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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

EDITORIAL 14.09.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month september 14, edition 000625, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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










  4. URDU: A SHARED LEGACY - ALI KHAN MAHMUDABAD                                                                                                            
































  5. 2 Sept. Deadlines, 1 hope strategy - By JOHN V. WHITBECK  



































It is extremely tragic that motivated and exaggerated reporting by an Iranian television channel, Press TV, about the alleged desecration of the Quran in the US — of which there is no confirmed news or evidence as yet — should have instigated mob violence in the Kashmir Valley as well as in distant Punjab. In the strife-torn Valley, still reeling under the widespread violence unleashed by separatists on Saturday, the day Muslims were celebration Eid-ul-Fitr across India and the world, mobs went on the rampage, burning down a well-known old school, managed by Christians and known for its sterling record as an educational institution that did not discriminate among communities, and setting Government buildings on fire. It betrays logic as to what was achieved by the so-called protesters apart from leaving the security forces with no other option but to open fire when they tried to attack a police station. The loss of lives in the police action has pushed the cumulative toll higher, further aggravating an already precarious situation. Was that the intention of those who organised Monday's 'protest', ostensibly against the alleged (and no doubt condemnable) desecration of the Quran? Meanwhile, a mob ran amok at Malerkotla in Punjab, destroying a church, leading to retaliatory violence and the imposition of curfew. Mischief could be afoot to create a law and order problem in other parts of India by anti-social and anti-national elements pretending their 'religious sentiments' have been offended by an incident that may have occurred in the US and which is in no manner connected to Muslims in this country. The Union Government and the State Governments should take every possible preventive measure to nip this mischief in the bud. Community leaders, if they truly mean what they say when they talk of peace and harmony, should join this effort to maintain peace by urging restraint.

The situation as it is unfolding, especially in the Kashmir Valley, calls for measured response by the Union Government and disallows any scope for adventurism of the sort we have been hearing about — for instance, diluting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or withdrawing the Army from 'peaceful' towns in the Kashmir Valley. The Army still remains the best bet to stop Kashmir from descending into unmanageable chaos; events over the past week have clearly demonstrated there are no 'peaceful' places in the Valley. The Prime Minister reiterating the Government's offer of dialogue with separatists if they give up violence is unlikely to cut any ice with the factions of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference and their foot soldiers. What we need is decisive action based on a firm policy that eschews appeasing the separatists while reaching out to the masses. Towards this end, the Government has done well to call an all-party meeting on September 15. This is the time when the nation needs collective assertion of political will to defeat the separatists: This can only be done by forging a consensus on key issues. Indeed, an all-party meeting should have been called long ago. Instead, the Government chose to exclude others from an issue of national importance, obviously hoping to make political capital out of it. Such cynicism is only to be expected of the Congress, never mind the consequences. 






Bollywood actor Salman Khan deserves every bit of the flak he has been receiving for his uncalled for and insensitive remarks on the November 26, 2008 fidayeen attack on Mumbai in the course of an interview to a Pakistani television channel. The actor is known to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease, and that should have restrained him against speaking to a Pakistani television channel on a subject as sensitive as terrorist attacks on India sponsored by the Pakistani state. By describing the terrorist attacks on multiple targets as an "over-hyped event" because the "elite" were targeted, and clearing Pakistan of complicity in the terrible crime, Salman Khan has done his country enormous harm. It could be argued that he said what he did unthinkingly, that he has apologised for the 'insensitive' comments, but that would be glossing over the impact the interview has had — institutions and individuals in Pakistan involved with exporting jihadi terror to India are celebrating. They could not have hoped for a better propagandist for their cause. That apart, it is amazing that Salman Khan, who is a resident of Mumbai, should be so ignorant of the facts of 26/11. Civilians were mercilessly gunned down at CST railway station and at Nariman House, apart from a hospital and a cafe. Yet, he has chosen to make it out as an attack limited to two hotels. Is he really unaware of the details of that horrific attack? Or has he deliberately twisted facts to suit his ridiculous claim that 26/11 is an over-hyped event, which brings to mind the initial response of the Pakistani Government when it tried to wriggle out of a sticky situation by making the most bizarre claims.

It is only fair to give Salman Khan the benefit of doubt; in all probability he has made a buffoon of himself by putting his limited intelligence on display and inviting ridicule and worse. There is, however, a lesson in his rank stupidity for others in the profession: Actors, directors, screenplay writers, singers, musicians and everybody else involved with the entertainment industry should try and avoid making political comments unless they are sure of what they are saying. This is not about dissenting views or ideological affiliations, but about the national interest which cannot be above an individual's craving for cheap publicity by making outrageous comments. This is not the first time that we are facing such a situation. In the past too Bollywood actors and directors have tried to grab the media's attention by making what they consider to be 'profound' political statements but are in reality bogus and pretentious expressions of intellectually-challenged minds. One can be an excellent actor or a great director, but that does not make him or her a natural contender for political platforms. Let Salman Khan and his ilk mind their own business. 








Catching a somnolent Indian political and security establishment unawares, the Chinese dragon has taken virtual charge of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan in the north-west corner of the undivided kingdom of Kashmir. This — like the 38,000 sq km in Ladakh connecting Tibet and Xinjiang, and 5,000 sq km in Shaksgam Valley given by Pakistan in 1963 — is Indian territory acceded on October 26, 1947 by Maharaja Hari Singh, but lost to Pakistani invaders by a Prime Minister who allowed himself to be manipulated by Governor-General Louis Mountbatten. 

India's loss was sealed by the US-dominated United Nations that froze the status quo via Australian jurist Owen Dixon and Czech-American Josef Korbel, who was supposed to represent India. For Mountbatten, who had urged Hari Singh to join Pakistan, this was no mean feat; he breezed off to England with India partitioned on three frontiers, its elite none the wiser. 

Korbel's daughter, Ms Madeleine Albright, became Secretary of State to US President Bill Clinton, which only goes to show how the imperial West protects its geo-political-strategic interests through generations of committed 'mandarins' while spouting the rhetoric of democracy and open society. Indians nursing the Clinton-sold dream of 'emerging superpower' must realise that greatness comes from a national understanding of power, not mindless adherence to a pretended friendly superpower. 

Indian analysts fell into frenzy after former journalist Selig Harrison revealed the new geo-political reality in The New York Times (August 26, 2010). The article, which said 7,000 to 11,000 Chinese soldiers have moved into Gilgit-Baltistan is interesting on several counts.

Beijing, says Mr Harrison, wants to secure access to the Persian Gulf via Pakistan. Currently, it takes 16 to 25 days for Chinese oil tankers to reach the Persian Gulf. Once the high-speed rail and road links through Gilgit-Baltistan are done, cargo from China will reach Pakistani naval bases at Gwadar, and Pasni and Ormara on the Makran coast, within 48 hours.

People's Liberation Army engineers and soldiers are working on the railroad and also extending the Karakoram Highway that links Xinjiang province with Pakistan. Other projects include dams, expressways, and 22 secret tunnels. These could house the projected gas pipeline from Iran to China (excluding India because of our self-destructive loyalty to the US); they could equally store missiles and hence challenge American designs on the Yellow Sea, South China Sea and Indian Ocean. Washington is worried because Islamabad's support for the Taliban and offer of passage to the Persian Gulf to China proves it is not an 'ally'. Perhaps it is just a major non-NATO mercenary. 

New Delhi must ponder over Mr Harrison's advocacy of a "settlement" of Kashmiri demands for autonomy on both sides of the ceasefire line. Mr Harrison knows the State legally ceded to India in 1947. He knows the Shias of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir hate Pakistan; he avoids assessing their possible reaction to the Han Chinese soldiers if they stay too long. 

But Mr Harrison does not make even polite noises about the return of Indian territory to India. Instead, he brazenly asks New Delhi to join hands with Washington, DC to ensure that Beijing is denied a foothold in Gilgit-Baltistan and does not take it over like Tibet. Islamabad has been asked to cooperate, a polite way of telling the Generals to boot out the PLA, an unlikely scenario. 

So what's the score for New Delhi? First, by getting into northern Pakistan, China is adjacent to the strategic Siachen Glacier, where the Pakistani Army is deployed on one side. Peaceniks, Track II and assorted jholawallahs who advocate demilitarisation of the glacier — as a prelude to a Pakistani, and now Chinese walkover — must be made to hold their tongues, or tried as foreign agents.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must cease all talk about porous borders. All our frontiers are open — land and sea. We must upgrade the border infrastructure on a war-footing (think what we could have done with the money looted for the Commonwealth Games fiasco!) and fix our neighbourhood diplomacy with Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Iraq, and resist the temptation to needle China. 


Of course, India cannot ignore provocations like Beijing's refusal of a visa to Northern Command chief Lt Gen BS Jaswal and rightly cancelled all military exchanges with China until the issue is resolved. We need some reciprocal action for the stapled visas granted to Indians from Jammu & Kashmir; so far we have penalised our own citizens by not letting them travel on such documents, a correct move in itself, but one which does not redress the issue.

Above all, India must recognise that Pakistan is the fulcrum of the Persian Gulf-Central Asia strategy of America (whom it mistakenly views as a friend) and China (whose enmity it exaggerates). If New Delhi is touchy about Beijing giving Islamabad two nuclear reactors (breaching Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines) it cannot overlook the covert American aid to AQ Khan. 

China has emerged as a serious challenger to American hegemony on the Eurasian landmass, the first real threat since the smashing of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and one whose elite will be less easy to manipulate and out-manoeuvre, unless Christian missionaries succeed in penetrating the upper echelons of the Communist Party of China. Undeterred by American hostility, China is helping Iran's nuclear ambitions, and has reportedly sold long-range solid-fuel missiles to Saudi Arabia, which can hold nuclear warheads. The gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, bypassing Russia, is another power statement.

China has suffered tremendously at the hands of Western and Japanese imperialism, and has worked hard to rise again in the comity of nations. It has studied the Anglo-American geopolitical strategies that caused the two World Wars, and, unlike India, has realised that Islam is the best buffer against the West and Asia, and can also help achieve Chinese geopolitical and security interests. Hence the cultivation of Pakistan from the time of President Ayub Khan, the Saudi dynasty, and so on. The chink in Beijing's armour is the CIA-trained mercenary jihadis of Pakistan, who can be moved from the Northern Areas into Xinjiang. 

For India, a collateral benefit of Chinese presence in Gilgit-Baltistan is that it has nixed plans to delink Jammu & Kashmir from India by creating an East Timor-like situation in Srinagar Valley prior to President Barack Obama's visit to New Delhi, thereby forcing UN intervention and plebiscite. 







On May 22, 1964, five days before he died, Jawaharlal Nehru met the Dalai Lama in New Delhi. Their discussion veered on the necessity of establishing a premier Central organisation to preserve Tibetan knowledge and culture, transplanted from India centuries ago by Buddhist missionaries. Consequently, in 1967, the Government of India founded the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies at Sarnath in Varanasi. One of the objectives of this autonomous institute, now under the Union Ministry of Culture, is to restore the Indian sciences and literature lost in original Sanskrit but preserved in the Tibetan language. It has been working as a sterling educational and research organisation for the last 40 years.

Earlier in 1959, at the behest of Nehru and with the active cooperation of Kushok Bakula Rinchope, the Central Institute of Buddhist Studies was established in Leh. It was later elevated to a post-graduate institute affiliated to Sampurnanand Sanskrit University. Also under the Ministry of Culture, the institute has embarked upon the projectEncyclopedia of Himalayan Buddhist Culture in 15 volumes under the supervision of Prof Ramesh Chand Tiwari.

His "Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai" gaffe notwithstanding, Nehru did not abandon the Tibetans, living custodians of the Buddhist faith. Nehru's obsession with modernism did not displace the quintessential culturist within him. Not only did he recognise Tibetans as stake-holders in Indian culture but also gave it an institutional shape. Ironically, the Nalanda Mentor Group led by Prof Amartya Sen is trying to bulldoze this Nehruvian view to build a cosmopolitan university named after the greatest institution of Buddhist scholarship in history. The otherwise passionate advocate of 'inclusive development' wants to keep the Tibetans out of the project.

Ironically, this is being done in the name of Nalanda, the centre of Tibetan scholarship in its original avatar. In his book Indian Teachers of Buddhist Universities (1923), Phanindranath Bose of Visva-Bharati University has demonstrated how most "Indian pundits of the Buddhist universities of Nalanda, Vikramshila, Odantapura and Jaggadala were associated with Tibet, and influenced Tibetan literature and religion". Commenting on Nalanda, Bose says "it was also a great centre of Tibetan learning. Indian punditslearnt Tibetan in this monastery and translated numerous Buddhist books from Sanskrit. Through these translations they instilled principles of Buddhism in Tibet". Many Buddhist treatises lost in original were preserved in Tibetan.

Ancient Nalanda was an international university but driven by Indian scholars. The mentor group, however, is bereft of them. Only expatriate Indians like Prof Sen, Prof Sugata Bose, Prof Meghnad Desai and Prof Tansen Sen have been deemed fit to participate. Rajya Sabha member Ram Prakash has rightly wondered during a debate as to who amongst them is a linguist or an Indologist. 

Why was eminent Buddhist scholar and Indologist Lokesh Chandra not invited to take part in the project when he would have been most fit to lead it? Who nominated these jet-set non-resident Indian academicians with their wish-washy views on Indian nationalism for the project? How come a reader at Lady Shri Ram College, Prof Gopa Sabharwal, got designated as Vice-Chancellor? Why is it that while collaboration with Oxford, Cambridge and Cairo's Al-Azhar University is on the cards, accredited institutions of Tibetan and Buddhist studies within India are being kept out? These are tricky questions to answer.

Critics feel all of this is being done to keep China in good humour. But this is certainly not a smart move. China could have been accommodated even without a display of such obsequiousness. There is already a Nava Nalanda Mahavihara under the Union Ministry of Culture functioning since 1951. Even when it was ruled by Mao Tse-tung, the Chinese leadership paid its homage to Nava Nalanda Mahavihara by sending a part of the mortal remains of the traveller, Hieun Tsang.

Credit for this is due to the genius of Bhikshu Jagdish Kasyap, the founding director of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, who had prevailed upon then Chinese Premier Chou En Lai. On January 12, 1957, the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama had come as official representatives of the People's Republic of China to hand over the relics to Nehru. The Chinese Prime Minister had also sent a cheque towards constructing a memorial hall in the name of Hieun Tsang.

On February 12, 2007, 50 years later, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing opened the Hieun Tsang Memorial Hall to the public. He was accompanied by a 100-member delegation, which included Chinese Buddhist monks. A team of Chinese craftsmen, artisans and designers had completed the beautification of the hall before it was inaugurated. Unlike Prof Sen, Bhikshu Kasyap was no economist. Hence he never thought of 'marketing' Nalanda to China. Students and monks from various Buddhist nations came, drawn by his knowledge, dedication and purity of character. Since 1990, the Mahavihara has been functioning as an autonomous institution. In 2006, it was conferred the status of a deemed university by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. Curiously enough, it never featured in the plans for the proposed revival of Nalanda University. 

The UPA Government's regard for Nehru in matters concerning foreign affairs needs no proof. The Government changed the name of the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs under construction on New Delhi's Janpath from Videsh Bhavan to Jawaharlal Nehru Bhavan, despite there being another Jawahar Bhavan in the vicinity. But it must ask itself whether or not Nehru would have permitted such exclusionism in the name of Nalanda. 








The tempo is building up with Assembly elections scheduled in Bihar, a new Govern- ment in Jharkhand and more elections in 2011. Raising the issue of land acquisition and declaring that poor peasant interests will be protected is a pre-election campaign ploy — all sound and fury signifying nothing.

The politics of elections is reflected in the recent slew of pronouncements on land rights, tribal rights and the need to secure for the weakest sections of the people packages that transform the old idea of a handout into a compensation that will enable them to rebuild their lives. Converting a complex, difficult and permanently problematic issue into a gift of a Government that is sensitive to the anxieties and needs of the poor aam admi is political grandstanding and, therefore, diverts attention from the need to work out what are the underlying principles on which land can be acquired and compensations calculated. 

Every political party from the Congress to the Trinamool Congress which flagged it most stridently and now the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has done a rethink and laid down a new Prakash Karat doctrine, have all hedged and so avoided addressing the difficulty — shall India continue to operate on the principle of 'eminent domain' or will it abrogate the right of the Indian state to acquire land for purposes that are in the public good? How that public good is to be defined and what gets included or excluded from that list is a different matter altogether. 

No political party is willing to relinquish the right of the Indian state to acquire land, displace for 'development'. What the political parties are willing to do is pay compensation to the poorest of land losers, in other words, those who are on the poverty line, cannot access bank credit, borrow to eat and cover all other expenses at usurious rates from the local money lender — on a scale that was never thought of in the wildest imagination of the political class and the bureaucracy and the local elites. 

By adding the idea of 'fertile land' to the list and expanding it by including land in the forest where tribals can claim rights the political class has set itself the task of defining what is fertile land. Is fertile land on which something can be cultivated in contrast to wasteland on which nothing can be grown? Why assume that a single cropped field is less valuable than a multi cropped field? Technologies for improving productivity of land, switching to other crops can all be deployed to convert single staple cropped fields into something far more lucrative. If water can be harvested and used for agriculture then perhaps the fields would be green for longer periods.

The definition of fertility cannot be fixed for all time to come, unless it is perhaps desert area or places where the temperature cannot support cultivation. If the definition of fertility is fixed as of now based on the current level of knowledge and practice of a poor peasant with little access to the latest technologies of cultivation and the cash to buy it then would that not be cheating the peasant of his right to live the life of his forefathers? After all, the information that he has about how productive his land is could be seriously limited. The political class needs to answer this question without engaging in posturing.

If it does so, it has to go beyond the idea of being high and mighty and it needs to appreciate that the poor peasant is not there to be pushed around — either brutally or gently as the politics of the case may be. It is logically impossible that only the poor peasant is land loser when decisions are made on building roads or laying rail tracks, constructing a bridge, a power station or any other utility. Other categories of peasants, too, benefit from the enhancement of compensation and the calculation of lost income.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has put out in front to allay concerns of global interests over how India is planning on getting over the land hump. The constraints under which he is required to make statements without presenting possible strategies or policy is all too obvious. The dilemma of a developing country that has made very little real progress in improving the quality of life of the 60 to 70 per cent who eke out a precarious existence in the rural areas as well as the rapidly urbanising areas is well understood. However, what is less clearly articulated is where very noble principles of equity and justice, positive discrimination and affirmative action have failed to lift the weakest and the marginalised. For every programme of the Bharat Nirman genre that has ever been unrolled and the money spent, the current immiserisation of the poor is a shame. 

Farmers staring at the sky and citizens wading through filthy water down narrow lanes in urban areas carrying painfully meagre possessions is so routine that the grandstanding becomes just that — farce. 

What is required is an effort to work on a political consensus of how India's growth policy can be given the impetus that is needed and those who require development programmes can be included in the resultant prosperity. The nationwide strike against price increases is an indication that the marginalised and worst-hit are growing increasingly restless. So are other losers hit by the worldwide economic downturn. The noise and outrage generated in India and within the political class by Ohio and US President Barack Obama's decisions on turning off the American outsourcing tap ought to be directed at the failure of the Government in controlling consumption prices with its merciless impact on the poor and the lower end of the middle class.







Will the 21st century belong to China? For a while, perhaps — but only in the sense that it was said to belong to Japan in the 1980s. Looking back now, that seems ridiculous, but at the time best-selling books were predicting that Americans, not to mention the rest of the planet, would be reduced to virtual serfdom by the relentless high-speed growth of the Japanese economy. Then it stopped growing.

Official data published on 16 August revealed that China's economy has overtaken Japan's this year, making it the second-biggest economy in the world. This followed last month's announcement by the International Energy Agency that China is now the world's biggest consumer of energy (and burns about half of the world's total coal production).

Earlier this year China overtook Germany to become the world's No. 1 exporter, and it now makes more cars than any other country in the world. Indeed, it makes as many as Japan and the United States together. It has more kilometres of high-speed rail, more mobile phone users, and more wind power than anywhere else. As long ago as 2007 it became the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The milestones are zipping past so fast that it's surprising that the Chinese are not suffering from a collective case of whiplash.

If the average growth rates of the US and Chinese economies over the past quarter century continue for another ten years (around 10 per cent for China, and about three per cent for the United States), then China's economy will be three times bigger than it is today, and bigger than that of the United States. That's the magic of compound interest. Better start learning Chinese, then. 

But hang on. China is already the world's second-biggest importer of energy (mostly oil and coal), and its biggest importer of minerals and other industrial raw materials. None of those resources is growing at 10 per cent a year, or even five per cent. If China's imports of those goods grow at 10 per cent a year, then the share of other countries must shrink.

China still has an export-led economy, and these other countries are its customers. If commodity prices soar because of ever-expanding Chinese demand for raw materials, then how will those other countries earn the money to pay for Chinese manufactured goods? So the Chinese rate of growth must eventually slow down — but when?

The straight-line projection of current trends would make the Chinese economy bigger than that of the United States by 2020. You can still find economic forecasts which predict precisely that, but it is striking that most of the economic consultancies that make such forecasts now suggest that China will not overtake the United States until some time between 2027 and 2030.

That implicitly assumes that China will shift to a much lower annual rate of growth in the near future: From 10 per cent to only five or six per cent. However, no organisation that is making a lot of money from the current orgy wants to spoil the party by spelling out exactly what might cause that sharp decline — so let us do it here.

Back in 1988, the last year of Japans 30-year boom, the land in the garden of the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo was allegedly worth more than the entire State of California, but that was just another way of saying "unsustainable property bubble." The bubble duly burst, bringing down the entire Japanese economy with it — and it has stayed down for the past 22 years, achieving at best two per cent annual growth and usually much less.

The property bubble in China is reaching similar dimensions, with prices rising annually by 50 per cent or more in dozens of cities. When property bubbles finally burst — and they always do — they tend to do a great deal of damage. (Nobody say "sub-prime".)

There is huge over-investment in China, often in state-sponsored infrastructure and housing projects motivated by considerations of "prestige" or by the opportunities they offer for cronies to make large sums of money. (That is what caused the slump in the smaller Asian "tigers" like Thailand and South Korea in 1998.)

China's wage costs are going up fast, and lower-cost Asian producers like Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh are taking away the labour-intensive goods like clothes and toys that once drove Chinese export growth. Meanwhile, at the upper end of the market, there is little of the genuine technological innovation that the Japanese economy was delivering towards the end of its boom.

The Chinese population is ageing almost as fast as Japan's, and China is as resistant as Japan to reinforcing the dwindling workforce by allowing large-scale immigration. If ther same inputs tend to produce the same outputs, then the Chinese economy is in big trouble.

That doesn't necessarily mean that China also faces two decades of less than two per cent growth. It does probably mean that it faces a very nasty slump in the next few years, followed by the transition to a permanently lower rate of growth. Not such a terrible outcome, really: It's still an amazing success story. But it may threaten the regime's survival, since its popularity (if that's the right word) depends almost entirely on its record in delivering the economic goods.








Strikes raged across France from Paris to Marseilles as workers protested Government plans to raise the retirement age. The unions said up to three million people joined the rallies. However, it's not that all of them were concerned about retiring at 62 rather than 60 as President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Government insists. Many simply protested against Le Sarko; nevertheless, the turnout was impressive.

What's important is that the protest's popularity has implications for other European countries. Governments from Dublin to Rome and from Vilnius to Lisbon are thinking (or are about to start thinking) of ways to cut pension costs. They will face pensioner riots in their turn. In fact current demographic trends point to further protests, as birth rates continue to fall and the population continues to age in Europe. Taxes paid to pension funds continue to rise, but so do pension funds' budget deficits.

In Russia, this issue does not seem as pressing as in France or Britain. Moreover, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on August 31 during his trip to Norilsk that the Government was not considering a retirement age bump. However, on September 7, Russia's Pension Fund head Anton Drozdov told the 19th Baltic social insurance conference that the problem cannot be avoided and this decision "will have to be made". Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin made a similar statement at the conference, adding that this decision will have to be made within the next five years, and the gradual reform should take another 5-10 years. As a result, the retirement age will have to be raised by five years.

Although this might upset Mr Putin, there is an unbreakable law in business: With money issues, financial officers are trusted more than the chief executive officers. Admittedly, the Prime Minister is also right, because the Government is not considering the issue now. But this does not mean it will not do so five years from now. Some say the issue could become quite pressing as soon as 2012, although that is unlikely during an election year.

In Europe, they are not saying they will raise the retirement age now or a month from now either. It will be increased gradually in France, and will not reach 62 until 2018. Britain is planning to cancel the law that requires compulsory retirement at 65 for men and 60 for women. Eventually they plan to raise it to 68 for men (and respectively for women). The Netherlands, Germany and Italy have similar plans. In Italy, forecasts predict a drastic shift in the balance between working people aged 20-64 and pensioners. In 2040, it will reach 96 pensioners per 100 workers, a critical level. Pension systems are in for dramatic changes worldwide. These changes have to be taken with a bitter pill, because the disease has spread through the retirement systems of Europe and Japan and is threatening with an "ischemic" attack. With pension systems, there are two things that can help — increasing the retirement age and even this notwithstanding, increasing Government spending on pensions, with all ensuing consequences. The process is already underway.

Increasing the retirement age is not as terrible as it seems, if it is accompanied by certain laws, as in Britain. The plan is to pass a law that would prevent employers from firing any employee once that employee reaches retirement age. If the employee wants to continue working, he or she should be given the chance. In fact, the higher retirement age combined with this law mean that older people can keep their jobs. For Russia, where people are discouraged from applying for jobs after 35-45, that would be a revelation, if this idea is embraced by Russian lawmakers.

The figures cited by the Western European media and EU pension statistics are scary. For example, the average American can count on a federal pension of 70 per cent of his average annual income. Most European countries are far behind the United States in this respect, although they offer their citizens a better social package in terms of healthcare, education and welfare benefits. Italy is the most generous of the 27 European Union members, where pensions reach 89 per cent of average income. It is followed by France with 60 per cent and Germany 53 per cent (to be cut to 46 per cent), while the Czech Republic is lowest with 35.3 per cent. The EU average is 58.2 per cent. In terms of actual money, this means that in Germany a worker with an average-income will receive euro 1,000-1,500 a month after retirement; the 6,000 roubles (euro 150) a Russian will get cannot come close to that.








ACTOR Salman Khan's statements on the Pakistan- planned 26/ 11 terror attack are not only outrageous, they are downright insensitive; more so because they were made on Pakistan television while promoting his latest movie Dabangg . " Everybody knows the Pakistan government was not behind 26/ 11 and most importantly our security failed," he claimed, before adding, " There has been too much hype around 26/ 11 because elite people ( sic) were targeted." The terror attack on Mumbai was more than just 10 gunmen shooting indiscriminately at unsuspecting victims; it was a meticulously planned military- style attack on India sponsored by Pakistani state actors.


As Ajmal Amir Qasab — the lone terrorist caught alive — has confessed in Indian courts, he was part of a 10- man team trained by the Lashkar- e- Tayyeba ( LeT) and Pakistan's Inter- Services Intelligence ( ISI) to go on the suicidal terror mission.


India has sent dossiers of evidence that point to the active cooperation of specific officers of the Pakistan Army in making this attack successful. The most important corroboration of the evidence has come from David Coleman Headley who was interrogated in the presence of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States.


As an actor, nobody expects Mr Khan to know the intricacies of international relations, leave alone the ramifications of such acts of terror on not only the sub- continent, but also the rest of the world. It would have been more apt for him, therefore, to offer a " no comment" response to the bait thrown by the Pakistan television interviewer even if he was only trying to pander to the Pakistan market, one of the biggest for Indian movies.


Perhaps the lesson here is that Indian stars, like their Hollywood counterparts, need professional managers, rather than chamchas who can advise them when to say what.







THERE may seem something unfortunate about an able minister being taken to task by his own partymen but were he to introspect Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal would realise that some of the criticism leveled against him is valid. For instance Digvijay Singh's view that he should concentrate more on the primary sector than higher education is also the opinion of many educational experts in the country.


Likewise, the charge that Mr Sibal has not carried the party along in the implementation of his ideas was borne out by the fate of the Educational Tribunals Bill in Parliament.


At the same time, the fact that Congressmen have been criticising ministers of late should not be necessarily seen as a bad thing.


The idea that the party should also play the role of Opposition by putting under the scanner government policy has merit.


But the job of resolving the sometimes acute divergence between the social agenda of the party and the economic agenda of the UPA government needs to be handled by the Congress' institutions which are largely dysfunctional today. The legitimate views of the Digvijay Singhs and the Mani Shanker Aiyers will then enrich the government's agenda rather than come across as voices of dissonance.







SUSHIL KUMAR has created history by becoming the only Indian wrestler in 59 years to win a gold at the World Championships.


And the 27- year- old Delhi- based freestyle wrestler won it in style, defeating Russian Alan Gogaev in Moscow on Sunday.


The Russians are known to be the best in the sport and the fact that the 66- kg grappler bested one of them in his own den makes it even more creditable. It is hard work and dedication that have enabled Sushil to reach the top, after he won a bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.


But it has not been smooth all along. He suffered the ignominy of being disqualified from the 2009 Asian Championships in Pattaya, after he was found overweight. Understandably, fingers were pointed at his commitment.


But like a true champion, he bounced back, pushing himself hard. And the results are there for all to see: first a gold at this year's Asian Championships in Delhi and now the crowning moment in Moscow.








AROUND the time the six gurus of classical dance were doing a tandav on A. R. Rahman's music for their 11- minute role in the Commonwealth Games ( CWG) opening ceremony, the international media was rolling out breathless prose on the cultural spectacle China had planned for the Asian Games, which start in Guangzhou on November 12.


Without doubt, the CWG has been a public relations disaster, but the organising committee has managed to botch up even what could have become a cultural statement of where India stands in the world.


The committee hasn't even been able to convince Rahman to tweak the dud anthem he has produced for the CWG. It is evident by now that the ' Mozart of Madras' didn't put his heart into a project for which he's pocketed Rs 5.04 crore ( post TDS). He has no time for such minor issues as national pride at a time when he has to ensure the success of his Jai Ho! tour of the US. After all, there's more money to be made out there.


But, Rahman is not the problem; he's a symptom of the complete absence of a vision driving the cultural pageant planned for the CWG. The lid came off when the dancers rose in protest against Rahman. Till then, no one had any idea of what the organising committee had up its sleeve.




Even so, is the world's youngest nation going to be represented by geriatrics promoting dance forms that don't draw a full house even at India International Centre, that last outpost of self- important retirees? Is India's face at the most important sporting event to be held in the country after 1982 going to be dancers who aren't known beyond the schools they run on subsidised prime land? We've seen in the recent past how China and South Africa have turned cultural spectacles into political statements. At the FIFA World Cup 2010 opening, South Africa emerged as the mirror to a resurgent Africa ready to bury its image as a continent of tinpot dictators, insurrectionary tribal chieftains and endemic poverty. It was also South African President Jacob Zuma's big opportunity to establish himself as the thought leader of the new Africa.


The FIFA World Cup organising committee succeeded in turning the anthem, Waka Waka ( This One for Africa ), into a statement of this new spirit. The song had been inspired by Zangalewa , a number that a makossa group from Cameroon had belted out back in 1986, so its roots were very much African. Getting the Colombian pop diva Shakira to sing it at the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony, though, was a stroke of genius. Instantly, the choice internationalised the event and ensured that the song became the lasting legacy of the soccer spectacle that attracted a global audience of 500 million.


Can the gyrations of geriatrics, which is what the CWG has on its agenda, or the not- so- dazzling screen presence of Rahman match Shakira's powerhouse of youthful energy? India's most important cultural export is Bollywood, and to a lesser degree, Tamil cinema. We've competent choreographers; our pool of special effects talent is employed even by Hollywood, so why are traditional dancers being hired to put up what the world expects to be a grand show of India's soft power? It doesn't make sense. When we have an Aishwarya Rai, do we need a Sonal Mansingh or a Saroja Vaidyanathan? Ironically, the committee that was responsible for preparing the mandate for the opening ceremony consisted of two people — Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi ( the third member was Shyam Benegal) — who understand popular culture better than most others. They seem to have just gone along with the organising committee, which wanted Rahman, and recommended rather vaguely that the opening ceremony should present different forms of choreography and music. They've clearly not done their job well. How much were they paid for their shoddy effort?




India, admittedly, is an ancient civilisation, but so is China, yet we weren't overwhelmed by traditional culture at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. The blast from the past came, literally, from 2008 drummers who dazzled the world with acoustic magic. They were playing the fou, China's oldest percussion instrument, yet they were able to articulate a modern positioning statement. The power of their beats symbolised the energy of their economy. It was China's moment in the sun.


If the organising committee was averse to Bollywood glamour, it could have looked around a little harder. Just six months ago, 10,736 Cheraw bamboo dance performers in Mizoram entered the Guinness Book of Records by staging an eight- minute show of synchronicity during a local harvest festival.


The very same performers could have been commissioned for the opening ceremony.


Apart from being a showcase of our vibrant folk culture, the performance certainly would have been more pleasing to the eye.


Rattled by the condemnation of Rahman's anthem ( if his music for the Rajnikanth budget- buster Endhiran is any indicator, the maestro appears to have hit a creative trough), the organising committee has let it slip that Shah Rukh Khan may be drafted for the opening pageant. Here's another instance of kneejerk planning.


The planning of a spectacle of this scale, says Dave Atkins, the man behind the Sydney Olympics 2000 and Vancouver Winter Olympics 2010, in an interview to the Sydney Morning Herald , takes at least four months of in- stadium rehearsal time. It was two months ago that the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, venue of the opening and closing ceremonies, was handed over to the organising committee. And with less than 20 days left for the curtains to come up on the CWG inaugural, mulling over the idea of getting Shah Rukh Khan is plain ridiculous. And this is happening when the Benegal- Akhtar- Joshi trio submitted its report on the opening ceremony seven months ago.


That there's something terribly wrong with the CWG is no longer a secret but whatit seems to have done is to spawn all- round lethargy.




The other irony of the opening and closing ceremonies is that they're being put up without an impresario's unifying vision. In Beijing, we got a glimpse of the genius of Zhang Yimou at work. Zhang is the director of such silver- screen spectacles as Raise the Red Lantern ( 1997), Hero ( 2002) and Curse of the Golden Flower ( 2004). His codirector in this grand effort was Zhang Jigang, the People's Liberation Army lieutenant- general who has staged over 300 mega productions in 60 countries.


Together, the two Zhangs put together what Steven Spielberg described as an " evening of visual and emotional splendour" that " educated, enlightened and entertained us all." Bharat Bala, the filmmaker who became famous for Rahman's Ma Tujhe Salaam music video, is the creative point man for the ceremonies, but as the case of the rebellious dancers illustrates, he doesn't seem to have much of a say.


Bharat Bala doesn't also have the depth of experience to lead a cultural extravaganza of the scale that is expected of the CWG. The event management company, Wizcraft, has a decent track record in staging film events, but can it pull off a surprise that would make people forget Beijing, as CWG officials have so rashly promised? There's nothing on the ground yet to justify any cause for hope. We can only hope that the Vedic chants, the rebellious dancers now want to dance to, will have their desired effect. But the gods are known to help those who help themselves. Invoking the Vedas alone may not move them to pull off a miracle for Incredible India.








MUMBAI is busy celebrating what is perhaps the city's favourite festival — the Ganeshotsav. The 10- day long festival began on Saturday and throughout this week, Ganesh will peeping at you from every nook and corner in the city.


Started by freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak about a century ago, the public celebrations of the festival in Mumbai peaked with the mill workers contributing their money and efforts in the 70s and 80s. Being the largest organised working class in Mumbai, the mill workers literally ruled central Mumbai — also known as Girangaum ( mills' village). The festival seemed to have lost its sheen after the Great Mill' Strike of 1982 that led to the death of textile mills' business in the city.


The focus then turned to Pune, that was the birthplace of the public celebrations of the Ganesh festival. The Dagdusheth Halwai Trust's Ganesh gained iconic status as the devotees believed their mannats ( wishes) were fulfilled by the elephant god installed here.


It still remains the richest Ganesh as devotees continue to offer gold and diamonds.


Thousands come from across the state to see the decoration at Dagdusheth Halwai and later at the rest of the Pune pandals.


Pune- based politician Suresh Kalmadi, who is the in the eye of the storm over the organisation of the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, was quick to see the popularity of the Ganeshotsav and was responsible for turning it into the Pune Festival. He brought the festival on the world tourists' map.


However, the Pune Festival seems to have lost its steam as Kalmadi is now eyeing a bigger canvas.


The festival in Mumbai is back to its prime glory — though only one mandal ( unlike the whole of central Mumbai)— now catches most eyeballs. The crowds at Lalbaugcha Raja, based in Central Mumbai, breaks all records every year. This year, already there were six kilometre long queues of devotees waiting to catch a glimpse of the Raja. As many as 32 lakh devotees thronged Lalbaug during the weekend.


The film industry's celebration of Ganeshotsav started in 1934 and gained popularity with the celebrities after Raj Kapoor and his family started the trend. Raj Kapoor fell in love with the deity and started celebrating the festival at his RK Studios in Chembur. As long as the Great Showman ruled, the film fraternity turned up in hordes at RK Studios for Holi and Ganeshotsav.


But now with the RK family reduced to just Kareena Kapoor and the studio undergoing redevelopment, neither the ganpati nor the holi at RK Studio attracts the industry any more.


Another Ganesh from Mumbai that made waves briefly was the one that was supported by mafia don Chhota Rajan. The mandal spent crores in erecting spectacular pandals that were replicas of famous temples across India.


But after the police came to know of it, screws were tightened and the mandal is now forced to cut down on its expenses.


POLITICS over language continues in multi- lingual Mumbai.


Maharashtra Navnirmaan Sena members in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation introduced a proposal that offered doubled increments to those civic employees who have graduated in Marathi. Shiv Sena, which rules the BMC, had no choice but to support it as it couldn't have been seen as opposing MNS for the sake of it.


Even before the ink had dried on the matter, Congress group in the BMC, Rajhans Singh, put forward another proposal that offers a similar hike to civic employees who have graduated in Hindi.


His rationale is that while Marathi is a state language, Hindi is the National Language and those who pursued their studies in the national language should not be treated in an unfair manner.


Clearly, both the proposals have been brought in with an eye on the 2012 civic polls in Mumbai and are indeed notional since hardly any of the civic employees have graduated in either of the two languages. But then, the politicians know how to exploit popular sentiments.



IT WAS a politician — Bal Gangadhar Tilak — who started celebrating the Ganeshotsav on a public platform. So how could the politicians of today be lagging behind. Most politicians from Maharashtra are busy worshipping the god who is believed to be the remover of obstacles.


Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari has installed a Ganesh at his residence in Nagpur and it provided him the perfect excuse for not attending the swearing in ceremony of Arjun Munda in Jharkhand.


Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi started the tradition of installing Ganesh at the government- provided residence, while he was chief minister.


His act in 1995 had raised a few eyebrows as very few CMs before him had done it.


Joshi has been pursuing the cause of unity between Raj and Uddhav Thackeray despite strong opposition from Matoshri ( Bal Thackeray's residence in Bandra) and Krishnakunj ( Raj's residence in Dadar).


This year he wants Lord Ganesh to unite all Marathi men for the cause of Marathi maanus . No prizes for guessing whose unity he is referring to.


Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has continued the tradition laid down by Joshi and later followed by Vilasrao Deshmukh, of installing a Ganesh. Chavan has been an ardent devotee of the Puttaparthi Saibaba, just like his father — the late Shankarrao Chavan.


Chavan is not the only one in Maharashtra cabinet who readily falls at the feet of babas . Though the Congress claims to be a secular party and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar is an atheist, most of the ministers, if not all, are staunch followers of one baba or another.


This might explain why the Maharashtra legislature has failed to pass the bill that prohibits superstitions.


deepak. lokhande@ mailtoday. in








Although the cabinet has given its nod to a fresh caste census, it is worthwhile assessing the perceived benefits of the exercise. The experience of the last caste census in 1931 was anything but efficient. It was fraught with problems as several people tried to climb up the social ladder by pretending to be upper castes. Given the inaccuracies that became evident, the exercise was deemed futile and therefore abandoned. Eighty years later as the government readies itself for another caste-count, it is prudent to ask whether accuracy in collecting caste data is actually possible. 

As in 1931, the methodology for carrying out a caste-count is flawed and there is nothing to suggest that it will be any different when enumerators are put on the job next year. Contrary to the opinion of several political parties, this is precisely the reason why a new caste census will not help in rationalising the government's affirmative action policies. In fact, given the political jostling for caste benefits, the census will provide fresh ammunition to Mandal politicians whose interests are best served by reinforcing caste identities. Not only is such divisive politics unhealthy for our democracy, focussing on caste alone sweeps under the carpet the vagaries of the relation between caste and economic status. 

It is true that on an average those belonging to upper castes are economically better off than lower castes. But when the data is broken down over parameters such as states, level of education and rural/urban settings, the complexion of the analysis changes. We find that Scheduled Tribe households in Karnataka are actually in better economic shape than upper caste households in Bihar. Caste-based affirmative action policies that do not take into account these variations are highly inefficient and responsible for the creamy layer conundrum. This necessitates an approach to empowerment that goes beyond caste as the basic criterion. 

In the interest of a holistic approach, affirmative action policies should have economic criteria as the basis. This will help make the transition from caste-specific reservations to capacity building policies. The fundamental problem plaguing social development is the lack of infrastructure. It is because of this we have been forced to take recourse to narrow caste-based policies. Our aim should be to implement policies that make all boats float. It is only when we have built enough capacity in terms of education, health, employment, etc, that growth can truly be inclusive. The government must envision a broader empowerment strategy that includes all sections of society. To achieve this, it must go beyond the politics of caste and vote banks.







The entire Quran-burning episode that has played out over the past few days is a peculiar phenomenon of today's era of global communication, with a backwoods Florida pastor presiding over a church of just 50 people suddenly in the limelight. And he has played it for all it was worth before finally ending the dithering and calling off his plan to burn the Quran on 9/11's ninth anniversary. Given the unwarranted attention he has managed to garner and the tension it has caused internationally, US President Barack Obama has done well to come out strongly and unequivocally against such intolerance. Compounding the issue, of course, is the ongoing battle over the so-called Ground Zero mosque - a proposed Islamic community centre two blocks from the Twin Towers site. 

What is needed here is moderation from both sides. Certain right-wing elements within the American political milieu have tried to equate Terry Jones's planned Quran-burning with the community centre plan. They point out that if the former is a constitutionally protected act but nevertheless insensitive and ethically wrong, the same is true of the latter. But to compare a plan to deliberately insult another religion with one to practise one's faith is to establish a false equivalence. Likewise, those across the Muslim world condemning the US for intolerance would do well to note that a radical pastor does not represent the viewpoints of the vast majority of Americans - and that in the debate over the community centre, the US has displayed an openness and willingness to talk that few other countries can boast of. America's engagement with the Muslim world is as much a matter of perception as of reality. Giving too much weight to the loony fringe on either side could warp those perceptions irretrievably.








Inflation is in the news. Double-digit inflation persists, concentrated in prices of food and necessities. The retail prices of pulses are in the range of Rs 80-100 per kg. Seasonal vegetables retail at Rs 30-40 per kg. Yet, our pink newspapers believe there is little reason for concern. There is a boom in purchases of consumer durables. The middle class is prospering. The poor are better-off with the NREGA. And people are no longer afraid of inflation. Such a worldview is, to say the least, misleading. It needs a reality check. 

The woman in the household or the man in the street is not persuaded by statistics on rates of inflation. In the mind of the citizen, there is a 'price perception index' which is based on prices paid. And even when inflation comes down, prices paid are higher. This price perception index has two dimensions. The first is that the consumer is concerned about the proportionate increase in prices over a period of time. Between June 2007 and June 2010, the consumer price index for industrial workers increased by 35 per cent, while the wholesale price index for food articles also rose by 35 per cent. Thus, what cost Rs 100 three years ago now costs Rs 135. 

The second is that the consumer is worried about the increase in the price level in relation to his money income. Between June 2007 and June 2010, consumer prices for cereals, pulses, vegetable oils, meat, eggs and fish, milk, spices, vegetables and fruits increased by 30 to 50 per cent. For a large number of people, money incomes did not increase anywhere near as much. 

The social and political threshold of tolerance for inflation in India has always been low, because a large proportion of the population is poor and an even larger proportion does not have index-linked incomes. People are afraid of inflation because it erodes their consumption of food and necessities. Governments are sensitive to inflation because elections have been lost on the price of onions. Indeed, in the past, persistent double-digit inflation was simply unacceptable to people and to governments. This time around, there are no visible signs of anger among the people, just as there are no obvious signs of anxiety in the government. Why? 

Silence on the part of people is a puzzle. There are no obvious answers that are convincing. But there are some plausible explanations. For the rich, small in number and large in influence, food is such a negligible part of their expenditure that food prices do not matter. For the middle class in the private sector, beneficiaries of rapid economic growth, incomes have increased significantly more than prices and expenditure on food as a proportion of their household budgets has come down. 

For the middle class in the government sector, following the Sixth Pay Commission, a bonanza of much higher salaries indexed even better with prices and combined with substantial arrears paid, meant that their purchasing power increased considerably more than prices. In the past, whenever there was double-digit inflation, it was these two segments of the middle class with a voice that organised protest and shaped opinion. 

For the poor, making ends meet to simply provide food for their families is such a struggle that they have no time to protest. Committees and scholars are engaged in an unending debate about the proportion of the population who live below the poverty line. But the government now accepts that this proportion is 38 per cent and could be as much as 50 per cent. Therefore, at least 450 million, possibly 600 million, people live in poverty. The poor are hurt by inflation, particularly in food prices. Their silence does not mean acceptance. It is just that they do not have a voice. 

The reality of inflation is recognised by the government. But its concern for the aam aadmi has not led it to address the problem as a priority. Once again, there are some plausible explanations. For one, the UPA won a general election in May 2009 despite inflation. For another, opposition parties, fragmented and in disarray, seem incapable of mobilising support on the issue. 

Most important, perhaps, the government does not quite know what to do. Some hope that inflation will come down in six months, but relying on statistics or words is not enough. Some assert that inflation is the price of growth, even if those who lose from inflation are not those who gain from growth. Some believe that raising interest rates and tightening credit would help combat inflation, without recognising that this inflation is attributable to supply-demand imbalances rather than excess liquidity; if the diagnosis is wrong the prescription cannot work. 

It would be a serious mistake for the government to conclude that people are now willing to live with higher inflation or that their tolerance is greater than before. Persistent inflation, particularly in food, hurts the poor. Slowly but surely, resentment mounts. The number of people affected could be as much as half our population. Even if they do not have purchasing power in a market economy, come election time, they do exercise their right to vote in a political democracy. In the political process, inflation is more like a treadmill than a time-bomb. 

The writer is professor of economics, JNU. 


                                                                THE TIMES OF INDIA




The curtains will rise again on the cinematically path-breaking Avatar. Sequel-maker James Cameron is to have a submersible vessel plumb Pacific sea depths to get never-before-seen footage to serve as a backdrop for Avatar II. To those who say sequels are rarely as good as originals, this may seem a waste of resources. Yes, given the visionary flamboyance of the maker of Titanic, a fortune will be spent. But it's said Avatar I earned Cameron a whopping $350 million. So, it makes perfect sense to commercially exploit the Avatar brand the way, say, the Twilight series' producers encashed a vampire saga that's spawned back-to-back blockbusters. 

Art is a motive as well. With grand themes and narratives, some films Godfather, Rocky have a panoramic scale. Epic stories lend themselves to big screen repeats without compromising aesthetic integrity. The philosophical, even mystical, underpinnings of the reality-bending man-versus-machine tale of The Matrix, one of Hollywood's smartest sci-fi flicks, were elaborated in two sequels. The Star Wars franchise depicts a galactic battle between good and evil that's enthralled filmgoers since 1977, when George Lucas redefined 'big' cinema with Star Wars. 

The first-is-best view isn't universally applicable. Some Star Wars fans consider the second film, The Empire Strikes Back, superior to the first. Godfather I and II are a toss-up for many. Terminator II: Judgement Day, some say, is more edge-of-the-seat than the masterly original, Terminator, whose theme questioning the myth of time's linearity was so tantalisingly open-ended that a follow-up recommended itself. Aliens, many say, was bigger fun than the more critically acclaimed Ridley Scott film, Alien. Ultimately, audiences make or break films. If their majority verdict is that sequels sell, why shouldn't filmmakers oblige? 








