth of the politics of score-settling in Turkey. We think it worth examining Babacan's remarks in the same light.

Here is what Babacan said: "Global (organizations) that engage in scientific and objective analysis of the economy say a 'yes' vote would mean improvement in the economy, while a 'no' would create negative results."

 

Indeed, as we have reported extensively, he is correct. The markets, the rating agencies, the financial analysts reading "hot money" flows are saying exactly this. But they are not arguing, as Babacan sought to suggest, that this will result because they believe in the proposed reform of the judiciary will somehow increase per capita GNP.

 

Rather, they are pragmatically warning of the moral equivalent of the score-settling in Antalya. The point they all stress is that a victory for the 'no' camp will immediately trigger panic in the AKP ranks in advance of next year's general elections. Any pretense of fiscal restraint will be abandoned. The rush to lock up votes next year will unleash irresponsible and populist spending, make-work projects and patronage that will swell the current account deficit and probably trigger a return of the inflation that was the bane of Turkey for 30 years.

 

So Babacan is perhaps correct in his "warning." But it is disingenuous of him to suggest that the markets have embraced the referendum out of admiration for the power it will give the AKP over Turkey's judiciary, the effective end of the separation of powers.Babacan's logic is not the logic of an economist. It is the logic of a hostage-taker. We know that Babacan is a very competent economist. He has made great contributions to Turkey's economic performance in recent years. But his argument couched in the language of "warning" is in fact a threat. Turkey needs less of such political language.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IRAQ MISSION HARDLY OVER

SEMİH İDİZ

 

Now that President Barack Obama has effectively declared the combat mission in Iraq over, a contention that should be taken with a grain of salt, one has to look back and consider what went so wrong that we are where we are today.

 

One thought that immediately comes to mind is that former President George Bush and the trigger-happy members of his administration defined the mission in Iraq wrongly from the very start. Because of this the people of that hapless country are still paying a terrible price.

 

The overall mission lead to a significant number of losses on the American side also, of course, but with all due respect to their bereaved families, it is the terrible losses and ongoing suffering of the Iraqi people that is far more striking and that people around the world are more concerned about today.

 

Everyone recalls that the US-led invasion by the "coalition of the willing" was meant to liberate that country from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and usher in a period of representative democracy and wealth for what is after all an oil-rich country. But as the Turks say, "Calculations made at home did not match the situation in the bazaar."

 

To start off with, the so-called "weapons of mass destruction" that Saddam was meant to be chasing after turned out to be no more than "weapons of mass delusion," a serious embarrassment for a superpower that is supposed to have the best intelligence capabilities in the world. (As an aside here, this does not exactly bode all that well for anything that Washington may say about Iran's nuclear capabilities.)

 

Then there was the fact, which became more glaring as time went by, that those in the Bush administration who were keen on this invasion, which most of the world including Turkey saw as illegal, hardly had any notion of how Iraq was actually composed. They grossly underestimated the fault lines that run through that country and which were bound to make themselves felt once the iron hand of the Baathist regime was lifted.

 

Somewhat of a caricature of an image from the early days of the invasion was a photograph of a U.S. marine

reading T.E. Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," which actually has nothing to say about modern-day Iraq. Neither did American planners fully understand the handicap posed by the negative "a priori" image that America has in the region because if its unquestioning support of Israel, a country that is the nemesis of ordinary Arabs.

 

Put another way, the assumption in many American minds that the people of Iraq would welcome the invading U.S. troops, like at the time of the liberation of Paris in August 1944, turned out to be pathetically wrong and should have provided a wakeup call for Washington at the outset.

 

On the other hand Iraqis had a very early wakeup call when invading U.S. marines headed straight for the Oil Ministry in Baghdad to protect it, but allowed the country's cultural heritage in the unprotected National Museum to be pillaged and plundered by looters.

 

The U.S. military subsequently set up teams to regain some of the stolen artifacts and relics, and succeeded to a certain degree, but the damage to America's image had already been done. Thus most Iraqis immediately came to the conclusion, a conclusion that Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, also came to in the end, that Washington was only after their oil.