Hollywood director James Cameron has announced plans to make a sequel to his 3D sci-fi blockbuster Avatar. The legendary filmmaker has been talking about making sequel way before his first film hit theatres. Now, with Avatar's success at the box office, Cameron has got a licence and financial wherewithal to execute his ideas. 

However, one wonders what makes filmmakers including of Cameron's stature fall for sequels even though the first movie may not have left any scope for a follow-up. The only common motive that supports the logic of a sequel appears to be to squeeze out to the last ounce the success of the original. 

That's why sequels are often contrived affairs with nothing more to offer than a vague resemblance to the first film. They are imposed on the audience to cash in on the success of the original. More often than not, they fail to breach the box office benchmark set by the first film. The sequels of movies such as Star Trek, Jurassic Park, Matrix, Basic Instinct, American Pie, The Highlander, Legally Blonde et al never replicated the success of the original movies. 

If creativity is a cardinal principle of filmmaking, then sequels symbolise the death of the imagination. Let's not forget that the world around us is replete with narratives. Instead of hinging everything on one narrative, there are numerous untold stories and a multitude of subject matters waiting to be showcased on the celluloid screen. 

As such, sequels can never satiate the pleasure of a true artist. One may be pushing boundaries in making a successful film, but there is little point pushing the same boundary twice or thrice unless one wants to evoke a sense of deja vu. Sequels are nothing but a waste of resources.







Five decades ago a promising shooter who could've done India proud internationally was unwittingly nipped in the bud. It all began when an unappreciative boarding school warden belaboured me for stilling the hands of the dormitory clock with a single shot from my catapult. He conveniently ignored the fact that i had scored a perfect bullseye, blindfolded, amazing the other boarders. Such was my marksmanship. 

In fact, i started out young. While other five-year-olds were drooling over teddy bears, i was toying with a peashooter and hitting the bullseye - or rather the ayah's eye with alarming frequency. So much so that my harassed parents promptly disciplined and disarmed me, even though my ammunition consisted of nothing more lethal than green gram. I didn't mind the spanking but the confiscation of my peashooter such an integral part of me - was akin to the loss of a limb. 

In school, i discovered i was more at home with ballistics than maths and science. Indeed i devised a mini-catapult a rubber band threaded between two fingers that could shoot a wad of paper right across the classroom to jolt awake a drowsing student. Noiseless and inconspicuous, my brainwave soon caught on and would've earned me the school's ' Young Inventor Award' but for a gaffe i committed: a misguided projectile struck the forbidding headmaster between his peepers when he unexpectedly strode into the classroom. Besides a hiding, i came close to being expelled. 

Shortly thereafter, my unfailing resilience led me to do a William Tell, this time with my regular catapult, then a vital personal accessory, so dear to my heart. An unsuspecting sibling was lured with a slab of chocolate to stand against a wall, balancing an empty paint can on his head. Brimming with confidence, i was about to let fly when i heard an agonised shriek and my nemesis appeared in the form of a horrified mum. Another sound thrashing followed and what was worse my cherished slingshot was brutally dismembered in front of me. 

Given my obsession with shooting, it wasn't long before i graduated to an air rifle thanks to an indulgent and like-minded uncle. Soon enough the flock of pesky crows thriving in our locality opted for voluntary exile. The thieving cat next door and the vicious dog down the road unwelcome regulars in our compound also prudently distanced themselves from us, sensing there was a sharpshooter around. However, dad came down heavily on the 'curfew' i had unwittingly imposed on the birds in general and issued a stern ultimatum, "Confine your target practice exclusively to inanimate objects or i'll confiscate your gun!" 

Thus, initially, i found myself splintering matchboxes and other discards with missionary zeal. Mum even feared i would get a permanent squint from constantly taking aim. Later, i took to potting at the clusters of papayas and mangoes hanging tantalisingly out of reach in our neighbours' compounds. But when they found their fruit peppered with pellets (and looking as if they were stricken with smallpox), they came gunning for me, putting another damper on my dreams of becoming an ace shooter. 

Irrepressible, i was soon innovatively honing my shooting skills again, this time sniping at paper kites soaring overhead during the kite-flying season. Many a kite-flyer was dismayed to find that the wind had literally been shot out of his sails but never figured out who was behind it. And once at a carnival's shooting gallery i virtually shot the stall-keeper out of business by hitting an unending string of bullseyes. Desperate, he finally all but pushed me out. 

Yes, i could've shot my way to national and international fame too, like my idol Karni Singh, the former ace trap-shooter from Bikaner. But i guess i just wasn't destined to be that rare celestial phenomenon called a 'shooting star'! 








The Bombay High Court's verdict in the Vodafone case has cleared some of the fog surrounding taxation of cross-border corporate acquisitions. By ruling in favour of the taxman, who is claiming as his $2.6 billion of the $11.08 billion purchase of Hutchison's stake in the country's third largest telecom service provider, the court has closed a widely used tax dodge by inbound foreign investment. If the verdict is upheld by the Supreme Court, the law and the government will be on the same page when it comes to treaty shopping — the practice of routing investments through letter-box companies in havens like the Cayman Islands to avoid paying taxes in India. The direct tax code, which has just entered the legislative circuit, is clear that local taxes will have to be paid if a large chunk of assets being transferred is Indian no matter which tax haven the money is coming from.


Clarity on this score is welcome. But the delay in arriving at a settled position raises the discomfiting prospect of the taxman turning his gaze on other such acquisitions. Deals originating in mainland America or Europe would have priced local levies into the cost of purchase and corporations that came in through this route have little to be worried about. However, others that chose offshore points of entry into India will need to redo their math. The sums involved are large: the last decade alone witnessed $116 billion of foreign equity inflow. By targeting the largest deal in this genre — Vodafone's 2007 purchase is by far the biggest acquisition by a foreign company in India — the government is sending out the message that foreign capital is welcome, as long as it comes through regular channels.


It's high time the message went across. According to a survey of multinational companies conducted by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, India has replaced America as the most important destination for foreign investment, second only to China. Corporations facing a prolonged slowdown in Western markets are planning to shift their capital expenditure to emerging ones like India's as foreign direct investments climb from $1.2 trillion this year to an estimated $2 trillion by 2012. If the next investment wave is centred on Asia, a frontline emerging economy like India can afford to tone down the welcome it accords foreign capital. China has begun signalling that it intends to cherrypick foreign investment that fosters high-end manufacturing. India is well within its rights to ensure the playing rules are followed.







China's territorial ambitions go land in hand with its desire to unsettle us. The news that the dragon has offered its services to internet mapping services is sure to get our knickers in a twist since it might lead to Arunachal Pradesh being depicted as southern Tibet. Kashmir may be shown as a disputed area. Here we must learn valuable lessons from our old foe Pakistan. It has handed over control of Gilgit to Beijing before anyone could say chop suey. And if the Red Army proceeds in its march of a 1,000 miles, it might well end up outside chez Sarah Palin for moose manchurian.


What we should do instead of worrying about whether we will find a Red under our bed is to hop across to Nathu La Pass with a gilded invitation to the communist commissars inviting them to venture further afield into India. For a start, let them get acclimatised in places where they will be more comfortable like West Bengal and Kerala where the comrades will surely make them feel at home. Now maccher jhol fed to them by Mamata didi may not be the recipe for the army which marches on its stomach, but nothing like a bit of fish plate dislodging in the evenings to break them in. Kerala may pose a different challenge and the foot soldiers may well have to retreat counting their digits as they flee.


We have vast tracts of land where people claim direct descent from Chairman Mao and this surely will be enough to break the ice. But have no fear, if nothing else, food could be a cementing factor. Our native innovations like chicken tikka chow mein will show them how much we value neighbourly relations over some footling pieces of land. A visit to Mumbai could show the Chinese lads a novel domicile policy called 'sons of the spoils'. All these will be useful when they go on home visits. So, what is Beijing waiting for? We certainly won't be caught mapping when they come to take us over.



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES





The building up of tension in anticipation of the verdict of the Allahabad High Court on four title suits claiming ownership over  the disputed Babri Masjid/Ram Janmabhoomi site at Ayodhya on September 24 is palpable. In this context, one cannot escape recollecting that on this day — September 14, 1857 – the British launched their final assault on Delhi, completely routing "the most magnificent city east of Constantinople". Thus began the notorious divide-and-rule policy that the British adopted to consolidate their colonial occupation and loot of India.


a contemporary British chronicler in central India,  Thomas Lowe, during the first war of independence wrote in 1860: "To live in India now was like standing on the verge of a volcanic crater, the sides of which were fast crumbling away from our feet, while the boiling lava was ready to erupt and consume us".


Further, he exclaimed: "The infanticide Rajput, the bigoted Brahmin, the fanatic Mussalman, had joined together in the cause; cow-killer and the cow-worshipper, the pig-hater and the pig-eater…" had revolted together.


Clearly, such unity as displayed by Indians during 1857-59 against the British could not be allowed if the British were to continue to rule India. The divide-and-rule policy officially began and was later cemented with the partition of the Hindu and the Muslim electorates in undivided Bengal in 1905. The popular resistance to this — the swadeshi movement — laid the foundations for the emergence of the modern freedom struggle.


In a groundbreaking work, Besieged, Mahmood Farooqui provides a rich translation of the archival 'Mutiny Papers' for the first time. One can see here that in every statement/deposition made by every resident of Delhi to the authorities against the entry Qaun, we find descriptions such as Ahir, Gujjar, Rajput, Kori, Khatri, Shaikh, Pathan, Dafali etc. Nowhere has a categorisation been made on the basis of religion. In fact, the widely circulated daily, Dihli Urdu Akhbaar, reported that the 1857 rebellion "had been sent by the Gods to punish the kafirs (read British) for their arrogant plan to wipe out the religions of India". Note the reference is not any particular religion but to all religions of this land.


The 'District Gazetteer of Faizabad' notes that the Babri Masjid had "a miracle well, whose water was revered both by Hindus and Muslims for its cool sweetness and for its disease curing powers". It further notes, "Up to this time (1855), both Hindus and Muslims used to worship in the same building. But since the Mutiny (1857), an outer enclosure has been put up in front of the Masjid and the Hindus, forbidden access to the inner yard, make the offering on a platform (chabootara), which they have raised in the outer one". 


The building of a Ram temple at this chabootara was soon replaced by calls for the entire territory when idols were installed in the Masjid surreptitiously on December 22-23, 1949. The differences on this score between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, on the one hand, and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister G.B. Pant, on the other, are well known. So are the events that led to the tensions that eventually lead to the destruction of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. These, thus, need no repetition.


The judiciary today is seized with the matter regarding the ownership of the land on which the Babri Masjid stood. The Supreme Court had, earlier, rejecting the Presidential reference sent to it by the Narasimha Rao government, said that it can decide a dispute but cannot solve a problem. An adjudication of title suits, by itself, cannot resolve problems based on faith.

Without entering into any dispute on matters of faith, it must be noted that faith, in its final form, is related to the pursuit of acquiring the ability to recognise the truth. Civilisational wisdom, old and ancient as ours, tells us to let a hundred flowers bloom, a thousand thoughts contend, so that finally we can seek truth from the facts. While truth is a fact, all facts are not the whole truth. This is the crucial difference between philosophy and theology, between history and mythology.


Noted Allahabad historian Sushil Srivastava has painstakenly shown that archaeological excavations at the disputed site may reveal the long lost Buddhist Vihara of Saketa that was so highly acclaimed in the  accounts of Hueng Tsang. Whether such a course to determine the 'truth' of what existed prior to the building of the Babri Masjid on these lands will solve any dispute is, thus, doubtful. This only brings to mind a reported conversation between Firaq Gorakhpuri (a professor of English; born a high caste Hindu), known as much for his wit as his Urdu poetry, and his neighbour. The latter told Firaqsaab that while digging in his court yard, he encountered wires and concluded that ancient Indian civilisation was so advanced that it had already invented telecommunications. Firaq retorted that he had also the occasion to dig his court yard, but having found no wires, he concluded that ancient Indian civilisation was more advanced with wireless communication!


Modern India needs to take forward our traditions of syncretic evolution of the Indian civilisation. Seeking to settle scores of history, real or perceived, must not be allowed to fritter away the country's energies in fratricidal conflicts. These energies must be galvanised to realise our true potential based on the foundations of a secular democratic republic. The strength of 'We, the people' lies in the secular unity that marshals all our energies in realising our full potential for building a better India.


Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP


The views expressed by the author are personal



.                                                                  HINDUSTAN TIMES



ALI KHAN MAHMUDABAD                                                                                                                   


The decline of Urdu is not a recent phenomenon. In 1900, Anthony MacDonnell, Governor of the United Provinces, sounded the death knell of Urdu. He passed an order that it should not be used as the official bureaucratic language. Since then, and arguably even before that, Urdu and the culture associated with it has slowly eroded. As a language, Urdu is in the unique position of having been originally created as a bridge between people who spoke different languages in India. Muslims who came to India between the 11th century right up to Mughal times may have come as conquerors. But, unlike the British, they stayed and made India their home.


All these people spoke languages which were not native to India; Persian, Turkic languages like Chaghatai and Dari. However, in order to communicate and interact, Urdu was created. It drew in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hindi and, therefore, was spoken by people regardless of caste or creed. However, in 1901, in a census by the British, the language fell prey to communalisation. Urdu was listed as a Muslim language and Hindi as a Hindu one. These distinctions had never been made before and the poetry of people like Brij Narayan 'Chakbast', Gopi Chand 'Aman' and Pandit Harichand 'Akhtar' testifies to this.


Even in my lifetime, I have seen Awadhi culture get eroded. Young people have no incentive to learn Urdu because in today's world there is no value added by Urdu. People make a mockery of history by talking about Lucknow's ganga-jamani tehzeeb. The tehzeeb was derived from a nuanced history and a vibrant intellectual tradition, which itself was dependent on Urdu. If the language cannot survive how can the tehzeeb? Many anthropologists have written about how language is not merely a mode of communication but actually the repository of so much more; centuries of wisdom, culture, mores, history, literature and art. Wajid Ali Shah, the last ruler of Awadh was a prolific poet, and his eulogies in memory of the Prophet's family are still recited today in Lucknow and Mahmudabad. However, he is not remembered for his contribution to Urdu. His image as an 'oriental hedonistic king', which was originally perpetuated by the British, persists today.


Today many States like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka have encouraged people to preserve their local traditions and culture and, indeed, India has become a leading tourist destination. Unfortunately, Awadh has not benefitted at all from this interest in heritage, preservation and conservation. Conversely, buildings and monuments are neglected, arts and craft are dying out and traditional forms of music have very limited patronage. The World Monument Fund has listed the Qila or fort of the Raja of Mahmudabad as a crucial historical site. The Qila is still the epicentre for various religious and cultural traditions and, therefore, remains a 'living' and organic entity and not just an old architectural ruin.


Every year on Moharram, while commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussain 1,400 years go in Karbala, Hindus and Muslims participate in processions in Mahmudabad. This is not proof of 'democratic India' or 'secular India' but actually shows that India, at a far deeper and more visceral level, has been — and is — a rich tapestry, which has absorbed multiple influences over centuries and woven them to create a layered and textured society. This is not to say that there aren't differences between the various peoples who live in India but if one strives to find commonalities, the distinctions become superfluous.


Just like Urdu acted as a bridge for people who didn't understand each other, we should look to our common history to better understand each other today. It is this legacy that we must preserve as Indians.


Ali Khan Mahmudabad is reading for a PhD in Indian History at the University of Cambridge

The views expressed by the author are personal








A resounding "yes" for change has come from Turkey. With 58 per cent of the vote supporting a 26-article reform package to increase personal freedoms and pave the way for further democratisation, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expectedly claimed victory. His government says it aims to bring accountability to the unchecked power of the omnipresent generals. By re-writing the military constitution of 1982 and through the abolishment of Article 15, the generals involved in the deadly 1980 coup are now liable for their actions. Further, in order to protect against future coups, a new amendment will make it possible to try officers in civilian courts.


The opposition naturally has reservations. First, an Erdogan victory through the "yes vote" in the referendum is a mirror to next year's June general election. It is perceived that Erdogan will most likely continue to serve as PM extending his Justice and Development Party's two-term reign. Thus the opposition alleges that the constitutional changes proposed


by Erdogan serve to cement his position further, as a so-called "elected sultan". They argue that the proposed changes to the constitutional court, a traditional bulwark of the country's secularism, allows for the entrenchment of the PM's power — and that the increase in the number of judges from 11 to 17 and the Turkish assembly's (thus the PM's) authority to choose three members to the court influences the freedoms of the Turkish judiciary and high courts.


On the other hand, the changes proposed match the practices of most European countries where the executive branch selects candidates from a list proposed by the judiciary. In that sense, the vote is seen as a struggle within Turkey not about Islam and secularism, but rather between a military lobby and a democratically-elected government.







The MPLADS scheme has been assailed for many reasons. And now that the Planning Commission has rationally turned down a demand for a substantial increase in the corpus for the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme, it is a valid moment to revisit some of them. A parliamentary panel had asked for each MP's annual budget be hiked from Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore. The Planning Commission has emphasised a resource crunch, and it is important to keep in mind the cascading effect that such an increase would have, with state assemblies too seeking enhanced allocation for MLAs. However, the parliamentary committee should also use the opportunity to examine other aspects of the scheme, a debate that had presumably been on hold as the Supreme Court was looking at the constitutional validity of MPLADS.


The Supreme Court's judgment came in May. However, to see the establishment of the scheme's legitimacy as closure would be unfortunate. It is interesting that the strongest criticism of the scheme has come from MPs. Among them is Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily. The second Administrative Reforms Commission, under his chairmanship, had recommended that MPLADS be abolished, arguing that it eroded the principle of separation of powers. The scheme aims at enabling MPs to respond to locally felt needs in their constituency with development of durable assets. But it's argued that this power to disburse funds and have projects executed blurs the line between the legislature and the executive. There are many firewalls to check corruption, and regulation can be enhanced to check misallocation. There are deeper reasons for concern. MPs are expected to be in a state of permanent vigilance about the responsiveness of local administrations to constituents' concerns. Their intrusion into the administration's domain could blunt that. Also, the discretionary power to fund projects puts the burden on MPs to show value for the money, something the local government is better placed to do.


Besides, Parliament has yet to take up a long-overdue examination of sources of conflict of interest. The MPLADS issue should also be embedded in that debate.







As the nation tensely awaits the Allahabad high court's judgment on one of the most defining cases of our history, one party's silence has been deafening. The BJP, which made its political fortune on the Ram Janmabhoomi tidal wave, has vowed its leaders to silence until the verdict is announced. Why is it still afraid to make that imaginative leap and admit that the past is a foreign country?


The VHP, with its Hanumat Shakti Jagran, is trying to stoke up feeling for the cause. But significantly, it is not looking to the BJP for help — instead, it appeals to all political parties in its campaign, the character and atmospherics of which are palpably different. But while the VHP's enthusiasm is expected as a play for relevance, the BJP has long left that angry movement behind as it grew into a party of government. In recent years the party has tended to look like it was merely going along with its Sangh siblings, to avoid family embarrassment — its electoral focus has been on issues of growth and governance. It is now fairly clear that the Ram mandir issue has exhausted its political utility — the BJP, certainly, has more to gain by losing the baggage, both in terms of being palatable to voters and coalition partners and in conveying its more substantive concerns. What's more, there has been a striking generational shift in the party. None of its current leaders have the same degree of emotional investment in the mandir, and they are keen to be perceived as a responsible centre-right alternative rather than cultural warriors unable to let go of a mouldering, 18-year-old issue. It has taken pains to show its capacity for mature stewardship, and fill out the role of government-in-waiting. It has engaged with the UPA on many significant policy issues, from the nuclear liability bill to the enemy property bill, and exhibited all the signs of wanting to play a constructive role. Unlike his rabble-rousing predecessor, BJP President Nitin Gadkari's interventions rarely invoke religion and difference, they are more about a competitive welfare approach.


In short, the BJP and those watching the BJP know that its priorities have shifted. So why the reluctance to verbalise this change and allay fears in the run-up to the Ayodhya verdict? As the main opposition party, it needs to throw its weight behind the forces of moderation and good sense.








The macabre story that unfolded in Kerala over the last few weeks is a harbinger of how complicated and threatening currents of religious politics are likely to remain. Some fanatics, allegedly associated with the Popular Front of India (PFI), chopped off the hand of Prof T.J. Joseph of Newman College for setting an exam question that was seen as containing a controversial reference to Prophet Mohammad. The college then terminated the services of the professor. Mahatma Gandhi University, the affiliating institution, has correctly served a notice to the college questioning the professor's dismissal, but the Archdiocese has supported action against the professor.


It is always difficult to gauge the significance of any incident in the context of wider politics. But this story encapsulates many challenges of religious politics in our time. First, it provides more evidence, if any was needed, that a prolonged exposure of a state to left of centre and so-called progressive politics does not necessarily diminish religious sensibilities or fundamentalist sensitivities; it merely redirects and sometimes enhances them. This is for two reasons. Left politics and progressive politics in India have often been premised upon politically managing community identities rather than transcending them. This has often required reinforcing a sense of identity amongst communities, which in turn has required often deferring to their sentiments, even when these go against the grain of constitutional values. Just think of the CPM's handling of Taslima Nasreen in West Bengal, another state where communal attitudes are slowly simmering under the facade of communist rule.


While reinforcing communal identities, progressive discourse does not address a challenge. Since the object of religious reflection, namely some form of transcendence, has been delegitimised, religion can no longer be understood in any way other than a form of ethnic identity. It has become a will to difference. Believers now measure the strength of their belief by "protecting" community, not be seeking God or Truth. This is a crisis afflicting all organised religions. Fanaticism is a species of communal blasphemy. It assumes that it is our job to protect our gods, since the gods can no longer protect us, or themselves.


Second, competitive offence-mongering has been the currency of religious assertion for some time now. This politics is now truly global; every organised religious community is policing the boundaries of offensive speech or representation with a vengeance. This politics is also very competitive; patterns in one religion are seen as a license for other religions to mobilise. Unfortunately, the response of liberal states has been exactly backwards. While giving gratuitous offence to any religion usually reveals the small-mindedness of those who engage in it, there is no way that in a modern society, religion can be protected against offensive speech. But by promising to exorcise speech offensive to religion through various laws and political interventions, all we have done is simply given more groups incitement to mobilise. We have also legitimised the thought that "community sentiment" is a valid argument for trampling individual rights. The problem is that we have legitimised too much the idea that speech offensive to religion should be an actionable offence, so that those wanting to police offences against religion feel empowered. No wonder the Archdiocese in Kerala (perhaps out of fear) is at one with the fanatics in saying that an actionable offence was committed in this case. In a university setting you want the learning environment to not be intimidating to any student simply on account of their religion. Any university will have to ensure that. But it also has to get across the message that you cannot be shielded from representations that try your patience.


Third, we now genuinely have a problem of managing what might be called the politics of dissociation. After every incident like this, there is a predictable set of responses. Such acts are "un-Islamic." There is condemnation from within the community, as there was in this case. There is a plea not to see the perpetrators as representatives of the community. But the paradox of our times is that the more we are trying the politics of dissociation, the more a community comes to be identified with the worst elements in it. It is as if these acts have a far greater symbolic power in shaping the views of those outside the community than any "mainstream" denunciation. This is one of the reasons why a crackpot Florida pastor's threat to burn the Koran caused such anxiety; it had more potential to polarise communal relations than any good faith attempts and gestures at conciliation. The blunt truth is that a political calm notwithstanding, Hindus and Muslims and Christians are, in a global context, much more at odds in their views of each other's intentions towards their community.


In an ironic way, many religious communities are struggling with a version of this problem, and this has produced a certain equipoise. It is perhaps not an accident that the RSS has not jumped over this incident as vehemently as it might, because it too is now trying hard to engage in a politics of dissociation, it does not want any equation of isolated acts of terror with the sensibilities of Hindus as a whole. We are living in a world where the power of isolated bad acts to incite fear seems to be greater than broader political attempts to assuage sensitivities. This will require a very vigilant politics.


Finally, we do not fully understand the ramifications of complex social change. Kerala's culture and economy, more than any other state, is being shaped by global flows of both resources and ideology, and local adaptations will increasingly come under strain from larger currents and ideologies generated elsewhere. Their sense of who they are answerable to also changes. Even if condemned locally, they can draw succour and support from similar small groups and networks elsewhere; in short, they can always manufacture a constituency. As much as we might like to believe that the next generation of young people will have transcended identity politics, nothing could be farther from the truth. Indian society and Indian universities are producing masses of young people all across whose sense of identity is very fragile. They will often express their frustrations by turning to radicalism. The advantage of any collective ideology is that it has the potential for compensating for a sense of individual failure and inadequacy. The power of genuinely liberal values in the face of these assorted anxieties is more fragile than we think. To preserve them will require a clarity and consistency, not the equivocation and double standards our political parties are used to. Kerala is a stark reminder of how even well developed states can regress.


The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi








Laos does not usually come to mind when one thinks about business opportunities abroad. Its capital city, Vientiane is a small, almost sleepy town, probably like the fishing village that Singapore was in the 1960s before a certain Lee Kuan Yew decided to change things radically.


And yet, at least some sections of Indian industry, taking a cue from their Chinese counterparts, are beginning to look seriously at venturing into Laos. An indication of India Inc's seriousness was the 45-member business delegation sent by CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM to accompany President Pratibha Patil on her recent visit to Laos. And a brand new, Vientiane-based, Indian Chamber of Commerce in Laos was granted formal approval by authorities in communist Laos just before President Patil's visit.


Is the interest for real? After all, there are plenty of factors that make Laos rather unattractive for doing business. For one, it is a tiny market. Even though its per capita income at around $900 is not significantly lower than India's, the size of the entire economy is just $5.5 billion — Laos has just 6.5 million people, 80 per cent of who work in agriculture, contributing 50 per cent to the GDP. Second, it is a landlocked country, uneconomical as a base to export goods to other markets.


But, somewhat counter-intuitively, Laos seems all set to be the next gold rush destination in South East Asia and Indian firms have little choice but to be interested. Why? Primarily because of the vast potential of its natural resources —- forests, water and minerals (gold, copper, bauxite, iron ore, other precious metals) —- all identified, but mostly unexploited.


China has already invested up to nearly $3 billion over the last decade, much of that in the last four years. In a pattern not dissimilar from its foray into Africa, these investments are entirely concentrated on natural resources, that is, forestry and minerals (and some hydropower).


India's foray has been more limited, but now it seems at least some Indian firms are set to compete for the resources in this western frontier of the region, once called Indo-China. The need for Indian companies in the resources business to look at newer opportunities outside is urgent given the uncertainty over land acquisition and mining policy in India. And Laos, for all its drawbacks, is right in India's neighbourhood.


At least one Indian business group made an early start. The Aditya Birla Group, also the single-largest foreign investor company in Laos, committed $350 million to a eucalyptus plantation-cum-pulp manufacturing factory in 2006. So far, the group has spent $21 million of that sum and set up a plantation of 10,000 hectares, which it eventually hopes to scale up to 250,000 hectares—-imagine how hard it would be to acquire that much forest land in India. The final goal of the Aditya Birla Group is to service its paper manufacturing business in India and South East Asia.


Interestingly, the Tata Group, always well-regarded for its strategic thinking, is trying to win a mining exploration licence for iron ore from the government of Laos. Sandipan Chakraborty, MD of Tata Steel Distribution and Processing Limited, in fact, headed the business delegation that accompanied President Patil. The Indian Chamber of Commerce in Laos also sees an opportunity for India in agriculture, for example, in growing pulses, which are in short supply in India.


Prospects for Indian firms look good. The communist government of Laos is favourably inclined to let foreign investment into natural resources. Off the record, officials admit that Indian presence is generally viewed as more benign than China's, which tends not to create local employment choosing to import Chinese workers. At a more general policy level, the government liberalised land laws in 2009 allowing foreigners to own property after buying it from the government. That is a massive fillip to those interested in the natural resources business.


Of course, China has a head-start over India, not just in Laos but in much of Africa. Chinese businesses largely follow the foreign policy goals of their government. Indian businesses are not likely to follow government diktats and make their own decisions on where to invest. Ironically enough though, the policy uncertainty on natural resources created by the government of India may, in a perverse way, force Indian firms to join the gold rush in unexplored countries like Laos.


Cynics may argue that what's good for India and China may not be good for Laos and that a "mineral curse" may lie ahead. But when you consider the limited options that tiny, landlocked Laos has, natural resource rents can play a crucial role. It can leverage its mineral resources to get more aid and financial assistance. Viewed objectively, there is something for everyone in the new gold rush.








Shekhar Gupta: I am at the Mumbai Cricket Association grounds at Bandra-Kurla and my guest is Harbhajan Singh. This city has given you some of your toughest moments. Remember the 2001 series against Australia?


Harbhajan Singh: That was my comeback series and in that game, I think I was the only bowler who took four wickets, so I was the only survivor among the spinners. So, Mumbai city has not just given me joy but that match gave me the chance to play in the next game.


Shekhar Gupta: Bhajji, that was a time of crisis for you. I have heard that before that series, you were thinking of leaving cricket for Canada or America and driving a bus or something. Is that just a story?


Harbhajan Singh: That was a very difficult time for me, because they had taken me off the National Cricket Academy.


Shekhar Gupta: Why did they remove you?


Harbhajan Singh: Because I had complained about the food there. They had a diet chart that listed out the nutrients we should have, but the food we got didn't have a single thing that was on the chart. I tried complaining in vain to the people in charge. So one day I got angry and tore the chart. That was the biggest mistake I made. Anyway, that was why I was removed from the NCA. When I went home, my dad was ill. He was hospitalised and then he passed away. I did not know what to do because I was out of the academy. There were some selectors who did not want me to play cricket, they wanted me to stay back in Jalandhar. And there was one selector who even took my trial by himself. He would wear pads and come to bat at the nets and say that if you can bowl me out, you are in.


Shekhar Gupta: So, did you manage to bowl out that selector?


Harbhajan Singh: On many occasions. I don't know how he qualified for a position in the Indian team.


Shekhar Gupta: This particular selector, was he right-handed or left?


Harbhajan Singh: I don't know, but the way he was batting right-handed, it did not look as if he was right-handed.


Shekhar Gupta: So, what did you think then...when you were in trouble?


Harbhajan Singh: Back then, I did not think they would take me. I did not really think much of continuing playing for the Ranji Trophy because I knew my potential. But I had a family to feed, so I thought I might as well go abroad and do something. Anything to help run my family. I am not ashamed of doing anything, whether it is washing dishes or driving trucks or working at a petrol pump.


Shekhar Gupta: So you were planning to go to Canada or America.


Harbhajan Singh: At that time, my family was my top priority because I am the eldest. But suddenly I saw some hope when Sourav (Ganguly) spoke to me, called me to Delhi and John Wright, who was the coach then, saw me bowl. There was this camp of players and my name was in it. It was then that I realised that this could be my comeback. So, I went to the camp, performed well. And then they let me into the Board XI team that was touring Australia. They were short of a spinner because Anil bhai (Anil Kumble) was injured. I took three and two wickets in each of the innings. I bowled well, so my name came up for the first Test match.


Shekhar Gupta: Who do you give more credit to—Sourav or John Wright?


Harbhajan Singh: I give a lot of credit to Sourav. I think he was the guy who fought for me. Throughout my career, he has always been there when I needed his help and support, and so has Anil Kumble.


Shekhar Gupta: The Bombay Test match of 2001 was a disaster. That was the turning point in Indian cricket. So, what was the team taught after that very easy defeat in Bombay?


Harbhajan Singh: I remember that game. The Australians got out very fast in that match. At one stage, they were 91 for five, but from there onwards, Gilchrist played a fantastic innings. And Matthew Hayden got his first hundred. And suddenly, they were right on top and we lost the game. I picked up four wickets, so I survived and got to play in the next game. Then we went to Calcutta, which was a similar story. We got out, and they came to bat. By tea, they had started scoring hard, and they had made 200 to 250 runs. After tea, though, five to six wickets went down just like that. I don't know what happened, I had God's blessings. Everything was working out just the way I wanted. I got a hat-trick, bagged five wickets for the first time in a Test match. That day was the best in my life, when I realised that I could take five wickets. And I was against the best batsmen early in the game. They were in the driver's seat till then, but when we came in to bat, the situation changed again. But I think the whole game was about VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, the way they batted was just fantastic.


Shekhar Gupta: Sachin Tendulkar once said on Walk the Talk that the amount of bounce that Harbhajan got, I have never seen a spinner get so much bounce. He said that's why the Australians just could not handle it, because they were playing the sweep shot and they just did not understand the bounce.


Harbhajan Singh: The bounce was good, the wickets were good too. Every match went into the fifth day. It was a very good match at Calcutta, and a batsman always bats differently when he is under pressure. Plus, I had not played a lot against Australia, and they did not know my bowling that well either. I was just bowling the way I was bowling in Ranji Trophy, it was just that I had more confidence.


Shekhar Gupta: Bhajji, that series was also the beginning of your special relationship with the Australians. Of the top five batsmen that you dismissed the most number of times, four of them are Australians. Ricky Ponting is your special favourite.


Harbhajan Singh: Well, I want to do my best against the best. Because everyone says Australia is the best team in the world, they have very good players, they are very competitive. And I am very competitive too.


Shekhar Gupta: Do the Australians say things about you?


Harbhajan Singh: They keep saying bunny etc. When I go to bat, the wicketkeeper keeps saying something or the other behind my back. But when they are batting, they don't say much. Then it's our turn. I did not know much English then, but I would say whatever I knew. Or I would say something in my language. If they can make fun of us, we can too. But we still have to play.


Shekhar Gupta: The first time you got Ponting out, was it at Sharjah? I think you got him stumped. Even then, a few words were exchanged there.


Harbhajan Singh: Yes, I do not want to say what I said. I was young and it just happened. At that time, I did not really know the meaning of what I was saying. It was an English word, and that was the only one I knew. Something I heard from senior players.


Shekhar Gupta: But that was what took your special relationship with the Australians forward.


Harbhajan Singh: Well, after I dismissed Ponting six times in the 2001 series, he also started getting angry that this 20-year-old boy was getting him out all the time.


Shekhar Gupta: So, after Ponting, in a way, Andrew Symonds took over.


Harbhajan Singh: Whatever happened in Sydney was an instance of making a mountain out of a molehill. They do not like it when people say things about their players, but they are probably the worst when it comes to saying things or doing things to other players. But I am not like those who can listen to abuses and keep quiet. I have come to play, not get abused. If they abuse me, I will give it back to them.


Shekhar Gupta: But by that stage, things had come to a head.


Harbhajan Singh: Yes, they were frustrated. I was not getting out, and I was playing along with Sachin. They hadn't thought we could manage such a good partnership. They made Bret Lee bowl, and many others, but when they still couldn't break the partnership, they got angry. So, they started saying weird stuff, and if you say weird stuff to me, it's likely that I will give it back to you.


Shekhar Gupta: But do you regret what happened?


Harbhajan Singh: Well, whatever happened, they shouldn't have stretched it for so long. Even if it was my fault, they could have ended it then and there. If they can say things to people, they should have the ability to listen to stuff being said to them too.


Shekhar Gupta: Hayden had also said something?


Harbhajan Singh: Hayden was rattling on. Michael Clarke too. Then they complained about me, Ricky Ponting was the first. But if you say that the game should be played in the spirit of the game, how can complaining about somebody be included in that?


Shekhar Gupta: What kind of things were they saying?


Harbhajan Singh: First they were talking normally. But when they got personal, I got personal too. But I never said the word that they claimed I did.


Shekhar Gupta: The word, monkey?


Harbhajan Singh: Yes, I never said that. If I had, I would have definitely been banned.


Shekhar Gupta: What were the personal things they were saying?


Harbhajan Singh: About my home, etc. I can't say all those words here in front of the camera.


Shekhar Gupta: Describe your growth as a bowler. Like how you learnt the doosra.


Harbhajan Singh: I have been bowling doosras from the first day. The reason I was included in the Indian team was because I was the only Indian spinner who could bowl the doosra. Then they told me that my action was not right, and I was sent for a test. After I passed that, I came back to international cricket. But they continued to tell me the same thing. After that, I did bio-mechanics, which involves sticking a hundred things on your body. I have gone through all those tests and I am glad everything came out fine.


Shekhar Gupta: What are the new things you have done in cricket, and how have you changed?


Harbhajan Singh: I have not done many new things in terms of my bowling, I have just done what any normal guy may do. I just bowled a lot of balls in the nets, and I practised very hard. And I made sure I did my work right.


Shekhar Gupta: So, you learnt your tricks over time.


Harbhajan Singh: Yes, just by bowling in the nets and working hard. I love bowling single wickets, I think every spinner should bowl lots of single wickets. It gives you a lot of confidence. I still do it.


Shekhar Gupta: Players like you, who have been around for such a long time and have learnt so much, do you even feel the need for a coach?


Harbhajan Singh: Yes, because nobody can ever become perfect in cricket. Coaches always stand there and observe you play. Whenever I go to Jalandhar, I always make my old coach, Davinder Aroraji, stand at the nets. He can spot even the smallest of my mistakes. He has been watching my progress since childhood and even now he instructs me on how to improve my bowling.


Shekhar Gupta: Of the coaches that the national team has had—Gary Kirsten now, Chappell before that, John Wright before that, what are their attributes?


Harbhajan Singh: I think John Wright was fantastic with the team. He gave a lot of confidence to the players. When Mr Chappell took over from him, that was the biggest disaster. Everything went wrong, I don't know what he was up to.


Shekhar Gupta: But he caused insecurity in the team.


Harbhajan Singh: Yes, a lot of it. You couldn't go and talk to him about anything. As a player, if I go to the coach and tell him, 'Sir, my hand is not coming like this, what do you think' or 'I am not confident, what do I do', his job is to give me hausla (courage). But he, instead, would go to the press and say that he is not good, he lacks confidence. I remember, in one of his interviews, he said that a couple of guys are like cancer in the team. When he started off in Zimbabwe, we were playing a Test match and he was writing a mail to his journalist friend, saying this guy is like this, that guy is like that. He was leaking information to the media.


Shekhar Gupta: Did you ever confront him?


Harbhajan Singh: Yes, many times, that is why he did not like me. That's why he didn't like Sourav, Veeru or Zaheer because we were guys who used to ask him. He didn't like Sachin, he was after Sachin. Imagine, he wanted Sachin to retire.


Shekhar Gupta: So his going was good riddance.


Harbhajan Singh: Yes, thank God we got rid of him and we got Gary Kirsten. He's a proper guy for a team like India. And the way he handles the team, I have not seen anyone do it.


Shekhar Gupta: Tell me about your own tough moments—that fight with Sreesanth on the field.


Harbhajan Singh: I had a fight with him. Whatever happened was wrong on my part. But the coach came and spoke to me. He said I just want you to forget what happened, we will make sure everybody is happy—you are happy, the team is happy, Sreesanth is happy. We are just like a family, we have fights in our family. We need a guy like Gary to understand that we are not just playing, this is a family kind of a thing.


Shekhar Gupta: Some have felt that you have not been on top of your form lately.


Harbhajan Singh: You can't be in form all the time. You will have your low days, you will have your good days.


Shekhar Gupta: Is the strain of shifting between three forms of cricket too much?


Harbhajan Singh: It is difficult sometimes when you are bowling from one-dayers to Tests to T-20s. But you just have to go take those challenges and hope that you come out successful today, tomorrow and the next day.


Transcribed by Jimmy Jacob







L&T's decision to take the public sector NTPC to court for rejecting its bid to supply super critical turbines once again brings to the fore the problems PSUs face. Had Reliance Energy or Tata Power done the same, L&T wouldn't have been able to approach the court. Over the years, various courts have held that, under Article 12 of the Constitution, PSUs are what is called 'instrumentality of state'. This means anyone, suppliers or even workers, can challenge commercial decisions or business judgements of PSU managers by bringing them up for judicial scrutiny. Once an NTPC tender is under judicial scrutiny—indeed, it is the same instrumentality of state argument that mandates PSUs have to even issue time-consuming tenders for any purchase—it effectively delays the process for a long time, long enough perhaps to ensure the successful PSU begins losing market share. Any more such cases, and NTPC's ability to meet the 12th Plan targets will also get badly hit. The issue is not restricted to just NTPC, but applies to any sector in which public sector units operate including in strategic areas like ports—bidding for a transhipment port in Kerala got derailed a few years ago when the disqualified entities challenged the decision in the courts. BSNL has suffered on this count on several occasions and the lack of equipment has played a big role in its falling market share.


The negative impact of the inclusion of PSUs under Article 12 has been a major issue right from the time economic reforms were first attempted in the mid-80s. A Committee of Secretaries recommended that the issue be referred to the Law Commission on an urgent basis as the Article 12 provisions not only eroded the autonomy of PSUs but even curtailed their ability to rationalise their operations since they couldn't terminate the services of their employees even when rules allow for such termination. However, the Law Commission in its report in the early 1990s rejected the pleas on the ground that such a move may impair a basic feature of the Constitution. So it opined that an amendment to Article 12 may not be a proper or necessary measure for dealing with the problems faced by PSUs and that such an amendment might not pass muster at the constitutional level.Given how judicial review, or the threat of judicial review, has severely constrained PSU functioning, the government simply has to approach the Supreme Court or, if need be, even approach Parliament on the issue. PSUs cannot run commercially viable entities, and compete with private sector players, on a playing field that is not level.






I have seen the future and it works, American journalist Lincoln Steffens famously said in 1919 about his visit to Russia and we all know how that 'future' panned out. And so may well be the case with Forbes magazine's "news from the future" that grabbed headlines yesterday when it predicted that, in 2014, India's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, would also top the Forbes global rich list with a personal wealth of $62 billion. Today's number one, Carlos Slim of Mexico, Forbes futurologists say, would be hit hard by the political and financial chaos in that country. Forbes's future could well go the way of Steffens's future, but for now it certainly seems plausible. After all, if the centre of the world is going to shift to countries like India—by 2025, India is going to be bigger than Japan and by 2045 bigger than the US, not in PPP but real dollar terms—it stands to reason that India's richest will be the world's richest. While looking 'decades ahead … (so that?) critics will forgive your inaccuracies', Forbes doesn't dwell on the fate of the current toppers on the list—so we have no clue about Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, but it's likely others at the top will include Lakshmi Mittal and Anil Agarwal who, had the Cairn deal gone through, would have been even richer than Ambani.


You could, indeed should, differ on the specifics of the Forbes 'thought experiment (albeit) with tougher standards … sketched from real data, projections and facts … (and) rigorous science fiction', but what's fascinating is the way Forbes's Alvin Tofflers see the world going. The direction in which the US policy is going can be seen, in 2013, from the government reacting to the Dow's crash by banning high-frequency trading and, in 2016, with Murderless Meat grown in labs going on sale at Whole Foods; the same year in which America's first virtual world employee farm opens with minimum-wage workers serving as bodyguards. Richard Branson, bless his soul, continues to do well and, in 2020 Virgin Galactic lands people on the moon, charging $200 million per ticket (round-trip). Two predictions, also on the US, which you fervently hope are wrong, wrong, wrong: in 2018, US troops finally leave Afghanistan and both the US and the Taliban declare victory; US unemployment finally drops below 7%, the worst of quadruple-dip (WW) recession likely to be over. Facebook finally has an IPO, two years from now; and internet polling comes of age. China's power is demonstrated by, in 2018, the world's fastest train arriving in Paris from Beijing and, a year earlier, Harvard is giving away free tuitions to lure students from China. Forbes has seen the future, and we like it.







India celebrated when it won three medals at the Beijing Olympics—Abhinav Bindra's gold in shooting, Sushil Kumar's bronze in wrestling and Vijender Kumar's bronze in boxing. Cynics said the wins were insignificant as compared to India's population and GDP. But they were undoubtedly unprecedented; the winners deserved applause. Sushil was felicitated with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna as was Vijender, while Abhinav got a Padma Bhushan. There were expectations that the Beijing wins would multiply at the Commonwealth Games this year. Then came the public outcry about delays in developing the Games' infrastructure and the corruption scandals. As if all these factors weren't enough to pull down Games enthusiasm, the doping mess emerged, reeling in even the Arjuna Awardee Rajiv Tomar, alongside others who were considered strong wrestling medal prospects. Good news was becoming a stranger. It's against this backdrop that we laud Sushil's Sunday gold win at the World Wrestling Championship in Moscow, a big first for India. The champ declared that his next target was to win a Commonwealth gold, and he also hammered in a confidence about India's medal prospects in general. This is a potential gamechanger, as far as public temper is concerned.


What's really interesting about Sushil is that, at a time when most conversations about making Indian sports competitive invoke modernisation, his training has been rooted in tradition, in the akharas. Outsiders sometimes see these as little more than mud dungeons, which even the Wrestling Federation of India tried to get banned in the 1990s. Here young boys, devoid of the kind of largesse that cricket protégés are blessed with, do tapasya—which means cooking, cleaning and an array of household chores in exchange for training. Sushil undertook such tapasya at 12. All in all, his success story is inspirational.








Without intending to do so, PM Manmohan Singh appears to have stirred another hornet's nest within the intrigue-ridden Congress party with his observation that there was much more debate and dissent in Jawaharlal Nehru's Cabinet over critical policy issues than what we see in the government today. Manmohan Singh said this last week at a meeting with some editors who were keen to understand why the government and Congress party, of late, were speaking in different voices on major development related issues.


Manmohan's remark that India's first Cabinet had witnessed more dissent and that Sardar Patel had openly disagreed with Nehru seems to have given ammunition to some partymen, typically the more-loyal-than-the-king variety, to launch another broadside against the PM. As is their wont, the loyalists are currently discussing this only in hushed tones. How can you say something like this about Nehru, who was like a demigod for all Congressmen.


However, a cursory reading of history might tell you that Nehru indeed faced immense opposition from within his own party, especially from powerful rural aristocracy that was stoutly opposed to his modernist project. Nehru's unabashed admirers among historians have recorded this in great detail.


Sunil Khilnani in his celebrated work, The Idea of India, clearly points out how at the time of Independence the direction of India's economic future remained undetermined. "Nehru found himself leader of a party divided in its views about economic development, with no single group weighty enough to impose its vision… In the Constituent Assembly the interests of the rural rich were secured by removing land reforms and agriculture taxation from the control of the central government and putting them in the hands of the provincial legislatures, more closely subject to the imprecations of the landlords. Within the Congress, Sardar Patel, who spoke for the landed classes and for the industrialists, orchestrated the departure of the socialists in 1948. This left Nehru isolated, and with Gandhi gone, it made Patel the most powerful figure within the party."


Sardar Patel never favoured economic planning. It was only after Patel's death in 1950 that Nehru came in full command of the state. Even after that, Nehru could not fully implement his top down state-led reforms as the party's leadership among the rural rich came in the way of implementing any radical measure like land reforms. An objective reading of history does show that the Congress party has always been, and remains today, a broad coalition of interest groups in society and these groups are also in opposition to each other from time to time. The only difference is that during the 1950s and 1960s it was the Congress party alone that managed the contradictions between various interest groups, and today many regional political formations led by the Mayawati, Karunanidhi, Nitish Kumar, etc, are also catering to a coalition of interest groups in their own regional context.


Khilnani rightly points out that the Congress had never really been a strongly ideological party. "It was a broad political coalition, itself dependent on what some have described as India's ruling social coalition of commercial and industrial capitalists, rural land lords, and bureaucratic and managerial elite. In the later decades, the newly enriched farmers and the unionised public sector workers would also clamber aboard this coalition raft."


In recent years, the last two of Khilnani's categories—newly enriched farmers and unionised public sector workers—have had a strong influence on some big policy questions relating to land acquisition for industrial use, key economic reforms relating to public sector, pensions and financial sector.


However, the pressures of globalisation and a greater sense of competitiveness with the other emerging nations appear to have given India's rapidly rising industrial class a bigger role in national life. Compared to the 1950s, and 1960s, the capitalist class today has a far greater say in national politics precisely because the political and intellectual elite sees their role as critical to the new nationalist project, especially against the backdrop of globalisation. No wonder, the middle classes swell with pride when they see Indian business groups like Tatas, Ambanis and Mittals acquiring companies around the world, buttressing the India rising story.


However, the same capitalist class triggers new faultlines within the domestic polity. Their hunger for resources creates tension with the other groups in the Congress's broad social coalition such as farmers and tribals whose lands are being acquired to drive the industrialisation programme.


The Congress, in its current avatar, is dealing with these contradictions in its own unique way. PM Manmohan Singh publicly asserts that India cannot perpetuate poverty in the name of environment. Two days later the Congress president says due sensitivity must be shown to India's traditional rivers and forests. A section of the media sees Sonia's statement as contradictory to Manmohan Singh's. Perhaps each is articulating the aspirations of some segment of a broader social coalition. Like Patel and Nehru did in their own time. In some respects, things don't change.








FDI is often employed as the criterion for evaluating a country's economic integration with the rest of the world. Both FDI inflows and outflows are presumed to have positive relationships with globalisation. The more these flows, the more globalised countries are taken to be. Going by the FDI indicator, China and India are two of the most globalised economies in Asia.


Unctad's World Investment Report shows China having received $95 billion FDI in 2009 when India got $34.6 billion. China and India accounted for 8.5% and 3.1% of world FDI inflows, 19.9% and 7.2% of FDI into developing economies, and 31.5% and 11.5% of FDI into Asia, respectively. China was the 2nd largest recipient of FDI after the US. India figured among the top 10 recipients and came after China, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia in Asia.


The corresponding ratios for FDI outflows were a little lower. Outward FDI from China and India were $48 billion and $14.9 billion, respectively, in 2009. The two countries accounted for 4.4% and 1.4% of world FDI outflows, 20.9% and 6.5% of FDI flowing out of developing economies, and 27.2% and 8.4% of FDI outflows from Asia. China was the 6th largest origin for outward FDI, while India was 17th. Hong Kong was the largest source of outward FDI from Asia, followed by China and India.


China and India, therefore, dominate capital traffic in and out of Asia. There is little doubt that they are heavily embedded in the global matrix of long-term capital flows represented by FDI. A corollary is to assume that FDI is critical to economic prospects of both.


Investment profiles of both economies are likely to surprise many. Incoming FDI was only 4% of gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) in China in 2009. For India, it was 8.4%. But outward FDI were 2% and 3.6% of GFCF in China and India. FDI is hardly a key variable in investment profiles of both economies. The situation is not much different if looked at from the perspective of stocks. The stock of inward FDI is 12.9% of GDP in India and 10.1% of GDP in China. For outward FDI, the proportions are 6.1% and 4.9%, respectively.


Back-of-the-envelope calculations show the volume of FDI to be rather marginal compared with domestic investment. Given China's GDP of roughly $5 trillion, annual domestic investment, or GFCF, at 43% of GDP, is approximately around $2.2 trillion. For India, with a GDP of $1.3 trillion and GFCF at 33% of GDP, annual investment is roughly $430 billion. These numbers almost dwarf annual FDI inflows of $108 billion (China) and $34.6 billion (India).


Notwithstanding China and India becoming dominant players in cross-border FDI flows, the latter are yet to assume significance in their economies. Domestic investment remains the bigger driver of growth. Current proportions of FDI vis-à-vis GDP and GFCF suggest that domestic investment will continue to remain the key driver.


The marginal role of FDI in both economies also indicates that even though in terms of the FDI indicator they have considerably globalised, foreign capital occupies far less space in economic domains of both. The two economies can be optimistic of maintaining economic momentums even if FDI inflows dry up. For both, the main economic challenge is to ensure that domestic investment momentum is maintained for sustaining overall growth.


The unutilised potential for FDI in both countries is enormous. Inward FDI stocks are more than 50% and 45% of GDP, respectively, in the UK and EU. For developed economies overall, such stocks are more than 30% of GDP. China and India are at roughly one-third of developed economy levels as far as the proportions of their stocks of inward FDI to their respective GDPs are concerned. Both countries can still do a lot in getting more FDI. From an FDI perspective, they are well-globalised; but by their own standards, their globalisations are still minuscule.


The author is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore. These are his personal views







The recently released data on industrial output are significant in two ways. During July, industrial growth accelerated to 13.8 per cent from 7.2 per cent in the corresponding month last year. Secondly, and perhaps more relevant in a contextual sense, the Index of Industrial Production reinforces the optimism that characterised the Central Statistics Office's estimate of 8.8 per cent GDP growth during the first quarter of 2010-11. The growth drivers of the first quarter have continued into July. During the first quarter (April-June 2010) industry as a whole grew by 11.4 per cent and manufacturing by 12.4 .The corresponding figures for 2009-10 were 4.6 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively. The IIP figures have been boosted by the spectacular performance of capital goods and consumer durables sectors, which expanded by 63 per cent and 22.1 per cent respectively. The IIP data for July, which broadly corroborate the GDP growth trends for the first quarter, in a way dispel apprehensions over the quality of economic data in this country. The GDP estimate for the first quarter, when released, seemed to suffer from several inconsistencies, although the authorities clarified them subsequently. Data analysed from the demand side did not indicate the same robustness in the GDP growth. Equally puzzling was the wide discrepancy between the CSO's estimate of the first quarter real GDP growth at market prices and that calculated on the basis of factor cost.


There is no doubt that the recent economic news augur well for overall growth during 2010-11. Indeed the current official forecast of 8.5 per cent growth may well be marked up by a few notches. Fortunately there are indications that the rebound is becoming broad based. Services grew by 9.40 per cent in the first quarter, up from 7.49 per cent a year earlier. Agriculture, which was badly hit last year by drought and floods in different parts of the country, grew by 2.86 per cent in the first quarter, compared to 1.86 per cent last year. With reasonably good monsoons so far, the sector is expected to do even better during the remainder of the year. There are two major threats to growth. Inflation remains persistently high. Given the positive trends, the Reserve Bank of India is almost certain to continue with its policy of monetary tightening. The second threat is statistical. The first quarter GDP growth rates were buoyed by the low base of last year. As the economy moves further away from the downturn and goes deeper into recovery, the statistical benefits will disappear.









he Supreme Court of India has rendered great service by arousing public, professional and political concern about the co-existence of rotting grain mountains and mounting hungry mouths. In several African countries hunger is increasing because food is either not available in the market, or is too expensive for the poor. Food inflation is showing no sign of abating. In our country, chronic hunger is largely poverty induced. The progress made in achieving the targets of U.N. Millennium Development Goal No. 1, namely reducing hunger and poverty by half by the year 2015, is being reviewed this month in New York. The available data indicate that we may have years and years to go before we achieve this target. Globally, the number of persons going to bed hungry has increased from 800 million in the year 2000 to over one billion now. The position is likely to get worse in the near term, since the prices of wheat, rice and maize are going up in the global market. Adverse growing conditions in Russia, Canada and Australia are partly responsible for the recent escalation in grain price. Nearer home, Pakistan is still recovering from serious flood. According to a recent U.N. report, 3.2 million ha of standing crops and 2,00,000 heads of livestock have been lost. Pakistan may need large quantities of wheat seed for rabi sowing for which we are the only suitable source. In our country, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal had until recently experienced deficit in rainfall. Often, early drought is accompanied by severe flood during September-October and hence we need both drought and flood codes to be put into operation at different times during the S.W. Monsoon period, particularly in Bihar and Assam. Local level seed and grain banks should be built to ensure crop and food security under conditions of unpredictable monsoon.

Among the steps needed to address concurrently the alleviation of hunger and safeguarding farmers' income, the following four need urgent attention:


Distribute the grains for which there is no safe storage facility: Gandhiji emphasised that hunger should be overcome without eroding human dignity. He wanted every Indian to have an opportunity to earn his or her daily bread. There are however seriously disadvantaged sections of our population like orphans, street children, widows, old and infirm persons, pregnant women suffering from anaemia, children in the age group 0 to 2 belonging to poor families, and those affected by leprosy, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, who need to be provided with food free of cost. In the case of diseases like leprosy, TB and HIV/AIDS, we need a food cum drug approach since many of the patients suffering from such ailments tend to be undernourished, thereby reducing the beneficial impact of the drug. A National Committee I chaired had made this recommendation nearly 30 years ago in the case of leprosy. The recent decision of the Government of India to provide 25 lakh of additional foodgrains for BPL families is a welcome step. This should be supplemented by providing free food to those suffering from extreme destitution and poverty through delivery systems like community kitchens run by agencies not likely to be affected by corruption.


Food stocks exposed to rain and consequently having high moisture content are likely to get infected with Aspergillus sp., leading to the development of mycotoxins. Hence, they should not be distributed among the poor, without prior testing by institutions like the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, and the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore. We should not add to the nutritional problems of the poor by offering them grains containing aflatoxins. Food losses due to poor storage should be measured both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Subject to such screening, foodgrains fit for human consumption are best distributed free among the most deprived sections throughout the country. To begin with, about 5 million tonnes of wheat and rice could be allotted for this purpose from the stocks for which good storage conditions are not available.


Procurement of Kharif Crops: The recommendation of the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) that the minimum support price (MSP) should be C-2 (that is, total cost of production) plus 50 per cent is yet to be implemented. The government has, however, been moving in the direction of an MSP which is relatively fair to the farmers. The MSP announced for rice and pulses is reasonably attractive and, consequently, the production of pulses, rice, jowar, bajra, maize and oilseeds is likely to be good. Over 20 million tonnes of rice will have to be procured during the next three months. Hence, no further time should be lost in making arrangements for the safe storage of the purchased grains. Also, the procurement by the Central and State agencies should extend to pulses and crops like jowar, bajra, ragi and maize, so that there is a diversification of the food basket. Procurement at remunerative price is the key to keeping up farmers' interest in farming. Unlike the Right to Information Act which can be implemented with the help of files, the Right to Food can be implemented only with the help of farmers.


The gap between potential and actual yields is high in pulses, oilseeds and the other crops sown in rainfed areas. Instead of going to Canada and Australia for producing pulses for us, the State and Central governments should procure them directly from our farmers, as is being done in the case of wheat and rice. The 60,000 pulses and oilseed villages in rainfed areas, for which provision of funds has been made in the Union Budget for 2010-11, should be designed on a systems approach with concurrent attention to all the links in the production, protection, procurement and consumption chain, as envisaged under the Rajiv Gandhi Pulses and Oilseed Missions of the 1980s.


Safe storage: From the Vedic period, food has been invested with an aura of respect and reverence. It is sad that this respect has been destroyed by those in charge of procurement and storage, particularly when we are classified as a nation with the largest number of under- and malnourished children, women and men in the world. I have frequently pointed out that the future belongs to nations with grains and not guns. Our farmers are confronted with the challenge of producing food for 1.2 billion human beings and over 1 billion farm animals. The demoralising impact of the indifference shown to the safe storage of grains produced by hard labour in sun and rain by millions of farm women and men can only be imagined. The sense of national shame now prevailing because of the projection by the media of the sad state of storage conditions, should spur both the Centre and the State governments into action. The storage can start in every village in the form of grain banks and rural godowns and extend to strategic locations (hunger hotspots) throughout the country. It is time we invested in a national grid of ultra-modern storage structures.


Rice, wheat and other grains can help to address protein-calorie under-nutrition. But only attention to

horticulture, milk and eggs can help to overcome hidden hunger caused by the deficiency of micro-nutrients like iodine, iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12, etc. For example, drumstick or Moringa provides most of the micronutrients needed by the body. There are horticultural remedies for every nutritional malady and hence nutrition should be mainstreamed in the National Horticulture Mission. Home Science College students well-versed in nutrition should be inducted into the Mission. Like Ashas in the case of the National Rural Health Mission, they should become Nutrition Messengers in both rural and urban areas. A Siksha Food Park (a Training Food Park) should be established by the Ministry of Food Processing in major Home Science colleges to train women's self-help groups in the science and art of food processing and preservation. Attention to the preservation of perishable commodities is as important as attention to the safe storage of foodgrains.


Sow extensively during the rabi season: The rabi season is around the corner and it will be prudent to review the arrangements for the supply of the needed inputs like credit, insurance, seed, fertilizer and extension. Special efforts will have to be made to mount compensatory production programmes in areas affected by unfavourable weather during kharif. Rabi pulses and oilseeds need particular attention from the point of view of choice of variety, soil health enhancement and plant protection. The aim should be to achieve a higher per-day and per-crop productivity so that even if there is a premature rise in night temperatures in March, yields do not go down.


To sum up, we had paid considerable attention to grain storage during our "ship to mouth" existence days, as evident from the grain storage structures built in major ports. Home-grown grains however failed to receive as much attention as the imported ones. Similarly, the Save Grain campaign which was launched when we were food deficit was abandoned at a time when we needed it the most. It is to be hoped that the prevailing widespread interest in saving and sharing grains will lead to an effective "distribute, procure, store and sow" movement. Without this pre-requisite, it will be difficult to implement a legal right to food for all.


(The author is Chairman, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation & Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha.)










Dear Prime Minister,

I was delighted to learn that you said, while also "respectfully" ticking off the Supreme Court, that tackling food, rotting grain etc., — are all policy matters. You are absolutely right and it was time somebody said so. With that, you brought a whiff of honesty so lacking in the United Progressive Alliance's public blather. It is for your government, not the court, to decide what to do with the grain now rotting in millions of tons. If policy dictates that it go bad rather than let hungry people eat it, that's no business of the court. The "realm of policy formulation," as you put it, is yours. It feels good to have the nation's leader accept — well, sort of, anyway — that growing hunger, falling nutrition, rotting grain, lack of storage space, all these arise from policy. (They were certainly not caused by any Supreme Court rulings I know of.)


A lesser man would have copped out, blaming it all on the opposition, the weather or the mysterious (but ultimately beneficial) workings of the Market. You don't do that. You clearly locate it in policy. And policies are far more deliberate, far less abstract than markets.


Storage space for foodgrains


It was, after all, a policy decision to spend almost nothing for years on building additional public storage space for foodgrain. Governments have the money to subsidise the building of new cities, malls and multiplexes across the country. By "incentivising" private builders and developers. But none for building storage space for the nation's foodgrain.


The 'new' idea, instead, is to hire privately-owned space. Which does raise the question sir, of why your government decided, by policy, to de-hire a few million metric tons worth of hired space between 2004 and 2006. That was done on the paid-for advice of an expensive multinational consulting firm. Re-hiring space now will surely mean much higher rental costs, bringing cheer and joy to the hungry, starving rentiers. (Maybe even to the MNC which could now be paid for giving you the opposite of the advice it did the last time.)


More so, since your latest policies "incentivise" things further for the rentiers. Pranab da's budget speech (Point 49) hiked the guaranteed period of space hire from five to seven years. Actually, it's been upped to 10 years since then. (A word of caution from a well-wisher: the reports of that expensive MNC consulting firm have been the kiss of death for any government dumb enough to act on them. Ask Mr. Naidu in Andhra Pradesh.) There was always the option of building foodgrain storage space on government-owned land. As Chhattisgarh is now doing. It would cost much less in the long run and curb profiteering from our need to tackle hunger. These being policy matters, that's just a suggestion, not an order.


As your message makes clear to the Supreme Court, the rotting grain is none of their business. As the nation's most important Professor of Economics, I'm sure you have well-thought out policies on what to do with the grain, rotting or about-to-rot, in open spaces and bad godowns. I just wish someone of your erudition would explain these policies to an increasingly aggressive rat population which thinks it can do anything it likes with that grain and simply ignores the courts altogether. (Maybe we need to incentivise the rodents to lay off the grain.)


Meanwhile, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson has all but admitted that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had paid the price on this very issue. A wipe-out at the 2004 polls. Amazing what a consensus there is on all these being policy matters. Even the Supreme Court seems to agree.


Nine years ago, Dr. Singh, the apex Court in the very same, ongoing Right to Food case, had this to say (August 20, 2001). "The anxiety of the Court is to see that the poor and the destitute and the weaker sections do not suffer from hunger and starvation. The prevention of the same is one of the prime responsibilities of the Government — whether Central or the State. How this is to be ensured would be a matter of policy which is best left to the government. All that the Court has to be satisfied ... is that the foodgrains ... should not be wasted ... or eaten by rats...What is important is that the food must reach the Hungry."


The farmers who have been committing suicide in tens of thousands also agree with you totally, Prime Minister. They know it was policies, not the law courts, which drove them to take their lives. That's why several who left behind suicide notes addressed those to you, to the finance minister, or our own beloved Maharashtra chief minister (busy, even as we speak, Saving the Tiger in a TV studio). Ever read any of these letters, Dr. Singh? Has the government of Maharashtra, led by your own party, ever given you a single one of them? They speak of debt, credit, rising input costs and falling prices. Of governments that do not hear their cries. These are not even addressed to their families, but to you, Dr. Singh, and your colleagues. Yes, they understood the role of policy in their misery — and therefore addressed the authors of those policies in their notes.


Farmer distress


Ramakrishna Lonkar of Wardha put it simply in his suicide note after your historic visit to Vidarbha in 2006. He said: "After the Prime Minister's visit and announcements of a fresh crop loan, I thought I could live again." But "I was shown no respect" at the bank, where nothing had changed. Ramachandra Raut of Washim was so keen to be taken seriously by his Prime Minister, that he not only addressed his suicide note to you, the President and your colleagues, he even recorded it on Rs. 100 non-judicial stamped paper. He was, by his lights, trying to make his protest 'legal.' Rameshwar Kuchankar's suicide note in Yavatmal blamed the procurement price of cotton for the farmers' distress. Even those letters not addressed to you, speak of policies. Like Sahebrao Adhao's farewell note which paints a Dickensian portrait of usury in the Akola-Amravati belt.


All highlighted policy. And how right they were! Recent revelations (see TheHindu , August 13, 2010), show us that almost half the total "agricultural credit" in the state of Maharashtra in 2008 was disbursed not by rural banks, but by urban and metropolitan bank branches. Over 42 per cent of it in the financial farming-heartland of Mumbai alone. (Sure, the city has large-scale farming, but of a different kind — it cultivates contracts.) A handful of big corporations seem to hog much of this "agricultural credit." No wonder Lonkar, Raut et al found it so hard to access credit. You can't have a 'level playing field' (to borrow one of your favourite phrases) with billionaires.


While these are outflows of policy, the exclusive realm of your government, I confess to being a little flummoxed. The astounding price rise of several years is surely the well-foreseen outcome of government policies? This year, as you lectured world leaders in Toronto on inclusive growth, your government decontrolled petrol prices fully and diesel partially, while hiking kerosene prices, too.


When policies force hundreds of millions to cut their already meagre diets, can they be discussed? When they trample on people's rights, and people go to courts seeking redress, what do the latter do, Prime Minister? You are right that the Supreme Court should not make policy. But what do they do when confronted with the consequences of yours? Policies are made, as you know better than I, by people. In your case by many distinguished economists including those who have fought attempts to ban child labour. One who even wrote an article in The New York Times titled "The Poor Need Child Labour" (November 29, 1994). Where he admitted to having had a 13-year-old work in his home. (And who also favoured the decontrolling of fuel prices — to tackle the price rise, no less. And perhaps to help child labour, too?)


What too, does the Supreme Court do when the government's 2006 promise of a new Below Poverty Line (BPL) Survey to be completed before the start of the Eleventh Plan never materialises? What do they or anyone do when the government sets grain allocations to the states based on poverty estimates of year 2000 based on the 1991 Census. Twenty-year-old data which result in 70 million fewer people getting BPL/Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) grain than should be the case.


I humbly suggest that while the Supreme Court copes with those dilemmas, we reconsider your policies. I would also be most grateful if you could forward a copy of this letter to your Food and Agriculture Minister if you remember who he is and where he is.


Yours sincerely


P. Sainath








The global economic recession significantly pushed down purchases of weapons last year to the lowest level since 2005, a new government study has found.


The report to Congress concluded that the value of worldwide arms deals in 2009 was $57.5 billion, a drop of 8.5 percent from 2008.


While the United States maintained its role as the world's leading supplier of weapons, officials nonetheless saw the value of its arms trade sharply decline in 2009. This was in contrast to 2008, when the United States increased the value of its weapons sales despite a drop in business for competitors in the global arms bazaar.


For 2009, the United States signed arms deals worth $22.6 billion — a dominating 39 per cent of the worldwide market. Even so, that sales figure was down from $38.1 billion in 2008, which had been a surprising increase over the $25.7 billion in 2007 that defied sluggish economic trends.


The decrease in American weapons sales in 2009 was caused by a pause in major orders from clients in the Middle East and Asia, which had pumped up the value of contracts the year before. At the same time, there were fewer support and services contracts signed with American defence firms last year, the study said.


Russia was a distant second in worldwide weapons sales in 2009, concluding $10.4 billion in arms deals, followed by France, with $7.4 billion in contracts. Other leading arms traders included Germany, Italy, China and Britain.


'Most detailed collection'


The annual report was produced by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress. The analysis, regarded as the most detailed collection of unclassified global arms sales data available to the public, was delivered to members of the House and Senate over the weekend in advance of their return to work on September 13 after the summer recess.


In 2009, Brazil was the top weapons buyer in the developing world, concluding $7.2 billion in purchase contracts, followed by Venezuela with $6.4 billion in purchases and Saudi Arabia with $4.3 billion. Other major arms buyers last year were Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Egypt, Vietnam, India and Kuwait.


Over much of the past decade, Saudi Arabia, China, India and the United Arab Emirates have been among the largest weapons purchasers in this category. – © New York Times News Service









cientists have discovered strands of genetic code linked to short sight, the most common eye disorder in the world.


The findings shed light on what goes awry to make distant objects look blurred, and raises the prospect of developing drugs to prevent the condition. Understanding the biological glitches behind short-sightedness could help researchers develop eye drops or tablets that could be given to children to stop their vision from failing as they get older.


Short-sightedness, or myopia, usually starts to manifest early on in life.


The extent to which genes are to blame varies, but for those with the worst vision, around 80 per cent of the condition is caused by genetic factors.


Two separate studies


Two separate studies, published in Nature Genetics journal, found variations in DNA that were more common in people with short sight. Chris Hammond, at King's College, London, found one section of DNA on chromosome 15 was more common in people with myopia. Caroline Klaver, at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, found another strand, also on chromosome 15, linked to short sight. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010







Organised by the Vital Voices Global Partnership, a non-governmental organisation that identifies, trains and empowers emerging women leaders around the globe, the Vital Voices of Asia summit is to take place at New Delhi from September 15-17. Announced by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vital Voices of Asia is supported by a partnership between the U.S. government, Humanity United, and several multinationals. Excerpts from an e-mail interview with Alyse Nelson, CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership, New York, by Visa Ravindran.


"The power of female leadership" is one of the themes of the summit. Is female leadership distinctly different from male leadership? How? Has any comparative study been done between the two?


Women who lead are often driven to do so because they see a problem in their community that disadvantages those around them, and so when they search for a solution, they choose to engage those around them, thereby finding a sustainable solution that is relevant to all in the community — this method is sometimes called a "transformative" kind of leadership because it is centred around creating lasting change, rather than a one-time solution.


As an economic force they are formidable. How do we manage equal access to opportunities for women? In all fields [science is an area where they are under-represented for instance]?


I think the key to making equal access to opportunities possible lies in a shared endeavour — we can't secure equal opportunities for women and girls if we limit ourselves to working within the women's empowerment silo. I think we can accelerate the momentum that's already starting to materialise by engaging new partners in the business world, government, the NGO community, media, academia and others.


We've seen the proof time and again: in societies where women have equal access to education, political representation and economic opportunities, governments are more open and free, and younger generations are healthier and better educated. When a woman leader succeeds, she carries whole communities forward with her.


What are the tried and tested means of safeguarding women's rights? Could we use new technology in innovative ways to fight violence against women and children?


In the past few decades, women around the world have been remarkable advocates for not only their own rights, but human rights for all. Advocating for change, working with policy makers to adopt legislation, and ensuring the effective implementation of legislation are all key components to protecting and preserving women's rights.


What difference do you see between Indian women and American women in status / in the ways they use to get out of their difficulties?


I see some great similarities among American and Indian women, characteristics that I feel are representative of many women around the world. I admire the remarkable progress that Indian women have made as self-made entrepreneurs, community organisers, and political advocates


I think women across cultures are, on the whole, united by a strong desire to create better futures for their communities; they are persistent, creative, and collaborative as leaders. Women tend to adopt an inclusive approach to solving challenges, and I think this takes them and the solutions they propose very far.


What is your message to all women, everywhere on the eve of this crucial summit?


When women are given the opportunity — social, political and economic — they advance progress that's shared in by whole families, communities, countries, regions, and our world. My message to women from around the world, and especially those we'll soon be joining with in Asia, is that we need to support one another and reach out to form partnerships across sectors. We're not alone in this work, and in building strong networks of regional women leaders, like those we are convening at the Vital Voices of Asia Summit, we can accelerate the progress we're trying to achieve as individuals.








While it is clear that the government is yet to come to grips with the situation in the Kashmir Valley, which has seen escalated mob violence since Id last Saturday stoking further the embers lit in June, the Prime Minister has done well to reiterate at Monday's armed forces commanders' conference that the government is ready to talk to those who abjure violence and seek to resolve grievances within the framework of the Constitution. In essence, this means that talks are futile in the present atmosphere. Separatists such as Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Yasin Malik, regarded as "moderate", appeared to be associated with instigating attacks on public property on the day of Id so as not to be left behind in their competition with the extremist leadership. Unless this category of separatists returns to its normal non-violent ways, there cannot be much purchase in any move for a reasoned conversation.

The Centre's stance also suggests that the far-right elements, who have held the Valley captive through calibrated violence, may not expect the will of the government to crumble in the face of their carefully designed efforts. This was an important signal to communicate — to the mischief-makers of all hues and to the populace at large. Dr Singh simultaneously held out an olive branch to the Valley youth by asking the military leaders to bear in mind that they were dealing with fellow-citizens, and by indicating that an employment-oriented package is on its way. Steps to reinforce rehabilitation packages for former militants and for compensation to victims of the recent spell of violence may also be under consideration. These are primarily meant to detach significant sections from the clutches of the violence makers, and to boost the sagging image of chief minister Omar Abdullah, whose lack of political alacrity has cost him much goodwill in the state and at the Centre.
Even so, it is surprising to hear the BJP, the main Opposition in Parliament, demand the chief minister's head. This is precisely what the extremists, imbued with the ideology of jihad, would be keenly anticipating. Replacing the chief minister at this stage would be broadly suggestive of the fact that the spell of organised and focused violence has attained its initial political objective. The smallest hint of change of political leadership in the air is likely to exacerbate the violent turn the Valley has taken, not contain the unfortunate trend. BJP has run the government at the Centre and ought to be more sensitive and adaptive of approach in dealing with J&K than might have been the case before it had a taste of dealing with Kashmir at first hand. Playing politics with Kashmir, which has serious security implications, cannot redound to the credit of a party that likes to flaunt its nationalist tag.

The Kashmir government needs urgently to deal with not just the street demonstrations but also separatist politics and the rekindled ambitions of the People's Democratic Party, which thinks nothing of making common cause with the violent elements in order to embarrass the National Conference-Congress government led by Omar Abdullah. The only way to manage this complex scenario is for Mr Abdullah to get on top of his party affairs. He may find it useful to engage in a series of low-key meetings with his senior party colleagues, and with groups of legislators of the ruling combine. These are the more pressing concern for now, not rushing about calling for modifications to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or the withdrawal of the legislation from parts of J&K. Mr Abdullah will do well to bear in mind that the fate of the AFSPA is not the issue as far as the leaders of mob protests are concerned, or for that matter the surcharged mobs.









What are the implications of the reported presence of an "estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers" of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Gilgit-Baltistan? Formerly known as the Northern Areas, Gilgit-Balt i s tan was till 1947 part of the ki ngdom of Jammu and Kashmir. India claims it as its territory — impracticable as the establishing of that claim may be — and its status will be decided in the final settlement of the Kashmir dispute, whenever that may happen.

Pakistan has preferred to see Gilgit-Baltistan as distinct from Jammu and Kashmir. Over the years, it has tried to spin it off as a separate entity, arguing it is culturally and geographically distinct from the core Kashmir region. More important, the Northern Areas offer a window to Central Asia, bordering China's Xinjiang province as well as Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor and Pakistan's very own north-western Pashtun badlands. This is Great Game country, a part of the world where imperial and neo-imperial manoeuvres never end but only get renewed.

Chinese troops have been active in Gilgit-Baltistan in the past few weeks, ministry of foreign affairs sources say, ostensibly for flood relief. There is some reason to believe the Chinese are looking for a more permanent settlement and planning to build high-speed rail links from their country, through Gilgit-Baltistan, right down to Chinese-built dual-use ports such as Gwadar (in Balochistan).

Literally and otherwise, these rail tracks could parallel the Karakoram Highway, built by China to connect Xinjiang to Pakistan and also running through Gilgit-Baltistan. As such the PLA presence is as much about disaster management — landslides and inundation are said to have blocked part of the Karakoram Highway itself this summer — as about long-term infrastructure augmentation.


China is building railway links with other South Asian countries as well. Trains will soon run from Tibet to Nepal. Train tracks originating in China will travel through Burma and end their journey in Cox's Bazar (Bangladesh). In addition, China is upgrading infrastructure in Sri Lanka, where it is constructing a naval base in the southern coastal city of Hambantota. Obviously the city is being revitalised because Hambantota is bidding for the Commonwealth Games of 2018. No doubt it will look at the Beijing 2008 rather than the New Delhi 2010 organisational model.

The Chinese entry into Gilgit-Baltistan is, therefore, part of a strategy to hem in India, to leave a footprint on its borders, to have a Chinese voice, however thin, in its Kashmir problem and to give more and more of India's neighbours a stake in the Chinese economy. This will make India's neighbourhood that much more difficult for New Delhi and will dampen its great power projections. To borrow Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's words, it will "keep India in low-level equilibrium".

However, the Chinese also have internal security concerns. Gilgit-Baltistan has been restive in the near past. There have been anti-Islamabad sentiments among the locals. A degree of Islamism has been evident as well and cross-border munitions transfers between Al Qaeda affiliates on the Pakistan side and Uighur rebels in Xinjiang have been detected. To Beijing's mind, the Karakoram Highway has become a corridor of logistical support for the "splittists" in Xinjiang.

At one level this mirrors India's concerns about Lashkar-e-Tayyaba training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and in Pakistani Punjab. It is not far removed from American and Afghan concerns about Al Qaeda and Taliban safe houses in Pakistan's Pashtun areas, in southern Punjab, Quetta and Karachi and elsewhere. It is similar to Teheran's apprehensions about sanctuaries for Iranian Baloch militia within Pakistani Balochistan.
There is one compelling difference. Indian troops don't cross the Line of Control or the international border in hot pursuit. Iranian forces, for the most part, have respected the Pakistan-Iran border. Incursions from Kabul have largely been limited to drone attacks by the American military. In the case of China, the PLA has actually walked in and occupied Pakistani territory. In a sense, Islamabad has outsourced its Gilgit-Baltistan insurgency challenge to Beijing, and willingly surrendered sovereignty. As for China, it has begun the scramble for Pakistan even before that country has fallen apart!

This is extremely unorthodox diplomacy — if that word could be used at all — and betrays a lack of confidence on China's part as to Pakistan's medium-term stability and unity. Any good, patriotic Pakistani in Islamabad or Rawalpindi cannot be celebrating.

On the other hand, China's fears and sheer desperation on the Xinjiang front are also apparent. They have exposed Beijing's big vulnerability, its very own "soft underbelly". Why is Xinjiang so crucial to China? It is a massive province, occupying a sixth of the country's land mass. With 5,400 km of international frontier, Xinjiang — or the Xinjiang Uighur Auto no m ous Region to give it its official name — is China's porous zone. It shares borders with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, India (Ladakh), Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Tibet.

Xinjiang has enormous gas and oil reserves. Lop Nor, China's nuclear testing site, is located there. Most important, this province keeps China in the reckoning in Central Asia. In 1949, Xinjiang was dominated by Uighurs (a Central Asian people who speak Turki and claim a kinship with Turks), with only a sprinkling (about five per cent) of Hans. Today, the ratio is roughly 50:50. Over 60 years, China has massacred populations, brutalised cities and communities and resorted to large-scale demographic transformation. A year ago, bulldozers drove into Kashgar's old city, allegedly to make its landscape earthquake resistant. Kashgar is a heritage city, an ancient trading post on the Silk Route.

The goal of the Uighurs is a free Turkestan or East Turkestan. This is broadly a secular Muslim movement but the influence of Al Qaeda affiliates has been rising in the past decade. To quote one senior diplomat, it has made Xinjiang a "tinderbox". The Uighur struggle is unusual. It is the rare pan-Islamic cause that is not aimed at the West or Western-style democracies, or at the "Crusader-Zionist-Hindu" triumvirate.

For China's competitors it represents an opportunity. Under a more clear-headed President, the United States will inevitably exploit it. On its part India — which regrettably denied a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uighur Congress and the best known Uighur leader now living in exile, in 2009 — too needs to wake up to the po tential of the Xinjiang question.


Ashok Malik can be contacted at








Dinesh Trivedi, India's junior health minister, recently said that he feels "safer in a plane than inside a hospital". As a trained pilot, you would expect Mr Trivedi to feel more at home in a cockpit than in a hospital. But safer?

Mr Trivedi was not being facetious when he said this at a conference on healthcare and global standards organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci). A few nuggets I picked up at the conference sent shivers down my spine, too. Only 54 hospitals in the entire country have been granted accreditation till date by the National Accreditation Board for Hospital and Healthcare Providers (NABH) out of a total of some 450 applications. More than half of the accredited hospitals are located in metros — Delhi (and its neighbourhood), Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru. Small-town India ha r dly has any accredited hospital.

How many hospitals and nursing homes are there in the country? No one knows, because no one has ever counted. The data simply does not exist. Why is this so? It is so because health is a state subject and New Delhi can only do so much. Most states in India don't have a law which requires hospitals and nursing homes to register themselves.

"A doctor has to register with the Medical Council of India or state medical councils. Otherwise, he cannot practice. So we have figures for the number of doctors in the country. But except in a handful of states, there is no legal requirement for hospitals and nursing homes to register with a regulatory body. States which have the law do not often monitor compliance with quality guidelines", says Dr B.K. Rana, deputy director of NABH, an agency set up by the Quality Council of India (QCI) four years ago.

Though the requirements of NABH accreditation have motivated some hospitals to pull up their socks, most care little because accreditation is not mandatory.

From a consumer or patient's perspective, all this is disturbing. We not only lack information about the number of hospitals and nursing homes in the country, we also don't know what goes on inside our hospitals. Most hospitals either do not have, or make public, any data on percentage of medication errors, incidence of needle-stick injuries, bed sores after admission, infection rate in surgical sites and so on. Most official accounts of India's healthcare sector gloss over these lapses.

Healthcare is touted as the "next big thing" after information technology. Those in the business of forecasts say it will be worth $280 billion by 2020. The hospital industry is expected to be worth $54.7 billion by 2012, representing more than 70 per cent of healthcare sector revenues. The rising Indian middle class along with its increasing purchasing power and willingness to pay for quality healthcare has been a prime driver for the emergence of high quality health facilities. Indeed, metropolitan India has some of the finest doctors and a growing number of multi-speciality hospitals. The harsh truth, however, is that the vast majority of hospitals in the country are sole proprietorships, have somewhere between 30 to 70 beds and are run much like provision stores.

Medical tourism and spread of health insurance have brought home the importance and benefits of quality adherence through mechanisms such as NABH. Healthcare providers have begun to recognise that improving quality helps patient safety as well as the bottomline. Accredited hospitals report significant improvements in leadership, medical records management, infection control, reduction in medication errors, staff training and quality monitoring, points out Dr Sanjeev Singh, associate professor and medical superintendent of the Kochi-based Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and a member of NABH's technical committee.

If, over the past year, many hospitals have applied for NABH accreditation, part of the reason is a ministry of health directive that made qualification for CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) empanelment contingent on accreditation. This has spurred hospitals to upgrade their facilities and quality norms in order to meet NABH's standards. Hospitals which do not take quality issues seriously run the risk of losing business to hospitals empanelled by the CGHS. Gujarat, for instance, which is chasing economic growth, is also taking the lead in hospital and health centre accreditation.

The recent passage of the Clinical Establishments (Registration & Regulation) Bill, 2010, in Parliament could give a big push to the quality movement in the health sector. The main objective of the new statute, which covers government-run clinical establishments as well as all "systems of medicine", is to bring some sort of uniformity in healthcare delivery in the country by making registration of all clinical establishments mandatory and prescribing increased penalty for defaulters. The new law will initially be applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim and all the Union Territories. Subsequently, other states can adopt it after going through due procedure. Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh already have their own clinical establishment acts.

An emerging economic power like India should make a big deal about quality and patient safety norms in hospitals and nursing homes. Many of our Asian neighbours like Malaysia and Taiwan have already done so.


n Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at








The September 7 decision to appoint Polayil Joseph Thomas, one of the seniormost officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), as the Central Vigilance Co m­missioner (CVC), has raised dou b ts about whether the Union go ve r nment is serious about investigating the second-generation (2G) tel e communications spectrum sc a nd al that has caused a huge loss to the country's exchequer. Without questioning Mr Thomas' integrity and also keeping in mind the fact th at he was not the top bureaucrat in the Department of Telecommunicati ons (DoT) when the spectrum scam occurred, the point simply is that the way in which he was appointed has raised a number of doubts about the government's intentions.
The office of the CVC was conceived as the apex vigilance institution in the Government of India that is supposed to be free of control from any executive authority. The CVC is meant to monitor all vigilance activities relating to government bodies and it is also supposed to advise various authorities in Central government organisations on "planning, executing, reviewing and reforming" all activities related to anti-corruption vigilance. After the Central Vigilance Commission Act was passed by both Houses of Parliament in 2003, the following year the government passed a resolution on "public interest disclosure and protection of informer" by making the CVC the "designated agency to receive written complaints for disclosure on any allegation of corruption or misuse of office and recommend appropriate action".

In 1993, the Supreme Court directed the government to ensure that the selection of the CVC should be made by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the home minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The country's apex court also stated that the selection of the CVC should be made from a panel of "outstanding civil servants and others with impeccable integrity". The Central Vigilance Commission Ordinance of 1998 — and the bill introduced in Parliament later — co nfined the selection of the CVC from a "panel of civil servants" alone while the phrases "outstanding" and "impeccable integrity" were not included.
The manner in which Mr Thomas was selected and appointed as the new CVC indicates that the United Progressive Alliance government has, at best, perfunctorily sought to adhere to the directions of the Su pr eme Court of consulting the Lea der of the Opposition before appo inting an officer to this important po sition. At worst, the government seems reluctant to expedite the on g oing inquiries into the spectrum scam that was presided over by co m­munications minister A. Raja, in vestigations that are being currently conducted by the Central Bur e au of Investigation (CBI) after a re ference was made to it by the CVC.

It is hardly surprising that the appointment of Mr Thomas as CVC by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union home minister P. Chidambaram by over-ruling the objections raised by Sushma Swaraj (who, incidentally, also holds a Cabinet rank as Leader of the Opposition) raised a big hue and cry, since he had just demitted office as secretary, DoT. The Bharatiya Janata Party has alleged that Mr Thomas was chosen because he would not rigorously pursue investigations into the 2G spectrum scandal since he "secured" a note from the law ministry while he was DoT secretary which argues that the allocation of electro-magnetic airwaves, or spectrum, used for telecommunications was part of official "policy" that cannot be questioned either by the CVC or the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.

The seven-page response of the law ministry — to the DoT's queries on whether spectrum allocation was a policy issue — quotes various Supreme Court rulings and contends that the CVC, the CAG and "other watchdogs no doubt pl ay a very significant role in any de mocracy, but they being constit­utional/statutory functionaries ca n not exceed the role assigned to th em under the Constitution or law". The law ministry's response adds: "Even the courts refrain fr om que stioning the wisdom of the government in policy matters, unl e­ss the policy decision is patently arbitrary, discriminatory or malafide".
The DoT note to the law ministry on the spectrum allocation issue apparently moved with remarkable alacrity between August 10, 2010, and August 12 from official to official before the signatures of minister Mr Raja and secretary Mr Thomas were appended. That's not all. Wi t hin a day, on August 13, the law mi­nistry responded to the DoT's queries. Such expeditiousness is ha rdly the hallmark of Indian bureaucracy.

Be that as it may, in appointing Mr Thomas as the head of this important anti-corruption body, the government has not really adhered to the spirit of the Supreme Court's ruling. With Ms Swaraj's opposition to the appointment, there was no unanimity in selecting the CVC. Secondly, even if one believes that Mr Thomas is an officer of integrity, the government could have easily avoided controversy by sele cting one of the two other IAS officers whose names figured on the shortlist, namely, Bijoy Chatterjee, secretary, department of chemic a ls & petrochemicals or S. Krishnan, who retired as secretary, fertilisers.

As telecom secretary, Mr Thomas may have had to support his depa rtment's contention that the CVC had no jurisdiction to investigate a "policy" decision of the government, even if the par ticular policy was rather dubious since it caused a hu ge loss to the country running into more than `60,000 crores. The Prime Minister has reportedly cl a imed that Mr Th o mas was the best choice for the new CVC. Ho w ever, in this instance, Caesar's wife is not en t irely above suspicion.

On Monday, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Co urt comprising Justices G.S. Si n ghvi and A.K. Ganguly issued no tices to Mr Raja and various ag e ncies of the Union government (such as the DoT, the CBI, the En f o rcement Directorate and the income-tax department) to respond wi t hin 10 days to a public interest pe­tition urging the court to monitor a CBI investigation into the alleged irregularities in the 2008 sale and al lotment of 2G spectrum. Among the petitioners is the author of this column.


Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator








A seven-state survey on rural internet awareness revealed that close to 84% were ignorant of the medium's existence. Of the ones who did know about it, 85% used the net only to access emails, 13% to know about the latest farming techniques and 8% to look up fertilisers, among other uses. We can acknowledge that internet penetration so far has been weak; but the past is not a guide to the future.


Exhibit A is the mobile revolution. Five years ago, the telecom ministry was fretting about meeting the tele-density target of 250 million. By the end of this year, we should have achieved nearly thrice that figure. Today, the telephone is not a rich man's indulgence; it is an aid to every possible business, especially those in the unorganised sector. Carpenters, plumbers, and autorickshaw drivers use it to drum up business.


The aggregates, of course, hide the divergence between urban and rural telephone penetration. But no mobile services operator is looking at an urban nirvana — the growth is all in the smaller cities and rural areas. Some 30% of mobile phone connections are already in rural areas.


There is every reason to believe that the mobile revolution will drive internet penetration as well. While studies show that people in rural areas care mainly about basic things like voice telephony and music rather than web browsing, Indians have shown an ability to adopt technology faster than the rest of the world. The current preponderance of demand for voice and music may reflect low rural familiarity with the medium and low literacy, but if we consider the amount of private investment and R&D going into designing mobile interfaces for these segments, the mobile boom will surely spark an internet boom in rural areas. Add to that the soon-to-be-launched 3G and Wimax services, and wireless will be the way to go for both urban and rural users.


It is clear what the government must do to reduce the digital divide: Lay broadband pipes to wire up the whole country. With social sector schemes like NREGA and massive infrastructure spending in the rural areas putting money in the hands of the poor, the latter will be demanding broadband access almost as a birthright. From the farmer who wants to know global prices of wheat to the pensioner who wants to check the balance in his bank account, the net will become a great leveller.







The proposed National Standard Treatment Policy (NSTP), which will create a common framework for medical diagnosis and treatment, is a positive move by the Union health ministry. For a start, it seeks to level the field between laymen and experts; faced with a doctor's opinion, few can afford to question the diagnosis or the tests prescribed, whatever the cost. Second, NSTP will help reduce disputes between hospitals and medical insurance companies over what is, or is not, a legitimate expense. Recently the two have been at loggerheads, and insurers have struck off several hospitals from their active list of cashless hospitalisation. Net result: patients have been left high and dry.


The main problem is that doctors don't always agree on the line of treatment or the number of tests needed to aid diagnosis. Many patients suspect that doctors and hospitals prescribe tests based on a patient's ability to pay rather than real need. While it would be foolish to tar the entire medical profession with pecuniary motives, there's little doubt that clinics and diagnostic centres that invest inexpensive equipment have to ensure a certain throughput to recover costs — and friendly doctors can be allies in this.


That said, one has to recognise that there are limits to standardisation. Given the huge outlays required for drug development, there is some correlation between higher costs and better healthcare. Without these incentives, pharmaceutical companies have little reason to develop new drugs and push the frontiers of research.


The other point is that governments should not seek to play doctor. While it is good to have a chart of standardised tests so that all patients know what is to be generally expected, doctors have to do what is best for their patients. This means whether we have a standard treatment policy or not, the doctor has to have the final word. When doctors have the responsibility to help a patient get better, the government cannot afford to second-guess their expertise. If not, patients can take the NSTP chart and treat themselves.







For decades now, we have bought the myth that men and women are different. It's not difficult: we see girls playing with dolls and boys playing rougher games, and we conclude that they must be


genetically programmed to be different. Scientific research has also focused on how male and female brains are wired distinctively. Sealing the stereotype was the bestseller by John Gray, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.


Mercifully, the protestant movement has begun. A study by a (female) professor has rubbished these claims. Gina Rippon of Aston University has accused fellow researchers of producing scientific findings that seek to support the view that women are not men's intellectual equal. Before her, Lise Eliot, a neuroscientist at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, made the same point with her book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain.


Yes, men and women are different, but the dissimilarities endowed by nature are few. It is culture and our perceptions that accentuate these differences over time. Yet, unbiased experimentation has proved that the differences between women and women from different backgrounds may be as big as those between men and women.


While we need not be as foolish as to say that there are no differences between men and women, we have to be clear on one thing: the purpose of this differentiation cannot be to legitimise discrimination.








The decision of the Ohio state government to restrict outsourcing for government contracts has created a furore among IT and other business groups. Barack Obama is also bashing the outsourcing industry — and Indian companies. But is all this new? In 2003, New Jersey went down the same populist road. Here's a report from that time: "The Scottsdale, Arizona-based eFunds, a firm that processes electronic fund transfers for some 200,000 New Jersey welfare recipients, will end its Mumbai operations shortly and open a customer service centre in the same state. The new call centre, to be opened in Camden City, New Jersey, will cost US$340,000 a month, about 20% more than the $270,000 it cost to run it out of India. The extra cost will be underwritten by the state government…".


"This is a victory for New Jersey and itstaxpayers. We have 6% unemployment and it is important to show our people that the government is sensitive to their job search," said Shirley Turner, a state senator who moved a bill to limit outsourcing. That bill was passed in the senate by a 40-0 vote in December 2002, with an amendment removing the possibility of evenlegal aliens in the US being employed forservicing the contract. It provided that onlycitizens of the US "shall be employed." Asked how she would justify the higher costs of functioning out of the US and criticism from free traders, she said the government had to respond to a "higher calling".


"Higher calling" is a very interestingexpression to use in global trade and commerce. Imagine any Indian politician talking about a "higher calling"! With the unemployment rate touching 15% among young and poor groups in many states and elections looming inNovember, one can expect many such "higher callings". Fortress USA is going to emulate Fortress Europe.


But first it needs acknowledging that outsourcing is a favour done by Indians to the US. Using low-cost Indian firms helps US companies stay afloat in a recession when it may take at least 40 quarters (10 years) for the US economy to recover. With a national debt of more than $13 trillion (it is going to top the GDP soon), America is becoming a banana republic. Not only that, the budget deficit is skyrocketing and is more than 10% of GDP — and rising. Most state governments are broke and they areproducing spurious, Satyam/Enron-typeaccounting tricks to stay afloat. Many stateuniversities are in dire financial straits. There will be furious printing of more currency to make ends meet. The expected inflation isgoing to rip society apart. One of the largest

selling items last year was handguns.


The US is a confused empire on the decline. It is not just facing an economic crisis, but also a social one. Its family system is collapsing, with married and continually married personsbecoming a minority. Unfortunately, US society has not created an alternative to the family as a unit of human endeavour. Dysfunctionalfamilies are increasing and giving rise to adysfunctional society with some schools feeling the need to install metal detectors for gun screening. Individuals are to be cared for by the state, not by their spouses or children or grandchildren. The family is broke, and so is the state.


In the next 20 years, India and China will have a respectable share of global GDP — nearly 40% — as was the case in the early 19th century. The US's real problem is that it is still to come to terms with this reality. Obama is long onrhetoric and short on substance — not unlike our own politicians — and the US is now more divided than before. US society unites only when it has a permanent enemy. During the cold war, the USSR served that purpose. Now, it is radical Islam. But Obama is confused even here. He has tried flattery (in his Cairo speech, he

attributed many scientific achievements toIslamic civilisation), but it hasn't worked. He has tried bribery and bullying (pandering to the Pakistani army and ISI is a case in point), but nothing is going to hide the fact of the US power is on the wane in many parts of the world.