 

The bottom line is that, at the time of the U.S. invasion, what the Iraqi people were looking for was not Jeffersonian democracy "ala Americain," as the Bush administration was promising to deliver, but for something else which can be even more valuable in times of long-lasting political uncertainty.

 

That something was security and lasting stability of course, given that the country had been involved in one war after another throughout the 1980s and 1990s. An Iraqi woman, who was speaking to CNN International's Arwa Damon in Baghdad last week, appeared to reflect what many Iraqis have come to believe today.

 

She said that despite all its horrors, Saddam's Iraq was more secure because you at least knew what the rules were and if you followed them you could get along somehow. Today however there appears to be no rules and the threat of death or injury is a fear that is experienced by people at large throughout the day and night.

 

The comparison with the rule of Saddam that some Iraqis are making is of course an emotional expression of frustration rather than a desire for return to the past. But even this sentiment is sufficient to show that Washington's mission in Iraq, if indeed it was to bring democracy and wealth to that country, was a failure.

 

Given this overall situation it is unlikely that America's Iraq headache will disappear anytime soon, as long as the radical elements that were let out of their bottles as a result of the U.S. invasion in 2003 continue to have a field day.

 

It is always easy to speak in hindsight of course, but it is a fact that Turkish experts were telling their U.S. interlocutors at the time that they should beware of the hornet's nest that they were stirring up by going into Iraq. Many Americans I talked to then did not even have a proper command of the demography of that country, and assumed that there was such a thing called the "Iraqi nation."

 

As someone who has visited Iraq and reported out of the still-troubled city of Kirkuk, there is a basic fact that was impressed upon me straight away about that country. When you are talking about the demographic composition of Iraq the formula works something like this: The initial order of allegiance is to the sect one belongs to. Thus being Sunni or Shiite is more important than being Arab or Turkmen, for example. The second order of allegiance is to the tribe or ethnicity one belongs to. So it matters if you are Kurd, Arab or Turkmen. As for allegiance to the nation, i.e. Iraq, this is last in the line.

 

Saddam secured allegiance to the nation by brute force. But once his repressive system was gone other allegiances did not take long to surface and effectively divide the country, leading to the chaotic political and social situation we have today.

 

Putting Iraq together again as one nation, therefore, is going to take time and serious economic and political effort by the international community. The U.S., on the other hand, will continue to be involved in that country for some time if it does not want it to be a breeding ground for radical Islamic terrorism 10 years time from now.

 

Put another way, building a viable and workable Iraqi nation is going to be a momentous task that will take a long time and effort to achieve. The mission in Iraq, in this sense, is far from over.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

GOVERNMENT AND THE JUDICIARY (I)

CÜNEYT ÜLSEVER

 

We are in the final week for the Sept. 12 referendum on a constitutional amendment package. Ninety-five percent of voters are unaware of the changes, they even ignore what these changes will bring, so will vote according to the political choices they make. Knowing all these I have decided to write a series to address the spirit of the referendum.

 

As you analyze the articles, you see that only a few columnists are interested in the spirit of the issue.

 

By looking at the "Yes" sayers give a good news that the "military tutelage about to come to an end. "No" sayers consider the possibility of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

 

I am in the latter group and keep warning that two of the amendments will take country to a "civilian tutelage," which is an expression I created.

 

Though not openly admitted, almost everyone knows that two articles among a total of 26 seeking modifications in the structures of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, weigh more for the future of this country than the remaining 24 articles.

 

The "Yes" camp prefers not to touch these two articles because they've already known that coming up with excuses to defend these two articles will be a failure for them.

 

Did any pro-yes say "no" to these articles? Yes, there were. However, they skip why the justice minister and the ministry undersecretary are included in the board, though this is the spirit of the issue, but concentrate on the fact that the president will appoint one less person in selecting Constitutional Court judges.