Since nothing works, Obama is trying the last option: arm-twist potential friends to buy peace with its real enemies. If the ISI needs to be appeased with a piece of J&K then the US will try to arm-twist India. Here's my prediction: When Obama visits India in November, the level of violence in J&K will increase to convince him that Kashmir is the problem. Someone in the foreign office should plot the correlation between visits of US officials and mob frenzy in downtown Srinagar. In the last century, a declining British Empire created havoc by partitioning India.


With friends like these, India will have to play its cards carefully. We must use the clout of our huge market to invite those in who will subserve our national interests. US bullying needs to be ignored with the contempt it deserves.







The past few months I have spent working from home. And of all the joys that brings, the most satisfying is the fact that I don't have to deal with a daily commute. Because truth be told, travelling in Mumbai is now nothing short of a nightmare. To that you might safely add that living in Mumbai is the real nightmare. It's been said before, but watching from the sidelines gives one perspective, you might say. This much seems clear — Mumbai is no more urbs prima in India, but a sort of sad perverted joke of a city, living on past glories.


Everyday's newspapers bring similar stories: That the government, in some form or the other, is handing over more and more of Mumbai to builders and developers. It could be a builder being investigated for some fraud and work on his projects being been stopped by no less than the chief minister. It could be that the civic administration has handed over land meant for parks and schools to a developer to build private homes. It could be that the laws are constantly being tweaked to make it easier for developers to build without going through the rigmarole of providing the minimum facilities required by law.


But it's not all about unscrupulous builders either. A lot has to do with the biggest thug of all — the government. Take a look around at all the infrastructure projects which are half-completed and just write out a little pro and con list as a bit of homework. In almost all, the biggest pros will fall in some nefarious kitty. Take the metro railway. When it was promised to the city, it was sold as an underground railway facility to provide an east-west link to a growing city. Now we discover that it is more overground than underground because — and this is the joke — underground is too tough in Mumbai because of reclaimed land, because no one knows where the various water, electricity, drains and other facilities are and because going underground is just too damn expensive. So why the lie? Do we need an east-west railway service somewhere up in the sky? And why have the Indian Railways — which run Mumbai's commuter lifeline — not been included in this project? Obviously Amitabh Bachchan isworried about a railway line going over his house. Anyone would be. How many people from Juhu travel to Charkop everyday, by the way? Neither the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli nor the Santa Cruz-Chembur link roads are completely ready yet — more than a decade spent here.


The current pride of Mumbai — the Bandra Worli Sea Link — is fabulous, almost a work of art. But it also came up almost 10 years behind schedule and is still only one leg of a bridge that was supposed to run from Andheri to Nariman Point. Imagine when that will be ready.


The Ganapati mandals had to threaten to file a public interest litigation to shame the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to start filling the potholes which are now more visible than actual road surface. Skywalks, the papers tell us, are now shelters for the homeless. Most are so high up that many prefer to take their chances with the traffic than get a heart attack climbing stairs.


There is a little hope. Wherever people can, they have formed little residents' groups to try and look after their neighbourhoods, fighting all the odds. This small attempt at Gandhian self-sufficiency might be the only answer when faced with the enormity of the task ahead. And in some ironical way in 21st century India, MK Gandhi to the rescue.









For the umpteenth time the governments in the state and at the centre are miserably misreading the ground situation in the troubled Kashmir Valley ostensibly to 'normalise' it. A classic example of endemic bungling is the manner in which the situation that erupted on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, in Srinagar particularly, was handled by the local authorities. The trouble started at Hazratbal when police needlessly intercepted groups of people from reaching there to offer Eid prayers at the shrine. Ensuing clashes resulted in arson, firing and teargassing which later had repercussion in Lal Chowk area of civil lines and eventually right upto the Exhibition crossing where a government building was set ablaze. Those who know the nuances of Kashmir politics can more easily discern the competing political interests around the Hazratbal platform. Ever since Syed Ali Shah Geelani had announced his intention to offer Eid prayers at Hazratbal, no doubt not a usual desire on his part, ruling National Conference began to perceive a threat to their hegemony. The NC has traditionally been monopolising the Hazratbal pulpit, leaving the Jamia Masjid to the Mirwaiz dynasty. The ongoing resistance movement has so weakened and unnerved the NC that it feared as if Geelani was seeking to dethrone the ruling party from its traditional platform. It was more in panic than on any objective assessment that the NC's fears had to be taken care of by the police. Nothing would have happened if Geelani supporters had been allowed to join the Hazratbal congregation. Any attempts by them to politicise the Eid prayers would undoubtedly have provoked instant adverse reaction from the congregation itself. It has happened so many times in the past that the devotees have frustrated attempts at politicising congregations. But it appears that the ruling NC's nerves have got so weakened under the pressure of gross mishandling the ground situation in the Valley over past three months that it could not rely on its own strength or that of its following to checkmate Geelani's supporters. So the police was made to intervene. There are credible reports that chief minister Omar Abdullah had originally planned to offer Eid prayers at Hazratbal. So the police had to 'sanitise' the area. Naturally, Geelani's supporters had to be forcibly prevented from joining the congregation. Omar was reportedly advised to offer prayers at Sonwar shrine near his Gupkar Road residence. 

Clashes at Hazratbal had instant ripple effect. Lal Chowk demonstrations had till then been largely peaceful barring minor incidents. But as the news of police action at Hazratbal swept across the capital city it produced instant reaction. Angry protesters attacked government buildings in the area. Even so, there are conflicting reports about how the Exhibition crossing building housing the offices of power development corporation and police crime branch was set on fire. 

However, one thing is clear beyond doubt that arson took place long after the rally held by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik at Lal Chowk had moved away. Their huge procession from Eidgah to Lal Chowk had been peaceful. There was no trouble till they finished their speeches in which there was nothing to infer that anyone of them was inciting violence. The gathering moved away peacefully. But soon after flames were seen leaping from the government building. 

Registering multiple cases against the Mirwaiz for his alleged 'incitement' does not seem to be based on firm grounds. It looks more to be a part of terror tactics to stem the tide of mass upheaval which has paralysed the state and its apparatus. This impression is strengthened by the fact the indefinite curfew clamped across the Valley on the second day of Eid is being enforced brutally and cruelly. Sick and other needy persons are being inhumanly dealt with by security forces. Curfew passes are not being honoured. Media persons are being forced to shut shop. News blackout is obviously a part of the terror tactics.

The government's panic reaction only adds to its own troubles, apart of course from inflicting miseries on the population. Instead of cooling tempers, this atrocity is bound to aggravate anger. These are desperate measures to save a crumbling order which today exists only in name. The state has been denuded of its authority except for its capacity to perpetrate extreme hardships upon the very people whom it claims to represent. It looks as if history is repeating itself. Theft of Holy relic from Hazratbal shrine in 1963 had produced a popular slogan 'asli mujrim ko pesh karo', in reaction to the government's misleading version about mysterious theft and equally mysterious recovery of the Holy relic.








It is not known why basic pragmatism and planning remains elusive whenever development works have to be conducted. The case of sewerage pipe laying in Jammu is just one case in point but one that is so glaring in the face of not just absolute apathy of the people at the helm of affairs but also creating an exact replica of mistakes year after year. The project is now something that people of the winter capital have begun to dread with the city of temples having been turned into a virtual death trap with dug up roads. The elusive planning is evident as there is never any co-ordination between the concerned agencies to ensure minimum inconvenience to the public where such works are being conducted. Besides, there is no effort to involve the public and seek their co-operation to ensure that the losses to the people are minimal. The roads were dug up last year for laying of sewerage pipes and the work was haphazardly abandoned when the durbar shifted to the winter capital, roads being laid up overnight and without adherence to basic engineering wisdom an norms. The sub-standard construction of the roads is obvious from the fact that many of these have been repaired more than five times since November last. Many of them have not even been constructed ever since. Though the sewerage pipe laying work was abandoned mid-way due to paucity of funds, it has now been restarted exactly after a year. It is not known why monsoons alone are chosen for starting such projects. Common sense says that this is the worst weather for such works to be conducted. But perhaps, those sitting at the helm of affairs have been told by astrologers about the auspiciousness of the rainy days when dug up roads can cause more havoc and damages, as also result in huge losses to the state exchequer. Ironically, after last year's troubling experience and enough criticism, the administration has not learnt its lessons. But it seems the only thing that the concerned agencies have perfected in such projects is the art of repeating mistakes, without even an iota of deliberation or introspection.








These days the word "rattle" has acquired many meanings in Kashmir. As usual every event in Kashmir has multiple aspects. During last two decades of turmoil things have become quite murky and one is never able to get to the real truth. Just sometime back the proposed power project at "Rattle" in Jammu created a rattle which resulted in the Chairman of the J & K Bank getting sacked. This had happened after the PDP leaders gave a press conference regarding kick backs amounting to Rs.500 crores in the said power project. They alleged that Omar Abdullah had received these kick backs during the allotment of the work on the project. In turn Omar Abdullah threatened to sue the PDP duo for defamation. The sacking of the Chairman J & K Bank was attributed by some sources to leaking of this information to PDP as the Bank is supposed to have been involved in the deal. However, there were reports of some other allegations like refusing to toe the government directive of keeping bank branches closed on Sundays and disbursing less cash through ATM's to break the peoples' will during the present agitation. It is quite well known now that the government is bent upon breaking the resolve of the people in continuing the three month old agitation. 

The latest "rattle" came on the Eid which was expected to be peaceful day after violence filled month of Ramadan. In fact, the leaders of the agitation had declared three days of total peace and relaxation to allow the people to celebrate the festival in peace. The day did start with peaceful offering of Eid prayers all over the valley. The trouble started from Hazratbal where Geelani had planned to offer Eid prayers before his arrest. His followers had already collected there and were supposed to have been waiting for Omar Abdullah who was scheduled to offer Eid prayers at Hazratbal after Geelani's arrest. His programme was reportedly cancelled in view of the possible threat posed by Geelani supporters. In spite of the fact that the crowds there burnt police vehicles and set the shrine police post on fire, there was restraint on the part of the security forces and they fired only in the air to chase away the mobs. 

However, the attention from Hazratbal turned to Eidgah where Moulvi Umar Farooq offered Eid prayers and addressed thousands of people. The twist came when Umer Farooq announced the leading of a procession to Lal Chowk. The Lal Chowk chalo call had been given by these parties a number of times but the government had every time scuttled it by imposing curfew and barricading the spot. It was for the first time that the people got an opportunity to assemble in strength in Lal Chowk. Before the arrival of the main procession, the people from the local area had already taken over Lal Chowk. They raised green flags over the clock tower and a number of neighbouring buildings. However, the real trouble started after the procession reached Lal Chowk and speeches were made. The first target was the CID office in Maisuma. 

The most intriguing part is the targeting of the buildings across the river about a kilometre away from Lal Chowk. These buildings are surrounded by almost 20 feet high brick walls and iron grill. There is only one strong Iron Gate for entry which is always locked. How did the crowd get in and set the buildings on fire? The fire brigade and Police control room are hardly few hundred meters from the spot. The fire could have been easily controlled before it could spread to all the buildings. Moreover, the first scenes of event telecast live showed the tops of the buildings with leaping flames. There were no shots of crowds around the area in the electronic or the print media. Did the fire start from the top or the base? This is a puzzle which can be solved only by probing the incident thoroughly. Incidentally, the offices which got completely destroyed along with all the records are those of the Headquarter of the State Power Development Corporation, Chief Engineer Power Department, and the Headquarter of the Crime Branch of the State Police. The present "rattle" may be connected to the past "Rattle" also!

In any case, the situation in Kashmir has taken a turn for the worst. The entire valley has been put under the strictest ever curfew. The curfew is enforced strictly even during the night which was not earlier done. The paramilitary is out in strength not only on the main roads but even in the internal roads and lanes. Even the media personnel are not being allowed to move freely. In fact, almost all the local cable channels did not telecast their news bulletins as their reporters were unable to move! Kashmiris have been virtually encaged! The entire valley has been converted into an oversized cantonment. In fact, there are more uniformed persons around than civilians. 

One fails to understand the motive and strategy behind the mindless violence? In spite of the fact that all the prominent leaders of the popular movement have condemned the violence especially the burning of government property yet these incidents have continued to occur all over the valley. There is a big question mark as to who are behind this? It has been amply demonstrated that the peaceful mass uprising has helped the cause of Kashmiris throughout the world more than the two decades old militancy. Unfortunately, there are so many agencies as well as splinter groups of the popular movement operating in Kashmir that is impossible to pin the blame on any particular section. In addition, there are innumerable beneficiaries of conflict taking maximum advantage of the present situation. It must be the longest ever siege in any part of the world. There are many theories going around regarding the government's strategy of imposing endless curfews and restrictions. 
It is believed that the government is banking upon tiring out the agitators regardless of the consequences to the common people. However, such a strategy is having a reverse effect. It is adding to alienation in a geometric progression. Peoples' anger is growing fast and they have started defying curfews as a matter of routine now. Curfew is the last resort with the government and its failure does not bode well. The "Children of Conflict" leading the present turmoil are least scared of death. The government in Delhi has to understand that it is not an uprising but a total revolution. The uprisings are instigated and led by few known persons and die down as soon as these are detained or eliminated. Revolutions are not created or instigated. These happen in the minds of the people and do not have a known leadership. The entire mass of people is the leader as well as the followers. In fact, every Revolution throws up a new leadership. The Kashmir situation seems to have "rattled" the authorities in Delhi and instead of coming to a consensus they appear to be pulling in different directions. Time is running out fast. In fact, it may be already too late now! Delhi needs to urgently decide on something to douse the flames. Otherwise, the "rattle" may turn into an explosion impossible to contain!


Comments at:







A newspaper report said yesterday that when you earn three hundred thousand rupees a month you will be happy! Anything more won't help, anything less leaves you disgruntled and unhappy!

I don't know how far that report is true but most often we feel grumpy and disgruntled, feeling we fall short of getting what we want!

But we can't always have everything we want!

One woman I know says she wants to be a bear!

Actually, what she is saying is this: "If I am a bear, I get to hibernate. I do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that. Oh boy that would be great!

Before I hibernate, I'm supposed to eat myself stupid. I could deal with that too. Oh yeah sure I would!

If I'm a bear, I birth my children (who are the size of walnuts) while I'm sleeping and wake to partially grown, cute, cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that!

If I'm a mama bear, everyone knows I mean business. I swat anyone who bothers my cubs. I could deal with that, too!

If I'm a bear, my mate expects me to wake up growling. He expects I will have hairy legs and excess body fat.
Yup. I wanna be a bear."

And then I walk through forest glade, free and happy and suddenly from far off I hear the crack of rifle shot, and I lie, wounded and dying..!

It isn't always good being a bear huh? 

We can't always have everything we want! One person said this:

"As a rule, man's a fool. When it's hot he wants it cool.

When it's cool he wants it hot, always wanting what is not."

Our age is characterized by the ability to get what we want, and the inability to be content with what we've got. It is characterized by discontentment.

In 1988, a woman wins twenty-two million dollars in her state lottery. Her family and friends are gathered around her. The television lights are blazing. Even the network news is there. She is ecstatic. "This," the woman proclaims, "is the happiest day of my life!"

But a mere five years later found her looking sullen. She was shown again on television shaking her head in disbelief. In a matter of a few short years, she went through a divorce, the alienation of her children, and an investment that turned sour. A court judgement had taken over all her lottery winnings.

The closing scene showed the woman sitting on the steps of an apartment building in utter despair. She had won $22 million, but it was not enough to save her from unhappiness.

You have the ability to get what you want. You probably have everything you need to be completely satisfied. Do you also have the ability to be content with what you've got? That's peace of mind..! 







So, what's next? It is high time that we wrestled with this question. How long can we go on patting ourselves on the back because our State possesses some of the finest natural assets anywhere in the world? There can't be two opinions that the Kashmir Valley especially as a whole is bestowed with the very best of the nature. Its every corner is shiny except those where there is human intervention which has led to crowded urban localities with dusty roads and traffic snarls. As it turns out to be we have played havoc with its life as well. There is hardly any sightseer who has turned up during the last three months to savour its natural delights. What is worse is that its normal milieu goes out of gear year after year. We must mend our ways because we are losers in terms of economic prosperity. Our approach is self-destructive and is also leading to the erosion of our god-gifted resources. It is in our hands to reverse a negative trend. Yet, we are in the grip of inertia. For our own sake we should work for the revival of tourism in the Valley. As we keep that in mind we should at the same time target to retain the tourist interest in our State. We ought to make sure that those who have dropped the Valley from their itinerary for one reason or the other care to turn their attention to other beautiful places. We have several "chhota'" (little) Kashmirs spread all over in the higher reaches of this region. Some of them are in fact virgin territories in the hills of Rajouri and Poonch districts in particular. There are captivating spots like Surankote which are heard of but have not been fully exploited to lure holiday-makers.


To many of us its Suran river in the midst of high peaks reminds of Lidder in Pahalgam thereby evoking an instant comparison with the globally famous resort of the Kashmir province. The time has come to admit that leave alone out-of-the-way resorts we have not been able to do justice to Bhaderwah and Kishtwar as well. Who does not know about them? At regular intervals we in this newspaper do carry informative articles about these two jewels in our hills. A number of times we have read about Bhaderwah having a glorious history. One reaches it after a thrilling journey from Batote on the national highway. As a writer in one of our Sunday magazines has pointed out, it has "peaceful environment, pleasant climate, self-sufficiency in fruits, vegetables, milk" along with wild herbs and dark green forests. In addition, there is the charming Seoj meadow. On the other hand, the distinction is lent by ancient Vasuki Nag temples, a mosque in the main town which is a "marvellous specimen" of wooden architecture, an old temple of Shitla Mata (hailed as being sacred for the "mundan" ceremony), Ziarat Bangla Nallah in the north-east (where, according to a local legend, offerings cure animals of foot-and-mouth disease), the mighty rocks of Kalgoni Nallah, an old fort that also served as a jail in recent times, Kushana inscription in Gupt Ganga Temple and so on and so forth. It may seem as if there is history written all over Bhaderwah. Likewise Kishtwar has been crying for due notice for a variety of identical factors and the sapphire mines of Paddar. The Chinab takes off from the same vicinity which is an added blessing. Elsewhere the Bani-Basohli region in Kathua district deserves a mention for being further explored. The Ranit Sagar Lake too is waiting for due recognition.


Nobody can be faulted for revelling in the property that we have for too long. What else can we do in the absence of adding to them in terms of tourist arrivals? The idyllic Leh district across the Himalayas is the only exception where the Government, the Autonomous Hill Development Council and the people have over the years shown a way to handle the hospitality trade. It is not for nothing that it is now being counted among the top tourist destinations in the world. This also explains why it has evoked such great sympathy in its recent period of unprecedented turmoil. At a smaller level Patnitop's emergence as an acceptable tourist alternative is another example. It has taken time but it has been compelling a section of pilgrims to Vaishno Devi to make a detour. At a bigger scale, however, we need to replicate Leh's experience in other districts --- in Bhaderwah and Kishtwar districts to begin with. There is a basic stipulation of building an extensive top-class road network in the interior belts and making provision of good accommodation. It should be backed by adequate publicity. Admittedly, our State being poor in revenue generation has to go by certain priorities. We should go back over them if necessary. A key to our prosperity is the number of tourists that we can bring in. Presently we have to thank the devotees of Mata Vaishno Devi for constituting their overwhelming majority. We can achieve even greater arrivals. Given possible financial constraints we may proceed slowly but we should have the goal clear in our mind. Therefore, we must keep asking ourselves the question that we have raised right in the beginning. It may keep reminding us of the direction that we have to take.






The Chief Justice and his colleagues in the State High Court deserve kudos for declaring their assets. It is a step in the right direction and would enhance public faith in the judiciary. Democracy works on the premise that nothing should be hidden because nothing can be hidden. No limb of our dispensation can claim immunity from this principle except, of course, the matters that involve the national security which are easily distinguishable from individual interests. On the whole one should feel satisfied that the judiciary, after initial hesitation in its highest echelons, has responded to the demands of a developing society. In a bold judgement Justice Ravindra Bhat of the Delhi High Court had rightly raised the question how the higher judiciary could be insulated from the Right to Information (RTI) Act when the President of India was covered by it. What followed is history. Indeed, State Chief Justice Aftab Hussain Saikia and other judges have enhanced the prestige of the State. It should be a signal for those especially in bureaucracy that they must follow suit as the reports indicate that they have been evading response to a RTI petition seeking similar disclosure about their belongings.











Political landscape in our State has changed since Sangharsh Samiti movement two years ago, and events subsequent to it. On-going agitation in the valley this summer has reinforced the change.
The time has come when the dynamics of statecraft will induce the Union Government to make re-appraisal of its Kashmir policy; it has to be both long range and short range 

What is of special interest is the significance and role of Jammu region in reoriented policy formulations?
Ever since State's accession in 1947, New Delhi's Kashmir policy has been valley centric. During the days when the Indian Constitution was under construction at the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi, NC leadership succeeded in inculcating in the law makers an exclusivist psyche in regard to Kashmir. Nehru tried to dispel the doubts of dissenters with a big bluff (ghiste ghiste ghis jayega).

New Delhi remained obstinately glued to the policy of imbalance. Jammu political leadership of those days, essentially ultra-nationalistic, was prepared to make concessions to sub-regional proclivities of the ruling party.


This was understandable. But we don't know to what extent were their sacrifices given due recognition in national level politics. 

In democratic dispensation where accredited representatives are answerable to the electorate, a time comes when constituency interests and demands assume unassailable significance in the overall framework of national development. 

The traditional ruling party in the State unfortunately remained insensitive to this and some other desk-book principles of democratic dispensation. It gave sufficient cause to Jammu region to bring forth threadbare accusation of discriminatory treatment to the region. Discrimination is harmful essentially when ingrained in the approach and thinking of those who in power. 

We know that mainstream national political party in New Delhi is obsessed with national minority vote to stay put in the seat of power. Intrinsically there is nothing wrong or unethical in that, rather it is a positive move in a bid to forge healthy national integration. After all India is a heterogeneous nation.

But the harmful aspect of this policy has been that of understating the significance of Jammu region in the broad structure of national integration and regional consolidation. New Delhi unwittingly contributed to this by leaving no option for Jammu region but to recurrently resort to public demonstrations for all such developmental programmes as came to the valley on a platter and even without asking. Their nationalist sentiment began to show signs of fatigue and even disappointment. They nursed the distressing sentiment that by alienating them New Delhi would be alienating itself to the valley population. Today in the light of the happenings in the valley, Jammu intelligentsia stands vindicated. 

Some might raise finger at Jammu leadership. The deep-seated nationalist sentiments which shaped political strategy of the regional ruling party in the context of sharp sub-regional propensities of the majority party are not easy to trivialize. But it needs to be emphasized that if fundamentals of a policy are not compromised, the mechanism of handling situations needs to be updated and modified. That is political pragmatism. 

Jammu leadership needs to inculcate political pragmatism commensurate with aspirations of the people in the region. It is enviously poised to play a crucial moderating role in Centre - State relationship and in ironing out the angularities of valley politics. In a federation like Indian Union, national level political parties have to be advised never to bulldoze regional aspirations but handle these with seasoned statesmanship. There will be aberrations in regional aspirations particularly when the sub-regions are divergent in more than one way, but the union has to hammer out moderating pragmatist component or veritable buffer in order to ensure cohesion of civil society.

It was the lack of updating co-relationship between the working ideologies of mainstream political parties on the one hand and pan-nationalist vision on the other that rendered Jammu leadership reckless in the Greater Autonomy Bill discourse. Hence Jammu leadership has to learn many lessons by its past mistakes. A time comes when the people will sit on harsh judgment of the actions of their elected representatives and the history they leave behind. That time is subservient to the rapidity with which the electorate becomes educated and politically vibrant.

Jammu has absorbed large numbers of refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons. All these sections have woes against their tormentors. Liberalism of Jammu intelligentsia has woven these newcomers into the fabric of its social and cultural milieu. This is a practical example of national integration and regional consolidation process. 

With this hindsight, discrimination against Jammu region is both unjust and dangerous. It is unjust because it means depriving a whole staunchly nationalist segment of civil society of active participation in nation-building effort and the pride of national prosperity: it is dangerous because it creates disharmony on sub-regional level, which can take ugly shape if hijacked by malevolent elements.

Jammu region has lagged behind in economic and educational development. These two areas have to be addressed most urgently. Diversification of Jammu region's economic uplift by opening new avenues of revenue generation is of vital importance. The region's connectivity network is dismally retarded. Towns and localities are struggling for vital infrastructure, health services are hopelessly inadequate, and the youth are beset with unemployment. 

The region needs a master plan for next fifty years that covers all these areas and more. Tourist potential of Jammu region has been underestimated and hence relegated to backburner. This is not only unjust but also cruel. It is time that the union government takes a few areas directly into its hands for development. Education and tourism are a priority, especially for the highland population in the region. Procrastination of the process of setting up a Central University is a glaring example of how Jammu region and its interests are still being trivialized and sacrificed for something that is absolutely justifiable.








With recent reports on China trying to get a foothold in J&K, it is essential for India to understand what is happening in China's borders. The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, which shares borders with J & K in Gilgilt - Baltistan, erupted in 2009, resulting in 197 deaths and more than a thousand being injured. The Chinese response was swift and severe: it imposed curfews, blockaded the media and tried its best to keep Han and Uyghur communal tensions at a low ebb. Further the Chinese government levied a complete embargo on goods and services into the region and deployed more than 20,000 security personnel in Urumqi along with squads of paramilitary People's Armed Police. A year after the Urumqi riots, are the Uyghurs satisfied with the situation in Xinjiang? Will the discontent be addressed by the Government or will Xinjiang erupt again? 
The Chinese authorities continue to use overbearing measures in controlling violence in the region. Five thousand extra security personnel have been recruited, 40,000 riot-proof surveillance cameras have been installed and special drills are being held to establish law and order in the region. The security budget of the region has also been doubled to 2.9bn Yuan (£281m) in the year 2010. And Chinese authorities have even begun demolishing the Old City of Kashgar in Xinjiang's far west, forcibly removing 200,000 people in 65,000 households to revamp it into an economic zone on the traditional Silk Route. 

The authorities have shown little compunction in detaining scores of Uyghurs who are believed to have participated in anti-government activities. Public trials of the 'militants' arrested for participating in these riots have been conducted infuriating local public sentiments. Surveillance and harassment continue to beleaguer China's leading Uyghur intellectuals especially in case of Mr. Tohti who was taken on a "vacation" by Beijing for three weeks, for running his web site-, castigated for rumor-mongering by the Government. Several of them have been given long prison sentences for endangering the Chinese state. These attempts reveal the tickly condition of the Chinese state with regards to its Xinjiang conundrum. It also shows a lack of recognition of the actual issues that remain at the core of Han-Uyghur clashes in this region. 
Uyghur discontent with the current exigencies results from several demographic, economic, political, social and ethnic factors. Uyghurs make up almost half of Xinjiang's population of 23 million but feel marginalized due to recent Han migrations, which they fear is obliterating their way of life and culture and increasing discrimination. Politically, far from being provided an autonomous existence under the 'East Turkestan' movement, they have been integrated into the mainstream, that too as underprivileged partners. 
The economic investments that come from mainland China under the Western Development Strategy are planned in a manner that the companies carrying out the projects benefit largely at the expense of the local people. Land prices have increased dramatically in some areas and a surge in spending and inward migration wipe out any possible benefits for the minorities. Recent years have witnessed an increasing rural-urban income and social gap which stimulates a discourse on the relative deprivation of Uyghurs.

Another reason for this disgruntlement with the government is the lack of maintenance of cultural freedom. The Uyghur language has been practically reduced from school instruction and hundreds of books on Uyghur history and culture have been banned. Costlier education leads to non-access and consequently, unemployment amongst these Uyghurs. 

None of these causes have been satisfactorily addressed by the Chinese government. While the situation demands a revision of economic policies of the 'Go West Campaign', the Government has declared its intention to increase its investment to a whopping 100 billion dollars. Religious rights and public expression have been further reduced through censoring of media forums. The demographic policies with regards to Han migration have also not seen any effective change. 

The state even tries to garner international support based on its rhetoric of 'war against terror'. But is the Islamic threat in Xinjiang, really serious, as feared by Beijing? Tensions between Han Chinese and Muslim Uyghurs are bolstered by the presence of religious dimensions. There is a strong resentment amongst Uyghurs against the cooption of religious institutions for Government propaganda. Restrictions on celebration of regional holidays, study of religious texts and free expression of religious preferences is abhorred by the minorities who espouse to protect their regional and ethnic cultures. 

Religious personnel are forced to undergo 'patriotic re-education' and the construction of mosques is strictly controlled by the state. However, the reactions of regular Han Chinese and the experiences of Uyghurs themselves suggest the conflict is less about Islam and more about economics. The Chinese state has evidently hyped the nature of Islamic- fundamentalist and terrorist threat to the state by declaring its efforts against such groups in Xinjiang as 'war on terror' for the purpose of gaining empathy from other countries. 

There remains a possibility that the policy measures being affected by the Government may lead to further hardening of ethnic identities as it continuously harps on the disgraced condition of Hans during the riots instead of lending ear to Uyghurs' problems. The state pursues its agenda of development of economic opportunities without recognizing the costs of this modernization. China's dual aims of 'development and stability' in Xinjiang will be realized only when a relatively peaceful solution is sought for addressing ethnic tensions in this region failing which Xinjiang will continue to be a source of concern.


(The author is Research officer, IPCS)








There has been condemnation of the action from various quarters. By dismissing Prof. Joseph from service, the college management has attacked the freedom of thought and expression, the very foundation on which universities and colleges are premised. Joseph is faulted for choosing a "politically incorrect" passage from a text prescribed by the university in setting a question paper.

In politics, commerce and business one needs to speak a language different from the classrooms. If one is politically found wrong, he may not win the elections and for traders there may not be profits. There is no such imposition of norms on teachers since the very purpose of their existence is to assist the young to discover the truth.

Prof. Joseph's explanation on his question had clarified the issue. But those with vested interest have twisted facts. The teachers and non-teaching staff of his college and Nirmala College, Muvattupuzha, have rightly protested by going on mass leave against the move. Surprisingly, the students of the college had also joined their teachers in protest. The teachers' union in Kerala has announced its decision to take out a march to the Newman College on Sept 14. The message in the protests is clear: The civil society is not happy with the dismissal.

As far as universities and colleges are concerned what is at stake is freedom of thought, expression and tolerance, key components for the growth of knowledge. Institutes of higher education cannot be treated as glorified high schools where facts are presented and repeated by students.

They have to generate new knowledge and students need to reflect to arrive at the truth. There cannot be fixed answers to questions. Speech at times can be harmful. What kind of speech is harmful? Hate speech, speech aimed at divisiveness and speech with pre-determined purpose of hurting individuals and communities is harmful and needs to be regulated. Prof. Joseph cannot be accused of any of these.

Other kinds of speech and expression should not be regulated if we desire to bring out thinking people from institutions of higher learning. We live in a world of pluralism. Life is an encounter with enormous diversity. People hold different views, opinions, beliefs and practices. While respecting all those, freedom of thought and expression helps to confront our own narrow world with what others are saying and tolerate views not keeping with our own. How else can we build a tolerant society?

Centres of higher education are meant to help young people to enter into a world of critical thought. Unless and until they are presented with different world-views, they will not be able to arrive at choices. Tolerance of free speech helps to realise that no one has the right to impose their way of living on anyone else.
Causing physical harm for expressing one's views or dismissing an employee for expression of thought is totally unacceptable in a democracy. Thinking and expressing are not anti-democratic activities. There is a rule of law in this country. The least that was expected from those who chopped the hand of the Prof.essor was to take him to court and the court could have decided if he was guilty. Not to abide by the rule of law is an attack on democracy.

We may have strong objections to someone's expressions but nobody has a right to impose their ideas on the rest. Why did the management act in the way it has acted? Is it the fear, insecurity or pure opportunism? Without free expression, society as a whole would remain bereft of the truth. It is only through the free exchange of ideas and opinions between dissenting individuals that the truth or falsity of an opinion can be ascertained.

The first issue is whether what the question the lecturer asked was defamatory. To deny even hearing him or to attribute motives in spite of an explanation by the Professor would mean that society hardly cares for the truth. It is only through listening to divergent opinions, free and frank discussions, truth can be arrived at. Some others may argue that truth is not so important than maintaining peace. What kind of peace do we desire to maintain in a democratic society? Peace cannot be at the expense of opportunism in any society. Without freedom of speech and expression, there cannot be a vibrant democratic system.

That is why in liberal democracies free speech must enjoy state protection. Any restrictions by groups of any kind would violate individual rights. When individual thought is attacked, in a liberal democracy, the state has to side by the individual instead of remaining as a silent spectator and punish those who indulge in physical violence.

What we need to challenge at this juncture are the silent prejudices, the unspoken hatred and the inaudible threats. If these are allowed to accumulate they may destroy the very foundation of our democracy.( INAV)









THE decision of the Congress units in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to leave it to party President Sonia Gandhi to nominate their office-bearers, including state chiefs, shows that the grand old party of the country continues to suffer from the ailments it was found to be afflicted with when she took up the reins of party administration 11 years ago. Sadly, it even today remains dependent on the Nehru-Gandhi family for its survival both at the state and national levels. The party has not been able to get rid of the culture of sycophancy it has been known for. Otherwise there is no reason why a state unit has to lean on its top leader for getting its office-bearers. The Congress can never hope to have inner-party democracy if it functions in this manner.


The Congress delegates in Haryana and Himachal found the easy way out to pass unanimous resolutions asking Mrs Gandhi to nominate their state unit chief and other office-bearers. Clearly, the idea is to please Number One Janpath so that the interests of the state-level leaders well-entrenched today are not threatened. It is not their problem if the party gets a bad name in the process. The way leaders in the three states concerned have been competing with each other to express their loyalty to Mrs Gandhi shows that they are the least bothered about anything other than their servility to the Nehru-Gandhi family.


If Mrs Sonia Gandhi wants to ensure that the party remains in the pink of health and does not suffer erosion in its following, she should ask the state units to elect their office-bearers through a democratic process instead of asking her to impose her wish on them. Imposition of leaders from Delhi can harm the party's interests in the long run. Such a practice will ultimately weaken the party from within. Congressmen and women should prove that they are loyal to the party and not to any individual, whosoever he or she may be. They should be committed to protecting the ideals associated with the party and nothing else. The Congress party's credibility has suffered considerably from the culture of sycophancy, and it is time they mended their ways.









INDIA is the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables after China. It accounts for 16 per cent of the world's vegetable production and 10 per cent of the fruit production. Yet their share in the global food trade is less than 2 per cent. The exporters of fruits and vegetables have heavy odds stacked against them. First, these are perishable goods and must reach the consumer before the rot sets in. To ensure the timely delivery of perishables the requisite infrastructure is lacking. There are not enough cold storages, particularly near airports and ports. Transportation is expensive and not without delays, given the traffic bottlenecks.


In the face of such constraints the withdrawal of the Amritsar-London-Toronto flight by Air India is bound to cause consternation among exporters. Poor road and air connectivity is one of the key factors responsible for the slow growth of exports of perishables like flowers, fruits and vegetables from India. Taking these to Delhi will add to the exporters' cost. There are other hurdles like inadequate storage, poor supply chain, logistics and processing facilities. While in the developed world 60 to 80 per cent of the produce is processed, in India processing is as low as 6 per cent. As a result, the post-harvest losses are huge. According to official figures, 72 per cent of the fruits and vegetables go waste.


Though the foodgrain wastage has attracted the attention of the Supreme Court that has forced the government to undertake some corrective action, the neglect of fruits and vegetables has by and large remained unnoticed. The massive post-harvest losses raise the cost of production for the grower and the retail price for the consumer. Orchards are raised mostly in areas where irrigation is uncertain. Productivity is also low. Some of these issues have been addressed in the "Vision 2015 Strategy and Action Plan" the government adopted in 2005. However, since the results have not been satisfactory, more needs to be done.









EVERY day, nearly 300 people die on Indian roads because of accidents, and more than 5,000 people are seriously injured. The Global Status Report on Road Safety, published by the World Health Organisation, has highlighted the rising number of road traffic fatalities in the nation, which, last year, had the dubious distinction of reporting the highest number of deaths in road accidents worldwide, over a lakh and a quarter every year.


In a country where there is a vehicular crash every three minutes and a death every six minutes, any effort to focus attention on road safety is welcome. Thus, the Punjab government's move to make speed governors mandatory in all buses and goods carriers plying in the state is to be welcomed. Speeding is a leading cause of road accidents, and, as is now widely acknowledged, running vehicles at moderate pace not only saves lives, it also saves petroleum and is thus economical. The WHO maintains that over 90 per cent of the world's fatalities on the roads occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which have only 48 per cent of the world's registered vehicles. Almost half of fatalities are vulnerable road users — pedestrians, cyclists, riders of motorised two-wheelers and their passengers. Controlling speed will significantly reduce road traffic injuries among these people.


While speed governors will help, effort also needs to be made to address other causes of accidents. Unlicensed drivers, and those with licences who don't know how to drive are a menace on a par with those who get behind the wheel while intoxicated. Many do not follow traffic laws, often because there is no one to enforce them. The traffic police should post adequate number of personnel, while various local bodies should make the effort to mark speed limits and provide other traffic signs in a proper and effective manner. The drivers should be considerate towards their own safety and that of others who share the road with them. Unsafe driving can maim people and even take their lives. Safety saves, while the cost of negligence is too high. 

















INDIA'S internal security has become a major area of concern. Maoists' activities have increased substantially. According to Home Minister P. Chidambaram, 223 districts across 20 states (out of a total of 636 districts in 28 states and seven Union Territories) are thus affected. A situation of "consistent violence" exists in about 400 police station areas of 90 districts in 13 states. The Maoists have threatened that they would "expand their activities to wider areas, mobilise wider masses, gather new momentum and get new dynamism" in the wake of multi-state counter-insurgency operations launched against them. In recent months, no week has passed without an armed encounter or a casualty. In 2009, there were 998 fatalities, 312 of them police personnel. The fatalities this year have already crossed 885, which include over 200 policemen. The number of policemen who have laid down their lives is very large when compared to the success achieved in such encounters.


In J & K, militant activities have been curtailed substantially although jihadi terrorists' attempts to infiltrate from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir continue. More worrisome, however, is the public order, which has become extremely fragile on account of upsurge in street protests, stone pelting by mobs and casualties due to firing by security forces. According to available statistics, while terrorist attacks have been on the wane, 68 civilians have died in security forces' action till date this year as compared to 11 in the whole of 2009.


At a time when the policemen in Kashmir are dealing with violent mobs on a regular basis and facing criticism over the large number of civilian deaths, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has acknowledged that "policing" in the country has become increasingly complex. While addressing a conference of senior police officers on August 26, he said, "Social tensions, religious disputes, economic disparities and regional, linguistic and ethnic differences have long been major challenges to effective 'policing' in India. But, of late, the growing presence of non-state actors, fundamentalist groups and Left-wing extremists has further complicated matters. The growing interlinking of the destabilising and criminal forces across states and across our borders call for far greater vigilance and coordination between the security agencies than ever before."


The spectrum of law and order situations that police personnel face today has increased in quantity, intensity and complexity. Several organisational and systemic measures have been taken to revamp India's internal security architecture in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack. These include transparent police recruitment, a crime and criminal tracking network, community policing, a national database grid, establishment of NSG hubs in Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai and a unified national counter-terrorism centre. A scheme of Rs 4185 crore is being implemented for the modernisation of Central police forces and their capabilities.


Large Central police organisations of over six lakh personnel having 354 battalions (of which 220 battalions are meant for border guarding duties) have been set up, and some more are in the offing. In that, the burden of electioneering duties and dealing with low and high-intensity internal security situations (from street protests and anti-terrorist actions in J&K to Maoist insurgencies) is mostly shouldered by the state armed police, the Central Reserve Police Force and other such forces. It is apparent that in their rapid expansion in recent years, adequate attention has not been paid to various aspects of human resource development, thus forgetting the famous statement that "the man behind the gun is always more important than the gun".


It is common to see the Central police forces quite literally being flown from one operational situation to another. While switching roles and missions, they do not undergo any orientation and induction training and are placed under the command of the officers whom they do not know. Till date, we have not heard of any police doctrine (or standard operating procedures) which would organise, equip and prepare them for their different roles and missions. For example, the Army doctrine on providing assistance to the civilian authorities for the maintenance of law and order lays down clearly that troops must work on the well-established principles of "good faith", "use of minimum force" and "prior warning to the people" when compelled to take action.


However disciplined and dedicated a police team may be, it cannot be expected to give its best if it is shifted so frequently from electioneering duties to maintaining law and order in J&K and handling counter-insurgency situations in the Maoist-affected areas without adequate induction briefing, training and orientation. Also, when working on different doctrinal missions, these forces have to be organised and equipped with appropriate weapons, including those of the non-lethal variety, to avoid civilian casualties due to panic or premature firing.


Yet another problem in law and order and insurgency situations being faced currently is due to policemen and Army personnel wearing similar combat uniforms and badges of rank and being clubbed as "security forces". This has neutralised the impact of "appropriate and graduated response" in law and order situations as most people cannot differentiate between the police forces and the Army. While synergy is desirable, the Army must be used and be seen to be used as the "instrument of last resort" while dealing with such situations.


Strangely, it was not any professional but the Prime Minister who pointed out that "We cannot have an approach of one size fits all. For instance, I understand that instead of a single standard sequence for the use of force, other countries have put in place procedures that vary according to the specific needs in different situations." The Prime Minister also lamented that most states were yet to adopt the template for a transparent and objective recruitment process circulated by the Home Ministry. Here, I may add that the states have also failed to implement the Supreme Court directives on essential police reforms such as the selection of the DGP from a panel, fixation of tenures and the establishment of an institutionalised system to make police transfers and postings immune from day-to-day political interference.


In conclusion, it must be stated that making police forces more efficient and effective is only a part of the holistic measures required to deal with insurgencies, large-scale street protests and other internal security problems. The states and the Centre need to provide dedicated and effective governance through good administration, a prompt and fair judiciary and a law and order machinery that inspires public confidence.


The writer is a former Chief of Army Staff.








Taking my bath I am informed that a 'Gernal Saab' has come to meet me. "Who," I shout from the shower. "He says he is a gernal," the domestic help announces.


"What the bloody hell," I start murmuring. Such a high rank and he can't even inform me on the mobile. Simply walks in. Without even realising I have to rush to office within minutes. Retired fellas!


I stagger to the dressing room and slip into what is wearable for the office. Shouting for the footwear, I climb down the stairs to make an 'unwelcome General' appreciate my disgust.


Slouched in the black sofa, he wishes me a 'Good Morning'. He can very well read my not so charitable expression for he has seen life. "I am in a great trouble and you need to help me out, being a good neighbour. Look, I cannot rush to the police posts," he continues.


"I lost my identity card. I have searched everywhere. Even wife's help did not help," he concludes.


I have a flashback, when I see the General visiting posts, being presented with guards-of-honour-flags, stars and medallions. I can see officers and men, looking up to him. His identity of being a soldier appears sharper to me. I gather myself to face him with a smile now.


"Is that all, sir!" I ask him, being a little mellowed. I experience sobering of my enraged sensibilities. Immediately, I send for the officer-incharge in the police post closeby, who promptly arrives.


I tell the officer that General Sahib wants a loss report recorded and a copy of it. The officer prepares to leave when I call him again to tell him: "The copy of the report has to be delivered at his residence. And in 15 minutes!"


"Ho jayega huzoor", he assures me and marches out.


The General is neither amazed nor amused, for he knows the triviality of the issue. I give him a full smile. He returns it with a big 'Thank you,' and seeks leave of me.


I follow him up to his car, open the car door and wait till he is comfortably seated. I feel he is a General once again.


His private car moves. The General looks at me with his astute face and looks, that he donned all those years, when he himself wore the uniform. I keep standing at the iron-gate of my house, behind which stays a man of equally 'ironic' elements.

My footwear is brought to me. I wear the shoes and psychologically feel that somehow they are too big for me. And that I need to size up with them. Then only shall I deserve them, not as an officer of a force, but as a humble servant of the people-always ready and willing to offer his services.

All this happened only a day after Independence Day. Needless to say, I must learn to behave. Thank you, General!







The article, "Remedy worse than the malady" (September 9, 2010) by six eminent judges on the appointment of Chief Justices of High Courts from outside (instead of selecting the seniormost Judge to the top slot from the same High Court) has evoked mixed reactions. In continuation of our debate on September 13, we carry today comments from experts.


CJ is the very soul of the High Court


THE practice of having Chief Justices from outside is having a negative effect. The Chief Justice is not a computer; he is the very soul of the High Court. A Chief Justice from outside is not even familiar with the names of the advocates practising in the High Court he has been transferred to. How does he function?


A local Judge has his own advantages. He knows the Bar. And if there are misunderstandings with some of the members, he is in a position to informally sort them out in the larger interest.






THE entire transfer policy which originally had a purpose of having one-third judges from some other high courts has totally collapsed and the policy itself has come to an end. The appointment of Chief Justices was part of the transfer policy.


The transfer of a CJ from one state to another for a very short period of time is often engineered to bring certain people to the Supreme Court. This is not a correct approach. Puisne Judges should be elevated in their own courts as also to the Supreme Court. There may be puisne judges who are of distinction who may often be overlooked and will not get a chance based on both seniority and merit.


Transferred CJs are often unfamiliar with the state and sometimes lose interest, waiting to be transferred to the Supreme Court. Therefore, in qualitative terms, the best Judge familiar with the state is not appointed as CJ of that state.


The appointment of CJs has become a merry-go-round which is entirely whimsical and often punitive. This is unacceptable whatever is the laudable purpose of the policy. The present system has neither elevated the best judges to be in command nor produced the best catchment for selection to the Supreme Court.


The best method is to equalise the retirement age of High Court and Supreme Court Judges so that all this manipulation and mad rush come to an end.






THE transfer policy has both merits and demerits. The person appointed to the post of Chief Justice of a High Court, who is an outsider, does not have friends or enemies, nor does he have any pre-conceived notion. He would not have any senior or a junior with whom he has worked. He does not have relatives nor does he know the relatives of other judges.


While these are the merits, there are demerits too. For instance, the CJ does not have personal experience of the members of the Bar practising in the HC which is a handicap for recommending names for appointment as Judges. He doest not know the district court judges — how good or bad they are.


The present system is not bad. The problem is one of working the system and everything depends upon the people who are manning the system. In fact, many times members of the Bar are very happy with the fact that the CJ is from outside. He does not have any prejudices or pre-conceived notions about the fellow colleagues, about members of the Bar and about the subordinate judiciary. There are many outside CJs who have come very popular at the new place.


Similarly, there are many CJs who have become unpopular. On the whole, this system should be continued subject to improving upon the functioning of the CJs at the new place.






THE issue is complex. Outside CJs are not the most desirable thing. But in the present situation, it is the least of the evils. If we do away with it, we have a larger evil. The six Judges have a point that it is affecting the working in some ways. As against this, having CJs from the same courts would lead to odd situations and this has been experienced in the past.


My personal view is that the present system of appointments and transfers may have shortcomings, but it is necessary until we have a proper judicial commission which will deal with appointments, elevations to the post of CJs and transfers and disciplinary action. We need that. Until we get a constitutional body, this ad hoc arrangement will have to continue.






I agree with the views of the former Judges that there is no need for appointing CJs only from other High Courts. CJs from outside don't know anybody in the court they are appointed and as such they cannot really control the courts. They have to depend on the views of the fellow Judges and it takes time for them to become familiar with the state of affairs.The whole system of appointment of Judges and CJs must be changed. There must be a Judicial Appointments Commission which must be independent of both the judiciary and the government. The Commission should appoint these people, not the Collegium of senior Judges as at present. The entire system must be rationalised with proper criteria laid down allowing total transparency.






THEappointment of outside CJs in the High Courts has certain advantages and disadvantages too. An outsider will be above local politics, more objective, will inspire more credibility and command greater credibility.But then, he will not have the first-hand knowledge about the suitability of lawyers to be considered for elevation to the Bench. He will not be familiar with the local language and the practices and rules of the new High Court.


Unless he is assured of a reasonably long tenure, he cannot make an effective contribution by providing necessary leadership on the administrative side or on the judicial side. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure a minimum tenure of about three years as CJ in the new High Court.To enable the CJ acquaint himself with the new High Court, he should first be posted as a puisne Judge at least for one year.


Transferring of CJs of doubtful integrity from one High Court to another High Court should be stopped. Transfers may not help improve the level of honesty. There should be a provision in the Constitution for not allowing a Judge or a CJ against whom there are complaints which are under investigation to function as a Judge. Such judges should be allowed to remain at home for the period during which the investigation/inquiry goes on without any loss of emoluments. The judiciary today suffers from an erosion of credibility. Every step necessary to restore credibility should be taken.






THE infusion of outside judges has brought about a whiff of freshness to the various high courts. No hard and fast rule can be prescribed whether the Chief Justice must be from the same High Court or from outside. But one thing is apparent that it doesn't take an outside Judge too long to make himself familiar with the local conditions prevailing in the High Court he has been transferred to. It is for this reason that the practice currently being followed is of bringing prospective Chief Justices to the High Courts where they are likely to be elevated in the near future. The transfer of Acting Chief Justice of the Guwahati High Court Justice Ranjan Gogoi to the Punjab and Haryana High Court is an example.






IT was in the eighties that I first discussed the issue of having local Chief Justices. Two senior-most Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court had just returned to the city after stints as Chief Justices; and I happened to ask them their opinion on elevating local judges, instead of importing them from the High Courts of other states. Nearly three decades have lapsed since then, but the response is still fresh in my memory. "It doesn't help" was the answer.


For the first time, a retired Supreme Court Judge and five Chief Justices of High Courts have raised the issue at a public platform; and it should be looked into. We have a huge pool of information available from retired judges of the Supreme Court and Chief Justices of the High Courts. Without much ado, an exercise should be launched to seek their opinion. And if they too are not in favour of having Chief Justices from outside, we should revert to the old order of elevating local judges.






Besides what is written in the article, "Remedy worse than the malady", the commitment a Judge would have for his court would be missing when he is shifted to another court. Further, the local Judges have much better understanding of how best to achieve an efficient justice delivery system for their state.






The articles (Sept 9 and 13) are available on Readers may send in their views to 








Ten years ago, when the Internet was new and Rohan Bopanna still young, there was a picture of him sitting on a fancy motorcycle on the home page of a local website from Coorg. Embarrassed about being celebrated as the pride and joy of the region despite his modest achievements, the best way to tease him back then was to slyly throw in "" in conversation. 

For the kind of player he was – big serving but doing little else – no one ever expected Rohan to grab a genuine international tennis headline. A Indian national title doesn't interest the rest of the world, nor does a singles win in the Asia-Oceania zone of the Davis Cup, a medal at the Asian Games, and in a sport obsessed with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, reaching the doubles final of a Grand Slam is only a tiny blip on the radar. 


But almost unknowingly this past fortnight, Rohan's name first started creeping up on international tennis websites, then in local editions of American papers, and finally in bold letters in the New York Times. From a small-time player struggling to survive on the second-tier Challenger tour for almost decade, he was now a doubles diplomat – "a symbol of grace", according to NYT, as the Indo-Pak Express of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam Qureshi chugged all the way to the final at Flushing Meadows. 


There's no place like New York, the capital of the world, for foreign relations to eclipse sport. They thrive on stories of unlikely global tie-ups: an Arab-Jewish pair (like Aisam and Amir Hadad in 2002) is a dream come true, a Serbian-Bosnian team would perhaps come a close second, and an India-Pakistan team two years after the Mumbai attack is good enough to bring out the adjectives and the deeper political connotations. 

For all the sudden attention, however, being hailed as emissaries of peace must have come as a surprise to two people who've been playing together off and on for four years, have already won an ATP title and reached five other finals in the last 35 months. Despite their conflicting nationalities, Rohan and Aisam so far existed in a political vacuum, going about their business in far corners of the world, with no sobriquets heaped on them from either side of the border. 


"We started playing with each other only because we're good friends and thought that we might work well as a doubles team. We never intended to make any political statements. We don't see each other as being from two different countries," Rohan told this paper last week. 


But the full implication of the partnership will soon start sinking in. Now that India and Pakistan have woken up to the potential of these two new envoys, there will be nicknames invented by the news media, advertisements with a Pakistani flag on Rohan's cheek and an Indian flag on Aisam's, and poorly worded statesponsored messages of peace in cinema halls. 


Apart from the foreign affairs angle, however, there is also a straight-forward tennis story in Rohan's ability to sustain himself on tour despite the prohibitive travel and training costs. Over the last 15 years, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have handed upcoming players from the sub-continent an easy survival guide. 

With tennis getting physically more demanding, the really good players can no longer multi-task between the singles and doubles tours. McEnroe-Fleming or Lutz-Smith are a thing of the past, allowing players such as Leander and particularly Mahesh to maximise their limited potential, carve out successful careers, and in the process show a whole new generation that you don't need to be top-50 material to live the dream. 

Rohan, for example, made $210,000 at the US Open alone, as compared to $12,000 from singles in the whole year. Now that he's in the big league, more riches are bound to follow. It may not be what he'd hoped for when he first picked up a tennis racquet but Rohan should be excited about what lies ahead. And Coorg should be proud. 



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The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has every reason to pat itself on the back as far as its policy on prudential and capital adequacy norms for banks is concerned. The new Basel- III norms, agreed upon by central bankers from the major economies of the world and to be considered by heads of government at the next Group of 20 summit, will only be catching up with already existing norms in India as far as capital adequacy goes. While Basel III requirement is that Tier 1 (equity capital and disclosed reserves) capital ratio be 6 per cent, in India it is already well above this. As RBI governor Duvvuri Subbarao said last week, as on June 30 the capital adequacy ratio of the banking system stood at 13.4 per cent, of which Tier-I capital accounted for 9.3 per cent. The new Basel-III norms introduce a new concept called capital conservation buffer (CCB). This will be an additional 2.5 per cent on top of the new Tier-1 capital. Any bank whose capital ratio fails to stay above the buffer faces restrictions by supervisors on payouts such as dividends, share buybacks and bonuses. The new CCB will include equity, after deductions like deferred taxes. This new buffer is proposed to be phased in from January 2016 and will be fully effective in January 2019. In addition, it has also been proposed that there would be a counter-cyclical capital buffer, amounting to between 0 and 2.5 per cent of equity or other full loss-absorbing capital. It is aimed at forcing banks to build up an extra buffer when banks see excessive credit in the system that may pose a threat to bank bottom lines. Banks would then be able to tap this buffer to offset any potential losses without having to raise fresh capital immediately. No timeline has been yet fixed for this new concept to be introduced.


Other ideas proposed include new definitions of capital aimed at improving both the quantity and quality of bank capital. It is reiterated that the predominant form of Tier-1 capital must be equity and retained earnings. To this, banks can include deferred tax assets, mortgage-servicing rights and investments in financial institutions to an amount no more than 15 per cent of the common equity component. The new norms also impose a ceiling on build-up of leverage in the banking sector. It is hoped that this would reduce the risk of destabilisation from deleveraging. There are also new liquidity norms aimed at ensuring that banks have enough liquid assets to tide over short-term shocks and medium to longer-term pressures. These and other proposals pertaining to risk are aimed at ensuring that the banking sector is better protected from the macroeconomic and financial consequences of excess credit and leverage. It is surprising, however, that the timetable laid out for adherence to Basel III is far too stretched out. There is good reason to insist on a shorter time span and early implementation of these norms. One reason why banking stocks have done so well on Monday could be that western banks feel less intimidated by this liberal timetable.








The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, has proposed that organised sector employers be mandated to initiate jointly funded health insurance cover for their employees. In the process he has flagged off what should be a major debate. As the Indian state raises its abysmally low expenditure on health care, should it all go into better funding of the public health-care system or should a part of the resources also be used as incentive to employers to partly pay for group health insurance cover for their employees? Since a carrot-and-stick combination works best, Mr Ahluwalia suggests, why not allow employers to claim tax deduction for employee expenditure if there is a health insurance element in it? What he is asking Indians is to debate whether to opt for the US private insurance-driven model or the European publicly funded model of health care, or a hybrid.


In the post-liberalisation scenario, relatively well-off Indians have opted for and taken the country down the road of the US model, partly because of the absence of an alternative that delivers. However, there is no doubt that the European model, with all its variations, is better on the whole. Europeans spend far less per capita on health care than Americans do and live longer. So, the choice for Indians should be easy. But India has an abysmal culture of poor delivery of any kind of public service. So maybe, a mixture of the two models is what will work in India. There is no doubt that a well-functioning and free health-care system is essential in a country where most people are poor. There is also no need to worry about the very well-off who can pay for and get their own kind of health care. But what about the large space in the middle? Governments in India, particularly in the south, are increasingly moving forward with health insurance systems for the poor where the family covered pays a small, regular premium and the state puts in a significant subsidy for a minimum cover. For this the approved provider network includes both public and private health-care facilities. Crucially, the private providers find it worth their while to treat patients under these schemes. Thus a working model of largely public-funded but privately delivered health care is emerging.


 India has little to borrow from the discredited US model of privately provided and insurance-based health care. However, given the reality of the coexistence of a mix of public and private health-care delivery, a well-functioning, no-frills public system can keep private greed in check, as is happening in Kerala and Tamil Nadu where private health-care costs remain under control. But how to deliver an even partially functioning public health-care system? The answer is both political and cultural. In those two states and, to an extent, in Andhra Pradesh lately, politicians have realised that they will not survive in power unless a minimum level of public good is delivered, be it the primary health centre or the primary school. Plus, as societies, Tamil Nadu and Kerala retain a minimum sense of public service, something that has virtually disappeared in the rest of the country.







Those involved in India's corporate governance know of the regulatory wars between the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MoCA) and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). Till recently, with listed entities dominating corporate India, and with Sebi defining their corporate governance and public financial disclosure norms through its Listing Agreement, MoCA played second fiddle. The ministry hated it. Despite being the guardian of the mother Act — The Companies Act, 1956 — it was being finessed by Mumbai's regulators. MoCA wanted to level the field.


That opportunity arrived in January 2009, with Satyam. Everyone was stunned that half a dozen crooks led by an executive chairman systematically stole huge piles of company funds, with neither the auditors nor the non-executive directors having a clue. The balance shifted. MoCA played the lead role with the investigators, politicians and the press. Sebi was relegated to the sidelines. Since then, MoCA is determined to hold the aces.


 The Companies Bill, 2009, is such an example. Substantive modifications suggested by MoCA have been passed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) chaired by Yashwant Sinha, and presented to the Lok Sabha on August 31, 2010. The Bill will be debated in the winter session. Given that little debate takes place these days, especially on corporate laws, it will surely be passed as law before the end of the session.


No one doubts that we need a new Companies Act. Many of the statutes are outdated. The problem is with some of the corporate governance clauses that feature in the Bill, which are retrograde, counterproductive, and exhibit excessive over-reach of law. For want of space, here are two.


Size of the Board: According to Clause 132(1), every public limited company must have a minimum of three and a maximum of 15 directors, excluding nominees from lending institutions. However, a company may appoint more than 15 directors after obtaining prior approval of the central government and passing a special resolution. There is no problem with a minimum. But why should law prescribe a maximum? That is a matter for the company and its shareholders to decide. If the shareholders agree, why does a company need "prior approval of the central government" to increase its board size beyond 15? Example No.1 of legislative over-reach.


Tenure of an independent director: According to a new clause, 132(7), introduced by MoCA and approved by the PSC, (i) no independent director shall have a tenure exceeding, in the aggregate, a period of six consecutive years on the board of a company; (ii) three years must elapse before such a person is inducted in the same company in any capacity; and (iii) no individual shall have more than two tenures as independent director in any company in the manner provided in this clause.


Here's a story of subterfuge. Clause 132(7) was not in the Bill that originally went to the PSC. In December 2009, MoCA released a booklet, Corporate Governance: Voluntary Guidelines. On the tenure of independent directors, it stated:


a) An individual may not remain as an independent director in a company for more than six years.


b) A period of three years should elapse before such an individual is inducted in the same company in any capacity.


c) No individual may be allowed more than three tenures as an independent director in the manner suggested in (a) and (b) above.


Almost identical words, right? When various bodies across India severely criticised this provision, MoCA answered that it was a "voluntary code", no different in spirit from the voluntary recommendation in Sebi's Clause 49 that an independent director ought not to serve for more than nine consecutive years.


In its deliberations with the PSC, MoCA successfully slipped it into The Companies Bill, 2009 as a new sub-clause. The PSC has not only agreed, but has also stated that it "would like the government to formulate a code of independent directors (to)… include their mode of appointment, role and responsibilities… their remuneration and extent of their liability". MoCA has thus convinced the PSC that various elements of its "voluntary" code should be incorporated in the Bill. The "voluntary" code was a ruse to create the entry that MoCA wanted with PSC so that its provisions got appended to The Companies Bill, 2009, thereby making it mandatory!


No corporate legislation in any major country states the maximum number of years that a director can serve on a board. Not in the US, in the UK, in Australia, in Canada, in Singapore, in Hong Kong, and many more. Such a ceiling, if it exists at all, is in the domain of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of a company, or as a practice of a board.


Does law state the maximum number of terms for an elected Lok Sabha member? It doesn't, and rightly so. If political fiduciaries have no ceilings on the number of terms that they can be elected, why is it imposed on corporate fiduciaries? How can law decide the maximum tenure of an elected appointee of the shareholders? It is for a company's shareholders to choose, not the state. Example No. 2 of inexcusable over-reach.


Such a clause vitiates the real world of boards and governance. Consider multi-product, multi-location, multi-service companies, or businesses with substantial regulatory overhang, such as banking and insurance. Even with serious induction-level training, it takes a new independent director a year-and-a-half to properly understand nuances of the business. Thus, the effective tenure of being an informed and sensible fiduciary will be four-and-a-half years, after which the Board will have to look for a replacement. What great corporate governance is this?


I could go on about the number of board positions and counterproductive restrictions on auditors. But let's end with a tailpiece. The PSC has stated that maximum political contributions in a year be raised to 7.5 per cent from 5 per cent of average net profits during the three immediately preceding financial years. Because "the number of political parties in the country has increased and such donations are not made every financial year".


The author is the chairman of CERG Advisory Private Limited









Will the next lot of media giants come from the telecom sector? If estimates are correct, then a listing of the top-20 media and entertainment (M&E) companies in India has three major telcos in the reckoning. There is Bharti Airtel at Rs 2,900 crore, making it, arguably, the fourth-largest media company in India. (See Bharti Airtel — The making of a media conglomerate, Business Standard, September 7, 2010).


 Then there is Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group's Rs 1,400 crore from M&E and Tata Sky at Rs 1,000 crore plus.


Expect many more on this list as mobile entertainment becomes a bigger game. Mobile value-added-services or MVAS, as most entertainment-related non-voice services are called, brought in a massive Rs 5,500 crore for the telecom industry last year. (This does not include plain vanilla SMSs). On average, these contribute 5-10 per cent to most telco top lines. According to estimates by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, by December 2010, mobile operators would have earned Rs 8,700 crore from entertainment-related MVAS revenues.


The focus on mobile entertainment is only expected to increase as the pressure on voice revenues keeps growing. A ringtone selling for Rs 5 or Rs 10 simply offers better margins than a voice call that is at times almost free. So far telcos couldn't ramp up MVAS because spectrum was scarce. The recently concluded 3G auctions mean more clippings, videos, songs, news and other services will now be available on the mobile phone.


In addition to this, many telcos have got into DTH (Airtel, Tata, Reliance), TV, radio broadcasting (Reliance) and allied media services such as post-production or archiving (Reliance, Airtel). Reliance is also into films (production, distribution and retail) and out-of-home, among several other media segments.


What does the growing clout of telcos in M&E mean?


It means that the M&E business is acquiring critical mass. But the impact on two things is most important. One, on regulation and two, on power equations in the $17-billion M&E business.


Notice that most telcos are getting into media infrastructure areas; DTH, IPTV, multiplexes, digital theatres or broadband pipes to carry M&E products. This is where their strengths — the ability to build large networks across a disparate, heterogeneous, voluminous market and offer value for money — work very well.


The lack of enough media infrastructure is one of the biggest reasons why the M&E industry lacks scale. For instance, India may be the largest producer of films in the world, but it is one of the smallest one in value. That is because it is one of the lowest on screens per million of population. The growth of multiplexes over the last decade shows that the more screens there are, the better the chances of a film to make money. So, telcos are more than welcome in this area, like they are in DTH, where they are building networks to sell TV signals instead of voice.


As they do this, they will encounter the usual problems — ad hoc regulation, state taxes that vary wildly, a cable regime from the dark ages and under-declaration of revenues. The telecom industry's ability to deal with this mess is far better than the fragmented media industry's. These guys are simply larger and more used to lobbying. The biggest telecom company, Bharti Airtel, is nine times the size of the biggest media group, The Times. So, there is hope that in their bid to grow their media businesses, they will push through changes that will help clean up the mess in media. That is the good part.


The bad part is the usual bullying that goes with size. You can see the impact of that on mobile entertainment where content-owners are left with a measly 10 per cent of the revenues telcos collect by selling their songs or videos. This is the complete opposite of markets such as Japan where content-owners keep a bulk of the revenues. So, the entry of these large distribution giants in other areas — films, TV and so on — will realign the whole power equation in favour of the telcos.


Eventually, old style M&E firms will learn to harness it. But till then the scales are clearly tipped in favour of the telcos. 









The current mood in the various Bhavans around Raisina Hill is a little different from the general gloominess that marks the conversation of most residents of New Delhi. Talk to anyone living in India's Capital city, the topic of discussion will invariably be either the threat of floods from incessant rains and the release of water from reservoirs in Haryana into the Yamuna or the deteriorating traffic problems as a result of the mismanaged construction of various projects for the Commonwealth Games.


In sharp contrast, there is a general sense of relief and satisfaction evident on the faces of most senior central government officials. In North Block, headquarters of the finance ministry, senior officials are heaving a sigh of relief after bountiful rains improved the prospects of a bumper crop this season. This has obvious implications for inflation, which has been giving North Block officials many a sleepless night for several months. The problem of distribution of foodgrain to the needy will persist, but sentiments will remain benign and not add pressure to prices. Even otherwise, North Block has delivered the much-delayed direct taxes code. The goods and services tax regime, too, may be in place later next year.


 Udyog Bhavan, which houses the ministry of industry, is also in a celebratory mood. After declaring 13.8 per cent industrial growth for July, the officials are busy telling everybody that the prophets of doom, who had predicted a continuation of the low growth rate of June (a mere 5.8 per cent), should review their stance. It is a different matter that experts are questioning the authenticity of the data and are wondering how long it will take for the government to announce a revision in the July data — just like it did for the June figures a few days ago.


Commerce ministry officials, who sit in the other corner of Udyog Bhavan, do not look as upbeat on export prospects in the remaining months of the year, but draw satisfaction from what their colleagues in the finance ministry have done for them through the introduction of a Bill on the direct taxes code. The commerce ministry's flagship scheme, special economic zones, has gained a reprieve of sorts. Instead of robbing the zones of all tax reliefs with immediate effect, the finance ministry has set out a timeframe for phasing out the reliefs over a longer time span.


In Shram Shakti Bhavan too, power ministry officials have welcomed the rains, which apart from reducing the demand for power in the current month have also improved the prospects of higher electricity generation from hydroelectric power projects. The availability of water in the country's 81 major reservoirs until last week has risen to 103 billion cubic metres — 32 per cent more than what was available last year at this time and 11 per cent more than the normal level. Although this might force some of the reservoirs to release excess water, causing floods in some areas, the good news for power ministry officials is that hydroelectric power generation this year would increase and power deficit would certainly see a sharp drop.


Also, the acreage of crops this year has seen a major increase, cheering officials in Krishi Bhavan, headquarters of the agriculture ministry. The total area brought under kharif crops this season so far is 99 million hectares, over 7 per cent more than last year's acreage. More interestingly, the land under pulses has gone up to 11 million hectares, 22 per cent from last year, and the land under cotton is over 10.6 million hectares, a marginal increase of 8 per cent. The point to be noted is that farmers have positively responded to price signals. They are growing more for crops that should fetch them higher prices. The agriculture ministry should naturally be pleased with this subtle shift in the Indian farmers' approach to farming.

If there is one wing of the central government that may not be too comfortable with all these developments, it is the department of food and public distribution. It is a problem of plenty for the department. Total foodgrain stocks with the government are now over 60 million tonnes, almost three times more than the level stipulated under the government policy on maintaining a buffer stock to meet its requirements for feeding the public distribution system, ensuring food security and stabilising prices through open market sales. Even when compared with the strategic reserve requirements, the current food stocks are 180 per cent higher.


With a bumper harvest expected, the food department does not know how to manage the forthcoming procurement season. Since its godowns are full and the new storage capacity will take a couple of more years to ease the shortage, the Food Corporation of India, the government's principal food procurement agency, would be reluctant to enter the market. If it does not enter the market to procure the kharif food crop, there is a strong possibility that farmers may suffer because of a fall in prices.


The food department's dilemmas if not resolved quickly can lead to a serious problem. The government must intervene and take necessary steps by either allowing food grain exports or creating more capacity for storing the procured grains. A government that swears by the aam aadmi cannot be seen as doing nothing while farmers get ruined after a bumper crop









The Centre, said the late N T Rama Rao, founder-leader of Andhra Pradesh's Telugu Desam Party, is a "conceptual myth". India, he reminded Indira, the republic's most powerful prime minister, "is a Union of States".


In so doing, NTR re-opened an old debate on the nature of Indian federalism. Students of political science, jurisprudence and public administration know that tomes have been written on the issue. Unresolved debates recur time and again whether the Indian Constitution has a "unitary" bias or a "federal" bias. The answer to this question has been a function not of legal interpretation, but of politics.


 When Indira Gandhi sat on the podium at a meeting of the National Development Council in 1967 trying her best to get a consensus around a formula for the sharing of fiscal resources between the Centre and the states, and faced the likes of Anna Durai from Tamil Nadu, EMS Namboodiripad from Kerala, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy from Andhra Pradesh, V P Naik from Maharashtra, Mohanlal Sukhadia from Rajasthan and Kamalapati Tripathi from Uttar Pradesh, she knew the states had an upper hand. That is why she turned to the Gandhian economist, the then deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, a man respected by all, D R Gadgil, to secure a consensus formula. Thus was born the Gadgil formula. It was not an Indira formula. The same Indira Gandhi presided over the most centralised government of post-Independence history barely eight years later.


The political and administrative role and responsibilities of the central government may be defined by the Constitution in theory, but in practice, these are determined by the political realities of the day. With a multiplicity of political parties in power both at the Centre and in the states, there is a constant tug of war between these two levels of government. Given that there are both centrifugal and centripetal tendencies at play in Indian politics all the time, there is no defined equilibrium at which matters can be expected to settle.


However, it is important to remind oneself from time to time that there is such a thing as the Indian Constitution that defines the role and responsibilities of the central and state governments. There are 97 items in the "Union list", including defence, atomic energy, foreign affairs, war and peace, citizenship, extradition, railways, shipping and navigation, airways, posts and telegraphs, telephones, wireless and broadcasting, currency, foreign trade, inter-state trade and commerce, banking, insurance, control of industries, regulation and development of mines, mineral and oil resources, elections, audit of government accounts, constitution and organisation of the Supreme Court, high courts and Union Public Service Commission, income tax, custom duties and export duties, duties of excise, corporation tax, taxes on capital value of assets, estate duty, and terminal taxes, where Parliament and the central government hold sway.


There are 66 items on which state legislatures and governments have the "exclusive" right to legislate and govern, and these include public order, police, administration of justice, prisons, local government, public health and sanitation, agriculture, animal husbandry, water supplies and irrigation, land rights, forests, fisheries, money-lending, state public services and state Public Service Commission, land revenue, taxes on agricultural income, taxes on lands and buildings, estate duty, taxes on electricity, taxes on vehicles, and taxes on luxuries.


There is then the "Concurrent list" of 47 items, including marriage and divorce, transfer of property other than agricultural land, education, contracts, bankruptcy and insolvency, trustees and trusts, civil procedure, contempt of court, adulteration of foodstuffs, drugs and poisons, economic and social planning, trade unions, labour welfare, electricity, newspapers, books and printing press, and stamp duties.


It appears from some of our recent public debates, be it on tackling the problem of naxalism and law and order, policy on utilisation of rural lands for non-agricultural purposes, right to education and school education, right to food and scope of the public distribution system and such like, that all policy and action must emanate only from New Delhi.


Maybe it has something to do with the centralisation of thinking in political parties and the concentration of the media in New Delhi, and the eagerness of Union ministers to appear on national television (both news and debates) that the government of the Union is willy-nilly brought to the centre of every debate, when the final word, in fact, lies with state governments.


Would the general secretary of the Congress party, Digvijay Singh, have accepted interference from a Union education minister like Murli Manohar Joshi in a subject matter like school education when he was chief minister of Madhya Pradesh? Never! Yet, the very same Mr Singh now wants Kapil Sibal to devote more attention to school education rather than higher education when the remit of the Union minister, clearly stated in the Constitution, includes higher and not school education. Kerala owes nothing to Delhi for its near hundred per cent literacy!


A combination of fiscal centralisation and the patronage of resource distribution, with the populism of

centralised and "leader"-focused politics along with the emaciation of state- and district-level political and administrative leaderships, may have partly contributed to this. Equally, the pretensions of the Delhi Durbar and the ego-massaging it gets from a Delhi-based "national media".


There are limits to what P Chidambaram can do to improve law and order across the country as Union home minister, just as there are limits to what Mr Sibal can do to school education, Sharad Pawar can do to the PDS or Jairam Ramesh can do for policy on land acquisition. Yet, the Delhi Darbar imagines it runs the country. Jai Ho!








THE Basel Committee on Banking Supervision's decision to strengthen the existing capital requirements and introduce a global liquidity standard will doubtless buttress capacity of banks to weather financial storms. The committee's package of reforms will increase the minimum common equity requirement, the highest form of loss-absorbing capital, from 2% to 4.5% of riskweighted assets by January 2015. In addition, banks will be required to hold a capital conservation buffer of 2.5% to withstand future periods of stress, bringing the total common equity to 7%. The underlying rationale is to enable banks to withstand periods of economic and financial stress better. A further countercyclical buffer in a range of 0%-2.5% of common equity is to be imposed (depending on national circumstances) to protect the banking sector from periods of excess aggregate credit growth. These capital requirements are to be supplemented by a non-risk-based leverage ratio that will serve to backstop the risk-based measures and higher capital norms for systemically important banks. 

On paper, Basel III will triple the quantum of capital banks will be required to maintain, but is unlikely, on its own, to risk-proof banks. Banks will remain vulnerable unless rules-based regulation of the kind propagated by the Basel Committee is supplemented by proactive and competent supervision. Unfortunately, the quality of supervision is sorely wanting in most developed markets, particularly the US and UK, where belief in the rational behaviour of the market, combined with regulatory capture, led to supervisors sleeping on the watch. This is where we in India scored over the West. The inherent conservatism of the Reserve Bank did not permit banks to indulge in the kind of fiddles commonly adopted in the West, whether in computing 'capital' or in floating questionable financial products. However, conservatism comes at a price. It means we lose out on what could be beneficial innovations. The challenge, therefore, is to allow useful innovations whose potential benefits outweigh costs, while at the same time keeping an eagle eye over them so that unscrupulous elements cannot game the system. Sadly, that is easier said than done!







THE finance ministry's plan to cut duty drawback rates and align them with the current indirect tax rates is logical and, therefore, welcome. Exporters are reimbursed central taxes paid on inputs to ensure that domestic taxes are not exported, rendering their products uncompetitive in external markets. However, today, the refunds are in excess of the actual incidence of duties and taxes — customs, excise and service tax — borne by them. This amounts to a direct subsidy. It should be withdrawn as subsidies are a drag on the exchequer and lead to suboptimal allocation of resources. Duty drawback rates were unchanged in 2008-09 when the government lowered CenVat to 14% from 16% and to 8% in two stages and service tax to 10% from 12%. Cenvat was raised again to 10% in 2010-11. The stimulus was needed then to help exporters cope with the slowdown after the global financial crisis. However, given the growth in exports and strong capital inflows, the government should exit the stimulus and return to the path of fiscal consolidation. Exporters are against any reduction in the rates, citing uncertainty in global economic recovery. But an expert panel has recommended a cut after assessing the actual incidence of taxes paid on inputs based on the existing indirect tax structure. The government must implement the panel's recommendation. It should also rationalise the slew of export incentive schemes to limit the overall payout. Transaction costs should be pruned to make exports competitive instead of throwing sops. 


Currently, working out drawback rates is a cumbersome exercise due to the multiplicity of rates. The exercise will be simpler when the government implements the goods and services tax (GST) regime, marked by fewer rates. The plan is to have a dual GST comprising a central GST and state GST. Excise duties, as well as countervailing duties of customs, will be subsumed in the central GST with tax credits being made available across the value chain. So, working out the actual incidence of taxes borne by exporters will be simpler. The Centre should go all out to bring states on board to implement GST. That would boost competitiveness abroad more effectively than subsidies can.








TONY Blair cannot outstrip JK Rowling when it comes to raking in the cash, but considering that his memoir — despite the anodyne title A Journey — had 92,060 copies flying off the shelves in its first four days, he certainly qualifies to be rated as the Dabangg of the literary world, and not one of the 3 Idiots. That the former British prime minister's part-racy, part-disingenuous account of Britain's New Labour phenomenon has beaten Alastair Campbell's The Blair Years published a few years ago and Lord Mandelson's pre-emptive 2010 summer release The Third Man merely underlines the fact that all anyone wants in depressing times is a rambunctious tale. To the victor the spoils, and to the dabanng (Hindi heartland-speak for fearless) the moolah. Never mind if the protagonist is over the hill, or if the story wears a bit thin in places, making a light song-and-dance of unbelievable, or at least unverifiable, events is what loosens purse-strings these days. Ponderous tales pompously told only draw the interest of archivists and crusty scholars who are used to digging through layers of hubris and hypocrisy in search of nuggets of information or insight. If the rest of the world has to be reeled in, occasional humour, charming self-deprecation and even flights of fancy are clearly needed. 
    Sadly for observers of the Indian political tamasha, no VIP — either a frontline player like Blair or shadowy spin doctors like Campbell — has been dabanng enough to say it like it was. Our netas should note that Dabangg has outstripped 3 Idiots by grossing Rs 48 crore in three days, and Blair's book is slated to earn $6 million.







GST is indeed a 'momentous reform in the realm of indirect taxes'. The fact that the Centre is willing to accommodate the states' apprehensions regarding erosion of their fiscal autonomy is indeed heartening for all stakeholders who have long been awaiting the simplification and rationalisation of the laborious indirect tax structure that we presently have. However, the FM's proposition of taking the first step towards GST with a rather complex rate structure suffers from at least two major disadvantages. 


The problem of classification, valuation and inverted duty structure continues with multiple tax rates. The other more critical issue is its impact on prices. The question is whether the consumer, who is ostensibly considered a major stakeholder, is benefited in terms of lower prices for goods and services in the new GST dispensation. Clearly the rates of 20%/16%/12% for standard goods, services and essential goods, respectively, do not seem to translate into lower prices of goods and services for the consumer in the GST regime. 


First, the goods which presently attract a 4-5% StateVAT and nil/4% excise duty are likely to become more expensive, notwithstanding the marginal benefit accruing by way of non-cascading of taxes in the GST supply chain. Again, services would go up by 6%. Historically, business has seldom passed on the full benefit of the decrease in indirect tax rates to the consumer. With inflation already in double digits, unless the government rethinks the rate structure and provides an inbuilt mechanism in the GST dispensation which ensures that the reduction in duty rates under SGST and CGST would mandatorily be passed on to the consumer, one is likely to witness a runaway inflation in prices of consumer goods and services assisted, not unsurprisingly, by the GST. 


One of the objectives of GST is to widen and broaden the tax base. Minus the jargon, what this effectively means is that the number of taxpayers under indirect taxes would grow manifold — with CGST being charged beyond the manufacturing chain and SGST being charged on services and also on imports of goods and services. The government has in sight the tax-GDP ratio of developed western economies like the US (tax-GDP ratio is about 28% and for European nations in the range of 30-40%), little realising that these economies provide a robust social security system and an excellent physical and social infrastructure. 


The Indian populace is not likely to get any such protection in the near future. With a meagre per capita income of about $1,100 and a population below poverty line of over 28%, the government cannot burden the common man with enhanced taxation. 


Historically, economies which embraced the GST have seen a rise in tax revenues — this incremental tax revenue is coughed up essentially by the consumer. It is important to remember that indirect taxes are a passthrough and all increases in tax are borne by the ultimate consumer. If the increases in tax revenues are borne by the consumer, how does he stand to gain in the GST process? Much before the ink dries, this issue needs to be unequivocally explained and addressed by the tax mandarins of North Block. 


OF COURSE, one argument that is going to be bandied about is that it is the rampant evasion in indirect taxes which is going to get tapped and shall be the basis of increase in tax revenues. But the rebuttal to it is perhaps equally sharp — the competition in the market has ensured that the evasion in taxes is effectively passed on to the consumer who pays a lower price for goods and services that he buys and so, any enhanced GST rate shall now only result in such hitherto evaded taxes being burdened on the consumer. Without being judgemental or defending an unethical position , what is required here is that the implications of the rate structure (proposed by the finance minister) on prices of goods and services are unambiguously explained and it be assured that the consumer shall not be adversely impacted. The question that begs an answer is whether the proposed rate structure is based on any credible study of what revenue-neutral GST rate should be and as to whether the proposed structure does not actually result in a higher level of taxation. The Thirteenth Finance Commission (TFC) had suggested an 11-12% GST rate. No doubt, the TFC assumed stamp duties and electricity tax to be within the GST fold — yet, the huge differential in the proposed rate structure and the TFC proposed rate is disconcerting. 


Given that 'values of pluralism, federalism and democracy' necessitate that to begin with, we have to live with a not-so-idealistic multiple tax rate regime, a more benign rate structure of 8% (lower rate for goods), 14% (for services) and 16% (standard rate) for non-essential goods would have at least ensured that the consumer does get some benefit of reduced tax rates. The lower rate of 8% could apply to items, which are presently exempt from central excise or VAT. A more benign rate structure not only does ensure larger acceptability of GST by all stakeholders, but also guarantees that goods which hitherto enjoyed tax exemption and lower tax rates (under StateVAT and/or central excise) do not see a sudden jump in tax incidence and consequently in the prices thereof. 


In an era which demands higher standards of corporate social responsibility and political accountability, it is imperative that the interests of aam aadmi are not, as usual, marginalised and the entire debate on GST is not hijacked only for promoting the interests of the government and business. It's nobody's case that GST is not a step in the right direction — just as it cannot be anybody's case that the GST rates and consequently the prices of goods and services in the new dispensation should result in an increased tax burden on you and me. 


(The author is senior director in Deloitte     India. Views are personal.)







THE Left leadership, known for its sharp and well-crafted sense of political repartee, showed signs of losing that touch when confronted with Rahul Gandhi's Kolkata war cry. The CPI ducked the Gandhi bouncer altogether. And the CPI-M, after keeping mum for a couple of days, came up with the somewhat skewed project of comparing the backwardness index of Purulia district in Bengal — nurtured by Left rule for the past 33 years — with Sonia Gandhi's Rae Bareli constituency in UP, which has been under non-Congress rule for the past 22 years. Not only did the Marxists parrot, unwittingly, the AICC pet-theme of deliberate administrative negligence' of Rae Bareli and Amethi by anti-Congress state governments, but AKG Bhawan and Ajoy Bhawan even kept quiet on Gandhi dismissing communism as an 'outdated ideology' and predicting 'the USSR-like downfall of communist Bengal'. No wounded defence of ideology, not even a brownie reminder to Gandhi that Nehru was an admirer and Indira Gandhi a tactical ally of the USSR against USA! But then, where is the time for statement wars when the Left's abodes are on fire in Bengal and Kerala? 



DETERMINED to add firepower to Mamata Banerjee's charge on the Red citadel, Rahul Gandhi is expected to whip up the anti-Left political mood in West Bengal with a three-day tour of the state this week. But the occasion also means a unity test for the state Congress leaders, more so after in-fighting intensified following Manas Bhunia's appointment as PCC chief. Now there is a whisper that Pranab Mukherjee has warned the warring state party leaders that the high command could even put off the September 25 East Zone AICC conclave at Kolkata if they fail to behave themselves. The infighting has already prompted the central leadership to postpone the reconstitution of the PCC team. Trust the Bengal Congress leaders not to let old habits die even as they smell the possibility of power. 



THREE months after the BJP blamed Shibu Soren's alleged Alzheimer's disease for the spectacular collapse of the JMM-BJP regime, the joke at 11, Ashoka Road has that a different kind of Alzheimer's attack, fuelled by the saffron party's desperation for power, might have prompted the BJP to launch another JV with the irresistible Soren camp. While the L K Advani camp put up a show of 'moralistic protest', saying this Jharkhand cocktail was brewed by the Nitin Gadkari-Rajnath Singh axis, some party well-wishers wonder how this version could be true if all those tales of the Advani camp taming Gadkari were true? But then, there seems to be a single point in-house consensus: the 'resourcefulness' of mineral-rich Jharkhand is as alluring as the lure of the Bellary mines! 


 IF THE PM indicating his plans for a cabinet reshuffle has boosted the hopes of many Congress ministerial aspirants, his wish to infuse young blood in his team seems to have sent many members of party's old guard into a state of worry. For the backers of 65-year-old AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi, who is becoming a sort of misfit in Team Rahul, the possibility of his being declared too old for a cabinet debut means a jolt to his cherished dream of bagging, for once, a ministerial perch. And the prospects of Dwivedi ending up as a leader minus administrative experience means another blow to his projection as a potential future replacement for Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit. But trust Dwivedi to work on the loyalty quotient one last time before looking at a Raj Bhawan as a parking lot.








THERE'S reportedly deep policy focus on mining and the sharing of gains, so as to boost the development delivery mechanism. The reports say that the earlier proposal to make it obligatory for mining concerns to offer 26% equity for the project affected has been put on hold; the latest plan is to provide 'annuity equal to 26% of net profit' as mandatory surplus share for the greater good. 


However, given large-scale opacity in mining and overburden removal, it cannot be gainsaid that profits can well be manipulated and under-reported. It would defeat the admirable policy purpose of proper sharing of the gains, especially for the project displaced who are likely to be adversely affected by the umpteen negative externalities of mining and attendant activity. Which is why the policy goal ought to be to rev up transparency in mining operations going forward. 


In tandem, the objective should be to shore up governmental revenues and oversight. The way ahead is to bring mining activity under the purview of central excise. We do need to levy excise duty on minerals such as ferrous and non-ferrous ore, as per the Central Excise and Salt Act, 1944 and the Excise Tariff Act, 1985. Note that minerals in their finished form are very much excisable items. But they have been exempt from the 'whole of the duty of excise leviable thereon.' The move may have made sense in the decades of pre-reform and autarky, when mineral resources were supposed to be provided dirt cheap to willy-nilly make steel, behind absurdly high tariff walls and almost 200% customs duty. The policy environment meant a thoroughly high-cost steel sector, for years. Fortunately, since the early 1990s, steel has been delicensed, decontrolled and prices pegged to the going international rates; we do need market-determined rates to determine price and scarcity value. However, while there has been reforms and opening up in steel, our large minerals economy remains characterised by a panoply of distortions in supply, ore-linkage and pricing. 


Hence the reported policy moves of late to revamp and amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. It would make perfect sense to levy central excise on minerals production, complete with service tax on ore benefaction. It is a related matter that the levy of excise duty began with the taxation of a commodity, salt. Also, by the time Motilal Nehru was elected Congress President circa 1920, the salt duty added up to about a tenth of the total tax revenue of Rs 60 crore. Fast forward to the here and now, and excise on mining output would scarcely be a heavy tax burden for mineral and metal producers as it would be 'vatable' with tax credit available along the production value-chain, given the value-added tax regime in place for indirect taxes. 


More important, the tax initiative would bring about much-needed oversight on mining activity, which may well put paid to illegal mining and evacuation. In parallel, what's required is a thriving domestic market for minerals, with ore prices linked to global prices, as is very much the norm in metals. And back-to-back, royalty rates, say on iron ore, need to be levied on export-parity prices, with the rates pegged at 10%, the global norm. It is true that until quite recently royalty on iron ore used to be as low as Rs 10 per tonne. And a notification last year did make royalties ad valorem, linked to price of sale. However, reports say that royalties continue to be levied at a fraction of the export-parity price, and as determined by the Indian Bureau of Mines. Instead, what's required is royalty on ore at international prices; we already export more iron ore say, than used domestically for steel production: maybe for technical reasons like lack of adequate sintering facilities in our steel plants, which prevents the use of iron ore 'fines'. Note that the bulk of our ferrous exports are fines and not lumps. But the point remains that we cannot ignore ore export prices for policy purposes. 


The levy of royalty at the going export prices would boost state revenues on that head by a factor of ten or more. It would provide ample scope for setting up dedicated funds for social and physical infrastructure in mining areas. Also, it would make ample sense to hive off captive mines, say, over a three-year period, and mandate arm's length ore prices for metal producers. It would incentivise the latter to foray into value-added products. Further, for logistical reasons it may be worthwhile to provide upfront ore linkage for upcoming steel plants in industrially backward — albeit mineral-rich — regions. 


But such concessions do need to be timebound, until the new mills have fully depreciated plant and machinery. Additionally, the states can mandate that rent on mining lease, cess and other mining levies be monetised and made available as regular dividends by mining companies, and which can accrue to funds meant for local uplift. It is laudable that Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has taken up the environmental cause of adivasi Kondhs in Niyamgiri. But they remain indigent, unlettered and lacking means. Hence the need for proactivity in mining policy.








TOM Lombardo, some time faculty chair of psychology and philosophy at Rio Salado College in Arizona, argues that an awareness of the future is what guides the development of wisdom. By wisdom, he means "the continually evolving understanding of and fascination with the big picture of life and what is important, ethical and meaningful. It includes the desire and ability to apply this understanding to enhance the well-being of life, both for oneself and for others." More significantly, he says that wisdom is not a static state, but is always evolving. 


But wisdom as we know it — the ability to recognise the integrated wholeness of reality and see how everything is interconnected in the development of our world — has come dropping slow. Almost as if by fluke. That's because so far, and all along, the evolutionary process which has led from onecelled organisms to us over billions of years has never had any larger purpose or end-goal in mind. How could it since, by definition, it had no such agenda? It has always been blind to the future of new organisms and species it furthers. No vision, no big picture, no understanding of anything at all. It's merely a mechanism, a process. 


Yet, what makes Lombardo's argument so significant suddenly is that the very mechanism is now beginning to be customised by human intervention and ingenuity — though not always by human wisdom. Because, arguably at least, there's a vision involved and an emerging sense of some bigger picture when, for instance, we modify bacteria that can eat oil to contain the mess of ocean spills, or that can make oil to contribute to more pollution. And this is just the start. Visionaries are already anticipating radical and aggressive intervention with biological evolution in the future to produce such technological augmentation as to transform us completely. 

It's true that with great power comes great responsibility but great responsibility is nothing without great sagacity. So far, our ethical and moral development has not been purpose-driven and thus, we have not automatically become wise and are, to some extent, blameless in that respect. But today when we know that human evolution in the future will be increasingly guided by human ideals, it's time to be aware of what important, ethical and meaningful qualities need to be enhanced so that it could result in a surge of collective enlightenment.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




While it is clear that the government is yet to come to grips with the situation in the Kashmir Valley, which has seen escalated mob violence since Id last Saturday stoking further the embers lit in June, the Prime Minister has done well to reiterate at Monday's armed forces commanders' conference that the government is ready to talk to those who abjure violence and seek to resolve grievances within the framework of the Constitution. In essence, this means that talks are futile in the present atmosphere. Separatists such as Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Yasin Malik, regarded as "moderate", appeared to be associated with instigating attacks on public property on the day of Id so as not to be left behind in their competition with the extremist leadership. Unless this category of separatists returns to its normal non-violent ways, there cannot be much purchase in any move for a reasoned conversation. The Centre's stance also suggests that the far-right elements, who have held the Valley captive through calibrated violence, may not expect the will of the government to crumble in the face of their carefully designed efforts. This was an important signal to communicate — to the mischief-makers of all hues and to the populace at large. Dr Singh simultaneously held out an olive branch to the Valley youth by asking the military leaders to bear in mind that they were dealing with fellow-citizens, and by indicating that an employment-oriented package is on its way. Steps to reinforce rehabilitation packages for former militants and for compensation to victims of the recent spell of violence may also be under consideration. These are primarily meant to detach significant sections from the clutches of the violence makers, and to boost the sagging image of the Chief Minister, Mr Omar Abdullah, whose lack of political alacrity has cost him much goodwill in the state and at the Centre. Even so, it is surprising to hear the BJP, the main Opposition in Parliament, demand the Chief Minister's head. This is precisely what the extremists, imbued with the ideology of jihad, would be keenly anticipating. Replacing the Chief Minister at this stage would be broadly suggestive of the fact that the spell of organised and focused violence has attained its initial political objective. The smallest hint of change of political leadership in the air is likely to exacerbate the violent turn the Valley has taken, not contain the unfortunate trend. BJP has run the government at the Centre and ought to be more sensitive and adaptive of approach in dealing with J&K than might have been the case before it had a taste of dealing with Kashmir at first hand. Playing politics with Kashmir, which has serious security implications, cannot redound to the credit of a party that likes to flaunt its nationalist tag. The Kashmir government needs urgently to deal with not just the street demonstrations but also separatist politics and the rekindled ambitions of the People's Democratic Party, which thinks nothing of making common cause with the violent elements in order to embarrass the National Conference-Congress government led by Mr Abdullah. The only way to manage this complex scenario is for Mr Abdullah to get on top of his party affairs.


He may find it useful to engage in a series of low-key meetings with his senior party colleagues, and with groups of legislators of the ruling combine. These are the more pressing concern for now, not rushing about calling for modifications to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, or the withdrawal of the legislation from parts of J&K. Mr Abdullah will do well to bear in mind that the fate of the AFSPA is not the issue as far as the leaders of mob protests are concerned, or for that matter the surcharged mobs.







What are the implications of the reported presence of an "estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers" of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Gilgit-Baltistan? Formerly known as the Northern Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan was till 1947 part of the kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir. India claims it as its territory — impracticable as the establishing of that claim may be — and its status will be decided in the final settlement of the Kashmir dispute, whenever that may happen.


Pakistan has preferred to see Gilgit-Baltistan as distinct from Jammu and Kashmir. Over the years, it has tried to spin it off as a separate entity, arguing it is culturally and geographically distinct from the core Kashmir region. More important, the Northern Areas offer a window to Central Asia, bordering China's Xinjiang province as well as Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor and Pakistan's very own north-western Pashtun badlands. This is Great Game country, a part of the world where imperial and neo-imperial manoeuvres never end but only get renewed.


Chinese troops have been active in Gilgit-Baltistan in the past few weeks, ministry of foreign affairs sources say, ostensibly for flood relief. There is some reason to believe the Chinese are looking for a more permanent settlement and planning to build high-speed rail links from their country, through Gilgit-Baltistan, right down to Chinese-built dual-use ports such as Gwadar (in Balochistan).


Literally and otherwise, these rail tracks could parallel the Karakoram Highway, built by China to connect Xinjiang to Pakistan and also running through Gilgit-Baltistan. As such the PLA presence is as much about disaster management — landslides and inundation are said to have blocked part of the Karakoram Highway itself this summer — as about long-term infrastructure augmentation.


China is building railway links with other South Asian countries as well. Trains will soon run from Tibet to Nepal. Train tracks originating in China will travel through Burma and end their journey in Cox's Bazar (Bangladesh). In addition, China is upgrading infrastructure in Sri Lanka, where it is constructing a naval base in the southern coastal city of Hambantota. Obviously the city is being revitalised because Hambantota is bidding for the Commonwealth Games of 2018. No doubt it will look at the Beijing 2008 rather than the New Delhi 2010 organisational model.


The Chinese entry into Gilgit-Baltistan is, therefore, part of a strategy to hem in India, to leave a footprint on its borders, to have a Chinese voice, however thin, in its Kashmir problem and to give more and more of India's neighbours a stake in the Chinese economy. This will make India's neighbourhood that much more difficult for New Delhi and will dampen its great power projections. To borrow Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's words, it will "keep India in low-level equilibrium".


However, the Chinese also have internal security concerns. Gilgit-Baltistan has been restive in the near past. There have been anti-Islamabad sentiments among the locals. A degree of Islamism has been evident as well and cross-border munitions transfers between Al Qaeda affiliates on the Pakistan side and Uighur rebels in Xinjiang have been detected. To Beijing's mind, the Karakoram Highway has become a corridor of logistical support for the "splittists" in Xinjiang.