 

They wrote shallow and twisted articles. (For instance, Engin Ardıç of the daily Sabah) or showed some articles as part of the package though none included inside it (For instance, Nazlı Ilıcak of the daily Sabah). Yet I couldn't understand what some others say no matter how I tried (For instance, Emre Aköz of the daily Sabah).

 

Though some claimed to be experts on the Constitution, they falsified the fact and said in some European countries justice ministers also have similar authorities and are members of Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges, or HSYK-like, boards (For instance, Osman Can, Constitutional Court rapporteur). Rıza Türmen of the daily Milliyet answered all such distortions. Don't forget to read his article. (Milliyet, Sept 6, 2010).

 

As for the "it's not enough but yes" camp, they are in between their "thoughts" and the unbearable attraction of the "love of power."

 

There are plenty of "pro-no" writers who defended their views through ordinary discourses and who directly criticized the above two articles without a thorough analysis.

 

Among the columnists who analyzed judiciary-related articles that I was attracted to were Mehmet Tezkan, Kadri Gürsel and Ertuğrul Özkök

 

However, I was seriously impressed by technical analyses of former the European Court of Human Rights judge Türmen.

 

I do try to an analytical approach and justifications for my "no" vote.

 

In the article I wrote on Aug. 24, 25, and Aug. 26, 2010, I defended my reasons.

 

In these three articles I stand against the following:

 

1. The package guarantees at least 10 of 17 members of the Constitutional Court to be pro-government:

 

Three would be elected by the Parliament, which is controlled by a majority government, three would come from the pro-government Higher Education Council, or YÖK, and four would be appointed by the President.

 

New members will be selected for 12 years or serve until the age of 65.

 

2. A sentence like the "administration and representation of the HSYK rests with justice minister" is appended in the new text. The minister will also have the authority to appoint a secretary to a prospective General Secretariat.

 

Undersecretaries will answer to the HSYK, but cannot launch investigations without permission of the minister. Plus, it is stated that the formation and task-sharing in the new HSYK which is to work together with three new chambers will be determined by legal regulations. Therefore, the government has more power to make changes in regulations at its discretion.

 

I'll continue tomorrow.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

UNEMPLOYMENT, POVERTY, HUMAN RIGHTS

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

 

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

During the recent crisis it has come to be understood at last that unemployment and poverty are also abuses of human rights. In fact, in every modern constitution, there are some articles indicating that one of the most important duties of the governments is to secure jobs for the labor force and fight against poverty. However, even in rich countries millions of people are still unemployed and most of them are living under the poverty line. Although the recent crisis added more problems, the situation was not very different before the turmoil, only the numbers have changed.

 

There is a possibility that these people began to think that finding a job and not living in poverty was more important than traditional human rights such as freedom, justice and equality. Or they might think that when they are jobless and poor in a rich society, human rights have no meaning. It is very important to observe why the political views of some people are changing in western societies and why extreme right parties are gaining ground.

 

It is not of course appropriate but it might be helpful to think of what happened in Europe during and after the 1929 crisis and how people easily tolerated the political regime changes in Germany and Italy. After the war, when all communist parties which promised a bright future for the people in Eastern European countries who had suffered so much during the war began to abuse human rights, people's first reaction was again to tolerate the behaviour. Some elderly people in Argentina still praise the Peron era, when mindless promises were given, implemented and ultimately destroyed the economy. Why? Millions who were unemployed and poor preferred to believe in the impossible instead of rejecting it.

 

There is another kind of human rights abuse in most of the emerging economies of eastern Asia. Either the people of those countries sacrifice their ordinary human rights for the sake of their countries' rapid growth, or they are forced to. For the first alternative nobody can say anything; but if the second case is true, there is a serious abuse of human rights. It is a shame that some economists, businesspeople and politicians in democratic countries, already knowing that shameful situation, applaud the economic performances of those countries as if they are not aware of the human costs of success (!).