At one level this mirrors India's concerns about Lashkar-e-Tayyaba training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and in Pakistani Punjab. It is not far removed from American and Afghan concerns about Al Qaeda and Taliban safe houses in Pakistan's Pashtun areas, in southern Punjab, Quetta and Karachi and elsewhere. It is similar to Tehran's apprehensions about sanctuaries for Iranian Baloch militia within Pakistani Balochistan.


There is one compelling difference. Indian troops don't cross the Line of Control or the international border in hot pursuit. Iranian forces, for the most part, have respected the Pakistan-Iran border. Incursions from Kabul have largely been limited to drone attacks by the American military. In the case of China, the PLA has actually walked in and occupied Pakistani territory. In a sense, Islamabad has outsourced its Gilgit-Baltistan insurgency challenge to Beijing, and willingly surrendered sovereignty. As for China, it has begun the scramble for Pakistan even before that country has fallen apart!


This is extremely unorthodox diplomacy — if that word could be used at all — and betrays a lack of confidence on China's part as to Pakistan's medium-term stability and unity. Any good, patriotic Pakistani in Islamabad or Rawalpindi cannot be celebrating.


On the other hand, China's fears and sheer desperation on the Xinjiang front are also apparent. They have exposed Beijing's big vulnerability, its very own "soft underbelly". Why is Xinjiang so crucial to China? It is a massive province, occupying a sixth of the country's land mass. With 5,400 km of international frontier, Xinjiang — or the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region to give it its official name — is China's porous zone. It shares borders with Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, India (Ladakh), Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Tibet.


Xinjiang has enormous gas and oil reserves. Lop Nor, China's nuclear testing site, is located there. Most important, this province keeps China in the reckoning in Central Asia. In 1949, Xinjiang was dominated by Uighurs (a Central Asian people who speak Turki and claim a kinship with Turks), with only a sprinkling (about five per cent) of Hans. Today, the ratio is roughly 50:50. Over 60 years, China has massacred populations, brutalised cities and communities and resorted to large-scale demographic transformation. A year ago, bulldozers drove into Kashgar's old city, allegedly to make its landscape earthquake resistant. Kashgar is a heritage city, an ancient trading post on the Silk Route.


The goal of the Uighurs is a free Turkestan or East Turkestan. This is broadly a secular Muslim movement but the influence of Al Qaeda affiliates has been rising in the past decade. To quote one senior diplomat, it has made Xinjiang a "tinderbox". The Uighur struggle is unusual. It is the rare pan-Islamic cause that is not aimed at the West or Western-style democracies, or at the "Crusader-Zionist-Hindu" triumvirate.


For China's competitors it represents an opportunity. Under a more clear-headed President, the United States will inevitably exploit it. On its part India — which regrettably denied a visa to Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uighur Congress and the best known Uighur leader now living in exile, in 2009 — too needs to wake up to the potential of the Xinjiang question.


- Ashok Malik can be contacted at [1]








Last week Japan's minister of finance declared that he and his colleagues wanted a discussion with China about the latter's purchases of Japanese bonds, to "examine its intention" — diplomat-speak for "Stop it right now". The news made me want to bang my head against the wall in frustration.


You see, senior American policy figures have repeatedly balked at doing anything about Chinese currency manipulation, at least in part out of fear that the Chinese would stop buying our bonds. Yet in the current environment, Chinese purchases of our bonds don't help us — they hurt us. The Japanese understand that. Why don't we?


Some background: If discussion of Chinese currency policy seems confusing, it's only because many people don't want to face up to the stark, simple reality — namely, that China is deliberately keeping its currency artificially weak.


The consequences of this policy are also stark and simple: in effect, China is taxing imports while subsidising exports, feeding a huge trade surplus. You may see claims that China's trade surplus has nothing to do with its currency policy; if so, that would be a first in world economic history. An undervalued currency always promotes trade surpluses, and China is no different.


And in a depressed world economy, any country running an artificial trade surplus is depriving other nations of much-needed sales and jobs. Again, anyone who asserts otherwise is claiming that China is somehow exempt from the economic logic that has always applied to everyone else.


So what should we be doing? US officials have tried to reason with their Chinese counterparts, arguing that a stronger currency would be in China's own interest. They're right about that: an undervalued currency promotes inflation, erodes the real wages of Chinese workers and squanders Chinese resources. But while currency manipulation is bad for China as a whole, it's good for politically influential Chinese companies — many of them state-owned. And so the currency manipulation goes on.


Time and again, US officials have announced progress on the currency issue; each time, it turns out that they've been had. Back in June, Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, praised China's announcement that it would move to a more flexible exchange rate. Since then, the renminbi has risen a grand total of one, that's right, one per cent against the dollar — with much of the rise taking place in just the past few days, ahead of planned Congressional hearings on the currency issue. And since the dollar has fallen against other major currencies, China's artificial cost advantage has actually increased.


Clearly, nothing will happen until or unless the United States shows that it's willing to do what it normally does when another country subsidises its exports: impose a temporary tariff that offsets the subsidy. So why has such action never been on the table?


One answer, as I've already suggested, is fear of what would happen if the Chinese stopped buying American bonds. But this fear is completely misplaced: in a world awash with excess savings, we don't need China's money — especially because the Federal Reserve could and should buy up any bonds the Chinese sell.


It's true that the dollar would fall if China decided to dump some American holdings. But this would actually help the US economy, making our exports more competitive. Ask the Japanese, who want China to stop buying their bonds because those purchases are driving up the yen.


Aside from unjustified financial fears, there's a more sinister cause of US passivity: business fear of Chinese retaliation.


Consider a related issue: the clearly illegal subsidies China provides to its clean-energy industry. These subsidies should have led to a formal complaint from American businesses; in fact, the only organisation willing to file a complaint was the steelworkers union. Why? As the Times reported, "multinational companies and trade associations in the clean energy business, as in many other industries, have been wary of filing trade cases, fearing Chinese officials' reputation for retaliating against joint ventures in their country and potentially denying market access to any company that takes sides against China".


Similar intimidation has surely helped discourage action on the currency front. So this is a good time to remember that what's good for multinational companies is often bad for America, especially its workers.


So here's the question: Will US policymakers let themselves be spooked by financial phantoms and bullied by

business intimidation? Will they continue to do nothing in the face of policies that benefit Chinese special interests at the expense of both Chinese and American workers? Or will they finally, finally act? Stay tuned.








Dinesh Trivedi, India's junior health minister, recently said that he feels "safer in a plane than inside a hospital". As a trained pilot, you would expect Mr Trivedi to feel more at home in a cockpit than in a hospital. But safer?


Mr Trivedi was not being facetious when he said this at a conference on healthcare and global standards organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci). A few nuggets I picked up at the conference sent shivers down my spine, too. Only 54 hospitals in the entire country have been granted accreditation till date by the National Accreditation Board for Hospital and Healthcare Providers (NABH) out of a total of some 450 applications. More than half of the accredited hospitals are located in metros — Delhi (and its neighbourhood), Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru. Small-town India hardly has any accredited hospital.


How many hospitals and nursing homes are there in the country? No one knows, because no one has ever

counted. The data simply does not exist. Why is this so? It is so because health is a state subject and New Delhi can only do so much. Most states in India don't have a law which requires hospitals and nursing homes to register themselves.


"A doctor has to register with the Medical Council of India or state medical councils. Otherwise, he cannot practice. So we have figures for the number of doctors in the country. But except in a handful of states, there is no legal requirement for hospitals and nursing homes to register with a regulatory body. States which have the law do not often monitor compliance with quality guidelines", says Dr B.K. Rana, deputy director of NABH, an agency set up by the Quality Council of India (QCI) four years ago.


Though the requirements of NABH accreditation have motivated some hospitals to pull up their socks, most care little because accreditation is not mandatory.


From a consumer or patient's perspective, all this is disturbing. We not only lack information about the number of hospitals and nursing homes in the country, we also don't know what goes on inside our hospitals. Most hospitals either do not have, or make public, any data on percentage of medication errors, incidence of needle-stick injuries, bed sores after admission, infection rate in surgical sites and so on. Most official accounts of India's healthcare sector gloss over these lapses.


Healthcare is touted as the "next big thing" after information technology. Those in the business of forecasts say it will be worth $280 billion by 2020. The hospital industry is expected to be worth $54.7 billion by 2012, representing more than 70 per cent of healthcare sector revenues. The rising Indian middle class along with its increasing purchasing power and willingness to pay for quality healthcare has been a prime driver for the emergence of high quality health facilities. Indeed, metropolitan India has some of the finest doctors and a growing number of multi-speciality hospitals. The harsh truth, however, is that the vast majority of hospitals in the country are sole proprietorships, have somewhere between 30 to 70 beds and are run much like provision stores.


Medical tourism and spread of health insurance have brought home the importance and benefits of quality adherence through mechanisms such as NABH. Healthcare providers have begun to recognise that improving quality helps patient safety as well as the bottomline. Accredited hospitals report significant improvements in leadership, medical records management, infection control, reduction in medication errors, staff training and quality monitoring, points out Dr Sanjeev Singh, associate professor and medical superintendent of the Kochi-based Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and a member of NABH's technical committee.


If, over the past year, many hospitals have applied for NABH accreditation, part of the reason is a ministry of health directive that made qualification for CGHS (Central Government Health Scheme) empanelment contingent on accreditation. This has spurred hospitals to upgrade their facilities and quality norms in order to meet NABH's standards. Hospitals which do not take quality issues seriously run the risk of losing business to hospitals empanelled by the CGHS. Gujarat, for instance, which is chasing economic growth, is also taking the lead in hospital and health centre accreditation.


The recent passage of the Clinical Establishments (Registration & Regulation) Bill, 2010, in Parliament could give a big push to the quality movement in the health sector. The main objective of the new statute, which covers government-run clinical establishments as well as all "systems of medicine", is to bring some sort of uniformity in healthcare delivery in the country by making registration of all clinical establishments mandatory and prescribing increased penalty for defaulters. The new law will initially be applicable in Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim and all the Union Territories. Subsequently, other states can adopt it after going through due procedure. Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh already have their own clinical establishment acts.


An emerging economic power like India should make a big deal about quality and patient safety norms in hospitals and nursing homes. Many of our Asian neighbours like Malaysia and Taiwan have already done so.


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








The September 7 decision to appoint Polayil Joseph Thomas, one of the seniormost officers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), has raised doubts about whether the Union government is serious about investigating the second-generation (2G) telecommunications spectrum scandal that has caused a huge loss to the country's exchequer. Without questioning Mr Thomas' integrity and also keeping in mind the fact that he was not the top bureaucrat in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) when the spectrum scam occurred, the point simply is that the way in which he was appointed has raised a number of doubts about the government's intentions.


The office of the CVC was conceived as the apex vigilance institution in the Government of India that is supposed to be free of control from any executive authority. The CVC is meant to monitor all vigilance activities relating to government bodies and it is also supposed to advise various authorities in Central government organisations on "planning, executing, reviewing and reforming" all activities related to anti-corruption vigilance. After the Central Vigilance Commission Act was passed by both Houses of Parliament in 2003, the following year the government passed a resolution on "public interest disclosure and protection of informer" by making the CVC the "designated agency to receive written complaints for disclosure on any allegation of corruption or misuse of office and recommend appropriate action".


In 1993, the Supreme Court directed the government to ensure that the selection of the CVC should be made by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, the home minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. The country's apex court also stated that the selection of the CVC should be made from a panel of "outstanding civil servants and others with impeccable integrity". The Central Vigilance Commission Ordinance of 1998 — and the bill introduced in Parliament later — confined the selection of the CVC from a "panel of civil servants" alone while the phrases "outstanding" and "impeccable integrity" were not included.


The manner in which Mr Thomas was selected and appointed as the new CVC indicates that the United Progressive Alliance government has, at best, perfunctorily sought to adhere to the directions of the Supreme Court of consulting the Leader of the Opposition before appointing an officer to this important position. At worst, the government seems reluctant to expedite the ongoing inquiries into the spectrum scam that was presided over by communications minister A. Raja, investigations that are being currently conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after a reference was made to it by the CVC.


It is hardly surprising that the appointment of Mr Thomas as CVC by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union home minister P. Chidambaram by over-ruling the objections raised by Sushma Swaraj (who, incidentally, also holds a Cabinet rank as Leader of the Opposition) raised a big hue and cry, since he had just demitted office as secretary, DoT. The Bharatiya Janata Party has alleged that Mr Thomas was chosen because he would not rigorously pursue investigations into the 2G spectrum scandal since he "secured" a note from the law ministry while he was DoT secretary which argues that the allocation of electro-magnetic airwaves, or spectrum, used for telecommunications was part of official "policy" that cannot be questioned either by the CVC or the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.


The seven-page response of the law ministry — to the DoT's queries on whether spectrum allocation was a policy issue — quotes various Supreme Court rulings and contends that the CVC, the CAG and "other watchdogs no doubt play a very significant role in any democracy, but they being constitutional/statutory functionaries cannot exceed the role assigned to them under the Constitution or law". The law ministry's response adds: "Even the courts refrain from questioning the wisdom of the government in policy matters, unless the policy decision is patently arbitrary, discriminatory or malafide".


The DoT note to the law ministry on the spectrum allocation issue apparently moved with remarkable alacrity between August 10, 2010, and August 12 from official to official before the signatures of minister Mr Raja and secretary Mr Thomas were appended. That's not all. Within a day, on August 13, the law ministry responded to the DoT's queries. Such expeditiousness is hardly the hallmark of Indian bureaucracy.


Be that as it may, in appointing Mr Thomas as the head of this important anti-corruption body, the government has not really adhered to the spirit of the Supreme Court's ruling. With Ms Swaraj's opposition to the appointment, there was no unanimity in selecting the CVC. Secondly, even if one believes that Mr Thomas is an officer of integrity, the government could have easily avoided controversy by selecting one of the two other IAS officers whose names figured on the shortlist, namely, Bijoy Chatterjee, secretary, department of chemicals & petrochemicals or S. Krishnan, who retired as secretary, fertilisers.


As telecom secretary, Mr Thomas may have had to support his department's contention that the CVC had no jurisdiction to investigate a "policy" decision of the government, even if the particular policy was rather dubious since it caused a huge loss to the country running into more than `60,000 crores. The Prime Minister has reportedly claimed that Mr Thomas was the best choice for the new CVC. However, in this instance, Caesar's wife is not entirely above suspicion.


On Monday, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly issued notices to Mr Raja and various agencies of the Union government (such as the DoT, the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the income-tax department) to respond within 10 days to a public interest petition urging the court to monitor a CBI investigation into the alleged irregularities in the 2008 sale and allotment of 2G spectrum. Among the petitioners is the author of this column.


- Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is an educator and commentator







I have been teaching yoga to people across the globe for almost two decades now. Every single person who pursues yoga — faith, beliefs, religion, background and ideology notwithstanding — experiences for themselves the power of Yog. People have had divine visions and experiences that talk for themselves. Despite such a direct and experiential nature of Yog, as irony would have it, I still find myself giving lectures and taking questions from the media (both in India and abroad) on the true essence of yoga. The answer is simple — Yoga is Guru and nothing beyond it. All the experiences and gyan of the subtler dimensions flow through the guru to the shishya.


During one with some noted names of the British media, a journalist on hearing this explanation jumped up and said, "We can't publish this! Firstly, we don't believe in the concept of a 'Guru' and secondly it's not the yoga we know!"


Frankly, it does not matter whether you believe in the factuality (and not concept) of a Guru or not, because the truth won't change. Sadly, it is for this very reason that the Western audience, even the genuine seekers, have been sold an image/notion of yoga which is as distant from the truth as can be. Two things must be understood — one, that whether you like it or not, yoga is not possible without a Guru, and two, there are a 110 million Indians and growing, who can sell you as many forms of yoga if not more. So unless you stop importing it as an exotic commodity, your appetite for "yoga" will be limited only by how much you can import and not the other way round.


Our ancient rishis were the real masters. The yoga they formulated is not only timeless in its appeal but also its efficacy, with zero margin for ambiguity. Having foreseen the challenges the modern man will face and out of their immense kindness, they endowed yoga with such flexibility and ease that even in the busy lives of today, Sanatan Kriya (an assimilation of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga) fits like "lock and key" with any lifestyle, unlocking the full potential of the practitioner in all spheres of life — material, emotional, physical and spiritual.


Yoga is a perfect result-oriented science with 100 per cent tangible results. There is nothing that a yogi cannot do or achieve, though it's a different matter that he will not do anything for selfish reasons. Everything he does is for a higher purpose and for other's benefit, just like our rishis who, out of selfless love and concern for the future generations, gave such an enormous wealth of knowledge to benefit from.


A case in point is the art of Mallakhamb which is but just one of so many gifts for the modern man. Taught under the guru-shishya parampara (a common thread across all yogic practices), "Mallakhamb" is made up of two words, "Malla" meaning "person" and "Khamb" meaning "pole". Mallakhamb is not a physical routine as is often perceived. It is a complete sadhana, a means of tapa which is one of the five niyam of yoga. The practice of Mallakhamb finds its roots in the yogic principles of prakriti (nature) and santulan (balance) and bestows the practitioner with physical strength, stamina and not to mention a great physique.


Balance is key to advancing on the path of Yog. Another fundamental tenet is the underlining need of having a strong spine. For it is but a simple fact that a person is only as young as straight his/her spine is. A person with a straight spine will always command strength and virility, defying all commonly perceived markers of age. The spinal column is a reflection of the sushumna nadi in the etheric body. A strong spine facilitates free flow of prana in the sushumna. For this, certain elementary level purifications need to be carried out through practices such as the Sanatan Kriya.


The thing to remember is that the practice of yoga must not be undertaken with a pre-disposition towards fitness, well-being or as an alternative medicine therapy only. Yoga should be be undertaken with the desire to evolve. The rest — physical, emotional, and other changes — are merely by-products of Yog and will be taken care of automatically.


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


Contact him at [1]









PARLIAMENTARIANS will be peeved at the reported refusal of the Planning Commission to agree to increasing from two to five crore rupees a year the funds allotted to MPs under their Local Area Development Scheme. Indeed, further pressure is likely to be mounted on the government which, as the recent hike in salaries suggests, lacks the spine to take a principled and pragmatic position on such issues ~ preferring to pander to the demands of those whose votes sustain it in office. That the members of a parliamentary panel went to the extent of advocating slashing outlays on major development initiatives to make additional funds available for the "sweetening" of their constituencies is indicative of their myopic selfishness. Even if the common folk do not fathom the financial constraints which caused Yojana Bhawan to turn down the proposal they will applaud the decision: the hypocrisy of MPs stands exposed by their having pushed so hard (successively at that) for a substantial hike in their pay packets even while vehemently protesting in the name of aam aadmi ~ or at least pretending to do so ~ over unchecked rising prices. It is true that the money expended under MPLADS does not flow to legislators (not directly anyway), but the public perception is that most MPs enrich themselves, rather than the quality of life of the voter. So a Rs 3 crore increase would seem exorbitant. Of course the last word has not been spoken on the issue; when it is a matter of securing a larger slice of the cake party lines are easily obliterated and the Commission could wind up eating humble pie. 

Since a mini-controversy could ensue, the larger national interests would be well served by an apolitical evaluation of the working of the scheme these past several years ~ including complaints from some MPs that unhelpful district officials dither over implementing their desired projects. A comprehensive examination of the nature of the schemes would help establish if they were truly developmental, for the benefit of the local community, or crafted to consolidate vote-banks. Every MP is entitled to "nurse" his/her constituency but that is not to be confused with distributing largesse. Only a thorough "audit" will put MPLADS in a realistic perspective ~ remember, one former Speaker of the Lok Sabha had recommended scrapping it!




THE new government in Jharkhand ~ one tends to lose count of the number since its creation ~ has suffered a jolt at the threshold. The BJP president's choice of Arjun Munda has caused a flutter in the saffronite roost, making it pretty obvious that it was Nitin Gadkari's unilateral decision. Hence the somewhat desperate damage-control by the RSS within 24 hours of the swearing-in ceremony which was boycotted by the BJP leadership, pre-eminently LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar.  Not that the RSS has explicitly defended the choice; rather its poser to the leaders is neither here nor there ~ "What is wrong with having a government headed by a tribal chief minister?" The subaltern identity is but one facet of  the central issue; the fact of the matter is that Advani's preference for Yashwant Sinha, the MP from Hazaribagh, was plainly overruled by Gadkari. The party president is arguably trying to woo the tribal lobby, a decidedly crucial class group in Jharkhand. In the process, he has alienated the top rung of the leadership.  There is little doubt that Advani had pitched for Sinha on the strength of his administrative ability and experience, qualities that Munda cannot claim to possess. The RSS is acutely aware that the president's choice has not been endorsed by the party. 

In a sense, Gadkari may have followed the tactical line of the Congress which had also picked a tribal leader, Madhu Koda, as chief minister. Suitability in Jharkhand's social construct was obviously the BJP president's underpinning. But he has made a tactical blunder in not getting his choice ratified by the BJP's parliamentary board, the apex decision-making body. The choice has been influenced by political expediency, and Gadkari's letter to Munda ~ harping on "high-quality governance" ~ may also be an exercise in damage-control.  It is quite palpable that the quartet's boycott of the swearing-in of the government, whose dominant party happens to be the BJP, has come as a huge embarrassment to the saffronite lobby.  Supping with the JMM is not the thorny issue. The differences, if not the rift, over the choice of the chief minister have been exposed. Through the boycott, the leadership has challenged Gadkari's unilateralism. 




THE menace of piracy has engaged the attention of those directly affected ~ the music and film industries ~ ever since technology came along to create a parallel industry. Rights owners have made umpteen representations to the government in the hope that administrative action would provide relief. Ministers, in turn, have expressed sympathy, mouthed homilies and left it to Ficci ~ after it got involved in affairs relating to the entertainment industry ~ to find a solution. Thus when Ambika Soni talks of the government "trying to mobilise persons in society and private to come together for a campaign to dissuade people from watching pirated DVDs or to not go for them because they are cheaper'', she is confessing that a remedy is nowhere in sight. What can also be read between the lines is that the government cannot police illegal operations partly because the malaise is so deep-rooted as to defy a solution. What Mrs. Soni couldn't say was that the perpetrators flourished for so long because they offered reasonable quality to a cost-conscious audience, and did so after nurturing connections with those who ought to have policed their activities. 

The union minister for information and broadcasting is evidently aware that government has a limited role, and that it is difficult to identify and nab the real culprits. The next best solution ~ though how far that will work is debatable ~ is to adopt what the minister describes as "a multi-pronged'' approach that seeks to regulate demand and supply. This is a pious objective but no one quite knows how such a campaign would begin. And while fruitless debates proceed, resourceful sections of the industry have resorted to their own devices by officially releasing music albums that can be distinguished from pirated versions and by storming the market with hundreds of prints ~ celluloid and digital ~ before any damage can be done. In other words, there is recognition of the reality that technology is here to stay. After the fresh assurances from the minister, stakeholders and social activists may not have had the slightest doubt that no new roadmap offered by government can turn the clock back.









THE legislature, executive and judiciary  have their respective roles to play in order to ensure the smooth functioning of a democracy. A free press is yet another important pillar of democracy; it can function as a powerful watchdog.  There are constitutional entities such as the Election Commission that can also serve as watchdogs of the nation. The electorate has come to realise that an autonomous EC is essential for a vibrant democracy. 

An equally important role is played by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India (CAG). The CAG audits the accounts of all government institutions ~ Central as well as state ~ local bodies, public sector undertakings and autonomous institutions that receive government grants. Experience suggests that the CAG examines the financial transactions of all these institutions with remarkable promptitude. The CAG, in its role as a watchdog, exposes irregularities; however, it does not have the power to institute proceedings against the guilty. It a toothless watchdog which can submit its audit report to the Public Accounts Committee, but cannot take remedial action. This is unfortunate. Only the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament and state assemblies are authorised to take action, if at all.  

In the majority of cases, the government maintains an intriguing silence over the irregularities exposed by the CAG. In the recent past, many reports of corruption have simply been overlooked by the governments. When the distribution of electricity in Delhi was privatised, the CAG reported the defalcation of over Rs 6,500 crore.
This exposure was the talking-point for more than three years, but there is no indication whether the government will take follow-up action. Officials and politicians have just ignored the report, and they continue to patronise the electricity companies. There has been no response either to the recent recommendation of the Delhi Electricity Regulator to reduce tariff. 

 Politicians have realised that the CAG is an ineffective institution.  On occasion, the office is also scoffed at. If the CAG is to perform a really effective role in a democratic set-up, stringent provisions are imperative. The Public Accounts Committee must not be allowed to bypass the CAG report. Indeed, a provision for an action-taken report should be introduced. This will make the government accountable. Bihar offers a glaring example. The CAG reported the absence of supporting vouchers amounting to Rs.11 413 crore between 2002-03 and 2007-08 against advances taken for expenditure. It was a case of negligence and corruption. No particular party can be blamed. Several parties have been part of  the state government during the two phases.  
The fact of the matter is that both the Centre and the states ignore the findings of the CAG.  This is a serious issue that needs to be considered by all political parties and their leaders. Had financial irregularities amounting to millions of rupees been stopped after Independence, the money could have been utilised to eradicate illiteracy and on other worthy causes. India's human development index would have been much higher. 
Financial irregularities mark the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. It may take three to four years for the CAG to audit the accounts and advance its report for public scrutiny.  Once again, it may suffer the fate of earlier reports. Some time ago, when the CEO of Satyam Computers admitted to have committed a fraud amounting to Rs 7,000 crore, a demand was raised that all private companies, whose turnover is more than Rs 1,000 crore, should be brought under the scanner of the CAG. There is also a demand for private public partnership (PPP) projects to be brought under the CAG's ambit. The department itself has argued that since government money is being invested in PPP projects, the CAG deserves the right to conduct the audit. PPP projects have been taken up in almost all sectors of the economy and a fair amount has been invested on projects relating to road construction, airports, electricity generation and other infrastructure. But our politicians are in no mood to give the CAG its legitimate right to audit the expenditure on these projects. At present, the CAG is allowed to  review a PPP project only up to the stage of signing the Memorandum of Understanding.  The counter-argument is that if  the CAG is allowed to audit, it may result in delays and escalation of cost.  It has also been argued that since these projects will be implemented under the supervision of government officials, there is no need for the CAG to conduct the audit. If this argument is accepted, the CAG's office will be redundant; there will be no need to subject government departments to audit appraisal. In the Bihar chief minister's reckoning, the legislature is supreme and is supposed to look into the report of the CAG. But that perceived supremacy cannot be an argument for shielding corrupt officials and politicians. The legislature is supposed to behave even more responsibly in order to maintain its dignity. It is true that after Nitish Kumar took over, Bihar has been moving fast on the road to development. Therefore, it is the duty of the executive to take up the issues raised by the CAG even more seriously.

The solution to the problem lies in the nature of the problem itself. We must learn from our mistakes. We need to strengthen the institution of the CAG. In fact any irregularity reported by this office must be investigated thoroughly by handing it over to the police, the CBI or any other competent authority for fast disposal. All politicians and bureaucrats are not corrupt; but the actual ones can be identified and reined in by giving more power to the CAG's elbow.

The writer is Associate Professor, Department of Economics, PGDAV College, University of Delhi







In a not-so-rare display of incompetence, New Delhi has yet again told us that it has run out of ideas on Jammu and Kashmir. The unprecedented lawlessness, including large-scale arson, that marked Eid celebrations in the Kashmir Valley last week, were a slap on the face of the state administration, with a paralysed New Delhi unable or unwilling to take charge of a situation gone woefully out of hand.

If the state government, whose existence is becoming barely visible, chose to "dilly", New Delhi preferred to "dally". "Dilly-dallying" thus appeared to have become the mantra on the day that follows the holy month of Ramzan. For their part, Kashmiris had shown, between spells of hartals and curfew, their willingness to make the best of a bad situation by coming out in droves to do shopping in cities and towns in the Valley. The incompetent state government passed on the initiative to the mob permitting the seemingly suave Mirwaiz Umar Farook to take out a post-Eid procession from downtown Idgah to mainstream Lal Chowk – Maisuma. Mirwaiz's motives obviously were not as honest as he would claim – a show of reconciliation between his party and that of the founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the first to take to the gun in 1989-90.
With the twosome providing cover, the hand of Mussarat Alam, the alter ego of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, patriarch of pro-Pakistanis, became visible; Alam ordered his hordes of stone-palters to take to the streets. I am not quite sure what instructions chief minister Omar Abdullah had issued about handling the aftermath but the upshot was that even as the chief minister chose to make a quick dash to New Delhi, the Valley was on fire.
That was when in the Eid gathering, Mussarat's men chose to set fire to Hazratbal police post and, in a near disaster, almost breached the security layers protecting the Prophet's sacred hair lying in a vault inside. Even in more peaceful times in the 1960s, one had seen the Valley going up in flames when the holy relic disappeared from the Hazratbal shrine only to be returned within a couple of days. I did not find it amusing to hear the state's police chief mentioning this potentially explosive possibility with the straightest of faces. If the men responsible for the security of the relic were present and on duty, it shouldn't be difficult even now to trace the culprits who due to their negligence could have set the Valley on the path to disaster. Divine intervention, it seems, saved the situation in this case.

The dilly-dallying was on all the time in New Delhi. The Cabinet Committee on Security, one was told, was in session for long hours on Saturday and Monday; Sunday is a non-working day even for the Union cabinet. There was dissent in the committee. The defence minister shared the concerns of the Army regarding the chief minister's insistence that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act be withdrawn from the majority of districts in the Valley. Discussions were resumed, leaving me to wonder why such a sensitive policy issue was given the look of a public discourse. I for one am unable to understand what purpose the withdrawal of AFSPA would serve. Or what difference its not being there would make. The Army has been rarely used in putting down ordinary demonstrations or even arson of the kind witnessed on Eid day.

The simple truth is that Omar Abdullah did not want to be left behind by his opponents in the People's Democratic Party who, in any case, have favoured AFSPA withdrawal for over three years.
A brief digression. I spoke to over a dozen friends in Srinagar on phone on Eid day and not one of them spoke of any National Conference or PDD workers trying to make their presence felt. As for Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar's father, I did see him happily enjoying the T-20 league in South Africa late on Saturday night, a seat removed from the Mumbai Indians' owner, Mukesh Ambani. As the National Conference chief, Farooq could not have been unaware of the happenings in his home state. His father, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, would never miss addressing an Eid gathering in Srinagar. To think of it, I am told even Omar chose to spend his Saturday away from Srinagar.

Sheikh Abdullah's would be the main Eid gathering right in the heart of Idgah. His flock were nicknamed shers and those of Maulvi Yusuf Shah, then Mirwaiz and grand-parental uncle of Umar, were called the Bakras and would hardly be in the picture. The Bakshi dynasty entered for a short while and faded with the death of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his daughter, the challengers to the Abdullahs, are comparative newcomers although by far the most potent now. Their People's Democratic Party has made big strides in the Valley, Mehbooba, the Mufti's divorcee daughter, leading the pack. The NC and PDP are seen as mainstream parties although the PDP has cleverly adopted some of the separatist postures.
I don't wish to make any guesses but this one is irresistible. Should the Centre, to cover up its own incompetence, choose to do away with the Congress Party's alliance with the National Conference, Mufti's PDP, with whom it shared power in the state for six years, could well be the replacement for Omar. This is in the realm of possibility. Omar unfortunately has not been able to offer the state good governance nor has he been able to build up his party.

The reality, we may soon realize, has moved far away from the era of feudal dynasties to hard-headed political opportunists. Given the dynamics of the Kashmir situation, it is quite on the cards that the solution that everyone has been seeking for the six-decade-old problem may throw up new combinations. One cannot vouch even for a moment for the Valley leadership's commitment to that much abused word, Kashmiriyat.
Kashmiriyat may still be living in a few individual minds but it was sent packing, bag and baggage, with the exodus of some half a million Kashmiri Pandits 20 years ago. The recent threat to the only other minority living in the Valley, the Sikhs, confirms the validity of the demographic makeover of the state into religious self-governing units as first foreseen by one of Nawaz Sharief's finance/foreign Ministers, and more recently peddled by the former military dictator, General Pervez Musharaff. It has now found acceptance among most Valley Muslims. I wasn't thus surprised to see the Musharraf formula revived by a New York-based Kashmiri Muslim millionaire, Farook Kathwari, in an article in a national Indian daily. He runs a Kashmir Study Centre in New York.

The writer is a veteran journalist and former Resident Editor, The Statesman, New Delhi







The world body has urged member states to work together to combat international terrorism and has stressed the need for dialogue and involvement of regional organizations and civil society in counter-terrorism. In a resolution at the end of a plenary session on the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, it reaffirmed that that it is the primary responsibility of member states to implement the strategy. 

According to the resolution, the role of the counter-terrorism implementation task force was to facilitate coordination of anti-terrorism efforts with international, regional and sub-regional organizations and promote coherence in the implementation of the strategy at the national, regional and global levels. Members states can request assistance from the task force, especially in capacity-building. 

The strategy was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in September 2006 and remained the strategic framework and practical guidance on joint efforts by the international community to counter terrorism. Its four pillars are: tackling the conditions conducive to spread of terrorism; preventing and combating the menace; building states' capacity and strengthening the role of the UN; and ensuring respect for human rights and rule of law while conducting the fight. 

General Assembly president Ali Treki has stressed that measures taken by member states must comply with their obligations under international law, including the UN Charter and the relevant international conventions and protocols, such as human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law, the right to self-determination and the end to occupation and aggression. 

It urged states that are not parties to existing international conventions and protocols to consider doing so, and called upon countries to make efforts to conclude a comprehensive convention on international terrorism. 
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged stronger partnerships between the UN, governments, regional organizations and civil society to implement provisions of the strategy. He acknowledged that the work of the UN on counter-terrorism has increased, but says there is still a need for an in-depth knowledge of the UN global counter-terrorism strategy in order to translate its provisions into action. 

Congo: The Secretary-General has announced that he will continue his discussions with Rwanda's President on the UN report on serious human rights violations committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He visited Kigali where he met President Paul Kagame, foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo and senior officials to discuss Rwanda's concerns over the report. 

The report was prepared by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It is scheduled to be released on 1 October and will describe over 600 incidents in the DRC during the period between 1993 and 2003 in which thousands of people were killed. The report covered not only the eastern DRC but the entire territory of the DRC. "We discussed the matter in great detail," Mr Ban told reporters in New York. 

World Court judge: The Security Council and General Assembly voted to elect Joan E. Donoghue of the USA the next judge for the International Court of Justice. She succeeded Thomas Buergenthal, of the United States. His term was due to expire in early 2015, but he resigned earlier this year. 

ICJ, established in 1945 under the UN Charter, settles legal disputes between states and gives advisory opinions on legal questions that have been referred to it by authorized UN organs or specialized agencies. It is sometimes referred to as the World Court. Judges are chosen on the basis of their qualifications, not on the basis of nationality, and care is taken to ensure that the principal legal systems of the world are represented. No two judges can be from the same country. They cannot engage in any other occupation during their term of office, according to a press release issued by the court. 

West Asia talks: The Secretary-General has said that broad international support, such as UN and the diplomatic Quartet, is crucial for the success of the direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. He met former Senator George Mitchell of the US. He gave an overview of the first round of direct talks between the two sides in two years that began on 2 September in Washington. "I also underscored the need for an end to violence, and to extend and expand the scope of the Israeli Government's settlement restraint," he told reporters in New York
The Quartet will meet later this month in New York with their Arab partners, he said. Mr Ban said that he looks forward to meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of UNGA session. "Negotiations are the only way for Israel and the Palestinians to resolve all final status issues and realize their aspirations," he stressed. 

He commended President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr Mitchell for their "tireless" work as well as for their close coordination with the UN. 

Offices in Sri Lanka: The Secretary-General has called upon the government of Sri Lanka to take urgent action to normalize conditions around the UN offices in Colombo so as to ensure the continuation of the vital work of the organization to assist the people of Sri Lanka. He believes that the strong reaction to his establishment of a panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka is not warranted.

The UN has consistently held that this panel has been set up to advise the Secretary-General on the objectives of the joint statement of 23 May 2009. These objectives include the further fostering of reconciliation and related issues as well as reflecting the commitment by Sri Lanka to the promotion and protection of human rights and the importance of accountability in order to continue the strengthening of peace and development in that country. 

Indentured labour: The Office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal, the ILO and Nepal's National Dalit Commission has said that two years after the Nepalese government abolished the system of indentured labour that was prevalent in the West, many of the freed agricultural workers still live in miserable condition. They called on authorities to step up the pace of reform to help the labourers. They are called Haliyas or bonded labourers in the western regions and have no access to food, shelter, clothing, health care or education. Haliya women and children are badly affected, they said in a joint statement issued earlier to mark the second anniversary of the abolition of the bonded labour system by the Government. 

It noted that the government plans to draft a law banning the practice of bonding Haliyas and undertake a survey of the freed labourers, describing it as a "crucial step towards their rehabilitation. However, we are deeply concerned over the slow progress on the implementation of the five-points agreement signed two years ago, including the annulment of debts, formation of a separate Haliya Commission and distribution of land to the freed Haliyas." 

Pak floods victims: Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos visited a camp of displaced people in Nowshera in the north-western Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to a press release issued in New York. She warned, "The world's attention is waning at a time when some of the biggest challenges for the relief effort here are still to come." She added that in parts of Pakistan, a new disaster is happening every few days and millions of people are still waiting for the support they need to survive. 

anjali sharma








What the ultimate effect of the enhanced duties on tobacco may be it is impossible to say, but so far they have been instrumental in causing an enormous falling-off in the imports into India. The Director of Commercial Intelligence in his annual Review for 909-10 points out that the change came too late to make any marked impression on the trade statistics of that year, but very large quantities of cigarettes received after the imposition of the higher rates were bonded and subsequently shipped to China. In Calcutta, for instance, 46 millions were bonded in March, but duty was paid on 6.5 millions only, the balance being re-exported. It is noteworthy that out of the total imports of tobacco during the year under review over 68 per cent was represented by cigarettes. The bulk of these latter consisted of cheap productions which were sold wholesale at from Rs 1-2 to Rs 2 per thousand, and it is estimated that the receipts represented 1,228 million cigarettes as compared with 1,400 millions in 1907-08 and 1,200 millions in 1908-09. But a much larger quantity of unmanufactured leaf was imported than in the previous year and this tends to the opinion that the decline on the receipts of cigarettes shown since 1907-08 has been made good by enhanced manufacture in India. The opinion is commonly held. Mr Cotton observes, that in Northern India there is a general tendency to abandon the huka in favour of the cigarette or biri. Whether the duties will check this movement remains to be seen but, as has been indicated, a decline in imports does not necessarily mean a decrease in consumption, and the Peninsular Tobacco Company's factory at Monghyr is stated to have turned out 750 million cigarettes last year, while the Rangpur Company's factory, which deals with Bengal tobacco, has a capacity of a million cigarettes per week. Meanwhile the duties have had far greater effect upon the imports of unmanufactured tobacco than on any other class, the receipts for the first four months of the current financial year amounting to no more than Rs 70,000 which compares with Rs 509,000 in the corresponding period of 1909-10. The imports of cigarettes during the same period fell from Rs 22,17,000 to Rs 10,52,000.








There seems to be a tremendous eagerness all round to do complicated sums. The Union cabinet has decided to clear the clouds of dust raised by the suggestion to include caste on the list of questions in census enumeration. It has stated that caste enumeration will be a separate exercise, starting June 2011, after the main census enumeration is over. This would entail not only an expenditure of Rs 2,000 crore over and above the reported cost of Rs 2,240 crore of the main enumeration, but it would also require meticulous dovetailing of data by the office of the registrar general of India. The only possible argument in favour of caste enumeration in a nation professedly aspiring to a casteless society would be the better targeting of social justice policies. This can only be done by matching caste with the socio-economic, demographic and educational data recorded in the main census. By breaking the exercise up into two, the government is doubling the gigantic task, multiplying the difficulties and enlarging the possibility of grave mistakes. What happens if the numbers do not tally at all? And even if they do — here much is being expected of the fresh records of the national population register — why take on the vast task of matching households?


The dust has cleared; there is now only impenetrable smog. Apparently, the decision for a separate caste census was taken, at least in part, in response to fears of "inflation" of numbers during the main census if caste had been added. Common sense suggests that such fears were rather fantastical, since the census digs into too many details about each member of the family for the creation of non-existent members. And such distortion has not occurred in the data on scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. But a separate caste census is really tempting the imagination of plenty. That links up easily to reports that the other backward classes lobbies pushed for the separate caste census. Their politics depends quite noticeably on numbers. So the government's decision may have, appropriately, caste behind it as before it. It would rather condemn its officials to impossible sums than ignore the OBC lobby. But to go ahead, the government will have to consider another sum. The vast army of teachers and other workers needed for a census is likely to go back to work after completing the first exercise. Where will an equivalent army come from?








In higher education, the path to excellence is necessarily straight and narrow. To widen it for the sake of a larger range of options, without carefully weighing the academic goals and resources, is to risk the enforcing of downward uniformity. This is what the IIT council might end up doing by allowing the Indian institutes of technology to offer full-fledged courses and award degrees in medicine. Over decades, the IITs have built up their specialized strengths, creating benchmarks in the pursuit of academic excellence in the country. Academically and politically, this has not been easy to do. Within these institutes' focus on technology, the problem of how to step up the emphasis on research, with an eye to the requirements of industry and the developing Indian economy remains a concern for the government committee set up to look into the matter. To work out, and hold on to, the precise terms of the IITs' autonomy and independence in relation to the Centre, especially its ministry of human resource development, is another ongoing struggle. Both problems, crucial to keeping the priority of academic merit, are far from being resolved. So, by taking on, on top of all this, the responsibility of setting up the infrastructure for quality medical education — with or without the supervision of the Medical Council of India — the IITs might be biting off more than they can chew.


Medicine and technology each has its institutions of excellence in India. The histories of their founding, nurture or ruin have been distinct from one another, and in seeking to maintain or improve these institutions, the fate of each should be kept distinct. Interdisciplinary courses, which combine technology and medicine or biology, are one thing, and could be part of projected improvements, but going into comprehensive medical education is quite another path to open up. In the 2010 QS World University Rankings, only IIT Bombay manages to find a place among the top 200 universities of the world, its position down to 187 from last year's 163. China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan and Hong Kong are all placed above India in this list — China six times, with Peking University moving up to 46 from 47 last year. The IITs should stay focused on what they were meant to excel in originally (as should the country's medical colleges and institutes), and make sure that their benchmarks are strictly academic.









Why do I say I believe this will happen? Not because I believe in sunshine, but because I believe it is better to try and quench one's thirst — in this case the thirst for good, clean and transparent governance — with aqua pura rather than with the vinegar of cynicism.


Meanwhile, we have a National Water Mission that is doing exceedingly important work. But have Hukumat-e-Hind and the state governments really prepared Awaam-e-Hind about that grim and growing reality, very literally, Pyaas-e-Hind? Will there be water enough, 10, 15, 20 years from now, to quench drinking-water needs, farming needs and agricultural needs? I am thinking of a time when a 10-litre bamba of retailed water may cost Rs 500 or more and a litre-bottle of water between Rs 50 and Rs 100. Like the block-wise zonation of oil fields for extraction by allottee-companies, will riverbeds and river plains come to be allotted in blocks to Bisleri, Kinley, Aquafina? What will the poor do then? Drink muddied water from ponds or raid the sites of water-extraction or factories where bottled water is made, in order to 'liberate' them from what will surely get to be called the 'colonization of water resources'?


Entry 18 under the state list reads: "Land, that is to say, rights in or over land, land tenures, including the relation of landlord and tenant, and the collection of rents; transfer and alienation of agricultural land; land improvement; and agricultural loans; colonization." Colonization? Yes, the very word is used, innocently, and perhaps with settlement colonies for refugees and the like in mind, but nonetheless, there it is in our Constitution, specified as a subject-charge and therefore a prerogative and indeed, a responsibility of state governments: 'colonization'. What is the chief characteristic of a colony? It is the loss of rights over natural resources by the people of that area and the acquiring of those rights by new entrants. Nirmalangshu Mukherji, professor, has pointed out recently that the action by the State on Vedanta is not an isolated instance of the law being upheld, there being before us the arrest of Madhu Koda, the Supreme Court's strictures on the Bellary mines issue, the national attention paid to Posco, to the implementation of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act and the Forest Rights Act. For all these the work of civil resistance has to be acknowledged and applauded. Without that the State and the judiciary would not and could not have acted as they did.


Meanwhile, after the irony of 'colonization' being part of an entry in our Constitution having been missed not only by the constituent assembly but by successive Lok Sabhas, which have amended the Constitution a hundred times, and by the Constitution review commission, it is time now to amend the relevant entry in our Constitution and drop 'colonization' from our agenda. But more important than that is to begin to end the entry of new and dispossessing exploitations on land. And a good place to start will be by examining the contemporary relevance and role of the Land Acquisition Act and the scope of that riddle of a phrase which is at the base of the act, "public purpose". It is fortuitous that the government of India has brought forward an amendment bill that can rectify the anomalies and injustices which that act contains and causes. Discussions on the bill must ask: Is the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 taking us unwittingly towards what is sometimes described as the Corporate State?


As they debate this very important bill, I would like to place before our lawmakers something which 52-year-old Mahatma Gandhi had to say on the subject of land acquisition by the State. The scholarly S.N. Sahu of the Rajya Sabha secretariat brought to my notice recently this remarkable statement made in 1921, when land had been acquired by the Bombay Presidency in Mulshipeta, near Poona, for a dam being built by the House of Tatas to augment the electric supply for the city of Bombay. This is probably the first instance of Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act being used by the State, then the British raj, for a corporate project. A satyagraha was launched under Senapati Bapat by the people dispossessed. The topicality of what Gandhiji said on the occasion is surprising even today:


"My heart goes out to these poor people… I wish the great House of the Tatas, instead of standing on their legal rights, will reason with the people themselves, and do whatever they wish in consultation with them. I have some experience of Land Acquisition Acts… The dispossessed never got the exact equivalent. What is the value of all boons that the Tata scheme claims to confer upon India, if it is to be at the unwilling expense of even one poor man?… I suggest to the custodians of the great name that they would more truly advance India's interest if they will defer to the wishes of their weak and helpless countrymen."


Gandhi, however, is never too convenient. He says, in the very next sentence, something which those who support these rights must never forget: "…but I can never join hands with those who are ready to kill others, be it even for the cause of truth." No wonder Maoists cannot take Gandhi.


Most civil protesters, be they sociologists, writers, academics, who have made it their task to study and espouse the cause of the dispossessed, instinctively and viscerally despise violence. They not only do not justify Maoist violence, they condemn it. I, however, do feel that some of them have underestimated the co-optive tactics of this variety of violence, which notoriously converts silence into acquiescence, receptivity into acceptance and any olive branch into a bouquet of appreciation. These individuals would have greatly enhanced their effectiveness as campaigners against the exploitation of tribal people and their rights by commercial interests if they had given the same attention to the exploitation of a whole generation of tribal people, especially tribal youth, by the violent schemata of the Maoist method.


During a recent discussion with P. Sainath on the criticality, notwithstanding the non-justiciability, of the directive principles of State policy, I discovered with some surprise that the word 'governance' occurs but once in the Constitution of India, and that only in the directive principles. I do not know what the significance of this is, but there it is. The directive principles, says the Constitution, shall not be enforceable by any court, "but are nevertheless fundamental in the governance of the country". The chapter go on to say that "it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws".


Aruna Roy's determined efforts with her team in Rajasthan got us the Right to Information Act. I must say that in my view, the RTI Act is the singlemost revolutionary enactment to have been made since Independence. Working for and through access,pahunch and sunvaai, the RTI is necessarily concerned with all the three sher — Awaam, Siyaasat and Hukumat. As is Nandan Nilekani's scheme for Aadhar, officially operationalized a few days ago. This plan to unify the peoplehood of India in a national register with every individual bearing an all-purpose 'life-number' is fascinating for its sheer audacity. I would like to have one number, a master number, subsuming all other ones from A, B, C to Z. But it should enable me to access the Hukumat, rather than enable agencies of the Hukumat to access me. Aadhar will profit by engaging the country in a discussion on how it can be made both efficacious and conscientious.


There is a fourth leonine presence on the Lion Capital of the emperor, Asoka Devanaamapiya Piyadassi. I see this as Zameer-e-Hind — the inner life and voice of India.



The directive principles of State policy are integral to it. The Supreme Court of India, the Election Commission of India, the comptroller and auditor general of India, the chief vigilance commissioner, the chief information commissioner, the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Women, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the National Commission for Minorities and those bodies that parallel and mirror these in the states which also have theirlokayuktas, comprise the externals of Zameer-e-Hind. And it is to them that Awaam-e-Hind looks and turns to when troubled by questions of character and conduct in Siyaasat-e-Hind and in Humukat-e-Hind. These bodies are often loosely described as constitutional authorities, and so they are. But I like to see them as institutions of conscience. In the continuing independence and fair-mindedness of these institutions of conscience, in their being ever alert, ever-responsive, self-critical, self-examining, and not self-justifying or self-exculpating, rest the self-correcting mechanisms of our State and, hence, the image and the reputation of our republic.


All the institutions of conscience that I have described as embodying Zameer-e-Hind are essentially retrospective in their operations. They identify and rectify wrongdoing. Conscience, however, is not retrospective alone. Its work is not post facto as much as it is, to borrow a phrase from grammar, in the present continuous. And Zameer-e-Hind has to be at work, to borrow a phrase from television, 24x7.


The United Progressive Alliance governments I and II have brought in some pioneering pieces of legislation, in which I would include the enactments on domestic violence, on undertrial prisoners and, of course, the RTI and the Right to Education Acts. But one legislation which has remained on the anvil for too long — not one year, not 10 years, but full 40 years — is that pertaining to the activating of the institution of lok pal. I find it interesting that no political party seems to have been over-anxious about it. It is important that this enactment be either taken forward or, if Siyaasat-e-Hind is uncomfortable with the idea of a lok pal, then Hukumat-e-Hind must tell Awaam-e-Hind why electors can be booked under common laws for graft, but not the elected.


In his farewell Republic Day address, way back in 1967, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan spoke of "widespread inefficiency and the gross mismanagement of resources". High-profile corruption had already performed its arangetram by then in the form of the Mundhra scandal and the defence ministry-related 'jeep' affair, but it had not yet broken into the tandava that we know. The erosion of a work-ethic in the institutions of governance where some do the work of ten and ten do the work of less than one was even by then a hard fact. Radhakrishnan was speaking from the highest seat of Hukumat-e-Hind, he was in fact giving a voice to Zameer-e-Hind. The fourth invisible lion on our emblem needs now to show its potential, which is also its prerogative, prospectively and powerfully. This is not something which only the institutions of conscience have to do. This is something which Hukumat-e-Hind in its daily functions must do by interiorizing Zameer-e-Hind into itself.


We all know that the national anthem was written by Tagore in a welter of conflicting emotions. The text of the official version is an abridged one. The full unabridged version, unknown to most, has the following sombre lines:


"Ghoratimiraghana nibida nishiithe piirita muurchhita deshe/... Duhswapne aatanke, rakshaa korile anke/ Snehamayi tumi maataa."


Roughly translated, the lines invoke the benign Mother to come to the aid of our land, which is in deep darkness, which is afflicted, comatose, having nightmares of terror. The lines are not, as I said, part of our anthem, but they are part of our experience. The Awaam's experience of its Siyaasat and of its various and successive Hukumats. But in the same excluded portion of the Jana Gana Mana text, Tagore shows a remarkable mood swing, a mood recovery with lines that are an all-time absolute favourite of mine, for they hold out hope, assurance.

The lines say, "The night will end, the dawn will break, with the sun glowing, there, far, and yet bright, on the broad forehead of the mountains on our East": "Raatri prabhaatila udila robi-chhobi puurva udayagiri bhaale".








China's denial of a normal visa to General Jaswal, who heads India's Northern Command, for the fourth round of the defence dialogue in Beijing — because he came from the "sensitive location of Jammu and Kashmir" and "people from this part of the world come with a different kind of visa" — is grave political provocation and not mere "needling", as termed by our media. This Chinese step has many implications.


China has no territorial claims on J&K other than its claim to Aksai Chin in Ladakh, where it occupies territory even beyond its own pre-1962 claim line. If it did not recognizevis-à-vis itself India's legal authority over the remaining territory in J&K, it would not have engaged us in prolonged border parleys covering the western sector as well. Moreover, as China remains committed, at least ostensibly, to a border settlement, why has it begun to question J&K's status as Indian territory, for that would make India ineligible as an empowered negotiating partner? Issuing stapled visas to Kashmiris holding Indian passports was the first offensive step in the direction of questioning India's sovereignty over J&K. It has now compounded the provocation by denying a normal visa to an appointee of the government of India in J&K. By referring to J&K as "this part of the world", Beijing is implying that the territory is not Indian and has undetermined status.


China's denial of a visa also contradicts its stated political willingness to promote mutual trust and confidence through increased dialogue between the armed forces of the two countries. Already some modest naval and anti-terrorism joint exercises have taken place as part of an effort to build bridges with the People's Liberation Army. The general who was denied the visa is in charge of the Aksai Chin area, where the forces of the two countries confront each other and where increasing Chinese incursions worry India. Does China want to signal now that it does not want to engage any general in charge of the sensitive Aksai Chin front even though it supports a bilateral defence dialogue intended to build greater mutual confidence?


China's step seems even more incongruous when one considers that the present Indian army chief, General V.K. Singh, visited China in 2009 as head of the Eastern Command, which includes Arunachal Pradesh in its jurisdiction. Was China not worried that giving him a visa might be construed as accepting Arunachal Pradesh as Indian territory? Is Arunachal Pradesh less of a " sensitive location" for China than J&K is? Moreover, the Chinese reportedly gave a visa last year to the Indian corps commander at Leh to visit China as part of an Indian defence delegation.


One cannot even argue that these are momentary aberrations in Chinese policy. The issue of stapled visas for Kashmiris has been raised officially by us with the Chinese ever since the practice was detected last year, but they have ignored our démarches. In General Jaswal's case, the Indian side remonstrated with the Chinese officially before the issue became public, but without result. These political attacks on India's sovereignty over J&K are therefore well-considered Chinese decisions, taken in full awareness of how they could potentially affect relations between India and China.


China's expanded challenge to India's territorial integrity seems to be part of its growing international assertiveness as a result of its phenomenal economic growth, its financial muscle, its developing military capacities and America's perceived decline as a global power. It has declared the South China Sea an area of its "core interest", prompting the United States of America to declare that it has "national interests" in this zone. China is establishing the network of an enhanced naval presence in the Indian Ocean that will challenge India's security interests. Its hardened position on Arunachal Pradesh has become a political fact that India has to contend with, even if its provocations there have subsided now.


China has shifted its attention to J&K for several reasons. It has developed new security interests in the Pakistan-occupied territory not only in the context of the Uighur insurgency in Eastern Turkestan, but also because of the ambitious project to develop an energy lifeline for itself through Gwadar to sources of oil and gas in the Gulf area and beyond. This requires it to have an entrenched presence in PoK through involvement in large-scale infrastructure projects. The recent New York Times story about the presence of thousands of PLA units in PoK has some basis as the Chinese government admits PLA presence, though for flood-relief work. By its massive ground presence and increased stakes in this region, China intends to become a material factor in any eventual settlement between India and Pakistan regarding the state's future. In the eventuality of Pakistan's disintegration or inability to govern this region, China would want to prevent any Indian attempt to control it or play a political role there.


We have reacted to the latest provocation by suspending military exchanges with China for the time being. Unidentified official sources have also cautioned China that J&K to us is as sensitive a matter as Tibet is to them. The prime minister's public candour about China exploiting our "soft underbelly" in Kashmir and Pakistan to keep India in a "low level equilibrium" is a welcome change from the normal tendency to appease China. It is important that our response to this denial of a visa does not remain confined to decisions on military exchanges.


The Chinese action transcends such exchanges; it is a direct assault on our sovereignty over J&K. If we fail to respond, we would be creating space for China to continue questioning our sovereignty over this territory and create more problems for us in tandem with its all-weather friend, Pakistan, whose case for Kashmir it now wants to bolster for evolving strategic reasons. We must, therefore, be more vocal in opposing China's presence in PoK in public as well as in private talks with the Chinese.


We should rally international opinion against the China-Pakistan nuclear deal, which is a calculated threat to our security. Our engagement with Taiwan should go up visibly. We must seize this opportunity to prise open the question of China's untrammelled sovereignty over Tibet. We should consider giving stapled visas to the inhabitants of the Greater Tibet region on their Chinese passports. We must begin reminding the Chinese that India has recognized an "autonomous" Tibet as part of China, not a militarily occupied zone; that China should demilitarize Tibet as a necessary bilateral confidence-building measure; that it should reach a peaceful settlement with the Dalai Lama for stable and tension-free relations between India and China.


A rising China will be an escalating problem for us. We urgently need to create political space for ourselves to impose costs on China for its adversarial policies towards us, even as we continue to engage with it.


The author is former foreign secretary of India








The more one thinks about how carelessly the spin doctors running Manmohan Singh's 'engagement with the people' have operated in recent times, the more one wonders what is happening under the surface between the party and the government that needed this rather hasty and tardy get-together with a 'select' bunch of editors. The perception in the market is that the government of India regrets having had to deny Vedanta its place in Niyamgiri, but was compelled to deny permission since Rahul Gandhi had chosen to be thesipahi in Delhi of the tribal people who have been defending their land from being illegally occupied by corporate India. How did the green signal to the small dams project on the Ganges get reversed suddenly, despite the government having emphatically stated that it would not write-off the 600 crore already spent? These two situations demand that transparency kicks in so that the people get to know what prompts such wild see-sawing. Clearly, the media are not interested in delving deeper into facts, as they are bored with the need to do solid homework.


The Delhi grapevine is overloaded these days. Questions abound and all kinds of possible answers float about depending on who one is speaking with. Will Jairam Ramesh be sacrificed because of the inordinate pressure mounted by big businesses? Who will replace him and play the balancing act even though 95 per cent of irrigation, power and mining projects have been cleared this year? Will Pranab Mukherjee be anointed deputy prime minister since he has served as the government's principal troubleshooter and as a bridge for the party vis-à-vis its coalition partners? Will Kamal Nath make a bid to stand for chief ministership of Madhya Pradesh? What will be the design of the impending game of musical chairs to reduce the average age of the cabinet and council of ministers?


A majority of the men and women the government deems young are already in their late fifties or sixties. They are slowing down intellectually, and are bereft of energy to take on new challenges and to unravel the faulty mechanisms that are needed to renew systems of governance. Sadly, in India, 'young' and 'government' seem to be incompatible. The old describe the aggravation of the Kashmir problem as a consequence of the 'inexperience' of the Omar Abdullah government. I would like to ask a counter question — what have the 'experienced' oldies achieved for so long? The answer is there for all to see. They bungled and destroyed a paradise on earth because they were disconnected and dictatorial. They neither heard the voices of the people, nor noticed the shifting ground realities. The overriding arrogance and know-all attitude of the old and seasoned politician are responsible for the legacy that Omar inherited, as well as for the many mutinies that India and Bharat are reeling under.


An independent-minded and comparatively young Rahul Gandhi is making an impact across India with the majority. That majority, the bulk of the citizenry and voter, is tired of moribund practices, exclusive and suffocating governance, archaic methodologies and the corrupt bureaucracy. The people want to inhale and rejuvenate their everyday lives. They do not need advice or instructions on how to do this from those at the helm because the leaders have failed to deliver a vibrant civil society. The people want fresh ideas and lively initiatives, something that members of their own generation can comprehend and give to them.







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





The sacking of the third minister in a matter of 14 months for reasons of corruption brings no credit to the government of the day in Karnataka or, for that matter, the political establishment in the state. The roll of dishonour headed by Es En Krishnaiah Setty (misuse of office for financial gain), Hartal Halappa (rape) and now Ramachandra Gowda (violation of recruitment rules) could yet have more additions.

Another minister, D Sudhakar, who is facing a welter of charges ranging from cheating to breaking rules in sanctioning funds in programmes has barely survived but may be eased out soon. It could just be a coincidence that the first muzrai minister in the cabinet, and the current incumbent, Sudhakar have ongoing CBI cases against them. The doings of the other jewels in Yeddyurappa's crown, Janardhana Reddy, B Sreeramulu and Renukacharya are too well known to bear repetition.

Given the contemporary moral standards, it was not Ramachandra Gowda's actions in breaking rules to appoint people to jobs in medical colleges that has raised eyebrows, but the nonchalance with which norms made by a government of which he was a minister were flouted. So blatant were the actions, that the chief minister was forced to distance himself from his loyalist. The rather quick action of the chief minister in asking Gowda to resign may be designed to take the wind out of the Opposition sails, but it also indicates that Gowda's actions may be more serious than reported so far.

The government may have tried to put l'affaire Gowda behind it by seeing him off, but Yeddyurappa would do well to use the opportunity to send a signal to his colleagues that corruption, misconduct or moral turpitude would not be tolerated. It is hoped that the government would take the unsavoury episode to its logical conclusion by prosecuting Gowda and others involved in the scam, if only at least to burnish its own credentials.

A 2007 survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said that the central government in Beijing is the most trusted by the majority of Chinese people who believe that it still largely remains clean in a country where official corruption is running rampant. The Chinese government is so ruthlessly set against venality that it executed four of its ministers for corruption between 2003 and 2007. That may be extreme, but it should give Yeddyurappa, now on a visit to China, some food for thought.








Cases of dengue are spiralling across the country. While Kerala appears to be the worst hit with over 2,167 dengue cases reported this year, Karnataka and Delhi are snapping at its heels. The World Health Organisation has warned that the dengue epidemic will peak in October, which means that we can expect the number of cases and fatalities to increase in the coming weeks. Across South Asia, the monsoons bring more than rain and respite from heat.

They bring floods and an array of epidemics. The spread of various flu viruses gather momentum with the onset of the monsoons. This year too has seen an explosion of cases of flu and other viral infections. Thanks to poor sanitation and drainage facilities, heavy rains mean stagnant water in cities, especially in low-lying areas, which provide an ideal breeding ground for a variety of disease carrying mosquitoes.

It also means overflowing sewage and contamination of drinking water contributing to diseases like cholera. It is not the rain that should be blamed for the health problems but poor drainage and sanitary conditions. Besides fogging and distribution of anti-malaria tablets, civic authorities do little to prevent this annual attack on public health.

With Delhi hosting the Commonwealth Games in less than a month from now, the international media spotlight is on the severity of the health crisis in the capital. Some have blamed water-logging at construction sites as the main source of dengue causing mosquitoes.

The government has sought to calm the public by describing the health situation as a crisis, not an epidemic. But countries like Australia, New Zealand, the US and Britain have issued travel advisories to their citizens. These advisories seem rather alarmist and discriminatory. Are these countries free of strains of flu that can kill? Have the US, Britain, etc forgotten that barely a year ago, they were reeling under a swine flu epidemic on a proportion rarely seen before?

That there is a dengue health crisis across the country that warrants action is undoubted. Indeed, it is time authorities took steps to prevent this annual disease ritual. Of course, international action to fight these diseases is welcome, not in the form of panic-inducing travel warnings but through research and making available medicines and vaccines at affordable rates to the poorest.







There are 30 US bases in Afghanistan. By the sheer masonry and architecture, they don't look they are temporary.


Ever since I have returned from Kabul, I am frequently asked by friends: when are the Americans leaving? When I say, "I don't know," I am dismissed like someone who has wasted his time in Afghanistan and returned without finding an answer to a universal query.

Even though President Barack Obama remains committed to July 2011, as the date for withdrawing American troops, those whose job it will be to supervise this withdrawal have introduced caveats: That July 2011 is not cast in stone; withdrawals will be conditioned by the situation on the ground; only combat troops will be withdrawn; 
Afghan national army has to be ready to takeover and so on.

While Gen Stan McCrystal openly stated that a high profile for New Delhi in Kabul distracts Pakistan from its war-on-terror focus, even Gen David Petraeus has done his bit to keep Pakistan humoured by talking privately of India's 'cold start' doctrine, a doctrine buried in Indian military archives, never mentioned in serious Indian discourse. But Islamabad has been able to sell this lemon to Petraeus until such time as the US switches off on this one — possibly near the Obama visit.

Augmentation by 30,000 troops has taken place. That is a fact. Withdrawal will depend on a variety of factors — including how well the 'surge' works. That is speculation. The Bonn Conference, convened by the UN Secretary General, set up, in President Obama's words, 'a provisional' government under President Hamid Karzai. But that provisional government has lasted nine years. Indeed, at the July 20, 2010, Kabul Conference, convened by the UN, Karzai almost established his indispensability by obtaining a mandate (from the conference) that he would continue as president until 2014.

If Karzai is to remain president till 2014, surely he will require protection till then. If US and Nato are to start withdrawing in 2011 or even 2012, given the caveats listed above, there will still be need for Karzai to be protected or accorded safe passage. Surely it is nobody's case that by 2014 Karzai will capture the hearts and minds of all Afghans. We have some sort of script until 2014. But the script could change after the 2012 US presidential elections.

Yes, mounting death toll (2,000 coalition soldiers) and costs of war ($337.8 billion) against the backdrop of a declining western economy, are all good reasons for the US to leave Afghanistan.

Supposing, the death toll is brought down to, say, double digits annually and the costs of combat are substantially reduced, will the Americans still leave?

According to Russian estimate there are 30 US bases in Afghanistan. Of these, the ones at Bagram, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Helmand, Shindand (Herat), Mazar-e-Sharif are, by the sheer volume of masonry and architecture, not temporary. These bases will remain. Are we then talking about a qualified departure?

Consulate at Mazar-e-Sharif

If the US is actually plotting departure, why is it building a consulate in the heart of Mazar-e-Sharif on a scale which would dwarf large embassies? Renaissance is the only reasonable hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif. An entire section has been transformed into a dormitory for labour working on the US consulate. To the two gigantic blocks in the fortified embassy in Kabul with 700 personnel, a larger block is being added! US diplomats and army officers in large numbers are learning Pushto and Darri back in the US.

If all these preparations for an extended non combat stay in Afghanistan are, in some parlance, tantamount to military departure, so be it. The US was to have left Iraq. But 50,000 will remain in the various bases which are, ultimately, like country houses — open the locks and they are fully functional again.

After 72 days of relentless bombing of Serbia, I have seen the US create an independent state of Kosovo. But while departing they left behind Bond Steel, then the largest US base since the Vietnam War, in Kosovo, abutting Macedonia. Also, an entire hill had been taken over in Skopje, capital of Macedonia, to build an embassy larger than a medium size Indian fort. Guarding energy routes from the Black Sea or elsewhere are one obvious strategic interest in this area.

Russians must be digging in likewise in Abkhazia and Ossetia. Supply lines to these bases will have to be secured. This means control over Karachi port and reports from Karachi are incrementally alarming. The rest of the route from Karachi through Balochistan to Afghanistan is never too far from Taliban and al-Qaeda friendly areas whether in Quetta or in Kandahar. This leads to another major US requirement: the security of Pakistan, at present fighting on multiple fronts. The unprecedented floods are aggravating all these fronts.

The supply route also gives Islamabad considerable leverage over the US. But to retain this leverage Pakistan must have control over this strategic territory. This leads to finger pointing at real or imaginary 'mischief' from India. Balochistan's border with Iran has occasionally livened up. What is not discussed sufficiently is the internal instability, the insurgency in Balochistan.

In the absence of alternative supply routes, Americans have an abiding interest in Baloch, indeed, Pak stability. There is, of course, no dearth of theorists suggesting this route may also have a diversionary potential toward the Gawadar port the Chinese are building. After listening to all this, my friends ask: But when are the Americans leaving?








With concentration of economic activities into particular areas, migrants also tend to overcrowd them.


A UN-Habitat report 'State of the world cities 2010/2011: bridging the urban divide', glowingly praised India and China for taking "giant strides to improve slums," and credited the two nations for together having lifted at least 125 million out of slums between 1990 and 2010. The report says that India has lifted 59.7 million people out of slum conditions since 2000. Apparently, we should not rest on our laurels.

According to a report released by a government committee, India's urban slum population is expected to touch 93.06 million by 2011 and likely to cross 100 million by 2017 from the estimated 75.2 million in 2001. The report is believed to be conservative because the figures only include survey of just the 1,743 cities and towns with a population of more than 20,000 as against the 5,161 cities/towns in the country besides which non-notified slums were kept outside review. In yet another report released by National Sample 

Survey Office (NSSO), the urban landscape in India is still benighted by 49,000 slums, many of them beside public sewers and railway tracks. This is no good news to the UPA government if it wants to make India slum-free in five years.

Exploitation of resources

The urban population in India is estimated to be around 506 million by 2026 and about 700 million by 2051. The most critical environmental concerns in India's cities include problems relating to water supply, sanitation, drainage, solid waste management, transport, pollution from urban wastes and emissions.

Since urban settlements, especially large cities, home to majority of migrants and slum-dwellers, draw heavily on natural resources such as water, forests and soil, the absorptive capacity of nature gets so much undermined that it goes beyond the handling capacity of institutions. Slums add to the combination of lack of institutional capability and demographic pressures that explains the current state of the environment in Indian cities.

Technology-driven industrialisation may be the need of the hour but the growing casualisation of labour indicates that it is happening in an unsustainable manner. There is no fair account of the displaced population, mostly the landless rural poor, who are migrating to urban areas to occupy slums.

If one were to understand the scale and rapidity of urbanisation, as per one analysis, about 1,00,000 rural people move every day to urban areas all over India, making annual migration to the tune of about 3.6 per cent of the population. In 1951, the five million-plus cities contained about 16 per cent of the urban population. By 2001 this figure has increased to 38 per cent. By 2026, over half of the total urban population will be residing in 70 million-plus cities.

That the urban development can be improved is warranted by at least two instances. Surat was transformed following the 1994 plague; after the implementation of higher emission standards and the phasing out of leaded fuel, the air quality of Delhi dramatically improved.

But compared to some of the leading economies of the world, Indian institutions falter on effective action to address urban environmental problems or to lay out infrastructure able to curtail, for instance, congestion, traffic jams, pollution and marginalisation of the poor. 

With the concentration of economic activities into particular zones/areas/cities, the migrant population also tend to overcrowd them, so added with low-cost transport to commute them, it is necessary that sites for economic activities along with newer job opportunities, which primarily cause urban squat, get spaced out.

In India, the revenue situation of urban local bodies has been accentuated by political populism, which remains afflicted with inadequate budgets, large backlogs in providing infrastructure and a resource base singularly incapable of generating the capital geared to address the backlog. In view of the 74th Amendment to the Constitution that has transferred powers to local bodies to raise tax and non-tax revenues to enable them to exercise their responsibility of planning and development, governments which provide the slums electricity and drinking water rarely press on resource mobilisation. 

Unauthorised slums routinely become vote banks and thus come to be perpetuated. Any talk about hierarchisation of slum dwellers is often shouted down by irresponsible social activism. Well-to-do among the slum dwellers are seen to use TV sets, refrigerators and mobile phones who despite their apparent prosperity continue to live in slums for lack of affordable housing and also to avoid paying rent and property taxes. Legalising the urban poor's informally held assets can surely stem it.







What option had the president except to grin and bear it?


Urged by a sense of empathy for the victimised section in their locality, a preliminary meet was called by the core members — a group of five — to  decide on the venue, date, time and agenda on what they could do to alleviate its misery. As one member rather facetiously put it, 'charity begins at home.'

The meeting was scheduled at 10 am, a civilised hour by any standards. The president, a stickler for punctuality, was at the local club on the dot of ten. He was not very pleased to note that the others did not share his sense of time. Being tolerant, he waited a while.

Then he took out his mobile and called each number in turn. 'Number bust,' 'not reachable,' 'mobile switched off,' 'no answer' flashed on the screen.

"In this age of science and technology, a mobile helps to stay connected," his wife had said, gifting him one. Irritably switching off the mobile, "staying connected indeed!" he snorted. He took several deep breaths in an effort to calm his agitated brain, as recommended by his yoga guru. Not that it worked. He let out a frustrated sigh and waited.

By the time the others ambled in, it was nearer 11 am; inane excuses trotted out —  traffic jam, had to drop off granddaughter at the swimming pool, long queue at the ATM, unexpected visitor — taking up another 15 minutes. What option had the president except to grin and bear it, which he did, though it wasn't easy.

He glanced at the other four and suggested that they should meet formally a fortnight hence. Immediately, a venerable member expressed his inability to do so. The reason? His family would be holidaying at that time. The arrangements could not be cancelled or postponed. Just as spring isn't far behind winter, another gentleman asked to be excused as his nephew's wedding was fixed about the same time.

That still left three, enough for a quorum, thought the president. He voiced his thought, looking at the two members who had previous commitments, seeking their approval. In unison, they said they had no objection. He was about to make an entry in his pocket book, when the third member's mobile rang. Excusing himself, he answered the call. His brow puckered. He turned to the president and apologetically said he wouldn't be free for the next three weeks. Something that was scheduled for the next month was brought forward.

That left only the president and one other member. So the formal meeting was indefinitely postponed. But that didn't deter them from a coffee break over which nothing happened!









Some were on business trips, others were on vacation, and there were those – such as Breslav Hassidim returning from the Ukraine, or evangelical Christians arriving for next week's Succot festivities – who were on a spiritual journey. All had an unpleasant surprise waiting for them Monday at Ben Gurion Airport.

For several hours, well over 3,000 Aviation Authority workers, from air traffic controllers to baggage handlers, following the orders of a handful of Histadrut union officials, shut down Israel's central transportation connection to the outside world. Intricate business transactions were jeopardized, vacations meticulously planned months in advance faced ruin and the spiritual uplift of arrival in the Holy Land of Israel was marred by the mundane nastiness of a Mediterranean labor strike.

Technically, the strike was legal. State-employed airport workers had gone through the formalities of declaring a labor dispute the prerequisite two weeks ahead of time, as stipulated by law. Union reps had threatened to strike on Rosh Hashana eve, but acquiesced at the last minute to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz's plea to let negotiations bear fruit. But after a disappointing meeting Sunday with Treasury and Transportation Ministry officials, a strike was called and maintained for nine infuriating hours, and union hacks did not bother to warn travelers.

LEAVING ASIDE the callous, indefensible failure to notify the public in advance, was the strike reasonable? Sometimes there comes a time when the worker, exploited by the rapacious owner of the means of production, sees no other option. Bourgeois business interests, vacationing privileges or spiritual edification must sometimes be put on hold to protect labor rights.

This was not the case with Monday's action. The workers resorted to what ought to be the extreme, last-resort act of withdrawing their labor out of a vague concern for the future of their pension fund, with accrued assets of NIS 2.5 billion. They feared these assets might be diverted to cover a huge NIS 5 billion damages payment recently awarded by a district court to residents living in the vicinity of the airport who have been adversely affected by its expansion. Workers wanted binding assurances that pension money would be earmarked solely for workers' retirement and insurance benefits. The Treasury had already agreed in principle to this demand, and made further guarantees in the course of the bitter strike action Monday.

The idea that a small cadre of union apparatchiks, acting on a kind of pension paranoia, could shut down an entire country is maddeningly preposterous. Not only did these workers unjustifiably disrupt the travel plans of tens of thousands – with chaotic implications extending for hours after the strike was called off – but they also abused the hard-earned right to strike. As a result, another painful blow has been dealt to the waning public sympathy for organized labor.

An airport strike in besieged Israel, unlike the recent airport strikes in Greece, Britain and France, is particularly debilitating. With land travel via Lebanon, Syria, Egypt or Jordan completely or largely out of the question, and sea travel impractical, Ben Gurion International Airport is Israelis' virtually sole bridge to the outside world.

Aggravating, too, is the fact that Aviation Authority employees, like most public sector employees, enjoy job security unrelated to productivity or talent and are protected from the ravages of the competitive private sector.

According to the most recent 2008 Treasury wage report for public sector workers, the average gross monthly salary of 3,485 Aviation Authority employees – including low-tech workers such as security personnel and baggage handlers – was NIS 14,700, double the national average.

THROUGH THEIR irresponsible behavior on Monday, union leaders have shown they cannot be trusted. Steps must be taken to prevent them from abusing their inordinate power again. The Histadrut must henceforth be forced – whether through legislation or through other means – to require a secret ballot vote among affected workers before launching any strike.

Furthermore, a no-strike rule should be imposed on Ben Gurion which would allow the government to fire aviation workers who abuse the right to strike – just as US president Ronald Reagan did in the 1981 air traffic controllers' strike.

Israel's only international airport must not be allowed to become a bargaining chip in the hands of a few Histadrut functionaries driven by irrational fears.








How did an attention-seeking nonentity with barely enough followers to fill a phone booth provoke a global furor?


So, is that what it takes to become a celebrity these days? Threaten to burn someone else's Bible, and declare his religion to be satanic, and you are instantly the center of the news? 

I wonder who is the bigger fool – Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who is an embarrassment to loving Christians everywhere with his original plans to burn Korans at his church on September 11, and who is the author of Islam Is of the Devil, or we, the public who gulp down his story as if it's of interest.

There are times when I'm embarrassed to work in media. How did an attention-seeking nonentity with barely enough followers to fill a phone booth become an international personality and provoke a global furor? And who elevated this silly story to global news prominence? 

It has to do with just how inane the media has become. Jones is filler for a 24-hour news cycle which is all scandal all the time. And if you can't find a scandal, invent one. There is nothing novel about the existence of religious bigots, and it's certainly not newsworthy. But allow me to teach Pastor Jones a lesson from Jesus's famous pronouncement in Matthew 7:16, "By their fruits you shall know them."

The holiness or devilishness of any religion comes down not to its articles of faith but to the deeds of its practitioners. The crusaders who slaughtered untold numbers of Jews in Europe as they marched to meet the Islamic infidel in the Holy Land were of the devil, even if Christianity is not. Likewise, the Spanish inquisitors who tortured nonbelievers and burned them at the stake were satanic, even as their faith, Catholicism, remains holy.

IN THAT sense, the whole debate as to whether 
President Barack Obama is a Muslim is ridiculous. Yes, he isn't, and has said time and again that he is a Christian. But what if he were a Muslim? I couldn't care less. My problem with Obama is not his faith or lack thereof, but his policies.

If Obama were an Islamic president of the United States who berated instead of coddled Arab dictators like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, he would have my vote. If he were a practicing Muslim who promoted democracy across the Middle East rather than Kissingerian realpolitik, I would endorse him. If he were a devout Muslim first magistrate of the United States who regularly spoke out against the abuses of women in the Islamic world and gave a prime-time address condemning Iran's plans to stone a woman to death, I would deeply respect him. If he were a Muslim who prayed in the Oval Office five times a day, fasted all of Ramadan and then lectured Hamas and Hizbullah to stop putting all their money into rockets against Israel and instead into universities for their people, he would inspire me.

The problem with Obama is that he does none of these things, rarely holding the Islamic world accountable for its absence of freedoms, refusing to personally condemn Iran for its plan to stone a woman to death, and putting the pressure on Binyamin Netanyahu to again freeze settlements rather than place the blame for the failure of progress squarely on the real culprits – the terrorist organizations of Hamas and Hizbullah, both Iranian proxies.

I have devout Muslim friends who love Israel and wish Arab countries emulated its democratic institutions, just courts and freedom of worship and press. Likewise, I have God-fearing Islamic friends who love America, would fight and die to protect it and believe it is the light in an increasingly dark world.

I would support anyone like this for president over, say, Jimmy Carter, a devout and self-declared evangelical Christian who goes against the stalwart evangelical Christian support for Israel and has the chutzpa to call Israel, a thriving democracy, an apartheid state. I would take a competent Muslim president who believes in lowering the burden of taxation, controlling runaway spending and vastly reducing the appalling federal deficit over a president like Carter who ran the country into the ground.

As a Jew, I am trained to judge someone by their actions not their beliefs. I will choose an atheist president who loves and respects all of humanity and would put an end to the genocide in Sudan over a religious president who believes that we Americans have no such responsibilities to people beyond our border.

If an American president believed in elves and the Easter bunny but fought Taliban misogynists who pour acid on women for attending university, I would follow him.

And if an American president spoke Klingon in his private moments and worshiped Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise as a divinity, but set up an alternative to the United Nations, to be known as the United Democratic Nations, open only to governments that were of the people and by the people, I would support him, too.


In short, I could not care less what a person believes; it's what they do that matters.

Therefore, I will reject any pastor who claims to be religious but is a narrow bigot. I love my Christian brothers and sisters, but not those who deny the essential biblical truth that every human being – Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, agnostic or atheist – is equally God's child and that we have a responsibility to encourage people of faith rather than condemn their religion.

I trust that my evangelical Christian brothers and sisters, who love freedom and are disproportionately represented in the US military, fighting and dying for democracy in Islamic counties, will identify Pastor Jones as the bad fruit of which Jesus was speaking.

The writer is the international best-selling author of 23 books. He has just publishedRenewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley








No one could have imagined that within five years, Lebanon's young PM would become a slave of his father's murderers. No one, that is, aside from his father's murderers.Lebanon is a sad and desperate place. And its disastrous fate is personified today by its prime minister.

All who claim to love freedom, democracy, human rights and dignity should take note of Saad Hariri's fate. They should recognize that his predicament is a testament to their failure to stand up for the ideals they say they champion.

All those who say they seek a Middle East that is friendly to the West should see Hariri's plight as a cautionary tale. Policy-makers in Washington, Paris, Jerusalem and beyond who envision the 21st century Middle East as a place where the US and its allies are able to project their power to defend their interests should study Hariri's story.

All those who insist peace is possible and even incipient need to cast a long, lingering glance in his direction.

His story exposes all of their paradigms of peace and appeasement and compromise as nothing more than the hollow, callow, arrogant and irrelevant protestations of a transnational ruling class wholly detached from the reality of the world it would lead.

ON MONDAY, Yediot Aharonot reported that Iranian and Syrian intelligence agencies are applying massive pressure on Hariri to openly join the Iranian axis.

Today that axis includes the Syrian regime, Hizbullah and Hamas. If and when Hariri openly joins, Lebanon will become its first non-voluntary member.

Chances are good that Hariri will succumb to their pressure. Yediot reported that the Iranians and Syrians made him an offer he can't refuse: "If you don't join us, you will share your father's fate."

His father, of course, is former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in Beirut by Syrian and Hizbullah agents on February 14, 2005. A month later, on March 14, Saad led more than a million Lebanese in a protest in Beirut. Their demand was for Lebanon to be free of Syrian rule.

Everyone knew the March 14 movement had no chance of militarily defeating either Syria or its Hizbullah ally. But the US and France both lined up behind the young Hariri and his followers. The unlikely alliance of the Bush administration and the Chirac government just two years after Franco-American ties were seemingly irreparably frayed in the lead up to the US-led invasion of Iraq was enough to intimidate Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

After 29 years of Syrian occupation, he ordered his forces to withdraw from Lebanon.

As the head of the March 14 movement, Saad Hariri was flying high. No one could have imagined that within five short years he would become a slave of his father's murderers. No one, that is, aside from his father's murderers.

IRAN SAW what happened in Lebanon and decided to take a gamble. In the face of Franco-American unity, it gambled that they were bluffing. That they would not stand by the Lebanese if their will was challenged.

Iran prepared well for its challenge. At home, dictator Ali Khamenei lined up his ducks. He promoted Teheran's fanatical mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency. With his man in power, Khamenei and his regime ratcheted up their challenge to the US in Iraq.

First there was al-Qaida. Its leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, received his orders from the al- Qaida leadership which decamped to Iran from Afghanistan in 2002. So too, Shi'ite terror boss Muqtada al-Sadr took his orders from Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Their orders were to turn Iraq into a bloodbath. Their stepped up insurgency weakenedGeorge W. Bush's political standing in the US. For a chastened Bush, expanding his campaign to Iran became more and more unthinkable as US casualties mounted.

At the same time, Iran massively expanded its military ties and political control over Syria. In the Palestinian Authority, it brought Hamas under its control.

As for Hizbullah, the IRGC transformed the militia into a professional guerrilla army.

And all the while, the Iranian regime withstood US and international pressure to end its illicit program to develop nuclear weapons.

IN 2005, Israel was too busy with Ariel Sharon's initiative of expulsion and withdrawal to pay much attention to what was happening in Lebanon or anywhere else in the region. It greeted the March 14 movement with little more than a yawn. The narrative Sharon and his lackeys Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni were peddling was that Israel's greatest threat was internal. Who had time to pay attention to Iran and its proxies when there were Jewish "settlers" challenging the state's legal authority to throw them out of their homes? 

In the aftermath of the expulsions and withdrawal from Gaza, Sharon and his followers committed themselves to repeating the expulsion-withdrawal program tenfold in Judea and Samaria. After Sharon was felled by a stroke, Olmert's electoral platform called for expelling some 100,000 Israelis from their homes in Judea and Samaria.

Although distracted by Iran's Iraqi proxies, the US began arming and training a Palestinian army in late 2005. At the same time, it demanded that Israel allow Hamas to run in the January 2006 elections and keep Gaza's border open.

Iran watched as the US and the rest of the West refused to recognize the strategic significance of Hamas's electoral victory lest they be forced to acknowledge that the Palestinian conflict with Israel had nothing to do with Palestinian nationalism. The mullahs watched too as Israel refused to acknowledge that Hamas's victory signaled the failure of the peace/withdrawal/expulsion paradigms.

Iran saw an opportunity in its enemies combined strategic dementia. And so in June 2006, it went to war. First it attacked Israel from Gaza. A cross-border attack left three soldiers dead and Gilad Schalit was taken hostage.

Two weeks later, as Israel stammered out incoherencies about Gaza and Olmert barred the IDF from taking measures that might have freed Schalit lest his hopes for further withdrawals be exposed as strategic absurdities, Hizbullah struck. What became known as the Second Lebanon War began.

The only ones who openly acknowledged the stakes were the leaders of the March 14 movement. Druse leader Walid Jumblatt repeatedly warned that if Hizbullah was not completely defeated, Lebanon would become an Iranian colony.

But the withdrawal-crazed Olmert government wouldn't listen. It couldn't listen.

SO TOO, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice ignored the March 14 movement leaders' entreaties. A full Israeli victory would require full US backing. And full US backing would require an admission on her part that Iran was engaged in a direct war and a proxy war against the US and that the war against Israel and the war against the US were two fronts in the same war.

These were realities that Rice would never accept.

And so together with her fantasy-driven Israeli counterparts, Rice sued for a cease-fire that left Hizbullah in charge.

The rest was preordained history. In 2007 first Hizbullah and then Hamas staged putsches in Lebanon and Gaza and wrested control over their respective governments from their Western-backed rivals in the March 14 movement and Fatah.

The US responded by massively increasing its military assistance to the Lebanese armed forces and Fatah. Continued Fatah terrorist attacks against Israelis in Judea and Samaria and last month's lethal ambush of IDF forces along the border by the Lebanese army expose the strategic insanity of that policy. And yet it continues.

SAAD HARIRI'S March 14 movement still enjoys the support of most Lebanese. But this is of no consequence. Hariri was only able to form his government last December by granting Hizbullah veto power over government action. The price he paid for his premiership is not merely his personal freedom. The last embers of the Lebanese independence movement his father's assassination inspired have also been extinguished.

Since he formed his government, Hariri has travelled three times to Damascus to kiss Assad's ring. And in so doing, he gave up his call for justice for his father's killers.

This became clear when last month Hariri embraced Nasrallah's allegation that Israel murdered his father.

Then last week, following his latest trip to Damascus, Hariri announced that his past claims that the Syrian regime assassinated his father were unfounded.

As he put it, "We made mistakes in some places; at some point we accused Syria of assassinating the martyr and this was a political accusation."

Hariri went on to profess his warm sentiments for Syria. As he put it, when he visits Damascus, "I feel myself

oing to a brotherly and friendly state."

Obviously Hariri believes his only chance for survival is to bow before those who killed his father. It is also obvious that the killers – Iran, Syria, Hizbullah – will continue to use him as their front man and apologist for as long as his service is of use to them. And then they will murder him.

Today Hariri is useful. Ahmadinejad is planning a victory trip to Lebanon next month and Hariri will be a valuable prop. Ahmadinejad is scheduled to arrive on October 13. While there he will make a major speech at Bint Jbeil – the town where former IDF chief of General Staff Dan Halutz wanted to stage a battle that Israel could use as an "image of victory."

In the event all Halutz got was a shooting gallery where Golani Brigade fighters were the ducks.

Ahmadinejad is also scheduled to peer over at Israel from Maroun Aras, also the site of heavy, inconclusive fighting in 2006.

As he uses Hariri as his figurehead host, Ahmadinejad will have more to celebrate than just Lebanon's transformation into an Iranian colony. As a spate of recent reports make clear, he is probably just months away from declaring his regime a nuclear power.

The most recent allegations that Iran has yet another undeclared uranium enrichment facility are no skin off his back. He and his boss Khamenei took a measure of their enemies and are convinced they have nothing to worry about.

For his part, Hariri can rest assured that his humiliating transformation from freedom champion to slave will go largely unremarked. Israel and the US are in the throes of yet another worthless peace process.

Again they have agreed that the greatest threat to peace is the "settlers" and their supporters who want to wreck the peace/expulsion/withdrawal paradigm by building homes. Again our leaders and the chattering classes they cater to have chosen to embrace their fantasies at the expense of our national security and interests.

Of course it isn't just Hariri whom they ignore. They ignore the basic fact that freedom must be defended with blood and treasure. Otherwise, as happened in Lebanon, it will be defeated by blood and treasure.







Both Netanyahu and Abbas are correct in their respective assertions about the settlements but this shouldn't prevent them from finding a creative way to make it work.


Yes, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is right – why should Israel continue the settlement freeze; after all, everyone knows Gilo will never be Palestinian. Ramot Eshkol will not be part of the Palestinian capital of al-Kuds, nor will Pisgat Ze'ev? Palestinians should understand that there are certain facts that will not be undone. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any peace agreement; without this, there can be no peace and certainly the Palestinians should realize this by now.

Yes, but Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is also right – why should the Palestinians enter new negotiations while Israel continues to build settlements on land which will become part of the Palestinian state? Haven't too many Israeli facts already been created on the ground? The last time Netanyahu was prime minister, Har Homa didn't exist, but now look at it – another Israeli city built on Palestinian land. The whole need to find land to swap comes from the facts that Israel has created, illegally by international law.

YES, BOTH sides are right. Palestinians and Palestinian-supporters will argue that there is no moral equivalent in the above claims. Israel has acted illegally and settlements were explicitly built by some former (and current) politicians to prevent the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

There are two defining elements of Palestinian identity – the nakba (catastrophe) and dispersal of 1948 and settlements. For 43 years, Palestinians have watched their land get swallowed up as their dream of liberation, freedom and independence has withered with each new home built in the West Bank.

The settlement presence has meant land expropriation, bypass roads, usurping of water reserves, confiscation of natural resources such as stone quarries, and the entire system of controls – fences, roadblocks, barriers, walls and lots of IDF soldiers.

There is no way for any Palestinian to have any sympathy for settlers or settlements.

Their very presence is a daily reminder of their lack of freedom in their own land.

It is equally impossible for settlers, I imagine, to feel any sympathy for the Palestinians. Almost no settler will understand that Palestinians believe they made their most painful compromise already when they accepted the two-state solution within the 1967 borders. Settlers cannot see that when the Palestinian national movement officially accepted the idea of two states in November 1988 it was giving up 78 percent of what it believed to be its birthright – all of the land that was the State of Israel prior to June 5, 1967.


Palestinians sincerely believe that all of Palestine, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean legitimately belongs to them (as many Israelis believe that the entire land from the river to the sea belongs to them), and that the creation of the State of Israel was an historic injustice to them as they had nothing to do with the Holocaust. The Palestinians cannot see and accept what I do – that the birth of Israel was a moral imperative and that the Jewish people had the same right as all other peoples to a state of their own in their historic land.

And yes, so do the Palestinians. The creation of a Palestinian state today is a moral imperative for both Jews and Palestinians, and the Jewish people should be the most vocal advocates of the rights of the Palestinian people.

THE CLASH of the rights of these two peoples is the greatest wrong to both of them. The lingering bloody and tragic conflict must come to an end. Those leaders who cling to excuses to foil the chance of finding a way out of this mess are criminally negligent and dangerous.

Those Israeli and Palestinian citizens who encourage their leaders to provoke an early death to the new negotiations are nothing less than traitors to their own people.

There is a way out of this conflict. We are not destined to live by the sword forever. There are solutions to the issues. Israel can be secure and recognized; Jerusalem can be our eternal capital, recognized by all the nations of the world. Israel can be the magnet, the just and model society that will attract more Jews to come here to live. Israel can continue to shine in the field of hi-tech communications, biotech, agrotech and more.

Palestine too can prosper and shine. Palestine can be the first truly democratic Arab state, with the most advanced education system in the Arab region, the highest use of renewable energy, modern technology in industry and agriculture, a new and prospering hi-tech sector rapidly developing in cooperation with Israeli companies. The entrepreneurial spirit which has enabled the Palestinians to survive from one disaster to another can be the fertile ground on which a new economy of Internet-age Palestinians can be built.

We need to let loose the energies in both societies that are locked up by the continued conflict. This is much truer about Palestine than Israel, but in Israel as well, too much energy is improperly invested in the survival mode necessary to sustain us in conflict rather than in the creative mode which is sparked by security and liberation. We must let that energy loose. We can all be so much more than we are today.

This is not romantic kumbaya. Make no mistake, our spirit and our belief in our own abilities is the essence of our life, hope is the fire of our souls and the realization of our most noble dreams is the goal that we must achieve. There are those of us, maybe the majority, who cry woe about the horrible fate that has been bestowed on us. There are those of us who see that real peace is a real possibility and that the enormous amount of energy and money that has gone into fostering conflict can now be diverted to education, health care, science, discovery, the environment, the arts, and not just the fact of our existence.

The rights of both peoples do not have to be mutually negating; they can be mutually sustaining and fulfilling. The only way for that to happen is for us to end the blood feud, recognize each others' rights to this land and make real peace.

The writer is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information ( and an elected member of the leadership of Israel's Green Movement political party.





2 Sept. Deadlines, 1 hope strategy



Only leverage Abbas has is to tell Israel should a peace agreement be elusive by Sept. 2011 deadline, the Palestinians will have no choice but to seek full rights in single state through nonviolent means.

Talkbacks (3)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is trapped in a box with no apparent exit. Having been coerced into resuming direct negotiations "without preconditions" when many opposed such negotiations in the absence of a total settlement freeze, he has made a solemn pledge to his people. If Israel's rather permeable "moratorium" on new settlement construction is not renewed and extended when it expires at the end of September, the Palestinians will withdraw from this new round of negotiations.

Yet every practical political consideration and every public pronouncement by leading members of the Israeli government suggests that a renewal or extension of the current "moratorium" is inconceivable.


If Abbas violates his pledge and continues to negotiate while Israel expands settlements, he will forfeit his remaining credibility among his own people. However, if he honors his pledge, the American government will blame the Palestinians for collapsing the "peace process," and Abbas's decades-long sole strategy for achieving peace – negotiations, negotiations and more negotiations – will be dead in the water and sinking fast, leaving his people with nothing to look forward to but an open-ended continuation of the status quo.

Abbas clearly has an urgent need for a new strategy, one which would both permit him to continue negotiating and compel the Israeli government to negotiate with a genuine intention to actually achieve a definitive peace agreement.

Fortunately, for Israelis as well as for Palestinians, the one-year time limit for this new round of negotiations which Abbas had sought and which has been agreed to by the American and Israeli governments makes such a strategy readily available for immediate adoption.

Throughout the long years of the perpetual "peace process," deadlines, starting with the five-year deadline for reaching a permanent-status agreement in the now 17-year-old Oslo Declaration of Principles, have been consistently and predictably missed. Such failures have been facilitated by the practical reality that, for Israel, "failure" has had no consequences other than a continuation of the status quo – which, for all Israeli governments, has been not only tolerable but preferable to any realistic alternative. For Israel, "failure" has always constituted "success," permitting it to continue confiscating Palestinian land, expanding its West Bank colonies, building Jews-only bypass roads and generally making the occupation even more permanent.

In everyone's interests, this must change. For there to be any chance of success in this new round of negotiations, failure must have clear and compelling consequences which Israelis would find unappealing.

IN A famous interview published in Haaretz on November 29, 2007, Ehud Olmert declared, "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights [also for the Palestinians in the territories], then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished."

In a prior Haaretz article, published on March 13, 2003, Olmert had expressed the same concern in the following terms: "More and more Palestinians are uninterested in a negotiated two-state solution, because they want to change the essence of the conflict from an Algerian paradigm to a South African one. From a struggle against 'occupation,' in their parlance, to a struggle for one-man-one-vote. That is, of course, a much cleaner struggle, a much more popular struggle – and ultimately a much more powerful one. For us, it would mean the end of the Jewish state."