 

There was once a well known but inappropriate saying: "If per capita income in a country is less than $10,000, there is no respect for human rights and democracy." Those who used to mention this silly phrase in every occasion never attempted to explain why without respect for freedom, democracy, justice and similar human rights, it was impossible to raise per capita income to over $10,000. (Countries that manipulate their economic data are, of course, out of the question.)

 

The wealth of rich and democratic countries did not reach this level not only by the contribution of the industrial revolution and capital accumulation. Political freedom struggles following economic liberalization during the 18th and the 19th centuries in Western Europe contributed more. However, even Karl Marx, when defending the idea that the exploitation of workers was the main reason of poverty, did not predict massive unemployment would be more harmful for the working class.

 

Now it is time for the rich countries of the West to decide which economic policy package is needed to fight against unemployment and poverty: a stimulus package which the American side still defends, leaving deficits and inflation problems behind, or a stabilization package to which Europeans give priority, thinking that without mending deficits it will be impossible to run a healthy economy.

 

Like the past crises, this crisis will end someday; even if there could be some serious delays. However, if jobless and poor peoples' faith in democracy and human rights is crippled seriously in Western countries, it might be quite difficult to change their views in a reasonably short period. And if these negative views begin to play an important role in the political arena, the problem might become more insoluble.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

DEEP DIVISIONS AMONG SECULARISTS

ORAL ÇALIŞLAR

 

Members of our generation met each other at court rooms, military prisons, torture centers, detention rooms and funerals. We became victims of "military coups d'état." And the first takeover was the May 27, 1960. But we were young then.

 

Our parents said that was a "good takeover" and we believed that, too. Back then, however, we didn't know the meaning of overthrowing a government-elect. We were not at the age of understanding the consequences if a prime minister and ministers were hanged by putschists.

 

The leading names of our generation were put behind bars in the March 12, 1971, military coup period. The leaders and those who fiercely reacted against the coup were punished the hardest. Our leaders were hanged as some of us were executed by shooting.

 

We were trying to handle the situation and see the difference between a "good coup" and the "bad coup." The good coup was the March 27, 1960 one while the March 12, 1971, takeover was the bad one. We proceeded on our way. But some rightists were in a different state of mind. According to them, the March 27, 1960, military coup was a bad one and the March 12, 1971, takeover could be regarded as a good one.

 

Unsatisfied with two coups the military continued the tradition "a coup in every decade." Rightists and leftists were arrested together in 1980. Although leftists were the main target, rightists, too, suffered the coup. The generation of 1968 had still not grasped the situation despite the takeover.

 

They couldn't understand the fact that coups were wrong from the beginning and were having a hard time seeing that takeovers were in fact against people. But according to our leftist friends, the Sept. 12, 1980, and the March 12 military coups were bad ones, yet the May 27 was good.

 

The first split among leftists of the '68 generation occurred because of the Kurdish question. They faced a lively demand of "nations' right to determine its own fate" which they had voiced for years. Kurds came to the fore with identity demands. The bloodiest revolt in Turkish history took place but the state's terror was merciless.

 

Turkish leftists were appalled, so they split. Some considered such demands as "Kurdish nationalist" demands. They adopted a noble stance, saying they were against "any kind of nationalism." As such, according to them, leftists could not support Kurdish nationalists. Therefore, some kept their distance to the Kurdish movement. Moreover, "Kurds should first tear down feudality and stand against their own landlords," they said, seriously distancing themselves from the movement. The demand of Kurdish identity divided the Turkish left into two. A group of leftists supported the Kurdish identity demands.

 

Then a power struggle emerged between the military and the pious. Soldiers declared political parties with religious background "unwanted." The military didn't think that elections won by such parties were legitimate. Therefore, there were attempts to close down such parties through the judicial system. The parties of the Islamic sects were closed down. Their leaders were pushed outside of politics. But that was not all. Military coup plans were revealed.

 

At this point, Turkish secularists and the educated divided again. The Feb. 28, 1997, post-modern coup became the driving force behind the split as some of Turkish leftists and intellectuals had maintained the idea of a "good coup" that they had taken over from their parents. Others refused the "heritage," declaring the military's intervention into politics had seriously harmed society.