All that the Palestinian leadership needs to do to continue its engagement in this new round of negotiations, and to do so from an unaccustomed position of strength and with genuine hope for a satisfactory conclusion, is to state that, if a definitive peace agreement on a two-state basis has not been reached and signed by the agreed deadline of September 2, 2011, the Palestinian people will have no choice but to seek justice through democracy – through full rights of citizenship in a single state in all of Israel/Palestine, free of any discrimination based on race or religion, and with equal rights for all who live there – and that they would pursue this goal through purely nonviolent means.

Framing the choice with such clarity would ensure that the Israeli leadership would, at last, be inspired – indeed, compelled – to make the most attractive twostate offer which Israeli public opinion could conceivably find acceptable, while rendering continued settlement construction, which, in the current context, is a clear test of Israeli sincerity in seeking peace, a matter of relatively minor importance and a commercially high-risk enterprise during the coming year.

With half a million settlers already implanted throughout the West Bank and east Jerusalem, it may now be too late to divide the land and achieve a decent twostate solution (as opposed to an indecent, less-than-a-Bantustan one), but a decent two-state solution would never have a better chance of being achieved. If it is, indeed, too late, then Israelis, Palestinians and the world would know and could thereafter focus constructively on the only other decent alternative.

It is even possible that, if forced to focus during the coming year on the prospect of living in a single democratic state with equal rights for all its citizens – which, after all, is what the United States and the European Union hold up as the ideal form of political life – many Israelis might come to view this "threat" as less nightmarish than they traditionally have.

In this context, Jewish Israelis might wish to talk with some white South Africans. The transformation of South Africa's racial-supremicist ideology and political system into a fully democratic one has transformed them, personally, from pariahs into people welcomed throughout the world. It has also ensured the permanence of a strong and vital white presence in southern Africa in a way that prolonging the flagrant injustice of a racial-supremicist ideology and political system and imposing fragmented and dependent "independent states" on the natives could never have achieved.

This latest one-year deadline for achieving an agreed settlement of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict must not only provide an "outside-the-box" solution to the bind in which Abbas finds himself. It must also have clear and unambiguous consequences which focus all concerned minds on a genuine effort to actually achieve peace with some measure of justice.

Whether the future of the Holy Land is to be based on partition into two states or on full democracy in one state, a definitive choice must be made in the coming year. A fraudulent "peace process" designed simply to kill time can no longer be tolerated.

The writer, an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team, is author of The World According to Whitbeck.








A recent discussion in the European Parliament on Israel's so-called NGO transparency bill reveals an important divide between European representatives.


On September 8, while Jewish Israelis were preparing for Rosh Hashana, theEuropean Parliament (EP) was holding yet another plenary debate with Israel on the agenda. The debate was somewhat unusual in that it not only addressed a draft bill several stages away from becoming law, but a bill that does not yet exist. While the debate shed little light on the legislation in question – the socalled NGO transparency bill – it did provide a penetrating insight into European attitudes toward Israel.

That bill, which passed its first reading in February, seeks to inject greater transparency into the processes by which foreign governments channel money to Israeli NGOs. Aspects of the earliest draft were objected to by some MKs and foreign government- funded groups. In subsequent negotiations between Labor and Likud parliamentarians, those aspects were removed. The new version, approved by the Knesset's Law Committee in August, will require more regular reporting and will ensure that the public has greater and more timely access to funding information.

The question on which the EP debate was centered was submitted in April and was based entirely on the discarded version of the bill. The MEPs who authored the question at the behest of Israeli NGOs were made aware that the bill to which it referred was no longer extant. Nevertheless they insisted on holding the debate.

Most of the MEPs who participated in the debate did recognize that the bill had undergone substantial modifications. The majority, echoing a position paper from Israeli NGOs, argued that the bill should apply equally to foreign government and private funding – i.e., that it is legitimate, but that its scope should be widened. A number of the same MEPs asserted that the bill is "onerous" and "draconian" – i.e., that it is illegitimate.

LOGIC ASIDE, the discussion revealed an important divide between the European representatives. About two-thirds of the MEPs who participated in the debate adopted a paternalistic attitude, arguing implicitly or explicitly that the Israeli political and legal system is unable or unwilling to uphold democracy and human rights. In their view, only careful EU oversight and intervention can ensure that Israel remains on the proper course.

Numerous MEPs also demonstrated their susceptibility to the NGO "halo effect," whereby any group which inserts the phrase "human rights" into its self-description is imbued with an aura of credibility and objectivity. For example, a British MEP mentioned Israeli NGOs (the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Mossawa) which assured an EP subcommittee that "they undertake bona fide human rights work but... [are] harassed by accusations of political bias."

That MEP failed to note that PCATI is headed by a former candidate for the Left-communist Hadash party, and that the NIF-funded Mossawa rejects Israel as a Jewish state.

However about one-third of the MEPs involved in the debate took a different view: They stressed that Israeli democracy and civil society are in fact open and vibrant; that a debate over a nonexistent bill reflects hostile attitudes, and that double standards were being applied.

The Finnish MEP Sari Essayah pointed out that "all we politicians would be very astonished if some fellow European member state government started funding our national NGOs for political campaigns."

British MEP Charles Tannock noted that Israel is "characterized by a vigorous civil society in which all shades of nonviolent opinion can be openly represented and discussed."

MEP Diane Dodds from Northern Ireland explained that "the requirement that foreign government support should be acknowledged in public advertising campaigns and Web sites is comparable with the EU funding requirement to acknowledge and promote the receipt of EU funding."

Despite these statements, the debate failed to touch on several core issues. The crux of the matter is not the frequency of NGO reporting or the scope of the proposed bill's application (though these are important.) Rather, the real issue is that the EU and its member states are among the main supporters both of NGOs leading the international delegitimization of Israel and of highly politicized NGOs which these countries use as a means of manipulating Israeli political discourse.

Many of these European government-funded NGOs, such as the Coalition of Women for Peace, which receives grants via the EU's Partnership for Peace, are leading the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns. Other EU-funded groups such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and Adalah are involved in attempts to have Israeli leaders tried in foreign courts on false charges of war crimes. Some of these "partners for peace," such as the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions oppose a two-state solution. Leaked EU documents reveal that earlier funding to Peace Now was intended to convince Israelis from the former Soviet Union to shift their votes leftward.

The representative of the EU's executive body, the European Commission, at the EP debate summarized the discussion by affirming that "we will continue to provide funding to NGOs for eligible projects which respond to our objectives."

Presumably the delegitizimation of Israel and attempts to manipulate its very democratic and complex internal debates are not among those objectives.


The writer is a research fellow and Knesset liaison at NGO Monitor.















Austrian businessman Martin Schlaff does not suffer from loneliness. He has many friends who enjoy his company and wealth. The detailed and thorough investigative report by Gidi Weitz in Haaretz last week exposed the extensive network of Schlaff's connections - from East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Palestinian Authority in the corrupt days of Yasser Arafat, and to Israel, which seems to be managed from Vienna by remote control.


The list of Schlaff's beneficiaries, collaborators and favorites includes at least three prime minsters and could comprise a whole cabinet, with a few senior officials left over. It crosses party lines and includes senior people in Likud, Shas, Labor, Kadima and Yisrael Beiteinu - religious and secular alike. Schlaff is the real melting pot of Israeli society, uniting all parts of the nation. His activities range from the lofty to the populist, from charities to casinos. Schlaff very much improved our balance of payments, especially of needy Israeli leaders, first and foremost Ariel Sharon.


Schlaff's proteges sought to repay his favors, as is the norm in the third world, and apparently also in the remnants of Franz Josef's Austro-Hungarian Empire. In Israel, too, there are many - and their numbers increase the higher up the ladder you go - who see nothing wrong with this.


Unfortunately, officials in the police and the State Prosecutor's Office do not agree and insist on rummaging through the actions of the politicians and officials whose wheels have been oiled by Schlaff's money.


Schlaff's fluent Hebrew got stuck in his throat after police investigators asked him to provide his version of events; since then he has preferred to stay away from Israel, which he loves so much. He doesn't care that the wheels of justice move slowly, and it turns out that many top political and legal figures in Austria share that attitude. The obstacles in the way of the Israeli authorities ostensibly contributed to a miscarriage of justice at the expense of people under investigation, mainly Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. But it seems that there is no miscarriage here.


The Lieberman file is on Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein's desk with the police recommendation to indict the foreign minister. The attorney general must decide quickly to end this intolerable situation in which an unresolved cloud of suspicion hovers over a leading politician.









Some of those Israeli advocates of the "two-state solution" who trumpet the demographic danger facing Israel may have had a few sleepless nights after perusing the latest demographic report released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. As has been claimed by Yair Ettinger for the past few years, it turns out that the demographic demon is not what it's cracked up to be. Now it's official. Demography seems to be working in favor of the Jewish population.


You really didn't have to be a professional demographer or statistician to realize that modern times, higher living standards, better education for women, and more women entering the working population were going to reverse the demographic trend of past years. But preconceived notions of permanent fantastic birth rates among Arab women, supported by effective propaganda, have thrown a scare into many of Israel's Jewish citizens. They were made to believe that they were being threatened by a flood of Arab babies that would soon turn the Jewish population into a minority west of the Jordan River, and that salvation lay only in the "two-state solution."


Of course, the demographic demon is not the only - and not even the most convincing - argument for establishing a Palestinian state west of the Jordan. A lot is to be said for dividing the area west of the Jordan between Jews and Arabs in an attempt to settle once and for all the 100-year conflict between Jews and Arabs. Like King Solomon's decision in biblical times, it seems at first sight the just solution. Give each his share of the land he covets and let peace come to the land. No matter that it would not exactly end up being consistent with the popular slogan "two states for two peoples," but rather, as things stand now, three or maybe four states for two peoples - for the Palestinians a state in Jordan, a state in the West Bank and a state in Gaza, and for the Jews a state with a significant Palestinian minority in Israel.


So why do the advocates of the "two-state solution" also drag in the demographic demon, claiming that this "solution" is essential for the continued existence of Israel as a "Jewish democratic state," or in other words, which are endlessly repeated, that continued Israeli control of Judea and Samaria means that Israel would either cease to be a Jewish state or cease to be a democracy?


The answer is obvious - to scare those Israelis who hesitate to part with the biblical heartland of the Land of Israel into accepting this "painful" compromise. In using this argument, seemingly so concerned with the democratic nature of the State of Israel, they turn a blind eye to the sensibilities of Israel's Arab citizens. What they are saying, in so many words, is the fewer Arabs in Israel the better. That may strike a responsive chord with some of the marginal elements in Israeli society, but it is neither democratic nor civil. That kind of talk cannot be music to Israel's Arab citizens.


Now that the demographic demon seems to have been put to rest, where does demography enter the argument about Israel's future? Most Israelis are determined to assure the state's Jewish character, linguistically and culturally, while respecting the language and culture of its Arab citizens. We insist on continuing with the mission that the Jewish state has set for itself of providing a haven for those Jews throughout the world who may need one. What happened during the Holocaust can never be allowed to happen again. This requires a substantial Jewish majority.


How big a majority? That's a question that needs to be pondered. Is the present 80 percent Jewish majority sufficient? Is it just right? Is it already too high? Would a reduction to a 70 percent Jewish majority be a catastrophe? Is it solely a question of numbers or is it also a function of the degree to which Israel's minority population has been integrated into Israeli society? Difficult and inconvenient as these questions may be, they need to be addressed, with full consideration for the sensibilities of our Arab citizens, if we want to discuss our future intelligently. Now that we have at least partially quantified the problem, let's discuss it.









Nine years have passed, but the pain has not dulled. It was clearly visible on the faces of the thousands of Americans who attended memorial ceremonies for the victims of the September 11, 2001, attack on Saturday.


Indeed, this terror attack - the largest in history, killing some 3,000 people - stunned the United States. The terrorists succeeding in hitting two of the nation's preeminent symbols: its main financial center (the World Trade Center ) and the center of its military might (the Pentagon ). And they came very close to hitting its symbol of government, the White House, as well.


This week, the Fox television network reported that the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was trying to prevent publication of a book revealing that a year before the attack, U.S. intelligence had unearthed threats by Mohammed Atta, the man who led the September 11 hijackers, to carry out huge, spectacular attacks in the United States.


This report teaches us the power of what could be called the Catastrophe Law, which states that no politician will ever take action to prevent a looming catastrophe. That's not because the politician is evil and we are good. Rather, he will refrain from acting because in order to prevent this future catastrophe, he will necessarily have to cause at least a minor crisis right now: He will have to make tough decisions, agree to painful concessions, launch an operation, cut benefits, or otherwise hurt people in some way.


But the minute he does any of the above, the public will blame him for the minor crisis he has caused and he will be made to pay with his job. He will never be able to prove that his brave action prevented a future catastrophe, because the catastrophe will never happen.


That is what happened with the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. It turns out that then-president George W. Bush had received reports from America's intelligence services indicating that Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden intended to carry out suicide attacks in the United States. A month and half before the attacks, Bush received a report from the Central Intelligence Agency containing a precise intelligence warning about Al-Qaida's intention to send terrorists into the country. The report said Al-Qaida was even looking into ways of hijacking airplanes and warned that the threat of an attack was both imminent and grave.


Bush read all the documents and heard all the assessments, and did nothing. He knew that if he took forceful action against Muslim organizations in America - preventing their members from attending flight school, not allowing them on airplanes without stringent security checks - and want to war in Afghanistan to attack Al-Qaida, he would never be able to persuade the American public that his actions had prevented a catastrophe. Nobody would believe him. He would be branded an ultra-nationalist who hates Muslims, and might even be impeached.


And therefore, Bush decided to sit quietly and do nothing. Only after blood had been shed did he begin to take forceful, even drastic, steps - things he would never have dared to do previously.


The Catastrophe Law also operates in this country. A peace agreement with Egypt was signed only after the blood-drenched Yom Kippur War, even though Anwar Sadat had offered Golda Meir a similar deal eight months before war erupted in October 1973. Yitzhak Rabin agreed to shake Yasser Arafat's hand and sign the Oslo Accords only after the first intifada. Similarly, the withdrawal from Gaza followed the second intifada and Qassam rocket fire on Sderot.


That's why there's only a slim chance that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will reach an agreement on two states for two peoples with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. For in order to end the conflict, Netanyahu would have to spark a mini-crisis: He would have to remove settlements, withdraw from most of the territories and make compromises regarding Jerusalem.


But Netanyahu will not do any of the above, because he is very well acquainted with the Catastrophe Law. He knows he would never be able to persuade the majority of Israelis that his actions were preventing a future catastrophe, so he would be attacked from every side, and his survival in office would be threatened.


But if so, when will we finally be able to sign an agreement? Only after the catastrophe has arrived - after a "strategic terror attack" or another war. Only then will the politicians on both sides be able to sit down and sign off on painful concessions. For only then will the nation understand and accept them.









Haaretz's main headline on Sunday - "Israel, PA clash over agenda for Sharm el-Sheikh peace talks" - wasn't really surprising. Seventeen years have gone by since Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn. And what has happened since? We've had two intifadas, two wars and terror waves. Meanwhile, Rabin was murdered, Arafat died and Peres is still shaking hands. May he continue doing so until he's 120.


They will be shaking hands in Sharm today as well, but the road to peace is still long. Unlike some of my Haaretz colleagues, who are convinced Israel is to blame for everything, I think that from the day Israel was established, the Palestinians, with the Arab states' assistance, have been doing everything they can to uproot us from this country. And I'm not going to apologize to them because they haven't succeeded.


Before dealing with Israel's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, we should remember that UN Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, refers to dividing the Land of Israel into two states, a Jewish one and an Arab one. The Palestinians were not even mentioned in this resolution. On the other hand, the state destined for us is explicitly called a Jewish state.


Our side received the resolution with rejoicing and dancing, while Jamal al-Husayni of the Arab Higher Committee declared that whatever the UN had written with ink would be erased in Palestine with blood. Indeed, the day after the UN resolution the terror wave began.


All the attempts since Jimmy Carter's days to forge an arrangement have failed. Arafat said in a moment of openness that as the leader of the Palestinian liberation movement he could not go down in history as the one who gave up Palestine. In contrast, Ariel Sharon, not a sworn Arab lover, announced before evacuating the Gaza Strip that it was time Israel woke up from the dream of a Greater Israel. U.S. President Barack Obama's pressure and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's desire to be recognized in his second term as the peacemaker helped pave the road toward "two states for two peoples."


But on the basis of Murphy's law - "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" - Netanyahu has demanded that the Palestinian Authority first recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This appears to be an artificial problem, like the goat the poor man was advised to take into his home, so that when he took it out, his problems would suddenly be solved.


It's not clear why Israel needs to be recognized as the Jews' state when according to the UN's partition resolution it is the "Arabs" who need recognition as Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) said he would never recognize Israel as the Jewish nation-state because there are 1.5 million Arabs in it, so every fifth citizen is not Jewish. Another explanation is that recognition of a Jewish state infringes on the demand for a right of return. But everybody knows that the right-of-return issue, like Jerusalem, will be left to the end of the negotiations.


Bibi's demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is strange. It doesn't say in any agreement or constitution that France, for example, is the French people's state and Germany is the Germans'. Whoever thought up that condition sabotaged Bibi's speech of two states for two peoples. After all, it's clear we're talking about two states for two peoples. The preoccupation with an issue that is obvious deserves the title of comedienne Adi Ashkenazi's show: "What's this nonsense?"


In any case, there are more important problems to agree on right now. Today they will discuss mainly the continuation of the construction freeze. From the outset this demand was a waste of time. What difference does it make if they build a few more houses when on the horizon looms a massive evacuation of the territories?


And what have the Palestinians done during the 10-month "vacation" they received? True, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad raised the quality of life in the West Bank. That's his achievement, not the construction freeze's.


Obama gives the credit for the freeze to the Israeli government "and its leaders" and says it has had a positive effect on the Palestinians. The president said at a news conference he had told Netanyahu it makes sense to extend the freeze. His words indicate he has adopted Dan Meridor's idea to allow construction only in settlement blocs that are to remain in Israel's hands. We have to take into consideration that Abu Mazen is under pressure from Hamas no less than Bibi is under pressure from the radical right and the settlers.


Netanyahu, let's hope, will get rid of the goats today, so the bells of failure will not be hung around our necks.









The spread of ignorance is nothing new and is not limited to those who haven't studied the core curriculum. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that the Palestinians first recognize Israel as a Jewish state, or as the nation-state of the Jewish people, he is relying on ignorance that has been widespread among Israelis for years. Even the difference between these two phrases, which he freely alternates in his statements with a kind of sacred innocence, depends not on the fine print in the insurance policy he seeks, but on ignorance about everything connected to the national character of the State of Israel.


In English, the term "nation" relates to the entirety of the citizens of a given English-speaking country. And the adjective "national" can refer to something that is nationwide, like a "national conference." But this is the simple, semantic issue.


The more disturbing matter of Israeli ignorance - consistently disseminated in all media outlets and the school system, and also reflected in the tendency to feel good (even when doing so is accompanied by mild guilt feelings ) - is connected to the images we don't see when we travel around the country. Forget about the ruins, the fig trees that appear out of nowhere (there are no fig trees, or olive or almond trees, for that matter, that grow on their own ). Instead, take a look at the proximity between Jisr al-Zarqa, the poorest village in Israel, and Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael, one of the richest kibbutzim in the country (if not the richest ). And that's just one example.


Jisr al-Zarqa is a remnant of Kabara, a village that was destroyed in 1948 and its inhabitants expelled. It is the only Palestinian community left on the Mediterranean shore from Gaza to Acre (in Jaffa, the Palestinians were moved off the beach to Ajami ). It was said that the Jisr al-Zarqa residents were immune to malaria, and to their good fortune, like that of the residents of Fureidis, the farmers of Zichron Yaakov needed their cheap labor for draining the swamps, and so they were not expelled.


Most of the land went to kibbutzim in the area, mainly to Ma'agan Michael. Therein lies the importance of this example, even if one looks not at the past and its wounds, but at the increasingly ugly present that gives rise to the boast that might makes right. After all, a bus filled with cleaning ladies sets out from Jisr al-Zarqa every morning, headed for Haifa's Rambam Medical Center.


This is not about the injustices of the past, like the missing inhabitants of neighboring Tantura, where Haifa University geographers have managed to erase what happened there and in many nearby villages. It's not about the past but about the present: Jisr al-Zarqa is trapped, without land and between fences. Its children cannot even run to retrieve a ball that flies over the fence dividing the village from the nature reserve that was once part of the village; they would have to go a very long way, to the other side of the separation fence via the beach and back.


And on its other side, the village is shut off by Israel's richest suburb, Caesarea. Poverty and overcrowding beget violence, which is mounting in Jisr al-Zarqa, a ghetto without hope that no one notices except as a foreign Arab entity amid the surrounding wealth, beauty, landscape and sea.


Recognition of an exclusive Jewish nationality for our country, which Netanyahu is demanding from the Palestinians now, is nothing but a demand to recognize the legitimacy of racist discrimination against the Arab minority in Israel. If this minority had been awarded equal rights, including water rights for agriculture, equality in education and health care, and equal employment opportunities, there would be no need to go back to the Nakba. It would become a wound like other past wounds, like the partial extinction of other national minorities (and after all, there is room to provide compensation for disasters, as per tort law. )


But the State of Israel does not want to recognize the Palestinian minority within its borders because it seeks to continue to grant privileges to Israeli Jews and to Diaspora Jews, at the expense of the cheap labor, land and water of its Palestinian citizens. All this is in order to say that recognition of Israel will come only if we recognize the equality of the minority in our midst. They are not settlers. They were living here before we were.










The primary election in New York on Tuesday will be the first time all voters in the state use machines with a backup paper ballot. This is progress, especially for New York City, where the lever machines in use for a half-century should have been scrapped long ago.


Voters will be handed a paper ballot, a pen and a folder. They will be directed to small booths where, sadly, many voters will need to use a magnifying panel (that is supposed to be available) because state politicians have always demanded that all races be squeezed onto one page. In New York City, where there are so many races, that means the print size is especially small.


The ballot will be in only four languages — English, Spanish, Chinese and Korean — too skimpy for polyglot New York City.


Citizens must fill in circles to vote for their favored candidates and slip the completed forms into a counting machine that scans the ballots. There's a catch here. If you make a mistake, like voting for too many candidates in one race, the machine will ask you whether you want to return the flawed ballot or cast your vote. It's a badly designed process. But the answer is that you should get your ballot back, ask for a new one and try again.


Polls in New York City are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Here are our recommendations in some major races:

In the Republican primary: 

For New York governor: 

Rick Lazio

In the Democratic primary: 

For the United States House of Representatives: 


14th District (Manhattan and Queens): 

Carolyn Maloney 


15th District (Upper Manhattan): 

Joyce Johnson

For New York attorney general

Eric Schneiderman

For New York State Senate: 

District 33 (the Bronx): 

Gustavo Rivera 

District 10 (Queens): 

Lynn Nunes 

District 31 (Northern Manhattan and the Bronx): 

Adriano Espaillat







Fifteen months ago, the Supreme Court's conservative majority mowed past statutory language, Congressional intent and decades of precedent to make it much harder for older workers to prove age discrimination.


Under the 5-to-4 ruling, it is no longer sufficient for employees claiming illegal age bias to show that age was a motivating factor in their demotion or layoff. They must show that age was the decisive factor, an unfairly tough standard of proof and a major watering down of older workers' civil rights.


Fortunately, the court's mangling of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 need not stand. Legislation introduced last fall by Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative George Miller of California, both Democrats, would reverse the ruling, once again making the standard for proving age discrimination equivalent to the standard for proving discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin.


Once a worker showed age discrimination was a factor in his or her treatment, an employer could still win by showing it would have made the same employment decision, regardless of the worker's age.


So far, the measure has attracted no Republican co-sponsors. But standing in the way of fair treatment of older workers is bad policy and bad politics, especially at a moment of soaring unemployment and rising age discrimination claims. This is one of the few areas where progress should be possible even in the charged lead-up to the midterm elections.


In fact, talks are under way among business and civil rights groups, advocates for older people, including AARP, and lawmakers of both parties that could potentially result in a deal on good remedial legislation.


Meantime, the problem is spreading. Some lower federal courts have read the Supreme Court's ruling to raise the bar for employment claims under other statutes, including the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.


Prompt Congressional action is needed to contain the damage.







Sunday's agreement by international banking regulators to require banks to increase their capital cushions should reduce the risk of another financial meltdown. Bankers' appetite for risky investments has not been quenched, and regulators will have to be vigilant.


The most significant rule approved by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision — a group of regulators from 27 countries, including the United States — means banks will have to boost their reserve of common equity (common shares and retained earnings) to 7 percent of their assets, up from 2 percent currently, if they don't want to face limits on dividends they can pay to investors.


The group also suggested that in boom times, national regulators should require banks to set aside up to an additional 2.5 percent of their assets to prevent the emergence of new credit bubbles. Regulators are still hashing out even more stringent capital requirements for the world's biggest banks — those whose bankruptcy would threaten the entire banking system.


The bankers and their lobbyists did not go quietly. Regulators agreed that the new capital rules won't start to kick in until 2013 and won't be fully in place until 2019. The countercyclical buffer is not a requirement but only a recommendation to national regulators. Provisions to ensure banks have enough money to pay all of their debts coming due over one year were watered down and pushed back until 2018.


There are still weaknesses that banks will almost certainly try to exploit to reduce the amount of capital they must set aside. There are no clear rules on how banks should value liquid assets that are not openly traded, a gap that national regulators will have to fill. The new rules are risk-weighted: the more speculative their investment, the more capital banks must set aside. Yet determining the risks of these assets will still rely largely on the rating agencies that failed so miserably to assess the risk of mortgage-related securities.


Despite the weaknesses, the new rules are a considerable improvement over the status quo, and the United States and the other members of the Group of 20 leading economies should endorse them. Even then, the rules will only be as good as the commitment of national regulators, starting with the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And given the international nature of banking — any global regulation will only be as strong as the weakest regulator.







It was hard to know how serious a gesture of compromise Representative John Boehner, the House minority leader, was making on Sunday when he suggested that he would vote for a tax cut for the middle class even if it was not extended to the rich — and the subsequent reaction of some of his fellow Republicans made us even more uncertain.


But it was refreshing to hear a Republican leader say that he could conceivably vote for any bill supported by President Obama. Perhaps the man the Republicans hope will be speaker of the House felt some pressure from Mr. Obama's recent efforts to remind Americans that the Republicans were proposing to sacrifice the middle-class Americans, yet again, in the name of failed trickle-down economics.


For months, Republican leaders have been uniform in their insistence that they would allow everyone's taxes to rise if the rich did not get to keep their Bush-era tax breaks. Mr. Obama has proposed continuing the tax cut for the 98 percent of taxpaying families earning less than $250,000 while allowing the tax rates for the top 2 percent to return to their levels prior to the Bush administration. Republicans have demanded tax cuts for all, and, so far, not a single Republican leader has lined up behind Mr. Boehner's concession.


Even his deputy, Eric Cantor, the House Republican whip, issued a no-compromise statement on Monday demanding a "clean bill," which means one that would make no distinction between tax cuts for the rich and for everyone else. Anything short of that, he said, is a "nonstarter." Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, introduced a bill on Monday that would extend the tax cuts indefinitely for everyone, including the wealthiest Americans. He may well be joined by Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, and a few conservative Democrats.


But we hope Mr. Boehner would not be the only Republican to refuse to allow middle-class tax rates to rise, as they are scheduled to do at the end of this year. Even if it gave Democrats something to crow about, cutting those rates makes economic sense during a recession (though we disagree with Mr. Obama's plan to cut the rates permanently). Holding the middle-class cuts hostage to those for the wealthy would pose both a political danger to Republicans and an economic danger to the nation.


Ultimately, the case for the top-level tax cuts is increasingly shaky. If Republicans are the least bit serious about reducing the deficit, they have to acknowledge that doing so requires additional revenues, $700 billion of which would be lost to the top 2 percent of earners in the next decade if their taxes do not rise. Handing out those revenues to the rich would have little stimulative effect on the economy because those taxpayers tend to save rather than spend their marginal income.


Mr. Cantor and other hard-line tax-cutters like to claim that the high-end cuts would go to small businesses and other "job creators." But they should listen carefully to another of Mr. Boehner's surprising acknowledgments on Sunday. Under sharp questioning from Bob Schieffer on CBS News's "Face the Nation," Mr. Boehner admitted that only 3 percent of small businesses would pay higher taxes under Mr. Obama's proposal. As the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation recently reported, 97 percent of the taxpayers with business income would get a cut under Mr. Obama's plan.

That is something that Republicans simply do not say out loud; it would add inconvenient facts to a battle that they prefer to wage at a purely emotional level. But Mr. Obama's efforts to enact a reasonable tax policy are not just good politics. They make good sense.







THE debate over Arizona's controversial immigration law and Congress's passage last month of another border security bill gives the impression that the only problem with our immigration policy is its inability to keep people from entering the country illegally. Not so. The country has an antiquated, jerry-built immigration system that fails on almost every count. The good news is that there is a way to replace it that will promote economic growth while reducing the flow of illegal workers.


First, work-based visas should become the norm in immigration, not the exception. The United States issues about 1.1 million green cards a year and allocates roughly 85 percent to family members of American citizens or legal residents, people seeking humanitarian refuge and "diversity immigrants," who come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.


The remaining 15 percent go to people who are immigrating for work reasons — but half of these are for workers' spouses and children, leaving a mere 7 percent for so-called principal workers, most of whom are highly skilled. No other major Western economy gives such a low priority to employment-based immigration, and for good reason: these immigrants are the most skilled and least likely to be a burden on taxpayers.


With so few slots allocated to work-based green cards, wait times continue to grow. Immigrants typically enter on temporary visas and adjust to permanent status over time. But most green card categories have strict numerical limits that fall far short of the number of immigrants on temporary visas who wish to stay. The most recent data suggest that 1.1 million approved applicants are waiting for employment-based green cards. Immigrants from China and India are among the most adversely affected because, in general, no more than 7 percent of green cards can be allotted each year to applicants from any one country.


There is a better way. Provisional work-based visas, sponsored by employers and valid as long as the holder has a job, should replace green cards as the primary path to legal immigration. These visas should not be subject to country quotas and should be open-ended, so that people who don't seek permanent residency will not get kicked out of the country, as happens now.


The visas would be "portable" — that is, the holder wouldn't be tied to one employer — to ensure that workers are treated fairly. But because these visas would be tied to employment, immigrants would have to leave the country if the economy deteriorated and they couldn't find work.


In place of our current system's lotteries and "first-come, first-served" policies, the government should hold regular auctions where companies can bid for permits to bring in foreign workers. Employers would bid highest for the most-valued workers, creating a selection mechanism that wouldn't rely on the judgment of bureaucrats or the paperwork skills of immigration lawyers.


Separate auctions would be run for high- and low-skilled workers, because permit prices would depend on prospective wages. Bringing low-skilled workers into the program is vital to stemming illegal immigration, as the current system's lack of sufficient visas for the low-skilled is a main reason that people cross the border illegally.


These auctions would be more efficient than the current system because they would respond to changes in labor demand. When prices rose, the government could react by increasing the number of permits, better syncing immigration with the business cycle. Work-based immigration would rise with economic growth and fall with rising unemployment.


Finally, the auctions would provide the government with new revenue in an era of huge deficits. Some of that money might be used to offset costs incurred by states or localities with large numbers of immigrants, or to retrain American workers displaced by immigration.


For the past two decades, policy makers have tinkered on the margins of the immigration system, reacting to the latest crisis or political priority. Greater emphasis on work-based immigration as part of a coherent immigration process would go a long way to enhance our economy's competitiveness and the nation's well-being.


Pia Orrenius, a research officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Madeline Zavodny, a professor of economics at Agnes Scott College, are the authors of "Beside the Golden Door: U.S. Immigration Reform in a New Era of Globalization."








We can keep wishing and hoping for a powerful economic recovery to pull the U.S. out of its doldrums, but I wouldn't count on it. Ordinary American families no longer have the purchasing power to build a strong recovery and keep it going.


Americans are not being honest with themselves about the structural changes in the economy that have bestowed fabulous wealth on a tiny sliver at the top, while undermining the living standards of the middle class and absolutely crushing the poor. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have a viable strategy for reversing this dreadful state of affairs. (There is no evidence the G.O.P. even wants to.)


Robert Reich, in his new book, "Aftershock," gives us one of the clearest explanations to date of what has happened — how the United States went from what he calls "the Great Prosperity" of 1947 to 1975 to the Great Recession that has hobbled the U.S. economy and darkened the future of younger Americans.


He gives the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve credit for moving quickly in terms of fiscal and monetary policies to prevent the economic crash of 2008 from driving the U.S. into a second great depression. "But," he writes, "we did not learn the larger lesson of the 1930s: that when the distribution of income gets too far out of whack, the economy needs to be reorganized so the broad middle class has enough buying power to rejuvenate the economy over the longer term."


The middle class is finally on its knees. Jobs are scarce and good jobs even scarcer. Government and corporate policies have been whacking working Americans every which way for the past three or four decades. While globalization and technological wizardry were wreaking employment havoc, the movers and shakers in government and in the board rooms of the great corporations were embracing privatization and deregulation with the fervor of fanatics. The safety net was shredded, unions were brutally attacked and demonized, employment training and jobs programs were eliminated, higher education costs skyrocketed, and the nation's infrastructure, a key to long-term industrial and economic health, deteriorated.


It's a wonder matters aren't worse.


While all this was happening, working people, including those in the vast middle class, coped as best they could. Women went into the paid work force in droves. Many workers increased their hours or took on second and third jobs. Savings were drained and debt of every imaginable kind — from credit cards to mortgages to student loans — exploded.


With those coping mechanisms now exhausted, it's painfully obvious that the economy has failed working Americans.


There was plenty of growth, but the economic benefits went overwhelmingly — and unfairly — to those already at the top. Mr. Reich cites the work of analysts who have tracked the increasing share of national income that has gone to the top 1 percent of earners since the 1970s, when their share was 8 percent to 9 percent. In the 1980s, it rose to 10 percent to 14 percent. In the late-'90s, it was 15 percent to 19 percent. In 2005, it passed 21 percent. By 2007, the last year for which complete data are available, the richest 1 percent were taking more than 23 percent of all income.


The richest one-tenth of 1 percent, representing just 13,000 households, took in more than 11 percent of total income in 2007.


That does not leave enough spending power with the rest of the population to sustain a flourishing economy. This is a point emphasized in "Aftershock." Mr. Reich, a former labor secretary in the Clinton administration, writes: "The wages of the typical American hardly increased in the three decades leading up to the Crash of 2008, considering inflation. In the 2000s, they actually dropped."


A male worker earning the median wage in 2007 earned less than the median wage, adjusted for inflation, of a male worker 30 years earlier. A typical son, in other words, is earning less than his dad did at the same age.


This is what has happened with ordinary workers as the wealth at the top has soared into the stratosphere.


With so much of the middle class and the rest of working America tapped out, there is not enough consumer demand for the goods and services that the U.S. economy is capable of producing. Without that demand, there are precious few prospects for a robust recovery.


If matters stay the same, with working people perpetually struggling in an environment of ever-increasing economic insecurity and inequality, the very stability of the society will be undermined.


The U.S. economy needs to be rebalanced so that the benefits are shared more widely, more equitably. There are many ways to do this, but what is most important right now is to recognize this central fact, to focus on it and to begin seriously considering the most constructive options.








Every political movement has a story. The surging Republican Party has a story, too. It is a story of virtue betrayed and innocence threatened.


Through most of its history, the narrative begins, the United States was a limited government nation, with restrained central power and an independent citizenry. But over the years, forces have arisen that seek to change America's essential nature. These forces would replace America's traditional free enterprise system with a European-style cradle-to-grave social democracy.


These statist forces are more powerful than ever in the age of Obama. So it is the duty for those who believe in the traditional American system to stand up and defend the Constitution. There is no middle ground. Every small new government program puts us on the slippery slope toward a smothering nanny state.


As Paul Ryan and Arthur Brooks put it in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, "The road to serfdom in America does not involve a knock in the night or a jack-booted thug. It starts with smooth-talking politicians offering seemingly innocuous compromises, and an opportunistic leadership that chooses not to stand up for America's enduring principles of freedom and entrepreneurship."


Ryan and Brooks are two of the most important conservative thinkers today. Ryan is the leading Republican policy entrepreneur in the House. Brooks is president of the highly influential American Enterprise Institute and a much-cited author. My admiration for both is unbounded.


Yet the story Republicans are telling each other, which Ryan and Brooks have reinforced, is an oversimplified version of American history, with dangerous implications.


The fact is, the American story is not just the story of limited governments; it is the story of limited but energetic governments that used aggressive federal power to promote growth and social mobility. George Washington used industrial policy, trade policy and federal research dollars to build a manufacturing economy alongside the agricultural one. The Whig Party used federal dollars to promote a development project called the American System.


Abraham Lincoln supported state-sponsored banks to encourage development, lavish infrastructure projects, increased spending on public education. Franklin Roosevelt provided basic security so people were freer to move and dare. The Republican sponsors of welfare reform increased regulations and government spending — demanding work in exchange for dollars.


Throughout American history, in other words, there have been leaders who regarded government like fire — a useful tool when used judiciously and a dangerous menace when it gets out of control. They didn't build their political philosophy on whether government was big or not. Government is a means, not an end. They built their philosophy on making America virtuous, dynamic and great. They supported government action when it furthered those ends and opposed it when it didn't.


If the current Republican Party regards every new bit of government action as a step on the road to serfdom, then the party will be taking this long, mainstream American tradition and exiling it from the G.O.P.


That will be a political tragedy. There are millions of voters who, while alarmed by the Democrats' lavish spending, still look to government to play some positive role. They fled the G.O.P. after the government shutdown of 1995, and they would do so again.


It would be a fiscal tragedy. Over the next decade there will have to be spending cuts and tax increases. If Republicans decide that even the smallest tax increases put us on the road to serfdom, then there will never be a deal, and the country will careen toward bankruptcy.


It would also be a policy tragedy. Republicans are right to oppose the current concentration of power in Washington. But once that is halted, America faces a series of problems that can't be addressed simply by getting government out of the way.


The social fabric is fraying. Human capital is being squandered. Society is segmenting. The labor markets are ill. Wages are lagging. Inequality is increasing. The nation is overconsuming and underinnovating. China and India are surging. Not all of these challenges can be addressed by the spontaneous healing powers of the market.


Most important, it would be an intellectual tragedy. Conservatism is supposed to be nonideological and context-driven. If all government action is automatically dismissed as quasi socialist, then there is no need to think. A pall of dogmatism will settle over the right.


Republicans are riding a wave of revulsion about what is happening in Washington. But it is also time to start talking about the day after tomorrow, after the centralizing forces are thwarted. I hope that as Arthur Brooks and Paul Ryan lead a resurgent conservatism, they'll think about the limited-but-energetic government tradition, which stands between Barry Goldwater and François Mitterrand, but at the heart of the American experience.








When a New York debt collection firm got a court judgment against Long Island bookkeeper Patricia Bohnet


for $3,158 she supposedly owed to First USA, the firm got more than it bargained for. Bohnet sued, saying she had been harassed and scared by the collector's tactics. A judge, finding that the firm lacked "a scintilla of evidence" that she owed the money, vacated the judgment and sanctioned the firm.


This February's ruling was a rare comeuppance for a debt collector in an industry where consumers seldom win on a field that's heavily tilted against them.


The easiest way to avoid being chased by debt collectors is, obviously, to pay your bills. That said, collection agencies have a responsibility to obey the law and treat consumers fairly. At a minimum, collectors have a duty to ensure that the debts they're trying to collect are real and that their targets are the people who owe them.


But as debt collection has grown into a huge business, those rules are easily flouted. The past decade's easy credit — followed by a crash and a recession — left billions of dollars in unpaid bills. Banks, retailers and other credit card issuers charged off more than $86 billion in debt last year, more than twice as much as in 2000, according to the Nilson Report.


Debt buyers, who pay pennies on the dollar for debt others have given up on, bought $44 billion of debt last year. They profit only if they collect it or turn it into court judgments that allow them to garnish wages or seize property. Use of modern technology in pursuit of this mountain of debt has worsened old problems and spawned new ones.


Computer-generated lawsuits are filed by the thousands in states across the country. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many consumers never find out they've been sued. In New York, for example, process servers were found to be filling out false affidavits claiming they had served people.


Even if consumers know about suits, they rarely show up to defend themselves, and "default" judgments are entered against them by judges in clogged courts. Those judgments can live for decades, allowing creditors to seize a portion of paychecks many years after a debt was allegedly incurred.


Resourceful debt collectors are also finding sneaky new tactics: According to reports from Las Vegas and Vancouver, attractive women — who fail to mention they're working for collection agencies — become Facebook "friends" with debtors, giving the agencies access to personal information.


The federal law designed to protect consumers is more than 30 years old and ill-suited to the Internet age. This summer, the Federal Trade Commission said the system for resolving consumer debt disputes "is broken."State laws are murky. Some debt collectors simply don't comply. And the Patricia Bohnets who counterattack are rare.


Federal laws or rules should require creditors to retain data on debts for as long as they're allowed to sell the debts or sue to collect them. State laws should require collection firms to provide detailed information about debts when they seek collection or sue consumers. And laws should be written plainly enough so consumers can understand their rights and challenge creditors.


Don't get us wrong. People shouldn't be deadbeats, and collectors carry out a necessary service. But consumers, whether they owe money or not, deserve a fair shake.








The rising volume of consumer debt collection activity is a predictable byproduct of America's recent economic meltdown. A vital cog in the nation's economic engine, recovering more than $70 billion for businesses on Main Street and taxpayers at all levels of government, debt collection provides jobs and helps keep prices and taxes down for all consumers.


Understandably, consumers, lawmakers and the courts are frustrated by attempts to collect debts without adequate supporting information or by using aggressive and illegal collection actions. So, too, are members of ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals. Consumers have inalienable rights in debt collection under federal and state law. Debt collectors have a responsibility to treat consumers professionally and respectfully.


Violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, laws of more than 35 states and ACA's own stringent code of ethics should be met with swift action to ensure compliance and accountability. In an effort to improve the debt collection process and reduce complaints, ACA is proactively seeking amendments to federal law to require lenders to maintain important account information and ensure that proper debt documentation is provided to collectors.


The failure of lenders to maintain and provide critical account information when they sell, assign or forward an account for collection is problematic because either collectors contact the wrong party or they are not able to provide all the information consumers need for debt verification.


Knowledge is power, which is why we created as a free, confidential consumer website in both English and Spanish. provides answers to questions regarding debt collection and a host of resources for consumers who are facing financial hardship.


Knowing your rights makes it easier to talk with a debt collector, and it is important for you to do so if contacted about an alleged debt. Communicating knowledgeably and effectively with a debt collector can help you resolve the debt — avoiding the collector won't make the debt go away.


Rozanne M. Andersen is CEO of ACA International, a trade group of more than 5,000 credit and collection professionals in the U.S. and 65 other countries.









The raging debate over illegal immigration has grown on a steady diet of rhetoric and recrimination. However, beneath all the hyperbole is a long-standing and unresolved debate over what it means to be a citizen. It turns out that the most foundational right contained in the Constitution — citizenship itself — is poorly defined and even more poorly understood.


There has long been a conscious avoidance of the question over so-called birthright citizenship — citizenship claimed by the children of illegal aliens. Indeed, the question has become increasingly difficult to address as the numbers of birthright citizens grow each year. In 2008, one in 12 babies in this country was born to illegal immigrants — 8% of all births. This is not counting the millions of prior such births, often referred to by critics as "anchor babies." With any change in the definition of citizenship assuring tremendous social changes and upheaval, the question has been left unresolved for more than two centuries.


Muddled then, muddled now


Given our roots, it should not be too surprising that citizenship was left ill-defined by the Framers. After all, this was the nation formed by citizens of other nations — a common covenant based as much on what we rejected as what we embraced. Indeed, in the Declaration of Independence, we defined ourselves largely by process of elimination — we would no longer live by the long list of examples of "absolute Despotism."


Notably, one of the complaints was that the king "endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither."


Of course, the matter became more complex with the ratification of the Constitution and, more important, the later adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868. That amendment spoke directly to the issue of citizenship, stating in the very first line: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside." The amendment has become the battleground for opponents and advocates of birthright citizenship, with each side claiming clarity in its meaning. The fact is that the record was as muddled then as it is now.


The 14th Amendment was adopted in response to the infamous Dred Scott decision denying former slaves the protections of citizenship as well as "Black Codes" that created barriers to former slaves in the South. On its face, the language would appear to support birthright citizenship. However, it has long been argued that such children are not "subject to the jurisdiction" of the United States because their parents are properly subjects of their home country.


The original debate itself offered support to both sides of today's debate. The drafter of the Citizenship Clause — Sen. Jacob Howard of Michigan —stated clearly that the clause did not include "persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers." This view was supported by critical leaders such as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lyman Trumbull of Illinois. However, other senators like John Conness of California believed that anyone born in the U.S. would be a citizen.


Citizenship elsewhere

This debate between jus soli (law of the ground) and jus sanguinis (blood right) continues to divide leaders and nations with debates similar to our own. Many countries have long recognized jus soli, or birthright citizenship. Indeed, at the time of our founding, England recognized birthright citizenship. In Calvin's Case in 1608, the court ruled that "a person's status was vested at birth, and based upon place of birth — a person born within the king's dominion owed allegiance to the sovereign, and in turn, was entitled to the king's protection."


Conversely, nations like Germany follow jus sanguinis, establishing citizenship by one's ancestors or connections to the country as opposed to merely birth location. Other countries have a hybrid approach. The United Kingdom, for instance, requires that the parents be legal residents.


For its part, the U.S. Supreme Court has never directly ruled on the issue of birthright citizenship. In 1898, inUnited States v. Wong Kim Ark, the court found that the child of Chinese immigrants was still a citizen under the 14th Amendment because he was born on U.S. territory. However, his parents were here legally as permanent residents.


Congress could force the issue into the courts through legislation. Yet, the Supreme Court would in all likelihood rule in favor of birthright citizenship. This process — legislative and then judicial — would unfortunately short-circuit the national debate. Some senators, as well as others, are pushing for a constitutional amendment, which is a better approach for this type of question. While the Framers made the amendment process difficult, it was designed for this type of question — to prevent "impulse buy" amendments adopted in the heat of passion and anger.


Since the founding, we have spent more time defining the rights of citizens than citizenship itself. It is not clearly answered in the history or language of the Constitution, despite representations on both sides of the debate. Rather than continuing to question the citizenship of millions, we should first resolve what it is to be a citizen. It is not a new question, but it is a question that we might now want to answer.


Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.









You can bet it won't take 142 years for Republicans to run away from this civil rights victory.


The recent ruling by a California federal judge that the military's "don't ask, don't tell" law is unconstitutional comes in a 6-year-old case brought by Log Cabin Republicans, a fringe group within the GOP that champions gay and lesbian rights. The policy, which allows gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they keep secret their sexual orientation, has been in place since 1993.


Shortly before this "don't ask, don't tell" decision was rendered, Republicans were consumed with talk of rolling back a civil rights victory they won in 1868 with ratification of the 14th amendment. Among other things, that constitutional amendment granted citizenship to "all persons born or naturalized in the United States" who are subject to this country's jurisdiction.


For nearly a century and a half, Republicans took great pride in claiming this important addition to our nation's founding document. But their rabid attempts to stem the flow of illegal aliens across our borders have pushed many leading Republicans to call for making the children of these people an exception to this amendment.


Now many of those very same Republicans might soon be doing battle with a wing of their party that has found little space for its members inside the GOP pup tent. But in celebrating his group's legal victory, Log Cabin Executive Director R. Clarke Cooper directed his initial fire at Democrats, who overwhelmingly back congressional efforts to end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The Senate's Democratic leadership, he said in a partisan shot that seemed intended to forestall the inevitable GOP infighting, failed to schedule a vote on a repeal measure after the Senate Armed Services Committee passed it in May.


That was a weak attempt by Cooper to deflect attention away from the fact that 11 of 12 Republicans on the Armed Services Committee voted against the repeal measure and Arizona Sen. John McCain, its ranking GOP member, threatened a filibuster if it was brought up for a vote on the Senate floor. Cooper also failed to mention that when a similar bill was passed in the House, only five Republicans voted for it while 168 GOP lawmakers voted against it.


Ostensibly, Republicans say they oppose taking any action on "don't ask, don't tell" until the Pentagon completes a study on the impact of its repeal on the military. But that's a smoke screen for their long-standing opposition to gays and lesbians serving in this nation's armed services. If Republicans win control of eithe