 

That break-up affected the fate of politics in Turkey and determined its course of line. Discourses like "Bring in the military, let them save us from the Shariah. The military is our assurance against religious backwardness" were no longer a single voice. The militarist system was being criticized.

 

Discussions and the split deepened. Nothing was the same. The elites of the Republic, who some leftists tagged along with, said, "We are in charge of this country, we will not let it go." But they were the subject of reactions from other secularist groups with whom they acted in concert for years. The "magic of coups" had come to an end.

 

Secularists divided, but it was not useless as some have said. Therefore, the tension caused by the split cannot be useless overall. The break-up was a product of Turkey's need for democratization. A group of leftists, who followed modern elites and had turned their back on democracy to date, were leaving the old camp with the slogan "Democracy for all." That was the reason why all hell broke loose.

 

Perhaps, this was needed.

 

Perhaps the left in Turkey will go back to its real identity at the end of this process…

 

* Mr. Oral Çalışlar is a columnist for the daily Radikal in which this piece first appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

KILIÇDAROĞLU FAMILIARIZES THE CHP WITH THE EU

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

 

The season for vacations has come to an end here and in Europe. The commission is open for business and relations between Turkey and the European Union will be heavily abandoned on the agenda.

 

While entering this new period there is some sense in taking a look at what happened last season. What are we to expect in months to come? Everybody is curious. Are we approaching the end of the road or are negotiations dragging on because of tactical reasons?

 

The end of this year is very critical. If the Cyprus issue still isn't resolved, what will happen?

 

I talked to those who manage the EU file in Ankara and those who monitor Ankara in Europe. I've encountered a pretty tense situation.

 

Positive developments

 

– Those in Brussels who monitor Ankara are astonished. They have encountered a development they did not expect. They did not expect the AKP to involve in a show down with the Turkish Armed Forces. They thought that a party on the eve of a referendum and a general election would get itself into new issues.

 

The opposite was true. Erdoğan signed a turning point in the history of Turkish politics. He ended the involvement of the military in internal issues of political administrations.

 

The reason for such a stunning development was that Europe did not think Turkey could rid itself from military

tutorship. And Europe may, even if not explicitly stated, want this tutorship to continue.

 

This taboo has been destroyed.

 

– Not only relations between military and civil but also the conformity of the political criteria, the approval of the formal ritual in the Sümela Patriarchate and the return of the ownership of goods that belong to minorities, the ritual in the Armenian church in Van Akdamar were recorded as bonuses for Turkey. Preparations for the reopening of the hulk seminary excited Brussels and respective capitals.

 

– One other important development is Kılıçdaroğlu putting the CHP back on its former track with the EU. In a statement in the magazine Kriter he said, contrary to Baykal, he would make the EU target a priority, which is the most important element in this list of "positive developments."

 

Turkey does not do all this in order to fulfill its obligations toward the European Union but with these steps taken it does pull itself closer to the EU. But still the list of positive development does not appear to be sufficient. That is because the list of negative developments is longer and political willpower is not stated clearly.

 

Turkey has been conducting negotiations with the EU since 2005. Five years is a long time for any membership application. Normally there had to be an end to negotiations by now. As a matter of fact the estimated deadline for this full membership was 2014. Nowadays 2020 is being pronounced.

 

The result of five-years points in a negative direction:

 

The EU acquis consists of 35 topics, of which 33 are subject to negotiations. Until now there have been:

 

- 13 topics discussed

 

- 1 topic temporary closed

 

- 3 topics that can't be opened for negotiations because Turkey is unable to fulfill technical criteria

 

- 8 criteria and the closing of all other topics put on hold because of Cyprus

 

- 5 topics are blocked by France (one of them is put on hold anyway because of Cyprus)

 

- 6 topics blocked by Greek Cyprus

 

As you can see there is almost no topic left for neg